Finding the Right Fit: Adventures in Application- Testing

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Dwight has started his university application process.  He’s our second son, so it’s not my first rodeo, and as we proceed, I feel like I have good information and advice to offer readers.  I’ve learned a lot in the past few years, about testing, applying, essay writing, finding the right fit, financial aid, and taking a gap year.  I’m going to share our journey and hopefully I will help other families, military or not, to successfully navigate the twists and turns of the university quest.

Last week, Dwight and I attended his school’s University Kick-Off.  At this half-day event, the High School Counselors introduced the college process and gave information to arm us with knowledge to not only get into college, but also to find the right fit.  After all, There are countless options for higher education and each student has unique goals, hopes and dreams.  Finding the right fit uses a complicated mix of art and science, and the process cannot be rushed.

Dwight attends an international school, so kids at the Kick Off will eventually go to colleges and universities all over the world.  I am familiar with the United States’s system, so I will focus solely on that.  There’s a school out there for everyone; the goal is to find the perfect one for each young man and woman.  Parents, check yourselves.  Try very hard NOT to influence your child’s decision based on your preconceived notions.  Remember, where he goes is not who he’ll be.  You can buy the book about this topic, and watch the author’s video for further information on that. The name of the university your child attends will not dictate his future, what he does with the four+ years of learning and living will.

I feel like the first step towards higher education is the PSAT.  Most schools offer it to first semester Juniors, and it’s a great tool to gauge a student’s future performance on the SAT, the primary university entrance exam.  When your student receives his PSAT score, he gets an indication of how he might perform on the SAT in the future.  If the score is not where the student wants it to be, he can start prepping for the SAT by using free online resources.  The SAT is a test designed to assess a student’s academic skills.  Don’t rush your kid into taking the SAT.  The test is designed for High School Juniors and Seniors.  Don’t make the mistake of making your kid take the test too early, because it is likely that he isn’t ready and won’t do as well as he will in the future.  Second semester Junior year is an ideal starting point.  I also recommend that students take a practice ACT test.  Generally, students only need the SAT or ACT, not both, as they are both widely accepted by colleges and universities, but by taking practice versions of both, students can make an educated decision as to which test suits them, and therefor, which to pursue.  Practice versions of both tests are available online.

Encourage your child to do independent, casual preparation before taking the test for the first time.  After seeing the results, your child can decide if he wants to do further preparation and testing.  If the test scores and GPA (Grade Point Average) indicate similar levels, the test has done its job.  Counselors advise that students not over prepare for these assessments.  If a student scores very well on the test and has average grades, university admissions staff might wonder why there is such a difference.  Is the kid an underachiever?  Did he study obsessively for the test?  Why?  Once a young person has his scores, he can start to narrow down his list of universities to which he will apply.  Most universities list their range of accepted test scores right on their websites- a helpful tool for finding a good match.

The first step, for any student desiring to go onto higher education, is taking the SAT or ACT.  Student learning and testing styles differ, so comparing performance on both can be very helpful.  Now is the time to register for the SAT or ACT, if your child has not already done so.

If your family has questions that you’d like to see answered here, leave them in the comments or send me an email at CINChomefront (at) gmail.com, with the heading: Adventures in Application.

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The Miracle Season Movie

 THE MIRACLE SEASON

The Miracle Season, directed by Sean McNamara, will be in theaters April 13, 2018.  THe film stars Helen Hunt, Danika Yarosh and Erin Moriarty.

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I always love a, inspirational story, and The Miracle Season doesn’t disappoint.  It is based on the inspiring true story of West High School girls’ volleyball team.  After the tragic death of the school’s star player, Caroline “Line” Found, the remaining team players must band together under the guidance of their tough-love coach in hope of winning the state championship.  Our military kids are resilient, like the girls’ volleyball team in the story, so it’s a film that goes straight to the heart.

THE MIRACLE SEASON Official Channels

WEBSITE: miracleseason.movie

FACEBOOK: facebook.com/miracleseason

TWITTER: twitter.com/tweetLD

INSTAGRAM: instagram.com/miracleseason

#LiveLikeLine

 

Production Company: LD Entertainment

Distributor: LD Entertainment / Mirror

LD Entertainment is an independent film studio that finances the development and production of elevated and thoughtful films, television and theater. Founded in 2007 by veteran television and film executive Mickey Liddell, LD Entertainment has produced numerous award winning films covering all genres.

 LD’s recent films include the Academy Award nominated “Jackie”, starring Natalie Portman and directed by Pablo Larrain, “The Zookeeper’s Wife” starring Jessica Chastain and directed by Niki Caro, and “Megan Leavey” starring Kate Mara and directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite. Past films include “Anthropoid”, with Cillian Murphy and Jamie Dornan, “The Grey” starring Liam Neeson, and “Risen” starring Joseph Fiennes and Cliff Curtis. LD’s also produced and received Oscar nominations for the poignant and complex films BIUTIFUL starring Javier Bardem and ALBERT NOBBS starring Glenn Close. LD recently received 6 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, for the Broadway hit “Dear Evan Hansen.”

