+
For military families, photo sharing is a vital lifeline to family connection
Evey Koen
True

When you marry into the military, you know you're signing up for a life of occasional-to-frequent separation. Not only are service members sent around the globe during deployment, but they also attend training schools leading up to missions, which can mean months away from their loved ones.

While we often recognize the sacrifices soldiers make with their service, it's easy to overlook the sacrifices their spouses and children make as well. When your significant other is gone for months at a time, maintaining a relationship gets complicated. And when a parent is gone for months at a time, you have to come up with creative ways to stay connected as a family.


Shannon Sandvig's husband, Gavin, was gone for 10 months with the Iowa National Guard just six weeks after their first son was born in 2005. Talking on the phone was difficult during that period because babies don't put their needs on hold for phone calls. They relied on texting and sending photos in the mail, but it's nearly impossible to keep up with the rapid changes and growth of a baby when you're away for most of their first year. "Even three months with a newborn baby is a big deal," says Shannon, "because they come home to a totally different child."

The Sandvigs now have three boys — ages 14, 13, and 11 — who have grown up with their dad regularly on deployment. When Gavin was sent to Afghanistan in 2010, the kids were five, three, and two years old. During that 11-month deployment, Shannon would send Gavin photos of the boys' daily lives. Their middle son also sent a stuffed chameleon named "Rocky" to Gavin so he could take pictures with it to send home to the kids.

Shannon Sandvig

Shannon says her kids got cell phones at much younger ages than most of their peers so they'd be able to communicate with their dad on his schedule. Gavin doesn't always know ahead of time when he can call or text, so they wanted the boys to be able to respond to his calls or messages immediately.

It's hard to stay connected as the kids get older and busier, though. When a spouse and parent is gone for a long period, family life still goes on, and keeping a deployed family member feeling like they're a part of the daily rhythms is a challenge. There's a readjustment period every time they leave, and another every time they come back home.

Gavin Sandvig reuniting with his three boys after a deployment in AfghanistanShannon Sandvig

Thankfully, technology keeps marching along, making it easier than ever for families to stay connected even at a distance. Smart cameras and systems like the Google Nest Hub allow you to easily share photos without having to go through social media; it's as easy as saying "Hey Google, share this photo with Mom." Since photos and videos are vital lifelines for families who are separated by deployment, the more options they have for sharing life's little moments, the better.

Like Shannon, Evey Koen also learned early that the dynamics of parenting with a deployed spouse is complicated. Her husband, Mike, an aviator in the Navy, was deployed less than a week after their daughter, Aven, was born. In all, he was only home for nine weeks of the first year and a half of Aven's life, which was hard. But Evey says parenting solo wasn't the hardest thing about Mike's deployment; the hardest part was making him feel like he was included in their daily family life.

"It was definitely emotionally hardest on Mike," Evey says.

The couple worked hard to find creative ways to keep him connected. Mike recorded himself reading stories, which Evey would play for Aven five or six times a day. They would mail back and forth clothing items so that Aven could get used to Mike's smell and Mike could experience that magical baby scent. Evey also took pictures of Aven with a stuffed photo of Mike — her "Daddy Doll" — at regular intervals so that he could see how she was growing.

Aven at 4 monthsEvey Koen

However, being out on a ship in the middle of the ocean, Mike didn't always have reliable access to phone or internet. He had a hard time feeling like he was missing everything, and Evey tried hard to prioritize his needs as a father. For example, when Aven said her first word at nine months old, Evey had to wait to tell the rest of her family. "Her first word was 'Dada' because I was always talking about Dada and there was no one around to say Mama," says Evey. "All of my family wanted to see it, but I couldn't post the video for my family to see until Mike had seen it, because I wanted him to feel like he was a part of our family experience."

Mike has been in the Navy for 28 years and is now teaching at the U.S. Naval War College in Rhode Island. He will retire next year at 50, so he gets to spend a lot of time with now seven-year-old Aven. Gavin recently found out he will be deployed with the National Guard again next year, so Shannon and the boys are preparing for another long separation and figuring out the best ways to keep Gavin in the loop. Shannon says Rocky the chameleon will likely accompany him on this deployment, too.

Here's to the men and women who serve around the world, and here's and to the families who support them from home.

Google is providing Nest Hubs to USO families to help them feel closer this holiday season. Join us in supporting the USO at uso.org/googlenest.

All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

True

We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

popular

Woman left at the altar by her fiance decided to 'turn the day around’ and have a wedding anyway

'I didn’t want to remember the day as complete sadness.'

via Pixabay

The show must go on… and more power to her.

There are few things that feel more awful than being stranded at the altar by your spouse-to-be. That’s why people are cheering on Kayley Stead, 27, from the U.K. for turning a day of extreme disappointment into a party for her friends, family and most importantly, herself.

According to a report in The Metro, on Thursday, September 15, Stead woke up in an Airbnb with her bridemaids, having no idea that her fiance, Kallum Norton, 24, had run off early that morning. The word got to Stead’s bridesmaids at around 7 a.m. the day of the wedding.

“[A groomsman] called one of the maids of honor to explain that the groom had ‘gone.’ We were told he had left the caravan they were staying at in Oxwich Bay (the venue) at 12:30 a.m. to visit his family, who were staying in another caravan nearby and hadn’t returned. When they woke in the morning, he was not there and his car had gone,” Jordie Cullen wrote on a GoFundMe page.

Keep ReadingShow less
Education

How a 3,800-year-old stone tablet helped create modern legal systems

'Innocent until proven guilty' isn't that new of a concept.

Kind of looks like the Matrix code...

The modern justice system is certainly not without its flaws, however most can agree that the concept of “innocent until proven guilty” is one that (when not abused) stands as the foundation of what fair due process looks like. This principle, it turns out, isn’t so modern at all. It can actually be traced all the way back to nearly 3,800 years ago.

historyLady Justice, the image of impartial fairness. Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

English barrister Sir William Garrow is known for coining the "innocent until proven guilty" phrase between the 18th and 19th century, after insisting that evidence be provided by accusers and thoroughly tested in court. But this notion, as radical as it seemed at the time, can, in fact, be credited to an ancient Babylonian king who ruled Mesopotamia.

During his reign from 1792 to 1750 B.C., Hammurabi left behind a legacy of accomplishments as a ruler and a diplomat. His most influential contribution was a series of 282 laws and regulations that were painstakingly compiled after he sent legal experts throughout his kingdom to gather existing laws, then adapted or eliminated them in order to create a universal system.

Those laws were inscribed on a large, seven-foot stone monument, and they were known as the Code of Hammurabi.

Keep ReadingShow less
via UNSW

This article originally appeared on 07.10.21


Dr. Daniel Mansfield and his team at the University of New South Wales in Australia have just made an incredible discovery. While studying a 3,700-year-old tablet from the ancient civilization of Babylon, they found evidence that the Babylonians were doing something astounding: trigonometry!

Most historians have credited the Greeks with creating the study of triangles' sides and angles, but this tablet presents indisputable evidence that the Babylonians were using the technique 1,500 years before the Greeks ever were.


Keep ReadingShow less