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Let’s talk

January 25, 2017

bell_lavieJanuary 25th has been designated “Let’s talk” day, a day to raise awareness about mental health and the stigma surrounding it. This morning on Facebook I read the posts of some military spouses who are dealing with mental health issues. I commend them for talking about it. Mental and emotional stress can take their toll on us.

Moving is stressful. One British survey suggests that moving is the most stressful event after the death of a close loved one and the stress of moving can last three months after the move has completed.

Imagine not just moving from one house to another, but moving across the country or to another country. You have immediately doubled or tripled the stress. You have no family or friends in the new region. Now, imagine that you do not speak the language in the new region. You are not familiar with the culture in the new region. You are an outsider.

When arriving in this new place, you are expected to set up house, get the kids enrolled in school, and find a job. All of this can be overwhelming. Even trying to figure out how to get your trash and recycling picked up can be a time-consuming challenge because every municipality does it differently.

Managing your financial affairs, trying to find a health care provider, helping with children’s homework all when your spouse is deployed or on exercise (during this time it is most likely that the water heater will explode and the car will break down) is stressful too.

Depression can set in when you realize that your life is a blur and you feel you’ve got nowhere to turn. Anxiety can set in because you are always on edge in anticipation for the next stressful event to arrive. You don’t feel that you can confide in your friends, either because you’ve lost touch with them since the last move, or because you’ve just met them. Additionally, most civilians have no idea what military life is like. There is a three month long waiting list to see a therapist in your new city.

If you’re a military spouse reading this, please know you’re not alone. Even though we all go through it, we’re all different people. Get help. It’s tough, but stay strong.

You are welcome to talk about your issues in the comments below. Feel free to use a pseudonym if you wish to remain anonymous.

Some stuff I wish I had known when I started

January 21, 2017

201701_start-lineA conversation on Facebook the other day prompted me to write this post about what I wish I knew when I first became a military spouse. Some of these things I was already doing, others, I wish I had started earlier. I hope this post will help those who are just embarking on the fabulous military lifestyle.

Most civilians are aware of what important documents to keep and how to organize them as well as how to organize your employment history but this is even more important for military families who move frequently. In addition to the above, here are a few more bits of information that should be recorded, organized, and stored.

Previous Addresses

When I was in university, I lived at a different address every school year and returned to my parents’ house every summer to work. Every job application would ask me to list my addresses for the previous three years. At the time, I kept the list on a piece of paper in a file labelled “employment” in my filing cabinet. Today, I have all previous addresses listed in an Excel spreadsheet on my computer.

Why keep this information? Almost every application form (job, loans, credit cards, utilities, etc.), requests addresses for the previous 3-5 years. Security clearance forms or police background checks may require you to list addresses for the previous 10 years. Although you, as a military spouse may not ever need this information, your children might need to know if they join the military or a police force who require extensive background checks.

How should I keep this information? You can keep a printed copy in your filing cabinet or an Excel spreadsheet on your computer. I suggest both or at least back up your electronic files to the cloud or off-site storage in case of computer failure.

Personal note: I also record previous phone numbers because sometimes they are used as security questions on accounts that I haven’t yet updated them after a move. Sometimes we set combination locks for gym lockers or bicycles to our phone number so having a list of previous phone numbers shortens the time required to figure out a forgotten combination.

Insurance Letters

When you move, you may change home and/or car insurance companies. Sometimes it is because your current insurance company does not offer services in your new province (or country) or, maybe you will pay lower premiums with a different company. Prior to leaving your old insurance company, have them prepare a letter stating the duration of your insurance policy and a list of any claims or state that you were “claims-free.”

Why keep this information? If you have proof of continuous insurance coverage and you have no, or very few claims, your new insurance company may offer you discounts on your premiums. This is especially important if you move outside Canada when foreign insurance companies cannot easily verify your insurance history. Even if you have claims, proof of continuous insurance coverage is favourable for you.

How should I keep this information? Keep all of the letters in your filing cabinet in the appropriate folder (home insurance with home insurance, car insurance with car insurance). You should scan a copy and store them on your computer as well. If the letters are ever lost or accidentally destroyed, you can use the electronic copy to request a replacement letter from the insurance company. If the letters sent from your insurance company were in electronic format, save them to your hard drive and ensure you have a back-up copy.

