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The first month in Winnipeg

October 3, 2017

Packed up in San Antonio

We’ve been in Winnipeg just a little over a month. Here’s a recap of what happened on our move.

Our packing day was scheduled for 28 August. The packing crew arrived and packed boxes. Normally, the following day the truck is loaded but the truck that was supposed to take our goods to Canada was stuck in Houston and due to Hurricane Harvey, could not get to San Antonio in time. Another truck picked up our goods on 30 August and then our goods would be transferred to the Canadian truck whenever it managed to get to San Antonio.

I was concerned about this because every move where we’ve had stuff transfer from one truck to another, boxes or other items have been lost or damaged. However, due to the hurricane, there wasn’t much we could do about it.

We arrived in Winnipeg late in the afternoon of 31 August. We reported to the Customs and Border Security Agency (CBSA) at the airport where they went through our entire inventory of household goods that were following later on the truck. We alerted them that our vehicles had left San Antonio on 23 August and were waiting at the bonded warehouse in Winnipeg for us to collect them. We filled out lots of paperwork. We thought we had done everything correctly so we proceeded to the hotel.

On 1 September, (Friday before the Labour Day weekend), picked up the keys to our RHU from CFHA then we worked to retrieve our cars. At that point, we found out that we should have gone to the central CBSA office (not CBSA at the airport) to officially clear customs. We ended up filling out even more paperwork and after several trips between the CBSA office and the bonded warehouse, and almost $700 in fees to the Registrar of Imported Vehicles, we had our cars.

We spend the Labour Day weekend having internet installed, purchasing kitchen appliances. (Luckily, there were some good Labour Day sales and we got a bit of a discount.), and cleaning our new home.

The following week started in a rush with our daughter starting at a new school and my husband starting work. Our appliances were delivered and we were told we our furniture would be arriving on 8 September. We were quite pleased as that would mean only one week in a hotel.

Arriving in Winnipeg

On 8 September, we met the truck driver at the CBSA office and filled out even more paperwork to claim our goods. We were also told that we must not sell or give away any items on our inventory list (including the cars) for at least one calendar year from our entry date or we will have to pay duty on those items.

Not surprisingly, when the truck unloaded our goods, there was a box missing. It was the “parts/set-up box.” For those of you unfamiliar with a military move, whenever the movers disassemble a piece of furniture, they wrap the parts in paper, tape it, then write the name of the piece of furniture on the package, (e.g., “master bed parts”). Also, at the end of the packing day, any odds and ends lying around the house that weren’t previously packed, get put in the parts box. These items can include hooks for a specific picture frame, an extension cord, toys or pens that have been retrieved from behind large pieces furniture, etc.

So, on arrival, our beds could not be reassembled. It’s been a month and we’re still sleeping with our mattresses directly on the floor. A sub-contractor was assigned by the moving company to make the repairs but he’s been “waiting on parts” for almost 3 weeks.

Also in the last month, we’ve attended 3 social functions, I had a job interview (and I got the job!), our daughter has been busy with homework. We prepared claims for the Destination Inspection Trip (DIT), the move itself, and our final out-clearance from the U.S.A.

The main and 2nd floors of the house are organized and staged (except for the beds on the floor). The basement is still a mess though. We don’t have a garage with this house so we decided to buy a garden shed and pay for the installation service. If we had arrived in Winnipeg during the summer, we would have built the shed ourselves but now that school/work are back in full swing and winter just around the corner, we felt the installation service was worth the extra expense. (Also, the shed was almost half-price so that helped off-set the installation costs.)

It’s been a very busy month. I can’t believe it’s October already.

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Nine signs that you’re going to be posted – Murphy’s Law

July 22, 2017

Several people have asked me how you know you’re going to be posted. The real answer is that the military uses a complex method of succession planning which takes into account available jobs and their requirements, the skills and availability of military personnel, any compassionate reasons a member might need to be in a certain location as well as the members’ personal preferences.

Normally, military members are given at least three to six months’ notice before a posting. Sometimes it is a year’s notice if the posting is overseas and language training is required. Occasionally, members don’t get much notice but generally that only happens if there is an event such as an unforeseen early retirement that was not accounted for in the succession plan.

After having lived through ten military moves, I’ve noticed there are certain “Murphy’s Law” indicators that a posting message is soon to arrive.

  1. You see people out of context. This means you see people you know but not in the place you know them from. For example, one time I saw my horse riding teacher’s husband at the orthodontist’s office. Up until that point, I had only ever seen him at the farm and even then, only occasionally. I visited the orthodontist (with one of my kids) only once every two months. So, to see that guy in that place was very out of the ordinary. Two weeks later, we got a posting message.
  2. You can drive around without a GPS and not get lost. Recently, I had to take my daughter to her driving lesson. Our usual route was under construction and I managed to take another route without using the GPS and I did not get lost.
  3. You find the best place to do your favourite activity or you’ve just started a new activity. When you arrive in a new city, it might take you a few months to find somewhere to do your favourite activity. For example, you might go to several yoga studios before you find an instructor/class that is right for you. Or, you may have decided to start a new hobby such as painting. Whatever it is, you can be almost guaranteed that once you’re comfortable, you’ll receive a posting message.
  4. You’re comfortable in your job and considering seeking advancement.
  5. You’re recognized by grocery store cashiers and bank tellers.
  6. You’ve just finished a mega-shop at “big box store” and fully restocked all the products the movers won’t take.
  7. You’ve found excellent service providers (e.g. hair dresser, baby sitter, esthetician, etc.).
  8. You’ve finally hung all your pictures on the walls.
  9. The moving company tags from your previous move have all been removed from the furniture.

Are there any other signs you’ve noticed?

