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Vagabond Librarian

Reports from the intersection of military life, motherhood, & librarianship.

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Too Many Fridays: Our Military Move

This is the story of our summer 2017 military move. It is a pretty typical military moving story, mixed with highs, lows, and a few jags of ugly crying. While this is an accurate accounting of a sometimes frustrating experience, it is written from a place of commiseration and not a place of anger. “Cheers!” to the friends, neighbors, packers, and local transportation people who provided the high points of this experience. 

Friday Zero: The Prologue

On a sunny Friday afternoon in Coastal Georgia, I sit and wait for my movers to come for the pre-move inspection they called two weeks ago to schedule. When the movers don’t show up, I call their customer service number, mildly annoyed that I have taken the afternoon off work and they didn’t make their appointment window. The nice lady I speak with informs me that they dropped the appointment because I cancelled our move. I am usually pretty calm when unexpected news comes my way, but not today. Between heaving uncontrollable sobs, I tell her I did not cancel our move and I ask her if she has any other information about the cancellation I can write down. I calm down just enough to contact the move manager and find we’ve been assigned to a different mover. No big deal, the move manager tells me. I beg to differ. Thinking, however briefly, that I was thrown back to square one of trying to sort out a military move with a deployed husband during peak moving season is a pretty big deal to me.

It has been a busy week at work. I had planned to sit down with a margarita and a bag of lime popcorn to celebrate a productive work week and a complete pre-move inspection. Instead, I frantically chat with a friend on the phone about what just went down. Then I sit on the porch to share a glass of wine and commiserate with another friend about all the crazy moving stories going around the neighborhood this move season. I hope that maybe I just got the “craziest thing” out of the way early in the move process.

I decide to start a blog post about this move. I consider this emotional Friday a prologue to a much more positive story, and envision calling the post something like, “The Five Fridays of My Military Move.”

Friday 1: Payday

Direct deposit amount is way off. Like, below basic pay off. The possibilities are endless. Deployment pay disappeared? Double dipped rent? I decide that this is something my husband can handle from afar. I also decide to channel my frustrated “why can’t people just get their sh*t together” energy into packing collectibles into their original boxes in anticipation of the move. Then, I worry that the people who can’t get their sh*t together may be us, and I wonder if there is unfinished paperwork out there somewhere that caused this. I create a color coded moving calendar and make a few calls. I discover that we do have our sh*t together, our move manager thinks I need to be more patient, and our local transportation office representative is funny and kind.

Friday 2: iPads and Hand Sanitizer

I spend the week not worried at all about moving because it is an insanely busy week at the high school. My co-librarian and our fearless library staff spend our week checking in, processing, and organizing the thousand-and-some iPads our  students were assigned this school year as part of our district’s 1:1 technology program. I use tons of hand sanitizer (these iPads are grungy!), and then get home Friday afternoon and make my son clean all his electronics. I decide I’d better do something in aid of move preparation, so I take down my curtains and take the pictures off the walls.

Friday 3: The Fourteen Hour Work Day

Graduation on a Friday night makes for a long and emotional workday. I get home and briefly consider using some of our weekend to organize or pre-pack more stuff. Instead, I decide it will be a much better use of our time to take advantage of our close proximity (for now) to awesome friends and we hit the road to hang out with them. I am certain the move manager is thrilled I chose not to check in with him today.

Friday 4: Journey North, First Trip

The Vagabond Teen, our two cats, and I hit the road early. I have invested a few hundred dollars in equipment that I hope will keep the cats happy for the two day car trip north. It sort of works. I am grateful beyond reason that my Vagabond Teen is a calm and easygoing person who does not seem to mind cleaning up cat vomit.

Friday 5: Pack It Up

I’m back in Coastal Georgia after leaving the Vagabond Teen and the cats with longtime friends in Northern New York, and I am having the best packing experience. Ever. Three ladies show up, walk around, and begin to work with a precision and professionalism that I have never seen in a packing crew. When the lead packer tells me they’d like to get the job finished in one day, I am skeptical and ask if she has looked in the kitchen cabinets yet. She says she has, and that they can do it. It is beautiful. They seem to care about my stuff. They move at a steady pace that is awe inspiring.