Driving Licences and Driving History Report

If you change provinces or countries, you may be required to surrender your current driving licence to obtain one from the new province/country. Prior to your move, obtain a copy of your driving history from your current province. This will list all of your driving violations if you have any. In most provinces, you can request the information online and it will be automatically sent to your home in that province. Also, make a copy of your driving licence before you exchange it for one in your new locale.

Why keep this information? Your driving record shows that you have had a valid licence for a certain period of time. This may exempt you from taking a driving test in your new locale. It may also provide information to your insurance agent and result in discounted premiums. Having a copy of your licence from a previous province makes it easy for the province to find your licence information should you move back.

How should I keep this information? Keep all of the reports in your filing cabinet in the appropriate folder (driving/vehicle licences). You should scan a copy and store them on your computer as well. If the reports are ever lost or accidentally destroyed, you’ll at least have the electronic copy. If you have photos of your licence in electronic format, save them to your hard drive and ensure you have a back-up copy.

Immunization Records

I’ve written before about how difficult it is to maintain vaccination records. Each province has the same schedules for major vaccinations (MMR, TDPP) but slightly different schedules for other vaccinations (Hep B, HPV, meningitis, etc.). There are also variations in vaccination requirements for school districts. It is important to keep the original vaccination card up-to-date. You can also contact your doctor or public health unit who can provide you with a list of vaccinations you/your child has had.

Why keep this information? You will need up-to-date vaccination records to send your children to school, to travel to certain countries, or to be posted abroad.

How should I keep this information? Keep the original vaccination card in your filing cabinet along with any paperwork supplied by your doctor or public health unit. You can keep an electronic copy as well but the electronic copy may not be accepted as an original vaccination record.

Health Records

Your original health records actually belong to your doctor, not you. You can request a copy of your records but your doctor may not provide them directly to you, only forward a copy to your next doctor. Additionally, your doctor may only have a written report of results from a specialist and not any of the material used to make the report. For example, your family doctor may have received the mammogram report but the actual mammogram photos. There is the additional problem of moving to an area and not being able to find a family doctor to whom you can have your records forwarded. Wherever possible, try to get a copy of your medical records prior to moving or get them forwarded. This also applies to dental records.

You’ll have to get a new health card when you move to a new province too. Take a photo or record your health card number from your old province in case you need to retrieve medical records.

Why keep this information? You need to remain in control of your health. Some conditions may take years to develop and can only be detected after looking at records over the course of several years. If you have a chronic condition (e.g. diabetes, asthma, allergies, etc.) it is even more important.

How should I keep this information? If you have a copy of your records, keep them in a secure location until you can provide them to your new doctor/dentist. You may wish to keep an electronic copy but ensure that it is stored securely (i.e. password protected) because it is sensitive information.

Personal note: Whenever I visit a specialist I always take a business card and write on the back of the card what tests were done and on what date. If my new doctor asks for those records, I will know who to contact to have those records forwarded. If I have a test in a hospital (e.g. x-ray) I will write on a blank business/index card the name of the hospital, department, test description and date. I keep these in my “health” file in my filing cabinet. You can also keep this information in a file on your computer.

Please add anything else you can think of in the comments below. Remember we’re all here to support each other.

Research Study: Strengths in Military Families

October 19, 2016

Military Families Wanted!

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I’m a big supporter of scientific research so when I received this request from the Social Research Development Team at the University of Calgary, I just had to post it.

Strengths in Military Families

Study Information

What is the Purpose of the Study?
The purpose of this study is to explore the developmental assets, or personal and social strengths, of children from military families. The study will also seek to understand how those developmental assets are related to educational functioning, including academic confidence, school engagement, and social-emotional functioning.

What Will My Family Be Asked to Do?
You and your partner will be asked to independently complete a questionnaire regarding your and your child’s behaviour and emotional state. If your child is over 8 years old, they will also be asked to complete an independent questionnaire. This study will be completed en rely online and should take no longer than 45 minutes per person.

