It wasn't a driver's license - but it was the next best thing. At the time we lived on Scott Air Force Base and the BX, Shoppette and Commissary were less then a mile up the road. With this ID Card I could hop on my bike and with my brothers trailing behind we could run quick errands for my mom. Mom might give me a couple of bucks and I could put a gallon of milk bought at the shoppette in my bike's basket; of course I couldn't bypass the candy-cigarettes or a pack of garbage-pail kids as my 'taxi toll'. When the cashier would ask to see my ID I would happily pull it out with a sparkle in my eye; as if I was 21 and could finally buy myself a drink.
Don't get me wrong. It's cold. There are still snow-piles throughout the neighborhood from the last snowstorm... but hey, at least we have our sidewalks back!
The boys and I were inside feeling rather gloomy. There was a little bit more arguing then usual between the two brothers, a little bit more yelling on my part.
So this afternoon for a change of pace we put on our jackets and shoes. My boys grabbed their new rain-boots from the Easter Bunny and we headed outdoors for a walk. I walked and they scooted on their scooters.
It raised our blood-pressure, got our hearts pumping and we enjoyed the sounds of new spring birds in the background, the smell of *very* wet grass, the sites of other children also forced out of the house by their mothers, I'm sure.
When we got home we walked around the yard to see the bulbs popping out of the ground & then they played together on the neighbor's swing-set for a little bit. No, the weather wasn't "perfect" but we made the most of it and came back inside feeling quite a bit better about our day.
Just as confusing are some of the government decisions on how much to pay us for PCS travel. With the current gas prices going towards $4 a gallon, the PCS mileage rate for your POV (privately owned vehicle) has gone down from $.20 a mile to $.19 a mile effective 1 January 2008. This is according to the latest information from the DoD Per Diem, Travel and Transportation Allowance Committee in a 17 March 2008 memo. According to the memo which I have linked below for your reading pleasure the GSA sets the mileage based on an IRS rate! So someone in the IRS portion of our government must not be driving a car but riding the metro or slugging it in DC.
If you do not know what a slug is I will provide a brief explanation: Many folks wait at bus stops and other locations in the DC suburbs for a ride to work and drivers stop to pick them up so they can get enough passengers in the car to meet the requirements of a high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane in order get to their offices quicker and more efficiently. So my suggestion is that the IRS has a bunch of slugs who never fill up a tank of gas so they don't know that the price of gas is going way up and has continued to go up for a few years!
Here is the link to the DoD memo for PCS Mileage Rates . So when the military member files their travel voucher after a successful trip across the US they will be seeing a bit less in their pocket book than last year!
I hope you found this informative and we always appreciate comments and helpful hints so shoot to me or at me (just don't audit me please) and I hope you have a wonderful and safe PCS travel this spring or summer!
Who is going to get the rebates and how much is it going to be? To quote from the official IRS website at Economic Stimulus Payments Information Center:
"Starting in May, the Treasury will begin sending economic stimulus payments to more than 130 million households. To receive a payment, taxpayers must have a valid Social Security number, $3,000 of income and file a 2007 federal tax return. IRS will take care of the rest. Eligible people will receive up to $600 ($1,200 for married couples), and parents will receive an additional $300 for each eligible child younger than 17. Millions of retirees, disabled veterans and low-wage workers who usually are exempt from filing a tax return must do so this year in order to receive a stimulus payment."
After reading a bit more information it appears that the first rebates will be sent electronically (direct deposit) to those who filed their federal taxes electronically and used the direct deposit payment method. Those who filed with a paper copy and were paid with a check will begin receiving their checks in the mail after the electronic filers. There will be payments going to 130,000,000 households so it may take a while to get your payment! I believe the earlier you file your taxes the better you will be for being in line to receive the payment.
There is also a Frequently Asked Questions section that I found very helpful at: Stimulus Payments: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions . If you can't find the answer to your questions you could query the IRS directly from the site.
If you need further assistance, most installation JAG offices have a tax advisor or volunteer group that can help you so give them a call if you need help. This service is free too! To find the JAG office at your local installation go to: MilitaryAvenue.com and click on the your Service on the sign post pole on the left and then find your state and installation. On the home page of your installation just under the pictures is a local link to your installation's web site with a host of information including the JAG's phone number or the base operator's number so you can call for an appointment.
