Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Don't keel over yet, I have valuable advice--GI Bill

One thing I have learned through this whole retirement process, is that no one ever gives you the full story.  That's frustrating because you miss out on a lot of opportunities, and also because you have no idea that you are missing out on them!

So here I am to let you know how it really is.  We spent hours upon hours talking to someone from the VA about the GI bill.  Apparently the VA has about 6 positions throughout the US, where they have put someone from the VA into several colleges, so that they can make sure that the Vets are taking advantage of all the opportunities afforded to them.

First.  If you enlisted in a certain state, and currently live there, check for programs that will pay your way through school.  If you enlisted in Texas and retired in Texas (or got out) then you can qualify for the Hazelwood Act.  Unfortunately, even though I had Gunner make Texas his home of record, he enlisted in Indiana.  Who the heck wants to enlist in Indiana?  If we had retired there, then he would have been able to use the program that they have there.  If he had retired there, he would be living alone though.  :)

Second....have your husband run and give your children 1 month of his GI bill.  The beauty of that is, that they can apply for extensions, and he only has to give up one month.  I wish we had known about this, and I am kicking myself that I didn't find out about it sooner.  Set your kids up for the future, and RUN RUN RUN and give them a month!

If you husband is 20% disabled....only 20%.....then he can use the Chapter 31, vocational rehab.  Take advantage of this, without a doubt.  They pay for your books, tuition, and supplies.  As of August 1st, 2011, you can get vocational rehab with your Ch 33 money, which is more.  (For example, Gunner's ch 31 payment if he is full time, is $949.58 because he has 4 dependents.  If he goes under Ch 33 money, he gets $1017.)

If your husband hasn't done all of his disability (read Gunner has not, but thankfully it is retroactive), then you can use your Ch 30.  Ch 30 is good if you are going to a cheap school, like a community college.  They will give you $1473, but you have to pay for everything. 

Ch 33 is the post 9/11 GI bill.  If you are full time, you can get your books, tuition, fees, supplies, etc paid for, plus receive BHA for an E5 with dependents.  So we would get $1017 for this option.  This option is great if your spouse is at a 4 year university, and the costs are a lot more. 

Side notes:
1.  If you start out on Ch 30, then switch to Ch 33, you cannot switch back to 30.
2.  If you go with Ch 31 (voc rehab) you get a counselor, employment help, and can get your credits extended to 48 months.  There are certain circumstances where they can reallocate even more credits.  For example, if you used up almost 36 months of your GI bill, and accomplished nothing, then qualified for the voc rehab track, they can get you requalified for additional credits, if you haven't gotten anywhere, or had a lack of direction.
3.  If you are using your GI bill, you must get certified for every semester.  Make sure that you take your schedule into the VA office and have them certify you, so that you can get paid.
4.  You have to specify a degree plan in order to have the VA pay.  Be careful what you take at a community  college, because it might not transfer to a 4 year college.  The solution is to get a generic degree in Interdisciplinary Studies or General Studies, but take classes that will transfer into the major that you want.  This means you have to go to the 4 year college that you want, in order to secure the degree plan and know what you need.  This will save you time and money.  Trust me.
5.  When they say you get credits for your military experience.  Don't hold your breath, that you are walking out with an associate's like they say.  Try about 12 hours if you are lucky, and they will cover your PE, and your electives.  That being said, if you have college credits that only fall under electives, then they will put those first and not count your military credits at all.
6.  Make sure you register with www.ebenefits.va.gov in order to have access to all the benefits available.  You will have access to benefits by state, compensation, death education, employment, financial services, health, housing, rate table, insurance, retirement, transition assistance, travel & transportation, vocational rehabilitation, calculator, calendar, and prescription refills.
7.  If you are a military retiree, then you can obtain Level 2 access in ebenefits if you register using your DFAS pin.  Retired personnel who have been issued a DFAS pin may apply for access directly and do not have to proof in person. 

Coming up I'll let you know about the additional benefits available for service connected disabled veterans.  I'm on a roll.

If you have any questions, let me know and I will ask the lady who helped us out aka the only one who knows what's going on!

Sunday, November 6, 2011


I love, love, love to make plans.

I also love to go to school.

When I finished my MBA, I swore off school forever.

I just have a few classes left for my MEd.  Then I was thinking a PhD might be nice, but really, what would I do with it?

Part of my thinks I should finish my MEd, and then teach at a community college, but I doubt that they offer that many education classes at that level.  Then I started to think about the stress of going back to school to finish, the cost, and I'm no closer than when I started.

We are currently on a three year plan.  Gunner has three years to finish his degree, and then he will be going back to work doing something he loves hopefully.  My ultimate goal when I entered teaching, was to do something with curriculum design.  Of course I don't know how hard that really is, but I did hear from my SIL that they offer a PhD in it.  But a PhD takes so long to complete.  Dr. has a nice ring to it though, doesn't it?

Sometimes I miss the business world, in that when I leave work, I am done.  I don't have to drag papers to grade, books to lesson plan with, or stress about my students.

I have taken so many of those tests that tell you what you want to be when you grow up, and they don't help much.  How do you figure out what you are passionate about?  How do you decide what you are meant to be?  What makes you the happiest?  I love teaching, but I know I also want more of something.  Any ideas on how to figure it all out?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Streak Has Ended....

I almost hate to say this.

In the 22 years that Gunner was in the Army......are you ready for this......they never screwed up his pay.  Never ever.  During the almost 17 years that we have been married, we have been paid once a month....religiously....and lived happily ever after.  Well sort of....

