Joining Forces Christmas Cards from Military Children

As you know I am all about military support!   I am the granddaughter of World War II Veterans, the daughter of an Air Force pilot and the wife of an Army Soldier.  Anytime I can instill pride in my children for these generations before them I do.

So I really love the idea behind Michelle Obama's latest Joining Forces request.

The First Lady is asking military children from around the globe for some personal contributions to the finishing touches on the White House decorations this holiday season. The request is for military children to submit 5x8" handmade holiday cards with words of appreciation for their military parents, as well as pictures and drawings. The White House will display as many of the cards as possible.

Participants are asked to send holiday cards to the following address along with information from where they are sending it by November 16, 2011:

Reservation 1
Attn: Social Office
PO Box 8070
Washington DC, 20032

Will you participate?  I can't wait to sit around the kitchen table with the kids this weekend.  We'll pull out the crayons, construction paper, stickers and more.  We'll make hot chocolate, laugh, smile and maybe eat a cookie or two.  We'll share how proud we are of dad, their grandfather, their great-grandfathers.  We'll talk about the White House, how US military kids live all around the world.  It may be early to be thinking about Christmas but time with the family is always in season!

- Leanne from

Herb Pull Apart Yeast Rolls

There is nothing like fresh bread out of the oven to complete a meal.  In the past my family has been big fans of frozen store bought rolls, like Pillsbury or Rhodes.  However, I recently discovered how much more delicious made from scratch rolls can be.  A perfect compliment to soups, steak, or chicken.  This side-dish complements the senses.

This easy recipe recipe makes 18 rolls, which would be perfect for a Thanksgiving get together but if you are making just for a family dinner you can freeze what you don't plan on eating for another night.  It's a great way to save a little money and have homemade deliciousness on hand!

You will make these again and again to please the senses of sight, smell and of course taste!

A Minute out of the Norm: Painted Candle Holders

There is something about a candle in Autumn.  Even a small flame gives off heat as we adjust to new temperatures outside.  Something as simple as looking at a warmly-lit candle can heat me up from the inside out.  Temperatures have fallen here in NE Ohio and my neighbor friend and I enjoyed a craft that can be enjoyed of all ages, from 4 years old to 37 and older.

Your Voting Opportunities Just Got Easier! DoD Blogger Roundtable

Time does seem to fly! We are approaching Veterans Day 2011 so fast. Do you know that by next Veterans Day we will have had elections for President, Congress and local officials too!

Why talk about elections now? Because so many of our veterans and in particular, active duty folks did not vote in 2010 or 2008! The folks with so much at stake with the direction of their government; either, made the choice not to vote, or had a problem getting their ballots. So… we talked to Mr. Bob Carey, director, Federal Voting Assistance Program during a Bloggers Roundtable yesterday and he outlined what the federal government and DoD are doing to make sure that no one and, I repeat, no one does not have an opportunity to vote.

Some great news to start:

“FVAP has released the 2010 post-election report, which shows a 21% increase
in military voting, a 27% increase in military voters receiving ballots, and
a 24% increase in military voters casting ballots. It also shows broad
increases in voter awareness of available voting assistance resources.”

Congratulations! Many of our soldiers, airmen, sailors, marines and coasties made quite the effort to get their ballot counted! Did you know that Congress passed a law that said that election officials had to get your ballots mailed to you 45 days in advance so you had time to get it, vote and return in time to be counted!  (Some of you do make it hard to find your locale in the far flung places of the globe you find yourselves assigned to) This is a terrific law for the military community as it prevents us from being disenfranchised!

Demand Your Life Preserver!

We are so close to the end of Breast Cancer Awareness month that I can almost taste it... that would be Halloween.  Pink ribbons, orange pumpkins: it is a world of color right now.

We are so close to the end... oh that it were so close to the end of breast cancer!

Nancee and I stood outside in September on a cool blustery night.  Our hair was zipping this way and that.  We both relished in the idea that we were having a wild hair moment.  We both had been without any hair... evidence there was no such thing as a bad hair day for us. Survivors know this.

Both of us stood with baby fine tresses, a bit gray.   Haven't you heard that hair comes back luxuriously thick and deep colored?  pshaw

When a mammogram smacks your brain with some bad cells highlighted, this is your time to scream and demand attention.  Patience at this moment is not your friend.  Grab the phone, call your friends, find some doctors.  Imagine that this person is going to save your life... you are not just a patient... but a drowning soul, and the doc has the life preserver, and YOU WANT IT.

Recognize that you will be assertive.  You will speak out about fears.  You need someone to graphically explain preparations, tests, complications and procedures.

