31 December 2010

2011 and Changes.


Okay dear readers… I know things have been quiet around here for a while. I’ll confess that there are a few reasons why. First, Holy Hannah this new work schedule is kicking my butt. Not cool. Second, it has been hard for me to transition to this non-Army life of ours here on my MilSpouse based blog. I sort of feel like I can’t teach this old blog new tricks. And even though I thought it wouldn’t go down this way, since we got out of the Army, we really are disconnected from what is going on out there in the military ranks. I keep up with what y’all write and try to stay abreast of the issues out there, but it is a lot harder when you aren’t living it.
In short, what I’m trying to say is that it is time for Tucker and Swiss (the blog) to retire. I’m not going to delete it. I’m not going to vow to never write here again. But I’m not going to use this venue (primarily) for my blogging anymore. I guess I don’t want to dilute the MilSpousey goodness with the non-sensical drivel that is surely going to be the basis of my blogging from here on out.
BUT. I want to do a few things. First, I want to say THANK YOU to all of you, for following me and joining us on this crazy Army journey. Thank you for your kind words and support, for your humor and your kinship. You all are amazing and have made the struggles this Army life brought us much easier to handle. You’ve been my therapists, my counselors and my support system. And for that I will be eternally grateful. Second, I want to invite you all to the new blog. I can’t promise anything fancy or even good, but you can check out my new blog here: Tucker, Actually. Third, I want to wish you all a very wonderful New Year. Here is to a MUCH less eventful 2011 and a frank good riddance to 2010.
Thank you again for all your support and I hope to see you over at the new blog!

XOXO- Tucker (and Swiss and Fletcher)

25 December 2010

Merry Christmas...

Can it be that I haven't blogged since December 11th? For shame! But alas, I break the non-blogging cycle to wish you all a VERY Merry Christmas. I know you don't all get to be with your loved ones, and those of you who can are beyond grateful (as I am). So here is wishing safe and quick returns home for those who have loved ones deployed and a memorable and grateful Christmas to those of us who have ours home.

Merry Christmas everyone!
xoxox
Tucker, Swiss and Fletcher

11 December 2010

Putting the Super in Supervisor?

Well, things here have finally started to normalize. We have come to terms with Fletcher's situation and are a week into Chemotherapy... we met our new Vet today and Fletch is still happy as a clam and more active than a toddler on speed. Life is pretty good here in South Dakota.

BUT.

Remember how I said this position was just supposed to be a "Lead"? Ha! After day 2 of working there, they kindly mentioned that I was now, in fact, the supervisor. Wha??? What makes this funny is that I applied for numerous jobs that turned out to be supervisory in nature and I turned them ALL down. Why? Because, as I told Swiss, I have ZERO interest in being a supervisor and all that entails. ZERO. And yet, here I sit, supervisor of a lab. How in the heck did that happen? I claim false advertising!

So far it is fine. (Knock on wood please!) The workload is bordering on insane... but that is temporary as we get the new portion of the lab up and running. But the folks are all super nice and I get the sense that they sort of feel bad for me. I won't balk at pity... not this time. The worst part is that there was no supervisor before me, therefore there is no one to show me the ropes. Which is making this job training more akin to being dropped off in the middle of the Pacific and told to swim to Hawai'i with no map, no compass, no water wings. Bah!

Anyway, today (Saturday) we have the company Christmas party... I am dragging Swiss along to meet folks who's names I don't quite remember yet. Should be a memorable evening.  But until then? UNPACKING! Lots and lots of unpacking... 'cause there's nothing like company coming to get your unpacking ass in gear!

Have a swell weekend everyone!

01 December 2010

No words.

There are no words to explain how I feel right now. Sometimes emotions are too deep and complex and raw to put into mere words... this is where I find myself right now. The long and short of it is that dear, sweet Fletcher's situation is worse than any of us expected. The option for surgery became moot once we understood that we wouldn't be able to give him the radiation treatment they recommended and that even doing such drastic surgery and treatment wasn't going to guarantee us all that much extra time with him. It became obvious that doing all this to him was ultimately going to be a selfish choice. So, we are leaving our adorable boy alone to live out whatever time he has left with us. No radical surgery, only palliative low-dose chemotherapy and NSAID treatments.

Right now we have a bouncy, exuberant, happy puppy on our hands and I fear that doing all these extensive measures would have taken that away from him and us. So we chose to leave him be his boisterous and loving self until the time comes.

I know we made the right decision, after hours of talking it out with the oncologist and surgeon at the UW Vet center, it became so obvious that this was really the only fair choice to Fletcher. I haven't come to terms with the fact that we may only have a handful of months left with him... whatever time it ends up being will be too little. But we have come to terms with what we need to do: love him up at every chance, spoil him rotten, and ensure his quality of life is second to none. We have a lot of years of love to cram into not much time, so we aren't hesitating with the spoiling. Not one bit.

Of course we are still holding out and hoping for a small miracle, but I think we understand that knowing our time is limited, having this time with him, being able to make the most of this time is a gift in a way. So keep sending our little guy your prayers and well wishes, we can certainly still use it. And thank you for standing by us and all your kind words.

xoxo,
Tucker, Swiss and Fletcher

29 November 2010

Fletcher Update

So, wow... what a few days this has been. Swiss has left for South Dakota, someone has to be there to accept our household goods so he left this morning to head West. My new boss has been nothing shy of wonderful, they have let me postpone my start date until next week so that I can be with Fletch for his surgeries and take him home with me.

We still don't know much more about his diagnosis. Nothing has changed from what we last learned. Right now we are scheduled for an oncology appointment tomorrow and that will dictate surgery dates and give us an idea of what to expect. I know our little guy won't ever look the same, but I know he will bounce back and he'll still be the handsomest little stinker in my eyes. I think Swiss and I are coming to terms with the fact that we won't have Fletcher for nearly as long as we had hoped... it is still a shock to the system and it still breaks my heart, but we have already started spoiling him rotten and ensuring that whatever time he has with us will be full of love and pampering and frolics in the woods... and plenty of treats. I think we figure if we only have a limited time with him, we are going to have to cram in a lifetime of love in the coming months and years.

Our current dilemma is this. Do we stick with the local surgeon that seems competent (if a bit young) or hit the road and have the surgery done up at the University of Wisconsin's highly renowned Vet center? I mean, like my Dad said, do you want to look back a few years from now and wonder what if we had just gone to Madison? Realistically, with the diagnosis given, I don't think either one of them are going to be able to make this thing go away forever... but what if it is the difference between one year with him and two years? What would you do?

In any event, please send more puppy love and wishes Fletcher's way. He definitely still needs it and says thanks for all the kind thoughts and prayers you've already been lobbing his way. I'll keep y'all posted when we know more (hopefully tomorrow).

24 November 2010

Heartbroken.

So, I'll cut to the quick. My sweet boy Fletcher has cancer, it is aggressive and the prognosis, even after surgery, isn't good. It is rare in a dog so young... and I am kicking myself for not doing more earlier, but how was I to know? We thought is was just a goose egg. No one thought it was cancer. No one. I never saw this one coming, and it knocked the wind right out of me. So please pardon me if I cry as I type this.

We do have some options, the most reasonable one involves drastic surgery to cut away all of the tumor and the surrounding areas that likely house other tendrils of tumor. Since it is on his face, it means that he will never look the same. They might even have to remove his eye. But they say dogs don't care how they look, and I know our savvy little guy will adapt well. But still, this has been devastating news.

I am heartbroken. Swiss had to choke back tears as we turned around on the interstate to head back home with the news. My Mom and Dad are just as upset. I am so very very sad. It is just beyond unfair and so sad and a thousand kinds of not right. He doesn't deserve this. He's been nothing but snuggly and sweet and loving and funny and a kind, sweet soul. He's what got me through so many lonely days and nights during the deployment, his constantly wagging tail has always been there to greet us. His antics were always good for a smile and a laugh. He's been so good at overcoming all of the issues his previous horrible owners gave him. He's come leaps and bounds (both literally and figuratively) since we got him, he's turned into such a lovable and wonderful pet. He is such a sweet, affectionate and funny boy and to have this happen to him while he's still so young is unthinkable.

