Going ALL IN


This Pennsylvania girl said I’d follow my military man anywhere. There wasn’t a place I didn’t think I could live. Then we moved to North Carolina and Virginia and I told him I could no longer go North. We had moved south of the Mason Dixon line and he’d have to carry me kicking and screaming to get me back across that invisible line (one word: winter).

Then we loved and lived life in three different Countries and we left pieces of our hearts in each one. Our children’s growth marked black on the bathroom wall, painted over fresh for the next family. That curry plant I loved so much, mowed over days after we left.

And the Navy drops us in this place where we finally have family, and we settle in so deep and permanently. And I narrow the window of what I think I can do and where I can live. Because roots run wildly deep and I’d forgotten all I missed with family close by.

But this time of year reminds me that what and where I am living is temporary. Because it is moving season and our family’s identity is wrapped up in this life we call the Navy.

Each year as the world rises from the deep slumber of winter, bursting overnight with fragrance and color; when the evening sun begins to stretch days long before settling down for the night, the moving trucks invade.

And I am pulled back to my military identity and remember that, in the not so distant future, that truck may be pulling up to my home to empty and fill with another family’s belongings.


Because when the military tells us it is time, we pack up our homes, our memories, our hearts and head in a new direction. Again!!!! And as we pack, we decide what things need to be left behind….like those favored candles that can’t make the trip, and the spices that we are suppose to throw out, and that grill that is just heavy enough to send our weight allowance over the edge.

These small letting-go-of’s prick us deep because it is not just about the candles and spices and things; but because we are leaving chunks of a life lived wholeheartedly in this place.

Because there is no other way to live but ALL IN.

So if that moving truck has pulled up in front of your home and you are one that is just not ready, know that you can do it. You can dig up and replant. You can let go and still take with you a piece of what you had.

Because living ALL IN is not just about the letting go of, but also the reward you have when you plant both feet firmly on the new soil you call home.

Dig in deep and plant strong roots; live loudly and engage community; make best friends, plant wild flowers and paint walls bright colors.

Your friendships will be richer, your days brighter, and your heartbeat stronger when you live life ALL IN.

Italians saying goodbye as the US Navy pulled out of La Maddalena Italy for the last time

Italians saying goodbye as the US Navy pulled out of La Maddalena Italy for the last time


70 thoughts on “Going ALL IN

  1. Loved this. I am waiting for my final home that is being remodeled since we just retired. I just can’t wait to go “all in.” Enjoy every moment. You will miss it.

    • Lesley thank you! I can only imagine the culture shock and changes you experience going from active duty to retired. Praying you can go “all in” and love life where the Lord leads you! How sweet to have a final home in sight!!!!

    • Aww miss Lesley I read this and I saw your comment and all I can think of the good times in Bitburg , Germany 😉
      We miss you and your family a lot !!!

  2. We haven’t had to experience moves as a reservist family and my son and his wife have only had to move once so far. It was an adventure across country for them…one that was nice to see them embrace with excitement. But I love your encouragement here for those who walk a similar journey of regular moves. My hope is for my son and his wife that wherever they may go next that they are able to plant those feet of theirs and call it home. Love your heart. Blessings.

    • Thank you Beth. I think we embrace moving differently at different stages of our lives. Up until now, we have gone wholeheartedly wherever the Navy sent us. Now, with the thought of leaving my son for college, and moving to a far off place away from family again, it is a daunting thought. But God does go before us and never leaves us stranded!!!! Thank you for your encouragement!

  3. Those of us who are not military family members cannot – no matter how hard we try! – understand the difficulties each family faces as they “go all in” to support their military spouse/father/mother. I can only say thank you to each of you and keep you in my prayers.

  4. I’m just about to embark on my very first such move, which will take me away from the country I grew up in and friends and family of over 30 years…I will admit to feeling terrified and overwhelmed, but also excited about what our next family adventure will bring. Thank you for your words of advice – I am now planning to just pull on my big girl pants and jump ‘All in’!

    • Anna, I understand your feelings and hesitation for your upcoming move. I have been there. You are embarking on an amazing journey. So much of your happiness and success at your new location will be your attitude going in. Embrace the excitement and you will do great!!!!

