On Saturday, the DoD announced the extension the stop movement order through June 30, with the option to lift the restrictions before that date – if conditions allow. This means that Clay is restricted to only ‘local’ leave ( >50 miles) and the majority of the scheduled PCS’s (permanent change of station) are delayed. Our little family certainly aren’t the only ones to be impacted by this news and all things considering, we’re in a good position. We received official orders a couple of weeks ago, so it is difficult to complain when so many others are surrounded by more uncertainty. Yes – we’re extremely disappointed that our planned two-week Costa Rica adventure will no longer happen this summer and we still have no idea when or how we’re actually moving from the Nation’s Capital to the Windy City, but we have faith that by Labor Day we will be living our best life in the Second City. And if not – well, it’s not like we predicted that the first half of 2020 would be like this so who knows what’ll happen in the second half? Maybe we’ll wake up on Christmas morning at a location we’re not every tracking. After all, life is like a box of chocolates…
For our sanity, we’re putting one foot in front of the other and living as if we’re PCSing to Chicago as planned. When we found out that an overseas assignment wasn’t in our cards this time around (cries), we kept our fingers-crossed for a west coast assignment. So we were caught a bit off-guard when we learned that the Army is sending us to Chicago next. It’s not that we have anything against the third largest city in the United States – far from it. But the opportunity to live (and visit!) various locations around the globe is one of the many reasons why our family doesn’t have plans for Clay to leave the Army anytime soon. And because we were stationed at Fort Leavenworth for a year, we felt like we had already checked the midwest block, so to speak (yes, I know – Kansas City and Chicago are very different). Additionally, Clay is from Ohio and I spent almost every summer growing up in Michigan, so we’re quite familiar with that area of the country. For these reasons (and others), it took us a few days to process the news and for excitement to build.
Things we’re looking forward to in Chicago…
Winter. Perhaps it is because Washington DC’s 2019/2020 winter was unseasonably warm with no measurable snowfall, but our little family is craving winter weather. We’ve lived enough places over the years to know that we appreciate four seasons and we’re happiest in a location with a proper winter. Yes – Chicago is notoriously windy and cold and the average annual snowfall is only 36 inches but that is over double the amount of snow Washington DC receives so we’ll take it (but it admittedly pales in comparison to the 101 inches we experienced up at Fort Drum). We’ve scoped out ski slops near Chicago for day trips and we plan on taking at least one ski trip up to Canada this upcoming winter.
Canada. Speaking of our northern neighbor, we’re also excited to be closer to Canada during this assignment. When Clay and I were up at Fort Drum, we traveled quite a bit throughout Canada and fell in love with both the countryside and cities of the Great White North. We’re hopeful that one of our big vacations while stationed in Chicago will involve an epic road trip that takes us to as many provinces and territories as possible.
Upper Peninsula, Michigan. Along the same lines, we’re looking forward to being closer to the UP and Michigan itself. My extended family is in Michigan, I grew up vacationing there, and there is a special place in my heart for northern Michigan. The scenery is absolutely stunning and the beaches are among the most beautiful in the world. In fact, coastal Michigan is on the short list of places Clay and I can actually envision ourselves after the Army. I’ve long been fascinated by Lake Superior and look forward to spending more time along it’s rocky shores.
The food scene. While Washington DC has its fair share of great food, it simply cannot compare to the diverse culinary scene that encompasses Chicago and it’s surrounding neighborhoods. Our family loves to eat and experience new restaurants. Of course Chicago is known for deep dish pizza, steak, Italian beef, and hot dogs; but the sheer number of ethnic neighborhoods will ensure that we’ll have no shortage of food to try during our two years in Chicago.
The museums. On any given day, we’ll be able to explore art, history, culture and the universe. Popping into a museum on the weekend when we’re out and about is a family habit we’ve acquired living in the land of the Smithsonian so there is no doubt that we’ll become members of many museums in Chicago to keep the tradition alive. The Museum of Science and Industry, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Field Museum have me the most excited.
The architecture. Our little family loves to explore major world cities on foot and getting lost among unique buildings while learning their history is a favorite pastime (especially if our journey leads to a famed toy store for the kids). Chicago is known for its architecture and we’re very much looking forward to seeing examples of building innovation and experimentation in person.
Living near extended family. We have extended family in Ohio and Michigan so it will be nice to reconnect with relatives that we don’t see very often. A few haven’t even met our daughter yet!
And finally, living on the water. Clay and I were spoiled living 100 yards from Lake Ontario during our Fort Drum days and haven’t lived that close to a body of water since. However, it’s very possible that the house we’ll be assigned in the North Shore will have a view of Lake Michigan and we’ll be within walking distance of an access point. While we’ve enjoyed our kayaks here in the Washington DC area, the Potomac is notoriously polluted so it hasn’t been our favorite place to be on the water. We foresee that our family will spend many hours using our kayaks and paddle boards during our two-year stint in Chicago.
Of course, all of this only rings true if we’re actually moving into a new time zone this summer. The narrative changes weekly so we’re hopeful we’ll have a better idea of what our next two months will look like soon. And in the meantime, we’ll just continue to take it day-by-day like so many others. Because honestly, what else can we do?