Category Archives: Guest Posts

Tough Mother: A Million Times Harder Than a Tough Mudder

In honor of Mother’s Day we would like to share the story of one former active duty military mom. Motherhood is tough. Combining motherhood and active duty Service is even tougher. We honor and appreciate all military moms and military spouses. Thank you for serving our Nation and being steadfast role models for our military kids.

GabyBeing a mom in the Marine Corps is definitely a roller coaster. There are some marvelous highs and abysmal lows. There are commanders who understand the need to respond to your child’s needs, and others who make your life hellacious for it.

While I was pregnant, I was working 12-hour days and pursuing my Masters degree. Oh, and my husband was deployed. My senior leader constantly gave me “helpful” comments like, “You know you’re wasting the Marine Corps’ time by being pregnant, right?” or (when I couldn’t PT) “Go home and read the What to Expect books because you’re certainly having trouble doing what you need to do here.” The constant jabs were mortifying and annoying, especially coming from someone who’d just welcomed his third child into his family.

Once our eldest was born, I reveled in the time I had with her during maternity leave. Like all children, she changed my world. It broke my heart the first time I had to leave her at childcare to return to work. I sobbed the whole way to the front gate. It was even sadder than having bid my husband good-bye six months earlier for his second deployment to Iraq. All too quickly, though, we both settled into a routine (that’s the milspouse in me).

While getting back into shape after having our daughter, I discovered something horrible: my ACL was badly torn and needed surgery. An out of shape Marine is the brunt of a lot of ridicule. It’s even worse when you’re an out of shape female Marine.

“Didn’t you know you’d blow into a whale because of pregnancy?”

“Why don’t you just stop eating?”

I heard these comments regularly.

It was a ton of pressure and unnecessary negativity.

Thankfully, I was assigned to a new section. My new senior leader was amazingly supportive, even when my little one went through a series of ear infections that had us at our pediatrician’s office every two weeks. He even suggested keeping a few (foldable) baby items under my desk so I could just bring her to work when her childcare center’s illness rules prevented her from attending class.

His positive influence and can-do attitude helped me overcome my struggle with getting back into shape after my knee surgery. I noticed once the negative emotional input from work was deleted, being a mom got a whole lot easier! I could enjoy getting to know my baby so much more.

I am thankful for both the positive and negative (yes, really!) influences from my Marine leaders during that time. Both shaped me into a better Marine, and parent, by providing me with an excellent example of what leadership should and shouldn’t look like.

I do my best to give my kids constructive input, even when what they’ve done is making me rage with anger or despair. We walk “through the valley” of their decision making together, pinpointing where they went wrong and how they need to fix it. They get disciplined accordingly, and I always make sure to follow it up with words of affirmation (and usually lots of snuggle time).

When I fail, as I assuredly do on a regular basis, I own up to it. I know I would like many people much better if they could just say, “I messed up, and I am really sorry about it.” I get down to my kids’ eye level, look at them in the eye, and tell them how I messed up and then apologize for it. They readily forgive me, tackle me with hugs and kisses, and I feel so much better having the ugliness off my chest and gone.

And that’s how my kids are being shaped by those two Marines.

Even though I loved being a Marine, I really had to give it up. Both my husband and I were working long hours (11+), and it was very difficult having to decide which one of us had “sick baby duty” so we wouldn’t get into too much trouble with our commands. When the doctor was doing my ACL repair and found many more problems with my knee, that made the decision easy. I would finish my contract and bid the Marine Corps adieu.

Several years later, it’s still one of the hardest decisions we’ve made, but it’s definitely one of the best ones. Now, I’m a stay-at-home mom and homeschooler. It’s still tough work, just a different kind of tough. But our kids are wonderful and bless me every day. Our marriage is great. I am definitely thankful for the leaders I had, both good and bad, because they taught me so much and are still helping me be better every day.

And you know what they say, “Once a Marine (and mom), always a Marine (and mom)!”

Posted by Gaby, former Marine Captain, military spouse, mom

Starting a Career on the Move: Jennifer’s FINRA Fellowship Journey

financial-documents-and-calculatorLife in the military can be both challenging and exciting. When my children started school, I began wondering what I would do next. A friend of mine recommended applying for the FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship to become an Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC). For me, the timing was perfect, since we would be at our current duty station for another year.

After being selected to become an Accredited Financial Counselor Fellow, our family received the news that we would be moving to a different state around the time classes would start. I began to think I wouldn’t be able to complete this program because of the chaos around me – like packing up and moving the week before my classes started!