I am alternately angry and crushed. I am angry that this had to happen to him, after having abusive owners who made him afraid of whistles and any loud noises, owners who penned him up in a kennel with no padding leading to a broken toe, owners who somehow couldn't take care of this sweet soul and left him in a kill shelter with a broken tail and a missing tooth. He's been through enough. This is too much. He doesn't deserve this, not by a country mile. I am so upset that his sweet life may be cut drastically short. And I find myself asking the ever-futile question, why? Why did this have to happen to him? Why do affectionate and loving pets get things like cancer, what kind of world is that? Why so young? Why???

I've done nothing but cry since we got the news last night. I feel cheated and sad and devastated. This isn't what you are supposed to be worrying about with a 2 year old dog. He was supposed to grow old and grey with us. Now? We don't know. 1 more year, maybe 2. 4 if we are lucky. And of course I am hoping for the best, but I can't pretend that this isn't as serious as it is. We aren't going to have our sweet boy for nearly as long as we had hoped. And it just isn't fair.

We have chosen to take him up to the University of Wisconsin Veterinary Hospital for surgery (assuming it is possible, blasted Thanksgiving has put a huge wrench in everything) since they have a set of surgeons that specialize in soft tissue and have likely seen this at least a few times before. I'm going to give our boy every last fighting chance I can. And spoil him as rotten as we can.


Please put our little guy in your prayers or whatever and send lots and lots of good ju-ju his way. Lord knows he's going to need it and I can't do it all myself no matter how hard I try.

21 November 2010

Lumpy puppy.

So Fletcher has a lump on his adorable puppy face. How he got it is a ridiculous story, but there was an accidental run in with a metal tree stand, an ensuing lump, and a month later... after antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and numerous Vet visits... it just keeps getting bigger. Insert sad face here.

Thankfully we know it isn't cancer. But it is a tumor that is growing and the poor guy's upper jaw bone is already bending to this tumor's will. Insert second sadder face here. So tomorrow we head off to the specialist surgeon. Our Vet isn't comfortable navigating the complicated network of nerves on his face, lest we end up with a dog with a non-working eyelid or tear ducts, so specialist it is.

We know there will be surgery involved, we don't know how intensive it will be, how complicated it will be, what kind of time line we are on, just that it has to happen or this tumor will destroy his upper jaw bone. Yes, insert third sadder sad face here. We leave for South Dakota after Thanksgiving, but thankfully my parents have offered to take care of everything and babysit/nurse him back if we can't get it all done before I have to report to my new job. God bless my parents. And thank the Lord they are bigger dog people than we are.

So blech, I'm a nervous Nancy and just hope this is a one-time surgery without complications. Wish Fletcher luck and send good thoughts his way, he's such a good little guy and I can't help but feel like he doesn't deserve all this. Hopefully, things will go off with nary a hitch and Fletch will only have a badass looking scar on his face as a souvenir (which I think will work wonders for his mystique as the new dog in town, no?). I'll keep y'all posted and to those of you who already know the deal, thanks for the kind words and thoughts.

UTA: Apparently our little mutt has the mystery ailment for the ages and the surgeons (yes, plural) don't know what the deal is. So after inconclusive dental x-rays, they are just going to pull the tooth in question and hope to find the cause of all of this while they are surgically axing out his pre-molar. If you ask me, I'm not thrilled about them yanking a (apparently) perfectly good tooth, but if it is going to fix our little guy, I guess go ahead. Sigh, nothing is ever easy, is it? I'll keep y'all posted...

19 November 2010

HYSTERICAL.

This. Seriously hysterical. If you have a dog and you have moved... you will understand. And the illustrations? I die. And I'm still laughing.

13 November 2010

On (to) Wisconsin!

So, Swiss, Fletcher and I are bound for Wisconsin today. After two-ish weeks hanging out with his family in the great (and snowy) state of Minnesota, we are off for family bonding on my side of the Mississippi over cheese and beer. 

I am already starting to try (emphasis on "try") to get myself mentally prepared for going back to work. Thank the heavens above that my first week back is a short one! It will, however, be awesome to have Swiss at home manning the house and all of the stuff I loathe about moving. Calling the electric company, the cable folks, getting internet, getting our mail set up and working with the Transportation Office to get out stuff ASAP. 

But, lets not hitch the horse to the cart just yet. We've got 2-ish weeks of vacation left and I'm going to enjoy it. Because once its over? I'll be joining the ranks of your poor working stiffs (I kid! I kid!), logging in my 40+ a week. Boo his! 

So, go enjoy your weekend everyone and know that someone in Wisconsin <3's you!

12 November 2010

Stemming the tide of beige.

So this is our new house. Do we love it? Yes. It is all shiny and new and there are no signs of 30 year old vinyl tiles (unlike our last place) and it sits on 3 acres (Fletcher is going to be so happy he'll pee) with beautiful views of the black hills. However, as everyone who knows me in real life is well aware, I'm not really a beige girl.


To be fair, our couch is beige/cream, as are two antique chairs and a large area rug as well as some curtains. But they are beige because our walls are usually something like Impressionist Blue or Faded Silk or Spiced Plum or Marmalade Glaze or Gertrude or whatever other strange name they give to pretty paint colors (which BTW is totally my dream job, naming paint colors, weird I know). However, when faced with a newly painted beige house, all of our beige stuff sort of makes it feel like we are living inside a milk carton. Blech.

Solution? Swiss and I are off to IKEA today for an impromptu trip to de-blandify our new digs. There will be new curtains, some new lamp shades, a few accent pillows and some frames... maybe some fabric and kitcheny stuff. And you know what? You can color me excited and order me up some Swedish Meatballs pronto! Wish us luck!

11 November 2010

The Quiet Side of Being a Soldier’s Other Half.

By the ever wonderful, incredibly talented (and fellow MilSpouse Alumnus) Lily Burana. She nailed it. Again. Like she always does. Take a minute and read it, it is beautiful and touching and spot on.

The Quiet Side of Being a Soldier's Other Half.

10 November 2010

GPOYD.


Fletcher, originally uploaded by Awesomesauce Studios.

Awww, who is the good reader???

Success!

Yes, we got ourselves a house. DOUBLE HOORAY! We are a bit out of town and while that means a longer commute for me, it also means a 3 acre yard for us and Fletcher as well as spectacular views of the Black Hills and the solitude that our homes have been lacking for, well, forever.

I will post photos some day once we get moved it, but thanks for all the well wishes and we are thisclose to starting up the next big chapter in our lives. Bring it on!

08 November 2010

I might be a commuter pansy.

So we are in South Dakota now looking for a house to rent. Up to this point, the only ones we really like and would consider renting are all in the surrounding towns. Which means a 20-30 minute commute. And, seriously, I'm all wah-wah-waaaaahhhhhh about it. Because I used to be able to walk to work in 12 minutes. And Swiss used to be able to drive to work in 5.

I realize that some of you dear readers deal with ridiculous traffic that makes what should be a 15 minute commute into something more like 40 minutes. So yeah, don't slap me. Just tell me that this is totally  normal and that I shouldn't fret.

And that a 3-6 acre yard is worth it.

06 November 2010

House hunting.

Well, tomorrow we are off to find us a house to rent. I'm annoyed by how hard this has been so far (can we say spoiled by being near a military installation?). Our options are SUPER limited and I desperately want a place with a decent yard for poor Fletcher who has been relegated to postage stamp yards for far too long. In any event, wish us luck!

Have a stellar week everyone!

05 November 2010

Fort Hood.

I'd be a bit remiss if I didn't talk about the 1 year anniversary of the shootings at Fort Hood. Upfront, I should tell you that neither Swiss nor I were there that day, though Fort Hood was our duty station at the time. Swiss was on his way back to Iraq after R&R and I was still in Minnesota. But, none of that matters.

Fort Hood was home for us. It was a place we felt safe and more than anywhere else I've been, we felt like a part of a community. No one ever thinks something like that will happen at their home, happen to people they know. But it did. It was senseless, horrific, tragic and beyond comprehension. And the flowers, ribbons and notes in the fences around that building served as reminders every single day of those who lost their lives, those who were deeply affected by it, and those who did all they could to help the victims around them.

