Welcome to PCSing (Military Press follow up blog)

When you’re far away from your ‘home’ and don’t know your way around, best places to visit, eat or frequent you can look at this situation either as a nuisance and wallow in the house all day or an adventure. For me I did the first when I PCS’d to the Golden State but then I slowly realized I shouldn’t waste my time in a new place. Mainly I was lonely and disconnected from my surroundings. We’d just moved and Anthony was going on sea trials and work ups away from home for weeks at a time. The kids had school to preoccupy their time and instead of me embracing my quiet time I resented it. So we bought a dog. LOL!

Wyatt Earp

Cutie pie Wyatt Earp was on the morning news broadcast and even though he was a mutt and in a shelter I couldn’t put a price on him. My husband did when he about fainted from the $400 pricetag but I instantly loved him. Wyatt was my world for the longest and then all it took was one Family Readiness Meeting to get me hyped up for the volunteering that was to come. I dove right into the event planning, meetings, training classes, organizing and being an ear to the ground to speak for the families. My FRO was fearless and motivating, she was passionate and outgoing which was just what I needed but didn’t know it at the time. She showed me a lot of what she knew about the Marine Corps & the wife lifestyle. Through her and the other ladies I got to network with within the years since being here I now realize what I have been missing out on.

I didn’t really know that California’s had some of the most beautiful beaches you’ll ever see. Or that you can go to the beach, snow and desert all in one day. There are more things to do outside than probably any other state like kayak in La Jolla Caves, scuba dive, paddleboard, visit islands, take the trains, mountain bike in Lake Tahoe, sky dive, hot air balloon, walk, hike, sun bathe, surf and boogie board just to name a few. Below are some of my new friends who I didn’t go looking for per se but found me or have helped me acclimate to this crazy military life.
Big Bear Lake
Through trial and error (error being Onyx-Paul Mitchell base salon made me look like Dora the Explorer) I found my favorite hair stylist Jessica who lives on Camp Pendleton (& you can find her on FB under Hair by Jessica) & has a sweet Southern disposition and is simply amazing. I would rather go to her to wash and style my hair than to do it myself she’s so reasonable. Everyone knows that stylists can see better in the back than we can when we’re doing our hair. I can’t say enough about her and her attention to detail. If there’s an issue with your style from someone else or otherwise she’s always ready and willing to resolve the issue for you.

Nate is another amazing person we unexpectedly met when looking for a new vehicle. For those of you who doubt me check out Jimmy Johnson Chevrolet because he and the rest of the team went the extra mile to assure our satisfaction with our new buy. He was around our age so it didn’t seem as if he was ‘selling us’ something and it wasn’t such a stiff transaction. We didn’t have us sit in there for 24 straight hours bored to tears and we appreciated his honestly and professionalism. I do know where I’ll be going to purchase from now on.

Ashlyn Strempel I met while going through the L.E.S.(Leadership Education Seminar) she was a quiet, think before you speak type of lady and we hit it off pretty quickly when we both volunteered to be involved with the organization that following seminar. I’ve learned alot about her and know that her knowledge and skills are the most current and proficient than any other realtor around. Military folks looking to use their VA home loans she’s the person who has the latest training for the newest information and laws that will help you understand your benefits and rights as a consumer. Not only is she a really good friend of mine that I would vouch for any day of the week but she’s always been the kind of person who stands by her word which is a huge asset in her line of work. For those looking for the best home locations in and around the Southern California areas check her out. http://www.ashlynrosehomes-properties.com/

Never again will I sell myself short on my surroundings and I encourage you all to get out there, make some mistakes and seize the day, get lost and have fun finding your way back home. Learn something new about the Marine Corps or your new city every chance you get and take LOTS of pictures! 🙂

Time marches on….

