Military

Permanent Change of Station Woes

This was first published on Military Spouse Advocacy Network and I am honored to work with them.

Permanent Change of Station (PCS) Woes-3

It is the best of times.

It is the worst of times.

It is approaching PCS season.

This month has been…. exciting, if I am being optimistic. My husband is currently attending training to be a pilot in flight school. While all training schools are a little bit different, they all have one thing in common, no matter your designator or military branch, LOTS of moving. But even if you or your significant other are not currently in a training school, you may be approaching a move yourself, as it is that time of the year for new orders to be cut, and it may be time for your family to move on.

This move was expected and unexpected at the same time. We knew we would be moving once my husband finished this portion of his training, however, there were two possible locations we could be sent to, either 40 miles away, or 700 miles away. We received our 700 mile relocation with 15 days notice of his check-in date. So, in a scramble,we have attempted to arrange a do-it-yourself (DIY) move, or personally-procured move (PPM).

Here are the steps I followed with organizing my PPM:PPM Timeline-5

Please be sure to refer to your Personal Property Transportation Office for additional help with your PCS move. You can also find additional tips and resources at http://www.move.mil.

Here are some of the pros and cons of the PPM:PPM Pros and Cons-3

We were able to complete our PPM, check in to our new duty station, and settle in with few bumps and bruises along the way. Unfortunately our desk did not survive the move, but that’s a minor mishap in the grand scheme of things. The military certainly likes to test our resilience and ability to keep calm under stress. I hope your move goes as smooth and as painless as any move can. Be sure to take some time to relax, breathe, and repeat after me, “This too, shall pass”. Happy PCS-ing, PCS-ers!

Travel

Texas Countdown and the Rodeo

I have about forty days left of living in Texas now. When we first received the news that we would be moving to Florida, but I made the decision to stay in Texas a couple extra months to complete the school year, I knew I wanted to make the most of the time I had left. I have not been impressed with living in Corpus Christi that much, but I knew there had to be so much I was missing in such a giant state like Texas. Also, so many people LOVE Texas, so I knew I needed to explore more to see what all the hype was about.

I came up with the following list so I could have multiple “Texas” experiences, while also being budget-conscious. Texas Bucketlist

  1. Texas Rodeo
  2. Enchanted Rock
  3. Austin
  4. Hamilton Pool
  5. Rivertubing the Guadelupe River

Since making this list, I’ve completed two items. You can read about Enchanted Rock by clicking on the link above.

The second event I have checked off my list is the Texas Rodeo. I was invited by a good friend to attend the Tejas Rodeo located in Bulverde, Texas. Bulverde is just north of San Antonio, and it was definitely worth the drive from Corpus for this very Texas experience.  IMG_4163

From start to finish, the rodeo was a great time! It was $10 for each adult, children were free. They also offered food and drinks for purchase. Seating was metal bleachers surrounding a large arena where all the fun took place. VD7aQApWSdSYVR8xKfNd6w

We saw men and women compete in bullriding, roping, mutton bustin’, and barrel racing. I wasn’t a fan of the roping part of the show, but I LOVED the mutton bustin’. Are you familiar with this fantastic show? They tie small children to sheep as they attempt to cling on to sheep. This is to mimic bullriding for kids. You have not lived until you’ve seen a 4-7 year old on the back of sheep trying not to fall off. It really made my night.

I definitely think I would have warmed up to Texas sooner if I had this experience a year ago. I wish Corpus had a weekly rodeo like Bulverde! I’m also pleased my cowboy boots finally got some use. Stay tuned for future posts as I complete my Texas Bucketlist!Texas Rodeo Tejas Rodeo.png

Travel

Texas Car Camping Part 3

I’ve fallen in love… and not with my husband.

I have found a new love in car camping and hiking. The simplicity of the experience and freedom it allows me is everything I didn’t know I was missing.

I told you how I prepared for my trip in my post Solo Car Camping. I told you about the first night in my post Texas Car Camping and my second day in my post Texas Car Camping Part Two. Now I’ll detail my third and final day of my weekend away.

As the sun began to rise Saturday morning I was feeling all sorts of things.

  1. I felt a stiffness in my shoulder that I wasn’t sure if it came from sleeping on it wrong or if it was from climbing in and out of the cave the previous day.
  2. I felt the four blisters on my right foot and the one on my left from hiking 13 miles in new shoes.
  3. I felt excited to move on to Enchanted Rock State Nature Area where I would hike to the summit of a massive pink granite dome.
  4. I felt a little gross and dirty from not showering for a few days. Thank goodness for dry shampoo and baby wipes.
  5. I felt disappointed this would be my last day of my adventure and I would have to return to work on Monday.