I don't have anything more poignant to say, just that today you should take a minute to remember those families, remember those who were lost so senselessly, and thank those who risked everything to end the events of that horrific day.

Michael G. Cahill
MAJ Libardo E. Caraveo
SSGT Justin M. DeCrow
CPT John P. Gaffaney
SPC Frederick Greene
SPC Jason D. Hunt
SSGT Amy S. Kreuger
PFC Aaron T. Nemelka
PFC Michael S. Pearson
CPT Russell G. Seager
PFC Francheska Velez and her unborn child
LTC Juanita Warman
PFC Kham S. Xiong

04 November 2010

Bwahaha!


From here on out I'm referring to my period as Shark Week.


via Pinterest

03 November 2010

Informal Poll Please.

This one is for you MilFolk types. When it comes to reading other MilFolk blogs do you prefer:

A) the Everything is Grand and Deployments Don't Really Suck and I Also Poop Rainbows and Fart Fairy Dust in the Face of Any & All Military Diversity! types
or
B) the Let's Get Real, This Shit Sucks Sometimes and I Might Need Heavy Sedation if I Go On Much Longer Thinking I'm Abnormal and/or a Failure For Thinking it Sucks type?

Word.


via Pinterest (again).

02 November 2010

Hmph. Chopped liver you say?

So my new job doesn't start until early December. BUT, my boss and the HR department were planning on hiring another one of me, only fresh out of school, so younger, less experienced, etc, thus making me the Lead/Senior/quasi-supervisor. Thankfully they included me in the process (as best as they could via phone and e-mail updates) since I'd be working with them closest. We narrowed it down to two... one excessively shy but incredibly technically proficient guy and one exceedingly friendly and of average technical skill girl. After much consternation (and consultation with references) we chose the guy. Only time will tell if this was a cataclysmic mistake or utter genius.

But, I kid you not, I lost count of how many times they told me how wonderful he is and how incredibly talented he is and how lucky we are to have him.

Hmmph. Naturally(?), now I'm a little butthurt. I mean... what am I? Chopped liver?   ...    I kid, I kid. Well... sorta.

See, I would be totally lying if I told you I wasn't a little intimidated by this kid and his Harry Potter-esque abilities. I don't want to be the dumb one in charge! That would make me the lab equivalent of Michael Scott from the Office. No one wants to be him! I really just don't want to look like an idiot next to this kid. What if I end up being the weak link in the lab? What if its like he's John Elway and I'm no better than an armchair quarterback with Cheeto crumbs on his shirt?

Now, all that insecurity aside, I do have quite a bit more experience than he does and if the job goes the way I think it will, my skills will be more focused on the quality control side and the legally required stuff. But yeah, I'm worried about working with a prodigy. I bet this is totally what the doctors at Eastman Medical Center felt like working with Doogie Howser, MD (Thanks Wikipedia!).

Anyway, I am sure it will all work out fine. I am sure that, in the end, he will push me to be better. But I can't hide it. The kid makes me nervous. And I'm sort of wishing we hired the other girl just so I could be the Smart One. I know, terrible, right? But what the heck is the point of an anonymous blog if you can't be honest?

Okay, so yes, that is my rant for the day. Go Vote and keep an eye on South Dakota. It might be legal to buy pot there after today, but no, you can't crash on our couch and eat all our junk food if you are stoned. Just so you know.

01 November 2010

A pioneering family.

This is what happens when your husband gets a one-man crosscut saw for his birthday and you stick him in the woods for a few weeks. Family lumber jacking.

But I must confess: It is a ridiculous amount of fun (and a good work out to boot!). Ridiculous!



Anyway, this is Swiss and me with Kid A (who is SO tall now! Crazypants!), Fletcher and my MIL and SIL. Bearded and mustachioed to protect their innocence and anonymity. I'm thinking maybe this could be career plan B? HA!

29 October 2010

28 October 2010

Nooooooooooo!

It is totally snowing this morning. Not the kind that will stick or accumulate. But still. Snowing. It was 92 degrees when we left Texas. Boo hiss!!!

That is all. Carry on!

27 October 2010

Heaven on a plate.

So we made it back to Minnesota and Swiss' parent's home. We were greeted with hellacious winds, frigid temperatures and dreary weather, but there was a fire in the fireplace and my wonderful MIL made my favorite for dinner.... homemade potato pancakes with homemade applesauce (though Swiss totally went against hundreds of years of gastronomic knowledge and put Velveeta slices on his pancakes instead of applesauce). I mean, seriously, what more could you ask for?

We are glad that the trip is over, we are glad to not be in hotels anymore, and we are happy to have made it back safe and sound. And I won't lie... it is good to be back in the Midwest... it feels like home.

26 October 2010

Farewell Fort Hood.

Hello All.  I am Swiss.  My lovely wife has given me the privilege of posting my feelings on leaving Fort Hood and the Army; to put it plainly, leaving neither is difficult.  There is a lot that can said about getting to a new unit and watching things unfold from the perspective of the new guy along with the sense that you were never really welcome.  Looking closely at the last few years, I can see now that my final taste of the Army had to be one of bitterness... or I may have never left.  The only thing I truly will miss about the Army will be standing up for other people who can't stand up for themselves.

Hey all, it's me, Tucker again... I can say that leaving here is sort of surreal. Despite never wanting to move to Texas, despite Fort Hood being the lesser of three evils, despite the heat and enormous bugs and snakes... we made this place home. We said goodbye here, we had our homecoming here, we got to be us for the first time here. Now, I won't say that we liked it enough to want to stay here. Far from it. But I think living on an installation makes you feel more at home, like a part of a community, like you belong. That I will miss. I won't miss the scorching summers. Nor will I miss the hoodlum kids that taunt the dog and throw trash in our yard. But I will miss the thumping of Apaches on training missions, falling asleep to artillery rounds, and I will miss the bugle calls. I won't miss the 8 rush hours or the bad drivers. I won't miss the hugeness of this post, nor will I miss the cockroaches. But I will miss being one of us... an active duty spouse, one of the many in our ranks. I will miss being knee deep in the Hooah. Oh yeah, and the sunsets. I'll miss those. Nothing like a big sky Texas sunset...

In any event, being married to the military has been a trip. It has taken me (and us) places we never imagined, it has been the source of incredible highs and crushing lows. And it has led me to all of you, dear readers, for which I am the most grateful. I have grown so much in these few years with the help of your support and wisdom, and thanks to the Army (and the internet) I've meet some of the most amazing women with whom I will always be friends. Thank you for joining us on this journey, thank you for following all of our ups and downs, and I truly hope you all will stick around now that I am officially an Alumnus.


So off we go, leaving this chapter,this place, this life behind. There is a long road ahead of us (literally) and we can't wait to get started. But first, cue up the music... I'll take a little "On the Road Again" action if you please.

Hooah and farewell... for now,
<3
Tucker and Swiss

25 October 2010

Like a lizard.

So, I'm going to let y'all in on a little secret now that our time in the Army is measured in hours. We are stationed in Texas(!?!?). Which means it is still in the 80's here. In fact, this is my favorite time of year here... it is finally cool enough to enjoy the outdoors again and it is the perfect weather for evening walks. We can finally enjoy the spectacular Texas sunsets without risking heat stroke. Amen and hallelujah!

BUT. All this warm weather isn't really doing a good job of easing me into winter. In Minnesota we have September and early October to gradually, slowly, beautifully ease us into those cold, crisp late fall and winter days. I find that just looking at the forecast for Swiss's hometown (highs of mid 40's, lows in the low30's) alone makes me shiver. I think I've turned into one of those thin blooded pansified pseudo-Southerners.

So for the last few days, I have found myself soaking in all the warmth and sun I can out on the hotel balcony. Like a lizard. I am willing myself to store all this sunshine and balmy temperatures for future use. Sadly, I don't think it is going to work. Better get out the long johns and fleeces. Sad face.

