Monday, December 28, 2015

The Story of a Military Family (Chapter 3)

The trip from Portland, TX to Helena MT was purported to take 33 hours of drive time.  We planned to stop and visit with friends in the panhandle of Texas, and then spend another night in Cheyenne, WY.  We should have been able to make the rest of the trip in one day.  We were in two vehicles, with the 5 children moving back and forth between the vehicles at various stops.  Most of the trip went very smoothly.

The leg of the trip that started in Cheyenne, WY, and ended in Helena, MT, lasted 2 days.  After leaving the hotel in Cheyenne, we got about 3 1/2 hours up the road when a child needed to use the restroom.  Said child was about 5 years old, and wasn't going to last very long.  As we kept driving, the need became desperate, because there were signs that said "no facilities" posted for every exit we passed.  Finally it was determined that we would get off and allow the child to go on the side of the road, which was accomplished without further problems.  After finishing, our two cars both had problems...the Mercury Sable wagon, which I was driving, would not shift out of park, and the Mercury Tracer that Jason was driving wouldn't start.  We determined that the Tracer just had a bad battery connection, and it restarted after we poured an unfinished bottle of Coke over the connections.  The problems with the Sable proved to be terminal, so we spent an unplanned night at a hotel room in Buffalo, WY, and bought a 1988 Chevy conversion van for $1500 the next morning, and left as soon as the papers were signed.

That van got us to Helena, but we had no money for our hotel room, for dinner, or for any more gasoline.  Thankfully, Jason was able to reach someone at the NOSC, who came and helped out, and it was determined that we would drive back to Billings, MT, the next morning, and spend a week there with the family of the guy whose position Jason had come to fill in Helena.  The week of rest in Billings was good, though living out of a suitcase, and sleeping on inflatable mattresses (that refused to stay that way!) was not preferable for a 5-months-pregnant me.  During our stay, Jason took the ancient conversion van to a dealer, and traded it in for a BEAUTIFUL Pontiac Montana, complete with built-in DVD player, wireless headsets, and dual electric sliding doors.  THAT van lasted us for all of our 4 1/2 years in Montana.

We rode back to Helena in style, and settled in at the Inn on Ft. Harrison, while Jason checked into the command, and we did some house hunting.  We were at the Inn for 10 of us crammed into two bedrooms, with a connecting bath.  We finally found a place, and our household goods were delivered on August 24th, 2003.

Katherine was born on December 13, on the same day as Jason's first performance in the Dinner Theater at Hannaford Street Bible Church.  We came home from the hospital on Saturday, but were back at the hospital soon, as Katherine was jaundiced, and the winter sunlight in Montana was not terribly helpful.

In February, we moved again...this time into a smaller place which cost $200/month less in rent, and about $200/month less in electricity, too.

By August, I was working overnights at Walmart, and attempting to continue homeschooling at the same time.  Which did NOT work the kids went into school...Frances in 6th grade, Jon in 3rd, Heather in 2nd, and Justin in Kindergarten.

For the next 3 years, life was doable, but hard.  I was depressed.  We were perpetually short on funds. Our family was a 36-hour drive away from us.  We struggled relationally.  We were very happy to get orders back to the East we were off again, this time to Virginia Beach, VA!

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