When you retire, your last paycheck is delayed--anywhere from 2-6 weeks.  How's that for planning purposes? 

It's totally crazy, but I know so many people that look at Finance with such disdain, that I will not complain.  I happen to appreciate their timeliness. 

It's official, I am married to a civilian.  A full time student.  A retired GI.  I feel old. 

Sad part is that I have to get a new ID card, and I don't want to waste time off of work to get it done.  Here's hoping that I don't get sick!  (knock on wood)

I thought we could celebrate, but real life called and Gunner is off doing the student thing. 

I'm sad to think that it has all come to an end, but also thankful that we have survived it.  For the 18 years that we have been together, I have always been second priority.  Always.  Sure I know he loves me most of all, but there is no arguing that you are always going to be pushed to the side if the Army calls.

The Army doesn't care if you just had a baby, your dad passed away, your lawn needs to be mowed, or that your inlaws are coming to visit.  She also doesn't care that you are in the hospital, or that you have to somehow figure out how to be 3 places at once. 

For the FIRST time, I am his first priority.  Well of course there are three kiddos too, but I don't have to fight for his attention.  He won't deploy.  He won't get late middle of the night phone calls to check the alert roster (rest assured, in 22 years, it never failed).  There will be no lockdowns due to missing items.  No one will write me a ticket if my lawn isn't mowed.  He won't be gone for years at a time.  I can make plans, and the Army won't interfere at the last minute.

There will be no PT.  No piles of dirty ACU's to wash.  No mandatory fun days.  No deployments.  No Staff Duty.  No CQ.  No being responsible for Soldiers that make poor decisions. 

Not everything is peaches and cream.  There will be no dressing up for balls.  No homecomings.  No ACU's.  Will I ever move again?????  Not to mention, the boy will be home all.the.time.  (Come on now, he's been home off and on for 18 years, plus gone for 5 years, a girl gets used to that!  Surely I am not the only one that treasures some alone time!  (For the record, the year deployments suck!)) 

We are adjusting to our new norm.  I go to work and he goes to school and takes care of the kids.  I can actually make plans, and then at the last minute not have to cancel due to the Army.  The lawn needs to be mowed, and I just point it out.  I haven't taken the trash out since he returned home from Afghanistan.  I've learned that I have a love/hate relationship with the Army.

When push comes to shove though.......I will always love the Army and the life it provided for the last 18 years that I've been with Gunner.  For that I am grateful, but I am going to miss it......terribly......

Sunday, October 30, 2011

My name is ABW

I could tell you that tomorrow is my husband's last day of active duty.

I could also tell you that we cleaned the garage today and that we still have about half a ton of TA50 left.  We can't get rid of "this holster" because he used it in xxxx firefight.  The list goes on.  We still have the BDU's that he wore in Bosnia in 1995.  Ummmm......we were married in 1994. 

Then I found a picture of him in Bosnia.  He was so young!

I miss his clean shaven days.  He still--so far--has kept the GI haircut.  Gunner, if you are reading this, please pretend you have to be clean shaven every day!

I promise you that PT has not even entered his mind. 

I also promise you that if you are 5 years old and begging me for gum at 8:32 pm, which it is right now, that it won't happen.  Please go to bed my little man.

Speaking of Junior, he has been staying in school.  He lost a tooth, I actually bought boxers today in the hopes that he will be more comfortable in them.  Boys are not all peaches and cream!  I've learned more about stuff I don't want to know about than I want to!

Em turned 14.  How did this happen.  We got her a new cell phone, after she lost hers back in April for texting in class.  (It was disconnected before she returned home that day.)  She managed to drop it in the toilet a few weeks later. I am thankful that we know rice will solve the problem.

Abs is in orchestra after school two days a week, and we are still looking for a great violin teacher.  We had drama the other day where a girl who invited her to a party, uninvited her because some kids said they wouldn't go if she was there.  I was devastated.  I called the parent and explained the situation and the parent called back and the child apologized to me and to Abs.  My heart still hurts, but Abs wants to go to the party.  She's a tough one, so invitations aren't always extended to her unfortunately.  My poor baby.

We are babysitting my mom's cockapoo mix while she is out of town.  We love him.  I don't think she will love the fact that Gunner had him in our bed this morning.  The poor little guy was "crying" though.

I became a co-sponsor of the Science Club at school, God help me.  I have 18 4th graders right now.  I am thinking that my second graders were easier, but I am determined to make these guys love writing.  Maybe they need a blog.....

I spend entirely too much time at school preparing for the next week.  I am trying to get organized.  For me, that's a feat!

Gunner has gone overboard this Halloween.  He told me it's because he is always gone, and he wants to do every holiday to the hilt.  I'm the type of person where you put the tree up Christmas Eve and take it down immediately after the presents are opened.  I bet those days are gone.  It has been nice having him home.  I hope he doesn't think I am going to spend all Christmas vacation backing cookies!

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

7 Reasons to Date a Military Man

I am a regular at Fox News (you had an influence on me Dad!), and I saw this article.

Bringing Home the Troops:  7 Reasons to Date a Military Man

What do you think? 

I totally disagree with #6.  Gunner might have been a neat freak at one point in time, but it hasn't been while he is married to me!

Friday, September 23, 2011

When Should I Panic????

We are closing in on the end.  In a week, we will be getting our second to last paycheck from the military.  (Thank goodness they never did away with once a month pay, but really, that was my biggest concern back then?  LOL)  Sure we have retirement coming in after that, but heck, that's squat--but don't get me wrong, it's a hard earned, much appreciated squat!

