Volunteers of America - Redux "There Are No Limits to Caring!"

Preparing for the program at the Stand Down for Homeless Veterans
Volunteers of America (VoA) Michigan showed me how people cared about our homeless veterans last week! I wrote about The Home Depot Foundation and how many others jumped in to make the veterans’ lives easier with the VoA Stand Down which provided resources and information to the veterans in Lansing, MI. VoA has a long arm with organizations in 400 communities in the US while helping over 2 million folks in need!

So I decided to draw a picture of the event with my camera to show their efforts! Words can be helpful but pictures make it real!  These are real people, veterans who are in need and the VoA is helping with transition housing, community resources, employment, food, medical information and much more!

To better understand their outreach I interviewed a homeless veteran who was willing to talk to me.  Stanley, served in the Army as a medic 1987 - 1990 and admitted he was a recovering alcoholic and drug addict who had turned his life around! He has lived in transition housing funded by Veteran Affairs and maintained by VoA.  He said it was a "wonderful place for homeless veterans" and he had recently been elected by the residents to be their representative/president!

Memorial Day Weekend Revisited: A Story in Pictures

Wow! What a fantastic weekend. We had dinner with neighbors, a barbecue with friends, went to another party with more neighbors and then Memorial Day we marched in a parade, visited a few cemeteries and then had lunch at the VFW. No, the garden didn't get 'tilled as planned after the major thunderstorm on Saturday night; yes, the air-condition did get turned on Monday night after reaching 90 degrees that day; and yes, the Kocsis Crew needs to officially restock the band-aid box after my 6 year old fell multiple times on his knees. But all in all it was a weekend to be remembered.

Neighbors! We are so blessed to have neighbors that we also call friends. Saturday night the kids ate dinner in the backyard while the adults sat inside eating, drinking and just enjoying being friends. These families are my support. When things get a little harried in the confines of my own home I can usually just step outside to find another Mom to say, "Can you help?" "Would you listen?" or just someone to sit with and enjoy each other's presence.

It's Not a Question Of Do They Get It

Summer is fast approaching, schools are closing, heat is rising, sports are triumphant... or winding down. Life in the home front is sweet. Routine does have it's advantages especially with gas prices out the ceiling. Then the mail brings in high school open house invitations, wedding announcements, family reunion picnic plans. Most are from out of state, half are from out of time zone! But that desire to see Momma, hear Dad's laughter, show off your youngsters and rest for a few moments being the child again at home sucks you in like a powerful vacuum cleaner!

Time has this funny way of trimming connections. Stronger ties develop with others, life's important issues might not relate with your anchor strong childhood family. Truth is, we grow and relate differently after being out on our own.

Somehow the homestead house shrunk, the town's fun spot just isn't fun. The mall that had everything you could ever need... doesn't.

Returning home 1978

Sermon Notes: The Soldier's Psalm

Psalm 91

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”  Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.

You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked. If you say, “The LORD is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.  He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.  With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

Memorial Day

This weekend I'm looking forward to a local minor-league baseball game, a barbecue with good friends, a little league game for my eight-year old and YES getting my garden in.

Most importantly, though, we will also take time to remember what Memorial Day is really about.  My husband will be marching in our Memorial Day Parade in his ACUs as part of the VFW presentation of the Colors.  My boys will be wearing their baseball uniforms, holding little flags and tossing out candy to the parade watchers as they march in their first real parade.  I will stand on the sideline proudly waving my flag with my nine month older. We will head to our small-town cemetery for an official wreath-laying and then head to a cookout with other service members and community members. 

It isn't a somber day for us.  But it is a day to celebrate what we have.  To thank the service members that have gone before us so that we can enjoy beautiful weekends like this.  How about you?  What are you doing to make this a more than a BBQ, Baseball and Friends & Family weekend?


WWII Veterans Centerpoint

I captured a moment. It wasn't what I came to see, yet it was perfect.

In mesmerizing calm we walked around the monument, and it is monumental.

Schools of school classes were in Washington DC for civics 101 in real life. To some students viewing the WWII tribute, it was ancient history. Our family is blessed with survivors: Navy, Army and Army/Air Corps. The names of battles brought frightening images to conversations to so many who were walking in groups
Continue Reading
The Vietnam Wall and future generations

Memorial Day is approaching and this year my eight-year old will have a very tangible memory of what the day is about.
The Vietnam Wall. ...

The area was crowded. It was full of school trips and tourists. But there was a lull from the usual noise of a 'touristy place'. *E*, 8 years old, picked up on it right away and our pace slowed.
This, I think, is the purpose of the Wall.

To teach. To learn. To think. and of course to Remember.

Continue Reading

Share a Legacy this Military Appreciation Month - May is Military Appreciation Month. Where lies your military-heritage? Is it your spouse, a parent, a grandparent, a cousin, an aunt or uncle, a child? Have you told them how much you appreciate them? How you appreciate their service? What they have done to recognize their valor, their pride, their honor?  Continue Reading



Chairman’s Corner: Memorial Day 2011 - WASHINGTON, May 27, 2011 – As our Nation marks the 150th anniversary of the first year of the Civil War, this weekend we observe Memorial Day, a tradition that originated following the toll that terrible conflict levied upon our Nation.

