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!

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.

Military

Moving on up

27 years in Delaware.

4.5 months in Florida.

11 months in Texas.

The time has come to bid Texas adieu and move on. As it turns out, moving on, actually means moving back… to Florida.moving pt 3

Moving is, quite frankly, the pits. As much as I love new experiences, there are just some significant downsides that stress me out.

  1. Security deposits– there’s a window in between leaving one place and entering another where we’re paying double the bills and then waiting to get money back.
  2. Purging unnecessary items– I love downsizing, but trying to coordinate with potential buyers is not my idea of a good time.
  3. Packing– trying to strategically box items so they’re organized and also not going to be destroyed in the move.
  4. Unpacking– is there even a point to unpacking anymore?
  5. Job hunting– this should be number 1, and then magnified x a billion. Job hunting is horrendous. And doing it over and over and over again makes me want to assume the fetal position and stress eat and explode all at the same time.

Fortunately I have become quite the experienced packer, mover, and shaker. Shall I share some of my awesome tips with you?

  1. Small moving boxes fit perfectly in the ikea or better homes and gardens cube bookshelves. This helps save space in the moving truck, a safe place for items that are more fragile, and gives extra stability to these bookshelves so they aren’t completely wobbly and worthless when you unload!IT245bTvSjCMoDhaptM5TQ
  2. Trash bags suction in your hanging closet clothes so they don’t fall off the hangers in the closet boxes and you can fit more in each box! Shoes can be packed in the bottom of the closet boxes to save even more space!- I haven’t packed these items yet, but I will get a photo for reference and add it once I do.
  3. Color coordinate your labels with a room. Example: All blue stickers are for kitchen.  All green stickers are for office. All yellow stickers are for living room. Then when you get to your destination you can sticker the appropriate room, and everyone will know all these blue stickered boxes go in the kitchen, all these green stickered boxes go in this room, all these yellow stickered boxes go in the living room, and etc….. Makes for easier unpacking.
  4. Books are super heavy and can be moved in suitcases with wheels so you don’t break your back and again, save on space!
  5. These sterilite 30 gallon totes are the perfect size for moving. They aren’t too big to not fit through doorways, yet they’re big enough to fit more than one or two items at a time. They stack very nicely and the bottoms don’t slope so far in that it’s obnoxiously smaller than the top. Win. Win. Win.RP7oO0EfQIC+9q+I8oaGtw

As I continue to prep for our move in a couple weeks, take my last bit of advice as well: there’s always time to take a break for a very big and very strong margarita to get you through. Cheers!

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Military

The One Item you Cannot Live Without: Your Military ID

This post was originally published on Military Spouse Advocacy Network and I am honored to work with them. Military ID-2

You meet the love of your life. You fall in love and promise to stay together forever. Now it’s time for logistics. Your Military ID.

There is not much you can do without your Military ID. You will need it to gain access to the military base without your significant other. You will need it to shop at the Exchange or Commissary. You will need it to enroll/use Tricare, which are your medical benefits. You will need it to gain access to any and all entitlements or discounts you may be eligible for as a family member to a service member. For all of these reasons, and more, you need to make obtaining your Military ID a priority.

How do you do it? Follow the steps detailed below:

  • The first thing that needs to happen is you will be enrolled in DEERS using form DD Form 1172-2. This can be done one of 4 ways.
    • Your sponsor can use their CAC card to submit your information via the RAPIDS self-service portal. (This is a website accessible via the Department of Defense (DOD) website)
    • Your sponsor can sign into the RAPIDS self-service portal using their login information.
    • Your sponsor can fill out a paper form and have it notarized.
    • You can use your power of attorney to complete the form in your sponsor’s place.
  • You will need to provide documentation of your relationship to your sponsor to prove eligibility. This is your marriage certificate and your birth certificate.
  • You will need to provide two forms of identification. Refer to the list of acceptable forms of identification.

Pin the graphic below for an easy reference guide:How To Obtain your military ID

This information was pulled directly from http://www.cac.mil/docs/required_docs.pdf .

