Care Package Queens and Postal Virgins

Care Packages

How many care packages have you sent to your spouse over the years? It’s an interesting question. I actually wish I had kept track of this. I’d love to know the number of care packages I’ve sent out during my tenure as a military spouse, but I never kept a file. And let’s face it, if I had, I’d probably have thrown it away during one of those mad PCS purges.

Last week, I had to go to the post office to send something overnight. I know my way around a post office (the virtual one and the physical one) by now thanks to milspousedom, so I came prepared. I had already printed my Click N’ Ship label and all I needed was the Express envelope, which you can pick up at the post office supply table without having to stand in line. I was going to be in and out in less than a minute, then get on with my day.

Life doesn’t always cooperate. Unfortunately, my stealthy visit turned into a painful 20 minute ordeal.

The supply table was out of the envelope I needed so I had to stand in line and get one from the clerk. As I was standing there, (with half the county) I watched customer after customer approach the counter completely unprepared, something I’ve noted  in the past. I was thinking about the many, many days I had waited in line with my taped care package box and custom forms.

Over and over again, I heard the clerks tell people they needed to step out of line, fill out the proper label and step back up to the counter when it was ready. This scenario played out several times before I was served. Surely these patrons had heard the instructions 400 times, just as I had, yet nobody said to themselves, “Oh, I should probably step out of line, grab a form and try to have it filled out before I approach the counter.” Bearing in mind that I was once a postal virgin, it was still painful….

Now, I realize that we have become Care Package Queens after so much practice, and we have a bit more experience with the postal system than most people, but I was a little irritated. It’s clearly becoming a pet peeve and I really should get some help. Ha!

I truly think there is an opening here for military spouses to teach a course in how to efficiently send correspondence or care packages. At the very least, we could be hired to pre-screen customers so that nobody gets in line before they are ready to seal the deal. The Care Package Queens could whip those Postal Virgins into shape in no time at all!

Boy do I have a love-hate relationship with the post office…..

About the Author


Andi is married to an active-duty soldier and is the founder and former editor of SpouseBUZZ.

She is the founder of the Annual MilBlog Conference. The MilBlog Conference is the premiere event of the year for military bloggers. President George W. Bush, U.S. Representative Adam Smith, GEN David Petraeus, LTG Mike Oates, LTG William Caldwell, RADM Mark Fox, MG Kevin Bergner, MG David Hogg and The Honorable Pete Geren have addressed previous conferences.

While living in Washington, DC, Andi was the Ambassador to Walter Reed Army Medical Center for Sew Much Comfort, a non-profit organization which makes and delivers, free of charge, special adaptive clothing for wounded service members. Andi has worked with several non-profits to help our wounded heroes and their families. She finds that work to be the most rewarding and meaningful of all.

Andi strives to find humor in the good, bad and ugly of life and is a firm believer that laughter has the ability to cure most ills.

  • joyce

    I have kept the customs form copy from each package, so I have a nice record of what I sent and how many. small town post offices are the best. we about fainted when a small town clerk welcomed us to come back. and my son’s bride was so used to filling out the customs forms for our son’s packages to A-stan, that she filled one out for the neice in Alaska at the AFB, only to be told she did not need one for there. I love sending things to the Alaska AFB son, as I can use the machine. no need for rude clerks.

    strangest thing I have sent to soldier—lady pads. I had read online that they worked great for heat rash under helmets. my soldier friend in Iraq could not figure out why on earth I had sent panty liners.

  • I miss the DIY little booth we had in ND. They don’t have them in Texas.

  • Tracey

    I still can’t figure out the online shipping label…it’s faster to run to the post office! I routinely throw my copies of the customs forms away…I’ve been doing this almost 30 years (20 of them overseas) so can you imagine the mess of papers I would have collected??? I actually miss his remote tours when I could mail MPS…I was lucky to remain overseas both times.

    • Andi

      Tracey – I love, love, love Click N’ Ship. It did take me a few times to get used to it (I was a Click N’ Ship Virgin), but when I figured it out, it was so convenient. I’ve never used it to send an overseas package, so I’m unsure how that works, but for all kinds of domestic mail, it’s great. You can request a pick up or just drop it at a Click N’ Ship box at the post office without having to stand in line.

  • bobbieg.

    Get over yourself. Unless you have worked at the post office for a living, or have a need to mail things on a regular basis a “simple” trip to the post office can be confusing. Suck it up and wait your turn like everyone else.

    • YearofBeansandRice

      Did you read the whole article, bobbieg? The author was clearly making fun of herself as she stated the same frustrations we have all felt at the post office. Why the rude response?

  • Renee L. Ten Eyck

    I didn’t track all the packages, but I do have a mental list of items and categories of repeat items sent over the years, to include mountains of vitamin supplements, christmas rope lights, and a medium size camping refrigerator.It is funny. When DH is gone, I keep a selection of the flat rate boxes at home along with a small pile of customs forms so that all my stuff is ready when I get to the post office. You’d think with how well military spouses are trained to be efficient, that more employers would see us as having the upper hand to all those others who are never prepare! Funny Andi!

  • Marti

    I recently came across all of the customs forms for packages that I sent to my son while he was in Iraq. There were 30 of them. In addition there were numerous items that I ordered on line and were sent directly from those vendors. Many ship fee to an APO adress.
    For those of you who are new to this…stock up on customs forms, address labels, and flat rate boxes. Have everything filled out before you get to the post office. Find out the time of day the post office is not quite as busy and if you can go then. I have found a small package store that accepts packages for postal pick-up. This is a real time saver.
    Good luck. I’m getting ready for the next deployment and beginning my stock pile.

  • Just an Army Mom

    I completely agree with Marti: Make a preliminary trip to the PO, pick up an inch stack of each form and a few of each size of box; it’s easy to complete the forms at home. We sent our son 20 boxes during his 15 month Iraq tour. Not sure if USPS still offers a discount on military box postage, but when they did, I saved $2 per box. I saved all the customs forms, so we have a record of all the “stuff” sent – some is hilarious. While it can certainly be irksome to wait behind unprepared folks in a PO line, did you know about the Postal “5 minute wait time” goal? If a mystery shopper waits more than 5 minutes, that PO fails that performance review – even if the wait is for a good cause (i.e., military box mailing). Nevertheless, if someone is sending a package to one of our military members, I’m happy to wait. Especially since our son’s now-ex-wife sent a grand total of 3 boxes and maybe 6 letters during his tour. Thank you, everyone, for taking care of our guys and gals who put their lives on the line.

  • Amy M

    I was a “newby” as well! I remember a desperate email I rec’d the first day my husband arrived at his new home away from home! He needed large items like blankets, robes, sheets, etc. to hold him over since their boxes would be delayed a month! Thankfully I live in a small community because I arrived with my things in a bag and confusion written all over my face! I was trying to figure out how I was going to get all of that into those nifty little flat rate boxes they had sent me weeks earlier and how much it was going to cost!

    She advised me to skip the flat rate boxes, sold me a large box for about $3 and we packed the things together! Turns out that with the box and postage, it was only $10!

    MY SUGGESTION: reuse boxes you get from online purchases or get them from stores that may be getting rid of them from their deliveries. I have yet to spend as much on any of the packages as I would if I used even the smallest flat rate boxes!