Another year, another move

July 19, 2017

Photo credit: Robert Linsdell

Late yesterday evening, we got a posting message — orders to move. After only 366 days after we arrived in San Antonio, we found out that we are headed back to Canada — Winnipeg, MB!

The COS date on our posting message is 14 August 2017 but we probably have until the end of August to complete the move — a mere 6 weeks to complete an international move.

During this time we will have to:

  • Do a DIT (hopefully we can move into military housing). If not we’ll have to do the full HHT to find a civilian house to rent.
  • Do a complete household inventory in order to clear customs. Fortunately, our previous one isn’t that out of date so we can use that as our basis.
  • Prepare to import to Canada the two cars we bought in the U.S. ensuring they meet Canadian road safety standards.
  • Do all the other stuff necessary to move like:
    • address changes
    • enrolling the kid in new school and arrange transfer of records
    • arrange for utilities to be disconnected at old location and connected at new location
    • contact doctors, dentists, specialists and get copies of medical records
    • etc.

How do I feel about moving to Winnipeg?

I think I’m going to like Winnipeg (also known as Winterpeg). The climate is much more suitable for me. I’m not a big fan of the heat in San Antonio. I think I was only really comfortable here from December to February.

We have several friends already in Winnipeg including one I’ve known since grade school and another since high school plus several military families we’ve met over the years.

I’ll be sad to leave the friends I’ve made here in Texas but that’s military life.

Tips for healthy eating while moving house

May 17, 2017

Very soon, it will be time for many military families to move house. For some families, it will be a door-to-door move with maybe only a few nights in a hotel. However, families doing a cross-country or overseas move, might spend a few weeks in hotels and eating in restaurants.

For the first few days, eating in restaurants is fun – a novelty! However, if you’re like me, you may quickly get tired of extra-large servings of high fat, high sugar, high salt foods with very few fruits and vegetables.

Here are a few tips that I’d like to share for eating healthy “on the road.”

Buy food at grocery stores

Most grocery stores have healthy, ready-made meals in the deli section including sandwiches and salads. Pre-cut fruits and vegetables are also available in party trays (ideal for families) and single serving sizes. Recently, I saw peeled hard boiled eggs in packs of two. You can also buy bread, buns, deli meat, pre-sliced cheeses, etc. and make your own sandwiches. Often the deli department will have little pouches of condiments for sale as well (ask if you don’t see them).

Get a fridge

Most hotel rooms will provide a small fridge on request. Ask for one when you make your reservation. If you’re driving to your destination, consider buying an iceless cooler that plugs into your car (12v) as well as a standard household outlet (110v).

A fridge will allow you to store fruits, vegetables, salads, yogurt, and other healthy food options in your hotel room. You can store milk and juice and make breakfast right in your room. This is a great option if you have young children.

Ask about a microwave oven

Ask about a microwave oven when you’re making a reservation or checking-in. Many hotels have a small one that guests can use to warm baby bottles. Some hotels (mostly those without a restaurant or dining room), may allow you to use the microwave heat up frozen dinners.

Pack a few extra items

As well as eating healthy, I try as best as I can to be environmentally friendly. This means I avoid using disposable dishes, plastic cutlery and Styrofoam cups. So, I’ve either taken these items in the car with us OR packed them in my suitcase if we’ve travelled by air.

  • Grocery bags: One standard sized grocery bag and a small one are ideal for picking up a few things and carrying them to and from your hotel room. It’s much better than having dozens of plastic bags everywhere.
  • Dish set: We have this camping dish set for 4 people. It is great because it packs up in a space-saving modular unit. You could also choose to bring one place setting per person of your own dishes.
  • Cutlery: We have this plastic set of cutlery that we use for school lunches. It’s compact but flimsy for anything but pre-cut lunch foods. If I was going to purchase something new I’d get the sturdier 4-piece stainless steel set. It’s nice that it comes with chopsticks because sometimes we’d pick up sushi at the grocery store.
  • Knife and cutting board: A multi-tool knife is great but I don’t want the same knife that opened the jug of radiator fluid to be used to cut my apple. A basic paring knife with a sheath (safety!) and a small cutting board is great. You can slice grapes for toddlers so they don’t choke and chop apples for the youths with braces.
  • Soap: Hotel shampoos and soaps do not do a very good job of washing dishes or clothing. I always travel with a bottle of Camp Suds – wash anything, anywhere.

Remember, moving house is a very stressful event even if you’re happy about the move. Eating healthy is important to keep up your strength and energy!

Reflections on (almost) one year in Texas

May 10, 2017

Now that we have lived in Texas for almost one year, I thought I would take the time to reflect on a couple of my experiences.

Metric

The United States is one of three countries in the world that have not adopted the metric system. For someone who was educated using only the metric system, imperial units are extremely confusing, not to mention mentally taxing.

How many metres in a kilometre? The prefix “kilo” means thousand so there are 1000 metres in one kilometre.

How many yards in a mile? Who the hell knows.

I was using the Google Map app on my iPhone as a navigation system in my car but when it politely said, “In one thousand feet, turn left,” I had no idea how far that was. I now navigate with Apple Maps because I can set the default to metric units regardless of what country I’m in. Not so for Google Maps.

I’ve given up listening to the radio for weather reports. All I can remember about Fahrenheit is the Foreigner song, Hot Blooded where he’s “got a fever of one hundred and three.” If it’s a fever, it’s hotter than body temperature so there’s no way I’m venturing outside.

Celsius is SO easy. Just remember this little poem:

Zero is freezing.
Ten is not.
Twenty is pleasing.
Thirty is hot.

Accents

I learned the difference between “you,” “y’all,” and “all y’all.”

you y'all all y'all

I do not say “aboot,” and no my American friend, I’m not going to say, “out and about” just to amuse you. I don’t ask you to speak “cowboy” and laugh at you.

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.