This Page

has been moved to new address

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

Sorry for inconvenience...

Redirection provided by Blogger to WordPress Migration Service
Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!): April 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.

My Photo
Location: United States

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.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Some Foreign Exchange Students Weren't Happy with My Comments

Wow, the power of the internet! I was bombarded via email by a group of foreign exchange students. I say a group, but they were all acting independently after someone posted a link to my first article on some exchange student website. They weren't too happy with my post on hosting a foreign exchange student. In fact, many of them said they would do everything they could to break my rules and then some and what was I running...some kind of military operation here? I guess they were taking my "veteran military wife" quite literally. So much for the power of the written word and how it is interpreted. I did have some explaining to do...not for me but for them. I stand by my original post, but in the interest of getting my point across from a different angle and to offer some insight from our student as well, here goes...

Please be sure to read my first post so you know where I'm coming from and what these kids were responding to. Here's what I have to add from their questions and comments:

  • Many said I was too harsh with my computer rules and that I was infringing on the student's privacy. My computer is mine, and I am responsible for anything and everything that happens on there. If you download some malicious stuff or illegal software, who do you think will "pay"...yes, me and not the person using it. Our exchange student will be long gone before it's time to play the blame game. Looking at a few t*ts and a** is every young boy's dream...that was not really my concern here...just the hard stuff and doing illegal or immoral things...keep it off my computer.
  • Curfews are for babies they said. An exchange student needs a curfew, period. You are my responsibility while you are here, and your mother would kill me should I let you run wild. Nothing good happens after midnight and unless you have an event scheduled that ends after that, you will be home then. I do realize European teenagers, for the most part, do not have curfews. Your society is different. Stay in the US with responsible host parents and you will have a curfew and someone concerned of your whereabouts. That's just the way it is.
  • I shouldn't have to to chores and things. I am just visiting over here. Anyone living in our home, other than a guest who is only staying with us for a few days, will have some family responsibilities and chores. You are here, you are part of our family. I don't care what you did at home..that was home then, and this is home now:-)) Part of your exchange is to learn how other cultures do things and to become a part of your host family. You'll never get the full picture without jumping in head first and truly becoming a part of your borrowed family.
  • We all make mistakes and you are being too harsh to send someone home. When I said you get to go home if you screw up, I am not talking about minor things. I am talking about illegal or immoral things that could get us or you in trouble...the same kinds of things your exchange program and the law has rules about. Think about it. Your family has just spent thousands of dollars to send you over here, and you're going to blow that by doing something fleeting and stupid? It's not worth it. If you want to do stuff like that, do it outside of an exchange program, come back on your own and do what you want then.
Now I will probably get some more email, but let me add a few words from our exchange student. He knows that his mother and I do talk. He knows that I know what his responsibilities are at home there. He appreciates that I do sit down and take the time to talk to him, and that we consider him part of our family and not just some student living and eating here. He loves to be with his friends, but it does warm my heart to see him set aside time to do activities with us as well, especially his little brothers...just like any American teenager would..or should. Since he has been here, he has been immersed in either swimming or soccer, so spends most of his time training and competing, which is fine with us (it gives us a breather actually). When he is out, he actually calls me more than I think our own two boys would. I'm hoping my two will pick up on some of this stuff and the good habits of our student. We will surely miss him, and I have come to find out that for the most part, German teens are more mature, more worldly and more considerate than most of their American counterparts. I don't want to say this is completely so...just my own observations in my own little world. The foreign exchange experience has definitely been worth it, and I recommend it to any family looking to broaden their horizens a bit.

Have you ever thought of hosting? If not a whole year program, perhaps a summer program? I just saw a blurb in our local newspaper about a foreign exchange organization looking for American families to host about two dozen French exchange students who will stay here for four weeks. Let's hear your thoughts. Is this something you would ever think of doing?


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Don't Throw Out that Broken Piece of Crap Electronic

My neighbor's son has just had a fit. His PS2 just stopped working. After further prodding, come to find out, one of his little sisters tried to stick something in there that didn't belong. Well, no wonder then. Mom was getting ready to throw it out...wait, hold on there. With a purchase of $30, my other neighbor fixed it in all of two minutes, and it works as great as the first day they bought it. How did he do it? How did he know how to do it? How do you know when to trash, fix or sell something electronic? Here goes...

Gotta love the internet. I've bumped and tripped my way through getting things fixed (or deciding to trash them) a few times. My first step is always to google the the error message or what your device is doing. Eight times out of ten, I've solved the problem that way. You are never the first person with that problem...almost 99.9% of the time.

If that's not doing the trick, and you can't find the answers that way, check to see if your item is still under warranty. Always save sales receipts so you can prove when and where you purchased the item if need be. If you don't want to save old receipts, scan them and put them in a folder on your computer (be sure to back it up too).

Next, google the company and find their service or customer support webpage. Follow their procedure, whether it's by phone, email or message board on how to get help. I once emailed a small toy company, complaining about a remote controlled helicopter's rotors that broke the first few minutes we used it. I made sure to put my mailing address in my signature line. Before I knew it, I got a package of two new replacement rotors at no cost to questions asked. I've also returned mp3 players....twice...and once got a repaired one back and the other time a brand new one...all within a two week timeframe. Always start with the company first.

If that goes nowhere, start googling message boards. You want to look for message boards for fans of your device...the more fanatical, the better. Some of the folks on there live and breathe for that device. You want to detail exactly what your device is doing and then follow their advice. Again, I have gotten many answers myself this way, knowing next to nothing about electronics other than where the plug and "on" buttons were. One thing to keep in mind though, if your item is still under warranty, some of the tinkering the "experts" recommend might void that warranty. So again, always start with the company first!

Still with a broken device? If someone told you, you need a such and such repair part, check eBay first and also google the repair part. The PS2 above needed a new lens. All we did was do a search for "lens repair kit" before we hit paydirt. A friend told me about Rapid Repair and if they absolutely can't repair it there and send it back (they specialize in iPods), then sell your broken stuff on eBay or Buy My Tronics and save the cash towards the purchase a new gadget.

Before closing, there's one more thing to try. If that all gets you nowhere and you're just not ready to give up yet, then just get out your local yellow pages. Remember those tv repair people...the guy who has a shop down in your local strip mall? They do more than tv repairs. Most repair almost anything electronic. I've even seen some who will warranty their own work! Bring in your item and get an estimate from them. If they can't do it, get their advice on what they would do with it. Your item may still be able to be saved!

What have you done with your broken electronics lately?


Monday, April 28, 2008

Question: How do I deal with no sleep and this deployment?

I can relate to this question that recently arrived in my inbox.

How in the world do I get some sleep? My husband has been deployed for only four months and I don't know how many more months of "no sleep" I can take! I think all night and worry all night and I just can't get any rest. How do I get to sleep and stay asleep? My job and my life is starting to suffer. Please help me.

Boy, can I relate. I am the world's worst worry wart. I admit that I've even woken up at night in a panic before in the happens to just about all of us. But one thing we can do is prepare ourselves mentally for our brain wanting to continue to spin at high speed. Research shows that we DO need sleep to function properly and to be in our right mind. Here's how to get a good night's rest and to keep those worries from eating at your health and well being.

My mind always works full speed...right after I turn out the light. It's as if another switch has been turned on inside my head. It's always been that way for me...don't know why and don't care...I just care that I can set things aside and get some sleep after I followed the advice below.