Sabrina, Caroline, and Delores do our three-day pack out in one day. Thanks to them, I have two bonus days on my color coded moving calendar! Instead of supervising packers for those two bonus days, I spend one day cleaning (with the help of my awesome friend who has come to assist with such things), and one day roaming around Savannah (also with the help of my awesome friend who has come to assist with such things).

Friday 6: Journey North, Second Trip

I rock the housing “final out” inspection, and am on the road in record time. I’m thankful to the neighbors on either side of me who are willing to take my last few bags of trash and the bucket of fish tank gravel that won’t fit anywhere in my overloaded pickup truck. I am beyond jazzed when I find that Sirius has a Tom Petty channel, and I only take a break from belting out Tom Petty songs to fret about the low tire pressure light that comes on about a hundred miles from my destination. I stop at every opportunity to check the tires, which seem fine. I use my mad library skills to find reliable information online about low tire pressure sensors and decide to just keep moving forward, stopping as often as I can, and believing that the sensor probably just got bumped while I was on the patches of I-77 that are rough and under construction. I get to my hotel three hours later than anticipated, but with all four tires full of air, a breathtaking view of the mountains, and a decent movie playing on HBO. Score!

Friday 7: The Unpack, First Load

I unpack, trying not to dwell on the fact that the driver showed up with our stuff a day after he was scheduled to come, without checking in with me, the moving company, or transportation to let anyone know what was going on. I try to focus on how great it is to be back in familiar territory, with wonderful friends and neighbors. I decide to relax, get my list together to sort out the overflow on Monday. I check out a military spouse Facebook group on which people are sharing moving stories, and decide I may be frustrated, but it could be worse. Thanks to my amazing packers, everything I’m unpacking is in great condition.

Friday 8: Same Song, Different Verse…

After much inquiring, I finally receive word that our overflow shipment has still not left Georgia. The moving company can’t find a driver, so I am advised to be patient and wait until I hear from someone.

I about come unglued when I get an email from the move manager asking me to fill out a satisfaction survey so that they can close out our move. I can’t even respond to that today.

The pay that got fixed last time is somehow un-fixed. And, to add insult to injury, the amount that was previously fixed got taken back. I leverage the situation to remind my husband he is lucky he married someone who is great at saving money.

Friday 9: A Little Bit Louder, A Little Bit Worse…

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It is now two weeks after our “No Later Than” delivery date. I receive another email from our move manager in reply to my latest inquiries to let me know they still haven’t found a driver to bring our overflow shipment, and he will get back to me when they hear something from dispatch. He cannot give me any sort of expected delivery window, which is all I really want…just a window so that I don’t feel powerless, with my schedule held hostage by the unknown. He hopes I have a great weekend. I hope he does not enjoy his weekend at all (but I don’t tell him that). I hope he is sorry for my inconvenience (and I do tell him that), but I doubt that he is because he has never once said so. I want to break up with this dude, but he seems to hold the key to getting my stuff back.

I get an email from my husband, forwarded from finance. They have the problem figured out, have done the necessary paperwork to fix it, and expect we’ll see it sorted by the end of next month.

Friday 10: My Birthday

At this point in the story, I feel a little non-Friday detail will add context, and will be helpful for my fellow problem-solving military spouses. Those spouses who I know and love that are no doubt by now screaming from the sidelines like rabid sports fans, “You need to call your move manager and hold them accountable,” or “Go to your local transportation office, girl!” I’m doing those things, they are just not happening on Fridays. My original intent was to stick to just the Friday stuff, but if I were reading this,  I would really need to know that the author wasn’t just passively waiting for this stuff to solve itself.

