Thriving & Surviving Military Life: Waiting for Orders
One thing I’ve been wanting to do on this blog for a while is write more about what our life is like as a military family. Even though the whole reason I started this blog was because I wanted to share my strategies for making a home amidst frequent moves and living in base housing/rentals as a military family, I haven’t shared too much about what our life is like and the nuances of this nomadic lifestyle. I was so excited to see that many of you wanted to hear more about this aspect of our life (thanks to my reader survey!). Those results gave me the push I needed to start this monthly “column.” Once a month, I am going to share some of my thoughts on random topics related to military living. If this topic isn’t for you, just skip on through. But be sure to come back Friday for a room reveal! For those of you sticking around, today I’m talking about something that is gripping our household right now:
We moved to our 5th and current home in May of 2012. My husband’s orders (military word for assignment) were for three years, so we knew that this tour (military word for period of time at one base/duty station) would end and we’d be due to move in June-ish of 2015. Of course this isn’t a certainty: the unexpected orders come along or you can get extended at the same base/job for a second tour. But most likely, a move is coming this summer.
Right before Thanksgiving, we found out that my husband was selected for school (it’s more complicated than this, but at each rank, there are schools service members can attend to enhance their knowledge and skills in military training and leadership). School wasn’t really on our radar since we just came from school before this assignment. In almost 10 years of receiving news that relates to our impending move, this is the first time I broke down in tears when Greg told me. Not because school is a bad thing. In fact, in a lot of ways, it’s a really good thing. It’s great for Greg’s career. He won’t deploy, his hours will be “normal,” and school is known for having lots of family time (which is much needed after this current assignment!). However, school is most often (although not always) a one year assignment.
1 year. That means we will pack up, paint this house back, un-do all my hard work, say goodbye to friends, and move somewhere new…to then unpack, re-paint (probably not, actually), find the new grocery store/doctor/dentist/hair dresser/school/playgroup/gym, make new friends, and decorate…for one year. To then do it all over again to get to our next (hopefully) three year assignment. We’ve done a one-year school once, and it was one of my toughest tours as a wife. It’s like putting your whole life on pause for an entire year. You can’t get really get settled, you don’t really bother to fully decorate, you don’t put yourself out there to meet new friends or embrace a new community because…well…you’re “just there for a year.” For a gal who loves to decorate and build a home, who is trying to build a small career off her home/blog, and who takes a little while to make friends…a one year move is really, really tough…and so I cried.
The good news is that I rebound fast. Greg told me the news at lunch and by dinnertime, I was daydreaming about a new house (yay!!!!!), new projects (yay!!!!!), a different State (yay!!!!) and a different life. We dove into learning about his various school options, where they all are, what they each have to offer, and what would be a good fit for our family at this stage of our lives. We made our wish list and talked excitedly about all the possibilities. He submitted his preferences at the end of November.
So…this is the part where you are probably expecting me to say: “We’re moving to _____!” And honestly, friends…I thought by now, we’d be able to. But…even though June is…oh…5 months away, we.don’t.yet.know.where.we’re.moving. And you better bet it’s making us cra-zay!
And the craziest part of all? This type of timeline is pretty standard for us military folk (whether you’re headed to school or not!). In 6 months time, we could be living down the road, on the other side of the country, on the other side of the world, and anywhere in between…and most often, we won’t know for sure until a few months before the moving trucks arrive!
For the last 6+ months at any assignment, you start to occupy this weird state. This we-know-we’re-leaving-but-we-don’t-know-where-to-or-exactly-when-yet state. The house starts to feel small and constraining (instead of brimming with possibilities). You stop putting yourself out there to make new friends or create new opportunities. You start to knock off all those things you wanted to see and do in the local area (that you could/should have been doing over the last 2+ years!). You start to purge and de-clutter and plan yard sales. You start to mentally pack boxes and make lists about what all needs to be done even though it’s too early to start any of it.
And there’s one more thing you do. You wait. You wait and wait and wait for “the word.” “The word” that can come in the form of a list, an email, a phone call, or even a piece of paper. “The word” that will tell you where the moving trucks are headed and where your new life will be. Sure we submit preferences and make phone calls and talk to people (and pray!) to get what we want, but we are ultimately NOT in control of where we go next. And so we wait to be told. I guess that’s why they are are called orders.
