Archive for Military

YesVideo Video Conversion Giveaway for Military Families

When my husband was deployed, more than any supplies or even homemade goodies, he wanted messages from his family…photographs, videos, video-chats, recordings–seeing and hearing his loved ones. That connection to home is what helps soldiers keep going, during the most difficult conditions.

If you have vintage audio-visual material on almost any format, you can convert that into a special DVD and online digital video for your soldier. Here is a special sponsored message about how you can win a $300 gift certificate to turn your old family videos and other media into DVDs:

Military Families Can Share Favorite Vintage Videos with their Loved Ones Abroad, Thanks to YesVideo’s Holiday Gifting Program

YesVideo is dedicated to bringing joy to military personnel serving abroad through re-living favorite family memories

Santa Clara, CA – January 3, 2012 – YesVideo, the global leader in video and photo digitization, is announcing their Holiday Gifting Program for U.S. Military Families. In January, YesVideo will give away five $300 gift certificates to Military Families. The gift certificates can be used to have their family videos transferred to DVD, as well as online, and materials will be delivered to the winners by Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2013.

The contest is open to any U.S. military family who has a loved one serving abroad. Interested families can sign up on YesVideo’s Facebook page.

YesVideo can digitize the following forms of vintage media:

· 8mm film

· 16mm film

· Super8 film


· Beta (NTSC)


· MiniDV

· Photo Prints

· Photo Negatives

· Photo Slides

One $300 gift certificate will cover about 15 videotapes . Once YesVideo receives the footage, the company will transfer it to DVD and store the video in YesVideo’s free, unlimited cloud storage system. Since YesVideo uploads customers’ videos into personal, password-protected accounts, military personnel serving all over the world will be able to view their favorite home movies in time for Valentine’s Day. Links to the videos can be sent via email or shared on Facebook.

“We are incredily grateful to our military for their service to our country, and we want to say thank you to them by delivering special memories to them,” says Michael Chang, CEO of YesVideo. “We recognize that they are not home with their families to celebrate the holidays, and we want to give them the next-best thing – videos of their loved ones.”

The short entry form is located on YesVideo’s Facebook page. The contest will close January 10 at 12:00 midnight PST, and winners will be notified within one week. All media materials must be received at YesVideo by January31 in order to be processed and returned by February 14. Final deadline for winners to submit their videos is January 31, 2013.

To enter the contest, please visit

About YesVideo

YesVideo is the global leader in video transferring and sharing. The company’s patented technology allows them to efficiently transfer personal videos at scale. Customers may then view, edit and share their videos in the cloud. YesVideo has unlocked billions of classic family video moments and life events for seven million customers already.

Consumers may drop off their personal film (8mm, 16mm, VHS, Beta, etc), prints, slides and photo albums at one of YesVideo’s 34,000 retail locations, or online at All material received by YesVideo go through either the East Coast production facility, located in Norcross, GA or the West Coast production facility, located in Santa Clara, CA.

Homeschooling in the Military

Homeschooling is quickly becoming a viable alternative for many military families. Additionally, homeschooling is becoming more ‘mainstream’ in the civilian world, adding to its viability as an option for military families. Military families move an average of once every 2 to 3 years, often in the middle of a school year, and that instability is what compels many military families to opt for schooling their children at home.

Take a walk down the aisles at either your local library or your local bookstore and the section on education and homeschooling can be a bit overwhelming. So where do you begin? Here are some suggestions and resources to help get you started.

First, you need to consider why it is your family is choosing to homeschool. When we made our decision to start homeschooling, the first thing I did (because I am a big list maker/writer-downer/journaler) is to write out not only my reasons WHY we were choosing to homeschool as well as a few goals. Our list of goals is actually quite fluid, changing not only from year to year, but also subject to subject and even unit to unit. You’ll find that your goals will actually help you choose what path to take with regard to curricula.