All of these feelings energized me for the day ahead. I hit the road by 7:45am to drive the 1.25 hours to my destination. I arrived 30 minutes after their opening time of 8:30 to this sight: About 50 cars lined up on the side of the road trying to enter the park. I underestimated the number of people who would be interested in hiking and this fantastic natural location so early in the morning. Watching every car briefly stop to talk to the park rangers lined up at the entrance only to either continue on down the road or u-turn and head in the opposite direction, I finally got to the front of the line. They already reached their max capacity for the morning, but I was offered a voucher that guaranteed admittance at 1pm when they reopened.

With a little over 3 hours to kill, I fortunately had many options to occupy my time before I would be able to return to the park. I decided to travel the 17 miles to Fredericksburg, TX. What a fantastic town! This destination is known for its German immigrant culture mixed with Texas pride. There are tons of shops, restaurants, wineries and entertainment to keep you occupied for days! The town was bursting with activity and tourists participating in egg hunts, shopping and sight seeing since it was Easter weekend.

I’m not really much for large crowds or spending money so I did some quick research and found a nearby wildflower farm that was free to visit. Sign me up! Wildseed Farms was perfect! You can’t help but admire all the Texas Bluebonnets lining the roads as you travel through Texas, and to have a location with acres of them growing in on place was absolutely gorgeous. They have a shop, winery, an event venue, cafe, and of course the fields. If you’re in the area, you really need to make it a priority to stop.

As the time drew closer to 1pm, it was time to head back to Enchanted Rock.

It was worth the wait.

My intentions were to hike to the top of the dome and then complete a loop around the base of the mountain as well. You can see the trail map here. The climb to the top was tough, but doable. My shoes gripped the granite easily and even a simple tennis shoe would probably do the trick. The views were breathtaking. Nature truly is amazing.

My feet and blisters were not happy though. I laid down and smiled through the pain.

After basking in the sun at the top, I finally decided to make my descent, skipping the longer hike I had planned and headed home.

I don’t think I could have had a better time on this trip. Everything exceeded my expectations. I know there were a few people concerned for my safety, but not once did I feel unsafe. Cold? Yes. But never, unsafe. I really need to get that sleeping bag for next time.

Travel

Texas Car Camping Part Two

My first night in the car fell somewhere between enjoyable and a learning experience. In case you didn’t catch on in my first post, it was a little chilly in the car that night. Despite the cold, I woke up to a beautiful sunrise! vjWcOlpAQE+aCuTMUsrcuA

I had intentions of departing by 6:30 am, but I ended up leaving later than that since it wasn’t even sunrise yet, and I didn’t really feel like packing up in the dark. When I did finally roll out of “bed”, I was able to pack up my supplies in under 15 minutes, including eating my breakfast of pre-made hard boiled eggs and set out to my next location, Colorado Bend State Park. IMG_3943

Today’s itinerary included hiking Gorman Falls and Tie Slide Trail, and a cave adventure tour I booked through their website here. And here is a map of the state park, and all their trails.

I headed straight for the park headquarters upon arrival at the state park. I had my fingers and toes crossed to reserve a campsite for the night and I was super lucky that there was one site left! With my accomodations taken care of, I was behind schedule and didn’t have time to hike to Gorman Falls before my cave adventure, but I did have time to complete the Tie Slide Trail. This trail has lots of trees for cover from the sun and leads to a beautiful overlook of the Colorado River.

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Following this hike, I snacked on some grapes and headed back to the headquarters to meet my tour guide for the cave adventure. I’ve been in a cave before. I’ve toured the Natural Bridge Caverns outside San Antonio, TX and I’ve toured Diamond Caverns in Kentucky. Both of these tours were spent on your two feet the whole time and the most strenuous part might be going up and down stairs. The cave adventure I was about to participate in boasted a majority of crawling and a more raw experience than I had any history with. And an adventure it was!! The guide provided helmets and knee pads, which came in handy again and again as we spent the entire tour on our hands and knees and I bumped my head numerous times as I crawled around this primitive cave. It was AMAZING! I’m still not sure how I fit down this tiny hole and then climbed up through a different, but equally tiny hole. Yjh1g8i+SkOsVal8Qv9V7w

I cannot recommend this experience enough! It was well worth the $25 price tag, if anything, it was a bargain! J3Z1Zy2wTRCGKxele0tvfg

