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Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!): March 2008

Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!)

My goal here is to make your life easier, especially those who are in the unique situation of being a military spouse. Yes...I've been around...but in a good way...and hopefully can share those tips, tricks and shortcuts with you too. I've been on this military bus for over 40 years now. My goals in life are to have a well-run home, few money worries, well adjusted children, money socked away and whatever happiness I can scoop out of life.

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After life as an Army brat, being in the Army myself and marrying a soldier, I can honestly say I have a bucket full of life lessons I can share to help you make your everyday life easier and enlightening. Don't waste your time making unnecessary mistakes and benefit from others who have come before you on your journey through life.

Monday, March 31, 2008

The Military Widow as a Cash Cow

This is something I always have in the back of my mind. I hope and pray that it never happens to our family. We've been lucky at our current assignment, at least for the last two years. My husband's trips out of town consist of forays to Ft Bragg and DC and a few places in between. He stays gone maybe a few weeks to three months at most. We have been lulled into complacency. At his new assignment, it will be back to a combat unit, back to a unit that deploys, back to the heartache and sadness of visiting the spouses of fallen warriors, back to the worry and's not a matter of if but when. I am absolutely dreading it. For many of you, you are right there, right now. We always hear of the troubles spouses go through, trying to keep their financial house in tell you the truth...I never thought of the flip-side, especially after some of the changes that have been put in place.

I read an article on Friday from the New York Times, entitled - Military Kin Cop with Loss and Gain. I'd like you to stop and read it. Did you know the military has increased the death benefit from a few thousand to $100,000? Many of you already know that life insurance amounts have increased. There is also more help available with housing, education and medical care...more than ever before. You are even provided with the help of a financial advisor, to come up with a plan for your future as well as your childrens'. According to the article, only a small percentage of widows take this advice. Many widows end up blowing through all the money....I have seen it happen myself....many are also looked at as a cash cow by relatives coming out of the woodwork. Can you imagine that? I guess money can bring out the best and the worst in people! That is just unbelieveable!

What can you do now to put yourself ahead, should you ever find yourself in such a situation? Follow the steps below. I can honestly tell you, if I am ever meant to be in such a situation, I want to make sure my family is taken care of.....that I am independent enough to run the household, that I am aware of what the Army and our government owes me, that I look out for my childrens' well being and that I can grieve and reflect on my own time...and dime, without any distractions.

Be sure to understand each of these points:

  • Know where everything is. Know where all your financial records are to include your wills, insurance policies, bills, car titles, home records, mortgages records and anything that is of importance to you and your family. I personally run the finances in our house. It's just easier when my husband comes and goes all the time. This gives me the confidence too, to know where we stand financially and there can be no surprises for us. I also have my husband tell me (and I tell him should something happen to me), what means something to him from our household junk. My husband is a stamp collector and has many thousands of stamps, but I can still pick out which collections are dear to him, and which ones I can then pass on to his children.
  • Set yourself up to be financially secure should the inevitable happen. The $500,000 life insurance from SGLI and military death benefit just won't be enough to sustain you over the long haul. I want to be able to do what I want and when I want, without having to worry about where the money is coming from. You can replace your husband's income and live off the interest from his life insurance if you purchase ten times his income. Please make sure it is term life insurance and not one of the other products insurance agents peddle. Shop around and make sure the policy is the right one for someone in the military. For example, you want the policy not to have a war exclusion cause! Because of my husband's high risk job, I have only found one company that offers this benefit at a reasonable price. Be sure to read about it here.
  • Know that there are some books written on the subject. I didn't even know this myself. The best one out there is
    Military Widow: A Survival Guide
    Military Widow: A Survival Guide by Joanne M. Steen and M. Regina Asaro. There are also some others out there that cover other aspects of losing a loved one. As much as I don't want to wish something like this on anyone, I do follow the mantra of trying to be prepared...not so much for my benefit, but for my children.
  • You can find support and others who have gone through similar circumstances. One great thing about being military, is the comradiery of the spouses. Visit the Society of Military Widows. There you can find support and comfort from others...just like you. They even have a new widow checklist on their site. It's great to have family and friends too, but it just isn't that same as what you can get from others who are in your situation.
  • Vow to be a part of your family readiness group. I can honestly tell you...I've been lucky to have been a part of some solid groups in the past. If you have an active group of spouses, they can easily organize themselves into a support system for that widow. Years later, I met up with a widow again at an Army Ball function (she gets invited every year), and she told me she would never forget the meals, the laundry and household being taken care of, the children being driven to school and everything that was done for her. She didn't realize it until later, how helpless she was, and she said without our support, she doesn't know if she'd ever have gotten back up again. Now, I will never forget what she told me and vowed to make sure my next family readiness group is close and has a plan. This is something you can do now too.
Sorry to start of the week with such a glum subject, but you know me. If you've read any of my posts, you know I like to be prepared for just about anything. I like to learn and grow from mistakes. I would like you to do the same! Does anyone have any tips on how to survive something like this? Has anyone helped a widow...any widow....get back on her (or even his, the widower) feet? Please do share.

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Friday, March 28, 2008

An Army Career = Job Security in Today's Economy

How depressing. I just read about a lady featured on CNN who made $70,000 a year, suddenly lost her job and now is struggling to put food on the table and keep her house with her $2,500 mortgage. She was also recently denied food stamps. When was the last time middle class America had such a rough time? Why do I feel safe that this won't happen to us?

I am reminded about my neighbor. They were solid middle class too...til he lost his job. They are about to lose their home, and at this point, he is looking at just about any slew of jobs he can get, including delivering pizzas. The wife is out cleaning other peoples' houses. I also know someone in the airline industry who is waiting for the "other shoe to drop". Delta will not be the only one in trouble. There will be massive layoffs coming again in the airline industry this year. Our local newspaper has even shared a few stories of hardworking Americans who are struggling right now.

There is a silver lining though for those of us in the military. Unless the US government totally goes under, we will still have our military, and my husband will still have a job. He won't get downsized. If for some reason the Army no longer needs his specialty, he will be given the opportunity to reclassify. His pay will not be cut. Historically, that has never happened. He'll continue to get his benefits. His pension will not be taken away. And, he won't get fired unless he does something illegal or immoral. How is that for job security? What company or corporation in America can offer the same? I can't name a single one myself.

Even with this kind of job security, he does take responsibility for himself and his family. How many of these families hurting today had an emergency fund? I don't care what your situation is or how much money you make right now, you need to save up three to six months worth of living expenses. We have about two years worth saved up, easily accessible, but that is because we have a chunk of rental houses. You never know what is going to happen there either, and if all the houses were to stay empty for a few years, we would be sweating it. Make a commitment today, to start saving. Vow to never be in such a situation. Make sure you have a good life insurance policy. If you are non-military, you'll need a good disability insurance policy as well. Many of these families in crisis today, didn't see it coming. You won't either, but if you follow these steps, you'll at least be able to roll with the punches and recover quickly.

Do you have any tips to share about fortifying your family and your life? Does anyone have any enlightening or uplifting stories to share?

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FREEBIE on CD: Family Records Organizer

Moving around a lot with the military, we really need to have our records in order. Do you know where your marriage certificate is? Or your kids' shot records? More importantly, does your husband or anyone else in your family know where to look? Does your family know where to look for your personal and financial records should something happen to you or your husband? I've found a nifty little tool on CD, that is of course free, to help get all your paperwork stuff organized.

It's called the Family Records Organizer and is available FREE from T. Rowe Price. T. Rowe is a mutual funds company and prides itself on all its financial tools, calculators and literature. I've done business with them for years via their mutual funds (which are some of the best rated BTW), and can vouch for their customer service.

From their site:

Wouldn’t it make life simpler if your important financial information and accounts were organized in one safe place?

