Looking Back on Your Life: How are You Answering These 3 Questions?

As we begin the last week of our first month of 2017, I’d like to challenge you to reconsider the points we explored in creating more meaningful goals for ourselves this year. During the last month, we’ve explored the challenges of traditional New Year’s resolutions and I’ve offered some fresh alternatives to renew the process in order to create authentic, achievable intentions.

In week 1, we discussed how resolutions are typically created from the surface level of our minds, where our ideas tend to be short sighted and shallow. We challenged ourselves to go deeper and expand the boundaries of our comfort zones by creatively exploring the thinking behind our objectives.

In week 2, we recognized the “Debbie Doubter” part of ourselves that operates from a place of fear, then introduced and investigated our “Inner Hero” – the adversary of Debbie. We challenged ourselves to see 2017 from that new perspective that exemplifies hope, clarity, and determination.

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In week 3, we utilized this newfound “Inner Hero” persona to reflect back over 2016 and determine the aspects that we would like more of and less of. We challenged ourselves to use this information to design our personal manifestos for 2017.

In week 4, we courageously admitted that some of our habitual behaviors lead to living small lives. We challenged ourselves to identify our core values and analyzed them against our current behaviors, then eventually altered those behaviors to start living a life more closely aligned with our values. This goal helps us achieve the biggest impact possible.

I hope these segments have proven helpful in redesigning your 2017 ambitions. The purpose of this series was to move you closer to becoming the person you were meant to be and living the life you were called to live. In the everyday humdrum of military life, we can often lose contact with those aspirations.

However, at the end of our lives, none of us are going to look back and wish that we lost more weight, or worked harder, or drove a better car. The superficial goals we placed upon ourselves to achieve will quickly fade away leaving us with pure clarity.

The elemental concerns that will be important to us at that time, though quite personal, are universal:

  1. How satisfied am I with the person I chose to be?
  2. In what ways did I love those around me well?
  3. What positive impacts did my life make?

We can take steps toward those ideas now by making purposeful choices in who we are being and how we are living, then adjusting ourselves accordingly. In fact, if you only endeavor to answer those three questions every once in a while, and make small modifications in response, you are already committing to doing very hard work.

May your 2017 be full of ideas, words, and actions that move you forward toward the ultimate dream of living a life that mattered. May we all journey onward in this collective spirit of unity hand-in-hand.

How are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions? Share your progress with us!

mwellsPosted by Michelle Wells, NMFA Volunteer and military spouse

Breathing a Sigh of Relief: Hiring Our Heroes is Tuned in to Military Spouses

As a mother of two young children with an active duty husband who deploys quite a bit, we have made a family decision that I will stay home, and not work, for the time being. But that doesn’t mean I can’t plan for the future. I know at some point I will be ready to join the work force, again. With that in mind, I was excited to find out the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s program, Hiring Our Heroes (HoH) was hosting an event near my home in San Antonio, Texas. Cue the babysitter…I was headed out to see what it was all about!

For those who don’t know, Hiring Our Heroes is a national program with a mission to connect businesses and communities in a productive way. One of the programs they run focuses on helping veterans and their spouses find meaningful work. Even better, Hiring Our Heroes has networking receptions, hiring fairs, and even an online resume booster built specifically for military spouses. This sets HoH apart as a small, but growing, group of organizations who are more holistic in their approach to helping veterans. When families are included as part of their mission, everyone wins.

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As I listened to the keynote speakers at the event, which was hosted by USAA–also a great supporter of military families–it was clear HoH truly understands the unique challenges of being a military spouse. Whether it’s facing the hurdle of filling gaping holes in time while resume writing, or finding ways to get face-to-face with potential employers, they have it covered. The network of employers they have built understand we have a unique set of traits and skills that make us desirable employees.

This particular reception had representatives from big name companies that ran the gamut, from technology to business, and hospitality. As I strolled, I spoke to an Human Resource agent from Southwest Airlines, a representative from an IT firm that specialized in government contracts, and a customer service rep from a local car dealership. Each one of them was genuinely interested in hearing about my personal history as a military spouse and how that translated into traits that would benefit their companies.

As the evening ended and I spent time talking with other spouses, it was clear I wasn’t the only one who worried about how my time as a military spouse potentially affected my career opportunities. I breathed a sigh of relief knowing that when the time was right, there are organizations like HoH there to offer help. Whether you are actively looking for work or just keeping your options open, make sure you check out this organization and all they have to offer. They have events nationwide so take a look at their website to see when they will be in your area. I highly recommend it! Most importantly, rest assured that there are groups tuned into the struggles and needs of military spouses and are doing something about it.