Be aware of Scams! The IRS has already put out a warning about telephone and email solicitations concerning the stimulus payments! The IRS does not solicit tax payer information over the phone or via email! They do not call or email and ask for your bank information! There are several schemes to get your personal bank information, social security number, phone and address which can lead to years of correcting your records after the thieves still your identity! Be very aware of an attempt to offer you early payment as the IRS does not have any such payment. Also, be aware of loan offers that will give you money now but at an extremely high interest rate in exchange for your stimulus check.
If you have more information please share it with our readers! Enjoy the extra help from the government and let us know how you are going to spend your money this year! Many are reducing debt, making payments or buying something they have waited a while to get. I think ours is going to help towards a vacation this summer we had planned for a long time and it just got easier to pay for it!
If you missed it you can listen here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/AWTR/2008/03/18/Army-Wife-Talk-Radio-Show-153-Week-of-Mar-17-2008. You can catch what's new with MilitaryAvenue.com at about the 55 minute point but please don't skip the first part of the show; you can listen to some great advice put together for Army Wives (or Air Force, Navy, Marines & Coast Guard wives, too!) from USAA's June Walbert, a financial planner.
It is always good to step out of your comfort zone once in awhile. I was approached before the weekend and asked if I wanted to do the interview and part of me was a bit hesitant, yet, knew in the back of my mind that I was perfectly capable and excited to do it. So I jumped at the opportunity. It was a bit like one of those out-of-body experiences... part of me was asking the other part of me, "What the heck are you agreeing to do, Leanne?!" [I hate it when I argue with myself :)]
What an opportunity though: I was in the chat-room during the show and enjoyed reading and interacting with the other spouses. If you have never listed during a "live" show I would highly encourage you to put this on your calendar for next week. There is quite a camaraderie among the gals that are in the chat each week. They are on at 8:00pm (EST), Monday nights at http://blogradio.com/awtr.
Back to stepping out of your comfort zone: I am a bit of an introvert & public speaking is not high on my list of 'favorite things to do'. It is kind of up there with changing the sheets on my boys' bunk bed. UGH! I lamented to my husband at dinner how nervous I was to talk to "all these women" about my passion, MilitaryAvenue.com. He reminded me to just act like I was talking to a friend on the telephone. I hate it when he makes things sound so simple and yet what wonderful advice! Then the best part was I got so caught up in listening to the show & reading the 'chat' that I forgot about the impending interview.
If you are given an opportunity this week to step-out of your comfort zone - DO IT! I leave you with this quote from LifeToolsforWomen.com:
"It's exhilarating to try something new. Studies show that when a person of any age tries something new, the mental stimulation can actually improve brain health. Many people get stuck in the rut of doing the exact same thing, the exact same way, at the exact same time, every day. And while routine has its benefits, it can also hinder us from being open to new things. "
- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com
Each little sign indicates an American military family gathering its belongings, cleaning up a house, selling one on occasion or passing a base housing inspection on another! It also means saying goodbye to so many friends and co-workers and meeting new ones! It also meant new schools, new jobs and new experiences! From Panama to Iceland to Washington state to the Pentagon to Florida and Nevada with many stops in between! It meant more than a million miles in vehicles that we wore out.
Many fond memories and some scary ones, too. Like the 15 year old with a learner's permit driving cross country with a parent who felt the need to close their eyes for a quick nap and discovering that the right way to turn off the cruise control was not to go faster! Fond memories of playing sports in a foreign country with their athletes; going to Ibiza, Spain with a chapel youth group and visiting Paris, France as a mom and son. The list goes on forever! We all shared the good times and the bad times but we found ways to support each other as well. No one really complained about the moves to avoid making me feel lousy for that next assignment so I could continue to grow as a pilot and leader. But I knew they were sometimes tired of them and looking for stability! So we found ways to experience the excitement of a new spot and become part of the community as quickly as possible!
My wonderful wife and kids were so supportive as many of you are! We were typical but unique too! After retirement we decided we wanted to help military families as they create their own "signposts" of memories!
Let us know about your favorite signpost locations and how you help each other during the stresses of military life!
I'm no Martha Stewart but as I come up with new ideas that we did just to change the routine by 5 to 10 minutes I would like to share them with you. So without further ado I present our first "Minutes out of the Norm".
Today my boys and I painted Easter Eggs; Not the real kind of eggs ... the paper kind. I'm a big fan of 'stock paper'. It's not flimsy & when it is on sale I usually grab a stack for crafty things. So I cut out a few "eggs" and presented my preschool age children with paint brushes and water colors. (We bought a stack of them at the beginning of school when they were on sale so I always have plenty on hand.)
