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PCSing With Your Dog: Mind Your Mutt’s Manners

 Posted by on August 22, 2016 at 07:00
Aug 222016
 
Julie

Julie

Moves happen all the time in the military community. There’s that span of time, as your neighbors are moving in, where you hold your breath waiting to see if they’ll be good neighbors (respectful, kind and friendly) or the kind that make you count the days until your next PCS. Your dog’s behaviors escalate the risks of the latter. Here are a few ways to make sure you and your four-legged fur-amily members are a welcomed addition to the neighborhood.

Avoid bad-neighbor status

When you’re are running or walking through your neighborhood and you see THAT pet owner with their uncontrolled dog on the leash coming toward you — your muscles start to clench and you sweat a bit more from that underlying fear that this time the dog will lunge and take a chunk out of your leg. Don’t be that neighbor everyone dreads passing. Here are the behaviors that give your dog (and you) a bad name:

  • Pulling on leash and lunging at strangers
  • Jumping on visitors
  • Growling and barking at visitors
  • Hiding in fear of visitors
  • Barking excessively
  • Stealing food from the counter or people’s plates or hands
  • Behaving aggressively with other dogs
  • Refusing to come when called
  • Neglecting to clean up after your dog when he voids outside of your yard
  • Roaming around unattended outside your yard

Choose to raise a well-mannered fur-amily member

Every family parents pets differently. There’s nothing wrong with doing things your own way, but make sure your fur babies know how to behave in a way that keeps them, other people, dogs and property safe, because it’s your responsibility. Choose to be proactive with your pet. Decide how you want to train your dog to behave. There are numerous ways to train your canine, including:

  • Private classes (you and your dog with the instructor)
  • Group classes (you and your dog with other pet-owner couples and an instructor)
  • Camp training (dog goes away with the trainer for a few weeks and comes back trained)
  • Do-it-yourself training from a book, the internet or prior knowledge

I’ve tried the do-it-yourself method from a book and it worked, but I’ve always had the best and quickest results when I attended group or private classes and practiced at home. Half of training your dog is training yourself to understand your dog (how she thinks, what motivates her, and how you become and remain a trusted pack leader). I highly recommend a training course where your dog is exposed to other dogs and people. Socialization, learning to interact well with others, is a huge part of being a good neighbor.

Coco

You can teach any dog manners

Whether your dog is a puppy, a geriatric, stubborn, or a complete klutz (I’ve had a few that chase balls right into walls, doors and fences), they are trainable. You may need to reach out to your veterinarian, a licensed dog trainer or an animal behaviorist to help you if your dog is excessively fearful or aggressive. There’s hope for all pets, they just need the right instruction and consistent practice.

After our fur-child of 14 years, Faith, died earlier this year, we decided to adopt another dog from the local shelter. After a few visits, we found our sweet Coco, a 2-year-old special, and realized we had a lot of energy on our hands. We quickly learned to take her on a walk or play fetch with her multiple times a day so she could run out her energy and curb her night crazies a bit.

We also started taking her to private lessons from a trainer, worked with her at home and then went to Canine Good Citizen training course through our veterinarian’s office. The training and test cover the basics of good behavior for dogs. Dogs that can perform the 10 skills on the test are truly a pleasure. Here are the 10 good-behavior goals for your dog:

  1. Accept a stranger (shows no signs of fear or aggression and not leave your side to greet them)
  2. Sit for petting (doesn’t move from sitting position and allows stranger to pet them)
  3. Tolerate grooming (lets stranger groom and touch paws, tail, ears)
  4. Walk on loose leash (no pulling, is attentive to owner and follows where they lead)
  5. Walk through a crowd (no pulling on leash, no signs of fear or aggression while following owner)
  6. Stay in sit or down position (remains in stay when owner walks 20 feet away and back)
  7. Come when called (immediately returns to owner when called)
  8. Be polite around dogs (shows casual interest in other dogs walking by, no pulling toward them)
  9. Remain confident when distracted (shows confidence, not panic with loud sounds or visual distractions)
  10. Stay calm when separated (can be left with another person for brief time and maintains manners)

Sometimes we get so busy with work and life that we forget to get involved with our animals beyond the couch cuddles and feeding time. Invest in your dog as you do your children. OK. So maybe your dog doesn’t need tap dance or soccer lessons, but remember that your dog needs some interaction and a purpose or job to do each day too. You can do obedience training, teach your dog tricks or jobs around the house, train for agility trials, practice fetch with Frisbees, learn therapy dog skills or just go on daily walks. Your dog will love every moment of that time with you, and you and your dog will earn a welcomed spot in the neighborhood.

