Survive and Thrive: Twentynine Palms, CA!

Honey – we have orders . . . to Twentynine Palms, CA.

While the thought of being stationed in the California desert may feel like the middle of nowhere – there are several hidden gems in this desert oasis to keep you and your family busy.

Here are my top 9 tips for things to do around Twentynine Palms:

1. Joshua Tree National Park: One of the best national parks our country has to offer! Be sure to check out the Joshua Tree Ranger Programs that offers guided hikes, patio talks with rangers, and an evening program to introduce visitors to various aspects of the park. Pro tip: Check the weather report available on the parks website. Some days you’ll need to bring a jacket and other days, you’ll need sunscreen and plenty of water. Wear comfortable shoes and bring a camera. Bonus pro tip: Show your military ID and you’ll receive a National Parks and Federal Recreation Annual Lands Pass for FREE!

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2. Earn your two year degree or take a class for fun at Copper Mountain College: In addition to two year Associates of Arts or Associates of Science degrees, CMC offers a variety of certificate, guest speakers, and community education classes. Pro tip: AS and AA degrees transfer from CMC to the California State University system and guarantee your admission with junior standing.

3. Music Festivals: So many music festivals! From the Joshua Tree Music Festival to the Spring Concert Series and Yucca Valley Summer Music Festival, if you’re in to music, you’ll find plenty of it here. Pro tip: Wear comfortable shoes, bring a folding chair, drinks, and snacks. Check out festival website’s for any specific details.

4. Theater 29: Check out the local theater productions! This fall/winter, Theater 29 will be featuring the comedies Shakespeare in Hollywood and Young Frankenstein. For curtain times, check out their website. And if you have the acting bug, check out their website for information on auditions. Pro tip: this is a casual community theater, no need to dress up and be all fancy, unless you want to.

5. Smiths Ranch Drive-In: One of the last remaining drive-in theaters in the US, the Smiths Ranch Drive-In is a ton of fun. It can be a great date night destination or fun for the whole family. And it’s $5.00 for two movies, you can’t beat that! They also offer all the normal movie food and snack options (soda, popcorn, candy). Pro tip: bring your own snacks or set up dinner at the drive in! Let the kids play and enjoy watching a movie under the stars.

6. Pioneer Days Celebration: October 16th-19th. Held annually the 3rd weekend in October this family-friendly event includes a parade, carnival rides, games, Lego design challenge. Pro tip: For the ultimate family bonding experience, consider entering some of the events, such as the Outhouse race.

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7. HWY 62 Open Studio Art Tours: Over 140 artists with 95 studio locations make this event a win for any art lover. Sponsored by the Morongo Basin Cultural Arts Council, tour dates are October 25-26 and November 1-2 each year. Pro tip: Grab your friends, water, and road snacks because this tour takes you through the Morongo Basin on Highway 62.

8. Run for your life: So many great runs and walks to participate in! Whether you’re a seasoned runner or just want to participate in community fun runs and walks, there are plenty of opportunities to trail run, join a running group or support your community though a fun run. My favorites are the Tram Road Challenge 6K and the Think Pink Challenge at Felix Field hosted by the OSC of Twentynine Palms. Pro tip: New to the area? Take some time before you charge the trails and running courses. With the elevation changes, it usually takes the seasoned runner a few weeks to adjust. But you’ll be a ROCKSTAR runner at lower elevations.

9. Go down the hill: Otherwise known to locals as the “low desert” be sure to visit the Palm Springs area in the Coachella value for a host of seasonal events, dining, shopping and activities. From the annual Stagecoach country music festival to a trip to a local zoo there’s something for everyone here. Pro tip: Please sure to attend a local brief about desert survival tips. From extreme highs during the day to low temperatures at night – desert living is an adjustment.

Have you been stationed at Twentynine Palms? What are your must-not-miss events?

sue-lowePosted by Sue Lowe, NMFA Volunteer and Marine Corps Spouse

Happy 239th Birthday U.S. Navy!

Started as the Continental Navy in 1775, the US Navy celebrates it’s 239th birthday on October 13. Thank you to all the Sailors serving on land, air, and sea, and a special thank you to the families who support them!

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Throwback Thursday: Halloween Style!

Our Association has been dedicated to supporting and advocating for military families for 45 years…we’re also extremely dedicated to office contests, and Halloween is no exception! Some departments are already brainstorming and getting their winning costume together for the 2014 contest. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram to see what we come up with!

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In this throwback from 2010, our departments went all out to win best costume. Who do you think was the winner? The Glee cast? The Three Blind Mice and the Farmer? Or was it the crew of pirates?

 What will your military family be for Halloween? Let us know in the comments!

Silently Serving: Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and each day, military families face this silent war in their own homes. Over the last five years, the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, together, averaged just less than 8,000 domestic violence complaints per year. 

And the domestic violence battle rages on, thanks to the rough road spouses face when they report domestic abuse. We urge the Department of Defense to create a better environment for reporting abuse, so spouses can ask for help and know they’ll get it.

Military families shouldn’t serve silently.

For information on Military Protective Orders, or other resources to help, visit: www.MilitaryOneSource.mil, or www.MilitaryFamily.org.