We got our first ever electricity bill.  What do you mean it isn't included in our rent and you won't pay me if I don't use it all????  Water?  That costs money?  Oh dear, the hot tub is heated with gas?

I'm thinking we should live by candlelight....or by lantern?  This whole settling into the civilian world is new to me.  We have never ever rented a house.  We've never had to take care of a pool and hot tub....I'm totally not complaining about those two perks though.  We never had to learn how to take care of sprinklers, or have such a huge lawn that I can't mow it with just a weedeater.

Did you know that they pick up trash more than one day a week in the civilian world?  I had no clue!  What's better is that I have no idea when they pick up the trash because, well, it's Gunner's job!

The house seems huge to us, and I actually don't have enough/right size/right color curtains to cover the windows regardless of the 10 houses we have lived in previously.  I am thinking I am going to create re-adjustable curtains for military families.

We have a two car garage.  Do you know how much stuff you can fit in that?  (I'm blaming it on the fact that we haven't had time to unpack, not on anything else, I repeat, not on anything else.)

We are back in the land of mexican food.  Heaven.

I joined the "Biggest Loser" at work.  I am probably way too competitive for this.  I have to win, as there is money involved.  I told my crossfit coach I joined.  He's as competitive as I am.  He rides me, and questions everything I eat.  I love it.  Count on me to win, win, win and my clothes to fit, fit, fit!

So while I settle into civilian life, I am starting to mourn the military life.  No deployments?  (That's good, but also bad, because let's be honest, those homecomings ROCK!)   My kids will no longer be able to wear "My dad fights for freedom, what does your dad do?" tshirts.  Of course there is always the me factor, in that for over 10 years, we have never lived together longer an about 15 months.  Yikes!

I have friends that are getting ready to PCS now, and I am totally jealous, but of course while we were doing our first PCS to Germany, they were probably in junior high, or as my children remind me daily, it's called middle school.

I'm thinking early bedtime tonight so I can work tomorrow, then lounge in the pool the rest of the weekend.  I think now would have been the ideal time for me to be a SAHM!

P.S.  Gunner has been home for 5 months.  Amazing!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Coming Up for a Breath

One of the hard things about starting a new job is that you have a learning curve.  Every school is different.  Every grade is different.  Every child is different.  I spend 6 days a week at school, and sometimes over 12 hours a day.  It's starting to wear me down, so I am trying to be more productive with my time and crank out my work quickly.  I haven't been as regular at crossfit as I would like, but I am determined to make a priority.  Crossfit=happy mom=happy kids

We are loving the pool at our new house, and after the kids are tucked into bed, Gunner and I are enjoying the hot tub.

Now if I could just find more time at home, then maybe we would finally get unpacked!

So far my beloved son has spent less than a week at school full time.

We've been in school for just over 3 weeks now.  The 5 days he spent in school, was probably spent in ISS. Yes, my son, was the one who was suspended on the first day of school......for sliding out of his seat at lunch and barking like a dog.  I didn't know that was a crime, but you could imagine that it only got worse from there.

I won't get into details, but it's been a stressful situation.

Abs is actually doing really well this year, and Em is hanging in there.  They both miss their school in Colorado.  I miss Colorado.  Everything happens for a reason.  Everything happens for a reason.  Everything happens for a reason.  That's my new battle cry.

My leg is still in the healing process.  It got infected and I was put on a super high dose of antibiotics.  I had to stay on them for 24 hours and then they went in, re-opened the wound, cleaned it out, and sewed it back up. Eventually it stopped swelling up to massive sizes, and I was able to walk on it....and most importantly work out with again.

So we are getting settled in, I will come up for a breath every once in a while, and I think making crossfit a priority will help some.  Maybe some wine too.  That helps right?

If anyone has a great decision on how to make my life easier, please let me know!

In the meantime, here's a shot from some mini spring rolls that I had when I went out with my friend Abbey.....

Really, these things were almost as big around as a coke can.  Mini spring rolls?

Oh, and bedtime is a battle with Junior.  What's up with that?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

I'm alive....really!

It was questionable for a while.  We made it to Texas, and moved in with my mom.

I started working right away, and we just finished our first week of school.  I loved 2nd grade, but I LOVE 4th grade.  They can do so many things!!!  I think it's going to be a great year!

After my first day of orientation at my new school.....I went to crossfit.

I did a box jump.

I missed.

I saw my insides coming out.  Seriously.  I can totally deal with blood and guts, but yet I cannot deal with vomit?  Go figure.

Blood was going everywhere and my coach ran to get his first aid kit and try to stop the bleeding.  We couldn't get it to stop.  I managed to make it to my car before I started crying, and I called my friend Abbey.  I told her what happened, and she asked if I wanted her to come to the er with me.  Of course!

The before.

This was after they cleaned it out.  You can see my fat. Ewwwwww!  It was really deep......

My friend Abbey kept me laughing, and also documented everything.  Here's me with one of my fat globules. (I had worked out, excuse the disheveled look!)

Abbey and I hanging out in the er.

We both have teenage girls who are in the stage that you always have to have two fingers in every picture.  Strange children.  (My shirt is totally making me look fat here, ugh.)

The after picture.

Very gross.  9 stitches.  There was not much to sew together, so they had to yank my skin together tightly.

This happened after work, Monday.  So I returned to my second day at my school gimping around. By Wednesday my leg was 4 times what it should have been, so I was back in the er, and put on super strong antibiotics.  By Friday, I was back in the er, and they cut my stitches off, cleaned out my infected leg, and sewed it back together.  Good times.  Good times.