I’m on a first-name, direct line basis with my local transportation representatives on both ends of this equation, I’ve spoken with the moving company directly and have gotten to know the warehouse dispatcher so well that I feel like I’m going to owe her a Christmas card. I still haven’t been able to break up completely with the move manager dude, but I’ve  moved on and got someone else to speak with at that company now. My husband has taken the time to speak with my move managers, too…which I think is crazy for him to have to step in and do. I appreciate him providing cover fire for me, but I strongly suspect he has one or two more important things to be concerned with on his deployment than whether my mother’s dishes, our bicycles, and the lawnmower are sitting unsecured in the corner of a warehouse.

Friday 11: Second Load: ETA Tomorrow

I have spoken to everyone except the driver. We just passed the one month mark beyond our “No Later Than” deliver date, and I have taken to correcting everyone who refers to this shipment as “overflow,” reminding them that what they were viewing as excess cargo are my household goods–my toaster, my kitchen chairs, my silverware.

The truck should be here tomorrow morning.

I wonder whether this move seems more stressful because my husband is not here to share the phone call and email stress or whether the process really is less efficient, more stressful, and more disorganized than in past moves.

Epilogue

I am having coffee and browsing blog drafts after a brisk autumn walk with an old friend. I realized that this draft has been sitting here, waiting to be wrapped up and shared, or deleted and let go. I’m sharing.

My toaster arrived that eleventh Saturday, along with all the other “overflow.” Who knew I’d become so obsessed with such a simple appliance?

I’ve tried and failed numerous times to submit the moving satisfaction survey, so I’ve instead just written them a letter about my experience.

Finance got us sorted out exactly when they said they would.

My husband sent me an email this morning about potential duty stations next summer. Dude.

Memorial Day

“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.”

-George S. Patton

From his speech at the Copley Plaza Hotel, Boston Massachusetts, June 7, 1945, reported by William Blair in The New York Times, June 8, 1945, p. 6.

_______________

Memorial Day hurts.

For military families, Memorial Day is personal. We honor the memory of fallen heroes on this day, including many who were much more than heroes to us–they were our friends and family.

This year, like every year, I obsessively read the thoughts, responses, and manifestos posted about the meaning of Memorial Day and the appropriateness (or inappropriateness) of the words we use to express that we’re thinking of each other on this day. I am going  with my gut this year, and I will not be conflicted about what to say to someone who wishes my family a “Happy Memorial Day.” I will thank them for their warm thoughts, assume they are coming from a place of caring, and seize the opportunity to tell them about one of our fallen friends and how important it is to me that we have this day of remembrance for them.

My family and friends do devote time to somber moments of remembrance on Memorial Day, and I am glad to live in a country that dedicates a day to pay tribute to our war dead. I am also glad that in my family we spend most of Memorial Day laughing. We come home from somber and reflective ceremonies during which our eyes and hearts well up and we hold each others’ hands a little tighter, and then we spend the rest of the day telling old tales and building new memories. And we usually laugh our damn heads off, eyes and hearts still welling, sharing those tales and thinking about how fortunate we are to have had such friends as those we have lost. And how fortunate we are to still have each other.

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National Moment of Remembrance

Our National Moment of Remembrance is a time for Americans everywhere to pause for one minute at 3:00 p.m. (local time) on Memorial Day to remember and reflect on the sacrifices made by so many to provide freedom for all.

The photographs featured in this post were taken by the author at Fort Drum Memorial Park.

 

 

Deployment ’07: Extended Remix

A decade ago, our military was facing a dizzying  op-tempo, coupled with the kind of violent warfare that my family, and many other young Army families in the regular combat arms community, had not been exposed to quite so intimately before. I have felt comfort in reading stories from other military spouses processing their most galvanizing deployments from that time. Stories in which I saw echoes of my own experience. One of the great dichotomies of the military spouse community is that while spouses have so much in common with each other, we possess even more that serves to make us unique. For this reason, our individual stories are important. I respectfully add this small piece of my own story to the greater anthology. I use “we” frequently in this post–this is the “we” I felt part of at this exceptional time in my military spouse experience, and is not meant to be definitive.

