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Military Housing: Home-Based Sales Central

I cheated on my Advocare lady.

There, I said it.

I needed a product. This other Advocare guy works with my husband and could have it to me that afternoon. No shipping. No waiting. Immediate gratification.

And not to mention, there are Advocare ladies everywhere. And Scentsy. And Pampered Chef. And everything else you attend a party to purchase.

Anyone else feeling just a little overwhelmed by the amount of catalog party invitations they receive in their Facebook inbox?

They come in waves: Pampered Chef, 31 and Scentsy seem to be settling down. The consultants who are following through, working hard and actually making money have risen above those who thought it was an easy dollar and fell apart after the first few orders. You place some orders, make your friends feel good, find a consultant you can trust and file that away for later.

 Then, boom! Origami Owl arrives. Once. And then again from another friend. And then from another.

Seriously, do they not look around to see just how many other consultants are living on a single block in a military neighborhood before ordering the $150 starter kit and filling up everyone’s inbox with party invitations?

Personally, I’m not even sure how they make any money. I’m not a sales person at heart. And I don’t frankly care if you are using the latest and greatest of the newest line of bakeware to serve me dinner or monogrammed towels for me to wipe my dirty mug on. Just feed me.

I tried to sell Avon once, years ago when my husband and I were first married. That ended badly. Turns out he was most likely an Arab trader in a former life because he’s a lot better at negotiating a sales deal than me. And women seemed to like buying their nail polishes from a 6-foot-tall, 200-pound soldier in full uniform. Yeah, that got a little weird after a while and we wrapped that business venture up.

 But now, these at-home, sell to your friend businesses are everywhere. And military spouses who are considering signing up as a consultant, for the easy money, need to think again, and think hard. This is a business. You have to work. You have to build contacts and networks and be willing to stand at the community craft fair and open houses to book those parties. Parties with people you don’t know.

Eventually, your friends are not going to need any more rubber spatulas or monogrammed, insulated lunch bags for their kiddos. And you will be on your own.

Before you turn sign up to be yet another consultant on the block, do your homework. Google the phrase, “direct sales” and “home party sales.” You will find a plethora of information regarding the best companies to work for, the most popular, projections for those companies and even a list of companies by interest (food, home décor, jewelry, etc) and the start-up cost for each so you can compare.

A good resource to check is http://homepartyrankings.com/, an independent group that tracks what companies are trending, moving up in popularity and falling in popularity – a good thing to know if you want to corner the market in your neighborhood.

There is money to be made hocking goods around town, especially on payday on a military base. Just make sure you are doing your due diligence to build a business, not a one-time order among your friends.

Will Daddy Be Home for Dinner? Growing Pains of Life After Deployment

My girls inevitably end up in bed with me sometime after 3 a.m.  I am never sure when, other than I’m sometimes semi-ruffled by a 3-year-old grabbing an edge of my fleece blanket.

But by the time my alarm goes off, and the sun peeks in the windows, we always wake up together.

I am too tired to care.  My girls think it’s how things are done, and my husband? Well, he loves it.

He’s a cuddler, and I think that it allows him to make up some of that snuggle time he misses while deployed. 

So, newly home, he cozies right up.  The girls aren’t phased by less space in the bed; they just dive right in and snuggle between knees or under left shoulders if they can.

Everyone is happy.  Maybe not 100 percent comfortable, but happy. 

We all like our sailor to be home.

But while nights have been filled with extra love and snuggles, mornings are taking on a rougher hue.

Every time my husband returns home, we have new growing pains.  The girls grow and change, often drastic changes because they are so little.

Which is why every morning I wake up to two little girls wailing for their daddy.

He gets up early and is gone before the sun.  He works his full day and comes home.  But he sneaks out early because he doesn’t want to rouse the three of us before 5 a.m.  A fact which I appreciate.

But, it’s a fact that’s leaving my children terrified.

When he leaves every morning, my kids don’t quite understand that he’s coming back this time.  And only in a matter of eight to 10 hours.

