Category Archives: Thriving & Surviving Military Life

Lessons Learned from Our Worst Move Yet

Over the past few months, I have casually mentioned our move this past summer to southern California wasn’t our “best” ever. In fact, now that the dust has settled for us, Greg and I consider it our worst move yet. Over the course of Greg’s 12-year (so far) military career, our 6 previous moves have been pretty standard with no major frustrations, loss, or damage. We’ve been both well prepared AND lucky. But because of some silly and stupid mis-steps on OUR part, we had all three this time around. I want to be clear that we have known and heard much, much worse than what we’ve been through in last few months. But for a family who pride themselves on being “moving masters,” we’ve been caught a bit off-guard on how big we goofed this time. I guess it shows that no matter how many times you do this or how much of a “pro” you feel like, moving is a hard, busy, complicated process…and lots of things can fall through the cracks without proper planning and diligence. So this post is not only to share our lessons learned with any one getting ready to move, but also a reminder to us how important proper planning is….for our stuff, our sanity, and our bank accounts!

This military family has done 7 moves in 11 years. Click through to see why this was their worst move yet and what they learned from it!

Pre-Move Preparations Really Are SO Important

This military family has done 7 moves in 11 years. Click through to see why this was their worst move yet and what they learned from it!

The last time I really talked about our move here on the blog was waaaay back in April when I outlined the 10 Things You Should Do in the Months Before a Move. Remember how I shard that I was struggling to get motivated and that post was supposed to kick me into gear to start working away on our usual preparations? Well….it didn’t. For a multitude of reasons, Greg and I just were not “in the mood” to move this time around, and as such delayed (or just didn’t do) a lot of our usual pre-move prep. It was the end of a one-year school assignment (one year moves are the worst!), I was in my first trimester, I was suffering from major blog/creative burnout (making me not want to do ANYTHING!), and as silly as it sounds, I just didn’t feel like being a grown up and doing what needed to get done. We kept saying: “We need to update our spreadsheet and get working on it,” but we never did. “We should start getting ready this weekend,” but each weekend would pass without any preparations. We never opened our spreadsheet, I never printed out my handy worksheets. I didn’t do any neighborhood research, school research, doctor research, etc. I was kind of in denial about moving and kept saying “One way or another, it and we will all get to California. We know what we’re doing. It will work out.” Well…we and (most of) our stuff did indeed make it to California; we found a great house and a great doctor and a great school. But EVERYTHING felt haphazard and stressful; and as such, a lot of things slipped through the cracks or were done by the skin of our teeth. Instead of feeling on top of our moving game, it felt like we were putting out fires and dealing with things as they occurred. By the time we got to California and our stuff actually arrived in our house, we were frazzled and exhausted.

LESSON LEARNED: Having now lived through several well organized/planned moves and one not-even-remotely planned move, I can say that proper preparation is KEY to reducing stress, closing timing gaps, and keeping out-of-pocket costs down. Yes…in a military move at least…everything and everyone will make it to the new location in tact whether you plan ahead and get organized or not. But your stress level will be a different story. Greg and I have come up with systems that work for us as a family, and we should have known better than to abandon them and just wing it. Next time around…because there will always be a next time…we will refer to all the things I outlined in THIS post and use the tools and systems we’ve created to execute a smoother move!

NOTE: As you will see, most everything else that happened during this move did so because we skipped our usual pre-move prep that I discussed above. Had we done what we usually we do, we could have avoided MOST of the following!

Don’t Leave All The Prep Until the Final Weekend

Because we weren’t following our usual timeline AND knew we didn’t have walls to paint or do a whole lot of work to restore the house to its original condition, we left ALL of our pre-move prep until the very last weekend before the packers came. Taking things off of walls, emptying out food containers, separating pack/no-pack items, packing the car, bagging and boxing up loose items/valuables, categorize like items that should be packed together for new house, unhooking electronics, writing down serial numbers, etc was all saved for the final 48 hours. Years ago, that was plenty of time. Now…we have more stuff to work through; and one weekend is just not enough time to get it all done. Because we waited too long, the final weekend was beyond busy and stressful as we tore through the house trying to get it ready. Tempers flared, exhaustion peeked, and there ultimately wasn’t enough time to do all the things we like to do. As such, our stuff was not packed up as organized as we typically like…meaning things came OUT of boxes on the other side in more of a disarray than we like (like thumb tacks all over the bottom of a box!)…meaning it took us MUCH longer to get unpacked and settled in our new home.

LESSON LEARNED: Yes..the professional packers pack up our boxes, but we’ve learned that how smooth unpacking goes on the other end is very much affected by how organized and categorized items are on the front end. A single weekend is not enough time to get everything we have as organized as it needs to be to guarantee a smooth unpack on the other side. So while it isn’t very much fun to live with a house pulled apart for a few weeks, allowing a few weekends of prep time is worth it in the end!

Put Clear Signs on the No Pack Pile

This military family has done 7 moves in 11 years. Click through to see why this was their worst move yet and what they learned from it!