The moral of the story, is have a great friend who isn't grossed out by blood, and always jump super high on a box jump and don't miss!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Why do I do this????

So we leave in a few days for Legoland, and I am trying to get everything done for the movers.  Of course I waited till Friday to *really* start.

Anyone who has done a PCS with kiddos knows how difficult this can be.  (When we PCSed with no kids, I was stressed out, but I had NO idea how hard it would be with three kids.  I should have enjoyed it while I could!)

Since I have to start work shortly after I get there, I need to pack up all my work clothes and teaching supplies.  I thought the easiest way to do this would to be to clean out the big walk-in closet in the master bath, and we'll also clear out the bathroom so that they don't even have to come in there.  (I really don't want them packing the bathroom trash!)

So I am currently moving everything out of the closet so I can repack it with stuff that we are taking.  Then I have to unload the bathroom to the kids' bathroom.  I usually keep everything in our bathroom because.....well......do I need to remind you of stories of Abs and shampoo, conditioner, floods or toilets?

Gunner took all three kids to the movies so I could get started on this little endeavor.  I think I made a bigger mess, and now I want to quit.  Instead I am procrastinating.

Then there is the separation of all the things we get rid of when we move.  Some people wash everything, but I have no time for that, plus after a few years, those things usually need replacing.  I get rid of the plunger, toilet brushes, cheap trash cans, shower curtain liners, anything plastic, and I'm sure there are lots more.  The outlaws told us to leave the BBQ pit behind.  The thought of washing it doesn't sound appealing!

Of course there are the things I need to hand carry with us because we don't want them to get damaged or stolen.  (Have you ever had something stolen?  We've had a few things that were taken over the years, but nothing too expensive.)  Do you remember that story about the household goods that were ruined by a fire?  So in go the baby pictures, the wedding pictures, his saber, the tank drawing, and all the notebooks with our important information.

After that, we have to pack things for the kids to do on the trip--DVD players, DVDs, a few toys and books.  Add in a pot and a few utensils for cooking and stuff like soap, sanitizer, toilet paper, kleenex, etc. and you have a whole other pile.  But don't forget that you still need to add in the food that they won't carry.  Sometimes I can sneak the spices in, but other times we have hand carried them.  We don't ship canned goods because they weigh so much and we are already pushing our weight limit.  (Do you take your food?)

I'll have to pass on a lot of the food to someone else, although we are currently on the PCS meal plan.  You know, the meal plan where you throw together whatever is left so you don't have to go to the commissary?  All of the sudden we are eating strange combinations, and the kids are less than excited about it.  (The other day, Junior, who eats no meat, was perfectly happy with a jelly and relish sandwich.  He devoured it like it was the best meal he ever had--what does that say about my cooking?)

After getting all these things separated we will still have computers, a copier so I can do my other job, and a printer.  We have no idea where we will leave or when we will move into a house, so we have to be prepared.

How do you prepare for a PCS?  Please tell me someone else hand carries all that stuff with them too!

Trip to the Mountains

Here at Fort Carson, when your Soldier is deployed, you are issued a Mountain Post Hero Card.  This card entitles you to discounts throughout the community, including Burger King....come on, I can't be the only one that rejoices that there is a Burger King on post some nights!

One of the discounts is you get to go to one of the YMCA mountain resorts for next to nothing, including meals. In 2009 we used this discount to go to the YMCA at Estes Park, and loved it, but the food was less than desirable.

This time we decided to go to the Snowy Mountain Resort.

It was beautiful!

A self-portrait by Junior.  After breakfast we headed to the zipline.  Only Em, Gunner, and I ziplined.

I loved it once I got over my fear of jumping off a gigantic pole!

After that we went through a labyrinth and stopped off to take a few pictures.

You know how Junior loves his Grandpa, so he found lots of Grandpa wishers to use.  Hundreds of them.

We had some time before lunch and hit up the Homestead.  The kids LOVED it.  They got to dress up in pioneer clothing and take a tour of the homestead.

The sheriff wasn't too happy because he didn't have a chair.

They husked corn using the cornhusker.
They washed laundry.
Teamwork with my children?  Of course then they all had to do it themselves.
Junior is the only one who poses anymore.

Then Junior and Abs decided to take a wagon trip.

Trust me, they usually fight.

Junior learned how to make butter.
After the Homestead and lunch, we went horseback riding.

After the horses, we headed out on a three mile hike to a waterfall.
This was before he discovered that he could stomp through every mud puddle and stream.  The little imp!

Em & Junior.

We had to fit everything in, so we headed to the Gold Mine next.  It's a cave, but without a flashlight we could get too far.

I've given up on taking serious pictures anymore!

Anyway, it was a much needed break from the stress of retirement, and let me tell you it is stressful!  (and expensive since it cost us $800 at CIF).  (The moral of that story, is to keep every receipt for every item you ever turn in, during your entire career.  Wouldn't you know this was before it was computerized?  Ugh!)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Retirement, Balloon Crashes, and the Wild West

There's never a dull moment in this household.

First, I got the teaching job I applied for in Texas!  I'll be teaching 4th grade, and although I have never taught that level, I am sure someone out there can give me lots of advice on everything under the sun.  I really stress about lesson plans.

Me getting a job, means that we had to figure out how to move to Texas quickly!  We did some calculations, and we had to stay until Gunner finished his VA appointments....all 500 of them.  I think everyone in the VA system has evaluated his injuries and documented his aches and pains.  At 40, with 22 years in the Army, that means he has a lot.

