Sunday, October 31, 2010

Glad That's Over!

We are still alive!! I've been wanting to update for a few days, but I've been without internet until last night. I've been surviving by checking my Facebook on my phone, but that's it. Talk about withdrawal! Anyway, the movers have come and gone, and all of our "stuff" is on it's way to Alaska. Aiden was super-thrilled to meet the real "Imagination Movers" (if you don't have little kids who watch Disney Channel just disregard that), and it actually went very smoothly. They were allotted three days for the pack and load, but only ended up needing a day and a half, so that was nice to have it finished up quickly. The first morning they came I opened up the door to four familiar faces - the same crew of guys who came to pack us up were the guys who moved us in two years ago! Fort Irwin is a small world...:-)

Anyway, since Wednesday night we've been on air mattresses in the living room of our empty house, basically camping with a bathroom. It wasn't so bad, but I'm very happy to finally be in the hotel! We are here 'til Thursday or Friday and then we take off on our journey north. And for the record, we are STILL waiting for passports, which they are insisting will be here in time. Uh huh, sure. They also can't figure out how to pay for our ferry passage, which is causing me a bit of a headache, since it doesn't strike me as that hard to figure out. Just give me another bottle of wine, it's all good.

It struck me that I'm going to be living out of a suitcase for the next month and a half. What fun. Although there is one advantage to not having any of my stuff. No coffee pot means that my daily Starbucks habit is now perfectly justified.

Tonight I'm having one last girl's night with my friends. Mary Kay facials, drinks and girl talk. Sounds like exactly what I need. Followed by more cleaning as I'm frantically trying to get the house spotless in order to pass our housing inspection on Wednesday. It's so much easier to get stuff accomplished when the boys are sleeping, even if that means I'm scrubbing the fridge at midnight. At least I don't have to stop every 10 seconds. I'll be really glad to leave the cleaning to someone else for a while!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Somebody Hook Up a Caffeine Drip

I am soooo going to need it. We spent all day at Disneyland yesterday (we left at 6:30 and got home at midnight), and I'm paying for it now. I'm more exhausted than my kids, I mean it's not like *I* get to ride around in a stroller all day. So I got to bed at 1 AM and then had to haul my butt out of bed again at 7 this morning. We have one set of movers coming today, but I don't know what time they're going to be here. You know if I assume they'll be here later in the morning, they'll show up at the crack of dawn. It's 8:30 now and they're still not here. Grrr....

This afternoon we have our housing pre-inspection. I hope they don't care if my house isn't completely picked up. I'm too tired to follow my kids around all day making sure they don't make a mess...

Then...we get to spend all weekend getting ready for the BIG movers, which will be here Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of next week. Sometime on Saturday I have to pick up some stuff in Victorville, which is 90 miles each way. Then we're trick-or-treating on Friday, cleaning ALL next weekend to get ready for our final housing inspection. Somewhere in there I have to do all my laundry (I hear the laundromat calling my name), pack, get the oil changed, hopefully pick up our passports, move my family into a hotel....and sleep.

Starbucks will be getting a lot of my money in the next couple of weeks.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Can I Take a Breath, Please??

Somebody hit Fast-Forward and forgot to tell me.

We went to our transportation briefing on Friday, and booked all of our moving appointments. We've got three separate shipments to get ready for: A safe-keeping shipment that we are using to ship Chris' project 1946 Jeep Willys to his parent's house in Northern California. A non-temporary storage shipment for my piano and all of our "stuff" that I can't bring myself to get rid of yet, but I don't think I'll be needing in Alaska. Stuff like the box of baby clothes I can't part with yet. Chris actually marked the plastic bin they are stored in with "Throw this stuff away and you die, Chris". He's a good man. :-) THEN we have our main household goods shipment for the rest of our stuff. That's everything that will go to Alaska with us. The Jeep is going this Friday, the storage shipment next Tuesday, and HHG on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

PLUS we are going to Disneyland on Thursday. Couldn't leave Southern California without saying goodbye to my old pal Mickey. Somewhere in there we have to have a pre-inspection from housing, and then a final out of housing the beginning of November.

Oh yeah, and I have to pack.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Expect the Unexpected

Nothing in the Army ever goes according to plan. It's Uncle Sam's Law. Nothing is for sure until after it's happened. I should have known better than to assume that just because they told us we'd have a report date of no later than January 10th, doesn't mean that's actually the case. Once again the proverbial monkey wrench has been thrown, and we found out yesterday that our report date has been changed to November 10th. Yep, you read that right - November 10th. As in, less than a month from now.