I can’t help but be a little sad at this time of year. So much change is going on. Some is very good and some is just typical change and it may be good for that family but it’s just once again the Marine Corps way of life. It’s always changing and evolving.
We aren’t going home for Christmas to see our families. It’s simply too hectic, stressful and a lot to have to handle in such a short amount of time.  We do get to see our Marine Corps family which is always awesome!
We recently attended a Christmas party at a local country club honoring Marine Corps families which was very inspiring and emotional. We realize most Americans care about and support our men but seeing it firsthand is always heartwarming and brings tears to my eyes every time. The unit Christmas Party and my friend’s unit Christmas parties were fun! It’s always great to see friends and coworkers we haven’t seen in a quite a while. My friend’s Air Wing Holiday party was absolutely amazing! The beautifully decorated hanger bay with the helicopters all around, kids’ bouncy, toys everywhere and all the different stations for people to do arts and crafts at was perfect! We loved it all!
On my birthday last weekend we threw a Christmas Party and played the White Elephant/Yankee Swap game among others. It was fun and we found out a lot about each other that night! LOL! The San Miguel’s brought games for all of us to play and it was hilarious! I swear we had almost every dessert known to man over here. If I see any more cookie dough in the near future it will be too soon. The pasta and the gumbo were great! I always make too much and even after giving away a lot of cookies we still have a lot at our house! LOL!
So here’s the latest on everyone out here. The good news first is that some of our closest friends the Doyle’s are proud owners of a house and new puppy! We helped them move so we’d know how to get to their house in case they cook dinner or throw a party! LOL! Jk. Thankfully the house isn’t too far away from Camp Pendleton so we can visit often and it is amazing and suits them perfectly! I really do love it and so does Anthony apparently he already picked out a sitting spot on the porch!
The Norris’ have been through a lot of trials and tribulations to say the least here in the past few weeks and I think they are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. There are so many changes that have happened to them and so many more coming up but we just have to roll with the punches. We never know a lot of things that the Marine Corps has in store for us so a lot of things are ‘go with the flow’. This is the sum of their and our life right now and it can be discouraging at times. We have no real control of how our outcome will turn out and even though we want to stay in the Marine Corps may have a different view of our situation.
We went to four different doctor appointments on Monday alone. It has been pretty crazy around here. We may be getting a new brace very soon and going through surgery. If any nerve surgery is going to work we need to do it in the next 8 weeks or so. We are just trying to get transferred to a Wounded Warrior unit who specializes in our situations and recovery which has taken longer than expected. We also need a lot of very important paperwork turned in and situated since its all on a very short time limit so that is pressing right now. If it isn’t one thing it’s another right? On a positive note; Anthony’s foot is twitching when he tries to move it! We didn’t know if that was going to happen before the surgery but it has! YEAH!
To top off all the craziness some of our family is moving! The San Miguel’s are moving in just a few hours and we don’t know what to do with ourselves. We didn’t think it was going to bother us and their moving on is just something that we take and deal with like anything else in the Marine Corps. It has bothered us though and we are bummed. Their moving will affect and change almost everything we do around here. We support each other in every way possible not only because the husbands were pretty close friends at work but we genuinely all love hanging out with each other. When Cody had football games or Jackie wanted to have us over or anything; we’d be there. If Anthony had an awards ceremony, when he came home from Afghanistan, when I needed him to coach the wives football team or if any of us needed anything we would all be there to support each other. It’s very sad to see friends go and they are both two very special people to us. They’ve always been there and we always will be as well. We’ll see if I cry my eyes out on Friday when we go see them off. I told Cody today; what are we going to do without Jackie’s jokes and hilarious statements she doesn’t realize are hilarious until after she’s said them?! It won’t be the same around here without them but we’ll always have a room for them if they want to ever make the trip to SoCal to visit! They are both going to be missed greatly!

BYE!

  Merry Christmas ya’ll!

Homesick after PCS’ing

Initially upon getting to our base housing community, settling into our beautiful new house and putting our foot in the door I knew there were going to be some ups & downs. This land called California was a complete culture shock compared to what I have known for 20+ years in the bold state of Texas.
From my first few impressons, things are just very different here.  Not necessarily bad just different from what I’m used to & it bothered me for a while.  For the most part people are not initially cordial here. From first sight people are a lot like the scenery here very beautiful. From head to toe some of these people are just unbelievably perfect. 