I always keep a paperpad right by my bed. If I have some Einstein-like idea or think of something to add to my never ending "to do" list, I write it down and then push it out of my mind. If my husband is deployed or is in some potentially dangerous training, I write down my concerns and fears on a piece of paper. Then I tell myself, I am going to take these issues and put them in the drawer by my bed and so they're nott in my head any more. They are still secure and not forgotten at this point.They are obviously valid concerns but don't belong in my head while I'm sleeping.
An important point for my brain to process... is to look at it as some kind of free ticket to putting things aside. ...that's have to let your mind know this or it won't work. This should give your brain some peace of mind and allow it to rest. If you must, tell yourself you will get out that paper the next morning and revisit your fears, but for right now, you are taking a rest from them.

This may sound trite, but I know believing in God and having a talk with a local pastor can help when things get severe and out-of-control. Once I realized that some things were out of my hands and that I have to have some kind of faith, it was as if a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. My grandmom used to say that God is so wise and doesn't make mistakes and that we should enjoy every day we have on this Earth and that when our time comes, he will come for us and take us, only to reunite us at a later time with our loved ones....our time on Earth is only a fleeting event in our journey, and that we won't know how we and our lives fit in, in the great scheme of things until after we are gone. This gives me great comfort...I will never forget an interview with one of the dads who lost his child in the 9/11 plane crash into the Pentagon. This child was going on an exciting field trip with some other students and their teacher. This father said that his child is now safe and with God. His child was just on loan to him, as are all things on this earth, and that he was looking forward to the day when he will see him again. He was so thankful that God allowed them the time they had together, and even though he was incredibly sad, he knew that this somehow fit into God's greater plan. It was heartbreaking to hear at the time, but I've found now....I do not fear death and the unknown like I used to, largely because of listening to this man. It has helped me, knowing that God will take care of my husband should something dreadful happen "over there". I've come to find out I can deal better now with the stress and anxiety of the whole thing...which in turn leads me to better sleep.

On the flipside...without you realizing it...your brain is also running through "what if" and "how am I going to run this house and raise these kids on my own"? Before your husband leaves the next time, you need to learn how to become the head of our household. Get familiar with your finances, how to pay your bills and how to access all your accounts. Do have all your legal and financial paperwork in order. Talk to your husband and get a plan (a will or living trust) should the unthinkable happen. Have plenty of life insurance so you won't have to make any financial decisions when you least expect it. Also talk about your kids and what his expectations are of them. Try to get on the same sheet of music on their upbringing. I found that when I took over the finances and started running the household, I became a more confident and mature person...more settled. It also had the added benefit of my husband not worrying about us back here, knowing that I "had it in the bag". Worrying about us at the wrong moment could have dire consequences for him. He needs to be able to focus completely on his job to keep him and his soldiers safe.

I hope this will help you. How do you deal with your sleepless nights and worries?

Labels: ,

Friday, April 25, 2008

Still No Orders...Didn't Even Think Travel Would Be Non-Concurrent

I just can't believe it. Still no movement orders. Still can't plan anything to move to Germany, and we are about 30 days out now. I thought this would be the one time in my husband's career we'd be able to move....on time, with enough time to have at least a week before having to arrive at our new unit. It looks like that is going out the window yet again. Without orders in hand, you can't plan anything. You can't outprocess your unit and your post and you can't schedule when the movers will come or when you will fly. It is the most nerve-wracking limbo you can be in during your Army journey. We assumed (yes, we had been told this), that we would travel as a family to Germany. Now we are being told, because of the big housing crunch over there (wait time is averaging three months), we will not receive concurrent travel...travelling together, which specifically has to be on your military spouse's orders. If travel is non-concurrent, which it is in our case right now, my husband would travel over first and we would follow a few months September...

My mind already started running through the possibilities. Where will we live? The people renting our house are coming in June, so that's out. Where will the kids go to school? We will also miss one of the most important milestones in my husband's life when he has his battalion change of command. I just wanted to crawl into bed and give up for a moment.

So, that's where we are...basically, where we were. My dear husband has been calling everyone under the sun to get this changed. I guess I'll sit here patiently to see what happens.

Update 4/30/2008: Well, it looks like travel will be concurrent. We don't have our amendments for our orders in hand yet, but the powers that be have made their decision. We had to get the housing office in Germany let 1st PERSCOM know there was housing for us. 1st PERSCOM is the one making the decisions on concurrent travel if you are going to Germany. They in turn let our unit know we could get the orders changed. What a hassle! My advice to you...if you know you are going to Germany, and you are lucky enough to know what post you are going to, check their housing situation. For those of you who don't have advance notice, you will be at the mercy of 1st PERSCOM and where they decide to send you...make sure you have a Plan B should travel be non-concurrent.

Labels: ,

Why Am I an Army Wife?

Even though no one has asked me this directly...I'm talking civilians here...I can see the question hanging over their head when they meet me for the first time, especially in today's war-weary Army. Yes, these constant deployments and separations DO have a tendency to get me down..sometimes...and yes, we get tired of all the dumb questions like these, but here are some things to think about to keep you going, to believe you are doing the right thing for you and your children and your husband and to realize you are part of something much bigger.

Why am I proud and happy to be an Army wife? I am a better and stronger person for the whole experience and our kids will be stronger, flexible and well adjusted beings which I think would be much harder to come by in civilian life.

My kids (and me) appreciate their daddy even more after each deployment. You don't know what you have til you temporarily lose it. I get to have a honeymoon at least once a year (it's just not the same when you ALWAYS see your husband). I also am more prone to try new things and am more daring than I would otherwise be while he is gone. Being the head of household has a way of doing that to you.

I've come to realize that life is more than the here and now. I too look at it as a long term beneficial experience, plus I get the pride of my DH doing something for his country. His kids and grandkids can say they come from a line of ancestors who did the right thing and served their country because it was something they believed in, and that they had a hand in making this great country what it is. That is heady stuff, and I want my family to be a part of that instead of some average Joe American who will go down in history as not even a blip on the radar screen of life. We are so much more than average and being in the military proves that and leaves a legacy for our family's future generations. There is nothing in this world like being a part of the big military family AND to know you AND your husband and kids are part of something so much greater.

Being in the Army, for your husband, and for you as the spouse, will make you a more flexible and more mature person. Plus you'll have tons of friends all over the world, be flexible as all get out and will probably be able to speak a few words in a few different languages. I've done things and was exposed to new things that I never would've done had I stayed in the same Podunk town my whole life!

There's more to life than just you and your husband and your kids in your small neck of the a part of something bigger. I've also got the added benefit of my kids being more mature and resilient too and giving them a leg up for when they are on their own.

Are you a military wife? What are your feelings on being a military wife? If you are new here and are thinking of becoming part of our family, what are your major concerns about it?


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Get a Guaranteed Safe Return of 6.06% on Your Next Investment

We all know the stock market absolutely sucks right now. In fact, it sucks so bad, that I haven't even been checking our mutual funds. When you "lose" thousands of dollars every month, it tends to make you feel a little sick inside. But...with that being said, I know the market goes through cycles and 10 to 30 years from now, when we hope to use some of that money, the market WILL be back up again. So, I'm not fretting too much about it. Now's the time to be buying right? Sell high and buy low, right? We have a CD about to become due and with the miserable CD rates out there...thanks subprime mortage mess....the rates being offered by the banks are even less than the inflation rate right what is someone to do? Believe it or not, there is a very safe and legitimate investment out there that'll get you just over a 6% return...and from the government no less. Here's more on it, and if you're gonna spring for it, do it by the end of April.

