Kay Hagan meeting with residents in Raeford Friday

North Carolinians will get a chance to chat up Sen. Kay Hagan this Friday in Raeford, NC, a popular area for Bragg-based military families. Hagan will be at this addressL L.E. McLaughlin, Jr. Building, 423 East Central Avenue, Raeford, NC 28376 from 2:30 p.m. until 3:30 p.m. to hear constituents concerns on issues such as federal agencies, such as the VA, IRS or the Social Security Administration. Her staff will be around for awhile afterward to hear and help with constituents’ concerns.


Gabby Giffords, MSOY?

The Fayetteville Observer has a great story in the paper today about me and the two other Bragg wives who’ve been nominated for Military Spouse of the Year. Here’s a link to the story:

You can vote for me here until February 3rd, when voting on this first round (the Branch representative round) ends. AND PLEASE DO VOTE FOR ME! But, if you’ve got a minute, read the profiles of the other spouses (because there’s a husband who has been nominated, too — Love that!). Reading what some of them have accomplished and committed themselves to doing, despite all sorts of obstacles, has literally moved me to tears. I am truly very honored and humbled to be in their ranks. It’s hard to think of this as a competition when I find myself voting for my “competitors”…

It’s no secret that I’m partial to military families. Over and again we do the impossible, and usually with a smile on our face. This was even more apparent yesterday when Gabrielle Giffords, the only military spouse in Congress, announced she was resigning this week. As you no doubt recall, she’s been recovering from a gunshot to the head after an assassin tried to kill her last year. In this video she says that she still has a lot of recovering left to do and that stepping down is the right thing for her constituents.

Maybe we need her as a write-in candidate for Military Spouse of the Year? Seriously… what an amazing woman!



DREAM Scholarships for Military Kids

As if we needed more reasons to love Autumn Letendre … The golden-voiced, Gold Star Marine widow started The Golden Star USA Foundation to  “provide pre-through post-deployment/war support, literature, lectures, financing, and education to our active duty and honorably discharged military service members and their dependents.”

Autumn’s husband, Marine Capt. Brian Letendre was killed in Iraq in 2006. Since then Autumn has, quite literally, been a voice for patriotism, the military community and for other surviving spouses by singing her beautifully written songs in venues across the country and advocating for military families through her Foundation.

As part of that mission, her Foundation is giving away $2,000 college scholarships to military kids. Autumn wrote me this week to ask if I would help spread the word that the deadline for scholarship applications is fast approaching and they want as many military kids as possible to know that there’s college money out there for the taking.

I wrote back and told her to ask me to do something unpleasant next time. I am only too happy to share this news with as many military families as possible.

Called The Dream Scholarship (Develop. Reach, Educate. Achieve. Motivate.) the goal of the scholarship is to “recognize the contributions and sacrifices military children make on a daily basis through deployments and supporting their military sponsor who volunteered to protect our freedoms.” The deadline for applications is March 2, 2012.

To apply for the scholarship, applicants should be:

* Dependent, unmarried children of active duty or honorably discharged military personnel under the age of 21

* Applicants must be enrolled, or planning to enroll, full-time at an accredited U.S. college or university in the fall of 2012.

* Applicant must have a minimum of a 3.0 grade point average.

The scholarships are awarded without regard to race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, religious belief, national origin, rank or service of sponsor.


This program is independently administered by The Golden Star USA Foundation, a non-profit, nonpartisan organization. The GSUSA Foundation board is solely responsible for the selection of scholarship recipients and its decisions are final. Please direct any questions or concerns to info@thegoldenstarusa.com or 1-(888)-317-8423 Extension 0.

– Dream Scholarship Form


Military Spouse of the Year


So … I have been nominated to be the 2012 Military Spouse of the Year and made it all the way to the finals! Right now I’m up against four other Army wives, all of whom are really impressive. One of us will be chosen and then the overall Military Spouse of the Year will be chosen out of that group. At this point it all comes down to votes — whoever gets the most votes wins. The good news is that anyone can vote — and you can vote EVERY 59 minutes!  So please vote for me and tell your friends to vote for me, too. And if I win I promise to buy each and every one of you a rainbow-striped pony.

Click here to vote:

(And, just in case you’re wondering, I have no idea *what* I will actually win. Probably just some validation and the opportunity to meet with military and political leaders and to inflict my opinions on them. But how often does one of us get to do that?)

Build (and fund) your own military

The New York Times’ website has this fascinating interactive tool that allows people to decide how they would cut the military budget. It’s like the American Idol-izing of national security. I’d love to see a similar tool for other parts of the federal budget because, personally, I think I could do some real good on Education spending, and Social Security, and the Department of the Interior — I mean, what do they even do? –  and Agriculture (why, oh why, do we pay farm subsidies? If no one is buying your crop, perhaps it’s time to grow something else…), and Commerce, which hasn’t exactly done so well these last few years, and … and so forth and so on, but for now the Department of Defense budget is the only Department being subjected to this Roman-style thumbs up-thumbs down from the public, so we’ll have to work with what we’ve got.

I also wish the Times would post the results. I’d love to see how many people would opt to eliminate retirement pensions in favor of a civilian-style 401 system (that’s one of the budget cutting options) or how many would eliminate DoD schools altogether (another option), but no such break down is given.

