Why Being a Dad in America is so Great
+Military Spouse posted another article titled Yes, you DO need a backup plan and, as usual, I couldn't just let it go. It was written by another spouse in response to a previous article on "extreme betrayal" and, in not-so-clinical terms, is an attempt to jump on the band wagon. Let's be very clear about something first; marriage is a commitment similar to a business proposal, for conversation's sake. In business there are mutual benefits to merging companies, revenue typically increases, and most especially leadership is clearly defined. In marriage both parties may have a job which would typically see an increase in income once married but what is most-always missing is a leader.
How does leadership define success? Success doesn't need a backup plan! And before I get too far into this, realize that both parties were probably broke before they got married hence getting married does not double your income;  two paychecks are still going to two people. Anyway... The author's advice to the "extreme betrayal" included getting your own bank accounts, knowing how to balance a checkbook, making sure your name is on the title of the family vehicle, have access to all your accounts and power of attorney, monitor your credit score, get your own savings account, have a safe house, and step out of your comfort zone.

Why should she get her own bank account?
My wife is a stay-at-home-mom, home-schools our four children, and is finishing up her degree as we speak. I work for money, she works for my exhalation and glory to God! I'm blessed, it's obvious, and I know it. We budget everything out and she knows how much she has for groceries and has the freedom to make small purchases that wouldn't adversely affect our account at any time. Our rule of thumb is "over $50, ask." That goes both ways, too. Why does she need her own checking account? I have seen it in every divorce, whether both parties worked or not, that getting separate accounts was the beginning of the end. According to a +Citibank US survey, "57% of divorced couples cited money problems as the primary reason for the demise in their marriage." Getting separate accounts won't keep the other person from "extreme betrayal" and it most certainly sends signals and signs that you don't trust the other person with the money either. If you see +Usain Bolt in a one-piece track suit on the side-line stretching what do you think he's about to do? Yup, run. Communicate with your spouse and trust their decisions with your input.

Balance a checkbook?
This is a no-brainer to me but, how many people still use one? With cellular technology allowing us to simply check our accounts as we go, is a checkbook really the issue? How about monitor spending and be open and honest.... uh oh, all I'm saying is communicate. Weird.

Put your name on something...
Why? To be honest, I'd rather my name wasn't on so many things, but does it matter? If, God forbid, something happened on a deployment, or even going to work, my WILL would leave everything to my wife and my Power of Attorney would suffice during deployments should a need arise. It's all about being prepared for a deployment, not stockpiling weapons and saying you're not interested in going to war.
However, not having access to all your accounts is an obvious indicator that you're in a controlling, if not abusive, relationship. Seek immediate professional help such as +Military OneSource or other counseling options. Monitoring your credit score at least annually is a no-brainer, too. I care not to discuss such obvious remedies.

Have your own safe house? In case of...
This one was a bit cryptic to me. While I felt that this article, in general, was advise to the former of leaving rather than the latter of "sticking it out", the "safe house" idea cemented my opinion of this article. Safe houses are great to explain to your children where to go if they find themselves geographically separated in a natural disaster or home-invasion but what point do they serve otherwise? If you're in an abusive relationship, take a cue from the indicators before they require your removal from the home and leave anyway!

This article wreaked of "I'm not saying 'leave him' but,..." innuendos while I didn't find any of the information informative to my spouse whom the article should apply. In reply I offer the following personal, researched, and informative for your review (That's really smart talk for 'I think the last article sucked, here's my opinion).
Marriage is a sacred union that involves detailed pre-marital conversation on topics including finances, faith, and family. My three "F"s, essentially. In regards to finances, and more especially the military, it's easy to know how much the other makes since we're on a published pay-scale. Discussing spending habits shouldn't be anymore difficult than talking about your favorite movies, either. You've spent "X"-amount of time together observing one another's habits and mannerisms, that this shouldn't be a difficult talk.

Secondly, faith should be a topic that might take a while. Before my wife and I married we had these talks and when we got to the "how many kids we wanted to have" part, the "how will we raise them" topic arose; this included faith. I was raised Baptist and she Catholic. Well, we're Christian so that solved that. Whether either party "declares" a faith or not, the topic must still be discussed.

