Jord Wood Watches Are Stunning! — Giveaway

Fun Fashionable and Fabulous!

I get a lot of requests to review products on my blog. I’m talking about several dozen each week. I only do them if the product or service appeals to me and would be helpful to my readers.

I am very happy to partner with a company that is based in my hometown. Jord Wood Watches is a locally owned St. Louis, Missouri company. They design and produce real wood watches with sustainable materials from all around the world. I was skeptical when I read the email, but once I clicked on the link to the site, I was an immediate fan.

Jord time pieces are mostly male watches and unisex designs so far but they have recently announced a new, gorgeous, specifically women’s watch. I’d love to have one, but for the review, I chose the Fieldcrest Black Timepiece for Horatio. He loves watches and has a small collection of beautiful ones. He is pretty picky about what he will wear on his wrist and as soon as this one arrived, it became a wardrobe staple for him. Today I noticed it isn’t on his dresser; he must have taken it with him on his latest trip, which tells me it has become a new favorite.fieldcrest-7-front-angled

Seeing Horatio wear his, and trying it on my own wrist, left me longing for one for myself. I love the way it felt on my wrist and that it is a unique and fashion forward, yet earthy and practical, accessory;  all things that really suit my style. Comfort and elegance all in one.

You can view their current offerings via their website.

Between now and November 24, 2014, you can enter the $120 JORD Gift Certificate Giveaway Here: a Rafflecopter giveaway

In case Horatio reads this post, here’s the one I’ve got my eye on:

cora-34-front-angledJORD provided the product for the review, but all opinions are my own.

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Dogs of War: Rescue Dogs and Veterans Helping Each Other

I usually don’t write about TV shows, though I do get a lot of pitches for them.  Something about my mood lately made me read through an email from a new show’s representative this morning and I am so glad I did.  I got to watch the premiere episode and was drawn in from the start.

A&E’s newest show is one everyone can enjoy.  The show is a soldier’s story and a dog’s story.  It’s about rescue dogs helping our nation’s veterans and veterans helping sweet rescue dogs.  They truly do save each other, with the help of a veteran with a need and a goal.

DOGS OF WAR spotlights combat veteran Jim Stanek, who returns home struggling with PTSD. He looks into getting a service dog to help him heal, only to discover how expensive they are, and how long the wait to be paired with one is. So he starts his own nonprofit to rescue dogs from kill shelters, train them as service dogs and partner them with struggling veterans at little or no cost.

The show premieres Tuesday, Nov. 11 at 10PM ET/PT and then moves to Sundays at 10PM ET/PT beginning Nov. 16.

In an era when most reality TV is hypersexualized, about cutthroat competition or designed solely to make us laugh at the culture of its “stars,” it is so refreshing to be associated with a series like this, which spotlights a man who uses the greatest pain in his life to offer the greatest comfort to the lives of others.

Here’s a trailer.  Once you catch a glimpse of this story, you won’t want to miss this great show, so tune in on Veteran’s Day to see the first episode and Sunday nights from thereafter.  Set your DVR now!

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The Crazy Construction Robots

So, this is happening in front of my house today.

With the high unemployment rate in Taipei, I’d think that the government would want to hire actual people to direct traffic around the construction all around the city.  They are widening our street and the noise is deafening at times.  There seems to be an endless run of construction work on our street. Usually it includes a jackhammer.  Maybe they are trying to preserve the hearing of more individuals.  I’d love some ear plugs, or taxi fare to vacate the premises if they are truly concerned.

I’m guessing the sign behind the mannequin says something about shutting off the water in our area because we’ve had 2 to 3 hour periods with no water every day this week, with no apparent warning. I’m illiterate in Mandarin, so I’ll just give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they put it in writing. When I asked one of the construction guys when they would turn it back on, first he pointed at me and told his coworker that I was speaking Mandarin, then he told me “very quickly.” I think that’s a relative term.

This happens about 7 out of every 10 days.

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Sign in front of my house. Not to mention the red line that clearly indicates “No Parking.”

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I can’t read Mandarin because I never made the time and it’s not my native language. What’s his excuse? The road crews are constantly parking in front of our gate.

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Equal opportunities. The ERA is alive and well in Taiwan and she gets paid as much as he does!

Plus, there’s a guy on my roof, with a broom.

I should probably be alarmed by this, but this lifestyle lends itself to crazy encounters, so I just let it go.  It’s never dull, that’s for sure.

When the younger boys arrived home from school, Harold The Feisty First Grader howled with laughter at the sight of the roadwork robot and promptly joined in the hard work.