I'd like to thank Clark Howard, the consumer advocate for this one. We all remember the Series EE savings bonds from our childhood. Remember getting those as Christmas gifts? At least I did...every year like clockwork...still have them.....still barely eeking out a return on them. Have you heard of Series I Bonds? I had never heard of them until listening to this podcast (download it) by Clark Howard. Please be sure to check it out below (from his site):

A lot of savers with idle cash are griping about the low rates on savings accounts and CDs from banks. Well, Clark wants to offer a possible solution. It's been a while since he's talked about Series I savings bonds, which were a fantastic deal in the 1990s up to about 2001. They're a great deal once again if you buy them before the end of April. Over the next 6 months, you'll get a return of 4.28% APY. Beginning in October, the rate will bump up to 6.06% for the following 6 months. That's a very competitive rate. Series I bonds are an unnecessarily complicated product. The "I" stands for inflation, and they're like the cousins of the original savings bonds. I bonds offers a fixed rate of interest for as long as you own them, plus a floating rate based on the rate of inflation. You can own I bonds for a minimum of 1 year and a maximum of 30 years. I bonds give you the opportunity to benefit from what's harming you. As high inflation erodes the value of your savings, I bonds give you the rate of inflation and a guaranteed return. That guaranteed return is puny, but earning anything about the rate of inflation on something that's 100% safe is great.

So, there you have it. Thanks Howard. Have you been looking at ways to bump up your portfolio? Or are you just sitting tight or something in between?


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

You Know You're Stationed in Germany When...

Raise your hand if you've been stationed overseas in Germany? Raise your hand again if you can relate to some of these "cultural differences" and just different ways of doing things. No, I did not think of these myself. This is a collection that has been floating around on the internet and recently discussed over at the Army Wives Forum. Be sure to stop by there and connect with other Army wives and girlfriends!

In no particular order:

  • you can never get ice in your drink
  • if you tell the waiter you want water to drink, you'll get the fizzy stuff
  • you see a van full of about eight men in overalls looking like they just finished painting or doing construction, go get ice cream or grocery shop together
  • you start blowing your electrical items
  • you can't figure out how to flush the toilet
  • you go into the men's restroom, thinking "Herren" means "women"
  • your neighbors threaten to call the Polizei on you because you're doing yard work on a Sunday
  • you get a ticket for washing your car on a Sunday
  • you're doing 100 mph on the autobahn, and there are still cars passing you by so fast your car shakes or worse you feel like you're standing still
  • you look out the window and the sun is shining so you throw on your shorts and favorite pair of sandals only to open the door and see that it's raining heavily, so you go put on pants, shoes, a jacket, and grab your umbrella and open the door again only to see the rain has stopped and the sun is shining again
  • you get used to two very distinctive smells. One being the cow manure the farmers use to fertilize the field in your backyard, and the other, well, you know
  • when you go to the grocery store and find that you yet again forgot your plastic bags and have to put things in your car trunk one by one (or pay a hefty amount for their shiny new shopping bag)
  • when you are at the checkout, you realize you have to bag your own groceries and wonder why the clerk doesn't give you back your change (they place it on a little tray or mat in front of you or the coins come flying down a little ramp)
  • you can't figure out how to leave a store if you aren't buying anything because of the Do Not Enter doors at the registers and entrances (We get trapped all the time!)
  • you have to buy six fans to keep cool
  • all life stops at 6 pm and doesn't start again until 9 or 10 pm
  • You can turn three times and still be on the priority road
  • you see men wearing capri pants accompanied by sandals with colored socks….oh my…
  • even though a store sells expensive furniture or appliances, they don't accept credit cards
  • you get stuck behind a "Fahrschule" (person in driving school, which costs thousands of dollars BTW) car and it takes you twice as long to get to wherever you were going
  • on a major road, you get stuck behind a tractor or some kind of moped that can go a maximum speed of about 10 kph. There is also a trail of like 50 cars behind you, also stuck!
  • the couple sitting next to you at a nice restaurant has their dog under the table
  • it costs more to telephone your neighbor than to call your family in the States
  • when 90% of the female German population has red or pink or orange hair in the front, and jet black in the back. (hello?! ambush makeover!)
  • when you try to go shopping at your favorite German store at 1 pm, only to find out they're closed for the afternoon
  • Germany is a ghost town on Sundays, and you wonder where everyone went
  • when people cut in front of you in line like they don't see you (I HATE that!)
  • when you first move into your home and you think the window is going to fall in on you when you crack it open
  • you never are quite sure whether you have the right-of-way at one of those crazy intersections
  • your kitchen appliances all look like they should be in a house for midgets (if you live off-post!)
  • you find a sex-shop adjacent to a children's toy store
  • a value meal at McDonald's costs about 5 euro (7 dollars?!?)
  • you can spot the Americans because they are the only ones wearing tennis shoes
  • you see German kids wandering the streets at 1 pm on a weekday since they only go to school half a day
  • they serve alcohol at all McDonald's
  • It's legal to drive your four wheeler on the autobahn
  • You must clean up after your dog but not your horse
  • You have to pay to use a public restroom
  • you miss your exit on the autobahn and have to drive for another 10 miles to get to the next one so you can turn around
  • you drive 50 miles in the wrong direction because there are no north/south, east/west signs on the autobahn
  • when using a public toilet you jump out of your skin because the toilet seat lifts up and rotates to clean itself after you've flushed
  • your off-post housing doesn't have any closets; you have to buy/borrow wardrobes
  • you've gotten several speeding tickets but have never been pulled over by a cop
  • you go to the local Schwimmbad (or local swimming hole) and see naked old men
  • your big American car or truck doesn't fit into any of the parking spaces
  • you see men carrying "man purses"; I think Germany is the origin of the fanny pack
  • you see that dogs and children are better trained than ours
  • you have to pay to use a shopping cart (and you get the money back after you take the cart back to the store)
  • you see most cars are stick shift and many don't have AC
  • you realize most houses don't have AC but the stores do

Do you have any to add? Any one have any good German memories to share?


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Do You Have a Google Twin?

I have the distinction of not having one...not a single one....I am the only one in the world with my first and last name if you can believe it! I mean, there are only like 60 (at least living) people in the world with our last name, so it's not a stretch to believe there is no one with my name. So what is a google twin? Just that...someone who shares your first and last name. For some, it has become a real addiction to find and connect with folks with their exact same name. Others look at it as a novelty item...something fun to check out when you have nothing better to do.

Read this article from the NY Times that talks about what all the hype is about, as well as the psychology behind why people even care about their google twins! Wow!

Why do I care about it? Because I am tired of doing a google search for my name and only finding things on myself...which leads me to another tid of advice, don't use your real name online...if you can help it. It can be unsafe in many cases, but mostly, just creepy that someone...if they wanted to...could put together your life story, your dreams, your wants and things that are important to you!

Do you have a google twin?


Monday, April 21, 2008

Do They Even Sell Floppy Disks Anymore?

I just had to share this story from our local newspaper. It details some of the once-needed skills we frankly, just don't need anymore. And to think we were ALL doing these things not so long ago...I'm not talking "horse and buggy day things" but things we have all done very recently. Have a good laugh and realize how far we've really come. Let me know what skills you'll never need again.

I was thinking of a few things myself. I don't...

