Transition to Post-Military Life…I’m not ready!

My husband decided that he has had enough of the military lifestyle.  Ever since we neared the 20-year mark, which was several years ago, we have discussed our transition to post-miliIary life.  When we were “stuck” by our service commitment, dreaming of our future and entertaining a gazillion what-if scenarios was fun.  Who do we want to be? Where do we want to live? Would we choose location first and figure out how to make it work? Or would we choose 2nd career and go where the next job might be?

And here we are now…a retirement date set in the near future, and we are without a plan.  Neither firm location nor job prospects. A gazillion what-if scenarios are not quite so entertaining  or refreshing when we will be homeless in 6 short months. I am a woman who always has a Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C.  Never have I been a woman with No Plan! And that’s exactly who I am at the moment. It’s unfamiliar territory for me.

I better understand why people stay put at their last duty station–Path of least resistance! We are dreaming big as we decide our path forward, but we are also trying to prioritize, be realistic with short-term and long-term goals for ourselves and our children, and always are mindful of finances and responsibilities (Ugh!).  

Why don’t we stay in lovely South Dakota, you ask?  Ask me this in the summer and I’m all for it. Ask me now as winter approaches, my enthusiasm for this area is nonexistent.  I don’t much care for cold, snow, or howling wind. Although if we do stay in the local area, we must move away from the prairie’s edge.  The wind is so brutal and unforgiving here where I currently live. I just don’t want to deal with it any more–Since October, I’ve practically lived in my sleeping bag coat!

As we settle into the long winter season, I will be working hard on defining & deciding on the next phase of our life.   I’m open to suggestions!

Rapid City Is Awesome…in the Summer! I’m Getting Excited to Hibernate.

City View from Dinosaur Park. July 2018. Rapid City, SD.

Snow is in the forecast.  I’m cold.  I’m cranky.  Where is Fall?

With cold days like this, it’s easy to forget how awesome Rapid City is, primarily because I have little motivation to leave my house.

When we first arrived this past summer, I was pleasantly surprised with Rapid City.  As much as I love Hawaii, it’s also crowded and expensive in paradise. Rapid City and the Black Hills have so much to offer – to see, eat, and do, especially if you love the great outdoors.

Hubby had to work, our household goods were in transit, the kids and I had little else to do but explore our new hometown.  We had so much fun playing tourist, although we have yet to visit Mount Rushmore or Crazy Horse!  (We were initially waiting for visitors, and then our visitors ironically didn’t care to go.)

Oh, the places we’ve been!  Here are a few notable destinations:

Badlands National Park

Rapid City Memorial Park

City of Spearfish 4th of July Parade

Custer State Park – Sylvan Lake, Wildlife Loop, Cathedral Spires, Sunday Gulch Trail

Dahl Art Center

Dinosaur Park

Downtown Square @ Rapid City

Harriet & Oak Café *my favorite coffee shop*

Journey Museum

M Hill

Mammoth Site

Prairie Edge Art Gallery & Trading Post

Sip-n-Stretch @ Hay Camp Brewing Company with Sol Yoga Collective

Spearfish Canyon – Devil’s Bathtub Trail

Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

Wall Drug

Watiki

 

Now that we are settling in and school has started, our routine is much more mundane.  Less tourist, more daily living – school & work engagements, dog walks, never-ending grocery shopping/cooking cycle.  I am spending a small fortune outfitting us all for the cold weather.  After wearing shorts and slippahs for two years, we have zero cold weather gear.  I’ve been told by the seasoned locals that having the proper gear makes all the difference in handling the cold and wind of Sodak.  I just bought a long winter coat that looks like it could double as a sleeping bag.  Fashionable? Maybe.  I just hope when I do venture outdoors, it will keep me warm and toasty (and less cranky).

The hubby and kids are super excited for the winter.  As long as they don’t mind me watching from inside by the window, standing guard over the hot chocolate and baking comfort foods, I guess I’m excited, too.

60 Days Until I Leave Paradise for South Dakota

Maybe 60 days.  Of course, he doesn’t have orders yet.   Only the invisible Hand of Military Assignment knows about orders, and he’s indifferent.  Who knows or cares?

Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota

The Handsome Hubby has a Report No Later Than Date.  The rest of the family will get there when we get there.  The good news is that I have no hard deadlines with this move.  After our one-year separation, I expect that I will do this move alone.  Or more accurately, I will do this move with the help of my military spouse tribe.

I do give kudos to the Hubby though, as he is planning on stopping here in Hawaii for 9 days to help with the move.  I, however, anticipate that getting a pack out date within his 9-day window is best case scenario.  And we know how that goes, especially for my family.  If it makes sense, then no, it won’t be.  If it is convenient, then definitely not.  Orders 60 days out?  Pfft…amateur…please.  How many days until it’s ridiculous?  That’s our MO.  “Ridiculous” is when we will get our orders and then we will jump through hoops to get it done.

What’s a few more weeks in Hawaii?  I’m not in a hurry to leave.  I want Hawaii to be my forever home.  I have loved just about everything here, and my time, experiences, and friendships have been truly awesome!  I found my way back to my love of dance, and there has been plenty of opportunity to dance – ballroom, salsa, burlesque, Bollywood, hula, hip hop.

I am currently a graduate student at UH Manoa.  No surprise here that this move to South Dakota puts a stop to my graduate studies. Or at least a major slowdown while I recalibrate and try to figure out how to make it work.   I toyed with the idea of staying in Hawaii to finish the degree program, but quickly ixnayed the idea.  Our kids are anxious to reunite the family, so another year without dad is a no go.  I do not want to be separated from my kids, so a year alone in Hawaii is a no go.   Add the financial implications of maintaining two households, and the answer becomes clear.

But not without a bit of resentment because it’s going to be “I’m cold, I’m cranky, and I’m too old for this” kind of cold in South Dakota.

Insert the positive platitudes and pep talk from the well-meaning among us: “Oh that part of the state doesn’t get as much snow because it’s in the Banana Belt.”  Yes, banana belt.  Look it up.  Please know I am smiling ever-so-politely and nodding in agreement when this is said to my face, while the Mean Voice inside my head is shouting not-so-polite things.  “Oh, what an adventure this is!”

There you have it.  I’m living this military life in one-year increments. This next assignment is for two years, supposedly.  Just like Korea was a two-year assignment, supposedly.  “Oh, what an adventure this is!”

Onward and upward…with a coat…to the Mount Rushmore State!

Aloha!

Self-Imposed Family Separation – Geo-Bachelor by Choice

I just can’t do another move right now.  The thought of going through another move, so soon after moving to Paradise, moves me either to tears or flashes of anger.

I am getting burned out with being Mrs. Air Force always on the Move, always the Perpetual Newcomer.

This will be move #7 in 9 years and the constant move cycle with kids is not so much a fun adventure to me any more.

Add the fumbling of orders, the unexpectedness, the logistics, the decisions, the financial implications, the waiting, the unknown, the research.  All of that together stresses me out.  Does it and has it always worked out?  Yes, of course.  Have I always made the best of the situation and jumped right in to craft a life I love or at least can tolerate for the short amount of time we are there? Yes.  But the stress of moving on repeat, despite the resources available and the camaraderie of military families, has taken its toll on me.

After Hubby and I settled into the idea of looming change, we took serious consideration of our next step.  We usually embrace “Family first, no matter what.”  We have never really given much thought to a self-imposed separation.  Yet here we are, in a different stage of life, thinking about it.  I told Hubby through clenched teeth that we had to at least see if temporary separation could be a real possibility; otherwise, I feared my resentment of another move would consume me.  Sometimes, when it feels like 1 step forward and 2 steps back, it is hard to stay positive.  After spinning my wheels here in Hawaii thinking about forward motion towards education & career goals as we fast approach retirement, I found it crushing to give it all up for the time being to start focusing on the logistics of a move with kids, a dog, and too much stuff.

What about online school? What about this? What about that?  There are always options, but my point is that this requires a momentum shift and a lot more spinning of wheels to research different options.  And let’s be real – I have limited energy as it is and it’s hard for me to find balance, much less scraping my original plans and start researching online opportunities while overseas.

Hubby and I asked questions.  We crunched the numbers.  We made a short-term plan for the upcoming school year. We applied for a waiver to stay in Hawaii.