Set up in a hotel room, I logged on for my very first webinar! I was very nervous…I didn’t even know what a webinar was! Logging on was easy, and the presenter was very knowledgeable. Prior to, I received the slideshow via email, so I was able to take notes. Even in the midst of a PCS move, and using hotel wi-fi, the flexible AFC program allowed me to learn right where I was!

As I unpacked at my new home, my husband arranged for the Internet to be set up the day of my second webinar. When it came time to start, I sat in the middle of a room full of boxes – nothing was going to stop me! The rest of the classes went smoothly with no major problems. Then it came time to take my exam.

WAIT. How do I do that?? Another thing I had no experience with…finding a test proctor. The education center on our base gave me information to contact the local community college to find a proctor, and after a call and a few emails, I was set up to take my first of two exams. While I was studying for the first exam, I was also attending webinars for the second class. This flexibility allows you to work at your own pace. I passed my exam and moved on to focus on the second class.

However, I also had 1000 hours to complete for my practicum. Thanks to helpful hints from past fellows, I started volunteering on base. It was slow at first, but by the time I finished the second class, I had started shadowing a counselor. I gained more confidence and started teaching classes. Instead of focusing on my second exam, I focused more on my family, as well as on those practicum hours. After the summer was over, I finally scheduled my second exam. I passed this exam within 10 months of the first webinar.

This fellowship is wonderful for military spouses because it is so flexible. I didn’t have to worry about attending classes in a set location, and I was able to schedule exams at my pace, and within my schedule. The ideas for practicum hours were invaluable, and this fellowship is tremendously encouraging. I am so thankful I was selected to be a part of this fellowship, and I can’t wait to continue helping fellow military families here, and at our next station! Yes, we are moving again, but with this program I know I can get my certification without a problem!

Thinking of a career change? Maybe the FINRA Military Spouse Fellowship is your next step! Find out more and apply by April 18, 2014!

Jennifer-WakePosted by Jennifer Wake, Military Spouse & 2012 FINRA Fellow, Fort Leavenworth, KS

I’m a Military Spouse: I Started My Own Business, You Can, Too!

ecommerceMy story is not unlike that of many other military spouses. I met my husband on a ski trip in Colorado (okay maybe that part isn’t typical), and then dated him long distance before getting married and moving to South Carolina to be with him.

My husband is an Air Force pilot, and by the time I arrived in South Carolina it was clear that we would be leaving in less than a year. I soon realized that moving would become a frequent part of our lives and that I would need to find a career that could adapt to our lifestyle. That’s when I learned about flexibility of running an eCommerce business. An eCommerce business, like Amazon.com, for example, makes a profit by buying or selling goods through electronic systems, or in my case, the internet.

Here are the five reasons that I ultimately decided to take the plunge and start my own business:

  1. My husband supported me. He not only supported me, but he agreed to partner with me in every facet of the process. I wouldn’t have been able to start, and effectively run, the business without his involvement. He is technically inclined and very detail oriented while I am, well, none of those things! I knew that in order to have a real chance at success, we would need to approach the business as a team.
  2. Low investment = low risk. It costs very little money up front to get most eCommerce businesses started. The biggest chunk of investment is time and effort. And trust me, it takes a lot of both – there are no short cuts! We have passed up a lot of time that could have been spent relaxing, or having fun doing more enjoyable adventures to get this business off the ground.
  3. Location independent. I loved the idea of being able to take the business with us at a moment’s notice, wherever we ended up. Perfect for military spouses and partners!
  4. A unique learning experience. I knew, whether the business failed or succeeded, I would learn so many new things. From website design, customer service nuances, and how to incorporate a business, I was excited about the challenge and the opportunity to learn and develop new skills.
  5. Great potential for growth. If we could be successful, the profits from this venture could support our family for years to come. It had the potential to pay significant dividends in the future, and that was definitely a huge motivating factor in deciding to start our business.

After diving in and doing a lot of research, we chose our “niche” – selling night vision equipment. We recently opened our store and have been pleased with the steady progress and growth we are seeing! eCommerce is not a “get rich quick” proposition and, like all business start-ups, is no sure bet. It requires an enormous amount of time and effort, patience, and drive to ‘stick to it,’ as any business does!

Have you ever started your own eCommerce business? What were your struggles and triumphs?

lindsey-almLindsay Alm is a military spouse entrepreneur and co-owner of ViperEyes.com. Her husband Adam is currently serving in the Air Force as a pilot.