If there is one tip I give people who are moving for the first time (especially if using professional packers) is to CLEARLY mark a “no pack” zone. Professional packers come in and often move very quickly to get everything into boxes. You can’t be everywhere at once to make sure certain items aren’t be packed up, so it really is best to have rooms or zones dedicated as “no pack.” This time around, we designated our master bathroom as “no pack” and just shut the doors and told the packers not to go in there. However, there were also things in the garage that were set aside as “no pack” that we didn’t feel like dragging into the upstairs bathroom (like maintenance items that belonged with the house, luggage, etc). So, we just set these items aside in a pile and told the head packer to leave them be. Well…sometimes instructions aren’t fully communicated to the entire pack team…and then when you throw a tornado warning and torrential rain and wind in the middle of your load…all hell breaks loose and everything gets thrown on the truck in haste anyway. This meant that snow shovels and brooms (that belonged to the house), my luggage (that we needed for our cross-country trip), and a few other things were packed when they shouldn’t have been. Guess who had to buy new luggage for our trip even though she had very good luggage on the moving truck heading to California?!? This girl 🙁

LESSON LEARNED: Setting aside “no pack” areas is often sufficient, but you just never know what’s going to happen during a load. CLEARLY mark and label items that shouldn’t be packed up, and even consider putting items in your car or utility closet to avoid last-minute confusion!

Re-Label Boxes For Destination

This military family has done 7 moves in 11 years. Click through to see why this was their worst move yet and what they learned from it!

When using professional movers, they box, tag and “inventory” everything. But their inventorying and labeling is often void of specifics and details; usually, boxes just say “toys” or “craft supplies” and then which room they were packed in at origin. However, these basic descriptors don’t help much when it’s been weeks since you’ve seen your stuff AND you are going to have a somewhat different layout on the other end. I know other military families who go through and re-label boxes after the packers leave to 1) make the descriptions more specific and 2) re-designate which rooms they should go in at the destination. I’ve NEVER understood the reason for this until we moved in here. As boxes came off the truck, the descriptions were so vague, we had no idea what was in each box and therefor had no idea where to instruct the movers to place them. All of Greg’s office supplies ended up in my office because they were labeled “Office;” all of Henry’s play art supplies ended up in my craft room because they said “Crafts.” It’s not a huge deal, but when you are trying to get settled, it helps to at least have the right boxes int he right room.

LESSON LEARNED: While everything (what’s in the boxes and what room they started in) is still fresh in your mind, go back and re-label boxes with descriptions that will help you unload easier. Also, if you know where items are going to go in the “new” house…label them with their destination room rather than their origin room. I just discovered THIS tape, and I am totally using it next time!

Ensure ALL High-Inventory Items are Documented

This military family has done 7 moves in 11 years. Click through to see why this was their worst move yet and what they learned from it!

In addition to the standard inventory, the packers also fill out a “High Value Inventory” of any and all items you deem “high value.” Not only are these items tracked on a special sheet, but more details are recorded (like serial numbers, quantity, and condition) and you often sign special seals on the boxes containing these items. Because we were not prepared enough, we did not set aside (or have our own list) of all our high-inventory items. It was mid-pack and even after the fact that we were all “Oh shoot…the XXXXX should have been marked high inventory” on several items. We thought we eventually caught and recorded them all, but it turns out we didn’t. After getting fully unpacked and settled, we discovered that both my Apple laptop and high quality camera lens were both missing. Not only were they missing from our things (packers fault), but they were not written anywhere on our inventory sheets (our fault). Guess what? If it’s not recorded in detail on the inventory sheets, you will not receive financial compensation to replace them. Major.Ouch.

LESSON LEARNED: Before the packers even arrive, go through your entire house and set aside, inventory, and write down the serial numbers of ANYTHING and EVERYTHING you deem high value. Beyond your own inventory, ensure ALL of that information is on the official inventory sheets completed by the movers. Even if the packers don’t want to do it, require them to document the high-value items. Make copies of your forms and take pictures of your items. We’ve NEVER had anything high-value missing in our 6 previous moves. We’re now completely out a laptop and lens because WE didn’t prepare and ensure they were documented right.

Don’t Pay for a House Until It’s Ready

This military family has done 7 moves in 11 years. Click through to see why this was their worst move yet and what they learned from it!

When we arrived in San Diego (with no plan, no research) we hit the ground running to find a house…admittedly with a bit of urgency (we had been living in a hotel for 3+ weeks and without our stuff for 5+ at this point). We were ecstatic to find the house we did, in a neighborhood and school district we loved, so quickly. And because of my anxious personality, people-pleaser tendencies, and the desire to just be in a house, I (not Greg) agreed to move in and therefor start paying rent on the house BEFORE it was truly ready for us. However, the house still needed some painting, cleanings, and final repairs; all of which were inconvenient enough that we elected to stay in the hotel until they were done. This meant we were paying rent AND hotel fees for about 4 days. This isn’t typically a huge deal, but it added up to extra money (for the hotel) that we shouldn’t/didn’t need to spend since we were paying rent on the house.