Military ID’s aren’t all business and no fun though!

You can use your Military ID to access great resources such as the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR). Depending on your location, this could include access to a movie theater, bowling alley, video games, party rentals, kayaks, sailboats, or even couples getaways. Our last duty station offered a couples retreat to do a local high ropes course! You can also utilize your Child Development Center (CDC) for child care (check with your center for availability), and shop at the commissary and Exchange for tax free shopping. There are a lot of benefits to obtaining your military ID, so try not to procrastinate!

If you have special circumstances or additional questions, be sure to click on the link referenced above and refer to additional information there. Also, do not be afraid to reach out to your ID office on base or your service member’s command.

Military

Basics for the New Military Spouse

This post was originally published on Military Spouse Advocacy Network and I am honored to work with them.Basics for the New Military Spouse-3

It was May 2016 and the day finally came when my whole world was about to change. My husband was leaving for Newport, Rhode Island for what would turn into fifteen weeks, to embark on his dream of becoming a Naval Aviator for the United States Navy. Officer Candidate School (OCS). We prepared for this for weeks. We made sure he had the right t-shirts, the right socks, he could run 1.5 miles in a certain amount of time, and even made sure he could do X amount of pushups and curls as well. We were prepared with stamps and paper so he could write. He had a watch for when he could have one again, and we prepared snacks and food for his drive. But I wasn’t prepared for the goodbye.

We woke up early, loaded his truck, and double checked we didn’t miss anything on the list. I was fine. I thought to myself, “this isn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.” And then he turned and looked at me. And I wasn’t fine. I was excited for him, and I was excited for me, but I couldn’t help but cry because this would be the last time I got to see and touch his face in person. We hugged each other tighter than we ever have before, and I followed him outside to the truck. We hugged and kissed a dozen more times before I watched him back down the driveway onto the street, he made a right onto the next street, and another right on the street after that. As he drove away and the corn fields were between us, the tears stopped and I began counting down to when we would be reunited. I wasn’t ready for the goodbye, and I wasn’t ready for how quiet the house would be when I stepped back inside. It was eerily quiet.

The military is a challenging life to maneuver and you are  thrust into it in a way that is no better explained other than sink or swim.

“Hi welcome to military life, now I’m going to steal your partner away for you to figure it out on your own.” “Here, let’s talk in acronyms so you feel like you’re trying to translate a language you’ve never heard before!”
There are so many things I learned those first few months while my husband was away, and there is so much more I have to learn. There’s a lot of pride you can gain from learning something new or overcoming a challenge on your own, but if there was a cheat sheet I could have had last May,this is what I wish it would have said:

basics list

  1. Power of Attorney– If your partner will be going away for any amount of time, you need to have a power of attorney to manage important matters while they are away. It may seem intimidating, but don’t let it overwhelm you. Documents can be printed offline and you can sign them with any notary. If you are unsure, or still feeling hesitant, the legal office on base can assist at no charge.
  2. DEERS– Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System. Your first acronym, and there will be many more to come. To get you enrolled in DEERS your partner is going to need your birth certificate, social security card, marriage certificate, and photo ID. These have to be originals or certified copies. For your marriage license, make sure you have the certificate from your county clerk’s office. We didn’t think about this, and when my husband presented the license the officiant filled out, it was not accepted. I then had to obtain the correct form and overnight the marriage certificate to Rhode Island. Why all the hassle? Your spouse will also need the certificate to enroll you in TriCare, in order for you to obtain medical benefits.
  3. Military ID– Get a military ID ASAP! If your partner has all of your documents, and is deployed, you will have to wait for him to send them back to you. It might be a good idea to have duplicate certified copies of all important documents, so both you and your spouse have a set. Once you have these items, go get your military ID. This will give you access to the base, Exchange, commissary, and will allow you to receive military discounts at other businesses.
  4. Social Media– Not everyone uses social media, but if you do there are some really great support groups and pages out there. Another spouse may be aware of a local page or you can do a search for your area and ‘military spouse’. Many times the groups are private, so you may need a member to add you. While my husband was at Officer Candidate School I was lucky to find a page for friends and family of his OCS class. The girlfriends and wives of the class then formed a spinoff group and we messaged each other every single day. Being able to share your experiences with others going through the same things cannot be substituted. No matter how supportive your local friends and family are, it simply is not the same. I still talk to these wonderful women to this day.
  5. Be Empowered– Your partner is embarking on this amazing opportunity to further their career and accomplish goals they’ve set to enrich their life and yours. This does not mean you are simply along for the ride. You can further your education, work on your health, your career, or even your passion.  While my husband was away I made multiple lifestyle changes towards a healthier lifestyle and lost 40 lbs! There will be times when you will be alone, and lonely. These are the times when you have to rely on yourself, and your strength to get you through. Reach out to a friend, in person or virtually (again those Facebook groups are great!). You have the power to make or break yourself.

