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Living It – Week 34

Tip #18 – Ask Questions

COnversation Cards

I can honestly say that at this point in the deployment there is little extra I am willing to or wanting to take on – I am beyond tired and just want to spend a solid week sleeping.  I know that when my husband gets home he will be tired (I have to constantly remind myself that he has been working for 8months solid with no breaks so it hasn’t been a picnic for him either).  One of the things we struggle with is what to do as a family to get conversations starting again and begin filling in the gaps of missed time.  My husband isn’t the best conversationalist and the kids haven’t seen him for 8 months so this reunion I decided that we would do Meal Question Cards.  This takes the pressure off everyone to have to come up with their own questions and keeps us laughing and talking.


* Make a mix of silly and serious questions

* Give incentives to people with the best answer (no dishes for the best answer, chore free day for the most thoughtful response, extra dessert if everyone laughs, etc.)

* Choose one meal a week to do them at so that it isn’t a pressure at every meal or everyday

* Put a few “Pass” cards out too so that people have the option not to answer something they aren’t comfortable with

* Hide them under their plates so they can’t cheat and plan their answers ahead of time

Hopefully your family will have fun with this, begin to reconnect and start talking about the big and little things that matter to them!

For more information about our tips, resources and books go to: www.whileyouwereaway.org 

Our Reunion Handbook can be found at (conversation cards on page 26-33):  http://wywa.ca/DEPLOYMENTRESOURCES/Reunion-Handbook-Ver5.pdf


A Company That Gives Back to Military Families

While I have not personally experienced Caliber Collision ‘s work and rarely blog or support for profit businesses, I was convinced when read about what kinds of work Caliber is doing.  They are focused on supporting veterans and military families in great ways and I didn’t know about any of it so I thought that I would share with some of you that might want to apply or access these services.  Caliber Collision has over 300 locations within the United States, specializing in auto body repairs and doing wonderful things to help out military families and veterans.

Having to balance your daily activities and work schedule without a vehicle can be a struggle, and Caliber is making every effort to eliminate this stress from military families.  It is our pleasure to refurbish vehicles and gift them to military families in the Austin, TX, and Dallas, TX, areas.  These vehicles have been restored to excellent driving condition, and were able to gift them to deserving families.  Through Recycled Rides, they were able to donate 20 vehicles in 2014, and in 2015, we have over 25 scheduled vehicle donations.  You can nominate yourself or a deserving individual through this nomination form.

Carry the Load is a national relay designed to raise recognition for our military, law enforcement, firefighters, and rescue personnel.  Caliber has different teams that will trade off walking the entire 2,000 miles starting in West Point, NY, and ending in Dallas, TX.  The relay will be going through 27 cities including Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Charlotte, Atlanta, Nashville, Memphis, and Little Rock, and people can join the walk at any point in the relay.  Their team will participate in the 27 day walk, finishing on Memorial Day in Dallas, and Caliber will hold events in Austin and Dallas to commemorate this event.  While there is no required registration or fee, registration is encouraged to allow for adequate supplies.  The money raised will help support national non-profit organizations including Heroes on the Water, Snowball Express, Team Red, White, and Blue (RWB), and Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS).

Many Caliber employees are veterans so we understand the challenges of finding employment after you leave the military.  They have partnered with 3M to help returning veterans find careers in the collision industry while giving them the correct education and support.  They work directly with 3M and the Collision Repair Education Foundation to provide veterans with scholarships and support for collision repair training.  In addition, the 3M Hire our Heroes program is able to fund rehabilitation for wounded veterans through Operation Comfort’s Automotivation program.  Through this program, they are able to help wounded veterans learn automotive skills in a new way so they can continue their automotive skill training.  In addition, many of their shops are eager to employ military veterans.

As a corporation, Caliber participates in Recycled Rides, Carry the Load, and Hire our Heroes, and many of our individual centers participate in other military organizations such as the Celebration of Love, Valentines for Veterans, and the Wounded Warrior Project.  They are committed to helping our military heroes because of the sacrifices they continually make for our country.  We will be eternally grateful to our country’s military, veterans, and their families, and we are thankful to have the opportunity to restore them to the rhythm of their life®.


For more information about our tips, resources and books go to: www.whileyouwereaway.org 

1001 Tips for Military Families – Tip #102

Find Out & Use What You Have


Ask some questions, do some digging and use what your community has to offer.

Ask some questions, do some digging and use what your community has to offer.

Today I read my email from the Kingston MFRC about giving parents time (a true gift) and programs available, I have had the priveledge of posted to Petawawa (yes, I said it) and have been on bases across North America from Fort Drum to Mayport Navel to Nellis Air Force bases.  We were often able to visit or use a number of facilities and each time we went we were warmly greeted and the same comments were made at each place we visited – “If only more people would use us…”, “A lot of people don’t know we are here…”, “We struggle to get people to come and use our services”. When we lived in Petawawa I was always surprised that the pool wasn’t crowded or that the tennis courts weren’t used.  I also had little difficulty booking same day daycare (free daycare) to go grocery shopping or just go home and sleep.  I know first hand that moving, going through a deployment or military life in general can drain the life right out of you.  It often feels easier to stay at home and hunker down but what I have discovered is that in the long run it is a lot easier to make the most of where you are and have an adventure or two.