Originally known as Decoration Day for the flowers placed upon the graves of fallen Civil War soldiers, this holiday, more than any other, reminds us of those who gave up their future so that we could have ours.   - Continue Reading 



This is our fourth Memorial Day writing here on "Our Letters to You" so as you can imagine we have a lot of thoughts on the subject!  Be sure to check them out: Memorial Day on the Avenue.

Have a great weekend and celebrate the life of those that have gone before us; fighting for what we hold dear; granting us the freedoms that we cherish!

- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

Eat With Your Family Day

Today is 'Eat With Your Family Day'.  Who knew?!   It is interesting the search terms that bring folks into our blog.  Most of them are quite applicable, but some make us scratch our head.  Last night we had visitor from Lahore, Punjab looking for "eat with your family day 2011". This peaked my interest, because quite frankly I find dinner time to be the most important time to connect.

Apparently this little known date is a day in Singapore:
May 27, 2011 is the date to mark on your calendar for Eat With Your Family Day. This annual event encourages organisations and education institutions like kindergarten, schools and tertiary institutes to cease operation by 5pm and release their staff and students to have dinner with their families - http://www.salt.org.sg/events_list/detail/4dc8de14-1344-43b7-9297-03507c3410df
We might not be in Singapore but do you make it a point to eat dinner with your family?  How do you make it happen with busy schedules?  I am a firm believer in planning ahead and the crock pot.  If I know what we are going to eat a head of time we can fit it into our very busy schedule.  Sometimes I plan out a whole week (the best option!) other times I figure it out first thing in the morning (better than not planning at all).  Sometimes we do hot dogs for dinner as a family (super easy).  Sometimes we get a little more complicated by throwing a whole chicken in the crock-pot in the morning with some onions and about 2 tablespoons of my favorite spices and let it cook all day  (Nope that wasn't very complicated at all.)
 

Looking for some recipes to add to your meal-planning list?  Recipes from MilitaryAvenue.com


What is the point?  Time with those we love.  Time to sit down (if only for 15 minutes) to find out how every one's day was.  Time to just be a family.

So let's all celebrate "Eat With Your Family Day", today and every day.

- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com


PS: I ran across this blog post too "Say Yes to the Family Table".  If you are trying to figure out if making dinner 'family time' take a peak at this article.  It has some great points with a reminder that repition (particularly for young families) will make it easier... eventually.

Staying Healthy: At the End of the Work Day

Hubs is in the Army National Guard so when he isn't wearing his uniform he is wearing a suit.  He is a private-practice attorney and works ten to twelve hour days to serve his clients' needs.  He is a hard worker is an understatement.

Today's Staying Healthy tip is for folks like Hubs.  It can be hard to find balance.  It is easy for him to come home, sit right back down in his home office and work "for a few more hours".  We have been working really hard as a team to carve out family time in the early evening.  Not only is it healthy for the kids to spend time with their dad but it is also healthy, mentally and physically, for Hubs to have time "away from the office."

Here are some tips to help you leave work behind when your workday has ended:

It Was A Wet, Cold Day and the Homeless Veterans Came to the Stand Down!

Stand Down for Homeless Veterans
“The Home Depot Foundation is committed to ensuring that every veteran has a safe place to call home.” Home Depot Foundation President Kelly Caffarelli

My day was a bit different than normal yesterday! I admit to being a bit of a routine type guy; maybe it comes from years of aircraft checklists and procedures, I am not sure. But, I left my comfort zone and headed out in the car solo for a drive to attend a Stand Down for Homeless Veterans! After successfully navigating my way to Lansing, MI for this event hosted by Volunteers of America (VoA) Michigan, I thought about how I had found my way there!

Last month we attended the Military Bloggers Conference in DC where we met some wonderful folks from Home Depot and the Home Depot Foundation! I wrote earlier about The Home Depot’s employment opportunities for veterans and their year round military discount! But I want to tell you about the efforts of the Home Depot Foundation to help our homeless veterans and families. I like going where the action is and wanted to see how they are helping. But action is also a commitment of $30 million dollars over the next 3 years to veteran housing issues! The HDF (aren’t acronyms great) put me in contact with VoA Michigan for their event yesterday and they also said that their President, Kelly Caffarelli, would like to talk with me about their veteran housing programs.
Home Depot Foundation Logo

Kelly and I talked for almost half an hour about the Foundation’s support to veterans. Dedicated is the best word I can use to describe her. She said that veteran sacrifices deserved our support and that, “The Home Depot Foundation is committed to ensuring that every veteran has a safe place to call home.” With about 150,000 homeless veterans during the year that is a large undertaking! Housing has the largest impact for veterans and their families and that is where they aim! Focused and on target! Sounds like the best military mission! She described their support and relationship with three non profits, Volunteers of America, Fisher House and The Mission Continues as exciting and long term. Since April they have provided $4 million in grants but they also provide supplies and volunteers from Home Depot to help during construction.

