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Rachel

Military

Military Spouse Profile: Kara From Foxtrot & Pennies

November 1, 2017

There are so many amazing military spouses out there kicking butt on a daily basis that deserve to be recognized and I’m excited to feature one of them each month with my Military Spouse Profile series. If you’re interested in sharing your story (or know someone who might), please send me an email!

Introduce yourself to my readers! Tell us a little bit about who you are.

My name is Kara and I am a military spouse and a mom of two! My son is two and my daughter is 3 months old. I’m a fairly new military spouse, my husband has only been serving for 3 years but we are excited about our future. I am the creator of Foxtrot & Pennies where I write about ways for military spouses to use their resources to save money, make money, and conquer the challenges of military life while living on a budget. 

What inspired you to start your blog or business?

The plan was to always be a nurse. I went to nursing school (and accrued tens of thousands of dollars of student loan debt) and got a job as a nurse. Then my son was born and everything changed. I wanted to be home with him SO badly, plus my husband had just joined up with the military and I didn’t know where that was going to take us. I wanted a way to create a second income for our family while staying home with my son and helping the military spouse community that I fell in love with. I quickly learned how difficult it was to live on one salary and discovered that so many other military families were struggling financially as well.

What’s the main message you hope your blog shares with your readers?

That there is hope! Debt and struggling to make it from paycheck to paycheck is so overwhelming. It almost feels like you are drowning. I want my readers to know that I know how they feel, I’ve been where they are and I want to help them. I want them to know that there are resources available to help military families save money and there are actual legitimate ways for military spouses to create extra income from home (or wherever they happen to be living at the moment).

What is your favorite part of being a military spouse?

My favorite part of being a military spouse is the experiences. 

Tell us a little bit about your journey as a military spouse-the ups and downs, lessons learned, etc.

In the short time I’ve been a spouse I’ve travelled to places I probably would have never gone to, I’ve given birth without my husband (which I never thought I’d be strong enough to do), I’ve flown on an airplane by myself with an infant (and survived) and countless other things I never thought I’d have to do. I’ve felt excited, lonely, and anxious. I know what it’s like to go weeks without talking to my spouse. I know what it’s like to have to live on a new, low-ranking military salary (spoiler alert- it’s hard). I’ve learned a lot about myself, my marriage, and my parenting abilities but I’m still excited about what lies ahead and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

What’s the number one piece of advice you would give a new military spouse?

No matter what you are facing, know that you are stronger than you think. You can get through it. Maybe you are facing your first deployment, or your spouse just left for boot camp. Maybe you are struggling to find a job after your last PCS and don’t know how to live on one salary. There have been at least 4 different situations in the last 3 years that I was faced with where I seriously doubted whether I was strong enough to get through it. But I did, and you can too.


What or who has been the biggest help or source of support to you in your role as a military spouse?

My husband. He’s my best friend. He always reminds me that I’m strong, he let’s me know how proud he is of my accomplishments. When I have moments of “I-hate-military-life” I think about how it’s his dream, how proud I am of everything he’s done, how hard he works for our family and how we need to support each other. 

Do you have a favorite place the military has taken you? What is it and why?

My favorite so far is Texas when he graduated. It was so unreasonably hot and miserable and I probably would have never travelled there if it weren’t for my husband graduating basic training. But this was my favorite because it was the moment he got to meet his son for the first time. I’ll never forget that moment.

Just for fun:

  • Favorite Netflix binge-worthy watch? The Office
  • What’s your favorite hobby? Arts & Crafts
  • Chocolate or vanilla? Vanilla! 
  • Tell us a random fact about yourself. I am literally obsessed with cheese sticks but my daughter is dairy intolerant so I can’t eat them while she’s breastfeeding (she’s definitely gonna hear about this later in life!)