5 Things You Get When You Move Off Cycle

 Posted by on August 15, 2016 at 07:00
Aug 152016
 
Kristi

Kristi

All the boxes — I’ll take all the boxes. That’s my thought every time I see a post on our community’s Facebook page from yet another new neighbor that advertises “boxes and packing paper free on the porch.”

There’s nothing like the smell of cardboard in the summer in a military-heavy neighborhood, but it’s hard to get in the spirit of moving season when you watch new faces settle in as you scramble to get your kid ready for kindergarten while simultaneously filling out paperwork for a mid-year transfer on the complete opposite side of the country — 2,869 miles to be exact.

This is my first move off cycle, and so far I can describe it as having our invitation to the party lost in the mail.

#1: School breaks never, repeat never, align.

A summer PCS takes advantage of a season-long vacation from school, but moving literally any other time in the year means pulling kids out of one school and dropping them in another mid-year.

This leaves parents like me doing crazy real-life word problems like, “Student A starts spring break in California on March 20 and has two weeks off. His family leaves to move across the country on March 31. He arrives at his new home on April 8. His new school takes spring break from April 10-17. How many weeks of school will he miss?” Four — the answer is roughly one month out of school. Widen your eyes just a little more, and you’ll be at my level of amazement.

What’s a parent to do? We do our homework — lots and lots of homework — to make sure every little detail is attended to (enrollment paperwork, grade transfers and school physicals), so that all we have to do is show up and be the new kid (and we hope that doesn’t become an issue all its own). So far, the school liaison at our future installation has been amazing. Make this lifeline your first point of contact every time.

#2: Weaving a vacation into an off-cycle PCS is tricky.

Our summer move to California was the stuff of dreams. We could have been the spokesmodels for the great American road trip. State by state, we checked items off our bucket lists. Naturally, I wanted to replicate this grand cross-country trip (the optimist in me thinks this might be our last time driving all the way across), but we planned to take a northern route. Funny thing about the north in early spring: It’s frozen. I’ve already axed the Yellowstone adventure and glamping in Montana. We’ll hit Seattle, Mount Rushmore, Chicago and hope we aren’t racing a late blizzard.

#3: Rental houses hibernate in the winter.

If you’re ever bored (or you’re just a premature house hunter, like me), take a peek at rental listings during the summer. Our future duty station currently has pages and pages of options within our housing allowance. I have serious concerns that we’ll be dealing with a skeleton crew when we start our search after the holidays. Maybe I’m wrong — I hope I’m wrong — but from my experience as a landlord, I know that pickings tend to be slim outside of the summer months.

#4: We mean it when we insist on no gifts for the holidays.

Oh, Grandma and Nana — and you too, Uncle K, with your tradition of gifting gigantic stuffed animals — the months leading up to a move are traditionally the purging months in this house. If I’m not running things to the dump or the donation bin, I’m probably hosting a yard sale in which everything must go. The last thing I need is one more thing to pack and unpack. What I won’t say no to are some things that could be helpful during the move — maybe a road trip game, a book, a movie, travel funding, etc. We are all in agreement that we want the kids to have a memorable holiday, and believe me, they will — we’re planning a trip instead of focusing on gifts. And, if that’s not enough, just wait until you see their faces light up as they unpack everything that’s been in storage for two years, “And you get a kitchen set. And you get a trampoline. How about a TV for the playroom?”

#5: “One [really] is the loneliest number.”

No one throws around Facebook “likes” like I do in the summer — moving boxes, moving trucks, PCS vacations, saying goodbye to old friends and embracing new friends. Like, like, love, sad face, like — I really get in the moving season spirit. But it’s bittersweet when you watch all the friends you’ve made at a duty station pack up and leave without you. We’ve already said goodbye to friends here, and there’s another wave coming just before the holidays. We’ll be holding down the fort here on the block all by ourselves for three months after our friends have moved on.

I’m pretty independent, so I’ll be OK (aside from missing them dearly, of course). But I think about my kids starting to lose their friends months before their move. That’s a long timeline of emotion for such tender hearts. I also think about how — even on the days we weren’t purposely spending time together — our neighbors and friends were just part of our lives here, and that even simple things, like checking the mail or taking out the garbage, will be a little different without them.