In addition to your reasons and goals for homeschooling, you need to look into your state and local homeschooling requirements. Some states regulate homeschooling more stringently than others. The Homeschooling Legal Defense Association ( is a wonderful resource for this information. You do not need to become a member of HSLDA – though I would recommend it – in order to access this information on their website. You can also look up your state’s department of education and search for homeschooling laws and policies. Following the state’s guidelines for homeschooling is very important and should be one of your first steps.

Now it’s time to look at curriculum. Once I had a good idea of our goals, I sat down and really thought about the ways in which my children learn best. I have one child that absolutely loves to read and often times needs to be reminded to pull her nose out of whatever book it is that she is buried in to join the rest of the world. Because of that, I knew that whatever curricula we chose should rely heavily on literature and give her ample opportunities to read as part of her learning. My other child is much more of a kinesthetic learner, preferring to “do it” as opposed to simply reading about it. Therefore the curricula we chose for him needed to have plenty of hands-on learning.

From there, I started researching curriculum. I researched not only by reading books about curricula but also by talking to other homeschooling parents and asking them what worked for them and why it worked. This part of the process can be incredibly overwhelming as there are literally hundreds of choices for each subject. Do not let yourself become overwhelmed! Remember this is a marathon, not a sprint race. Do your best to find what works for your child(ren) but also give yourself the leeway to change curriculum if need be. Case in point: we started off with what I thought would be a fantastic language curriculum only to get about halfway through the year and then realize that it was horribly dry and boring. So we switched! I purchased the curriculum used and was able to sell it for about what I paid for it so I really wasn’t out much money and we found something that worked much better for us.

Your local library should have books on homeschooling as do most mainstream bookstores; and there is always the internet. My top recommendations for resources are the following:

1. The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Baue

2. 101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum by Cathy Duffy

3. The Read-Aloud Handbook: Sixth Edition by Jim Trelease

There are hundreds and hundreds of methods and curriculum options out there. Some people prefer to go with an all-encompassing curriculum choice, such as Sonlight or Abeka. Some people prefer to piece things together, choosing different publishers for language, math, history, science, etc. And some people eschew the idea of structured school all together and, instead, opt for a more relaxed approach to education and learning via the ‘unschooling’ route. Every family is different. Every circumstance is different. The key is knowing both your children’s learning styles and what your goals are for them. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint!


Image Credit: Abandoned Art School 66 by xshamethestrongx, on Flickr

Help Wounded Warrior Project

Living life to the fullest–despite traumatic brain injuries or loss of limb–that’s what Wounded Warrior Project is about. As of last fall, the Department of Defense reported 1,288 Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn servicemembers with major traumatic amputations. Harder to diagnose but perhaps more prevalent is Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Also of great concern is the “invisible” injury of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Our wounded warriors return home and find it difficult to walk, to climb the stairs to their bedrooms, to hug their children. Those with less visible injuries may also suffer from crippling headaches, erratic behavior, depression, and lack of focus. These heroes may have difficulty returning to a normal home and work life.

That’s where Wounded Warrior Project steps in:

Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) takes a holistic approach when serving warriors and their families to nurture the mind and body, and encourage economic empowerment and engagement. Through a high-touch and interactive approach, WWP hopes to foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in our nation’s history.

Read more about how Wounded Warrior Project succeeds in its mission.

I am partnering with Brawny® to spread the word about how you can help these Wounded Warriors. Brawny is making a direct donation of $250,000 to Wounded Warrior Project® to benefit Wounded Warriors and their families. From May 1 through December 31, 2012, the maker of Brawny® paper towels will also donate $1 up to an additional $250,000 for every individual who joins us and shares their thanks for our nation’s heroes on the Brawny® Towels Facebook page (

Help Brawny® reach their goal of $500,000 for Wounded Warrior Project by Veterans Day — they are just 2,874 likes away!

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Brawny® Towels. All opinions are my own.

