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No longer how long my husband stays in the military, be it 3 more or 14 more, there is one moment I will never forget: the night my husband came home with surprise orders that would move us from my native Kentucky (where we were currently stationed) to a rural town 700 miles away for Recruiting duty. It was a completely unexpected re-assignment, as we had been strongly considering him leaving active-duty when his contract ended in a little over a year and a half. Once my husband picked me up off the floor where I had fallen in shock, he handed me my cell phone. Sweetheart, go call your family. I sobbed and sobbed on the phone to my mom and sisters as I told them the news. Through tears, my sister Brandi said something that has stuck with me since: We’re still sisters.
Now that I’ve been living 700 miles away for over a year, I can honestly look back and say that moving so far away hasn’t changed my relationship with my family. Yes, it still stinks sometimes, like when a family member is ill and you can’t visit them in the hospital, or when everyone is celebrating your birthdays without you (I’m a triplet.) But as far as the normal, day-to-day stuff? It feels exactly the same. No matter how many miles separate us, we’re still family.
Make phone calls and use FaceTime/Skype.
In college, I called my mom every single Saturday afternoon. While my life is much busier than back then, I still take the opportunity to call my family on the phone. Depending on how much privacy we have and how busy the other person is, I will either FaceTime (like I did for our birthday) or make an “old-fashioned” telephone call. If you don’t have an iPhone, Skype is also a great option for video calls. Back when Andrew and I were dating, we Skyped every single Sunday afternoon for the last 6 months he lived in Louisiana; those screenshots I secretly took of him remain some of my favorite photos.
Use group text messaging.
Group texting is probably the most-utilized form of communication in my family. Whenever someone thinks of something they want to share that isn’t quite important enough for a phone call, we send it via text. Whether it’s a light-hearted quip or a more serious conversation, the majority of the time, we share it over text.
Send memes via Facebook or Snapchat.
I love scrolling through memes, and whenever I see a meme that reminds me of a family member, I send it to them via Facebook. It always makes them laugh and reminds them that I’m thinking about them.
Send a letter via “snail mail.”
I’m still a traditionalist as far as “snail mail” goes, so I’ll occasionally mail a handwritten note for holidays, birthdays, or just to say hi. It’s so lovely to open the mail and see something other than bills! If you think you don’t have anything interesting to share through a letter, then send a greeting card. Since the majority of the message is already pre-printed, all you have to write is something to the effect of “Hi, I hope you have a great day! Love and miss you!” Some of my favorite places to shop for greeting cards are the 99 cent section at LifeWay or the Dollar Tree.
Use Amazon to mail a gift.
I hate sending gifts through the mail because I have to pay for packing supplies and shipping as well as make an extra trip to the post office. Ain’t nobody got time for that! Instead, I send all gifts via Amazon. I already have an Amazon Prime subscription, so it takes just a few minutes to add an item to my shopping cart, add a note, and click “send.”
Travel home for shorter trips.
When I was growing up, my family always traveled for an extended period: at least a week, sometimes as long as 10 days. Since moving away, I realized how much I prefer shorter trips over week-long ones. To be honest, after a few days away, I crave my own house and routine. Plus now that I’m working full-time again, I have just 2 weeks of vacation time per year. Needless to say, I’d rather see my family for fewer days in a row but more times a year than more days in a row but fewer times in a year. I have been home 3 times in the past year for 3-4 days at a time; since I combine my vacation time with days that I’m off anyway (weekends), I use less vacation time.
At the end of this month, I have a trip home for a friend’s wedding. I’m taking a late-night flight on Friday evening and flying back home on Sunday, which means I’m using a whopping 2 hours of vacation time for the trip. Will I be exhausted come Monday morning? You bet! But is it worth it? Absolutely.
Even though it’s tough living so far from loved ones, it reminds me to cherish the time we do have together. After all, this military life is just a temporary journey for us. At some point, every single soldier leaves the service. Whether Andrew stays in another 2 years or makes it to 20 years, we’re not sure, but we do know that someday we’ll live near loved ones once again!