Military

Have you ever rented a home without personally seeing it Live? … I have!

rentWith the summer PCS season coming up quickly and orders are arriving, I have had several friends ask me,  Have you ever rented a house without seeing it? Should I consider doing this?  I have, and their mouths drop open. I will suggest this if you have done your research about the area and new duty station. Today, with many us about to PCS the military member might be deployed, and the family in another location where it makes it hard to make a trip to see a home. As a landlord also I am on both sides of this question. There are so many things to consider when you rent a house without seeing it.  Is it on a busy road?  Are the pictures old?  Is the yard safe?  Are there scary rooms?  As a landlord, I want my tenants to be happy.  I try to send current pictures and video (real time Face time or Skype) that show as much as possible, and explain the neighborhood and area.  There is always the fear that if the tenant is not happy in my home, they will consciously or subconsciously blame me, and as a landlord I strive to have happy tenants. Housing is the single largest expense for most families, and of course you want to make sure you are making good use of your BAH dollars.  Have any of you ever rented a house without seeing it in person? My experience of renting a home without seeing it turned out wonderful for our Family. The landlords were Military as well, the home and neighborhood turned out to be better than we had expected. My last piece of advice is to have several conversations with the potential landlords ask all the questions, I have listed a few below that are common ones you might of  forget.

If you’re renting a single family house, you should ask who is responsible for maintaining the exterior of the property. Some landlords expect the tenants to mow the lawn and shovel the snow, while others do it themselves so they know the property is being maintained correctly. These responsibilities should be spelled out in the lease so there’s never a question about who is supposed to do what.

  • How’s your cell phone signal? You don’t want to be forced to have all phone conversations while hanging out your window or the one tiny corner where you manage to pick up a signal.
  • How big are the rooms, really? Great for video or skype. You and the  landlord may have different opinions on what room size comfortably fits a queen size bed.
  • How’s the water pressure? Don’t forget to ask the follow up, including is the shower pressure weak? How long does it take for the water to get hot in the morning?
  • Is the rental noisy? Be quiet for a minute and listen for ambient noise, such as weird fans, generators, barking dogs, loud trucks, trains or noisy neighbors.
  • How is the view? Are there enough windows to provide you with the natural light you want? If the curtains are closed, pull them open to check out the view. You might not want your living room overlooking your neighbor’s bathroom.
  • What is the heating situation? Because people often rent during the summer, they neglect to ask about the heat.  Find out if the heating is individual or shared, such as an uncontrolled radiator, and find out the costs.
  • Who do I contact for repairs and how long does it take for someone to come make the repair from the time of my call?
  • Are there any repairs that I am required by the lease to pay for myself?
  • Who is responsible for the Utilities? What do the utilities cost for the house? (ask for a few past bills to verify)
  • What appliances are guaranteed with the lease and which are not repaired or replaced if something happens to them?
  • Lastly can I have a dog? Rules on size?  Very important to our family, we love our Zoey…pictured below.

Zoey

 

Good luck with the summer PCS Season!

Senate Armed Services Subcommittee Hearing on Personnel March 26 #KeepYourPromise

NMFA

When you break a promise you’re tampering with the delicate formula upon which the strength and vitality of all – volunteer force is based.

The National Military Family Associations continues to fight for Military Families in this budget  battle. Members of NMFA team will be joining other organizations to testify before the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel next week March 26, telling Congress to KeepYourPromise Tell National Military Family Association, what do you want Congress to know? The National Military Family Association is counting down the days until they testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday. Tell them what you want Congress to know about how the proposed budget that will  affect Military Families at Info@MilitaryFamily.org.  For a listing of the members of the committee http://www.armed-services.senate.gov/hearings/active-guard-reserve-and-civilian-personnel-programs_03/26/14

Trans- Siberian Orchestra…I had no idea of their support for the Military.

TSO ConcertTrans- Siberian Orchestra…I had no idea of their support for the Military.

