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

Friday, November 28, 2008

Revisiting this Holiday Gifting Thing

Now we really have to be creative. Remember last year? Most of us had oodles of money at our disposal in our credit card limits and an unlimited stash of cash in our was on the up and up in forward to 2008...and many of us have less money and less options. Remember when I blogged about lots of interesting gift ideas then? How about a few more that you can assemble just by rubbing a few pennies together? I'll throw those in with a few that do cost a bit more...but are worth every penny (they're useful, and that's what matters in my book).

Here are my old standbys from last year.

Here are some more for this year:

  • Homemade candy, wrapped in cellophane and tied up in a pretty bow. Believe it or not, these candy items are MUCH easier to make than cookies and baked goods. Give it a try. I like the turtles and the caramel corn.
  • A pretty mug or other container of Polish pottery (we have huge mugs for $9 at the PX). Fill it with some interesting candy or my case, it's going to be specialty flavored gummi bears or German chocolates. Lay a cut-out piece of Saran Wrap on top to keep it sealed and fresh. Then wrap the whole container in cellophane and tie with a colorful ribbon. You can even add a nametag.
  • Tervis tumblers with a lifetime guarantee. These double sealed plastic drinking is even 24 oz large and fits in your vehicle cupholder...and they last YOUR lifetime...and if they don't, you can send them back to Tervis, and they will replace them, no questions asked. I was once in their outlet store in Florida where a lady brought in a bag full of glasses from the 1950s...yes, that's what she said and that's what they looked like...and they gave her a ticket to go pick out 10 new receipt and no explanation needed. You can do this thru the mail too. My brother is always re-using those cheap 7-11 plastic cups..which for all I know, are made of unsafe this would be right up his alley.
  • A handmade nutcracker. This guy makes handcrafted nutcrackers...even military ones. You send him a photo of your loved one, and he does it exactly right...he has tons of military nutcrackers on his site, plus tons of others...including some Civil War generals. He pegged my husband just perfect. You'll pay anywhere from $40-50 for one. Sorry ladies, this offer is only good if you live in Germany. I'm thinking this will make a fantastic gift for his proud momma.
  • We talked about assembling jars of cookie and soup mixes. How about jars of bath salts?
  • If your significant other travels a about doing an mp3 book for him or her? Read his favorite book....with feeling...put it on his iPod or a CD and give it to him...especially if he is ready to deploy anytime soon. He'll love to hear your's not just the little ones who love being read to.
  • Those instant recipe packets. You know the ones I'm talking about...instant gravies and ready-made spices for pork chops, chilis, meatloaf and whatever else, ala McCormick. You can put a slew of these in a little basket, or tie them up with ribbon and of course wrapped in cellophane (can you tell I love can wrap trash in cellophane, and it'll look nice). This makes a perfect gift for someone who just doesn't cook.
  • "I Am Not a Papercup" Mug. This is perfect for my style-conscious, Starbucks-drinking stepmom. Now instead of a papercup that falls apart and smells funny, she can have a beautiful white porcelain cup that is both eco-friendly and clean (who knows where those papercups have been?). Starbucks and most other coffee shops will even fill their coffee drinks into your looks just like the papercups w/lid...just much nicer, much sturdier, and you won't need that stupid piece of cardboard to keep your fingers from getting burnt.
  • Super Strong Magnet Wrist Thingy. Okay, so I had to include something for guys specifically...although when we had a house, and I was crawling in areas I normally wouldn't crawl in, this would've come in handy.
Let's hear some of your ideas this year...

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Free Up Your Oven...and Stove Tomorrow (Thanksgiving)

Freeing up your oven and stove while you try to cook a holiday dinner can be...well, freeing! I still remember the first time I cooked this method, and I can't tell you how less stressful it was to get dinner on the table, no matter how many guests you have! Follow these tips to have a first class meal!