This little piece of my story is my love letter to those sisters who helped me through the extension referred to here, those sisters who kept me from shattering during the deployment that immediately followed, and those sisters and brothers who inspire and support me through the deployments that continue to follow. 


In early 2007, my Against All Odds sisters and I thought we were winding down a brutal deployment.

We were weary. We were exhausted from a steady barrage of gut wrenching news, memorial services, and incident briefings.

We were tender. We were bruised from constant worry, from caring for everyone except ourselves, and from shouldering a great emotional burden that was impossible to set down.

And, we were fiercely resilient. Which was a very good thing, because just as we thought we could begin to relax and think about homecoming, the U.S. Office of the Secretary of Defense announced the extension of our soldiers for an additional four months of deployment.

I had just seen my Vagabond Soldier in December. He’d been deployed eleven months by the time he was able to take leave, and we wondered whether it was even worth it at that point. We were so close to the deployment’s end, we wondered if it would be emotionally harder and more disruptive (for us and for our young son) if we were to take a knee for a break so close to the finish line. By that point in the deployment, we were also superstitious about every decision we made: were we asking to be that tragic couple in the movie where you just know the poor soldier who just came back from seeing his wife and kid is going to step on a land mine within seconds of being back in the combat zone?  In the end we decided that the opportunity to see each other, like life itself, was a precious thing and not to be wasted. Our leave was quietly glorious. We watched Star Wars movies and Animal Planet, and played in the deep snow of Northern New York. And, best of all, I watched my husband sleep soundly, safe for the moment from IEDs, rocket attacks, and bad guys.

A little over a month after leave ended, as the brigade’s torch party and another battalion were just beginning to head home, and around the time our battalion families were receiving tentative dates for homecoming, I got a call–a vicious, sucker punch of a call. There was going to be an extension. We’d get more news soon. There would be a town hall meeting.

I’d been writing in a journal throughout the deployment. Originally with the intention of giving the journal to my husband when he came home to share daily stories of charming things our son did and my adventures in house renovation. I am a glass-half-full-kind of girl, whose prolific and honest journal entries about the wonder of everyday things are evidence that I was not just “surviving” but “thriving” through deployment. It was a mindset a number of us adopted–a little everyday Pollyanna mixed with a heavy dose of dark cynicism at the larger goings-on of the world. Mostly, I wrote about everyday things I wanted to share with my soldier: the first crocus peeking out of the snow; our son sledding like a maniac down the “big hill” with bright red cheeks; my success in installing a new floor in the upstairs bathroom. Looking at those entries a decade later, I find them conversational and chatty, and hovering somewhere between sucking-the-marrow-out-of-life passionate and pragmatically zen. My journal entry the day of the phone call was quite different:

I am so tired. 

Not sad. Or angry. Or anything. Just empty. Clinging to what I remember of my brave and solid self until I find her again.

This isn’t some sad story about slowly fighting my way back to sanity. I found my brave and solid self quickly, with blunt force, in the faces of my sisters during the emotional cacophony of our town hall meeting. I found bravery in our honesty, tears, anger and unapologetic disappointment. I found solid footing in our grit and gallows humor–and in the pragmatism of the questions we posed. We were not a stoic group, but we had more than enough practice at dealing efficiently with the unthinkable to let this sucker punch keep us down for long.

I regained my equilibrium  though the sheer strength I saw in the people around me. I don’t believe things in life happen to us to provide us with lessons, but I do believe that we have a choice to learn from everything that happens to us. What I learned from laughing, crying, caring, and sucking it up and driving on with the badass sisters of the CHOSIN, Against All Odds, battalion was to live deliberately every second of this life that you are given, because life is too damn short and too damn beautiful not to. It is as simple and as profound as that.


 

Version 2The picture featured in this post is of a shadow box that hangs in my kitchen. It holds a 1-32 Infantry ‘Against All Odds’ charm, a Fort Drum pin, a political cartoon from the time of the extension, and a photograph, c. April 2007, of a handful of the phenomenal people who helped me find moments of joy in the most worrisome of times. 