Working closely with Veterans Affairs and other government agencies they like to “fill in the gaps” for government programs. I asked if they supported individual veteran requests for support and she asked that I emphasize this point. Since the HDF focus was to support local efforts through their non profit partners, the veterans should ask for help through those channels. They are expanding their list of non profit partners and will be adding two in the near future which will be announced soon.

"Just a Mom"

Click here to vote for "Our Letters to You"
as a Top 25 Military Family Blog
(Now I'm begging!) :)
 There are a lot of things that I am.

Daughter, Wife, Neighbor, Friend, Sister, Aunt, Cousin
Granddaughter, Co-worker, and of course Mom

A mom to four boys. 

*J*, 17
*E*, 8
*C*, 6 and
*L*, 9 months

So with a final plea,
Click on the this link, http://www.circleofmoms.com/blogger/our-letters-you-military-family-blog-from-militaryavenue;
Click on the orange thumbs up;
and then if you are feeling extra gracious share the link on Facebook, Twitter, Email and ask your friends and family to vote.

Voting ends tonight, 5/25.  5pm PST.
After that I won't bug you about this again. (Hip Hip Hooray you are thinking...)

Right now we are #28.  We'd love to be in the top 25!  Because, quite frankly I put my heart and soul into some of my writing and isn't it fun to receive a tangible reward for that?  Although, seriously, the true reward is just getting my thoughts out of my brain, through my fingertips and written down.  It helps me make sense of this crazy thing we call 'life'.

- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

Tasty Tuesday: Smells, Sights and Tastes of Summer Potato Salad

I am a sucker for Heinen's Potato Salad!  But purchasing it from the deli can be quite a strain on the family grocery-budget. So I had a mission... make it myself. And I think I did it. It may not be  "Heinen's Signature Recipe" but it is mine now and I love it.




Leanne's Smells, Sights and Tastes of Summer Potato Salad

4 to 5 Red Potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled
5 slices of bacon
One packet of Ranch Dressing Mix (8 oz)
1/2 Cup of Sour Cream
1/2 Cup of Mayonnaise
1/4 Cup of fresh chives, chopped
1/2 Cup of vidalia or red onion, chopped
1/2 Tablespoon dried-basil

The Field Exercise at Ft Knox and Businesses That Care! (It is Military Appreciation Month)

Why are some businesses successful at reaching out to the military community?

Fantastic Sams shows their colors!
We just attended a special event for military spouses at Ft Knox, called a Field Exercise that was a wonderful time! It brought together 300 Army spouses (most had seen their soldier deploy multiple times – some up to six times) and provided them an opportunity to learn coping skills and laugh together about military life and its challenges!
AWN



Hosted by Tara Crooks and Star Henderson of Army Wife Network, the Field Exercise also gave away some wonderful gifts!



Super Military Supporters
MilitaryAvenue.com was there as a sponsor and coordinated with three local businesses to provide gifts! All three outdid themselves and now have an audience at Ft Knox!  These folks did more than what we asked for and should be recognized for their efforts!! They provided pizza gift cards, coupons, spa packages and salon gift cards and coupons as well! When we approached them we had simply ask for a door prize from each. They responded with what else can we do? When we described the program they reacted with coupons and business menus for each of the attendees in addition to their wonderful door prizes! Their total giveaways to attendees were more than $4,000! 

Share a Legacy this Military Appreciation Month

May is Military Appreciation Month.  Where lies your military-heritage?  Is it your spouse, a parent, a grandparent, a cousin, an aunt or uncle, a child?  Have you told them how much you appreciate them?  How you appreciate their service?  What they have done to recognize their valor, their pride, their honor?

 

I come from a long line of military service. My grandfathers, my dad, my husband. My pride runs deep.  How about you?  Head over to USAA's "Share a Legacy" and create a badge on their Wall of Honor.  Take a couple of minutes (at the most) to put into words who you are proud of!  Let's make this Military Appreciation Month a month to remember!


- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

Week in Review: May 15 - 22, 2011 (Military News) #MilitaryMon

Popular Military Family Articles for the week of May 15th - 22nd on

MilitaryAvenue.com

The Vietnam Wall and future generations: Memorial Day is approaching and this year my eight-year old will have a very tangible memory of what the day is about. The Vietnam Wall.  *C*, 6 years old, Hubs moving at *C*'s pace, and my dad pushing the stroller with Baby *L* were ahead of us. The area was crowded. It was full of school trips and tourists. But there was a lull from the usual noise of a 'touristy place'. *E*, 8 years old, picked up on it right away and our pace slowed.  This, I think, is the purpose of the Wall.  To teach. To learn. To think. and of course to Remember. ...

Norwegian Waffles for Syttende Mai: It is almost time to say "Hurra for syttende mai"! I can hear the old ladies in my childhood church chatting and clacking... most of them had dentures that didn't fit quite so well. They had stamina, girth and a love for breads. Yes, these were Norwegian women. They were a tad formal, my Grandma referred to her best friends as Mrs. Otto Andersen, Mrs. Moy, or Mrs. H. C. Andersen. This made me smile, as I can picture these women in sensible shoes, baggy hose, blue suits of every shade, clutch purses and a handkerchief in hand. ...