  5. You were able to put into words what we felt as an Active Duty Army family for almost 21 years! We were ‘ALL IN’ where ever it was we landed & called home for whatever amount of time the Army had us there! Such deep Friendships & memories made with our military family! God Speed to you as you embark on yet another adventure & chapter in your life!

    • Thank you Catherine. It is nice to hear from people who have made it through 21 years and look back and see all the good!!!! I appreciate your encouragement.

  6. This was very refreshing and made me look at my military life in a different. It was nice before kids and now I just have so much anxiety about moving. When my husband came home with orders to South Korea I cries for a week. My girls were so use to their life I thought when really I was. They love it here and I’m still trying to find my happy place.

    • Tequila thank you for your honesty in your response to receiving orders to South Korea. There is a definite grieving process as you move from the life you know and love, only to start again and embrace everything new. I hope and pray you will make lasting friendships and experience things you will never forget in your lifetime.

    • You will love South Korea. We spent two years there. It was my husband’s last duty station. I grew up in the Navy. My husband spent seven years in the Air Force and then thirteen years. He has been retired for sixteen and I miss it every day

  7. I love your post, my husband is retired after 24 years in the Air Force. My oldest son is Navy and was in La Maddalena from 2004-07 on the USS Land. He PCS’d from there just before the base closed down. His currently in Maryland getting ready to PCS again to Norfolk.

  8. The guy in the photo name is Roby. He is an amazing pizza maker and all the Americans loved him. We went back and visited July 2013 and after 6 years he still remembered me! I was stationed on the ship (Emory S Land) when we left and he followed us in his boat. Had a whole lot of sailors tearing up.

  9. I worked in La Madd for my college internship…I didn’t know it had closed 😦 God provided the best instruction there because I later married an active duty Army man 🙂 He’s been retired about 2.5 years now and I’m dreaming of house shopping. I mean, I’m dreaming. In my sleep. Of finding another house in another city, while I’m sleeping in my bed in the 2nd house we’ve ever owned! After almost 25 years of moving, apparently my brain is doing the expected prep work (although it doesn’t look like we will be ACTUALLY moving any time soon.) May you have a sweet shore duty with short hours near a beautiful beach for your next destination….

    • I find myself mentally preparing for the next move after about two years so I can see how it would be hard to finally be in one place with no move to prepare for!!! Great thing about the Navy is most duty stations are close to the beach. We are blessed this time with shore duty, the beach and family!!! Can’t get much better.

  10. My first PCS after my kids started school was my hardest and I knew I didn’t have another left in me as an active duty mom so when I was able to I retired with nearly 21 yrs. I followed my husband overseas and transitioned with the kids to a new life as military spouse without the uniform and another PCS back to the states thinking how lucky we were to have been able to serve so long. Now that he is retired I miss the military community but hold my friendships dear. Thanks for writing – you are gifted and I hope you will continue to share your insights on life in the military. I’m proud of my 4 kids – oldest will be applying to college in the fall and he is not afraid to go anywhere or try anything and I’m certain the military gave him that strength! My youngest is 6 and her only real memory of life as an active duty dependent is her preschool on base. She started kindergarten after my husband retired! Although I am happy to not have to move again on orders, I hope she grows up to be resilient and open minded and able to embrace change. It is something we shouldn’t take for granted.

    • Hi Robin. Thank you for sharing your story. It is a good reminder of the positive experiences and character traits the military life affords us and our children. I love watching my children grab hold of their “military kid” identity and be proud of it. They get to experience so much and I agree with you in that the military takes the fear out of the unknown because our kids have done it all!!! I want to thank you and your family for your service to our Country!!!

  11. What a lovely post. We are Active Duty Coast Guard. We have been at this duty station a year now. My kids embrace the best of what each place has to offer! I just saw a picture of our old house (two duty stations back) which we had to sell. Its all newly renovated. The homeowners did what we would have loved to do had we not chosen this life. It made me want to cry. But, in the last year, I have made some fantastic friends who love me despite “just two years left”. That’s the joy of the military – you have friends all over the country or world.

  12. After 18years of this life, it’s never gotten easier, but it’s always been wonderful. Thank you for an awesome blog post. Going all in is the only option in this crazy military life!

  13. Beautifully written. Our family isn’t military, but academic, and much of what you write resonates. We probably move less often (although we do move frequently enough….four states in 15 years), but every year there are painful goodbyes as beloved students or faculty friends move on. And there is the temptation to hold oneself back from fully rooting in this place that is almost-but-not-quite home.