It’s not all bad

Like any other part of military life, we can’t change the fact that we may once (please) or twice (hopefully not) have to move off cycle. So, we can wallow in the unfortunate timing or dig through that packing paper for a silver lining. Some perks of moving off cycle, include:

  • All the gently used packing paper and boxes we can handle
  • Cooler temps on moving day (in theory, anyway)
  • Built-in child care on moving day (unless your kids happen to be on a school break)
  • Lower home prices (also in theory — homeowners that didn’t sell or rent their places in the summer may lower the price to entice buyers or renters)

I am sure when it’s all said and done, I’ll have a whole new blog to write about “what not to do during an off-cycle move,” but I’m going to roll with it for now and try to get my 5-year old to keep his enthusiasm for his month-long spring break at a minimum.

May 052016
 
Melissa

Melissa

I have so many friends who recently received orders for overseas duty stations. Some are headed to Europe and other exciting locales. But most people I know are headed to Japan, which is weight restricted for some branches of service as far as household goods are concerned. I won’t get into the nitty gritty of all of that, but usually folks are looking at being able to take 25 percent of their maximum allowable weight or in plain English, about 2,500-4.500 pounds of their “stuff.” If you want to get into the nitty gritty, check your spouse’s orders or visit Move.mil for the current weight allowance charts.

While only taking a fraction of your stuff may cause you to panic, remember that there is loaner furniture available to you during your tour. It will not be extravagant or Pinterest-worthy, but it’s furniture. A question I keep getting repeatedly is what folks should take to fill that maximum allowed. I am not going to tell you about taking the obvious stuff such as clothes, kitchen items, silverware, etc. Instead, here is my list of things I wish I had brought or was so glad that I did.

Items to consider:

  • Holiday decorations. I was soooooooo glad I brought one tote of Christmas items. It made the holidays feel more “real” to me having my familiar favorites. Also, I liked not having to fight the good fight over the last package of generic-colored ornament balls.
  • Hostess and serving pieces. I have no idea what I was thinking by not taking extra dishes, extra serving trays, party supplies etc. Being overseas is so much fun because everyone becomes your family, and that means you are always at someone’s home or your own having a big feast, especially at holidays. I am now back in America with double of all my hostess items since I couldn’t go 3 years without hosting people for dinner.
  • Home décor. I foolishly followed advice to leave all home décor at home. I wish I had brought a few framed art pieces or mirrors, a few throw pillows or SOMETHING that would have made our little bunker feel more like home without having to repurchase items once we got there. Please don’t bring your whole house full of décor, but a few neutral pieces that can work anywhere are advised.
  • Personal pictures. I took all of our photo albums to my parents to store while we were overseas. I wish I had taken at least one or two albums to peruse during our three-year tour. Call me cheesy, but I missed thumbing through our wedding album every year on our anniversary. I also wished I had pictures of our families.
  • Craft/hobby supplies. I am an avid sewist and wish I had brought tons more fabric. Yes, you can more than likely get craft supplies in your new location or you will be able to order them, but sometimes I just wish I had more of the basics already on hand. So if you have a specific hobby, consider bringing along extra of whatever it is you may use most.
  • Your bed. Yeah, yeah, I know I mentioned you will be given loaner furniture during your tour, but the government beds aren’t exactly dual pillow-top memory foam if you are catching what I am saying. So if a comfortable bed is important to you, pack it up and ship it over! No need to send the whole matching solid wood bedroom suite over. Just the mattress and rails. No all your furniture won’t match, but that’s part of the charm of overseas living.
  • Clothes for another climate. If you are going to Guam you may think you can ditch the winter coats and snow gear at home. But what happens if you go back to America during the winter and your family lives in Billings, Montana where there is likely snow on the ground. You don’t want to arrive in flip flops now do you? Many folks I know, took vacations up to snowy and cold Sapparo, Japan and needed their winter coats. So don’t take a whole wardrobe of winter gear, but a few outfits, just in case.

Remember, no matter what you take or leave behind, it isn’t forever. No one expects matching plates, silverware, home décor or furniture when you are living overseas. We all “get it,” so don’t stress it. Spend more time out their exploring your new home instead of worrying about what you left behind!

Inside the White Walls of Base Housing

 Posted by on September 3, 2015 at 14:11
Sep 032015
 

It’s a strange hobby of mine to decode real estate listings. Could you imagine living in a world where base housing units were fluffed just like traditional listings? It might look something like this:

Kristi

Kristi

This charming 1950s bungalow is available in a safe, family-friendly community. This blank canvas is full of potential and ready for your personal touches to make it feel like home. Some appliances and fixtures are updated, and anything that is not updated just adds to the character of the home — they don’t make them like this anymore. The walls have a fresh coat of paint (sometimes lots and lots of coats at no extra cost). Utilities, lawn and maintenance are included, and your monthly payment just happens to equal your housing allowance. This unit will move quickly — don’t miss this chance to call it home.*

*But in case you do miss this one, the one down the street, across the street and even right next door are exactly the same, give or take an updated appliance.