First things first....if you don't already have one.....get a crockpot, preferably two. If you do a lot of entertaining, you really need to have two. Put it on your Christmas list. I got an extra one a few years ago for my birthday and never looked back.

There are three dishes that work absolutely fantastic in the crockpot. You prep them in the morning, get them in there and forget about them until it's time to serve your meal! See the recipes below for great mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and sweet potatoes.

Crockpot Green Beans

1-1/2 bags frozen cut green beans
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/3 cup milk
1 TBS soy sauce
1 can French fried onions

Mix soup and milk in crockpot. Add soy sauce. Add frozen green beans and about 1/2 cup French fried onions. Mixture will be a bit sticky due to frozen beans. Mix well. Put on low setting for about 2 hours. Mix again....should be creamier at this point. Add a layer of fried onions on top and turn to high for about three hours. When you start seeing edges getting browned, and the beans turn a darker green, the dish is ready. If you're not ready to eat, turn it off or to warm setting.

Crockpot Mashed Potatoes

1 pk (3 oz) cream cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
milk as needed
1/4 cup butter
1 envelope ranch salad dressing
1 tsp dried parsley flakes
1/2 bag of potatoes (use # of potatoes for # of guests)

In the morning, boil however many potatoes you usually boil for your number of guests. Mash them in crockpot. Add other ingredients until you get a nice mashed potatoes consistency. Use handmixer if you like. I have even left off the ranch salad dressing packet, and it still tastes rich and creamy. Cook on low til ready to serve. If edges get too browned, turn to warm or temporarily turn off.

Crockpot Sweet Potatoes

4 lbs sweet potatoes (about 10), peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
1/2 cup butter
2 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
1 TBS ground cinnamon
2 tsp grated lemon peel
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 cup walnuts (optional)
2 cups mini marshmallows or 20 large

Place sweet potatoes in cooker. Melt butter in microwave. Stir in all remaining ingredients except marshmallows and pour over sweet potatoes. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. Sprinkle marshmallows over potatoes. Cover and cook on low for about 10 min until marshmallows are melted.

Do you have any easy and simple recipes you'd like to share this holiday?


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Paternity Leave for Army Daddies?

Wow...I wonder what got that ball rolling...and who the many people are who probably spent years fighting for this. The Navy and Marine Corps now provide 10 days of paternity leave. It looks like this may also become a new Department of Defense policy sooner rather than later.

Here's what we've got so far:

Navy Introduces Paternity Leave Policy to Sailors

Paternity Leave Policy in Effect

Well done!


Monday, November 24, 2008

There's Nothing Like a German Christmas Market to Start Off the Season

It's almost the season. I've seen a Christmas tree or two in the stores already, but that is nothing compared to walking through a German Christmas Market. I love Christmas markets! Many open up this week. And we have all kinds here...from the small 20 vendor markets in a little village tucked in the hills, to the world famous Nuernberger Weihnachtsmarkt and everything in between. Not only do you find all kinds of authentic food vendors, but it is the season of Gluehwein on cold winter nights...and days...and unique Christmas gifts, wooden handcrafted items, Christmas ornaments and decorations and even the German version of "as seen on TV" items. The Christmas Market is a great place for a family outing, and every year we are in Germany, I find myself scouting out new ones. Now you can find them all in one place.

See Weihnachtsmarkt Deutschland for a list of ALL the German markets. Many even have their own websites. Before you go, you can find their operating days and hours, any outside entertainment and festivities as well as vendor information. Be sure to check it out.

Which market is your favorite?

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Feeding the Pig?

What a cute site...and easy to understand....interactive...and you are learning about your own spending and saving habits with the folksy graphic-rich tutorials. Even with all the reading and podcast listening I do, heavy in financials, I was able to get an insight into my own habits and savings tendencies.

