Tag Archives: military spouses

Making the Military a Career: How an Elephant Sat on My Dreams

flag-on-a-white-picket-fenceThere’s been an elephant in the room between my husband and me for a while. That one huge topic we’ve been dancing around. We think we know what the other is thinking, and feel okay when the topic drifts away, untouched. Because it’s a big, fat, life-changing elephant:

Are we really going to make the military a career; we’re really going to do 20 years of this?

I’ll be honest: I dreamt of a life where my kids would grow up having the same friends since second grade, like I did. I hoped to see my husband work a job with normal hours and be able to come home at 5pm and coach little league. I thought I’d get to have tons of quality time with my best girlfriends from college, since they’d live right around the corner. I relished in the idea of being able to take a vacation with little to no advanced planning.

When I first met my husband, his goal was to do a short enlistment, then transition back to the civilian work force, allowing all of my little white-picket-fence dreams to come true. Now, we’re 8 years in, and my husband has some of the most elite and prestigious tours in the military on his resume. We have had amazing opportunities because of his service – some I never imagined possible…like meeting the President of the United States in the Oval Office and using the big, important phone on his desk. Okay, so only half of that is true, but still: IT’S THE PRESIDENT.

Recently, we stopped ignoring the elephant in the room and had the talk: are we staying in, or getting out? His eyes widened with excitement as he went through all the possibilities awaiting him in his next decade of service. Mine sank to my feet as reality set in that my perfectly planned life with the white picket fence probably won’t happen.

So, what does that mean for me and my perfectly planned life and white picket fence? Honestly, I have no idea, and that scares me a little bit. But in the last 8 years, I’ve learned that life doesn’t come in a perfectly packaged box. It might come in 3 year billets and surprise IA deployments. It can require a therapist and some serious amounts of wine. And wine is totally okay.

Military life doesn’t exactly give you the opportunity to dream up a life you’d love to have. But I guess that’s the beauty of this one of a kind journey. It gives you other things you never thought to dream up.

Have you and your spouse made the decision to make the military a career? What advice would you give?

Shannon-SebastianPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Online Engagement Manager

Insta-what? Insta-who? 10 Must-Follow MilSpouses on Instagram!

Living a military life can be stressful and beautiful, all at the same time. What better way to document such an adventure than through pictures? Military spouses are out in full force on the Insta-sphere, sharing everything from their homecomings to their workplace selfies…and we think they’re awesome!

Here are ten of our favorite #MilSpouse Instagrammers. Check ‘em out and get your double tapping finger ready!

TheYoungRetiree
TheYoungRetiree
  Elizabeth is a Navy wife, blogger, crafter and the queen of the thumbs-up selfie. We give her Instagram feed two thumbs up for making us laugh and want to be her best friend.

Jordanlees
JordanLees
  Jordan is a Marine wife who oozes Southern charm. She’s full of life with an energy that shows through her photos. Check out her photos of food and fun times!

McKenzieHarding
MckenzieHarding  McKenzie’s photos of her new baby girl are awwwww-inducing. She and her Marine husband are currently living in Japan, which transforms her feed into a beautiful travel scrapbook.

DaniGrace
Danigrace_  Dani’s got lots of love for her Marine and their pet Westie, Lady. She’s also chock full of fashion and hair inspiration (suddenly we want to buy some emerald green pumps!).

Wifessionals
Wifessionals  Kaitlyn is one of those Instagrammers who has a point of view, as they say in the photography world. Her pics are clean, simple and inspiring. She became an Army wife a few years ago and is now a new mom who shares openly and honestly.

JenHatzung
Jenhatzung  Jen has brought West Coast flair to the East Coast, thanks to her Navy husband. Get to know the diva with the dark rimmed glasses as she shares her fashion and fitness inspiration.

HooahAndHiccups
hooahandhiccups  Samantha is a proud Army wife and mom who started blogging while her husband was on a 10 month deployment to Afghanistan. Her Instagram feed is like her blog in picture form—plenty of family, fashion and fun.

KimberlyKalani
Kimberlykalani1122  Kimberly’s an Air Force spouse to a female Airman. She shares lots of photos of their love, their fur baby, and their life as an LGBT military couple. Plus she has some pretty sweet tattoos.