LESSON LEARNED: Don’t pay for a house that isn’t fully ready. We easily could have asked for the lease to start the day the maintenance items were complete, saving ourselves several hundred dollars in an already very expensive move.

When They Ask You To Pick Paint Colors, Just Do It

We're moving into our 7th home in 11 years! Come tour this "blank slate" of a house...our home for the next few years!

This is a mistake that I feel like will haunt me for our entire time here. As I mentioned above, several of the rooms (the kitchen, office, and two kid bedrooms upstairs) were going to be repainted because they were really strong, intense colors. Instead of painting them back to the neutral color already throughout the house, the owner was happy to let us pick the colors as long as we painted to the neutral color upon move out. Seriously. I’ve never been allowed to pick my colors!!!! But you guys….whether because of pregnancy brain, moving exhaustion, or total overwhelm, I didn’t know what to do. We had to make a decision somewhat quickly, and I had NO plan what I wanted to do in this house. Heck…we were still trying to figure out what was going to go where. I was very sensitive to the open-concept and flow of the house and worried if I picked random colors in haste, the whole house would feel really choppy and potentially not work with the light and our stuff. Somewhat in panic, I told them just to paint everything to the neutral beige color. WHAT WAS I THINKING?!?!?! Honestly, in a big, empty house with all the windows open, the brown walls didn’t look that bad, and I thought having everything consistent throughout the house would be better. Little did I realize how dark and dreary the paint color feels with our stuff in the house and with the blinds pulled (because it is SO hot here!). Not a day goes by that I say to myself “I can’t believe I didn’t just have them paint the rooms white.” Henry’s room, the nursery and my office would have still worked with the rest of the house AND with our stuff AND made me feel better in this house if they were just painted bright white. I honestly don’t even know why that didn’t occur to me.

LESSON LEARNED: Paint is not the end of the world. But at the end of an expensive and complicated move (and being pregnant!) I just don’t have my usual excitement and willingness to paint every single room..especially when we had the chance to get it done for FREE!!!!! (Can you tell that I am still reeling?!?!) We just got permission to paint the master and nursery, but that is now hassle and money we didn’t really have to deal with. If I could turn back the clocks, I’d have them paint the rooms bright white because it still works with the trim/ceilings of the house but works better with our style and palette. I still don’t know why it didn’t occur to me. So the lesson here…if they ask you for paint colors, put your big girl/guy pants on and just make some decisions. And when you just don’t know…paint it white!

Because of our very poor planning and overall unwillingness to just embrace the move and do what needed to be done, this move was our worst one yet. However, we know it could be so much worse: we have friends who have lost more; dealt with mold, re-locations, un-safe homes, etc; and had sentimental items lost or broken. While it was a VERY stressful and haphazard move and we lost some high-value items, we are safe, happy, and healthy in our new home. Maybe we needed a move like this to prove to ourselves that our systems do work and shouldn’t be abandoned just because we’re not in the mood to move. Moving is part of our lifestyle and never easy or fun. But proper planning can sure make an already crazy time a little more manageable…which when you do it so much…means everything!

I hope you guys enjoyed this deeper look into our summer move that was! I know a lot of my readers have moved a lot and I would love to hear some of the tips and tricks you’ve discovered are worth the hassle! Next up on Thursday…nursery progress! See you then!

Megan Signature

Thriving and Surviving Military Life: How Do You Tell Your Military Journey?

Military Thriving and Surviving - How Do You Tell Your Military Journey

As most of you regular readers know, we are facing yet another move in a mere 3ish months. Yes, you read that right. Yes, we just moved into our current home last summer…yes, we are getting ready to move again. And no…we have no idea where we’re going. Humph. However, in this Thriving and Surviving Military Life post, I am not going to lament how frustrated and anxious I am about our upcoming move. (In fact, I wrote a post almost exactly one year ago about what it’s like waiting for orders…and if you’re curious about how I’m holding up these days, just read that post. It’s all pretty much true right now too!) As you might expect, our life is currently consumed with where we are headed, when we will go, and everything we have to do to get ready. And while I’m certainly stressed about the uncertainly and work that lies ahead of us, this time is always filled with some excitement too…because it’s fun and exciting thing think about what kind of life awaits us next!

In the 12 years Greg has been in the Marine Corps and we’ve been living the military life, we’ve been blessed to live in some amazing places…5 of them to be exact! We’ve made some amazing friends, seen and experienced wonderful things, and learned about the world in ways that wouldn’t have been possible if we stayed in our home town. Our perspective has always been to see as much of the world/country as we can before we have to pick a place and settle down for good. As such, we try (as much as possible) to live in a new place each time. As much as moving and setting up a new life every few years is challenging (#hugeunderstatement), we do take a lot of pride in our military journey. It’s part of who we are, what we do, and what we, as a family, believe in.

There’s a saying that the things in your home should tell your story. That when visitors come into your home, the things you have displayed should speak about you as a person, your likes, your passions, your faith…your journey. We have always tried to share our military journey with the things in our home. Today, I thought it would be fun to show you the various ways we’ve told our story over the years…as well as share a few more ideas that you who move frequently might want to try too!