First time at the beach

My very first encounter with a typical Californian happened at Wally World where a senior citizens’ car hadn’t started. I offered politely if he needed any assistance and offered to jump him with my Chevy still equipped with standout Texas license plates. He looked up at me with peering eyes and then looked back down under the hood of his car without saying a word to me. I thought, “What did I do wrong? Was I mean, rude or inappropriate? I don’t think so, okay fine then sit here and wait for your AAA then!” I understand people being cautious and everything now a days but my goodness. I took it very personal and was hurt. I was just trying to help and he completely ignored me.  I have learned since then, being out here a little longer is that there are salesmen everywhere. I will give him the benefit of the doubt and maybe he thought I was going to try and get him to subscribe to Texas Monthly or something.

Marine Corps life and Civilian life are completely different. I knew nothing of the wives’ lingo, that a commissary was a grocery store, that I would need an ID & to know his social to do anything from going to the doctor to buying a pack of gum at the gas station on base, about the different base housing communities all over the base, or that there are schools on base for only military kids.  The base is like a city, buildings all look the same for the most part and the only way to tell the difference is to know the area numbers, there are different times during the day when things come to a halt depending on where you are on base so you have to constantly be aware of your surroundings (it isn’t as hard as it seems), the typical duties and expectations of some stay at home Marine wives or what to do with myself. 
It was an easy downward spiral.  I was basically a recluse for the first few months.  I had no energy.  My house didn’t get decorated for months.  I didn’t want to get out because I didn’t know my way around.  None of my neighbors introduced themselves.  I didn’t know anyone or have a hobby.  I didn’t know anything about the Marine Corps except for what I read on MarineParents.com.  I didn’t volunteer at first and put myself out there.  I was a combination of sad and bummed out and spent a lot of time upset feeling like I should have stayed in Texas. The girls liked the new change but once they figured we weren’t just visiting and started asking 500 times a day if we were going back to Texas I wished for the same thing.  Being homesick really sucks! To top it off Anthony was preparing for an upcoming deployment (called a work up) so he wasn’t at home much. 
I missed the simple and maybe slightly silly things one can only find in Texas like Mrs. Baird’s bread, Blue Bell Ice Cream, Whataburger, good country music and country dance halls, trail rides, real rodeos, a deep southern accent and everyone you walk by saying, “Hi ya’ll! Good mornin’!!”  I knew though that the best thing was for our family to be together. 
Looking back at my feelings then and now it’s quite a contrast.  I know now more than ever that every situation is what you put into it.  If you sit in the house you won’t make friends and end up day after day on the couch. 
Also, don’t get me wrong, Southern California is extremely beautiful! I now have grown to love this region of the USA so much that I speak passionately about not returning to my scorching hot and humid home state that I love so much. The weather here is what makes it so ridiculously pretty. There are 350 days give or take of pure sunshine with a normal high of about 70* and lows in the 40’s. The coast is never far away, the mountains, deserts, San Diego, L.A. and even Las Vegas are all close and I’ve never seen anything like it until we moved here.  The ups & downs of our first few months were definitely a life lesson that was just one of the many I would learn in the coming months.

Crystal’s 1st Move…

This #firstpcsmove was insane but I want to give my story a little before anything else so you know where I’m coming from. Hope ya’ll enjoy it. 🙂

