How I Accidentally Landed in a Viper’s Nest

“Join the board,” they said. “You’d be great!” they said.

There I was, an innocent little baby-wife minding my own business when some of the more senior wives zeroed in on me and suggested I sit on the newly formed board for our Spouse’s Club. Sure, why not? I don’t have anything better to do and I was a little flattered besides. Of course if I were a of a suspicious mind, it almost seems obvious in retrospect; recruit the new and impressionable one with no social capital or ties of loyalty to challenge those in charge. Thank goodness the real reason I was nominated is because I’m such a charming and witty individual who brings so much to the table.

I don’t know how the situation is with all Spouse’s Clubs, but here at least it seems like jumping into a pit of viperidae is part of the job description of joining the board. Not even officially eased into the role and already I’ve been cornered with a round of phone calls from various people wanting to speak with me and clear the air and so many hurt feelings! Good lord, I haven’t been subjected to this much so-and-so-said since high school–and that was only hearing it second-hand from the popular girls who seemed incapable of airing their grievances in any other place besides public hallways (apparently I was never cool enough to have friends back-stab me first-handedly).

Maybe having missed all of this in high school and college with my own female relationships, I’m socially under equipped for navigating the adult world of inter-wifery-politics. At any rate, it makes me a bit uncomfortable as I attempt to find a safe path to plant my feet without squashing a viper or getting bit myself in the process. To make matters worse, I already bungled myself right off the bat when a mildly-lewd (but topical!) joke I made during a meeting was deemed Not Funny by a Very Senior Wife. Apologies for making you uncomfortable, Very Senior Wife, but I’m still going to chuckle at my own joke (hey everyone else laughed!).

It could be that I am simply “hyper aware” as my former therapist once put it, but growing up with a Borderline Personality Disorder mother tends to give one a crazy-radar as a consolation prize, and let me tell you, mine is starting to ping. Not full blown stage-5 blaring, but you know, a warning ping.

Here’s hoping I’m just “reading into things” (as my sister would say)!

Deciding on Housing

If you’ve received orders to move to 29, I’m sure by now you just can’t contain your excitement. 🙂 Of course the next thing to do is to find out what the housing situation is like.  I don’t have extensive experience in this department, but I will offer you what I know.

The decision to live out in town or on base is going to be determined by a couple things; 1. What is your personality? 2. Is he deploying? 3.  Are you able to find a job?

You might want to live on base if…

  • You have a lot of kids. There is just so much support there to help ease your load. Additionally, there aren’t a lot of options for daycare centers out in town, and most of the known reputable sitters seem to come from base anyway.
  • You enjoy being a part of the milspouse community and want to be active in your spouse’s unit. This was a big deciding factor for us to live on base. I enjoy being social, and when I lived in town I found that I was driving on base about twice a day for various meetings and social groups. I also like the idea of my friends as my neighbors, and don’t like to feel isolated.
  • You’re picky about the quality of your house. Before I moved here, I had heard nothing but horror stories about various base housing situations across the country and didn’t even think we would want to move from out of town. However once I got here, it became increasingly apparent that the best houses in 29 were on base! Officer housing, the new SNCO housing (all of Copper Canyon is beautiful!), and the newer enlisted houses (southern side of Adobe Flats) are all very nice. I would say with the exception of maybe the older enlisted housing units, you’re definitely not going to find anything comparable in 29. Many of the houses in town are poorly insulated, only have swamp coolers for A/C, and don’t have dishwashers.
  • Your spouse is deploying. This was another big reason why we moved. In my limited time here, it seems like 29 is rough not only on us, but on our spouses too. This place really seems to chew up and spit out SNCOs and up in particular, regardless of your MOS. My hubs was regularly putting in 12-14 hour days leading up to deployment, and I know some nights he was so tired he was tempted to sleep on the office floor. When we moved on base he really appreciated being less that 10 minutes away from home. Also, there’s a safety issue once he’s gone. My house out in town creaked and groaned to the point where you couldn’t tell if someone was entering or it was just settling. Certain locals are known for tracking houses of military families and breaking in to steal things once the spouse goes to the field, gets deployed, or the family leaves for the deployment. The area is also popular for meth houses. Of course you probably won’t find those until the police show up on your street, if at all.