They went to town painting & showing me each new one they colored. I even got into it and painted two. They did enjoy Mommy painting with them as it gave them new ideas for designs on their own eggs as well as a lot more attention then 'the norm'. What child doesn't crave attention after all? After all of our eggs were painted I taped them to our sliding-glass door in my kitchen. Now we have a lovely montage of eggs for the week.
It gave me a great opportunity to talk to the boys; we talked about what Easter was all about. While I sat there the dryer bell dinged, the 'instant message' on my computer 'rang', I noticed how dirty my kitchen floor really was, and yet none-of-it mattered. I was having one-on-one time with my boys.
Do you have "Minute out of the Norm" that you like to do with your children? Let me know! Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will feature you as a 'guest writer'.
- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com
Leanne of MilitaryAvenue.com is going to be featured as "Army Wife Talk Radio's" Resource of the week this Monday, at 8:00pm (EST). Be sure to Tune in!
Do you want to find out a little bit about Leanne and the whole MilitaryAvenue.com team? Read here.
One of my favorite recreation activities to do with my kids when they were growing up and now my grandkids is to swing together or push them or do an under dunker. Now where did that name come from? Maybe because you are under the swing and someone usually gets smacked in the head or dumped off the swing.
With spring almost here I look outside and cheer for the trees to bud and flowers to pop up so we can get outside and get some spring projects done around the house.
We had family members who wanted to sell their house last year and needed a "tune up" to give it some added marketing appeal. So one spring weekend friends and family showed up with paint brushes, shovels, hammers, buckets and numerous other tools! We had almost a dozen folks at work and it was so much fun to help! The house sold and our efforts certainly paid off for the home owners!
We did similar efforts getting ready for PCS orders and it usually included sharing our garage and store room items with our neighbors and friends. There were half used items that shippers would not ship or we needed to reduce for weight purposes. Rather than just throwing them away we found someone who could use that paint, refrigerator item or gas can as we cleaned up and moved things out of the house. The neighbors/friends were there and offered to help when we needed it too!
Why not look around and see if a neighbor needs some help this spring with that big spring cleanup project! Spending a morning or afternoon or even the day helping a neighbor will bring great rewards. Maybe you have a project too and could alternate weekends so you both have an extra set of hands to make those heavy lifts easier and save the back a bit!
What are your favorite projects in the spring? Getting ready for a PCS? Any ideas how to make the cleanup easier or how you helped a neighbor with a spring project? How about the newly arriving neighbor? Any ideas on how to help them with that new house? What is your best memory of someone assisting you?
PS: We have built some awesome swings in the past and each one brought much laughter and exhilaration. Building a proper swing is essential and they can be any type, size or height but having the family involved in the project is the key! I love outdoor projects with family and friends and spring is the time to get out and do them!
What I least looked forward to as I watched the weather forecast was keeping the driveway shoveled. That is Paul's job when he is home. I do love getting outside & I am no weakling. I have actually become much stronger after having kids. It is quite a workout to keep up with them! But every time I shovel I am sore for the next two days. I work very carefully to not strain my back but usually the pain is in my shoulders. So as the weather-man kept repeating the forecast on Thursday night all I could do was groan with pain at even the thought of what was to come.
The sound of snow-blowers is common place in our neighborhood but the sound of a snow-blower on Friday evening sounded really close. As I peered out my window, there was my neighbor pushing the snow off my driveway... in the cold, windy, and darkness of a snow-storm. My driveway was plowed at least three more times (that I know of) over the course of the next 36 hours. It was as if the neighbors took turns taking care of the soldier's wife.
My heart was warmed with their support. I wracked by brain with some way to let them know how much I appreciated it. The best think I could think of was to send over some warm-cookies and a quick note.
On a sunny, but cold, Sunday I got to work on my "Thank You". I had some left-over "take-out food" boxes from a craft that held about a dozen cookies perfectly. I cut a note out of construction paper and found my boy's markers. Then I sent my five year-older to deliver the "Goods". In total it took an hour out of my day. But I would have never been able to keep up with the driveway on my own. (In fact, I'd probably still be out there shovelling on this Sunday night.)
What are other ways that you have given a simple "Thank You"? I know there will be other opportunities over the course of Paul's deployment and I'm sure other wives are searching for the same thing. If you have given or received a "Thank You" that you won't soon forget let me know!
Isn't it great to have opportunities to say "Thank You". It might mean some hardship along the way. But in the end it means you have found support!
- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com
In mid 2007, Facebook created the Facebook Developer's Platform. It allows developers to create applications that take advantage of Facebook's user authentication and vast amount of social information. Facebook already helps friends, past and present, connect and share photos, messages, and information about one's life. However, most of these connections assume that you either went to the same high school, the same college, or grew up in the same town. With the mobile nature of today's military, obviously finding these connections could be difficult for the average member of the military - or family member.
At MilitaryAvenue, we decided that we would try to take advantage of our "insider" knowledge of the military to create a Facebook application that would help members of the military, spouses, or military kids, reconnect with old friends, network, and find new friends before a relocation. Our application (available at http://apps.facebook.com/militaryavenue - requires a Facebook account) allows those with some connection to the military to share where they have served their country.
I'll share a brief explanation of how the application works. After a user adds the application, he selects the military branch that he has affinity with and his current status (which includes 'spouse/sig other' and 'family member 'along with options like 'active duty' and 'retired'). Then the user can input the different locations he has served - we have over 600 different military installations included in the database, of which over 250 are user submitted! Information such as the years served, highest rank, and a "Memorable Experience" for each location are also requested. The application then places a small information box on the user's profile page that allows the user's friends to see things like: years of service, current location, number of relocations, rank, and even a map of all of the places the person has served!
While much of the application revolves around allowing a user to show some pride in where he/she has served, there is also a component that takes advantage of what Facebook calls the "social graph". One of the things that we think is most exciting about the application is the "Buddy Finder". Available for each installation, when clicked, that link shows a list of everyone else in our database who served at that location. It is a great way to find old friends - or if you know you will be moving to a particular installation - a great way to meet new friends before you make the move!
We're excited to provide this application, and we'd love to hear what you think! We recently had our 1,000th person add the application, and we've received some great responses! One I received yesterday said "I think what you're trying to do with this application is awesome!" We hope that it is a great tool to bring friends together and make others aware of the sacrifice required to be part of the U.S. military!
How many friends from prior assignments do you keep in touch with? Have you found ways to use technology to better keep in touch?
But this was different as I was not ready for this idea as a guy who flew for 30 years and kept fit to pass those flight physicals and PT tests. I work out hard and frequently; but, maybe enjoyed the retired life a bit more on the end of a fork than I should have on occasion.
When the doc suggested it, I was bit concerned but even more than I imagined on the day of the test. This was like the big math test or flight evaluation; but obviously more important because it was going to measure how my heart was functioning and ultimately what impact that could have on lifestyle, activities I enjoy and time to wrestle with the grandkids, etc.
Well fortunately for me all those workouts and healthy lifestyle resulted in a "normal" rating and I could smile about it. The nurses and techs were great; made me feel comfortable and even commented that I was doing well as I went past the normal length of time on the treadmill, etc. The treadmill is sped up and the angle of elevation increased every minute and they put in a dye type of material via IV to see how your heart does while being strained (they xray it before and after the workout). In addition, I had a million lines (at least!) attached to my chest to do different measurements during the test.
Do you have a parent or someone you know who is having or had a heart stress test? Sometimes a word of encouragement or just asking how it went could help them feel better. Encourage them to find time to workout, control the diet and avoid too much fast food and listen to their doctor. If you are a parent, the health of the next generation is critical and we need to insure they get their veggies, have time to get outside and run and/or participate in youth sports. What they do as a young person sets a standard for adulthood and may prevent a need for a stress test early in life or one with abnormal results and a resultant lifestyle change that may limit what they can do and enjoy.
How about yourself? Are you finding the time to take a walk, workout in some manner including gardening, around the house projects, landscaping or walking the mall or meeting a friend for a trip to the gym or play a bit of chase the kids around the park? Sometimes while taking care of others we forget to take care of ourselves! Do you have any ideas for helping someone stay on course with their workouts, easy ways to get it done or new methods? Let us all know; we sure can use the help!
March comes in like a lion proved to be true after last night's ice-storm, followed by snow-storm here in the great Midwest. This afternoon my boys and I bundled up and headed out side for a bit of fresh air. Plus, I needed to get the driveway shoveled in case I actually needed to get some where today - doubtful, but you never know.
I started piling the snow into a big pile in the corner of the driveway. I figured a pile would be a good diversion for the kids. As my 5-year old spotted this new adventure sprouting up in the yard the first words out of his mouth were, "Dad makes the best snow forts." Sigh, I know he misses his Dad. I'll be the first to admit that of anyone in this house he DOES make the best because quite frankly I don't get that excited about the prospect of making snow forts and snow tunnels. But at the same time those words kind of hurt. What was I? A stick in the mud?
