6 Things You’ll Miss About Military Life

spouse-at-homecomingMy husband is in the process of transitioning out of the Army after 22 years of service. After three deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, two tours in Korea, and a stint in Kosovo, he’s paid his dues, and he’s finally ready to make the transition to civilian life. Looking back at the years I accompanied him along his journey, I have mixed feelings moving on from the role of Army spouse. One thing I know is there are plenty of things I’ll miss about being an active duty spouse.

Here are 6 things I’ll miss most:

Pride of service. Active duty life is not an easy one, and those who choose to live it (especially for over twenty years) deserve commendation for their commitment. Active-duty service members certainly don’t serve for the money, and they’re not in it for the lifestyle. Most do it because they love their country and what it stands for. My own association with military service, both as a spouse and as an Army/Air Force civilian employee, has made me feel like I’ve contributed to something greater than myself, and experienced something unique.

My Army home. There is a charm to active duty life not experienced by most Americans; like the moments we pause to honor the flag each day. I always felt in some ways, life on a military base combines old-time America with the best of what American should be: a place where tradition and professionalism transcend all boundaries. I miss it now that we’re away from our Army hometown.

Wonderful friendships. One of the great fortunes of my military life was forming close friendships that were a source of great support during periods of separation from my husband. The time spent together for holiday meals, fun weekend trips, and unit functions brought a level of closeness similar to the relationships I had with college roommates and high school besties. Some are sure to be lifelong friendships, and all had their place in helping me survive these difficult years.

Limitless opportunities. How many spouses have the opportunity to visit (or live) with their spouse in a foreign country, immersed in new language, cuisine and culture? Thanks to this lifestyle, I’ve traveled to Korea, flown in military aircrafts, rappelled down a 50 foot tower, met 8 of the 9 US Supreme Court Justices, and even the President of the United States. I was able to participate in a professional development program through my work, where I was able to meet some of the Department of Defense’s most pre-eminent senior leaders. I’ve sailed on a Navy destroyer, and even attended a Pearl Harbor Day ceremony with WWII Veterans who were present on that fateful day. Many of these things might not have happened, had I not chosen this military life.

Great benefits & support. As a prior installation employee and Family Readiness Group (FRG) leader, I became familiar with many of the resources available to military families. In addition to the hundreds of installation personnel waiting to assist with services and support, numerous private organizations exist on post to support military families. I found our units’ Family Readiness Group offered a great opportunity to meet other spouses. If you’re not sure where to look, ask your FRG leader, visit the Family Support Center on your installation, or visit the base’s website or social media sites!

My sense of (MilSpouse) self. As my husband’s time in the Army winds down, I realize I’m facing a real challenge: adjusting my own sense of self to reflect a reality where I am no longer an active-duty spouse. I have spent so many years living and breathing military installations, befriending other MilSpouses, and shopping almost exclusively at the commissary, I’m not 100% sure who I am without that identity. My challenge now, along with my husband, is to grab hold of the weight of my military life experiences, both good and bad, and make that leap.

Being a military spouse will always be a part of me, and in many ways shaped who I am today. But I look forward to the challenges to come, and becoming the person I’m meant to be in the next chapter of our military life…transition.

Have you been a military spouse? What would you add to this list?

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

Cupcakes to 10K: The Fitness Struggle is Real

fitness-and-cupcakesMy husband is in the Army, and because he’s not in a job that requires him to do regular PT, he does CrossFit to stay in shape. He ran the Army 10 Miler last year with barely any training, and he prepares things like salmon and quinoa for dinner pretty regularly. It’s safe to say, he’s definitely fit.

I’ve always hated working out. Cake and I are best friends for life. The office I work in has a giant bowl of candy (usually chocolate) refilled often, and conveniently located near my desk. Office celebrations typically involve doughnuts and cake. Have I mentioned I love cake? And last year, I had my first child. So yeah, I’d say I’m a little fluffier than I’d like to be, but I’m still trying to set a good example for my daughter, who currently loves peas and blueberries; two foods I really don’t eat.

This year I’ll (attempt to) run my first 10K race. I’m doing it with sorority sisters who don’t live close to me, so to stay motivated, we text each other about our training. I’ve only ran 5K races before, so I’m definitely nervous the loser bus will pick me up before the finish line, and I won’t get to take a selfie with that shiny medal. I can see it now: I’ll be in my Cinderella costume, complete with tutu, guzzling water at each and every station, in an effort to NOT die. I really hate running.