Finally, family. Do you plan on having children? How many? Who's going to raise them? Public school or private? This alone is a topic that spawns many week-long (or longer) break-ups. After even mentioning these topics there should be enough conversation going-on that it should be apparent as to whether or not you should be together for any longer.

It can be summed up with "communicate", period. My wife was Active-Duty before we married and once we broached these topics we learned a wealth of information about one another that actually turned me on more; not physically (that's just weird). I realized that I had finally found a woman who believed the same things I do, was willing to form a partnership with a goal in mind, and was willing to put up with category-5 white-water rapids in order to view the majesty of the mountains (a figure of speech I've been dying to use; don't think I quite nailed it though). While most things can be taken with a grain of salt, bad advice should be avoided altogether. Seek wise-counsel from happily married couples of more than 10-years and not your new base-housing neighbor that you just met because they seem nice.

#BackupPlan #militarymarriage #communicate #milspouse
We're a military family with four children ages 4-10. We recently purchased our second home, drive an SUV and a newer 2013 car that I drive to/from work, own a boat, two +Harley-Davidson motorcycles (that run), a +Campo YMCA membership, home-school, and have one income; mine. How do we do it?! By the grace of God and budgeting...

My wife sent me an article from Erin @ The Humbled Homemaker, entitled Staying at home with your kids when you can barely afford it. It pretty much sums up our lifestyle with a few modifications. To begin, we're not debt free, yet. We have been and it was an amazing experience! But, we moved, "needed" more clothes, purchased school supplies, etc. and basically got ourselves "caught" again. It happens. Her first point is to live on a budget and I couldn't agree more. I've mentioned it before and highly recommend it for everyone you know... +Dave Ramsey has an outstanding program called +Financial Peace University that, when applied, works! Therein lies the problem though, doesn't it? If we had self-control to begin with we wouldn't be in debt now! Nonetheless, budgets are a must!

Second, buying used... I'm more 70/30 on this because my wife and I discovered that our son would go through three pairs of WalMart jeans in the same amount of time he went through one pair of Ralph Lauren. Basically, you get what you pay for. In the "used" case, you typically get what you pay for. Other than clothes, I'm always down for someone else's trash :0) I love RC aircraft and recently picked up a giant-scale aerobatic plane for $80 at a thrift shop. God bless whoever threw that away!

Shopping sales is never a bad idea either however, be wary! For example, a large portion of the recent "Black Friday" sales have seen lower prices during other promotional sales or alternate holiday sales. Remember, it's business and they're not going to lose money on anything you buy. It's all profit to them. Unless you absolutely need it, wait.

Erin also says she chooses free and cheap entertainment. This is a no-brainer to me but then again, I still like shooting BB guns in the back yard. When my wife and I had just the one child we thought the world was upside down-crazy! When we had three and now four we lament "Oh, if we only had one kid we'd..." Well, we've often had babysitters and you know what we did? We went to the bookstore, splurged on "fancy coffee" and read the magazines. Wow, aren't we soooo entertaining?! But, we had fun and it cost us a babysitter and coffee. Much cheaper than our dating-days.

Finally, using your talents to supplement your income. Got junk? eBay it! Have a garage full of everything but a car? Get rid of it! Organize your life, prioritize it even, and decide if the "heirloom" in the garage is worth the trouble and space or would the extra $20 be sweeter? I hate clutter and if I haven't used something in the past 6 months, it's gone!

The biggest thing we DO is budget. It gives you a visual reference for when we fail because let's face it, it's going to happen. It also shows us how we've made baby-steps, financially, into giant strides. It also helps if you enjoy the company you keep, a.k.a. your family. When was the last time you started a water balloon fight? How 'bout a rousing game of tag (not shove)? How about anything but sitting on your tail, reading through blogs on self-improvement and NOT actively participating in their advice?!

Honestly, we couldn't survive if my wife hadn't left military service to keep our home. Her income would cover child care and the "To-Go" meals we'd have to eat every night! How much is your time really worth? Is it worth missing your kids to have an "identity"? When did being a trophy-wife turn into a bad thing? My wife used to struggle with her identity after the military; then she became a mother. I find it quite humorous when people ask what she does and after telling them she's a stay-at-home-mom they almost always answer "oh, so you don't work". I look at her and laugh because it's the most ignorant thing I hear people say, especially to her! She has perfected a look, after much training, that says "idiot" in about a dozen languages. It's the same look she gives people when they make comments like that.