Let’s break it on down now, base housing style:

  • Charming – It’s small and quirky (creaks in the floor and doors that don’t close completely).
  • 1950s bungalow – Get a count of bathrooms, electrical outlets and square footage before you sign anything.
  • Blank canvas – It has white walls — lots and lots of white walls — blah carpet and matching cabinets. I was surprised to learn that our local hardware store even has a specific shade of white paint named after our neighborhood. That is taking white paint to a whole new level. On the bright side, “blank canvas” also implies that it’s clean, which is more than I can say for some of our previous rentals.
  • Updated appliances and fixtures – Unless it says all of them, you’re either cooking on grandma’s stove or rinsing your toothbrush with water from the same faucet as the greatest generation. Your call on whether that’s a deal breaker or not.
  • Character – It’s old and quirky. Also, see charming.
  • Fresh coat of paint – This is typically a selling point, but in older base housing, you could be dealing with layers upon layers of paint (some of which could be lead — there’s a fun little guessing game). It can be thick and tacky, like an ugly holiday sweater, and has been known to peel off just by looking at it the wrong way.
  • Extras – Utilities are often included in full or in part, but it can vary in privatized base housing (even within one installation). That seems fair since your basic housing allowance is meant to cover the basic costs of living, like electricity and running water. Lawn and maintenance services vary from place to place too, and based on the management company, you could be waiting for a while. This happens in off-installation housing too, to be fair.

Kidding aside, I’m typing this from my beige couch (crammed with all four members of my family), in our base housing, white-on-white living room. We knew the drawbacks, but we frantically rushed (seriously, it was like the Black Friday of housing) to get our name on a waiting list, and then agonized for four months waiting to see if we “won” a house. It was like the worst lottery ever, minus the fact that we did eventually win.

Base housing is a new adventure for our family — technically not for my husband, since he lived in base housing as a kid and he called a few single service member housing options home before I enriched his life with draperies and scented candles.

Why we chose base housing (this time)

Glutton for punishment? No, base housing really was the best option for our family. We already own a house that, in theory, should be an income property, so we were hesitant to buy again. And rental properties near our current installation were few and far between. Many were just as old and small as our current base house, but at least we had the guarantee of a safe neighborhood in an unfamiliar place. Did I mention on base we could get a 3-bedroom place? After weeks of hotel stays, this mama was like, “Three cheers for walls.”

Here’s how we decided on base housing:

  • Safe, strictly military community — great for kids, jogging and making new friends
  • Short commute — for my husband and, eventually, for our son who starts kindergarten next year (I will not cry…I will not cry…hold it together, Kristi.)
  • No utility costs
  • Better floor plan than we could’ve afforded in the civilian community
  • Clean at move-in — apparently not always
  • A yard — hard to come by in some areas
  • Comfortable renting sight unseen

Should you choose base housing?

It might not be for everyone. We dramatically lowered our expectations. Our townhouse is basically the inspiration for the real estate blurb up top (you might have guessed). But, you know what — we’ve made it home for now. I’ve covered as much of the white walls and dorm room-esque cabinets as possible without actually painting. It’s small, and depending on the humidity, the bedroom doors don’t close, but it’s only temporary.

We wanted to make the most of this duty station, and that means leaving here with no regrets. We want to say that we saw everything we wanted to see and experienced everything we wanted to experience in our short stay here. Those memories will last longer than those of “that really cool house we lived in that one time that was so expensive that we couldn’t afford to do anything but live in it.”

Jul 272015
 

Dear Maddie,

We recently PCSed after 3 years at our last duty station where we had a great circle of friends. We currently do not have children and I am finding it difficult to make friends. I feel like all the moms think that I don’t want to be friends with them because we don’t have children ourselves and that just isn’t true. How do I crack the code and make friends here?