Many thanks to Kara for sharing her story this month! I am really happy to have her join me because she’s come such a long way as a military spouse in such a short amount of time. Each of us had a learning curve when we first started and I think Kara has really rocked hers! You can find Kara on her website, Facebook, Facebook group, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

B R

Boo!

October 31, 2017

Happy Halloween, y’all! I’m letting the masters of costume take over blogging duties today, but I’ll be back tomorrow with a fantastic military spouse profile! 

We take certain things very seriously in our house: meal time, snuggle time and costume time! Even though A insists we hate it, we actually like when Rachel spends hours shopping for our Halloween costumes. Our natural body shapes can make it a little tricky to find something, but she always comes through for us. And she doesn’t even get mad when we destroy it!

What’s that Roogie? Oh, she DOES get mad? Huh. I’ve never noticed that. Well anyway, this year, Roogie and I have a “couple’s costume” which I’m pretty sure means we got fun things to chew on, but more on that later.

Roogie was very excited to be a firefighter. He heard all the ladies love firefighters.  He wasn’t so good at wearing his helmet, but he liked his sleeveless jacket. I’m pretty sure he was practicing getting dressed as quickly as possible here.

What Roogie? Yes, the lack of sleeves really shows off your guns. Yes, I’m sure the ladies are going to be all over you. No, I don’t think you’ll be in a calendar. Children, am I right?

I’ll admit that Roogie did look good in his costume. I really liked the shiny stripes on his coat.

But what’s a firefighter without a firetruck? Just a dude standing on the street corner looking silly! That’s where I come in, ladies and gentlemen. Weeeeoooooo weeeeeeeoooooooo. Firetruck B to the rescue! I’m a beauty, aren’t I?

Like any good firetruck, I made sure to hang on to all the tools Roogie needs to fight fires. This ax was especially delicious. I mean important. That’s why I held on to it so tightly: because of its importance.


We really liked our costumes this year and are very excited for Halloween. Actually, Roogie is excited. I am not. I don’t like all the doorbell ringing; it makes me very anxious. But since A is gone, I need to be brave for Rachel and protect her.

That’s what us first responders are here for: to protect and serve. Which is why we have a few tips for keeping your four-legged family members safe tonight:

  • Make sure to keep all candy and candy wrappers away from our reach! We don’t know that it will make us sick if we eat it and some of us, like me, don’t have any self control.
  • Keep pumpkins up and away from wagging tails and interested noses. We can easily knock over a jack-o-lantern and the candle can light other things on fire. Also, even though pumpkin is ok for us to eat, we shouldn’t eat left over jack-o-lanterns! Throw them away!
  • Trick-or-treating may not be right for all of us. Even the nicest and friendliest dog can get overwhelmed with lots of little kids coming towards them or the noise they make. If we get scared, we may run away or lash out in a way that’s dangerous for us and everyone else.
  • If we do come with you, keep us on a leash and add a reflective stripe to our costumes or have us wear a reflective collar. It’s dark and people in cars may not see us.

We hope everyone has a happy and safe Halloween! If we come to your door with a bucket, we’d like all the dog cookies!

Countdowns & Cupcakes Store

Four Takeaways From The Military Influencer Conference

October 27, 2017

Every so often, you find yourself in exactly the spot you’re supposed to be at exactly the moment you’re supposed to be there.  Maybe you took steps to get there or maybe it happened by accident, but in that moment, you’re completely at home. That was me earlier this week when I attended the Military Influencer Conference in Dallas.

I was so excited to be a part of more than 250 military entrepreneurs, bloggers and companies coming together to network and share ideas.  But I was also insanely intimidated: by the success, by the number of people, by the overwhelming “small fish in a big pond” feeling. But I shouldn’t have been! This was the most welcoming and encouraging groups of people I’ve ever come across, from bloggers just starting out to multi-million dollar companies. Everyone was ready to engage with all who crossed their path and the energy was contagious.

Learning from those around me, meeting individuals I admired and finally connecting with my Internet buddies all made for two and a half fantastic days. I took so much away from Dallas, beyond just business cards and new contacts.

