A Tale of Two PCS Movers

love-or-hate-pcs-movers-military-redo

It’s the height of Permanent Change of Station (PCS) season, and like many military families, my family recently moved. I’ve always felt fortunate to have packers and movers who pack and move all of our worldly possessions from one location to another, so I try to make them feel comfortable, keep them hydrated and ensure the items they are packing are clean and organized.

When we left our home on the East Coast, the crew of packers who came to our house were amazing–the best ever! They were funny, they were nice, they were polite, and they were actually lots of fun. They even played great music while they filled boxes and emptied our home! Having people pack all of your household goods, and being in your home all day is a very personal experience, uncomfortable, even. But this group made moving feel like a party! I was so grateful for the funny and kind crew filling their truck with all of our stuff.

When we arrived at our new home, I was excited to receive our household goods and get settled in. We had already signed a lease on a new house, but our delivery date meant our items were in storage for a few days. With a quick delivery date, we would have a new team delivering our things. I was sorry I wouldn’t see the first team again, but I was optimistic.

My optimism didn’t last long. The team who arrived at our new home were not excited about their job. They were very slow in unloading the truck, and weren’t very grateful for the soda, water, and Gatorade we provided. One member of the team even asked me what was for lunch…at 10:30 in the morning, when there were, roughly, 10 boxes unloaded. It was a disappointing and uncomfortable day.

I tell this story because customer feedback is really important during the moving process. I was in touch with our moving coordinator, who was wonderful, throughout our move. We spoke so often, she should probably be added to my Christmas card list! I updated her, and the transportation offices at our old and new installations on how the move was going. She reminded how important it is to complete the Customer Satisfaction Survey. This survey helps determine which companies are doing well, and will continue to receive moving contracts to assist other military families, and who will not. The survey is a way to let your voice be heard; if something isn’t going well, or you don’t feel comfortable with the way you or your items are being treated, it is okay to say so. If you are extremely happy, please be sure and voice this too!

Sometimes, the packing and moving process experience is a coin-toss–you’ll never know what you’ll get. Have you had a crazy PCS experience?

Ann HPosted by Ann Hamilton, Volunteer Services Coordinator, South Region

How to PCS with an Infant: 4 Tips You Need to Know!

pcs-with-an-infant-baby-military

It goes without saying that having an infant makes life exciting, yet chaotic. This statement is also true when taking on a Permanent Change of Station (PCS). But the fun really begins when you have a newborn AND you PCS.

A few tips and tricks from our family, to yours:

Request medical records as soon as possible. This was certainly a lesson learned the hard way. When you need to request medical records, they tell you this process takes the military treatment facility at least 30 days. I didn’t believe them because, hey, my daughter was just five months old and couldn’t possibly have that much in her file. I was wrong and was scrambling a day before her six month appointment to piece together her records. So, what I know now is to fill out the request form as soon as you have a new address and keep your own set of records just in case something happens before they arrive.

Stay away on move-in day. This was the best decision we made during our PCS. My husband met the truck with our household goods, while the baby and I bunked with family for an extra day. When your stuff is being unloaded, it’s a hectic, noisy situation not conducive for a baby. If you’re able to stay away and let someone else direct the movers, do it! By the time we arrived the next day, the house was partially unpacked and it was much easier to care for our daughter while settling in.

pcs-with-an-infant-baby-military-pinterestPack the essentials. When you PCS, you know it is going to be at least a week before your washer and dryer are set up, and your family is eating meals at the dining room table. I always pack an “immediate needs” box with essentials that we will need either in a hotel room, or in our empty house. The box includes paper plates, plastic utensils, paper towels, trash bags, etc…you know the drill. Since we were PCSing with an infant, I packed enough diapers and wipes for a week, most of her clothes and blankets, a portable bed, and all her feeding supplies. I purposefully chose things we needed, versus what would be nice to have. For example, I didn’t pack the infant bathtub, but did pack every sleeper she had so I didn’t have to worry about laundry for a few days.

Get local. As soon as we found out our new duty location, I immediately started researching the area. PCSing to a new place is an adventure and I wanted to get started. In addition to finding a new doctor, veterinarian, and hairstylist, I also wanted to know how to entertain and establish my family in our new home. I read local blogs, followed local businesses, and studied a map to know my way around before we even arrived. I also planned some fun excursions as a way to conclude our move.

Moving in the military can be challenging, but add in an infant, and you’ve got a little bit of extra planning to do! Our family managed to pull this off with, surprisingly, very few issues or tears. It was a tremendous learning experience for this military family, and I hope these tips can help your next move!

