Ugly Sweaters

Friends -

Just a super quick blog to tell you about a FUN way to win $1,000 from Pioneer Military Loans!  Because who couldn't use a little extra money this time of year?  Head to their Facebook page to learn more and good luck.  (And perhaps if you win the $1000 it's time to buy some new sweaters?!)



Hurry - Contest ends December 20th

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Home for the Holidays #HickoryTradition

Home for the Holidays. It can mean so much to the mobile, military family.  Sometimes it means having your spouse beside you as you celebrate a quiet Christmas, just the two of you.  It can mean jumping in the car and travelling thousands of miles to be home with Mom, Dad, brothers and sisters.  Then there are the holidays when your kids surround you as the anticipation mounts for such a fun day all the while talking with their mom or dad on Skype while they serve over seas and in foreign lands.

Home for the Holidays #HickoryTradition
Pin this image for an additional chance to win a Gift Basket
from Hickory Farms.  Further details below

Staying Safe while Christmas Shopping

The Christmas season, rather synonymous with "the shopping-season". We grab the lists, grab the keys, and head to our local department shops to buy gifts for loved ones.  But what can be a time of merriment and fun can quickly go south if we become unsuspecting victims.

Here are five quick tips to staying safe and protecting your belongings while hitting the crowded malls and department shopping stores.

1.  Situational awareness.  Be aware of those around you.  Put down your phone, keep an eye on other shoppers, watch your 3 o'clock, 9 o'clock and even your 6 o'clock.  (Can you tell I'm the daughter of a pilot?).  Don't be so focused on your shopping that you miss the pick-pocket that "accidentally" brushed up against you.

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Preparing for the Tax Season for the Military Family

WASHINGTON, Dec. 3, 2013 – With a month left before the start of tax season, service members should begin gathering documentation to file their 2013 taxes, the director of the Pentagon’s office of family policy and children and youth said.



In a recent interview with American Forces Press Service and the Pentagon Channel, Barbara Thompson suggested visiting the Military OneSource website for tax filing resources, and to learn what will be necessary to file, such as W2 forms, Social Security numbers and receipts for deductions such as child care, education, medical expenses and donations, among other write-offs.

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Head to our MilitaryRewards and find a local Military-Friendly Tax Advisor.
 
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Commissaries Proposed Closing around the US

Updated note:  I just read an interesting article over at Military Spouse Magazine confirming that Commissaries are not on the chopping block and the original quoted article added a line that proposals to cut commissary benefits would have to make it through Congress and the President, which they noted would be difficult.  Perhaps, it's the mad and loud voices of the military family that can keep our military-benefits, like the commissary, from meeting the chopping block.  So now it's time to let them know how we feel about raising TRICARE fees 100% to 500% for our deserving military retirees, as well as the importance of our military-benefits, like the commissary!

Original post starts now ...

I just recently read that "The Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) will be soon writing a plan for closing stateside commissaries at the request of the Defense Department" (Plan to Close Stateside Commissaries Coming Soon).  The statement stopped me in my tracks.



My Inspiration, the Veteran in my life

Veterans Day, a day to honor and thank veterans, has come and gone.  However, the opportunity to acknowledge and appreciate a veteran should never be passed.  As an Army National Guard wife I swell with pride whenever my husband wears his uniform to serve our country. When I remember deployment and months that I have been without him I shed a tear but then think to myself we did it! When I think about how his very basic need to serve has driven him to do just that, and to do that with honor, I remember the many qualities that attracted me to him so many years ago.

But my pride in my husband stems much further back than the day he pinned on 2nd Lt with me by his side.  It is more than just looks (although he is mighty handsome if I do say so myself!) it is a feeling that swells deep and stems back to my childhood.

Inspiration for Veterans Day > A Critically Wounded Hero and His Wife Speak Up

As Veterans Day approaches my thoughts (and I am guessing many Americans as well) frequently go to images of World War II veterans, local veteran recognition, parades, corporate efforts for veteran employment announcements and images of Arlington National Cemetery.

CPT Edward Klein and wife Jessica  See below for photo credit
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have created a new focus on veterans and one that often (thankfully) includes the wounded heroes who will bear the scars, invisible injuries and lost limbs of war. Captain Edward Klein, US Army, a triple amputee due to an IED attack in Afghanistan, and his wife Jessica joined the DoD Blogger Roundtable to discuss their experiences and to highlight Warrior Care Month. SFC Scott Cormack also participated as a Platoon Sergeant with the Army's Warrior Transition Unit at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.  