  • Listen to the radio (I listen to XM Satellite and podcasts now, along with what's on my mp3 player).
  • Use my Zipdrive...time to get rid of it.
  • Sweep...with a broom. I'll get out the vacuum cleaner for indoors and the leaf blower for outdoors.
  • Close the hatch on my van with brute force...I've got a button to do that now.
  • Call people like I used to...strictly email now...but I'm sad to admit that..this is not a good thing.
  • Feed the cat everyday...he has one of those huge storage containers and his food just rolls out into the dish like clockwork...I can't bring myself though to get the automatic litter cleaner...that just doesn't "feel" right.
  • Mail in catalog order forms or call to order something. I love catalogs, so of course I order a few things here and there..mostly here...I do it all online now.
  • Fix holes in clothing. I can find clothing so cheap now...I never pay time is worth more than wasting it sitting and sewing and patching clothes up. Somehow though, I think I'm missing a few important lessons by doing that.
  • Read maps. We have handheld GPSs, plus have that stuff in our cars and not to mention on the computer...instant directions with no need for a thought process.
What things have you realized you just don't do anymore?


Friday, April 18, 2008

Moving and the Medical Treatment Records Dance

We've run into our first moving snafu. I feel like Forrest Gump. My husband can't get PCS orders until ALL of our medical records get screened for the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) person. Our whole family needs to sit in front of a board with a doctor and a social worker. Since my Army husband is stationed on an Air Force base, he needs to comply with their rules (I had never heard of this in the Army). This means we can't schedule our actual move, and we can't leave this place until then. My doctor is being difficult (yes, I am being seen off-post) and will only release my records after I arrive at my new place and have a new doctor to mail the records to. If I want to make the copies and hand carry them, it would be $1 per page...huh? So, if I let this get to me, I'm stuck...can't move without the stuff but can't get the stuff until we move. What a crock!

Dealing with my kids' doctor was a bit better. They lit their pants on fire and got the records copied in one day, going outside their one week protocol..and yes, they didn't charge me for that. I bought them a box of the good chocolate. My word of advice to you....before your military spouse gets his orders, especially if you get your medical care off-post like we do, assemble a list of where all your medical and dental records are. I know I had to make a list of some of the specialists I have seen over the last few years (not all procedures were in my primary care doctor's file). I also had to hunt down my last two mammograms (you should have both)...not to mention the kids' dental and my dental records. Get the requests in EARLY to each office. You have to sign a medical release form in order to get copies. Every office was accomodating except for my own doctor's office. Since I don't feel like dealing with them right now, I will use my old military medical record I had when we first moved here (when I got my care on-post), and then request my current record after I move.

I have a nurse friend who gets a copy of the paperwork from each doctor's visit and manages her and her childrens' records. She never has a problem with any of this and when her husband retires, she will have a complete medical history. If you do have any civilian medical records, please do hang onto them. Don't add them to your military treatment record...that becomes government property, and I can't tell you the number of times I have heard of lost records. Your medical records are important...treat them as such.

Do you have any moving stories to share?


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Place Oxygen Mask Over Your Face Before Helping Children

Remember your last flight? You know, when the flight attendant briefs you on putting the oxygen mask over your face before helping your children. Why is that? Because if you pass out for lack of oxygen, fiddling with trying to help your kids...neither of you will be helped. The same goes for kids and money. This post is especially for you folks with teens in the house. Before handing out your next chunk of change to your kid, remember this.

  • Being overgenerous with your kids will actually backfire on your child. Your child will think money does not need to be earned and that it grows on trees. They will forever have a screwed up vision of money and managing their life.
  • When you give your teen or adult child money, will it speed up or prolong their dependency? If you are constantly bailing them out and giving them a hand out, how will they learn to be independent? If you have a situation where you can give them money to get them to the next level, then by all means, do it. I just want you to go through this thought process before handing it out...every time, thinking you are helping them, when you may in fact not be.
  • There is a better chance of your kid somehow finding money for college (work/study programs, scholarships, grants) than you later finding money to fund your retirement. Your retirement should come first, then save for college. You don't want to be a burden to your kids when you are older than dirt do you? Save now so this won't happen to your family.
  • Foster responsibility and independence early on. Teach your kids that the decisions and habits they have now can and will have consequences. Didn't do your homework, well, then no tv today? Didn't clean the cat litter box? Sorry, you won't be able to go over to Johnny's house today. Start this early and when they are young, and you won't have a problem later on when teenage hormones start affecting their brainwaves!
  • Encourage your kids to save early on. Our kids do not get toys and junk unless it is Christmas or their birthday. And you know what, they don't ask for anything, except around those times of year..and they have had a bright and fulfilling childhood. When they do get a surprise gift at any other time, they truly are surprised and appreciate it more. If they really, really want something, I encourage them to cut out a photo, write down the price, and start saving. If it's something high priced, I might even offer to match what they can save up.
How do you deal with your kids when they have a case of the gimmies? How do you go about with money and your children?

Added 5/7/2008:

Another thought, how about matching your child's savings? I know someone who opened up an IRA for their teenager. Every dollar that child puts into that account from her waitressing job, the parents are matching it...what an incentive! You can also do this with your child's piggy bank. Every time she decided to put the money in there rather than spend it, you can match it. I like that.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Ask VMW: How Does My Mom Get Her Part of the Retirement Check Sent to Her?

Today we have a reader question that I haven't addressed yet:

My mother and father are in the middle of a divorce. My father was in the army and receives a pension check. My mom was giving her portion of the check to my dad when they were together to help out with bills. Now that they are apart, she has not been getting it. We are in the state of Pennsylvania . Who does she contact to get her portion of the pension check sent to her?

Any retirement pay issues are handled through the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. These are the same guys who cut all our military paychecks in the system. Call the toll-free number below and explain your situation.

Annuity/Annuity New Accounts

Casualty/Retired/New Retired Accounts

Correspondence/Mailing Address:

Defense Finance and Accounting Service US Military Annuitant Pay P.O. Box 7131 London, KY 40742-7131 Toll Free: 1-800-321-1080 Commercial: (216) 522-5955 FAX: 1-800-982-8459

Correspondence/Mailing Address:

Defense Finance and Accounting Service US Military Retirement Pay P.O. Box 7130 London, KY 40742-7130 Toll Free : 1-800-321-1080 Commercial: (216) 522-5955 FAX: 1-800-469-6559

If your spouse is thinking of retiring and would like to know how to get going down that road and how much his retirement pay will be, read the military's Preparing for Retirement.

One nifty little feature is Ask Military Pay with questions from you and answers from them on every kind of military pay related question you can think of...and then when you can't find it, you can ask the question yourself. I found it very informative and easy to navigate.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Back from the Timeshare and My Final Thoughts - HGVC on International Drive in Orlando

We made it back in one piece and no worse for the wear! It really wasn't as bad as friends and family had predicted, and we ended up having a great time at a more upscale resort. Even my hubby admitted that much! In fact, I was so excited, I wanted to sign up right away at a competitor's program but caught myself. Hey, we're supposed to be getting ready to move...we've got a day trip to Disney to plan for my younger son's birthday and a wives coffee to host, all this upcoming weekend...what was I thinking? Anyway, let me tell you how it went should you decide to do the timeshare thing and get free Disney tickets, free cash, restaurant giftcards or whatever they are handing out at the time.

We stayed four days at the Hilton Grand Vacation Club on International Drive in Orlando. It's one of the newer resorts, with a dozen buildings situated around a nice-sized lake with a fountain and a walkway crossing the lake, all in the Tuscanny style. They have two heated pools, fountains to play in, waterfalls and spouts, as well as plenty of hot tubs, activities for the adults as well as the kids, not to mention two restaurants, bars, workout rooms and few other nice places to hang out, depending on whether you want peace and quiet or a little more action.