MrsBe72
MrsBe72  Mrs. B is an Air Force wife, mom to a sassy toddler and adorable newborn. She also has an infectious smile and is one of the most fashionable pregnant women we’ve ever seen.

ThenSheLostIt
ThenSheLostIt  Shannon is a blonde beauty who’s married to a Blue Angel and living in her home state of Florida, y’all! She keeps it real…and sarcastic. Check out her feed for a smile, a laugh, and some hair envy.

National Military Family Association has an Instagram account, MilitaryFam. Add us – we’re a bunch of military spouses, too!

And tell us in the comments below… who are your favorite #MilSpouses on Instagram?

Besa-PinchottiPosted by Besa Pinchotti, Communications Director

The Soundtrack of my Deployment

girl-with-headphones-onEver wonder why there isn’t a “Top 100 Deployment Hits” soundtrack? Seems like an untapped market to me. Would you buy a CD full of songs to help you through the highs and lows of deployments?

My husband has been away for a few months on a training deployment, so I’ve had the TV remote control, the DVR, and the bed all to myself. A few nights ago, I started thinking about all the things I’ve done since he’s been gone. I pressure washed our house, jump-started our car when it had a dead battery (thanks to YouTube), fixed a broken toilet, redecorated our living room, went from a red head to a blonde, and learned to eat at restaurants by myself.

As those memories were flashing through my mind, songs just randomly started accompanying them. Songs as eclectic as the curtains in my house.

There’s no telling when the “Top 100 Deployment Hits” is going to be released, so in the meantime, here are some songs that might be musical therapy for you during those ups and downs of deployment:

  • “(You Drive Me) Crazy” by Britney Spears. Suggested for playing very loudly while locking yourself in a dark bathroom to avoid screaming children. Because that’s acceptable, right?
  • “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore. Perfect for playing on the car ride to Walmart. You’re gonna pop some tags…only got $20 in your pocket…which will obviously buy lots of things at Walmart. You can probably get a set of lawn darts, nail polish, and a 12 pack of socks.
  • “The Lazy Song” by Bruno Mars. Because I don’t care about wearing pants today.
  • “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor. The theme song for fixing a broken toilet. Also suggested: theme song for having a baby while your spouse is deployed.
  • “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi. You’ve hit the halfway mark of deployment. Woah, you’re halfway there. Woah, livin’ on a prayer…and chocolate.
  • “All By Myself” by Celine Dion. Suggested for the milspouse eating alone at Chili’s.
  • “I’m Too Sexy” by Right Said Fred. This one’s for you, Mom of four, who got a free night of babysitting at the CDC. GIRLS NIGHT!

And of course, no deployment soundtrack would be complete without the perfect song to play on repeat when your solider finally comes home.

I’m going with “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins….no explanation needed!

Shannon-SebastianPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Online Engagement Manager

Don’t Let Social Media Ruin Your Military Marriage!

sailor-and-wife-selfie-picWhether you’re married or in a relationship, you may as well just change your status on Facebook to “It’s Complicated.” Why? Because just being on Facebook, Twitter or other social media sites makes it that way. I had a chance to talk about social media and marriage with Military.com’s Ms. Vicki at yesterday’s Spouse Experience. Ms. Vicki is a therapist for military families and says that every couple who comes to her with marital problems blames social media for at least part of it.

The problems range from a lack of intimacy due to one person’s social media addiction to full-blown affairs that started from online flirtations. How can you make sure you and your husband aren’t the next victims?

“You have to set up some agreements,” says Ms. Vicki. “Don’t call them rules. They’re just agreements about how you choose to handle your social media as a married couple. Have an open and honest talk about what’s ok and what isn’t.”

But what is ok? Is it ok to be friends with your ex on Facebook? Is it ok to post pictures of yourself in your bikini on your latest girls’ weekend? Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer. What’s ok for one couple spells disaster for another. But there are a few agreements that Ms. Vicki says are non-negotiable.

