Transition to Civil Life

State of Residency: Texas

State of your current driver’s license: Arizona

State in which your vehicles are titled: North Carolina

State in which your vehicles are currently registered: Hawaii

State where you currently live: California

This really speaks to our military life. It wasn’t until we gathered all our documents together to register the cars in our current state, California, that I realized just how much of our lives have been spread across the states. Soon these will all merge, but at the present I find myself still in awe at all the California license plates around; by contrast growing up here I always found it exciting to see out of state plates. My life has made a geographic full circle.


I have to take a driving test. California and their TESTS!!!! I’m going to put that off until after my licensing exam.

In my thoughts of exiting the Army life, I didn’t really know what to expect and I never asked anyone immediately after they retired out to find the most notable differences. Although, the hubs is still dwindling down his terminal leave, we’ve been reintroduced to civilian life the past three weeks. Complete with our boys starting school and this mom going back to office life. We have experienced Culture Shock in ways we couldn’t have predicted. Granted, if we had retired near a military installation, the change likely wouldn’t be as apparent. But with the closest base three HOURS away, the divide is great and the locals extremely patriotic.

Groceries: Although I didn’t know it at the time, Brendon said it best before we left, “No commissary? But where will we get our groceries?!” I thought it would be easy to figure out. Not so. I find if I talk to anyone longer than 5 minutes, I inevitably ask them where they buy groceries. I took for granted the ease the commissary brings. Costco, Safeway, Trader Joes, Raley’s, Winco, Food Maxx, strong cautionary tales again Walmart…. Not to mention the two closest grocery stores want me to be a super saving “member”. What?! No. I just want groceries.

Beards: I made a comment about beards on Facebook last week. Really and truly, beards are very BIG here. Maybe it’s a National phenomenon? I have no idea, but beards are so foreign in the land of service members. Even mustaches only make an appearance once a year, during Movember.


Last Movember

Identification: I still get my ID ready whenever I get in the car. Years of living behind a gate have made this an ingrained habit. I must have my ID in arms reach. Except I no longer live behind a gate. Nor do I shop where they need to see my ID at the door AND when I’m at the register (Costco being the only exception). It is strange how infrequently you show your ID in the civilian world. Except in the case of purchasing alcohol. I possibly was carded TWICE in two years at the Class Six for an alcohol purchase. Here, I have been carded each and every time. I am no spring chicken, but I appreciate the ever so slight ego boost.

Being New: I have been new many times. It is an expected side effect of the military lifestyle. “When did you PCS?” followed by “When DO you PCS?” are common conversation starters. I am new here too, except people constantly ask: “Are you new to the area?”; most often following a question that garners a look of confusion. Or best put by the employee at the DMV: “You aren’t the typical Redding customers.” That we are not.

Local Culture:  If you haven’t been around a military installation – it is the true melting pot. But for all its racial diversity, the military community is homogenous in its behavior, culture, and general appearance. Even those living in the near vicinity of military installations, somehow fall in line, for the most part, with the same “regs”. Now surrounded by civilians, I notice almost the exact opposite is true. In Northern California, the diversity is widely expressed in every way, outside of race, and the appearance of general American diversity almost disconcerting. (See above mentioned Beards)

The other factor here in the North State, is the palpable undercurrent of negativity. In recent years, the area has become overrun with homeless. Not the kind of homeless that roll around under bridges, keeping to themselves (this is what I envision I would do in triple digit heat, with no job or family), but instead homeless riddled with drug and alcohol addiction; blatant and belligerent. I think the lack of eradication by local law enforcement is breeding discord of an exponential level. Way beyond the level of disgruntled dependents I’ve been used to experiencing.

However, the biggest cultural change for the McNultys is the proximity to family and childhood friends. So far, it has proven to be a real blessing. Say when one is camping in their house for an undetermined amount of weeks or needing a quick sit for Back to School night. Life within the 50 mile buffer, so famously suggested by retired military, is going well. As for living in Redding long term? I’m not sure at this point. If I had to predict where we’ll be in 5 years, I’d guess we’d be off to Cottonwood for a little space and a whole lot of view. That is the dream.

big sky

“The Property”

*I haven’t figured out exactly what State of Jefferson is all about, but I’m sure I’ll find out soon.

