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A Blog by the National Military Family Association. We provide families of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Commissioned Corps of the USPHS and NOAA with information, work to get them the benefits they deserve, and offer programs that improve their lives.
In February 2017, I considered myself fortunate because for the first time in my marriage to my Marine (and possibly, maybe I’m overshooting, the history of the Marine Corps), I knew for roughly 18 months that we would be moving to Quantico, Virginia after my husband graduated from the Naval Postgraduate School. For the first time, I didn’t have to do the supportive spouse song and dance in response to my husband coming home every day with a different idea about what he’d like to do for his next tour, or why yesterday’s idea wouldn’t pan out because of something he heard in the rumor mill. Maybe school, maybe a squadron, maybe a promotion in there somewhere, maybe I’ll just get out — there was no speculation. I’d been planning for Quantico because all viable logic, not to mention the overhanging payback tour, pointed to Quantico.
What did I do with all the extra time that was not spent spinning wheels over hypothetical plans that would never materialize? Well, for starters, I knocked out half of a master’s degree (if we ever need a scale by which to measure the time we spend entertaining hypotheticals as military spouses, we now know it’s roughly 50 percent of a master’s degree per year). I also started my own D.C.-based job search, spent a considerable amount of time convincing myself we could do a DITY move, and then I zeroed in on an epic pre-move purge of all the stuff I didn’t want to waste time packing myself.
I cleaned out my kids’ closets. I gave away movies that we rarely watched and books that we rarely read. I remember vividly packing up two books. I bought these two books just before my husband earned his gold wings. We weren’t married yet, not even engaged, but I knew he was it for me, and I knew there was a very real possibility he would get his wings and find out he was moving to Japan. The two books I bought and hung onto for over nine years (of marriage and CONUS PCS moves) “just in case” were: a Japan travel guide and a book of survival Japanese phrases. Those were the first books I pulled of the bookcase and put in the giveaway box. At peak purge, I gave away our dining room table. I don’t think I even sold it — just put it on the curb — and I photographed our couches to list on the base classified pages the next day. The purge is a sickness, y’all — I couldn’t be stopped.
But, this wasn’t my first rodeo, mind you. It didn’t matter how sure I was or how much I cleaned house, I never made a single hotel reservation or contacted a single Virginia school until I had the long-awaited hardcopy of orders in my hand. Once I had that glorified piece of paper, I checked the report-by date. I double-checked the spelling of all of our names (the editor in me is hard to contain). Then, I opened the cage, releasing my long-stifled urge to plan, and I let it run wild all over the northern Monterey-to-Quantico route.
It took me just a few weeks to schedule movers, give our notice at the housing office, and select a company to ship my husband’s precious truck cross-country so he wouldn’t miss out on the joys of traveling the width of the country with his moody wife, two kids, a cat, a dog, and a whole lot of stuff because “someone had to drive the other vehicle.” I booked hotels from California to Virginia, planned a mini-vacation in Seattle and another long stopover in Chicago where we would celebrate my daughter’s fourth birthday in a luxury skyrise. We were going to explore Montana and gaze at Mount Rushmore. And, when we did arrive in Virginia, I had our housing list whittled down to the top contenders. My move binder was the stuff of dreams; color-coded tabs, daily mileage breakdowns, attractions and restaurants along the route, contact numbers, and reservation numbers.
There was nothing left for me to do but figure out how to commute into Washington D.C. for work. You see, in the middle of all that planning, I was also offered (and I’d accepted) a job with the State Department. It was the job I’d been hoping for, and because I had timed graduate school perfectly (knowing we were moving to the D.C. area and all), I qualified for this job (a paid internship). I’d be able to attend my graduate school commencement ceremony at George Washington University and start working my way up in the department that inspired me to go back to school in the first place. The only news I needed was confirmation that my security clearance was complete.
I got a different kind of news.
It was delivered in person very early one weekday morning. The kids weren’t even awake yet, and I was only half a cup of coffee deep (not deep enough, for anyone wondering).
My husband wanted to know if I was still up for moving to Japan.
I couldn’t recreate the expression on my face if I tried, but the first words out of my mouth were, “Are you *bleeping* serious?” My husband isn’t a big practical joker, so that was more of a reflex reaction than a legitimate question. I knew he was serious.