Most of us have what feels like dozens of financial accounts and records to keep track of, such as retirement plan accounts, bank accounts, investments, debts, mortgages, and more. Even for a simple estate there is a lot of information to manage. T. Rowe Price has developed a tool called the Family Records Organizer CD-ROM to help you with these organizational challenges. This unique, interactive CD-ROM provides you with an easy way to gather all your family's records in one safe place, including primary contacts.

The Family Records Organizer CD-ROM:
  • Offers a single place for you to capture important personal information about your investments, banking and credit cards, insurance, and more with the intent of passing this information along to your beneficiaries or keeping it in a safe place.

  • Features a comprehensive Learning Center containing helpful videos and topic information on each of the CD’s recordkeeping categories.

  • Captures the wide variety of information that is key to your and your family's financial well-being and organizes it so that anything you may need is available at a moment's notice.

  • Allows you to be paperless if you choose. You can save your information electronically or print it out.
Take the time to check it out! If you know of any other freebie goodies to share, please post them below!

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Thinking of Hosting a Foreign Exchange Student?

Don't do it! Seriously though, many of you know we have hosted a German exchange student this past school year. We did not go into it with our eyes wide open, but instead, it seems with eyes sewn shut! We've had our ups and downs, things we would've done differently, but also nice surprises here and there of having a young teenager in the house. Honestly, it has been a positive experience and we have a cartload of stuff we can apply to our own kids when they get to be that age.

Be sure to keep these thoughts in mind when choosing and hosting your exchange student:

  • Pick a student with similar interests to your own. Don't pick a student who is heavy into outdoor sports, thinking your bookworm family will changes its won't and both of you will be unhappy in the end. Read the student letters and bios VERY carefully and look for clues of immaturity, dominance, chauvenism and possible (more noticeable and problematic) character flaws too. If there is something you absolutely don't want to deal with, then pick another student.
  • Realize that a boy student is easier than a girl student, so if this is your first experience, I would certainly pick a boy. We all know teenagers, right? I am a girl myself, so I make no excuses in saying that a teenage girl is much more difficult to deal with than a boy...I've seen it myself and been told it over and over again by other parents.
  • You don't necessarily have to have teenage children already in your household to host. We have two young boys and thought it would be nice for them to have a big brother. Unfortunately, it didn't work out quite the way we would've liked. We have a very gregarious young man who loves to play soccer and be with his friends, so he rarely interacts with our boys. Be prepared for something like this happening and make up your mind ahead of time if this will disappoint you or not before you choose someone to share your life. Our program had another family with three young adopted children from China. They hosted a young man from China, hoping he could share his culture and his general being with those kids. Well, those kids were so unruly, and this boy was a professional piano player who tended to like things calm and orderly. It was not a good mix.
  • When they first arrive, don't have a huge party. Your student will be exhausted. Some take many travel days to get here, depending on where they are coming from. Plus, they have to deal with time changes, cultural changes and just the change of being in a new place with absolute strangers and no familiar family in sight! Integrate them slowly. When you first meet them, ask them if they are hungry, take care of those needs, then go home and let them sleep. Let them take a few days to get adjusted. There will be time for a party next weekend (or whenever), as well as showing them around. Don't give them too much to process the first few days.
  • Have basic toiletries on hand. Many don't travel with much stuff and may be too embarrassed initially to say they need something. We always have a basket of toiletries and toothbrushes in our guest bathroom for all guests. Let them know they can help themselves. No need for them to ask!
  • Do show them where you keep basic stuff. Go ahead and give them a quick tour around the house after they arrive, just to show them the basics. Show them where the snacks are and where to put their dirty laundry. Tell them when mealtimes are. Later, let them empty the dishwasher and the trashcan...what better way to learn where everything goes? Make sure you tell them they are not a guest but part of the family, and then treat them accordingly.
  • Realize you may get some cultural resistance. Many of these kids come from cultures where moms do all the housework or dads say what goes. Let them know how you do things here. Remind them they are here on an exchange, and that to be a part of your family, they will do things the way you do things. Don't listen to the excuse that I can't make my bed because that is lady's work...uhh uhhh...not here it ain't!
  • Your water, electric and whatever bill will be higher. Most teenagers LOVE to shower. Our boy takes two or three long showers a day. Water in Florida is expensive. Just be sure to budget for these extra expenses or be prepared to teach them about conservation.
  • Your food bill will be higher. Teenagers eat....a lot. I also had to shop more often and buy snacks and things like that...teenagers like to eat pizzas and snack stuff rather than regular meals, although we do try to sit down as a family at least a few days a week and required this of our student too.
  • Figure out ahead of time how you will deal with situations and money. We decided beforehand, that whatever we spent money on with our kids, we spent it on our student too. If we went out to eat, to an amusement park, shopped for Christmas gifts, our student was treated as one of our children. For extra expenses, such as when he goes out with his friends on his own (which is almost all the love to go out to eat and spend money) and clothing and other knick knacks he may want to buy, those were on his own dime, and he understood that ahead of time.
  • Have a rules talk. Within days of our student arriving, we sat down with him, in fact, we wrote it all down in very plain English, what was expected of him. He ended up posting it on his bulletin board in his room. It listed his curfews (schoolnights and weekends), no drinking, driving, drugs and that kind of thing and what his chores and responsibilities would be. Our student cleans his bathroom every other week (he rotates that with our kids) and gets $20 for mowing our huge lawn. Otherwise, we ask him to keep his room clean and pick up around the house when he sees something out of place. Of course, we constantly have to remind him of many of these things, which I believe are just part of normal teenage behavior.
  • Have them realize there will be consequences when (not if) they screw up. You are standing in for the student's parents. Our student's mom actually told him if he screws up, he will be on the first plane back home. They have to learn responsibility. If they come in late from curfew, then take something away from them, whether it's internet, TV or going out (a big one for them). Most teenagers LOVE to sleep in and hey, if they miss their ride to school, let them sweat it out and figure it out themselves. Our student had to go flying through our subdivision on my son's little scooter one morning, trying to catch his last chance for a ride. He made it, but next time, he got up when his alarm rang. These kids have to learn to be adults, and if you baby them, make their school lunch, make their bed for them or wake them up in the morning, they will never learn (remember this with your own kids too). We also had the "sex talk"...I wanted him to make sure I knew what the deal was and if there was any hanky panky that gets him or a girl in trouble, he was going to be on the first plane home, no questions asked.
  • Try to have some kind of contact with their parents. My student's parents were worried about having their son in someone else's care. I regularly send photos and email, plus I know I will get his mom's support when things go wrong. She has stood behind me 100% so far, and we wouldn't have had this rapport without this back and forth contact. Can't speak their language? Then use the Altavista's Babelfish Translator to try to get your point across. Email makes that easy. Even if the parents don't have email at home, in many countries, they can figure a way to access email elsewhere.
  • You may end up being a bus driver. We were lucky in that our student made tons of friends and always had a ride somewhere. We do know other students who didn't have friends who drove and the host parents had to drive them everywhere..not so difficult if your student ends up being a homebody or has only a few friends, but if they join a sport, such as ours did, with multiple practices a week, it might've been close to impossible for me, taking into consideration my husband's deployments and our own kids' schedules.
  • Schedule some family activities. I made sure to schedule some events for our family, including our student. Give them a head's up well ahead of time to make sure they understand they will be attending the event. Many students think it is almost all fun and games when they come here. Ours doesn't want to do anything without his friends, so we sometimes have to rein him in and remind him that he is here on an exchange and not on a party bus. Let them know their world revolves around your family and not them.
  • Have a set-up for your student's privacy. Kids at this age should have some sort of privacy. Don't dig through their stuff and if you can, give them a room they can call their own. This is important. Our student knows that his room is his and his alone and that I don't even go in there other than to peek in to make sure it is somewhat in order and all the four walls are still standing.
  • Decide what you want to do about the cellphone situation. It seems like every teenager has a cellphone these days. Our student says kids text message all day long, even when they are standing right next to each other. We couldn't add our student to our cellphone plan, because we didn't want to incur any more time in our contract due to our upcoming move. Plus, we would've had to uptick our minutes and add text messaging, which we don't have. So, our student had his mom send his phone from home, and we set it up as a prepaid phone. He ended up going through his minutes like water, especially with all the incoming text messages he had to pay for too, so he eventually started leaving it at home when he went to school...a good and smart decision if you ask me in the first place. He has learned to be thrifty and to delay gratification with the thing.
  • No TV or computer/internet in the teen's room. When we went over the rules, we set down the internet rules as well. If you don't want to trust them and are a little paranoid, you can always get one of those software monitoring programs on your computer and set them up with their own user id (not as administrator). Keep the computer and TV in the common areas of your house (this is a must for your kids too). You want them to know you are monitoring what they are doing, and that you are keeping track of the time they spend online. I think ours learned the wonders of My Space over here, although I think he was already a messaging wizard before he came here. I have heard it can be a real problem keeping them off the internet for hours, as many want that contact with home (and their friends), and this behavior is discouraged in order for this exchange to work as it should.
  • Insist that they call their parents and family at least every other week. This frequency seems to work out best. Once a week is too often and longer than two weeks wrecks havoc on the poor parents. We have lowcost long distance/international phone service and our host family was also able to find a deal at two cents a minute. You can't beat that! Check Phonedog to find a lowcost long distance provider in your area.
  • Query them about their likes and dislikes, and try to make them feel at home. Most will get homesick at some point. Ours had no problem at the beginning, it is at the end of his stay that he is starting to feel down and apprehensive about going back. Give them a chance to tell you their wants and needs. Buy snacks and toiletries and things for around the house they might need. We made up a basket of goodies and gadgets, such as a pocketknife, pen flashlight, dictionary, Post It Notes, a popular novel and office and desk items our student might have needed for school. We included a nice note and put this on his desk in his room before his arrival. The kids also made a welcome home sign for his bedroom door. Before I go to the grocery store or wherever, I do let him know I am going beforehand and leave my shopping list where he can add things to it.
  • Encourage your student to answer the home phone. Ours used to run the other way when it rang. I finally had to tell him to answer it. Now that he has his confidence up, he has no problem answering it. Try to get them in situations where they can get their confidence going in the right direction. You can start with a non-threatening thing such as the's not face-to-face contact, and if they totally screw up, they can still run and find you and give you the phone. The more they do something, the better they'll get at it and the more they'll get out of the exchange experience.
  • Do take the tax deduction when you do your taxes. Right now, you can take a $50 tax deduction per month for hosting a student. In actuality, you spend much more, but that's what the law says right now.
  • Along those same lines, don't host a student if you are short on money. Hosting a student costs at least a few hundred extra dollars per month. If you can't spare that, then don't host. Don't put a student in a situation where you are always pinching pennies. You will also tend to resent that unknowing student, and that's just not fair to them. Most of these exchange programs cost many THOUSANDS of dollars for the student and his family. Many scrimp and save for years or have to ask a rich uncle to help them out. This is a big thing for them. Don't blow it for them, and be prepared to be somewhat generous. I think many host parents don't realize the costs involved going into this (both in time and money), so I just wanted to get that out there so you can mull it over!