Click here to vote for
"Our Letters to You"
as a Top 25 Military Family Blog
Click on the Thumbs-up
and you are done!
 Father's Day and a Military Deployment: Three quick things: Father's Day is just about a month away and if you have a deployed-father in your life /now/ is the time to get shopping, boxing and shipping! If you are looking for some care package ideas be sure to check this blog out: Father's Day from Afar:  A letter from our oldest, 14; Some pictures from our 3 and 5 year older from their "Write from the Heart" books; My 5 year old made a 'dot to dot' for Dad. I'm not sure it actually makes a picture - but he sure enjoyed doing it and that is what counts!; A copy of my 5 year-old's preschool "report card" ...


Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) App Helps Thousands: The PTSD Coach smartphone application (app), launched in April by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DoD), has already helped more than 5,000 users connect with important mental health information and resources.  "This new tool is about helping Veterans and Servicemembers when and where they need it," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "We are encouraged so many have already downloaded this resource and hope many more will utilize this convenient tool to access VA services." ...

Mark Wills, "Crazy Being Home" and Military Mental Health: We have so much to say, do, follow through after the Military Bloggers' Conference this past weekend but I wanted to start it all off with this video. Friday night we had the pleasure of sitting in DC, outside, right off of Pennsylvania Avenue. It was a bit cool out, but the atmosphere was perfect. Mark Wills was introduced and sang some fun songs, shared some humorous antidotes and we all couldn't help but smile throughout. Even my non-country loving Dad said he had a great voice! It was an evening of fun. ...

WWII Veterans Centerpoint: I captured a moment. It wasn't what I came to see, yet it was perfect.  In mesmerizing calm we walked around the monument, and it is monumental.  Schools of school classes were in Washington DC for civics 101 in real life. To some students viewing the WWII tribute, it was ancient history. Our family is blessed with survivors: Navy, Army and Army/Air Corps. The names of battles brought frightening images to conversations to so many who were walking in groups. Then across the center point, a slow moving, wheel chaired, cane supported group of seniors assembled. ...
Buying Secondhand Goods: Finding great deals on secondhand goods has become easier than ever as websites like eBay and Craigslist have grown. If you shop carefully, you can save money on almost anything. Learn how to avoid problems and find bargains when you buy used goods. ...

Father's Day from Afar: (2008) Father's Day is this Sunday - talk about creating a void for our family going through our first deployment. I'm sure the void will be felt all across the globe on the 15th.  I fortunately have stayed on top of this one (I'm not on top of much lately). Hubby's care-package is in the mail & he should be receiving it any day now. I hope it oozes with love! (As opposed to oozing with sticky-melted chocolate!)  I'm not great at 'themes', maybe with some practice I will get there... but for now the theme is simply: "From Us" :)


"On my Spring Vacation I rode the Metro" - How to handle Stress: My family spent part of our Spring Break in Washington DC, as I have mentioned a couple times now. It was a quick trip with only 2 1/2 days of touring. In fact, it was never even a full day as six year-old's legs (in particular) get tired quickly. But we made the most of it! We visited Arlington Cemetery, The Smithsonian Air & Space as well as Natural History Museum. We found our way into a Smithsonian Outdoor Garden full of sculptures and fountains. (A hit for our boys after a very over-crowded Air and Space museum!) ...
Military Family Life: Welcome from a friend!  Welcome to MilitaryAvenue.com's Blog. Colonel K, retired Air Force; Deborah, Air Force spouse; Dan, MilitaryAvenue's fearless leader; and Leanne, wife of a soldier & deployment survivor; We bring to you our unique perspective on the military lifestyle. MilitaryAvenue.com brings a lot to the table. Part of our lifestyle-offering for Military Families is our Blog, 'Our Letters' to You, written by military-families for your enjoyment, knowledge and empowerment. Find out how much we have to offer. Click on any of the links to glean some knowledge, smiles, and much more: ...


More Great MilitaryAvenue.com content:
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Our Letters to You, MilitaryAvenue.com's Military Family Blog

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A Minute Out of the Norm: Helping the Birds

I love birds.  We have a couple of feeders around our house and a much used bird bath in the front garden.  My favorite feeder is viewable from my kitchen window as well as the deck door. I'll find myself sometimes just staring out the window watching the birds.  Other times my boys will give a loud shout-out.  "Mom, a Cardinal."  "Mom, a Blue Jay." " Mom, oooo come look at this one."  It is just fun to have a simple thing to enjoy with my boys.  (After all I can only feign so much 'interest' in Pokemon, jokes involving bodily functions and games like Mario Cart).

Today in my monthly-newsletter from my local metro-park they had a very cool little craft idea.  Help the birds find nesting material.  We are going to do this over the weekend and I thought I'd pass it along your way as well!