What would you add to the list? Comment below and tell us!

tomi-schwandt-headshotPosted by Tomi Schwandt, Active Duty Reserve Spouse and National Military Family Association Volunteer

We PCS’d to Another Country…in only 22 Days!

PCS-in-22-days-military

I find that a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) perfectly pairs the excitement and anticipation of the holidays with the stress and apprehension of a root canal.

There’s always so much to do at your current location, and even more waiting for you at your new home. Thankfully, there are great resources available to help you along the way…well, most of the time.

My family and I completed a PCS from Italy to the U.S. in 22 days, flat. It was unexpected, and there was no checklist available to help us perform this feat, but we did it. We shipped a car, packed out our home, took care of medical records, school records, and veterinarian records. All while my husband simultaneously cleared the post. We said our goodbyes and made last trips to some of our favorite sites and restaurants. Just like that, our time in Italy had come to an end.

We boarded the plane to the U.S. with mixed emotions; our first European tour was filled with family adventures, a culture rich in history and beautiful architecture, and delicious food and wine. We touched down it Atlanta, GA on a hot June afternoon. We realized we didn’t have working cell phones and we were hours later than we told our friends (who we were staying with temporarily) we would be. But we piled in the car, and took off to find their home. By evening, we pulled into the driveway and were welcomed ‘home’ in the way friends-who-are-family welcome you.

PCS-in-22-days-military-pinterestWe spent the evening catching up, and jumped into action the next morning. We took care of the cell phones, set up appointments with realtors and began talking about schools for our kids. Typically, we would have started our research in advance, but that was not a luxury we would have this time around. We needed to make decisions and we needed to make them quickly. Jet lag set in and the whirlwind move began taking its toll on all of us. Emotions were running high…and I’m pretty sure I was leading the pack.

Moves are stressful, and we all want to make the right decisions for our families. But none of us are perfect and we can only do our best. Finding the perfect neighborhood, job opportunities, reputable schools, competitive sports programs, welcoming churches, convenient dog parks, quality health care providers (and list goes on and on) can leave your head spinning. Take a breath and know there are very few decisions that cannot be changed. Some may even be changed again…and again.

Several weeks passed before our decisions were final. The excitement mounted as we purchased our new home, school began, the kids joined soccer teams, and eventually our car and household goods arrived. The excitement gave way to a calm that was peaceful and very familiar.

Our military family was home, once again.

Have you experienced a chaotic move, and finally found ‘home’ after it was all said and done? Share it with us in the comments!

kimPosted by Kim Edger, Website Architect

Golfers Gathered to Help Stamp Out Stigma for Military Families

 

stamp out stigma nmfa collage

It’s not every day a compassionate group of 130 golfers get together in a 105 degree heat index to support military families.

Beacon Health Options, the nation’s premier behavioral health management company, is in their 3rd year of hosting the Stamp Out Stigma Golf Outing. This year, the National Military Family Association was honored to be chosen as the recipient of the funds raised to help Stamp Out Stigma.

These golfers were not only wonderful to meet, but they were all passionate about making sure that service members and their families know it’s okay to talk about their mental health.

We are so incredibly thankful to have been a part of such a special day. Thank you to our amazing friends at Beacon Health Options, WellPoint Military Care, UBS, AEGIS. Net, Inc. and all the sponsors who helped make the day such a huge success.

Jordan-BarrishPosted by Jordan Barrish, Public Relations Manager

5 Ways to Savor “The Lull” of Military Life!

savoring-the-lull-of-military-life

Over the past few years, military life has afforded our family many changes and calamities. We have survived a deployment, reintegration, and we moved across the country (again). We have closed up shop at one duty station and set up our lives in another new town. We have spoken countless goodbyes, unpacked all of our worldly possessions, and felt the sting of loneliness being new in unfamiliar, uncharted territory.

After one full year at our current assignment we have nested, settled, and established our lives in our professional, educational, religious, and social communities. And here we are now at what I call, The Lull.

A lull, as defined by Merriam Webster, is a “temporary calm, quiet, or stillness.” In military life, The Lull is a phase of time that can feel hard-fought and hard-won. Much of the time, life in the military demands that we live in fight-or-flight mode. For many of us, we almost forget how to live during the downtime; life without furious activity feels unfamiliar and awkward.

For the past handful of years, circumstances have conditioned my husband and me to function on little time together, a “B.L.U.F.” (Bottom Line Up Front) style of communication, and to be honest, a tendency toward a frenzied and often frazzled atmosphere in our home.

At our current assignment there are no deployments, few TDYs, and for once, my soldier has some pretty regular and predictable hours. Thankfully, there have been no late nights, no middle-of-the-night crises, no separations, no time in grueling training or study for school, and we have nothing else to unpack or organize.

