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We Are Thankful: Have Corn Pudding, Will Travel

My husband has spent many a Thanksgiving underwater.

Being a submariner, duty doesn’t stop for holidays.  So he’s deployed for so many turkey days – eating government issued stuffing and cranberry sauce with his fellow shipmates – that I often lose count.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday; I love food, and I love my family.

I have a series of rather sad photos, commemorating our Thanksgivings, most of which he is missing in.

And, sure, it’s sad.

He hates missing us over the family-themed holiday.  He hates missing my scanning of Black Friday and Cyber Monday ads.  He doesn’t like missing the day after Turkey Day, where we decorate the Christmas tree and hang lights outside our house.

But, if we really probed, we would find there is something else he missed even more than all that.

When we got married almost a decade ago, and my husband spent his first Thanksgiving with my family, he ate, for the very first time, my mother’s corn pudding.

It’s one of those easy hacks on a box of Jiffy cornbread mix.  You add several forms of high-fat dairy products, mix it together, and bake it.

And it tastes like anything heavily laden with butter and cream; it’s delicious.

Since my marriage, every Thanksgiving in which my husband has been home, we have had to triple the corn pudding recipe.

The man loves it.  Adores it.  Easily eats a whole pan himself, and he almost weeps when the leftovers are gone.

So, during every deployment since that illustrious meeting between my husband and corn pudding, he has gotten misty-eyed knowing he’s missing it.

He misses us and the holiday and a million other things.  But truth be told, I think he misses the corn pudding more.

So two years ago, when he was gearing up to miss yet another Corn Pudding, er, Turkey Day, I packed him a little surprise in his sea bag.

I sent him several boxes of Jiffy corn pudding mix and the recipe for his favorite Thanksgiving side dish.

And on that underwater holiday, he snuck onto the submarine kitchen, borrowed some dairy products, and made the crew an additional side dish for Thanksgiving dinner; he made corn pudding.

Back home, even though we had no contact on that holiday, I smiled.

I knew he was eating what I was eating.  And I knew he was loving it.

It made that Thanksgiving special for us both.

And now, when he deploys over the holidays, he never leaves home without a recipe and a few boxes of Jiffy cornbread mix.

It’s our Thanksgiving Day tradition.  And as much as I would rather have him here, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

We Are Thankful: Every Thanksgiving is the Best Thanksgiving Ever

During our past 26 years as a military family, we have learned that after all the ‘firsts’ - the first Thanksgiving of our marriage, the first one with one child, the first one with two children, the first return from deployment, the best Thanksgiving ever is always the one right in front of us.

For the past 12 years, we have lived a life of ‘split ops’ and are always looking forward to being together in the same house again. In 2003, when we PCS’d to Georgia, we had already decided that this would be our retirement location. My husband would have 17 years active duty by the time he would likely PCS again, and after going to that duty station without us, he would retire and return home to us in Georgia for good.

We agreed to having this ‘split ops’ for three years, to enable our children to establish roots in our community, their new schools and sports and to allow me to continue building a successful career without moving anymore. The thing is, it didn’t quite happen that way.


Since that first stint as split ops, he has lived in eight different places without us, including Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, I recently calculated that we have lived apart for about nine of the past 12 years.

The good news is that our plan, although difficult at times, has worked like a charm. Our son finished in the top 10 percent of his high school class; graduated from The College of William & Mary with stellar academics and in the football record books many times over; was drafted into the NFL and is now living the first year of his dream career.

Our daughter, who is seven years younger than my son, is doing very well in high school academics; was an All-Star (competitive) cheerleader for eight years by the time she got to middle school; has played school volleyball for five seasons and is in her fourth year of club volleyball.

I have a career I love and the opportunity to maintain an awesome degree of work-life balance with an organization that allows me to telework four days each week. 

So tonight, as we anticipate my husband’s arrival from Virginia in about 24 hours, and our drive to Tennessee to visit our son later this week, I know this Thanksgiving will be the best one ever, because it is the one that is right in front of us.

And as usual, when at all possible, we find a way to be together for a few days to celebrate all the things we have to be thankful for, especially each other. 