So, could you afford to stay at home, mom? It might mean trading your job for living within your means, caring for your own children, relying on your husband to be the man God has called him to be, and accepting reliance as a form of leadership (it's a real thing). It works when you want it to.

My youngest didn't want to eat. Nothing on his plate appealed to him and his tantrum was making it known. How could he NOT want to eat a delicious peppercorn-crusted pork loin with stuffing and a mixed vegetable medley? I couldn't wait! Then again, I'm not a 4-year old that had to put down my +LeapFrog LeapPad to eat it either.

Well, I was out of Velcro straps so I would just have to convince him otherwise. In his defense, the pork loin was "too spicy" for him. He's never liked spicy foods and henceforth I have ordered a DNA test. After all...

<----------This kid...
                   looks nothing like...
                                   this kid------------->
AM I RIGHT?!! That's sarcasm, folks. Welcome to the show.

Anyway, trying to get him to eat dinner... He finally calms down long enough to tolerate his presence at the dinner table and after sampling the pork loin and deciding it was too spicy moved on to "hating the carrots!" I mean HATE the carrots! Forget the broccoli, we're not even there yet! Momma calms him down enough to suffer through the applesauce and just that quick we're back to carrots. I went with the reverse psychology bit.. "Don't you eat those carrots, you'd better not!" Who knew? It worked! Well, it worked for one fork-full anyway. It was mom's coaxing and helpful input that sealed the deal. "Eating carrots helps you see in the dark" she said. While it's not a total lie he began to devour them by the fork-full.

Not quite done I asked him to eat the one  zucchini on his plate. That was met with the resistance of a POW until his sister told him it was a cucumber and said "you're eating Larry!" from +VeggieTales.
Gone.... you couldn't have timed it it was gone so quick. Now what? Yup, the broccoli. I have heard tales of other parents that say their children would rather eat their own boogers before consuming broccoli not smothered in ranch dressing, if at all. Try this... "Hey bud, you know what broccoli is really good for? It makes your farts smell terrible." You'd think he found a $50 bill under his seat, and knew the value of it. He looked at one of the stalks now cold and wilting on his plate, stabs it with his fork, and proceeds to down it like a champ. What's next? How about he no-joke lifted his leg and farts at the table. "Ooh, you're right, daddy! They ARE stinky!" He consumes the remaining stalks, farting after every bite, and makes it to the last one before exclaiming, "Almost peed on that one. Better finish this before I fart again... don't want to pee."

Yes, my son ate every vegetable on his plate to the promise of having night-vision, consuming a cartoon super-hero, and possessing terrible gas. All of which were met, as promised. Was it a bit unorthodox? You bet. Inappropriate? Perhaps. But it worked and I'm satisfied with that. Now we just have to make sure he doesn't eat vegetables at a friend's house or he'll be sorely embarrassed.

#kidseat #veggietales #LeapPad
See what I did there? Sight... site?! While I am clever I am not this clever. Allow me to introduce +Ana White. Mother, home maker, blah blah blah, and wood-worker. You can learn more about her here but the "meat and potatoes" of her is here where she lists her free wood-working plans. It is very rare that I find someone who challenges my wood-working skills and even rarer when I discover the plans to that challenge.

MRS. (capitalized on purpose, gents) White has plans with all of the shopping lists, dimensions, and ideas you would ever need. It's truly a gold-mine of information! I have been swayed into completing the "Sweet Pea Bunk Bed" but converting it into a French Cafe for my girls. I'll post all the pictures you could ever want along the way.

The beauty of wood working projects is it is relatively easy to break-down and move when needed. We military folks can appreciate this fun-fact especially if we live in base housing! More-so if the husband is deployed while you're moving (thanks, babe!). It's also a forgiving medium to explore our creativity and cheap enough to make mistakes.

Thanks, Ana, for the wealth of information... I hope that others can get as many great ideas from you as I have!

#woodworking #diy #bedplans #childrensfurniture
A while back my wife left me. Yup, it's sad. Fortunately, all she did was go to her mom's place early for
#Thanksgiving . It had been five days, five loooong days, since I've had a hot meal that wasn't prepared at a drive-through. I hadn't had a hug from someone that I cared to be within 20-feet of since she left and I had begun to hate my life.

