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Trust – there’s NOT an app for that!

By elaine | January 16, 2013

Meeting each other

Take a look at this picture. What are the people doing? If you said something as simple as meeting and talking to each other, you’re right. What’s so unique? No one’s texting, or plugged into an iPod. In this post, I want to talk about talking. Recently I had a huge email problem and discovered that for almost two weeks no one had been receiving any of my emails…and I didn’t even know it! I never received any notifications. The emails were going off into the clouds somewhere. As the email issues were being worked on, I was left to utilize an avenue of communication we used to use all the time. The telephone. Honestly, I don’t like talking on the phone. Like most people, I’ve gotten used to shooting off an email and waiting for a reply. I was uncomfortable getting back on the phone, but I did. I called and talked to people…almost as good as “face-to-face.” Most of the conversations were casual and comfortable even though they were focused on business. My loss of email forced me to pick up the phone; something that has, over time, been relegated as the “last line of defense” in making business contacts.

 In this world of technology, you see people relying on impersonal devices to make personal connections and build trust. I believe that genuine trust is built through personal connections. There’s an app on your phone for almost everything from music to books to games to doing your banking. Those are what apps are for. When it comes to creating trust with another person or deciding who you feel good about doing business with, my philosophy is simple. Trust – there’s NOT an app for that! (The name of a new program, too) Directed towards both my military families, and business contacts, the next posts will look at specific ways to make and maintain connections, focus your communication and cement trust between people. I’m pretty practical and down to earth, so the ideas I share will be the same. In the meantime, take this challenge: The next time you sit down to write an email, consider picking up the phone instead.

Topics: Everyday life | No Comments »

But I don’t FEEL like being Grateful!

By elaine | January 10, 2013

Often during the early part of January, I read posts and thoughts from families – military and others – about how challenging it is when things just go wrong around them. Christmas bills are coming in, the kids are finally back in school (ok, that’s a good thing), and often the weather is dreary. If a spouse had been deployed over the holidays, it made it even more difficult to be grateful. I noticed that I was always looking at what went wrong, rather than looking beyond it. That recently changed.

I read a quote from Carol Kuykendall in Daily Guideposts that I love. Here it is: “While not necessarily thankful FOR all circumstances, I can be thankful WITHIN all circumstances.” I was not particularly thankful when the water heater broke flooding our finished basement and causing a huge mess and stress. BUT I can be thankful that Healthy Home Carpet Cleaning was there within the hour to begin cleaning, that we had insurance to cover most of it and that my stepson is a contractor and guided us through the process of buying and installing a new water heater! You know those Christmas bills that are coming in this month and messing with my budget? Well, now I’m grateful that I’m lucky enough to have the money to pay them even though I won’t be going out to dinner or a movie very often. It’s about choices.

I understand the difference now, and will watch how it changes my attitude on GRATITUDE, and be more aware of the “gifts” WITHIN bad circumstances. Thank you, Carol.

Topics: Everyday life | No Comments »

Navigating a new Military Marriage

By elaine | October 15, 2012

Being early in a marriage and early to the military is quite a daunting experience. We’ll smooth out some of the speed bumps you might incur along the way by bringing you helpful tips, information and advice right from those who have lived through exactly what you’re feeling now. You just might find yourself saying, “I needed to hear that!”

 Advice on Your Role in the Military from those who know!

 “Get involved, learn about your role and let your voice be heard. Do not be the silent partner. Learn more about the military so you have a say in the decisions your family makes.”

 “The military is a very special and unique organization. Your involvement in the military depends on your motivation and self comfort. Understand that this career involves you whether you are active or passive.”

 “Remember that you’re working around the military schedule and may not always get to celebrate things on the very day they happen.”

 “Make sure you truly know the meaning of unconditional love”

 “I wish someone would have told me that when you marry a service member you marry the service as well. As a new military spouse you need to understand and believe that your soldier’s love for the military has nothing to do with the love he has for you. He does not love you less because he is a soldier. If you wait, you may learn that he is a better man because of his love for the military and will then in turn, love you better as well.”

 “Don’t be judgmental of other spouse’s choices.”