After listening to the pig talking about...what, I clicked on "Me, Save?". Yeah, I was a little freaked out by the pig's head on the man's body...but it was an effective visual to get me to pay attention. I was then presented with a few different choices of personalities, such as the Trend Spender, the Newbie Nester and the Plan-a-Phobe, among others. I ended up choosing the Chronic Collector, 'cause I do have a few collections around the house and like to keep things forever.

You can then pick habits and find out how much those habits are costing you in...ka-ching....$$$$$$....the only thing that seems to get through my thick skull sometimes. Luckily, I think I only had one or two of the habits I can see exactly what those habits are costing me, including interest!

Feed the Pig

I'm going to go ahead and check out the 5% challenge. Let me know what you think about the site, which is part of a huge campaign by the Ad Council and the AICPA to get the younger-somethings (which is why it is graphics heavy) to think about their savings and also to learn how to save. I think it's a good idea. What do you think? If I had a teenager, I certainly would get them to check out this site.


Friday, November 21, 2008

Favored Catalogs for Overseas

With the holiday season rapidly approaching, I thought I would post my favorite catalog ordering sites. Please be sure to list your favorites below as well. We are almost running out of time being overseas, so order early to keep from being disappointed.

In no particular order (and be sure to add your favorites below):

Land's End - I get on their email list and order only if I can get free shipping AND discounts on whatever I'm buying.

Kohl's - same goes for this store.

Woot - A new item everyday and sometimes a Woot-off, where they sell an item, til it's gone and then quickly put up another item...deep discounts sometimes up to 90%, mostly electronics, but totally worth it to download the Wootalyzer to catch new items as they pop up (it runs in the background and also monitors a few other similar sites...gotta love the alarm...I jumped out of my chair the first time that thing came up)...This site is a big adv The only downside, shipping to us over here takes about a month!

Lakeside - This is mostly a gift items kind of catalog, but the stuff is so inexpensive that I sometimes get my volunteer gifts out of here (probably all made in China), and be prepared for very long shipping times...I think they ship everything by boat.

Amazon - This is an old can find almost anything here. Be sure to check their Goldbox deals, in fact, you can add them to your Blogreader, so you can keep up on their best deals as you read your subscribed blogs. I also like to put items in my shopping cart and check that every few days, as your cart will tell you if the price went up or down for each item in the cart. So far, in the five orders I have had shipped overseas, they all arrived within 8 days. I also used to get my cat a new litterbox, a little faux fur slumberhouse and a $10 cell phone with 5 Euro worth of minutes on it for my son. Be sure to know the terms and conditions of your credit card, but the stuff was inexpensive with free shipping and my VISA's fee was only a few cents for each item...totally worth it. I just used my German address for shipping and my CMR address for billing.

eBay - I always check to make sure they specifically ship to APOs and when not, I always ask. Everyone I've asked has always responded in the affirmative...that's yes. Just check seller feedback. I stick with sellers who have a 99% feedback rating or higher.

LL Bean - I sometimes get it confused with Land's End, but again, get on their email list and always use a coupon. It is very hard to find a free shipping coupon for them, but I try anyway. I just bought a $20 pair of heavy snow boots with faux sheepskin along with a matching bomber hat...the boots are like walking on pillows..they're great... I never would've found something at that price over here.

For all online orders, always google the name of the store and coupon and sort through all the results...I've sometimes found the best coupons on the third and fourth pages. Always save a copy of the receipt. I keep my email confirmations in a "Receipt" folder and before I leave the site, I do save that page in a receipts folder in My Documents. Lately, with all the holiday shopping, I've been printing each one out and posting it to my corkboard.

What are your favorites? What have been your best deals overseas?


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Military Spouses FINALLY Get an Edge in Government Jobs

Apparently, a new Executive Order has been signed by the President that should make it easier for military spouses to access employment opportunities at the Federal level.

