Should I Renew My Nursing License?

My career path has been less than straight. About a million years ago, when I first started college, I was a political science major. I thought I would be a lawyer, and maybe end up in DC working in the field of foreign relations. Then I married a service member, and before long I was following him to Korea, changing all my plans in the name of love.

At our next duty station, I went back to school, and this time, found a distance social science program. It wasn’t quite what I had wanted to do, but any degree was better than no degree.

One thing lead to another, and we got divorced. I had two small children, with very little to my name. I was a year away from my bachelor’s degree, and I panicked. I needed steady income NOW.

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After some research, I decided to enter a nursing program. Nursing seemed like the best job for a single mom; my hours would be flexible and I could work swings or nights to make the most of my time with my kids. I would be able to find work just about anywhere, and for the time investment, the return in pay would be good.

For the next fourteen months, I kept my head down, and worked and worked. I was a nursing student during the day and waited tables on the nights and weekends. In any free time I had, I continued to work on my bachelors degree in the distance program (because I couldn’t stomach walking away from a degree when I only had a year to go).

It was, hands down, the hardest period of my life. Money was short, time was short. I was so sleep deprived. I took out a huge amount of money in student loans (regretting that instantly).

I pulled it off, and graduated from both programs in the spring of 2010. I studied for the NCLEX (the nursing licensing exam) and passed on the first try. I was hired into the first position I applied for. I married a wonderful man, and had another child.

Not long after, my family received orders to Germany, where I was unable to find work as an English speaking nurse. Our plans changed, and I started my own business, and began to do other things.

Fast forward six years later: here I am. We are back in the States and I am working in a field that has nothing to do with nursing. I am about to start a graduate program that also has nothing to do with nursing. Other than a short period of time when I first had my license, I have not worked as a nurse.

What’s a girl to do? Do I renew my California nursing license, even though I’m in the DC area and it won’t help me here? Do I renew it even though my educational and career choices are taking me farther and farther away from the field of nursing? Do I let the license go, despite still owing a considerable amount of money on my student loans? Do I commit to never nursing again even though I am well aware of how quickly plans can change?

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When I really stop to think about it, the one thing holding me back is the cost. I could renew my license, but there will be an additional fee every two years to keep it active. There will be more fees to start working in a new state. Then I will have to pay to keep THAT license up. There are continuing education requirements. It gets expensive quickly.

I’m not ready to let it go. I like knowing I have it there, sitting in my wallet, in case I ever need to fall back on it. I am employable in more than one field, and that’s okay. I earned the right to call myself a nurse, and even if I am not practicing, I don’t want to let all the time and money I spent on learning the trade to go completely to waste.

If you are struggling to make the decision to renew a professional license, and are worried about the costs of renewing or transferring it, don’t forget NMFA has professional funds you can use to help pay for continuing education, fees and other license related expenses.

Apply today!

Have you considered letting a professional license go because of expense or some other reason? How did you decide?

HeatherPosted by Heather Aliano, Social Media Manager

4 Tips to Get Back on Track After New Year’s Resolution Failures

Studies show that by January 20th, most New Year’s Resolutions are busted. So, if we’re science-ing and being technical, my 2016 is ruined and my life is over because I ate rice crispy treats for dinner last night, instead of a salad. If we’re being honest, I also haven’t exercised every day, like I said I would in my New Year’s resolution Facebook post.

Let’s be real: who’s got time to eat all the salads and run all the marathons? Not me.

How can we get this resolutions train back on track without feeling like a complete rice-crispy-filled failure?

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I’ve got four tips:

Redefine your definition of success. And be okay with it. Expectations are the fastest way to kill your momentum when it comes to keeping those New Year’s resolutions. No matter what your focus is, you’re bound to find someone doing it better on social media. But that doesn’t have to kill your vibe. Instead, redefine success.

Basketball Hall of Fame inductee and 27-year UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden, coined his own definition of success as, “Peace of mind attained only through self-satisfaction and knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you’re capable.”

Success = doing the best you can.

Pick new resolutions. I know, it seems like quitting. But it’s not. Did you do your best to keep your resolutions? If not, go back to tip #1. If you did give it your best, and couldn’t succeed, consider getting real with yourself; take a good look at the resolutions you made January 1st. Think about other goals you’re bound to achieve when you give it your best—maybe even something you can achieve multiple times, and maybe even by tomorrow. Pick attainable goals, keep your expectations in check, and you’ll be on the path to keeping your resolution longer.