Do you think, if I ask really nicely, that the sunshine and warm weather would follow me North when we leave tomorrow???

22 October 2010

FAIL.

Thank you Army Hotel Group. For moving us from one hotel to another in the middle of a PCS when the LAST thing I want to do is move all our shit again. Awesomesauce. 


Also? Thanks for making me cry for the first time during this process. It shouldn't have been a big deal, but my last nerve seems to have been packed up with the rest of our stuff so, yeah my tolerance level for people's stupidity is now at zero. I blame you.

21 October 2010

Weather forecast for Minnesota.

Thursday: A chance of rain and SNOW SHOWERS. Cloudy and breezy, with a high near 42. 

OMG. I DIE. We are going to be there for that. I AM IN FLIP FLOPS RIGHT NOW! FLIP FLOPS!!!! I can't do snow yet!?!?!?! I'M NOT READY.

Seriously. I DIE. Dead. Lit-rall-y. Dead.

Know what I love about the Army?

Nowhere else do they wake you up for PT in the morning with canon fire. I'm telling you... nothing will kick you ass out of bed like good old canons. BOOM!

19 October 2010

Flaky support or old fashioned pandering?

So, I am fully aware that this next post is going to make me sound kind of country. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. But I digress. So the hubs likes to watch hunting shows... I watch them with him because life is just better when we are both tucked into our respective corners of the couch (no other place in this house is as comfy as our couch... it is has been independently tested!). But on to my point.

There are quite a few of these shows that like to showcase military things... wether that be tours of bases/posts or featuring a veteran on a hunt or (disgustingly) gratuitous shots of combat video to make the show seem cooler. I've seen it all. Now, the shows where the veteran (be they wounded or not) gets to go on a free hunt to say Hey! Thanks for what you've done! I have no problem with. I appreciate that someone is recognizing what these (generally speaking) men have done for our country and freedom/democracy of others. These individuals and their stories are prominently featured along with the tale of the hunt. All fine and well in my books. The ones where they just showcase Cool Military Stuff and/or People, not cool. But that should be obvious.

However, I've noticed that not a single one of these shows (other than Ted Nugent's)- regardless of the military content they include- advocates its viewers finding out more about any of the number of veteran's organizations or donate money to said programs. The best they usually get is a passing comment at the very end of the show... no links, no phone numbers, no prominent display of logos and no sliver of time featuring them or the work they do. No one mentions the Wounded Warrior Project. No one really talks about the organizations that often makes these hunts possible, Project Healing Waters, The Armed Forces Foundation and Wounded Warriors Outdoors. Why?

The overwhelming lack of promotion for these organizations makes me wonder if featuring the Armed Forces and our vets (especially the wounded ones) in these shows is really nothing more than old fashioned pandering. It shouldn't be a surprise that most hunters and fishermen are of the conservative persuasion... and heavily support our military (as all folks should, regardless of political persuasion)... so is this just a way to play to your audience? I sure hope not.

But, with all that said, I still can't help but wonder why so many of these shows, with captive and sympathetic audiences, don't take advantage of the opportunity to promote the great work they are doing and get more like-minded supporters.

So long creature comforts of home...

Well, it's official. As of today, we are no longer residents of our home, but residents of the road. Tonight will be the first night of many that we'll be sleeping in hotels and longing for our couch. There will be lots of driving, lots of mooching off of family and a much anticipated reunion with our stuff some time in December. Until then? We shall be denizens of the road.

Wish us luck!!!

Pinterest.

So, I think the best thing I've discovered on the internet in my 8-ish months of Stay At Home Wifery is a site called Pinterest. You have to register and wait to be sent your notification that you've been added... but TOTES worth the wait. Okay, let me clarify that... if you are at all visual and like to have collections of magazine clippings and files on your desktop of awesome images you found on the web... Pinterest is totes worth the wait. Otherwise? I'd guess not so much. But it is a great way to collect images if you are planning any home improvement projects or need craft ideas or whatever... I'm a fan.

In any event, this is what the place looks like...




It is essentially an online idea board (or boards, you can make as many as you like)... you can post your own images, images you've found... and you can peek at what everyone else is pinning. Srsly, I can't tell you how many images I already have pinned for our future home (Beth, you are totally smirking now, aren't you?). But anyway, it is super cool and I've found hundreds of amazing things there and I figured why not share it with you, dear, lovely readers.

So, happy Pinning dear readers and I hope it comes in handy for some of you! That's all!

18 October 2010

2 years.

Happy Anniversary Swiss!

These last few years feel like a total blur, in the best possible way, and I still wake up every day thinking that I'm luckier and happier than any girl deserves to be. We've lived 4 places since we've been together and we are on our way to place number 5. In our first few years we've tackled a deployment and an insanely stressful job hunt, we've traveled from one coast to the other, from the top of this country to the bottom and so many places between. We've weathered family storms and reintegration and living 1,000+ miles from everyone we know. And we've laughed nearly every step along the way.

I don't think I'll ever stop being fascinated by the endless ways you combine strange food items,  nor the way you can fall asleep anytime and anywhere. I'll always be grateful for your sense of humor and infinite patience. I will always be in awe of your wit and your encyclopedic knowledge of the most random things. And I am so excited to start this next chapter with you.

Sometimes I wish I had known when we first met that you were the One. But then again, our story wouldn't be as entertaining... and I did figure it out pretty soon. I look back on these years together and I can easily say that they've been the best of my life. And I can easily say that I can't imagine life without you in it. You've made me deliriously happy and I feel so blessed that we ungracefully stumbled into each other's lives. Thank you for making marriage seem (relatively) easy and for being such a good tutor in all things Army. In short, you are the best and I love you so damned much!


So, Happy Anniversary to the man I always hoped I would find, the one who puts up with all my quirks and still makes me laugh, the one who loves me despite every one of my well developed flaws. You have no idea how lucky I feel to call you mine. And I love you so, so very much.

17 October 2010

Our fridge is now devoid of any and all foods with nutritional value. We only have beer, milk and OJ.

Just though you should know that.

Detroit like you've never seen it.

Yves Marchand & Romain Meffre Photography. Amazing stuff, you should totally check out the link and have a look...




"Ruins are the visible symbols and landmarks of our societies 

and their changes, small pieces of history in suspension.

The state of ruin is essentially a temporary situation that happens at 
some point, the volatile result of change of era and the fall of empires.
This fragility, the time elapsed but even so running fast, lead us to watch them one very last time : 
being dismayed, or admire, making us wondering about the permanence of things.

Photography appeared to us as a modest way 
to keep a little bit of this ephemeral state."

16 October 2010

One more Retirement FYI. Or two...

So all of my previous retirement stuff can be found here and here (this one was featured in the Blogs section of the Army's Stand To site and I didn't know it until today- super cool!).

But here's the thing I want y'all to know. (Which I wish we knew). Housing WILL NOT give you your all clear stamp early, and you can't fully clear- and therefore get your DD-214- until you've cleared housing. So, I would suggest that y'all just book yourselves a week or two in a hotel or on-post lodging and get the housing situation squared away sooner rather than later. Otherwise you will be like Swiss and I are now... somewhat akin to jobless college kids home for summer break. Lots of TV and aimless meandering around the house with tiny sporadic bursts of packing.

Back to my point. Seeing as how we did not do this... Swiss can't clear post until the afternoon of the day we plan to leave. And go to finance and to the S1 and get the DD-214 and his retirement awards. Then drive half way from here to Minnesota. Jealous, aren't you?

We shall file this under things I wish someone had told us 6 months ago. And believe you me... that list is turning into a doozie.

Also, here are my sage two cents on all things pertaining to the VA: Do your homework. Looking into the Post 9-11 GI Bill? Find out how long the turn around time is on the applications (weeks, lots and lots of weeks) so you can work with your school accordingly. And get to know the process, which can be convoluted and confusing, so that when you start to navigate it you'll at least have an inkling of what you should be doing. Unhappy with your disability percentage? Find out who to contact with your dispute and get your medical records in order. Like tippy toppy shape. Know them backwards and forwards.