Pictures

One of the most obvious ways to tell your journey and show the places you’ve been and lived is through photos. Both in California and Virginia, we displayed oversized photos of all the places we traveled in the previous years. No, these images are not the places we lived, but this idea could easily be adapted to show favorite memories of each place you’ve lived, the house at each place, a landmark from each place, etc.

Quantico Living Room

State Artwork

As most of you long-time readers know, I’m partial to sharing our journey through state artwork. In our last house, we displayed our journey like this:

Military Thriving and Surviving - Ideas for Telling Your Military Journey

…and I improved upon this concept (and added our current location!) when we moved into this house last summer. (You can read how I made these State Silhouettes here!) Both in our last home and this one, these prints are some of the most commented on and asked about items in our home. They instantly tell our journey and usually spark great conversations! There are so many great ways to adapt this idea and I’ve included a mini roundup down below!

Military Thriving and Surviving - Ideas for Telling Your Military Journey

Military Thriving and Surviving - Ideas for Telling Your Military Journey

Jewelry

Greg and I have one more way that we like to commemorate our military story…and it’s probably my most favorite. It’s not something we display for all to see, but it is my best collection of all: my charm bracelet. My Mom, who was also a Marine spouse, had a charm bracelet and I remember looking at it as a kid. Each time Dad went away, he would bring her home a charm; and they would also collect charms of the places they went together. The year Greg joined the Marine Corps, he gave me a charm bracelet (on Dad’s recommendation, of course!) Ever since, we have filled that bracelet (and started a new one) with all the places he’s been on military-related trips and deployments, as well as the locations we’ve been together. As you can see, I need to get some of them attached and there are actually so many more (these are just our military ones). But gosh, we LOVE pulling out my bracelets and charms and looking through our journey. Some charms represent bases we’ve lived at, others represent deployments (I have quite a few camels from the Middle East ;)…but we both know what each and every one represents. Aside from the miniature representations of real life places…what I love most is that without fail, Greg always remembers. He always comes home with a charm, and I always look forward to seeing it. I don’t need rugs or fancy jewelry from exotic places, but I do love my charms. I don’t wear it often, but these sure bring me so much joy and pride! What a life we’ve had already!

Military Thriving and Surviving - Ideas for Telling Your Military Journey

Other Ideas for Telling Your Story

From Christmas ornaments to collages, there are SO many fun and creative ways to tell your story! Here are some other ideas to try!

(Please pin from original source!)

Engraved State Home Coasters via Make It and Love It

(via Make It and Love It)

Home State Scrap Wood Art via Make It and Love It

(via Make It and Love It)

Map Decor via Made From Pinterest

(via Made From Pinterest)

Signs from LL Bean

(via LL Bean)

Map With Pictures via Cut Craft Create

(via Cut Craft Create)

State Photo Collages via Minted

(via Minted)

DIY State Ornament via Artzy Creations

(via Artzy Creations)

These Military Life posts often spark some of the best conversation in the comments! So tell me, if you’re a frequent mover, do you tell your story somehow? Do you collect and/or display things from each place you’ve lived? Do you have a creative way of sharing your journey? I’d love to get more ideas, so share in the comments below!

Ideas for Telling Your Military Journey

I hope you all have a great weekend! I’m hoping to do some significant blog maintenance that will hopefully solve my site loading/cacheing issues for good. I should be back here on Tuesday like usual, but if not, know it’s because I’m working out a few things behind the scenes! See you soon!

Megan Signature

Thriving & Surviving Military Life: Dealing With Stuff That Doesn’t Fit In the New House!

Military Thriving and Surviving Life | Dealing with Stuff That Doesn't Fit in the New House!

In my Thriving and Surviving Military life posts over the last year, I had a tendency to focus (mostly) on the emotional toll this life takes on spouses. These are absolutely valuable posts (and they generate some of the best interaction with you guys!), but they take a lot out of me to write, and I have to wait until I’m ready to dive into certain topics. My hope with this series has always been to not only give a glimpse into the various challenges, opportunities, highs and lows of military life…but also to provide tips and tricks for weathering it all. It recently occurred to me that there are also some lighter, even comical, topics I can talk about too. Today’s topic came from a Reader Survey response, and is actually something I’ve wanted to talk about too: what to do with all the stuff you love but just doesn’t fit into the new house. I hinted on Thursday that I’d be sharing a dirty little secret with you today…are you ready to see it? Get your pin buttons ready folks…and take a peek at my Pile o’ Stuff!

Military Thriving and Surviving Life | Dealing with Stuff That Doesn't Fit in the New House!

(Hanging head in shame.)

I can’t believe I am posting these pictures on the Internet for all to see. I constantly tout that I hate clutter, I hate piles, I hate full garages, and I firmly believe in the power of regular purging. And all these things are true. But there is something else that is true for those of us that move a lot: sometimes things just don’t fit right, but it doesn’t make sense to get rid of it all every time either. And so…I would venture a guess that most of us military families have a pile like this sitting somewhere in our garage, basement, storage unit, etc. (Please tell me I’m not alone here!)

