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Beautiful Boxes, Not the PCS Kind

It’s hip to be square these days. The market has exploded with monthly box deliveries of ready to make meals, dog treats and baby toys, a blessing for military families overseas whose shopping choices may be limited.

Mark one more item off your shopping list: beauty supplies. Glamorous, big name brands such as Sephora will deliver the monthly box of goodies to your door, but so will Walmart and Target. Most will deliver to overseas APO and FPO addresses.

The boxes include samples and deluxe- or full-size products with a value of four to five times what you pay after standing in line.

For example, a $10 box may have $65 worth of beauty loot, such as brand-name cosmetics, perfumes, shampoos, skin creams, and other goodies. The boxes are sent out every season or monthly from a number of well-known companies. 

Target is the only retailer that launches boxes monthly and can be ordered by month, without a subscription. This means the boxes are on a first-come-first-serve basis - and they are usually sold out within a few hours.

New Beauty magazine’s TestTube was the first beauty box, launched in 2006. But in the past five years, a beauty box explosion has occurred and many new retailers are launching each year.

Macy’s has one in the works called Spotlight. More are sure to follow. Here are some of the most popular ones to look into:


Walmart Beauty Box

Cost: $5, quarterly (subscription)

Shipping: Included in price

Inside: It’s a surprise! You’ll get approximately 5 premium beauty products per box

Value: $25+


Target Beauty Box*

Cost: $5, $7 or $10, depending on box (no subscription; buy online when available, usually around the 1st of the month.)

Shipping: Free

Inside: What you see online, you get. Usually it includes a variety of 5-10+ products from national beauty brands.

Value: $25-$50


Play! by Sephora*

Cost: $10, monthly (subscription)

Shipping: Free

Inside: It’s a surprise! You’ll get 5 deluxe samples and a fragrance sample sold at Sephora

Value: About 4-5x the cost of the box


Ipsy Glam Bag

Cost: $10, monthly (subscription)

Shipping: Free

Inside: It’s a surprise! You’ll get 5 deluxe or full-size beauty products based on a beauty questionnaire you complete.

Value: About 4-5x the cost of the box



Cost: $21, monthly

Shipping: Free in U.S.

Inside: 5 full-size beauty products (makeup, fragrance, and products for hair, skin and nails)

Value: $100+


New Beauty TestTube

Cost: $29.95, six times per year

Shipping: $8.90

Inside: It’s a surprise! You’ll get a variety of high-end, luxury beauty products in full size or deluxe.

Value: $130+



Cost: $49.99, quarterly (subscription)

Shipping: Free

Inside: It’s a surprise! You’ll get beauty, wellness, fashion and fitness products.

Value: $200+


Want to find more boxes? Go to or Boxy Ladies, where you’ll find box reviews (and photos of box contents) for hundreds of subscription boxes. You’ll also find boxes with other themes—lifestyle, men, babies/kids, fitness, kitchen/food, clothes, pets, crafts, and more.


Hiring Fairs in July

Summer is one of the worst times of year to look for a job.

That is, according to experts at,  a website dedicated to job searching. According to experts there, there is a drop in hiring during the summer months because staff vacations hinder recruiting efforts.

Lucky for you, you're a military spouse. And the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation is holding hiring fairs across the country all summer long to help you find employment.

The hiring fairs are open only to military spouses and military members looking to move to the civilian sector. Dress smart. Bring your resume. And do not forget to register. The events fill fast and there are usually no tickets available at the door.

July 7

Biloxi, MS

July 12

El Paso, TX

July 15

Detroit, MI

July 16

Houston, TX

July 26

Montgomery, AL

July 28

Fort Indiantown Gap, PA

Atlanta, GA

Aug. 2

Columbia, SC

Aug. 4

Lexington, KY

Study Shows Unemployed Military Spouses Hurt National Economy

Last month the non-profit group, Blue Star Families, released the results of a study that show unemployment, and underemployment, of military spouses is costing the U.S. economy nearly $1 billion each year.

