Posts Tagged ‘navy spouse’

Well, here we are.

It’s 2018, we’ve moved halfway across the country, and life is beginning to show the signs of settling back into some sense of normalcy in our household. J went back to work and I am waiting on school to start and generally speaking we’ve got an idea of the next few months.

If you follow me on instagram, you’ve seen some of our recent local adventures, now that we’re back in southern California.

Silver and gold sunset

A post shared by Joanna (@joannavolavka) on

It’s been good to be out of the cold weather, and I can already feel my mental health improving. It also helps that not only do I have friends still here, but I actually have, somehow,Β more friends here than I did when we left three years ago. Some have moved here and others have naturally grown from acquaintances to friends from just being in my broader circle, and I’m grateful for all of them. And, unlike my usual moves where I don’t have a niche (which is an ongoing issue for military spouses, and one that I should probably blog about separately), I also have a cohort to join and which has already been welcoming and happy to meet me.

So all in all, things are good.

And what of the writing?

Well, I’m working on a couple of things. The first is a fresh media push for THREADWALKERS, including a local book launch sometime in the next couple of months. (I’m seeking book bloggers/vloggers/etc for reviews and interviews and all, so if you are interested or know someone who is, please get in touch!)

I’m also working on the next book… It’s not a follow-up to THREADWALKERS but a new thing entirely. It started as a pet project to get some ideas out of my head but has grown into a thing that might turn into a Book. We will see. There’s still a lot of work to do.

What can you expect in 2018 from me?

  • I’ll be going to some conventions this year (would a schedule on my About page be of interest?).
  • New content related to military spouse life.
  • New content related to writing.
  • More travelogue things because you know I won’t stop traveling and that’s what I enjoy writing about here the most.

So there’s the update! If there’s anything you’d like to know more about, just get in touch!Β 

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So.

We’re moving back into military housing.

If you remember the last time we did this, you might wonder why we made this decision again, so I’m going to walk you through the thought process. The pros, the cons, and why we ultimately went this route (at least for now) may help you through your own housing choices.

Or it might be ridiculously dull.

Either way, it’s what you get this week.

Pros of Military Housing

No deposit necessary. Depending on your budget, this can make a huge difference. You don’t have to pay the first month’s rent up front, either, just the pro-rated dates for the month you move in and then allotments come straight from military pay. Easy peasy.

Flat rate rent. There aren’t going to be any unexpected rent hikes. It also usually includes all of your utilities, which is fantastic when you’re running air conditioning in southern California.

A military-friendly community. There’s a lot to be said for a community of people who understand things like deployments and weird moving schedules and the like. (This isn’t really a factor for me, but for many people it’s a huge check in the PRO list.)

It’s bigger on the inside. Okay, not really, but often with military housing you can get more space than you’d be able to afford on the civilian rental side. This isn’t always true, though (case in point: Great Lakes housing is TINY.)

Cons of Military Housing

A military-only community. This may not seem like a con to some people, but I prefer living with a mix of neighbors, rather than all military. The vibe is different, as are the lifestyles.

High turnover in your neighborhood. It comes with the turf. People transfer all the time. Your neighbors won’t stay consistent. The good news is that a bad neighbor may very well leave soon. The bad news is the good neighbor will, too.

Flat rate rent is your whole Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH). Even though rent won’t change on you suddenly, it will probably take your whole BAH. For some people this is a deal breaker.

Not much pet friendly space. One thing we run into a lot is that instead of taking pets on a case-by-case basis, much military housing is blanket “pet friendly” in this neighborhood and “no pets allowed” in that one. It severely limits options* with our cats, and means we’re only allowed to live in certain neighborhoods. These also tend to be the older, less up-to-date homes.

Choosing Military Housing

So why did we choose military housing? The current housing market in San Diego is ideal for sellers, which means renters (like we would be) run a high risk of having a rental sold and having to pay out of pocket to move. We did that in Chicago and don’t want to do it again right away.

We don’t want to live an hour out of town. That housing market I mentioned? Rent prices have gone up by ~$600+ a month since we were there 3 years ago, and we’ve been mostly priced out of the San Diego neighborhoods we would have wanted to live in.

We’re moving over the holidays, and trying to get in touch with agents or owners who can show us homes and take the time we need would be a challenge in the week between Christmas and New Year’s.