Months prior, he put feelers out about going back to a squadron, specifically in Japan. He knew there was a need for pilots, and, well, he is one. The timing wasn’t right, so we left it alone, thinking we just weren’t meant to go to Japan (me finally letting go of the Japanese books probably makes a little more sense now).
Once I established that he was, in fact, *bleeping* serious, I was excited! Like, the most excited I’ve ever been about orders. We were about to embark on a huge adventure. It wasn’t until a few hours (and several more cups of coffee) later that I realized there was a lot to do before said adventure could start. Moving overseas is a huge undertaking under normal conditions, but I had to first completely undo one PCS.
Once we had the new orders in hand, I used my glorious moving binder to call hotels from coast to coast and cancel our reservations, then that sucker went in the garbage. We walked that morning to the housing office and said with as much dignity as we could muster between the two of us: “JK, guys, we’re actually not moving until May now.” They understood, but said we no longer snuck out before the rent increase in March…apparently everyone was full of surprises that day. We cancelled the movers. I kindly asked the Quantico-area preschools to stop calling me. We broke the news to the kids. Their top concerns were:
Do I still get to turn four even though we’re not going to Chicago? Yes.
I’m sad I don’t get to see Mount Rushmore. Can we do it later? Yes.
Do we get to ride on an airplane? Yes.
Do they have French fries in Japan? […no clue…] Yes!
Seriously, that was it. Then we told our parents. That was a bit more involved, but everyone put on brave faces.
We sold our cars. My husband graduated from NPS. The kids finished school. We made it through all the screenings, passport applications, and Patriot Express reservations. We made arrangements to leave our sweet kitty (my daughter’s baby) with my aunt and uncle in Texas. The last call (the hardest one for me to make) was the one about my job. My career was the sacrificial lamb in the middle of all the excitement. And as excited as I was for what this move promised for our family, I couldn’t deny I was bummed about the one thing I lost in it all. Ultimately, it was the best time for me and for everyone in our family when I really looked at the situation under the microscope; the job was hard to let go of, but I was confident that something else would be there when I was ready.
Fast-forward a year. We’re in Japan. Yes, we made it. I graduate with my master’s in six months. Still waiting on that perfect job, but I’m gaining amazing philanthropic experience in the meantime. The kids adjusted beautifully to Japan, and we’re checking off bucket-list travel destinations left and right.
My story of change and surprise has two morals that I hope you’ll take away from it:
Ink is not permanent, especially whatever brand of ink they use in the Department of Defense printers.
If you ever hope to PCS to Japan, buy books to prepare you for the move. Move them around the U.S. with you for nearly a decade (time will vary). Then, give them away and wait.
Has your military family ever had cancelled orders at the last minute? How did it work out? Leave a comment and share it with me!
Posted by Kristi Stolzenberg, NMFA Volunteer and military spouse
I’ll admit it, I was always a little jealous of Army PT. The thought of waking up early and gathering with your peers to begin a new day with comradery and physical exertion was very appealing to me. As I watched troops run down the street, or listened to cadences from inside my house, I felt like I was missing out on some type of secret community. I didn’t know what it was, but I wanted it.
Don’t stop reading yet! I’m not completely crazy, I promise. I’m honestly not sure if the Army even calls it PT anymore. My days as a military spouse have come and gone.
Two years ago, I hesitantly embarked on civilian life. I often found myself drawn to many of the customs and traditions that I experienced with my military family. Safe and comfortable were doable for me. Something in me still wanted more. A year later, as a single mom of three and full-time employee, I began searching to find what makes me happy and connected. I decided it was time to find myself in my new environment.
On a cool March morning, my past and present connected when I was invited to participate in a 6:30AM boot camp class. To say I found a part of me that day is really an understatement because I truly believe this fitness experience changed me. To be honest, it was oddly transforming. My timid, fearful self walked into a room filled with strangers and gave it everything I had. Sweaty, weak, and sadly incapable at times – I was alive and excited in a way I’d longed for.
Each morning for the past year, I pull up in the dark and join women of all ethnicities, fitness levels, and ages to physically push ourselves and each other to our physical and mental limits. The encouragement and support is refreshing in a world that promotes stepping over people to get to the top.
Most mornings, I watch the sunrise as I walk to my car tired and sore, yet strong and exhilarated. The foundation of my day is built on comradery and strength. This group of women, many who are mothers, sisters, daughters, and friends have provided another type of family for me.