Celebrate every single win. Once you redefine success, or maybe lighten your resolution load, you’ll find yourself meeting and exceeding your goals (#winning). Resist the urge to devalue yourself and your achievement for any reason—instead, stand in that awesomeness, own it, and celebrate that win. For extra self-satisfaction, write your successes on a Post-It and stick those bad boys some where you’ll see it all the time!

Appreciate each failure, and try again. Unless your resolution is to eat a rice crispy treat every day (and yay for leap years—366 rice crispy treats!), failure is bound to happen. Some may not face it, but many of us will. And the only way we keep from feeling like a lump of a human being with no ability to succeed, is to try again. Being able to appreciate a failure, no matter how unsettling, is hard. But getting up, dusting yourself off, and trying again is both necessary and powerful.

Consider this quote (one of my personal favorites) from President Teddy Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming… who at the best, knows…the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

Success isn’t always winning, it’s found in the wanting, the trying, and the kick-butt ability to keep going, even when you fail.

So what if it’s only January 20th and your resolutions are shot? You get to start over and try again. You faced the arena, tried your best, and came up short…and that’s okay. The key is refusing to define yourself based on a stupid resolution or failure. You are not your failures.

You can get this train back on track! And if all else fails, the rice crispy treat thing is a great option.

How are you doing with your resolutions? Are you starting over? Tell us in the comments!

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

Online vs Traditional School: Which is Best for Military Spouses?

You’ve decided. There’s no better time than now. This is the best thing for you and your military family. It’ll be tough, and it might mean late nights and early mornings, but you’re doing it.

You’re going back to school.

You’ve researched degree programs, figured out how you’ll pay for it, and now the only thing left to decide is whether you should complete school online program, or in-person.

Weighing the options between online and traditional schools is tough for many military spouses. Life certainly isn’t routine, and you aren’t guaranteed an extended amount of time at any duty station. How do you decide what’s right for you?

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I asked two military spouses, who are going back to school, how they made their decision. Here’s what they said:

Heather, an Air Force spouse and mother of four, chose traditional school when she decided to pursue her Master’s degree. She completed her undergraduate studies through an online program, and was looking for the on-campus experience for her Master’s—with a library, places to study, sporting events, and graduation ceremonies with the friends she’d make in class.

“I wanted the classroom conversations and networking opportunities; the ability to raise my hand and get an answer instantly, get to know classmates and professors face to face, attend extra events and workshops, and meet others in my field of study. Because I did a distance program for undergrad, I’m looking forward to the experiences I’ll have on campus,” Heather shared.

I also talked to Lyndy, an Air Force spouse with four kids. She chose an online program for three reasons: time, family, and flexibility.

“The main reason I chose an online program is because of time. I do not have physical time to dedicate to the classroom. I work during the day and I am also the mostly-sole care giver for my kids after work. That includes homework and getting the kids to and from their activities. I need the flexibility to fit school into my schedule instead of my schedule fitting into school,” she mentioned. “I can accelerate my degree if I choose, or I can take it slow if life happens.”

And life is sure to happen (can I get an AMEN, milspouses?).

Family also weighed into Heather’s decision. With four kids, Heather likes that traditional school means less multi-tasking. “When I am in class, I am in class. I won’t need to multi-task while cooking dinner. I can focus.” All of her classes are scheduled for the evening hours, and only meet a couple days a week. “This way, I can give my kids 100% during the day, and still give my classes 100% in the evening.”

Many military spouses can relate to the ‘family first’ mentality. When time is precious with our service member, we soak up every moment. Fitting school into that mix was something Lyndy considered, too, “With four kiddos and a husband who travels and works long hours, the kids rely on me for stability and support. They only have one childhood, so my degree program needs to fit within my family so I can be there for those once-in-a-lifetime moments.”

Heather echoed the importance of family support. “I am lucky to have extended family in the area who are willing to help with the kids when my husband is TDY, which feels like all the time lately. I have a lot of people I can lean on right now to help me get the kids to activities, or make dinner on the nights I won’t be home. I don’t know if I will ever have this level of support again. I know the days we have here are numbered, and I feel like it’s now, or never, to get my degree.

Other factors to consider are whether you’ll use the GI Bill, if you might have to PCS during your semester, or whether you have a support system around to help with unexpected things, like sick kids or deployments.

Lyndy and Heather both know the potential struggles they could face with the program they’ve chosen, but they also know the reward at the finish line. Are you ready to pursue the degree or certification you’ve always wanted? NMFA will help you pay for it! Apply by January 31, 2016 for our military spouse scholarships—we’re giving away more than $500,000 to deserving and motivated spouses.