    • I am sure you experience very similar struggles and joys! Any job that has transition as a constant can relate to the military family! You are so true about the hesitation to hold yourself back when you know this place is not quite home!!! It takes intentional release to go all in!

  14. My father was AF for all of my growing up…my husband spent 28 years in the AF. We have now lived in one spot for 14 years. I keep praying for the packers and trucks to show up! LOL! For the first time in my entire life I have to clean the curtains, and put them back up on the same windows. I have to clean out closets, and return things to them. AND we are at the stage of having to do home repairs and carpet replacing.
    Enjoyed every moment of traveling….how else would I have seen Big Ben, gone up the Eiffel Tower, gotten candy as a child in Tokyo, seen that a VW van CAN get through a tight residential street in Brugge, Belgium by driving over front stoops…with the mirrors tucked in!
    I’ve also gotten my groceries in an open air bazaar, driven the Silk Road, ridden on the Orient Express…my kids have gone to international schools in Central Asia, British public schools in England, JFKennedy Schule in West Berlin…and saw, first hand, the fall of the wall.

  15. I loved reading your insight and perspective on being “All in” when it comes to military life. While we all have our own ideas and opinions on what the proper military life should be, allow me to add another side that most don’t hear about. We all hear about the grueling deployments we face as families and the inevitable moves we must prepare for as part of the armed forces reality. However, some of us don’t have the option to follow our spouses wherever they go. I’m dying inside right now because instead of preparing for the dreaded trucks next month, I’m preparing a speech to explain to my children why daddy will be living away from us for two years while we stay put. You see, the “base” my husband is taking command of is not a true base in the sense we know it. There is no housing, no commissary, no NEX, no Naval hospital. Nothing. We also have no way of receiving COLA because it’s in a stateside location that’s not designated for the benefit. It’s also not in an area where there are Prime Remote facilities, forcing our hands to be tied for our healthcare. These are only a few of the reasons why my children and I are having to stay behind and choose to write our own, new definition of “All In”. While Geo Bachelor is certainly not what we had planned or wanted, it’s the only option we have for our family due to the lack of options provided by this tour. The positive, silver lining though is it’s only a 2-year-tour and we’ll do our best to make it fly by. We will be living across the country from one another, but thank God for Skype! 🙂 Thank you again for your piece and God bless you for your service as well.

    • You bring to light a very real struggle many military family’s face. I pray you and your family not only survive, but thrive during this geo bachelor assignment. Thank the good Lord for technology!!!

  16. As an Air Force brat we moved a lot too. Saw a lot of the world at a young age. I miss it sometimes. I have a huge love for all things Military and the people who serve and their families who serve too. Much love to you and your family!!

  17. I grew up a Marine’s daughter and I am now a Marine’s wife. I’ve never considered anywhere “home,” but I’ve always considered each and every place an adventure I wouldn’t trade for the world. As a child going to 7 different schools before 5th grade and 10 before graduating high school, I know that wherever the military takes my family, my children, husband, and I will have experiences most people can only dream of. I experienced more cultures and lifestyles in my childhood years than most will experience in their life.

  18. My Dad was military, moved across Canada to the north, then married another uniformed man, had 26 physical moves in 25 yrs.. Loved every moment, never a bad move. Children missed friends but they & we can travel across Canada & visit & reminisce.. Thanks again uniformed men & women, you have done it all & make us very proud.

  19. This is so great, and very timely as our moving truck will pull up in less than a week after 3 wonderful years in the same house. The house where I brought home my 3rd baby, the house where my older two learned to read, the house where all those little things happen that just fly by so quickly. I posted it to my FB wall so that my non-military friends who will be left behind could read it too. Because there is no other way to go than ALL IN, but it is hard on them too. Anyway, thank you.

    • Thank you so much for your words. You are so right about how hard our moves are on the ones we leave behind as well!!! I hope your move goes smooth and you make sweet memories with your family at your new location.

  20. Thanks you for this! We are getting ready for move #6 in our 7 years of marriage. I like your going all in idea. This move I didn’t go all in and I can tell a difference in my happiness. So, I vow to go all in for the next move, even though it’s only for a year! Thanks again for this 🙂

  21. Wow, this piece absolutely soars. I’m sending it to my Army son & wife, and our younger son who has moved halfway across the country with his wife to help plant a church in an under-served city. God bless you and your Navy guy!