Each year, I tell myself this is the year I’m going to work out all the time and eat kale …which is gross no matter how much you do to it. But somehow I manage to convince myself I’m not that unhealthy, even though I’m constantly sucking in my stomach and avoiding any clingy clothing. Recently, a woman behind the counter at a local deli actually asked me if I was pregnant. “No,” I said, “I just love cake.”

So is this the year, finally? I still don’t know, it’s too early to tell. With each run I take, I feel my lungs stretch a little more, and it’s slowly becoming easier. The sparkling water I drink, instead of my beloved Coke, tricks my brain into thinking I’m drinking soda, and most veggies are good if you dip them in hummus.

Ultimately, it’s a battle I wage with myself each day. No one else but me. Even though my husband sees this slightly ‘fluffy’ body and whistles with pride, it’s me who must be happy with the woman in the mirror. No amount of bulky sweaters and draping fabric will make me feel healthy. Feeling healthy will take work and discipline, both of which take more time than putting on camouflaging clothes.

Work and discipline are values my husband holds dear, and I know he’ll be an excellent person to lean on when I want to get a cupcake AND macarons.

Did you make a New Year’s resolution to get healthy? How did you stay motivated? Leave me a comment with your tips!

Melissa-JudyPosted by Melissa Judy, Social Media and Brand Manager

The Trifecta Of Overkill: Nailed It in 2014!

overkill-comic-3252014 was a year of overdoing it, and, boy, I nailed it. But did I really benefit from all the excess? With all the gluttony and self-indulgence the last year had to offer, I’m resolving to make this new year one for the undoing, and I’m inviting you to join me. Here’s the trifecta of overkill I’m working to erase in 2015:

Overeating. Go ahead and judge me; I may or may not have eaten my body weight in French fries and queso in 2014. And I’m not the only one on the way to busting out of their skinny jeans; when it comes to obesity in America, 1 in 4 adults nailed it. It’s no secret that overeating speeds up health-related ticking time bombs, so why do we keep stuffing our faces? Does cheesecake really taste better than healthy foods?

Sometimes. But not all the time.

It’s a new year, and we have 360ish days left to shamefully convince ourselves that French fries are cooked in the hot tears of Ryan Gossling (who really wants us to look awesome in our skinny jeans!). Let’s do this!

Overreacting. If you didn’t freak out over Lena Dunham’s provocative new book or Lebron James going back to Cleveland, did you really even live in 2014? From Beyonce’s new hair cut to Ebola, I (and millions of other Americans) rode the bandwagon to Crazytown and seemed to overreact to everything. But why? Oxford Dictionary defines overreact as “responding more emotionally or forcibly than is justified.” Forcibly is the key word here.

I’m a military spouse—there are some things worth freaking out over. Deployments, loss of benefits, government shutdowns? Those warrant a strong reaction. This year, I’m putting more effort and reaction into the things that really matter to me and my family. The rest? Well, I’ll let that train pass through the station.

Oversharing. My fellow Americans, “nailed it” would be an understatement. We’ve perfected, corrected, perfected again, and overdid it with oversharing. Watches, cars, even heart monitors can now send social media updates to our friends – and thank goodness, because I have been waiting on bated breath for my 9th grade classmate, who I haven’t seen since 2001, to update me on whether she made her goal of walking 10,000 steps today! I’ll eat another French fry while I wait.

But seriously, if 2013 was the year of YOLO, 2014 was the year of FOMO. “Scientifically” speaking, Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) sends a pang of guilt into our stomach, which shoots a signal thingy to our hippocampus. Then, involuntarily, our arm and hand reach for our cell phones to make sure we aren’t missing out on the next great status update, ultimately causing happy juices to flow like queso through our veins. Scientific, right? Probably. I love a good Buzzfeed list, and I live for video compilations of kittens. But the amount of NON-information being splattered about our social media walls is. just. overkill. I’m reigning it in this year.

Did you nail it in 2014? Ready to join me and turn this train around? Tell me more in the comments below.

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

Getting Your Military Family Organized: 10 Tips to Use Right Now!

organized-boxesWhether you’re undertaking a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) to California or Korea, or you’re staying put for a few years, it can be tough to organize your home — and keep it organized. Here are 10 tips that’ll help you get your household shipshape in 2015.

1. Write it down.

Professional organizers say if you’re truly committed to getting organized, start by jotting down the areas in your home that need to be tackled. Focus on areas of your home, not rooms. For instance, you might concentrate first on a cluttered drawer in your kitchen. “If you have several messy rooms, you may need to break it up into small, manageable pieces,” says professional organizer, Janet Bernstein.