You might want to live off base if…

  • Owning a home is important to you. The land and housing is cheap out here, so it might be a good time to take a risk, especially if you’re going to fix up the house and rent it out to other families once you PCS. 29’s main source of economy is the base, so as long as that isn’t going anywhere, I’d guess you have a good shot at keeping the house occupied for a number of years.
  • You really enjoy privacy and solitude. This is the desert. The silence is almost deafening at times, and neighbors can be spread pretty far apart. If that’s your idea of a good time, then you will definitely prefer living out in town.
  • You absolutely cannot live without being within a 10 minute driving distance of Walmart/Starbucks/Home Depot. Some people don’t adapt well to change, and for those people there’s Yucca Valley. Yucca Valley also has a Walgreens and a Rite Aid, instead of just a Rite Aid. If the amenities of the regular world are important to you, don’t even waste your time looking at off base housing in 29. Go to Yucca Valley; the area tends to be a little nicer housing wise, and you will be half way between base and Palm Springs. Keep in mind Yucca is about a 45-50 minute drive to base.
  • Having a job is a high priority. Again, live in Yucca Valley or as far southwest as your spouse will agree to add to his commute. The closer you get to Palm Springs, the better. The economy is pretty bad out here, and many spouses can’t find work. A high percentage of those who do have jobs seem to have been fortunate enough to get transferred from their previous work, and permitted to do a large chunk of it at home. Otherwise you’re competing with the locals for minimum wage retail or serving jobs.
  • You want to make money off of BAH. Of course, you will take a hit in your standard of living, but this can be a great way to compensate for the fact that you will probably not find a job out here. Shop around 29 and even Joshua Tree for cheap housing, and don’t tell them your BAH allowance. There are places around here that charge max BAH prices because they know they can get it. And let me tell you, I haven’t seen a house out here yet that warrants their advertised price of 1200 a month.
  • Power outages are a problem for you. For some reason, the base does not seem to be self sufficient when it comes to power (which is kind of scary to me). About once a month we will lose power for hours. These are not always pre-planned outages with warnings. I have lived on base for about 3.5 months and been through about 4 outages and only one was planned. It seems we get most of our power from somewhere in Palm Springs, but I don’t know much more than that. These outages mean things like no street lights or traffic lights at night, and manually unhooking your garage door so you can leave your house. Not to mention limiting opening your freezer/refrigerator. If your family has special needs, you can request a backup generator but I’m not sure about how long it takes to get one, or the process. When we lived out in town we only experienced an outage once, and it wasn’t more than an hour. Most of the other houses in town don’t seem to experience a power loss as frequently.

I guess that’s about it for determining where to begin your housing search. I will say that if you are not yet married but will be and want base housing, you are eligible to put your name on the list 30 days before your ceremony, and that will help you get a head start on the wait list. They give everyone out here a ridiculous estimation of 18 months for a house, but I’m calling their baloney. I would say average wait is about 4 months or less IF you constantly check in with the housing office on the status of your wait.

If anyone has any other questions, I will try and create another post later.

The Lifelong Learning Library

Today I discovered a great place to park if you are trying to access the Lifelong Learning Library on base. For the last week or so I have avoided dropping off the dvds I checked out on my first visit because the parking situation is so frustrating.

First of all, the library is located in a trailer-like skinny module that looks just like 70% of the other buildings on that street. Craning your neck to figure out which one is the library while driving and trying to avoid hitting Marines crossing the street, or cars backing out into the road, is super annoying. Second, the only real parking the library has is the few spaces directly in front of it–which means backing into traffic on the way out. Those are always full.

My first time there I circled around trying to find nearby parking and ended up going to the Hashmarks parking lot, which was pretty empty at the time. I then walked to the library, which involved crossing a street and trying to pick my way down a block filled with parked cars on the shoulder of the street (which may or may not be backing out), and no pedestrian path.

Long story short, if you park farther down and across the street at the old Exchange building, you can get pretty close to the library and save yourself some hassle (although it still involves trekking through sand and dodging traffic). I also learned that they can do inter-library loans with some Navy/Marine Corps bases, although the link wasn’t posted on the website. I found the link here if you’re interested in using it. I’m pretty excited about the fact that they let me check out past magazine issues! Hooray!

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