Book Recommendation: The Luckiest Girl Alive

The Luckiest Girl Alive  By Jessica Knoll

The Luckiest Girl Alive is a suspenseful, unpredictable, unique story that moves fluidly from past to present and back again.  If you liked Gone Girl and Girl on the Train, you will love this book.  Ani (pronounced AH-ni, as often declared by the character herself) appears to lead a perfect life, but the whole thing is a lie she tries desperately to hide.  Of course, all good things come to an end, it’s the getting there that keeps you turning the pages.  You won’t want to put this book down.  I highly recommend it.

5/5 Stars

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Book Suggestion: The Palest Ink

The Palest Ink  By Kay Bratt

Having lived in Asia for five years (and counting) I read a lot of books set in the region.  The Palest Ink tells a colorful story of realistic people during the Cultural Revolution.  The book is a prequel to a series of books, but I only discovered that fact after I’d started reading it.  I don’t often read book series, but after reading about Benfu and his friends, I will likely read the books in the series.  I’d like to read what happens to the crew as they move through Chinese history.

The setting lends itself to to vivid imagery and haunted my dreams at night.  The cultural revolution was a horrific time in China for nearly everyone.  The Palest Ink tells a believable story set during this time.  I highly recommend it.

5/5 Stars

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Book Suggestions: The Bronte Plot

I’ve read some good books lately and want to share quick reviews and recommendations:

The Bronte Plot  By Katherine Reay

The Bronte Plot is a well written and not too predictable tale that weaves English Lit with modern day romantic comedy and drama.  Whether you are a Bronte fan, or not, this is a pleasurable read.  The story flows, the characters are likable and believable and the settings are pleasant and easy to picture.

4/5 Stars

 

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Finally Opening My Eyes (Guest Post)

By Bill Lockard, US Army, Retired; Financial Coach

It wasn’t until my third deployment until I realized I was the one who had it easy.  By the time I redeployed from Iraq, I finally realized it was my wife who had it harder than me.  Call me “slow”, call me “insensitive”, or just call me a “male”, but I really didn’t realized how many different things my wife needed to do while I was away.  Between getting the two kids back and forth to school, maintaining the house and handling all of our finances, my wife was doing the jobs of a Transportation Specialist, a Logistics Technician and a Resource Manager all at the same time.

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I knew my deployment schedule was going to let up any time soon, so we both decided things had to change.  Part of this transformation was getting our finances in order and alleviating all the stress that went with it.

By the time I deployed again, we had learned to: live on a budget, make our money work for us and actually paid off our home mortgage.  Going overseas without an ocean of debt back home made my life easier but it evaporated an ever present storm of stress for my wife (not to mention doing wonders for our relationship and marriage).

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Since retiring, I have been helping people realize the same sense of calm we are now living with.  I still have a mission to help military families who know all too well the tension financial obstacles can place on you.  Proverbs 22:7 says, “The borrower is the slave to the lender”.  Nowhere is that more true than with military families.  I’ve become a Financial Coach in order to help people realize their full potential and make their money work for them, instead of being a slave to their money problems. 

I offer an individual and objective assessment of financial situation and provide proven lessons to help pay off your debt and build wealth.  I will not try to sell you stocks, mutual funds, or insurance.

What I will do is provide common sense education to assist you in the future.  I will focus on your future, rather than your past, and recommend changes which will assist you in reaching your goals.  Specifically, I will help you identify your financial priorities and help you develop a specific action plan to alleviate your current areas of stress.  If you believe you can benefit from this, please take a moment visit my web site at www.financial227support.com.  You will be able to get a better idea of who I am and read about some of the people I have helped.  I am available to work with you regardless of where you are stationed via phone or Skype.  Military families are my priority, so I offer a $25 discount off of your first session.  Back when I still wore the uniform, my wife and I needed this help.  Now that my uniform hangs in my closet, it is my mission to offer the same help to all of you.

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Vote From Overseas!