Time to freak out? I'd love to, but I don't have time. They're working with us as much as they can and *say* they can extend our report date to November 30th, but that's the best they can do at this point. So now we're in a hurry to get our stuff packed up, clear post and figure out how the heck we're going to get up there. If we get our passports back in time, I think we're going to drive. If not, we're going to fly.

So yeah, I don't know what's going on now as far as our leave and Thanksgiving is concerned. We may be driving the Alaska Highway instead of eating turkey. At least it will be a Thanksgiving to remember!

Here's to the US Army, where life is never dull!!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Tricks of the Trade

So, if all goes according to plan (yeah, right) in approximately one month and four days we will be leaving Fort Irwin behind. That means it's time to get serious with the prepping. While yes, the Army does pay for professional movers to come in and pack our house up, there is quite a bit of prep-work involved if you want it to go smoothly. I decided to put my ten years of PCSing to work and make a list of things that are good to know. For those of you who are new to the world of PCSing, listen up! :-)

1. Organize, organize, organize. In order to make life a little easier for yourself on the other end of the move, make sure all of your things are fairly organized before the movers come. Decide how you want things grouped together - by room or by item. The movers usually pack by room, not by item. So, for instance, if you want all your bedding in the same few boxes, make sure it's all in one place, not split up between bedrooms. Take a day or two before moving day to make piles of things you want packed together.

2. Packed By Owner. Most of us ladies have certain, er, unmentionables that we aren't comfortable having a group of strange, sweaty men paw through. Totally understandable. The solution to this problem is called Packed By Owner. Before moving day, pack yourself whatever you want to keep hidden. Seal up the box and write "PBO" on all sides. The box will be marked on the manifest as "packed by owner" and won't see the light of day until you open it back up. Keep in mind - anything in a PBO box will NOT be covered by the government insurance, so if whatever you pack is fragile, make sure you do a good job.

3. Open First Box. Nothing is more irritating than unpacking your boxes in your new house searching for something that you need and having to open 32 boxes before you find it. I recommend an "open first" box. Put together a list of things you think you'll need when you first move in. Things like a few towels, a sponge, bars of soap (not liquid), toilet paper, paper plates and plastic silverware, a frying pan, a few cooking utensils...etc. Put it all together and tell the movers you want this stuff in one box. Mark it "Open First". Now you've got the essentials to get you through the first few days of unpacking without having to open every single box while you look for a frying pan.

4. Ziploc Bags are Your Best Friend. A friend of mine mentioned this to me during her recent move and I thought it was a great idea. Put all your small items - silverware, junk drawer items, magnets, into Ziplocs before moving day. The movers will just lump everything together and wrap it all up in paper which usually ends up making a mess during unpacking. Ziplocs will save you from having to dig out all the spoons that fell out of the paper during the move.

5. Watch Your Valuables. They'll tell you this during your transportation briefing, but I'm going to reiterate it here. When it comes to valuable items - WATCH THE MOVERS PACK THEM. Make sure they are careful, make sure the boxes are correctly labeled, and make sure it goes on the manifest. While I personally like to believe the best about people, the fact remains that not everyone is honest and the possibility of your things disappearing is a big one. Remember, if it's not on the manifest, it doesn't exist. Make sure the movers write down your flat screen, your blu-ray player, your thousand dollar antique bell collection...etc. Above all - make SURE you hand carry all your money. Do not allow the movers to pack cash or coins - it WILL disappear, and money is not covered by the insurance.

6. Do Your Own Labeling. If you want, follow behind the movers and mark the boxes with your own labels after the movers are done with them. Don't cover their labels, but add your own. I'll tell you why. During my last PCS I opened up a box that was marked "kitchen". In the box was a bunch of sheets and blankets and one drinking glass. Don't ask me how that glass got in there, but according to the movers that made it a kitchen box. If you want to avoid this type of unnecessary confusion, you might want to write down what's actually in the box on your own.

7. Purge. This kind of goes along with #1. Before moving day arrives, go through everything and get rid of what you don't need. There is absolutely no sense in moving stuff you want to throw away. Not only will it eat up your weight allowance, but you'll just end up having to get rid of it when you get to your next place. Throw it away, donate it, sell it, whatever. Just get rid of it. Most posts will allow you to schedule a special bulk trash pick-up when you're moving out, so if you have big items to get rid of, that's the way to go.