We Are Thankful: A Sugar Glider Holiday

I can’t say for certain when we all actually first noticed it, but I’m pretty sure it was around the time we’d all really gotten into eating our side dishes.

At least, that’s when I noticed it. I remember reaching for the salt, and stopped with my hand mid-air. The salt was forgotten the moment I realized that my best friend’s cousin (we’ll call her BFC) was feeding teeny bits of her Thanksgiving dinner to a tiny, furry face in her cleavage.

I’m just going to let that sink in for a minute.  Don’t feel weird if you have to read that paragraph more than once, either, because it’s a really hard idea to wrap a reasonable mind around. So I did what any normal person would do, and kicked my husband in the shin so that he, too, could stare at BFC’s boobs. I think it’s when he coughed to keep from choking on his roll that everyone really started to notice that BFC was feeding her cleavage.

After thirty years, my best friend and I no longer need to speak to have conversations, which I had considered a blessing until that moment. It turned out that it is also a curse, because the spectacular mix of amazement and disgust on her face was clearly asking me if she was truly looking at a freaking fuzzy-faced rodent eating turkey from her cousin’s tit-trough. And I have to tell you, I don’t think I’ve ever worked as hard as I had to work to keep from laughing so hard that I fell out of my chair.

So anyway, aghast and silent, we all watched as BFC give tiny pinches of food to this fuzzy little face. Somehow we managed to finish eating. In what I can only assume was an attempt to break the silence, my friend’s mother in law prompted this exchange:

                        MIL:  “So what’s in your shirt, dear?”

                        BFC:  “It’s my sugar glider.”

                        MIL:  “Oh. I see. Does it fly?”

It was at that point the conversation stopped, because as it turns out, they glide.

Especially if they’re thrown.

When this one was thrown, it landed on the leg of my pants. And although that wasn’t my favorite thing, its landing zone happened to be about two and a half inches higher than my three year old’s head.

When I stripped it off my slacks and held it up (I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do when I held it up, but it probably wasn’t going to be Thanksgiving Day-appropriate), it peed in my hand. It PEED.

In my HAND.

Her boob-rodent had peed over my kid’s head through my HAND.

It wasn’t long after that BFC was invited to enjoy the remainder of her Thanksgiving holiday…well, anywhere other than around us. Oh, and did I mention that this was my husband’s R&R from Afghanistan? No, I didn’t. And do you want to know why? Because we still, to this day, refer to that as the sugar glider Thanksgiving, rather than the R&R Thanksgiving.

And I will never stop being thankful for that.




We are Thankful: A Week of Essays from Military Spouses as they Remember Their Favorite Holidays, Celebrated Military Style

My most memorable Thanksgiving as a military spouse actually happened the day before Thanksgiving.

The day my husband returned home from his very first 12-month deployment was also his birthday. I had cleaned the house, I had washed the dog and I had primped and coiffed. My then 2-year-old was excited though she wasn’t quite sure why.

I had planned my Thanksgiving menu. My returning soldier is also a huge cook, so I allowed for variations once he returned. I had even hoarded away some special ‘fun cash’ to present to him for his extra grocery shopping pleasure.

Early that morning, we loaded the car and arrived on post early, filled with grand anticipation. The hangar was bursting with excitement. My girlfriends and I took tons of pictures in our redeployment finery and our children were playing and looking adorable with their tiny Red Cross issued American flags and hand-picked red, white and blue outfits. My husband’s parents were on the way too, but had called to let me know they had forgotten an ID and had to turn back.

Just a few moments later, I heard a cry. My daughter had accidentally collided head on with another child and busted her lip. She was bleeding onto her new dress and white bunny. Then, my husband called. It was the first call from his regular phone number that I had received in a year.

I heard his voice tell me he was on the bus ride up from the tarmac and ask if all was well. As I applied pressure to our child’s bleeding lip, and I wondered if his parents would make it in time, I lapsed into Army wife mode and chirped, “Everything’s great, honey! Can’t wait to see you!”