What all is in my Pile o’ Stuff, you ask? Oh! All sorts of things! To start there are the usual things many of you probably have stored too…baby clothes and furniture we’d love to be able to use again and random project items waiting for inspiration to strike. But what is mostly in this pile are good-quality, usable, functional items that we’ve used in homes in the past to meet particular needs, but we just don’t have space or place for them now. These things include drawer organizers, frames, floating shelves, lamps/lighting, bins/baskets, and decorative items.

Military Thriving and Surviving Life | Dealing with Stuff That Doesn't Fit in the New House!

It’s a pain to move stuff from house to house and never use it. It’s a pain to find storage places for these things (especially when base housing tends to be low on storage!). So if we don’t have a use/places for these items, then why keep them? The answer is a simple one: because we MIGHT need them in the next house or maybe even in the house after that.

Military Thriving and Surviving Life | Dealing with Stuff That Doesn't Fit in the New House!

If you’re a long-time reader of the blog, then you know I am passionate about making a house work perfectly for you during the time you live there. I thrive in brainstorming solutions, finding the right pieces to fill awkward nooks, and creating ultimate function where there is none. I don’t like cramming things in that don’t fit, and I really don’t like wasted space. And while some items translate from one space to the next, this approach often requires hunting down and/or creating new, tailored items specifically for that home. I certainly don’t believe in carrying around everything we’ve ever bought from house to house (we did have 4 garage sales last year, remember?!?), but it can be costly and wasteful to buy and sell off and buy and sell off with every single move. Because I am a purger and like to have clutter-free spaces, I have been guilty of selling things off (usually at garage sales) only to re-buy it years later because the need arises yet again. This is the frustrating (and sometimes costly) reality that military families face. Get rid of it and possibly have to re-buy it down the road, or carry it around from home to home…state to state…country to country…and maybe never use it again. It’s a fine line to walk and not an easy situation to wrap up into a clean little solution. And while I am certainly not perfect at it (do you see that big pile in our garage?!?), I do want to share a few tips that might help you keep a bit of control on the stuff you do keep and help you decide what to do with the stuff that just doesn’t fit next time you move!

Before You Move

I’m a big advocate of purging both before AND after a move, and this is why: there are things you just don’t want anymore no matter how much space or money you have…so don’t even bother moving them! On the other hand, there are items you may not love but they can fill a need in the new place until you find just the right thing. I say bring them along, and then get rid of them on the other side if/when you no longer need them. Before the moving trucks even arrive, I recommend the following:

  • Get rid of any items that you really, really don’t like
  • Get rid of any items that are broken or severely damaged
  • Get rid of any items that you know you are going to replace on the other side and you won’t need in the meantime
  • Get rid of items that will not survive a move in tact
  • Get rid of any items you absolutely won’t need again

When You Move In

For most of us (I think), a majority of our belongings are things we love and will make the “final cut.” Move everything you love and absolutely want/need in your home into places first. As you identify storage and/or decorative needs, visit that pile of things you don’t absolutely love and see if you can tweak/alter them to make it work in your new space. Depending on how badly you need to solve a functional or decorative problem (as well as how long you will be there and your budget constraints), then go shopping for items to make your new home work just right.

After You’re Moved In

Once you are moved in, everything you love has been given the right place inside the house, and you’ve solved a majority of your functional and decorative situations, you are most likely still left with a slew of stuff that didn’t make the final cut (see my pile above). What do you do now? Again, the answer is not a one-size-fits-all solution. If you’re going to be living in the new home for a while, I tend to suggest that most things can probably go (unless it’s something super special or a family heirloom you just don’t have space for). Three years is a long time to keep items stored, and if you really loved or needed said item you probably would have found a place for it. However, if you’re going to be re-locating fairly quickly (within 18 months), I suggest keeping a reasonable number of items that might be useful in the next home.

What to Keep

I’m a purger (and a shopper), so I try to get rid of a lot with each move. Here are things I tend to always keep from home to home:

  • Storage solutions: good quality bins, baskets, containers, organizers, and drawer dividers. You just never know what kind of cabinets and closets you’ll encounter!
  • Furniture: it must be in good shape, has solid future potential, can be easily stored/protected, and/or can serve multiple functions.
  • Shelves: we find that both floating and cubby shelves are worth keeping. Not only can they usually be used from home to home, they are also easy to store. You can even use the shelves to store other items you choose to keep/store!
  • Lamps: lamps are expensive and when you find some you love, I say keep them. Since each room and each house has a different lighting story, it’s worth holding onto good lamps for the next space.

All that said, I do try to corral what I keep into a single, defined area. It can be easy to keep anything and everything, but then you may be left with a garage or basement you can’t use. Give yourself a defined amount of space to keep what you want/need, and stick to it. Get rid of the rest.

My #1 Tip

Re-evaluate everything with each and every move. It can be really easy to keep dragging items from home to home and never use them. It is also easy to never unpack certain boxes and just keep moving them along. Because many of us have a tendency to buy at least a few new things for each new house, things can really start to pile up if you don’t take the time to re-assess every few years. You don’t have to do a major purge and overhaul every single time, but try to be intentional about what gets moved and what ultimately stays in your life home after home!