Hopefully this helps you, and gives you some ideas to make moving easier. If you have other tricks or things that aren't mentioned here, please write me a comment and let me know! I'm always on the lookout for new ideas.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Right to Mourn in Peace

For a long time now, the Westboro Baptist Church has been stirring up trouble and pretty much pissing off every member, family member and friend of the military. It's coming to a head now with the Supreme Court hearing the case of Albert Snyder vs. the Westboro Baptist Church. Mr. Snyder has leveled a civil lawsuit against the church for disrupting the funeral of his son - Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder - who was killed in Iraq in March of 2006.

The Westboro Baptists say they have a right to do what they're doing, as protected by the First Amendment. That's true, the First Amendment protects the right of free speech, as well as the right to assemble. It's the second part of that statement that I feel the Westboro Baptists are violating. The exact wording of the First Amendment reads,

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

See, the problem I have with the Westboro Baptists is that they are not "peaceably assembling". Gathering outside of funerals with signs and shouting hateful things like "Thank God for dead soldiers" is not a peaceful assembly. Everyone has the right to their opinions, and I personally don't care what they are. You also have the right to express your opinions in a peaceful manner, according to this country's constitution. What no one should ever have the right to do is inflict those opinions (notice I said inflict, not share) on others by desecrating a sacred event.

Peace is defined in the dictionary as "In a state or relationship of non-belligerence or concord; not at war." Also, "Untroubled; tranquil; content." Does this describe the gathering of Westboro Baptists outside of various military funerals? Not in the slightest.

The Declaration of Independence states, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." The right to Life, Liberty and Happiness should include the right to bury our dead in peace. That to me is an unalienable Right. And it's not an American Right, it's a Human Right.

Death leaves all politics and nationalities behind. No matter what our beliefs, or what cause we die for, or what country we call home, death is still death. It grieves those who are left behind. The passing of a human soul from this life into the next should be regarded as sacred and those who are left behind should be allowed to lay their dead to rest in peace. The parents of Lance Cpl Matthew Snyder were not burying a soldier, or a hero, or a veteran. They were burying their son. That has nothing to do with politics or religion or the holy war the Westboro Baptists are waging against whoever it is they think they're fighting.

We treat prisoners of war better than we treat each other. According to the Fourth Geneva Convention:

"Protected persons are entitled, in all circumstances, to respect for their persons, their honour, their family rights, their religious convictions and practices, and their manners and customs. They shall at all times be humanely treated, and shall be protected especially against all acts of violence or threats thereof and against insults and public curiosity."

Shouldn't we as a free people be entitled to the same dignities? We protect our enemies from insults and public curiosity, but not ourselves? The Westboro Baptists are hiding behind their "American Rights". But I say that American Rights do not trump basic Human Rights. Just because we're Americans with the right to free speech does not give us the right to desecrate the dead, or our rituals involved in laying them to rest.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Not Your Average Lifestyle

Something occurred to me today while I was out running errands. Life on a military post is really not normal. Don't get me wrong, I DID know that already, but it's just that the things we see every day - when you get right down to it - would really freak most people out.

For example:

1. Groups of guys walking down the street in body armor carrying large, nasty looking rifles. If you saw that in the civilian world, you'd probably run for cover and call the police. Me? I just keep driving.

2. Road signs that say things like, "Tanks have right-of-way" and "Watch for falling artillery". And seriously, do you really need a sign to tell you that the tank has the right-of-way? I mean...duh.

3. Sounds of gunfire, like, ALL the time. Whenever Aiden notices a particularly loud boom, he tells me, "Dad's out shooting the guns today!" Makes a mother proud, it really does.

4. For 2 weeks out of the month, you see a bunch of people walking around post dressed up like the Taliban. This is more localized to Fort Irwin, because we are the National Training Center, but still. It's kind of weird.

5. There are Humvee's parked at Burger King. And I'm not talking about your neighbor's blinged out H3.

6. There are signs with "Terrorist ThreatCon Level" posted outside all the public buildings. Word of advice - if it says "ThreatCon Delta", go home.

7. There are giant bunkers that are filled with hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition. It's like Unibomber Paradise.

8. You have to present your identification to armed guards every time you come home from Walmart. I would actually prefer to have an armed guard WITH me every time I go to Walmart, but...whatever.

I'm sure there are more that have escaped my jaded notice. But, you get the picture.

Want to come visit?? :-)