Everything was indeed great. Soon, the large hangar doors opened and sunlight spilled over rows and rows of beautiful soldiers marching in unison. My friends who didn’t have husbands arriving that day were poised to be my paparazzi. My daughter’s lip stopped bleeding and I searched the crowd.

I couldn’t find him! I knew he was there! As the Star Spangled Banner concluded and the speaker made the official dismissal, for a moment I panicked. He WAS here wasn’t he? I scooped up my daughter and rushed through the hoards.

All the heads and freshly shaved necks looked the same in those patrol caps! And then, in that enchanting moment, he found me and I found him. Our heartfelt embrace and his moment of kneeling in front of our daughter, bribing her with German chocolate from his pocket due to a tiny bit of shyness put Hallmark to shame.

He was home! And that was all that mattered.

After a hearty Mexican lunch with his parents who finally arrived, his bestowing upon me a beautiful black diamond and his fantastic grocery shopping spree, I found myself alone in a quiet kitchen. The sun had set on our magical day. Our daughter slept snugly in her toddler bed and I found my soldier, in his white sweater and jeans sound asleep on top of the covers of our neatly made bed.

I gently closed each bedroom door, sent up a silent prayer of thanks and retreated to the kitchen where I went to work. Chopping celery and carrots at 9:30 pm in preparation for Thanksgiving dinner had never been sweeter.

I Can Tell You How to Get to Sesame Street

The muppets of Sesame Street have been long-time supporters of military families.

They’ve created several videos to help children deal with deployment, PTSD and battlefield injuries. They’ve toured military bases around the world every year to give kids a free, fun-filled afternoon with all those furry monsters.

Now, the Muppets are here for military families, 24-7, through a new website and set of apps launched this week.

The site, Sesame Street for Military Families, gives parents an additional set of tools to help navigate their children through stresses of deployment, homecoming, relocation, injury and grief.

Under each topic for parents there are tips on how to handle the situation and where to find resources. For kids, there are videos about those topics, hosted by Elmo and friends, as well as coloring sheets and activities, all related to each military family topic.

The coloring sheets in particular are perfect for young military children. There are sheets that help them express their feelings and draw a picture of how they are feeling. There is a sheet of moving box stickers featuring their favorite Muppets so they can label their own toys. There are Veterans’ Day pages and a page that is a “pocket full of hearts” so they can draw pictures for their deployed family member and send them a “pocket full of hearts.”

There is also a music making program that allows children to choose instruments, recordings and voice overs to make their own music.

The website is an extension of Sesame Street’s highly successful, “Talk, Listen, Connect” initiative.

Log in, click on and let the muppets help carry you through the stress and joy that comes with being a military family.

Find the website here:

December Spouse Hiring Fairs Limited

If you want to attend a military spouse only hiring fair in December, you may be out of luck.

The popular hiring fairs are held around the country and sponsored by the U.S. Chamber Foundation. The employers who attend are there to hire military spouses because they recognize the assets these men and women can bring to their companies.

In December, there are only three events, nationwide: in San Antonio, Miami and through a virtual hiring fair.

If you’ve never attended a virtual hiring fair, this is a fantastic opportunity to try it. You attend online by logging in and “visiting” the virtual booths posted by each employer. They are online in real time to answer questions too.

Because this is a virtual job fair, it means there will be employers from across the nation. And, as a bonus, you don’t have to bundle up and head out into the cold.

Don’t forget to register and have a digital copy of your resume ready to fire off to a recruiter!

For links to the upcoming virtual job fair and events through the rest of December, please see below:

Dec. 3

Virtual Job Fair


Dec. 9

San Antonio, Texas


Dec. 10

Miami, Fla.

Baby Arrives, Daddy Deploys

They tell you labor gets easier and shorter.

Well, I had a 10-hour labor with my first child, a four-hour labor with my second, and a 48-hour labor with my third.

It was long, painful and shocking. My son was born at home after almost two days of labor.  He came into the world face-up, with both arms by his head, weighing nine pounds and a full inch longer than both his older sisters.

He also was born hours before his father deployed.

It was the biggest shocker about his birth entirely.

Due to a series of weird, unpredictable events that only a submariner would understand, my husband didn’t deploy when he was supposed to.

