Okay. I promised I would tell the story of Moreno Migration 2.0 once it was finished. Mind you, this whole process is not remotely “finished,” but at least the travel portion is and that’s the most entertaining – I mean dramatic – bit.
Our story begins on February 7th, the day before we were scheduled to fly out of Germany. As part of his out-processing, Lou was required to get confirmation that he would not be required to take his physical fitness test until we got to North Dakota. He had called the office in question a few times before this, as well as actually walking into the office just two days earlier to receive this confirmation. However, he was told at his final out-processing appointment on Wednesday morning that this information was incorrect and that he would have to take a PT test before leaving Germany. Let me remind you that this is THE DAY BEFORE we were supposed to leave.
I’ve never seen Lou so stressed. He usually starts preparing for his PT tests a few months in advance, and now he was being all but forced to take one the very next day. This was made even more challenging because the next day was also the day we were to fly out of Germany, meaning he would have to test in the morning and then *hopefully* get on a plane in the evening. Our good friend Ben drove him to the test (we were carless at the point), his boss accompanied him to the test, and his first shirt actually did the run with him. All glory to God, he passed his test! While it seemed like the Air Force was conspiring against him, Jesus was with him all the way, something that we knew but were certainly failing to see. Another dear friend, Mary Beth, reminded me that while this whole scenario was a surprise to us, it wasn’t a surprise to God, and that He had been preparing Lou along the way for that moment.
After passing the test, Mary Beth’s husband helped us lug all of our stuff to the terminal on base – this is no small task when you’re moving across the world. We checked in the three of us, Chuck, 5 suitcases and a garment bag. We kept the stroller and 4 other bags to carry onto the plane, as well as Chuck because we couldn’t send him off to the plane until about an hour before takeoff.
We now had several hours to spend in the terminal, but this is where God’s provision came in for the second time. Chris and Caitlyn (life group friends) generously brought us lunch AND Starbucks AND donuts. Mary Beth and her three kiddos came to hang out with us for a good chunk of time, providing much-needed interaction (and entertainment) for Evie. Savannah and Ben were the last dear ones to see us off at terminal, and we’re so thankful for all the hugs we received that day.
The boarding calls finally came and we trudged upstairs, struggled to get through security (you’d think I have that down to a science by now but not that day), made our way to the gate and got in line to board the plane. Except they stopped the boarding … and we stood in line. Then they continued the boarding, and we got on the plane … and sat for another hour or more. Apparently there were 5 seats that had been double-booked. The computer checkin system had broken down that day, so everything had to be done by hand and clearly things got mixed up.
When all was said and done, our plane landed in Baltimore almost 4 hours later than originally scheduled, to the tune of about 1:30 a.m. Fortunately, immigration and luggage didn’t take too terribly long (everything feels long in the middle of the night but it really wasn’t bad).
We knew we wouldn’t have phone service for the first 18 hours or so … but then we couldn’t get the pay phone to work and the USO wasn’t open that late and there wasn’t a help desk to be seen, so we bit the bullet and grabbed a taxi to the hotel. It took a bit to get settled in our room, but we did all manage to fall asleep for about 5 hours. Lou and I both set alarms that would allow us to take advantage of the hotel’s breakfast, a decision that was also rather divine. During breakfast, we chatted with another couple who’d been on the same flight out of Ramstein, also with a dog. We mentioned the need to get to a nearby mall so we could turn our phone service back on, to which they replied that they had a large rental car and would be happy to give us a ride since they needed to do the same thing. It was delightful! What a friendly and generous couple … who knows if we’ll ever see them again, but that morning was a gift. To spend time and talk with people who are literally in the same kind of transition and understand all the ups and downs of the experience, and then to be able to pray over them as they left, was truly a blessing.
Our flight out of Baltimore was scheduled for close to 10 am the following day, but we left the hotel early to make sure we could get Chuck checked in and ourselves also checked in with some time to spare. The hotel shuttle dropped me off at the cargo office with Evie and Chuck in tow, then took Lou and our luggage to the terminal so he could start that process. A few minutes after entering the cargo office (and after Lou and the shuttle had left), I was informed that the style of Chuck’s travel kennel was not only unacceptable but had actually been banned by United Airlines cargo (possibly other airline cargo companies as well, I have no idea). AND they did not sell other kennels. AND there was nowhere nearby to purchase a new kennel. In tears, I texted Lou and we agreed that we had no idea what to do.