Those are the highlights, and these are the things we have learned over the past few months. Would we do it again?....probably. I would rethink though having a student the year before we make a big move overseas, but it has mostly been a positive experience for us all. There are many student foreign exchange programs out there. There are a few shady ones as well that you need to stay away from. You can check the Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students to read some of the complaints. We had a lot of luck with Youth for Understanding, a program that's been around since the end of WWII. I must say, they go through a lot of trouble to make sure their students are prepared before they arrive, they have activities and get togethers for the students, and they monitor their stay and try to make it a positive experience for both the host family and the student. Have you ever hosted a foreign exchange student? Have you been one yourself?

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Ladies (not Men), Would You Recognize This as a Heart Attack?

We've all seen a movie or two with some guy clutching his chest and keeling over from a heart attack. Most of us think a heart attack will hit us just like that, with a gripping pain in the chest, a quick chance for a grunt and a grimace and almost no time to react. Well, let me tell you about Alice. I always liked talking to Alice. Alice is a cashier at my local grocery store. Alice always has such a nice smile, friendly manner and voice, and even when I'm in a down mood, she always manages to leave me with a spring in my step when I leave her checkout counter. About a month ago, I noticed Alice was no longer in her familiar spot. Where was Alice?

Sheltered in my own little world, I never had the gumption to ask where she was? I mean, I didn't want to ask if she was fired or something...or moved somewhere else...what if something bad had happened? I just didn't want to know that and assumed Alice was on vacation.

Just as I was getting up my nerve to ask, I did find out what happened to Alice. Alice had had a heart attack. She was back a few Mondays later, looking a bit tired and worn and worse for the wear. I was genuinely happy to see her. She proceeded to tell me what had happened. She said it was her mission that day to tell every woman she met, what her symptoms were. Come to find out, she was told women traditionally have these symptoms and not the clutching heart symptoms that men typically get. If you or anyone you know has any of these symptoms, please go see your doctor post haste. One symptom or another may not mean you are gearing towards a heart attack, but a combination of these symptoms might mean you are! Better to be safe than sorry. Doctors can actually catch a heart attack before it happens. Hah, you say, I'm not old. You don't have to be. Alice is 32 years old and does not have a family history of heart disease. So, let's go over these symptoms:

  • Consistently being short of breath and very, very tired. If you have to sit and rest while making your bed in the morning, you are suspect.
  • Tingly fingers on one side of the body. This was Alice's first symptom that she noticed, about a month before she went to the doctor. Of course tingly fingers can mean other things too. Just don't ignore it.
  • Sciatica pain down one leg. Many of us remember this from our pregnancy days and know what this feels like. Hers just continued to get worse.
  • Lower back pain. Alice thought she might be having some kind of kidney problem. This is why she went to the doctor, and this is why they caught her heart problems early, after only a small heart attack.
  • Unexplained nausea and cold sweats. She typically had these at night and thought that she was going into some kind of early menopause.
The doctors told Alice, that she had had a silent heart attack. A few more of those, and she would've keeled over permanently. She had these symptoms for about a month before she went in. She never had ANY chest pain. An NIH study I recently read, showed that less than 37% of women experiencing a heart attack actually have chest pain. Get to know these symptoms, share them with every woman you know, and if you are feeling them yourself, get checked out immediately. Alice would want me to pass this on!


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

My Neighbor's Character was Questioned Today

I got a call this morning from one of my old neighbors. What a blast from the past! It seems our other neighbor's job and life in America was in jeopardy. Apparently, someone had alerted someone in the government, accusing our neighbor of anti-American and possible terrorist tendencies. Our neighbor being accused of this happened to work as a civilian on a military base, so I'm sure the authorities did not take this matter lightly. In fact, they took it so seriously, that he is to appear before a judge later in the week. I dutifully called our mutual neighbor, who grew up in Jerusalem, as a Palestinian. Yes, our former neighbor is Muslim.

So, I sat and listened to Mohammed's heartbreaking story. I already knew about the torment and hatred his wife and four kids had to go through post 9/11. His wife wears traditional Muslim dress, and I remember sitting with her a full year after 9/11, trying not to get too upset, as she recounted being yelled at, spit at and shown obscene gestures when she ran her errands around town. Now it had gotten to a point where their livelihood and stay in America was being threatened.