We arrived Friday afternoon and were quickly given our keycards to our studio. In hindsight, I would've come up with an excuse to ask for the one bedroom, even though it was just the two of us. Even though the studio was nice, it was more like a hotel room. Yes, it had the granite counters, nice wood cabinets, topshelf TV, DVD player and even an alarm clock to hook your mp3 player up too, we would've had a washer and dryer, more floor space, a full kitchen with stove, a living room and a jacuzzi tub, not to mention a half bath in the one bedroom...ah well. I would've also requested a room away from the construction on the outlet mall side, although on the weekends, no work was being done there...and, I would've asked for a room other than on the ground floor. All the rooms had screened-in balconies or porches with a table and chairs, but at the higher floors, you at least have some kind of view, and if you didn't feel like taking the stairs, there were plenty of elevators available.

We decided to eat-in Friday night and just enjoy each other's company. We called Outback Steakhouse across the street to place our order, ran over to Publix to get some breakfast essentials, drinks and some snacks (our room only had a microwave, small sink and small refrigerator). By the time we finished that, our food was ready at Outback curbside pick up, and we carted it all back to our room. Let me say it was fantastic, eating a romantic meal in private on our little porch. It was just as nice as a catered dinner. We were so busy, we never did make it out to take a bigger look around...that would have to wait til Saturday.

The next day, we did make it to the outlet mall next door for some shopping. I couldn't get over every other voice we heard was either British or German. When I saw the Brit with the rolling duffel bag on wheels, bigger than him, I realized what good deals foreigners must be getting now over here. We heard one Brit tell another Brit, he just came over here for a day to do some shopping....get outta here...really?

At 12:30pm, we showed up for our appointment with our resort rep. No one says the timeshare word, but we all knew why we were there. Each couple had their own personal rep explaining how the program worked. I was astounded at all the little tables and chairs, each seating a rep with his or her target couple (yes, you have to be a couple to attend). The noise level reminded me of the time I went to a livestock auction and the auctioneer was going full was that loud. Our rep offered us lunch and snacks...darn, we had already eaten...and then got right down to business. She explained that this was basically a plan to prepay for your vacations...for the rest of your life. She asked how many days per month and per year we vacation, then she did some quick numbers showing how much we would pay for that in the next 10 years. I guess this was prepping us for the big numbers she would later pull out. Then she talked about Hilton's point system. Yes, you buy the points here at this resort, let's say 7,000, which should cover about two weeks of vacation in prime season per year. You can also use these points to stay at other resorts...all 40 of them, in the Hilton system, as well as use your points at the conglomerate timeshare giant RCI. All you pay is a booking fee, and you never have to trade weeks or resorts or deal with RCI, which we were told has a poor record of customer service. Everything goes through Hilton, and they make all the arrangements. She hammered into our heads, call the 1-800 #, tell them what week or weeks you want to travel, and they'll take care of the rest. She said most times you can find something nice...except in NYC. It's almost impossible to get in there.

We then had to move around a room with lots of glitzy photos and widescreen flatscreen tvs showing all the different resorts, the benefits of vacation ownership and the highlights of what she had told us so far...still no mention of how much this whole shebang will cost. Off to the quick five minute movie, showing how glamorous and fun our lives will be, being a part of Hilton's program. Then, off to see their model suites. This is where I first saw the one bedroom, two bedroom and three bedroom suites. All rooms can be connected, so take as many as you need for your next vacation. Of course, the bigger rooms cost more points, but hey, if you want to take your whole extended family and book up a slew of rooms, you can.

Back to our little round negotiating table...out comes the pad and pen and some numbers get hastily scribbled down. So, what do you think, she says. She finally asks us if we are interested in buying. Bottom can buy in for the now price of $34,000. Oh, of course you can finance just over 16% for about 10 years. And, since you asked, the other fees involved are about a $1,000 taxes and maintenance fee you pay every year. Yes, that fee can be raised year after year, but look how low that is per month! Of course, we hadn't planned to shell out any money at all to begin with, so we immediately said it would not fit into our budget. Here comes the supervisor, who writes down a new deal...up-side down no less...the numbers equating to $11,000 but now you take vacations every other year and have less he high? That's a better deal? Do they realize we can do math too? To not ruffle their feathers to quickly, we did grab the calculator and randomly punched in some numbers and nodded and grunted now and then...and said again, that won't fit into our plans either. We also threw in a few other excuses for good measure...and then just stopped talking and let the silence do its thing.

To be fair, our rep didn't bat an eyelash after we started saying no. She was still her cheerful and smiling self, even up until the time her supervisor left (after not convincing us either) and another lady sat down with a clipboard. The clipboard lady asked us on a scale of 1 to 5, how we liked the presentation, our rep, etc and then why we didn't buy...she was just collecting statistics. She then ushered us to the elevator...we stood and waited in dead silence and went down in dead silence. She shook our hands and then dropped us off at the "gifting office"...that's what the sign said. There a young lady asked if we were promised anything...we were...and proceeded to print out two one day passes to Disney...and that was that...our obligation was over.

Once we got back to our room, I thought I'd check the internet..yes, we had high speed internet in our room. There I found the timeshare resales...not just on eBay through legitimate timeshare resellers but also sites that had hundreds of timeshare resales..most through RCI, but I saw plenty of Hilton and Marriot as well. Come to find out, our exact 7,000 point plan through this particular resort in Orlando would've cost us anywhere from $5,400 to $15,000 on the resale market, depending on who we bought it from...that's a far cry from the $35,000 retail price! Thank God we didn't get talked into anything! Not that we had planned on it...but I did figure these guys were expert salespeople and never say never, cause it can come back to bite you in the a**. Also, under eBay vacation packages, travel agents were selling timeshare presentations (like the weekend we just went on) for anywhere from $75 to $200, depending on where and for how long. Be sure to read the fine print and restrictions too. Most were in Orlando and Las Vegas. So, if you are looking for a cheap vacation, and don't mind sitting through a few hours one day, consider it the next time you want to travel.

We ended up thoroughly enjoying ourselves after we left the presentation. We swam in the pools, enjoyed the hot tubs and even had a casual dinner by the bar. Before we left we even tried out the fitness rooms...not better than your average well as some of the other amenities on site. It ended up being a nice relaxing extended weekend for my hubby and me for just over $100...and that made it priceless!

Before you take the plunge yourself on one of these vacations, keep these things in mind:

  • Visit this timeshare message board and read the worst timeshare experiences as well as advice on how to shorten your presentation. We found that being polite and firm worked well. If needed, I was also ready to remind them on the two hour presentation limit they themselves had imposed. We were out in an hour and 50 minutes, and I bet it would've been shorter had I not lingered on the model tour.
  • Do not feel guilty. They are paying for your time to be there and that is why you are getting the free Disney tickets, cash or whatever else they promised. Time=money.

Labels: ,

Monday, April 14, 2008

Alert: If You've Got a Linens and Things Gift Card, Use It Before You Lose It

Just a quick post from my vacation. Yes, I just can't keep away from the newsfeeds. Thanks to the Consumerist for the possible bankruptcy heads up on Linens and Things...darn, I shop there along with Bed, Bath and Beyond, especially when I need a wedding gift or housewarming gift. Anyway, since bankruptcy may be more than a rumor, according to this article, if you've got a giftcard, you'd better use it now while you still can. When a company gears towards bankruptcy, giftcards can be one of the first things to go. Along those same lines, be sure to continue watching the news for possible sales as well.

I'll see everyone on Tuesday again (instead of Monday) to talk about my weekend at the Hilton Grand Vacation Club on International Drive in Orlando...of which I do have quite a few mouthfulls to share.