Purple Hearts Touched Mine

At Fort Hood, I had the privilege of watching several soldiers receive their purple heart awards. I was there to receive an award for my service to the Family Readiness Group and did not even realize that I would also be witnessing such a testament to bravery and sacrifice.

I watched as each wounded warrior stepped forward with such dignity and as much military bearing as they could muster with their injuries. Several of the less catastrophically injured were heading back to Iraq, despite having the option to remain home for the rest of the deployment. They just could not rest easy until all of their comrades were home, safe.

I thought of my husband and the husbands of my friends, going out on daily missions, escorting convoys throughout the Baghdad area. I put myself in the boots of these soldiers and the shoes of their families–grateful that their lives were spared but also overwhelmed by all the details required for adapting to life with a severe injury. I was so incredibly grateful for their sacrifice and in awe of their strength.

The soldiers I know often say that aiming to be a hero gets people killed. These purple heart recipients were not trying to be heroes. They were doing their duty. Their duty, however, was 1000% beyond what most ordinary people are called upon to do. When it counted, these soldiers kept their calm, made good decisions, and even saved the lives of their fellow soldiers. No, these soldiers were not trying to be heroes. They just simply were heroes.

After watching them, I felt embarrassed getting up to receive my award. How could my work be mentioned in the same ceremony as their sacrifice? The applause from the heroes was so touching. When the soldiers came over at the end to thank us–these heroes were actually expressing gratitude for our small contributions!–I nearly lost it. The only way I kept the tears from spilling as I told them how grateful and proud of them we all were was to remember that these soldiers wanted to see a strong home front united behind them.

I am partnering with Brawny® to spread the word about how you can help these Wounded Warriors. Brawny is making a direct donation of $250,000 to Wounded Warrior Project® to benefit Wounded Warriors and their families. From May 1 through December 31, 2012, the maker of Brawny® paper towels will also donate $1 up to an additional $250,000 for every individual who joins us and shares their thanks for our nation’s heroes on the Brawny® Towels Facebook page ( They are almost at their goal of $500,000. Will you help them reach it?

This post was sponsored by Brawny® Towels. All opinions are my own.

Image credit: Defense Dept. photo by U.S. Navy 1st Class Petty Officer Mollly A. Burgess

When the Soldier’s Away, the Gremlins Will Play

Just after sunrise on a Sunday, my 90 year old grandfather knocked on the door and said, “You need to come down. We have a problem.”

Grandpa was staying with me while my husband was on a two-week National Guard drill.

I put the baby back in his co-sleeper and followed Grandpa down the stairs. He gestured to the closed dining room door. I opened the door, with a chill of dread.

Then, I saw them.


Hundreds of wasps.

Swarming all around my chandelier.

Before I slammed the door shut, I got a glimpse of a gaping six inch hole in my wall, where the wasps had broken through. I could hear the buzzing through the closed door.

My grandfather picked up a newspaper and rolled it up. “What are you doing with that?” I asked.

“I can swat them,” he replied.

After taking the newspaper away from him and making him promise to not try to deal with the wasps himself, I called every exterminator in the phone book. Since it was Sunday, at least half did not even pick up the phone.

Finally I got someone on the line who wanted to schedule an appointment…for Tuesday. A cat batted at a wasp that had escaped the confines of the dining room while my grandfather swatted at another.

“Please,” I begged, “I have a three and a one year old and my husband is on National Guard duty.”

They sent over what, I imagine, must have been someone’s cousin’s neighbor. The “exterminator” sprayed something all over the dining room, which killed the wasps but also killed all my plants and left a powdery substance, mixed with dead wasp carcasses, all over my dining room.

We ate take-out on the living room floor.

My grandfather cleaned most of it up, avowing that, at 95, he had little to fear from long-term toxin exposure. The next day, the company sent someone who knew what they were doing to clean up the rest of the mess.

When my husband finally called to check in from drill, I told him the story. His response: “Did you take pictures?”