So, that is all I have to say about this topic for the time being. Once this whole brewhaha is over with (FYI- it takes up to 45 days from your formal retirement date to get your disability percentage) I will have a big ole' summary for you guys.

Because this is too awesome not to post.

Overhaulin'.

So, since we are like T-10 days from moving on from this whole Army thing... I think it is time to do a bit of a blog overhaul. So, don't be surprised if you check back and this place looks a whole lot different.

And I won't lie, the content is gonna change too. I'll still talk about the military and the things that get me fired up. But there will be more 'normal' life stuff and random things I feel like posting. More photos, more casual. I don't know what the overarching "theme" will be of this blog, but it will still be me in all my eccentric glory... I hope you all stick around and that you like the changes that are a comin'.

Happy weekend everyone!

12 October 2010

Detaching.

So, I've been thinking about this retirement thing. Not in the what-have-I-forgotten-to-put-on-the-list way... but more philosophically. What I've pretty much come up with is this... in some ways it is like preparing for a deployment. No, the fear and worry and anxiety aren't there (at least not in anywhere near the same levels) but the distancing? The whole steeling yourself against what is going to happen thing? Totally happening.

Swiss and I both find ourselves slowly withdrawing and disassociating from all things military. Obviously it isn't because we don't care anymore. And I know it isn't because all that stuff suddenly doesn't matter. I think it is just our way of preparing to live a life where the military isn't front and center every day. You know, kind of like you do with your spouse before they leave (we all do/did that, right?) for battle. You have to get yourself ready for the new future in front of you that doesn't include that person (hopefully, just for the time being). In our case, that person is the Army.

It is certainly easier to do this now that Swiss is on terminal leave... his only duties are to go to the occasional VA appointment or stop by different offices to get his papers stamped. He doesn't have a work schedule anymore, no PT, no forced family fun, nothing. We are just two non-working folks who happen to live in on-post housing. Is it almost like we are slipping, quite easily, into the retired mode where the only thing we need from the military are the PX/BX and Commissary privileges... and the retirement checks.

I know that this is a time that Swiss was VERY ready to have come. He is ready to move on and not be a soldier anymore. He doesn't have that romantic view of what it means to be in the military... this unit and the deployments have worn that away. He sees it for what it is and is ready to do something else. And I know this is helping him through this process, which I am sure can be difficult for many.

As for me? Well, I don't think I've been a part of this whole machine for long enough to develop serious attachments. Yes, this has been our life for the last 3+ years, but I sort of view it (at this point anyway) as a chapter in a much bigger book. At times, yes, it was all consuming. Absolutely. And at times it was the biggest driving force in our lives... dictating places and times and 100% responsible for enormous emotional burdens and fears. But. It was temporary and we got through it. So yes, I too am ready to move on.

But I'd be lying if I didn't admit that this feels a little sad. I know we'll always be a part of this family, but  the thing I loved most about being a military family is the sense of community. Being part of something bigger, having a network and an instant, understandable bond with all the members of this community. Yes, that I will miss the most. But hopefully, either via this blog or other social networking venues, I'll be able to keep the mainline flowing to these relationships and this fabulous community. Because, at the end of the day, it is the people that make our military great, and it will be the people that I miss the most.

11 October 2010

Put on your Military Speak Decoder Rings folks!

This PCS is driving me bananas. And my dear husband’s ever changing POA is messing with my OCD and if he keeps it up, it is all gonna be FUBAR. The SA is getting out of control and I really just need for things to get back on track in our AO. ASAP.

05 October 2010

We have a home!

Yesterday I accepted a job at a lab in South Dakota. (!?!) I won't lie, it isn't a place I ever thought we would end up, but the town we'll be in is nice, the scenery is beautiful and I'm lucky enough to have family who lives out there. So yeah, either way it'll be an adventure!

We are currently in the process of clearing and getting the house ready to vacate. Which, currently, means I am speckled in white Army Issue housing white paint. It's gonna be a hectic few weeks and I'll update then... and then you'll have to help me figure out what the future of this blog will be... because in a few short weeks I won't be an Active Duty spouse anymore. Crazy!

03 October 2010

News!

I have exciting news that I will share with y'all just as soon as the real folks in my life know!

23 September 2010

Heads up!

I have an important PSA for anyone about to start the new DoD's online personal property shipping process over on move.mil. Ready? It is 100% NON COMPLIANT with a Mac. Like, you cannot use it. At all. From top to bottom the program does not work with any Apple based computer products.

Yes, it is obviously ridiculous that if you require everyone in the military to use this program in order to PCS and have it only work with PCs. No, it isn't a huge deal if you are on post because you can hop over to work or somewhere that has PCs. But when you are on terminal leave 1,200 miles away from post and all of your relation owns Macs? Bwahahaha. Watch Tucker grovel to everyone she knows to let them crash their house and steal their PC for an hour (yes, it takes that long). Thanks Aunt Jane for saving my bacon yet again!

In any event, we got it done. We have a pre-inspection scheduled, we have packing dates and move out dates and it is a done deal. Now? All that is left to do is finish up Swiss's VA appointments when we get back to post and clear the installation. Then, on to our new non-Army life.

Wow.

Did I mention that we still don't have jobs or a place to call home yet?

I. Die.

Hopefully this job interview I have scheduled at the end of the month goes well and we get some of these details ironed out. But until then? Let's call this Tucker's crash course in how to be more carefree and less OCD.

20 September 2010

No, I'm not dead.

So yeah, with this terminal leave well under way, we have been bouncing around the countryside hopping from place to place doing mostly nothing to get ready for the looming PCS. Great plan, right? Hahahahahah!

We are currently hanging out in WI with my family, we leave for MN later this week to spend some time with them. Before we head home to Fort X, I get to stop in South Dakota (!?!) for a job interview. I'm nervous and excited and curious about this job, the employer is non-traditional (in a good way) and I've heard great things about the city despite it not being a place neither Swiss nor I would have chosen.

Swiss is still waiting to hear from the contractor job he's applied for. So yeah, we are still jobless and homeless and clueless.

And we don't have the move scheduled yet either. Yep, move.mil is still throwing roadblocks in our way. We finally got our password and now the system won't let us get to the DPS site to organize/schedule the move. Fun right? Me thinks I'm gonna get to be really good friends with the customer service folks.

Anywhoodles, that is mostly it from here. Thus far my stress level is super low (owing surely to the Wisconsin beer and baked goods) but I'm guessing the minute we hit the gates back at Fort X I'll be back into full-on panic mode. Thankfully there is a super OCD calendar and list system waiting for me on the wall.

So yeah, just thought I'd let you all know we aren't dead... we are just taking an inappropriately timed vacation when we should be getting ready to leave Army life for good. Blame Swiss.

Have a great week everyone! :)

13 September 2010

An open letter to the DoD.

Dear DoD,

At the risk of sounding like a stodgy, grumpy old man... please, please, I beg of you... ENOUGH WITH THE TECHNOLOGY ALREADY! And if you want specifics, may I please point your attention to your newest mess website: move.mil. But just be warned, should you take a moment to go check that link to be sure of what I speak, allow for 1-3 minutes for the page to load... and another 1-3 for every subsequent page. Just FYI.

It was bad enough having to apply for housing online while my husband (and personal Cliff Notes to the Military) was deployed. What with the obscure and non-conventional terminology, need for seemingly unrelated documents, and no less than 11 scanned copies of every legal and Army-based document I had in my possession (I wish that was an exaggeration, but it is not).  There was no way to contact someone if I had trouble, and there were no confirmations of receipt. Just me, hanging out in my house hoping that it went through and I didn't FUBAR it. I guess I did okay since I am now writing this from inside my on-post housing, but you sure didn't make it easy.

Now you've gone and taken a system that worked so well, and turned it into a gummed up, confusing, non-intuitive and completely un-user-friendly website that is painfully slow to boot. Rather than have us sit down with an experienced transportation counselor (With other couples no less! Multitasking!) to get briefed and have all of our forms (accurately) filled out and submitted with just a few hours of our time (scheduled at our and your convenience)... you have forced given us this new website in the name of making life easier for military families.

Pshaw! As if!