Don't call 911 or anything, I just want to take this opportunity to point out some of the more important differences in my past "displaced" status and a "deployed" state. While I'm deployed it's easy to make a schedule, plan for different "activities" or work schedules. Being home-alone however, that's an entirely different demon and it sucks!

Both scenarios require a certain amount of self-control and appropriate decision making. Before some notice and are accompanied by planning.
deployments I know that I'm going to be working a shift; typically 12 hours with hold-overs, and I have an "idea" of what those times are based on the group of guys that just got back. With that info I can plan... sleep 6 hours, gym for 2, chow on the way back, shower and dress, be at work by 0700, repeat. Some people work well on a schedule, I THRIVE on it. And it's actually quite necessary for everyone when they're deployed to maintain their sanity. Whether they realize it or not, most people operate on a schedule, they call it a routine. Of the two, deployed or displaced, deployments are easier to plan for. They typically come with

Then there's displaced. Dear God does that bite! It doesn't have a set schedule or any pre-planning to accompany it, it just happens. Don't get me wrong, I loooooove +Taco Bell but they don't serve breakfast around here and even twice a day for two weeks is a bit much. It's not that I'm lazy, I'm capable of concocting life-saving meals, but I don't have to do that anymore so I'm out of the habit. I guess you could say I'm spoiled. Anyway, being displaced leaves you in-between schedules. Literally operating on the fly! For some people this works and it's not foreign to me, I just prefer schedules. For example, when she went to Georgia early, I didn't grocery shop for "bachelor" food; sandwich meats, bread, etc. The fridge was still stocked with "meal" items; you know, things that require other items to combine with them to make things... like that game Alchemy, only with food. Like, you take cheese and have to melt it. Then cook noodles called macaroni and combine the two. WHAT? How about Ramen Noodles  and grilled cheese?! Yup! Survival. Unfortunately, there was no grilled cheese or material to make them. To be perfectly honest, if I go much further than the beer aisle at +Publix then I start to feel really weird. Kind of like that awkward feeling you get if you're in +Victoria's Secret and you're wife's in the dressing room and you're still walking around looking at stuff but no one else saw a woman with you and boom.... creeper. That's how I feel in grocery stores alone.

As you can tell by the sheer volume of words there is a huge difference between deployed and displaced. Both are built on schedules and thrive within them. However, displacement takes much more self-discipline to continue what you were doing with half of you gone. Nothing had changed except the house was quieter and I would see my wife in 5 short days. But to me that was a #GameChanger . I had to take care of myself again. Don't get me wrong, I can live under a rock, eat dirt, call in airstrikes, and hide in the shadows for days, but there-again, I'm prepared. Being displaced is one of the greatest opportunities to lose your spouses trust you may ever face. Being displaced can get you in serious trouble. Therefore, speaking as a man who has been there, survived that, let me advise you thusly... Take your 6-pack, ramen noodles and re-heated burrito, and fire up the +PlayStation. Time's-a-wastin'...
There are several things we military families go through to prepare for a deployment. One thing we excel at is waiting in lines, especially if you've been deployed at least twice. In the Air Force these are called "Deployment Lines" and lots of agencies come to you rather than you having to drive all over base to find them. One agency that is always there is Base Legal. They have everything you need for a quick will, living or otherwise, and most importantly the Power of Attorney. This is the most important item in the whole line for reasons I shall detail below...

Here's a true story that first introduced me to the "+Power of Attorney".
There I was at work, minding my own business, when the First Sergeant came down to find me. I needed to move my Airman's personal goods out of his house ASAP as I was just informed that his room mates had moved out and left him footing the bill. How was this all the sudden MY problem? Well, when you're all grown up and move away from home, mommy and daddy aren't there to come help you cart you crap away! But imagine the rest of your career after your supervisor has to remove your household goods while you're deployed all because you didn't get a simple piece of paper... the Power of Attorney!
How about another little gem...
Sgt. Snuffy was deployed and failed to shutoff his cell-phone. His "significant other" would take care of that for him, right? (Here's my personal opinion so don't get too bent over it but... if you're not his wife, I could care even less about you) How about she decided to start seeing someone else, using his phone, car, etc., and there was nothing I could do about it because they were still a "couple" while I had no Power of Attorney to do anything about the situation, i.e. shutoff his phone!
Those are true stories and just a hint of what I've experienced in my career specifically related to the POA (Power of Attorney). It gets a nickname now because it's too long to print. Anyway, I'm going to give this to you in two-parts. The first will be for the married folks.