You can read more about it at

It includes:

  • Expanded benefits
  • Easier for spouses to get those federal positions

Read about some of the other good news for military spouses looking for a job or a career. The article was written earlier this year, but as you can see, many of the proposals are already on the books. Please see these other job resources for military spouses.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Repost: Get in a Black Friday Mood

I talked about it last year, and I'm going to talk about it again....although this year, you do wonder if the crowds will be out in full force, considering the state of our economy and our pocketbooks.

See my blogpost below and check out the forums. I found things on Black Friday and CyberMonday last year, that I wasn't able to match...all year long, price-wise...even up til now! So, this year should be completely different for us over here. They don't have Black Friday in Germany, but I can still participate in CyberMonday...and get a jump, six hours ahead of folks still asleep in the least the ones who don't want to stay up all night. Some major retailers, such as Walmart, are even offering very short deals in the weeks before be sure to check their sites as well.

Four Days Til Black Friday

What interesting things will you be looking for this year?

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Monday, November 17, 2008

More Free Welcome Home Banners!

Build a Sign is at it again! They are giving away 20,000 free banners...and now they have jumbo cards as well. Get them while they're free. The last time I talked about this site, I got some emails from some very happy customers. Back then, they did not have the option to ship to an APO address on their I see they do.

Considering how much large printed signs typically cost, even with the $22 shipping overseas, I think it would still be worth it. Or, here's another idea. We put the name of our unit, the unit crest and Family Readiness Group on the sign. Now we have a sign for our next fundraising event. We always seem to get more business when we have a here it is.

Or, how about making a welcome home banner with just the name of your unit or section on it? That way, you can use it again and again if there are more deployments in your future. You can also add grommets to your sign, for about $10, thru their site as well. Check them out, and see all the different ideas you can come up with. Just be prepared for slow shipping if you choose the cheaper shipping option (such as 10 weeks for us overseas), but if your event or party is not in the near future...go for it!

Check it out at


Friday, November 14, 2008

Cut Your Cleaning Time In Half...More than Half

Have you ever gone in a store with tons of knick knacks or jewelry or little display items and wondered why it wasn't dusty in there? I know there are plenty of dusty stores...but some aren't and why is that?

It's because of the featherdusters. When I used to vacuum, I would take each of my knick knacks off the shelf or table or whatever surface, vacuum the item and then vacuum the surface and move on to the next piece or area. It's no wonder that it took me about three hours to vacuum my house. There had to be another way.

That's when I met my Swedish friend. She used to clean her was bigger than half the time it took me to clean mine. Granted, she didn't have a lot of knick knacks....but, she did have a lot of surfaces! So what was I doing wrong? What was she doing that I wasn't doing?

It's because of the featherdusters. After the third time she told me this, I decided to get, not just any one will do. It has to be a rather expensive, or what I deemed to be expensive when it comes to cleaning supplies...duster out of ostrich feathers. Something about the static electricity and holding power or something.

And one day, she showed me how to use all of two minutes. Start at the top of the room and work your way around in concentric circles. Yes, there really are cobwebs in the corners of your just didn't see them. As you get halfway around a room, lightly tap the edge of the duster handle on the edge of your shoe...down low, almost at floor level. The concept being...the dust will fall down to the carpet. After you dust that room, it gets vacuumed.

I take it one step further...which does take a little longer, but I don't care cause I like to see the dust fly...I take the fully loaded duster outside..making sure there isn't an open window or door...and beat the handle against the side of the house or my hand...then back inside and repeat. About once a month, I'll take furniture oil and shine up all the wood furniture, but other than that, the house at least looks dust free.

One of these days when we retire somewhere nice...I'm going to talk my husband into spending extra money on a whole house filter...can you imagine how much better the dust situation would be then? What do you do to keep your house dust free?


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ask VMW: I Just Got Married and am Having Troubles w/Finance & Command Sponsorship

I frequently...actually, many times a day....get emails from people who need help. Many, I can just steer to one of my past blog posts or another. A few can be answered in one sentence or by a link to another site. But, some are a little more involved. Let's see if we can help this reader.