You are NOT TO BE ANOTHER PATIENT.... not just another patient.  If you doc tells you this is what he or she do for all their patients... RUN, slam the door, hightail it out, beat feet to your vehicle and grab your soul mate who is running with you and look 'deer in the headlights' at each other and contact another physician... or two.

The difference?  I cannot be certain, but my sweet, sweet Nancee would not ruffle any one's ridges... Nancee accepted what would happen to be 'what will happen'.  Doctor 'A' was who she saw first... and last.
October, breast cancer month is all but over, and Nancee is gone.

I truly believed that the cure was here.  My heart told me that we are good as gold.

Nancee is wearing a golden crown in heaven.  She touched more lives than pink ribbons fly.

As the month closes, and our awareness of the cure dims, be wary.  Keep vigilant.  Demonstrate that when life says trick or treat... and that mammogram is tricky.  Breath deep.  You are/will be a survivor and you need an advocate with you on every step of the way.  Wave that life preserver over your head like a trophy.. you will have earned it!

"Life is Not Over When Injured" - One "Heroes at Home" Veteran Shares

He refused their help not once … twice … but three times… before saying yes. Why? “Others needed it more”. … It was a simple announcement on his part but I heard the caring attitude underneath of a medic, taking care of others first had always been part of him, but now he needed some help.

Sgt Johnny Agpi was the 1,000th veteran who received help from the Sears Heroes at Home and Rebuilding Together program. After talking to his fellow Army veteran, Tom Aiello about the efforts to rebuild Johnny’s home yesterday I wrote about those helping our veterans, "Heroes at Home Helping Veterans One at a Time".  I asked if Johnny would share his story with me and he said yes. A reluctant recipient of their largess, Johnny opened up to me about his experiences. Proud to have been trained in the medical career field in clinic, hospital and field conditions, he served several times in combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Celebrate Veterans Day!
His combat story was confusing, jumbled as most are, medical evacuation of two injured soldiers – multiple attempts, personnel from the Army, Air Force, Aussies, Canadians, special forces, Afghans, Chinooks, explosion on the landing zone, unconscious, over night on a ledge after being blown there – it truly had the haze of war but sadly he finished the day permanently injured with lower back and head trauma.

Flash forward to a medical board, honorable discharge, retirement from active duty, changes to lifestyle and then a call he thought originally to be a scam… opening the door to strangers that wanted to help and help they did. They came for four months and continue today to make improvements to his home. Heroes at Home made his home more livable, safer and convenient. He said “they insisted on doing so much more”… for him than necessary and that it seemed strange to having others do things for him.

He commented that, “he had saved lots of lives” and finally decided to say yes to the help after he realized “it’s ok to say yes to help” because the cause “is bigger than me”. Veterans needed to know that Americans cared about them and that “life is not over when injured”. He said that veterans served and “did it with honor” and sometimes Americans are ungrateful which is not easy to understand. Disrespected, chastised for serving, he felt the need to speak out about how “it hurts” when confronted in this manner.

Heroes at Home - Helping Veterans One at a Time

It was an easy conversation, two veterans talking about what they both enjoy doing – helping other veterans, particularly those in need. None to be left behind…

Tom Aiello
Tom Aiello and I had met in New York during another great veteran event last year but now we were talking about the Sears Heroes at Home program. Heroes at Home had just finished the rebuild of their 1,000th veteran home in conjunction with Rebuilding Together. I could hear the pride in Tom's voice as we talked about the program that has given back so much to veterans. Sgt Johnny Agbi was an Army medic, disabled, in a wheel chair, living alone and needed a major rebuild of his house. It took four months (the average is about one month) due to the comprehensive scope of making his home safe and usable for someone in a wheel chair. It included wheel chair accessibility, energy appliances, remodeling of kitchen cabinets and counters (imagine trying to reach for the oatmeal at wheel chair height), bathroom facilities and more to make it safe and easy to use.

Col K getting a push
The Homes for Heroes program has been active for four years and already includes multiple thousands of volunteer hours, $15-16M in costs with an impact of 4 to 5 times the investment due to the efforts of those volunteers and folks like Johnny being taken care of as well! Tom said he had a special feeling for Army medics like Johnny as they had cared for Tom after he was injured on active duty. The feeling that it was more than just helping a veteran but that lives might be saved - profound for sure. A rebuilt home with features to make life easier; that people, complete strangers cared about them and an uplifted spirit of hope for the future. It was readily apparent to this veteran, who had been through a very short time in a wheel chair due to a foreign body invasion (cancer), that our veterans would be blessed by these volunteers.

