THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME

“The wind began to switch – the house to pitch and suddenly the hinges started to unhitch.

Just then the Witch – to satisfy an itch went flying on her broomstick, thumbing for a hitch.

And oh, what happened then was rich.

The house began to pitch. The kitchen took a slitch.

It landed on the Wicked Witch in the middle of a ditch,

Which was not a healthy situation for the Wicked Witch.”

-The Wizard of Oz

As I sit on my porch sipping coffee and pondering my military life I hear it.

 

You know what it is. That hauntingly familiar sound of gears grinding, sticks shifting and plumes of exhaust pluming. It slowly rounds the corner wanting nothing more than to engulf everything I hold dear in life and once, having satisfied its bloodlust, simply drives away.

It is the dreaded moving van.

 

If only for a moment my skin becomes clammy and a slow dizziness overtakes me.

Then, I suddenly remember we are not due to move this summer.

Well that was an uncomfortable moment. More coffee?

Our turn will be here before we know it so I’m always mentally preparing myself.

Part of my mental preparedness comes in the form of motivational sayings from my active duty husband. Lucky for all of us, many of the quotes come from his highly respected and motivating Marine boot camp Drill Instructor. The man had a way with words. Such a wordsmith was he that were I to post them, women would blush, gentleman would yell, “here, here now!”  and my blog would be removed from the interwebs all-together. I give you a palatable family favorite…

“If you ain’t cheatin,’ then you ain’t tryin’.”

He was right you know. With verbal judo as his weapon of choice, the DI impressed upon my then 18 year-old husband a powerful life lesson. While in no way implying nor suggesting unethical behavior, he was simply teaching think outside of the box and get creative with the task at hand. Though a situation may appear difficult or even unsurpassable, you must make it work for you. You mold the situation into a desirable option often, not always, with a positive outcome.

It was just last year that we moved and the year before and two years before that. So, the tale I tell is still so very fresh in my mind.

A cross-country move for many is a life goal on the very top of one’s bucket list. But, for military families, it can be an annual necessity of life whether by planes, trains or automobiles. When we hear the words cross-country, thoughts of car sick children vomiting, less than savory motel rooms, wrong turns taken (even with a GPS) and radiators exploding in the desert all come to mind.

Not for me. I embrace the words of wisdom delivered so many years ago by that warrior god walking the grounds of Perris Island.

I made a decision then and there to make our 7th cross-country the experience of a lifetime.

The house was packed out, the moving van had pulled away and the kids were ready to go. We hopped in our two vehicles and set a goal of 8 hours without stopping. Oceanside, California to wherever 8 hours with too many kids and animals to count would take us that day. Slow and easy was the mantra for our upcoming adventure.

Around hour 4 we reached Yuma, Arizona and small dark clouds began to swirl in the distance. A few lightening strikes, nothing I hadn’t seen before.  Fascinating and frightening all at the same time.  I love a good desert lightening show, I thought.  This trip is going to be epic.

Suddenly the clouds became dark and ominous. Dust Devils began to form with jack rabbits darting to and fro. Something was afoot! In an instant a wall of sand, rain and cloud came barreling down upon us.  I immediately lost sight of my husband and our 6 other children. (Side note – I am capable of riding with only one child at a time.  Apparently, that is my limit. I chose child #5 thinking I had chosen well only to learn later that I had not). As the storm surrounded us, we lost complete visibility.

Blackout.

Tumbleweed, small rocks and debris were all striking the windshield with bands of rain, then sand then rain again. In this kind of situation, one must make the decision to either maintain speed and risk hitting someone who has stopped ahead of you or slow down and risk being hit from behind. I was tailing my husband closely and watched as my 5-year old’s chubby little hand thrust the dog dish out the window and in a gust of wind he lost his grip. The metal dish bounced on the interstate creating sparks then shot up and hit my windshield. I hit my brakes just in time to see a desert antelope springboard off my car hood, then to my left there was a desert tortoise laying on his back laughing at me. To my right stood a frontier Army ghost brigade at Parade Rest and just as I thought things couldn’t get any worse, my sweet Auntie was directly above my car riding a bicycle waving at me. With the mercy of sudden distraction, I frantically waved back. It was at that moment Auntie slowly morphed into my husband’s former DI. He was riding atop a tank and called out to me, “If you aint  cheaten,’ then you ain’t tryin!”