They just wake up and realize his daddy-shaped space is open in the bed.  My older daughter comes to and wakes up fully and then can be talked down.  She reminds herself that Daddy will be home for dinner that night.

But my younger one paces about crying Dada! Dada!, for at least an hour.  It’s heart wrenching.  And when he returns in the evening, he can’t leave her sight.

I love that my kids adore their father.  That no matter how long he’s gone, they trust and love him.  But it scares me that the mere thought of him leaving yet again elicits tears.

It breaks my heart when my 3-year-old asks him, “Are you staying home forever and ever this time?”

He can’t say, “Yes.”

I am glad this deployment is over.  But these growing pains sure do linger.
 
 

Job Fairs for Military Spouses in February

Feeling the winter blues set in as you continue your job search? Shake it off by rejuvenating your interview skills at a job fair.

Check out the schedule below from Hiring Our Heroes, an organization that helps pair military members and spouses with employers. Job fairs are held all year and attendees need to register early. To see the entire list for 2015 visit, http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/events/hiringfairs?page=2

Remember to bring extra copies of your resume and dress for success! Good luck!

Feb. 7

Detroit, MI

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/detroit-hiring-fair

 

Feb. 11

Quantico, VA

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/quantico-hiring-fair

 

Hartford, CT

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/hartford-hiring-fair

 

Feb. 12

Mineapolis/St. Paul, MN

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/minneapolisst-paul-hiring-fair

 

Feb. 18

San Mateo, CA

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/san-mateo-hiring-fair

 

Omaha, NE

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/omaha-hiring-fair

 

Feb. 24

Dallas, TX

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/dallas-hiring-fair

 

Feb. 26

Camp Pendleton, CA

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/dallas-hiring-fair

 

March 5

Houston, TX

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/houston-hiring-fair

 

Latham, NY

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/latham-hiring-fair

Me, Myself and I No Longer: The Friend Search at a New Duty Station

By Tiffany Shedd

The worst part about moving every three years, for me personally, has been making new friends.

I made up my mind that after this move I was going to make a very concerted effort, for the sake of my son who was a newborn at the time. Moving with a newborn proved a bit more challenging than I’d expected, especially when he started having seizures at ten-months-old.

By the time I even thought about finding friends, we’d been in the area for over a year. So my newborn was now a toddler and I was more than ready for more adult conversation.

I had been dealing with my son’s diagnosis with epilepsy as I deal with most things, by not thinking about it or dealing with my feelings about it. I did not compulsively research it. I didn’t immediately search out support groups. Initially, I didn’t do anything, really.

Once we went several months, seizure free, I didn’t even really think about it all that much. Epilepsy isn’t something I had to deal with on a daily basis, thank goodness. I know that we have been very lucky. Despite my lack of compulsive research, I still heard stories from doctors about all the possibilities.

My son had his first seizures about the time I was really looking into finding friends. I had started going to the YMCA. I was looking into book clubs. I was about to sign him up for a Mommy and Me class. All that came to a screeching halt when the seizures started. It threw me off the friend track for another six months.

I stumbled upon a mommy group serendipitously while attending a consignment sale. They had an information table set up at the sale. It was group of mommies from my county and their website had online forums for moms to chat about everything from dinner plans, movies and books, and even forums for moms with kids who have special needs. Something really clicked for me when I talked to the representative. I knew it was time for my son to start getting out and meeting other kids and I really needed to meet other moms, especially moms that might get what I had been going through for the last six months.

I went home that day and signed up for the group. I immediately joined the special needs forum and posted about our experience. Within a few minutes, I had an encouraging response from one of the other mommies. It was nice to have an objective group of people to talk to and feel support from.

Do not get me wrong, my husband and family are supportive, but I am a worrier. I internalize a lot of it, and sometimes it is just easier to talk to other people who have gone through similar experiences or who know what it is like to have a child with special needs.