Long story short. My sister met her husband while visiting me overseas. She has finished DEERS and is waiting on command sponsorship. Her husband has been serving a single tour for about one year. We know that others in this position have had problems. So far housing won't talk to them till they have command sponsorship but do you know if they will approve a move for them? I had a friend married her husband after he was here three months and housing never would move them because he was already serving here. Also Finance says they cant get BAH or separation pay without command sponsorship. My sister has been hearing so much.

Let me say that getting married while your spouse is overseas is not an easy task. I actually married my husband while we were both overseas and after the rigamarole of going through the German system, we just dropped it, flew back to the States and got married there. But since I was already in the military myself, it was almost a seamless entry of merging into one household as far as the Army is concerned, except the issues I had with my last name.

Congrats to your sis on her marriage. Since her husband is already on the back end of his overseas tour, the Army will not authorize a move for his new spouse to join him, so I doubt she'll get command sponsorship right now. His only option would be to apply for a COT (a consecutive overseas tour), which goes up through his chain of command and outside of his unit in order to extend his time overseas to an accompanied tour length (36 months). If his enlistment is up before then, he'll have to re-enlist to extend past the time of the COT. I can tell you right now, very few COTs are getting approved, at least where we are here in Germany. But it is worth a try. It is up to his the highest levels...whether to approve this or not. It goes way beyond his company commander.

You can read more about the paperwork your husband has to submit, in order to request approval of getting you to his location in Germany.

The info you got is correct on family separation pay. You have to be command sponsored for that and the military member will not get separation pay hitting his paycheck, until the 31st day of separation.

As far as the the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), if a member is serving an UNACCOMPANIED overseas tour, the member is eligible for BAH at the "with dependents" rate, based on the dependent's (that's you) US residence zipcode, plus Overseas Housing Allowance (OHA) at the "without dependents" rate, if the member is not furnished government housing other words, if he is living off post. Many enlisted soldiers under a certain rank, usually Sergeant First Class, MUST live in the barracks so that the command can better maintain good order and discipline.

Bottom line, her husband needs to go thru his chain of command...his company First Sergeant and then his Company Commander to make sure the paperwork gets done. Finance is unfortunately notorious...or should I say, has a reputation...for screwing up and taking awhile to get things right, so she has to hang in there.

But I'd like to make one more point...many times, because wives cannot get command sponsorship, either because the geographical area does not allow it, such as close to the demilitarized zone in Korea, certain assignments in world hotspots or maybe because the command did not authorize it for one reason or another, please read about going to join your spouse as a non-command sponsored dependent. Even though this article talks mostly about Korea, the information is valid for other locations as well. Know what the great risks are and be willing to take them should you go this route.

Do you have any advice for this young lady?

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Trying to Crockpot in a Microwave Society

Now that our financial bubble has burst, I often wonder if we will go back to the ways of our grandparents? Can our microwave society adjust to a crockpot setting? I guess it's going to have to, to survive...or maybe not survive but to thrive again.

I watched a piece on the news was British TV. Even they are blaming us Americans for everything. We are so accustomed to getting everything now and, then...maybe, if we feel like it....or remember too....try to pay for it later. Living beyond our means. Spending more than we make.We want everything now and yesterday.

And the worst part of it, is for those of us who have been goody two shoes and responsible and saving rather than spending...we are going to pay for it too, because if we don't...what we value and have for ourselves won't be worth caca that a word? I'm getting sidetracked...I guess I need to stop looking at our retirement stuff makes me in a foul mood.

Are you a spender or a saver? If you were one or the you think you'll change? How far and why?


