5 Things to Accomplish While Your Spouse is Deployed

Separation from a spouse who is deployed is not easy. Most people suffer from loneliness as the major worry when they separate from their spouses. However, you can take the opportunity to make your family relationships stronger and make some significant steps towards achieving your individual goals while your spouse is away. Here are some things you can accomplish:

Marriage Goals
Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and the time you have away from your spouse offers an opportunity for you to reflect and see how to strengthen your relationship. You may consider taking online classes or reading books on how to improve your marriage by making your spouse happier. Through phone calls or letters, you may let your spouse know about what you have been learning and what you plan to do to maintain a long-distance relationship for a while.

Financial Goals
Just like online courses for marriage, financial courses are also available. Maybe you are looking forward to clearing your debts or getting finances to fund your dream house. Apart from giving you the opportunity of taking financial courses, separation from your spouse also allows you to think about your financial goals and see where you need to improve on. Set a target you want to achieve and commit yourself towards achieving it before your spouse returns home.

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Professional Development
Taking extra projects and classes to develop your career is a good way to stay productive when your spouse is away. It is the best time to ask for more work from your boss to keep yourself busy. This may make your employer feel that you are ready for more responsibilities and thus promote you to a bigger role. Also, taking classes or earning an online degree may be a great way of expanding your horizon and placing you at a better position for bigger roles in your company.

Health Goals
Have you ever thought of running a marathon or going to the gym to lose some weight but have never found time for it? The best time to do so could be while your spouse is away on duty. You have all the time for yourself. Physical activity is a great way of reducing stress and improving health. Write down a fitness goal and share it with your spouse the next time you communicate.

Educational Development
Now is the best time to improve your education. You can decide to update your certifications or take time to go through your kids’ books and see what they do in school. Even subscribing to a podcast or browsing science news websites can enlighten you on new concepts and stimulate you mentally.

Separation from your spouse means more time for yourself. Instead of spending time thinking of how lonely you are, begin thinking of what you can do to improve your life and the lives of your family members. When you are finally reunited after your spouse’s time of duty, you can do so as a person who has grown and developed as much as your spouse has.

Posted by Dixie Somers, military supporter and freelance writer

No Time to Volunteer with a Full-Time Career? Consider This

Working full time or managing a career as a military spouse is hard. It’s a constant balancing act, full of compromises. If you’re a spouse who works in the civilian world, it can feel extremely isolating. While most military installations and units put forth a lot of effort to ensure families feel a strong sense of community, the events or program hours are often less than ideal for working military spouses.

As a military spouse and a full time headhunter (executive search consultant) for high growth technology companies, I understand the difficulties that come with that balancing act. I often feel as though I’m being pulled in two opposite directions. As the wife of an Army Combat Engineer, I know I have to work harder than everyone else at my firm, as I’ve been awarded the opportunity to continue a career that allows for remote positions. Easier said than done, of course, but the thought of losing that opportunity is enough to push me to prove my value day in and day out. Trying to find time to attend family and spouse events is a challenge in and of itself, so it was tough for me to imagine finding time to volunteer.

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At our last duty station, I was traveling every other week, missing out on community events, and felt completely disconnected from my husband’s work. Volunteering did cross my mind as a way to meet people and build relationships, but I thought, “Why volunteer when I’m not looking to fill gaps on a resume? I have a full time job that permits little time for myself.”

It wasn’t until my husband’s second deployment during our time at Fort Drum that I truly felt the need to become more connected to him and his work. While my work is important as well, I believe that his service is a higher calling. I wanted to help in any way that I could, especially while he was serving overseas. To put it into perspective, I decided this while moving away from “home” to be closer to my company’s office in Washington, DC–something I’ve done 8 times in the last 5 years when my husband was away or overseas (I move back each time he comes home).

Now, I won’t lie to you and say no one is ever too busy for another commitment. I feel your pain and sometimes, you are just TOO PLAIN BUSY. In my case, despite how strapped for time I felt, the feeling that I had something to offer prevailed. Onto the next step; where do I start?

I started my research as most things begin these day, with a Google search. I quickly found the National Military Family Association. I should add, I was excited to find NMFA but I still felt a sense of extreme hesitancy. I was concerned that even if I found a volunteer opportunity that resonated, it would be too much of a time commitment and I would be too busy to be a helpful Volunteer…I was wrong.

After scheduling a conversation with someone who could tell me more about the organization, I was still doubtful. Doubtful that I would meet the “requirements” needed for a volunteer. Doubtful that I would have something–anything–to offer that would be useful. I was wrong again. I was pleased to speak with another Volunteer who immediately understood my struggle, and was willing to work with me to find volunteer opportunities that would fit my lifestyle. This article is one of them! Important lesson learned: there is never a “right time.” If you wait around for the right time to do something important, you’ll never do it.