Maybe he can start bringing in the bacon? (Vegan, of course.)

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Hair Cuttery’s Share-a-Haircut Campaign will Benefit Veterans November 11, 2014

I am happy to be partnering with Hair Cuttery in their effort to help Veterans-in-need this Veteran’s Day, November 11.

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Hair Cuttery has a program called the Share-A-Haircut Campaign in which they donate free haircuts to underprivileged community members.  The program started 15 years ago as an effort to help less fortunate children, as they headed back to school.  A new haircut is always a great way to start the new school year.

Since its inception, the Share-A-Haircut Campaign has expanded and served more than 1,000,000 children and adults in the form of certificates for free haircuts, totaling more than $13.5 million!

This year, on Veteran’s Day, Hair Cuttery will donate a certificate for a free haircut to a veteran in need, in the community, for every paid adult haircut at any of their nearly 900 locations.  In each local market, the Hair Cuttery has partnered with a Veteran’s organization to distribute the certificates.  They hope to exceed 25,000 donated haircuts this November 11.

We were within walking distance of one of Hair Cuttery’s salons in our Northern Virginia neighborhood, and enjoyed their services.  If we hadn’t moved to Asia, I’d take all four of my sons there on November 11 to help donate four free haircuts to Veterans in need!  To find your local Hair Cuttery, visit their salon locator here.

At home on our mountain, we will have to stick to the local barber but will be sure to support Hair Cuttery upon our return to the US.

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Spiritial TV Show on TLC Looking for Your Stories

Roma Downey, Mark Burnett, and TLC Network are looking for people who have extraordinary stories about miracles, and divine forces at work in their lives.

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HAVE YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW EXPERIENCED A MIRACLE, DIVINE INTERVENTION, A SERIES OF AMAZING COINCIDENCES, OR AN ANGEL ENCOUNTER?

The producers of this new inspirational TV series are looking for everything from medical miracles, to against all odds survival and rescue stories, to angel encounters, and twist of fate love stories that cannot be explained by logic or science.

Please click on this link and share your story!

http://www.cornwellcasting.com/roma_downey.php

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Guest Post from the Globetrotting Gamer

My 16 year old son, Zack, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, wrote this essay for his Rhetoric and Composition class and posted it to his blog at http://www.GlobetrottingGamer.wordpress.com.  I am so proud of him and how far he has come, and I can see he is proud of himself, which is much more significant.

Journey to the Far East: My move to Taiwan

I remember first hearing word that my family and I would be moving to an island off the coast of China called Taiwan. With my dad being in the navy, moving around or dad being deployed wasn’t new. During my 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade years, my family and I lived in Beijing, where my dad was a naval attaché. Then, during the later half of 7th grade and all of 8th, save for a couple of trips, my dad was deployed off the coast of Japan. But hearing this ‘might’, as in a slim possibility that we wouldn’t have to move (with it being heard near the beginning of my sophomore year of high school) gave my brothers and I hope that we wouldn’t have to move again and leave our friends. But anything can happen in the navy, and we heard that we would be living in Taipei for three years. But towards the beginning of the second semester of my sophomore year, three years in Taipei was changed to two years in Taiwan, and three years in Beijing. This will be the longest time out of the US for me and my family, and before moving, we had spent five years in northern Virginia, the longest period of time that we hadn’t moved. And that was solely because my dad opted to go to Japan by himself, without my mom, brothers, or myself.

It felt surreal having to leave for overseas again, after staying in one place for so long. We had to leave my pet guinea pig with some family friends, we had to leave our dog behinds while he waited to be cleared to being moved to the quarantine here in Taipei. I had to say goodbye to the friends and kids I met and knew, the teachers I had and ‘made friends’ with, but most importantly, my grandparents, who we visited in St. Louis, MO, where my mom’s parents live, and my dad’s parents came to visit us while staying at our friend’s house from Allentown, PA. I won’t forget the last words my dad’s mom said before they got in their car and left for Pennsylvania: I don’t like having to say goodbye. But what struck me the most was that she had tears coming from her eyes. When we lived in China, we always visited my mom’s parents, but both sets of grandparents would come and visit us. I have a feeling things will be the same this time around.