It was pushed off by days, giving me just enough time to go into labor and have our third child – our first son – less than seven hours before he left.

He held our little bundle, tucked me and him into bed – after the long, hard labor, I was struggling to walk and sit up – and started to throw the last few things he still needed in a military-issued duffel bag.

He dozed on the couch for an hour so as not to jostle me and cause me more pain, and then he woke me up, helped me to the bathroom and helped me change our little guy’s diaper, before kissing me and our now three kids good-bye.

My father drove him to the checkpoint, and then he was gone.

Hours after our child was born.  Hours after he held me while I screamed and cried, pushing our son out.  Hours after our entire world changed.

I woke up that next morning, a sleeping bundle on my chest, still in shock.

I waited for him to come in the door.  But he didn’t.

Six days later, my parents went home.  They had to get back to work, and I was back up and on my feet, holding the hands of my 4-year-old and 2-year-old, with the newborn strapped to my chest.

I was scared straight.

And still, my husband didn’t walk in the door.  And reality hit.

He was gone.  Like he had been eight times before.  But this time I hadn’t prepared.  I hadn’t said a proper goodbye.  I hadn’t dealt with it.

Instead, I had had a baby.

A beautiful baby boy who I fall more and more in love with every day.  A love so strong that it almost outweighs the touches of sadness I feel, knowing his father is missing this.

Knowing that he might as well not know him at all, knowing those seven hours with his son were precious.  And knowing they made it that much harder to walk away.  From me.  From us.  From him.

Our son will have a birth story unlike most.  A story of his brave father, who somehow summoned up the courage to walk away when he wanted to leave even less than he normally does.

It may be one of the most stalwart, strong, patriotic things the man has ever done.

And it will be one of our saddest, proudest moments as a military family yet.

A hello and a goodbye, all tragically combined.


Franchise Ownership: A Three-Part Series Want to Own a Franchise? You Need a Plan!

A franchise is an established, proven business. Can you just do what the national chain tells you to do? Should I develop my own business plan?

Yes! This is your business, you run it!  

In fact, you need a great business plan. Doing all the working up front means planning for your success.

“Owning a franchise reduces your risk, but it doesn’t eliminate it,” said Scott Lehr, who has been with International Franchise Association for 25 years.

Here are three reasons why you should start writing your business plan now:

1. It serves as your blueprint. All businesses need a business plan, even franchises. In fact, having one is even more beneficial to you than to anyone else. It will help you make sure you don’t skip any important steps along the way and identify potential problems before they trip you up. A business plan can also help you clarify your goals and prepare for how you will meet them. When done well, it will help identify major components of how you will attract customers to generate cash flow based on your geographic location, demographics, competitors and other important factors.

2. It helps raise capital. Franchisees looking for investments or small business loans will need to show that they have given sufficient thought to establishing, managing and growing the business. Investing the time and effort in writing a great business plan shows you and potential investors and lenders that starting your business is not a whim.

3. It is like a resume to franchisors and may be required when applying for an opportunity. When written well, a resume can show you and potential employers that you have invested the time and effort to amass the skills and experience needed to do a job. Likewise, a well-written business plan can show that you have invested time, thought and energy in planning for your success as a franchisee. It is also an opportunity to receive feedback about additional business matters you should think about or give more thought to.

“It is a good idea to go into a business with your eyes wide open about the money, time and expertise required to run it, so you can plan for having the resources,” said Lehr. “Your business plan will help you do just that.”

For more information about the International Franchise Association, please visit


10 Minutes of Yoga a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

By Christine Cioppa

They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Now new research shows that regularly performing mind-body relaxation techniques (e.g., yoga, meditation, prayer) may also keep your physician away.

The study, published by PLOS, shows that patients who received mind-body training to build resilience and counter stress, were 43 percent less likely to need health care services.

Stress is connected to 70 percent of doctors' caseloads, the researchers note, as it is behind many conditions, from depression and anxiety to headaches, back pain, insomnia, gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and chest discomfort.

“I like to think that there are many gates to wellness. However, not all of them are easy for everyone right away,” says study researcher James Stahl, MD, CM, MPH. “The choice of which one works best to start depends a bit on the person. The most important element is regular practice.”