Take care of this now to be eligible to vote in the upcoming elections!

The Deployment Diatribes

The Federal Voting Assistance Program, FVAP, makes it easy to maintain active participation in the democratic process back home while we live abroad. As U.S citizens, despite living overseas, it is our responsibility to vote. I, personally, cannot imagine not voting, especially since we actively serve The United States of America, voting gives us a stake in the game.

Voting overseas is a very simple process. Just complete the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA). This form acts as both a registration and absentee ballot request form. To ensure that your ballot is received in time for each election, it is recommended that you complete a new FPCA annually whenever your mailing address changes or at least 90 days prior to the election your voting in.

FVAP is the Federal Voting Assistance Program, and on their website you will find everything you need to fill out the FPCA.

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Jianguo Artists Corner

On the weekend, the parking garages beneath the highway that leads downtown turn into a market of flowers and art and knickknacks.

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Three markets stretch beneath the highway.  I don’t know the length of the markets but the flowers, crafts and people provide hours of visual and audible stimulation.

Jianguo Flower Market 建國假日花市

A few days ago, Horatio and I took the morning to stroll up and down the aisles of the markets.  My goal, aside from enjoying the beauty and entertainment of the market, was to get a new bracelet for the charm I wear every day.  When my grandmother, of blessed memory, passed away, a bracelet of linked flowers was dismantled and distributed to her granddaughters.  I like to wear it every day to carry a reminder of her strength and love with me, and the bracelet that I’d had made for it last year at this time was looking a bit dingy.  I knew that someone at the market would be able to help me.

After strolling up and down the long markets, Horatio and I returned to the very first stall of the Artists Corner, where we had seen this lovely woman creating a piece of jewelry.

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After some back and forth conversation in Mandarin, and lots of gestures and pointing, Horatio and I conveyed what I desired:  a basic, but sturdy red string bracelet, that I can safely wear every day.

I watched, while in about ten minutes, she knotted a bracelet that securely holds my treasure from my grandma.

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She charged us 100 NT$, a little more than $3 USD, and I walked away happy.

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Easy, Confidential Counseling from Relationup

I want to introduce you to a Guest Blogger, named Rhonda Milrad, MSW. She is the Founder of Relationup which is a new app that provides live, one-on-one relationship advice from professionals via your mobile device. You can log onto the app anonymously and talk to a well qualified expert about your personal issues which may be too private to share with friends, family or other Military Spouses.  YOUR FIRST CONVERSATION IS FREE. Go to Relationup to learn more. You can also download the app on iTunes

 

4 Tips to share with your Service Member before he/she comes home:

Coming home from training, deployment or unaccompanied tour of duty is always difficult for everyone. But it seems that there a few common pieces of advice that Military Spouses can share with their Service Members so that reintegration into the family might be a little smoother.

  1. Go with the flow. Tell your Service Member that when he/she gets home, he/she will notice that a lot has changed. Help him/her to understand that the kids have matured, house rules and routines have changed and everyone is use to having the at home parent call the shots. You are not used to collaborating your Service Member and he/she needs to understand this and take time to observe the new rules of the house and lay low for a while.
  2. Don’t try and change anything too fast. Suggestions are great but a Service Member should wait a bit before he/she makes them. Things have been running smoothly, like a well oil machine, without the Service Member and sometimes, a Military Spouse can feel resentful if the Service Member starts changing and challenging all the rules and routines. Tell your Service Member to be slow to make suggestions and to be thoughtful about when and how he/she does it. Educate him/her about the fact that “how one says it, means a lot here!
  3. I’m going to ask you to be help. When your Service Member returns home, he/she doesn’t quite know how to fit in or how to be helpful. Some Service Members might ask for guidance and others just feel lost. Share with your Service Member that you will be asking for help and giving direction about how he/she can fit into family routines. You are going to need to be patient as your Service Member figures out how to navigate being back in the family dynamics.
  4. Don’t be shocked by how mundane and routine daily life can be. Coming back to family life can be a difficult adjustment for the Service Member: less routine, less intensity, less stimulation. The Service Member is use to a dynamic and challenging environment where he/she has had tremendous responsibility and may have been supervising others. It is not uncommon for Service Members to feel that home life is a bit boring. Realize that it is going to take time for him/her to adjust to the calmness of his/her new environment and to learn to hang with the family.