 You’re More than just “The Spouse”

Carving out a life for yourself can seem hard once you realize the important role you play in your spouse’s military career. A happy military spouse is a strong military spouse, so be sure to have an interest that is yours.

 Stay Busy.  Your own interests and career can help you build strong relationships. 

Find a job you like.

Stay in touch with friends and family “back home”.

Take a class or learn something new!

 Your Attitude Makes a Difference

Transition to life as a military spouse is never easy. It will provide challenges that you never anticipated and require you to be tougher than you thought possible. In many situations, attitude can make or break you and your relationship. 

 “It is what you make it! If you have the I-hate-the-military attitude, you will be miserable.” All military spouses have had days where they’ve uttered those words. Make them the exception not the rule.

  “There really is power in positive thinking.”

 Embrace the military lifestyle, and enjoy its benefits Whether it is a chance to live overseas or a great deal on a vacation rental, your military lifestyle is filled with opportunities and benefits for service members and families.

 “I decided this was going to be an opportunity for all of us, not a punishment for falling in love with a soldier”

 Shop at the commissary and the BX or PX. You could save about 30% on all purchases.

 Be a strong advocate for your family. It’s up to you to dig in with both feet and get it done.

 Remember that others are following your lead

 Avoid Peer Pressure Whether you feel like everyone else is having babies, getting new cars or complaining about their spouses, don’t do it just because Mrs. Jones is.

Topics: Everyday Military Life | No Comments »

Your Family and Military OPSEC

By elaine | October 2, 2012

When your family is getting ready for a deployment or an extended TDY, it can seem overwhelming to remember everything that needs to be done. Over the years, we’ve found that there are some specific topics that your family should sit and discuss together before you leave. If you talk about these up front, then when something arises, it’s easier and quicker to make a decision or take an action based on your discussion. Over these next blog posts, we’ll look at 6 of these discussions – some at more length than others. Some discussion topics contain special information specifically for our service members.

 1. The Importance of Operations Security

Operations Security (OPSEC) is the process of identifying and controlling critical information that is not, and should not, be generally considered as common knowledge. As a military family member, you’re part of the OPSEC team and play a crucial role in ensuring your loved ones’ safety. Understanding and following OPSEC ensures your safety at home too. For example, use common sense when hanging yellow ribbons on trees, sticking magnets on cars, or wearing clothing that advertises your deployment status. These may be seen as opportunities for others to recognize your vulnerabilities. Help your service member feel confident about your safety and security while he or she is deployed by protecting yourself.

 Conversations: Most likely you’ve never had to censor your own conversations before, but now it’s different.

 Responding to questions:  Most people who ask questions about your service member are doing so out of natural curiosity and concern. However, for safety’s sake, less information is better. Learn to respond in a way that lets them know that it’s something you can’t talk about or don’t feel comfortable talking about. Don’t be afraid to take a stand and stop answering questions. Some ideas for responding are:

Gossip is hurtful to everyone:  You may be aware of personal information at home that soldiers in theater aren’t, and sometimes it’s best kept that way.

Social networking: Status updates, countdown calendars, and other online displays can jeopardize your safety as well as the safety of your service member. The military is constantly making decisions on how to manage social networking in a way that allows a continued line of communication between service members and their families without jeopardizing security.

For the Serviceperson: You have responsibilities when it comes to OPSEC when you’re in theater. Here are some things to consider and discuss:

You can breathe easier now that you’ve taken steps to ensure everyone is safe and following security protocol. Some of the upcoming topic discussions will include: Block Leave and R&R, Coping with Personality Changes, Your Family Connection Plan, Trust and your Relationship, and Dealing with Burnout, Stress and Isolation.

Topics: Deployment Readiness | No Comments »

Stress Management for Military Families

By elaine | August 21, 2012

Like so many others, I got busy this summer. But you know what? It’s no excuse! I went back and reviewed some comments that came in and a couple asked why I wasn’t more consistent with my blogging? Was I busy? Occupied elsewhere? It got me to thinking that they were right in calling me on it. I’ve been spending time this year writing FRG articles that have been going out to my list every other week, but haven’t taken time to put those articles into blog posts! That was a no-brainer and it’s going to be remedied right now. I took each subject and made it into a series of 3 articles. The very first series was about Stress Management for military families and service members. Below is that first installment. Thank you for kick in the butt to get writing again.