Nesting Material Craft

Birds are busy building nests this time of year and are able to find materials on their own in nature, but it can be fun to help them out.  Stuff a mesh bag, like the kind onions come in from the grocery store, or an empty suet feeder with items for the birds to use in their nest.  Some ideas to use:

  • Dog hair:  if you have a dog at home, birds like to use dog fur to make the nests soft. After brushing your dog, use the fur from the brush to put out for the birds.
  • Strands of cloth, pieces of ribbon or yarn in lengths of about 4 inches are good to put out.
  • Natural materials like pine needles, dried leaves, twigs and cattail fluff
  • Even hair from your brush
Hang the net bag from a tree branch, ideally near a feeder so that it will be noticed, and watch the birds use the material.  In the coming weeks, be on the lookout for birds visiting the sack, then watch what trees they return to — from the right viewpoint, you might even get to see your building materials being incorporated into the birds' nests.


Help us get the word out! Click on the Orange 'Thumbs up'
No account requried just one simple click. Thank you!
 Happy Spring!

- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

The Vietnam Wall and future generations

Memorial Day is approaching and this year my eight-year old will have a very tangible memory of what the day is about. 

The Vietnam Wall.


*C*, 6 years old, Hubs moving at *C*'s pace, and my dad pushing the stroller with Baby *L* were ahead of us.  The area was crowded.  It was full of school trips and tourists.  But there was a lull from the usual noise of a 'touristy place'.  *E*, 8 years old, picked up on it right away and our pace slowed.

This, I think, is the purpose of the Wall.
To teach.  To learn.  To think. and of course to Remember.

*E* and I walked hand in hand; (he has promised me he would never be too old to hold my hand!) talking about the names on the wall.  That these are veterans of a war years ago; fathers, brothers, uncles, sons, mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts. Veterans like his grandpa and his dad, but these veterans gave their lives.

Norwegian Waffles for Syttende Mai

It is almost time to say "Hurra for syttende mai"! I can hear the old ladies in my childhood church chatting and clacking... most of them had dentures that didn't fit quite so well. They had stamina, girth and a love for breads. Yes, these were Norwegian women. They were a tad formal, my Grandma referred to her best friends as Mrs. Otto Andersen, Mrs. Moy, or Mrs. H. C. Andersen. This made me smile, as I can picture these women in sensible shoes, baggy hose, blue suits of every shade, clutch purses and a handkerchief in hand. Each had an open house policy... come on over and have a little something to eat: munke, banana bread, abbleskivers, lefse, poteskage, coffee cake or cold Norwegian waffles. Oh the waffles, served with strawberry preserves and a dollop of cream! And of course several cups of coffee would flow with piece. Morning would zoom into lunch and a genuine invite was offered, but excuses would be made and off we would go to get home and get to work before Pop came home for dinner. Food. Food itself: the thoughts of it, the makings of it, the purchasing and the growing of it were the focus of my Grandma's household. Extraordinary aromas, love of life, and Biblical principles held it together!

WWII Veterans Centerpoint

I captured a moment. It wasn't what I came to see, yet it was perfect.

In mesmerizing calm we walked around the monument, and it is monumental.

Schools of school classes were in Washington DC for civics 101 in real life. To some students viewing the WWII tribute, it was ancient history. Our family is blessed with survivors: Navy, Army and Army/Air Corps. The names of battles brought frightening images to conversations to so many who were walking in groups.
Then across the center point, a slow moving, wheel chaired, cane supported group of seniors assembled. They weren't there for my camera, or the 30 other cameras that flashed. They were there to take in the honor that was due them. WWII veterans proud smiling, emotional and admired.

Father's Day and a Military Deployment

Three quick things:  Father's Day is just about a month away and if you have a deployed-father in your life /now/ is the time to get shopping, boxing and shipping!  If you are looking for some care package ideas be sure to check this blog out:

Father's Day from Afar:

A letter from our oldest, 14;

Some pictures from our 3 and 5 year older from their "Write from the Heart" books;

My 5 year old made a 'dot to dot' for Dad. I'm not sure it actually makes a picture - but he sure enjoyed doing it and that is what counts!;

A copy of my 5 year-old's preschool "report card";

Diego stickers. The 3 year old insisted on buying Diego stickers for Dad. Logical. So I put a little note on them that maybe he could attach them to the envelopes of letters he sends to us;
>> Continue Reading
These were some items I included in a package to my husband during his last deployment. What will you include this year?

Secondly, Stars and Stripes is at it again!

Stars and Stripes Father's Day messages:
"Calling all moms and military-brats of deployed dads. Put down what you are doing and go to: http://messages.stripes.osd.mil/. Send your dad a Father's Day message. I am sure it will make his day!" The deadline this year is 8 a.m. EDT June 2 and will appear in Stars and Stripes editions around the world.

Getting a Grip on the Spring Sports Schedule

Holy Smokes!

I feel like I have been thrown into the lion's pit.  The lion's pit of an over-scheduled-family!  How did this happen?  Just this weekend we had three birthday parties, one soccer game, two baseball practices and running up to the elementary school twice for baseball-team pictures.  I can almost breath a sigh of relief that the weekend is over!  Almost...

This week we have three soccer practices, two soccer games, and four baseball practices, if I'm counting right.  And if I thought this last weekend was crazy... wait till next weekend when Hubs is out of town for a JAG conference.

