Military Spouse of the Year: No Beauty Contest

IMG_20130202_194305[1]For the past five years Military Spouse Magazine has presented an annual award, the “Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year®.” Though it’s not officially sanctioned by the U.S. Military, it’s no beauty contest either. 2012’s award to Jeremy Hilton is proof of that.  I can personally verify that he would look terrible in a tiara.

The brainchild of Navy wife Babette Maxwell, the award was created to recognize leaders and reward volunteerism within the military spouse community in a cohesive branch-wide event. What happened, however, was a real “build it and they will come” environment that I have witnessed spreading like a controlled burn with a slow, steady breeze behind it. In addition to the obvious fact that everybody likes a little recognition now and again, the winners of this event end up with the kind of publicity that can make a profound difference. That means the winners’ causes get exactly the kind of boost they’ve been hoping for. It also means that instead of a sailor nominating their sweetie for being the “bestest wifey ever” the trend is for volunteers to be nominated for their efforts in the military community. That’s exactly the kind of legitimacy we need in the milspouse community.

In 2011 I was virtually introduced to Bianca Strzalkowski, a Marine Corps wife. She was serving then as 2011 Military Spouse of the Year® and it was the first time I had heard of the award, likely because it’s rarely mentioned in the reserve community. After spending just a few minutes with her in person (and laughing about my inability to pronounce her name), I understood why she had the support of so many: she had a mission to make sure military spouses were getting higher education, and this girl seemed unstoppable. In a single year she took her idea to the next level, creating a Military Spouse Education Initiative. Believing spouses can achieve educational goals despite the obstacles of military life, she met with Congressional leaders, attended meetings with Department of Defense officials, and worked with the American Council on Education to find ways to make this idea of hers a reality. She has now created the Military Spouse Education Foundation and is working on a new Military Service Grant for spouses who are excluded the from Department of Defense’s MyCAA program. Bianca took her expertise coupled with the responsibility of the award, and really put it to work for others.

Jeremy Hilton, an Air Force spouse and the first male spouse to win the award, experienced the same kind of lift for his platform in 2012. The care and treatment of the military’s special needs children affects a relatively small group within the military, so creating a voice for them may have been virtually impossible without the award. A recent article in Time Magazine and a spotlight on Fox News should be proof enough that he’s using his powers for good and not evil. But Jeremy doesn’t just look bad in a tiara; he has developed a national campaign for legislation, has spoken in front of the Congressional Family Caucus, and has raised his issue with the Congressional delegation to the Armed Services Committee.

I was recently named Naval Base San Diego’s Military Spouse of the Year by my peers and the weight of it is just hitting me. If you read this blog, I already owe you a thank you because it was your voting that allowed me to move to the next level of this process. I’m honored to represent San Diego, the Navy Reserve spouse community, and all of those spouses who have somehow managed to hold down both a career and an unending chain of moves. You can make me your voice at the national level by voting on Tuesday, February 5th.

However, I’d like to take some time to introduce you to some of the other spouses I’ve met, either virtually or in person, who have also been honored with nominations. I think it’s an amazing testament to the award. These are exactly the type of military spouses that make bikinis, baton twirling, and sequins obsolete. I’m pinching myself (and my non-bikini midriff) that I’m even within their company. I’m proud of the way they’ve supported each other too, some even casting votes for each other. It feels great to know that what we’re all stumping for in these last couple of days is not ourselves, but the idea of giving a voice to an entire segment of the military community that we’ve chosen to serve.

Rachel Preen – Rachel is a Marine Spouse, a family readiness advisor at Goodfellow AFB, and the writer of “Living on a Bootband Budget” who became a U.S. citizen in 2010. Born in New Zealand, Rachel had trouble as a brand new military wife coping with deployment, moves, and frequent separation even after her husband’s return. Instead of focusing on the negative she has made it her mission to help other new wives, taking on the mantra, “If not me, then who?” She is a great supporter of all the branches, and my hat is off to her for being one classy lady.

