Archive for Social Good

All the Comforts From Home for Our Soldiers #ComfortsFromHome

Soldier homecomings always get me right in the feelings. I know that aching hole in your heart when your soldier is away and that elation when he returns home.

When my husband was deployed, I was carrying our first child. So, there were plenty of distractions as I went to midwife appointments and put together baby furniture.

I also stayed active in our community, volunteering with the Family Readiness Group (FRG), tutoring at-risk kids at the local high school, and organizing projects with the Junior League. And I went out with friends to concerts and dinners and craft fairs (where I could find more baby furniture).

Still, there was nothing that could replace my soldier in my life. He was always on my mind, no matter where I was. I lived for his e-mails and our Skype sessions. As soon as he would call, I felt like I came alive. Hanging up felt like the wind was knocked out of me.

I sent him whatever I could–vacuum-sealed treats, a little “picnic in a box,” some holiday decorations for special days–but there is nothing quite like being there together…and warm food outside of mess hours, and hot showers, and a nice comfortable bed probably rank up there, too.

We dreamed of his homecoming. I had so many welcome surprises planned, including all the comforts of home he missed so much overseas. Life overtook us, though–our daughter was born with a congenital heart defect and my husband’s homecoming was for her open heart surgery.

Of course, we all got the best gift–our family reunited! Still, I love seeing soldiers get the full treatment I would have loved to have given my husband when he returned home.

So, I am excited to see “A Hero’s Welcome” on November 11 (very appropriately, Veteran’s Day), 2014, premier on some of my favorite networks, including HGTV, Food Network, and the Cooking Channel.

Marie Callender’s, the USO and an army of experts from food, home and travel provide the comforts of home for one special returning soldier.
The one hour television special, “A Hero’s Welcome,” will be hosted by Robert Irvine from Restaurant Impossible, Genevieve Gorder from HGTV Design Star and Gary Sinise, award-winning actor and founder of the Gary Sinise Foundation.

Visit ComfortsfromHome.com to learn more about how you can join Marie Callender’s in helping to bring a little bit of home sweet home to our U.S. service men and women overseas.

Tune-in as Marie Callender’s, the USO and an army of experts from food, home and travel provide the comforts of home as only Marie Callender’s can, in a truly heartwarming homecoming you’ll always remember.

“A Hero’s Welcome” will welcome one special soldier back to their family in a national television event airing on Veteran’s Day, November 11, 2014. The one-hour TV special will air across a range of your favorite networks including HGTV, Food Network, Cooking Channel, Travel Channel, DIY Channel, and Great American County.

I have been selected by Tap Influence to be a spokesperson for Marie Callender’s While I have been compensated for my time, my opinions are my own.

Family Style #GivingTuesday #UNselfie

Volunteering in the community is a value I want to share with my children. One of our annual traditions is joining Volunteer 4 Long Island’s Thanksgiving effort to feed people who are homeless and under-housed. Before we feast on dinner at my Mother-in-Law’s house, we feed the spirit–others and our own.

V4LI actually takes the meals and personal items and warm clothes out to the make-shift shelters where people without homes congregate.

We love working with V4LI because they find something meaningful for everyone to do, they have yearlong efforts so they make a deeper connection with the community, and everything they do is done out of a spirit of love.

My daughter (age 7) helps assemble packs of personal items and also works on the food line.

V4LI 2013

My eldest son (age 5) helps make cards that go out with the meals.

V4LI 2013 B

You are never too young to get in the habit of giving–there are tons of ways young children can volunteer and serve.

Share your ideas for #GivingTuesday and link up at Bloganthropy, an organization I co-founded with Debbie Bookstaber. In the spirit of #GivingTuesday, Element Associates, in partnership with Bloganthropy, is donating $1 for each link up to 100 links to Postpartum Progress.

Meeting Daddy After Deployment #MissionCare

DISCLOSURE: This post was sponsored by Dove Men+Care via MSB New Media. All opinions and words are my own. As always, my time can be hired but not my opinions are not for sale.

Wave after wave of intense contractions and where is that guy who got me into this mess in the first place? Stuck in airport traffic.

That’s probably a nightmare scenario for most first-time moms. The airport for me, though, was Baghdad International Airport.

Read more

Earn a $10,000 Donation to Families of Fallen Soldiers #SOT #MilSpouse

It is every military family member’s nightmare–that knock on the door from the casualty notification officer. Lifetime has been spending time with some amazing military families, interviewing family members who have lost soldiers.

They are donating $1 for each video view from now through May 31st (up to $10,000) to Gold Star organizations. Just spend a few minutes honoring these stories with your attention and $1 will be donated to Gold Star Organizations:

Going It Alone: Gold Star Wife Nicki Bunting: Nicki Bunting found out she was pregnant four days after she received the devastating news that her husband, Capt. Brian “Bubba” Bunting was killed in action.

Remembering David: A Gold Star Mother’s Journey

I hope you will listen and watch and share these stories.

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 (www.facebook.com/brawnytowels).

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 (www.facebook.com/brawnytowels). 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

Are You a Brave Woman?

If he ever hit me, I would leave.

It seems very simple to say as a woman in a healthy relationship with a loving man who is a great father to our children.

But there are brave, smart, and strong women who find themselves in unhealthy relationships. They need to summon a special kind of courage to get the help they need.