Photo by Flickr user Brenbot.

In honor of Life Insurance Awareness Month, the nonprofit LIFE Foundation is giving away great prizes for the best Life Happens moments. You can enter the contest any time before Friday, October 7th. Make sure to encourage your friends and family to vote for your story as the Life Happens moments with the most votes will win (voting ends Friday, October 14th). First place will receive an Apple iPad® , second place will receive a $350 Apple gift card and third place will receive a $150 Amazon gift card.

Life Happens. And while you can’t control the future, you can take steps to protect the good things in life. Take a look around The LIFE Foundation website and learn more about how life insurance can help safeguard a secure financial future for those you love.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of The LIFE Foundation. The opinions and text are all mine. Official Contest Rules

Real Military Spouses Know the Meaning of “Community”

If there is one thing I know about this wild journey as a military spouse, it is that I could never have done it alone.

When my husband took that bus ride to Basic Training in Fort Benning back in 2003, I felt so very alone. Here I was, in New York, surrounded by friends and family, at the start of a fulfilling career in teaching and I could barely sleepwalk through my day. What would my life be like? What was expected of me? What would I do? Could I keep working? Would I be able to do this…any of this?

So, I turned to what would soon be called “social media and networking”. I joined discussion boards and I found people like Katy Jane (aka Mommy CPA) and Homefront Six and so many others who I still chat with on Facebook almost a decade later.

My journey brought me to Fort Hood where I met the women who would stand by me and yes, sometimes even carry me, through the next four years. These are the women who would join me on my quest to find the best Thai food in Central Texas, select the perfect gown for the military balls, cry with me through deployment, swim with me while I did handstands in the pool at 38 weeks pregnant to try to turn the baby, and even drive me to the hospital when my water broke at 3 a.m.

During this time, I started this blog, my first blog, about the Military Spouse Experience, the “Army Wife Life”, before I ever knew there was such a thing as blogger communities, before I ever knew I would one day be paid to blog.

How much easier would this all have been if I had women like Krystel, publishing tips and telling it like it is on Army Wife 101 and RealMilitaryWives.TV, and Traci, sharing guidance for FRG leaders along with her personal journey on Fabulous Army Life.

To this day, it is these women I turn to when I need to know just about anything…from the mundane (how do I get stains out of my daughter’s tutu?), to the frivolous (does this dress hide my mommy belly?), to the essential (how do I get in touch with my husband during an emergency?). These are the women who will reassure me that if we’ve been through a deployment, we can do anything. And they are also the same women who will tell me that, um, maybe I need a new shade of make-up that doesn’t make me look like a ghost.

This is what Word of Mouth Marketing is about–real people, giving real advice. This is my Circle of Influencers…these are my friends.

As a part of the BlogFrog Influencer Circle, I have the chance to create meaningful, authentic content for brands I love. If you’re a blogger interested in new opportunities, join BlogFrog’s Influencer Circle and check out some of the top brands already working with BlogFrog.

If you’re a brand looking to work with online influencers, learn more about BlogFrog’s Brand Solutions here.

Now, I’m curious. What do you love most about blogs and blogging? How does social media and the connections you’ve made enrich your life?

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of BlogFrog. The opinions and text are all mine.

Unpacking the boxes

We’ve moved five times in our 13 years of military life. Some moves were easier than others. This last one was rotten. We were coming from a place we LOVED and had been for six years to a place we weren’t so sure of. Leaving our home of six years was rough. Saying goodbye to people with whom we had weathered a deployment, multiple TDYs, a few personal crises, and life was rough. Our children had never really known anywhere other than that location, having moved there when they were 3 and 1, respectively.

Ten months later, we’re still settling in. It doesn’t feel like home and I’m not sure it ever will. We went back to visit friends at our old duty station and a friend of mine gave me the book, “After the Boxes are Unpacked” by Susan Miller. It’s a Christian book but even if you are not a Christian, this book holds some wonderful insights and encouragement into the whole “bloom where you’re planted” mindset.