Please just call a spade a spade from now on. Rather than give us lip-service about this clumsy and difficult program being "for us, to make our lives easier", please just call it a money saving venture. What you are trying to do is downsize your offices and instead of hiring capable, experienced, HELPFUL actual people who can sit down with you and truly make the process easier (who, naturally cost money), you are hiring Tech Firms full of people who know nothing about the DoD or the PCS process and are now just frustrated and unhelpful despite their best intentions (hired, naturally, because they were the lowest bidder).

Instead, what you have left us with is a program that is so over burdened that when you apply to get accepted into the online program, I have to wait 6 hours to get my confirmation because the requests are too plentiful. Come on now DoD, if anyone in this world has a clear understanding of how many folks are in the military and on PCS/Retirement/ETS orders, it is you. And still you didn't think this program through well enough to accommodate us. Thanks. So here we sit, twiddling our thumbs for 6 hours, when, had you just kept things the way they were, we'd be done by now.

Furthermore, you have left no option for real, live help. Even here on post. So when our situation is complicated by non-temporary storage or potential changes in final destinations, and when we find out that there are steps we do or don't need to take because we are retiring... we find out about them only after wasting our time and ending up frustrated. Which may not be a big deal to you, but it is to us.

In case you didn't get the point already, this program has done absolutely nothing to make our lives and this process any easier. Oh, and one other thing, when you decide to go paperless and want all documents scanned and e-mailed to the appropriate offices, it would behoove you to also increase the attached file size allowances. Hotmail lets me download up to 10MB of scanned documents, AKO however wouldn't even let me attach 4 scanned pages despite reducing the scan quality to almost unreadable. Does this mean maybe some guys will get more bandwidth of p0rn somewhere in Afghanistan? Probably. But for those of us doing official business, you know- like moving when you tell us to, it would make us a lot less frustrated.

Really, all we are asking of you, DoD, is that you actually think about the military families that are going to be effected by the changes in programs you want to make... not just your bottom line. We all understand that money is tight, but making us all suffer through poorly thought-out and clumsy programs just to PCS (which, in case you forgot, we do quite often) isn't the answer. I'm all for technology, but even if it makes me sound like an old man, computers and HTML code can't always replace real live people.

Sincerely,
Tucker (and Swiss)

Retirement, Part Deux.

So, are y'all ready for part two? Well, ready or not, here it comes... (and if you missed part one, check it out)

Okay everybody, here's the gist of it: there are things you should do, things you must do, and things that are way more complicated than they should be that often you don't/won't get told about. Is it annoying? Of course. But the main thing is (hopefully) that you get the nitty gritty list from someone who has just gone through it (because we all know in 5-10 years this process is going to be totally different) and make sure you do the things that aren't on the official list. Here is my list.

MEDICAL:

  • At the risk of sounding like a broken record, if your spouse should have any ailments, any at all, go to sick call and get it documented! This might require multiple trips (I'd suggest multiple trips with similar ailments bundled into each visit) but it is a very important step that is not written down anywhere. Apparently, the VA reps who review your medical records are mostly trained to hone in on sick call forms... not official medical records. The more of the sick call forms you have, the more accurate their summary of your medical records will be. Otherwise you have to do it and make sure your MDs know about it.
  • Also, be aware that these MDs doing the VA physicals are booked. Always. Expect a 5-6 week wait for your first appointment. This is where the planning ahead and allowing time for this stuff will really work in your favor.
  • Be warned that there WILL be extra appointments. While you are allowed to do these appointments while on terminal leave, the 2 or so appointments they first schedule you for aren't the last ones you'll be doing. Most of these will be scheduled only after the first round. Be sure to leave wiggle room in your schedule for these!

HOUSING/TRANSPORTATION:

  • Get with housing and transportation. Here, housing told me in January that they were okay with only 2 weeks notice for retirements, which was awesome. Turns out that isn't the case (thankfully we have more than enough time to schedule it). However, since transportation requires the usuall 30 days, it is sort of a moot point. Your post might be different so check in to it early and often! Ask lots of questions and if something sounds hinky, ask again!

  • Be ready to be flexible with every aspect of this last PCS. Assuming that you have left yourself tons of time to complete this, it shouldn't be an issue. However, given how fickle things can be with theses processes, be sure to give yourself enough of a window. And, unlike some more traditional PCS scenarios (assuming you are moving to a location not near your current duty station and not near another military installation), plan to stay a night or two on post after you clear housing. This will allow you to get registered with the VA and tie up any loose ends that you may be used to tying up before moving out of housing.

DOCUMENTS GALORE:

  • Be mindful of the documents you will need in your new non-Army endeavours. Mainly your retirement orders, your DD-214, and any documentation supporting preferences given in hiring (Purple Heart, 30+% disability, etc). These documents can help you quite a bit, but anyone who is willing to help a Vet wants documentation, so have it in a handy place.
  • Did I mention something last time about getting organized? At this point, if you haven't done it, sit down and do it. You should have files for the medical records, files for the VA, files for clearing, and the ever-important file for all the papers and orders you need to get anything done on post.


INSURANCE:

  • This is one of those things that they give you pamphlets on and let you figure out the rest. Fun, right? I'll give you the run-down: Your spouse will automatically be removed from TriCare Prime when they get their new card and status change to "Retired", though they will still be covered under Standard. At this point, you get to choose what insurance you want, assuming you are not eligible for the VA insurance. TriCare Prime is really only going to do you any good if you end up living relatively close to a major military installation. The enrollment fee is cheap ($400 per family per year), and the co-pays are wonderfully awesome, but you are mostly limited to in-service providers (like a HMO) which are only going to be present in helpful enough numbers near a military base. But FYI- Prime Remote is no longer an option when you transition to retired status! TriCare Standard or Extra will likely serve you best if you are going to move somewhere less close to military medical care/military installations. This is still a pretty cheap option, but you will be required to pay a little bit more as a dependent than you used to (something like 5% more). Either way, you have to re-look at your insurance situation with a new set of eyes, be aware of your final location, costs and physician availability.


  • Be cognizant of the fact that you are paying for insurance out of pocket. When you get offered your next non-military job, be sure to keep this bargaining chip in mind. Most employers pay some or all of your enrollment fees and whanot. Be sure to let them know you won't be participating (unless it is way better/cheaper than TriCare) and see if they will pony up extra money for your salary or extra vacation days. This goes for you too spouses!!!


So, there you have it, the latest and greatest hits from the Tucker and Swiss Retirement Tour. I'll keep you all posted as things get crazier! And as always, let me know in the comments if there are other issues you have questions about!

10 September 2010

How's that for a welcome home?

Hey everyone! How've you been? Me? I'm good. Recovering from a sunburn (100% not my fault, and I'm still looking at you Katie) and a bit of jet lag, but Hawaii was awesome and everyone had a great time. There was plenty of beach time, lots of island related adult beverages, cheesy movies, cute kids and stellar conversations. All in all? Great vacation!

But guess what I came home to? The (semi) exciting news that Swiss's retirement is much more imminent than we had thought. In other words, his terminal leave starts somewhere in the middle of next week. Terminal leave. Next week. HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?!?!?!? Of course this means the hubs wants to go home to Minnesota and Wisconsin for two weeks (100% in the name of hunting- at least he isn't trying to hide that fact). Which of course means that when we get back to Fort X we will have right around 3 weeks to PCS.

Three weeks. To PCS.

That whirring noise? Yeah, don't worry, thats just my head spinning round and round...

Do I think we can do this even though we are only about 11% prepared for this? Sure. There are two of us this time, there is no house to sell, and now we both have the joyous experience of a PCS under our belts. But really? How did we think waiting this long would be a good idea? Talk about the summer getting away from us! Turns out October really isn't too far away from August... Hmph.

Now, in our defense, this surprise early terminal leave will suck up 2 of what would have been a 5 week grace period. I'm still not sold on this trip up North being a good idea, but I don't have the heart to tell Swiss no. He missed so much last year and it really would suck if he had to miss out on all of it again because of a stupid PCS. But oy... I can already feel my OCD tendencies coming up to the surface.