Kara

 

Dear Kara,

I have been on both sides of this equation, so I understand completely where you are coming from. And kids or not, it is hard to make friends after a move, especially if you have a great, established circle of friends back at your old duty station. Moms may seem like they have the advantage with the bus stop chatter, play groups and sports teams, but sometimes moms want friends outside of their kids’ circle. I think the standard rules of making friends apply whenever you move. Regardless of your kid status, you will also build up a great network of friends at your new installation with a little bit of elbow grease and some old school methods. Just like dating, you need to find an activity or hobby you are interested in and pursue it in your new community. Obviously solo, anti-social activities do not apply, but let’s be real, you can even make a love of reading books into a social activity with book clubs. If you are racking your brain trying to figure out a hobby, then consider the old cliché of volunteering in the meantime. It’s cliché because it works. I have yet to leave a volunteer activity without at least one new friend. It may take a few attempts before you hit it off with someone and other times you may hit it off with someone immediately. Not sure where to start? Consider a program on your installation (where volunteers are always needed) or a passion in your local community (dog walkers at your community pet shelter anyone?). There you will find like-minded people and it will already lay the groundwork for a friendship. Also, why not put yourself out there? If you are a foodie and dying to check out a new restaurant, post in a spouse group on social media to see if others want to plan a meet up. Same thing goes with a movie you want to see or activity you want to check out. Of course it goes without saying to use caution when meeting people for the first time, so make sure it’s a public place and let others know your plans for the day. I believe your friend circle will soon be growing regardless of the “mom status” of you or your new friends!

 

Dear Maddie,

We just got to our new duty station and to sum it up, I hate it. How do I survive the time we have left here?

Brandee

 

Dear Brandee,

I know you want to pack your bags and head out of town and tell your spouse you will see them on the flip side, but put the suitcase down. Most spouses have been in your shoes and have lived to tell the tale! I promise I am not going to sit here and tell you that you will learn to love it, or ask what is wrong with you. I firmly believe that it is OK to not like where you live. We are all meant to thrive in different parts of the world. However, I will tell you to bloom where you are planted. That phrase used to be nails on a chalkboard to me, so I modified it to fit my situation. Sure. I will bloom where I am planted, but only short, sustainable roots that can easily be picked up and moved to another location to thrive.” I made the choice to power on by finding the good things about our new location. I also had to psych myself up with daily positive affirmations about the benefits of living in that particular place. Literally, I would publicly share on my Facebook page something positive. It was a bit of a mind trick and it got me through. I got really involved in social activities and volunteering and before I knew it I had some of the best friends I had ever met and suddenly our time was up! I was sad to leave! Sad! Can you believe it? Not so much because of the duty station itself, but because of the friends we made. Since you mentioned that you just got to your new home, might I suggest my rule of thumb? I make sure not to make a decision on a duty station before we have lived there six months. That gives me enough time to experience a few season changes, get to know my way around, and get settled. If at the end of the six months I still don’t like it, I allow myself to be OK with that, but still find ways to thrive. I am willing to bet you too will find the positive in your new place and grow your roots to fit your situation. Best wishes!

 

Maddie

So Little Hurry, So Much Wait

 Posted by on April 21, 2015 at 14:32
Apr 212015
 

I never outgrew the impatience of childhood. Are we there yet? Why is this taking so long? Just pick one, already. I’ll just do it myself. If I were a talking doll, these would be the phrases that repeat every time a child squeezed my hand — hours of fun for the whole family.

Kristi

Kristi

Imagine how the hair on the back of my neck stands up when I hear the word “wait.” It’s like nails on a chalkboard. My brain doesn’t take breaks, and if I’m forced to wait (which, let’s be honest, I’m a military spouse — it happens daily), I have no choice but to research unlikely what-if scenarios, shop, redecorate or DIY something.

We have orders to move to California in May, and I’m in that awful purgatory: hurry up and wait. I’ve researched everything from housing to where I’ll take the kids on Tuesday mornings from 9 to 10 a.m. I prepared an entire cross-country travel itinerary, complete with timelines and scheduled stops. We’re on the housing list. The movers are scheduled. We’ve decided what will stay with us and what will be spending a tour in storage. And, it should go without saying that I’ve already jumped the gun on our full-service move and started boxing a few things myself.

Even my typically less enthusiastic husband is jumping on the crazy train for this move. It was his suggestion that we tape off the dimensions of our new house and rearrange the furniture to see if it would fit. If you’re picturing me with those little cartoon hearts bursting overhead at the moment he said that, you’re picturing that situation accurately. Best…date night…ever. I made a spreadsheet — I’m not even embarrassed to admit it.

But if I keep prepping at this rate, I am going to reach that embarrassment soon. My grandma, who packs for a weekend trip three weeks in advance, has already started teasing me. “Are you all packed yet?” she pokes sarcastically. “You’ve got time,” she says. “What’s the rush?” she questions.