Jacqueline Goodrich – This Army wife and founder of “The General’s Kids,” a nonprofit to support the children of Wounded Warriors, knows first-hand about the sacrifices military families face. After her husband had his jaw severed and shrapnel embedded in his leg in an Afghanistan firefight, she has helped him through a year of rehab. The road ahead is still long and Jacqueline approaches it with an outward view. The most touching statement from Jacqueline about her new position as a Wounded Warrior Wife whose first accompanied duty station was Walter Reed Hospital? “This was meant to be part of our story and we were meant to be there for those going through it now.”

Angela Caban – the New Jersey representative for the Army National Guard, Angela is also the founder of Homefront United Newtork, an amazing resource for military families. She started the network after a 2008 deployment when she had to reach out to find the help she needed because she found herself without the support of a nearby installation. Ever since, she has been on the front edge of military family information. She’s young, beautiful, hysterically funny in real life, and ferociously loyal to her military community. I personally voted for Angela to become an installation winner in January. Her MSOY profile is here: Angela Caban.

Kristine Schellhaas – A Marine Corps wife and creator of USMC Life, this lady is doing it all for military spouses! She has created a base-by-base guide for all major Marine Corps bases as well as a website full of discounts, benefits from both government and private companies, and information and help for all military newcomers. She not only runs a blog made up of other USMC spouses, she is also co-host of Semper Feisty Radio, where she covers issues facing military families and life outside the Corps. Her MSOY profile is here: Kristine Schellhaas.

Jenelle Hatzung – Though I’ve just met Jen through the MSOY process, I can confirm she is an instantly likable and genuine person! The daughter of a Navy Master Chief and now a Navy wife herself, she works as a Social Media Manager for Blue Star Families and started the blog “Navy Wives Unite” to connect and empower Navy families. She has worked as a family life consultant for Fleet and Family Support, and her family was awarded the NMFA Navy Family of the Year award in 2011. Now at Naval Station Norfolk, Jen wants to help military families dealing with the struggles of infertility, after battling the issue herself and learning the ropes of military healthcare and infertility issues. Her MSOY profile is here: Jen Hartzung.

Janet McIntosh – In my favorite of the nomination letters sent in by this Army wife’s supporters, Janet’s father wrote “She uses her experience to help other spouses and she always goes above and beyond to help other military families across the branches.” And I would wholeheartedly agree! I can’t even begin to list all of her volunteer accomplishments, but Janet answers family questions at Army Wife Network, is the Books on Bases program manager for Blue Star Families, and helps new spouses through Army programs she herself develops and implements! She says if given the award, it’s her goal to help new spouses as they begin their military journey, by sharing her experiences and helping to educate and empower them. She is the BOMB on Headline News’ new show, “Raising America” which premiers February 4. Go Janet! Her MSOY profile is here: Janet McIntosh.

Alisa Johnson – Alisa is a Navy wife who represents NAS Corpus Christi, and is working hard to standardize military pet policies. She wants to bring accountability for those who dump animals on base and commit pet cruelty with no consequences. Her organization, Dogs on Deployment, reports that pets are tied up or left on base every day and all members have to say is “I gave it to a friend.” If given the opportunity to represent the U.S. Navy, her platform is all about raising the elevation of military pet issues, and to inspire meaningful action by those who have the power to make a change. Did I mention she’s also an active duty Marine training to become a pilot? Wowzers. Her MSOY profile is here: Alisa Johnson.

There are over 20 nominees vying for branch titles in every category. You can see the entire list at the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year ® homepage. Voting is one day only on Tuesday, February 5th.


That Feeling When Your Kid Asks You About Sex

photo by Jeremiah Kemper

My mouth was watering too much. My body somehow sensed that I might barf. My kid was asking me about sex.

There are times over the course of my career as a deputy prosecutor when I’ve felt so uncomfortable that I’ve had an actual physical response. Usually, it’s sweating from the heat of my own burning insides. My shirts get pitted out and little beads form on my forehead and moisture gathers on my upper lip and the back of my neck.

But none, and I do mean none of those experiences compared to the sweating I experienced this month when my nine year old daughter started asking me questions about sex.