You may be wondering if a class could really be that impactful. I’d ask to meet me there to truly understand. The trainers, staff, and team of women work toward common goals. We don’t leave our teammates behind. We start and finish together. We are individually strong, but we are undeniably stronger together.
Have you ever had an awesome community of friends? How did you find them?
Like many people who live the transient military family life, I have a side-hustle.
A ‘side-hustle’ is a form of passive income you can take with you when you PCS all over creation and don’t have a job waiting for you once you arrive. Many military spouses also use it to augment their income, even when they do find full time employment.
Having a side-hustle has its perks. When I first moved to the D.C. area, the money I earned as a freelance writer helped keep my family afloat until I found a full time gig five months later. Since my family relies on two incomes, having that side-hustle meant we had money coming in while I was sifting through the saturated job market. I still freelance on the side to help rebuild the savings we had to dip into from that PCS two years ago.
If you’re a side-hustler like me, you’re probably familiar with the old 1099-MISC tax form for independent contractors. I’ve learned some hard lessons when it comes to tax obligations as a 1099. Some of those lessons cost me a pretty penny and I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I did. Here are some things all milspouse side-hustlers should know this tax season:
Understand the $600 Rule. If you make less than $600 from a company you do business with, they are not required to send you a 1099-MISC form. They are only required to send you the form if they paid you $600 or more that year. But that doesn’t mean you aren’t required to report your earnings. The $600 rule only applies to the business that’s paying you. If you earned money from them, you have to report it. Which leads to…
Report EVERY penny you earn. If you don’t receive a 1099 in the mail, you’ll still need to self-report the income on your taxes. If you don’t, the IRS could audit your tax returns which can result in some pretty nasty penalties.
Write off those business expenses. Independent contractors have a lot of leeway with the IRS’ definition of “business expense.” If the majority of your side-hustle takes place in a home office, for example, then commuting costs to meet a client can be written off as a business expense. This is the best way to cut down your tax bill so you won’t owe so much on the back end. I wish someone would have told me this my first year as a freelancer. I probably could have written off a large portion of my tax liability!
What about personal expenses? When you’re preparing to itemize for write-offs, you really want to pay attention to what your personal expenses are versus your business expenses. For example, if you have a home office and want to deduct the cost of your house payment, you can’t just write off the whole amount of your rent or mortgage. You’ll need to whittle it down to the square foot. So if your house is 2000 sq. ft. and your office is only 300 sq. ft., you’ll need to crunch some numbers and determine how much that space actually costs. That’s the amount you’ll be able to deduct as a business expense.
Keep your records straight. I cannot stress this enough: keep all of your records in order and save everything! If you don’t have proof of purchase in the form of a receipt (bank records don’t count), and you end up being audited by the IRS, you’re on the hook for some of those nasty penalties!
Pay your taxes quarterly. If you’ve been an independent contractor for well over a year, the IRS wants you to start paying your taxes quarterly. Full time employees have their taxes taken out every pay period by their employers, but independent contractors need to do the math themselves to pay every quarter once their side-hustle has been established for over a year.
Don’t forget to change your address (again). If you just made another PCS move and haven’t changed your address, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to report that income if you don’t get your 1099 in the mail. You’re still on the hook for those earnings so make sure the company you do business with has your new address information so you can get a copy.
The deadline to file your taxes is April 15, 2018, so you have a few months to prepare. The more knowledgeable and organized you are with your side-hustle, the less likely you’ll be audited by the IRS. Take it from me…you don’t want to learn this the hard way, so start cracking!
What lessons have you learned navigating your side-hustle taxes?
When someone mentions a PCS or a military move, most of us feel something. Good or bad…we feel something. We might tense up as we remember the move where absolutely nothing went right, or smile thinking about the PCS where the baby took her first steps amidst all of the boxes. We may feel pride for the time the house was unpacked and set up for living in record time, or maybe laugh a little thinking about the movers eating pizza in the driveway. We might even pause to remember tearful goodbyes among friends who had become family. We are military spouses…we move and we feel.
After 9 moves myself, I have felt and learned a lot. One of the most memorable moves was a PCS from Vicenza, Italy to Columbus, GA with 4 weeks’ notice. A lot had to be done in an incredibly short amount of time. The experience was almost surreal as we were making plans and decisions that my brain hadn’t caught up with yet. Short-fused orders can be tricky–coming at the last minute, so here are my top 3 tips for your next short-notice military move.
School needs some special attention.