Mirror is a theatrical releasing company that believes in allowing creators to maintain individuality with their brands while thoughtfully approaching marketing, publicity, and distribution.

 

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Hilton Helps Veterans

As Veterans Day approaches on Nov. 11, Hilton is looking to spread the word about a unique benefit it offers to veterans: free hotel stays for job-hunt related travel.

Here’s how it works: Veterans who need to travel for any job-related activity, in any industry, can register with their local employment office and receive 100,000 Hilton Honors Points to cover their lodging. Veterans most commonly use the program when they’re traveling out of town for interviews, trainings and certifications. Hilton partners with the National Association of State Workforce Agencies to donate Points throughout the year – and more than 1,100 veterans have benefitted from Hilton’s ~1.2 million Points donated to date.

The Points donation program is one of many ways Hilton is using its business of hospitality to support active duty military, veterans and their families. A few others include:

  • Discounted stays: Active and retired military and their families receive a 10% discount at all of Hilton’s 14 hotel brands
  • Military spouse career program: Hilton has developed dedicated career paths that accommodate the unique challenges military spouses and their families face. Military spouses often have trouble finding jobs when the family relocates. Hilton’s work-from-home program offers virtual training, remote working options that can relocate with employees, and flexible schedules for better work-life balance.

 

You can find more information here about Hilton’s Operation: Opportunity program and the company’s commitment to hire 20,000 veterans, spouses and dependents by 2020 (one of the largest in the U.S. private sector).

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Soldier’s Heart, Sending A Core Message to “Take A Stand for What’s Right”

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In her debut single, storyteller/singer-songwriter AJ Duke takes the listener on a journey into the heart of some of America’s bravest.

Singer-songwriter, AJ Duke (www.AJDuke.com), will release her debut single “Soldier’s Heart” in honor of Veteran’s Day on November 9th, 2017.  Written and performed by AJ, the single is the first song being released off her upcoming debut album, “Let Me Tell You a Story”, in which she sends a core message to American’s about “taking a stand for what’s right”.

“Soldiers Heart” is cumulative of the heroic acts that will never be known, the sacrifices these families make, and the heartbreak that they feel daily.  “I was initially inspired to write this album while I was sitting in my husband’s truck in the early hours of the morning, waiting for him to be done with his PT.  I heard the cadence of a ruck march nearby…the melodies and the words came from there.” shared AJ. “After sharing Soldier’s Heart with a broken, guarded, Vietnam Vet, I decided it was time to share this music, not for my sake, but for the sake of having more stories like that happen.”

Letting her words, inspired by military life throughout Northern California, South Korea, North Carolina, and Colorado, speak for themselves, “Soldier’s Heart” gives her audience a sense of what life is like for military members and their families.  A collection of songs that reflect on her husband’s career in the Special Forces, and her life as a military wife, shedding light on the realities military families face in modern-day America.

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Buena Park Salutes Military With Exclusive Deals Throughout Orange County

 

 As a small token of appreciation for their service to our country, Buena Park and attractions throughout Orange County are offering discounts and upgrades to active and retired U.S. Military personnel in November and December.

Start your adventure at Buena Park’s own Knott’s Berry Farm where military personnel and one guest can enjoy all the roller coasters and shows for free from November 1 – November 16 and November 27 – December 15, 2017. Increase the fun by bringing up to six friends at a discounted rate!

Find out all that the State of California has to offer when you swing by the California Welcome Center in Buena Park. All active U.S. Military receive a free collector’s pin as well as free maps, brochures and city guides on how to make your visit to the sunshine state a home run.

Immerse yourself in one of Buena Park’s interactive dinner shows where all guests become part of the show. Practice your best Arrrgh, put on your eye patch and receive a military ticket price of $35.11 per adult and $30.11 per child at Pirate’s Dinner Adventure when purchasing tickets online or over the phone using code “Military”. The cabaret show Teatro Martinioffers a saving of $25 by using the code “Military”when booking online or over the phone. Also, receive a complimentary upgrade to Captain’s Seating for weekday shows. Get the royal treatment at Medieval Times with a free Royalty Package upgrade when you purchase discounted tickets on-base at the ITT/ITR or MWR office.

There’s no shortage of activities to keep you busy while staying in Buena Park. At Big Air Trampoline Park,military jump free and up to four guests each receive $2 off. John’s Incredible Pizza combines amusement rides, arcade games and 10% off their all-you-can-eat buffet. A $3.50 savings on movie tickets is available at the Buena Park Krikorian Metroplex 18. NearbyDisneyland® offers active military and spouses a savings of up to $147 when purchasing up to six multi-day park hopper tickets.