  22. I love this! There isnt any other option except ALL IN for my family. We have made every house a home, lived like the locals, embraced the differences and moved on while leaving chunks of our hearts and soul behind. Maybe it makes it harder to say godbye, but it makes our time there so very rewarding. I meet far too many who “hate” where they are stationed but they never hang pictures on the walls or explore their new city. ALL IN is the only way to go! My husband retired two years ago and in his speech he really praised me for giving everything my all in this nomadic life. It meant so much to know how my attitude and ability to dive into each new sitiuation helped make things so much more fun for our family.

  23. Oh this hits close to home in the season of life we are in….
    We are preparing for a move to Colorado, thank you for your words of encouragement!

  24. My husband retired in 1980 but I still remember each and every move, the first in was in 1962 just several weeks after the birth of our son. Oh Goody, what timing!!!!

  25. LOVE your story it is SO TRUE….ATTITUDE is EVERYTHING…if you approach a new move as an adventure you, children and your heart will follow. It’s true about EVERYTHING in life…it amazes me how often people complain about things like the Military/ hours/ children/ the commissary….ect…the more you complain the worse YOU feel about it. When everyone is complaining about their kids, the school, their husbands it’s easy to get drawn into a ‘bitch’ session….CHOOSE NOT to participate. If you choose not to do something to make it better…whatever it is in your life that is making you upset find a way to find joy in it. You will be rewarded with a much happier life. After 32 yrs my husband retired in April and I can truly say I am going to miss the moves and all the adventures we had around the world. Including La Maddalena! We were there when you were Lori! SIGH…I miss La Madd. He was on the USS EMORY S. LAND….

  26. My boyfriend was stationed in La Maddalena when we married. I was there for almost two years until the base closed. It was a great first duty station for me and we planted strong roots there and made many lasting friendships. As we moved from duty station to duty station our philosophy has been to join in, be part of our community, and to be kind to others who may be new to military life. This philosophy made life much easier! Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  27. Beautifully written! After 10 years of being an Army wife, this is the most important thing I have learned. If you sit at home, you will be miserable. We just PCSed to Fort Knox from Ft. Stewart and it was unbelievably hard to leave friends who had become our “battle buddies” during our husbands’ deployment but you just have to do it. You gotta go out and find another church, another scout troop, another tae kwon do class, another FRG, another PWOC and get involved and make friends as hard as it is. Incidentally, I was excited to read that you were stationed at LA Maddalena. My Dad worked on the USS Orion and we were there from 1981-1983. I started kindergarten there and remember a great deal. I am sad to hear that it has been closed.

    • Hi Melissa. That is amazing that you started kindergarten in La Maddalena. It was such an amazing duty station. My son did first and second grade there. We were so sad when it closed. Thank you for your words!

  28. I found this post from Fitnessista, and thought it was absolutely perfect. My husband and I are both on active duty and in less than one week all of my things will be shipped to Hawaii where I will begin at a new duty station, while my husband will stay behind in Ohio for at least a year. I have been struggling with leaving our home, leaving my husband, starting a new duty…but I think I can do it and live ALL IN for the time that we are apart, and add it to the incredible list of military experiences we have both had. Thank you for your insight!! Hoping I can be as graceful as you in this move!!

    • Thanks Jessica. I am praying for your and your husband as you struggle through the separation the military requires of you right now. I can only imagine what it must be like to juggle two careers in a marriage, on active duty!!!!

  29. My family and I are currently visiting family before our PCS move to Japan next week. This is our fourth military move, but our first overseas, and it had by far been the most difficult. Thank you for writing this,it reminds me that even though moving away it hard, we have precious memories and new adventures ahead!

  30. Thank you for sharing this. Although my husband left active duty after 10 years of service he is now working for the Department of Homeland Security and we are currently stationed in Puerto Rico. Although the regular PCSing is hard we find ourselves in a similar but very different situation. We are overseas, away from our family but as we approach the 3 year mark in few months, there is no hope for us to be able to move back stateside anytime soon. We live on a military base and as my friends and neighbors are getting their orders for their next duty location I sit and wonder when it will be my turn… Anywhere back in the “upper 48” would bring us closer to our family, which is our end goal.

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