The book is divided into three parts: “Let Go”, “Start Over”, and “Move Ahead”. Each section and each chapter includes stories about people – mostly women – who have dealt with the trauma that is moving. While this book is not aimed at military spouses (the author’s husband is in the hotel industry), many of the situations are similar to what we, as military spouses, face.

There is a lot of validation in the “Let Go” section. The author recognizes that moving is one of the most traumatic experiences a person endures in life and that it takes time, and EFFORT, to make it through that trauma. Miller delves into the psychology behind the trauma, identifying why it affects us the way it does and how we can counter the effects of leaving all that we know behind.

In the “Start Over” section, Miller encourages the reader to take baby steps toward settling in. For us as military spouses, those baby steps might not happen as slowly as Miller sets out in her book – we all know our time in any one location is quite limited so we tend to hit the ‘fast-forward’ button on that process. She addresses the loneliness factor – something I’m sure most of us have dealt with, even in the best of duty locations. And she offers practical advice on how to strengthen your marriage in the midst of all of the chaos that is a move. I don’t know about you but my marriage can suffer under the strain of all of my emotions following a move, combined with the fact that my husband is now my sole social outlet until I find friends in our new location. It’s tough for him to handle all of that on top of settling into a new work environment.

“Moving Ahead” encourages the reader to look not for ‘happiness’ in their circumstances but contentment instead. Happiness is fleeting but contentment endures. Miller points out that a move is a chance to shed the things that had been weighing us down at our last duty station and focus on the things that make us shine. Toward the end, Miller offers up twenty additional tips from women who have moved. Most are applicable to military spouses but I’m curious to know what tips you would offer if you had been asked to contribute to this book? How would you encourage a military spouse who is in the middle of a PCS or just settling in to her new location?

You can find the book on Amazon.


Tokens of Love

“Here, open it once the bus is gone.”

I noticed he didn’t say, “once I am gone,” which would have an entirely different meaning to us as a military couple, and put the small box in my pocket.

He leaned in for one last bittersweet kiss and I desperately tried to memorize his scent, the feel of his freshly shaven cheek, the look in his eyes. Then, reluctantly pulling away, he reminded me, “No crying,” and climbed the stairs onto the bus that would take him on the first leg of his journey to Iraq.

Once the bus was out of sight, I hugged the sobbing spouses and fought back my own tears. Beginning the lonely walk back to my car, I thought about all the times I would now be alone. Climbing into the driver’s seat, usually his seat, I shut the door.

I removed the neatly wrapped gift from my pocket and tugged on the bow. Inside was a shiny custom Italian charm bracelet, personalized with his unit crest, our names, our anniversary date, a dragonfly to remember our nature walks, and so many others. That’s when the waterworks started, when I saw the beautiful jewelry with personalization, made just for me.

That my macho soldier had personally selected each charm just for me so that I would have a gift to hold onto when I could not reach out to him.

Before riding off into battle, medieval knights used to exchange tokens with their lady loves… and now I know why. Along with a t-shirt of his I never washed, our wedding photograph, and the note inside the box, that bracelet became one of my most treasured possessions.

The note?

It read: “Until I return, may this bracelet encircle your wrist the way I hold you in my heart.”

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Actonia PR Agency. All words and ideas are my own.

Photo by Breanna Walton

Casualty Notification is a Sacred Duty — Not a Facebook Poke

As a military spouse, I spent my husband’s deployment terrified that I would see the black sedan drive down my street or that there would be a knock on the door and I would open it to find a chaplain and a casualty notification officer.

At least I could lay down some of the burden at night–there is a window during which notifications are made. This may seem like a trivial thing if you haven’t spent a year on edge but, trust me, it is some small solace to know you will not be woken or startled at 3am by a phone call or a knock on a door.