Recognize stress before it kills you!  We all know that “good” stress can peak your adrenaline and actually help increase your performance and abilities in getting a job done. This kind of stress is critical on the battlefield. It’s when stress begins to control us, instead of us being in control of it, that it turns into “bad” stress. This decreases our ability to react and respond properly in situations and can be damaging to ourselves and others. Stress, much like high blood pressure, can be a “silent killer.

What is stress? Stress is the response your body makes to outside anxieties and stimuli that may seem out of your control. Most stress is normal and necessary to our overall physical and mental health. “Good” triggers a lifesaving “flight or fight” response. When does stress cross the line and become harmful? When it has a negative and prolonged affect on your moods, physical health, aggression and the people around you.

Become aware of stress symptoms. Always be aware of your own body and when it’s acting in a way that’s not normal. Stress shows up in many different ways and can often be overlooked or interpreted as something different. ALL of these symptoms don’t have to be present, just a few at a time. Look for: Read the rest of this entry »

Topics: Everyday Military Life | 1 Comment »

Hugs and kisses in a cheese shaker?

By elaine | October 10, 2011

As a military speaker in the area of family readiness, the cool thing is that I get to share amazingly great simple things that families are doing to stay connected when deployments separate them. What’s my expertise? Having interviewed over 3200 military families and seen what they do firsthand. My job as both a military speaker and author is to bring you the best of all those ideas. So how do families stay connected? Check out these ideas:

 1. During deployment, a toddler missed her daddy’s hugs and kisses when she was tucked into bed. So Mom took a cheese shaker jar and filled it with slips of paper with “X’s” and “O’s” on them. At bedtime she shakes the jar over her daughter and says that these are Daddy’s kisses and hugs to send her off to sleep.

  2. I’ve been told of many ways to send your voice across the miles such as small recordable picture frames, alarm clocks, recordable discs in stuffed animals or in Daddy Dolls (for the deployed parent’s voice), and of course Skype where available. Sometimes only 10 seconds of voice can bridge thousands of miles.

3. Handwritten letters are becoming more and more appreciated by loved ones many miles apart. Especially now that they are breaking down communications centers in Iraq, but troops are still there. To encourage her child to write, one mom helped her son create his own personal stationery using a publisher program. She made it a self-mailer to ease the mailing process. Her child loved using this to write his special notes.

 4. Even pets get into the act. One woman writes “We gave our dog a new “comfort toy” while my husband was gone. A comfort toy could be anything that belonged to my husband like an old slipper or a shirt (with his scent on it) knotted up like a chew toy.”

When I speak at family readiness conferences or yellow ribbon events I get to share so many of these awesome ideas with my audiences! Sharing heartwarming ideas is the next reason why I think it’s great to be a military speaker. See samples of more great ideas from my books at or click here to read more about what it’s like to be a military speaker.

Topics: Deployment Readiness, Military Speaker | 3 Comments »

I made a wish and got the unexpected!

By elaine | October 6, 2011

True to my word and – commitment to my business colleague Brad Montgomery – we’re starting out a series of blogs dedicated to answering the question, “What’s it like being a military speaker?” Since being a speaker is truly personal and encompasses so many great things, I’ll share a fun and different perspective in each post…over the next 20 posts!

The Hoffmann family

The family on the cover of my books!

Background: I’ve been a military speaker for the past nine years and pioneered the idea of speaking and writing in the family readiness arena. That means that I speak to families who are in any phase of military deployment or separated when TDY. So, the first and biggest perk is that I get to talk about family to families! I’ve done a great deal of speaking and training in the corporate environment, and continue to do so. Talking about family doesn’t come into play very often, and it was something that was missing. A long time ago I started “putting out to the universe” (I call it praying) two things: I wanted to talk about the importance of family relationships and I wanted to make a difference for more than just a day. That was it.

When I began writing connection idea books for the military back in 2003, I was also requested come speak at conferences to talk about the ideas in the books (see the books I’m referring to at Over the next few years I came to realize that I DID get exactly what I had prayed for! I was helping families stay strong and connected, telling stories about family, and making a difference for an entire deployment.