Ha! I thought this would be a short and sweet post! I think this post is somewhat driven by guilt, because I do hate that pile of stuff in our garage so much. But I also know that since we are literally moving into another home in 5 short months, it would be silly to get rid of things that could fill certain needs in the next house. My goal for our next home, which we should be in for three years, is to not have such a pile but to be more intentional and committed to the things in our home. That said, it’s a reality that there will ALWAYs be a pile, it’s just a matter of how big 😉

Military friends or frequent movers, tell me your best tips for making decisions on what stays and what goes. And how do store it all? How do you make sure not to be wasteful but not keep too much? Share in the comments below!

Happy weekend friends! See you back here Tuesday with the next FREE printable!Megan Signature

Military Thriving and Surviving: Life After Deployment (and a mini survey!)


Thriving & Surviving Military Life | Life After Deployment
As many of you long-time readers know, I like to devote one post a month to chatting a bit more about being a military family (you can read other installments in this series here!) This series was born not only out of a desire to share more personally about this crazy lifestyle we lead, but I also found that many of you friends either connected to these posts (whether you’re military or not!) and/or enjoyed reading about the unique challenges, opportunities and situations we face as part of the military community. Next week marks one year since my husband returned home from a 9-month deployment, so as we as a family reflect on everything that has happened in the last year, I thought it was a great time to chat a bit about life after deployment…what it’s really like after your loved one returns home after a long time away!

Welcome Home, Daddy!

(The picture above was taken by a dear friend and neighbor in the hour after Greg returned home after 9-months of living and sailing around the world on a ship last October. You can read more about that wonderful day here…and yes, that moment still steals my heart!)

Each family endures and experiences a deployment very differently; and as such, life after a deployment plays out very differently for all of us as well. After living apart for many months, adjusting to life back as a family can be quite an adjustment for everyone involved. Thankfully, the military as a whole has many programs, articles, and workshops designed for both the service member and the family to help “deal with” the period after deployment. Whether you yourself are facing (or have faced) the end of a deployment or you are just curious about what this experience is like, here are some thoughts and observations from our personal experiences (and of several spouses I know).

Anxiety Over Excitement

I remember in the weeks and days leading up to Greg’s return, I was more nervous than excited (no offense, honey!). I’m a pretty type-A personality and can be relatively slow to adjust to things (despite what you may think by how much I change up our house!). It took me a good month to adjust to Greg being gone; but after 9 months of living just Henry and I, I had hit my stride. I was in a groove. Yes, I missed my husband like crazy and REALLY wanted a break and some help, but I had things figured out. I was taking care of the house, our finances and everything else in a sufficient and comfortable way. Our days were routined and full, and we had systems in place. Sure, these systems were all designed to help us cope with Greg’s absence, but I was anxious about how these routines would surely be turned upside down and how he would fit into them once he was home. I worried about how Greg would reinsert himself as Henry’s Dad, and how Henry would in turn respond to him. I also fretted about relinquishing ultimate control of the house, our schedule, our plans, our life. Greg and I are married after all, and we got married for a reason: to share our life and all the choices and decisions that happen within it. But I got very used to calling all the shots for myself and for Henry, and I was suddenly going to have to negotiate and share everything again. All good and important things, but difficult to brace for nonetheless!

Back to Normal in an Instant

These and similar anxieties of reintegration are very, very common. But when Greg got off that helicopter and walked into the doors of our “yellow house,” all was right and normal again. Sure, it took a little bit of time to get used to another person in the house, but it was normal and comfortable, almost right away. Like it always was. No effort, no anxiety. That void in our house that felt wide and empty was suddenly filled. Henry took right to Greg; and suddenly I felt like part of a married couple again instead of the single mom I felt like for the past 9 months. It’s the craziest, weirdest thing that I think many military spouses can attest to. In almost a blink of an eye, that thing you so desperately want and need to come to an end (the deployment) finally does. The void and the distance that feels all-consuming simply evaporates. No more counting down days and minutes and crossing boxes off of calendars…in an instant, life is normal again. Just like that (snaps fingers!).

Now, all that said…

It’s Not All Rainbows and Butterflies

This phrase makes me chuckle because it reminds me of an exchange with one of my favorite friends and past neighbors. Her husband had just returned home from deployment, and after a few days, we caught each other outside. I eagerly asked how the homecoming/reunion had been going and she said, “it’s been good, but you know, it’s not all rainbows and butterflies.” And I knowingly smiled and nodded, because yes indeed, it is not ALL warm and fuzzy. Yes, it’s wonderful to have your family back together and your service member home safe and sound. It’s nice to get some relief and help with things around the house and the kids, and it’s amazing to finally feel like a real family again. But while things revert back to normal in (seemingly) an instant, the resentment and exhaustion of being left alone for so long (on our end) and the fatigue and trauma from being gone so long to hard and scary places (on their end) doesn’t fade away over night. We are forced to experience things, both good and bad, separately. And sometimes, the coming back together, sharing those experiences, recovering from the bad ones, and starting to create new ones together can take time and healing. Figuring out how to re-share space and time and duties and obligations and intimacy is tricky. Many of the situations that existed before the deployment, remain afterwards, yet priorities and personalities can also change during such a long time apart. There is a somewhat long period of readjustment, getting to know each other again, and figuring out how the family works again. We have been fortunate to not have to deal with any severe deployment consequences such as injuries or PTSD (and thankfully there are services available to us should we ever need to), so despite our personal challenges, I am fully away that it could be much, much harder. Regardless of the post-deployment challenges, big or small, learning how to to live together again as a family takes time and patience and a heck of a lot of honesty.