Surely, I’m not the only antsy military spouse trying to grab a hold of anything move-related that I can control right now. I’m doing my best to occupy my time by:

  • Cleaning out cabinets, closets and junk drawers (again)
  • Working
  • Blogging
  • Teaching my almost 2-year-old her ABCs and 123s
  • Creating a pre-k and kindergarten homeschool curriculum from scratch
  • Creating a west coast travel bucket list

But even all that isn’t distraction enough. I actually pulled out my expired teaching certificates yesterday and toyed with renewing them. Why would I do that? I have no plans to get back into teaching — there I go trying to find something to control, even if it’s completely unnecessary.

So, the new batch of distraction I’m working with is as follows:

  • Plan birthday festivities for my daughter and husband. Their birthdays are five days apart — even that is hurry up and wait.
  • Review washers and driers (since we’ll have to buy a set when we arrive).
  • Find or create recipes that use up the random assortment of staples in the pantry, like two tubs of oatmeal, a weird amount of apple cider vinegar (I always think I’m out and buy more) and a rainbow of unopened salad dressings.
  • Refinish some furniture that I’ve been meaning to tackle (might as well, since we can’t bring those cans of stain and paint with us).
  • Replace the dead batteries in my watches (yes, plural).
  • Work through the inventory in our craft supply closet (construction paper, markers, stickers and such).
  • Get a grasp on the TRICARE situation at our new duty station — on or off base medical and dental care.
  • Potty train our daughter to avoid moving diapers and a changing table across state lines.

And that’s pretty much all I’ve got right now. I’m hoping that will hold me for a while (at least until it’s more socially acceptable for our home to resemble the inside of a storage unit).

 

Aug 272014
 
Kristi

Kristi

So you got married what seems like five minutes ago (congratulations, by the way) and now you’re preparing for your first adventure with the military: moving. We don’t just dip our toes in the pool, do we? No sir, we jump in headfirst. Whether you’re just moving in with your new better half or moving to the other side of the world on your first PCS together, you’re in for a wild ride.

But “wild” can be a good thing. Believe it or not, you can even control “wild” to an extent by focusing on the big picture, finding ways to minimize homesickness and having a heads up about common new military spouse frustrations. Let these tips help you stretch that honeymoon phase to the max:

  1. Expect to be homesick. Who wouldn’t miss the comfort and familiarity of home? It’s natural to be homesick from time to time. Give yourself something to look forward to by planning a trip home, arranging for a friend or relative to send some of your hometown or homemade favorites or inviting a loved one to visit you.
  2. Remind yourself that “home” changes too. I’ve actually PCSed back to my hometown, and I can assure you that home is a state of mind more than it is a place. It never stays just the way we remember it. Places change, people change and people move away just like we did. What we miss are the memories we made there, not the place itself. Find comfort in knowing you aren’t the only one moving on.
  3. Make home wherever you are. Create the feeling of home with your new spouse. Establish traditions, incorporate a few of your favorite things into the décor, and make the most of where you are by meeting new people and trying new local places and activities.
  4. Remember that you have to flex (often). Your service member’s career is demanding. It often requires weird hours, spur of the moment changes, bottomless baskets of laundry, cold meals and a lot of hurrying up only to wait. Accepting this chaos can help you avoid undue stress and maybe even spare you and your spouse an argument or two.
  5. Network for new opportunities. A new home means you may need a new job, a new pizza place and everything in between. Neighbors and fellow military spouses are great connections in your new community that can link you to the right people and places to help you feel at home.
  6. Keep in touch. Just because you’re no longer living with your parents or in your hometown doesn’t mean you can’t keep in touch. Use social media, text, email or video chat to communicate and stay connected even from miles away.

Your first months of marital bliss might not look just the way you pictured. You may be living in a small town you’ve never heard of, but you’ll make the most of it because you’re a military spouse now and that’s just what we do. Welcome to the club!

Pre-orders Conversations

 Posted by on August 25, 2014 at 15:58
Aug 252014
 
Kristi

Kristi

I regularly tease my husband about living in a little place I like to call Hypothetical Land. I justifiably tease him because I’ll be in the middle of cooking dinner, loading the dishwasher and answering work emails with a baby on my hip when he decides he’d like to discuss the floor plan of our currently non-existent retirement house. Teasing is definitely in order.

So, it’s a little out of my realm of comfort to dive into those deep and often hypothetical conversations that happen before orders are cut, before the wish list is written or before even meeting with the monitor.