I am finding myself at a loss with how to behave with all of this sacred family time. Instead of becoming hyper-vigilant about the next hard thing on the horizon, I’m choosing to focus this season on savoring The Lull. This rare period in our family’s op-tempo is a perfect time to refocus and refresh a few areas our lives.

Here are my 5 suggestions for savoring The Lull.

1. Make your marriage your mission
Just like any military mission, our marriages need a clear focus and goal. If having a dynamic relationship with your spouse has taken a hit during times of stress, now is the time to address it. During this respite, re-calibrate what matters in your relationship. Spend some intentional time together. Set aside time to really connect. Maybe that looks like a regular date night, going to a marriage conference or retreat, seeking professional counseling, or incorporating a nightly practice of sitting together and reflecting on the day’s blessings. However big or small, the investment in your relationship, as a couple, will help to establish patterns for defining your priorities.

2. Let your home be a place of rest
As a typically Type-A person, I tend to focus on making our home run on efficiency. With cleaning schedules, chore-charts for the kids, meal plans, and regular family budget-meetings, I can turn our home into a process-driven, tightly-run ship. As military spouses, there are times when that level of competence is a necessity. In certain seasons, resolute organization is the only way I stay mission ready. During The Lull, some of that compulsiveness should be traded for rest. Structure is good, but so is taking a breather. I want our home to be a haven of refreshment for my soldier, myself, and our children. We aim to savor meals around the table, have family game nights, enjoy the scenery our current duty station affords, and we especially enjoy quiet when can find it.

savor-the-lull--pinterest3. Let this be your time
During a deployment or PCS, you may not have the flexibility to focus on your own needs. Often, the needs of the military, your spouse, or family comes first. During The Lull, it is the perfect time to find your groove. Take up knitting or photography, learn a musical instrument, practice yoga, join a book club, get a part-time job, or enroll in a college course. If you find yourself in a situation where there’s a bit of a reprieve from the demands of the typical military hustle, use the time to fill up your own tank. None of us can run on fumes! As human beings, we aren’t built for long periods of physical, emotional, or mental stress. Take this time to make sure you are finding the stillness, rest, recreation, or relief you need.

4. Find community
John Donne once said, “No man is an island unto himself.” This adage is certainly true in military life. Were it not for unit wives, auxiliary ministry groups, social media, and real-life friends, I don’t know that I’d survive the madness of what our military duty asks of me. This is true during times of tension and strife, but this is also true during The Lull. It’s vital to our marriages and families to find connection with others. Invite the neighbors over for a barbecue, join a church, connect with others in your town who share hobbies or interests. It may feel natural to hunker down at home during a time of reprieve, but we all need a network of camaraderie. Go out and find your people!

5. Remember your “why’s”
Those of us in military service have dozens of varying reasons for our affiliations. To some, it’s a steady paycheck, a strict sense of patriotism and pride in our great nation, and to others it may even be a calling to protect and defend. There’s no better time than The Lull for you and your spouse to recall your motivations for serving. Call to mind why you got started, recollect your high times and victories, revive that sense of purpose, and determine your strengths for going forward, intentionally. It will be this sense of significance that will anchor and sustain you, your marriage, and your family when the going gets tough. Being principled in your convictions goes a long way in maintaining positivity and resolve.

The Lull doesn’t seem to come around often. But if, like me, you find yourself in the midst of some downtime and don’t quite know how to respond, savor it!

What do you do when you’re in The Lull? Share your thoughts with us!

claire-woodClaire Wood writes about her own struggles to make sense of military life at elizabethclairewood.com and she has recently released her faith-based book for military spouses, Mission Ready Marriage. She enjoys reading, early morning outdoor walks, trying out new recipes, and hosting friends and family in her home. Claire is married to Ryan, an Army Chaplain. They and their three children are stationed at Fort Gordon in Augusta, GA. 

“Yes, and…”: Mastering Military Life Through Improv!

yes-and--mastering-military-life-through-improv

Did you know that as a military family, you have all kinds of improv talent? Wait. Don’t stop reading! Recently while re-reading comedian Tina Fey’s book BossyPants. I learned about improvisation.

She details her time at Chicago’s The Second City Theater, where improv was perfected. Not sure what improv is, exactly? Tina describes improv as being on a stage with your partner, with one person initiating a conversation. The other person must agree with the initiated conversation, then respond with “Yes, and…”

The “Yes, and…” signifies to both participants that the scene can continue. You are committed to the scene, and forward momentum of the conversation is set in motion. Often times, improv has odd situations, funny dialogue, funny faces, and lots of laughter. These are just the first two rules of improv, but they really got my attention; to accept the forward momentum, then reply with “Yes, and…”

To me, the scenario of being on a dark stage with a partner, having a conversation in public going in an unknown direction sounds terrifying. But it also oddly familiar.