  1. Thou Shall Not Snoop. Do you know your husband’s passwords? Does he know yours? Snooping in each other’s accounts is no way to confront a problem, but it is a way to create one. “You can’t become a checker. If you become a checker, that’s when you’re in danger. It ruins your self-esteem.”
  2. Thou Shall Not Block Your Spouse. Be “friends” with your spouse on Facebook. Allow them to follow you on Twitter and Instagram. “You’d be surprised how many people block their own husbands,” says Ms. Vicki. “You have to be open and honest. Don’t block parts of your page and give them a reason to want to snoop.”
  3. Thou Shall Not Assume You’re Immune to Social Media Problems. “It’s not just the nasty people or the bad people,” said Ms. Vicki. “It’s everybody.” And in the military community, people seem to be even more invested in social media. With frequent moves and long deployments, people depend on social media to stay connected and spend a lot of time there… which often translates to more opportunities to run into relationship trouble.
  4. Thou Shall Not Forget You’re Sexy. Take the time to nurture your relationship outside of social media. “Don’t ever stop looking at yourself as a sexual being. You’re more than just a mom,” said Ms. Vicki. “And don’t forget that your husband is sexy, too. Be open and honest with one another about your feelings and always stay connected—in the real world, not just the one on your smartphone screen.

Has social media ever gotten in the way of your relationship? How did you overcome that problem? Let us know in the comments!

Besa-PinchottiPosted by Besa Pinchotti, Communications Director

Mentor or Protégé: Both Make an Impact in the Military Community!

mentorI’m at a stage in my life where I find myself in the position of the mentor; the one who offers sage advice, the perspective of my long years of experience, and sometimes just general thoughts or judgments on how things ought to be.

After 18 years with our Association working with policymakers and volunteers, I have the historical perspective of how we arrived at a particular decision – be it legislation or our position on those issues and why they are so important to our military families.

I thoroughly enjoy the role of mentor. As the oldest in a family of eight, I have been doing it all my life. At some point in all of our lives, we find ourselves in a role that requires a generous spirit, good communication skills, and a willingness to share our knowledge for the betterment of the others. With a recent staff overhaul in our Government Relations department, I’ve been spending a lot of time mentoring here at work. It also makes me appreciate the women and men who have been mentors to me.

As a young military spouse, I enjoyed the mentorship from spouses who had walked the path before me, whether in the same unit, or in the Army as a whole. These were the spouses who had weathered Vietnam wartime deployments – where family support was found with your own family, back in your hometown. Even still, they shared the connection with other spouses and fostered the continuation of the spirit of our “military family.”

In the “stone age” of military spouse employment – the 70s and 80s – spouses who were lucky enough to find employment, mentored me by pointing me to the best schools where I could substitute teach. Others would reach out from a duty station where we were headed to let me know of a position that would be opening at the chapel around the time I was showing up.

When I finally landed at the Association, I learned from the best: military spouses who decided to capitalize on their experiences and let policy makers know the importance of military families. Not just their importance to the readiness of their service members, but to the success of the force . Sydney Hickey was the first, among many, to train me to be a voice for military families. She, and our other Association foremothers, helped shape our organization and our staff and volunteers to be successful today.

There is a lot of national attention on mentoring these days, especially for military spouses in the employment arena. We work closely with the Business and Professional Women’s (BPW) Foundation’s Joining Forces initiative and the AcademyWomen’s Military Spouse eMentor Program mentoring military spouses.

Have you had any mentors in your life that have helped you in your military spouse journey? Are you a mentor to someone else? Let us know!

kathyPosted by Kathleen Moakler, Government Relations Director

Apply for our Scholarships and Build a Better Future!

Female-Student-with-Back-PackOur Association was established by strong-willed military spouses who fought to ensure that survivors had benefits. We’ve made big strides since these bold women paved the way 45 years ago, and our Joanne Holbrook Patton Military Spouse Scholarship Program is no exception. This year marks the 10th year of our program, and we plan to expand it — by helping bridge the gaps between your education, training, or certification and your employment goals.

We’re excited that we’ve teamed up with Coca-Cola Foundation to award scholarships to spouses seeking careers in fitness and nutrition. These fields will help improve the well-being of families around the country, and serve as portable careers for military spouses. Apply for funding towards your own certification or degree in this new category!

We’re increasing our support of spouses going into mental health professions, because there’s a growing shortage of these professionals in our community, and there are a lot of hurdles for highly-mobile military spouses. They often have to pay out-of-pocket for some steps toward licensure, while their less-mobile peers have other options to cover these costs. We’re working with sponsors from the healthcare community to provide funding for some of these expenses — and after a move, will match spouses with providers who can help with some of the training they require. If you, or someone you know, needs help pursuing your licensure, apply for our Clinical Supervision scholarships!