So once we decided on a date, it meant that we had to use all my groupons that I had been collecting.  Last Saturday we biked down Pikes Peak.

Talk about incredible!

I even got in a few pictures.
My husband is so photogenic.  Me, not so much.  Anyway, I highly recommend this trip if you come to the Springs!  It wasn't a hard ride, just a few uphills, but most of the 20 miles downhill was fast, and the switchbacks made it exciting!

Since that wasn't enough excitement for me, we used our rock climbing in Garden of the Gods groupon, on Sunday!  I was terrified, since I don't like heights at all, and I just didn't see how I could scale up the side of a gigantic rock.

Well I can!

Yes, that would be me climbing up!
One more for good measure!
It was absolutely amazing, and I was good at it!  I can't wait to go again, and I am trying to figure out how I can fit in one more trip before we leave!

After rock climbing, we had to try and locate "the mothers" (my mom and his mom traveled together to the Springs for his retirement ceremony).  After locating them, it was off to the park to have a BBQ for Junior's birthday.  I can't believe he is 5.  More importantly I can't believe he is potty trained! (Oh, his surgery on those parts went well, and he is healed and has no more problems!)

He's gotten so big!
So has his cowlick.  We just got it cut because it was GIGANTIC.

A rare picture of my children not fighting.
After cake and Blue Bell, my mom and I headed to bed because we had to get up at 3:30 AM to head off on our balloon trip.  I had purchased the groupon as a Mother's Day present for her.

Next time I think we will get a trip that keeps us on the ground.  I thought that since this was on my mom's bucket list, that it would be a great adventure.....what I didn't account for is that our balloon would crash.  The flight itself was great after it got off the ground....

 The flight was beautiful....The landing, not so much.

This was how many times the balloon hit.....hard.  We were lodged into our section of the 
This is my mom trying to get out of the basket after we crashed.  She spent the next day in the emergency room and had injured her knee (which will require surgery) and also her ankle, which they said was not broken.  Of course that's what they said about Emily's, and it was.  I think she needs to stay off it and get it xrayed again, but if you think I don't stop, meet the most stubborn woman in America.

The next day we relaxed, and then my mom and I headed off for a little target practice!  I had never held a real gun, shot it, or even wanted to be near it.

I was told I was a natural, and the instructor called me Annie Oakley.  Not to mention, I LOVED it!  The class was great, and I can apply for my concealed permit, which I want to do.  I am not buying a gun though, that's just too much stress with three kids in the house!  I can't say that I am over my fear, but I do have a new appreciation for guns.  

Just to keep things even more interesting, On Wednesday, June 30th, Gunner had his retirement ceremony.  

Hard to believe that we were standing up there and seeing the end to something that has been a part of our entire marriage.  

A "high-five" for making it!  After almost 17 years of marriage, 5 year year long deployments.....we made it!!!

More to come, stay tuned for a last second move, a vacation that I decided we had to have, and the start of something new! 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Army Friends

One of the good (and bad things) about military life is the coming and going of friends.  I'm sure you have all been the ones who have left friends behind, and also been the ones who have left.  I remember when I left Fort Lewis, one of my civilian friends cried.  I was so sad for her, but it had also become second-nature to me and I was okay with it.  Sure I would miss them, but I have learned that it is never "Goodbye" but always "See you later"....

When I moved to Fort Carson, I didn't know anyone.....except one lone blogger, Erin.  Then I met The Displaced Dutchican.  When my house flooded, I didn't have to ask twice, I called Erin and she took Sammy and grabbed Junior from daycare to keep him till I could get there.  She kept Sammy for about two weeks and even cut poop out of his matted dog hair.  If that doesn't mean love, I don't know what does!

The Dutchican picked up the girls, fed them, and had them ready to go when I went to pick them up.  I never worried.  (Although I heard Abs was quite vocal at the local hamburger spot, much to Em's embarassment!)

That's what makes a military friend.

Friends that know when you call that you are in trouble.

Friends that know you need help, and will drop everything to help you.

Friends that don't think twice and know that often times you have no one else to help.

So many times our families live so far away and we have to count on those friends to help us get through things.  When my dad passed away, I had a friend that came over and cleaned my entire house (I was 7 months pregnant) and later that day her husband came over and mowed my lawn.  Then he knocked on the door and took my car to get cleaned inside and out.  I didn't have to say a thing, they were there for me.  I had friends that made dinner for the girls and I during that time as well.

I didn't ask.

If anyone knows me, I rarely ask for anything, but would drop anything for a friend.

So while I can go to almost any place that I have ever lived and know that I can count on a friend, I will miss that part of the military life.  There's nothing like another military wife.  Like Erin said to me when Gunner deployed for the third time to Iraq "If you want to come over and just sit here with someone who understands and you don't have to say a word, just show up".

I've had friends that have helped me through deployments.  Friends that have made me laugh when I only wanted to cry.  Friends that had faith in my when I had little faith in myself.

I think that the friends that I have made in the military will stand the test of time.  The Army is a small place and we have run into people in Germany that we hadn't seen in forever, and I still meet with friends from other posts, that I haven't seen in years, but it's like we never were apart.

I only hope that your military friendships are as incredible as mine.  No one else will ever understand what we go through, but someone else in our situation....no words needed.  What military friendship have you had that has stood the test of time?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Where does time go??

I think of all the things I want to blog every day, but then get lazy.

School is out, and I've already made one trip to Texas for the girls to go to camp for a week.  My outlaws took Junior for the week, and I was sans children.  The first time in.....forever!