Is now the right time for you to Volunteer? Join us today!

Posted by Paige Kuderka, military spouse and NMFA Volunteer

The Do’s and Don’ts of Launching A Business As A Military Spouse

I launched Military Quality of Life Consulting, LLC (MQOLC, LLC) in the Fall of 2015 as I turned in a resignation letter to my last employer due to a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move. I wasn’t sure where to start, where this business would go, or the potential of what it could be, but I knew that I wanted to continue to serve the military community by creating solutions to the complex challenges the military lifestyle presents. MQOLC, LLC provides consulting services in Strategic Communication, Business Development and Community Outreach and Engagement to military service nonprofit organizations, higher education institutions, private and public companies.

To give you a little bit about my background, I have an undergraduate and graduate degree in Communications and my professional experience spans across several industries. As an experienced professor and academic advisor, a prior military family advocate on Capitol Hill (with NMFA!), a previous event program coordinator serving our military spouses at the fourth largest military service organization in the country, I have had the opportunity to work with and be a resource for the White House’s Joining Forces Initiative, Department of Defense, Military Community & Family Policy, Military Spouse Employment Partnership, Members of Congress, universities, national non-profit organizations, employers and key decision makers.

After MQOLC, LLC launched, and during our family’s latest transition to Colorado from Washington D.C., I also landed a full-time remote employment opportunity with an incredible IT company where I continue to contribute to military spouse employment and education opportunities. After living at four different military installations around the country, and working in five different positions post graduate school, I finally feel stable, excited and honored to serve the military community through two separate professional endeavors on a daily basis.

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As a military spouse, I feel as if our community is embedded with an entrepreneurial spirit. For many, entrepreneurship is a great option due to portability, flexibility and as an outlet where you can share your specific skill set with the world in your own way. As a new(er) business owner, and one that is constantly learning everyday, I would like to offer a few Do’s and Do Not’s for those who have a great business idea, who are thinking about launching a business or for those who already have established businesses.

DO your research on national military spouse specific resources: The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Veterans Business Development empowers military spouse entrepreneurs by providing the same counseling, training and access to capital that are provided to service members and veterans. The Department of Defense’s Spouse Education and Career Opportunities (SECO) joined forces with the Small Business Administration to provide military spouses with monthly webinars focusing on starting a business. Watch these or download the lecture notes if they have already taken place. In addition, if you call a certified SECO Career Counselor (1-800-342-9647), you can request to take Entrepreneur EDGE™ assessment to see if this path is right for you!

DO contact your State’s Secretary of State Department after a PCS. The active duty military community moves every 1-3 years. With this transient lifestyle, it is important to conduct research on what paperwork, licenses or tax permits are needed to transfer your business to your new location. As my business launched while we were stationed on the east coast, I am considered a foreign entity now that we are stationed in Colorado. I also made the mistake of purchasing a license when I didn’t need it. I should have done more research!

DO apply to attend Syracuse University Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) VWISE Conference. The program is open to all female veterans, active duty female service members and female partners/spouses of active duty service members and veterans who share the goal of launching and growing a sustainable business venture. Also, check out the additional Entrepreneurship resources available through IVMF!

DO list your business on the Rosie Network’s Rosie’s List and join a MilSpo Project Chapter. For those living abroad, check out Milspousepreneur.

DO NOT forget to tap into your network. Use your network to seek out advice and guidance. I am constantly networking through LinkedIn, Facebook, community events (I recently joined my local InGear Career chapter), and national conferences such as Inc. Military Entrepreneurs . I am also looking forward to attending VWISE in a few weeks in San Antonio, Texas.

DO NOT think you are making too little to launch your business! It takes time to build your business from the ground up. Don’t let this notion stop you from changing your aspirations. Start small and grow big overtime.

DO NOT be shy to reach out! I invite you to like the MQOLC, LLC Facebook page, stop by the MQOLC, LLC website and connect with me on LinkedIn.

Have you started a business? I would love to know if you have other DO’s and DO NOT’s that you have learned through your entrepreneurship exploration and execution!  

ccPosted by C.C. Gallagher is a Senior Analyst for Military Spouse Programs with BAM Technologies and the founder of Military Quality of Life Consulting, LLC. She is the spouse of an active-duty soldier and mother to a military child.

End the Stigma—One Military Spouse’s Honest Account of How She Came Back from Attempted Suicide

“I remember waking up, gagging on the activated charcoal they used after I overdosed on the very medications that were meant to save me. My first thought was, why didn’t it work? I failed again.” Sara, whose name has been changed to protect her privacy, shares the painful memory of her suicide attempt.

Sara has been a soldier’s spouse for nearly 12 years. She and her husband met in grad school. She was studying for her MBA. He was in medical school. When he joined the military, Sara wholeheartedly embraced the life.