I kept shovelling and thinking about his words. We had been out there for about an hour and I was half way done. As I put another shovel full on top of Mount Kocsis I remembered some of the best snow igloos ever-made when I was a child. Why should my own children miss out on the fun just so that I could finish the drive-way?
So any visitors this afternoon will see a half-shoveled driveway. With much glee in his eyes and the rosy chokes of winter my five-year old & I decided on a snow-tunnel. He started digging on one side of Mount Kocsis and I on the other. We met in the middle --- or more like I dug through over to his side. When he could fit all the way through we headed in for some hot chocolate. The best part? "Mom, this is the best snow-tunnel EVER." Ok, so I can't replace Paul. I can't be his dad. But I can be the best Mom possible. Taking a break from the every day necessities is good for the soul.
- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com
Last weekend we went to Selfridge ANGB, located north of Detroit. There is billeting, which I am afraid is going away due to BRAC. There really are no dining facilities on Base, except Burger King and the bowling alley. Since we took the weekend to have some 'us' time, we wanted to relax in a wonderful restaurant. We found one! Macray Harbor Inc. (Exact address can be found on Military Avenue.com) http://www.militaryavenue.com/Selfridge+Air+National+Guard+Base/390/Dining-In/153/Listing.aspx
Macray Harbor Inc. is a yacht club... the decor will tell you that, but the surroundings are the first clue. Lake St Clair is frozen over and the yachts are hanging out in dry dock - a gazillion of them. Dale and I didn't have difficulty picking and choosing which one we'd take if given. :) As we sat and cruised here and there in our minds... the wait staff at Macray Harbor brought us an hor d' oeuvre that was pleasing to the eye and fantastic tasting as well. Our main entrees came, and they were also over the top with presentation and taste. I asked our waitress if the chef ever shared this recipes, especially for the scallops we had for the starter. Pronto, he appeared at our table in the crisp white jacket and hat. WOW. He went through the procedure, answered questions and thanked us for coming. How nice! I loved it.
The only thing better was the dessert, something that we rarely order. As the tray was presented for our choosing we gave in. We opted for the biggest cream puff filled with sweet cream ice cream and covered with a milky chocolate sauce.
A fantastic evening! A new restaurant, a new food taste and now a new recipe. Have you ever been afraid to ask for a recipe that tastes so good? The chef was pleased. It is his work - he wanted to share. Go for it!
At 10am my washing machine stopped spinning. It filled; it washed; but when it came to the draining part, it stopped. I took all the sopping wet laundry out (which of course it was a bleach load), used an old fish tank "syphon" to take out the water and then I did the scariest part of it all, I grabbed the tools out of the garage.
Actually, I wasn't so scared... It would be Paul who gets shivers up his spine every time I even touch a hammer, much more a screw driver. Those tools are his domain. He likes being "the man of the house" and is afraid of the damage I might cause, even the slightest most unnecessary dent I might put in the wall.
So this training-exercise, followed by his deployment will be a growing experience for him as I report things like the cool little shelf I hung up; the bathroom I repainted; the washing machine I fixed.
Well, I sort of fixed the washing machine, more like I found the problem. We have a little hook that locks the door so that it can't be opened in the spin cycle. Apparently, it is not moving over when it needs to and so the machine doesn't know to drain. If I manually bring it over and hold it it drains and spins just like it should. Of course that involves standing there for the entire 5 minute spin cycle.
I called Paul later in the evening to tell him about the washing machine and that I figured out the problem. I could almost hear his brain rattling. How was he supposed to react? Scared stiff that I took the front panel of the washing machine off with a screwdriver? Upset that he couldn't be there to do it himself? No, in fact, he was proud of me. I could hear the smile on his face.
This of course would be a logical response from me. I'm always happy when he fixes something. His father's ability to be an all-around handyman seemed to have skipped Paul's genes. But I know him. I know it wasn't easy for him to be happy I actually used a screw driver, as opposed to calling a neighbor and asking for help. We will grow. We may be a part from each other over the next year but there are many ways that I know we will grow closer. I may not look forward to our time apart but I do look forward to always loving him.
- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com
PS... MilitaryAvenue.com has many categories of military-friendly businesses, including "Service Contractors". If you are in need of household repairs and can't figure it out on your own then find your installation and click on "Home & Garden" on the left. Service Contractors & many other related military-friendly businesses are listed for your convenience.