2. Schedule organizing sessions.

To keep up with organizing tasks, set aside time on your calendar to accomplish them. This adds an element of accountability. “If you only carve out two hours for organizing time each week, that adds up to eight hours a month, which adds up to 96 hours for the year,” Bernstein said. “Keep that in mind, and you’ll have the motivation to keep up your organizing throughout the year.”

3. Learn how to say goodbye.

If you don’t love it, need it or use it, then let it go. Repeat this to yourself frequently if you have a difficult time parting with possessions.

4. Swap your stuff.

Professional organizer Jamie Novak recommends that if you’ve got toys, clothes, kitchen gadgets or other items you no longer need, you should host a swap with other military families who might want your stuff, and vice versa.

5. Turn clutter into cash.

Companies like Amazon.com, Best Buy and Gazelle.com will let you trade in used items such as tablets, books and video games in exchange for cash or account credit. For more tips on turning clutter into cash, visit The Sparefoot Blog.

6. Use what you’ve already got.

Rather than tossing certain items in the recycling bin, you can turn them into organizing tools. For instance, Novak said, leftover egg cartons make great drawer organizers, and storing extension cords in old paper-towel rolls can keep them untangled.

7. Set up a lost-and-found area.

To reduce household clutter, designate a lost-and-found container or drawer. Whenever something is left out like a cord for an electronic device or a doll’s shoe, you can toss it in the lost-and-found and the person who lost it will know where to look.

8. Create a household binder.

Use a three-ring binder filled with tabbed dividers, page protectors, and pocket folders, along with a slot for a pen, to stash important paperwork, Novak suggested. This could include documents like your apartment rental contract, or your insurance policies.

9. Purchase a label maker.

Sticking labels on containers to indicate what’s inside them makes it easier to keep track of your stuff. That way, you’re not wasting time trying to figure out where your kids’ hand-me-downs are.

10. Buy versatile furniture.

“Because military families move so much, they need furniture that does double duty,” professional organizer Leslie Jacobs said. “How about a coffee table with storage so you can store video games and the like?”

What tips do you have for getting organized this year? Tell us in the comments!

Posted by John Egan, Editor in Chief at SpareFoot, an Austin, Texas-based startup that helps people find and book self-storage units. To find military discounts for self-storage, visit MilitaryStorage.com. For more information about military-related storage, moves and home organization, visit blog.militarystorage.com.

3..2..1! Happy New Year!

From our Association, to your military family, we wish you a prosperous New Year!

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New Year’s Resolution: Save More Money!

money-resolutionsWith a brand new year just around the corner, we brought this post out of the archives to remind you and your military family that making the resolution to save money is easier to achieve than you think! Check out Brooke’s tips for making this New Year’s resolution one that will stick all year!

Here we are, almost to 2015, after a holiday season that probably involved a lot of spending, rather than saving. You may not have made a New Year’s Resolution to save, but it’s not too late to come up with a promise to yourself and your financial readiness. America Saves has a great program that has helped many service members and their families become better savers.

Make a pledge to save at America Saves (a campaign of the nonprofit Consumer Federation of America), and they will send you text messages to remind you to work toward your savings goal. You can choose the purpose of your savings goal (ex: vacation, retirement, home purchase), how much you want to save per month, and for how many months.

Military Saves, a component of the America Saves campaign and partner of the Department of Defense’s Financial Readiness Campaign, also has a pledge program that will help you meet your goals for 2015 saving. When you pledge, you will get their newsletter with great strategies for saving. You may learn about some special programs that are only available to military. For example, the Savings Deposit Plan which can only be used during deployments and is guaranteed a 10% return rate annually. You can’t beat that for a savings program!

They also give great tips for how to save on a tight budget. Military Saves Week is February 23-28, 2015, and installations everywhere will be hosting events to promote financial readiness for service members and their families.

January is also the time of year when your W-2 arrives in the mail, or becomes available online, and you start thinking about that tax return or bill. If you will get a tax return from 2014, think about whether or not that should be used to pay down debt or factor into your savings plan. America Saves has more tips on how to save money at tax time.

With all of these resources at your fingertips, you have no excuse not to make a plan to save that is worth sticking to!

Take the Military Saves Pledge today!

Brooke-GoldbergPosted by Brooke Goldberg, Government Relations Deputy Director

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Happy Holidays from NMFA!

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