When do you reach the point when you’ve learned all you need to know as a military spouse? I’m going to guess never. Have I mentioned the acronyms? There is a never ending supply of acronyms. The military is not static, and it is always changing and evolving. Right when you think you have it figured out- nope! How exciting does that sound? Or is it exhausting? Let’s be positive and say exciting!

Military

Dream Military Weddings

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

It started with a proposal to spend the rest of your lives together: to make the world know how much you love each other through a pair of rings, a set of vows, and probably changing your relationship status on social media. Many people grow up wondering what their wedding will look like when the time comes. It may include robust flower arrangements, an extensive guest list, and elaborate centerpieces. When I was planning my wedding in the civilian world, Pinterest became my best friend and my enemy. Pinterest is wonderful for making you feel crafty and creative. It will also encourage you to make those individualized mason jar invitations that explode glitter, fireworks, and cupcakes when opened. And can be made in three easy steps! Oh, if only it really was that simple, and if there was about ten more hours in the day this would be incredible! Unfortunately, that is not reality, and furthermore the military lifestyle complicates our ambitions for marriage before we even get started.

The Multiple Journeys to Wedded Bliss

Since my husband commissioned into the Navy, I have made friends with numerous couples who started as friends, became fiancés, and ultimately spouses. Every single journey to their marriages looked different, but the end result was always the same. Wedded Bliss.

wedded bliss

Couple #1 got engaged directly after the commissioning ceremony. They were engaged for a few short weeks before having a small beach ceremony with family and friends, and then the husband had to depart for his first training school.

Couple #2 had their ceremony at the courthouse and followed up with a larger reception with friends and family a year later when their schedules allowed.

Couple #3 spent the last 10 months planning their dream ceremony and reception to be held this summer.

Each one of these scenarios was unique. Not every story was lived how they pictured it would be when they were younger, but none of them have any regrets. When your ultimate goal is to spend the rest of your life with your partner, you make the best of the hand you are dealt, and I would not call that settling. Each of these couples still has the same result.

As with anything in the military, flexibility is key, so be prepared to start with your wedding if you are new to the life. You will hear many times over the course of your lifetime that the military comes first, but even if you find yourself compromising on your wedding there will still be great rewards in the end. Regardless if you elect to do a courthouse ceremony, a small ceremony, or a large wedding, the ending will be the same: you will be lawfully wedded to your service member, the love of your life.dream military weddings-2

Are you a military spouse? What did your nuptials look like? Do you have any advice?

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Military

Preparing for a Military Move

This was originally published on the Military Spouse Advocacy Network and I am honored to work with them. Preparing for a Military Move-3

Moving is one of the most stressful events in a person’s life. Add to that the seemingly complicated amount of paperwork, communicating with the right departments, moving companies and your spouse, and moving as a military family can feel downright overwhelming.