In the six months since we’ve joined the group, I worry about my son a lot less. Partially because he’s been seizure free for almost a year, and partially because of the other mommies I have met. I love seeing my son play with the other kids at play dates. I feel like I was meant to find this group and I’m grateful I found them when I did.

If you are new to life with a special needs child, or if you yourself have been diagnosed with something, my advice would be to find a group that you feel supported in. Talk to your PCM about groups on post or check with ACS to see if there are support groups you could join.

If there aren’t, maybe you could start one. I am sure that there will be others who will be thankful. If you don’t live on post, look to your community. Talk to your doctor, check with the Parks and Recreation department, sometimes you will find support groups or just a group that you can feel connected to in strange places.

If you can’t find a local group, try an online group. Sometimes it is easier to connect with others when you aren’t face to face, especially when you are dealing with highly sensitive and emotional issues. Whatever you do, make sure that you get the support that you need. You don’t have to deal with your child’s or your diagnosis alone. Family is wonderful, but when you are hundreds or thousands of miles away from them, friends become a necessity.

Disney, Europe, Hawaii, Everywhere! Use Those Military Discounts

2015 may be the year of the mouse for you. Or, it may be the year of the Grand Canyon. Or New York City. Or Germany. Or heck, it may be time to finally drive down the street and see what that little mom and pop- run, county history museum really is.

 Get out. See. Do.

But when you go, don’t forget to use your military discounts.

Military families travel a lot. We are adventurous. We are willing to spend the money and do the outrageous. The travel industry knows this and the love us for it.

They are also willing to reward us.

Military travel basic level: ask for a military discount when you are at the ticket booth, hotel check in and other locations.

Military travel master level: Call ahead and get all the discounts you are entitled to, and, even book through companies that cater only to military.

To kick off your trip planning, visit http://www.military.com/Travel/Home/

Here, Military.com has partnered with the travel community to offer larger discounts to military members (active, reserve, National Guard and retired) who book through their site.

If National Parks are on your list this year, don’t plan your trip without first visiting www.recreation.gov

Military members and their families can now receive an annual pass to the National Parks service for free, a perk that costs civilians $80. This pass will give you access to 2,000 places and waives the entrance fee for your entire family, though it doesn’t wave any additional fees inside the park such as tram costs, etc.

Sea World continues to offer free and discounted tickets to active duty members only. For more information about their program visit www.herosalute.com.

One of my favorite sites for military travel discounts is www.afvclub.com, the Armed Forces Vacation Club.

The club is operated by MWR and is open to members of all services. They specialize in Space A travel, which fits the military family travel plan pretty nicely. Pop on the site, look for a location. When you find what you want, and book through them, you pay $349 for the week, any time of year, any location.

I didn’t believe it either. But there are thousands of locations. And because they are Space A, they change every day. Seriously, a week in South Africa, Europe, Australia or Florida, $349.

And don’t forget, military discounts are helpful for those trips close to home.

When we lived on base, I browsed the travel office at least once a week to see what discount tickets they had for upcoming local events. Now that my husband is retired, and we live an hour away, it slipped my mind to check with MWR before I purchased pricey tickets for Disney on Ice.

I won’t make that mistake again. The military discount would have shaved nearly 60 percent off the cost.

Happy travels!

 

Disability Benefits for Veterans: A Quick Overview

By Mandy Rebmann

Disability Compensation Benefits (disability) is a monetary consideration paid to veterans who suffered or aggravated a sickness or injury while on active military service.  The amount of benefit ranges based on severity of the injury, in 10 percent increments, from 10 to 100 percent.  This article will give a brief overview of what disability compenstation is, and how it may differ from a salary or pay.

  • Who is eligible for disability?

If a veteran suffered a disability as the result of sickness or injury while on active service, he or she may be eligible for some degree of benefits.Both physical and/or mental health conditions may apply.The benefits may also extend to surviving spouses or family members of a service member who dies on active duty.Additional benefits may be given if the disability requires special circumstances, such as living assistance.The veteran must not have been dishonorably discharged.

