Movie: The Man Who Invented Christmas- Giveaway coming soon

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The Man Who Invented Christmas tells of the magical journey that led to the creation of Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer), Tiny Tim and other classic characters from A Christmas Carol. Directed by Bharat Nalluri (MISS PETTIGREW LIVES FOR A DAY), the film shows how Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) mixed real life inspirations with his vivid imagination to conjure up unforgettable characters and a timeless tale, forever changing the holiday season into the celebration we know today.

The Man Who Invented Christmas comes to theaters November 22 and I’ll have a giveaway when that date approaches!

Watch the trailer:

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Dropping the #MilKid off at College- It’s Complicated

We all know that military family life and civilian family life differ. What you might not realize is that this month, and next, as families drop their 18 and 19 year olds off at college for the first time, military families face more difficult separations than are the norm. Case in point: I moved our firstborn son, Zack, into his college dorm last Thursday, and I’ll soon have to say goodbye to him and fly 7000 miles back to China, leaving him on campus in the Midwest. I’m lucky that he chose a school in my hometown; my parents live in a spacious house 25 minutes from campus (our home away from home –thanks, Mom and Dad) and are ready and willing to help Zack with anything he needs.

Approximately 200,000 Active Duty Service Members are stationed overseas, and many of them have families who accompany them. Going through the college application process from overseas adds a degree of difficulty. Many military families do not own a home, and therefore, when stationed overseas, we face the predicament of paying out of state tuition no matter where our kids go to college. Establishing residency has always been difficult for military families, but in 2009, Congress passed the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA), obliging public universities and colleges to grant in-state tuition status to children of active duty service members in the state in which they live. This progress does not always make it easier for military families overseas, however, who often have to petition for eligibility for in-state tuition.

Tuition aside, sending a military kid to college is a unique escapade. For our family, like many others, it has been a more than two-year process. During summer break, home in the US from our posting in Taipei, in 2015, our we toured the campuses of three universities in my hometown. Zack took the SATs and ACTs as a student at the Taipei American School. The school’s college advisory department helped him through the application process. He applied to schools in both my home state and the state in which we might have been sent had our follow-on overseas tour orders fallen through unexpectedly. We always have a plan B.

Zack received acceptances and chose a small liberal arts college in my hometown; the small number of students, low student to faculty ratio, and proximity to grandparents all appealed to him. He was granted academic and military kid scholarships, making the private school tuition more affordable. When Zack was due to start his Freshman year, our family executed our orders to move to Beijing, China. Zack wanted to spend a year in Beijing before starting college, so he took a gap year and stayed with us for an extra year.

Zack spent his gap year studying Chinese, nine hours per week, in a one to one class. He learned to navigate Beijing on foot and by subway, and began to enjoy some independence. He passed his Chinese fluency exam and will continue to study the language in college.

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The process got increasingly more complicated. Summer 2017 arrived and the four Homefront kids and I wasted no time getting out of Beijing to enjoy time in the US. Zack grew very anxious about staring college and living so far from his parents and brothers. My anxiety reached a peak at the same time. Like any parent, I worried about Zack starting college, but I also fretted about sending Dwight, Bob and Harold back to China on their own. They had to get back to start school, but I had to stay in the US for several extra weeks to help Zack.

We originally planned for Horatio to fly to the US, spend a few days with family and then fly back to Beijing with the boys. Times are a bit tense in the Asia lately, though, so Horatio canceled his trip for more pressing matters at work, leaving 16 year old Dwight to take charge of getting himself and his younger brothers through immigration, security and three airports. Despite some delays, the boys made it safely back to Beijing, where Horatio waited for them. Thank G-d.

Horatio was tied up with high-level delegations, not to mention all of the other complicated issues in the Asia/Pacific region, so the boys were on their own for much of the weeks leading up to, and including, the first week of school. Dwight and Bob helped Harold and they all persevered. It’s what military kids do.

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I remain in the US. Zack is settled into the dorm, but I’ve heard too many nightmare tales of kids who don’t fully settle in and need extra attention in the first weeks of college, so I’m here for three full weeks after move-in day. My phone is on 24/7, no more airplane mode during the night. I have to be available when any of the kids might need me, day or night, in the US or China. Horatio’s schedule has settled down a little, he’s not traveling and working just 18 hour days, so he is spending some good time with the boys. I’ll be back home (where the Navy sends us) in a few weeks, and for the foreseeable future, we will live a bi-hemispheric family life.  It’s our new normal.

 

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Free, online resources help Veterans solve problems and overcome everyday challenges

Social and emotional well-being is an important part of overall health. Managing everyday stressors such as family, financials, and work can be a lot for anyone. Veterans, Service Members and their families can also face unique challenges. Everyone needs help sometimes. However, the first step isn’t always obvious.

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That’s why the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) developed the Veteran Self-Help Online Portal. The portal provides free, confidential tools to help Veterans and other members of the military community overcome everyday challenges, improve relationships and deal with stressful situations. The tools are based on proven, in-person courses and therapies. They were developed as convenient online resources that provide the same benefits. They can be used at any time and place you choose in ways that work with your life and schedule.

Your time is valuable. You may be balancing multiple aspects of life including work, school and a family. You may live far from a medical center, or there may be other reasons why getting help is complicated. These resources can make it easier. Learn new ways to navigate times of stress and transition so you can boost your mood and resilience, and focus on your goals and priorities. You can use the tools with your care team as part of ongoing treatment, or on your own.

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If you or someone you love is ready to make a change, visit the resources below:

Moving Forward: Overcoming Life’s Challenges

Making big decisions or dealing with change can be stressful, regardless of the nature of the decision. Moving Forward teaches you a step-by-step process to solve problems. You can learn to better handle negative emotions, make confident decisions and unlearn bad habits that get in your way.

Anger & Irritability Management Skills (AIMS)

Anger can have an impact on all aspects of your life, but it doesn’t have to define you. AIMS can help you proactively manage your anger. Learn behaviors and habits to help you approach difficult situations more calmly and better understand your anger triggers.

Parenting for Service Members and Veterans

Military and Veteran families face stress unique to military life in addition to everyday parenting challenges. Parenting for Service Members and Veterans can help you reconnect with your children and strengthen your parenting and communication skills.

Path to Better Sleep

Poor sleep is a larger health issue that can lead to poor job performance, relationship troubles and long-term health problems. Path to Better Sleep provides cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBTi). CBTi helps you change your thoughts and behaviors around sleep, so you can retrain your body to have a healthy sleep schedule. It is one of the most effective ways of treating insomnia without medication.

The Veteran Online Self-Help Portal was designed by experienced researchers. All of the resources contain stories from real Veterans, Service members and their families who have overcome similar challenges.

Interested in learning more? Visit veterantraining.va.gov.

Thank you to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Mental Health Services (MHS) for contributing this article to The Deployment Diatribes.

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Comforting Those Who Need it Most

Life is a miracle filled with G-d’s blessings, love, and cherished memories. Life also comes with struggles, temptations, and loss. At some point in our lives, we will grieve the loss of a loved one. Our grief is one of the hardest things to overcome – and it manifests differently for everyone. We as God’s creatures love deeply and thus we feel loss strongly.

For many, it takes time, faith, prayer, and support to heal from the loss of a loved one. But for some, the journey may be too difficult and their burden too heavy. We’ve all heard that there are 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. But what if someone struggles to heal? What happens if they get stuck in one of the stages of grief – anger- for example can lead to a great deal of self-destruction. How far might a person go “to make the pain go away.”

There’s an upcoming film “Annabelle: Creation” that deals with this very premise. I’m not usually a fan of horror movies but there’s something in the storyline of this upcoming film that’s worth talking about. The movie begins with two parents – the Mullins – who suffer through the unimaginable and sudden death of their daughter. Their grief is unbearable, and it is when they are at their weakest and most vulnerable that temptation and evil comes with whispers of consolation, and a way of “seeing” their little girl again. I don’t want to give away any more plot spoilers, but needless to say the Mullins give into temptation, and a supernatural battle against evil takes place in their home. If you’re a fan of horror movies, you may really enjoy this film, which releases in theaters this Friday, August 11.

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Though the Mullins are fictional characters, the idea that we’ll do anything to hold on to a loved one who has passed and/or that evil wants to take advantage of us during a time when we are vulnerable can be very real.

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Grief, especially when it comes unexpectedly, can crush the spirit of even the strongest among us. It is my hope that whenever we come across someone who is grieving, we reach out to comfort and support them with their immediate needs (ex. cooking dinner for the family, babysitting the children, etc.).

“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” Dalai Lama

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Defending peace-of-mind with military family life insurance plans

Guest Post:

Preparing Your Family’s Finances Before a Deployment: Five Essential Tips

Planning for a deployment can be hard on the entire family, as there is a lot that needs to be done to help the transition go smoothly. One major factor to consider when preparing for a new deployment is the family’s finances. Often, the military spouse handles the majority of the family’s financial decisions; and this is especially true during a deployment when they take on the day-to-day responsibilities as sole head of the household.

For these reasons, deployment preparation is a good time to assess and bolster your family’s finances. Below are a few tips that will make the process easier:

  1. Get ahead of the game by building up a “rainy day fund” – Depending on your family’s average spending, you should aim to should save a portion of each monthly paycheck to attain four to six months’ worth of expenses. Place it in a joint account that both the spouse and servicemember can access. This way, if an unexpected expense should come up during deployment, the family can cover it without going into debt or other savings to make ends meet. Additionally, make sure both the spouse and the servicemember know the location of important papers such as powers of attorney (highly recommended), mortgage documents, insurance contracts, bank statements, and investment account statements and that spouses are added as authorized representatives on those accounts.
  2. Take advantage of resources available to you – It can be hard for many military spouses to find consistent work due to the tumultuous impact that frequent relocations cause. For those spouses looking to reenter the workforce during a deployment to bring in more income, there are several great resources out there to help you on your way. The Department of Labor Veterans’ Employment and Training Service has information to help spouses find employment. You may also want to consider joining a Military Spouse networking group, many exist on Facebook and sites like SpouseLink, where spouses can connect with others in their area to discuss job opportunities and provide support during stressful times.
  3. Make a plan to use deployment savings wisely – As the spouse prepares to take on the responsibility of making the day-to-day financial decisions, they will need the support and trust of the servicemember. It can help to discuss how you will handle various financial challenges ahead of time and come up with a plan you both agree upon to avoid any surprises when the servicemember returns. With additional income generated by entitlements and combat zone tax exclusions, it may be tempting to splurge a little. Some may be guilty of “retail therapy,” or excess spending to cope with the stresses of a deployment. This extra income is great, but it’s a good idea to create a plan for how to make use of it. Certainly, some can be set aside for fun – maybe a well-deserved family vacation following a deployment – but more importantly, this money should also be considered a resource to pay off any debts or add to emergency savings.
  4. Look for places where you can cut costs – take the time to look over the family’s monthly expenses and spending to see where certain costs can be cut during a deployment. For instance, altering your car insurance plan or suspending cell phone service for the servicemember while they are away is an easy way to save a little money. Just don’t forget to notify these companies when the spouse returns to restore service!
  5. Protect your family’s future with life insurance – One aspect of a financial plan that is often overlooked is protection in the form of life insurance. There are two reasons for this: first, most servicemembers are enrolled in Servicemembers Group Life Insurance (SGLI). Second, it is easy to overlook the financial value a spouse’s contributions bring to the household – a value that is often difficult to determine. When it comes to SGLI, don’t assume that the coverage, even at the full amount of $400,000, is sufficient. If the servicemember is the primary income earner and were to pass away, the costs of a mortgage, children’s college, medical expenses, or other big-ticket items would quickly exhaust those funds. Additionally, regardless of whether the spouse earns income or not, they contribute significantly to the family’s financial security. In caring for family members, maintaining the home, providing transportation, errands, shopping and more, he or she provides very real and valuable services to the family. If the spouse were to pass away, the survivor might need to pay for these services outright. The additional finances required to do so should be obtained through a sound insurance policy, thereby covering another gap. On a related note, a family may want to consider coverage for children. Doing so can lock in low premiums while the child is young, ensure eligibility for additional coverage in the future and defray funeral costs in case of an unthinkable loss.

 

Separation due to deployment can be difficult. Ensuring that you are financially prepared before a deployment is a must-do for the sake of your family’s financial security.

About the Author

 Carlos Perez is the Assistant Secretary of AAMFAA, the longest-standing not-for-profit association empowering military families with affordable financial solutions. A retired Army colonel, Carlos joined the AAFMAA team after twenty-six years of active duty Army service, which included a variety of command and staff assignments; deployments to Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan; and teaching economics and national security at West Point and National Defense University. He holds a B.S. Degree in Economics from West Point and an MBA from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business.

 

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Small Bathroom Decor Ideas

Is your bathroom so small that it’s hard to imagine it as a place you can call your own personal sanctuary? There is no denying the fact that small bathrooms are challenging to use and to decorate. If your bathroom is dire need of renovations, the good news is there several ways you can transform your cramped, uncomfortable bathroom into a relaxing place to unwind and wash away the stress. Here are a few small bathroom design ideas to help you get started with the transformation.

Choosing Color Schemes

When considering the best color ideas for small bathrooms, it is best to go with light, neutral or pastel hues. Those color palates are some of the best bathroom design trends. Dark colors will make the space feel smaller and more closed in, while light colors will make the space feel larger. Even if you do not have natural light pouring into the bathroom, you can still mimic the feeling of natural light by using sunny tones, such as a pale, warm yellow. It’s also a good idea to change the light bulbs from ones that emit a bright, white light to ones that help to emit a warm glow. You can also install an LED medicine cabinet mirror to get that lighting. Keep in mind that color can be added in ways other than paint, as long as it’s done sparingly. For example, you could use flooring that is slightly darker than the walls.

Shower/Tub, Toilet & Sink

The floor space, not to mention the overall square footage is limited so the fixtures can seem like they are consuming the small space. Fortunately, you can create the illusion of a bigger bathroom by using your creativity when it comes to dealing with the tub, toilet and the sink.

  • Bathtub/ Shower – To make the space the bathtub area feel more open as well as give the space a larger feeling, consider installing a glass shower door, which creates the illusion of a larger bathroom. If there isn’t room in your budget for a glass shower door or you simply prefer to use a shower curtain, choose one that is clear or lighter colored.
  • Sink – Even in small bathrooms, the bathroom sinks are typically installed in a vanity, but this can really decrease the floor space in your already small bathroom. To free up more square footage, get rid of the vanity sink and replace it with either a wall-mount sink or a pedestal sink.
  • Toilet – If your budget allows for toilet, they are available in smaller sizes that will take up less floor space, which will give you more floor space. If a new toilet isn’t in your budget, the more floor area you can see and use, the larger your bathroom will feel, so minimize floor items, such as trashcans, laundry hamper and scales.

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To increase the storage in your small bathroom without sacrificing square footage, consider using the vertical space. For example, use over-the-window or over-the-toilet shelves to give you extra storage without sacrificing floor space. It’s also best to keep the decor to a minimum; install as large of a mirror over the sink as you can get by with (it will give the illusion of more space) and use artwork that is simplistic in style.

This post was sponsored by Maykke

 

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Summer Camp- Tips to Prepare

Guest Post: 5 Tips for Preparing the Whole Family for Summer Camp

More than 11 million children attend summer camp in the United States every year. For these kids, summer camp is an exciting and empowering experience that provides them with opportunities to develop their teamwork skills, practice goal setting, navigate relationships and discover nature. As Camp Corral’s COO, I have the pleasure of providing a safe and fun environment for the children of our nation’s military families in which they find a supportive community of friends, develop skills that build confidence and gain tools for coping with the challenges they face at home, all during a week at camp with children who face similar realities.

As a parent, you may find that many questions cross your mind as you prepare to send your child off to camp and you’re likely not sure who is more anxious, them or you? Will they make friends? What if they don’t like the food? Will they keep up with all their belongings? Did I pack everything they’ll need? Will they wear enough sunscreen?

Whether this is your child’s first time going to summer camp or their third, preparation is key. This experience provides an opportunity for growth and change that is shared and should be embraced by the entire family. Here are my thoughts on the top five things that, if you pay special attention to, will make a true difference for your family during the camp stay.

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Familiarity with the camp

Understanding who and what will make up the camp adventure is an important first step to easing your family’s angst. Visit the camp’s website. Most camps love to show off what makes their camp great! Make it a family activity to watch the camp video, read the frequently asked questions, check out staff profiles and review the different activities that will be available at camp. The more you familiarize your child with the place they will call home for a week, the better they will feel when they arrive.

Make a list of questions together and send an email or call the camp office. Believe me, they have answered every question a parent or child has had. Even returning campers can benefit from this.

Campers from all over the country share their experiences of what it means to be a Camp Corral camper. If you visit the Camp Corral Facebook page, you will find stories from our campers and parents that will help you understand the environment of the camp. Plus, after watching a camp video, I promise even the most anxious campers will want to pack their bags immediately.

Packing

Every camp has perfected their packing list; print it off and have your child follow along as you pack. This will allow them to see what items are being packed as well as get them excited for camp. When a child is suddenly sharing a cabin with other kids it’s best that they’re familiar with the items for which they are responsible, so don’t rush out to get them a brand-new wardrobe. They should pack their favorites: shirts, shorts, caps, blankets, even underwear. Seeing their own blanket on their bed or wearing one of their favorite shirts will give them a sense of comfort.

Also, write your child’s name in everything! Don’t use their initials or just their last name. They may be familiar with the items but will still need to be reminded that the dirty shirt on the floor belongs to them.

Most importantly, don’t be concerned when they come home and only wore half of the clothes you sent with them. They had fun!

Communication

Now that you have had your virtual camp experience and packed their bags, how do you answer the question: “Mom, will miss me?” You get a knot in your throat and struggle for the response, knowing you will miss them much more than they will miss you.

This is the time to discuss with your child how you plan to stay in touch and set the expectations for their stay at camp. Camp is a time to unplug, make sure you help your child know what this means and reassure them that, if necessary, you will be able to call the camp. Prepare pre-addressed post cards for them to send you from camp. Also, most camps allow parents to sign up to send emails that are printed off each day and put in their camper’s mailbox.

When communicating with your child, keep all your correspondence very positive and open-ended. This will prompt them to report back on their experiences when they write you. For example:

“Johnathan, when we took you to camp, we noticed the wonderful lake there. I bet that has been fun and refreshing this week. Have you had a chance to go kayaking in it? We miss you, but we’re happy knowing you are having so much fun and making new friends. We will see you on Friday at lunch time and can’t wait to meet all your new friends.”

Encouragement

Another question that challenges even the best of parents is “Dad, I don’t know anyone going, what if I don’t make any friends?” Not knowing anyone when arriving at camp can make even the most extroverted child hide behind their parents. At Camp Corral, the magic is that every child there already has something in common.

Remind your child that they will be able to share stories and experiences with their cabin mates that they may not always be comfortable sharing with their friends at school. Plus, the counselors will facilitate teambuilding activities and the week is full of activities where they’ll make memories to last a lifetime. Before arriving at camp, help your child learn ways to introduce themselves to their new friends. “Where are you from? What grade are you in?” Have you been to camp before?” “I’m a little nervous to climb the rock wall, will you go with me?” Believe me, they may be a nervous mess when you drop them off at camp, but by the time you return to pick them up, they will be crying over leaving their friends – it’s a wonderful thing!

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Appreciation for the time apart

Every year, we receive wonderful letters from parents saying that their child had a great time at Camp Corral, and that they too enjoyed the extra time they got to spend doing things for which they usually can’t make time. If your children know you are having fun while they’re away, they will have fun. They will be excited to allow you that opportunity to have fun while they do so too. When you come together at the end of the week you can all share your “camp stories” on the ride home.

Don’t forget to remind yourself that camp helps children grow by providing them a well-supervised, positive camp experience in an environment that is both natural and safe.
The experience is better for everyone when families have taken the time to prepare for camp. Your child will benefit from the memories, supportive relationships and skills they’ve gained. They’ll also learn that they can have a great time while being away from home, and that’s okay!

These are just a few things that make the transition from home to camp easier for all. The most important thing to remember is to make sure your child understands they can always have an open and comfortable conversation with you – whether it’s about camp or anything else.
Leigh Longino is a former Camp Corral board member and currently serves as COO. She has 20 years of experience in camp programming and operations. She has served in various positions within the YMCA managing program development, risk management and staff development. Leigh has three daughters.

 

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It’s Ok to be Happy on Memorial Day

Yes, it’s ok to be happy on Memorial Day.  In fact, other military families and I encourage it.

No, wishing me a happy Memorial Day isn’t really appropriate, though, nor is thanking my husband for his service today, but I do know the wishes come from good intentions.

Remember the Fallen

Memorial Day is not the day to thank us.  Leave that for Veterans Day and Armed Forces Day.  Memorial Day is a day to remember our fallen heroes.  Pausing to remember is important, there are families from all over the country who are missing a loved one at their table this weekend, and the rest of us should think of them and be grateful for their sacrifice, but it is also important to be happy for the freedom to celebrate.  The freedom for which countless Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen and Marines have sacrificed their lives since our Nation’s inception.

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So, please barbecue, shop the sales, drink sangria… do what makes you happy on this, and every, Memorial Day, because you can.  You can savor the day because individual members of our Armed Forces fought and gave their precious lives so that you may do so.  Please, just remember to think of them and be thankful for the joy in this and every day.

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Military Appreciation Month: 10 Things We Appreciate About Being a Military Family- The Silver Linings

10. Relocating. Some of us actually prefer to stay on the move and want to see as much of the world as is possible. We get antsy if we stay in one place for too long. Living overseas, especially, provides us with opportunities we would not have without the military.  Plus, if we don’t like the place we are stationed, we always know it won’t be long before we can move on to the next one.

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9.  Getting Rid of Clutter.  Sure, moving homes so frequently has its downsides, but an upside is that we can take the opportunities to give away, sell or toss clothes, toys, books, kitchen items, etc., each time, rather than let it pile up in corners and in the basement.  With such a fluid community, wherever we go, there’s always an opportunity to hold a garage sale, but donating or giving to a friend is easiest and feels the best.

8.  Medical Coverage.  Military health insurance has its pros and cons, but in my opinion, the positives outweigh the negatives.  If we live near a military treatment facility and use its providers, or stay in network using the Prime option, we have no copays!  Sometimes it can take a long time to see a specialist, but usually you can make the system work for you to get the appointment.  I had four c-sections in four different hospitals, two in the continental US, one in Hawaii and one in a private hospital in China and I only paid $63 in total, and that was for the room when I delivered our first son.  It’s a pretty good deal when all is said and done.

7.  Military life builds resilience.  When we face the adversities of relocation, separation and long deployments, we are forced to build strengths we might not otherwise need.  These strengths help our kids grow into strong adults and help us adults evolve into self sufficient, can do anything, people, and it feels good.

6.  We build unusually strong bonds with our kids.  When one parent is away for long stretches, it leaves an opportunity for the at home parent to grow especially close to the kids.  Building a strong personal relationship with our kids, while they are young, can lead to open and honest parent child relationships as they grow.  One on one time can lead to a more open dialogue than might otherwise occur.  Also, communication with the deployed parent is less frequent but it is intense.  Parents and children have no choice but to make quality time out of the minimal quantity.  Finally, siblings bond with each other because they are the only friends they have when they move to a new place.  This forced time together builds life long invaluably close relationships.

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5.  We are solidly patriotic.  At military post schools, children not only recite the Pledge of Allegiance each morning, they also hear the National Anthem each day.  As a school teacher, hearing the kids say the Pledge still makes my heart stir- Every. Single. Day.  No matter what troubles our country is enduring, it’s still our country and we love it.

4.  Our kids get to know extended family on a deeper level.  It’s true that we don’t get to spend as much time with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins as we’d like, but the time we do spend with them is intense because we are usually staying in their homes with them.  If we don’t live nearby, we have to make a trip during holidays, and other school breaks, to see them, or they do to see us, and we spend 24/7 with them, which helps to intensely bond the family together.  Sometimes, families with young children will spend months with the grandparents while the service member is deployed.  Our family spends summers, in the US, with grandparents while we are living overseas. The relationships formed during these times are irreplaceable.