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Celebrating Those Life Moments in the Battalion - Babies

I still don't have a perfect system. I think it's especially important, that as a commander's wife, I am recognizing the importance of a new member of our extended battalion family. These life moments only come once for each child, and you know, my husband never forgot it, that he was not there for the birth of our second son. In fact, it weighed so heavily on him, through his own choosing, as I did not want him to feel guilty, that he will try to move mountains to make sure the father is here in country when that baby is born....not always possible looking at mission requirements, but if it can be done....he's going to do it. My part, is celebrating that new baby in our lives.

At first, I had trouble with just plain old fashioned communication. I sometimes didn't get notified at all. Other times, I would get a telephone message or email...well after the fact...the last one was three months after the fact. Then, when I started getting the information in a fairly timely fashion, I didn't get the hospital information. I hate to waste people's time, including my own, so there I was loaded down with gifts and the wrong hospital. Or, since I didn't get the right information, I am playing phone tag either with the parents or the FRG leader.

So, finally, I said...please, send me the birth information thru email only and please...tell me the name of the hospital. My goal is to visit the mom and baby while they are still in there. It makes it easier on me...I'm estimating about 20-25 babies a year...and easier on them, because they don't have to feel uncomfortable with me visiting them at home (I know they clean up for me and try to entertain me and that is not what I intended). I've been buying mostly diapers, wipes, a little toy and an outfit...and trying to keep it down to $25 or less...with a battalion of a few hundred can guess how this can add up, so you have to keep costs down as this is coming out of my husband's and my paycheck. In our command class at Ft Leavenworth, we were warned that battalion command would be expensive....and it has been so far to an extent....but also very rewarding.

Now, our companies, do raise funds for their baby funds, and they typically also visit the new moms and babies bearing a custom printed onesies from Cafe Press, as well as food for the freezer and a cute thing called a diapercake. They recognize as well as I do what an important moment this is.

What does your unit do to honor those new babies?


Monday, November 10, 2008

Veterans Benefit in Franchising

I know companies are always trying to dream up ideas on new and innovative ways to make money. Franchising is one way...but how do you get people to buy into the franchise and then get people to eat there too? How about a program that gives breaks of thousands of dollars to veterans who are willing to open up a franchise? And what if that franchise is a brand name that almost everyone in America recognizes?

That's exactly what Little Caesar's was thinking with their Little Caesar's Veterans Program. Obviously, it's only for veterans. I think it's been around for almost a year and a handful of veterans have take advantage of it so far. From what I've read, they all found it a great deal and something worthwhile to pursue, one because Little Caesar's is a company they trust and believe in...and two, it allows them to be their own boss, many opening a franchise in their hometown, giving them an opportunity to settle there with a headstart on how they are going to support themselves. We all know that just a military pension is just not enough these days. One happy new owner was also happy to provide an alternative to the other few fast food places in town...knowing that his was a crowd pleaser.

Do you know of any other companies that offer special benefits to veterans? I think it's a great idea, and a great incentive to go into business for yourself.

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Friday, November 7, 2008

No Need for Expensive PhotoShop; Use the Online Fotoflexer

I am cheap. I'm just going to admit it. I refuse to pay many hundreds of dollars for photoshopping picture software for our computer. I've been pretty happy with Google's Picasa. It does most everything I need it for....until I needed to do a few more high tech...or at least my impression of high tech....stuff. So I started looking elsewhere.

That's when I found Fotoflexer. I had taken a photo of one of our volunteers...actually it was a photo of our volunteer, with another volunteer...and a lantern growing out of the head of the volunteer whose picture I needed to turn in for an award. So, now what? I didn't want to hunt her down...she lives more than few villages from me....I didn't know when I'd see her again and the photo was due....yesterday. So, here I had this photo that wasn't quite acceptable. But it was my only hope at this point.

The great thing about Fotoflexer, is that you can use it online, nothing to download. When you are done manipulating your photo, you can save the new and improved photo to your computer and leave the site and move on to something else.