Now I knew when I met my husband, Anthony in 2003 that he had wanted to join the military and he graciously waited a few years after we met before doing so. What we didn’t know was that when he joined in 2006 that it would be the beginning of a non-stop lifestyle for us from then on. We married in 2007 and were a Geo-Bachelor couple (separated where he was in California and I was in Texas) for almost a year since I had a well paying job. We decided to move my girls and myself to California in late 2008, which was an undertaking none of us were prepared for.
Take into consideration, my girls and I had never lived anywhere else but Texas and more specifically my bubble called the Houston city limits. I’d never been further West than San Antonio/San Marcos so this was a lot to take in even.  I tried not to show it.  The night before we’d left we had dinner with my family to say goodbye. My mom didn’t see us off since it was going to be hard on all of us especially my young daughters. We left Texas very early in our pj’s, I was at the wheel with the U-Haul hitched up to my truck. It was heartbreaking to leave the city lights behind. Everything I had ever known and loved from birth was in Houston; my amazingly supportive, patient and understanding family, numerous friends, small hometown comfort, my lifestyle, independence, hobbies, being Texan, and just comfortable in my skin. Cliché but so true that looking in my rear view mirror I cried knowing my life would never be the same after making that drive down Interstate 10. After going back and forth many times these last few years I know it only takes about 24 hours to get to Houston, Texas from my house. I tend to do this road trip in two days and just stay in El Paso as a half way stopping point.
This first time it took us a little over 12 hours to get from Houston to El Paso where we spent the night. For all of the non-roadtrippers and non-Texans; after passing San Antonio there are quite a few ghost towns, almost no radio reception and really nothing right off of the freeway until El Paso. It is a very strange sight to see freeway signs that say, “Strong Dust Storms for the next 100 miles”, tumbleweeds, and everything on the horizon be dusty and antique looking. I thought tornado, hail, strong thunderstorm, tornado and hurricane warnings were bad and have never seen or been around a dust storm. Like all stubborn Texans I didn’t think anything of it because my Chevy can conquer all! Let me tell you, the truck was pulling so hard I was sure I was going to be the stretch Armstrong toy after this trip! We finally make it though and El Paso is beautiful, unique and has amazing food. I wish I would have known about Man vs. Food back then I would have gone to the restaurants he had! YUM!

The next morning, we set out just as early but not too long after getting past Tucson in the middle of nowhere the U-Haul had a blow out tire. With all the waiting and everything it took over 5 hours for the maintenance guy to get out to us and fix the problem, and then they had to give my truck a jump because I had the emergency lights on the entire time. LOL! It was not a very productive 2nd day of driving to say the least! We all got to explore the shoulder-of-the-freeway scenery on the side of the Arizona highway, the girls learned how to make dirty snowmen on the side of the road and the vital importance of being prepared with fruits, snacks, water and blankets. We ended up spending the night in Yuma & then making the remaining of the trip on the 3rd day.

Upon reaching California, I will never forget the Border Patrol checkpoint and still talk about it to this day. We passed through 3 states with NOOO other Law Enforcement issues and when we come into the Golden State I get a rude awakening. The patrolman made Anthony get out of the truck, asked him questions, made him open the U-Haul trailer and my Igloo cooler when he discovered we were driving illegally! What was t that they claimed I had been harboring you ask?!  Fruit!  Apples to be precise.  The line behind my truck piled up as I felt my face begin to turn red.  How embarrassing but yes I was breaking the law.
THEY TOOK MY APPLES!!!! Maybe it was the blowout from yesterday that had me hoarding all the food in the car and feeling personally offended but I swear the guy was hungry.  Apparently Texas apples not being from Washington are inferior and may contain weapons of mass destruction and therefore banned from coming into California.
I thought he was kidding at first, I laughed but then Anthony entered the truck and I saw the guy with my bagged apples in his little patrol stand I just stared at Anthony like he’d given away a winning lottery ticket. I was mad.  Are they serious?!  ARGH!!! Wooohsawwww…maybe I will let go of my apples now that I have vented. We’ll see.
Anyways, the energy windmills (I call them aliens because those things are so odd looking and huge)  looked like something from a Hollywood movie and the sand dunes at the California border looked like we were in Egypt. California was turning into be irritating yet unbelievable and eye opening from the start! We were on Interstate 8 and approached the City of San Diego around noon. It was very beautiful, very perfect; the landscaping, the houses tucked strategically into the mountains, the view from the freeway overlooking the harbor, the yachts and cruise ships in the water under a clear sky made everything shimmer. The beach is parallel to the freeway the entire 30 minute trip from San Diego to our base. The girls and I were hypnotized by it and just how gorgeous everything was upon first sight.
We’d completed our #firstmove & made it home.