Friday, April 11, 2008

I'm Off to a Timeshare Presentation, aka "the cheap vacation"

Well, I've finally broken down and decided to attend one of those timeshare briefings. My husband is a Hilton Hotel rewards member and was peddled a timeshare weekend getaway if we attend this two hour briefing this Saturday. Since we're paying only a hundred bucks for a four day weekend, and we've never been to one, we said why not? He just got back from being gone for three months, so this can be a nice little break for the two of us, plus we're supposed to get two Disney tickets out of it.

I know, I know, I've heard horror stories about how you are pressured at these things, have to go through a slew of salespeople and supervisors to try to get convinced and then are treated persona non grata after your final refusal, but I did go to Trip Advisor and read reviews from others who did the same thing at that very same resort. They all said this particular resort in Orlando is just beautiful and the sales presentation is not as pushy as most.

I know these folks have had years to perfect their spiel and can probably convince the average person to buy a timeshare or even sell their firstborn child. But, I think with both my husband and I being there, and knowing we are running off to Germany in a few months, I seriously doubt they could talk us into anything. Oh, and for those of you who have recently been pushed into a timeshare and are frantic about what to do, you do have a "cooling off period" to change your mind. This is mandated by law and not something they do not do out of friendliness. So don't totally panic. Of course, there are those of you who already have timeshares, and I don't want to take anything away from you. We have good friends who have one and regularly trade weeks around the world at other timeshares in the network, but even they have admitted they could've saved boatloads of money by buying one second hand. At any given time, you can find dozens on eBay Timeshares and also at timeshare resellers for the fraction of the cost of a "new one".

Before taking the plunge, read:

The Timeshare Trap (an older article but still valid today)

Before You Buy a Timeshare (a NY specific article, but things to think about for anyone who accepts a vacation package to go see a timeshare)

The Critical First Five Seconds of a Timeshare Presentation and The Five Simple But Essential Steps to Getting a Sale (read the other psychological stuff this guy wrote to talk people into buying timeshares)

I Attended a Timeshare Briefing in Hawaii and did not intend to Buy

Has anyone here had a timeshare experience they'd like to share? I'll be sure to report back after we get back!

Labels: ,

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Did You Know (Weird Stuff Your Kids May Get a Kick Out Of)?

Yesterday was a nice beach day for us. We went over to St Pete Beach and enjoyed the sun and surf. The Spring Break crowd had already left, so we had most of the place to ourselves. We happened to pass by the 1920s era Don Cesar Hotel...the gaudiest, strangest looking "pink wedding-cake-like" structure I've ever seen. The hotel, like many grand hotels, has a history of opulence and a time period where it was almost razed. Did you know it takes 12,000 gallons of pink paint to cover the entire structure? Your average home takes about 15. My 10 year old son happened to tell me did he know that? Turns out, he has a treasure trove of other interesting facts he loves to throw at me, so I thought I'd share some of them today. Who knew?

Did you know....?

  • 93-95% of greeting cards are bought by women.
  • The Brooklyn accent saying words such as "dese, dem and dose" came from the original Dutch settlers. Who has a typical Brooklyn accent? Well, Bugs Bunny of course.
  • The last Canadian dollar bill was issued in 1989. It was replaced by the dollar coin, the "loonie" after the loon bird that is engraved on it.
  • Your kitchen sponge has more bacteria in it than your toilet (another reason to change out your sponge everyday; I wash ours in the daily wash or you can use your dishwasher).
  • There are 6,800 languages in the world, but experts think half will be extinct by the end of this century.
  • Gelatin, an important ingredient in Jello, marshmallows and Gummi Bears, is made from cow or pig bones, hooves and connective tissue.
  • All cats and most dogs cannot taste sugar.
  • Women actually fart three times more than men..they are just more discrete about it.
  • Antiobiotics have no effect on viruses, just bacteria. Remember that the next time you go to your pediatrician and demand an antibiotic just because your kid has a virus. This is why we also have so many antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains out there...overuse of antibiotics.
  • Men carried purses long before women did.
  • In public restrooms, the first stall is typically the cleanest because it's the least likely to be used.
  • A "jiffy" is an actual unit of time, being 1/100th of a second.
  • Only 22% of people say they would risk their life to save their husband or wife. But 85% say they would risk their life to save their pet.
  • The chicken is the closest living relative to the T-rex dinosaur.
  • Corn does not grow in the wild, nor was it ever growing in the wild; humans domesticated it by mixing two different types of wild grasses. So really, humans "invented" corn.
  • Most lipsticks contain fish scales.
  • One in every four Americans has appeared on TV.
  • More money is spent on gardening than any other hobby.
  • It is impossible to lick your elbow.
  • 40% of McDonalds' profits comes from Happy Meals.
  • Flushing the toilet with the lid open will cause minute particles of water droplets...from the float around your bathroom, and potentially settle on your toothbrush and whatever else you have sitting out. We keep the lids closed in our house.
  • Marilyn Monroe had six toes on one foot.
  • A person will die from lack of sleep sooner than from starvation. You will die in about 10 days without sleep but can last a few weeks without food.
And on that note, I will end here. Many of these facts came from my son's Bathroom Reader Series books by Uncle John. I'll admit, I've even glanced at a few. If you're ever looking for a birthday gift for a 9 to 10 year old..this is it. Do you have any strange and interesting facts to share?


The Very Best of the Podcasts - Stuck in Traffic Timebusters

I think I am now officially addicted to podcasting. It was bad enough when I first got my Zune and realized I could listen to ALL my music on one device. Can you tell, up until recently, I was an mp3 virgin? If that wasn't bad enough, then I discovered podcasting! I am a big fan of talk radio and also a few TV shows. My kids love blooper videos and generally funny stuff and quickly realized they could watch this stuff on their Zune. Imagine my surprise once I figured out the Zune could download the daily and weekly podcasts I subscribed to. Instead of being bored out of my gourd shopping for groceries, waiting at the doctor's office or in the school car line, I could keep my mind and my sense of humor occupied...two of my favorite past times. If you plan to listen in your car, please don't use headphones....too dangerous. If your car doesn't have an mp3 jack (most don't), just spend a few dollars on a personal mp3 speaker or mini mp3 it or check eBay. I even found some little ones at Bed, Bath and Beyond. Here is my top of the list of the very best of the podcasts.

You can listen to podcasts on ANY mp3 player. You can listen to podcasts on your computer with any audio or video player you have installed. To actually subscribe to a podcast and automatically download new episodes without having to save individual shows, you have to have a podcast reader. Some mp3 players have this already installed, such as the Zune and the iPod to name a few. Others, such as the Sandisk Sansa, you would have to copy each podcast onto the device to listen to it or watch it. You can also download a podcast reader to your computer. There are many free programs out there. They will then automatically keep track of your subscribed podcasts and download new content into the reader, when it is available. There is no need to manually keep track of this. Many of these podcasts can also be found in the iTunes or Zune podcast directories.

My favorites in no particular order:

Fun & Entertainment

Access Hollywood (video) - Because I do like to see and hear some of the latest Hollywood gossip..not bad enough to purchase the rags at the checkout, but just enough to be curious and to download this podcast.

People Magazine (audio) - I do read this magazine at my local library and have found some interesting fare on their podcast.

Ask a Ninja (video) - This guy has a huge following. They're short and funny. This middle-aged overweight ninja pontificates on a few different subjects each podcast, all the while, doing a few ninja hand and eye movements...funny.