  • Is disability considered income?

Yes.Disability is a permanent and reliable source of funds, and is considered income.Disability attempts to compensate a Veteran for the loss of income he or she could have made if not for the injury suffered.

  • Can a veteran receive both VA Disability and Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits?

Yes, if he or she qualifies for SSD based on time and length of full-time work.It should be noted that these are two completely different programs, so the methods for determining disability may differ.In other words, VA disability is not an automatic approval for SSD.

  • Is disability taxable?

No.Disability is not subject to federal or state income tax.

  • Is disability subject to garnishment?

In some cases.Garnishment of Disability funds from a creditor or debt collector is prohibited by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).While the FTC does prohibit most garnishment of federal benefits, there are some circumstances where it is allowed.

One instance may be in cases of court-ordered child support or alimony.The idea is that disability compensation is provided not only to the veteran, but also to their dependents.However, this only applies if the veteran waived all or a portion of their military retirement pay to qualify for VA Disability.Prior to 2004, a veteran could not receive concurrent retirement and disability pay without waiving the disability amount of their retirement pay.Since 2004, they may receive both, provided the disability amount is 50 percent or higher.Those who rate 40 percent and below must still waive that portion of retirement pay in order to receive disability.If the veteran waived all or a portion of his or her retirement pay to receive disability, it may be garnished to meet child support or alimony obligations.

  • Is Disability subject to Communal Property Division?

No, disability is not considered communal property in cases of divorce.However, like all income sources, disability can be considered by a judge when determining the amount of support obligations.

Records indicate U.S. soldiers receiving injury compensation as far back as the Civil War.  To learn more about disability, eligibility requirements, claim types, or applying, please visit the Veterans Affairs website at benefits.va.gov.

Websites We Love: Tenant Screening by USAA

The new year has come, the holiday boxes are stuffed away and that can only mean one thing, thousands of military families are preparing to receive their new orders and PCS this summer.

For military homeowners, this can be the most grueling time of year.

To rent or sell? Who to rent to? What if it doesn't rent or sell?

USAA has a page for members that can make this tumultuous time a little less exhausting.

Hidden away in the bank's online advice center is an entire page on owning a rental property. There, military homeowners can find solid advice on determining how much insurance to carry on their rental property, how much to charge for rent and advice on maintaining your property and expanding into more holdings.

Perhaps one of the most important services they offer homeowners is help screening potential rental clients.

https://usaa.mysmartmove.com/home.html

At this site, USAA members can sign up to purchase background checks on any potential renters. The checks, completed through TransUnion, are done in minutes and give homeowners a national criminal background check, tenant risk score, leasing and deposit recommendation for each applicant, a full credit report for the applicant and will search nationally to see if they have been evicted.

The fee is only per background check.

And, you can set up your account and set it so that the applicant has to pay the fee. All personal information, such as social security numbers, are sent directly to TransUnion so you can assure potential clients that you will not have your hands on their confidential information.

Can a background check guarantee that a new renter won't walk out without paying or trash your house? No.

But it can definitely weed out the chronic offenders who have left a papertrail of unpaid rent and evictions behind them as they PCS from place to place.

Check it out. This $12 investment may save you a huge headache later.

Learning Holiday Traditions Through Our Children’s Eyes

The holidays have come and gone. Too fast, as usual.

We are very blessed to have celebrated the holiday season together. Between our vacation the week after Thanksgiving, my husband’s leave and the way the holidays fell we actually had a lot of time together this year; lots of productive days with many things checked off our to do list and lots of lazy, family days.

It spoiled us a little, actually. Like many military families, we do not take for granted the time we have together - especially the holidays. We are thankful for those doing their part and serving their country overseas or training or even on duty. Service members and their families continually make sacrifices each and everyday, this time of year is no exception. They are never far from our minds. And we know that being together again this year was a gift that we are thankful for. Next year could be very different for us!