Did you hear me? I said my nine year old daughter. What in the hell is wrong with chasing puppies and blowing dandelions and bouncing around in a pink-striped dress and singing Jesus Loves Me? Huh? Why must my child do this? What I’d really like is to get five minutes alone with the fourth-grader that squealed this vital information a full year ahead of the “end of the innocence” schedule I had planned. It would be a very non-criminal, non-physical, non-permanently-scarring kind of confrontation. It would be memorable.

The moment came at night, in the dark, like a clandestine operation gone terribly wrong. It all started out so nicely. Sweet Pea and I rarely have the privilege of being alone because we find ourselves rushing from home to school to errands and we always have her little brother on board, in hot pursuit, or eavesdropping. But this night was different. Her brother had been banished to his room for committing a heinous deed which shall remain classified except to say that it involved a small plastic Middle Eastern dagger and protests of “Molon Labe!” as I stripped the offending weapon from his seven year-old grip. Her father was gone (of course he was) so my daughter was all snuggled in to my bed. The fan was humming a lullaby as we hunkered down under the billowy down comforter, the cold air blasting in and the drone of the motor creating the perfect amount of coolness and white noise for a fall slumber. I was just drifting off to sleep when her sweet little voice broke the silence.

“Mom, isn’t it true that to make a baby a man puts his private parts into a woman’s private parts?”

I thought about fake-snoring. I thought if I kept quiet it might go away. I thought if I faked my own death … and that’s when the saliva started to build up under my tongue and I was forced to swallow.

“Mom? Is it really true?”

She seemed disturbed by this news more than inquisitive, which I completely understood. I remember the first time it was explained to me by a gaggle of 5th grade boys and referred to as “humping.” I had already given her the basics over the summer, anticipating that she was starting to have questions that could no longer be explained by the phrase “you came from my tummy” when we went sports-bra shopping. But they were very basic basics. And now … she wanted mechanics. And specifics.

Now, I consider myself a pretty highly educated, open-minded, worldly kind of “sex is a natural part of life” person, but I was unprepared to have this conversation at age nine. I covered the high points, trying to calmly remember the words used by my high school health teacher. I left out the part about fluid exchange, or really any bodily fluids of any kind. I wrapped it all up neatly instead with the all-important love and marriage bit, and released a completing sigh of relief. I intended that sound, in the dark, to signal an unspoken “the end” to her relatively benign line of questioning. Unfortunately, my daughter is a keen listener with an inquisitive mind and an attorney for a mother. More

Inadvertent Exposure

Steaming Coffee by Dan Derrett

Mondays always start so clean and crisp.

There are neat stacks of white paper in rows, and a full calendar and freshly brewed coffee. There are smiling people, refreshed from the weekend, and I have to do lists and emails that are unread, waiting all clear and hopeful and new in chronological order. I’m holding a healthy sack lunch in a recycled bag in one hand as I enter the break room to greet a colleague, and there is a smiling receptionist who greets me. I make my way to my office, stack my briefcase near my coat, and lay my gym bag next to my door. It’s morning, and I’m ahead, and there’s a new list to tick off.

But by Friday the scene has changed drastically. My gym bag is overflowing with sweaty clothes and wet towels which I have neglected for two days but serves as a useful tool for keeping unwanted others out of my office. The briefcase is stuffed with crumpled drafts I took home with good intention, and the emails are half-read, half-answered, blinking angrily. I’m working on about twenty cumulative hours of sleep for the whole week, and my lunch will consist, if I remember to eat, of whatever might still be left in a vending machine or my bottom drawer stash. By 3:30 on Friday I am slumped over the slop piles at my desk, peering over the week’s morass of requests, motions, and deadlines. I’m starting to shuffle the leftover piles into “on fire” or “already smoldering” for the Monday morning charade, and my colleagues are all doing the same.