Like the insane 6 week calendar I made out of poster board yesterday (2 sheets! I'm crazy!). Replete with VA appointments, packing lists, clearing lists and general to-do list. Because, you know, a normal calendar just wouldn't cut it. It really was disturbing how much better it made me feel to have that sucker up on the wall. And of course it helps remembering all of the things I FUBAR'd the last time (that would be why the lists are so long and detailed). But my confidence level of having both the housing office and the transportation office working on the same schedule we are? Hahahahhahahahahahaha... head, meet desk.

In any event, I'm sure it will work out. Neither of us have jobs yet (but that's another post for another day) but the good news is that we still have some time. 5 weeks. Really folks, this is insane! So yeah, sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride! Have a stellar weekend everyone! You know where I'll be... eyeball deep in moving boxes and packing lists!

31 August 2010

Hiatus part two, Aloha edition.

hawaii[1].jpgSo, after those two actually decent blog posts, I'm off again! Like a herd of turtles!

All joking aside, this is my big trip to Hawaii with my bestest friend in the whole world Beth to visit her awesome sister Katie and her two baby boys (she blogs too- check her out!) with a bit of a stop in Seattle to visit Beth's family and her other sister Carolyn. These three gals are my adopted sisters, family by choice I like to say, so I'm super excited to be spending time with them all- especially Beth. Can you tell I miss her???

Also, its been fun to watch Swiss get ready for a week without me. I think it is cute that he's realizing how not fun it is to be the one left behind... even if it is only for a week! Yes, very sappy and newlywed of us. You can barf if you are overcome with the gushieness of it all. I won't blame you!

In any event, I'll be off the radar for another week or so. Hopefully all the downtime on the airplane and in the airport will stir up some more posts of substance and I'll come back ready to go. Hope you all have a great week and we will see you soon!

Later aligators! -Tucker xoxo

This is bananas. AKA the Retirement process.

Y'all, seriously, the whole retirement process really is bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S.

I've been wanting to write about this process for some time now, but is is so long and drawn out that there has been no good time to to sit down and put it to paper screen. But I suppose now we are coming to a close and there really is no better time than the present. And before I get started, to all you Navy/Marine/Coastie/Air Force folks, sorry! I don't know how much of this is consistent across the board (I'd imagine the VA stuff is) but all I can speak to is the Army's process... in any event, I hope even this little bit can help you prepare for a future ETS or retirement!

So, the long and short of it is this: ACAP, VA, meetings, meetings, seminars, meetings, VA, ACAP, ACAP, retirement office, VA, housing, transportation, VA, VA physicals, retirement office, VA. Or something near that. What you need to know is that it is a long process with a lot of stops along the way, make sure you leave plenty of time to do it all. And a stash of beer or wine won't hurt!

ACAP is the Army's program for transitioning out of the service. Everything from interview skills, resumes, job searches, how to dress for interviews, job fairs, prospective employer meet and greets, generally just a whole lot of how to get your shit together for life outside the Army. It is a great program and, aside from the nutty schedules for the seminars and meetings, full of useful information. ACAP is awesome and be sure to take full advantage of it. And spouses! You can use ACAP too! Your spouse isn't the only one transitioning out of the Army so you can participate in their resume workshops and job fairs as well. Use it!

The VA stuff is insane. Insane because the sheer amount of information they throw at you, insane because of the mind-boggling loopholes and if-then scenarios they pose. And insane because when you are retiring, how you handle the VA stuff before you leave duty will have a MAJOR impact not only on your disability, but on how easily you will be able to navigate the VA system once you are in it. Suffice to say, the more you do, and the better/more thoroughly you do it, the easier your life will be in the future. But be prepared to have your mind blown by how the system works. BANANAS.

The retirement office on post handles lots of the paperwork. All the DD-214s and retirement orders and they are the ones who actually get you out of the Army. My 2 cents when working with them? Be Prepared. Have copies of all your necessary documents, have copies of all your awards and honors, and review what the system says you have (in terms of time in service, duty stations, ranks, awards) before you walk in the door. Double checking is your best friend. And play nice with your representative- they can make your life hell if you make their job difficult (that should be obvious, but this is one person you want on your good side!)

Now, back to the VA insanity. This is probably the single most important part to retiring (a little less so for ETSing) so I'm gonna focus here a bit. The things I think y'all need to know up front are these:
  • VA systems are based on a regional format. These regions DO NOT interface (as insane as this may be, it is the truth). If you move from one region to another, it is 100% on you to take your medical records with you and ensure that your records are transferred to your new region. 100% on you. Did you get that? Its all on you to make sure this stuff transfers the way it should.
  • The VA system is not one stop shopping. It is like the utility company, if you are having problems with the electric, you wouldn't call the water company, right? BE SURE WHO YOU ARE CALLING. If you aren't sure, ask or check online. Because if you call the wrong folks? They will not help you, you will get frustrated, and you will give up... loosing out on benefits and help. And this is probably the single most common mistake when dealing with the VA.
  • Have your medical records in tip-top shape. I mean it! You need to account for every bump and bruise going in to these VA appointments. The whole point is that someone will review the records and then set up medical appointments to corroborate and suss out any health issues. The more complete your records are, the more likely you will a) get an accurate disability rating and b) get these things on record for both future healthcare and future disability should the condition worsen. Very important stuff folks. And this could be thousands of dollars over a lifetime. (Did you know that tendonitis in and ankle or knee, if documented, is 10% straight away??? And that stuff adds up!)
  • ASK QUESTIONS! The whole thing is complicated and confusing... fro the Post 9-11 GI Bill down to how and when to register with the system (FYI- you register on the first day you are no longer an active duty soldier). If you aren't sure, ask, because sometimes finding the answer out yourself could take days. The more notes you take early in the process and the more questions you ask, the better you will understand the process... or at least where to start looking when you have issues. This will serve you well in the long run. I promise!

As for the rest of it? These tid-bits pertain to anyone getting out- ETS or Retirement. These are the nuggets of wisdom I've taken away from the process so far and I think they will help anyone going through this:
  • Schedule! This stuff takes time. And the meetings/presentations/specific hours that things are done are ridiculous and all over the place. Leave yourself enough time to get all this taken care of without rushing. Rushing leads to mistakes and mistakes lead to problems. If you have questions, talk to the ACAP folks and the people in the retirement office. They will know! Also, some of these meetings require your spouse to attend, so be prepared and have your calendars open!
  • Schedule! Part two! Make sure your unit is allowing you enough time to get through the retirement process. As I said, this takes time and if you are tasked with labor and time intensive duties when you should be ACAPing or doing your VA physicals, you will be scrambling at the last minute to get it all done. These appointments will dictate when you can PCS and when your terminal leave can start- the sooner you get done, the more enjoyable and stress-free the final stages will be. (Trust me, we are living this nightmare right now because Swiss got tasked with running EIB when he should have been working on retiring. NIGHTMARE!)
  • LISTEN! Pay close attention to the content of those meetings. As boring as they are (and I know they are, I've sat through them!) they are chock full of useful information that you will (WILL) need in the future. Take notes, ask questions, pay attention! They will cover everything from Post 9-11 GI Bill benefits, VA health care, insurance, claiming preference... it is all so important! So don't tune out, don't doodle, don't take naps. Suck it up and pay attention. Your bank account, sanity, and future health care will benefit in the long run.
  • Document. Have your paperwork in order. This means everything from medical records to NCOERs and promotion paperwork, honors and awards, re-enlistment contracts... the whole kit and caboodle. The better organized you are the easier the whole process will be. Take some time before you start the process to get this all in order. It will save you lots of headaches in the coming months. 
  • Be flexible. Both in schedule and attitude. Know that your dream PCS/terminal leave dates may or may not work. Know that the date you want to do a particular ACAP meeting might be booked, have alternates in the back of your mind. Be prepared to bounce around the offices and missing some of the silly hours they have set up for these things (because you have no way of knowing they only look at medical records from 8-11 on Mondays). As frustrating as it might be, it is necessary because they don't make it easy on you. Consider yourself warned.
  • Organize! Make yourself a big old file folder (or set aside a drawer, box, whatever) and keep all this stuff you'll be getting in one place. There will be more handouts and information than you can keep track of, so start some files for each item so you can find it again. I SO wish we would have done this early on. I am faced with doing this now and it is a HOT MESS. Also, this will serve you well in the future as you need to go back and reference this information.
  • BE YOUR OWN ADVOCATE! The people helping you are just doing their job. As nice as they may be, its no skin off their back if you get screwed in the end. I don't mean to sound cynical, but it is in your best interest to pay attention to what is going on. Case in point, when Swiss's medical records were getting reviewed his (VERY) well documented history of a thyroid disorder, skin cancer and a gunshot wound from combat were missed. If he hadn't spoken up, not only would his medical care have suffered, but we would have missed out on something like 70% disability. Huge deal folks! HUGE! If you aren't going to pay attention and look out for yourself, you can't expect someone who sees you as just another case to do it for you. So, this might be the single most important pointer I can give you. Take ownership of this process and the information- double check, triple check and pay attention! Be your own advocate. Period!