Since my husband and I grew up very close to one another, we have always traveled back home to visit our families. Now that our boys are a little older, we are currently celebrating being diaper-free for the first time in four years, we decided we wanted to start some holiday traditions in our own home instead of spending most of our time traveling from family to family in the car, living out of suitcases - especially since our deployment timeline could be anywhere within the next year or so.

We aren’t sure what next year will look like so it was important to start traditions this year. After all the blood sweat and tears, and money, we put into buying our first home, I needed to spend one Christmas here before we PCS or my husband deploys!!  

I wanted to document my boys coming down the stairs in their Christmas PJs, have pictures taken of the four of us by the tree, spend the day in our PJs, playing with all the new toys and not having anything on our agenda except being with one another.

This year we had all of those wonderful memories. We had a great Christmas in our own home and were even lucky enough to have some visitors with us. But what I did not account for was my 4-year-old remembering that we usually spend holidays back in New York.

He cried and said he wanted to go to Buffalo to “see his whole family”. He missed his grandparents, great grandparents, aunt and uncles and sweet baby cousin. It broke my heart to see my sweet little boy so sad.

I am so thankful that despite the distance between us, my husband and I have managed to keep our long distance families close to our boys.  Each time we visit or we have family visit us, it gets harder and harder to say “See ya later”. And this holiday apart was no different. My young son knew that something was different this year. Although wonderful in ways, it was different. No chaos or busyness.  And he wanted to know why we had to live so far away from family. We were able to Skype and talk on Christmas and, in our own way, we were together with them but I too missed being there in person.

My heart is a little broken for my children because their childhood will be so different from the one I had.  I was not prepared for them to have an opinion or emotions about our decision to stay home this year or the life we live (by husband being a Marine).

We thought by staying home, we were giving them memories and tradition. But we learned that those memories and traditions had already begun years ago. It doesn’t matter where we go, family is what matters the most during the holiday season. We may not be able to travel home every year but I will continue to keep my boys close to family no matter how far apart we may live.

Planning A Trip to Disney in 2015? Use Those Military Discounts!

“TA DA!” Came the exclamation from the kitchen, at 6:30 am.

My husband had just secured dinner reservations for our family at “Be Our Guest” at the Magic Kingdom, which currently happens to be the absolute hardest place to get a reservation at Walt Disney World. This accomplishment occurred only six days before we were scheduled to leave for our trip. Reservations can be made up to 180 days in advance, and people are serious about flocking online to make theirs that early. Fortunately for us, my husband thoroughly enjoys enjoying a glass of wine in the evenings while “trolling” the reservations website, or in this case, his morning coffee time scored dinner at one of our favorite places. When people cancel and a spot opens up, you’ve got to be on there to grab it!

However, if you don’t have the time or desire to scavenge the reservation site like we do, planning is still a key to making your Disney vacation as magical as possible for your family. With the fabulous military discounts, the trip itself is definitely made more affordable. Currently, four-day tickets are less than $200 per person at MWR or Shades of Green resorts in Orlando.  Children under age three are still free. https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/special-offers/military-4-day-tickets/

The military discounts for resorts on property also help tremendously with the expense.  Disney resorts are divided into three price categories and really do provide options for all budget sizes. http://www.militarydisneytips.com/Disney-Armed-Forces-Salute-Disney-Resorts.html

Some Disney (Florida) basics: There are four parks to visit. The Magic Kingdom, which is home to the iconic Cinderella Castle. There are tons of things for big and small kids to do here. The shows and parades are amazing but for anything that takes place in front of the castle, get there early to get close enough to see. Magic Kingdom also hosts a nightly fireworks show that will require you to arrive early, too as it is Disney’s most popular. Princesses and other character appearances are everywhere here so keep your cameras handy.