I remember that these neighbors were always there for me when I needed help, especially during my husband's deployments. I got almost weekly treats of baklava and other yummy desserts that I still miss to this day! I have never met more polite children and good neighbors who cared about the others around them. Now does this mean they are not terrorists? Well, I don't think any of us could truly answer that unless we could climb inside their heads, but as I struggled with what to do for my former neighbors, I decided to write a character reference letter. I wanted to write what I do know about them...nothing more and nothing less. I did feel confident that they had nothing to do with such matters. I mean, the husband spent many decades in America, taking menial jobs and studying for his engineering degree in order to get such a great job. I heard him speak many times about how thankful he was to be in America and all the trouble and heartbreaking news he gets from back home...Both he and his wife also spoke lovingly about their children and their hopes and dreams for them....America is the place to be, and if he could, he'd bring his whole family over. This does not sound like the rantings of a terrorist.

But, nevertheless, I sat down and wrote a nice character reference letter, accounting for what I had seen of him and his family, his actions and his words...and hoped that it was good enough to help him out. I haven't heard back yet on how his case is going, but I do pray for him and his family and hope that God watches out for them in the end.

I think character reference letters were used more in the old days. You don't see them as much anymore. You might still see them attached to resumes, where someone may not have a lot of work experience. Or you might see requests for a character reference letter on a job application. But the vast majority are attached to court documents according to a friend of mine.

If you ever have the opportunity to write a character letter, see some of the sites below for ideas.

Examples of a Character Reference Letter

Character Reference Letters

Have you ever had to write a letter for someone, vouching for their character?


Monday, March 24, 2008

Don't Do Another Military PCS Move (or any Move) Without Reading This!

"Here we go again...same old 'stuff' again...marching down the avenue".....yes, that's part of an Army cadence. It's Groundhog Day, ala Bill Murray, and we get to do it all over all know the drill right? Wouldn't it be great though, if you had all your ducks in a row and there were no surprises and you could actually look forward to seeing and doing new things rather than drown in all the issues surrounding a big move? Well, it can be done. I am thrilled to have the expert advice of Jacki Hollywood Brown, a professional organizer help lead us through from start to finish on getting your family moved. Let's get it done and move on to the next thing!

Your biggest challenge is going to be getting things packed up and gone and doing it with the least amount of hassle as possible. The Army does make it easy to get started on this quest with the ubiquitous transportation briefing. Your first milestone will be getting a copy of your husband's orders to his new duty location. Absolutely NOTHING can happen without this valuable document. With this in hand, you can schedule your transportation briefing and all the other appointments you will need. You and your husband will attend this briefing together. If he is deployed, congrats, you get to do it by yourself. Make sure you have a copy of a power of attorney first though. Don't fret...many thousands of wives have done it before you, and with the resources you will get here, you can do it almost blindfolded.

Don't have your orders yet? Don't fret that either. There are a few things you can do ahead of time, so when you DO get them, things will run ever so smoothly for you and your family.

I've already talked in the past about some things you can do NOW. Be sure to read

Yet Another Military Move and Change of Duty Station Coming Up

About a week ago, I also started sorting through our household junk. I also mentioned having a good property inventory of your stuff. It'll make it so much easier when (notice I say when and not if) you file a claim, plus you'll have a handy record of serial numbers and other identifying information in addition to the movers' list. Don't fret if yours is not as detailed as mine. The easiest way to do a property inventory is to take a video camera, go room to room (make sure cabinets are open so you can see what's inside) and start filming with your commentary. I've even gone as far as to list what DVDs, videos and computer programs we have. These are all just material possessions, so if they get lost, stolen, burned up in a fire or dropped in the ocean (don't laugh, I've seen a container of household goods dropped into the water up in Bremerhaven, Germany. It DOES happen, although very rarely), you can easily replace them. We knew someone who lost EVERYTHING in a warehouse fire, and they spent MANY MONTHS, trying to recreate their household inventory, to the point of having to call businesses where they purchased their TVs and computers, designer gowns and china set, trying to get duplicate receipts. They even had to comb through old family photos their relatives had, looking for photos where household items, such as their expensive leather couch, were pictured. Save yourself the headache and heartache and do a property inventory now. Please take the time to read

Let the Sorting Begin!


The Property Inventory and Your Next Move

In your dealings with the transportation office, try to arrange for a door to door move. This is not always possible but ideal. The Army will actually pay for you to scout out your new location (at least for stateside) and find a rental or house to buy. This is called 10 days permissive TDY. If this home is ready for you when you move, your moving truck can drive from this house to your next home. If not, you'll have to have your stuff offloaded at the destination, put in a warehouse (where things potentially get lost or disappear) and then reloaded on another truck before delivery. Sometimes you also end up waiting longer, because of trucking shortages or scheduling conflicts. If you've already got the truck, you can be that much ahead! Always, always keep the phone numbers and points of contact of the outgoing transportation office, the incoming transportation office and your movers' handy. You may need to get in contact with them somewhere along the line. I've actually had to call our outgoing transportation office more than once when a mover insisted one thing, but I knew it was supposed to be another thing. Let your transportation office help sort it out, and don't go it alone.

Let's go over the general information on things that shouldn't (and in most cases, can't be moved)

  • Hazardous materials (your lawnmower and powertoys have to be empty of gasoline).
  • Explosives (fireworks), chemicals and compressed air (as a general rule, I get rid of anything liquid, except my aromatherapy bottles and our wine collection).
    • You'll find that different movers have different rules. I like to double bag small liquids I want them to pack. As far as the wine, almost every mover we've had did not have a problem transporting it, even overseas, but be prepared to be disappointed if they tell you they can't do it! Research this ahead of time if you can.

You may also want to think about the following things if you've got them (if they are not covered in your transportation briefing, please ask about them)

  • Boats, kayaks and larger items
  • Patio stone, rocks
  • farm machinery
  • dog houses
  • fences
  • empty bottles and preserving jars
  • hobby materials (rock collecting anyone?)
  • trailers
When I start going thru our junk, prepping for the move, I like to go room by room. I have a checklist (which frankly, I don't use anymore cause it's imprinted in my brain after all these Army moves). But, if you are not well versed in moving or this is your first move, use a checklist. Depending on how long you can keep your family from messing with your organization, you can start this up to a week out from moving day.