NMFA has partnered with online AND traditional schools to give you special scholarships for degrees like nursing, social work, and sciences and technology.

So, what’ll it be: online or traditional school?

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

You Don’t Have an Advanced Degree–So What?

It’s no secret military spouses are a force to be reckoned with; no longer the ‘silent ranks’ of decades past, spouses are determined to play a huge role in the financial stability of their families. More military spouses are leaving the stereotypes of yester-year behind and forging into territories that match their civilian counterparts.

No longer just the baby-making, bon-bon eating, Dependapotamuses they were made out to be, military spouses are so much more than that. And they’ve got the credentials and degrees to show it.

But what if you’re one of the many spouses who don’t have an advanced degree? Are you still a force to be reckoned with?

Abso-freaking-lutely! Here’s why:

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You’ve mastered the art of scrapping. And I mean that in the most rad way possible. Human Resources expert Regina Hartley gave a TED Talk recently, encouraging employers to “interview the scrapper.” Not having a Master’s degree, or even a Bachelor’s degree doesn’t mean your resume can’t stand up to the next guy’s.

Military life means spouses have to learn to be scrappers. You survive deployments, pack up an entire house, deliver babies alone, learn how to fix practically anything, budget like a beast, raise kids, and even work multiple jobs. And you do it all to support your service member.

You face adversity in the job market when you move to remote locations, or places where everyone seems to have a Master’s or Doctorate. It’s overwhelming to compete.

But because you’re a scrapper, your value goes up.

“[Scrappers] embrace their trauma and hardships as key elements of who they’ve become, and know that without those experiences, they might not have developed the muscle and grip required to become successful,” Hartley went on to say in her TED Talk.

More companies are expanding their employee base with diverse and well-rounded people, and not all will be the Harvard grad or the 4.0 GPA intern from New York City. They’ll be the military spouse with 4 jobs in the last 5 years in 3 different states, or the military spouse with an Associate’s degree, who also runs her own business. And you can bet they’ll be the veteran spouse who holds down the fort while his significant other is deployed.

Even without an advanced degree, you are a valuable asset because you’re a pro at cultivating relationships. You are constantly moving, reinventing, and holding sorting ceremonies to find your new tribe (feel free to join me in Ravenclaw). And that’s not something a Master’s program can teach.

As a military spouse, you know the only thing you have full control over is yourself. You are sometimes at the mercy of the service, and ‘to expect the unexpected’ is as prepared as you can be. Because of their ability to thrive and bloom, regardless of whether they have a degree or some fancy letters after their name, military spouses and scrappers, alike, have “a sense of purpose that prevent them from giving up on themselves.”

Just because you didn’t finish your Bachelor’s degree, or you decided to forego debt and pass on getting your Master’s or that other certification, doesn’t mean you aren’t valuable to a company. And it dang sure doesn’t mean you aren’t valuable as a military spouse, friend, and human being.

There are many ways to break free of those old stereotypes, and having a degree isn’t the only one. You’ve already mastered the art of scrapping, what will you do next?

What would you tell those military spouses without an advanced degree? Do you think a degree makes a difference?

If you’re ready to take the next step in your career, or decide it’s time to achieve your next educational goal, NMFA is here to help. This year, we’re giving away over $500,000 in scholarships to deserving military spouses. Don’t miss out. The application period is open until January 31, 2016, and there are SO many different opportunities waiting for you on our website. Apply today!

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

Five Friends Every Military Spouse Needs

After 10 years of life as a military spouse, my network of friends has become huge. Everywhere we go, I am able to find a new tribe of friends who hold me up, encourage me, and keep me laughing even when life is tough. Even though the faces are different, I’ve come to realize that my tribe always seems to contain the same kinds of people.

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The Pollyanna
When I get really negative and whiny, this is the friend I need the most. She’s always able to see the positive in every situation. She can see the little things that make each duty station special–even if it’s the way the light shines in at an angle this time of the year, or how beautiful those yellow flowers are off the highway. She knows we can “do anything for a season,” and knows we have to “bloom where we are planted.” She’s the perfect person to get me to see the bright side.

The Resourceful Friend
This friend knows all the in’s and out’s of military life. She can tell you the difference between TRICARE Prime and Standard, she knows all the entitlements and benefits that come along with military life, and can decipher an LES with her eyes closed. I call her when I can’t quite figure out how to get a referral, or I want to know more about using the GI bill. She knows everything about everything, and if she doesn’t actually know, she knows where we can find out.