Then the hand of the Lord moved yet again as I remembered a seemingly offhanded FB comment from my friend Jennifer that they lived an hour away, should we need anything. I messaged her, quickly explaining the situation and stating that I didn’t even know what favor I was asking. Her response was a photo of their own dog kennel and a statement that she could could be out the door almost immediately. I updated Lou and then we all waited while she drove the hour from her home to my location. I literally burst into tears when I saw Jennifer’s van pull up. She gave me a big hug, helped me put the kennel together, drove to the terminal to get Evie’s carseat, drove back to pick up me and my daughter and then returned us to the terminal. AND she took my old kennel away for me. You guys, this “military family” thing is a glorious thing to behold.
We got to the gate just in time for the pre-boarding, only to be told by the gate agent that the straps I was using to hold the stroller tightly collapsed were “unsafe.” So I took them off (again in tears) and hoped to high heaven that the stroller would be protected without them. The ONE blessing of this flight was that we were seated just behind the bulkhead, meaning there was no seat for Evie to potentially kick whilst in her carseat. Our flight change in Chicago was relatively quick and the gate was shoved into the end of a concourse with 4 other gates and every gate was full of people and we almost couldn’t find any seats … Almost. We discovered three empty seats right next to a Starbucks. Ah, blessed Starbucks.
The fight to Minneapolis was easy and we again were fortunate to be able to retrieve all of our belongings in relatively short order. Now we had to get from Minneapolis to Grand Forks, a decision that had been brought about upon realizing that the low temperatures in Grand Forks could very likely make it impossible to have Chuck on the plane. The temperature in Minneapolis wasn’t great, but it was doable. Additionally, we had purchased a vehicle from my parents that was currently being shipped to Minneapolis, where our friend Jimmy (initially an acquaintance but now a legitimate friend) was waiting to receive it and hand it off to us to drive the final leg of our journey. Upon landing, we learned from Jimmy that not only had the vehicle not arrived, but it was not likely to arrive for another several hours … there’s no way we could make the trek to Grand Forks that night.
Because we knew this *might* be a possibility, I had already looked into nearby pet-friendly hotels. I called one, confirmed they had space (and military rates) and we waited for the shuttle. The shuttle took longer to arrive than we would have liked, but arrive it did and we made our way to the hotel. Along the way, I had been keeping my dad updated on the situation since he had not only sold us the vehicle but had also made all of the shipping arrangements, and I knew he would want to know about the delivery timeline hiccup. When the hotel clerk began checking us in, another clerk overheard and told her it had already been paid for and she would just need to change the name to mine. MY DAD PAID FOR THE FLIPPING HOTEL ROOM. Cue more tears – I was past the ugly cry at this point. Jesus blew us away again.
Even though he would no longer need to receive the vehicle for us, Jimmy still came over to have dinner with us and even drove us across the street to where the driver would eventually deliver the vehicle. We were a bit ahead of the driver so we wandered around Menard’s (a huge home supply store) until he called to let us know he’d arrived. He said it would take about 20 minutes to unload the vehicle, so we walked around some more and then headed outside and around the back of the store to where the large truck was parked. Not only was the vehicle not unloaded, but it’s placement on the trailer made it the last possible vehicle to be unloaded … so much for 20 minutes. It was too cold for Lou and I to stand around outside and wait, but even more so for Evie, so we were thankful for the Taco Bell situated across the parking lot, where we waited another 20 minutes.
And that, believe it or not, is the end of the trauma and drama. We got the truck, made a quick Walmart run, slept well, had a full breakfast, enjoyed an easy drive to Grand Forks, and have since been getting acquainted with our new home.
This entire story took place over the course of 4 days, and I think it’s fair to say they were some of the most stressful and challenging days of my life. It literally felt like one thing after another, and even though you can see God’s continued hand on us when you read from start to finish, there were times when it was (FOR REALS) difficult, almost impossible even, to comprehend. But even now as I look back over my own story, I can see not just the large moments but also the small ones – each person who came alongside us, each challenge that ended in resolution, each experience that gives us wisdom to pass on to others who are also new to the PCS-across-the-planet season. And at the end of the day, my husband still loves me even though I’ve taken out my frustrations on him. My daughter still loves me even though I’ve lost patience with her more times than I can count. My dog still loves me even though it was so cold outside for his poor little paws that he couldn’t poop for 2 days. And the steady stream of prayer and encouragement from our family and friends continue to come, showing me just how kind and loving the Lord is to His children.