Fighting Depression - 10 Tips

It is dark out at 9 in the morning.

The beautiful autumn leaves have fallen.  The dark clouds have carpeted the sky.  The rain falls like the mood of all those around me.

The season is changing.

But there is also the season of my heart.  The season where my soul feels like it hits the dark side.  I will say I'm not there right now.  I am blessed.  Blessed with experience.  Blessed with family.  Blessed with very dear friends.  Blessed with knowing myself.   But that's not to say that in the future I won't return, or that I can't bless a friend with my own thoughts, or share with you the reader a little inspiration. I'm not a doctor.  I'm not a counselor.  If you are in some serious pain find a medical professional you can trust.  Find the partners you need in this journey.  But if you just feel like you are in the brink and need a hand to get out of the hole and to feel whole again here are some tips to fight this dark season of your soul.

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Apple Chips for your Next Care Package



Are you looking for something new to put in your next care package?  How about a slice of home?  A reminder of autumn? The taste of crispy apples.  But how do you get it overseas without it turning bad, mushy, yucky?  Enter the power of the dehydrator!

The Gift of Guns & Gratitude

Yesterday I bought a gun.

I guess that sentence has more weight then I intend, especially because it is a gift for my husband's 40th birthday, coming up towards the end of the month.  But *I* had to fill out all the paperwork, the gun is registered in my name and the clerk made it very clear it was mine.  Yep, it's mine.

But here is my story.  The conversation with the clerk started off a little rough, especially because my gun knowledge is about this much > . < Not much at all.  I knew what kind he wanted and he had pointed some out in a flier so I brought that in with me.  However, when you are looking at these /racks/ of hunting rifles I was just lost.  I'm not sure he really appreciated that.

Veterans Day 2013 Meals, Deals & Support

Veterans Day 2013 is less then a month away and it is time to acknowledge the companies that will take the time to appreciate our deserving US Veterans.



Watch out for Scammers during the Government Shutdown

The government shutdown is having an impact on Americans (and the military community specifically) in numerous ways. The added inconveniences, costs (commissary closings), loss of income, reduced training opportunities and much more are adding stress to military families too.

A simple compliment and my heart smiles

Have you ever thought about how far a compliment can take someone?

A couple of weeks ago my parents were visiting when one of them made the simple but genuine statement, "Leanne, your house is always so clean.", and the other was quick to agree.  Now let's take a step back.

From my perspective, my house is not clean. There are four boys (five including hubs).  Weekends and evenings involve soccer, homework, Legos, Hot Wheels, running, jumping, playing. Although all of us are involved in one shape or form in keeping the house tidy (to the extent it can be) I am the cleaner. and cleaning is just not my thing.  I love a clean house, I hate the process.  I put off the process.  I do what I can to make the process as simple as possible

A View of Military Family Security and the Washington Naval Shipyard Attack

See Photo Credit Below
Do you feel safe on or near your military installation? News media coverage of the two attacks on military installations (Washington Naval Shipyard and Ft Hood) and Islamic terror attacks in Kenya and Pakistan against foreigners visiting a mall and Christians in church have again raised awareness of personal and family security.

Girlfriends

A wise woman once told me that one of the most important relationships I will ever have is with girlfriends; peers, sisters, allies.

In my 'old age' I can attest to that life lesson and I will tell you the same thing, when the going gets tough find some girlfriends.  Girls that are in your shoes, that have the same outlook, girls that will help lift you up when you are feeling down.

Take Care of Your Family While on that Hike

Sign In at the Trailhead
Most military families are active!  They do not sit at home and whether they explore the local area or visit a county/state/national park they can find themselves challenged in new and different ways.  Avoiding injuries or illness while staying active can take some planning and thought.  

New and Old Adventures for the Military Family

Old adventure!
A military PCS is always an adventure!  In fact, "military lifestyle" is a synonym for adventure.  Finding new fun things to do in your new community after a PCS can be challenging for a military family! Heading outdoors, new schools, new jobs, getting out the front door, off the installation, exploring social opportunities, meeting new friends, visiting local highlights, browsing new malls, walking new trails and playing on new park equipment can be the best of times.  But last week I had the greatest time exploring an adventure from the past!