This was exactly the scene when my cell phone rang this Friday. I sprang to life believing it was from friends who wanted me to come to happy hour. Every Friday I beg and hope and will it to ring. My excitement was dashed when the caller ID blinked “school” back at me. I answered immediately, hoping it wasn’t an injury but knowing it was probably a behavior report. As I heard the patient voice of my son’s saintly teacher, I knew it was the latter. I had one hand on a pile of hand-written notes and I noticed my palm starting to sweat, melting the blue ink.

I shouldn’t sweat like a Pavlovian Mom when the teacher calls, but Coop, also known as NAFOD – which in military speak stands for “No Apparent Fear of Death” – has had trouble dealing with his world lately and it usually results in a phone call from school. Bottom line, Cooper believes he’s the world’s youngest SEAL. Everything he does is a mission, and everyone he encounters is a threat “in his world.” He actually uses that phrase: “in my world,” as if the rest of us are just spectators. And we are. When my husband was still in the desert, I attended three parent-teacher conferences in the first six weeks of Kindergarten. I reasoned the difficulty then stemmed from only getting half as much discipline. Now, with my husband home, it’s even worse: he’s now getting twice as much discipline.

The teacher’s words shocked me back to reality, breaking my train of thought on the discipline express. “I need to let you know what another parent reported to me today. I thought you’d want to know. I’m sorry.”

I looked at the piles on my desk and wondered who had the rougher week. My money was on the teacher. I didn’t try to talk. I just waited quietly until the awkward silence forced a response from her.

“He told another boy that there are places where ladies get naked and men pay to see them.”

“I  – I – he – he …”

I attempted to articulate a response but after some stuttering all I managed to say was, “thanks for letting me know. We will discuss it.” I wanted the conversation to be over so badly. I imagined my kid, in his camo, huddled football-style in a circle of six year-old boys on the playground, imparting his vast knowledge of naked ladies. This was the very definition of ring-leader. Was he really going to be that kid? I assumed he would not be invited to any sleepovers in the near future, which I thought was a good thing. I hate sleepovers.

Knowing Cooper, he told that kid. The one who had no older siblings. The one who had never seen a naked lady, not even his own mom. The one who had told his mother within two seconds of being picked up at school what men can do for money in some places.

The teacher tried to make me feel better by saying “I’m sure it was an inadvertent exposure, like something he saw on the television or the internet.” I started to agree with this sound logic until I wondered what she must think of my television and internet selections. Then, in the continuing uncomfortable silence, the actual “inadvertent exposure” came when she concluded with, “because in all my years I’ve never heard a kid his age say anything like that.”

Wonderful. I really needed that happy hour call, now.

Later as I picked up the kids we sat stoicly once everyone was loaded up, and I was very serious. I wore my very serious mom face which I reserved for very important conversations. The radio was off and I wasn’t chatting about the day. The engine was idling. There was a moment of silence. My son looked at me gravely and was uncharacteristically quiet as well, sensing that the seriousness in my demeanor should concern him. I waded into the naked lady waters with a straightforward, “I need to ask you a serious question.”

“Who me?”

These are the words of guilty man, I thought. We had been down this whole denial road before. I was skipping the part of the cross-examination where he turned the tables on me. I was going for something more direct, more pointed.

“Yes, you. Today Mrs. Hutchin called me.”


“She says you told another boy something that really worried her. Do you know what that might be?”

I was giving him the chance to come clean. He looked at me and blinked. It was that moment where he was making a decision about the merits of volunteering the truth versus the risk of playing the game a moment longer. He finessed his way through the first question by using the tool I utilized for Santa Clause questions: answer a question with a question. So he tried it a second time.

“What did Mrs. Hutchin say?”

“Objection. Nonresponsive. I asked if you know what that might be.”

“I don’t.”

So there it was. This was going to be a longer conversation than I had hoped. It was going to be a conversation not just about naked ladies, but about honesty and integrity and becoming a man. And of course, it was going to be had by me, a woman, because his father was gone on a trip. Again. I sighed and took a shortcut.

“She says you told another boy about naked ladies. Know anything about that?”

I was bracing for the answer. This was the moment. The only thing standing between me and my boy’s naiveté was the weight of the words he was about to speak. It was truly the end of the innocence. I felt a tear well up in one eye.

