When I posted about the frustration of not knowing what to send to soldiers, jennie w. commented that there was a site called Any Soldier, where people could find actual lists from actual soldiers. I clicked over there and I am a little dazzled. For someone who likes to send care packages but gets anxious about overdoing it and/or sending someone a bunch of stuff they don't need/want, this is like some sort of heaven.
I think this ties in beautifully with Doing My Best's Crappy Day Presents idea (see the upper-right of her blog for more about CDPs, with examples), and it's another outlet for those of us who love to do things like that. It is extremely fun for me to buy things for people, especially when I can find those things on clearance (GOOD things, not cheap ugly things---but at 1/4th the price). Looking through the lists of soldier wish lists, my heart was pounding. They need twin-sized sheets, and I OFTEN find twin-sized sheets on 75% off---and in fact, I have several sets still in their packages for when the current sets wear out, and so have had to pass by many a nice clearance. And they want things like snack foods, and I often see those on clearance. And vitamins, and I sometimes see those on clearance. And really, I now see the clearance sections in a WHOLE NEW LIGHT. I'd been thinking, "Oh, that's such a great deal on cute stationery, I wish I didn't already have more than I can ever use," and "Oooo, gum on clearance, but that's not the flavor Paul likes," and "Wow, all those DVDs for only $5 each, but I use Netflix now." BUT I CAN BUY THEM FOR THE SOLDIERS.
And I subscribe to People magazine, and there are GIRL SOLDIERS WHO LIKE PEOPLE MAGAZINE. In fact, you can send a package specifically to "any FEMALE soldier" if it seems more fun to put together a package of nice shampoo and tampons and hair elastics and People magazines and Maeve Binchy paperbacks from the library 25-cent book sale, instead of a box of SpongeBob DVDs and car magazines and Speed Stick.
And I can just buy an item here (box of caffeinated fruit-flavored water enhancer, $2) and an item there (set of twin sheets on 75% off, $6.24), and set them aside until I have enough for a box. I think one of the best parts is knowing that if something in the box is something that's needed by the recipient, they can definitely find someone else who will want it.
It's hard to CHOOSE someone, though. There are SO MANY. SuperJules and I were wishing we had more filter options: you can already sort by service branch, where the unit is from, number of women/men---but we'd like to be able to sort in other ways. I'd like to be able to search for specific items, so that I could find areas that specifically want books, or specifically want People magazines, or whatever. Jules wants to be able to double-filter, so that we can find, for example, a larger team that has received fewer packages. I'd also like to be able to sort by pitifullness, so that I can give priority to the lone female asking for hair elastics and wishing the base store had pads instead of only tampons, and ignore the group looking for a mini-fridge for their PlayStation area. Just clicking through one request link after another is overwhelming, and makes it feel like it's not even worth it to send a single-drop box into the need-ocean.
By the way, the USPS has free flat-rate boxes for this, and I lovvvvvvve flat-rate boxes. I can get a little squirrely about mailing stuff, otherwise. But with a flat-rate box, you just fill it up and you know exactly how much it will cost to mail. And it's pretty amazing to be able to mail a box across the world for $12.95. It's not like $12.95 is pocket change, but I can come up with it now and then---and it's nothing like the cost it would be if it weren't APO/FPO: I once mailed a very small package to Norway and it was so much money I nearly blacked out, something like $30 to mail a baby outfit and a rattle.
I'm a little nervous about the customs forms, though. I don't know how to do those, and new things make me fearful and avoidant. I will hope that the fun of mailing the first box will motivate me to plow through that experience, and after that I will know just what to do and won't have to fret about it anymore.
Life-improving products, part 4 - (Continued from part 1, part 2, and part 3.) Stearns Youth Life Vest (photo from Amazon.com). I’d been too scared to take the kids to any body of water oth...