A child coloring on a piece of paper

Been There, Done That

Last week was a whole ordeal. To give you some context, I’m writing this blog in mid-March, coronavirus is on everyone’s mind, and toilet paper and hand sanitizer are in high demand.

But, I’m stationed in Japan, not the U.S. While the U.S. is in a panic buying all the canned goods, I’m just staring at the all the little pink buds on the trees waiting for that first cherry blossom to pop. Yes, coronavirus impacted us here, but by now, the consensus is that the worst is over for us.

Then, PCS was restricted, and all travel was banned. And I wept ‒ actual tears ‒knowing I would be cancelling our long-awaited trip to Australia and New Zealand ahead of our PCS back to the states. As I watched the situation escalate from my vantage point, I said more than once that, “If we have to cancel that trip that we planned for, saved for, and postponed due to military scheduling more than once, that would be it. That would be the day OCONUS life breaks me.”

After roughly 12 years of this military spouse thing, I have just enough experience to make me realistic first, and optimistic second. When that order came down, I broke down as expected, gave myself a little pity party, and slept on it. When I woke up, I was still disappointed, but that wasn’t my only focus for the day. It couldn’t be. I wasn’t the only one disappointed, and when your friends and community need to be lifted up, you lift them up and you get through it together. One day soon, coronavirus will be added to this list, and it’ll be a time in our military spouse careers that we talk about as a point of pride ‒ a time we were faced with a “you’ve got to be kidding me” situation and crushed it.

If we can think back and give ourselves a little credit, while most of the country was overbuying toilet paper and freaking out over cancelled plans and details in limbo, we ‒ as a military community ‒ were steady and flexible. We were able to be steady and flexible because we’ve been training for chaos for years.

Yeah, We’ve Done That:

  • Squeezed an APO or FPO address into a customs form that it clearly wasn’t made for
  • Gotten a laundry list of immunizations and exams ahead of an OCONUS move
  • Survived when the commissary was out of milk and bread for two weeks
  • Survived when the commissary was out of most produce, thanks to an approaching typhoon
  • Lived out of a suitcase mid-PCS
  • Rolled with the punches when a deployment was postponed
  • Been heartbroken when a homecoming was postponed
  • Broken the heartbreaking homecoming postponement news to the kids
  • Been disappointed when vacations are cancelled
  • Been shaken when orders changed at the last minute
  • Waited forever for orders, then waited some more
  • Delivered a baby without family around
  • Celebrated milestones alone
  • Homeschooled intermittently
  • Powered through illness and injury without help (even though, to be fair, help is there if we ask)
  • Waited a whole 10 days for express shipping which isn’t so “express” overseas
  • Learned to live without that one thing you never found in the move (mine is my retainer that went MIA four moves ago)
  • Unpacked truly revolting things (I’ll go again: mine was the roast beef sandwich we bought our movers for lunch. He ate half, then wrapped it up with our throw pillows.)
  • Mastered living in another state
  • Mastered living in another country ­with different language, driving rules and customs
  • Lived in what looks more like a storage unit than a living room right before household goods pickup and right after delivery
  • Made friends even when it was way out of our comfort zone
  • Left jobs we loved to start over at a new one
  • Fixed everything from toasters to cars to make them last “just one more move”
  • Planned, then changed said plan
  • Accepted that much of what happens is out of our hands despite our planning
  • Deciphered confusing instructions and adopted them as a new way of life
  • Waited and waited, expecting our HHG to arrive any day now
  • And so on…

As much as I wish this was a complete list of inconveniences, disappointments and challenges we overcome (sometimes more than once), I know better. There will be more, but each new headache that drops in our lap will meet its match because when it’s MilSpouse versus anything, MilSpouse wins every time. Look at you, conquered every challenge you’ve faced so far ‒ you’re undefeated! Keep staying steady and flexible, MilFams, and make sure to use Military OneSource to help you navigate these unique situations.

Kristi Stolzenberg
Written By Kristi Stolzenberg
Marine Spouse

Kristi started writing for Blog Brigade as a new Milspouse in 2008, and all of a sudden, she’s a seasoned (but not overly salty) Marine spouse.

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  • Jenny C says:

    I have the Utmost Respect for the Military Spouse! I have had the pleasure of meeting many through volunteering for the USO. They come in many times alone with their children who are delightful because they too are well trained, polite and when it’s the whole family and they are PCSING we do extra just BECAUSE! Everybody Stay Safe

  • Barbara Chappelle says:

    Well written. Been through all these listed and more. Loved it all and it made me a stronger person for it Some people will never understand the life of a military wife, family. We are strong and will make-do with what we have on hand. Good prep for these times

  • Barbara Willobee says:

    Perfectly said! I was a military wife for 20 years. Hubby has been retired for almost 20 now. I still feel like “I’m in it.” Our oldest son is currently deployed and ‘stranded’ due to the Stop Movement. It is like PTSD all over again. The heartache I feel for my son while being at his most awful deployment ever has really resignated with me. However, we will get through this. Bless all of you spouses/families who are struggling. We are members of the greatest Armed Forces in the world. That is something to be proud of!

  • R. Perry says:

    Awesome. Former USAF SSgt

  • C A Casey says:

    I’m a second generation Navy kid (retired). Mom was a Navy kid and then married a USNA graduate. We 3 kids learned on the “job” and from Mom what was going to occur when moving. The main battle cry was “dump the trash ” because the movers would start at the back of the apartment/house and pack everything that didn’t move.
    Over the years we would meet up with military families that we knew. GO NAVY BEAT ARMY!

  • Morag Sell says:

    true story! And well said!

  • Barbara Gee says:

    I loved every moment of my 20 year as a spouse and active duty army life. We lived in 4 different countries and were stationed in 5 states. We were very fortunate to PCS with my husband to all of his duty stations. I am Army proud. I am also blessed that my children support the military in their careers as federal employees.

  • Kim Graves says:

    My husband was an Army officer for nearly 32 years and retired. Due to COVID-19 they asked him if he was interested in returning to active duty and guess what his answer was? Of course yes and here we are in our 60’s and back into the Army. I think the first week I cried everyday but the I told myself this is what he was born to do and it makes him happy. I do hope when he comes home this time it is really retirement for both of us.