The last days of school and packing days for both the movers and storage came quickly, and we ‘moved’ into a friend’s house to stay for the last couple of days while they were at Nags Head beach in North Carolina. But we officially left Virginia on July 17th, about three-fourths of a month after school got out for the summer. Because of the distance, the flight was made in ‘two trips’, a flight from Virginia to California, and from there to Taiwan. When we got here, we had little of our stuff. As of now, we are still waiting for out car. My parents didn’t even know about school, because there were ‘no openings’ for both Taipei American School or Taipei European School. For a while, it looked like I was going to be attending Grace Christian Academy, and being jewish, I didn’t think those two things would add up. But, after an interview, I got ‘admitted’ to TAS, and now I’m here. But school aside, if it is one thing I look forward to being overseas for, it is the vacations.

When my family and I lived in mainland China, we used the vacation days normally used for going back home for going elsewhere. While in Beijing, we went on vacation to Harbin and saw the ice sculptures, we went to South Africa and went to Kruger National Park, we went to Vietnam, Australia, and Singapore. In this ‘overseas session’, my family hopes to go to Jerusalem, Istanbul, Florence, Scotland, England, and maybe even Japan, all on top of going back to that states for some visits.

I really enjoy my new school here in Taiwan, but I also still like my old high school, South Lakes High School, for different reasons. One thing I do not like about TAS is sharing a bus with the elementary school kids, mostly because the parents up where I live have kids that age, and I am at least the second oldest kid on the bus. In fact, I still think that high schoolers, middle schoolers, and elementary schoolers going to the same school is weird. The International School of Beijing did have this system, but the students were put in separate buses based on age or grade. I’m still getting used to and remembering the system used at ISB, and noticing some similarities between TAS and SLHS.

To sum up my experiences with moving overseas, I have mixed feelings, I’m looking forward to doing certain things, I enjoy it here, but I miss where I come from. I hope I can make the most of my possible five years in Asia.

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School Parties International School Style

One thing that I haven’t seen since I was in school is a classroom Halloween party.  My kids have attended a combined total of… ok, my head is spinning trying to tally them up, so I’ll just say, more than 10 schools, in several cities in the US and abroad.  Some have had “Fall Celebrations”  or “Autumn Crafts,” but none have had an actual Halloween Party.

Here we are at an American school in Southeast Asia and now my 1st grader and 5th grader will be able to actually put on their costumes and celebrate the ancient Pagen holiday- turned modern American festival of candy and costumes.  I even did something I don’t usually do.  Something that goes against my grain.  I ordered costumes, and paid full price, more than a month before Halloween.  I usually wait until the week before Halloween and let the kids choose what is on sale.  I’ll admit to being a Halloween scrooge.  This year, though, I decided to embrace the holiday.  It’s a very big deal here, so if I can’t beat them, I may as well join them.

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I haven’t heard much, beyond the time and place, about Bob’s 5th grade celebration, but the buzz about Harold’s 1st grade party started in September!  The fabulously enthusiastic room moms decorated to the nines!

halloween 1 Halloween 2 Halloween 3I’m extremely thankful to the room moms for all of their hard work and organizing.  I’m also very grateful that I was able to send in my financial contribution and step back for now.  I will attend the parties, of course, and I have signed up to volunteer in the classroom for math games next month, but as a newbie here, I am very happy to be in the position of relative anonymity; at least as anonymous as a blonde haired, hazel eyed mom can be at a school that is 95+% Asian.

The best part of the pre party build-up, as far as I am concerned, is the detailed flier we parents received via WhatsAp chat, to let us know the schedule of said party:

halloween partyI’m super glad they clearly stated the schedule.  I would not want to make a major protocol breach and cheer for my kid at the wrong time.  Such a mistake might cause an international incident.

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Pentagon Threatens Cuts to Families Dealing with Autism

The Pentagon is considering cutting funding for treatment of Autistic children in half.  This action, if taken, could devastate families like mine.

As part of the effort to cut defense department health costs, the Pentagon plans to slash provider reimbursements related to care for autistic children under TRICARE, the military’s healthcare plan.

The Tricare manual regarding provider reimbursements, released in September,  cuts autism care provider pay from $125 a hour to between $50 and $68 an hour.  As a beneficiary of these programs, I can vouch for the fact that, even before the proposed cuts, Tricare often is at the very low end of payments to providers.  I believe that medical professionals who accept Tricare patients are doing their part to help military families like mine, and I appreciate them.  The proposed cuts are an insult to the doctors  and therapists and a shot to the knees of military families faced with mounting costs of providing necessary treatments for our neurologically struggling kids.

Justifiably, many healthcare providers are balking at the pay cuts, because they won’t be able to provide their services at the lower rates. If the cuts go through, providers say the services will disappear.