Our tour left from a different part of the park than I was expecting, so instead of going back to the trailhead for Gorman Falls, I decided to just hike from where I was at Cedar Chopper Loop. This added many, many miles to the amount of hiking I had originally planned, but I was feeling ambitious. I took Cedar Chopper Loop to Dogleg Canyon Trail and peeped this awesome canyon. naH1mcANQRuCeTuSyq4i8w

Dogleg Canyon Trail to River Trail and got to see a closed to the public cave entrance while using chains to traverse this tricky spot:IMG_4031

River Trail to Gorman Falls which got very slippery at the end as you descend down to the base of the waterfall. Ur15jHixSpC6TUs2djATAkXN+okRlqiPbYdz2YwUg

Definitely worth the struggle though.

I reached Gorman Falls and according to my Fitbit I traveled 10 miles by foot so far. My feet were preaching every step of that data. I still had to hike back to my car. Who’s idea was it to not drive to the trailhead? Mine. It was mine. No one to blame but myself.

Old Gorman Road to Cedar Chopper Loop got me back to my car the fastest. Once I was back in the RAV4 I headed to my campsite for the night where I quickly got my bed together, made my dinner and then did some stretching next to a curious armadillo.

Even with the cold that night, I slept very fitfully out of exhaustion. But I found a new love in hiking.

What do you or don’t you love about hiking?

Travel

Texas Car Camping

My first adventure into solo camping was quite the experience. When I brought up the idea with friends and family, the majority of responses included:

  • That’s not safe!
  • Aren’t you scared?
  • Do you want to die?

I did get one:

  • I’m so excited for you, and jealous!

Now either I’m too naive or stupid to be scared of solo travel, or there’s nothing to be scared about. I guess time will be the judge of that conundrum!

You can read how I prepared for my trip here, but I’m so excited to share where I went in this post!

I started my trip right after work Thursday evening. As soon as I had my little chitlins(students) on the bus and I was free of responsibility, I filled my cooler of ice from our break room, jumped in my Toyota RAV4 and hit the highway. 4.5 hours later I reached my first destination where I would camp for the night. An amazing little (free!) campsite, Cedar Point Recreation Area, was the perfect spot to sleep for the night. This location is first come, first serve, so I was worried I wouldn’t be able to find a spot in one of their 9 campsites, but when I arrived at 8pm with the sun setting and deer frolicking in the fields on either side of the drive, only 3 of the 9 sites were claimed. I backed into site number 9, directly on Lake Buchanan, and started to set up camp as the camp host pulled up to write down my tag number and let me know about the rules of the campsites. This elderly gentleman was so kind and reminded me of my grandfather as he let me know not to try to drive around the speed bumps when I leave and if I planned on drinking to make sure I do it from a koozie. Reasonable requests in my eyes. And can you be mad about the view? Sunset from my campsite

I honestly cannot rave enough about this lucky find for my first night camping. They are grossly undercharging for their product, but don’t tell them that.

Some lessons learned from my first night:

  1. The temperature drops significantly at night in the spring in Texas. It was 90 during the day, 40 when I woke up.
  2. Leaving the windows down is a mistake if the temp is going to drop 50 degrees.
  3. One quilt is not enough to provide warmth if the temp is going to drop 50 degrees.
  4. Why didn’t you check the weather and temperatures you would encounter, knowing you would be camping?
  5. Add to shopping list: sleeping bag for cold temperatures.

This may have been my first time camping in my car, but it wasn’t my first time camping. Apparently I was so excited for adventure I forgot about common sense things like: it’s cold at night.

Any questions on my setup or experience?

More on day two coming soon!

Travel

Solo Car Camping

I’ve been camping many many times in my life. I’ve camped in a ground tent. I’ve “glamped” in a camper. I’ve camped in a rooftop tent. And now I’ve camped in my car.

I decided to go car camping because I’m spending the next two months separated from my husband and I wanted to go camping, but I didn’t want to buy a tent since we have an awesome roof top tent already, it would just be 600+ miles away from me so not exactly useable for my camping trips.