Fortunately, the military is aware that a knowledgeable and informed family makes your life and their lives much easier! If you are a Navy family, Navy Household Goods is holding a series of webinars to answer any and all of your moving questions. You can read all about what will be covered and how to access the the webinars on their flier.HHG Webinar schedule - Jan - Mar 2018-2HHG Webinar schedule - Jan - Mar 2018

Not a Navy family? No worries! Move.mil also has very informative tutorials on their website, which can be found by clicking here!

My advice is to not wait until you’re facing a move to be educated on the topic. You will go into the experience much more at ease if you take the time to learn all you can now. I’ve been through two permanent change of station (PCS) moves, and I still intend on attending the webinars. There may be something new or improved that I don’t know, the military does love switching things up on us! Am I right?

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Military

How to Send the Perfect Candio (Candidate Officer) Box

Disclaimer: This post was written in 2017 when OCS was structured differently than it is presently.

Officer Candidate School (OCS) is a tough 12 weeks (or more if you’re unlucky). It’s tough on the candidates who are going through the training and it’s tough on the families back  home.

There are three phases to OCS for the candidates. First is the indoctrination phase, second is the Officer Candidate phase, and third is the Candidate Officer phase. Once the service member becomes a Candidate Officer they will be granted a little more freedom. This includes enjoying some treats from home known as Candio boxes.

When my husband was going through OCS, I spent so much time stressing about what to send, how to send it, and most importantly, making his box perfect. It was a big topic of discussion in the family and friends Facebook page, as everyone wanted to show their loved ones how much they were missed, how proud they were, and hopefully grant a small break after all their hard work of training. Hopefully the following information will help ease some of your worry and explain how to send the perfect candio box to your service member.

Pin the images for quick reference guides in the future! These guides will also be helpful for deployments and future trainings. Perfect Candio Box-3.png

Candio boxes are opened on Candio Christmas, the Wednesday of week 9. They have to be opened in front of a Drill Instructor or Class Officer, so be mindful of that! **”No tobacco, alcohol, weapons, medications, gambling paraphernalia, or live animals”** You can send any size box, however the large flat rate shipping box from USPS is most popular because they are easy to decorate, a good size to send any and all items you may want to include, and are budget friendly for shipping.

How to send your box:Candio box tips and hacks.png

What to include:Perfect Candio Box-4.png My Candio Box

I spent so much time (and $$$) putting together these candio boxes for my husband. I went with a rustic Americana theme and personalized with photographs from our 6 years together, his civilian pilot training, and of course our adorable cats.

IMG_6523

I filled the box with yummy homemade cookies (packed in decorated pringles cans), jerky, chocolate, chocolate covered blueberries, nuts, popcorn, a head scratcher, magazines, a book, emergen-c, starburst, a talking pen (it says No a bunch of different ways), gum, and a special gift (a customized bobblehead of my husband in a flight suit).

Additional Examples:

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All of these amazing candio boxes were sealed and mailed out, ready to go, and arrived with plenty of time for candio Christmas. IMG_6539

Helpful links:

http://www.ocs.navy.mil/ocs.html

https://www.facebook.com/OTCNewport/

https://perrinplacecom.files.wordpress.com/2015/12/candioboxguide.pdf

I hope this was helpful for you as you prepare your special care package for your service member. OCS is a complicated time for families, but if you’re preparing that candio box, you are in the homestretch now! Just a couple more weeks and you will be traveling to Newport, RI to reunite and congratulate your soon to be commissioned Ensign! Congratulations! You all made it through! 

Be sure to read how we’re doing after OCS!! We’re now trying to survive flight school!

Flight School Survival for the Military Spouse

Or just click on the military tab at the top!

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Military

A Trip to the Commissary

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

take a trip to the commissary.png

When I first got my military ID, one of the first things I wanted to do was go to the commissary. I had heard numerous times you could find excellent deals on all different types of grocery items, and I wanted to experience first hand the savings. Unfortunately, while my husband was at Officer Candidate School (OCS), the closest commissary to our home was over one hour away. It just didn’t make sense logistically to take a trip all the way there to save a dollar or two on cereal, bread, and eggs-or so I thought.