Families will be forced to go without care or to seek out-of-network providers, at much higher rates.  By more than doubling the out of pocket medical costs for already struggling military families, the organization which is supposed to be looking out for its members is essentially cutting off essential care, thus stifling the development of our kids.

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Early and continued therapies are essential to the progressive development of autistic children and young adults.  My son, Zack, has been getting supportive services since he was two years old.  He was basically non verbal until the age of four.  He struggled with putting pencil to paper and couldn’t throw a ball.  At 16, after years of speech therapy, social skills counseling and occupational therapy, Zack is doing remarkably, well.  He still struggles, every day, with many challenges related to his Autism Spectrum Disorder, including, but not nearly limited to: Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Auditory Processing Disorder, Sensory Integration Disorder and Anxiety.  Thanks, though, to the continued care he has received for the past 14 years, through Tricare, he can manage them.  He carries on meaningful conversations with peers and adults; stays on track with his schedule, personal care and homework load; maintains very good grades at a highly intense independent overseas school, in Honors, IB and AP classes; and has a job tutoring math.

Without the care and education we have received from Tricare providers, the road would have been more bumpy and much longer.  If the Pentagon makes the financial cuts, over 1,200 children will see an immediate cut in their care.  These kids will suffer, not just in the short term, but in the long term as well.  Young autistic kids become autistic adults.  Therapies and treatments in childhood go a long way toward helping them develop into adults who can often live independent lives.  Kids left to flounder, without care, because their parents serve our country whose leaders cut their medical benefits, might suffer long term consequences and have to depend on other forms of more intense and costly care throughout their adult lives.

A Navigation Behavior Consulting survey of TRICARE providers who work with autistic children, found that 95 percent of these providers planned to cut back on the services they offer, while 22 percent intended to stop working with military children altogether, if the changes were to go through.

According to figures in Tricare documents, more than 7,800 military children received Autism related services in 2013.

Thanks, in part, to leaders such as Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), the Pentagon has delayed the cuts until April, (which, ironically, is Autism Awareness month) but already some providers are seeing their reimbursements dwindling as a result of other changes to the system.  The Department of Defense and Congress need to hear from families and their supporters that the proposed cuts are not the way to save money in the defense department budget.

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We cannot let these cuts go through next year.

If you agree that the cuts should be stopped, let the leadership know!

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Westley the 3 Legged Wonder Dog Has Landed

Westley arrived in Taipei on Monday afternoon.  His afternoon arrival made it impossible for him to go to the quarantine facility until the next day.  Our customs agent took care of his well being over night, and Horatio made arrangements for us to go to visit him today.

I took the bus to the metro to Horatio’s office so that we could go to the facility together.  I packed some essentials to make Wes feel more at home: his teddy bear, a rawhide bone and a pair of pjs that Harold has been sleeping in for a few days, so that Wes could have his best buddy’s scent with him when he sleeps.

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The Veterinary Hospital of National Taiwan University houses the quarantine facility, so a veterinarian greeted us upon our arrival and led us to our boy.

You can see the video here:

The doctor gave us an update on Westley’s condition and disposition and I’m relieved to report that she says he’s happy and eating well.  That’s a huge relief.  She says he “has lots of energy.”  A fact we know very well.

He did seem a bit stressed.  He was clearly very happy to see us, but he was panting a lot, which he does when he’s nervous.  I’m going to go back to visit him tomorrow and I will take his bed so he can sleep comfortably.  I can stay for an hour and a half, so I’ll just go hang out with him to make him feel more settled.  Visiting hours are 10:00-11:30 and 2:00-3:30 only on certain days and only by appointment, so the boys cannot visit until next Friday, when Bob and Harold don’t have school and the following Friday, when Zack and Dwight don’t have school.  Yes, they all go to the same school, but different sub schools have parent-teacher conferences on different days due to extremely limited parking.

Horatio took the crate apart so that I could transport it home in a taxi.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a large crate.  Luckily, I had a very nice taxi driver who helped me unload it into our entryway when we reached my house.  He was eager to chat on the 45 minute drive home.  He spoke a little English, about as much Mandarin as I speak.  He said he speaks Japanese much better than he speaks English!  We managed to have a nice conversation about the dog, life in Taipei, Japanese tourists, families, America and France (I’m not sure how France came up.)

I’m extremely relieved to know that Westley made it through the flight in good health.  Now the countdown begins to when we can bring him home on November 4th.