Carrying on as a Family

Deployments feel all-consuming when you are in the middle of one, but when it’s over, it’s over. And after the initial honeymoon phase and overcoming those early reintegration challenges, life eventually marches on. Sometimes you know when the next deployment will be, and you start a whole new kind of countdown. Other times, you don’t know when the next one will be…you just know another one will eventually come. Like with our moves, deployments have an uncertainty that we’ve grown used to living within. We’ve been fortunate in that the year Greg has been home, he has been really home. No trips or exercises or other things have taken him away. We have traveled, celebrated birthdays and holidays, moved, and explored our new area together as a family. We know this year in Kansas is about being together as a family since we don’t really know what will come after we leave here next Spring…so we are trying to make the most of it while we can. Admittedly, we’ve gotten so used to life together again, that when the next deployment does come, it will be a whole new shock to the system to adjust, endure, cope and reintegrate all over again. But that’s a good place to be…and adjust, endure, cope and reintegrate we will.

With that, I have a favor to ask of you, my wonderful readers! There is a ton about this lifestyle that I am sure people are curious about, but because it’s “just a way of life” for us, it doesn’t occur to me to write about it. I’d LOVE it if you gave me your two cents below about anything military-related you’d like to see me share or talk about! It’s all completely anonymous!

TAKE THE SURVEY HERE!

I hope you are all have a great week! Coming up on Friday, another office update that I am super excited about! See you back here then!

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Thriving & Surviving Military Life | Maintaining Your Identity as a Spouse

This month’s Thriving & Surviving Military Life post is on a topic that has been on my heart for a long time now. Years actually. And for a majority of those years, I thought I was alone in my struggles and my feelings. But in this most recent move, I’ve met some new friends and fellow spouses who have shown me that not only am I not alone in these feelings, but that there are ways to change them! Today, I’m chatting about maintaining your identity as a military spouse.Thriving & Surviving Military Life | Maintaining Your Identity as a SpouseI have to preface this post by saying that I truly love being part of the military community. It requires a special calling, by both my husband AND myself…one we are both pretty passionate about and take pretty seriously. And while there are lots of sacrifices required, being a part of the military community has also afforded us some amazing opportunities, relationships, and life experiences. All that said, there is a reason I call this monthly blog column “Thriving & Surviving Military LIFE”…because being part of the military community is more than just a job. It’s a way of life that effects the entire family. Yes, this lifestyle can be exciting and fun, but at times it can also be intrusive, consuming, unforgiving, relentless, burdensome and just plain frustrating. My husband’s job dictates where we live, when, and for how long. It determines where our child goes to school and where I can look for jobs. It determines how much we see each other, what healthcare facilities we have access to, and what kind of housing we live in. I believe we are well taken care of and compensated for these sacrifices, but this willingness to go along with the ride can also take its toll.

Three years ago we moved to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina…a quintessential military town and one of the main installations for the US Marine Corps. I never wanted to move to Camp Lejeune (ever!) because of its smallness, isolation, and lack of professional opportunities for me. I even told Greg long before we were married years ago that I never wanted to move there. But we don’t really get much say, and to NC Greg was assigned when Henry was just about 15 months old. We chose to live on base in Camp Lejeune for many of the reasons I outlined in this post. Greg was scheduled to be deployed a lot, and we felt the support and security found on-base would be just what we needed to endure the tough three-year assignment. In so many ways, we absolutely made the right decision. We had an amazing, supportive, and understanding community all around us, and everything we needed was literally at our fingertips. But with on-base living, comes a certain loss of balance and perspective (at least for us!). All of our neighbors and friends were military. We shopped at the commissary (on-base grocery store) and other on-base stores. Our church was on-base led by a military chaplain. Greg’s office was 1.5 miles down the road, and his boss lived 2 miles in the other direction. On top of everything being so close, Greg was part of a unit that sucked us both physically, mentally, and emotionally dry over the course of three years. Every conversation, event, social opportunity, spiritual occasion and more was somehow connected to the Marine Corps. Everything felt tight and intense, and after three years, I was exhausted by the pervasiveness it all.