 Epcot Center is an incredible place to visit, play and learn. Its claim to fame is the huge golf ball that can be seen from almost anywhere in the park. This park focuses on technology and the future, as well as the past. The World Showcase, which surrounds a lagoon, boasts  11 different countries including stores, restaurants and opportunities to learn about the culture in each. There are also many places to see princesses and characters here, too. So if you missed the princesses at Magic Kingdom, don’t worry, their appearance schedules are all listed on the guide. Epcot also has a nightly fireworks spectacular which happens to be our favorite. The fireworks take place above the lagoon and can be seen from any country in the World Showcase. I think we’ve seen it from every country’s vantage point. It’s not quite as crazy in popularity as the Magic Kingdom’s and the beauty of it is it can be seen from many places in the park. On our last trip, we got there early enough to grab a café table in France and have champagne and French pastries while we watched the show. Best view yet!

Disney’s Hollywood Studios is home to . . . the movies! This park features streets and shops paying homage to old Hollywood and movie-themed attractions such as the Tower of Terror, based on the Twilight Zone, Star Tours, the Star Wars themed extravaganza and the Great Movie Ride, which takes you through some of the most iconic movies of all times.  Hollywood’s nightly show is Fantasmic, a blend of pyrotechnics and live characters all in an arena surrounding a lovely lake. It’s a must see!

Disney’s Animal Kingdom givens you and your family the opportunity to get up close and personal with some animals you might otherwise not ever get to see in their ‘natural habitat.’ Kilimanjaro Safari is a slow bus ride through the savannah and jungle where you can see everything from hippos to cheetahs, elephants and giraffes and even rhinos. It’s an amazing time for people of all ages to see and learn about so many different creatures. Animal Kingdom’s centerpiece is the huge “Tree of Life” in the center of the park. Just to see it is beautiful, as well as a great place for a photo op, but it also contains a live show, themed after the movie “A Bug’s Life.” There are many other animal themed shows and rides here. This park is also broken into world ‘regions.’ There’s an African section, an Asian section, there’s even a dinosaur section!  The dinosaur section includes a huge ‘dinosaur dig’ area great for little ones! In Asia, Everest is the thrill roller coaster ride that is the park’s most popular. This park closes the earliest, so I recommend going early, seeing everything you can and then hopping over to one of the other parks to end your night with fireworks.

Disney’s Fast Pass plus option helps you to “schedule” times for some of the most popular attractions to  ensure your family  gets to experience as much action as possible. After registering your tickets online you can go through a series of times based on your dates and select the rides you’d like. https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/plan/my-disney-experience/fastpass-plus/

And now, it all links to the magic bands! Magic bands can be selected by color and even personalized. They are water proof, Mickey logoed plastic bands that each member of your party wears the entire vacation. https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/plan/my-disney-experience/bands-cards/

Not only do they link to your Fast Passes, but also your actual admission ticket, as well as park pictures, the ability to “bump your band” and pay for things in the parks. Don’t worry, you decide which bands have charging privileges,  that way your little ones can’t run rampant and “bump” things in the stores to leave you with a big, fat bill!

And then there’s the food! Dining at Disney is serious business for us, obviously. At most places, reservations are recommended, but if you don’t want to commit, at least familiarize yourself online ahead of time with the places to eat at the different parks you plan to visit. There are so many to choose from, varying in price and type of cuisine it’s easy to be hungry when you’re there and just feel overwhelmed with the choices.  The Disney Dining Plan is another option to help streamline your trip, and your budget. There are some restrictions with this plan, but we’ve used it on some of our trips and enjoyed it. For a certain price, your family can put together a number of meals and snacks per day that you pay for rolled into the cost of your whole trip. We’ve priced it out, and it’s not necessarily cheaper, but paying for most everything up front is convenient.  You can research and see what’s considered a snack and a meal online so that you will be well informed if you choose this option. During the Epcot Food and Wine Festival, the dining plan is super worth it, as the food booth tasting options fall into the “snack” category. This festival usually takes place end of September through mid November. https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/plan/my-disney-experience/bands-cards/

There are many options for places to stay in Orlando, but staying on property not only gives you the benefit of Disney transportation to the parks, but you can also participate in ‘extra magic hours.’ Each park is planned to either open an hour early or stay open later and you can only stick around if you’re staying on property. And yes, they do check! It’s a great way to get in a character appearance or ride that had longer lines earlier in the day because the crowd thins out a bit. https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/guest-services/extra-magic-hours/

 

Staying on property also enables you to ‘ship’ your store purchases to your resort so you’re not stuffing your stroller full of bags. At the checkout, you tell the cashier which resort you’re staying in, fill out a form and the next day, your packages will be in your resort’s gift shop for you to conveniently pick up.