That is, unless, another soldier or family member takes it upon him or herself to text message you or notify you via Facebook.

What a horrible thing to do to a military family member!

While it is true that no form of notification can bring the soldier back to life, casualty notification procedures are in place for a reason.

  • The procedures ensure no false notifications. By notifying someone independently, you have disrupted the entire system and created an environment where rumors thrive.
  • You do not know how someone will react to the shock. Fainting, going on a rampage, driving off the road–these are all plausible responses to casualty notification. Let the trained professionals be there to handle it.
  • How someone finds out may affect long-term processing of the grief. People always remember where they were when they found out big news. The ceremony and respect of the official notification system, and the support that the military immediately offers, may ultimately help the family member process the grief. Maybe you do not buy this but it is NOT your call. You do NOT get to take that away from these families.

When a soldier is catastrophically injured or killed in action, his base is supposed to go on communications black-out. There should be a total lock-down of all telephone and Internet signals. And all soldiers and family members should know not to discuss casualties prior to official notification of the next of kin.

Yes, we all knew when someone had been killed in action when no one had any calls that night. Yes, the waiting was tense. However, that is a small price to pay to know that the proper respect will be paid to a fallen hero and his family. We owe our brothers and sisters in waiting at least that much.

(DoD photo by Senior Master Sgt. David H. Lipp)

Let’s sendCheer to the Military!

My husband deployed at the beginning of December in 2005. Although we did not realize it at that time, I was pregnant with our first child.

I packed up a miniature Christmas tree, tiny little ornaments, and my best cookie recipe in a Christmas Stocking to send him a little Holiday cheer. ‘Tis the season to be jolly, after all.

Six years and three kids later, we treasure each Holiday we have together.

There are many soldiers who have spent most of their special days apart from their loved ones. You can show appreciation for their sacrifice with a care package or even just a handwritten note. It is a small thing but it may mean the world to a deployed soldier and his family.

Cheerios and the USO have made it even easier to sendCheer with postcards on specially marked boxes of Cheerios.

On the way back one night, the kids fell asleep in the car. So, I popped into Walmart while my husband waited with them.

I searched and searched and even asked at Customer Service but no luck! This Walmart did not have the Cheerios in the specially marked box.

This minor setback turned out to be a blessing in disguise because I was able to go back the next day with my kids! Involving them was much more fun. I told them that we had a special mission to find boxes of Cheerios with a postcard to cut out. I explained that these boxes help sendCheer to soldiers, like Daddy, who are away from their families.

Success! My daughter spotted the boxes and the kids counted out ten.

Uh, oh. I think we need a cart!

Locked and loaded and ready to head for the checkout counter…

The woman at the checkout counter saw the loaded cart and asked if we were making treats. “Yes!” exclaimed the kids, “For the soldiers!” I pointed out the postcard on the box and explained that we were going to send off the card and bake some treats.

Once we loaded up the car, we dropped a few boxes off at friends’ houses so that they can send their own postcards. We are also donating two boxes through my daughter’s school’s food drive.

When we got home, my daughter cut the card off the box and wrote a little note to a soldier.

She wanted to write a longer note but there was just enough room for “thank you!” and some drawings.

After, we baked some treats that we’ll send off in a carepackage.  Cheerios has a great website with recipes.  We decided to make the marshmallow bars and add a little hazelnut spread to the mixture.

My kids were so pleased to have completed their special mission to help soldiers, like Daddy! I told them the story of Daddy’s Christmas Tree in a stocking and now they want to send carepackages to lots of soldiers!

Here’s your mission: Next time you are in your local Walmart, keep an eye out for the special displays of marked packages of Cheerios. Cut out the card and write a little note.  When you drop it in the mail, you’ll sendCheer to a servicemember and General Mills will donate $1 to the USO.

This post has been compensated as part of a sponsored charitable opportunity for Collective Bias.