  • Remove all batteries from electronic items (you don't want a beeping timebomb to scare anyone, or batteries to leak or your items turning themselves on).
  • Remove curtains, have them cleaned and put them aside.
  • Take prints and paintings off walls. I dust them and then lean them up against the wall. If your house is too cluttered, then go ahead and just clean them and leave them on the walls. I know movers are so thankful when you stack your smaller frames into a pile. It makes it easier on them.
  • If you are taking any ceiling fans or light fixtures, take them down, clean them and think about if they need any special packaging. I do have an antique light fixture that travels with us, so I do plan for this.
  • Identify any awkward-shaped items such as antiques, hobby items, large mirrors or bicycles. Movers have special boxes for that stuff. I always mention our two grandfather clocks (they send a special person out to secure and pack those), bikes and our extremely large framed print (which so far, has made it every move...knock on wood...).
  • If you have portable air conditioners you'll be taking along and will get packed, you'd better unplug them and let them drain and dry out. You don't want mold growing in your stuff as it travels.
  • Rope in all your stuff. If you lent out books or other items, ask for that stuff back or go ahead and say good-bye to it now. Don't forget your gym locker, storage locker, safe deposit box and any other place outside your home you might have items stored, including your local dry cleaner.
  • For every item you have a box for, such as some electronic items, put the item on top of or next to its box. Don't pack it yourself, or else the movers can shift liability to you should something happen to it.
  • To try to take a bite out of identity theft, you might want to take personal files or items and put them in a smaller bin or box and label them as "children's artwork" or "dollhouse furniture" or "whatever" and then tape it shut.
  • If you have black shoes and lighter colored shoes, put them in plastic bags or shoeboxes first. Don't learn the hard way that black shoe polish is almost impossible to get off white shoes, especially if they've been rubbing together for months as they travel overseas. Keep this in mind too with other items the movers might throw together to fill a box. Try to keep like items together and do some prepackaging if necessary. I use bubble wrap and Ziploc bags so the movers can still see what's inside.
  • Do not wax or stain your furniture in the weeks leading up to moving day. The furniture pads and blankets the movers use could get stuck to your stuff and leave a mark.
  • If you have a piano, get a professional to prepare it for movement. Also let be sure your moving company knows about it before moving day. Some movers will send out a special team to pack it up.
  • Decide what you will do about your houseplants. Will you give them away or sell them? Will they survive extreme temperatures in the truck? Can the moving company move them to where you are going? If you are going overseas, you won't be able to take them along. If you can have them packed, don't overwater them (mold growth) and guard against leakage. If you don't want to deal with the plants themselves, why don't you take cutttings of them instead. They should survive at least a few days if you prepare them properly.
  • If you have highly valued collectibles, I would suggest transporting them yourself. My husband has a HUGE stamp collection and every move would bring tons of anxiety. He finally got over it by insuring his large collection separately and letting the movers pack it. He now takes a small binder of his favorites to take along. In the old days, he would break up his collection and have someone mail him each box insured..piece by piece (that would now take forever). Just think over how you would recover should your collection disappear, and plan accordingly.
  • The movers can pack pre-packaged and canned food. I try not to do this. You never know what kind of temperature extremes the stuff will be exposed to,'s food and who knows what it will come in contact with, especially internationally. I start eating that stuff six months out and come up with some of the strangest meals in that time, and whatever is leftover gets donated to the local food bank.
  • If you're taking your refrigerator, dishwasher and washing machine, be sure to dry that stuff out at least 24 hours ahead of time. You don't want to give mold a chance to grow. If that stuff is going into storage, investigate how to prep it for that too. Read Prepare Appliances for a Move.
  • If you have firearms, know the moving regulations, especially at your next duty station. I know you can't take guns overseas anymore. Have a plan for that stuff as well.

For electronics, I take a few extra steps:

  • Use garbage bag twist ties to tie up cables.
  • Clean and dust off the item.
  • Lay the remote on top of the item, or tape it on top.
  • Some electronic items need to be prepped for moving, such as tying down the arm of a turntable or parking hard drives (older computers). Leaf through the manuals to see if there's anything special you must do.
  • I keep all manuals in one central location (a drawer in our sideboard) and make sure the drawer contents get packed.
  • I keep all additional cables and attachments in a bin labeled electronics. You never know what your set-up will be at your new location, and you want to be able to dig through your stash before running to the store to buy something you already have.
  • I make sure I separate my local cable provider's remotes, cable boxes, computer routers, modems and the like lest it accidentally gets packed with our stuff.
  • Make sure important information from your computer is backed up. I like to back up My Documents folder and make sure my photos, music and video are included as well. I have a pocket-size external drive that we carry with us, along with my husband's laptop. Be sure to note any passwords and other documentation you won't have access to. You can put some of this stuff online, let's say in your Google Mail account. Take an email message and type up any information you may need (I use clues and not the actual passwords, as well as alternate names for the websites they go with. Be sure not to have any identifying information, such as your first or last name or address anywhere in this email account, just in case it does get hacked).
  • For small items, such as craft items or Legos and kids' toys, I will package them in Ziploc bags or small bins. Your movers will love you for this. If the stuff is breakable, I wrap the little stuff in bubble wrap and then put them in a whatever size bin works best. I do this for Christmas ornaments, and honestly, I accept the responsibility of those items packed, because I know I packed them well in bubblewrap, and they are secure. It would take the movers days to individually wrap all my ornaments, and I know they will travel safer with the way I packed them.
  • For your well-packed small items, such as my ornaments that are in large Rubbermaid bins, ask the movers if they will just move the bin with the stuff inside. Just get them to tape it shut and stick a sticker on the outside. I had a mover once take everything out of each bin and put the items in a box. He then stacked the bins and bubblewrapped them separately. That just created more stuff and more work at the other end.
As I tackle each room, I separate out stuff that will not be moved with the movers. Set that stuff to the side, along with your suitcases. I stack things there as I go along. If the stack gets too big for our vehicle, I realize I'll have to put some things back. With everything in one location, this is much easier to notice! Instead of boxes, I like to use small bins to keep things organized and tidy. Of course, with this overseas move, I won't have this small luxury...everything goes and nothing but a few suitcases gets stacked. As I've mentioned before, if we must take items with us, before shipping our vehicle, I make sure it is not bigger than a medium size box worth of stuff and plan to have a friend or relative ship that box over to us once we have an address. Or, you can ship it to the headquarters address of your new unit. You can get that information from your sponsor. When you move, you are supposed to be assigned a sponsor who can help you with lodging arrangements, airport and travel arrangements upon arrival and any other questions you might have about the unit and the location. I believe having a sponsor is even mandated by Army regulations, so if you don't immediately get one assigned to you (it will be a fellow soldier, most times, higher in rank than your husband if you are enlisted), ask for one.

Some things to keep in mind while going from room to room

  • Wash your bedding a few days before moving. It just travels better that way. That goes with anything else too. Don't pack dirty or broken items, cause believe me, it'll be depressing dealing with that stuff on the other end. You also want to make sure these items are completely DRY before they get packed. Mold is not your best friend.
  • Make sure the movers wrap your bedding and couches in plastic. Your mattresses will get so dirty and icky without it and your couch will too. If it's leather, it'll get all scratched up. Insist on this. Many movers want to take shortcuts
  • I like to leave the disassembly of furniture to the movers. Again, because of the liability and responsibility issues. You don't want the movers to say, hey, we can't do anything about the missing pieces, cause it was noted on the inventory form that YOU disassembled the thing. On moving day, I keep Ziploc bags on hand and request that they tape the bag to the item. How many times have you hunted for stuff at the other end? Part of your job on moving day will be to walk around and make sure that is getting done. Don't totally rely on the movers!
  • You don't want to move with dirty clothes. Wash your dirty stuff as close as you can to moving day, and make sure that stuff is DRY.
  • Don't let the movers take all your clothes off the hangers. They have special boxes, called wardrobe boxes, for clothes on hangers. When the movers do their walk through before actual moving day, they should be calculating how many of what type of boxes they will need. I had a mover show up one time with not enough of these wardrobe boxes, and since dumb me didn't know any better to stop them, ended up taking TWO FULL days at the other end, trying to separate a puzzle of over fifty hangers and then rehanging each item that had been put in a regular box. Insist they use the right box for the right item. And while you're at it, take off all your dry cleaning plastic to keep moisture out as well as replacing your metal hangers with plastic ones. It's amazing when you go overseas especially, how sea water can corrode things it doesn't directly touch!
There are a few things I just don't pack because of the "ick factor"

  • kitchen trashcans
  • outside garbage cans (mine are almost destroyed anyway by the time we move)
  • bathroom plungers and toilet brushes (these things are very inexpensive, plus there's something that can be said of a fresh new home with brand new toilet brushes, plungers and even bathroom rugs and doormats)
The day before moving day, I make sure I do these things

  • Keep electronics usage to a minimum. For example, you don't want to pack a hot computer in a cold environment. This will create condensation and could damage your computer.
  • I pick a bathroom, a room or our car and EVERYTHING that will not get packed by the movers, goes in there. If it's a room, put a sign on the door to not pack the stuff inside! This also becomes my oasis when I need a breather from the movers or let's say you have a baby whose diaper needs some changing. One of our very first Army moves we made the mistake of having a party and having to scramble to get cleaned up and ready for the movers the next morning. A bag of garbage got packed overseas. It was NOT pretty.
  • With that being said, make alternate arrangements for kids and pets. Set up a playdate or get a friend to help out. Most are very happy to be helping you in some way. Kids can get very upset, especially the younger ones, when they see their stuff getting packed up, and pets just plain get in the way. I'm sure you've heard of countless cats disappearing and showing up hungry or worse at the other end.
  • Be sure you have your prescriptions and medications put away. Make sure you have plenty of your prescription medications to carry you over the next appointment timeframe at your new location. Sometimes your current prescription can't be moved to another pharmacy. Plan for this.