Last night I had the privilege of going to my very first Trans-Siberian Concert. I was so excited you would have thought I was going to the candy store on our drive to the Concert. I have wanted to always go for the past 10 years, my husband could not contain my excitement for this 30 min drive. This year was possible, my girls were finally at the age were they would appreciate it and enjoy!

Right before the show started Al Pitrelli came out on stage with a group of Marines from the St. Louis area. He introduced the Marines to the Audience and told us that with every concert Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) does they donate one dollar to a local charity. They choose to donate to the Marines Toys for Tots programs. They donated over $8000.00 last night. Being a Military Spouse I was impressed TSO would do this. I later learned at every concert they do in the United States they donate to a Military related organization, for example also the USO. So let’s do the Math, they do approximately 70 Concerts here in the United States in November and December and donate one dollar of every ticket sale. This brought such joy to me that an organization supports the military as TSO does.

Just as I thought the concert was about to end, Al came up to the Microphone the words that came out amazed me. Trans-Siberian Orchestra wanted to salute the Military and thank them for their service and sacrifices. Because of every member, present and past thousands of Men and Women have stood up to give us the freedom to perform as we do. At this point I am starting to tear up, that they would recognize all the members of the Military who will not be home with their families this Christmas. I now know why I have loved Trans-Siberian Orchestra for so many years, not just their amazing talent but the goodwill they have towards others.

One of my favorite songs: Christmas Canyon

If you get the chance to attend one of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra Concerts I highly recommend it!

The Exchange Awarding Prizes up to $17,000 For Best Homecoming Picture!

AAFESThe Exchange is proud to serve those who serve.  To show their appreciation to all returning troops, The Exchange and vendor partners are saying ” Thanks for your service and your family’s sacrifice.” With monthly prize giveaways, weekly savings and specials. Check out the Homeward Bound events throughout 2014

From Nov. 1-Dec. 31, authorized shoppers can enter the “Homeward Bound” contest by submitting a picture or video of a military welcome home experience, along with a 50-word or less description, for a shot at the $10,000 Exchange gift card grand prize. You never know your  picture may be worth a thousand words,  but in the The Exchange Service’s latest contest a picture and 50 words could be worth $10,000 For the grand prize.  In addition to the grand prize, the second-place winner will receive a $5,000 gift card and third place will take home a $2,000 gift card.

Government Shutdown….How Would the Public Really Feel the Effects?

imagesEverybody is talking about a midnight deadline for a Government Shutdown. Because that is the official time that all discretionary spending (which is the portion that Congress controls) halts as the federal government rolls over from fiscal 2013 to fiscal 2014 on Oct. 1.

Despite the frenzy in Washington, the government might not turn into a pumpkin right away.

Vacationers would be turned away from national parks and Smithsonian museums.  Low-to-moderate income borrowers and first-time homebuyers seeking government-backed mortgages could face delays.

A list below from the Associated Press:

LOANS

Many low-to-moderate incomes borrowers and first-time homebuyers seeking government-backed mortgages could face delays during the shutdown. The Federal Housing Administration, which guarantees about 30 percent of home mortgages, wouldn’t underwrite or approve any new loans during the shutdown. Action on government-backed loans to small businesses would be suspended.

MILITARY

The military’s 1.4 million active duty personnel would stay on duty, but their paychecks would be delayed. About half of the Defense Department’s civilian employees would be furloughed.

AIR TRAVEL

Federal air traffic controllers would remain on the job and airport screeners would keep funneling passengers through security checkpoints. Federal inspectors would continue enforcing safety rules.

INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL

The State Department would continue processing foreign applications for visas and U.S. applications for passports, since fees are collected to finance those services. Embassies and consulates overseas would continue to provide services to American citizens.

BENEFIT PAYMENTS

Social Security and Medicare benefits would keep coming, but there could be delays in processing new disability applications. Unemployment benefits would still go out.

