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Everything is pending. With just weeks left before the latest unexpected military move, life is a series of questions. As usual, the first question is, "When are we moving?" Everything hinges on the answer to that simple question, yet the answer is out of our control. Military moves come in stages. First, there's rumors of the move--vague emails suggesting an impending set of orders. Next, there's the unofficial confirmations that the vague rumors were factual and there truly is a move on the horizon. Then, there's the waiting. This period is marked by the time you find out you are definitely about to receive orders to the time you actually receive the orders.
Part of the hurry-up-and-wait includes the decision of what goes where and when. Most military moves aren't super complex. Things are sorted into two piles: going with the movers and going with you in the personal vehicles. Any move that involves overseas (including Hawaii) becomes a lot more complicated as the piles invariably increase to a minimum of three: the slow move by cargo ship, the small shipment that gets there quickly, and the items you carry on the airplane. We are currently facing the next level up in complexity. An unaccompanied year tour overseas, which equates to multiple destinations and up to six piles. My time these days is spent sorting my things into three piles: a small shipment of goods that we can't live without for one year, what goes in the personal vehicles with the option to tow storage behind and what has to be stored by the government for the next year. My husband also has his own for piles: what goes with him overseas on the plane, by a fast shipment, by a slow cargo shipment and what remains behind for year-long storage. And if you think that's confusing, consider the implications of having the Army hire the lowest bidder to pack and move our personal belongings with multiple destinations. The only safe way to ensure they don't confuse things is designate a special room (multiple days in a row because the pick-up can't be on the same day), that is completely off-limits to all movers. It also helps to buy bright pink fluorescent duct tape and mark each off-limit box or pile with big pink "X"s. We've taken it a step further and bought other neon colors to indicate different destinations. It is our hope that this will minimize mistakes.
As a road-trip, travel-loving family, the move is the fun part. It's a government paid chance to see new National Parks, eat local cuisine and add new states to our list of conquests! I know many people have negative experiences with the actual cross country moves and that might be the case for my family, but I wouldn't know because I've yet to move with my husband. Our first out of state move he had to leave early, our second one I had to leave early (kids and dog came with me, of course, each time) and now he's not actually moving with me. He's going out of country and I'm moving back to my parent's home. Still, I'll admit, these moves have gone smoothly and I'm not sure we'll ever want to road trip across the country together.
As with everything in life, I believe a positive, flexible attitude makes or breaks the major transitions of military lives. We're leaving our current friends, an awesome group of homeschoolers, and an amazing swim team coach. Conversely, we're going to live near my sister and her family, be with my mother for eleven months, and visit a part of the world we've never seen when we visit my husband. We will also be able to explore my home state, which offers many natural wonders, historical places, and abundant outdoor activities. Military life is a cycle of settling and unsettling and as long as you can expect and accept the change with grace and patience, I truly believe you can experience a richer life, blessed with deep friendships that span the duty stations and experience more than most in travel. If nothing less, military moves build up some crazy, funny, unbelievable stories to tell friends, family and future grandkids.
And, yes: packers have actually packed trash for us; oh and once, they packed the empty silverware holder from our dishwasher, which I then had to mail back to that house three weeks later when I discovered it.
Ariele O’Brien considers herself a jack-of-all-trades, master of none. She was born and raised in south Florida and received her Master’s in Clinical Social Work from the University of South Florida. Upon graduation, she fulfilled her desire to serve in the military and joined the Army. Shortly after arriving at her first duty station, she met and married her husband. A few years later, health complications and the decision to start raising children led to her decision to finish one tour of duty alone. She now proudly supports her husband’s continuing Army career. Currently, Ariele teachers her ten-year-old twins at home. Her limited free time includes volunteering, writing, photography, reading and music. Throughout the years, Ariele has published various articles, poetry and has written for her personal blogs.