Layered on top of all of this was our decision that I would stay home with Henry during our time in NC. We made this decision for three main reasons: I genuinely wanted to stay home, Greg was scheduled to be deployed a lot, and there were not a lot of job opportunities for me in the area. I tell you this only to paint out more of the picture. Greg suggests that a lot of my struggles with being a military spouse are intertwined with being a stay-at-home Mom, and I think that’s a fair and true point. I’m not entirely convinced I’m cut out to be a stay-at-home Mom (that’s a post for another day!), but at that moment in time, it was the right decision for our family. Right decision or not, I found myself for the first time ever in a strange place with no professional purpose or passion. I had nothing I was working at or towards, and I struggled with the lack of validation a job and a career bring. Without something of my own to define and energize me, I allowed the pervasiveness of Marine Corps life to creep in…and before I knew it…my individual identity that used to be defined by my own passions, hobbies, and professional interests was replaced with a new one: being a military spouse and supporting my Marine.

In what seemed like a blink of an eye but in reality was a slow chain of events, I lost myself. Sure I threw myself into house projects and playdates. I trained for races, made amazing friends, created great memories, worked hard to raise Henry well, endured deployments, and blogged consistently on this little site of mine. But all of these things were attempts to make my new life fit…in reality, I felt like I was just keeping busy. On the outside, I looked generally content, but inside I felt lost, directionless, and without a purpose. I felt like I was sitting at home, twiddling my thumbs on the sidelines….living a life I didn’t want to live in a place I didn’t want to be…while my husband was (quite literally!) off saving the world. His career was the driving force in our world. And as noble and honorable a career it may be, it was/is hard for me to handle. Our three years in Camp Lejeune felt like treading water. I just did all I could to make the time pass and get through it.

As I share all this, some of my frustrations about our 1 year move to Kansas might start to make more sense. At the end of Greg’s 9 month deployment (and the end of my patience rope) this time last year, we had many long conversations about what changes would be necessary in order for this lifestyle to work for both him and me…and a lot of those conversations revolved around professional development and a sense of ownership and direction of my own life. Leaving Camp Lejeune was supposed to be a fresh start for me. I was hopeful to get back to work (my career field is in Exercise Physiology and Health Promotion) and re-gain a little more of myself separate from the Marine Corps. When we found out we were moving to Kansas (which I didn’t want to do) for just a year (more treading water), I was devastated. Yet again, I had no say and no control, and I was a silent passenger along for the ride of my husband’s career. For a passionate, career-oriented, well-educated gal like myself, being told when, where, and how to live feels stifling and frustrating. I felt like I was just moving to another Camp Lejeune, and more of the same frustrations would surely follow (hence the months of whining and crying.)

But wouldn’t you know it…Kansas has been the biggest surprise of all! We chose to live off base, primarily to create some of the space I was so desperate for. Many told us we’d regret it, but most also didn’t realize how stifled I felt by the lifestyle we were leading and how dramatic of a change I needed. While I still shop at the on-base commissary (prices are just better!), we now go to an off-base church, we have some non-military friends, and I even started back teaching group exercise at an off-base gym. I started taking knitting lessons in a downtown shop from a lady not even associated with the military, and am planning on taking sewing lessons soon (to learn how to use the embroidery components on my machine!). I’ve met other military spouses who have achieved a good life/Marine Corps balance by pursuing their own careers in creative and unusual ways. I’m learning that I am not and shouldn’t let myself feel like a victim in this lifestyle; and that there are indeed ways for me to feel satisfied while supporting my husband’s career at the same time. Simply put, living off base and creating some space has allowed us to nudge the military needle more toward “job” and less toward “life.” I can still access all the wonderful people, privileges and programs we’re afforded by being a military family, but I now have the space to be who I am and want to be, regardless of my husband’s job and the implications of the commitment he has made.

The other night laying in bed as we were falling asleep, I said to Greg, “I’m happy.” There was no “but this” or “except for that.” I can’t even tell you the last time I felt genuinely happy. Through knitting lessons and new friends…by getting back to group exercise and living off-base, I have slowly regained perspective and feel more like myself than I have in a long time. I am starting to create balance and carve out personal space in a lifestyle that can quickly and easily swing off kilter. I have learned that some military spouses need this boundary and other’s don’t…neither are right or wrong, good or bad…I am seeing now that I am just one who does. I am a happier Megan, a more satisfied person, and a better military spouse when I am able to have my own sense of self separate from our military livelihood. This one year pause in Kansas (that I didn’t want to take!) is not only allowing us to reconnect as a family and recover from a trying three years at our last base, but is also helping me figure out who I am and how this lifestyle can really work for both of us (hint hint: this blog is a big part of that :). I don’t yet have everything figured out, but today, as I write this…I believe we can make a military lifestyle work for both of us for the years to come!

Of all the posts I write, these military ones are the toughest (and most time-consuming!) ones for me to put together. I bare a lot of my soul in these posts, and I thank you for the time and space to share these thoughts. Each and every time, I am scared to hit publish…yet each and every time, these posts spark some of the best interactions and content from you readers! I know I now have many military spouses out there reading! I’d love to hear if/how you relate! Do you struggle to create balance between your own professional and personal ambitions and your service member’s career? How have you made things work? Please share any tips that may benefit me or anyone out there reading!

And with that, I will see you back here on Friday with another Organize This post! See you then!

Megan Signature