I ended up

Honestly, I can't imagine having done a better job with any kind of software with zero training. Give it a try and tell me how it works out for you. If you know of any other similar software you like, post it here too.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Things I Find In and Around Dumpsters

Okay, so I haven't seen many dumpsters in residential areas lately. We've lived off post the last...I would say....six years, so maybe I've forgotten. But you won't believe what I've found sitting in and around our dumpster the last few months.

Granted, I see trashbags that somehow missed the dumpster. Actually, we have two side-by-side and a big wooden fence around the area, along with our big recycling bins...we are in Germany, which is recycling heaven. Anyway, at any give time, usually closer to trash pick-up time, I'd see one dumpster, filled to the gills and overflowing...and the other...almost empty. I FINALLY figured it out, and it took me almost a month. People were winging their bags over the fence and hoping it would hit the dumpster. Since they couldn't see...they didn't care...or so it seems. I also see they didn't care about other things from the perfectly good things I would find around there. It's not like we don't have a thrift shop around here...we also have the German Red Cross store and a few other places items can be dropped off..maybe that's the key...dropped off...too much effort.

I've seen

  • a very nice leather recliner that still worked (I tried it out). I was really hoping though, as I sat in it, that their dog or cat didn't just pee all over it.
  • An antique wooden table that was very stable and very useable....but okay, it was a bit butt ugly if you don't like that heavy stuff.
  • A fairly new Pottery Barn Amoire in a beautiful whitewashed color with only a scratch on the back of it.
  • Nice wood picture frames.
  • A newer toddler's toy, like a plastic table with all these gadgets, whirlys and things that make noise and light up....and it was still working and looked to be in excellent condition.
  • Numerous dining and kitchen chairs that looked sturdy.
  • A nice wooden baby changing table.
  • A diaper bin...okay, I'd throw that away too.
  • An iron wine rack.
  • Bin of four cubbyholes in colorful primary colors.
  • A perfectly good men's mountain just needed new tires.
  • Four weather-beaten wire egg baskets...guess they gave up the collection?
And those are just the things that came to mind. I did drag a few of the items into our storage room in the basement. Our FRG is going to be participating in a community flea market next weekend. We actually made $200 the last time with very little effort. Next time, we hope to work our way into the food arena. There's some kind of German charity organization that was invited in to do a fish fry...what do Germans know about fish frys?!

What kinds of things do you find in and around your local trash?


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Ask VMW: My Husband Wants a Divorce!

I got a very sad email the other day:

I am sitting here numb writing this. I don't even know how to process this next bit of news. My husband, who just came home from a deployment, told me he does not want to be married anymore. I don't think it's another woman or anything I can put my finger on, but he seems absolutely dead set on this. I tried to ignore what he was saying, but now I see papers from a lawyer, so I guess he is serious. I don't even know where to begin? What do I do?

To be honest, I am numb reading your email. I am at this point, while I am writing this, trying to send cyberhugs through the airwaves. I don't want to profess knowing it all or even understanding what you are going through, but here is what I advise for you to do, not necessarily in the order listed below.

  • Get yourself a lawyer ASAP. You can even go to your local Army JAG office. You just won't get the same lawyer your husband got.
  • Know what your rights are as a military spouse. Don't let him sucker you into anything or sign anything, until you get it checked out. Many spouses don't realize until much later, what they should've done instead of what they actually did. You very well could be entitled to at least half of his retirement pay and certainly child support if you have children together.
  • Surround yourself with positive people and people who genuinely care for you. You'll know who those people are the minute this gets out, and it well. Take them up on their offers of help and support, even if you feel you don't need deserve it and your children too.
  • Keep your chin up this entire process and continue to look straight ahead. Because you are who you are and so is your husband. There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of and if anyone has a problem with it, then you didn't need them in the first place.
  • Make sure this is what BOTH of you want. If you can, try to get counseling first. We all have our ups and downs, and you want to make absolutely sure this is not just a down period and the relationship is truly on its way out.
  • Read this wonderful blog. This strong Army wife went through the process herself, and she is now thriving, and her kids are thriving. She does such an excellent job of laying it all out there and nothing is off-limits. Get strength from her experience and many others like hers. There are MANY support groups out there. Find a support group and connect with others who are going through this as well.
  • Stop by these other sites to get informed and to gather as much information as you can.
Military Divorce and Pensions