With gratitude, I gladly report that our waiver has been approved!

HUGE sigh of relief.

I feel grounded now through the swirl and whirlwind of this move for my husband.  It’s GO time in less than 4 weeks.  He’s TDY, of course.  He doesn’t have orders yet, of course.  It’s our normal operating procedure, but this time I’m standing clear, supporting from the sidelines, and not in the middle of the crazy.  I feel calm.  For now.

Things change.  All the time.  Control what you can.  Adjust your attitude to what you can’t.  And when possible, put your foot down and say “Enough! I need a break from this.”

We will reevaluate our options next spring. In the meantime, our hospitality hotel in Hawaii reopens in July.  Come visit!

Valerie

p.s. I came across this quote today:

“To live is the rarest thing in the world.  Most people just exist, that is all.” –Oscar Wilde

We’re on the Move Again – to South Korea!

I did not take the unexpected assignment news well.

We have been in Hawaii less than a year.

I have been crying, cussing, and hurling bitter rage towards the Hubby and the Military.

The Invisible Hand of Military Assignments strikes again, with no reason or rationale given. (Yes, I know, I know….I expect too much.)

So after my epic temper tantrum (which is still ongoing – I’m still really pissed about the unexpectedness and abruptness of it all.), I will suck it up and gear up for the next “great adventure” that awaits us.

But let’s be honest – 3 moves in 3 years with kids to different states and now different countries IS hard. Especially since the original plan was that we would be in Hawaii for at least 2 years.  I get that plans change, but this abrupt change has been really difficult for me to accept because (1) I love Hawaii and (2) I had made MY plans and dreams, which now I must put on hold, regroup and reinvent, or give up entirely.  It’s hard to not be resentful.

The hubby & kids will not accept a self-imposed family separation, especially for two years.  Trust me, that was my first thought, “Have fun!  Kids and I will stay in paradise!”

I simply don’t know what I am going to do with myself for two years in South Korea (and maybe only a year) besides traveling.  I will soon have to drop everything to get ready for this move (passports, medical clearances, household management, transportation).   We will spend time with family this summer on the mainland, especially since visits will be far and few the next couple of years, and we will then spend time getting situated in our new temporary home.  When I feel less overwhelmed, I can investigate what opportunities are available in South Korea.  I’m not saying that there are not any there.  I’m just saying I’m tired of doing this for a 3rd year in a row.  I had my plan for Hawaii and now suddenly bye-bye.

Everybody I know is starting to offer the Pep Talk Platitudes – “Wow!  What an adventure!”

Or my second favorite “How awesome it will be for the kids to experience another culture!”

Or “Everyone who has been stationed there loves it!”

It IS an adventure, and it IS awesome.  Just not for me, not today.

Seize the day, Buttercup.

Or in my case, suck it up, Buttercup.

VALERIE

P.S.  It’s been 3 weeks since the surprise announcement, I have calmed down enough that I can say that I am leaving paradise and moving to Korea, without snarling or tears.  This is an improvement.  There are still many things that make my head spin – crazy neighbor in the north with weapons, Vog masks (pollution masks?), being halfway around the world from my aging parents….but it’s an “Adventure” so therefore we can dismiss all concerns and believe it’s going to be ok.

And it will all be ok.  I just don’t have to be ok about it every second of every day.

Empty Spaces & Yoga

Yin Yoga on the OceanView Terrace of the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, Kanoehe, Hawaii. Oct 2016. Fridays at 9:00am. Donation.
Yin Yoga on the OceanView Terrace of the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, Kanoehe, Hawaii. Oct 2016. Fridays at 9:00am. Donation. Check events website for current schedule.

 

View from the OceanView Terrace at the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, Kaneohe, Hawaii. Oct 2016. It's a beautiful world.
View from the OceanView Terrace at the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, Kaneohe, Hawaii. Oct 2016. It’s a beautiful world.

 

I am trying yoga on for size in hopes that I can calm my restless spirit and be present in the moment.

After a lifetime of military moving, I am usually researching about my future life in a new location, OR I am clinging to the feel-good moments and friendships from my past life, OR I am in a holding pattern of “making the best of it” in my current, temporary home.  I’m always living in the past or living in the future.  Very rarely am I actually living in the present, in the here and now.