Gathering and hand-carrying school records, withdrawal letters, recent report cards, standardized test grades, documentation on gifted or special needs programs and phone numbers to key school contacts are imperative. Requirements for school registration and credit transfers differ from state to state. Being armed with all possible documentation often expedites an otherwise painfully lengthy process. Make sure you understand the Interstate Compact for military children. You may have missed testing deadlines in your new area, so understanding your child’s rights could help them seamlessly transfer to their new education experience.
Don’t jump ship without a proper goodbye.
The hustle and bustle of a short-term move is real. Scheduling appointments, out-processing, packers, cleaners, and movers can be overwhelming. Moving is the mission and the family works together to carry it out. PCS moves often bring families closer together, but taking the time to appreciate and farewell the friends and memories of your current home cannot be overlooked. Allow each member of the family to express their excitement or grief about the sudden move. Talk about your favorite memories. Make time to visit your close friends or involve them in your final weeks. Eat at your favorite restaurant or take a picture at your go-to weekend hotspot. Closure is necessary and when moving quickly, can often be forgotten.
Traveling with pets is hard…it just is.
Leaving an overseas assignment with your family pet and little warning is a huge challenge by itself. Depending on where you’re moving and when you are heading out, you need to consider quarantine rules, documentation requirements, and even the temperature outside. All of these things can impact your pet’s experience and your emotional stability. I recommend making arrangements as soon as possible. Research your new location’s requirements, possible airline restrictions, and gather all of your official Veterinarian records. Have a backup plan for transporting your pet. During summer months, the backup plan is often needed.
As military families, we always know to expect the unexpected, and sometimes those orders will come at the very last second causing panic to ensue. But short-fused orders don’t have to be a nightmare–it just takes a few extra deep breaths, a good plan, and maybe some chocolate.
What are your best tips for moving at the last minute?
Murphy is my new BFF. You know, the Murphy from “Murphy’s Law.”
At least, that’s how I should feel about someone who has so clearly moved into my guest room and made himself at home. We’re not even two months into this deployment, and everything is breaking. At the same time. The day my husband left, the washer and the vacuum both died. Then the cat had some infection that required hundreds of dollars in vet bills. Of course, this was right before Christmas, and right when the tires on the minivan badly need to be replaced before the road trip to visit family.
Then the kitchen sink faucet broke right off (a kid probably yanked on it a bit too hard in the fight over who gets to fill their water cup first). Then the toddler threw legos in the toilet and flushed. The most recent is the water heater that went out the day of my kid’s birthday party when I haven’t showered in a day or two. Hey, the Hubs goes without showering on deployment sometimes… I guess I can too, right? Baby wipes and perfume for the win.
Not only is stuff breaking at our new (rental) place, it’s breaking at the home we own that we just moved away from. We struggled finding a tenant to pay rent, but we now have repairs on top of that. Did I mention I just had to leave my job because we PCSed, and though I’ve pieced together a few part-time jobs (4), I haven’t seen much income from them yet? A lot of it just funnels right in and out of the bank account in child care fees. Savings doesn’t last long when you’re paying mortgage and rent simultaneously on half the income you used to make.
When it all feels like it’s coming down at once and I can’t get a breath, I have to take a step back.
All the military spouses I know have encountered this at some point; they all have different ways of dealing with it. The few ways I have learned are: call a friend (preferably another milspouse), make some tea, eat some chocolate, put on my headphones with some good music going, volunteer (it gives me great perspective when I fall into self-pity), and escape into a great book.
Sometimes I have to do them simultaneously (eating chocolate while drinking tea and listening to music). Sometimes they don’t work well and I throw myself a little pity party. Fortunately those times are relatively infrequent, though this deployment is testing that. Then I’ll finish my little meltdown, and pull it back together and remember why I do this: because my Hubs loves what he does, and what he does is important. I’m proud of him and I love him, and that means supporting him through the rough parts of that work.
Do you ever feel like Murphy is your BFF? How do you keep yourself grounded?
Posted by Jessica Strong, NMFA Volunteer and military spouse
Chances are, if you have a service member in the Marine Corps, you’ve heard of Quantico, Virginia. Nestled on the I-95 corridor just 40 miles south of Washington, DC, Marine Corps Base Quantico is home to some pretty awesome stuff—like the Marine Corps Officer Candidate School and The Basic School, the FBI Academy, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), and Marine Helicopter Squadron One—or as we know it, Marine One, the President’s helicopter.