What Happens to the Information I Provide?
To protect your privacy, no names or identifying data will be a ached to the questionnaires. Only the investigators will have access to the data collected for this study.

How Do I Participate?

Contact the Social Research Development Team at the University of Calgary.

Update Summer 2016

October 16, 2016

apartment_home_poolWeek of 11 July – Pack, Load, Clean

This was an extremely busy week. We gave away all of our food and cleaning products to neighbours. The incoming Canadians purchased our appliances and many of our electrical products. We hired a local “man with a van” company to transport the stuff. It was much less stress than trying to do it ourselves. In the end, hiring the company cost less than renting a small moving van ourselves.

The packers did an excellent job of packing our household goods. It took them two full 7-hour days to wrap and inventory tag all of the items. The loading day went very smoothly as well. The truck driver was Romanian and spoke very little English but thanks to Google Translate we managed to communicate.

After the house was emptied we had one last run to the city dump/recycle station and we were cleared. The cleaning team we hired came in on Saturday and Sunday. Canadian friends were doing the move-out inspection on our behalf the following Monday.

16 July – Travel to USA

We flew out Saturday morning. It was a beautiful, fresh summer day. It was heartbreaking to leave – not knowing if we’d ever return. Saying good-bye to everyone a final time brought tears to our eyes. Fortunately, there are social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn so that we can all keep in touch. Long-distance phone calls are a thing of the past. With tools like Skype and FaceTime we can connect with friends anytime, anywhere.

Our flight from London, UK to Newark USA was long but rather uneventful. We watched a few movies. I finished a book I was reading. Clearing through Customs and Immigration on arrival was surprisingly easy although it took us longer than most people because the official had to process our visas correctly.

The wait in Newark airport took forever. Our flight was delayed several times and we had to change gates twice. We are NOT fans of American airline companies!

We finally arrived in San Antonio at almost 23:00 CT – very tired. Our rooms were ready at our hotel and we managed to get a good sleep.

Week of 18 July – New Job, New City

The first business day in a new city in a new country and my husband starts work. His first week was spent getting registered and authorized with all the necessary departments. In the U.S. dependents require military ID cards to get access to the military base. We will access U.S. Forces medical services during our posting in San Antonio so we needed to get registered with the health insurance company as well.

We found it very difficult to function during this week because of the heat and humidity. During the day the temperatures were around 40° to 45°C. The nighttime temperatures fell to between 35 and 38°C. Very un-Canadian, non-British weather.

Week of 25 July – Orientation

Our daughter and me started spending our days in our new apartment when my husband was at work. We bought a washer and dryer and had them installed so we didn’t have to go to a Laundromat. We got Internet and cable TV service hooked up. We thoroughly cleaned the apartment and had a few maintenance items taken care of.

August – Registration and Paperwork

We got our daughter registered in the local high school. It was a bit of work to determine which courses from the school in England related to which courses in Texas but it all seemed to work out adequately.

We also applied for our Employment Authorization Documents. These are required before we can apply for a Social Security Number. In the United States, Social Security Numbers seem to be required for EVERYTHING – from banking to health care to being able to obtain a driver’s licence. It is quite different from Canada where you only need a Social Insurance Number for your employment and income taxes.

August 18

Our furniture finally arrives and we can sleep in our own beds! It was a great weekend at home and perfect timing as school started August 22nd.

We spent a total of 38 nights in hotels. I’m so glad we’re finally “home”.

Achievement Unlocked Level Up

July 4, 2016

It has been a busy past few weeks. Here’s what happened.

Moving Company Assessment

unlocked_level_upThe moving company sends an assessor to your home to estimate the amount of HG&E. This information allows the company to send the right number of boxes and packing material. Because this is an overseas move and all of our HG&E must pass through U.S. Customs, the moving company needed to know on what date and at which airport we would arrive in order to link the HG&E with us.

