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12 Mistakes to Avoid When Getting Ready for Your PCS

 Posted by on March 23, 2016 at 08:00
Mar 232016


Moving in the military is very much a learn-as-you-go process. Which, I have to admit, totally stinks because that means you’re basically gambling for success while using your stuff and your family’s comfort as collateral. Talk about high stakes — no pressure, right?

My first move as a military spouse was textbook disaster. A PCS was described to me (by my brand new husband) as a piece of cake. “People come in and do everything for you,” he said. “You don’t have to worry about a thing,” he said.

So, I headed off to a full day of teaching seventh graders without a care in the world. Long story short, we lost the deposit on our apartment for lack of cleaning — which, by the way, I will still contest as my expensive, custom bleach trays were lost forever, and I unpacked a trashcan full of trash in North Carolina. Those were just some of the highlights.

Lessons learned, right? I would never again be so trusting. The helicoptering, micromanaging mover was born. Our next PCS was with a dog…and a kid. So, obviously the challenges changed. Our stuff arrived accounted for and in one piece, but I was teetering on the brink of lunacy strategizing what toys and snacks to pack in the car. We ended up packing two full cars (and full is not an exaggeration). And I completely spaced on the logistics of pit stops with a dog. Obviously, we couldn’t all spend an afternoon experiencing a museum or taking an hour to venture into an actual restaurant instead of fast food because there was a dog in the car. And hotels — I learned an important lesson: pet-friendly hotels fill up quickly during PCS season.

Then there’s the most recent move. Things were broken. Things were lost forever. A half-eaten sandwich that we bought for our movers was packed in a box along with my office supplies — we found them when we unpacked a month later. I’ll never eat another roast beef sandwich as long as I live.

There are mistakes to make and lessons to learn, but, luckily, I’ve made enough PCS mistakes to teach us all a little something:

  1. Never assume anyone cares about your stuff as much as you do. Movers work against the clock. They start rocking and rolling, and when quitting time rolls around, they’ve been known to roll anything in sight into the last box. Keep your eyes peeled for haphazard packing, and speak up for your stuff.
  2. Always buy lunch and water for the movers. I used to feel like this was a matter of preference, but I’ve changed my mind. Failure to provide food and drinks can mean your heavy lifters take off for a 2-hour lunch. Your one-day job might just turn into a two-day job. That being said, offer to take their trash. That’s the best way to ensure that leftovers don’t move with you.
  3. Always purge clutter and toys, books and clothes you’ve outgrown before the move. If I had a nickel for every time I asked myself why in the world we moved “blank,” I wouldn’t be writing this blog right now because I would be independently wealthy. If you don’t like something now, you won’t magically fall in love with it in a new place. Kick it to the curb — better yet, kick it to a donation bin.
  4. Always isolate items that you plan to hand carry on the move. Hide your keys. Hide your purse. Hide your phone charger. Lock up the dog food. For any other suggestions, see a full list of items to hand carry. If you will need it, lock it up — no exceptions.
  5. Always handle utility hookups and cutoffs in advance. Waiting until the last second could make you the lucky recipient of double utility payments, cancellation fees or a week without Internet at your new place (oh, the horror).
  6. Always clean. Clean after the truck is loaded. Clean before the truck arrives. It might just save your deposit at point A and your health at point B.
  7. Never wait for “them” to call you. It doesn’t matter if “them” means the moving company, your landlord or even the monitor while you wait for orders. Be proactive and be impressed with how efficiently stuff gets done.
  8. Always factor travel expenses into your moving budget. Hotels, gas, airline tickets and food add up during a move. Sure, there’s an allowance, but don’t always count on getting that on the front end of the move. Make sure to save any receipts you’ll need as documentation for reimbursement.
  9. Always scout out pet-friendly hotels on your route. Your fur babies can make it tough to stop for the night, so give yourself some options.
  10. Never be so preoccupied by the destination that you forget the journey. Even the speediest of moves leave a little time for sightseeing. Break up your trip and see something new or someone you haven’t seen in a while.
  11. Always use your network to learn about your new home. Get to know that friend of a friend of a friend at your new duty station. Blast private Facebook groups in your new area with questions. Word of mouth is a great way to learn about neighborhoods, schools, physicians, dentists, activities for the kids and more.
  12. Always, always take pictures of damaged items. If you expect anyone to care about your dented ironing board or your whale statue that is now tail-less, take pictures before you trash them or glue them back together.

Yes, there’s always something to learn with each PCS, but my face-palm moments don’t have to only teach me. Hopefully you’ll walk away less likely to find a fuzzy sandwich while you unpack.

Life Hacks: 8 Ways to Get Your Teen to Talk

 Posted by on March 22, 2016 at 08:52
Mar 222016

Staff Blogger Julie

When my daughter rolled her eyes so hard her body seemed to flip around them, I knew she’d entered the Teenage Zone. The attitude, angst and awkwardness of the teen years affected everyone in our home. One of the toughest transitions to deal with when entering the teen zone was that my previously chatty child turned into a sullen, or at least more private, being.