* Find out what is on your base or in your community

* Ask your neighbours

* Walk or drive around the base/town and check things out (we drove around and found one of the most impressive parks with play equipment most schools can only dream of having)

* Go to your local library or schools and find out about the events happening in your community

* Ask your family about the kinds of things they would like to do or participate in and then ask around about how to get involved or sign up

* Visit the local stores and look at the postings people or organizations have put up (I am usually the type to walk right by with the single minded purpose of getting what I came for).

* Local coffee shops and restaurants have advertising for camps and deployment information

* Read the newsletters or local newpaper to get ideas of things to do in your community – the busier I am doing things the easier the deployment is for myself and my children

Make sure that you are well aware of all the things your community has that can support you.  Take a few minutes and you could end up saving yourself time and energy.

For more information about our tips, books and resources go to: www.whileyouwereaway.org

Living It – Week Three

Get Organized – Tip #1

I was one of the most disorganized people I knew as a child and teenager.  Now, my only little act of rebellion is that I always have a pile of clothes somewhere in my room that needs cleaning, sorting or putting away and I never make my bed.  I am not sure what the exact events were that caused me to begin to organize myself but I know that since having children and being a military wife it is one of the main things that saves my sanity (to be clear, it is sometimes temporarily lost no matter what I do…).  One of the things that I advised people to do was create a ‘year box’ and put birthday, anniversary cards, etc. in it by month… okay, I have never done that… My mother did it and was always so thoughtful about sending family and friends cards and little notes (it is where I stole the idea from).  I always feel a little sense of disappointment when I get a birthday reminder on Facebook (or just remember the date when it arrives or has passed) that I couldn’t get my act together enough to send a card and then I post a Facebook message which feels like cheating.  I always have good intentions but they don’t lead to actual action.  So…  this week I went on a card shopping expedition and have organized a year of birthday cards (get ready friends and family!).  What I realized is that if I am going to really follow through on this I am also going to end a good selection of stamps too… regular trips to a post office aren’t going to happen! So, I have confessed what I wasn’t doing but below are my organization tips that I do actually follow through with…

Our latest selection of cards

Our family’s latest selection of cards

1) I keep a weekly calendar for meals and activities that is on our fridge.  Each Sunday night I do one for the week. We don’t always stick to all the meals but it is there as a guide when I don’t want to think.
2) A weekend a month and on holidays I carve out some time to bake and cook. I always double or triple recipes and freeze them so they are available during busy weeks.
3) Mornings are not pretty for our family so anything that reduces time and energy in the mornings seems to work. We sort out what we wear the night before. This small thing reduced time in the morning and thinking that often led to arguments.
4) We have a calendar in the kitchen that has all important dates and activities marked in advance and everyone can add to it. It is also in our high traffic area so no one can say they didn’t see it. Once a month we all sit down and go over what the month looks like (it isn’t as if anyone remembers the discussion but they all feel consulted and I have a chance to hear what they are and are not looking forward to – I can prepare for battle!)
5) There is less wasted time, fewer arguments and everyone feels calmer when bedrooms are clean and organized. Once every two weeks rooms are sorted out. Once every 6 months we go through their clothes (our kids grow like weeds).
6) We have a divided box for mail, magazines, coupons and bills. It helps us not to lose mail and other things that we need to action. Before doing this there were 10 different places to find things and it used to send me over the edge more than getting the actual bill!
7) We used chalkboard paint and made a chalkboard above the phone in the kitchen. It keeps phone messages and my grocery list. Before I go grocery shopping I take a picture of the list on my phone.

Our kitchen information area!

Our kitchen information area!


Being more organized has really given me more time – time to sleep more, time to relax, time to make better choices or do something selfish (today I went and had a massage and it was an hour of magic!). It is also one of the main reasons that I am still able to get up in the mornings and function despite deployments, exercises, IR, work, children’s sports/school/social calendars, laundry, the dog ,meals and life in general.  You don’t have to be an ‘organizing fanatic’ but doing a few small things ahead of time can make military and family life so much easier.

For more information about my tips, resources or books go to:  www.whileyouwereaway.org

1001 Tips for Military Families – #449

Read to your children – Tip #449


Being an educator and mother, I am a avid reader and especially of children’s books.  They don’t have to say the words deployment or military to be well suited to military families, educators or support personnel.  I am not suggesting that you go out and spend a lot of money and buy all of these but most of them will be in your children’s schools or at your local library.  I highly recommend ending each day with a book as there are some strong and important messages that you can give to your children through these books – one of the most important is the message you will pass onto them when you drop everything for them and take the time to enjoy a good book.  Here are my top choices…

Great books for reading and recording onto your computer, IPOD or CD by a family member who is leaving:

* Gregory, the Terrible Eater – Mitchell Sharmat

– It tells the story of a goat that loves healthy, human food and his parents aren’t happy.  If you have a fussy eater this is a perfect read!