According to Military Times, the study, commissioned by the nonprofit Blue Star Families, calculated the cost of lost federal income tax, of unemployment benefits, and of costs for health care issues that may related to unemployment and underemployment. By far the largest effect on the economy is the total lost income tax that spouses would have paid, ranging from $578 million to $763 million.

Now, Blue Star Families is calling for more efforts to place spouses in jobs that match their skill set, training and education level. Currently, the Department of Defense sponsors the Military Spouse Employment Partnership. That effort has connected spouses with more than 300 companies and organizations nationwide.

Blue Star Families says this is a great start, but more needs to be done.

Kathy Roth-Douquet, CEO of Blue Star Families told The Military Times that the report will help draw attention to the issue.

“The No. 1 reason we have this crippling problem is that it’s invisible," she told the Military Times.

“No one knows about it, and no one cares about it when it’s the individual’s problem. When it’s the individual’s problem, it’s not solvable," That changes when it's everyone's problem," she said.

The analysis places the military spouse unemployment rate at 12 percent, compared to 7.7 percent for civilian spouses.

To read the full report from Blue Star Families, please visit:

Cut the Expense of Summer Fun, Visit the MWR Office

Traveling this summer for PCS or vacation? It's worth a stop at your closest MWR facility and a call to your vacation destination. A military discount is not always what it seems.

Last month, we headed to Clearwater, Fla., to visit the dolphins, Winter and Hope of movie fame, Dolphin Tale.

Our home MWR office said they didn't sell discount tickets, but, not to worry, a military discount was offered at the gate.  

It sure was - to active duty only. My husband is a retiree.

And, retirees, national guard and reserve families had to drive an hour back to Tampa, to the nearest base, and buy discount tickets at the MWR office there.

Tickets that were less than half the cost of what the box office wanted. But, it was Sunday morning. The base office was closed. We were leaving the state that night.

So, I forked over $90 more than I would have paid at MWR in Tampa had I dropped by there on Friday.

This isn't the first travel discount snag we've encountered. Discounts are higher for military who buy online before arriving at the gate. Sometimes you can find free tickets, but only online.

And the MWR office on base always, always sells tickets for less, anywhere you want to visit.   

The base in Tampa was an hour out of our way. But, lesson learned. I'll never pass up a chance to visit the nearest MWR again. And you shouldn't either.

Happy travels!

Homeschool for Kids, and Mom, Makes Life Better

By Amy Nielsen

We woke up this morning to see Papa off to work early for a change so no breakfast games at our house. He works a second shift job and has morning duties with our daughters so I can finish my school work. This usually means he makes breakfast, packs lunch, and sorts out what stuff we need for our lessons. We homeschool and at this time of year, school is usually at a local playground or library.

Today my girls had a class held at a local state park and preserve. This was the last class in the session. We meet up weekly to observe and try a new medium for drawing or painting. The class has been meeting somewhat locally to us but this week the teacher decided to go a bit farther out meaning a longer drive for us. When we travel out this far, I plan to spend the day there which means more stuff to bring. It also means a later arrival at home in the afternoon cutting into my “slop” time before dinner.

As this week has been a bit busy in the mornings with other appointments and such, I have had a hard time getting my lessons done. I had a 45-minute lecture and a few shorter ones still to listen to. Then the slides to read, essay questions to answer, and finally the quiz to take. I estimated it would take me about two hours to finish all of the work.

We managed to leave sort of on time, and, with a bit of luck at the stupid long light in town, were not too late for class. I spent a delightful hour watching my girls and their class work on watercolor landscapes and nature scavenger hunts while painting my own little sketch and listening to the remainder of my lectures on my phone. I cannot describe how gratifying today has been.

If I had chosen a more traditional school at this point in time I would be stuck on that schedule and we would have a much harder time finding childcare for our daughters. I realize that we are lucky in that we live in an area of the country where one income suffices to have a decent life. I can also say that without his military retirement we would not be able to do this either.