I happen to be a photo junkie. My family calls my photo editing “doing pictures.” My Disney memories are, by far, my favorite photos to edit and go through. In addition to your own camera, Disney offers a Photo Pass service. In many locations around the parks you will find professional photographers to take your picture, with everyone included in your party, in front of the most scenic areas. The pictures are all downloaded onto your magic band and can be viewed and purchased at Photo Pass stations in the parks or online for a period of time after your trip. The photos can get a bit pricey, so picking and choosing is always a good option. Disney also offers a Memory Maker package that can be purchased before or during your trip. It’s a little cheaper to purchase ahead of time. For one price, it includes every picture taken in all the parks, plus the pictures that are taken on some of the larger roller coasters, which can cost even more than the regular pictures. It’s around $200 but if you add up the cost of the pictures, it’s actually a better deal if you choose to do it. https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/memory-maker/

If all this planning makes your head spin, there’s nothing that says you can’t just wing it while you’re there. The planning helps you do and see the most for your money, but there is always something to be said for spontaneity.  We plan Disney year-round, but some of my favorite memories have been meals on the go purchased from little stands, eaten on a bench overlooking the lagoon and fireworks viewed from partially behind a light pole with my then toddler’s diaper completely full. But seeing those fireworks light her face next to her fathers’ who’d just returned home to us after 12 long months of deployment was priceless. Making memories is what a Disney vacation is all about!

An Ode to Paperwork

Paperwork. You receive lots of it as a military family. Keep it.

The military loves a paper trail. It thrives on the red tape that requires you to produce a shot record from three military hospitals ago for your child who is now 17 and requires no shots. Military officials want everything documented and proof that it was documented – in triplicate.

Some of this, I think is a little ridiculous.

PCS orders and shipping documents, however, never, ever throw them away- even after your service member has kicked his boots to the side and retired for good.

I had heard tale of soldiers who had received a bill for moving their household goods years after they retired. There was the story of the sergeant major from his old unit (though no one could seem to recall his name) who had moved to Maine and was only authorized to move as far as Texas when he retired.

As the story goes, he received a bill for the entire move $13,000, payable now.

There have been other rumors and tales of woe and warning passed down over the years. I believed them, sort of.

When we left our last duty station for retirement, I dutifully checked to make sure we were moving to an area within our authorized region – no further than his home of record.

I kept every shipping document, weight tally and list of professional goods that we were allowed.

And I’m glad I did.

Seven months after settling into retired life with nary a word from Uncle Sam, we received a bill, from the Army for overages on our shipping allowance: $2,700, payable now.

Gah!

The only thing that saved us from paying it was the fact that in the bottom of our last suitcase, still unpacked I might add, was a heap of documents that showed that $2,700 was accounted for in his professional gear, a cost we were not required to pay.

One fax later and the problem was fixed.

This story would have a very different ending if I hadn’t saved that paperwork. There would have been a lot of tears, swearing and calls to government officials that would have ended the same way: no paperwork proof (in triplicate) means you pay the fine.

So friends, as you head into 2015 with a resolution to clean up, clean out and organize, don’t, just don’t throw that military paperwork aside. Buy a nice plastic box, dump it in, seal it up, scrawl the words “military stuff” across the top and hope you never have to go looking for it in a panic.

And if you do, trust me, it could mean the difference between losing thousands of dollars or simply faxing a single sheet of paper.

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