We’ve also been in apartments and condos for most of the last decade (with a 3 year exception in a duplex home), and are ready to not share walls (or floors or ceilings) with other people for a little while. Given that we wanted a little more space, it was worth asking the question, and sure enough they offered us a (pet friendly!) house that’s big enough for what we need and only about a 10-15 minute drive from the base.

….so we’ve got a house!

We’re moving in at the end of December, and it’s SUCH a relief to know we have a place to go and don’t have to go through the house-hunting process this go-round. If we stay in San Diego longer than 3 years, I don’t know that we’ll stay in military housing, but for now it’s a good fit for our current situation.

————————–

*Military families are notorious for ditching pets when they PCS, and this policy does NOT help– making it more difficult to find housing because you have a pet is setting some animals up for being dumped. But that’s a soapbox for another day.

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Okay.

We have “Hard Copy Orders” in hand. This means that J is officially set to transfer to….. San Diego! Ta-da!

But this also means that now it’s time to start all of the hoop-jumping that’s involved in actually, y’know, setting it up. This isn’t like doing a civilian move (which I just negotiated last March, as we had to move within Chicago on kind of short notice). We’ve got to have forms, copies of things, signatures, dates set months in advance…. and all on the beast that is move.mil (the DoD’s website for PCSing).

I’ve been at this long enough now that I remember when you used to have to schedule a “counseling” appointment, and actually go into an office on base and have some random clerk person fill out the paperwork for you while you tried to keep your head from spinning. Then they “upgraded” it so that you STILL had to go into an appointment in an office on base but you had to log into one of the DoD’s ancient PCs and use a digital form (that was kind of like using DOS in middle school was) to submit, and then still sign it with a “counselor” who was there to answer any questions. That stage of this “upgrade” my questions mostly were “WHY are we sitting here doing this at a junky old computer??” and “WHY can’t the counselor sit here with me when we need help with every other question??” and other gems.

Now the process is fully online, including the paperwork. You can download, sign, scan, and re-upload your forms all in one go. But the process to getting those forms? It’s still a pain. I spent probably 3 hours trying to get the website to work properly because, as a DoD site, it doesn’t run as well on new browsers. And you’ve got to allow it to generate pop-ups, and even once you do THAT, it only actually pops up about half of the time. It doesn’t tell you when it’s timed out until you suddenly can’t save anything anymore, and sometimes it times out while you’re actively submitting things. (I literally uploaded two forms, and when I went to click “Submit” it told me it had timed out. But when I logged back in, there were the forms! I DON’T KNOW EITHER.)

Thank goodness for good friends who help me keep my sanity:

PCS no cats or plants

(I’m in pink, click to make bigger.)

SO. If you’re here looking for tips to set up your PCS, here’s what I’ve got:

  • Move.mil isn’t terribly user-friendly, so once you’ve found your ETA SSO Portal and the actual DPS page, bookmark them both. You’ll have to log into the ETA SSO Portal first regardless, but having the DPS page bookmarked will save you the twenty minutes I always spend hunting down the right link.
  • The system will actually save where you left off, after you’re a certain amount along in the process. I’m not sure exactly how much that is, but I’ve been able to go back and work on setting up the household goods (HHG) shipment in pieces.
  • Military spouse/dependent? Be SURE to add yourself as an authorized agent for both pick up and delivery. It doesn’t hurt to hold a Special Power of Attorney covering HHG shipments specifically.
  • Add the new orders to the system (and upload them as a PDF to the website!!) BEFORE you start adding your HHG shipment.
  • You can sign and upload the documents you need directly to the site– DO NOT CLICK SUBMIT until you’ve done so!
  • WHEN YOU CHOOSE DATES, be aware that it’s asking for your “Preferred Pick Up Date” which means the LAST day that you will have movers. Anticipate them being scheduled for 1-2 days before this. (So if you want to start moving on Monday, list that Wednesday as your Pick Up Date. If you list Monday, they’ll come the prior Thursday, and so on.)
  • If you get an error,Β just close out your DPS page and go back to the ETA SSO Portal. Click CTRL + F5 to give the page a clean refresh, and then go back to the DPS page. This resolved just about every error I encountered.

I was reminded of all of this last week as I fought the very clunky system. Got any other tips? Leave them in comments below. (I could probably use them. Heh.)

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