A New Chapter and A New Career: Life After the Military

FINRA-fellowship-1As a military spouse and parent, I know the frustration of thinking about my own goals and wondering “When will my time come?” For me, the small steps I took during those active duty years, combined with opportunities like the FINRA Military Spouse Fellowship for the Accredited Financial Counselor designation, have guaranteed an amazing new chapter in military retirement!

Life changes quickly as a military family; our lives are packed into boxes every few years as we change time zones and weather zones. Like death and taxes, change is about the only constant.

Constant change frustrated me! I wanted to buy a house and put down roots, find a great job and become an asset to the company, go back to school, and plan my life in detail 3, 5, or 10 years down the road.

Money management was frustrating, too. Housing and cost-of-living-allowances were always changing, military housing was available here and there, and I was always losing my accounting job, and ultimately losing the extra income. Going back to earn a master’s degree was a well-coordinated effort of location and my spouse’s duty assignments.

Many times, it was hard to see beyond the day-to-day challenges of supportive spouse and parent.

Retirement brought promises of stability. We finally bought that great house knowing we don’t have to move again. The nest was empty as children headed off to college. Now was my chapter!

I reflected on my future after being a full-time mom, all-around volunteer, and part-time accountant. I wanted to help people with their financial lives and be part of the solution to our national financial crisis. Plus, I could give back by supporting military families in making the most of their finances and the positive benefits of the military life.

The FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship helped me tremendously in my career shift to personal finance. The experience and connections from my practicum hours (the experience requirement) increased my skills and confidence when working with the military and civilian community. Still today, after earning the Accredited Financial Counselor designation in 2012, incredible opportunities arrive continuously for teaching, writing, networking, and counseling.

I have no doubt that everything associated with my Fellowship contributed to my acceptance to Kansas State University’s competitive PhD program in Personal Financial Planning, in 2013. As part of that program, I have also started the education classes towards the Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) designation. My time has come, and the possibilities after my 2017 graduation are exciting!

Thank you FINRA, National Military Family Association, and the AFCPE for recognizing and honoring my role as a military spouse and financial counselor volunteer –and providing this Fellowship for military spouses.

The 2014 FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship applications period opens March 3-April 18. Visit http://www.militaryspouseafcpe.org/
for more information.

2011-09-04-Cherie-Christian-PFGuest Post by Cherie Stueve, 2011 FINRA Military Spouse Fellow, MBA CPA (Inactive) AFC®, and Proud Coast Guard Spouse

Semper Gumby: Make your dreams fit your life!

archaelogist-milspouse

As a Marine Corps spouse, I always try to embody the motto “Semper Gumby,” by always being flexible, but sometimes that’s really difficult. In fact, I just got word that instead of heading to a Marine Corps base in California, we’re heading to Virginia Beach, Virginia, instead. All these moves (six in the last three years!) and last-minute changes to our plans have made me question if I’ll ever fulfill my dream of working as an archaeologist. It’s been nearly impossible to hold down a job at all, much less attain my biggest career goals. But just as military spouses are flexible, we’re also resilient.

Archaeology has fascinated me since I was a teenager. I’ve always loved history, and solving the mysteries and questions that history presents. As an undergraduate student, my interests got a little more specific, and I decided to pursue underwater archaeology and archaeology of early America.

Roadblocks
When my path to becoming a working archaeologist faced some road blocks, it was time to regroup. I started volunteering in local museums, and working as a gift shop cashier. The next step was to figure out a way to make my work more meaningful and in line with my interests. I also needed to make my career portable. I enrolled in an online program to earn a certificate in Geographic Information Science (GIS), a computer program used to develop maps—basically the Microsoft Office of the archaeology world. Having a GIS certificate means I can still be involved in archaeology and history, but can work remotely or on a consultation basis. I didn’t stop there, though, because I knew I wanted a master’s degree.

A Fork in the Road
One of the biggest challenges military spouses face when pursuing higher education is how to go about getting it. The online GIS classes meant I could stay with my spouse, and wouldn’t have to quit school if we were forced to move unexpectedly. But while online classes forced me to stay very self-motivated, I didn’t get the same support from other students as I would have in a classroom setting.

Reaching Your Destination
When I looked for graduate programs, I decided to make the difficult decision to go away to school at the University of Rhode Island. The upside is that I can focus solely on work and research and I get to interact with other professionals in my field. The downside is that I am away from my husband.

How do we cope? By looking at this as an educational “deployment,” and like all deployments, it will end.