There are many speakers out there addressing myriad relevant topics, but I truly believe that those of us who are in direct contact with the amazing military families have the very best job when it comes to being called a military speaker! Thanks to the Family Readiness offices for letting me be a part of making my own dreams come true while being there for you. To find out more about being a military speaker, click here.

Topics: Everyday Military Life, Military Speaker | No Comments »

Military Speaker | Elaine Dumler

By elaine | September 30, 2011

I have the best job in the world because I’m a military speaker and author who has the privilege of helping our service members and their families stay strong and connected during deployments. That’s just plain awesome! Now that some units are beginning to draw down, I get to help with reunion and reintegration too. I can’t think of much better than that. Anyway, along the last 8 years of this journey, I’ve been asked some questions about what I do and how I do it. Blogging cuts right to the chase, so let’s go ahead and answer some of those questions.

What is a military speaker? A regular professional speaker is someone who enjoys sharing valuable relevant information with a group of people in their industry. A military speaker is a professional speaker who has found that his or her very special audience is comprised of people involved in an aspect of military life. For me, I’ve chosen to be a military speaker specifically for our service members and their families. This allows me to be a part of helping military families learn and commit to staying connected with each other when they leave on TDY or deployments. Being a military speaker is a specialty.

Why do you need a military speaker when planning a military event? Won’t any association speaker do? Because military specific speakers are the people who have spent a great deal of time and research getting to know the military, their lifestyle, what drives them, what their challenges are and how they can specifically be of assistance. They know the language…and you have to admit that the military certainly has its own language! Any professional speaker can come and give a presentation, but it’s likely to sound like many others given “out there” in the world. A military speaker brings humor, character, knowledge of the military lifestyle and a feeling that they “get” you to the platform. Don’t settle for less.

Why do I like being a military speaker? I love it because of all the amazing people I get to meet. I don’t just come in, do a presentation and then head out the back door. I’m there for the entire event, and that has let me make real friends over the past years. I get to be part of your lives not only for the weekend of the conference, but hopefully for years to come. I tell people that I have lots of “great friends” on bases and posts whom I haven’t even met, because they have read and used my books or heard me speak from somewhere in an audience. You can see from these pictures, how great it is to meet such remarkable people.

Why am I the best military speaker for your family readiness conference? I have been speaking at National conventions and State Family Programs conferences, on bases and posts around the country for eight years. My expertise is focused specifically on your military family and your family program volunteers. If you’re planning any family and/or volunteer conference then I’m the best you can get for bringing you those funny, intimate and heartwarming family connection ideas. I’ve worked with family programs volunteers in regional trainings and I know how to help you recruit and retain your volunteers and give them the information they need to go out and help the families under their care. After all, I’ve interviewed over 3200 military families on what they do and what websites they rely on to keep their family strong.

What makes me different from others as a military speaker? I’m the only person who can bring you the connections from two bestselling books. I’m a professional speaker, which lets me help you create a great event and troubleshoot problems. I know how to use humor and stories to keep people involved and interested, and all of my breakout sessions are fully interactive to generate more great ideas. Oh yea…I’m the only civilian family connections specialist who summarizes general session presentations by wrapping points around the photos and experience of an incentive ride in an F-16 taken with the 180thFighter Wing in Ohio! Now that rocks!

As a military speaker, do you use material from your books in your presentations? All the time. The very best of the connection ideas and resources I’ve gleaned over the years make up the ideas in each chapter of the book…over 250 ideas and 200 resource websites in each one. I’ve heard so many wonderful stories from deployed families that it just makes sense that I bring you the 15 or 20 that stand out as amazing. That’s where Flat Daddy® came from, and the stories around military discounts that I share. The ideas in the book “I’m Already Home…Again” are the ones used in the pre-deployment and deployment presentations, and the ideas from “The Road Home” are shared in the reunion and reintegration program called “From Barracks to Backyard”.