“Well Yeah. You know, mom. Naked ladies. Dancing ones, too.”

The innocence wasn’t just gone, it had been rightly trampled upon. I wanted to gasp and let my mouth hang open and press my manicured fingertips to my chest as if I had been offended by such a statement. But he wasn’t smirking or even looking up at me. He was fiddling with a piece of paper, folding it perfectly into a precision aircraft.

“No. I don’t know. Enlighten me.”

That’s when I got his attention. He heard the sarcasm and realized there was something strange going on. He rolled his eyes, as if to say that I knew very well what naked ladies were, and let the air push out of his mouth in a loud, “huhhn” before continuing. Then he took another deep breath, and he began to sing:

“There’s a place in France where the naked ladies dance. There’s a hole in the wall where the men can see it all. But they really don’t care ‘cause they’re in their underwear.”

Olivia snickered, covering her mouth as if it would somehow hide her audible laugh and smiling eyes. “Where did you hear that song!?” I demanded, looking at the snickerer. The response was his golden ticket straight out of trouble, and probably the one and only thing he could have said to form a viable defense:

“Nana taught it to me.”

My own mother. The beloved Nana. The one who has them believing in fairies, watching out the back deck for wolves to protect the Elven village presumably living in the woods behind our house because of the notes they leave us. Nana. The one who feeds them brownie mix for dinner. Nana. The one who encourages them to paint in their brand new white shirts and tells them to become Democrats despite what their parents might think. Nana. The one who lets them taste wine, “just a sip, just a sip, just to taste …”


I’m on to you, Nana. This is not the end. I’m so totally on to you.

By the way, I’m giving Mrs. Hutchin your phone number.

Hero Chronicles: The Home of Clyde Kment

VeteransThis post is a part of the Hero Chronicles Series, highlighting U.S. military Veterans and their families served by the Home Depot Foundation’s “Celebration of Service.” Over 200 Veterans homes and facilities are being repaired and upgraded in the two-month campaign, which will conclude on Veterans Day.

A spry 71 year-old Clyde Kment looked as if he was ready to jump up and go for a jog. He sat on the edge of the bed in his Vancouver, Washington home wearing a sweat suit, and leaning casually on one arm. He was laughing as his wife Fuji, in broken Japanese-English, explained that he would weave quite a tale if only I stuck around long enough. With 20 years in the U.S. Army, six out of six brothers who joined the military, a father who served in both the Army Air Corps and the Infantry through World War II, and his own sweet tale of the beautiful Japanese girl he met during an overseas tour in the early 60’s, he had plenty of story to tell. “She was the only one who could beat me in ping-pong” he explained, as they both chuckled like fifty years together had passed in an instant. It was wonderful after traveling the country to interview Veterans for Home Depot to meet such a robust servicemember right here in my own hometown.

But Clyde’s tone changed when he got to 1968. After sending his wife and two daughters to live in Japan, he arrived in the Central Highlands of Vietnam just two days into the Tet Offensive. As a young man with very little military service behind him and no combat experience, he told me he saw more dead bodies in his first 48 hours than he saw the rest of his time in country. “I don’t talk much about my time there” he pointed out. “But I’ll tell you this much – I couldn’t stand violence after that. I couldn’t even go to a boxing match after I came home. It changed me.”

Clyde, who retired as a Master Sergeant, told me about how he spent most of his time after that as an Army recruiter based in the Pacific Northwest, and I could see how perfectly he was situated for the job. He explained that in those days the job was part public affairs, part compassion, and part story-telling. He clearly still had all those skills intact, despite his recent diagnosis.

A few short months ago Clyde was walking around his house, up and down the stairs, wondering why his back hurt. He was working out every day, running and even pumping iron for an hour at a time, but his muscles still felt as if they were weakening. He was an avid gardener with a manicured lawn and perfectly pruned trees heavy with buds, but he could no longer lift his arms high enough to tend them. After a barrage of tests, doctors finally identified the cause of his problems: ALS, also known as Lou Gherig’s Disease. In just four weeks time he had lost the ability to walk on his own. “I didn’t know it until I got the disease, but Veterans are actually twice as likely to get ALS,” he explained.

