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.

delayed-grad-school

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.

jogging-in-the-district

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

5 Tips to Fund Your Military Family’s Future

New Years can call for reflection and resolutions to set the next 365 days in the right direction. You resolve to take care of yourself, your military family, and this includes your financial well-being, too. If you’ve decided that this is the year to take charge of your finances, take advantage of these five budget tips to monitor your monthly expenses.

Fund-Your-Future

Organize Your Bills Digitally
There are many software programs, online services, and apps available designed to help a person track their monthly bills digitally. Some of these services require paying a few dollars a month. However, others are completely free. Money Stream is a free online service that can alert you when bills are due with a calendar interface.

Track Receipts
Bills are only part of a person’s monthly budget. If you want to get a clear picture of how your finances are being spent, track all of your receipts. But doing this by hand can be a real pain. Thankfully, there are receipt scanners and smart phone apps that can automate the process for you and add totals to a database.

Consider VA Loans
If you are a service member, veterans, or eligible surviving spouse, take advantage of the Veteran Administration’s loan program. A VA loan is a type of mortgage guaranteed by the federal government, but made available to veterans and service members through different lenders, some that even provide loans with an interest rate 2% less than expected. VA loans have some great benefits for many prospective home owners, like not needing a down payment. They also offer interest rates lower than comparable conventional mortgages.

Create an Emergency Expense Account
You should have one savings account that is strictly for emergency expenses. This can include sudden bills, like when your car needs unexpected repairs, or if your plumbing goes awry. You may also have health bills and need to pay off a good portion of your deductible at once. This account should have a few thousand dollars in it and be replenished as the money is spent.

Create Budgets
Create budgets to track your expenses. This should include budgets for particular months, as well as budgets for the week. You can do it on paper, or even in a spreadsheet file. This way, you can add totals and change numbers around as needed.

Fiscal responsibility is something that is important for everyone to manage properly, especially as a military family. Take advantage of the resources available to you, and put some plans in place to make sure you have the ability to accurately track your expenses. Avoiding debt is always worth the effort.

Will you try any of these tips with your military family’s budget? Let us know! 

Posted by Rachelle Wilber, a freelance writer living in the San Diego, California area. When she isn’t on her porch writing in the sun, you can find her shopping, at the beach, or at the gym. Follow her on twitter: @RachelleWilber

Ready, Set, GO! A New Mom’s Journey to Finish an Olympic Triathlon

After having a baby, many women set goals to eat healthier and walk to lose their baby weight, and are happy if they can get back to their pre-baby weight. Not me. I set a goal to train for my first Olympic Triathlon while at my heaviest weight and least-fit time in my life. Being a military mom means putting your kids before yourself, but finding a balance is the biggest key to staying sane and getting results. I gained a total of 40 pounds during my pregnancy and I’m still working on the last five pounds! More importantly, I want to be stronger–inside and out.

road-bike-triathlon-coast-guard-military-spouse

So why sign up for an Olympic Triathlon?

It has been on my bucket list, and I wanted to find something that gave me a reason to train, be disciplined, and take my fitness to the next level. My sister and I have signed up for “Escape the Cape” Olympic Triathlon in Cape May, New Jersey on June 12, 2016. Living in Michigan, many people ask us why we chose that race; the reason: the scenery! If I am going to do this, I want it to be beautiful. What’s better then the ocean, beach, and the glorious vineyards. I have a great support system and a lot of accountability to get me through the winter and across the finish line! My goal is to not only finish, but be in the top 10 of my age group.

As a personal trainer, Coast Guard wife, and avid mountain biker, it was quite the mental battle getting back into a fitness regimen after having a c-section. It took me five weeks to get back on my bike, and that first ride was a scary one! I went for my first run about two weeks later. Swimming? Let’s just say I am not a swimmer! I just recently got a swim coach and am excited to share some of the drills and training tips I learn. I want to be a great and efficient swimmer. This (like many others) is my weakness. I also just bought a Cannonade CAAD10 road bike and have been putting in some miles on my trainer already. Michigan has been kind to us this winter so far, so getting outside for a run hasn’t been an issue. At the moment I am just focusing on strengthening my foundation and building my base so I am at my peak performance on race day.

mom-hiking-with-baby-military-spouse

I am looking forward to updating you on my progress, sharing some of my workouts and tips, and filling you in on my race day experience and results!

Have you ever set a big goal for yourself? Did you achieve it?

Posted by Alicia Phillips, Coast Guard spouse and owner of apFitness

A New Year Literally Means New Everything

As the month of December comes to a close, I think back to the resolutions I have made over the years. I reminisce about the time and place, and the hopes and expectations of a fresh start. Whether my goals included fitness, travel, professional growth, or even a simple attitude adjustment – I was ready and determined to succeed.

This year, however, change is inevitable and my determination is failing. Today, December 31st, marks the end of my husband’s active duty military career. My assumption was that this time would be fulfilling and exciting. What does that say about me? In reality, there is a finality that feels something like an 800 pound gorilla sitting on my chest. And a sadness that I still can’t explain.

navy-retirement-ceremony-new-year

In our situation, a job in the civilian world is prompting a mid-year move from Georgia to North Carolina. Much like many of our military moves, decisions were made late in the game, causing a flurry of activity in a fairly short amount of time. Understanding that retirement was getting closer, we bought a house and slowly began digging our roots a little deeper. As we prepare to uproot this time, familiarity mixes with the unknown, sparking new feelings and emotions. Ones we will learn to deal within the New Year.