How do I chose a military speaker for my event? First decide on the theme of the event and specifically the people it is designed for. Is it a conference just for the service members? Should it be training rather than an event? Is it regional? Find the military speaker who you feel can connect and serve the people who will be in that particular audience. Then decide on your budget so that you’re ready to talk about that up front. Finally, when you have your event dates selected, and your preferred speaker selected, have them put a hold on those dates while you are working out the details. Since most events are scheduled for weekends, they can get booked up quickly. Then you don’t have to run the risk of losing your speaker to another event. I have lots of military speaker resources, and would be happy to help you find the right one if your event isn’t designed for the families…which of course, I’d be perfect for!

I trust that this page has helped address some questions hanging out there regarding hiring a military speaker to bring the exact right amount of knowledge and pizzazz to your program. If you’d like any other information about hiring me to be your family readiness military speaker, write to me at my speaking contact page. I hope we have the chance to connect for real in the near future. Thanks for all you are doing to make our country and our everyday lives safer.

Topics: Military Speaker | 2 Comments »

AMC bites the dust…the end of an era of connection.

By elaine | September 22, 2011

Do you know what tomorrow is? I know, it’s Friday, but more than that, it’s the ending of an era. Pine Valley, PA ceases to exist as the daytime serial (or “soap opera”) All My Children ends its 41 year run. I used to watch it, but drifted away over 12 years ago. Still, I’m a little saddened by the departure of characters I’d come to know, many of whom are still part of the show. Even if you’ve never seen a single episode of All My Children, who hasn’t heard of the venerable Erica Kane…queen of Pine Valley! Played by Susan Lucci for all of the character’s 41 years, she has been the epitome of the woman you “love to hate.” But there’s more to the story of this milestone. It’s the end of a time of daytime theatre that has given career starts to many of the celebrity names we are familiar with today. This week I’ve actually been watching the final episodes as they bring back cameo appearances of the characters and storylines I remember from years ago. It’s interesting to watch how the writers are tying up dangling scenarios that were meant to go on and on while still surprising you with the unexpected. Stuart lives! It doesn’t get better than that. Here’s what I remember, and see if any of this makes you smile and say…”I remember that too!”

 But it’s not just that. I remember the conversations over coffee that started with something akin to, “Do you even believe that Tad would have an affair when he has Dixie waiting home for him?” or “Doesn’t Brooke know what kind of a man Adam is?” or “Do you believe how gorgeous Maria is?” We knew it was all fiction, but we enjoyed the personal time we were sharing together, sitting around a table between classes. I remember how much I miss that.  Now with social media, these conversations happen digitally. I want people to remember what it’s like to connect personally with another person, and for many of us, the daytime soap was an avenue that fostered that. I want you to remember the importance of sitting next to grandma on the coach, and feeling like a grown up because the two of you were engrossed in the same thing, even if you had no idea what was going on. Now, watching it this week, I find that I’m quickly drawn back into the intimacy of the character’s lives I knew so well…if only for a few minutes…and get a twinkle in my eye when I realize that I still think Tad is hot, especially with a few years, a few pounds and some sexy grey hair added to the mix!

Topics: everyday stuff | No Comments »

Your Inspiring Military Family

By elaine | May 25, 2011

I think I’m going to really like this series of blog posts these coming weeks. Every time I read a card that has the thoughts of a military family written on it, I get chills. The intensity, emotion and support for each other show through every word. I hope that someone’s words will affect you at a time when you need to hear them and that they make you smile…and be thankful that you’re a part of the extended military world. Here are my favorites for today:

  “I feel that I am helping my country by being a support to my soldier, and helping her by knowing that her son is being cared for which gives you peace of mind.” – Cynthia


There is no better gift to give a soldier than helping to care for their children left behind during deployments. Blessings go out to the grandparents, neighbors, teachers and child caregivers who step up to fill this important void.

“A military family is just that – an extended family. We do activities together and are there for one another. People who are involved in the military understand the trials, tribulations, and good that come from it.” – Jaime

It’s the connection of everyone in the military that creates that family. Many say it’s a warm and comforting feeling knowing that they are a part of a community of common experiences, and they can share with each other because they say “I know what you’re going through”…and truly mean it. Thank you to all military families for being so special.

Topics: Everyday Military Life | 1 Comment »

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