If you’re pursing a degree in the high-demand science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, we have scholarships for you, too! Thanks to the generosity of Lockheed Martin, we’re giving away more scholarships to spouses in these fields, which are not only highly-employable because of a national shortage of STEM professionals, but most of the positions are incredibly portable. That’s a perk all military spouses can appreciate!

We’re also ramping up efforts to support foreign-born spouses who need to learn English before becoming eligible for many jobs. Our scholarship program helps cover the cost of English-as-a-second-language (ESL) classes and exams.

This year marks the first year we’re partnering, on a large scale, with eligible schools and training programs to provide school, or program, specific discounts and scholarships for spouses attending, or planning, to attend our partners’ programs.

CSU-Global is proud to support us through five $1,000 scholarships for undergraduates, and two $1,500 scholarships for graduate applicants seeking degrees or certifications. If you’re interested, simply apply to our Joanne Holbrook Patton Scholarship Program, and you’ll then be eligible to apply to CSU-Global.

Our application period closes February 3rd at 12:00 noon EST. Apply now!

If you have a recommendation as to how we can better help spouses pursuing training, certification, traditional degrees, or licensing, let us know in the comments section below!

Roadmap to Understanding the Childless Military Spouse

couple-jumpingLet me be honest here for a minute. I’m 28. I’ve been married for four years. I am a military spouse. I don’t have kids, nor are they in my immediate future.

Boom.

I’m sure some of you will read that and, no doubt, think I’m weird. But spouses like me are not rare; in fact, there are a ton of us. We’re just hiding from the command parties that feature bubble wrap laid on the floor for your kids to trample on.

Ok, we’re not really hiding. But in my experience, some spouses with children often forget how to communicate with those of us who are not parents. We all came from the same bus stop, remember? Just not all of us took the ride into parenthood.

Speaking of my experiences, here are some of the craziest things that spouses with kids have said to me.

Consider this a roadmap of what not to say to the childless military spouse:

“Don’t you feel useless with all that free time and nothing to focus your energy on?”

“You don’t want to be the OLD mom – better not wait much longer!”

“Are you having infertility issues?”

“You could just adopt!”

“Aren’t you READY for kids?!”

“But you’re almost thirty.”

“Having kids gets us so much more money on our tax return!”

“Don’t you get lonely?”

As military spouses, we’re all trying to find common ground, share experiences, and support each other. And while none of the spouses who said these things to me meant any ill regard, they still made me feel excluded.

Those of us in the military community who don’t have kids by the “normal” age (read: young parents) still want to be included in your play dates, kids events, and yes, we’ll even help set up the bubble wrap on the floor at the next command Christmas party. Maybe we are struggling with experiencing pregnancy, or worse, maybe we’ve lost a pregnancy, but we just aren’t sharing. Or (gasp!) maybe we are childfree by choice.

Having children is a big decision for any one, and those of us who haven’t crossed that bridge, still have other things in common with you. We’re loving wives, focused employees, loyal friends, and can be a genuine support system for you on this military journey!

Shannon-SebastianPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Online Engagement Manager

Don’t Let Your New Year’s Resolutions Become Your Next Epic Fail

new-years-epic-failFun fact: 88% of New Year’s Resolutions fail.

Why do people even bother?! I never purposely set myself up for failure– which is why, for the past few years, my resolutions have included:

Eat more ice cream.
Drink more champagne.
Get more pedicures.

Not to toot my own horn, but I’m in that successful 12%. I’m 3 for 3 and looking forward to a successful 2014 (filled with more massages)!

But what if you have legit resolutions? What if you want to drop 20 pounds, stop smoking, or put a certain amount of money into your kids’ college savings account? Should you give up before you start?

Absolutely not!

You can succeed at your New Year’s resolutions if you do these things:

Focus
Don’t resolve to get more massages and more pedicures and eat more ice cream and stop biting your toenails (ew!). Pick one. Stanford Professor Baba Shiv has done extensive research on resolutions and found that making more than one is too much for the brain to handle!

And don’t be vague. Instead of saying “get more massages,” I’d say “get six massages in 2014.” Don’t resolve to “get in shape,” instead say “lose 20 pounds.”