Married Folks and the POA

If you have a solid relationship, read MARRIED, not dating, then you should be able to leave a POA for your spouse and they can handle everything. SOME agencies require specific POA's so check with banks, lenders, etc., before leaving town to make sure you're setting your family up for success. This goes along with preparing, in general.

Having your paperwork in order is a no-brainer anyway. God forbid something happen to you +United States Army folks while y'all are gone for over a year and you didn't leave one little paragraph stating at least "I leave everything to my wife and my comic book collection to my little brother".


Single Folks and the POA

The first example happened to me more than once. I had some guys deploy who were pretty sure that the dudes they were moving in with weren't going to bail on them. They'd been buddies for a while, partied together, why would they be jerks? Well, people change, especially when money's involved. My best 17-years-of-service-advice is this...  Always have a "Battle Buddy". I mean someone you can trust whether in the same town, a preacher at the church you went to when you grew up, someone. You may be in love with him/her now and "they'll wait for you" but leave a POA naming another ADULT as your executor. If something should happen to you and you want to leave your death benefits to the person you fell in love with on Spring Break, go ahead, but that's what WILLS are for, not POA's.

Bottom line for the single folks is leave a POA or even two for people you can trust, not your "friends".

Another important part of being prepared for deployments, or even a short-notice TDY, is making sure your family is prepared. I'm not talking about paperwork here. I mean does your spouse know how to change a light bulb, call Triple-A if stranded, patch a drywall hole, etc.? Recently I was replacing a faucet in my mother-in-laws house and my oldest boy came in to see what I was doing. He's 9 so he's quite capable AND curious which makes for the perfect learning opportunity. I described what I was doing as I lay on my
back loosening the faucet and stopper valve and told him to "come down here and try it out" to which he was more than happy to oblige. I had the large ford wrench lying on my chest and he thought, "hey, big tools, cool!" A short time later we had replaced the sink and guess who knows the difference between a flat-head and phillips-head screwdriver, adjustable pliers, and ford wrench? Yup, me... and my son.

He wouldn't have learned that anywhere else, except for maybe at +Cub Scouts some night. But even then, it's not really using them. The point is, take every opportunity to make everything a learning opportunity. It's easy for me to use the masculine example here so excuse me while I do. I mean no disrespect to the female constituency of our fighting forces, but, if I'm putting together a bookshelf, so is my son. If I'm changing a tire, so is my son. Don't get me wrong, if my 10-year old daughter is within ear-shot, she's helping, too, because I don't believe in helpless women. You won't see my daughters stranded on the side of the road waiting to get picked off while trying to flag down help. In fact, I would bet that +AAA has a road-side "school" that goes over the basics of driving "emergencies" like flat tires. It would certainly be worth looking into. Or (rabbit trail here) here's a link to +DriversEd.com that outlines some essential items for an emergency roadside kit. Finally, get a little pink toolbox. Seriously, they have little pink toolboxes at +The Home Depot with just the right tools to do all the "light work" until we get home.

At any rate, preparing for deployments isn't just paperwork. It's about trust and bestowing that trust upon someone with everything you own, literally. It's also about making sure that your family is able to carry-on in your absence. Not just in your un-timely death, but even the two-week TDY that got extended beyond pay-day.

Another way the Air Force is committed to helping families is by offering "Mock Deployment Lines" for spouses and kids. Typically we bring our family to the same Mobility Processing Center and they are "walked through" a processing line like they're
about to deploy. Kids get dog tags, face painted, tons of paper to color and throw away (just like me) and it truly does help the family transition. Think about it for a second, do you remember your first deployment? Was it a whirlwind? Was your job actually easier than the paperwork and process to get you there and home again? That took months, maybe even years, of preparation to get you to that point so imagine how your family feels when you come home frustrated about something they can't relate to. This program helps!

Remember... Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance

#AirForce #PowerOfAttorney #POA #SpringBreak
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