A "Soldier of Finance" Review

Soldier of Finance author, Jeff Rose
“Why are you struggling with finances?” Looking for a new approach to financial matters? How about reading a book organized for the military community mindset? The first question a military member says in basic training, “Why am I here?” fits right into “Soldier of Finance” as author Jeff Rose, Certified Financial Planner opens the mission with how he got there and why.

New beginnings! Are you ready?

The new school year, a PCS this summer, a new job/employment, a deployment return or departure, a new or revitalized faith, a new workout routine, a wedding, a birth, a health crisis … all can be new beginnings for the military community. So how do you help yourself during new “stuff”?  

Remember the Old!

It gives us strength to remember what helped us in the past. Looking at old pictures is a great way to enjoy old friends, family times, previous assignments, etc. More important though is the support emotionally and physically we get from the routines that we created to cope with the military lifestyle.  

The new school year!

Never seemed ready for it but the date always arrived. Such a challenge for military brats > new school and new school year. Walking into a new school with no or few friends, unknown teachers, trying to avoid local social faux pas > what is the right book bag, where is my classroom, ++. Then all of the associated costs which can be budget busting: A few tips to help with that: http://www.militaryavenue.com/Articles/7+Tips+to+Rein+in+Back-to-School+Spending-43285.aspx  


A Gold Star Mom Speaks Up! DoD Blogger Roundtable

Staff Sergeant Carter  See Photo Credit Below
Staff Sergeant Ty Michael Carter will receive the Congressional Medal of Honor on Monday, August 26th for heroism at Combat Outpost Keating, Afghanistan on Oct. 3, 2009. There were eight soldiers from Carter’s unit killed during a ferocious battle that day. Pfc. Stephan Mace was one of them and his mother, Vanessa Adelson, has chosen to speak up to the American public about this story to highlight the sacrifices that are being made by the military community.

The Gold Star Family & Our American Flag

This past weekend was out of this world.   Boating, Bike Riding, Ga-Ga Ball, Campfire & S'mores, and much more, all wrapped in time spent as a family.  A huge thank you to Ohio's Operation Military Kids and the USO for supporting programs like Military Family Camp.  This was top-notch support!  I desperately want to share more about the weekend but need to take the time to share this solemn moment and give it its due "time in the spotlight".

A True Hero,Spc. Frederick Greene! Why is the Army still calling Ft Hood Attack, "Workplace Violence"?

The Purple Heart
Fort Hood attack was "Workplace Violence"? Why?  Are you kidding me? 

I have to admit this is an emotional issue for the military community and being part of that community it hit me hard when the "terrorist attack" occurred at Ft Hood in 2009.  Watching the story of the court martial of the terrorist while he continues to draw his salary as a US Army soldier is just disgusting.  Compare that to the families of those killed during the attack who have been denied many benefits because of how the Army categorized the attack!  Their pay stopped the minute that the terrorist's bullets ended the lives of their soldiers. 


Taking Life by the Reins

It was going to be a long week without my main squeeze.   Hubs had JAG training at Fort Belvoir for a week and I knew for sure we would miss him.  Truth is, it's hard when your best friend leaves, even if only for a week.  (And yes, I have done the year long deployment... but that's not my point.  Sometimes, I miss him when he is only sitting in the other room.  Get it?)

When he proposed that we tag along I admit I was a bit nervous at first.  Tag along?  Hang out in a hotel with the kids all week? Hit DC with just me and the kids, tackling things like the subway, the streets, the vagabonds without my fearless leader?  It really didn't take me long to say, "You bet we would love to come!"  The hotel was paid for, travel paid for, even breakfast and dinner provided by the hotel as part of their room rate.  It was going to be an adventure!

GUARD Your Health! DoD Blogger Roundtable

GUARD Your Health! A very clever title and name for a National Guard health website > like it a lot.

The Army National Guard launched a mobile friendly “GUARD Your Health” website on the 27th of June! With numerous resources for the geographically dispersed members of the National Guard, they want you to know it is there. With categories for health tools, health topics, benefits and resources, an Ask the Experts section and even personal stories to provide a pathway for others living the Guard Life, the site brings great resources to one location.

Never Leave Phone at Home > First Veteran “Hackathon”

You might forget your wallet or purse but will "Never Leave Phone at Home" Chris Norton, AT&T

Are you a Mobile APP military person > Veteran, spouse, active, reserve, guard or family member? This weekend is the first AT&T Mobile APP “Hackathon” for Veterans and they are going to build mobile applications for just the military community! All within in 24 hours. Ready, set, go at veteran-themed mobile app development contest, or hackathon.