When you are in an abusive relationship, you know you need to leave. Actually taking that step can be more complicated. Maybe your partner has threatened you or the children if you leave or threatened to harm himself. In the military, if you prosecute, you might worry how a conviction will affect his career and his ability to pay child support. You might worry about custody of the kids. Your religious convictions might make it harder to separate. You may have nowhere to go.

A woman who is working up the courage to make a change is a brave woman. And they can do it with our support. They need to know that they are brave, that there is help available, and that there is life after abuse.

They need to know there are places to go. Places like the domestic abuse shelter for which my moms’ group collects items. Imagine finding yourself in a shelter where you rely on the generosity of strangers so you and your children have basic hygiene items?

And ending the abuse starts with creating a culture. That’s why I donated some pro-bono hours to revise the curriculum the domestic abuse shelter brings into schools. That’s why our advisory board selected Violence Unsilenced as one of the 2010 Bloganthropy Award Finalists.

What would you do today if you were brave?

I know the women who read this site understand the meaning of courage.

I have been brave enough to smile as I waved goodbye to my deploying husband. And I have been brave enough to hand my first baby over for heart surgery.

If I were truly brave today, I might tell you about my personal brush with relationship violence, now long in my past. I’m not sure I’m that brave, yet.

It takes a brave woman to say that violence is unacceptable in a loving relationship. To break the uncomfortable silence and say to a friend, “Do you need to talk?” and then to really listen.

We can watch out for our sisters and be vigilant for signs of violence–and then help these women to be as brave as we know they are.

You can take the Brave Woman pledge and make your voice counted among those who stand up to violence:

I pledge to honor and respect brave women and children who tackle the difficult journey of change from domestic violence to a new life. I acknowledge my own moment-by-moment bravery, will remain aware of what is happening to others around me, and speak up against violence in any form. I will stand up for human dignity and safety for women and children.

You can also show your support on twitter @Brave_Woman and on their Facebook page. You never know who might gain courage from seeing that retweet or Facebook post.

Please join voices with Brave Women everywhere during a #BraveWoman twitter chat on December 19, from 1-2pm.

Abuse is often a cycle. Children who are abused or witness abuse are more likely to perpetuate the violence. So where does it end? How about right here? With us.

Disclosure: This post has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for CollectiveBias #CBias. All opinions are my own.

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.

sendCheer to the Military

Growing up in New York, military service seemed a thing of the past: faded sepia-tinged photos of grandfathers in uniform, History Channel specials on the battles of World War II, and quaint propaganda posters urging apple-cheeked children to recycle tin cans.

Never would I have imagined that I would find myself married to an officer in the U.S. Army.

And yet, there I was.  One minute I was living in Manhattan, married to a lawyer at one of the top firms in New York City, and the next I found myself trying to find a decent Italian place near Fort Hood, Texas.

Once I got over the shock, I dove right in. I’d like to say it was altruistic but really it was a way to get my bearings. By volunteering as a Family Readiness Group leader and pitching in as part of various committees on post, I got a crash course on being part of the military family.

And that love returned to us many times over. While my husband was deployed to Iraq, he received hundreds of postcards and care packages. While a letter may seem like a small thing, knowing that people back at home appreciate you keeps many of our servicemembers going. Five years later, my husband still keeps a binder of each and every letter he received.

We are back in New York and my husband has returned to his law career. He still serves in the National Guard and we do what we can to return a small fraction of the support we received while he was active duty. Whether the kids are stuffing backpacks with their friends for the children of enlisted servicemembers or baking cookies and making Valentines or Veteran’s Day cards for our local veterans, we are grateful for the men and women of our military, past and present.

Cheerios has asked me to share how easy they have made it to “sendCheer” to military families as part of a partnership with the USO. All you have to do is cut out and mail postcards from specially marked Cheerios boxes. A military servicemember will get your thoughtful note and Cheerios will donate $1 for each card to the USO.

I want you to know that your recognition of those who serve is appreciated. A box of cookies, a package of toiletries, even a simple note reminds our warriors why they fight.

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

This Memorial Day, help us support the USO with EZ Grill

Memorial Day is the much anticipated start of the summer season here in the Northeast–and we will definitely be firing up our grill.  My husband enjoys grilling for the family and always looks forward to the warm weather so we can spend more time outdoors as a family.  While we’re enjoying our weekend, though, we will definitely be thinking about our troops–those in harm’s way, those preparing to deploy, and those who served and made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms and way of life.

Check out this donation from EZ Grill–they are supporting the USO in their work to improve morale for troops and their families:

For many, Memorial Day Weekend means spending time with family and friends, enjoying the holiday vacation, taking trips or just firing up the grill for the first of many summer nights ahead. For all of us, Memorial Day is also a time of remembrance for all who have served us – family, friends, classmates, neighbors and more.

We know families like yours will be celebrating and honoring our troops all across the nation this Memorial Day, and we want to do our part as well. EZ Grill is donating $2 from the sale of every grill to the USO, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to lift the spirits of our troops and their families. Our hope is that this support will help ensure even more of our troops at home and abroad receive the life-altering support provided by the USO.

Visit http://on.fb.me/EZMemorialDay for more information.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored announcement from EZ Grill.