We could not provide that information because we couldn’t book our flights until we were in possession of our U.S. visas

U.S. Visas

We applied for our U.S. Visas. The application process starts online. There are many questions to answer such as U.S. address and employer information. We also had to list all of our trips to the U.S. over the past 5 years as well as any other countries we’ve visited over the past 5 years. Once the online process was completed, we sent our passports via a secure shipping company from home to the U.S. Embassy in London so the visas could be issued.

Once we were in possession of our U.S. visas, we could proceed with other aspects of the move.

Booking Flights

We are not permitted to book our own flights. Our Relocation Advisor provides that service but we are allowed to state our preferences for flights. When we were on our HHT, we flew from London, Heathrow directly to Dallas/Fort Worth (9 hours) and only had a 90-minute wait before our flight to San Antonio. This time, we’ve opted for a shorter flight, from London, Heathrow to Newark, New Jersey (5 hours). We will have a 2.5-hour stopover in Newark before boarding our flight to San Antonio. This will allow us plenty time to clear customs and security with our 6 suitcases.

Uncluttering and Home Inventory

We sold our U.K. car. We’ve sold or donated almost everything that we are not taking with us. We still need to get rid of food, some cosmetics and other household supplies (e.g. soaps, shampoos) but we can’t do that until the last minute.

The inventory of our household goods will be completed today (yay!)

We have our HG&E ready. We have visas. We have plane tickets.

Achievement unlocked. Level Up.

The Patron’s Lunch

June 19, 2016

patrons_lunch_logoThere are very few perks to being a military spouse but on 12 June we got to enjoy one of them – The Patron’s Lunch!

My husband belongs to the Royal 22me Régiment and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth is the Colonel-in-Chief. The regiment was permitted to send a few of its members to attend The Patron’s Lunch in London, England. The regiment chose members who already live in England, my husband and two other members. Spouses were also invited. Because one of the members is single, he gave his extra ticket to us so that our daughter could attend as well. We were very grateful for that!

The Patron’s Lunch was held on The Mall, a road in London that goes from Buckingham Palace to Trafalgar Square. There were 10,000 people invited and security was tight.

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Members of R22eR attending The Patron’s Lunch

When we arrived at our designated entrance, we passed through airport type security (metal detectors) and had our purses/bags inspected. We then proceeded to our designated table. We received lovely gift bags with goodies (including a rain poncho) from Boots and some of the other sponsors and a picnic basket full of typical British food from Marks and Spencer.

My husband did interviews with CBC radio and television and we waited for the parade to start – in the rain! It’s England after all!

At the end of the parade, we saw members of the Royal Family and my husband had a chat with Prince Edward!

It was a great day and many thanks to the Royal 22me Régiment for allowing us to represent the regiment at such a spectacular occasion!

 

 

HMQueenElizabeth_patrons_lunch

HM Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip

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Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry

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HRH Prince Edward (just before speaking to my husband)

On return from the HHT

June 15, 2016
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Relocation Flowchart

Since we returned from our house-hunting trip (HHT) the workload has increased.

We had a telephone meeting (using Skype) with our relocation advisor to obtain information on how to claim expenses from our house-hunting trip (i.e. reimbursement for hotel, rental car, meals, etc.) We need to mail all of our original receipts to Canada. However, first I scanned all of the receipts so I have a copy in case they go missing.

After the meeting with the relocation advisor we made a formal request to move our household goods and effects (HG&E). There was also additional paperwork to be filled out so that our HG&E can pass through US Customs. Fortunately, we are not transporting a vehicle, food, alcohol (wine/spirits), tobacco, endangered flora or fauna so that makes the process a little easier.

Our move cannot progress any further until we obtain our U.S. visas. We should have the visas within the week or so. Take a look at the flow chart to see where we are in the process (green = completed, yellow = pending).

Here are some of the things we have managed to do in the meantime.

  • While we were on our HHT, we booked our hotel for when we arrive.
  • We have booked our hotel here for the few days after our HG&E has been shipped but before we are able to leave.
  • We have arranged for all of our household appliances and a number of other items to be handed over to the new Canadian family moving in. This is a win-win situation, as they don’t have to worry about buying appliances when they arrive.
  • The uncluttering, organizing and household inventory continues.
  • we are listing things for sale that we are unable to take with us.

Things are slowly coming together!