* I Love You Stinky Face – Lisa McCourt

– A book that teaches children about unconditional love.  You could finish it off with telling them that there is nothing they could do or be that you would stop loving them for and time or distance won’t change it.

* The Berenstain Bears Get the Gimmies – Stan and Jan Berenstain

– A timeless classic of shopping with your children.  A good one to remind them about appropriate behaviour even when you are away.

* Some Things Are Scary (No Matter How Old You Are) – Florence Parry Heide

– A great book to talk about everyone having fears and it would be a good chance for you to share what you do when you are worried or scared.

*  I Love You, Little One – Nancy Tafuri

– It is the perfect book to tell your child you love them and why

Great Books for Reading to Them At Night to remind them of their own strength and courage:

* Oh, the Paces You’ll Go – Dr. Seuss

– This book will remind your child that even though they haven’t left home they are on their own journey

* The Giving Tree – Shel Silverstein

– This book demonstrates how the gift of giving can affect people and things

* Today I Will Fly – Mo Willems

– It is a good book for teaching your child about never giving up and persevering even when you don’t do things the way you’d planned.

* Little Beaver and The Echo – Amy MacDonald and Sarah Fox-Davies

– It tells the story of a lonely beaver who finds friends when he is looking for someone that doesn’t exist

* Imagine A Place – Sarah L. Thomson

– This book is perfect for sitting and looking at together and talking about what  you see and why or why not it could be possible or impossible.

* David Gets in Trouble – David Shannon

– He has written an easy to read book about admitting when you have done something wrong and being loved anyway.


The Kissing Hand – Audrey Penn

– I challenge you to find a better book to read to your children before their first day of school.  I have been reading this book to my children every year since Kindergarten.  It is about a mother raccoon and her child having to be separated but only physically. If there was any book in this list to buy…  this is it!

Books to Discuss Friend Or Self Esteem Issues:

* The Ordinary Princess – M.M. Kaye

– A book that teaches the reader that there is no such thing as ordinary

* The English Roses – Madonna

– A story about accepting and having friends not only for the things you have in common but the things that make you different

* My Secret Bully – Trudy Ludwig

– In my opinion, the best book published that talks about the ways girl’s bullying and treat eachother.

* Just Kidding – Trudy Ludwig

– In my opinion, the best book for boys about the way they treat each other and then call it a ‘joke’.

* The Dot – Peter H. Reynolds

– The story of a boy that learns from his teacher that he is capable of anything if he just tries.

* Scaredy Squirrel Makes A Friend – Melanie Watt

– There is a bunch of these Scaredy Squirrel books now and they all deal with overcoming your fears so that you can discover the world.  They do it with humour and fun.

I hope you enjoy all of these as much as I have and would welcome your recommendations too.

For more information about our books, resources and tips go to: www.whileyouwereaway.org

1001 Tips for Military Families – #430

PreDeployment: When & What To Tell – Tip #430

It is hard to know how soon and how much to tell your family and friends that someone they love and care about is going to be away for a long time, without a definite return date and to a place where they are going to be potentially in danger on a regular basis.  There is no right or wrong answer but there are a few tips to breaking the news that you may find helpful.


Don’t be in a rush or distracted when you decide to tell others about the deployment

Be as positive as possible about the deployment before telling anyone else

Don’t share too much all at once. This will give them time to process the absence before thinking about all the other worries and concerns

Give the news during a period of time when you know you are going to be spending a lot of time together

If you have not been given a lot of time don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have to give information as quickly as possible and as much as possible. Present the absence and answer their questions first

Have strategies for coping with the absence in place before talking about it (Mom is going away for the next 6 months for work but we are going to be able to write to her everyday or we are really going to miss her but one way we are going to be able to stay in touch is…)

Begin to talk about what your family member is going to miss (Christmas, birthdays, etc.) and how you going to celebrate these things in their absence

Answer questions honestly and calmly (they will know when you are lying and if you aren’t calm, they won’t be either)

Listen to what they are saying, repeat back to them what you think they are saying and then don’t offer a lot of solutions. Sometimes your family just wants to feel heard and they will often say more when you aren’t jumping to find solutions.

For more information about our tips, books or resources go to: www.whileyouwereaway.org

1001 Tips for Military Families – #404

How To/When To – Tip #404

There are a ton of things that my husband does that I only realize he does when he is gone.  I admit to taking him for granted at times… okay, quite often.  I realized on his last deployment that I need to know what he does and when so we made a list that I hope you will also find helpful too whether you deployed or not, this can be a useful log and keep a busy family on track!

For a full sized copy of the chart, go to: http://www.whileyouwereaway.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=22&Itemid=35

For more information about our resources, tips and books go to: www.whileyouwereaway.org