Right now, we are waiting. The news could come any day now, at any minute. The not knowing and waiting has practically paralyzed us into perpetual breakfast/lunch/dinner conversations of “what if” and “how about this” and “what will we do if we get sent here?” and “oh gosh, I don’t want to go there?” None of these conversations are fruitful, but we can’t help ourselves. This is the next chapter of our lives and our story. It’s important and life-changing and exciting and terrifying. But the uncertainty is exhausting, and we’re growing very weary. We do really well when we can plan and research and start lists and (better yet) start checking things off that list. But the waiting and the lack of control over the decisions (and when that decision is finally released) can drive one a little nutty. Consider us well on our way to the nut house 😉
I channel my frustration and anxious energy into house-related stuff (of course.) I’m already decorating our next house, whatever it looks like, wherever it is. I’m dreaming of a white kitchen and lots of windows…and a basement. A basement would be so lovely. I’m thinking about what furniture will be moved into what new rooms and wondering if I’ll hang curtains or not (probably…I always do ;). I’m also excitedly brainstorming how I want to document this next chapter here on the blog for all of you, because I recognize a one-year move is a unique opportunity (at least I’m trying to view it that way!), and I’ll have a lot to share with you guys (both emotionally and decor-wise!). I’m trying to focus on the exciting aspects of moving and not let myself lose too much sleep over the more troubling ones (like the MESS when everything comes out of closets and into boxes and back out of boxes again!). Yes, I’ve already had my share of late night fretting.
And what makes this period of time so strange is that at the same time I’m dreaming about our new place, I am rapidly trying to “finish” the final few spaces of this house before we literally have to start tearing it all down. I know, I’m ridiculous. Most would give it up by now! I wonder if I will ever get that darn family room to a spot where I can say “I love it.” You better bet I’m going to try. I’ve got 5 months, right? And if not, then there’s always the next house…and another one 1 year after that!
And so…with just a few months left in this little home of ours, it’s time for me to start wrapping up rooms and show you the final few spaces you haven’t seen finished yet. I still have to show you the “final” kitchen, master bedroom/bathroom, garage, and living room/playroom (all other room reveals can be found HERE). We’re going to slowly start closing this chapter of our home story on Friday with the reveal/recap of our Master Bedroom!
See you then!
12 Comments on “Thriving & Surviving Military Life: Waiting for Orders”
The uncertainty is a nuisance, but I can't wait to thrive somewhere new with you! Wherever it is!
I've been told I should have been a military wife because I love to move! Or maybe a gypsy 😉 Like you, I completely decorate in my mind before we even pack. God bless you both in this new adventure!
Great post! Crossing my fingers you guys "get what you want"… if there is such a thing 🙂
The word that crossed my mind was limbo. Living in limbo would be tough. But you are right, you have 5 months to get things right before you move.
I love your continent cutout with the words on it. So pretty. I want one that says land of the free because of the brave.
Woof. Between September 2010 and April 2014 we moved four.times and point B to point C was cross country. I can't even imagine knowing we had to move but NOT knowing where. Makes me queasy.
Having said that, I can't wait to see you trot out your moving-ninja-moves in the next few months. 😀 I have ZERO plans to move EVER again (obviously, I've learned that life does not respect all caps declarations – lol) but it never hurts to learn from the Masters.
You are a very strong woman……just remember. ….behind every great military man is an even greater woman!
while I cannot say I know how you feel as I have not lived a military life, I hold you guys on a pedestal for living the life you do to keep us Americans safe. Moving is hard….no matter where it is. I've moved across the street, down the block and to 2 different countries in my time, and I can't say which was the hardest!
but one thing I do know….YOU CAN DO IT! Your family deserves the family time for a year.
YOU GO GIRL!
We've been at our current duty station for 1.5 and I'm thinking it could be this summer? In my husband's career field in the AF, we usually get orders in March for a summer move. I feel ya, dog. We've also done 2, one year assignments. The first one wasn't so bad because the kids were all school aged and it was like a one-year vacation in San Antonio. The second one, I had 3 high schoolers and a middle schooler :-(. I think it is fun for you that you know you will be in school but you don't know where?!?! That is different! And I so admire you that you commit so deeply to your base housing! You are an inspiration to me! We are living off-base in a rental this time and I still have very few pictures up. I can't wait to live vicariously through your Marine (?) orders!!
Awesome post!! I loved hearing about life of a military family. I know the waiting is hard and nerve wracking. Can't wait to hear where you are going. Praying you find out soon!!
My husband has been in the Navy for 10yrs-
We've lived in 6 houses and have finally settled in our forever home, as he is getting ready to separate!!! Good luck to you guys on the next move- they are never easy!!!
Megan, my dad was in the Indian army for 40 odd years… I spent my 12 years of school at 16 different ones… in India you move every eighteen months or two years, sometimes less! I pain your feel! Still, I don't regret a minute of it!
Megan, my dad served 40 odd years in the Indian army, and we moved so often it was crazy…. spent my 12 years of school in 16 different ones, but don't regret a single minute! Even now that I live in one city, I itch to move!
We've had four 1 year tours now. The school one was the best, for all the reasons you mentioned, but also because my husband's class was very small, only 13 folks, so we all became very close. Instead of taking six months to make friends it only took about a month! I do know what you mean about the limbo status though. I've had to make a concerted effort to remain mentally where my body was instead of moving onto the new home. Otherwise I was cheating my daughter (and myself) of those last precious months with friends!