I went to Dallas for a few days to visit my old suitemate from Baylor.  I met up with a blogger, Heidi.  We met for lunch and 2 1/2 hours later, we finally left the restaurant.  I had a great time!

I met up with my friend Abbey, found a free bingo on post in the middle of the day where I won an XM radio.  We made a new friend, and returned to bingo that night.  I am not a pro at all, but I did win $200!  Into the under the bridge fund it goes!

I ate tons of mexican food, met a friend for breakfast at my favorite little cafe, did crossfit (of course!), and didn't work out as much as I should have.  I saw a Ranger's game (they lost), and ate tons of ethnic food.  Yum!  With all that eating, I was worried, but I didn't gain a pound.  Whew.

In retirement news, Gunner has just 10 working days left in the Army.  It's a scary time, and many major decisions need to be made quicker than I would like.  Don't worry, if you know me, I have a plan A, plan B, plan C, all the way to plan P right now.

I got his retirement present, and have taken it somewhere to have something done to it, that needed to be done.  I can't wait to show it to y'all, it is UNBELIEVABLE!

Stay tuned, because I am sure things will get crazy over the next few weeks!

I've applied for some jobs, and am waiting to see what the future holds.  We know a move is in order, since we can't live in housing forever.  Although if they make an allowance, I wouldn't mind.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Disappointed in Army Wives

I follow Army Wives, the tv show, on Facebook.  Today they had this post up:

In honor of Memorial Day weekend, we wanted to share photos from Season 5's fallen soldier, Jeremy Sherwood. Remember Jeremy with pictures from the emotional episode here:

They then linked to some pictures of him.

I didn't even read the other responses, and I had to jump and say my piece.

There are so many fallen heroes that deserve respect on Memorial Day, not a fictional character.  Could they not come up with some other way to link to Memorial Day?

I then went back and read the 80+ comments, and saw that I was not the only one who was ticked off.

Do you think people are overreacting, or do you think Army Wives really messed up?  Obviously there social media person did a crappy job with this one!  Maybe they should hire me!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

I'm addicted....

I'm addicted to Groupon.  I'll admit it.

How was I supposed to know that I needed to try out that restaurant I kept driving by?  It was delish.

It started out slowly, and grew.

I joined Living Social.

Then our local newspaper had one.

I'm sure there's another one I subscribe to as well.

Without them, I wouldn't have known I wanted to go rock climbing in Garden of the Gods.

Or go up in a hot air balloon.

Or bike down Pikes Peak.

I had a massage and a facial.  I had 6 laser treatments (for less than $100) and no longer shave my armpits!

Let my husband try crossfit for a steal.

I discovered a love of Sri Lanken food due to the newspaper deal.

I'm signed up to take a weapons class.  I'm terrified of guns, btw.

I look at the deals of the places I am going to visit.

I obviously have a problem.

I told Gunner if the Afghan restaurant in town has one, I am all over it.  He said I could eat alone and that it would not make him feel more at home.

What deals have you scored from Groupon?  What deals are you looking for?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


There are a lot of reasons that our retirement is different from a lot of other people's.  

We still have a 4 year old.

I went to a Pampered Chef party the other day, and all the women who had husbands that were about to retire...had grown children off at college.

Can you imagine?  We would have had to jump on the breeding bandwagon right away after we were married!  I was in no way ready, and when I finally did get pregnant the nurse was shocked that I was having my first at age 25.  Did she think I needed to be welcoming grandchildren?  

So while so many people look at retirement from the military as a time to breathe for a little while....there's no doing that here!  Our oldest is only 13....I say "only", but then I think in 9 years she would be the age that I was when I got married!  Why did my parents let me get married so young???  (I had finished my undergrad at least.)

Gunner has hit the job market full force.  Today he spent the day taking classes put on by business leaders in the community with a special interest in hiring Vets.  We put together a resume, and he has a local job fair tomorrow, then another one on Wednesday.  He.needs.a.job.

Anyone want to hire an Army Vet with over 22 years of military service?  He's dedicated, smart, hard-working, and an all around good guy (cute too!).  We'll even move anywhere in the world, and I am the most non-complaining (unless my house floods) wife, of all times!

Surely something will workout....right????

In the meantime, the kids continue to keep us on our toes.  Junior needs surgery and it could totally explain why he wasn't potty trained until recently...and he's almost five.  Abs has turned into quite the violinist.  We have been through the ringer with her this year, but we are finally making headway.  Finally.  Em is as sweet as ever, and has a love of Shakespeare and sewing that translated into her being the costume designer for the school's performance of A Misummer's Night Dream.  I had never read the story before--although I probably crammed the cliff notes the night before the test--so it was nice to sit back and enjoy it.  I can't believe that next year I will have an 8th grader, a 5th grader, and a Kindergartener!  (Ummmmm.....when Abs entered Kindergarten, Junior entered the picture.  I PROMISE you, that will not happen this time!!!!!)

So as life continues to change at a moment's notice, I look at retirement as not the end, but a brand new beginning of all that is to come!  I'm only hoping that someone has a plan for us and it is put into place before our last Army paycheck arrives.  If not, look for us under your local bridge!  (Don't worry, we have started an "under the bridge" fund!)

Friday, May 13, 2011

End of an Era?

After over 22 years in the Army, the 5 uniform changes that have occurred, and 5 deployments, I always said if there was a war that you should be at my house.

What once fit in a tiny front closet when we got married, now takes up half of our garage.

What is it you ask?  TA-50

I'm sure you have all learned to embrace the plethora of equipment that your husband has been issued.  I've tried numerous ways to organize the crap too.