So I spent some time making lists, while perusing Pinterest and Amazon to strategize what I would need to make these trips a success.Solo Car Camping

To prevent this post from being ridiculously long, I’m going to let it focus on getting ready for my trip and write another post on my experience while camping

Anywho, this is what I came up with:

  1. Needs:Camping Needs
  2. Destination: The next step was to determine where I wanted to go. I only have a couple more months in Texas so I wanted to be sure to adventure into some gorgeous places. I found Colorado Bend State Park and Enchanted Rock on some blog in the obscure vastness of the internet that I can no longer find to link to. Whoever you were, thank you!Camping Destinations
  3. Itinerary. Once I had my list of needs down, and my list of places to go, I then focused on creating an itinerary for my trip. I decided I would leave right after work to get a bulk of the drive under my belt before dark, and so I could hopefully score a campsite at a free camping location, Cedar Point Reserve. The next day would focus on the Colorado State Park, camping that night at the state park and then head to Enchanted Rock the next day. After spending the day there, it would be time to head home so I’d have a day of rest before having to go back to work on Monday.Camping Itinerary-2
  4. Menu. Food is a priority. I wanted to only bring things I didn’t need to heat up, so I didn’t have to start a fire or buy a campstove. Here’s the food I came up with:Camping Menu
  5. Car Organization: I hate clutter. So I wanted to be sure I could fit everything on the back of my car so I could pull privacy cover over and hopefully prevent theft and maintain my happiness. It was a rousing success.fullsizeoutput_12a8.jpeg

I can’t wait to write about how the trip went! Spoiler: despite my greatest efforts, not everything went according to plan!

Travel

The Hidden Gem of Corpus Christi, Texas

So the weather has been incredibly fabulous for the month of March. April-February are horrific, but March is really amazing. This weekend was so nice, I met a friend to explore the Oso Bay Wetlands Nature Preserve.

My first 11 months living in Corpus Christi, Texas, I was super lucky to live just a few blocks from the Oso Bay Wetlands Nature Preserve. I came across this gem fairly early into our residency, but it took me probably 10 months before I truly explored all this place had to offer.

When you first arrive in Corpus Christi, you are more than likely going to drive in on South Padre Island Drive (SPID). SPID is lined with pretty much every chain restaurant, retail store, and fast food restaurant you’ve ever heard of. It is also home to two malls, and multiple car dealerships. You would not expect to find some of the views and wildlife which can be found at the Oso Bay Wetlands Nature Preserve, which is not far off from SPID.

When I first started visiting this place I would walk a straight line down the trail from the entrance by the road, down to a really great overlook point on the Oso Bay. I did this for months because I thought it was the only finished trail, but I was so wrong! As I would find out many, many months later, there are multiple trails with various unique and worthy scenic points that I highly recommend. There is also a nature center open during the week, and a playground for the tiny humans.

I can’t help but feel like this experience can be a metaphor for life. We can go through life with blinders on, only seeing the path directly ahead of us. And while there may be a worthy destination within view, life can take you in many other directions also with equally fantastic, if not superior, experiences. We only need the courage and willingness to venture off the main path so we can be pleasantly surprised.

There’s also the possibility to meet a rattlesnake or two along the way, which did happen to me on my last visit, and scared the bejesus out of me. The snake was actually really chill and just slithered away into the brush like I was boring and it was time for a nap though.

Do you have any great trails near you?

Military · Travel

Moving like a PRO

The move was a success! And by success, I do not mean it was smooth, enjoyable, nor would I recommend it. Fortunately we received our orders to move to Florida a week in advance which was enough time to wrap up a few loose ends, finish packing, and book a moving truck; however, it was NOT with enough notice to avoid the price of my plane ticket returning to Texas to double in price. I guess you can’t have it all. Some lessons learned from this move:

  1. You cannot trust Google Maps to accurately predict your ETA to your destination. Driving a 26ft moving truck does not allow you to go highway speeds and your time WILL increase significantly. And by significantly I mean it will rise from 12 hours to 22 hours once you include gas stops, gas stations being out of power and/or gas, traffic, accidents, and a 2 hour power nap.
  2. If you are traveling with pets you will NOT get to enjoy that 2 hour power nap. Especially if your pets are like mine and will be crawling all over you as you try to get some shut eye at a sketchy truck stop. Below: Landon giving me the stank eye for trying to move my foot. Further below: Hailey and Chit Chat looking super cute. 
  3. You WILL second guess whether you need any of your material items or if you should burn everything except your underwear to make the next move simpler.
  4. Despite your best intentions to eat healthy, it’s not going to happen. Let it go and embrace the multiple pizza orders, Chinese food, and complimentary 5-10 lbs.
  5. The exhaustion will subside and with time you will forget how much of a pain in the ass it is. Just in time to do it all over again in approximately 9 months time.