I spoke with Chris Norton, Senior Program Manager, Military Talent Attraction (and a US Army Reserve Major) and Alex Donn, senior marketing manager for the AT&T Developer Program and the mastermind behind AT&T’s hackathon program. Chris was excited and thrilled about the event and the focus it provides on the military community.  He also is a great avenue to job search resources (read on below). 

Universities that Support our Veterans

I read a recent article about two universities that 'get it'.


Rutgers University and the University of Arizona; The Lumina Foundation highlighted them in their recent magazine, you can read more here: Lumina Foundation Features Two Colleges for Their Work Serving Student Veterans; America Needs More Vets with Degrees to Meet Attainment Needs

The Magic House & the Magic of Family

It is amazing how time flies. 30 years ago we were stationed at Scott AFB, Illinois.  Going to 'The Magic House' in the mid 80s was a big deal, a lot of fun. It meant it was a great day to be a kid!

This weekend I took my own kids for the first time.  As we traveled from Fort Leonard Wood to home (NE Ohio) I wanted to show them the sites, give them a glimpse of where I lived for a few years, let them soak up some of the things I did and saw when I was their age.



I had a little bit of fear.  I wondered if I had made The Magic House so much better in my mind over the years.  I wondered if maybe the museum had changed over the years, maybe not for the better.  I hoped I could even find it! 

"No Soup for You" at Camp Grandpa > A Military Heritage

The Camp Grandpa Crew
Summer time for the military community often includes visits to family from a long distance. When our military brats were young, we tried to include some time with their grandparents/aunts/uncles/cousins as part of our summer.

If we were close enough and schedules worked we even left them for a week(s) at grandparents or camps involving the family. One year during a PCS we left the guys at grandpa’s and Leanne at my sister’s when we went house hunting. It was the only time in a 30 year career that we could look ahead, find a house before arriving in the local area and it was wonderful!

A memory of one of those summer moments came out during my dad's funeral/memorial service this year when Dan related a story about his grandfather sending the two brothers out to work a project in the rain and telling them to "Go Be Ducks".  

On the Road Again, A Military Journey!

What a journey life has taken me. Right now I'm in the passenger seat, in more ways then one. Learning to be the mom that lets their children make their own choices, loving letting Hubs set the pace for this stretch and taking in the beauty of life as it whizzes by.

The 4th of July; The Military Community and Sarcoma Awareness Month

Does this ribbon look familiar?
As we approach the 4th of July, Independence Day, Americans who serve this great nation in our armed forces face many daily challenges. Their lifestyle of sacrifice and caring for others is one great example of patriotism, a better humanity and responding to a higher calling in many ways.

Did you know that “The All Volunteer Force” celebrated its 40th anniversary on July 1st? I am just amazed at these young people and their willingness to serve under the difficult and stressful conditions after over 10 years of constant war and before that other operations not labeled “war” but military operations that still led to bullets flying.
"This is important to our military families! Our service members need training and budget cuts are affecting their safety with reduced training hours and less proficiency."  Read more below


Brig Gen John Broadmeadow, See Below
It was a refreshing topic, helping other military partners with new capabilities and expanding our skills as well. No hot topics from DC but a great military exercise with allies from Japan, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, Chile, Mexico, Peru and several other small contingencies of observers participating. It even had an interesting name, Dawn Blitz, which almost sounds like a specialty drink from a bar somewhere near the water with a view of the sunrise.

Are You Making the Right Choices for Alcohol Use?

See Below for Photo Credit
Decisions! We make them every day – active duty, reserves, guard members, retirees, military family members – all of us are faced with small or critical decisions every day of our lives. Sometimes, they are almost routine; like, what shoes do I wear today? Well, that might be a bigger decision for some than others. Sometimes a decision leaves us with a ‘I wish I had done it differently” or “What if” or a WTH (I prefer “heck”) moment or maybe,  “Wow, I made the right choice”.

Our Summer Routine

The Summer Routine has started in Ohio.

School is out, the kids' schedules have relaxed, thoughts of fun and sun have been churning in the minds of my boys.

However, this mom has other plans besides lazy days of summer all vacation long.

Tasty Tuesday: Shrimp on the Grill

The weather has been beautiful in Ohio and what better way to enjoy the spring-weather but by pulling out the grill for dinner.  If your family enjoys seafood like mine does you will love this perfect, simple, summer shrimp recipe.

 


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