I struggle to be present.

Add that I make myself busy to fill the empty spaces.

I jump right in to make a Life:  there are always places to see, people to meet.  My #1 concern, always, are my children.  For them, I minimize the challenges of a fleeting lifestyle.  For them, I embrace this constant moving as the Adventure that it is.  But after years of moving, I unfortunately show up with a lot of dashed dreams, high expectations, worry, and projections of my own. The constant moving has caught up to me.

Several years ago, I wanted to keep my life in DC but didn’t know how to make that happen, considering I had no independent economic means to sustain that particular lifestyle.

I was reluctantly dragged back to Texas (and reluctantly doesn’t even adequately describe my displeasure of returning to the Land of Boots & Brisket) where, once again, I made the best of it.  My marriage and my self-identity were on shaky ground, but we kept ourselves too busy to adequately address it.  I was also holding on to the DC dream tightly to get me through it, with the high hope of returning.

After 2 years, we received assignment notification to DC, only to be crushed when the Hubby was redirected to Alabama.  The entourage must follow.  I wasn’t staying in Texas, but I still didn’t have economic or career sustainability to make any other realistic choice but to follow.

We arrived in the charming Deep South, knowing our time here would be less than one year, but I jumped right into Life anyway.  I had a lovely time in Montgomery. Admittedly, my expectations were low.  Not so much that it was Alabama, but how much connections/acceptance/establishing routine can you really do, when by the time you unpack and feel settled (3-6 months), it’s about that time to shift attention to the next assignment!  I was still holding on, although less tightly, to the DC dream and all the possibility it offers.  I am a slow learner on military life, especially when blinded by my own hopes.  I ignored the cautionary wisdom from Hubby that nothing is ever set in stone, even though all assignment discussions were seemingly directed that we would soon be DC-bound.

Cue the dramatic music. “In a world, where the Invisible Hand of Military Assignments controls your Life…”

I have now, finally, given up on the DC dream.

Only because now I live in Paradise.

Paradise doesn’t change the fact that I still struggle to be present, but living in Hawaii certainly does make living in the moment much easier.

Life is now nudging me to explore Yoga, even though I find the practice incredibly difficult. Yet I am drawn to it to see if I am able to tame my restlessness.  I am forever in search for calm and acceptance, and to learn to control what I can (which isn’t much).  On the mat, I live in the moment, and I can acknowledge what is.

My hope is to become more comfortable with what is and to stop wishing for what isn’t.

Are you held back by wishful thinking?

Aloha!

Valerie

The Personal Reinvention – New Goals and Pursuits in my New Temporary Home

Kanoehe, Hawai'i
Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden, Aug 2016

 

The biggest opportunity of moving is the chance for personal reinvention.

Who do I want to be? What do I want to do?

Last year, with my limited time in Alabama, I focused on three areas:

  1. Fitness outside my comfort zone – Irontribe Fitness. Spartan Race.
  2. Volunteering.
  3. License Re-certification – I returned to school to acquire additional required hours to recertify my massage therapy license (Don’t let your licenses expire. Ever!).  I now have a current massage therapist license for the State of Alabama, which unfortunately doesn’t transfer to the State of Hawai’i.

This year, I intend to focus on…

  1. Playing Tourist in Paradise!
  2. Yoga.
  3. Massage Therapy License.
  4. Writing & reading.
  5. Last minute add – get over my fear of becoming an ocean creature’s snack!

My personal reinvention is concurrent with…

  1. Easing this transition for my children.
  2. Unpacking & purging.
  3. Establishing routine & schedule. (Never-ending cycle of domestic bliss!)
  4. Dating my hubby.
  5. Building Community.
  6. Making & sustaining friendships.

All of this takes time.  Sweet, sweet time.

I am open to new places and faces while presenting the best, and more importantly, the REAL version of myself.  This takes a lot of energy but with this move, I have a lot of less expectations about how life should look like and how quickly I should establish said life.  Thus, I have a lot less angst than with past moves.  Is it burnout or wisdom? Or is it the beautiful, calming aloha spirit?

Whatever it is, It’s my fresh start and I’m ready.

What are you focusing on for your personal reinvention in your new home?

Valerie