It was a special event in DC for number 1,000, the First Lady was there and spoke about volunteering and caring for our military families. She announced the launching of “Joining Forces” a program to encourage Americans to support the troops and their families.

“…to bring Americans together to recognize, honor and take action to support military families as they serve our country and throughout their lives. The initiative aims to educate, challenge, and spark action from all sectors of society to ensure military families have the support they have earned.”

When Tom responded to my question about what he would tell readers about Veterans Day, he said we should think about what veterans have done for us. “The best way to show appreciation is by deeds, not just words”. Do one thing to get started and then the rest follows. (Need some suggestions? Here are 101 Ways to Thank a Veteran). But why the Sears corporation? Why are they involved?

Thank A Veteran

(Click on image for a clearer picture)

Hop On Off Bus


Here I am!  Yo buddy!  
Do you love seeing a new city, new sites?  Bring on the best views to entice fellow tourists to spread the money: easy transportation.  No parking, no subway stairs or questionable taxi rates, just pull out the ticket and hop on the bus!

Las Vegas, NV is a total tourist town.  The action is laid out on a long strip of land that, if you are wearing sensible shoes, you can walk and walk love the sunshine and keep on walking.  However, to get the quick and dirty look of the town... the Hop On Hop Off bus is perfect.  The double decker stops all along the strip.  People watching is phenomenal while sitting seeing the sites.

Big cities everywhere offer this means of transportation.  Tickets are easy to purchase right from the driver.  Most require a credit card purchase, with the ticket good for 24 hours.  Get off.. Get on, slide the card into the reader and take a seat. 

Catch a glimpse of the highlights the tourist books picture.  Then plan the day for areas of your personal interest.

Help for Our "Troubled" Veterans

This Veteran’s Day may not be so special for a group of veterans – those incarcerated in our federal and state prisons. Do you know a veteran who took a wrong step or maybe the legal system went awry? According to 2007 statistics there were 140,000 veterans in prison (federal and state) and most had honorable discharges from their military service. (National Coalition of Homeless Veterans)

Facing similar situations as our homeless veteran population with mental illness, addictions and reintegration issues they are frequently forgotten members of our society.

A friend who served time at Ft Leavenworth' US Disciplinary Barracks is still a strong emotional memory. A subordinate imprisoned there and then released after being found innocent upon appeal/review is the worst feeling. So when I drove past "The Castle" a few years back during a trip to the post, I had this awful chill run down my back. Thoughts went back to this honorably serving man with a chest full of decorations who stepped over the boundaries and legal requirements of being a leader and paid the price. I could not imagine his pain of being locked in that place. Or worse, how about the innocent man who served a couple of years before being released?  The Castle was tore down in 2005 and replaced by a modern prison facility on the post.

Certainly there are plenty of veterans who deserve to be incarcerated for crimes they committed and need to be rehabilitated so they can contribute to society. Usually more educated and older than the prison population, veterans who served all of us may be waiting for care that would allow them to be released under parole. Speaking with a son, who serves a state prison population as a psychologist, the prisons do not have a specific program to help veterans. Relying on outside help from Veteran Affairs/Department of Labor in the form of grants (which are not approved very often) for specific veteran care, the veterans languish waiting “their turn” for care that would give them points for parole.

But why start in the prisons? A new approach which would seem to be appropriate nation wide is the formation of veteran courts! Advocates address the issues of social reintegration, combat stress, mental illness and addictions and seek treatment versus imprisonment for our veterans. The National Association of Drug Court Professionals supports Justice for Vets with an approach similar to drug courts but connecting the courts with VA health providers to assist in treatment plans. The American Legion passed a resolution in support for Veterans Treatment Courts at the 93rd American Legion National Convention in August this year. Resolution 109 seeks congressional action for funding Veteran Treatment Courts and VA action to establish a central office to manage the Veterans Outreach Justice program. The Legion resolution also includes volunteers from local posts to assist the courts with finding veteran resources including VA benefits and services.  Other veteran organizations such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars have also been advocates for our imprisoned veterans.  While the US faces an unprecedented fiscal challenge, veteran programs need to receive priority from our elected officials. 

As we approach Veterans Day, be sure to say thank you to a veteran and remember those veterans who served as well but need help to become a productive part of society. They served you and deserve your support! 

Photo Credits:

USDB Ft Leavenworth Images

A Soldier checks cells on one of the six tiers inside the old U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Oct 19, 2011 Images

Some Pictures Cannot Be Seen: Breast Cancer Awareness

We sat in the back office my grandson and me
Both carefree and chatty as Grandma/grandson can be.
He looked at some pictures that sat on the wall
and asked if his Daddy was always so tall?