The ability to take school on the road, both mine and my daughters', gives us the flexibility to still have time with my husband. If our girls went to public school the bus would pick them up before my husband woke up, and, they would be in bed before he returned home. Granted, I would certainly have plenty of time to get my school work done if they went to school, but there are extenuating circumstances and we chose to school at home. The flexibility of homeschool means we can tailor our learning schedule to our life schedule. Because life is, after all, what we are here for.

Retirement Looms, But I am a Spouse for Life

Slowly, over the past few months, I have begun to pull away from my military life.

I’ve volunteered less, stopped being one of the first to step up and offer help, and my usual quick responses to spouse-related emails have gotten fewer and farther between.

Now, with less than three months left before we leave Germany and go on terminal leave until retirement, I find myself latching on to those last few military events I will get to attend.

Tomorrow night is a farewell. Wednesday is a change of command, likely the last I will ever witness as a military spouse.  Next week are more hail and farewells and, at some point soon, I will see my husband in uniform for the last time.

I’ve always made it a point to never define myself as a “military spouse.” I always figured that I was so much more than that, that my life somehow had more meaning than the fact that I just happened to be the wife of an Army officer.

But after 26 years I am realizing that a “military spouse” is not just what I am, it’s who I am. My days, months and years are built around the Army. Every decision I make is influenced by my husband’s career. My schedule, my life, is completely dependent upon his.

Being married to the military is a full-time job in its own right. Many of us spend countless hours helping other families, besides managing our own home, our own finances, our own kids and everything in between. We volunteer in our communities. At each different duty station, we try to find something that has meaning to expend our energies on.

We support each other in a way that perhaps no other group of people, especially women, does. I don’t mean to imply that I am anything special just because I happened to choose a life partner with a unique and demanding job. I haven’t done anything in my military life that thousands of other spouses haven’t done before me, and done better. What I’m saying - what I’m realizing -  is that I’m all in, and I have been for more than two decades.

Of that, I am proud.

I’m watching now as my husband distances himself from his job, his co-workers and his own Army life. I am watching as he goes through what I am sure will be a long period of mourning and adjustment, of loneliness and reflection and anticipation, a period that will hopefully launch him into something new and equally as satisfying as his military career. The Army calls it “transitioning.” There is a series of workshops, checklists, services and notebooks for soldiers to study in preparation for leaving the military, under a program called “Soldier for Life.”

I wish there was a similar program for spouses. We obviously haven’t had the same experiences as the active-duty people we are married to and, presumably, our transition will be easier. But we could use some guidance on how to navigate the real world.

How do we, as spouses, walk away from all this, from everything we know and everything we are, and gain a new identity? I look forward to what the future holds - hopefully fulfilling jobs for both my husband and me, some stability for our kids and a chance to breathe.

Breathe. Something many of us have not done in a very long time. Along the way, I’m sure I will find my place in our new world and adjust accordingly. But this, this identity that I’ve had for 26 years, will aIways be a part of me.


I am a spouse for life.

Seven Success Strategies for Week One at Work

Caught up in the whirlwind of moving again? Don't let the months and months of PCS madness distract you from making a great impression during the first week of work.

"The first week on a new job is the time when you set the impression that the company builds on for your future with them," said Mark Renn, Chief Executive Officer of The CS Team, a career marketing firm. "It's also a time to learn about the people and the company; take the time to become part of the group."

Here are seven strategies that will show your new boss and co-workers you will be an asset right off the bat.

1. Dress the part

On your first day dress conservatively, but very professionally. To pick the right attire, think back to your interview and take it one notch higher than what you saw others wearing. It's better to be told you can dress down than counseled to dress up. To be safe, avoid piercings, tank tops and short or revealing clothes.

2. Learn the culture

"Be an observer of the culture and then you will be able to fit into the culture," said Robin Ryan, Author of 60 Seconds and You’re Hired. "Have lunch or coffee with different people to get advice,  information and perspective from more than one source," she said.