It occurred to me that most families–especially military families–live some kind of improv every day. And most of us are experts. Think about it: we’re often in situations where we’re in the dark about something (a move, a deployment, etc.), and there we stand with our spouse, waiting to start the dialogue that will move us forward. Usually, it’s the service member who starts the conversation, as they often have the orders causing the rest of the family react with (you guessed it), “Yes, and…”

But some “Yes, and…” responses vary based on the situation. We might have to fight back some tears, and a bit of fear when faced with a deployment, or a move to an unfamiliar place, but we say finally do accept and say, “Yes, and…”

I once said “Yes, and…” but cried while driving away from a beloved duty station, dear friends, and a job I loved. Not exactly a safe way to operate a vehicle, but it’s necessary to continue the scene. Sometimes our “Yes, and…” comes with excitement so hysterically funny that it’s almost YouTube-worthy. I’ve been there, too!

Sometimes, the “Yes, and…” involves a really long pause and a lot of silence as you think about what the right “Yes, and…” is for your family. Maybe you need to stay where you are while your service member is assigned to another duty station for a year. Maybe your “Yes, and…” looks very different from someone else’s. That’s okay.

What’s important is that you say “Yes, and!”

Don’t stop the dialogue. I guarantee you will be laughing at some point…probably at yourself.

What was your hardest “Yes, and…” moment? Tell us about it!

Ann HPosted by Ann Hamilton, Volunteer Services Coordinator, East Region

Everyone’s Moving But Me: How to Make the Most Out of Someone Else’s PCS

make-the-most-of-someone-elses-pcs

We’re deep in the throes of peak PCS season, and the energy among the military spouses around me is electric. Facebook groups for spouses are lighting up with questions about which side of town is best, which cable company to use, and which school their little ones should go to. Some have even found their new neighbors through a very scientific experiment called Seven Degrees of Separation.

Then there’s me.

Still here. Not moving. Saying goodbye to friends. Seeing the start of another crazy adventure for those receiving new orders. And it feels lonely.

I willed myself back to reality, knowing our orders would be coming down the pipe in another year, but in the meantime, I couldn’t help but think about whether anyone else ever felt this way?

Left behind. Alone and disconnected, even in the midst of a flood of new people, new adventures, and new possibilities.

So, I decided to make a list of things I could do to make the most of someone else’s PCS.

Meet Your New Neighbor
Whether you live on post, or out in town, you’re bound to see the moving truck roll around this summer. And even if you’re feeling lonely because a friend moved away, take this chance to introduce yourself to the new family in your neighborhood. This seems like a no-brainer, but I’m constantly reminding myself of this. I’d previously been shot down when I walked over on move-in day and introduced myself to my own new neighbors; they said hello, but have never spoken to me since. And that’s okay. I choose to be welcoming, happy, and hopeful.

Set Up, Then Put Down
Some commands and units are a revolving door of new families checking in. Others, like ours, welcome a new group each fall. Whatever the schedule is for your unit, take advantage by setting up a time to invite someone new to coffee, an FRG meeting, or out for a playdate. Then put your phone down! Make every intention of being present and emotionally available to your new potential friend—it makes a difference. You’ll leave an impression with that new spouse of being caring, engaged, and welcoming. (And it almost always guarantees another hang out!)

Invite Yourself to Things
This one has been hard for me. I’m the type who waits to be invited, rather than invites herself. Partly because I think it’s respectful, and partly because I’m scared of someone telling me I’m not invited. Honestly? The chances of someone saying that are slim, so put yourself out there and ask to tag along if you know a few spouses are doing something fun! Inviting yourself can be intimidating, but it serves a dual purpose—it can take away the fear someone else might have for meeting new people, and it immediately breaks down barriers others might have in wondering if you’re outgoing and friendly (which you totally are!).

Dive into Your Community
Once your MilSpouse friends move away, and you’re feeling like your social circle just got a little smaller, consider taking a turn in the opposite direction from the military. Get out and find organizations, groups, and networking circles within your community to branch out. Sure, military spouses can relate to your home life, but having non-military friends can open a whole new world, and most of those game-changing friends are in your community. Try out a volunteer corps, food pantry, or professional club, and see what interesting people you meet!

Being left behind during PCS season doesn’t have to be leave you standing in the haze of exhaust from a departing moving truck. It can be a new season for you, too. All you have to do is get up and welcome the new adventure.

Are you a left-behind friend during PCS season? How do you make the most of it?

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager