Just Another Rainy Day in Taipei

Any time I leave the house I see something I wouldn’t see if I lived in the U.S.  So, I decided to simply document one afternoon and share some of the sites.

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Rainy Day Traffic. Not too bad mid afternoon.

School is out.  A mass exodus of students onto the streets creates a colorful scene.

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No helmet, no umbrella, no problem.

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A new cafe? near the school. Is it an eating establishment or a visitor’s center? Sometimes things get lost in translation.

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Every day traffic.

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The morning after. View from up the mountain from our house. Lovely cloud cover, after days and days of heavy rain, but no rain this morning, for a change.

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Backing off To Help Kids Jump Ahead

We usually start a new school year by giving our kids a clear list of guidelines, limits and expectations.  We are two weeks into the new year and are taking a decidedly different tack this time around.

Our eldest, Zack, is in his Senior year.  He does well when expectations and guidelines are clear, but we won’t be close by when he’s in college and he needs to learn how to regulate himself to do his work well and on time, without our regular input.  He’s going to take a gap year after graduation, before heading out to university, but it’s now or never for us to get in the last bit of molding him into a self-sufficient student.

Dwight is a Freshman and is extremely self motivated at the moment, so it really was this attitude that helped us, his parents, feel that the best system for his brothers and him would be a laissez-faire policy.  Since the middle of last year, Dwight has worked hard and efficiently, to learn a lot and get good grades.  Earlier this month, when it came time to set school year limits on screen time, we decided that we should show him we admire his hard work and dedication and tell him we think he is driven enough to set his own limits.

We are doing the same for the younger two sons, to a certain extent.  Bob entered middle school and has a lot more homework than he’s ever had.  We told him that as long as he does it well and his grades in school reflect his efforts, we will let him set his own limits.  So far, so good.

Homework, Homework

 

Harold is in second grade, so his homework is minimal in comparison to his brothers.  He has a good 30 minutes per night, including math, reading and Mandarin, though, so it’s a significant load for an energetic kid.  We let his brothers model good study habits for him and we continue to read with him every night.  He is eager to get through is homework in the afternoons because he wants to get outside to play with his “club” friends.  At age seven, he still needs help forming good habits.  If he rushes through his work, he has to do it again, more carefully.  Hopefully he will learn from this routine and it will serve him well in the long run.

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So far, the boys are all getting their work done and getting good enough grades as a result.  Zack likes to go over his game plan with me, every day, so that I know what he’s doing and when.  I think it helps him to say it out loud.  Dwight just checks in once in a while to let me know where he stands in getting though it all, and Bob just tells me when he’s finished, unless he needs some help along the way.

We are a bit more than two weeks into the school year, but I feel, in my gut, that we are off to a good start.  All the boys know that if they veer off of the straight and narrow path, they will have limits put on them, but as long as they put in the time and good efforts and the grades reflect their hard work, they are free to manage their own time.

 

Here’s hoping…

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Scholarships For Wounded Warriors- Deadline September 15

Colorado Technical University Calls for Annual Wounded Warrior Scholarship Applications

For the first time, CTU expands program to include those injured in any combat duty and caregivers of wounded warriors –

Colorado Technical University (CTU) announced its call for applications for the 2016 Wounded Warrior Scholarship. The eighth annual scholarship program is intended to provide much needed assistance to active duty military personnel, veterans, their families and caregivers to pursue higher education. Together with the Yellow Ribbon Fund, the program covers the full educational costs including tuition, books and fees for a single degree program, as well as a new laptop computer.

CTU awards 50 scholarships annually — 25 to wounded service members and 25 to their spouses or caregivers. To date, CTU has awarded 350 scholarships with a total value of $4.6 million to honor those that put themselves on the front lines for this country every day. “CTU has always been a strong advocate for military families, and this scholarship is a testament to that,” said Bob Lally, retired naval captain and director of CTU’s Wounded Warrior Scholarship Program. “These service members and their families fight for our country and we want to make it as easy as possible for them to succeed. That means providing support networks to guide them and giving them an opportunity to pursue their dreams of higher education free from financial strain.”

The scholarships aim to provide a way for wounded service members, their spouses and caregivers to earn their degree to better prepare them to move into civilian careers. This is the first year in which CTU has expanded the program to include those injured in any combat duty and caregivers of wounded warriors. The scholarships are also intended as a way to learn and enhance skills that may be needed for a job promotion. It can often be very difficult for service members to rebuild their lives and livelihood after an injury. CTU seeks to offer a way to start fresh with support and encouragement.

“Many military students place their education on hold while they serve,” said Andrew H. Hurst, president of CTU. “We strive to honor this sacrifice by maintaining a deep familiarity with the day-to-day challenges they, and their families, face. This scholarship is a tangible example of CTU’s commitment to the military – and we’re proud to expand the program’s eligibility this year.”

How to Apply for the Wounded Warrior Scholarship Program

The application to the Wounded Warrior Scholarship Program consists of an essay sharing the obstacles a wounded service person has overcome, or the obstacles encountered while caring for and supporting someone who is injured. Scholarship winners are selected based on their desire to advance their education and plans to apply their degree for career advancement after completing the program.

Candidates must provide proof of high school graduation or equivalency documents, and an active United States Armed Forces member or veteran, or spouse or caregiver of an active service member or veteran who is currently receiving medical treatment for injuries suffered in combat or injuries received in the line of duty.

Applications must be completed and received by September 15, 2015 and winners will be announced on November 11, 2015. For more information about the scholarship and to access the application, please visit the following website: http://coloradotech.edu/ww.

Selection Process

An independent selection board consisting of representatives from the academic and military communities select recipients. For a complete list of scholarship recipients, visit http://coloradotech.edu/ww.

About Colorado Technical University

Founded in 1965, Colorado Technical University (CTU) provides higher education to connect students to what matters most in reaching their professional goals. CTU offers more than 100 undergraduate and graduate programs taught by real-world faculty members who enrich the curriculum with their industry experience and prepare students for today’s challenges and the hard-hitting problems of tomorrow.

CTU’s personalized, online learning system allows students to control what, where, when and how they learn. Students can also learn and connect on campuses in multiple cities. With the help of faculty, industry professionals and more than 70,000 alumni, CTU students can also grow a powerful professional network to use their entire career. For more information, please visit http://www.coloradotech.edu.

CTU gives military students flexibility and accessibility to higher education whether they are deployed or at home through its availability of online classes and support services. For more information please visit: http://www.coloradotech.edu/info-for/military.

CTU is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, http://www.hlcommission.org. CTU is a member of the Career Education Corporation network of universities, colleges and schools. For more information, visit http://www.careered.com.

CTU cannot guarantee employment or salary. Find employment rates, financial obligations and other disclaimers at http://www.coloradotech.edu/financial-aid/student-disclosures.

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Prepare for a Mobile Career as a Military Spouse

I had a military spouse “ah ha moment” about 10 years into our marriage. It came at the end of a debate with my husband about why the government seems to make odd choices related to his job back then.   I’d been putting my 2 cents into an issue and Horatio, frustrated with me for trying to insert myself into his area of expertise, finally said, “I have my job and you have yours. Let’s leave it at that.”

I was outraged at first. After all, my opinion matters. I came to realize, unfortunately, that it actually doesn’t matter when it comes to the ins and outs of his job in the Navy. So, ever the optimist (with a touch of snark), I turned the negative experience into a positive one and declared that, yes, he has his job and I have mine. Actually, I have several. Most of my “jobs” are unpaid, but some are paid and they all matter.

Of course, as a military spouse, in my opinion, my most important job is managing our family life. A strong home life is the root of everything we do. My spouse travels A LOT, is sometimes deployed, and always works long hours, so it is left to me to ensure that our kids are happy and healthy day to day. A career outside the home is important to me as well, so before we married, in 1996, I changed my career path to a portable one. I had a degree in International Affairs and worked in Public Relations, but knew in the long run, what I wanted to do was teach. Knowing the military life is anything but static; I decided that there was no time like the present to move on to that career.

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Choose a career that can move with you.

When Horatio and I decided to get married, I realized my best course of action was to get certified to teach before we started moving around every couple of years. Schools need teachers and schools are everywhere. In one way or another, I knew, with that certification, I could get a fulfilling job no matter where the Navy sent us. Of course, back then, I’d never envisioned being sent to East Asia, but here we are.

We are now 10 more years into our marriage and have moved 13 times.  I have utilized my portable career in three countries so far and am currently substitute teaching at the American School. It’s a job that gives me the scheduling freedom to devote my efforts to both home and work, as needed. I love it.  For me, it’s the perfect career.

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I’m lucky that I knew what I wanted to do before marrying into the military and was able to plan ahead. If I hadn’t, though, I know there are programs for degrees and certifications that are really great and often have specific programs that cater to military families. Martinsburg College is one such institution. They have several choices of certificate training, as well as Associates Degree programs to help get military spouses on their way to creating a portable career they can take with them wherever the military sends them, and provide real time support with a facebook group. Really, that’s what it’s about. We want careers, like our military member spouses, not just a job to bring in a bit of income. We all know that the military career will eventually come to an end and the more prepared we spouses are, the better. Martinsburg College can help military spouses find their way to a career that is fulfilling, challenging AND brings in funds.

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Connect with a Deployed Soldier. Send a HeroBox

Are you looking for a fun and easy way to support the troops?  I know I get several requests, every month, from kind people looking to connect with a deployed soldier, sailor or marine.  Because of increased security, it’s not as easy as it once was.  I found a service that can help you do a good deed.

HeroBox has developed a revolutionary way to connect anyone in the country to a deployed service member instantly online.  This is a great opportunity for those who are looking to provide direct support to the troops.  HeroBox will pair you with a deployed hero and you’ll get to know him or her on a personal level.

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By registering, you are committing to send one HeroBox each month to your hero.  Whether you sign up for one month or twelve, you will make a direct and lasting impact.  Some soldiers have no one at home to connect with, so this small gesture could make a huge difference in a life.

For more information on this program, please visit www.herobox.org

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7 Tips to Help Military Families Afford College

The following is a guest post about a topic near and dear to my heart right now, as we embark on the adventure of finding a good-fit university for our oldest son.  The college search and application maze is never simple to navigate, but for military families who move frequently, especially those, like ours, who are living overseas, the process is especially complicated.

Thank you, Sara Furlong for helping to simplify the experience for Military families like ours.

Milspouses are known for making magic happen on a tight budget, but the challenge of paying for college fills most parents with dread. ‘How will we ever afford it?’ is a question that keeps many of us up at night.

But wait! There are lots of actions you can take and opportunities you can seize to make college more affordable. Whether your child is about to embark on college or about to leave the womb, below are a few tips that will help you out. If your children are young, you’ll probably want to read this whole article. If they’re nearing college age, you may want to jump ahead to #3.

1. Get your financial house in order as soon as possible.

If your children are young and time is on your side, now is the time to take care of outstanding credit card debt, save an emergency fund, and set your retirement savings on autopilot. Once your financial situation is tidy, you’ll be in a better position (and mind set) to begin saving for college.

2. Save, save, save!

One of the most important keys to affording college is to get strategic about saving – ASAP! Here are some tips to get you started:
• Be aware of the numbers. A good place to start is to find out how much you’re going to need to save. Once you’ve done that and are totally overwhelmed, you can spend a few minutes freaking out. Okay, now stop. Take a deep breath. Keep in mind that around 75% of students receive financial aid and, as the dependent of a military service member, your child is likely to have access to a number of opportunities that will help make college even more affordable. (More on that later!) There are many ways to tackle the cost of college. So decide on an amount to save that is realistic for your family and a military budget.

• Set up an education savings account like a Coverdell IRA or a 529 account. Contributing faithfully to a plan like these over time will allow you to save a surprising amount, thanks to the magic of compounding interest. Plus, the associated tax benefits allow you to save even more.

• Use salary increases and special pay to further your financial goals. It’s hard to resist the temptation to spend extra money on things you’ve been wanting and needing, but your self-control will pay off. When you get a raise, pretend it never happened and invest the money in your children’s college savings accounts.

• Squirrel away small amounts where you can. Skip the latte or dessert and save that money. A few dollars here and there adds up big time.

3. Take advantage of military education benefits.

Military spouses and children serve their country, too. That’s why there are a number of military education benefits offered to dependents of military veterans and service members.
In addition to federal benefits, check with your child’s schools of interest. They may offer additional funding to military dependents that is not widely known or advertised.

4. Apply for scholarships, financial aid, and other funding help.

Scholarships can take a significant bite out of the cost of college. Some will be based on your child’s past performance in academics and activities, others are available strictly to military dependents.

We suggest you begin your college scholarship treasure hunt by looking at opportunities available for military children. (Scholarships for Military Children)
From there, seek out financial aid, merit-based scholarships, grants, and other forms of tuition help. Military One Source offers a good outline of places to start.

5. Choose a military-friendly school.

If you select a college with support staff and services devoted specifically to helping military students and their families succeed, you will be less likely to miss out on available opportunities that make school more affordable.

Even more important: many of these schools offer reduced tuition rates or grants for veterans, service members, and their spouses and dependents.

For example, Drexel University  extends military tuition discounts of up to 30% off to the children of active duty service members.

Trident University International  is another military-friendly college that offers military education grants that reduce tuition by up to 36% for military spouses and dependents. They also have a Military Assistance Center that can walk you through the process and help you find funding for as much of your college costs as possible – sometimes even 100%!

There are many schools that offer deep tuition discounts to military dependents, so do your homework and shop around.

6. Consider online colleges.

Online college is a great option for students who are military dependents, especially if the family is stationed overseas. By pursuing an online education, the student can stay close to loved ones, take full advantage of their opportunity to live in a foreign country, and still work toward their degree goals.

Another great perk: online schools are often far less expensive. There’s a good chance you’ll pay very little out-of-pocket if you can find a program that suits your needs, has affordable tuition, offers military discounts or grants, and honors military education benefits.

Some great schools that are trusted examples of military friendly online colleges include:

• Trident University International (https://www.trident.edu/military-and-veteran/)
• Pennsylvania State University—World Campus (http://www.worldcampus.psu.edu/military)
• Daytona State College (https://www.daytonastate.edu/online/)
• Martinsburg College (http://martinsburgcollege.edu/)
• Western Kentucky University (https://www.wku.edu/online/military/)
• Central Michigan University (http://global.cmich.edu/military/)
• Drexel University (http://www.drexel.com/military/tuition.aspx)

These schools may be a good place to start when researching your options.

7. Seek out additional perks if your student will be overseas.

If your son or daughter decides to go to a brick-and-mortar American college while the rest of the family is stationed abroad, you’ll encounter some additional challenges. Thankfully, some programs exist to help.

A great example: travel benefits for college students who are military dependents. If your student meets the criteria they will be entitled to a free flight to visit the family each fiscal year. If your family plans to take a trip elsewhere, the student can also meet you at that alternate location, as long as the cost of the flight does not exceed the price of a flight home.
To arrange this, just visit your personnel office to acquire student travel orders. You will also need proof of the student’s full-time enrollment status, and a copy of your PCS orders, which should list your child as a dependent. Once you have all that, you can book the student’s trip through the military travel office.
As you can see, there’s a lot to think about when you’re planning for a child’s college education – especially when you’re living on a military salary and stationed overseas. Hopefully this article has provided you with some good, hopeful jumping-off points that will help you take action and set your child on a solid path to an affordable education.

Have some additional tips or experiences with any of these programs? Post them in the comments!

SaraFurlongSara Furlong is a freelance writer and mom from Upstate NY. She enjoys sharing info that can help other moms stay sane and feel empowered to achieve their goals.

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Patriotic Tipsy Elves

Tipsy Elves burst onto the world stage with their Shark Tank appearance in December of 2013.  I was an immediate fan, but am an even bigger fan now.

Tipsy Elves now has American Flag clothing and they sent us some samples.

Fourteen year old, Dwight wants the entire line of fantastic patriotic clothing.  Tipsy Elves is a giving company and I encourage my readers to visit their site and buy what you like.  You get great clothing and the company gives to people in need.

The clothing is high quality and fun to wear.  We can all benefit from having more elements of fun in our lives, and more American patriotism is always a good thing.  Our military family loves to wear American Flag themed clothing to show our American pride, wherever we go.

So Cool!

So Cool!

 

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Dwight in the American Flag Windbreaker and Socks

Tipsy Elves provided the clothing, but the opinions are my own. I only write about companies I truly like.

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What’s to Love about Diplomatic Life?

A lot.

I admit, I did not want to move overseas.  As I like to say: been there, done that.  I didn’t want to do it again and it wasn’t in the plan.

Plan.

Ha!

So, I spent the first couple of months after our move sulking more often than not.  Making friends, building a social circle, takes work.  I was caught up in getting the kids settled, and as an introvert, I only have so much energy to put myself  “out there.”  So I didn’t.

Mistake.

It took me a few months, but I changed my outlook and forced myself out of my comfort zone.  I realized it was time to focus on the positive aspects of living abroad.  I knew there were many, I’d just blocked them out while feeling a bit sorry for myself.

Maybe, if you are moving abroad and you read this list now, it won’t take you as long to adjust to the culture shock, wherever your feet land.

Here’s what you can look forward to:

1. Making connections with people from countries and cultures you’ve only read about (or not) in books.

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If I’d stayed in my cozy suburban haven, I’d have never met my new friends from Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, Pakistan, Israel, China, The Philippines, Chile, Belarus, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France, Holland, England, Denmark, Norway, Korea, Japan and more.  The same goes for the kids.

2. Two words: International Schools.

 

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I was perfectly happy with the great education my kids were getting in Virginia.  I hated to leave the nurturing, highly rated, schools, but nothing compares to a good Independent International School.  Dozens of 3D printers in the school’s art rooms, science labs and more; ipads for each kid in the lower grades, used for reading, math, communication, foreign languages and science; periods of time for reading AND writing each day, including time for exploring all different genres of both, throughout the year, in addition to math, hands on science, and social studies; Mandarin, music, music activities (choir, band or orchestra), art and technology- more than once every week. The music concerts are truly breathtaking at times. High School classes like Forensic Science, Classics, Rhetoric and Composition, IB, AP and more.  I could go on and on.  The resources, dedication of teachers, expectations of students and faculty, not to mention the facilities, are to be savored every day.

3. Sights and Sounds

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These sometimes can be listed as down sides to overseas living, as they can be unfamiliar and sometime foul (stinky tofu and tea eggs, to name two,) but they can also be wonderfully fulfilling.  The colors and sounds and scents of the Buddhist and Taoist temples are sensory masterpieces.   The brilliant reds and golds, the ancient chants and the burning incense, throughout the modern city here, are peaceful reminders of the bigger picture.  Just a few miles from the city, here, you can escape into any one of an endless number of stunning hikes, hot springs and bike trails.  Whatever city you call home can offer delightful bombardments on your senses.

4.  Culture

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Most cities offer a symphony of some sort, a theater with local color, art museums and local craftwork.  Some of these experiences are an acquired taste, some will never appeal to your tastes (I just can’t acquire an appreciation of traditional Chinese Opera, myself,) but you can always find something in which to take pleasure.

 

5. Forming Strong Bonds With New Friends

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In some postings, there is a definite “us and them” line.  When you are posted to a nation whose relations with your own are a bit cold, finding friendly faces among the other diplomats and expats can make life easier and the “us and them” mentality helps new friends grow close quickly.  You meet another person at the pool one day, and a month later you are vacationing in a nearby country with their family.  The friendship timeline is very different when you live in a more foreign expat or diplomatic community.

6. You Can Choose a New Vocation

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When you have to pack up and move your whole life to foreign soil, that often means leaving a career behind.  It can be frustrating, but if you look at it differently, it can be freeing.  Many countries do not permit diplomatic spouses to work outside the embassy.  So, if embassy work isn’t your cup of tea, or coffee, or vodka, or milk tea, or whiskey or whatever… you can choose a new calling.  You can volunteer at an orphanage and hold babies, or play with toddlers a few days per week; you can help out at the school (or hide from the PTA); you can start a blog or write a novel; you can work virtually; or… you can get manicures, pedicures, massages and have lunch with friends.  You are free to make your new life whatever you want it to be.

7. You Can Learn A New Language

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This one never ceases to entertain me.  We’ve lived in Mandarin speaking countries for 4 years now.  I can speak passable conversational Mandarin and I can fake my way to a level far beyond where I actually am; but I am almost completely illiterate.  My character recognition is pathetic.  The great thing about living in a country where you can speak the language, despite the fact that you stick out like a sore thumb as a foreigner, is that locals are usually thrilled to hear even a small attempt at communication in the local language.  Just today I said, “zao,” to two men I passed on the street.  Zao is the short version of the morning greeting here.  The two men greeted me in return and then looked at each other, wide eyed, and turned back to me, proceeding to profusely compliment me on my ability to speak Mandarin.  I said, literally, one syllable.  That’s all it took.  Moments like these are truly diplomatic victories.  Making the effort shows the host nation you care.  I do care.  I might not be thrilled about the circumstances every moment, but I do care about building metaphoric bridges with my hosts.

8. Depending on Where You Live, You Can Hire Affordable “Staff”

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A not so well kept secret among diplomats and expats is that when you are sent to a less developed country, often, you can afford to hire people to help with your daily life.  Sometimes that means someone to clean your house once per week, and sometimes that means you can hire full time, live-in help (a nanny if you have little kids); a driver; a cook; and a gardener.  We’ve run the gamut, we’ve most often had no help at all, but we’ve also had live-in, 40 hours per week, help.  Having someone else do your laundry, clean, cook and organize your house takes less getting used to than you might think.   I love the help and I enjoy giving someone a job.  The wages are always along legal lines and we always pay more than what is expected.  I truly enjoy every moment of having help;  I keep in mind that it’s a fleeting experience.  As soon as we move back to the US, it’s back to mopping my own floors, mowing my own lawn and making every meal, and I’m ok with that.

Despite all of the great things about living abroad, and all the perks of being a diplomat, in the end of the day, I long to be back in my home country, in the house we own, near(er) to family and long time friends.

So, perspective is key to this lifestyle.  Home is where the Navy sends us and I intend to make the most of wherever that may be.  I encourage you to do the same.

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ThankList- Whom Do You Want To Thank?

Who made an impact on your life?  A teacher, a coach, a grandparent, a parent?

As Father’s Day approaches, former United States Marine, and cancer survivor, Ron Prince chose to thank his father – who is also a former U.S. Marine – for being his hero in a special way.

Thanks to American Greetings, Ron participated in a documentary series directed by two-time OSCAR® winning filmmaker, Barbara Kopple, called  The ThankList.

A remedy for a rude world, The ThankList encourages thankfulness towards those who helped shape our lives.  Watch Ron’s emotional thank you:

On Father’s Day, a ‘thank you’ is the greatest gift you can give your Dad—near or far. American Greetings wants to remind everyone to thank Dad in a memorable way.

You, too, can thank your Dad, or another hero in your life, here.

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Deployment Chart For Families

Victoria Chart Company Stay Positive During Deployment -  Chart example

This is a guest post about a deployment chart, from The Victoria Chart Company.

They are offering 25% OFF this chart this month, please follow the link at the bottom of this page http://bit.ly/1PEE2eR and enter ‘MILITA25’ at checkout.  

“At The Victoria Chart Company, our expertize lies in knowing what children react positively to, what they find comfort in and what brings families together.  Modern day family life is a challenging one and with it comes all sorts of issues such as divorce, absent family member, pressures at school, moving home, medical problems, general child development to name but a few.   It is for this reason for the last 11 years we have listened to family needs and developed dedicated, award winning charts to provide children and their families with a focal point to work from in the home.

Our most recent chart launched is our ‘Stay Positive During Deployment’ chart which was originally commissioned by United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force to support their children during a family members deployment.  It is testament to the success of this chart that the RAF have ordered it time and time again and following interest and requests from US military families, we are delighted to now offer an exclusive US version.  Please take a look here: http://bit.ly/1PEE2eR

Victoria Chart Company Stay Positive During Deployment -  Chart layout

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