It's summer PCS season and, while I'm staying put, roughly a third of the military community -- including a bunch of my friends -- are not. Their Facebook status updates are filled with details of yard sales, house hunts and farewell parties.
Military families move a lot, but moving is not without its graces.
Moving makes us face stuff, actual stuff (like the plastic bags of outgrown children's clothes on the top shelf of the hall closet) and intangible stuff (like what to do to make friends in a new town).
What if we Must-Have Parents and Must-Do Parents all lived, all the time, like we were moving? We would be ...
1. Regularly purging stuff and people.
Packing forces you to look at what you've got and consider if you really need it. It's easy to get weighed down by our junk. (Ever watch Hoarders?)
The same goes for people.Not all friendships are meant to last. (Gasp!) Some people are supposed to simply cycle through our lives.
That doesn't mean that they aren't "good" friends and it doesn't make us "bad" friends. It just means that we don't need a hundred BFFs. Moving is a great way to transition friendships without hurting feelings.
2. Using what we've got.
When you know you'll be packing up and tossing out perishables soon, you can get downright innovative with meal planning. This is a good thing.
A friend and I joke that there should be an Iron Chef-style competition in which military spouses are challenged to use only the stuff in their fridges, freezers and pantries to come up with two weeks' worth of edible meals.
We should all eat the food in our pantries and freezers and we should break out of our daily routines. Waste not, want not.
3. Packing the fragile stuff ourselves.
If something is really important to us, we shouldn't trust that it will be really important to someone else, too.
Even if it means traveling 1,300 miles with grandma's vase in our laps, if it's worth our worry, it's worth the hassle.
Conversely, if it's not worth the hassle, then it's not worth the time and energy we expend worrying about it.
4. Remembering "Location, location, location."
Turns out, every Realtor's maxim makes a pretty good rule for living. When we're looking for a place to live, we tend to focus first on the area.
That's why a small, outdated house in a great area can cost more than a big, new house in a less trendy neighborhood.
In the same way, life is much more about being in the right "place" (the right relationship, friendship, job and goal) than having the shiniest, biggest, newest, most impressive thing.
Are you in the right "location?"
5. Making a plan and sticking to it ... well, sort of.
Moving is challenging. It may mean spending days in a hotel and will likely mean waiting a while for household goods to arrive. These obstacles -- like other foreseeable life obstacles -- are best tackled with advance planning.
Families that move a lot know to keep all their important documents handy during the move. They know to take pictures and to document their valuables. They know that a few car-sized essentials (like an air mattress) can make that long wait for furnishings much easier.
If we know something is likely to be difficult, we should plan for that difficulty. We won't be able to anticipate everything, but we can set ourselves up for success. Still, we should also plan to be flexible.
6. Saying "farewell," not "goodbye."
In the military, we have "Hail and Farewell" parties. We say "see you later" and "maybe at the same base ..." because we know that there's a decent chance that we will see or otherwise encounter these people again.
So we don't burn bridges and we do look to the future.
More important, we love our friends when we're with them. We hug them. We thank them. And then we drive away with tears in our eyes, knowing that the very fact that there are people and things that we'll miss means our time was well spent.