Best of YouTube (video) - My kids love the funny stuff on YouTube. This podcast picks out the best video of the week, and they are usually right on...funny or thought provoking...they've even had some artsy ones lately, not just some jacka** stunts.

Comedy Central Stand Up (video) - I like stand-up comedy. You get a quick few minutes of a comic you probably haven't heard of yet. Many are very good, plus I get a good laugh when I need one.

Onion News Network (video) - A satirical news network released by the Onion newspaper. This news is faster, harder, scarier and all-knowing according to them and geared for those over 18 years old they say. Yes, you'll get the news with the extra bite and smell of an onion.

The Soup Video Podcast (video) - Just like on TV...dumb, dumb, but again, when you need a laugh, tune in. Short excerpts from Soup Video "newscast" and Joel McHale's take on celebrity news, pop culture and wacky TV moments. Only about 1 minute long.

VH1 Best Week Ever (video) - Very small snippets of the shows on TV tonight with commentary and sometimes quick interviews...all in 3 minutes.


60 Minutes (audio) - I have always been a big fan of the show, but in the last few years, I just haven't had a chance to sit down and watch it. I've come to realize the audio version is just as good as the TV version.

The CNN Daily News (video) - Good basic news broadcast to find out what's going on today.

CNN=Politics Daily (video) - I watch this right before and right after state primaries and about once a week to see what the candidates are up to. Wolf Blitzer's show, just like on TV.

NY Time Frontpage (audio) - Quick rundown of the headlines of the day. I listen to this first before choosing any of the other news show because it wraps everything up so nicely and so quick.

MSNBC Hardball with Chris Matthews (audio) - Just like the show on TV.

NBC Nightly News (video) - Another good basic news broadcast. Interesting to see sometimes how different it can be from CNN.


Marketplace Money Marketclip (video) - Basic video on a variety of topics to make you smart. Recent subjects were retirement planning, college 529 plans and how much house can you afford.
This podcast comes out about once a month.

Business Week (audio) - I used to think Business Week magazine was boring. I still don't read it, but lately, I've been looking forward to their podcast. They always interview someone from the magazine on this week's top story for their magazine. Of course, it has to do with finance, business and markets, but I've actually found the interviews interesting and informative and not as stuffy as their magazine.

Rob Black and Your Money (audio) - This guy is my absolute favorite for giving the run-down on what is going on in the financial markets for the day. He does it in a conversational tone and uses easy to understand words and concepts. He must be clairvoyant too, because I'll catch him talking about some of our investments, products we use and businesses we frequent. Not only good stuff to listen to, investment-wise, but important info on the things that affect your daily life too...good music too. It runs anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes typically.

Money Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips (audio) - Just like she says, quick and dirty. She picks a new topic every week and explains it so anyone can understand it...just enough to make you smart on the subject.

The Dave Ramsey Show (audio) - Dave is the guru who helps people get out of debt. He has written a slew of self-help books (they really work), as well as a program online and through seminars to get people on the road to being debt-free. Many of his callers call in to say how they got out of debt, ala "beans and rice" and being disciplined and many call with some of the saddest stories you'll ever hear of people in debt peppered with general questions on real estate and financial how-to. The first hour of his show is free, and if you want to listen to the second hour, you can pay for that. I listen to just the first hour just about every day..this is a daily weekday show and can honestly say, I've learned so much.

The Ric Edelman Show (audio) - Another financial guru from a different perspective. This guy owns his own financial management company where you can hire him and his staff to manage your money, but he also wrote a few bestseller financial books and has this national show. This is the guy who says take all the equity out of your house and invest it instead of just having it sit there. He does have some radical and more gutsy ideas and has actually ruffled some feathers of the bigwigs on Wall Street with his rantings...but I've found he gives good advice with a different spin than Dave Ramsey and if you can get through his sound effects and his talking about his two new puppies, it's worth a listen.

Money Markets and More - (audio) - Basic overview of what is going on in the market today. Just listened to them talking about Starbucks and the free cups of coffee being given away. Find out what the companies you love (and don't) are up to. Short enough to keep you informed without boring you.

Smart Money with Gil Kuta (audio) - Gil has his own financial management company too, and he's been doing this radio show for many years. Maybe that is why it is so boring to me, but then again, I've listened to it a few times, because he does go into depth what is going on in the stock market. People call in and ask about companies and their investments, and every time, he knows exactly what they are asking about...he must have the memory of an elephant! Anyway, if you follow stocks, listen to this guy.


Cartoon Network (video) - My kids love the network, so I let them watch this too. You'll find small excerpts of their favorite shows as well as interviews and other short snippets.

Disney Channel Shorty McShort (video) - A shuffle of shows...actually shorts...from Cartoon Network as my son just told me.

Kid's Corner Podcast (audio) -This follows the Kid's Corner popular radio show. Kids call in on a variety of topics. This is a cute podcast for 7-12 year olds and runs about 12 minutes.


Army Wife Talk Radio (audio) - The hosts try very hard to get informative guests, give a quick blurb of military news and discuss new programs or things of interest at a variety of military posts. They do laugh a lot and joke around, and they also have a chat room that runs the same time as the show. Sometimes they give away prizes too. I personally think the show is too long (and they're thinking of making it longer)....I can never sit and listen to the whole thing and listen instead in short snippets. Take a look though, as these ladies try very hard to put out a quality show and you might learn something in the process.

This Week in the Pentagon (video) - A quick video of Pentagon military news from around the world. The military also has another half dozen podcasts you can check out.

Fitness & Health

Fit for Duty (video) - This is like a workout show. If you don't know what to do to work out or are tired with your old routine, check it out. 30 minutes long.

Fit for Duty Cardio (video) - This one is like an aerobics class. I've even hooked up my mp3 player to the TV and done a routine or two. 30 minutes long.


Clark Howard Show (audio) - Clark is a BIG consumer advocate. You'll hear him talk about products and services and companies. Callers will call in with some bozo letter they got in the mail, and Clark will explain it to them...things like that. I actually like listening to it, and I can say I've learned a few things. The other day he was talking about warranties and the possible downfall of Chrysler...does anyone remember Daewoo?

Clark Howard's Rip-off Alert (audio) - A different topic every time. I just listened to one where he had a caller who detailed his Wachovia bank fees...over $500 worth...not really a scam but the bank was being sneaky about it...many others do this too...become familiar with the latest rip-offs and scams.

Cook's Illustrated (video) - Don't watch this if you are hungry. You'll see how to make some yummy dishes. I just watched a video comparing different priced cast iron pans..the most expensive is not necessarily the best.

The Dog Whisperer (video) - I love how confident Cesar, the host is. This is just like the TV show but shorter. I guess you could call it previews. If you have a dog or regularly interact with one watch this...great and simple advice and will make you wonder why you didn't know this or that already.

Get Real Real Estate Investing (audio) - This show can be a little boring..initially. It's a husband and wife team that invests in real estate. Callers call in with their real estate questions. The team also talks about their latest rehabs and investments. They also have seminars you can sign up for. If you've ever thought about real estate investing, it's worth a listen.

HEROES TV Show (music videos) - For those HEROES fans. Music videos...I think four or five of them that lead up to the season premier in March. No new episodes but still worth downloading.

One Minute How-To (audio) - Quick one minute blurbs on how to do something...a different topic every week. A new guest every week showcasing what they know.

The History Channel: Just Another Day (video) - Find out how everyday items work and were invented. My kids like watching this one. The History Channel also has a host of other podcasts here.