Read more about DoD’s efforts to prevent and treat domestic violence,

#OurVolunteersRock: Spotlight on Amy Chaffin

What does it take to receive the prestigious Novella Gibson Whitehead award from our Association? A lot of talking to military families!

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We are proud to announce Amy Chaffin as our 2014 Novella Gibson Whitehead Award recipient. This award is given to a Volunteer who best defines the position’s roles and responsibilities: identifying, studying, researching, and evaluating issues relevant to the quality of life for military families. Amy is a direct link between Fort Carson military families and our Association staff, bringing shared local concerns and stories of positive community impacts. She is highly deserving of this award.

So what did Amy do? Amy was appointed as a Volunteer in 2011. She advocates for military families to become familiar with the Interstate Compact for the Educational Opportunity for Military Children so parents can ensure their children’s schools are following the intent of the agreement. During her three years she has raised important issues, such as the Army’s change in background checks, requiring those who volunteer with children to agree to have their medical and behavioral health records reviewed. Not only did Amy raise the issue, but she provided well-thought out reasons why this is problematic, and continued to follow the issue and provide subsequent information. Amy introduced our Association to numerous military communities, and helped us with mentoring and welcoming new volunteers into her area. She interviews potential volunteers as the first touch point with our Association.

Whether Amy is talking with the Superintendent at school board meetings about children’s education, or introducing her hairdresser to our app, MyMilitaryLife, Amy is an outstanding representative of our Association. Congratulations, Amy!

Think you have what it takes to volunteer with us? We think so!

christinaPosted by Christina Jumper, Volunteer Services Director

Keep Your Military Life “Pinteresting!”

October is here and so is the unofficial start of DIY season. Are you creating a Halloween costume for the kiddos? Maybe making a fall wreath for your front door? Do you need a recipe to take to command “mandatory fun” events? We’ve got you covered! We’ve got boards upon boards of awesome ideas on our Pinterest page – from DIY home projects to patriotic tasty treats you’ll drool over. Follow us and start pinning those perfect holiday ideas!

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Exiting Gracefully by Finding ‘The Life You Want!’

Winning a ticket to Oprah’s “Life you Want Weekend” from the National Military Family Association and Discovery became a momentous event for me. As an Army brat/Army wife, military life is the only life I know and the Army did a great job equipping me for it. But my husband recently retired after 28 years and is in school on his GI Bill. What I didn’t learn is how to exit gracefully. One day you’re the spouse of a Soldier and the next day you aren’t. What now?

The “Life You Want Weekend” was a time of exciting music, dancing, speakers, vendors, conversations, and of course OPRAH! Before she came out, the air was electric with anticipation. Oprah did not disappoint! She talked for two hours straight about how she got where she is today, how she overcame obstacles, and how she’s reinvented herself…and how we could too, saying, “Create the highest, grandest vision for your life. Then let every step move you in that direction.” As a fellow Mississippi gal, I thought if she could do it, I could too! I realized I could find the answer to “What now?”

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image: Harpo, Inc./George Burns

We all left saying, “WOW!”

Oprah was so stimulating; I stayed up late blowing up the Twitter feed with other pumped up attendees. Saturday session came early! Walking from the Metro, we were still in awe, swapping stories and business cards. Since I left Army life kicking and screaming, it was helpful to see there is sisterhood outside the Army and it is intriguing!

The session started with poet/philosopher Mark Nepo, who led us in a meditation of thankfulness for our life. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, took us on a quest – a hero’s journey -toward the life we want. Rob Bell taught us to see the miraculous in the everyday and embrace the life we have, even in struggles. And through humorous, but serious stories, Iyanla Vanzant told us unless we heal the wounds of the past they bleed into the future.

Trust me, I have pages of motivating notes from the presenters!

Between speakers, Oprah led us in practical workbook exercises to capture our vision. For me, the ‘Ah ha!’ moment was the life circle where we sliced up and assessed areas of importance in our lives. My Army Family Programs volunteer trainer work used to fill half my circle… and it had lots of smiley faces! Choosing my new areas of focus was difficult, but I was beginning to define my vision. What now? Well, I always wanted to volunteer with an adult literacy organization. I can focus on that next! Oprah says, “What you focus on expands.”

To further inspire us, we met Jas Boothe, founder of Final Salute, Inc. who received a check and standing O’vation from Oprah and Toyota for her work with homeless women veterans. The check was presented by the amazing Amy Purdy…double amputee, snowboarder, and Dancing with the Stars runner up!

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image: Harpo, Inc./George Burns

As I went into the weekend, I just wanted my Army life back. The “Life You Want Weekend” challenged me to appreciate my past Army life, since it made me who I am, embrace this retiree life I have here and now, and create a vision for the life I want.

To echo Oprah, “…my heart is filled with gratitude for yet another day to live on purpose.”

Oh, you’ll still see me around the Commissary…I’ll be the retiree blocking the aisle and talking about how I exited gracefully…thanks to Oprah, NMFA, and Discovery!

Posted by Mary Ward, Army (R) Spouse, Williamsburg, Virginia