The day of your move

  • The movers will descend on your home like a colony of ants. I keep my wallet, keys, cell phone and personal stash either locked up or on me. I take one part of our house while my husband takes the other. We kind of supervise what the movers are doing and are there to answer questions or make comments. At the same token, we don't get in their way. Many of these guys have been doing this for MANY years and don't need someone to tell them how to do their job. You may want to point on items that need special packaging to the head boss (you'll know who he is right away). To sound less threatening, I say something like, "last time, the movers packed this item using x and the item came out on the other end damaged, broken, etc".
  • Have your military spouse's professional items stacked separately. Anything that has to do with his job, such as books and gear, even his computer, can be counted as a professional item. Why bother? When you've been around as long as I have and accumulate tons of stuff, you want to stay below your weight limit and considering how heavy books are, this makes a big difference for us. Just something to keep in mind.
  • Try to group your "high dollar value" items together. These are things more pilfered than your normal junk, such as stereo equipment, computers, cameras and TVs. They will get identified on your moving inventory by serial number. Double check these serial numbers against your list from your property inventory.
  • Next to the furniture items on the movers' inventory list, you will see combinations of letters. This identifies the condition of your item. For example, "CH" means chipped and "BR" means broken (this may be mover-specific, so check the top of the inventory form). Don't let them write the wrong code on there. If something is labeled as broken...and it isn't...good luck trying to get a claim paid should the movers actually break it!
  • Each box and each item will have an item number sticker. This number will correspond with the matching item on the movers' inventory sheet. Make sure each box makes it to the truck. Make sure the boxes also say something on the outside, such as "kitchen" or "master bedroom". This is why when you first start going through your junk, you put things back in the correct room and with like items.
  • Watch as the movers move your boxes and items into their truck. If it is a cross country move, the items will go directly into the truck. If it is an overseas move, they will go directly into shipping containers on a flatbed truck. It is your responsibility to watch that each shipping container is sealed after it is filled. Look for the seals. I have heard that you can request shipping containers for stateside moves as well. It's not highly publicized, because it is more expensive, but you can request it at the Army's cost and not yours.
  • If the movers take more than a day packing your items (which most times, they takes them three days to pack our 20 years worth of stuff), don't let them talk you into putting items on the truck and then coming back tomorrow. You don't want to leave items out of your sight until you see that the shipping containers are sealed and your property inventory is complete and signed. If you have any problems, have the number to your transportation office handy and call if any issues arise.
  • Borrow a cooler and fill it with water and ice for your movers. They will be more inclined to treat your stuff nicely. Along the same lines, order pizza for all for lunch and make sure you tip them when they leave. When they are finished packing, we like to tip about $20 per person. Don't give the money to the head boss, give the money to each packer individually and thank them for their work.
  • Before the movers leave, do one last sweep of the house. Open EVERY cabinet and drawer. I had to box up and move an entire kitchen cabinet of spices overseas one year, because the movers had inadvertently forgotten to open the thing and pack the stuff.
I think that wraps about everything up...literally. Be sure to read the booklet It's Your Move, put out by the military. Lots of helpful tips and resources can be found there too. Also don't forget the monster moving guide at I guess I'll be revisiting this subject again, AFTER our move to Germany in June. Maybe I can do a little After Action Review, as the Army calls it. Review what went right and what went wrong in hopes that I won't make the same mistakes next time! If you have any tips and tricks to add, please add them in the comments below! I'd also love to hear your moving stories, whether good or bad!

Related post: Yet Another Military Move (what you should be doing six months out)

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Blog Round Up - The Top of the Heap

In case you don't read the same blogs I do, here are some of my favorites and most linkworthy to note this week!

  • That was Worth the Phonecall (I admit I did this once too by accident and the credit card company erased all charges, just because I had called them...I didn't even ask!)
Have you found any interesting blogs or posts this week?


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Every Soldier's Worst Nightmare

I've never really talked to my husband about it in any kind of depth, but I know the thought must've at least crossed his mind. I'm talking about being so severely wounded that you can't function by yourself and would possibly have to call it quits with a career that has sustained you the last few years. With my husband's Type A personality and his love for all things Army, this would hit him especially hard. Read about this young Special Forces officer who was blinded and severely injured in Iraq. Find out what he is doing to try to get his life back on track and to plan for his future career and retirement. Why am I talking about such stuff? Because it's important, that's is our duty to have a plan for the future, regardless of how we might get there.

Please read this informative and thought provoking article and then send it to your spouse.

A Soldier's Story: Financial Rehab

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Is Camping at Disney's Ft Wilderness Really Camping?

I can count this as the first time I had to set up a tent in a downpour. To make it more interesting, I had purchased a four person (which doesn't seem possible) backpacking tent from Wal-mart on a whim, and took it along without waterproofing it or even checking it out beforehand....took it fresh out of the box and started setting it up in the rain (one of my finer moments in life). So, there I was with an eight year old and a ten year old, getting soaked and hoping it wouldn't start thundering and lightening, but we were at Disney after all and magical things do happen here, don't they? And even though it was Disney, I was pleasantly surprised at how cheap it could be if you knew how to work it.

Our Cub Scout pack planned this trip to Disney's Ft Wilderness about four months ago. That was when our deposit was due. This place is so popular, it's hard to get a foot in the door, so the earlier you can get a reservation, the better. I can't tell you how excited the kids were to actually get in the van and go! As a group, we decided to camp in the individual camping spaces, an asphalt "driveway" with a sand and crushed shell pad. Two families would share a pad. Each family would pay $67 a night for their family...not bad for Disney. The other alternative would've been to camp in Creekside Meadow, a grassy knoll area in the Southwest corner of Ft Wilderness. There, it costs $10 per head per night (which can be pricey for larger families) and is actually geared more towards groups with ample fire rings, a sand volleyball court and a slew of picnic tables. In the other individual camping sections, like ours, campfires are not allowed. Each camping pad does have a little grill, so marshmallow roasting can be done there if need be, but it just isn't the same now, is it?

One thing about Disney....Disney has rules..and a whole lot of them. Many of us were miffed that we could only have one vehicle at each campsite, and a few of us who tried to break the rule were swiftly admonished. So, lots of unloading and consolidating stuff in one vehicle. I already mentioned no campfires outside of the established areas. You also had to remember your keycard lest you get locked out of the comfort stations after midnight...something that's easy to forget when you wake up and your kid has to go...right now!

A word about these "comfort stations" as they were called....very nice and clean. There were numerous ones around. You could always find a bathroom no matter where you were in the "fort". They were air conditioned and the showers were private with nice hot water and the pressure was more than excellent. My only complaint here was no ledges for parking your gear and stuff, although they did have hooks on the walls. So bring a toiletry bag and maybe another bag for your clothes to hang onto these hooks. You don't want to have to put stuff on the floor. The only benches were back by the showers.