There were hanging devices.  Stacked crates.  Left in the boxes that they were packed up in.  Footlockers.  Tubs.  The tubs seemed to work the best, because at least I could stack them on top of each other.

How many gorilla trunks are sitting in your house right now?  We got 4 by mail shortly after Gunner returned home.  I was totally not overjoyed to see it arrive.  These were added to the 8 gorilla trunks we already had here waiting for his return.


In just a matter of time, this stuff will start disappearing from my garage.  Hopefully huge amounts of it.

Soon he can go request a list from CIF with the master list of everything that he needs to turn in.  What will I do without 50,000 pounds of TA50 to move every couple of years?  What if there is a war and we need to hunker down and live off of MRE's and be ready to dig our own trenches or create a new village complete with a multitude of uniforms for everyone to choose from?

But then I start thinking about all the duplicates he has.  You can't just have one e-tool can you?  A Soldier with less than 5 canteens?  That's unheard of.  How could he have been a Soldier without stocking up on 8 sleeping mats?  Less than 20 pairs of boots?  How would that work, since he has to have tanker boots, then there are the black boots, then there are gortex boots, mountain boots, rubber boots, desert boots--you know, the right boots to match the right uniform?

With the right boots you have to have the right accessories.  We have a rucksack in every uniform color.  Don't worry, as he also has accumulated an assault bag in every color.  In case he gets thirsty, he has a camelbak in every color.

There are soft caps, berets, kevlars, pyle caps, pt caps, stetson, mess cap.  We've got 15 duffel bags, all painted with previous unit assignments.  We've got DIFFERENT PT belts from every.single.unit.

The list goes on.  So while I started thinking that we might be downsizing, I realize that my grandchildren should someday be prepared for their Grandpa to be sitting in old uniforms and telling them stories "Back when I was in the warrrrrr....".

So maybe we'll be okay in case of an emergency, because I can't imagine all of this TA50 is going anywhere...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Questions--I need answers!

It's been so long since I've worn makeup, and since I will be entering the workforce sometime in the near future, assuming someone wants to hire me, I need makeup.

What's your favorite brand of makeup?

This of course brings up the question....when did you start wearing makeup?  I see girls at Em's school that have started wearing makeup, but I was thinking I'd let her in high school, which is still a year away.  She hasn't complained about it.....yet!

I took the girls shopping for Mother's Day, because we needed to get them some camp clothes.  Keep in mind that my daughter is about 5'7" tall, thin, and does not look 13.  Why do they want her to dress like a hoochie mama? Anyone know of any good clothing stores that will have cool clothes for her age, but not break the bank?

Next question is back to potty training.  Junior is potty trained.  Reflect on that for a moment.  My almost 5 year old son is FINALLY potty trained.  He is wearing underwear.  He is dry.  Let's be honest, this is a miracle in itself.  But....did you potty train your sons at night by letting them go in underwear?  I'm thinking if the kid wants to wear pullups to bed at night, he will eventually train himself, and I should push it.  Heck, I'm just glad that I am not changing diapers during the day anymore!

(Gunner, please do not read this)  Retirement presents.  I have something in mind, but I was wondering if anyone had some great ideas for a present to give him for retirement?  (I apparently get a yellow rose at his retirement ceremony....5 deployments and I get a rose?  I should get a 24 karat rose!)

Which brings me to coin boxes.  I have looked at several online, but was wondering if anyone had a recommendation of someone that they ordered from, and the quality was impeccable?  You know how they love their coins!

Last question--I have my half marathon on Sunday, and I need some good songs for my playlist.  I know I need to download some black eyed peas, but what are some other good up-tempo songs that need to go on the list too?

Thanks guys!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Reintegration Part I

Being that this is our 5th (and LAST!) deployment, I thought we were pros at reintegration.  I choose my battles, and goodness knows with three kids, there is plenty for both of us to do and keep us busy.

The one thing that drives me nuts?

Here is my status from FB yesterday:

ABW Wonders how she survived years driving while Chris was deployed and before I met him, but apparently lost all skills once he returned home. Thank goodness he is here to tell me how to drive, or I might not be able to function.

Someone said instead of like there should be an "Amen".  Most agreed with me.  A civilian friend said her husband would never do that and she wouldn't allow it.  

This all came to a head yesterday when I was driving Gunner's new car.

"Watch out for that parked car."
"This guy might try to cut you off."
"The light might turn red, you should slow down."

I glared at him, and asked him if he wanted to drive.  "Oh no, you're doing fine, I'm just helping."

A little history here.  I am old.  I got my driver's license when I was 16.  In order to do that, I had to pass my dad's strict driving lessons.  Basically that meant that I drove around an empty parking lot in first gear, having to stop and start.  Once I got that down, he would let me coast around in first gear and he would yell "STOP" to test my reaction time.  After passing that little bit of pure hell pure joy, I was able to start shifting gears.

From gear shifting we moved to practicing in a parking garage how to stop and start again without rolling backwards on an incline.  My poor dad spent hours with us behind the wheel making sure that we knew what was going on.  

Gunner?  He got his driver's license when he was 21 (they gave him one to drive a car, when all he had ever driven was a motorcycle).  The first car he drove was a military vehicle--a humvee, so thank goodness it was an automatic.  (Side note, his brother had never driven before and during his first assignment with the Army, he was told to drive a deuce and a half, while he had never driven before.  By the end of the day he felt courageous enough to shift to second gear, lol)  He could have benefited from my dad's "Learn how to drive" class.  Granted he has gotten a lot better over the years, a lot better.  