In case you’re wondering, I spent some time — not a whole lot of time, just a little time  — pondering these choices and only managed to slash $254 million, and I felt pretty bad about most of things I chose to cut. I really debated on the military bands, for instance. Do we need them? No. But they don’t really cost that much compared to everything else in the budget, either. I’m still on the fence on that one, in fact.

Check it out for yourselves and feel free to chime in here and let us all know what you think is cut-able.


NOTE: Amy Bushatz, who blogs over at SpouseBuzz on the Military.com site, just informed me that if you actually do manage to cut $450 million from the Defense budget, you get an option to submit your plan and to see how other people elected to cut the budget. You don’t get to see those results if you, like me, only manage to cut a measly $254 million, though. So, if you’re curious, then go ahead and axe Tricare, just like 40 percent of Times readers did. Or, like 85 percent, you can choose to reduce the number of troops we have in Asia and Europe (btw, I really wish those two weren’t lumped in together. Europe — yes, maybe we don’t need so many people in Europe. But Asia (aka, South Korea) um, no. It’s looking like we might need to maintain a presence there, folks.) Reassuringly, only 17 percent opted to make military retirement pensions more like 401Ks. At least a majority of American civilians realize that no one is going to voluntarily risk their lives for their crappy retirement plans…

Jumping off the high dive

There was never a time when I didn’t want kids. Sure, there were plenty of times — perhaps even a majority of the hours of my life — when I didn’t want to raise children, but having kids just seemed like part of the normal progression of life to me, like cutting teeth, jumping off the high dive and learning how to ask for a bathroom in Spanish. (Donde esta el bano?)

I remember being a young teenager and realizing that, while I didn’t necessarily envision myself ever being married, I always planned on having at least two kids. My sister and I even worked out a deal on this. My aspirations back then teetered between being a rock star and a tortured poet — ideally, both —  and hers were to grow up to own a Volvo station wagon and wear pleated dress slacks from Talbots with sweaters that had ducks appliqued on them and earrings to match — but to never risk getting fat. We decided that it made sense for both of us if I would just have some illegitimate babies and let her raise them. It was a win-win plan. She even agreed to let me name one of them Wolfgang.

Even in my drug-addled early twenties, even when I dated men so wildly unsuited to fatherhood that they were almost a parody of bad boyfriends, I knew I wanted to have children. Even when I woke up in sweaty terror from an honest-to-God nightmare I’d had in which I’d dreamed I was pregnant by my then-boyfriend and would have to deal with him for the rest of my life, I still knew I wanted kids. Someday. Just not with him.

(By the way, you’d think that nightmare would have tipped me off that the boyfriend in question was not Mr. Right. Wrong. That moment only came when he kicked out the windshield of my car. While I was driving. What can I say? I looooooved him.)

So here I am, 35 years old with two children and a third on the way, shocked to find that I’ve spent most of the last decade filling my ears not with rock ‘n roll nor poetry, but with the uber-catchy tunes of the Laurie Berkner band and occasionally having discussions with other moms about how the previous host of “Blues Clues” was “way hotter” than the current one. I still shudder at the idea of playdates and have my kids partially convinced that such things only exist in cartoons — same as dinosaurs and talking rabbits. I truly believe that if you forced me to choose to between receiving a good, old fashioned, Singaporean caning or spending three hours at the park with a moms’ group and a herd of preschoolers, my only question would be, “how many lashes?” Because if it’s anything less than five, I’m choosing the caning.

All of that said, it is equally shocking to me that so many of my old friends have opted out of parenthood altogether, and mostly by choice. Faced with the same options that tempted me into shopping at Baby Superstore and buying a wardrobe full of Liz Lange, they walked back up the bar, ordered another Red Bull and Vodka and stayed blissfully ignorant about the narcotic effect of watching two and half hours straight of “Yo Gabba Gabba”. (And that really is their loss, btw.) Over the years I have deduced that the earlier people entered into the parent game, the less of a choice it was — which probably made it easier to choose. My friends who are in their mid-to-late thirties and early forties and don’t have kids find themselves wrestling with a do-we-or-don’t-we choice. But those who just drank too many Red Bulls and Vodka (or, in my case, Bud Lights at a hockey game)  and found themselves knocked up, didn’t have to wrestle much with the question. In other words, the longer people wait to have kids, the more of themselves they have to lose.

(For the record, I was already married and my husband was buying the Bud Lights…)

And I’m glad that parenthood was somewhat decided for us. In fact, the next two kids were totally intentional, because once you’ve jumped off the high dive once, it is much easier to jump a second or third time. And once you know where the Mexican bathroom is, you never have to ask again. And … well, you get the point.

My sister, by the way, has three kids of her own, a rather stylish wardrobe and … a mini-van that she detests. She keeps trying to get someone to hit her and total it so that she can get a new vehicle, perhaps that Volvo station wagon of her dreams. Oddly enough, these days I’m the one of us who does more of the stay-at-home-mom thing and she is the busy businesswoman. Neither of us are rock stars nor poets. And neither of us have a child named Wolfgang … yet.