I showed him some pictures of Panama days
Then Texas, Illinois, Florida and New York's growing phase
We gazed at the glaciers in Iceland and the cold...
Then he asked if Daddy was always so bald?

No, not true.Six years ago I was sick and in bed
A disease and medicine made the hair fall from my head
Your Daddy saw half of my head still had hair
And he asked if he could shave it and held me... oh dear!
When I was done, and back into bed for a rest
He shaved his brother and his head too!  I confessed

It scared me
That cancer
Could touch
My boys too.

Oh Jacob
I pray
This disease won't touch you!

"Ride for Our Heroes" in New England - A Wordless Wednesday Thank You!

“The biker community has a long history of riding to support veterans. We hope the Ride for Our Heroes can become another great tradition to honor those who suffer from the 'invisible wounds of war'--post traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury. We are honored to work with the biker community on this event," --John Parrish, MD, Director of the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Home Base Program.

“It is rewarding to know that we have a partner in the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital's Home Base Program assisting us in providing the additional support and services soldiers and their family members require. I'll remember this inaugural Ride For Our Heroes for many reasons, but none more so than saying I helped do my part on the battlefield abroad and at home with the Home Base Program.” LTC Warren Bacote, Garrison Commander, Fort Devens, Mass., one of the six starting points for the Ride for Our Heroes

Photos Courtesy of  George Photography

Tasty Tuesday with Sweet Potato Muffins

We went to the pumpkin patch with 2 of the grands today.  Fun.  Each ran and found their beauty.  They surprised me in that they didn't go for the big one... but each chose their favorite from the ones at the farthest end of the garden... as if the pursuit was the prize!

With a little muscle help from Grandpa, the vine came loose, and the chilly orange orb was theirs!

Since it is Tuesday, they wanted to perform in the kitchen, and pumpkin was on their minds.  Muffins seemed the perfect treat for this chilly afternoon.  We got out the ingredients, put on the aprons and set to work.  One problem, the only can of pumpkin that I had was a huge one... and right next to it sat a small can of sweet potatoes.   Oh yes.  Substitution time! Yummy results.

Sweet Potato Muffins

Veteran Employment and Transition Ideas!

“The Mission Continues. It’s Not A Charity. It’s A Challenge.”

Transitions are never easy! Civilian to military (remember basic training, etc), a PCS, new schools, new career path/job and that last military move – military to civilian. Finding your niche can be difficult! How about trying a fellowship with a non profit to find it?

MilitaryAvenue met part of The Mission Continues team in Motown during a homeless veteran’s project. Young, vital, caring and enthused! The adjectives described them to the “T” but as with all good news that we find for the military community, it is our job to tell others about them! Nick, Tiffani and Meredith, their work teaming with the Home Depot Foundation during “The Celebration of Service” was exciting. But what caught our attention besides helping homeless veterans was their “fellows program”. Nick and Tiffani were part of the program so we took an opportunity to find out more about this transition idea for veterans.

Meredith Knopp talking with Col K (center) and husband, Ken in Motown
Meredith Knopp, is an eight year Army veteran, and the Vice President of Programs for The Mission Continues. She traveled to be in Detroit to participate in “The Celebration of Service” and we briefly talked and arranged a follow up meeting to discuss the fellowship program for post 9/11/2001 veterans. With a sense of service that inspires them, many enter the armed forces with a purpose and she said that the fellowship program is a way to continue that service with their local communities after leaving the military.

“Seeing tremendous growth” according to Knopp; “The Mission Continues” fellowship program has 94 alumni, have awarded 180 fellows in 30 states with 87 current fellows. Founded by former Navy SEAL, Eric Greitens in 2007, the organization provides fellows for organizations such as the American Red Cross, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Habitat for Humanity, the YMCA and several others. Eric, a Rhodes Scholar, wanted to help veterans serve their communities.

The Military Spouse

A little something to pass along to the military wives (and husbands) in your life:

The End in Sight? Iraq Withdrawal Continues! DoD Blogger Roundtable

We are finally leaving Iraq… well maybe not… the diplomats are still talking… the troops are left holding their breath.

According to current agreements as of December 31st 2011, the 41,000 military personnel in Iraq will have left and the final 22 bases will have been closed or handed over to the Iraqis. Eight years of conflict leaves a lot of material, equipment and trash. We have gone from a high of 505 bases and 165,000 troops to the current levels in a short time but the count down to the end of the mission continues rapidly. One point six million (1.6M) pieces of equipment have been moved from the Iraq theatre to other missions according to Maj Gen Thomas Spoehr but seven hundred thousand plus (700K+) remain.