It didn’t take much for my daughter, and my son (four years later), to clam up and for my husband and I to start feeling like we were losing our daily connection to what was going on in their lives. So how do you get your teen to gab — about their life — with you? While I don’t have a magic potion, I do have some experience with what does and doesn’t work.

Talk to your teen blog 2Start with being a safe space for your teen. Teens need to know they can trust you not to judge them, try to fix them or tell them what to do. I’m not suggesting parents turn over the reins completely, but during the teen years, it’s time for our young adults to learn to be more independent and solve problems on their own. Take a deep breath, smooth out your soon-to-be-grey hair and consider the following life hacks for getting your teen to talk.

  1. Connect daily shoulder to shoulder — Much like toddlers, who play beside their friends instead of with their friends, teenagers tend to open up more readily when they are beside you and occupied with other things. Do not look a teenager in the eye and expect them to dish their deepest secrets. It won’t happen. I’ve learned more about my teens while riding in the car than in any room of our house. Try some of the following ideas for shoulder-side chats including: ride in the car, take a walk, shop for groceries, rake leaves, paint a room, build something, fold laundry, wash and dry dishes, or cook a meal.
  2. Unplug to be available — Show your teen they are more important than what you are doing. Stop, drop what you are doing, and listen with both eyes and ears. When they know you will do that, they are more likely to talk.
  3. Listen while on mute — Let your teen have the floor, and you push your mute button. Listen to what they do and don’t say. Do not judge. Let them vent. When they finish, you can echo back what they said so they know you heard them, but do not offer advice unless they ask for it.
  4. Ask specific, open-ended questions — How you ask the question sets the tone for the answer. Do not ask “why” questions because that puts teens on the defense. Ask things like, “What was the best part of your day?” or “What do you think about that situation?” or “What do you think would solve that problem?” Show them their thoughts matter to you and you believe in their ability to problem solve.
  5. Adjust your attitude — I’m sure you’ve heard yourself tell your teens that what they say isn’t always as important as how they say it. Eh-hem … I guess they had to learn that sassy tone somewhere. *blink, blink* Yep, they got that attitude from their parents. You may think you don’t have a tone in your voice, but check again. My teens have called me on it. I own it, and work to double check myself. Take your own advice and watch your tone when you speak to your teens.
  6. Be the adult When your teen’s dark side emerges (as it will from time to time) simply say, “ouch” and walk away. This makes the statement that they hurt you, and you won’t allow them to continue to be cruel. Breathe. Count to 10. Do whatever you can to calm yourself so you don’t respond in anger. Then, you can discuss things after everyone is calm and collected. Give them a healthy example of how to solve personal conflicts.Talk to your teen blog
  7. Make new memories — Take spontaneous or planned one-on-one outings with your teen. You get to know your teens better when they are not competing for your attention with other siblings. Taking them out lets them know you value them for who they are — that you want to spend time with them. Just them.
  8. Show your silly side Give your teen the gift of knowing you aren’t perfect and that you don’t expect them to be perfect. Share your silly side with them. Confide in them with a story of something you failed at when you were their age. Let them know how you handled it and how you wish you had handled it.

Your silliness and imperfections are some of the things that may earn you more respect from your teen. Remember, teens have well-developed fakeness detectors. Be real with them and they are more likely to be real with you.


Feeding the Soul and the Family

 Posted by on March 15, 2016 at 15:29
Mar 152016
Guest Blogger Stacie

Guest Blogger Stacie

Blogger Biography: Stacie met and married her soldier in Arizona and went to the recruiter with him, where he said, “I’m not in, if you’re not in. Are you in?” After saying yes and spending 23 years in the Army, within the next eight months he had retired, begun a civilian career, and both their college aged kids moved out. This left them nearly empty nesters, except for the dogs. Formerly an avid sports and stage mom, hanging up her keys to the swagger wagon enabled her to concentrate more on work and life after the Army. Stacie hopes to one day have a chicken coop and fill it with hens she intends to name after country music stars.

I had a fantastic media career during my journey as an Army wife. I loved what I did and then one day, Operation

Iraqi Freedom happened. My husband was gone, my job required more than 40 hours a week, and my kids really needed me. Eventually, I quit my job and had to figure life out again. I bounced between jobs for a while, finding things I could do while the kids were in school. I liked working, but I was missing the satisfaction I got from radio. I needed something more than a regular job had to offer and wanted to try out being my own boss. Working from home fed my soul and saved my sanity, even though it took me years to map it all out.

When I began working from home, I was a virtual and personal assistant. I became certified through our post’s Army Community Service office and bought a great computer. Within a few weeks, I was working with a few remote companies and several in town. My specialties were blogging and small business support, but I would take on almost any task a customer requested.

After a cross-country PCS, I was unsure if I wanted to try to restart my business. The recession hit my industry hard, and people stopped hiring for work they could do themselves. The few clients I had before leaving our last duty station were all local, and needed me in person. In a new place and searching, I saw a bracelet pictured on a friend’s social media page and knew I had found my newest adventure!