He couldn’t walk around his property to see the improvements being made by the Home Depot volunteers that day without the aid of the walker and leg brace sitting at the end of the bed. But that didn’t stop him. He ventured out to say thank you, to instruct volunteers about the quirks of starting his mower, and to explain how to transplant an enormous bamboo plant into the perfect pot. You got the feeling he’d rather be out there, working alongside them. Still, he didn’t want the spotlight to be on him. Kment maintained, as do most of the servicemembers I talk to, that there was nothing about him that made him a hero. “The real heroes are these guys here – the ones doing this work. This story is really about them.”

Flanked by his wife, Fuji, and the ALS of Oregon Director, Clyde Kment looks on in amazement at the progress made by volunteers at his Vancouver, Washington home.

On Wednesday over 150 Home Depot area employees were at the homes of four area Veterans, volunteering on their day off, as a part of their Foundation’s “Celebration of Service” campaign. At Kment’s home they would make his gardens immaculate, widen doorways so that he could get through them with a walker or wheelchair, add pavers to the gravel driveway, make his bathroom accessible, and construct a wheelchair ramp that would give him access to the main floor of his house. “It’s more than I could ever have imagined,” Kment said with overwhelming gratitude.

Area ALS Executive Director Lance Christian explained how quickly the disease strikes and how timely the Home Depot Foundation’s offer to make the home more accessible really was. “we’re so glad that Home Depot contacted the ALS Association for Oregon and Southwest Washington. We have so many Veterans that are in need, and  they’re often unable to get the services as quickly as they’re required.” According to the ALS website, the average patient lives only 2-5 years after diagnosis though some can live with the disease for much longer. For Clyde and Fuji, that makes every moment precious.

The couple lingered very near each other in the sunlight that afternoon, watching the sea of orange shirts transform their yard into its previous glory. “This is 99% about them, and only 1% about him,” Fuji said as she put a hand on her husband’s shoulder. He kept his gaze on the garden, not turning around in that moment, but quietly nodding in agreement.

I said my goodbyes and thanked the employees I met who would keep working long into the afternoon. I turned to look at the progress that had been made since my arrival, and like a flash from 1962 I saw a young infantryman and his beautiful Japanese bride, the house where they raised two girls, and a lifetime of service.

Through it all, Clyde and Fuji remain optimistic and thankful. “What they’re doing here today is phenomenal,” said Kment, “Words cannot describe what I’m seeing!”


For more information about the Home Depot’s Celebration of Service, click here.

For more information about the ALS Association, click here.

To leave your comments of support for Clyde and Fuji, comment here.

I Sure Hope I Look Good in Orange

Two years ago my husband left for fifteen months. He went to military training, and then he went straight to the Middle East for a year. I understood when he left that it would be a journey we’d both have to take alone, but it wasn’t until he came home that I realized combat and deployment were experiences I would never really comprehend. There were many nights after he came home that we sat motionless in our own silence, even though we knew there was much to be said.

That’s the way it is for friends of mine whose spouses have civilian jobs. They can’t imagine the lives of military families: being away from loved ones for long periods of time, moving to strange places over and over, celebrating anniversaries alone, supporting their spouse’s decision to volunteer for dangerous jobs that take them in harm’s way, and doing it all over and over and over again. My friends say they don’t know how I do it. They say it’s something they’ll never fully grasp.

My husband survived his recent tour unscathed, with the exception of some separation wounds and a few missed holidays. But I look at the wounded warrior families I know and I wonder how they make sense out of the longevity of their condition, the unending doctors visits, the health challenges seen and unseen, the loneliness of their eventual separation from the military, and the loss of employment and self-worth that many face. I realize it’s something that can’t be understood unless it’s experienced. But because I am a storyteller, I wonder how I can help tell their stories, help others catch a glimpse of the sacrifice they’ve made.