I am currently regretting my decision to stay in Texas to finish the school year while most of my worldly possessions, my three kittens and husband continue life in Florida. Fingers crossed the time flies. I have a few things on my Texas Bucket List to make things a tad more enjoyable! These things include a rodeo, camping, visiting a sea turtle rescue and of course the Selena Festival. Stay tuned for recaps on all of that as they occur between now and June!

Military

Inconsistency is Key

  1. Be flexible.
  2. Keep your expectations in check.
  3. Don’t drink all the wine.
  4. Breathe more.
  5. Woosah.

I am trying to keep each of these tips in mind, but the struggle is proving to be very real. I have thrived on controlling as much of my life as possible since I was probably 16. This has a lot to do with the lack of stability I had growing up. I grew up very poor. Not as poor as some, but probably poorer than most. The kind of poor where you didn’t know if you would have electricity when you got home from school. The kind of poor where part of the food at your house came from a food pantry, and part was bought with food stamps. The kind of poor where your family didn’t have a vehicle for transportation, despite living in a rural area lacking in an abundance of public transportation.

This upbringing was the perfect condition to build resilience though. Which would definitely come in handy at the age of 16 when my last standing parent decided to move to the other side of the country in a rented minivan. What didn’t fit in the mini van didn’t go, which included me. Ever since then, I’ve planned and scheduled my life down to the minute as much as I possibly can. Anything I can control, I do. When I was working my way through college, I had my entire course schedule planned out as soon as possible. I took as many credits as possible (even getting special permission from the dean to take additional credits exceeding the normal limit). I excerted the same control over my career once I completed college. I currently spend a great deal of time planning out my day to day life, as even my short term life is very much in limbo.

I’m currently anticipating a move to Florida from Texas in 8 days. However, nothing is official in the military until you have hard orders, which we have not received yet. Soooooo there is a chance that our move date could be post poned. I’m told it isn’t likely, but there is a chance. This lack of reliability is driving me insane.

  1. I have a plane ticket I’m waiting to book.
  2. I have a moving truck I’m waiting to reserve.
  3. I have a vacation I postponed because of this.
  4. I have a career I’m trying to build.
  5. I have a life I’m trying to live. Inconsistency is key

I think that rant will hold me over for a few days. I am not currently the smiling smiley face. Fingers crossed we get those hard orders soon, preferably before airfare prices increase-really that’s my biggest concern.

Health

Weight a Darn Minute

Yes, I am aware that I used the homophone for wait. It’s my attempt at being punny.

My struggles with healthy living and weightloss are an ongoing battle. I haven’t written about it recently because I’ve had so much more fun writing about my travel obsessions and also preparing for this wonderful move I have coming up in less than two weeks.

But, I have made some progress in getting to a healthier weight for myself and I have 5 reasons why! Weight a Darn Minute 5 tips for consistent weightloss-2.png

  1. Money Incentive– Remember my post about using Trump to motivate weightloss? Well refresh your memory here. I’m doing a little bit of this again, in partnership with my best friend and my brother. I sent my brother a check that he will get to cash and then donate the money to somewhere less than desirable if I do not lose 5 lbs monthly. We started this in December and every month we have consistently reached our goals!
  2. Daily and Weekly Weigh ins– Every Friday we submit a photo of us on the scale with our current weight. It’s the one on the 1st of each month that really matters, but the weekly weighins helps to keep us on track. I actually weigh myself daily, because I’m a tad obsessive. It works for me. Don’t judge.
  3. Weight Watchers– I joined weightwatchers again. I did weightwatchers for about 6 months last year, and was very successful with it. I decided I didn’t need it anymore and then I gained back 3/4 of the weight I had lost. I’m back on it now and steadily working towards my end goal. Love weightwatchers.
  4. Getting Physical– I’ve tried a myriad of different excercise routines over the last 3 months. Walking long distances, at home work outs using Tone It Up’s app, and C25K interval training app. I’ll stick to one for a period of time, and then switch it up to another. I canceled my gym membership to save myself the $50 monthly bill. I do miss some of the classes, the pool, and especially the sauna, but $50 dollars……. money talks.
  5. Lists– I make a list everyday of my meals for the day and my to-dos. This includes workouts, and chores that need to be completed. There are few things in this world that I love more than being able to cross something off of my list as accomplished.

I’m pleased with the progress I’ve made so far. I’ve lost over 15 pounds since November. I also just booked a trip to Europe in July and I’d like to have a more comfortable flight by being a more comfortable size. That’s really my motivator in losing weight. Smaller clothes, means easier packing for travel, and also a smaller body, means easier traveling on public transportation! ha!