Approximately 4,000 military service members and their families live aboard MCB Quantico, which also has its own elementary and middle/high school. And a little fun fact, the town of Quantico, Virginia is only reachable after going through military security—that’s because it’s technically surrounded by MCB Quantico on three sides, and the Potomac River on the fourth side.
So you’re getting orders to Quantico (as most call it), what now? Here are a few things I learned during my stay:
There’s usually a waitlist for housing. With only 355 units available for officers, and a little over 780 units for enlisted families, the chances that you’ll end up on a wait list for on-base housing are high. If you’re lucky enough to land a place on base, count on pristine neighborhoods that look like a scene from a Colonial postcard. American flags fly proudly, and stoops are usually littered with moms watching kids up and down the sidewalks. If you find yourself moving in, you’ll definitely enjoy the small-town feel.
Photo: Lincoln Military Housing
Living off base requires some research. I’d recommend starting your search just north of the base, in the areas of Montclair, Southbridge, or Lake Ridge. These are more suburban areas within Prince William County. There are some spotty areas with higher crime, but for the most part, it’s an easily accessible, affordable area. If schools are a concern for your kids, I’d suggest looking south of Quantico in Garrisonville, Stafford, or even as far south as Fredericksburg. Stafford and Spotsylvania Counties both boast great school systems. If your budget allows it, some military families will find themselves even closer to Washington DC, in areas like Lorton and Springfield—where you may meet fellow military families who are stationed at Fort Belvoir.
On-base amenities are pretty great! Whether you’re going to the commissary, the MTF, or the gym, you’ll be pleasantly surprised how awesome everything is. The commissary is easily accessible near the south gate, so it’s convenient for those who live off-base, and the MTF is a fairly new, well-equipped facility. The gym is 57,000 square feet complete with group exercise rooms, a spin studio, tons of weights and machines, and has a TV and Wi-Fi lounge, smoothie bar, child care, and saunas. Outside the gym is a full track and field stadium, where many units participate in recreational team sports, like flag football, kickball, and soccer.
It’s a history nerd’s playground. One thing I wish I would have taken advantage of more in my time living in Northern Virginia was the history around me. Of course, you’re near the nation’s capital, but you’re also within driving distance to some of America’s other amazing pieces of history, like the Manassas National Battlefield Park (in Manassas), the American Civil War Museum (in Richmond), George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon, and the National Museum of the Marine Corps (in Quantico). As a suggestion, try to get to the Marine Corps 8th & I Barracks—known as the “Oldest Post of the Corps,” and home of the Marine Corps Commandant, for The Evening Parade. You won’t regret it.
Traffic is a necessary evil. There really is no way to avoid traffic when you’re in the Northern Virginia/Washington DC area. The trick is to assume the worst. Every morning, I-95 northbound traffic will be horrible—the stuff of nightmares. Most people who live in Northern Virginia and work in DC will commute via bus, train, even carpools to avoid the traffic. Others (like me) will leave VERY early in the morning to make the commute a little less wretched. Count on weekends to be messy on the highways, too. Everyone likes to get out of the city and head south on Friday afternoons, and then return back on Sunday afternoon/evening. Load another movie on the kids’ iPad. They’ll need it. So will your sanity.
MCB Quantico is small-town base located in big city area. There’s so much to take advantage of both on and off-base, you’ll feel like you’ll won’t have enough time to see it all. Don’t forget to check out the food and businesses in the town of Quantico (lovingly called “Q-Town”). The architecture on base is beautiful, the sunsets on the Potomac are one-of-a-kind, and there’s nothing more memorable to make your heart bleed red, white, and blue than seeing the President’s helicopter flying overhead.
Have you been stationed at MCB Quantico? What would you tell a fellow military family who’s moving there?
The new Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, Robert Wilkie, recently told the Fayetteville Observer that the Pentagon is considering limiting moves made by military families, largely due to the stressors that constant moves put on military families. Wilkie told the news outlet that not every base is large enough to support families for long periods of time but there are those, like Fort Bragg and NAS Norfolk, that are large enough to support families for extended tours.
It sounds like a good thing.
In his conversation with the paper, Wilkie noted, “It (the PCS system) was built at a time when less than 10 percent of the military had families. Today, 70 percent have families.” Further, he acknowledged the reality that in a lot of cases if the family isn’t happy, the servicemember won’t remain active duty.
Most would read this and feel zero amount of surprise. The constant moves we’re required to do has so many impacts that are clearly harmful. In my own experience, the difficulty to find a good employment fit has been a major challenge. Indeed, in the civilian career force, one of the most commonly cited reasons for turning relocation down is the other spouse’s career. Companies have started going so far as to provide incentives that will assist the spouse professionally.
I’ve been told before at bases located in rural areas not to disclose to prospective employers my status as a military spouse. Employers want longevity, something that the milspouse can rarely offer. And then there’s the emotional work: The work of starting over with new people and a new town. The work of helping our children to thrive as they adjust. The work a spouse puts in to deal with new coworkers and bosses.
It seems the orders always come down the pipes as soon as our kids have made friends; as soon as we find that one restaurant that reminds us of the tacos we love back home; or we get into the base housing neighborhood we’ve been on the waiting for for months.
The thought of having more time is so alluring.
But would it be as great as I’m imaging? Probably not always.
I’ve always been the type of person who believes that much of life is what we make of it. There are absolutely seasons when depression or circumstance take that from us. But ultimately I think that thriving as a milspouse is largely about making my perspective a skill. With that being said, I can speak to my experience; I know there are times when the most effective way to have a new outlook is to have new orders.
NAS Fallon gave me a run for my money. We moved there from NAS Whidbey Island in Oak Harbor. Washington is lush and green; it’s beautiful. I made one of my closest friends there, and several other good friends. We would make frequent trips to Seattle and the surrounding islands. It was place we likely could not have afforded to live in if it weren’t for the military.
And then my husband got orders to SFWPD (Strike Fighter Wing Pacific Detachment) — or Top Gun as it is more commonly known — which no longer resides in coastal Miramar, but in Nevada’s northern high-desert. Fallon is small like Whidbey, but that’s about all they have in common.
Because Fallon’s two biggest operations are hosting those who come to train at Top Gun and the CAGs (Combat Air Group: the group of planes and personnel that fly together on carriers for our non-Navy friends) who train at the Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center, there are very few with permanent orders.
In Fallon, the military community is tiny. The civilian community is most familiar with the Sailors and Marines who come in the thousands temporarily, inevitably start bar fights (permanent party is not allowed to visit Fallon’s bars when CAGs are visiting, they can be so disruptive), and seduce local ranchers’ daughters, and then leave weeks later.
The high desert landscape is barren and brown with little to look at beyond their admittedly glorious sunsets. I struggled mightily to form meaningful relationships. I was so ready to leave and I don’t miss it, at all.
The reality is that moves are hard, and they’re always going to be hard. There are certainly situations where an extended tour would be welcome; if the DoD does implement a new policy, it will hopefully come to some who need it most. To the spouse about to receive the promotion, to the service member on the verge of making a breakthrough with a therapist, or to the child forming their first long-lasting friendship.
What I do know is that whether on Whidbey Island or in Fallon, I will have the most important parts of my life with me. I’ll still be writing away on this laptop. I’ll still call my mom — my best friend — the day we arrive to tell her whether or not the living room is big enough for our couch. Whether I like the place or not, I’ll still drive everyone crazy with my beloved camera. Most importantly, in the words of Tim Coulson, “If I could only take photos of one thing for the rest of my life, it would be my family.” And I’ll get to; whether in the sagebrush or the tide pools, we’ll go together. I don’t know if fewer moves would always be a positive, but we’ll be alright regardless.
Would your military family benefit from fewer PCS moves? Or do you think it comes with the territory of military life? Leave a comment and let us know!
Posted by C.N. Moore, military spouse, parent, and writer
It’s happened. After 16 years of service, my husband received orders to a place we decidedly did NOT want to live. I’ve always been a person who believes that I can be happy anywhere, as long as I am with my family. I believe in blooming where I am planted. I believe in being positive.
But I wasn’t prepared for this.
We painstakingly poured over our dream sheet. It was filled with locations on the East Coast (where my job and college are located), Overseas locations (we love to travel) and warm locations with beach access (I’m from a beach town in California). We ended up moving where it is cold, rural, landlocked, and a more than three days drive to the ocean.
When we were given our orders, I cried for days. I don’t say this to be melodramatic, and I can’t say I am proud of my behavior. But, it’s honest. I cried, and I cried and I complained to everyone who dared ask me if we were excited about the upcoming move.
The reaction I got from everyone went something like this…
They said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about – everyone LOVES that duty station!”
They said, “You’ll learn to love it and be sad when you have to leave!”
They said, “You’ll feel at home there in no time.”
All things I have said to other spouses. Not that long ago, I even wrote an article on HOW to bloom where you are planted. And now, now that I have been sent where I don’t want to be, it is painful to hear these things. I have been at the new duty station six months now. I am NOT loving it, and I am not blooming.
It’s time for me to change my advice for other spouses. I have something different that I want to say to you. It is okay to hate where you are stationed. It is okay to be a city person who hates living in rural areas. It’s okay to be a mountain person who hates the beach. It’s okay to hate the most popular duty station ever. It’s OKAY to feel the way you are feeling. It’s okay to need time and space. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to even wallow in how much you hate things for a while.
As military spouses, it seems like we are always expected to suck it up and make the most of the situation. And, I have no doubt in my mind that all of us poor souls stuck in whatever our personal version of duty station hell WILL eventually do just this.
We will decorate our homes and get organized and get into routines. We will meet people. We will find new jobs to love and new clubs to join. We will go places. We will learn to tolerate the cold weather, and layer our children, and scrape the ice off of our cars. We’ll learn about the traditions and culture of our new homes. We’ll settle in eventually, and maybe start to feel comfortable (and dare I say, even love) our new homes.
But before we get there?
Take your time to feel bad about the situation. Grump and grouch about it if you want. Cry if you need to. I will be here, offering up a glass of wine, some dark chocolate, and a tissue. I’ll give you space to feel your feelings.
And I will no longer tell you to bloom where you are planted.
Have you or any of your milspouse friends ever felt this way? Give them some encouragement and share this post with them!
Members of any military family know that moving every few years is just part of the job description. Though relocating to different duty stations has become commonplace for most of these families, the process of moving can still be difficult, especially as children begin to grow up and the families accumulate more personal effects. For military families preparing for a move, there are viable options across the nation to invest in storage units where you can keep your belongings safe and accessible. When you are looking to rent self-storage in your new location, keep these top ten tips in mind.
Clothing is often the bulk of a military family’s moving items. Keep unnecessary clothes, such as seasonal wear, maternity clothing, extra shoes, spare accessories, and any other type of extra clothing in plastic bins. Plastic protects clothing against moisture and bugs better than cardboard and ends up being a good long-term investment.
Items of personal significance
Military families often take with them personal effects that they don’t always want cluttering their new home. This can be anything from family photo albums to precious heirlooms. If possible, try to keep personal items in smaller boxes. Smaller boxes are safer than larger boxes because you are less likely to stack anything else on top of them, which can prevent crushing and breaking.
Members of military families often have collections of particular items they have taken interest in. For anything from stamps to model cars, consider keeping them in airtight plastic boxes, as well. This can protect most collections from potential moisture or other damage. Keep collections near the front of your storage unit so they are easily accessible any time someone in the family may need them.
Consider wrapping any padded pieces of furniture in plastic and make sure to add additional padding to corners of furniture that could get bumped or damaged during a move. Industrial wrapping is offered at most storage facilities, and you can pad your furniture with anything from a pillow to Styrofoam. Avoid placing other items on expensive pieces of furniture to prevent damage.
Storing large appliances
Military families moving to homes pre-furnished with appliances often need a place to keep their own large appliances. Consider using storage blankets to cover them and avoid stacking appliances to prevent toppling. Drain any water out of a washing machine and refrigerator to reduce weight and potential freezing.
It’s often a good idea to look for a storage facility which also provides parking spaces for your cars. Even if you are using covered parking or an indoor unit specifically designed for vehicles, consider buying a car tarp to protect your vehicle from dust, snow, rain, and other elements. This also helps protect vehicles against potential bumping or scraping.
Important documents and paperwork
Military families often have very sensitive documents, such as birth certificates, tax returns, and other items of paperwork that they want to protect. Try securing a filing cabinet with file folders where you can sort out your taxes and other secure documents.
Storing with climate control
There are many self-storage units that offer the option of climate control. This is a highly valuable feature for military families. Not only can you protect your belongings from temperature fluctuations, there is also less chance that your storage items will be damaged, vandalized, or subject to theft.
Oftentimes, musically-inclined military family members have collections of instruments, such as guitars, pianos, drum sets, and wind instruments that all keep well in storage. It is recommended that these items be stored in climate controlled units to prevent exposure to extreme temperatures.