Each camping site did have water and electricity. If you come with your RV, they also have a sewage hook-up and some of the premium sites have cable TV. If you're totally not a camper, try out the cabins. They have maid service and I believe internet as well.

I know Disney is known for nickel and diming their visitors, but there isn't too much of that here. We attended a fun pool party and some of us played bingo. The kids got whacked in dodge ball and there were plenty of balls and things to borrow to play beach volleyball, soccer, football or whatever sport you could dream up. For a little money, you could also rent bicycles and golf carts, go on a carriage ride, a moonlit hay ride and even have your little ones ride the ponies down by the marina. Don't forget the Hoop-de-Doo Musical Revue served with dinner or Mickey's Backyard BBQ Party, pricier options to spend your money on.

We just took the free air-conditioned buses all around the Disney complex. You can check out all the other Disney resorts with these buses. Some of our group went to the Disney resort that had giraffes poking around near the lobby and were already looking into finding some kind of super discount fare online. We took the free boat ride and checked out some of the resorts that were right on the lake. The boat can also take you to the Magic Kingdom and the monorail system...all extra fun at no cost. If you do decide to go to the Magic Kingdom, be sure to go early! We were astounded by the absolute hoards of humanity that were showing up around 11am! Being a guest at Ft Wilderness (or any of the other Disney resorts) also allows you park access before and after the general population is in the park, which translates into less crowds and shorter lines. This program is called Extra Magic Hours, so be sure to check which park is open early and which one is open late on the days you are there.

The kids' highlights?

  • Watching a movie under the stars while eating through bags full of roasted marshmallows and smores. The staff conveniently keep two firepits going throughout the show. Before the movie, Disney's Chip and Dale came out along with a lady on a guitar playing singalong songs. This singing and dancing was a big treat for the younger, six and under crowd.
  • Swimming and playing in the heated pool. There are two pools on site. We were in the bigger one, nothing special really, but hey, the kids like any pool with water in it.
  • Taking the boat on the lake and wondering what was on that island in the middle of the lake. Lots of enclosed netting and even a small shipwreck were up against the rocks. I enjoyed seeing the different resorts that we passed by, one being the Wilderness Lodge and the others were Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa and Disney's Contemporary Resort. There were also some smaller hotels along the shoreline, with a new one just being constructed......obviously a lot of lodging choices!
  • Taking home a few memories. I don't like to purchase "stuff" at theme parks or vacation destinations (for the most part) as souveniers. Do your due diligence and research what your local Disney store at the mall (or online) has for sale. Then buy it while you are still at home. You'll find similar stuff here at Disney but at a much higher price tag. If you really want to be thrifty, buy the stuff on eBay or even second hand. You are NOT depriving your child of anything by doing this! I've done it MANY times and my kids were never the wiser!
If we had had more time, we would've:

  • Taken that moonlit ride; we were told you could see the nightly fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom from here and at the marina
  • Rented one of the Seadoo or pontoon boats (there are about three different types of boats to rent, plus you can do a fishing trip or rent a larger boat and a skipper)
  • Had a picnic lunch down at the marina (volleyball net, beach, tables, loungers and hammocks to hang out with)
  • Rented a golf cart to get around quicker
  • If we had stayed longer, we might've visited one of the Disney theme parts. Again, I would've researched all the deals online. I know Florida Hospital is giving out Disney tickets if you donate at least $59 to their hospital...a small price to pay, knowing you are helping in some small way. The military also has a small discount. See your local ITR office on post, as well as tickets thru the military's Shades of Green Resort in Orlando. We actually plan to attend a timeshare presentation at the Hilton Grand Vacation Club to get some free Disney tickets. Of course you have to be pretty tough to attend one of these and not buy a timeshare, but since my husband is a Hilton rewards program member, and we've read some of the reviews from others who stayed at this particular timeshare, we've found that it isn't as high pressure as most.
All in all, a fun and low-cost trip that we would do again. Before you go, be sure to read this Ft Wilderness Fact Sheet. I found everything accurate there, except for the directions. If you are coming from the south, take Exit 62 and follow the signs for "Magic Kingdom". Has anyone here done Disney in any capacity? Stayed at a resort or visited one of the theme parks? Do you have any tips to share? What was the best ticket price or hotel you could find? Which resorts or theme parks were your favorites?

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Carnival of Money Stories #51

Ooops! April Fool's! But seriously, here's this week's edition of Money Stories, and a day late no less, because of my inability to track my "to do" list this week..but that's another story! Thank-you for sending in your personal money stories!

Let's Party!

Finance Girl presents Are Children's Birthday Parties Getting Out of Control? posted at Finance Gets Personal.

Let's Go on a Trip!

poetloverrebelspy presents Baring My Budget: Malta « Less Than a Shoestring posted at Less Than a Shoestring.

Thomas D. Brownsword presents March 12, 2008: Writing posted at Business Action Steps.

Let's Stay Home and Save Some Money!

KC Lau presents Top 5 Regular Monthly Expenses We Don’t Need posted at KCLau's Money Tips.

Ana presents Putting Teenage Son on a Budget posted at DebtFREE-Revolution.

NtJS presents Have We Learned Nothing? posted at not the jet set.

Cash Money Life presents Reader Question: “What Should I Do With My Reenlistment Bonus?” posted at Military Finance Network.

Let's Go Make Some Money!

Tyler presents Lessons Learned In Real Estate posted at Dividend Money.

Shuchong presents Stakes and Mistakes posted at But WHY Doesn't it Grow on Trees?.

Silicon Valley Blogger presents My First Stock Market Moves: How I've Lost and Made Money In The Market posted at The Digerati Life.

The Financial Blogger presents My Smith Manoeuvre – February Update posted at The Financial Blogger.

Let's Go Shopping (or Not)!

Lazy Man and Money presents Door-To-Door Salesmen: If You’re Selling, I Ain’t Buying posted at Lazy Man and Money.

PT presents What Was Your Dumbest Purchase? posted at Prime Time Money.

Kevin presents My Dumbest Purchase posted at No Debt Plan.

Pinyo presents My Dumbest Purchase Ever And Lessons Learned posted at Moolanomy.

Stephanie presents That Was Worth the Phone Call! posted at Stop the Ride!.

FMF presents How to Make Money in This Housing Market posted at Free Money Finance.

Shanti presents Simplicity Challenge - Day 25 (Progress) posted at Antishay Ventenne.

BeThisWay presents Buy One Get One Free. Sort of. posted at Are You Going To Be This Way The Rest of The Time I Know You?.

S.B. presents Ask Around Before You Buy Things posted at Be Thrifty Like Us.

deepali presents a long list of dumb purchases posted at Paradigm Shifted.

FIRE Finance presents Top 10 Dollar Store Buys posted at FIRE Finance.

Dorian Wales presents Buying a Home – an In-Depth Look at the Process posted at The Personal Financier.

Let's Teach Others (and Ourselves) the Value of Money!

Alison presents Teaching My Kids About Money Part II posted at This Wasn't in The Plan.

InvestorBlogger presents Is your bank book your financial statement? | InvestorBlogger posted at InvestorBlogger.

Jesse Moran presents Teach Your Children to Handle Their Money posted at CompGifts - The Frugal Way of Living.

Let's Do Something for the Business (or our Job)!

Joshua C. Karlin presents An Opportunity Not to Be Missed posted at Internet Business.

Woody Maxim presents The Fear of Loss posted at Woody Maxim.

Trisha Allen presents I Officially Quit Today posted at Building An Empire.

Let's Get Out of Debt...Now!

Ashley presents A Less Depressing Update posted at College of Cash.

Thanks again to all for sending in their heartwarming and informative stories! Please join us next week at Dividend Growth Investor. If you would like to submit a story for next week's issue, please click here.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Free Summer Camp for Military Kids

Before I forget, National Military Family Organization is a great resource for military wives. they have a special place in their hearts for kids. Be sure to check out their Operation Purple, which is a summer camp program for military kids...and it is free. Check at their site for locations near your area and apply now before all the spots are gone!