The Go-To Friend
I often meet this friend on the first day we get settled into a new duty station, and I am waiting in the office of Child, Youth & School Services on base, or the school, or at the hospital, trying to fill out forms. She offers to be my emergency contact, and not long later, we’re getting together for play dates and coffee. She’s the first person I call when I need someone to watch the kids so I can go to the doctor, and we routinely swap kids for date nights when our husbands are home. I can always lean on her when “home” is too far away. Before long, this friend becomes family.

The Wine Night Friend
This friend is always within walking distance…and for good reason. She comes to every event with a bottle of wine in hand, and doesn’t judge me for opening it during our summer play date in the backyard. She’s not too serious at first, but is willing to talk about the hard stuff after a glass or two. She’s often my confidant and closest friend.

The No-BS Friend
As nice as it is to have a friend who will sympathize with me, what I really need is a friend who is going to tell me to suck it up, encourage me to change out of my sweatpants, and get out of the house. This is often the friend who calls me on day three of a deployment, and helps me stop feeling sorry for myself. Some people may think she’s too rough around the edges, but she’s the perfect person to stop me from wallowing in self pity.

These five friends have been my support network in all the places we’ve lived on our military journey. I love them, appreciate them, and think they’re awesome. In a life where we have to rely on our tribe to get us through another day of deployment, a uncertain medical board process, or even a quick PCS across the world, I’m glad to have this bunch in my corner.

Do you have any of these friends in your milspouse tribe? Who else would you add?

HeatherPosted by Heather Aliano, Social Media Manager

Why I Delayed Grad School. And Why Changing Your Mind is Okay.

It was my junior year of college, and my Public Relations Strategy professor very adamantly told us one day in class, “Go get a job after you graduate!” She preached to us on more than one occasion, telling us to forego graduate school right after finishing our Bachelor’s degree so we wouldn’t have to compete with our peers, who would have two years of work experience by the time we finished our Master’s degree.

This really struck a chord with me. In college, I was that girl with two jobs and two internships at one time. The thought of being set back (crazy, I know) by graduate school was terrifying to me.

I was also extremely fearful of the debt. I lived at home during school to help cut down on costs, and avoid leaving school with debt. To willingly take on debt for a Master’s degree, after being able to avoid it in undergrad, just didn’t make sense.

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I graduated with my Bachelor’s and packed up my bags to move myself to the Nation’s capital. This summer will be 4 years since I graduated and I’m starting to play around with the idea of grad school.

Aside from my college professor giving me the scary reality that I wouldn’t be able to get a job, I also had no idea what I wanted my career to be. This is what lead me to choose a Public Relations degree; I wanted to study something I could apply to any industry because I was so indecisive (which I still am, but aren’t we all?).

Why now?

There are so many more options for advanced degrees today! In just 4 years, online degree programs have become commonplace. When I was in school, online classes were only offered for a few select classes, and they weren’t the best.

Now, I can actually come to terms with the cost. After working for a few years, and with the strides that have been made with online degrees, there is a possibility to get a graduate degree without the gift of lifelong debt.

I’m also surrounded by a lot of motivated co-workers and friends who are all furthering their education. They’ve inspired me to finally look into going back to school (and to finally figure out a more specific path for my career).

Are you thinking about going back to school? Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Do your research. You can find an accredited graduate degree program that won’t totally break the bank. If the program of your dreams will still cost a pretty penny, look into your options for scholarships, and what your loan payments will look like when it’s all said and done.
  2. Have a passion? Keep that in mind. If you’ve always wanted to be a teacher, a nurse, a scientist, take your passion and use it to fuel your journey. So often, we put our passion on the back burner and find the job that just works for time-being, but don’t sell yourself short. Go for it!
  3. Give yourself a break. If you have been putting off school and feel like it’s too late, or you won’t be able to keep up: give yourself a break! It’s never too late to follow your dreams and go back to school. There are so many different options when it comes to furthering your degree, so don’t let those fears hold you back.

If you’re ready to head back to school, or pursue the certification you’ve been thinking about, take a leap and start the journey. NMFA is here to help–we’ve got scholarships for military spouses and we’re giving away over half a MILLION dollars in scholarships this year! Apply by January 31, 2016.

Did you put off graduate school? What made you finally decide to go back?