To get started, “take control of a piece of your time. It can be in the morning, before you go to bed or some other time during the day in which you can devote to yourself and your own practice. It can be as little as 10 minutes. It just needs to be consistent,” says Dr. Stahl. “Mind-body skills are not expensive—you are born with the tools. Seeking a coach of one sort or another can be helpful. You can also get started with online material, like that offered at the Benson-Henry Institute.”

For more information check these resources: (Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine) (National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health—meditation)

Discounts for Veterans

Happy Veterans' Day!

The nation is proud to honor the service and sacrifice our veterans have made and businesses in every state and town are happy to offer discounts and freebies to you today.

If you Google the phrase "veteran discounts" there are thousands of sites listed.

Here are a few of our favorites for you to look over and decide how you are going to enjoy a day that is all about honoring you!

And for a free meal today, check out these national chains:

* Denny's is offering a free Build Your Own Grand Slam breakfast on Nov. 11 from 5 a.m.- noon . The offer is for active, inactive and retired military personnel with a valid military ID.

* Golden Corral will provide a free meal and beverage to veterans, retired, active duty, National Guard or Reserves from 5-9 p.m. on Nov. 11.

* Outback Steakhouse is offering a free Bloomin' Onion and a beverage to all those showing valid military ID on Nov. 11. Outback is also offering its "Military Mates" program for all active or retired military members and their families with 15 percent off all checks from Nov. 12-Dec. 31. Outback is also offering Veterans Day Rain Check for deployed service men and women. By registering at between Nov. 1 - Dec. 31 deployed military personnel will receive a voucher for a Free Bloomin' Onion via email, which they can redeem by presenting their printed Rain Check, along with valid military ID, at participating U.S. Outback Steakhouses in 2016.

* Little Caesar's Pizza will offer a free pizza or a $5 Hot N Ready Lunch Combo to all veterans and active military members on Nov. 11 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

* Starbucks is offering veterans, active duty service members and their spouses a free, tall (12 oz.) brewed hot coffee on Veterans Day.

* Cracker Barrel is offering veterans a free Double Chocolate Fudge Coca Cola Cake on Nov. 11. Additionally, 10 percent of all proceeds from the sale of Double Chocolate Fudge Coca-Cola® Cake, as well as select retail items will benefit the USO Transition 360 Alliance that assists military personnel and their families' transition into civilian life following their service.

* Shoney's will offer a free All-American Burger to veterans and active-duty service members on Nov. 11.

*   Texas Roadhouse invites veterans and active duty military members to enjoy a free lunch on Nov. 11. Active, retired and former U.S. military can choose from one of 10 entries and beverage. Guests must show proof of service such as military or VA card, or discharge papers.

* Applebee's will be offering a free meal Nov. 11 for all veterans and active-duty service members. Choose from 7 entrees, drink not included.

* Longhorn Steakhouse will offer complimentary Texas Tonion and non-alcoholic beverage to veterans and active-duty service personnel on Nov. 11.

*  Hooters will offer all active-duty and retired military personnel a free meal on Nov. 11. Also, guests are invited to purchase of a 2016 Hooters calendar for a member of the U.S. military stationed overseas.

*  Olive Garden will offer a free entrée on Nov. 11 for all veterans and active duty military. All those dining with the veteran will receive 10 percent off their meal.

* Red Lobster will offer a free appetizer or dessert for veterans and active duty from Nov. 9-12.

* Red Robin will offer a free Red Tavern's Double and Bottomless Steak Fries Nov. 11 for all guests with military ID.

* Carraba's will offer a free appetizer of your choice for active duty service members and veterans from Nov. 9-Nov. 15.

* TGI Fridays will offer a free lunch for military members and veterans Nov. 11 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

* Chili's will offer all military veterans a free meal Nov. 11. Beverage and gratuity not included.

* O'Charley's will offer free "$9.99er" meals to veterans and military personnel with a military ID on Nov. 9. Veterans can also enjoy Free Pie Wednesday with the purchase of an entree on Nov. 11.


For Military Spouses
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