In her speech to the Democratic National Convention this week, Michelle Obama remarked on the amazing American Spirit she has witnessed during her time in the White House. She said:

I’ve seen it in our men and women in uniform and our proud military families … in wounded warriors who tell me they’re not just going to walk again, they’re going to run, and they’re going to run marathons … in the young man blinded by a bomb in Afghanistan who said, simply, “I’d give my eyes 100 times again to have the chance to do what I have done and what I can still do.”

When I heard the First Lady speak those words, it was so meaningful. Not only did I personally know the proud military families of whom she spoke, I realized that the blind swimmer she referred to was Brad Snyder, the warrior I recently wrote about. The quote was even the quote I used in my article. And though I can’t be sure whether it was my article she read, it still underscored for me how universally touching these stories are, how they resonate even at the highest levels, and how they impact people simply because they tell a story about someone who rose to meet what seemed like an insurmountable challenge.

It occurred to me, in that moment, that rising to meet a challenge is something we can all fundamentally understand.

I’ve been given an amazing opportunity to do just that, and this is the first article in a series that I’ll be writing to help raise awareness about the challenges veterans face and their continued importance to the community. Home Depot is sponsoring a “Celebration of Service” campaign once again this year, and I’ve been chosen to write about some of the families assisted by the program. I can’t possibly write about them all – in 2011 The Home Depot Foundation made a pledge to commit $30 million to veterans’ nonprofits, and they announced this morning that they plan to increase that pledge by another $50 million over the next three years.

“Celebration of Service” is a two month program running from now through Veterans Day that recruits Home Depot store associates to volunteer to build, repair, and remodel the homes of veterans and the facilities that serve them throughout the United States. They will make mobility modifications and help reduce utility costs by installing energy-efficient upgrades. I’ll be participating in a local service project for a family in the Northwest, and bringing you the stories of the Veterans and volunteers I meet along the way.

It’s true. Home Depot gets their name mentioned a few times in this blog and several others, and they will undoubtedly get national recognition and accolades for their generosity and dubious corporate responsibility. But really, I hope people realize that they don’t have to do any of this. It isn’t something that makes any sense at all to the bottom line on their balance sheet. It is the idea of giving to Veterans without the expectation of a quantified return that makes me want to participate.

So – I sure hope I look good in orange, because between now and Veterans Day I’m honored to bring you the stories of some of our Nation’s warriors on behalf of Home Depot, and the people who are taking steps to do what they can, it their own way, to say thank you for these sacrifices. You can follow my “Hero Chronicles” here at Witty Little Secret, and many others on the Home Depot Foundation’s Facebook page. I can’t wait to narrate a part of that amazing American Spirit Ms. Obama spoke about. I can’t wait to remember what it feels like to rise up and meet a challenge.

Disclosure: While I am being paid to write these stories, I’d honestly do it for free. (Don’t tell the Home Depot, though.) I’m not being told what to write, not being told to wear orange, not being asked to endorse any products or services, and will as always share my own opinions in my own words. All posts align with WOMMA Ethics Code, FTC guidelines and social media engagement recommendations. I have my own Home Depot stories to tell, but if you have a personal Home Depot experience, I’d much rather hear about that. Feel free to email me at wittylittlesecret at gmail dot com.

Santa Clause, The Ice Cream Man, and The Hookah

Working in a prosecuting attorney’s office changes the way I see certain activities.  I don’t patronize pawn shops. I leer at all Santa Clauses and track their nice white gloves with skeptical disdain. I don’t go into certain mini-marts after midnight. I walk down the street with my kids to get ice cream from the mobile purveyor of frozeny-goodness, so that the creep behind the wheel doesn’t know where we live. And I don’t ever, ever, EVER go into “glass shops.”

Until now.

I hope you enjoy reading about my foray into the world of hookah. I originally wrote this piece for SpouseBUZZ, the site where I write from time to time, because I thought it would get the best exposure to my intended military spouse audience. However after reading it again, I can see that it will resonate with anyone who has ever tried too hard to find a way to bridge the gap between two people.


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