FEDERAL COURTS

Federal courts would continue operating normally for about 10 business days after the start of a shutdown, roughly until the middle of October. If the shutdown continues, the judiciary would have to begin furloughs of employees whose work is not considered essential. But cases would continue to be heard.

MAIL

Deliveries would continue as usual because the U.S. Postal Service receives no tax dollars for day-to-day operations. It relies on income from stamps and other postal fees to keep running.

RECREATION

All national parks would be closed, as would the Smithsonian museums, including the National Zoo in Washington. Visitors using overnight campgrounds or other park facilities would be given 48 hours to make alternate arrangements and leave the park. Among the visitor centers that would be closed: the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in New York, Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Alcatraz Island near San Francisco and the Washington Monument.

HEALTH

New patients would not be accepted into clinical research at the National Institutes of Health, but current patients would continue to receive care. Medical research at the NIH would be disrupted and some studies would be delayed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would be severely limited in spotting or investigating disease outbreaks, from flu to that mysterious MERS virus from the Middle East.

FOOD SAFETY

The Food and Drug Administration would handle high-risk recalls suspend most routine safety inspections. Federal meat inspections would be expected to proceed as usual.

HEAD START

A small number of Head Start programs, about 20 out of 1,600 nationally, would feel the impact right away. The federal Administration for Children and Families says grants expiring about Oct. 1 would not be renewed. Over time more programs would be affected. Several of the Head Start programs that would immediately feel the pinch are in Florida. It’s unclear if they would continue serving children.

FOOD ASSISTANCE

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC, could shut down. The program provides supplemental food, health care referrals and nutrition education for pregnant women, mothers and their children.

School lunches and breakfasts would continue to be served, and food stamps, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, would continue to be distributed. But several smaller feeding programs would not have the money to operate.

TAXES

Americans would still have to pay their taxes and file federal tax returns, but the Internal Revenue Service says it would suspend all audits. Got questions? Sorry, the IRS says taxpayer services, including toll-free help lines, would be shut as well.

SCIENCE

NASA will continue to keep workers at Mission Control in Houston and elsewhere to support the International Space station, where two Americans and four others are deployed. The National Weather Service would keep forecasting weather and issuing warnings and the National Hurricane Center would continue to track storms. The scientific work of the U.S. Geological Survey would be halted.

HOMELAND SECURITY

The majority of the Department of Homeland Security’s employees are expected to stay on the job, including uniformed agents and officers at the country’s borders and ports of entry, members of the Coast Guard, Transportation Security Administration officers, Secret Service personnel and other law enforcement agents and officers. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services employees would continue to process green card applications.

PRISONS

All 116 federal prisons would remain open, and criminal litigation would proceed.

VETERANS SERVICES

Most services offered through the Department of Veterans Affairs will continue because lawmakers approve money one year in advance for the VA’s health programs. Veterans would still be able to visit hospitals for inpatient care, get mental health counseling at vet centers or get prescriptions filled at VA health clinics. Operators would still staff the crisis hotline and claims workers would still process payments to cover disability and pension benefits. But those veterans appealing the denial of disability benefits to the Board of Veterans Appeals will have to wait longer for a decision because the board would not issue any decisions during a shutdown.

WORK SAFETY

Federal occupational safety and health inspectors would stop workplace inspections except in cases of imminent danger.

Museums Offering Free Admission To Military Families Through Labor Day

Blue Star Museums

Ready to start the summer vacation off with a bang? The 2013 season of Blue Star Museums is going to be the best yet with more than 2,000 art centers, museums, and exhibits offering FREE entrance for all active duty, National Guard and Reserve military personnel and their families from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

Blue Star Museums is a partnership among the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, Joining Forces, MetLife Foundation and museums across the country.

You can go to BlueStarfam.org and find all the museums available by state.