“Jesus take the wheel!,” I screamed as I slammed on the brakes throwing my right arm across Rebecca  to brace her for impact.  It was at that point I noticed she was laughing hysterically while filming me with her Iphone.

I repeat, I chose the wrong driving companion.

“Stop filming me and call Daddy right now,” I yelled.   She quickly dialed his number and my combat hardened husband dryly answered, “Hello, this is Dad, how may I help you?” In my unglued state I screamed, “I cannot drive in this!” He calmly replied, “Just follow the white line on the right until we get through the storm.” So that’s what I did. I followed that white line all the way off an exit down a service road into a zero-visibility gully not knowing if I had level ground or a 30-foot drop on either side of me. I looked up the embankment just in time to see the red tail lights of the family roadster slowly fade into the storm.

So, this is how it ends? Very disappointing I thought to myself.

I turned to my daughter (who was posting her film) and inquired, “any ideas? I’m tapped out.”

She calmly replied, “get back on the road Mom.”

And so, I did.

As if being shaken from a deep sleep, in an instant we pulled out of the bands of dust, rain and wind into a clear, starlit night.

We pulled over at a rest stop and engaged in lively discussion with another motorist only to find out we had driven through a Desert Monsoon. Raise your hand if you have ever heard of that.

Exactly, me neither.

I became a different person that evening. I am now a white-knuckled driver who pulls over at the slightest change in cloud formation. I cannot watch The Mummy and I’m still mad at my daughter. I have yet to watch the Scorsese-esque film she created that night but maybe someday.

We never did find out why sweet baby CJ threw the metal dog dish out the window, perhaps he was aiming for the desert antelope.

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

FREE VITA TAX PREP ON BASE

Yep, you heard that right!

At this very moment there are uniformed warrior-gods not only ready to engage the enemy, but prepare your taxes (which can be quite the battle too).

Many U.S. military installations across our great nation and around the world are collaborating with the IRS to offer free, in-person tax preparation services for active duty members, retirees and dependents. Through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance or VITA, our active duty and their families have one less thing to worry about in a lifestyle that can often times be filled with uncertainty.

According to Army Lt. Col. David Dulaney, the Executive Director of the Armed Forces Tax Council, “Taxes for military members are complicated, noting frequent moves, deployments and the fact that tax laws change every year. The VITA preparers receive extensive training through the Defense Department and the IRS on the situations faced in the military community, such as combat zone tax benefits, extensions to file and pay, and special rules for the earned income tax credit.”

Have I had my taxes prepared by VITA? You bet your sweet return I have! (Full disclosure: a few years back I went to the dark side and had my taxes prepared by a national chain. In fact, I paid the fees to have 4 years of VITA returns checked. Not a single mistake was found. Very impressive to say the least.)

Gather your tax information for the past year (and an up-to-date power of attorney if your spouse is deployed) and head on over to your local VITA offices. Make sure to bring along your bank information that include routing numbers, as well as original social security cards of all dependent family members.

You will find professional, uniformed personnel under the guidance of an expert overseer that are able to file both federal and state returns. The entire process is free, all you have to do is make that appointment!

The deadline to file this year is April 17 with military members serving outside the United States receiving an automatic two-month extension.

VITA is a wonderful way our country gives back to our service members and their families who sacrifice so much.

So get going!