This is the time for voicing opinions. It’s the time for supporting your spouse’s career. But it’s also the one and only slightly influential moment you have to be the advocate for your family and your own needs (understanding, of course, that we may or may not get what we want when orders are cut).

We’ve talked the issue to death recently, and for once I’m just kind of neutral. I’m up for an adventure, but I won’t be upset with the same old thing. Maybe I’m finally ready for my Semper Gumby merit badge.

Whatever the Marine Corps decides is in store for us this go-round, I know that I’ve made my points. My husband has made his, and we’re ready for the next chapter, whatever it may be.

As you and your family gear up for these hypothetical conversations, I encourage you to focus on the following:

  1. What is best for your family? My husband is a true family man. I’m proud that he considers his family’s needs and not just his own career aspirations. As you approach these conversations about your family’s future, make sure that topics like your kids’ education, safety and family time are taken into account.
  2. What is best for your service member’s career? Especially for the service member in it for the long haul, consider the move that is career-advancing. It may not always be the most glamorous or the most ideal in the short run, but sometimes a sacrifice is due to get you (or your service member) to the end result in mind.
  3. What is best for your own career? Military spouses are a diverse bunch with goals of our own. While it’s next to impossible to call the shots during the hurry up and wait period, you can contribute your two cents as it affects your career. Would a certain location help you advance? Are you indifferent? Either way, make it known to help your service member better understand what your expectations are.
  4. What would be new and exciting? Old and familiar is safe, but it isn’t necessarily exciting. We’ve moved from my hometown in Texas to North Carolina and back to my hometown. As much as I would welcome another trip to Carolina, I’m also open to an adventure! It’s important to realize that this is a chance to experience world culture for our families and ourselves. Ideas that are initially intimidating can lead to some of the most memorable stories for your family and priceless experiences for your kids.

Not only discussing these topics, but giving them weight can help you narrow down what is best for your family. Maybe your kids aren’t in school yet, so education isn’t a huge factor. Maybe you’re coming up on a crucial period for your service member’s career, so career may have more weight in the discussion.

No matter where we land next, we know it’s temporary, so it’s worth it to approach each duty station with an open mind. Welcome new experiences and unexpected adventures. I hope that the next place the military sends you will be a place you’ll one day speak of fondly. After all, it was home for a little while.

Guest Blog | Belgium or Bust

 Posted by on June 23, 2014 at 15:42
Jun 232014
 
Zosia

Zosia

Blogger Biography: Zosia is a Navy wife and mother currently living in Mons, Belgium who is traveling, cooking and blogging about the world around her. Her blog follows her journey through the ups and downs of parenting, military moves and learning to expect the unexpected.

Parenting is hard. Very hard. Parenting my 4 year old is very, very hard. Much harder than I had ever anticipated. Just when I think I have figured out my son’s behavior, he goes and changes what he says or does and how he reacts to a situation. You could say he is keeping us on our toes, but man, our toes are getting tired.

I knew this move would be difficult for Sidney. While this is the third move in his short life, it is the first one where he has lasting memories of the life he left behind. Prior to our move, he talked excitedly about it “being just the three of us everyday,” but apparently this novelty has worn off. Six weeks after we left Albania, he still asks where Tirana is, when we will go back, proclaims he doesn’t want to stay in Belgium all day and, most heartbreaking of all, cries that he has lost something. Upon inquiry he states that it is his nene (nanny) he has lost and he can’t find her. We’ve done everything we can to comfort and reassure him, and some days I feel as though it is enough, but others, I’m not so sure. Fortunately, these verbal proclamations are becoming less frequent, but his sorrow is manifesting in other ways that I can neither anticipate nor address.

The crying fits that marked our first few weeks have morphed into loud outbursts of anger or — even worse — tantrums involving hitting followed by a refusal to speak. I thought I had finally figured out how to deal with the crying through lots of hugging and reassuring that it was perfectly natural to be sad and miss our old home. I pointed out the positives of our new home — and the things he can do here that he couldn’t back in Albania. Sidney is able to focus on the things he likes about Belgium and thus his moments of sadness seem to dissipate as quickly as they appear.

One of my biggest fears about this move, however, fortunately failed to materialize. The prospect of Sidney starting school had given me great angst, but after a rather rough first week, Sidney loves school. Or so he says when he comes home each day. Unfortunately for us, his entire school is on vacation this week and after one day of not going to school, he is already asking when he can go back. When we tell him he can return next week, he sadly tells me he wants to go back now. I know, most parents can only hope for a child who actually wants to be in school. But for a child who loves routine, a break in his new routine is throwing his already fragile world further askew.