Okay, so that is the nitty gritty cliff notes version of this process so far. As more things come to light, I will pass on whatever nuggets of wisdom I glean. And also, please, please, please don't hesitate to ask questions either by e-mail or in the comments if you have them. I'm by no means an expert in this, but I'd be glad to pass on whatever information I have!

Stay tuned for more information! Ooh, and let me know if there are aspects of this process you specifically want more information on... I'll do my best to help out however I can.

30 August 2010

His career and my 2 cents.

You've read those blog posts and heard/overheard those conversations, right? The ones where the spouse of the soldier (etc.) bravely and calmly says that her husband's career choices in the military really are just up to him since it is HIS career after all. Please tell me you have (though if you haven't just search around the blog-o-sphere, you'll find them, I don't want to post links as I don't want to hurt anyone's feelers)... because I need to suss some things out in regards to this topic.

First, I get it. I mean, I understand the whole mentality of not putting your foot down and DEMANDING that your spouse ETS or Retire or switch MOS, because generally demands don't play so nice with marriages. And I'd be willing to bet that around 90% of us knew we were marrying the military type, so there is a certain amount of latitude that must be given. I get that. I really do. There is a part of you that feels incredibly selfish and demanding and not all that wonderful when you start to think about putting in your 2 cents (or 5 dollars) when it comes to these topics.

Second, I sort of understand the parallels I see some spouses trying to make between their civilian career and his. You know, the whole I wouldn't want him telling me what jobs to take and not to take or when to move or quit, so I shouldn't do it to him. Because, on some level that is totally spot on. I wouldn't want Swiss demanding or telling me in no uncertain terms what I could and could not do with my career, to turn down opportunities or a big promotion for whatever reason. I am an independent lady after all, with a strong will to boot. I think we can all imagine how well that would go over, right? So it is, on the surface of things, understandable to draw the same conclusions about your say and his career.

However... for me, that parallel doesn't really work unless your civilian job is that of a Blackwater contractor or maybe a MD with Doctors Without Borders (or you are in the military yourself). Because my job as a cytotechnologist or teacher or nurse or advertising executive generally only comes with ancillary requirements like occasional overtime or working weekends, maybe a pay cut or the rare travel to some safe garden spot for a short conference. No job I've ever had put my life in jeopardy, sent me away from home for a year or more every 15 moths or so or left my family to deal with the very real possibility of me not coming home- ever. And no job I've ever had came with contracts that couldn't be broken or guaranteed moves every few years under penalty of jail time. And last I checked, most civilian jobs can or could be left at the office so to speak. None of those things can be said for a job in the military. Not a one.

Also, isn't all we ever talk about how this career our spouses choose is really a lifestyle for the whole family, sacrifices and bonuses and all? So how does this whole Hands Off! mentality when it comes to his career jibe with our general thesis on military life? How can we, on one hand say that these deployments effect us all, but on the other say that decisions regarding the career that causes these deployments is no place for my opinion?

I guess my questions/issues on this topic arise because when it came time for Swiss to PCS the last time, when talks of retirement or staying in started to surface, it was a family decision. We talked about it together. I made me feelings and opinions known, politely of course, but Swiss always knew what my feelings on these topics were. We, as a family, talked about the benefits and cons of each of the duty stations and the job assignments and expectations that would come with each place (you know, light infantry versus mechanized units, 1SGT time or staff duty, etc.). We talked about wether or not this was the right time to retire, what the benefits would be to staying in and what impact that would have on our lives, my career, his career and all that jazz. At the end of the day, we made decisions based on what was best for our family. If Swiss was single, he'd probably stay in for another 3-6 years, but those extra deployments and PCSs just weren't what made sense for us.

Now, with all that said, I really do want to open up a dialogue about this topic even though I haven't shielded my views even a smidge (hey, I'm just being honest!). How do you feel about this? How much input do you give (or are allowed) on your spouse's military career? Where is the line between being selfish and doing what is best for your family? How have you and your spouses dealt with these issues in the past? And are you a subscriber to the "Its his career" mentality? If so, why?

Okay Ladies, have at it in the comments! Just play nice with each other, okay?

28 August 2010

OMG.

So we juuuuust got home from our whirlwind 2 week trek from Maine to Washington and most places in between. And can I tell you that I have NEVER been so happy to see the main gates here at Fort X? Anyway, there are stories and photos and whatnot, but first there must be a long awaited reunion with me and my bed. But just so you know, I'm back and the blogging will commence shortly!!!

14 August 2010

Hiatus.

The next two weeks are going to be bananas here so posting will be infrequent (as if it hasn't already been so- ha!). If I can, I will do some posting from Maine and our hare-brained trip to the PNW for a job interview. Wish us luck if you are so inclined!

I hope you all have great weeks!!!

13 August 2010

Pride and punishment.

500px-Expert_Infantry_Badge.svg.png

For the past few months Swiss has been in charge of planning, organizing and running his battalion's Expert Infantryman Badge testing. It's been countless weeks of late hours, planning and prepping for a week's worth of testing... brutal testing and brutal hours and brutal standards, all in the name of the coveted EIB.

This morning was the final test... after over 300 started, there were less than 40 something soldiers embarking on the 12 mile road march in full battle rattle. Three hours of marching, running, slugging it out to make this week's worth of punishment worth it. And you know what? By the time they were coming on into the homestretch? It was already 82 degrees.

I drove Swiss in to work not a half hour ago, and when I dropped him off, I was held at the intersection by a guard to let these EIB soldiers cross the road on their way to the finish. The driver's seat in our sedan suddenly became a front row seat to one of the most beautiful scenes I've ever witnessed.

To my right, near headquarters, every unit was in formation in their PTs, with flags flying, anxiously awaiting the arrival of the EIB soldiers from their unit. They were joined by the proud wives and kids of these troops... all waiting to see the familiar face they came to cheer on. And every time a new soldier crested the hill, bogged down by their helmet and body armor, hands tired from carrying their M4 for three hours, feet dragging from the relentless 12 mile march.... the crowds roared and that troop's unit broke formation. The cheers and clapping were almost deafening. Those soldiers ran, no, sprinted to their soldier and started running/marching with him shouting and clapping the entire way. They cheered him on, motivated him in those last brutal 200 yards, encouraged him and urged him on to the finish. You could literally see the candidate's morale soar, their cadence quicken, their shoulders straighten. You could see it working. It was beautiful and it made my heart soar. I wish you all could have seen it.

The pride and the Esprit de Corps was nearly overwhelming... the joy and exuberance these soldiers had when their soldier came into the home stretch was palpable and they weren't afraid to show it to anyone who was watching. It actually made me a bit misty, to see these battle-hardened men cheering and running like kids again, all to support a member of the unit in attaining the EIB.

There is no telling how many of these men made the required time. Im sure Swiss will have the update when he gets home. But I suppose, in this story and for me, that isn't the point. It was the unity and the pride and the unconditional, unabashed support. Really, truly, it was magical. And I feel so lucky to have seen it.

Here's hoping every last one of them passed. And to those who did? Congratulations... and enjoy the hell out of your weekend. Hooah.