“I was that wife. The one that helped out with his unit, led the FRG and mentored newer spouses. I was the go-getter; the career, the family and the military protocols, ceremonies and traditions were all a part of that equation. I loved all of it.”

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But 4 deployments and just as many PCS moves—all while parenting three young girls—started to take its toll on her mental health. On the outside, Sara seemed happy. She continued to volunteer and help others. No one noticed she was suffering.

“I didn’t want to get up in the morning. When he was deployed or away for training, I felt overwhelmed and lonely. I isolated myself.” Sara found it hard to cope with day to day activities. “I started thinking about how I was nothing but a burden to my girls and to my husband. To the whole world, actually.”

Sara lost weight; she was sleeping less; she would cry easily and jokingly tell friends the world would be better off without her. Yet no one picked up on the pain she was experiencing and the dreadful thoughts that kept her up at night.

“I felt like there was a black cloud following me around. I was convinced that the only way for everyone else to be happy was to end my life.”

It all came to a head one October night in 2014. Sara sent her girls on a sleepover and picked a time she knew her husband wouldn’t be home yet. She counted out the antidepressants she secretly had her doctor prescribe but never actually used, took a swig of her favorite alcoholic drink and waited.

“I thought if I was gone, that my daughters and my husband would be better off.”

Sara didn’t realize that her father was going to drop by with some tools for her husband. He was the one that found her. “To this day, he is haunted by what he saw. My dad had to call 9-1-1 and perform CPR. He was shattered.”

Sara now realizes the devastating effect this has had on her family, friends and loved ones. “I realize now that by not seeking help, I was putting not only myself at risk, but it was greatly affecting my family and friends and their well-being.”

She’s now in treatment for depression, including medications that are monitored closely by her physician (and her husband), in a support group and in individual therapy. She talks openly about her experience in the hopes that it will help someone else.

“I know I’m at risk, but now I also know how to ask for and get help. Life is still hard, but now I have the tools to help me through the struggles.”

Could your loved one be at risk? Read more on the warning signs and keep the Military Crisis number handy: Call 800-273-8255; then press 1.

ingridPosted by Ingrid Herrera-Yee, PhD, Project Manager, Military Spouse Mental Health Profession Pipeline

Pay With Your Phone: Trade in Your Leather Wallet for a Virtual One

Mobile pay is the new “it” thing. But if you’re skeptical, you’re not alone. Research shows 46% of consumers have concerns about the security of paying with their mobile device. So what are the facts, and is it safe?

Apple was one of the first to develop the mobile pay system technology and now Android, Samsung, retailers, credit cards, and your bank are even getting in on the action. Check out these frequently asked questions and see if it’s time for you to trade in your leather wallet for a virtual one!

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How do I use mobile pay?
To use, you simply hover your phone over the payment terminal where you’re purchasing goods or services, and verify the transaction on your phone. And unfortunately that means, for now, paying at the pump with your phone is out. To use mobile pay, your phone must be associated with an account at AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, or Verizon Wireless. In addition, Android Pay will only work on devices that run the KitKat version of the operating system. Apple Pay is available on iPhone 6 and newer, or the Apple Watch.

Who’s doing what?
Retailers are also getting in on the action. The Starbucks app allows customers to load money onto a digital gift card and to pre-order so your coffee is ready when you arrive at your local Starbucks (how awesome!). The Paypal app allows you to also pre-order and pay for food at participating restaurants.

Banks, credit unions, and credit cards are beginning to utilize the QR code as means to pay. Chase Pay is working on technology that will allow you take a picture of your receipt to pay the bill.

Another program incorporating mobile pay is CurrentC.  Many large retailers are collaborating on this project, like BestBuy, Target, WalMart, Kohl’s, Shell, and Wendy’s, just to name a few. This program allows you to save all your store loyalty cards and coupons electronically in one place.

Is all this mobile pay safe to use?
Risk and security experts suggest protecting your device by locking it when not in use, using a password or fingerprint access point, and only utilizing secure Wi-Fi connections that require a password. The Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay systems all use a Tokenization system to protect you and the transaction. This means your real credit card numbers are never associated with the sale, thus making the transaction more secure. Many in the industry feel mobile pay is safer than using the microchip credit cards, because those cards still contain your credit card number on the front.

Faster than we know it, we’ll all be using virtual wallets, but that doesn’t mean you have to be in the dark about whether your personally identifiable information is secure. Try it out for yourself and let us know what you think!

Do you use any of these mobile pay options? Are they more convenient? Share your experience in the comments! 