But these recent angry outbursts of his? I have no idea how to handle them. It takes every inch of my being not to react in a negative way. Reminding Sidney that he shouldn’t hit is hard to do when he is in the middle of a tantrum and getting too close puts me in the direct line of fire of his flailing fists. When he refuses to speak to me, I have no idea how much of what I am saying is getting through or what he is even thinking. Fortunately these angry fits are much shorter and rarer in duration than his crying fits were. And they are always followed by his being remorseful and talking about the things he likes to do here in Belgium. Or, as was the case yesterday afternoon, a request to sit on my lap and “read” his French book on his tablet. I can only hope that this angry phase is short-lived.

Yes, being a parent is very hard, but being a 4 year old who has been uprooted from the only life he remembers is equally difficult. At least as a parent I have the maturity, intellectual understanding and an incredibly supportive partner to help me through all of this. A 4 year old has his parents. And as his parent, all I can do is be there for whatever phase or curve ball he throws our way. He’ll get through this, as will we. And maybe, just maybe, this is all practice for the teenage years. By then we will be pros at this game.

 

May 222014
 
Kristi

Kristi

As military spouses, we are no strangers to sacrifice. We often sacrifice date night for overnight duty – or six months of date nights for deployments, and we follow our service members to itty bitty map dots in support of their careers, knowing full well that the towns surrounding military installations are not always booming with job opportunities that justify our employment experience or that hard-earned, framed college degree that is packed up and moved across the country three times each decade.

In my employment love story, I have loved and lost, been burned and, yes, even spent a string of lonely nights watching rom-coms, stressing about the future while indulging in a pint of ice cream. It is hard work finding a job! I’ve walked out of job fairs seriously wondering if I’d sprained facial muscles from holding that polite, confident smile. It’s humbling to check your email 20 times daily, hoping that someone liked what they saw on your meticulously edited resume to find no new messages, and it’s downright nerve-wracking to follow up on interviews only to find the decision has already been made. Anyone – military spouse or not – who has ever applied for a job anywhere understands all of this, but as spouses we know that unless we are fortunate enough to land a dream situation of working remotely or entrepreneurship, we will go through the motions of this job search after each permanent change of station move.

This is why it is so hard to part ways with a job when we find a good one that loves us back, just the way we are (no hours of fake smiling required). Breaking up with a job isn’t easy, especially when you enjoy your colleagues, your employer, the work environment and the job you do. But whether Uncle Sam himself has to drag you kicking and screaming out of your office to get you to the moving truck on time, or you throw two fistfuls of paperwork in the air like confetti as you march toward the door, humming, “Take this job and…” quitting your job to follow your service member’s orders is tough. The confrontation is typically awkward, and starting all over again in a new place isn’t ideal. You can make the situation less nails-on-the-chalkboard-esque with these tips:

Don’t burn bridges. Even if you cringe at the thought of returning to the job you’re about to leave, leave on good terms. You may need your employer as a reference for your new job or there may be an opportunity to continue your job remotely (if you’re interested). As a disclaimer, don’t forget that the military is quite the practical joker and may just toss your service member’s orders out the window at the last minute or send you right back there three years later.

Be transparent. Keep your employer looped into your plans as much as possible (explaining the sometimes long and involved process of orders as needed), and give as much notice as you can out of respect for your employer and the job you’ve done.

Offer your help. I’ll never forget the look on my principal’s face when I told him I wouldn’t return to teach for the spring semester because I was moving across the country with my brand new husband. I cared about my job, my students and fellow faculty and offered to do anything I could to make the transition easier on everyone. This may mean being flexible with the timing of your last day, helping to train a new employee or fast-tracking paperwork.

Be direct. I hate saying no to people so much that I often bite off more than I can chew. If you’re someone who can easily be persuaded to work just a few more days to help out, even though you know you need to be home directing movers, cleaning an empty house or even driving to a new installation, be firm when you say no.

Leave with open communication. Before you leave, make sure your references know who they are. This helps you two ways: you can gauge their enthusiasm which can help you determine whether or not to actually list them, and it lets them expect a call so they aren’t caught off guard.

Breaking up with your job might not be easy, but as military spouses we understand it is just another temporary sacrifice. Eventually we will stay somewhere long enough to establish a career if we want one which reinforces that tattoo we all visualize on our foreheads, “Hurry up and wait.”

All materials copyright Military OneSource, 2012. Blog content held jointly by writer and Military OneSource, with shared rights to republish with appropriate attribution.