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More Blogs of Military Wives

A few months ago, I posted links to a variety of military spouse blogs. I wondered if there were any more good military spouse blogs out there I might've missed. Bingo...I've found some more for you to visit.

More military spouse blogs:

Tales of a Lonely Army Wife No More. Join Allie and her two little ones and of course her Army husband. Allie was prior service Army and she posts about daily life, now that she's reunited again with her husband who was deployed. Lots of nice photos of the young family and I gotta love her list of "things that annoy me" cause they annoy me too!

Life as a Military Wife. This blog is by a military wife who loves all things French. Her husband is going through Physician's Assistant school and this blog has kept her sane. Read about her love of chocolates and all things Spring. She also has two little ones.

My Crazy Amazing Military Life. Join eight Navy wives, at least I think they are all Navy, as they blog about daily life. Read about having to take the kids to a gyn appt, and how you can only do something like this in the military. You can also keep up on the latest military (mostly Navy) news.

Dimes to Dollars. This is a great personal finance blog written by a Navy wife. Follow her personal finance tenants and get control of your finances. Read about her money challenges, which are your money challenges too as a military wife.

The Life of a Wife. Daily musings of a military wife whose husband just finished two tours in Iraq.

The Life and Times of a Butterfly Wife. This lady is just getting started. Get on over there and encourage her!

Tootie's Place. Come see what Tootie is up to with heartwarming, funny stories of her everyday life. Tootie is also one of our guest authors here at Life Lessons!

Money for Military. Okay, so as far as I can see, this is not a military wife blog, but a good read from a military guy who posts about all things money that touch the military.

Navy Wife Talk Radio. So this isn't a blog either, but a weekly radio show on all things that a Navy wife might find interesting. They have interesting guests and also answer a lot of their listeners' questions on the air.

Army Wife Talk Radio. Now you know I can't leave out the Army here! Also lots of great guests, listener questions answered and timely advice for Army wives. You can also stay current on all the latest news and events that affect you, your husband and your kids. I like that they run a chat roon at the same time they do the show, so you can call in or chat. They also like to give out prizes and would love to have more listeners. Why don't you go check it out? Even if you can't make it for their show, you can download past shows and listen to them on your computer or mp3 player. Same goes for Navy Wife Talk Radio.

Household 6. Tammy Munson is one of the founder's of Army Wife Talk Radio. Be sure to go see what she is blogging about!

A Little Gratitude - the Online Musings of Yet Another Army Wife. Another military wife just getting started. Stop by for a visit!

Blissful Life of a SAHM and Military Wife. Read about the antics of an Air Force wife and her two little boys. The boys are definitely adorable.

The MacDonald Clan. Linda is a regular commentator on your site. I somehow missed her the first time around..sorry Linda! Read about her Monday Memory where she reminisces about moving day! Yikes! Not a blog but a forum with lots of posts from new wives, to seasoned wives to overseas wives and everything in between. Lots of helpful tips and resources. Get comfort, ideas and ask your questions.

On a sad note, and I hesitate to post this, because it is just so God awful...just awful. I personally can't even wrap my head around this, especially in light of all the support groups and friends that most military wives have...and even if they don't, there is mental health counseling and the unit supposedly keeping track of wives of deployed soldiers? I know as a company commander's wife, I regularly visited wives, stopped by dropping off goodies and just generally tried to keep everyone in the loop. Even the ones who didn't want to be a part of things, they still wanted to keep informed, and that's how I checked up on them...bringing a package of extra diapers and things...anything to get over to see them and their kids....uhhggghhh...anyway, here is the article about the young wife at Ft Leonard Wood whose baby died of starvation while her husband was deployed. I'm thinking that she must have had some kind of mental deficiency...this is just NOT normal behavior.

And to end this post on a positive note, I am so glad to see so many wives out here blogging and connecting with other wives and spouses. If I've missed wasn't on purpose...I just didn't find you yet! Please post your blog below!


Monday, March 17, 2008

Money for the Long Haul

I still hear people talking about pulling out of their mutual funds and dropping some of their investments...and then buying something else. I mean, we all know the market is bad right now. I used to be a Chicken Little myself, but I've come to realize it's the turtle that wins the race and not the hare. You don't have to play the lottery to win millions have the simple formula right in front of you. You don't even have to do anything beyond the initial set-up. Retire a millionaire with these simple steps.

  • Get in the right mindset. Making money should really be automatic. You need to let your money work for you. If you let it "do it's thing", it's going to work through the miracle of compound interest.
  • Don't listen to the "sky is falling" doomsayers. I used to listen to them babble about "the Dow Jones average fell 20 points today", and I guess we were supposed to get all upset over it. Never more. Look back 10, 20, 30 years. Has the stock market ever been less now than it was back then? No it hasn't, even during the Great Depression compared to now. So stop worrying about the ebb and flow of the tide...THIS IS NORMAL and this too shall pass.
  • Know how much is going out vs what is coming in. I admit we spent YEARS not following this. We were just lucky that we were living within our means and we had money left over every month. Most are not so fortunate. I shudder to think what would've happened had it gone the other way. We really had our heads in the sand back then. You don't necessarily have to have a budget, just have a general idea of how you spend your money. You can follow along here.
  • Do not buy high and sell low. Any financial guru worth his salt will say to buy low and sell high...but who wants to sell winners? This is mostly for short-term financial goals and buying individual stocks, which I try to stay away from. If you are in the stock market, invested in good growth stock mutual funds, you should be staying in til you retire or you need to re-balance your portfolio.
  • Invest the most you can in your IRA and/or tax-free 401k, hopefully 10-15% of your paycheck. Take it off the top of your paycheck immediately and automatically. Pretend it isn't even part of your pay. Many companies, and I know the government, will take it right off the top, before it gets taxed, and invest it as you designate. We do this with our kids' college money too. That way, we know the rest has to be divvied up into our basic necessities and then our that order!
  • Don't put all your eggs in one basket, and if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. It's all about risk and the probability of probabilities. Diversify! Not just in the types of investments, such as stock funds, bond funds and international, but also in the types of industry, such as medical, consumer goods and banking. Take for example the mortgage market right now. Those companies that are involved in that field are not doing so hot right now. But, if you've invested in other areas too, those losses can be offset by the areas that are doing well. And, NEVER put all your money in one fund or something that touts to be a big winner. Even if it's not shady, the risk to lose it all is just too great. Don't do that to yourself!
  • Face your income problem. I've gotten email from folks who say they are living hand to mouth and don't have a cent extra to spare or much less save. In that case, they have an income problem, especially if they have a family. You do have a few choices. You can get another part-time job to bring in some extra cash. Delivering pizzas can be a great way to do this on on a more flexible schedule. Many times, this only has to be temporary in order for you to get a leg up. Another option is to try to move up in your current job. Take on more responsibility. Volunteer for it. Offer to be in charge when a special project comes up. Make your company more money. Then you will be in a position of strength when it comes time to ask for a raise. Plus, you'll really deserve it. The other option is to get more education so you can get a better paying job. You'll have to weigh the risks and costs here. More education means you have to spend more money. Will the money you spend now, which you don't have, be offset by a higher paying job in the somewhat near future? If not, then don't borrow money to go to school. Pick another field that will pay off. I know someone who spent over $100k to get her doctorate and to be a professor, and now she can't find a job because she is in such an obscure field that is low paying to begin with. You need to research this stuff ahead of time, before you take the leap.
How are you socking away money for the long haul? When did you first start saving? If you aren't saving yet, what roadblock is keeping you from getting started?