What have I learned? Think about what’s going to make you happy. Scholarships, like the one I received from the National Military Family Association are a huge help!

Keep an open mind. It is possible to make your dreams fit your life!

Have you ever had a “Semper Gumby” moment? How did you handle it?

Guest Post by Jessica Glickman, 2012 Joanne Holbrook Patton Scholarship Recipient

Making a difference in the lives of military families

maryann-makekau-2

I took note of the uniformed soldiers passing by me in this morning’s airport shuffle. “Thank you,” I said with a nod and a smile. Given that an estimated million children have had one or both parents deploy to war, I thought: Are these troops returning from a combat zone or heading to one of the worldwide locations our Armed Forces occupy? Perhaps others are taking well-deserved leave time.

Communities have magnified understanding and support during our Nation’s 12 years at war. As one Vietnam War veteran reported in The Sojourn, “I think the public opinion has shifted 180 degrees … they do everything they can now to support, honor, encourage, care for the veterans.”

With more than 1 million service members transitioning to civilian life over the next five years, campaigns like Got Your 6 are working to bridge the civilian-military gap to ensure “veterans and military families are perceived as leader and civic assets.”

It’s been nearly thirty years since I’ve worn the uniform. My father was initially apprehensive, having served in the National Guard during a time in history when women didn’t readily join the ranks. This Veterans Day afforded the opportunity for my father and me to share military stories, face-to-face, for the first time since my enlistment. My position in military life shifted over the years, and so did Dad’s attitude. As I made the transition from active duty to career military spouse raising two “brats,” my parents praised the Air Force umbrella over my family.

Alongside Veterans Day, November marks National Military Family Appreciation Month as another opportunity to recognize our Nation’s troops and their families. Among those working to make a difference is Cody Jackson, known as “One Boy USO.” He’s been greeting and thanking our troops at airports for five years. He has sent over 4,500 pounds of care packages and he’s just 10 years old.

While moving is an inherent part of military life, it isn’t necessarily easy. The vast majority of military kids will have moved six to nine times prior to graduating high school. One of my children rolled with the changes, the other detested it and even climbed a tree refusing to be re-rooted during one of their six moves. Ironically, our “tree-hugger” child has now moved even more in her adult life, and loves it!

Military spouses must also find ways to navigate the interruptions in family life and careers. In recognizing the frequent moves, remote locations, and child care responsibilities, Hiring Our Heroes’ nationwide initiative strives to provide spouses with a path to find transferable, rewarding careers.

November is also Warrior Care Month. Advancements in battlefield medicine and body armor, have led to unprecedented numbers of service members surviving severe wounds or injuries. Recovering warriors, and caregivers alike, are among those needing our nation’s recognition and support – they have, no doubt, made a sacrifice for our own lives. Let us strive to make a difference in theirs, too.

How have military service members and their families made a difference in your life?

maryann-makekauGuest Post by Maryann Makekau, USAF veteran, author, and founder of Hope Matters

Help Veterans and Their Families “Make the Connection”

make-the-connectionWhen Reagan returned home from service in the Marine Corps, his fiancée, Tiffany, noticed he was on edge and frequently irritable. Although it took some time for Reagan to connect with the care he needed for his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, Tiffany was able to help him understand that going to counseling was an important thing to do—not just for himself, but for his family, as well.

As a loved one of a veteran or service member, you provide support to those who have served, or are serving our country. You’ve been there for them during good times and hard times, and you might be the first to notice if they are having a tough time. Whatever challenges you and the veteran or service member in your life may be dealing with, and no matter how long they’ve been going on, you are not alone. Support is available. Every day, veterans and their families connect with resources and services to manage the issues they face, and find ways to improve their lives.

Make the Connection, a campaign by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), encourages military families to seek support and be encouraged by powerful stories, like Tiffany and Reagan’s, that showcase strength, connection, and overcoming challenges. At MakeTheConnection.net, veterans and service members from every military branch, service era, and background speak about their experiences during and after service, including how they faced adversity, reached out for support, and moved forward in their lives. Hundreds of short videos of veterans and their families are featured on this highly accessible online resource. The website also includes reliable information about mental health and resilience, signs and symptoms of problems, common life events and experiences, and a locator for VA and community-based resources.

Military families and others can support veterans and service members by exploring MakeTheConnection.net to download materials to print and distribute. You can also visit the YouTube channel, “like” the Facebook page, and share content with your friends to build support for veterans and their families. Support from the VA and other organizations helped Tiffany and Reagan, and it can help a veteran you know, too.