3. Take copious notes.

Take notes throughout the first week of work so you will remember everything people are trying to teach you and so you can refer back to them later. Good notes will help close some of the gaps and add clarity to things you may not have fully understood the first time you heard them.

4. Ask questions

"To learn the job to the fullest extent possible, ask questions," Ryan said. "For example, ask for timelines on the big things that happen in the course of a year and ask questions to help you be sure things you did in the past are acceptable here," she said. "You will make mistakes, but you don’t want to make a lot of big mistakes.

5. Know management's priorities

Study the business priorities and make them your priorities too. Request a meeting with your manager to be clear about expectations and what he or she wants you to accomplish in the first month. It's a great practice to follow up with an email that outlines the details you discussed to confirm that you are on the same page.

6. Keep a low profile

"Be careful about making instant friends," Ryan said. "Sometimes, it's the early friend who is the troublemaker or gossiper and not the person you want as you new BFF," she said. "Since you don't know the politics, a low profile is the best profile."

7. Be a team player

"This is a time to be extremely collaborative; show interest in helping and being a part of the team," Renn said. "Don't come across as someone who will be attempting to change the current status of the company, which many times upsets the people that may have been instrumental in establishing the current systems," he added.

When all is said and done, your first week is about learning; absorb as much as possible on your way to success.

How Does the Military Fit Into My New Business Plan?

By Amy Nielsen

My school gave us the week off. Probably because they are pretty sure no one is actually going to complete a module this as it is the first, unofficial vacation week of the summer.

After last week’s panic about getting everything done before the holiday weekend, I realized it is a holiday week. And, a pretty big one for us military spouses go. It inspires to think about my eventual business and how, or if, I want to relate to the military.

I tried to use my military resources to fund my schooling but that was not in the cards for an off the wall career in a small, very specialized school. But, are there other monetary resources I can use in the future that are specific to retirees and their spouses?

On a practical side, the VA has some excellent small business loans. Many banks have veteran incentives. I could have my husband be a silent partner to get the loans I will need to operate.

Can I use my military background to help open doors and move forward with my business?

There are a myriad of different organizations that help veterans now. Many have a health and wellness focus and I may want to explore a partnership with an existing organization. I am sure if I look I can find other likeminded health and wellness mentor-type folks who are also military spouses. They may be able to point me in the direction of the next certification I should pursue. If I move towards working on a national scale I might also make personal connections with other professionals who can advise me as to which trade organizations to join.

As I look at our larger military community from a client standpoint, is there a component to what I want to do that can be tailored more specifically to the military lifestyle? We all want to be healthy and happy, but how is that different in the military family? Local to me, there are people who teach and coach a similar subject to clients using supermarkets as classrooms. Part of my dream is to be able to teach around the country. Perhaps I can take a similar model and pitch it to the commissary system?

If I am ever so lucky as to be so busy that I eventually am able to hire employees, do I want to focus on hiring military spouses and service members? What would set them apart and why would they be more of an asset than a civilian? Are there other graduates from my school who I can connect with in the military community to build a network of coaches? I envision these individuals working with relocating families to continue their progress in a new duty station, banding together to help our community be healthier.

As a military spouse, I am used to thinking about how to get services and support as we have moved around with the Navy. Now in retirement, and with this new school and job, I am turning the tables and thinking about how to be of service and support to this community. As I go forward I will tuck this piece of community in my bonnet and see if it percolates back up as I get closer to finishing school and embarking on growing my business.

Concentration Problems? There’s a drink for that.

By Christine Cioppa

Having a hard time concentrating? Feeling like coursework is tougher than normal? You may need more water.

Under-hydration affects most Americans, according to The Gale Encyclopedia of Fitness. Even mild dehydration can affect your ability to think and how you feel. One study from the British Journal of Nutrition found that mild dehydration impaired cognitive performance (working memory, vigilance) and mood (tension, anxiety, fatigue). Another study in The Journal of Nutrition concluded that mild dehydration lowered concentration and increased women’s perception of task difficulty.