Maj Gen Thomas W Spoehr
Gen Spoehr is the United States Forces – Iraq, Deputy Commanding General for Support and he talked to the Bloggers Roundtable about the withdrawal and the effort required to bring the troops home. The logistics folks are still delivering fuel (964,000 pounds a day – about 160,000 gallons), the clean up continues with 6.8 M pounds of scrap sold in October… the numbers go on for a long time but reality is that the folks still there are working hard to make the departure a healthy, protected, safe one. The quality of life has become, “expeditionary” in bases that are closing and “austere” in the last two weeks before closing according to Spoehr. Meals Ready to Eat and mail will be stopped but one bit of great news is that contact with families and friends through the internet usually continues because local Iraqi business internet providers are open for business till the end.

"Military Spouse Employment Summit"

One of my favorite topics to write about is how to help the military community with employment! The next level up is how to help military spouses with employment! They sacrifice much during each PCS for their military member’s career while frequently placing theirs on the back burner. In today’s economic environment it is even harder so MilitaryAvenue wants to provide resources for the military community in the form of blogs, contacts, articles and news information! So tune up your social media for this one to the Military Spouse Employment Summit being held in Fairfax Virginia on November 3rd and 4th!

 MilAve_Deborah talking to an Army spouse at an AWN Field Exercise
With challenge comes opportunity! Today I joined Sue Hoppin, the founder of the National Military Spouse Network in a blogger roundtable to discuss the coming event.  I thought it would be interesting to hear what the Summit will include and why you should be there (virtually or in person). The Summit is a great way to learn networking among military spouses! For those hidden opportunities that we all know about or can learn to watch for (to help a fellow military spouse): the jobs that are opening due to PCS or retirement for example. Sue has put together a group of experts to panel and talk about social media, volunteering, military spouse friendly employers, entrepreneurship, re-entering the work force and much more! We just posted an article for you about the conference on MilitaryAvenue with details, 2011 Military Spouse Employment Summit.

So how much is $73 worth to you? A lot, many will say! How about connecting and learning how to find that job you need or how to help fellow military spouses! The best part it covers an evening social, breakfast, lunch, dessert social and all the panels! That is the best price for a one day + conference in the DC area that we have heard of since about 1938!  Not born that long ago? Neither were we, and neither was the internet, read on for more!

What a Pile of ... Laundry

Motherhood. - Childhood. - Sometimes they just don't fit hand in hand.

I did laundry on Monday - a basket full for each boy.

Last night (two days later) I am tucking my darlings into bed (E (9) and C (6) share a room) when I notice their dirty laundry basket, literally overflowing.  Two days of laundry?  I think not.  Is there clean laundry in there? You can count on it!

Sometimes I have a very hard time coming up with appropriate consequences for things my boys do that they should know better.  However, last night when I said "You have Friday off of school for a Teachers-Inservice Day and you two will be doing laundry."  I wasn't fooling.  They will wash, sort, fold and then put away.  Perhaps, (pretty please!) they will think twice about wearing pajamas only once before throwing them in their laundry basket; picking up a pair of shorts that fell out of their drawer (never warn) and thrown in the dirty laundry; thinking, "Eh, I don't want to put the clean laundry away so I'll just shuffle it over to the dirty laundry pile."  Perhaps...

Ah the challenges of motherhood.  We will conquer this hurdle... or pile in this instance.

- Leanne from

"Celebration of Service" - Helping out Veterans

Loading supplies for veteran's homes!
It started early, involved 1,170 volunteer hours at four veterans’ homes by the end of the day according to Doug Bellah, Home Depot Store Manager, Kentwood, MI! All volunteers, helping veterans get ready for Michigan’s winter, improving their homes, lifestyle needs and more. Their shirts were orange and said, Celebration of Service and included a budget of $8,000 for the four homes’ improvements and had workers from eight Home Depot Stores from Western Michigan – Ludington, Muskegon, Grand Rapids, Alpine …

Dan and I traveled to one site to talk with Mark, a 3 ID Army veteran from 1993-1996. With a family of six, they were identified by the West Michigan Veteran’s Assistance Program as a veteran family who could use some help. Mark was affable, disabled and so appreciative of the volunteers running around his house. Outside, inside there were 50 or more and they were putting on new doors, building new decks, new door knobs, two bathrooms had new toilets and flooring, the kitchen had new flooring and cabinet hardware. Worn electrical outlets were replaced, landscaping added and flowers to show the pride of all involved! Top it off with repairing swing sets in the park across the street!