How is Military Retirement Pay Divided During Divorce

Military and Divorce

Frequently Asked Questions

If anyone knows of any other resources that can help here, please post them below. And Angie (name changed to protect anonymity), please know that we are thinking of you today and please know that you will emerge stronger from this life event, and we want to wish you positive thoughts and the strength and will to carry on as you go through this ordeal.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Fear of a Short Circuit and Driving Myself Crazy

A few months ago, I recently started a routine of using a heating pad on my sore back. I hate to admit it, but it really helps with my back problems. I turn the thing on right before I go to bed, and over here in Germany, it gives me the added cozy effect, especially when hubby is gone. Well, I had to scare myself by watching some kind of Animal Heroes program on TV yesterday.

You see, I sometimes forget to turn the thing off...sometimes at night, right before I drift off to sleep, but even more so in the morning, after I get up...which is even scarier. Why? Cause I just watched this pug-faced cat save her owner because she fell asleep with a heating pad on her shin splints and it short circuited. It started to burn and smolder, and if the cat hadn't woken her up, I guess it would've burned through her leg, the bed and possibly the house before she noticed it!

Needless to say, I am paranoid about using the heating pad again...and I look around at all these powerstrips around the house...constantly I putting my family at risk? Of course when you google, "house fire and short circuit", all kinds of articles and stories come up. I guess what I'd like to know, will a lamp plugged in and turned off ever short circuit? What about any other electrical item in my house? Or does there have to be electrical juice running to the item, such as in a powerstrip? If anyone knows the answer, please enlighten me before I make myself crazy trying to figure it out!


All On One Page

Just a quick blurb. This site does a pretty good job of putting tons of military spouse resources on one page. Check them out.


Monday, November 3, 2008

Pad Your Resume with VMIS

Are you somewhere right now...either in your life or where you are physically located...where you are not working in a paying job? Would you like to continue to have a record of your work history, even without that paying job? Be prepared at your next job interview with a record of what you have been up to, when you weren't working outside the home.

If you don't know it already, let me introduce you to VMIS - the Volunteer Management Information System. Record your volunteer hours and even take them with you when you move, along with your volunteer positions, awards, training and your entire volunteer history. No more will you have "dead space" on your resume, as the Army has made it easy to translate your work into DA FORM 4162, Volunteer Service Record.

When I wrote up my latest resume, I had 12 whole years of not working outside the home! My first thought was, who would even hire me at this point with such a huge gap in work history? I ended up using my previous volunteer experiences and what was on my Volunteer Service Record to beef up my resume. And it worked. I got a job that I love...and I'm even getting paid for it! What a novelty for me at least.

VMIS is an Army-wide system. I don't know if the other services have something similar at this point. If so, please post your programs below. The Army has only recently started VMIS online...I want to say in the last few years. For example, our post over here in Germany just started up this program and system last Spring, and our community has a Volunteer Manager who oversees the system and all the various volunteer opportunities on the site for our geographical area. All it takes is a search by zipcode on My Army Life Too, to find what's available in your area. Another great catch to the program, getting in as a volunteer can also eventually get you a paying job at that organization, if that is what you want. Another gem I've come across, VMIS links you into the Career Assessment Tool run by the Army Spouse Employment Partnership. This tool will give you greater clarity and direction in your career decisionmaking, as the site states. Give it a try as well. Access the site under My Army Life Too.

Last piece of information, the site is currently being merged with Military OneSource, already a great place to connect and get information for all military spouses. I bet they even have more things in store for us, when the system merge is complete, sometime in Summer 2009. I look forward to checking that out.