I'm not a "soccer mom".  I don't have cute little family caricature-stickers on the back of a giganimous SUV.  I certainly cheer for my boys and their teams, but don't expect me to be perky about it at 8am on a Saturday morning!  I'm just trying to make it through one evening at a time.  One Saturday at a time. When the kids are busy they are happy.   When the kids are happy Mom is happy.  I didn't say /how/ happy.  (And busy ... not stressed out to the max from being /too/ busy.)

What are your tricks of the trade for a busy schedule?  These are just some of my simple ideas:

Week in Review: May 8 - 14, 2011 (Military News) #MilitaryMon

Popular Military Family Articles for the week of May 8th - 14th on


101 Ways to Thank a Military Spouse - Happy Military Spouse Appreciation Day! In honor of the spouses that work so hard on the home-front I've compiled a list of 101 Ways to Thank a Military Spouse!  It is about Respect, Love, Admiration, Appreciation, and a simple Thank You.  Enjoy! ...


It is Military Appreciation Month at Home Depot Year Round! I am excited! I heard two veterans talk about the company they work for and what it was doing for the military community with employment opportunities, veteran housing grants and military discounts at their stores! This is not a small program! $30 Million over the next 3 years to help the military community housing!! Plus a 10% military discount for purchases at their stores! *See below for specifics on eligibility! ...


UNO’S Thanks U.S. Military with Online Salute and a Discount for Armed Forces Week - To pay tribute to all U.S. military men and women, UNO (www.unos.com), the casual dining restaurant with a focus on both indulgent and delicious and nutritious dining options, is encouraging everyone across the United States to join them in posting an online “thank you” to a special Uno’s Facebook page and is giving all active and retired military personnel a discount during Armed Forces Week. ...


Child Care for the Military Community Just Got Easier - Baby Sitter or Child Care Anyone? The Department of Defense is Paying for the Locating Service at Sittercity for YOU!  We all want our children to be safe while we have to be away and we all like to save money! Why not combine the two! The military lifestyle is tough and we all know that the last thing we want to do is jeopardize our kids safety in a new town, location or daycare! ...


DeCA asks patrons to reduce paper, plastic bag usage - Being earth-friendly is an ongoing priority for the Defense Commissary Agency. That's why this Earth Day - and every day - DeCA is asking its customers to do their part in helping commissaries be environmentally responsible and save on operating costs by reducing the use of paper and plastic bags. "Operating in an environmentally responsible manner is an important part of delivering a premier commissary benefit to our military customers," DeCA Director and CEO Joseph H. Jeu said. ...


Mentorship in Marriage - 9 years ago today, I wasn’t but a sparkle in my mom’s eye as she walked down the aisle in her beautiful white dress on her dad’s arm. Her focus, my dad, her future! My future. My children’s future. I have been blessed. Since that wedding day the Lt. and Mrs. became Mom and Dad to three children, me and my two younger brothers. They took their family where the military sent them, far from their own families. They relied on each other, friends around them and the grace of God. Their three children grew up, got married and had children. ...


Guardian Angels for Soldier's Pet - It is an image which many of us hate to see! Military members saying good bye! We have to say goodbye to family and friends during deployments, long temporary duty (TDY) assignments and remote tours. It can be a heart ache for all involved but sometimes it includes our four legged friends! For some giving up a pet means never seeing the animal again! I had the opportunity to meet and interview some neat folks from Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet who help pet owners who deploy find a foster family for their pets. ...


Mommy Rhapsody - Happy Mother's Day! - Happy Mother's Day to all of the moms of servicemembers; to the moms holding down the homefront; and to the moms that are serving in our Armed Forces. Our hats off to all of you!  Now to put a smile on your face...


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 Free Books from Scholastic and Kumon - Reading is food for the soul! My boys are blessed with a bookshelf overflowing with books. In fact, usually the messiest part of their room is books on the floor after being sorted through to find their choice piece of work for the moment, many minutes or hour. I love books. I love that THEY love books. They love to re-read old favorites and they love the gift of a new book. ...


Spinach on the Side Finland Style - It is almost dinner time and the idea of something a tad out of the ordinary just seems right!  Pinaattiohokaiset: Finnish spinach pancakes... don't jump away... spinach is no longer just for Popeye! My goodness, your children don't even know who he is! Popeye's can will never come near to the fresh ingredients that are available daily down the produce aisle.  Serve these hot beauties with meat, and if you are serving a roast: with meat and gravy. If the oven was on, preheat a serving dish to present these warmed at the table. If not, turn oven to a low temp and place platter in to warm dish and hold pancakes until ready to appear on your table.  This is a fresh way to introduce something new... an experiment that would be graded A+ if you were back in school!




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Mentorship in Marriage

39 years ago today, I wasn’t but a sparkle in my mom’s eye as she walked down the aisle in her beautiful white dress on her dad’s arm. Her focus, my dad, her future! My future. My children’s future. I have been blessed. Since that wedding day the Lt. and Mrs. became Mom and Dad to three children, me and my two younger brothers. They took their family where the military sent them, far from their own families. They relied on each other, friends around them and the grace of God. Their three children grew up, got married and had children. Dad has retired from the Air Force after thirty-years of service. They have both fought cancer, together, taking care of each other. The new husband and wife have become grandparents to nine. And I see the blessings of their union each and every morning.