Remember, reintegrating into the family, the community and society at large takes time. Just know, that with love and support on both of your ends, your family life and relationship will be back to a comfortable and familiar place.

 

 

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Down With Dinnertime Drama

Meal time is a struggle in kitchens across the country, if not across the globe.  Mine is no exception.

I’ve been preparing meals for my children for 17 years and almost every evening, I dread the question, “what’s for dinner?”  I don’t like to have to make the decision of what to make, I don’t like to cook, and I really don’t like it when my kids reply to my response with, “eww,” or “awwww,” or “again?”  Doing it all, night after night, is tiring, but what choice do we have?  We are lucky we can provide for our family every night, it’s the keeping that in perspective that’s a challenge.

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I’ve instituted many policies, with regard to mealtime, over the years.  Some have been successful and some have failed.  The one I stick to, no matter what, is: “dinner is dinner.  Eat it or don’t, but don’t complain about it.”

I have found there are a few key elements to successful mealtime with kids.

First and foremost, ban the complaints.  In my kitchen, if you complain about the meal, you get one chance to back down, after that, the offender will suffer consequences, such as loss of dessert, which follows dinner. (More on dessert, later.)

Require a “No Thank-You helping.”  Kids should have to try what is served to them.  Trying new things is good for expanding their tastes and teaches them good manners for when they are not at home.  If they try everything at home, they are likely to make a good impression when served something new while out to eat.

Always include one acceptable item.  I make sure that each meal includes at least one item each of the kids will eat.  This way, I know they won’t go to bed hungry.  If I am serving a new recipe, I might also offer rice on the table. All of the boys like rice, so even if they don’t like black bean meatless loaf, after their no-thank-you helping, they can fill up on rice and satiate their appetites.

Dessert follows dinner.  Dessert is not tied to what or how much the child eats.  It is not a reward, it is just part of the meal.  It took me many years to get to this point.  We tried making the kids eat everything on their plates to get dessert.  We tried making them eat at least so many bites to get dessert.  You get the picture.  None of these tactics worked.  They only served to make it a mind game for everyone at the table.  It drove us all crazy.  So, now, as long as the kids eat a no-thank-you helping of each food served at dinner, without complaining about it, they get dessert.

Sticking to these guidelines helps make meal time enjoyable for my family and it can for yours, too.  With so many tasks to juggle, as a mom of four, making the rules clear and consistent makes my life easier and the kids’ life more predictable.  It doesn’t always go smoothly, but usually it does and we are all happier for it.

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Strength Finds Us

5 years after he left, the memories are strong. So glad he’s back.

Strength Finds Us.

The Deployment Diatribes

These days, four months after Horatio returned from his 20 month deployment, people still say they don’t know how we did it.

Horatio gets looks of pity for having been away from his family for so long, and friends and acquaintances alike ask me how I made it through such a long time parenting solo, where I found the strength to endure the hard times.  They feel sad for what Horatio missed, but they often appear dumbfounded by how we made it through back home, without him.  I frequently get asked how I found the strength, and I’ll admit, sometimes it was hard to find, but when I think of those times, the moments I myself wondered how we’d make it to the end of the deployment, I say, I’m a woman, strength found me.

We casually went about our daily routines most of the time.  Going through the…

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Spartan Race Deals and Giveaway

Our friends at Spartan Race are running some great deals right now for the holidays and I am hosting a giveaway for a code for a free open heat race entry into any race in the Continental U.S.

Take advantage of the deals now and enter the giveaway.

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