Electronics and video games
Many military families invest in electronics and video games as a form of family fun and entertainment. Again, consider springing a little extra for climate control to ensure the weather and elements don’t ruin their processing units or other electronic functionalities. Also avoid stacking anything on top of breakable electronic equipment.
Has your family ever used a storage unit to keep possessions after a move? What tips did you find helpful?
This post was created by our friends at US Storage Centers. For more information, visit usstoragecenters.com.
Last spring, after finding out about our upcoming summer PCS, I began what has become an all-to0-familiar routine: jumping on the computer to research how to transfer my teaching license to a new state. I was already a teacher when I met and married my Air Force spouse, and was under the impression that teaching was one of those wonderful “portable careers.” One that would allow me to move easily from state to state because, of course, everyone needs good educators.
Now, after nearly twenty years, I have learned that while great teachers are needed everywhere, getting to teach in each new place isn’t without obstacles. Don’t get me wrong, not all states are difficult to navigate. But the fact that each state comes with its own set of rules, testing regulations, and expectations can drive a spouse over the edge when it comes to that famous word “reciprocity”!
I quickly realized that transferring my current licenses and endorsements to my new state was going to be cumbersome and expensive. In fact, I was so overwhelmed by the process, I decided not to teach in the public school system. Instead, I looked into the private system that would accept my current certifications. While this was an okay solution to my problem, something in me wasn’t quite satisfied. I’ve always worked in public education and, given the huge teacher shortage in my new location, I was frustrated that I couldn’t utilize my talents and experience in a system that needed them. After many conversations with my husband, I began a journey to try to change the system that was deterring not only me, but many other military spouse teachers.
I had no idea where to start. I mean, I’m just a teacher. I’m not a politician and I had no connections in this new state. I literally knew no other teachers in my new location. So, I began talking to any spouse I could. I got active in our base spouses’ group, asked questions of teachers at my children’s schools, talked to neighbors, and even had my husband talk to people he worked with to connect with other military spouse teachers locally. I felt that if I could find a handful of teachers in the same situation, maybe we could work on this project together.
My hunt led me to many teacher-spouses with different, but equally frustrating stories. Theirs were moving and emotional and needed to be heard. I knew that if our stories were heard by the right decision makers, we might have a real shot at influencing some change. So that was the next step…who were the influencers in my state? All my networking paid off when I was introduced to the Director of Military Affairs, who works for the state (here’s where you can find yours). He is often on our base connecting with military members and their families. My husband and I shared my frustrations, and he was interested in hearing more. Then, he connected with key decision makers within the state and helped arrange a meeting to discuss the issue of military spouse teacher certification.
Now the hard work began…
Now I was getting somewhere. I had the real stories of teachers, as well as an “internal advocate” who worked for the state and was just as passionate about military spouse teachers being heard as I was. I researched all the facets of the certification processes outlined by the State Department of Education so we could understand exactly which areas of the process were causing the greatest challenges. I worked with each teacher to understand exactly what background (educational and work experience) they had, and where their hang ups were in the certification process. Finally, we requested a meeting with key decision/policy makers from the state through the Director of Military Affairs. It included a representative from the Governor’s office, a State School Board Member, and Department of Education Licensing officials. A local public school principal shared his frustrations with finding/hiring qualified teachers, a representative from the Defense State Liaison Office (whose job is to educate state policymakers about issues service members and their families face), and five teachers (including me) shared our greatest challenges with the process.
Did our efforts pay off?
Each teacher shared their story. There was no finger pointing, and this wasn’t a gripe session. It was real people sharing real stories about their military lives, and how their family was impacted by processes that were controllable and changeable. These stories made the greatest impact! We didn’t need to be politicians or “bigwigs,” after all. Many of the state officials were shocked to hear the difficulties. They didn’t realize that the state’s requirements were in any way cumbersome. They also admitted that they hadn’t even considered the negative impact that the certification process posed for military spouses and our sometimes unique situations. Overall, it was a very positive meeting that sparked an ongoing dialogue. While we are not at our goal yet, positive changes have already been discussed and the process is in motion.
I am so very proud of how we military spouses came together and are effecting change ourselves. It’s important to note that each state is very different. How I went about it in my state might not be the same in others. Is being your own advocate easy? Nope. But just knowing we might be making things a little bit better in our state for other military spouse teachers that come behind us makes it all worth it!
Posted by Kim Lopez, Educator and Military Spouse
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