Marriage isn’t just about a husband and a wife. Although they should always be the focus! Marriage is about generations. My children will be blessed by my parents’ faithfulness. My children’s children will be blessed by my parents’ love. My great-grandchildren will be blessed by my parents’ give and take. Generations will reap what they sow.

Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration? Where does it stand? (Post Osama Bin Laden) DoD Roundtable


Afghanistan will “bite you in the leg if you make assumptions”! Major General Jones at DoD Bloggers Roundtable

The Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration program is an Afghan led process that has seen 500 fighters leave the anti-government forces (mostly Taliban) just in the last 60 days! According to British Major General Phil Jones the “numbers are rocketing up”! General Jones is in his fourth tour in Afghanistan and is the Director of the Force Reintegration Cell for the International Security Assistance Force. He spoke to the DoD Bloggers Roundtable this morning (or evening in Afghanistan).

With the Reintegration in place for 10 months following the lead of President Hamid Karzai’s High Peace Council established last September, we may be turning the corner. Maybe? With reintegration offered, continued pressure from Afghan government forces and NATO, the village or tribal leaders are walking in with groups of fighters to end their participation in the war. From 5 to 200 at a time they are starting to put down their weapons. While NATO still estimates the Taliban forces at 20-25,000 (full and part time) fighters the calm winter, lots of pressure from Afghan elders and military operations many are seeing their best choice as peace. The general felt that the fight was still on but with the process in place to reduce participation he had a lot of hope!

He did caution us that Afghanistan will “bite you in the leg if you make assumptions”! Jones said they would need 12-15,000 fighters to quit before it would be a strategic change and they have seen a total of 1,700 so far.

How does General Jones see the results of NATO’s efforts and the Peace and Reintegration program of the Afghans? He said the conversation is changing and security gains have given folks a sense of confidence and allows them to quit the fight. They are hearing about the program from village leaders and radio programs and after they walk in the Afghans do a basic level of vetting which he described as pretty rudimentary. I asked if they are permitted to join the Afghan National Security Forces (AFNS) which includes police and military. He said “no” but once assimilated they could apply like other citizens. At that point they go through a much more intense screening and vetting program (See Roundtable comments from Lt Gen Caldwell about infiltrators in the ANSF killing NATO forces).

The Afghans have established a database of those that lay down their weapons and NATO has access but no strategic leaders have walked in yet. The database includes biometric information (eye scans, fingerprints) and interviews. Some fighters are going home quietly as well. None of the reintegrated folks have been placed in contact with NATO forces.

Staying Healthy: Spend time outdoors

Spring Weather!  Today it is supposed to be almost 80 in NE Ohio.  Beautiful words to my soul.  After a long winter a day like today is a perfect opportunity to break routine and get outdoors!  Being outdoors has many health benefits, from breathing fresh air to taking in the sun.  A little sunshine feels great, can help lift feelings of depression, and is a great source of Vitamin D, so long as you protect yourself with sunscreen.  Being outdoors in good weather also encourages physical activity.  Try to spend time outdoors as often as you can.
Looking for more ideas to stay healthy?  Read other blogs 'Staying Healthy'

- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com


Inspired by 100 ways to feel better every day (Military OneSource acct required)

It is Military Appreciation Month at Home Depot Year Round!

I am excited! I heard two veterans talk about the company they work for and what it was doing for the military community with employment opportunities, veteran housing grants and military discounts at their stores! This is not a small program! $30 Million over the next 3 years to help the military community housing!! Plus a 10% military discount for purchases at their stores! *See below for specifics on eligibility!

Recently the MilitaryAvenue team was able to attend the Military Blogger’s Conference in the DC area! What a great group of folks and the sponsors of the event are great military supporters. I wanted to keep our military community informed about some great opportunities that they offer! I was able to conduct a follow on interview with one of the speakers and it was great to hear her enthusiasm.

Sherre Maclin is the Baltimore District Manager for Home Depot and an Air Force veteran. Ms. Maclin served eight years on active duty in the logistics career field, then went to the reserves for six more years. When we talked yesterday she explained that the corporate culture; values; similarities to military attitudes and commitment to their community (both local and national) drew her to seek employment with the HD orange! I asked for advise on how to find an opportunity with Home Depot and she advised you to start at http://careers.homedepot.com/ with an application! They have hourly and management positions available. When HD needs to hire, they look for a match from these applicants! She said they highly value military experience and leadership skills and with great training programs available you can grow quickly! Bring your enthusiasm, focus on customer needs and smile during the interview!  You do not have to be a home improvement guru to be hired.

Using Your GI Bill? What You Should Look for in a College or University!


Recently I had an interesting request from a respected university that is on several military installations. What would you recommend for a college seeking to improve its veteran outreach? I spent some time before the meeting to relive my experiences and look at current issues and came up with some brainstorm ideas for them! Now I’d like to turn these ideas around for our readers who are considering going back to school, getting a new degree or using their GI Bill to expand job opportunities after their service time!