If not for your studies, stay properly hydrated for your heart. New research, published in the European Journal of Nutrition, shows that being just 2 percent dehydrated (when you start feeling thirsty) impairs cells inside the blood vessels and the heart comparable to smoking a cigarette. Study author Stavros A. Kavouras, FACSM, FECSS, acknowledges that this impairment, which is more specifically known as “endothelial impairment,” can affect heart disease and/or stroke risk, but adds that “endothelial function is only a snapshot of cardiovascular health.”

In addition to the heart relying on a hydrated body, every organ and cell in your body needs adequate water to function properly.  The body is, after all, half water.


Dehydration in adults:

  • Thirst (mild) or extreme thirst (moderate-severe)
  • Dry mouth/thick saliva (mild-severe)
  • Dark urine or no urine (moderate-severe)
  • Lightheadedness/dizziness (moderate-severe)
  • Urinating less (moderate)
  • Feeling tired/fatigue (mild-moderate)
  • Headache (moderate)
  • Shriveled and dry skin with little elasticity (severe)*
  • Rapid heartbeat (severe)*
  • Low blood pressure (severe)*
  • Fever (severe)*
  • Lack of sweat in combination with other moderate dehydration symptoms (severe)*
  • Delirium/coma (severe)*

* Severe dehydration requires immediate medical attention. Many moderate symptoms also occur with severe dehydration.

For adults with mild to moderate dehydration, Gatorade, Powerade, and other sports drinks can help, according to the Mayo Clinic; however, see a doctor if you develop severe signs of dehydration, such as extreme thirst, shriveled skin, dizziness, confusion, and an inability to produce urine.

Dehydration in babies and young children:

  • A dry diaper for three or more hours**
  • Crying without tears**
  • Unusual sleepiness**
  • High fever (over 100°F for newborns less than 3 months; over 102°F for other children)**
  • Dry mouth and tongue**

** If your child is dehydrated, check with your doctor immediately.


Kavouras says, “An easy way to evaluate if you are drinking enough is by checking urine color. Dark urine means hypohydration [dehydration]. If you are going to the bathroom at least 6-7 times a day, you are probably in good shape.”

Also, “Keep water close to you in work and at home. When you have your water at sight, you tend to remember to drink more. By the time you are thirsty your body is already running low,” advises Kavouras.

According to, drinking six to eight 8-oz. glasses of water each day is “a reasonable goal,” though some people may need more, and some people may need less.

Not big on water? There are other great ways to hydrate (though water is a great choice compared to high-calorie sugary drinks). Not the best choices for hydration are liquids with caffeine or alcohol, which increase urination and fluid loss. Foods that you consume (fruits and vegetables) keep you hydrated too. Actually, 20 percent of water comes from food. Some of the foods highest in water content are watermelon, iceberg lettuce, orange, cucumber, grapes, broccoli and apple.


Clinton Campaign Announces Plans to Assist Military Families

Yesterday Hillary Clinton’s campaign reached out to military members and their spouses, outlining the changes she would implement to help make military family life easier.

The Military Times reported that Clinton’s campaign released a 23-point “Military Families Agenda”.

According to the Military Times, the document addresses:

  • Mandating flexibility in service members’ family leave time
  • Increased access to military child care
  • More consideration of families’ preferences and needs when assigned to duty stations
  • Enhanced gratuity payments to families of service members killed on duty
  • An expansion of mental health care resources for the military community
  • Better support for DOD schools and civilian schools with large military populations
  • Support for veterans using the Post-9/11 GI Bill

Currently, President Barack Obama’s Joining Forces initiative addresses many military family concerns. First Lady Michelle Obama has been heavily involved in the initiative, especially as the group addressed the issue of military spouse unemployment.

The Clinton campaign has said the initiative will become a permanent fixture in the White House if she is elected. Also, Clinton has promised to host a series of town hall meetings at military bases across the nation.

To read the full story, visit



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