But.........cause there's always a but....

If I could drive while he was gone (almost a total of 5 years of deployments, and we won't even count field, TDY, and all that other times they are away)......do you think I have lost all ability?  

We do laugh about it, and he is getting better.  After our afternoon trip to the car dealer, I let him drive to go get the girls.  I pointed out how he scans the roads for IEDs, watches for anything out of the "norm", and has been known to drive aggressively like he is in a convoy.

So while I know this part will eventually fade, I do notice a lot of telling the other person how to do things.  While he tells me how to drive, etc., I tell him how to take care of the kids, how things should be done.  Usually by the time we get it ironed out, he is gone again, so we wait another year and start all over again. 

How do you handle this part of reintegration?  

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Winner Is...


I'm still not able to post that random number generator, so if anyone can tell me how to do it for next time, I'd appreciate it!

Abbey, send me your address, and I'll have your camera shipped out to you!

P.S. More to come!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

I'm still alive!

I have no great story as to why I fell off the face of the earth, other than using this guy as my excuse:

Having Gunner home has been such a huge help.  After 96 hours off, he was exhausted from trying to keep up with my schedule of crossfit, carting children around, doctor's appointments, and all the other normal day to day stuff to maintain a family of 5.

Our laundry load increased exponentially.  The amount of food we have to cook is increased as well.  I wouldn't change a thing though.

We've been working on finding jobs, and let me tell you, the Army is not helpful in this area AT ALL.  That's a whole dozen other posts that I need to write as well.

We've also balanced out the work with fun.  Gunner took the girls on a moonlight wolf tour where they got to meet wolves up close.  The girls LOVED it.

We went to the Western Museum of Mining and Industry to pan for gold.

The panning was free, and you got to keep what you collected.  There was some gold involved, and that was all my kids needed to hear before they were hooked.

Junior had more fun splashing water and mud all over himself.

They had an area where you could dress up like a miner.

Notice the wet tshirt?

Don't let the folded hands fool you! Emily found a new boyfriend too.
Junior really wanted a hat, and with a dad who recently returned home, we know that sometimes they have such guilt, they just can't say no.

On the way home we stopped off and took pictures in front of Pikes Peak.
Plus we have done a lot of this.....
Notice the new furniture?  Thankfully we have a dog that doesn't shed!  We also had to break down and buy a new car.  If you want a great car (ranked #2--A Ford is first, but don't hate, I won't buy one.  We actually went to get a Nissan Sentra because we know that they are reliable and they were ranked #31!)

Meet our new little Honda Fit.
It seems small, but has a ton of storage, and actually the whole family can ride in here, but I would not recommend it for long trips with three kids in the back!  (I'd actually recommend a limo, where you can close the barrier and not hear them, but that's out of my price range too.)

It's a great little car and gets about 34 miles per gallon around town, and 37+ on the freeway.  It also has voice activated stuff, which is kind of neat, but luckily the button you have to press before it works is on the steering wheel, as the kids heard voice activated and started all saying "Radio 92.9" or whatever their favorite station is, all at once.

So we are settling into being a family again, with a lot of big changes coming up in the future, that I am excited about.  I also have a lot to blog about too, so stay tuned!

Also, don't forget to enter my giveaway for a free digital camera, here!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Great Flood & Giveaway

Remember the flood?  I think of it every time when I sit down to watch tv on an old 19" tv with no HDTV, and I am either on the floor or sitting in a lawn chair.  (On the bright side my lawn chairs are comfortable!)

My kitchen as they started sucking up the water and I could get in there.  Apparently my house is lopsided and the water ran into the kitchen.  It couldn't possible run into the bathroom located on the other side of the house where the hot water heater was located and a drain!

Imagine all the little paint pockets you see below, filled up with water and squirting all over your stuff.  There were hundreds of them, which just made the whole thing worse, because with the squirting streams of water, it was able to destroy even more.  Plus, this is one section.....the whole living room was covered and the water was about 4" deep.  A mess I tell you!  The water was gushing out the front and back doors, leading to a sheet of ice at both places.

I have to give housing kudos for putting us up at The Hampton Inn (whose beds and pillows I love), and for getting our house done in just under two weeks.  While I loved the Hampton, even with two adjoining rooms, it was tight quarters for the 4 of us.  Every day after carting children around, I would go check on progress and document it....just in case.

I was contacted by the someone related to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, to check out their new FREE iPhone app related to creating a home inventory.  Something I SHOULD have done before I ever had a flood occur.  Unfortunately mother nature doesn't follow my time schedule.

I did have to download this on to Gunner's phone since my software wasn't upgraded, and I just have the 3G.  It's super easy to use, take pictures, and you can even email it to yourself and have it backed up on your computer.  During the claim process, they wanted before pictures of the furniture and electronics, which I didn't have unless they were in use.  They got a picture of Junior jamming on the wii guitar, a random picture Abs took of the tv, and a picture of me sleeping on the couch.  I was not thrilled about sending any of them!

The NAIC also has instructions on how to create a home inventory.

To help you create a home inventory, the NAIC is offering a FREE Kodak Easyshare digital camera (retail value $49) for one lucky reader!  (It takes amazing pictures as you can see below!)  All you need to do is leave a comment telling me what is the most loved item in your home is, that you would capture first on your home inventory!

I will draw a random winner on Monday April 25th!

Sammy the dog after he was rescued, kept by a friend for a while, and finally groomed.  

Disclaimer--I was provided a digital camera to use for my review, but all opinions are my own, with no outside influence from the three little kids that live here.