3.  People usually appreciate what we do.  The fact is, the military takes a lot of criticism, at the water cooler and in the news, but for the most part, civilians seize the opportunity to thank a military member and their family for their service.  The appreciation feels good every time.

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2.  Job satisfaction.  Serving our country, either on Active Duty, or as a family member, is an honor.  Knowing that our military member is serving our country, a cause for the greater good, makes everything else more tolerable.  The job comes first, but we know why and are proud to be a part of it.

And the Number 1 element of military life we appreciate the most is the people.  We meet so many people through each new neighborhood, new school, new job, new sports, etc., and some of the people turn out to be our favorite people on the planet.  We may only have a few months to three years together, but we work quickly because we have to, and we cement the solid friendships that last forever, no matter where the military sends us.  We will travel by planes, trains and automobiles to meet up with friends from past postings, and it’s always like we never left.  The connections we form with other military and foreign service families are especially solid and unique.  The shared history bonds us forever.  All of our close friendships are invaluable, though.  We appreciate each one.

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Military Appreciation Month- 10 things military families deal with that most civilians don’t realize

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10. Family memories are compromised in the interest of National Security.  Missed births, first days of school, graduations, anniversaries, mother’s days, father’s days, Christmases and Chanukahs, Ramadans, Easters and Passovers, illnesses and funerals are too numerous to count.

9.  Communication is good but not perfect. Yes, the internet makes communication much easier now than it was “back in the day,” but we still endure long stretches without any communication whatsoever due to security issues.

8.  Mental Health Issues are Common.  Military kids sometimes develop crippling anxieties directly related to, but not obviously so, the military service member parent’s absence.

7.  Relocations are frequent.  Some military kids don’t spend more than two years in one place during their entire childhood.

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6.  Some military families fall apart but most are very strong.  With the right guidance and support, military families can be more resilient than civilian families.

5.  Deployments can really suck the soul out of a person.  Long separations become routine but they never get easier.

4.  Reconnecting is hard.  Reuniting with the family after deployment can be as difficult as the separation for the servicemember, spouse and children, as the deployment itself.

3.  Moving is very expensive.  Military families get a relocation allowance when they change duty stations, but it does not come close to covering the costs of relocation, which can include but are not limited to: passport photos and passports, visa fees, the cost of moving anything over the weight allowance per family (including the family pets), security deposit or down payment on housing, lodging until the housing becomes available, shipment or purchase of one or two vehicles, cleaning and kitchen supplies Every Time, and meals out until the family is settled in the new home.

2.  Servicemembers are away from their families for much more time than you see on the news.  In addition to the well publicized year long deployments, there are countless weeks-long and months-long deployments and time away in preparation for deployments which lead to even more separations of families.

The Number 1 thing that most civilian families do not know about military families is that we live much of our life in limbo.  We are always wondering what will happen next.  Whether waiting for orders for our next duty station, the date of the next deployment, the return from a current deployment that has already been extended many times, to worrying about being a target of terrorism for being affiliated with the US military, uncertainty looms over us every day, and it is unsettling.

1 more for good measure: Mrs. Murphy’s Law is omnipresent in our lives. Mrs. Murphy is Murphy’s wife and her law is, if it can go wrong, it will go wrong and Mr. Murphy will be away when it happens.  (gender labels not intended to trigger emotions.  I had to pick one.  I’m very aware that women serve our country and men can be spouses.)  You know, when one kid is sick, one kid is freaking out over school stresses, one kid is facing college application deadlines, the car gets a flat tire and the dog makes a mess all over the house and your spouse is away for the week… Multiply that by 52, or 78 weeks and you might be able to imagine what it’s like to be a military spouse.

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The struggle is real, but it’s worth it.  Our servicemembers work hard to keep America and the world safer.  As family members, we might not appreciate the day to day balancing act, but we are truly grateful and honored to be a part of the great efforts for our country.

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