When we moved to Pensacola, Florida for flight school, I joined multiple military spouse groups on Facebook and saw posts from other spouses asking if it was worth it to shop at the commissary instead of the closest grocery store or Walmart. The common answer seemed to be that, while some items were cheaper at the commissary, there were other items that were not. For two months I decided to take their word for it and not do the research myself. I typically shopped at Walmart and used the Savings Catcher feature on their app. This feature allows you to scan your receipt, and it will search surrounding stores for their advertised sales. If anything you purchased at Walmart was advertised for a cheaper price elsewhere, they will credit you the difference into the app which you can then exchange for an e-giftcard. I would typically get back $2-$6 worth of savings a week by using this feature consistently. It depends on what foods you buy and where you live to determine the  type of savings you will get if you choose to try Savings Catcher.

I decided to give the commissary a shot one warm February day in Florida, and I am so glad I did. I decided to do my regular grocery shopping at the commissary, so I could then compare what it costs there vs Walmart, since all my receipts are saved in the Savings Catcher app. Once I got home I compared prices, and this is what I found: every single thing I bought was cheaper at the commissary than it was at Walmart, as well as the advertised prices for cheaper prices at other surrounding grocery stores. While some items were a few cents cheaper, there were also a number of items that were $1-$1.50 less. This was such a pleasant surprise! Prices will vary depending on what you purchase and the brands, however, after this experience I am now a commissary convert and will be solely shopping at the commissary from now on.

Here are a few tips I would suggest for any other first time commissary shoppers:

commissary-tips-for-beginners

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Military

Military Spouses & Politics: Do we have a Voice, too?

This was first published on Military Spouse Advocacy Network and I am honored to work with them!military-spouses-and-politics

If your social media feeds look anything like mine, then your last year has been bombarded with political posts, memes, calls for action, protests, outrage, and posts of support for our public service representatives. For many new and seasoned military spouses there is a gray area as to how vocal or nonvocal we can be when it comes to voicing our opinions on politics. Can our service members get involved in politics? Can we as spouses get involved in politics?

First let’s define what getting involved in politics even means, because it is not limited to Facebook posts or protests. Think of political involvement as a spectrum. At the beginning you have getting informed. You can do this by reading reliable information from the media, following reliable news sources on social media, and following bill proposals by your representatives. The next level may include contacting your local representatives through phone calls, emails, and/or letters, or attending meetings held for their constituents. Then there is volunteering for your political party or working on a campaign. And at the other end of the spectrum is running for office yourself.

So, the question still remains, can a service member and their spouse participate in any of this? And the answer is yes and no. Imagine that! A complicated answer in our military lives.

There are rules for the service member on their ability to be active politically. The policy on this rule is the Department of Defense Directive (DoDD) 1344.10, and was most recently updated in 2008. The DoDD does not take away the service member’s right to register to vote, vote, sign petitions, or contribute money to a campaign. Service members may even have a small bumper sticker on their car supporting a specific candidate if they choose. What they cannot do is use their authority to influence someone to vote one way or another. Anytime they discuss their political views it must be made clear they are their own personal opinions, and not an endorsement of their service branch. Also, they may not attend any partisan event in uniform.

Well that is the service member, but what about spouses? Spouses can say and do what they please in regards to political involvement. This means you can talk about politics. You can post on your social media about politics. You can volunteer for a political party. You can volunteer for a campaign. You can even run for office yourself. One would even be able to argue more military spouses should be involved, since so many policies directly impact our families in more ways than civilian families.

Some organizations that advocate for military spouses and military rights are Homefront Rising, and the Military Spouse JD Network. There is a network of people and organizations out there to help you along if you have interest in a future in politics.a milspouses place is in the house and the senate.png

Still unsure about what you or your service member can or cannot do politically?

Check out the article below! I found it very helpful in my own research:

http://www.military.com/spouse/career-advancement/how-to-get-involved-in-politics-as-a-military-spouse.html

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