…and…the donkey got out

Before the Y2K scare, I worked for an architect in Chico. It was a small operation and I had way more responsibility than I would’ve ever received in any other firm. My boss, although probably feeling some pride for me deciding to pursue architecture, tried to dissuade me from the profession. I did not listen. Off I went to architecture school.

Those days I sported my black architecture school uniform, had LOTS of ideas, and suffered regularly from delusions of design grandeur. I never really had a plan of what sort of architecture I would create beyond school and thought I’d likely become a generalist, akin to my previous boss. Instead the Army moved us to Tacoma and I joined a very large firm. It was divided in studios and each specialized in different project types. Cross contamination was limited. I became very proficient in Office and Retail buildings. Vanilla shells were cake and to this day I can turn a Tenant Improvement like a boss. I thrived in the energetic atmosphere.

I continued doing these very same jobs on my own, when they popped up and my boys would permit. I can’t say I ever thought about pursing something different. When you aren’t careful, proficiency can breed complacency; a common plight in every aspect of life. In truth, I’ve been aching for something different. After six years of surviving the endless laundry and dishes, the thousand “why?” questions, the terrible twos and threes – TWICE!, back to back, and most notably a lot of physical fitness, I am ready. It’s been a wild and fun ride with my boys and work on the side, but time for a change.

As we faced our major life shift, Vance leaving active duty, it seemed the perfect time for me to stretch my wings a bit. Since John still has a year of preschool left, I needed something very flexible. Granted I could have lobbied to join the large firm in town, enter a studio and hone a new specific skill set, but that’s not where my heart lies any more. Thankfully, I have the freedom to try something different. I alluded to the possibility of working for a long time engineer friend of mine a couple months ago.

Allude no longer. This was my first official week on the books as Hawaii/Arizona transplant* architect at Realm Engineering. The guys at the office seem to be tolerating my endless questions of daily operations, dramatic outbursts and general chattering in the background. Although, they would probably appreciate me eating fewer “you pick” organic plums from Geearbee Lane before heading to the office in the future.

The firm is more like the one I worked in before heading off to architecture school, lo those many years ago, just more engineering based. We’re also flirting the edge of architecture as I head in this Fall to retest for my California license. No studios, no specialization, we’re all doing it all. Together. It’s the perfect fit for me. Soooo, what did I do my first week on the job?

glamour in the rough

Visited a once thriving carpet store, now abandoned, vandalized and home to a horde of pigeons. It may be realized as a church, if the building department shows a little latitude and the resident crazies don’t scare away the congregation. There’s been plenty of desk work, plan submittals to clients and the building department and most notably a site visit that included a couple donkeys escaping their pen, by way of a dog. I kid you not. The intent of the visit was to talk to the owners about an addition to their residence; the donkeys were just added entertainment.

If I had looked into the crystal ball of my architectural future, I can’t say I would’ve ever seen this coming, as I surely never imagined a project that would include donkeys on the run. Ha! The abandoned building is pretty glamorous for architect types. So much possibility and promise. The chance to really revitalize an area overrun with drug infested homeless. Of course, that’s the idea anyhow. Reality and client finances are entirely different.

And how does my family feel about mom taking a job outside of the house?  On my first day going in, Brendon exclaimed, “I’m so happy for you! A real architect job. How special for you!” It is special for me in so many ways. It marks the true re-entry to working beyond being a stay at home mom and allows me to return to something I have greatly missed. Architecture and the office atmosphere.

*I’m a rule follower and you know if I don’t put my out of state architect status, the California Architects Board will be after me lickity split. I just know it!

This post is dedicated to Sparkle, Secrets, and Bacon.  I miss you ladies! We will always have Kauai. *sniff, sniff* ~ Giggles