I joined a jewelry direct sales company in August of 2010 because my love for their sterling silver military charms was instantaneous. Initially uncertain if the sales field was my thing, I eventually just went for it. I had tried direct sales twice previously, but it never seemed to suit me. After these last few years, I am incredibly happy with my decision to become a consultant. I was very fortunate that I was able to begin growing my team nearly immediately, and can speak from the sincerity when I say that I work with some of the most amazing women anywhere.

Having had two successful home-based businesses, I have learned how to manage working at home. It is a delicate balance between responsibilities, but can be managed by anyone if you decide to go for it.

An encouraging spouse is always a great start. Be open and honest with each other about expectations, work hours, finance, and how the new job will impact the family.  When the entrepreneur and the spouse have a firm understanding of the business and its potential, it helps both parties.

In addition, having a clear vision of how finances will be impacted by the new position will take a lot of stress off the family. Starting a new business can take commitment of more than just time. Assets are frequently necessary and, most commonly for home businesses, are borrowed from the family budget or savings. Knowing how much of the business income is marked for reinvestment in the business and how much is used as a paycheck alleviates confusion and helps set realistic objectives.

Business Tips From a MilSpouse

 Posted by on March 11, 2016 at 10:24
Mar 112016


Angela West is not only the type of friend you want in your corner because she is funny, smart, and sassy, but y’all … she bakes some scrumptious goodies! This Marine Corps spouse, currently based in Okinawa, Japan, has run a successful catering and baking business for eight years across three duty stations, including overseas. While her business today, The Frosted Stiletto, looks a bit different from when she started it, her business has remained constant as she blazes the trails for other military spouse baking entrepreneurs.

It all started when her family was stationed in China Lake, California. She enjoyed baking and cooking so much that she was always the one volunteering to head up the hospitality tasks for family readiness meetings and Lifestyle Insights, Networking, Knowledge and Skills, or L.I.N.K.S. This trickled over into baking and cooking for friends. She didn’t have a set business plan and pricing structure when she first started, but she found that friends would drop off fresh ingredients and small amounts of cash if she would bake up a little something for them. She loves baking so much she said, “It’s just so easy to whip up something. No need to pay me.”  This sparked the idea that she should really get her business plans in gear. She operated as a catering and baking business until her husband received orders to Quantico, Virginia.  After conducting her own market research, she decided to really zero in on offering baked goods, and specifically specialty custom cakes. She rebranded herself under the business name she still uses today, and the Frosted Stiletto was born. I had the chance to talk with Angela to hear her advice for other budding military spouse entrepreneurs.

Milspouse Entrepreneur Angela West

Milspouse Entrepreneur Angela West

When asked if her business helps or impacts the community in any way Angela excitedly answers how it does, especially in Okinawa. Her specialty cakes help give military families, stationed far from home, more options to help commemorate their special occasions. Since Angela does custom cakes, she offers a nice alternative to the basic sheet cakes that are readily available at other grocery stores on the island. Having this as an option is a nice comfort to make things seem “more normal” when living and celebrating so far from home.

To become the success that she is today, Angela learned how to make it as a military spouse entrepreneur, and she generously shared these lessons. When she first started, she said it took some practice to get comfortable in her business sense as far as pricing her goods at a competitive, yet fair price. To get comfortable with the business side of things, Angela learned from and emulated other cake designers and entrepreneurs through social media in order to grow her decorating and business model.  Since she is a self-taught cake decorator, when she first started, she used to tell her customers “I can guarantee it will taste good, but it may not look the best.” With many years of experience behind her, she can now guarantee both. As her duty stations changed, so did her business struggles. Her

All hand crafted decorations, no molds here.

All hand crafted decorations, no molds here.

current struggles now are anticipating needs so that she always has the right supplies on hand to satisfy her customers. She shared that it can also be a struggle to source the freshest ingredients on the island — typical OCONUS problems.

Her advice to other military spouses is to be legal about everything. Get the proper permits and licenses. It may seem daunting, but having your ducks in a row is vital, especially if you are running a business from base housing overseas. She even shared that it’s not difficult or time consuming to do everything the right way, and you’ll thank yourself later for doing it right. As far as getting the word out there, Angela has been fortunate with successful word-of-mouth marketing. She credits happy customers with providing free advertisements by way of their referrals in spouse and local-town Facebook groups. She also cautions not to lean on only this type of marketing, but to make sure you have your information out there. She also warns to make sure you “don’t cram it down people’s throats.” For example, when a friend invites you to her child’s birthday party, don’t ask things like “Who is doing your cake?” Instead, make sure that when you do mention your business it is in a casual, relevant manner. Be prepared for natural ebbs and flows of your business. This is completely normal and don’t stress during low times, but keep working harder. Her biggest takeaway from running her own business is “Not everyone is your customer, and be ok with that.”

For now, Angela is continuing to bake up a storm and plans to continue to do so for the rest of her husband’s career. In five years, she hopes to settle down somewhere opening up a brick-and-mortar storefront near their forever home since her husband will be retiring from military service. If you are interested in starting your own business, give Military OneSource a call and ask to speak with a SECO counselor to help answer your questions.


*If you are interested in starting your own business as a military spouse, reserve your seat for the 2016 entrepreneurship webinar series.


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