Takeaways from the Military Influencer Conference

Takeaway #1: These are my people. I posted yesterday about being a military spouse in a primarily civilian world. Because of this, I tend to feel a bit isolated from people who get my lifestyle, so being at this conference with so many other military spouses was a breath of fresh air. There was this unspoken understanding between us all, this immediate feeling of camaraderie. We got each other, no questions asked. I made connections that I foresee lasting long beyond the hotel ballroom.

Takeaway #2: The military spouse community is mighty! At a conference that was billed for military influencers, I was so incredibly impressed with the large number of military spouses in attendance. I’d guess that we made up at least half, if not more. I felt lucky to find myself in the company of so many inspiring men and women who are busting their butts to take care of the home and their families and a business. Our interests and backgrounds may be varied, but our passion for supporting the military community binds us together.

Takeaway #3: Community over competition is where it’s at. Most people perceive the world of business as very cutthroat with everyone out for just themselves and to some extent, that’s true. But I didn’t find it to be true at this conference. Even individuals who did similar things were more than willing to help each other take their business to the next level. People kept saying that there was room for everyone in this niche and that’s so true. I didn’t walk away feeling like I needed to compete with people I met so that I was the only voice, but instead, I left feeling inspired to learn from people I met so we’re a strong collective voice.

Takeaway #4: I want to make Countdowns and Cupcakes a thing. Ok, so this was probably my biggest takeaway, but it was the easiest one to settle on. As I listened to our keynote speakers share their stories of success, as I networked with companies and bloggers, as a I sat in on educational sessions, all I could think was “I’m ready to take Countdowns and Cupcakes to the next level.” I started making a list of my 2018 goals right there at the conference because I was so pumped!

I have grown to love this little corner of the internet so much and I am so passionate about it continuing to grow, on the blog, in the shop and on social media. I so hope you’ll be a part of it!

P.S. The conference is coming to Orlando on September 23-25 next year! If you couldn’t make it to Dallas (or we didn’t get the chance to connect), I can’t wait to see you in Orlando.

Deployment

Day of the Deployed: They’re Still Out There

October 26, 2017

I am essentially Hannah Montana.

No, I don’t sing. Or dance. Or have a country singer as a father. But I do live a bit of a dual life.

You see, by day, I am an average person: working a 9-5 job at a non-profit, living in a smallish town, spending as much time as I can on my passions and with family and friends. But by night, I’m a military spouse whose husband is gone frequently. Not “away for a week in Chicago at a business expo” gone, but “away for 4-6 months at a time in a war zone” gone.

And that blows people’s minds.

“Wait, he’s deployed? I thought we were getting out of Iraq/Afghanistan/any other country.”

“He’s gone again? Didn’t he just get back not that long ago?”

“Well, will there ever be a point in time when he doesn’t have to deploy?”

As I straddle the line between the civilian and military worlds every single day, I’ve heard all of the above on a pretty regular basis. When I see the shock in my civilian coworkers’ eyes, I realize that there is a huge divide between my two worlds. That divide saddens me as a military spouse, but as someone with a 100% civilian life prior to meeting my husband, I totally get it!

People who aren’t military don’t understand the military and are oftentimes very confused when confronted with that lifestyle, especially the nature, frequency and continued intensity of military deployments. So it’s the job of those of us connected to the military to try and narrow that knowledge gap whenever possible. It does us good, it does them good and it does the entire country good when these two groups have a greater understanding of the realities of each other’s lives.

Let’s narrow that gap. Let’s educate our neighbors, our coworkers and our families on just what life in the military is like, for service members and their families. Look for ways to start that conversation: civilians, talk to military families around you and military families, talk to the civilians in your life. In honor of National Day of the Deployed, I’m starting that conversation here today.