MilAve_Col_K speaking with Volunteers and W Michigan Veteran's Assistance Program leadership

What Success Looks Like

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race” - Calvin Coolidge

Wishing you much /success/ as you press-on with what means the most to you!

- Leanne from

Breast Cancer – My Story

Breast Cancer runs deep in my family.  It has taken lives.  It has changed loved ones forever in so many ways.  It is nothing to mess around with.

My Mom: Early detection saved her life.  She is a reminder of how important a mammogram is.  She underwent chemo and radiation and is daily reminded of those side effects but has been in remission for over five years!

My Mother in Law: A small lump was found during a self-check.  No chemo required.  Praise God.  She has also been in remission for over five years.

My Grandmother: I never met her.  Breast Cancer took her life in her early 40s leaving behind a very young family and generations that only wish they met her.

My Great Aunts: 3 out of 4 sisters had breast cancer; two didn't survive.

Leif Landed First Day

I love today.  The calendar has it marked as Columbus Day.  Oh the memories of childhood elementary school drawings and the smell of crayons are still carried in my mind.  There were the stories and songs of the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria sailing the ocean.  Somehow these brave crews found the West Indies and are credited for laying claim on the Western Hemisphere.  I always pictured a career group of sailors from Genoa working together, sharing food and chores: organized and cordial.

And then I had humor thrown into the vision.

In my Dad's hometown in upstate New York live a cluster of Norwegian octogenarians.  They love October 10th and celebrate it in costume, with boatloads of food and party napkins.  Food fills the table like walkers and oxygen tanks fill the room.  It could be 80 degrees outside and all will come dressed in their finest handmade woolen Norwegian sweater.

Sermon Notes: Praying for My Sons

I pray for the sick, those in the need, even for the future of my children (professions, spouses, choices they will make in years to come).  But I rarely pray for my children in the present, here and now.  Today there was a subtle nudge that I need to be better about that.

*E*, received his 3rd grade Bible in front of our church congregation this morning.  He stood in front of the same congregation he was baptised in front of eight years ago.  This was the same church-family who agreed to raise him in our family of faith.   There we stood eight years later praying for him and thirty of his peers.  This mother's heart swelled with joy.  It was a beautiful reminder how important family is outside of your typical definition of family.  But also a poignant reminder of how important prayer is, every day.

So I question myself: Why don't I pray for my children more often?  I need to!  I pray that my four boys will be godly men as they grow.  That they will be examples of Christ at 17 (*J*), 9 (*E*), 6 (*C*) and even 14-months old (*L*).  Their lives today influence who they are tomorrow, and next months and years to follow. 

Today I pray for their insecurities, their compassion, their zest for life.  I pray today not for their future but for their present day.

I pray that...
  • They are gracious winners,
  • and understanding losers.
  • They fight a fair fight,
  • know when to concede,
  • or know when to walk away.

What is a Veteran?

A military veteran is:
  experienced in a trade
  trained and skilled in their job
  knowledgeable about being on time and on target
  salutes the flag with purpose
  wears or has worn a uniform
  has sworn and taken an oath
  has carried a weapon
  has polished boots
  understands what 'taps' means
  comprehends an order
  has awoken to reveille
  knows the chain of command
  has spoken the language of acronyms
  has longed for leave
  owns a set of dog tags
  has access to organizations like the VFW, American Legion, VA, MOAA, NCOA
  garners respect when speaking of service
  has protected the integrity of our constitution
  has pledged allegiance to our flag, and meant it!
Thank a veteran today.  They have done so much for each of us, and continue to do so!

Motown has a new Veterans Homeless Facility and Park!

A Park for Veterans is being created
Motown has a new Veterans Homeless Facility and Park!

It was not exactly the smooth sounds or motions of Motown but a blur of noise, colors (mostly orange), activity, yard equipment movements, cars and trucks being guided by traffic guards, pounding hammers, wheelbarrows rolling, noisy chippers, buckets carried, … It was heartening to see in the “rustic” downtown area of Detroit to see these bright orange clad volunteers turning the sounds of cacophony into a smooth jazz park for our homeless veterans in the area!