 

PCS Orders in Hand …Now on a Quest for Essential Apps for the Military PCS

Moving-boxes-in-a-houseBy: Williamsburg Military Insider

All of us Military members have become quite savvy when it comes to our PCS moves.  I recently discovered some great apps that are essential and very convenient to help with your upcoming PCS.   I really enjoyed around me; so awesome when driving across the country.

1. Moving Day – Free (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad)

Military movers know how overwhelming a home filled with boxes can be. It is likely that you have also had the experience of opening a box that is labeled “kitchen” only to find tools from the garage. Moving Day gives you the opportunity to easily catalog all of your things as you or the movers pack. Built-in bar code scanning and label-making will ease the struggle of locating particular items within a sea of cardboard. Helps to quickly identify what boxes/items are missing or what items may be damaged. Photos taken as the items are packed will provide documentation for insurance or damage claims. Print or email reports directly from the app.

2. Moving Van – $1.99 (iPhone, iPod Touch)

Similar to Moving Day, this app will allow you to inventory the contents of each box, include a photo of the items and assign each box with a unique name or number. Find that you are searching high and low for the box that contained your kitchen towels? Simply search for the specific item and the app will identify which box it is located in. It might be helpful to have friends and family with this app to help you during the packing process as it is tough to keep up with the packers sometimes.

3. Moving List – $2.99 (iPhone, iPod Touch)

Utilize the pre-populated to-do lists created from 95 common moving tasks. Create and add your own list of important items and organize them by category or due date. Great way to keep your lists organized and accessible to you at all times.

4. Moving Checklist Pro – $0.99 (iPhone, iPad) Another app with over 210 moving related items that can be used to create checklists and timelines. Create your own or use pre-loaded checklists, which can be emailed to friends and families so they know how they can help ease your stress.

5. My Move – Free (iPhone, Android, Kindle Fire) In addition to a complete moving checklist, the My Move app will calculate your household goods moving weight, which can be extremely useful for military families that are considering a full DITY or partial DITY move. Requesting a specific mover may not always be an option for military families, but you may be given the choice of a few approved providers. Reading the online reviews may give you a leg up when trying to make a decision of this nature.

6. Moving Guru – Free (Blackberry, iPhone) This app offers features similar to the other apps mentioned, such as chronological task lists, but one cool feature it offers is the “We’ve moved” notification that you can send to pre-selected phone contacts. Change of address cards are still nice to send out, but this is certainly a less expensive and quicker option.

7. iHandy Level – Free (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad) You have finally made it to the stage where you are ready to hang your photos on the wall and having the iHandy Level will ensure that every item you hang is on the level. Portrait and landscape options housed in a classy wood grain interface may make you feel like a professional carpenter.

8. Yelp – Free (iPhone, iPad, Android) You are settled and ready to explore your new surroundings. Apple and Android users can utilize this app to find everything you need to make this new place your home. Gather information on local business with details such as address, hours, price, reviews, tips, and deals. Easy access to directions and the opportunity to book reservations for restaurants using Open Table. It just may be time to try out that Thai restaurant down the street!

9. Around Me – Free (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android) Similar to Yelp, this app is also available in both platforms. With GPS locating, this app will show you gas stations, banks, hospitals, hotels, supermarkets, theatres, and other essential amenities that are nearby. Find the location on a map and quickly get directions from your current location.

10. Military Traveler (Free iPhone) Military Traveler is a universal base directory application for iPhone and Android. It contains information like phone numbers, hours of operations, websites and more for establishments on military installations

Baggie Bonanza… and the PCS Military Move

neighborsBy: Williamsburg Military Insider

With many Military Families PCS season is coming up. I have moved 14 times in the past twenty years, and can relate with everything in the article at Call Dibs  “How to MOVE IT without LOSING IT!: Helpful Tips for your PCS Move” I got the biggest chuckle out of the Baggie Bonanza paragraph. In my twenty years I thought I was the only one who did this, as I am the same and do not want movers all up in my space. 🙂 I recommend reading her tips on your next PCS move; they are some of the same I have done for the past twenty years. Take to heart the refrigerator stocked full with drinks, I can tell you from experience moving in this past July, and it was 110 F, my movers were the best! They were just so thankful for the endless supply of Gatorade. They even assembled everything without being asked. We all know sometimes that can be a challenge. Happy PCS season…wishing everyone very smooth moves!