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

Attention to Detail

The Statue of Liberty, a gift from the people of France, was sculpted by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi to commemorate the centennial of the American Declaration of Independence.
On October 28, 1886 the Statue of Liberty was dedicated in New York Harbor. Completed in 1884, the 152-foot-high icon was erected almost 20 years prior to the Wright brother’s first flight. Many years later as aircraft hovered overhead the meticulous creation of hair and crown were evident. Bartholdi, in creating his masterpiece, cut no corners.
 Most people of that era never imagined that someday humans would fly. It was believed by some that the detail taken on the highest point of the statue was a waste of time and talent as no one would ever see it-so they thought. Attention to detail was in the artist’s very essence. He created a work of art that was perfect from all vantage points-one that would stand the test of time.
For our beloved military, the details are what set them apart. Attention to the details in uniform, speech, personal life and of course in successful execution of their jobs and duties.
I’d like to think that some of that has rubbed off on us as military families. When we are around our active duty, we stand a little taller and walk a little smarter, don’t we?
The longer you are “in” with your spouse, the more opportunities you will have for mentoring, assisting and leading military families. In fact you may be their lifeline of information and comfort at critical points during deployment or life crisis.
We as military spouses understand the vital role entertaining plays in the life and career of military families. Family days, spouse coffees, Hails and Farewells and of course your respective branch’s annual Military Ball. It is our opportunity to love on one another as well as thank the team for a job well done.
Attention to detail should become your mantra if you are in any type of volunteer, leadership, or chairperson position. Take nothing lightly and leave nothing to chance. Our social events are where we get to know one another, where we might meet the leadership and where we have the opportunity to thank the shop, company or unit by serving them with thoughtful food and drink.
From the menu you create to the scent in your home to the way you have parking set up for your guests – it all counts and it all matters in making your event memorable and successful.
Sometimes I take it a little too far. I was in the habit of chevroning my toilet paper in the restroom (I lovingly blame my Mother for that) and got laughed at like you cannot imagine. So unappreciative. I realize it was my tiny 1970s duplex on base but I treated it like the Ritz! Occasionally I will sit in different sections of my home to see if there are dust bunnies under the couch that my guest might notice. Total insanity or entertaining genius? I leave it to you to decide.
 Rather than striving for perfection, set a goal to achieve your personal best. The implication as military spouses is that your best will be better than the norm.
After all, it’s that way for our active duty husbands and wives isn’t it?
Entertainingly Yours,
Cassie

At the Point of Cookie

A good life is a disciplined life!

I write as an undisciplined person attempting to work this concept out.

But thankfully, I was blessed with a husband who has been instrumental in honing my self-discipline. Imagine being married to a drill instructor, wrapped in a life coach, wrapped in a dietitian, wrapped in a founding father, wrapped in a voracious reader, wrapped in a man. Throw in Mr. Miyagi and you’ve basically got him worked out!

While known for many things, he is best known for his comedic, yet truthful, motivational one-liners.   Family favorites to include, “you might be hungry, but you don’t look like you have missed any meals” or “if it was a million dollars, you would have found it by now” and of course today’s title “at the point of cookie.” Before you become disturbed on my behalf – don’t. He holds people accountable and it is very refreshing (once we’ve nursed our wounded egos).

The title of this post was a comment he delivered to a fellow service member who was trying to lose a little weight. My spouse, in a moment of encouragement, explained that if you truly are attempting to curb your dietary intake, then “at the point of cookie” (meaning the minute the cookie touches your lips) STOP EATING.

So, what is your personal point of cookie? It can be anything. It may be eating out too often,   expensive cars, travel, too much house or perhaps simply spending more than you make. It’s all just the outcome of our favorite concept of  “I want what I want, when I want it.”

We all experience this desire to consume because it feels good, even if only for a moment. In the military lifestyle (where life and death situations can be a daily occurrence) the urge to swipe the credit card, or eat the whole box of Oreos, is even more tempting with the hope to have just a moment’s solace.

A few military moves back, I believe I reached one of my own personal “points of cookie” (I have come to understand I have more than one). As I was unpacking the house, I reached my wardrobe boxes and got to what I think was box number 5 of shoes.  In college, my roommates nicknamed me Imelda – after Imelda Marcos the infamous klepto-crat and former First Lady of the Philippines. Mrs. Marcos was known for many things, but most famously noted was her collection of over 1000 pair of shoes purchased with the plunder from the citizens she swore to serve. Over thirty years later, I was still struggling.

The old saying  “if the shoe fits, wear it” struck a hard blow.

What was I doing? Why all the shoes? Some were out of style and some I had not worn in years. I did a massive purge and set a goal for myself of no new wardrobe purchases for one year. So  for 12 months I purchased nothing wardrobe related. No new dresses, socks, jeans, shoes, hair pins- NOTHING. It was liberating and so fulfilling that I extended it for an additional month just to prove to myself I could.

I know now that I could put the cookie down and walk away.

What makes someone disciplined and successful? Successful people are willing to do what unsuccessful people are not. Are you willing to suffer the pain of discipline today to avoid the pain of regret later? Your ‘no’ needs to be bigger than your ‘yes.’

I stole all of those from my husband as that is the lighthearted chit chat at our family dinners. Bonus.

The vision of what you desire needs to be bigger than the cookie in your hand. Challenge yourself today to identify your personal point of cookie and get started on the more disciplined you. You won’t regret it.

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

P.S. if you’re feeling down about constantly bypassing your ‘point of cookie,’ take a look at this video and remember, everyone struggles with it! You can do it!