Military families out there know the drill. New home, new schools, new friends, new sports teams, new church, and new activities all come to be in new surroundings. Being a military family is an identity of sorts, and leaving that behind is new, too.  Don’t get me wrong; I don’t feel like we are being banished from Military Family Island, but the lifestyle we knew is soon going to be a thing of the past.

It feels like we are going to plow into 2016 like a high-speed train about to jump its track. I am nervous because this fresh start seems very daunting. So, ready or not, this New Year’s resolution to ‘tackle and embrace NEW’ is almost here. I’d be lying if I said I was ready, but I would also be lying if I said I was not.

Good or bad, here’s to new.

Are you preparing for something new in the new year? How will you tackle it?

kimPosted by Kim Edger, Website Architect

Dear Self: We’ve got Some Resolving to do…

sparkler-new-years-eve-resolutions

I resolve to put myself out there . . . But not too far out there.

I resolve to protect my heart and my time.

I resolve to volunteer more often . . . But not for everything. I resolve never again to agree to be a room mom, plan the holiday party, and do the unit newsletter at the same time.

I resolve to be more understanding of my spouse when he says “mission first” . . . But only when he’s looking. I am still going to cry in the bathroom when he’s not.

I resolve to sometimes let him see me cry.

I resolve to be a better friend. I resolve to drink less wine and eat less chocolate with my friends. I resolve to sometimes bring a veggie tray to the potluck.

I resolve to stop lying in my resolutions–everyone knows I’m not going to trade wine for veggies.

I resolve to put myself first sometimes.

I resolve to make this year the year that I chase my dreams. I resolve to not be afraid of failing.

winter-living-room-coffee-new-years-resolution

I resolve to check my husband’s uniforms for ballpoint pens BEFORE I put it in the wash.

I resolve to stop doing my husband’s washing. Scratch that. I’ll do his washing, as long as he does the cooking.

I resolve to read less “bad news” and seek out uplifting stories.

I resolve to be a force for good and give the world more good stories to write.

I resolve to stop wearing my husband’s PT gear as pajamas.

I resolve to speak up when I see something that isn’t right.

I resolve not to let fear rule my words and actions. Even when it’s hard.

I resolve to let a healthy level of fear encourage me to clean my carpets more often because housing inspections and move-out fees.

I resolve to have the best year ever for 2016.

Signed,
Me.

What do you resolve to do in the new year?

HeatherPosted by Heather Aliano, Social Media Manager

Military Spouses: Here Are the Only Two New Year’s Resolutions You Need

Hey MilSpouses, It’s that time of year again! Time to evaluate our lives and think of all the coulda, shoulda, wouldas as we come up with our New Year’s Resolutions. Should we lose weight? Work out more? Stop cursing? (Nahhhh) Stop yelling at our kids? Let’s not get crazy.

new-years-sparkle-military-spouse-resolution

I want to save you some time this December. You have enough to do. We all want to be our best selves, but who has time for all that self-reflection? If you want to spend the next year tracking your calories and putting dollars in a jar every time you drop the f-bomb, stop reading. I am proud of you and what I know you’ll surely accomplish. But for the rest of us, I’ve thought this through and believe I’ve come up with the only 2 resolutions you need for 2016:

  1. Don’t feed the trolls. I resolve not to get involved in drama in 2016. Won’t you join me? Command cliques? Psht. Moms at the playground who don’t think your kid should be wearing snow boots in July? Who cares?! Meanies on Facebook calling you a Dependapotamous? Don’t even bat an eyelash. Don’t think about any of it. None of it matters. These people want to see us suffer, but we don’t have to! We won’t feed their sadistic pleasures. We’ll go about our business paying attention to what matters. Let’s not give the trolls one ounce of our energy in 2016, because you’re going to need that energy for your second resolution.
  2. Dance! Do it! Literally and figuratively. You don’t look like J-Lo when you drop it like it’s hot? Neither do I! Do it anyway. In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown says, “Until we teach our children that they need to be more concerned with how they look and with what other people think, they dance. They even dance naked. Not always gracefully or with the beat, but always with joy and pleasure.” Let’s stop worrying what everybody thinks. Let’s stop THINKING so hard every second of the day and let our body make the decisions for us. Take the orders you didn’t think you wanted. Wear that sexy dress to the command party because you look GOOD—and you’ll look even better wearing it proudly as you dance your tush off. When we dance we feel vulnerable—and isn’t that what life is about? It’s hard to allow ourselves to push through that vulnerability, but you know what’s on the other side? Pure joy.

I’d ask you to take a pledge with me right now so we can hold each other accountable, but I bet we don’t even need to do that. We’ll see the joy on each other’s faces. Happy New Year!

Are these two resolutions you can get behind? If so, get to dancing and share this post on Facebook!

besaPosted by Besa Pinchotti, Communications Director