Home Innovations (audio) - Callers call in about their home projects and get ideas and help from the show's hosts. If you like to tootle around the house, this show can be for you. I just listened to two guests who run heating and cooling businesses giving tips on how to keep costs down around the house, as well as what the biggest requests are from them.

I would've included Dr. Laura, cause she really has some great advice for people who just can't seem to get it with their relationships. She is fun to listen to and gets right to the point in helping people to move to fix their problems...BUT...she only offers a paid version of her show..shame on you Dr. Laura! You should do it like Dave Ramsey and at least offer a shorter free version!

Do you have any video or audio podcasts you like to listen to? Which ones are your favorites and would you recommend to others? Be sure to post them below!


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

How to Pick a Doctor to Remove My "X"

I know many of us have insurance through the military. Many of us get our healthcare on post. There are some of us though who choose to get our care on the outside, through a civilian doctor. Of course, if we want Tricare to pay for it, we have to go through a Tricare provider, plus if we see a specialist, we need a referral from our regular doctor, aka primary care manager. I recently had a procedure done and found out I did have a choice in who to pick. I stared at a list of doctors in my area, not knowing which one I should choose and why. So, I followed these steps.

  • I googled them. I googled them one by one. Wow, one had done something I consider a bit risque (yes, it was him...I saw his photo) and another was on the State Medical Board of Health, a position that not everyone is even considered for. He was selected by the governor to sit on that board. How impressive.
  • Has the doctor ever been disciplined? Check U Compare Health Care. You'll even see his hospital affiliation and where he went to school. I would've had reservations if he had gotten his medical degree on some tropical island.
  • Practice makes perfect, right? I checked how many surgeries of this particular kind the doctor has under his belt. I asked the doctor this directly but also found out his hospital affiliation and called the hospital to get that information there too (he was right). If I wanted to delve a bit farther, I could've checked Health Grades for a fee.
  • I contacted Tricare and checked out what the average cost was for that procedure, how much Tricare pays and what, if any, my copay would be. I also checked with each doctor's office and asked what their charge was. This gave me a better idea of what the cost should be..what was reasonable and what perhaps wasn't.
  • I checked if any had been sued for malpractice. That in itself may not tell you enough though. Some doctors, depending on their specialty, may get sued more than others. You have to compare apples to apples, comparing doctors of that specialty to others in that field.
What do you do, if anything before you let a doctor take a knife to you?


Monday, April 7, 2008

Those Little Lifetips That Just Make Life Easier

There are certain things that you wish you just knew. How did you learn those little tidbits of life? Did you learn them from your mom or did you read some and think, hey, that's a better way of doing things, so I'm going to do it that way. One of my very first blog posts was tips that I had learned from my grandmother. She was a wise woman, and she seemed to have so many neat ideas that just made life easier. I racked my brain to think of a few more that have helped me along in life. Here they are.

  • Need to measure something gooey or sticky in the kitchen? Spray the inside of the measuring cup with cooking spray, and it'll slide right out.
  • Don't shave your legs before going to a pedicure. You'll open up tiny imperfections that could cause bacteria to enter. It's better to shave a few days before your appointment.
  • Take your shoes off at the front door and have a doormat and wet wipes by the door. You'd be amazed at what dirt you bring into the house on your shoes! If you have pets, you can use the wipes to wipe their feet if you truly don't like to clean too often.
  • When defrosting meat in the refrigerator, put the meat package in a bowl in case it should leak.
  • Keep a package of wipes and hand sanitizer in your purse and car. You'll find the uses are endless and wonder how you got by before without this stuff handy.
  • If you don't want wrinkly clothes, take them out of the dryer immediately after they are done. If you don't have the time to put them away, drape them over a chair. If you notice wrinkles later, put that item back in the dryer with a wet washcloth. That will get most of the wrinkles out for you. Can you tell I hate to iron?
  • Use the exhaust fan when frying food. Microscopic droplets of oil float around and settle on all your kitchen surfaces. Cut this down by sucking up the oil.
  • Set your watches and clocks five minutes ahead. You'll never be late again.
  • Cook twice the amount of food today and freeze the other half for another meal.
  • I don't typically waste time making our bed and here's why. Just fold your comforter over halfway and let your bed air out.
  • Don't waste money buying bottled water and continue littering the environment. It's just tap water anyway and the company that makes it has no requirements to tell you if the water was tested and what the results were, unlike your local water company. Plus, the cheap grade plastic can allow chemicals to leach into your water....eeeew, so don't re-use them. Better to use sturdy water bottles, fill them up with your own tap water and keep them in your refrigerator.
  • Cut down on laundry. Some things can be worn twice. For me, what works best is wearing pants or skirts more than once.
  • Sneak veggies into kids' food by grating them and mixing them into sauces, meatloaf and meatballs.
  • It's okay to buy second hand clothes. I've found some nice designer suits and dresses at Goodwill, all still with original price tags.
  • Buy groceries in bulk and share with a friend, neighbor or relative or join a food coop.
  • Never forget anything again. I keep a basket by the front door for my wallet, keys and cell phone. There's also a hook for my purse. If you are too forgetful for that, stick an index card with a checklist into the basket. Just glance at it before you run out.
What tips do you have to share?


Friday, April 4, 2008

Why I'm Not Going to Freeze My Credit and What I Will Do Instead

Do you know you can put an almost indefinite freeze or fraud alert on your credit record if you are in the military? In most states, you have to be a victim of fraud, and show proof or pay $10 to freeze and unfreeze your credit. Many credit freezes are only authorized for 90 days and then automatically unfreeze. Why would you want to freeze your credit? Because you are afraid of identity theft and don't want others to open up credit accounts in your name. It happens all the time, and many don't notice there is anything wrong until they themselves try to get credit or a mortgage or other financial product. At first, I thought, let's do it. It'll be peace of mind, right? No one would be able to open an account in my name, so I wouldn't have to worry about any unauthorized cards or illegal activity in my name. I've come to find out it would be more of a hassle and not only because I'd have to unfreeze our accounts if we wanted to refinance one of our mortgages or open another credit card, but for another reason I hadn't thought of.

We typically buy a certificate of deposit (CD) every few months. I also like to shop around mutual funds. If I freeze our credit record, I won't be able to do that. You would only be able to purchase financial products at a bank you already do business with. Well, that would defeat the purpose of shopping around! So I decided against it. Instead, I will follow these tips to keep a close hold on our credit:

  • I will get a free credit report every three months.
  • I will never answer any emails asking for personal information, and if I have an account with a financial company, I will always access my account by visiting their site directly (I type it in the browser window).
  • I will not put any personal information on any networking site, to include my name, address, phone number or birthday. I will use a fake name and fake birthday information if asked.
  • I will shred all outgoing paper that has our name, address or any personal information on it.
  • I will not put outgoing mail in our mailbox, and especially not anything with personal information or checks inside. That's just asking for it right there!
  • I will not log into banking or personal sites on hotel computers. Many hotel computers are infected with key logging software that records your keystrokes. Many hotel personnel are unaware of this and frankly, it's so easy for these thieves to upload one of these programs and then download the information later. Don't risk it.
  • I will not transmit passwords or personal information over any WIFI networks. Thieves regularly sit and intercept these transmissions, especially at airports. I once saw a documentary where thieves drove around your neighborhood, looking for unsecured home networks to log on. Don't leave your home network unsecured and make sure it has the latest security technology (thieves regularly defeat some of the older ones, making them useless).
What do you do to try to protect your identity? I realize nothing is fool-proof, but if there is a way to make it harder on the thief, they will move onto someone or something else.