 

 

Jan 25, 2007

Release Number: 0701-18

By: CJTF-76 Public Affairs

NEWS RELEASE: 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division will extend deployment in Afghanistan

BAGRAM AIR BASE, AFGHANISTAN – The U.S. Office of the Secretary of Defense announced today the extension of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, based at Fort Drum, N.Y., for an additional four months through June 2007. Coupled with the scheduled deployment of 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82d Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C., this extension will increase the U.S. forces supporting the NATO led International Security Assistance Force by approximately 3,500 Soldiers.

“This increase in combat power will ensure a robust, flexible force capable of denying insurgent sanctuaries in Afghanistan, place greater emphasis on the border region and extend security operations to a wider area in Afghanistan,” Maj. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, 10th Mountain Division commander said.

The U.S. Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff visited Afghanistan January 17th promising to provide the resources U.S. commanders need to defeat the Taliban and ensure security and stability in Regional Command East in support of the ISAF mission.

“Secretary Gates and General Pace asked us, ‘What do commanders on the ground need to win?’, and we told them an additional maneuver battalion, addition forces on the border and a theater tactical reserve,” Freakley said.

The extension of 3rd BCT immediately satisfies that requirement with a U.S. commitment to seek a long term sourcing solution yet to be determined. The actual employment of this increased combat power will be determined by ISAF and RC East commands.

“I understand and respect that this news will be taken hard by some members of the Task Force Spartan family team, but they have been responsible for so much positive progress here in Afghanistan and I know the Spartans will take this in stride and together with 4th Brigade, 82nd Airborne, Task Force Fury, they will make a significant impact on the mission during this 4 month extension.”

The Department of the Army will send a Tiger Team to Fort Drum to identify ways to resource additional support to the families of 3rd Brigade Soldiers for the four month extension. General Freakley has also charged the Fort Drum staff to double their efforts to support the soldier’s families.

“This extension is necessary to demonstrate to the Taliban that pressure on them will be unrelenting and to show the Afghan people that the United States of America is fully committed to the security of their nation and the assurance of their freedom,” Freakley added.

The 3rd Brigade Combat Team has been deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom for 11 months. Their four month extension will allow them to support security operations along side the 4th Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division to promote stability and security in Afghanistan.

 

Enjoying the Ride








A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving at the destination. -Lao Tzu

Most of the time this blog is about library land, today it is about military life. The fluid geography that comes with our military lifestyle has provided me with opportunities and experiences that I would not have sought out on my own. We’ve lived in places I would have only visited. I’ve met challenges I otherwise would have shied away from. And, I’ve come to understand that “life is what you make it” isn’t just a quaint saying, but a hard and beautiful truth.

This time of year in the military carries with it a collective anxiety, anticipation, and excitement that I can’t imagine exists in any other community (though I would be happy to hear about it if it does-add it to the comments below). It is the time when so many of us are waiting for lists and orders and other official indications of where we’re going next, what the next job will be, and who else will be going there too. The move could be anywhere, and could be scheduled anytime between now and whenever. And, just when you think you’ve received official word of where you are going and you’ve sold half your belongings at the community yard sale, the game could change and you could find out you are staying right where you are (true story).

We military families get quite a bit of press for our resiliency. After nearly twenty years as a military spouse, I feel comfortable telling you that press is deserved. We aren’t all saints, and we aren’t all heroes–but we are unequivocally resilient. Right now, this Vagabond Family is impatiently awaiting word about where and when we are going next. We may know in a week, we may know two months from now. The orders may have us moving within weeks or within the year. It is not for the faint of heart. But it is a wonderful adventure.


When I have those inevitable moments that creep from anticipation and excitement toward anxiety, I remind myself of the Lao Tzu quote that began this post. And, then I translate it into what I share with my 11-year-old when we take a detour on the road or in life:

Don’t get stuck on your destination. Enjoy the ride.

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