Take Baby Steps
Instead of making a yearly goal, break it up into chunks. When you make long-term goal, it’s too easy to put off ‘til later. Plus, having early success will help you stay motivated. For example, if you’re trying to lose 20 pounds, set a goal of losing 5 pounds by the end of March.

Blab to Your Friends
Nothing kicks you in the behind like a good public shaming. Ok, I’m being dramatic. Announce your New Year’s resolution to your friends and family (on Facebook and in person); even if they don’t say a word, knowing that they’re aware of what you’re trying to accomplish will make you feel worse for giving up.

Give Yourself a Break
Know that every day isn’t going to be award-winning– you’ll have good days and bad days. Just because you ate a dozen donuts on Saturday doesn’t mean it’s over. Just eat a dozen leaves of kale to make up for it (not really). The point is this is a marathon, not a sprint.

Don’t Forget to Celebrate!
When you meet those smaller goals, stop and give yourself a high five or do a little happy dance. Treat yourself to something nice—something that doesn’t steer you away from your goal. For all you “get-in-shapers,” buy yourself some new running shorts or a new iTunes playlist. If “stop swearing” was your resolution, buy yourself a censored version of your favorite movie. You get the point.

Best of luck with your resolutions. I’m off to get my first of many massages… and maybe some champagne.

Happy New Year!

besaPosted by Besa Pinchotti, Communications Director

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

Geo-Bachelorhood: Six months later

geobachelorEarlier this year, my family and I had a difficult decision to make. My husband had received orders that would take him to an installation about three hours from our home in Virginia. In the past, a new set of orders simply meant a new home town, no questions asked. We packed up the kids, said goodbye to friends and neighbors, and set off on our new adventure.

This time, however, we paused. We worried about the effect of moving the kids now that they are in middle and high school. We wondered if we would be able to sell our house or find a renter. And I asked myself if my career would ever recover if I had to give up yet another job. So after a lot of discussion and a lot of soul-searching, we decided that – for now at least – the kids and I would stay behind and my husband would become a geo-bachelor.

Now, it’s six months later, and while we’ve had our good days and our bad days, on the whole we’re managing. While I would never say that we have everything figured out, we have learned a few lessons over the past few months that have made geo-bachelorhood more bearable.

When we decided the kids and I would not move to the new installation, I worried about how I would manage everything on my own. Surprisingly, though, that hasn’t been our biggest challenge. As an experienced military family, we are accustomed to long separations, the kids and I slid easily back into our old routines. Every weekend, however, those routines were upended when my husband came home. It took a while for all of us to adjust our expectations and learn to enjoy our time together.

The first lesson I had to learn was to give Dad some down time. After a week of holding down the fort single-handedly, it’s tempting to meet him at the door with a honey-do list in one hand and the carpool schedule in the other. In fact, my husband jokes that I seem to think he comes home just to walk the dog and take out the garbage. And it’s true that when he’s home the kids and I are more than happy to let him handle some of the household chores that we take on in his absence.

But, although it’s easy for me to forget while I’m juggling kids, work, and housework, my husband’s schedule is demanding too and he deserves a chance to relax a little bit on the weekend. Raking the leaves can wait (for a while, at least)!

Another challenge has been fitting in family time. Our kids are busy with friends and activities. Between soccer games, sleepovers, and babysitting gigs, we sometimes found that a weekend had passed and Dad had barely seen one or both of the kids. We’re pleased the kids have so many friends and so much to keep them busy – it’s part of the reason we chose to stay here, after all – but time with Dad is important too.

We try to find time for him to spend one-on-one with each of the kids, even if they’re just riding along with him on a quick trip to the store. It also helps that he makes an effort to stay connected to the kids even when he can’t be here. Regular phone calls and texts throughout the week let the kids know that Dad is still involved in their lives even though he can’t be here every day.

Like so many aspects of life in the military, geo-bachelorhood isn’t easy. We were faced with a difficult choice, and are trying to do what’s right for our family. Some days are easier than others, and there are certainly times when I second guess our decision. So far, we’re making it work. We’ll see where we are this time next year!

Are you navigating geo-bachelorhood? What are your tips?

eileenPosted by Eileen Huck, Government Relations Deputy Director