MilitaryAvenue’s MilAve_Dan and Mil_Col_K had to follow up on this kind offer to see and report on this Volunteers of America Michigan, The Mission Continues, Home Depot Foundation and Veteran Affairs effort. It was a beautiful day to work outside and work they did! More than 200 volunteers as Tiffani McCardell proudly exclaimed! Tiffani is a proud Air Force veteran of Minot AFB, ND of “Why Not Minot; Freezin is the Reason” fame. A coordinator with nerves of steel (she did load bombs after all), she is a fellow with the Mission Continues that coordinated the day’s activities with all the players and brought it together.
Aprons in Action Volunteers

Patrick Patterson, Vice President of Operations for Volunteers of America MI had invited us to see the new facility and watch the park being built across the street for veterans. He proudly took us on a tour of the facility as others worked to finish before the projected opening date on Veterans Day (11/11/11 at 11 AM). The renovated building will house 60 homeless veterans already on a waiting list in the 28,000 square facility that includes many features learned from previous experience according to Patrick. A secure place for veterans with many needs including counseling and medical treatment for the ravages of PTSD, TBI, drug and alcoholic addictions and mental illnesses. VOA has about an 80% success rate in approximately 9-12 months of treatment/housing. Success means contributing to society, permanent housing, continuing education and/or employment (if able).

But the focus of the day was outside as we watched the volunteers from Home Depot creating a park out of nothing in the empty lot across the street. Chris Gilbert, District Manager, Midwest Region of Home Depot brought volunteers from Bowling Green, OH to Lapire, MI, to East Lansing to Detroit in this effort to construct the park. Chris was excited about the effort as we talked and the volunteers felt the same as they shared their “passion” to help veterans and “make a difference” in their lives. It was "their turn to serve" as one explained their desire to help. Their orange Aprons in Action are certainly in action with service projects. The Home Depot Foundation “Celebration of Service” partnership with The Mission Continues is funding and providing manpower for 200 service projects across the country before Veterans Day.

What is Veterans Day?

Welcome in autumn.  Our country steps up to elections.  Our view of the land flashes from green to fading oranges and yellows.  Where parks and buildings raise flag poles we see our nations pride: the American flag flies!  It is more colorful; hangs more prominent; and displays strength on Veterans Day. 

Each November 11 America looks to the past, the present and is thankful for the future with eyes on our servicemen and women.   This year 11/11/11 illustrates squadrons standing next to each other... the date is like a parade marching across a page; a phalanx of individual 'ones' standing side by side and displaying numerical meaning to the date.
November 11 the date for Veterans Day, first decided upon by in European countries in 1918. The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.  This day became known as Armistice Day.  A day set aside to celebrate the end of World War I.  The war to end all wars.
Eight years later America brought the name before Congress but it was twelve years after that date before a Congressional act passed to make November 11 a National Holiday.  And then...war broke out again.  The amount of US servicemen that died in battle was staggering; those who survived came home changed.
Let's hear it for Birmingham, Alabama!  This is a city where change pulses and takes life.  In 1947 the first World War II veteran parade took place in Birmingham to honor all veterans.
Later in 1954, Armistice Day was officially changed to Veterans Day.  President Eisenhower, a distinguished veteran signed the proclamation.

For a brief time Veterans Day was changed from the 11/11 calendar date to the 4th Monday.  One does not mess with vets!  In 1978 Congress returned it to November 11, the traditional date.

The most heart wrenching ceremonies can be heard like a symphony around the world.  Our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines are interred overseas as well as in veteran cemeteries.  Wreaths are laid in Paris and London.  However on the steps of the Potomac River in Washington DC the chilling steps of the Old Army Guard keep vigilant the safe guarding of our military pride and taps fill the air at Arlington Cemetery.
.US Department of Veteran Affairs "Celebrating America's Freedoms"                

The Army in Europe - Why it is Important to be There

It was fun and we laughed while talking about serious national and international security issues! Military family issues too.

Lt Gen Mark Hertling, commander, US Army Europe
It started out as another DoD/Army Bloggers Roundtable on a bright sunny fall day. The subject matter was interesting and the speaker one of our nation’s military leaders with combat experience and information to share. The discussion was intended to be focused on why the forward presence of US forces in Europe was critical to meeting our defense requirements but we jumped around the interests of everyone in attendance. Lt General Mark Hertling, commander, U.S. Army Europe, was on top of the issues affecting his troops, their families and the international players he works with every day. He was articulate, could laugh at himself and traveled to be in DC for an Army leader conference and to attend the AUSA conference on Monday as well. He took the time to talk to social media outside the mainstream which he obviously considers important.