Posted by Carla MacDonald, NMFA Volunteer

Connect With Your New Military Installation Fast! Here’s How…

The gym had been transformed; it was filled with tables decorated in beautiful autumn colors. A large screen dominated one corner, already broadcasting Armed Forces Network’s Monday Night Football game. The buffet table gleamed with silver chafing dishes, piled high with traditional Thanksgiving dishes. Leaders dressed in their finest stood at the ready, serving utensils in hand. The band swung into “City of New Orleans” and the room began to fill with single service members and newly arrived families for our “Taste of Home” Thanksgiving dinner. The evening was a resounding success thanks to our volunteer team.

Volunteering is how I connect with a new community. Once the boxes are unpacked at a new duty station it can be challenging to know what to do next. Volunteering has always been my next step; it not only helps me connect with issues I care about in a new community, but it introduces me to others who care about them, too. It has given me the flexibility to put my family first in this often tumultuous lifestyle, while still finding a way to contribute to my community.

After arriving in Belgium in July 2014, I reached out to the National Military Family Association (NMFA) to see if there was a way I could volunteer while overseas at a NATO base. The answer was yes (yay!), giving me license to get involved in my new community. I spent time talking to organizations across the installation, meeting lots of new people and gaining insight to the challenges of this new duty station. I was able to share resources and programs with families who might not otherwise be aware of them. And I was able to connect with others who were committed to supporting military families.

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Over the course of this assignment, I saw that while Europe has much to offer, families especially missed home around the holidays. Those times of year were challenging for our young single service members, many of whom lived in barracks. Newly arriving families, living in temporary lodging, were also faced with trying to create a holiday environment at a brand new duty station, often while living out of a suitcase.

Last fall, we pulled a team together, sponsored by the senior chaplain, and began reaching out to every organization we could think of – BOSS, JROTC, MWR, AFN, Boy Scouts, and even our local thrift shop. Every single organization we invited eagerly joined in to make this event happen. These volunteers brought their talents to the task at hand and made that Thanksgiving one to remember.

Volunteering is the single best way I have found to connect with my community and make a difference. And the volunteer support I have received from NMFA has been key to my success. The Volunteer and Community Outreach Managers are encouraging. They empower their Volunteers and ensure that we understand NMFA’s mission and focus. NMFA actively seeks our Volunteer input from the field and uses it to better advocate for military families. If you’re looking for a way to connect with your community and support your peers, volunteering with NMFA is one of the best ways I know to do both. Come join us!

Interested in finding out more about how you can serve military families from ANYWHERE around the world, check out our Volunteer section and apply now! (It’s free!)

kelly-hPosted by Kelly Henry, military spouse and NMFA Volunteer

Read All the Books…Even When a Parent is Deployed

At my kid’s elementary school, reading homework is mandatory for every grade—at least 30 minutes a day for the older kids and 20 for the younger ones. As a mom of 3, whose kids are in everything from soccer to ballet, it’s hard to find the time! And shhhhh, don’t tell their teachers but, sometimes we don’t get to it. And my husband isn’t on active duty anymore, so he’s here to help.

But what about currently serving military families? Contrary to popular belief, deployments are not ending—so military spouses are holding down the fort at home, reading homework and all.

Of course reading homework isn’t about the homework or the 20-30 minutes… the point is that reading together as a family has a critical impact on literacy.

Nobody understands this better than United Through Reading (UTR), a wonderful nonprofit with 200 locations around the world offering service members a chance to get video-recorded reading books for their children.

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Today, UTR released a report on “Nurturing Literacy Skills for Children in Military Families through the Read-Aloud Experience.” The study begins by citing a series of troubling reports on the state of literacy in our country. A third of American kids go to Kindergarten unprepared, and about 20% of high school graduates can’t read. What??? Kids are graduating high school unable to read?

There’s no simple answer to this monumental problem for our country, but UTR has an amazing program that tackles one of the primary, proven remedies: reading aloud to children.

The United Through Reading program provides regular availability of the read-aloud experience to military children who otherwise may find this experience harder to come by with one deployed parent and one busy parent at home taking on the full weight of running the household,” the UTR report explains.

Of course there’s Skype and Facetime and other online video options—but those often cut out due to poor connection when I sit on the wrong side of the house, so how reliable can they be from the other side of the world? What UTR provides are clear recordings of a parent reading, without interruption. Their child can follow along and get that important read-aloud experience regardless of whether their mom or dad is in Djibouti, Afghanistan or their living room.

Some reminders from UTR’s report that military families live every day, but much of the world forgets:

  • Military families relocate 10 times more often than civilian families — on average, every 2 or 3 years.
  • Since 2001, more than 2 million American children have had a parent deployed at least once, and more than 900,000 children have experienced the deployment of one or both parents multiple times.
  • A RAND Corporation study even found a strong association between children who have endured separations from a parent due to deployment and lower achievement in reading and math.

Some kids watch their recorded story hundreds of times during their parent’s deployment. How many days of homework does that add up to??

Has your family taken advantage of UTR? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.

besa_2016Posted by Besa Pinchotti, Communications Director