Every day, there are thousands of military personnel deployed around the world, whether or not people realize it. And trust me when I say that a lot of civilians don’t realize it.

We live in a world that, despite all the ways there are to connect, seems to favor being as disconnected from others as possible. There is no concerted effort supporting the military the way there was when our grandparents and great-grandparents were young. Deploying troops aren’t given a big sendoff or a heroes’ homecoming in the general community the way they were 70 or 80 years ago. People aren’t sacrificing meat and stockings to ensure that the “boys” overseas have food and parachutes.

From the comfort of our sofas and behind our iPhone screens, we can easily pretend that men and women in uniform are all at home. We pretend because it’s easier than confronting the truth and dealing with the uncomfortable reality that men and women are dying for our freedom every single day.

They are still out there: in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Niger, in Syria, the list goes on and on. Even if you have unliked it on Facebook, the war is still going on, 16 years after 9/11. And frankly, I’m not sure any of us really see a realistic end in sight. And as disheartening as that is, I think every person connected to the military recognizes that even if terrorism disappeared as we know it tomorrow, the deployments would not stop. It’s so important to remember that deployments aren’t just to the deserts of the Middle East: Japan, Germany and South Korea (just to name a few) all have large numbers of deployed troops housed within their borders. Deployments are still happening; they won’t stop happening.

So on the National Day of the Deployed, I have two messages for people reading this blog:

To my military-affiliated readers, especially the military spouses: I am with you. I see your struggles and your exhaustion. I FEEL those same struggles. I understand your tears. I’ve cried them too. Know that I have your back every single day, no matter which hat I’m wearing. We are going to get through this by relying on each other, by tapping into the kick-ass team we are. Please, reach out to me if you need help or resources or just a sympathetic shoulder to cry on. You are not alone.

To my civilian readers: please, don’t forget about us. Military families are all around you, even if you don’t live on or near a military installation. Our children go to the same schools yours do. We work and shop at the same places you do. We live in your neighborhoods. Even though your local news may not talk about us every day, we are still fighting, abroad and at home. We all have stories, skills and struggles that aren’t that far off from your own. Begin that conversation with us; we welcome it!

For everyone reading this blog: today, and always, remember all who are deployed. Say a prayer, pause to reflect on how lucky you are they exist or just flat out thank them.

You can learn more about the National Day of the Deployed here.

Learn how you can better support military spouses in your community.

Care Packages Countdowns & Cupcakes Store

New Year’s Care Package

October 23, 2017
New Year's Care Package

Christmas last week, New Year’s this week…the pages are flying off the calendar! Ok so it’s not really 2018 yet, but when you’re shipping care packages halfway around the world, sometimes you have to think ahead. That’s why I’m excited that my New Year’s care package is now available in the shop.

I modeled this one after my husband’s New Year’s care package from last year and, just like my Christmas product, I’m really pleased with how it turned out! I wanted paper that was sparkly without being glittery (if your loved one is anything like my husband, glitter is a no go). But what’s a New Year’s care package without some sparkle?!

The shimmery black paper is the perfect backdrop for my design and a type of paper that I keep coming back to for care packages. It’s a nice thickness and the shimmer adds a little extra to the design.  The gold cutouts really pop against the black and add just the right amount of sparkle to this New Year’s care package.

New Year's Care Package

The gold lettering and black background sell the whole New Year’s theme, but I think the fireworks really make the box! You can almost hear them explode amid the oohs and aahs of the crowd. This New Year’s care package is a great way to start off 2018 with your loved one and make it your best year yet.

While it doesn’t quite make up for not being able to kiss them at midnight, it’s a very close second. You can fill it with lots of photos and wishes for 2018. Other contents could include confetti, Hershey’s kisses, sparkling apple cider and fun decorations.

You can shop this New Year’s care package now. As always, it ships free and 10% of your total is donated to an organization that supports military families.

Want even more care package ideas? I’m giving away 165+ ideas (plus what to put in them) here.