Dine like a rock star at Buena Park’s Rock & Brews where military receive a 10% savings on wings, barbecue, burgers and more. For a sweet treat and to devour The Zoo, head to Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour where a 10% discount is also available. Save 10% on dry-rubbed premium meats and beverages at Santa Maria BBQ. Build your own pizza and save 10% when you head to Pizza Studio. Other restaurants offering traditional American food at a 10% savings to the military include Buffalo Wild WingsFuddruckersChili’s and Dickey’s BBQ Pit. From November 1 – December 31, 2017, save 20% on the Bloomin’ Onion and other food and beverages at Outback Steakhouse. Try the famous Original Italian sandwich at Jersey Mike’s where military receive a 15% savings on food and beverages.

See Orange County’s visiting whales up-close when you book a cruise through Newport Landing Whale Watching. Military can use code “WhaleWatch13Deal” to receive a discounted price of $13 per person on weekdays and $17 per person on weekends. See over 11,000 marine creatures at the Aquarium of the Pacific where military can save $3 on adult admission and $1.50 on child admission. Retired and active U.S. Military receive 10% off admission and can delve into some hands-on science exhibits at Discovery Cube OC.

Explore all the presidential history at the Richard Nixon Library where active U.S. Military receive free admission and veterans receive discounted admission of $10. Take a guided tour of the legendary cruise ship and wartime vessel The Queen Mary and receive $4 off the admission price. $3 off admission is offered at the Lyon Air Museum where you can see authentic aircraft and vehicles from our nation’s past.

Enjoy comfort and relaxation when you stay at one of Buena Park’s numerous hotels that offer exclusive military discounts and upgrades, free parking, no resort fees and select hotels offer complimentary shuttle service to local attractions including Disneyland®. To check out the full list of participating hotels, visit www.visitbuenapark.com/Militaryhotels

Offers are available year-round except where noted. Restaurant offers are available only at Buena Park locations and apply to military portion only, not entire bill. For the full list of military discounts and complete details/exclusions for each promotion, visit www.visitbuenapark.com/Military

 
VISIT BUENA PARK
Located just 5 miles from Disneyland®, 10 miles from beaches and 20 miles from Los Angeles is the charming town of Buena Park. A vacation hot spot, the city is home to world-famous entertainment, interactive dinner shows and one-of-kind shopping. Visit Buena Park, the tourism bureau for the City of Buena Park is dedicated to offering first class customer service to visitors and groups traveling to Buena Park. They promote the Buena Park/Orange County brand as well as develop and support destination marketing programs and initiatives. For more information contact Visit Buena Park at 800-541-3953 or www.visitbuenapark.com.

 

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Song Honoring The Troops & Their Families

 

– Grammy-Nominated artists John Ondrasik aka Five For Fighting and Jim Brickman have announced a special collaboration to send a message of thanks, love, and support to the troops this holiday season with the song, “Christmas Where You Are.”  Watch a snippet of the lyric video, featuring soldiers and their families, HERE. The song will be released on November 3rd across all digital platforms as well as the forthcoming Jim Brickman album, A Joyful Christmasfeaturing classic hymns & carols mixed with new original songs and duets.  The album is out on digital formats November 10th via BMG.

“The holidays can be an especially hard time for our troops and their families,” say Ondrasik and Brickman, “’Christmas Where You Are’ is a thank you and reminder to soldiers that we are with them, in heart and spirit, wherever they stand, in service and sacrifice to our nation. We hope that no matter where these brave men and women are stationed, the warmth and love of family transcends the miles. We want them to know that a grateful nation holds them close to our hearts.”

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Ondrasik and Brickman witnessed first-hand the raw emotions of families being apart during the holidays through the work they’ve both done with the USO and “Operation Care Package.” The experience was so meaningful and humbling to both of their lives that they wanted to do something special to honor the servicemen and women and their families. Since Brickman has recorded dozens of Christmas songs, Ondrasik asked him if he’d want to collaborate on a holiday song for the troops.  So, Brickman started noodling on the piano, then they came up with a musical framework, and that night Ondrasik wrote the lyrics.  The call to serve in the military takes so many men and woman far from home and during the holiday season especially, it leaves an emptiness felt by both the troops and their families. “Christmas Where You Are” reaches out with a thank you to the them and is a gentle reminder that though they may not be sitting in our living rooms on Christmas morning, they are always front and center in our hearts and minds.

A percentage of the proceeds of the song will go to the Gary Sinise Foundation, which honors defenders, veterans, first responders, their families, and those in need by creating and supporting unique programs designed to entertain, educate, inspire, strengthen, and build communities; as well as to  What Kind Of World Do You Wantan initiative Ondrasik created which raised more than $250,000 for five designated charities — Augie’s Quest, Autism Speaks, Fisher House Foundation, Save the Children and Operation Homefront.

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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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