The first question out of the bucket was how budget shortfalls have/would impact European partners’ military forces and their ability to meet security obligations. Many have significant challenges with their national budgets (even worse than ours in many cases). In fact, not one country is meeting the NATO requirement of 2% of the GDP for their military forces but General Hertling said, “Everyone is fighting above their weight class” as he praised their contributions and efforts. He added that the Army had conducted 8,000 exercises/events in Europe in 2010 (will be similar in 2011) and he had numerous antidotal stories about how they impacted our partners ability to get the job done. He spoke of a Polish brigade of 2,600 personnel being prepared for deployment to Afghanistan, command post exercises and smaller squad level training as well, which he considered to be critical to force modernization and training.

The Small, Fine Print

How often do we take the time to read the small, fine print?

Last weekend we had a great offer extended to us for a getaway weekend from a national corporation (HGVC) to a city which many consider to be a fun place to visit.  Las Vegas, here we come!  We came to visit and find memories.  Two of our kids were born here while we were stationed at Indian Springs (now Creech AFB) and then a pregnant PCS 34 years ago.  That was another story about military life and overseas assignments, birth with a doctor speaking a different language, etc., but I get way off this story. 

Sunrise over Las Vegas
We coordinated airfare using our USAA Eagle Point Rewards , took advantage of the Hilton free offer and into the air we lept (very early I might add) with a stopover flight and then finally we were on the ground in the fun and pleasure seeking crowds at McCarran Airport/Las Vegas.  Very busy place but well organized in most cases.  By the way, we found the TSA folks to be very helpful and friendly whenever we encountered them.  Funny, how a thank you and a smile works when talking to folks trying to protect you from terrorists.  Oops, off the story line again.

When we made the airline reservations, we had to decide the advantages and disadvantages of a rental car versus public transportation and taxi.  We try to walk as much as possible but realized that our location although on the Strip was a long walk to featured destinations.  After weighing the advantages we decided on the rental car because we wanted to drive up to Indian Springs to see our old homestead (it was our first PCS after pilot training). 

The Forum Shops in Caesar's Palace
The USAA travel service made the reservations for us and gave us a nice quote for the car.  It made the car very appealing.  In fact, when compared to the cost of a taxi during our visit, it would be comparable and of course we wanted to drive the 100 mile round trip to the Springs.  When we got to the rental car center we talked to the Budget agent (after being in line for about 20 minutes) and found out the car was just about double what had been quoted.  Now we were tired, plane weary, crowd weary and line weary so when I asked, why it was different and the lady said, “you have a great price” it seemed to make sense.  After some saleswomanship we signed and left with our car looking for some sun (we do live in western Michigan which has Seattle like weather except more snow and colder).

Domestic Violence Awareness - Be the Advocate

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, find out more about available support and resources. To speak with a Department of Defense Victim Advocate, contact Military OneSource at 1-800-342-9647, or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

This is not a cheery, happy-go-lucky subject.  I much prefer those topics of conversation but there are times we need to step out of our comfort zone and be there for those we love, help those who need help and take the time to educate ourselves.

 National statistics reveal that it affects more than 4 million people a year, with almost 17,000 of them murdered by an intimate partner and an estimated 2,000 children dying at the hands of a caregiver.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  It is a place I can not wrap my head around.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, domestic violence is one of the most chronically under reported crimes in our country today.

A dark tunnel I would never want to enter.

Homemade Pasta Sauce, a pleasure of the senses

You know that feeling when you realize you are more and more like your mother? I will never forget visiting my mom and dad a couple years ago. I offered to make dinner one night; thinking 'simple', like pasta, sauce and veggies. Only to find out she didn't have a simple jar of Ragu in her cupboards.  When I questioned her (probably rather indigently, knowing me) about this lack of a jar of an important dietary staple she said something rather cheerfully like, "We can just make it!"  I'm sure I rolled my eyes half way into my head and thought (or quite possibly spewed), "Mom, pouring it form a jar into a sauce pan is considered 'making it' in my book."

The sauce is simmering.  When it is done there will
be about half as much in the pots
Fast forward five years, I am proud to say that I have about 10 quarts of frozen homemade pasta sauce in my freezer.  Dinner time around here is crazy.  Quick and convenient is very important to me!  So when I do make homemade sauce I make a large batch of it.  After it is made, frozen in quart ziplock freezer bags, it can than be easily defrosted and cooked as quick as a can of Ragu can be opened.

When tomatoes were in season last month I took an afternoon and made it in two large stock pots.  My husband loves the smell of it as he walks in the door after a long day.  In fact, he isn't much of a compliment giver, but when we have homemade sauce it never fails.  He immediately takes in a huge breath when walking in the door and says, "Something smells good!"

If you are looking for a way to please your senses, with sight and smell try this one afternoon:
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