Jordan-BarrishPosted by Jordan Barrish, Public Relations Manager

Survive and Thrive: Making New Year’s Resolution in DC!

As we start off 2016, many of us have set up our own resolutions for how we plan to survive and thrive, wherever we may be, in the New Year. I thought about my own goals for the year ahead, and I couldn’t help but think back to 2015 and the ways I have grown and changed in the last year.

Among other things, I’ve learned my way around the Washington DC area and can even navigate the beltway without fear. I’ve also discovered new places and things I love. I’ve accomplished things I’m proud of and that I want to build upon in 2016. I’ve looked closely at myself and started to identify things I’m not happy about and genuinely want to change in the year ahead. So here they are, both my resolutions and what I want to enjoy more of in this New Year in while living in Northern Virginia.

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I resolve to run a half marathon.
Back in my late 20’s, I ran a half marathon, but when I moved to the DC area a little over a year ago from Fort Campbell, I weighed nearly 25 pounds more than I do today, and could barely run a half mile. After undergoing two major surgeries at the end of 2014 and in early 2015, I had to recognize I was not healthy. Stress was causing my body to fail me from the inside.

In 2015, I started running again. Fortunately, the DC area offers an array of opportunities to get fit–more than previous places I’ve lived– and I have participated in several local runs. A great source for military spouses is your local installation’s Directorate of Family Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR). Fort Belvoir offers multiple, low-cost runs throughout the year, and even has a Health and Fitness Expo coming up later this month. Most of my training occurred on the multiple trails that exist in the Northern Virginia area, like Holmes Run trail in Alexandria, 4-mile Run Trail in Arlington and the Mount Vernon Trail. These trails are free for you to walk/run/bike! I’m up to 8 miles, so this year it is my goal to train for and run another half marathon (and beat my time from my late 20s!)

I resolve to be more positive.
I am a naturally pessimistic person, and have been known to perpetually plan for the worst case scenario. Although this has occasionally been helpful when the worst case did occur, I’ve realized I’ve spent entirely too much time stressing myself out and in many cases not enjoying life, which surely contributed to my health problems in the last year. My resolution this year is to change my way of thinking and become a more positive person. Among other things, I’ve signed up for a free course on Positive Psychology, and am trying to focus more on things that I’m grateful for, and on spending more time enjoying the little things.

For me, a big source of enjoyment is both cooking and eating food. Fortunately, distance running burns the calories I gain from my source of enjoyment. This year, I found a number of restaurants I really love in the DC area, like Teddy & the Bully Bar near DuPont Circle (where I discovered a true passion for Brussel Sprouts), District Taco (a DC area chain with the best fish tacos and yummy salsa bar), Sugar Shack (Maple Bacon doughnuts!), the Mediterranean Bakery & Café in Alexandria (great pastries and a fab olive selection), German Gourmet in the Bailey’s Crossroads Area (I traveled to Germany this year for the first time and am obsessed with all things German—the sandwiches at this place don’t disappoint), and Pho14 near the Columbia Heights Metro Station in DC, where I discovered the Bahn Mi sandwich (the Pho is excellent as well). I’ve also come to love the Alexandria Farmers Market at Market Square on Saturday mornings, especially the excellent offerings (butter lemon cake!) from Alexandria’s Bread and Water Company. I’m always looking for more positive dining experiences in 2016, please feel free share your favorite DC area restaurants in the comments!

I resolve to spend money on experiences and not things.
This past year, I had the opportunity to travel to Germany for work, and really enjoyed the experiences I had in our off hours (especially exploring the Christmas markets, where I tried local treats like Dampnudlen and Gluhwein), and we also enjoyed a trip to see fall colors on a cruise of the East Coast of the U.S. and Canada. But, especially in the DC area, experiences don’t have to be expensive.

One thing I’ve really enjoyed is attending Washington Nationals baseball games (last year they even offered free tickets to active duty military and their families on Military Appreciation Day), and attending free concerts put on by the US Army Band. In fact, free tickets for events at Constitution Hall and the Kennedy Center are offered around the holidays, and there are free concerts on Ft Myer all year round. Another source of entertainment for me is spending time outdoors at our National Parks. There are tons in the DC area and a free annual pass is available for US military. Just show your CAC or military ID any Federal recreation sites. My local favorites: Harpers Ferry and the C&O Canal National Historic Park near Great Falls. So this year, I resolve to do more of what I love, make new memories and enjoy life.

What are your resolutions for 2016?

Laura-Yates-headshotPosted by Laura Yates,  National Military Family Association Volunteer