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    Ho-Ho-Ho! Military Families Share Their Holiday Mishaps

    Raise your hand if you put pressure on yourself during the holidays. If you could see me, then you’d know that I have both arms raised high. I’m not sure what it is, but there is an inclination to want to make everything perfect for the holidays. We want everyone to be together, but we also want our kids to be well behaved, the cookies to be perfectly baked, and the ham to be moist.

    Perhaps it’s our desire to create lasting memories as military families that drives our need for perfection. That somehow, the more seamless the holidays, the more memorable it will be. But isn’t it the opposite?

    I don’t know about you, but it’s often the things that go wrong that stay stuck in my head and bring a smile to my face. With that in mind, let’s embrace the misfortunes, mishaps, and mistakes!

    There’s so much out of our control in military life that makes planning the perfect holiday nearly impossible. Whether we’re far from family, have holiday events to attend (or host), and deployments that cause active duty spouses to be away, it's always something. And if your spouse is home, then it might be because you’re PCS’ing. Come along for a chuckle and see if you've been there/done that too with the following stories!

    Ho-Ho-Ho! Military Families Share Holiday Mishaps-1

    There's No Place Like...Home?

    From Michelle: 

    In December of 1990, Michelle and her husband were checking into their very first duty station at Cherry Point, North Carolina.

    They got there two days before Christmas, checked into a terrible hotel (the kind that haunts your dreams), and spent Christmas Eve doing check-in tasks to the base. And, if that wasn’t enough, they were left to forage for their Christmas dinner. New to a tiny town with nothing open to choose from, they found a small gas station and scrounged for their fancy Christmas dinner there. Can you guess what they found? A metal dog bowl, a large can of Dinty Moore Stew, snacks, Pop Tarts, and bottled water. And that’s how they spent their very first Christmas together.

    ringing check in bell at hotel


    Saving Face (or Not)

    From Jen McDonald:

    “So you know one part of holidays and military life are all the events you get voluntold to go to...I mean, are honored to attend! This can involve outfit swapping or reusing as you go from holiday party to holiday party, not to mention setting up sitters, getting hostess gifts, etc.

    One Christmas season, we were attending a holiday open house at my husband's commanding general's home—lovely, down to earth people—but I had decided (why, I don't know) to wear a longer dress. I had even walked through it in my mind, the need to hold up the hem so I wouldn't trip, since at the best of times I'm a little accident prone and klutzy. Yes, great decision in the making.

    Well, fast forward to the event and we came up the long walkway to their home where they stood, doors open to greet us. Right as I was saying hello and daintily holding up the edge of my skirt, I tripped over the threshold and caught myself in a sort of bow/fall right in front of the door. What could I do? I started laughing and said, 'Well, I'm here!'

    So thankful they were normal people who laughed along with me!!”


    people holding glasses of wine at holiday season

    Extended Family Joys

    From Mary Eckberg:

    “Growing up, our extended family (aunts, uncles, and cousins from all corners of the earth) would gather for a big potluck meal and sample all sorts of dishes and desserts. After feasting, the men would start a card game and the women and children would linger by a piano and sing whatever Christmas songs came to mind. From hymns to holiday favorites, we’d all pretend we were auditioning for 'American Idol' with our caroling skills.

    One year, we rallied at the home of a relative that didn’t have a piano. Knowing this might be an issue for post-meal entertainment, the hostess rented a karaoke machine. Wow! What an upgrade! The catalog of songs available with this newfangled form of technology had even the most shy personality embracing their inner Broadway star.

    It was all well and good until Great Aunt Arnie had a little bit too much Gluhwein and started to sashay around the living room with the microphone while performing a sultry version of 'Santa Baby.'

    I still can’t listen to that song without picturing Great Auntie fabulously adorning family members with tinsel that she’d removed from the Christmas tree. So very Marilyn Monroe!”

    young girl singing karaoke


    Making Christmas Wherever You Are

    From Laurie:

    One December Laurie and her husband received orders to PCS across the country during the holiday season. Instead of snuggling into their warm home with Christmas decorations in place, they were preparing to uproot their lives and find a new place to call home.

    With her husband gone, she handled the movers solo on the 20th. And when her husband came home on the 22nd, they hopped in the car and started their long road trip to their next duty station. Oh, and let’s not forget the fact that she was 34 weeks pregnant at the time!

    But she didn’t let it stop them from celebrating the holidays. Though the trip involved frequent stops, they strapped a small Christmas tree to the grill of their truck and called it a win.

    family with children sitting in back of minivan on road trip


    Holiday Travel or National Lampoon's Vacation?

    From Danielle Keech:  

    For my story, we’re going to rewind to when I was ten and my parents surprised us with a trip to Disney World. But we weren’t the kind of family that flies. My dad decided a few years back to pursue his childhood dream of owning a bus. He lived to take us on cross-country road trips like his parents did for him. So he bought a 1962 Greyhound bus and converted it from a passenger vehicle into a space that we could eat, sleep, and potty. But here’s the kicker; it was decades old and, if you know anything about aging vehicles, needed a lot of work.

    We ventured from Missouri to Florida in our pursuit of Disney World, stopping to sleep in Walmart parking lots along the way. But, and you probably saw this coming, the trip wasn't without mishap. We woke up Christmas Eve morning, started down the road, and realized that something wasn’t right. In fact, something was terribly wrong. We pulled over and spent Christmas Eve in an ice storm on the side of the road. My dad stepped into the cold trying to figure out what went wrong. My mom gave us presents trying to salvage the Christmas spirit and my brother and I watched Christmas movies.

    With businesses closed for the holidays, our dream of Disney World was fading away. Miraculously, my parents figured out the problem, fixed it, and we went on our way. Only half a day of driving behind schedule, we made it to our magical destination and spent the rest of our holiday vacation with Mickey Mouse!

     miniature bus sitting on wooden post

    Can you relate to any of these holiday misfortunes? As much as I hope you can’t, I’m sure that you can. And, you probably have your own book of stories that you laugh about now, years later.

    Have a holiday mishap? We’d love to hear! Please take a minute to share your story in the comments.

    If you're facing a holiday move and need to sell your home, MilitaryByOwner is the place to begin! See our tips for selling your home in winter below. 

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    All photos from Canva

    Danielle Keech


    Danielle Keech

    Danielle Keech is a writer and content creator for MilitaryByOwner Advertising. She writes on military life topics, highlights clients’ open houses on social media, and manages the Military PCS Facebook group. She especially enjoys covering financial topics and helping military families exercise financial responsibility and plan for the future. Danielle has been a Marine Corps spouse for ten years (and counting!) and is a momma to four littles and one fur baby. She and her pilot spouse have lived in Virginia, Florida, Texas, California, Hawaii, and, most recently, Okinawa, Japan. And yes, you guessed it, Hawaii is her favorite duty station to date! Find MilitaryByOwner's Millitary PCS group here.

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