Where are the Facts?….Defense Budget Faces Cuts To Personnel After Decade of War

Shape Our Lives 4 by 6 copyBy: Williamsburg Military Insider

I rarely ever put a opinion out there on articles I read.  But as I came across this story written by Mr. David Wood, Defense Budget Faces Cuts To Personnel After Decade of War…I had to say something.

What does Mr. Wood  honestly expect to add to the national discussion with a story that has more errors than facts? . As a military wife, I’m terrified that readers might actually think this story features facts. Mr. Wood has  a responsibility to inform the public, inherent in that responsibility is that your information be TRUE. Mr. Wood, Military Members are all – VOLUNTEERS. They chose to stand up, put the best interests and security of the country first, even at the risk of their own lives. They aren’t in it for glory, or fame, or getting their names in the papers. They do it because it’s the right thing to do. They do it to protect your right to malign and degrade them, to say they don’t deserve a good paycheck for the price of their lives. A paycheck, I might add, that is paid for by the government, and your taxes, which they also pay. In effect, they pay themselves to safeguard our way of life.

You should personally thank each and every one of these military members for their service and their courage to protect your rights and your freedoms.

PCS Move soon? Have you thought about a Virtual Yard Sale?

VyardsaleThis week my experience with a Virtual Yard Sale was simply amazing. A few tips and pointers I thought I would share.

Local Military spouses looking to empty their closets and garages are taking the “yard” out of yard sale, forming groups to buy and sell from each other online.

Dozens of Facebook groups have opened in the past year for Military Members who want to sell outgrown baby clothes and toys, unused household goods or other items that in the past would have ended up in yard sales or in the trash.

Military members  say they feel safer dealing with people they know —at least in the Facebook sense of the word — and who are close to their homes on base.  There’s also less hassle involved than hauling your unwanted items to the front yard in hopes that buyers drive by.

Being a Military Member find a Closed Group Virtual Yard Sale Group associated with the area of your base or post.  One that requires you to have base access to meet and pick up the items, I don’t like Craigslist, It’s too risky. You don’t know who you’re meeting. I like this; you can at least see who you’re meeting.

The virtual yard sale sites leave pricing and pickup arrangements to the sellers and buyers. They ask members to be courteous. Some ask participants not to compete against each other by pitting multiple sellers against each other for higher prices, or posting cheaper items to undercut another buyer.

I found pricing quite easy and I used these guidelines to sell my items this week. To price your items, start with a bit of research. Check online auction sites like eBay or virtual sale sales like Craigslist for starters. If you can’t find items like yours, use these general rules of thumb. Items in new or like new condition should be priced at 30% of what you paid when new. Items that are showing wear or that are obsolete should be priced at about 10% of the original price. If possible, include a brief description of each item. Include details such as size, age and condition.

Using a virtual yard  sale will require you to break out your digital camera. Take a photo of each item you are selling with the price card prominently displayed. If possible, include a brief description of each item. Include details such as size, age and condition.

When hosting a virtual yard sale, keep safety and common sense in mind. Never allow strangers into your house. Always insist on cash transactions with exact change only. If possible, arrange to have items picked up at a safe, neutral location such as the food court at the Exchange. Don’t give out personal information other than an e-mail address or cell phone number where you can be reached for questions.

Unlike a traditional yard sale, you don’t have to pack up your stuff at the end of the day. Because your sale is virtual, you it can extend over several days, weeks or months. Just store everything in your basement, closet or other storage area until you deplete your inventory.

So next time you get the itch to host a yard sale, don’t worry about the weather. Set out to  put your items on a virtual yard sale instead.