 

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Waiting for Westley

One of the most complicated parts of our relocation to Taiwan is moving our beloved canine companion, our four year old, three legged, German Shorthaired Pointer, Westley. (We are big fans of The Princess Bride.)

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Harold and Bob with Wes before we left the USA

We adopted Westley when he was 2 1/2 years old.  He’d been hit by a car and lost his front left leg.  Rejected by his original owners, he was looking for a forever home right when we were looking to bring a dog into our lives.  It was a perfect match.  At the time, we didn’t know we’d be moving overseas and when we found out, we had to make the decision of what to do about Wes.

For housing, we were given the choice of living in the city, in an apartment; or up on the mountain, in a house with a yard.

Harold and WesHow could we look at this pair and not choose the place where we could take Wes with us?

Taiwan considers itself to be a rabies free country.  I guess the dogs are rabies free but other wild animals do carry the disease.  So, I was a bit surprised when we found out, three months before our departure, that dogs need a rabies titer test six months before they can be verified as rabies free for their import into Taiwan, and upon their arrival in Taiwan, they must endure a three week quarantine. (Too soon for Ebola jokes.)

A wonderful friend and coworker stepped up and offered her family to keep Wes until he was medically cleared to travel to us.

I took Westley for his test on April 7.  I know that vet visits and tests are never inexpensive, but when the receptionist at the veterinary office said the cost for the test was “286,” it gave me pause.  I thought, “286? It can’t be 2 dollars and 86 cents, so it has to be $286.00.”  Whoa.  Let the money bleeding begin…

Here we are, 6 months later, and I’m in the midst of the head spinning process of getting Westley cleared to fly and on his way.  We need a customs broker in the US and another one here in Taipei.  This, of course, translates to more costs.

The shipping specialist at Horatio’s office here told us last week that the shipping window for Wes is October 10-16.  If we cannot get him here by the 16th, he can’t be imported until January due to restrictions of capacity at the quarantine facility here.

I booked Westley onto the same United Airline route our family flew in July, only to find out that his crate size, due to his 65 pound size, is too large for the first leg of the flight.  The earlier flight, which could carry his crate, leaves DC at 8:30 in the morning and dogs have to be at the cargo area 3 hours prior to flight.  The agent I spoke with informed me that the cargo facility does not open until 6:30, so we could not book him on the flight, and offered no other alternatives.  Wait. What?  That makes no sense.

At this point in the process, I decided to turn the flight booking over to the customs facilitator, whose job it is to know the routes and the most pet friendly airlines.  (Are your pupils dollar signs yet?  We are just getting started.)

The wonderful folks at Animailers, out of Millersville, MD,  know what they are doing and do it well.  Before I knew it, Westley was booked on KLM, via Amsterdam, where they have a facility for a comfort layover for pets.  Animailers handled the purchase of the airline compliant crate and accoutrements for the journey.  I wanted to leave no room for logistical mistakes.

The next step in the process was to get Wes to the vet for his pre flight check-up, which must occur no more than 10 days prior to arrival at the destination and must be certified by the USDA, which is a three hour drive from where Wes was staying.  I lay awake at night, fretting over the process, until I decided to turn that step over to Animailers as well.  (cha ching.)  Sometimes, throwing money at a problem to make it go away, is the only answer.  They picked Westley up on Monday so that he can stay with them until flight time.

On the road...

On the road…

They will take care of all of the details from this point forward.  Now I can lay awake worrying about other things… (see below.)

I got word today that Wes passed his check up and the paperwork is on its way to USDA, via FedEx.  He is scheduled to fly out on Saturday and arrive in Taipei on Monday.  Because he will arrive after noon on Monday, he must stay at the airport to await transport to the quarantine facility until Tuesday morning.  He will be cared for by the import facilitator until he can be driven to the quarantine, which is located some distance away.  (At a cost, of course.)  We must pick up his crate within 24 hours of his arrival, or they will donate the crate.  We don’t have our car yet, so I’m not sure how this is going to happen, but I guess we will figure it out.

We can visit Westley two or three times per week during his three weeks in quarantine.  I don’t know how I feel about that, though.  Won’t he be confused, after he sees us, about why the heck we are leaving him there?

I’ve been keeping a running tally in my head and we are approaching $5000 US to ship our beloved rescue dog here.  If I don’t laugh about it and think about how happy we will all be to be reunited with him, I might cry.  Especially when I think about repeating the process, in an even more complicated way, in less than two years when we move to our next posting.

For now, I’ll dream of the upcoming joyous reunion with Westley the Wonder Dog.  That is, if I can sleep!

 

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