To be the best prepared student and get the best return on your dollar (a lot of blood, sweat and tears, too) you should check out the school and ask specific questions! Does the curriculum meet your needs? What are your goals? Those are your tasks before you can go to the next step! Does this particular school fit you? Let’s divide that into several areas!

First, the school environment! Does the school seem military friendly? Does the office have any veterans or military spouses working there? How about professors that are veterans? Do they have a veteran’s program administrator who knows the GI Bill inside and out who can help you deal with VA issues? How about a veteran’s council on campus? Many schools have a student organization with sub-organizations for specific groups. Is there one for veterans? Read the school newspaper online or in print! Is there a flavor that appears friendly or does it scream, "stay away military" at you? Is there a veteran columnist at the paper?

How about their social media? The school’s footprint and message can be seen through facebook, their website, twitter, youtube, linkedin, etc! Like and friend and see what the message is that you receive! What do other veterans say about the school? Ask about them at MilitaryAvenue’s Education Center! http://www.militaryavenue.com/EducationAvenue.aspx

Do they recognize holidays that are important to the military community such as Veterans’s Day and Memorial Day? How about Military Appreciation Month? Is there ROTC at the school? If they have an on campus program, it usually indicates that they support the military community and you will have an opportunity to interact with students in the program as well!

Spinach on the Side Finland Style


It is almost dinner time and the idea of something a tad out of the ordinary just seems right!
Pinaattiohokaiset: Finnish spinach pancakes... don't jump away... spinach is no longer just for Popeye! My goodness, your children don't even know who he is! Popeye's can will never come near to the fresh ingredients that are available daily down the produce aisle.
Serve these hot beauties with meat, and if you are serving a roast: with meat and gravy. If the oven was on, preheat a serving dish to present these warmed at the table. If not, turn oven to a low temp and place platter in to warm dish and hold pancakes until ready to appear on your table.
This is a fresh way to introduce something new... an experiment that would be graded A+ if you were back in school!

Finnish Spinach Pancakes
1 c flour
1 t baking powder
1 t salt
1 t sugar
1/8 t nutmeg
1 c milk
2 eggs
3 T butter, melted
1 package (9 oz) frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and well drained. About 1 cup.

Place first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Combine milk, eggs and butter and pour into dry ingredients, stir until combined. Add spinach. For each pancake pour about 2 T batter onto hot lightly greased fry pan.
Brown on underside; turn and brown on second side.

Serve with butter, Parmesan cheese, gravy, or shredded cheddar. Fun to place with accessories! Dress it up! Placed next to a sizzling steak, or savory roast, this is a side dish that takes notice.

As the whole world around you is changing and dressing into Spring, try something new, something international. Cooking is fun, serving something different just seems like the right thing to do!

Those Spring Weekend Fun Times

We have had a couple of great weekends to work outside and we are getting those spring weekend projects done! Helping out family with the bigger projects makes them easier and a lot of fun too! Just a few pictures of a great time with positive results! One family, two sets of parents/grandparents and sister helping clean out some dead trees! Teamwork, American pride and the right equipment make these kind of projects go well!

We even had time for some fun with the kids getting a ride in the cherry picker basket with grandpa (Col K) without the Craftsman chainsaw this time!

"On my Spring Vacation I rode the Metro" - How to handle Stress

My family spent part of our Spring Break in Washington DC, as I have mentioned a couple times now.  It was a quick trip with only 2 1/2 days of touring.  In fact, it was never even a full day as six year-old's legs (in particular) get tired quickly.  But we made the most of it!  We visited Arlington Cemetery, The Smithsonian Air & Space as well as Natural History Museum.  We found our way into a Smithsonian Outdoor Garden full of sculptures and fountains. (A hit for our boys after a very over-crowded Air & Space museum!)  We took in the World War II memorial and the Vietnam Memorial as well as the Jefferson and Lincoln monuments.  We stood outside the White House and noticed the three snipers on top of the roof (and that is what we could see!), the helicopter circling over head and then the long line of black cars pulling out in front of the White House on a Saturday evening.  Very cool!  My boys, my mom and Hubs visited the zoo while I was at the Military Bloggers Conference.  We saw a lot.  (Knowing that there is SO much more to see!)

Last night my family was reminiscing.  What was our favorite part of the trip?  My eight-year old, *E*'s answer really surprised me.  "Riding the Metro."  You see we didn't even need to ride the metro but I wanted my Midwestern boys to experience public transportation.  So we drove our way over to Union Station from our Alexandria, Virginia hotel, parked in the garage and then the seven of us headed to the metro.
  • To start with we couldn't figure out where the metro was at Union Station; and the first "lady" that we saw, (with a vest on to indicate she worked there!) rudely and bluntly said she wouldn't help. period.  Fortunately, that was the only ugly-person we ran into.
  • We had to figure out how to use the machine to get all day passes to ride.  It was in a dark corner, in front of the turn-styles where all of the commuters were zipping through.  There stood my six and eight year olders taking it all in while the adults failed to completely understand how to simply get six all day passes.  After my mom and I asked a few questions of the metro-employee we got it all figured out.  (Self-help isn't always all it's cracked up to be.) 
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