Have you ever attended a Hiring Our Heroes event? Tell us about your experience!

headshot-cbrownPosted by Christy Brown, NMFA Volunteer, San Antonio, TX

Kick Complacency to the Curb: Live BIG and Live Your Values

In this blog post, we invited our Inner Hero to help us get to know ourselves better by reflecting on the past year. Let’s use these self-discoveries to define our core values and challenge ourselves to live bigger in 2017!

Struggle #4:  Living Small

How many of us have gotten so accustomed to our recurring, habitual behaviors that we commonly claim to ourselves or others: “That’s just the way I am?”  

While self-acceptance is a very worthwhile endeavor for each of us, and true inner peace cannot occur until we accept all of the unique parts of ourselves, there is a fine line between whether our self-acceptance is advancing us toward goal achievement, or whether we allow it to shift into an attitude of complacency.

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The danger with complacency is that it convinces us to be the absolute smallest possible version of ourselves. If we allow complacency any level of control in our lives, pretty soon its sidekick–fear–will show up assuring us that every risk we consider is just too dangerous. Before too long, our fear can end up resembling the mouse in the popular children’s book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie with its circular, never ending demands.

One surefire method to kick complacency and fear to the curb is to do the work of recognizing our core values and the significant insight they contribute to designing a life of meaning lived out purposefully.

Challenge:  Define your personal value system. Try this:

  1. Read through the following core values list and circle any that resonate strongly with you.

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  1. Write out the list of circled values in order of significance, with #1 being the most important.
  2. Focusing on your top five core values, write down three actions that you currently take in your life that are in direct alignment with these values (these actions move you toward your goals). This is your “keep” list.
  3. Focusing on your top five core values, write down three actions that you currently take in your life that are not in direct alignment with these values (these actions move you away from your goals, or cause you to remain frozen in place). How can you become more aware of these actions and take steps to diminish them?
  4. Choose three more creative actions to add to your “keep” list that you will commit to in order to move closer to your goals.

How can the concept of living in alignment with your core values help you to achieve goals that feel unreachable? How does defining your values help you to live bigger?

mwellsPosted by Michelle Wells, military spouse and NMFA Volunteer

Couponing Made (Somewhat) Easy!

Four years ago, my husband and I PCS’d for the…’I-don’t-even-know-which’ time. We were newly married, and I had to quit my job to move across the country, but our money situation was alright. However, after 6 months of bad luck in the job hunt, I decided to go back to school. I started looking for every and any way to save money. That’s when I began couponing.

To start, no, I don’t buy items in extreme amounts. I don’t have a stock pile of 100 bottles of shampoo and 200 toothbrushes sitting around. Buying in bulk isn’t practical for military spouses who move every year and a half and are always lacking storage space. But I’m not going to lie, couponing takes time and it isn’t always fun. But I can help make it somewhat easier for you:

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Online Coupons
The first thing any couponer will need is a printer. Printers are fairly inexpensive and are less than $100 at your base Exchange, or online. Printable coupons are one of the most popular coupons available. The easiest printable coupon site to use is Coupons.com, and I like Lozo because it’s the most comprehensive. For foods that are organic or non-GMO, there are sites like Common Kindness (which donates to your favorite non-profit each time you redeem a coupon!), and Mambo Sprouts.

Printable coupons give you the biggest variety of products because there are so many out there. But it is definitely more time consuming to sift through the coupons you don’t want just to find the ones you do want. Once you “clip” the coupons, print them out and cut. To save some time, enlist help for cutting coupons–I use my husband. I hear kids also work well!

Electronic or digital coupons are also becoming more and more popular. For military families, one of the best resources is the Commissary Rewards Card. Grab a card at the Commissary and sign up online! This is the easiest way to save money at the Commissary because you can go online and clip all of their coupons and just scan your rewards card at the checkout. The website also gives you options to send your coupons via e-mail, or download their mobile app so you can see what coupons you have while you’re shopping.

Many grocery stores offer digital store coupons. If you regularly shop at Safeway, Vons, Shaw’s, Wal-Mart, or any other store, check online to see if they offer additional savings. Typically, all that is required to redeem them is a valid email address. Once registered, you simply go to their website, clip coupons, and punch in your phone number at the checkout.

In-Store Coupons
In-store coupons are ones you’ll find at the grocery store, or placed on the products themselves by the manufacturer. For coupons placed by your local military installation, be aware that most can only be used on base either at the Commissary or the Exchange. Even though the Commissary and Exchange sell the same items on the same military base, they do not sell them for the same price. Check to see which one sells items at a lower cost. In my experience, the price is almost always at the Commissary. If you see coupons around the store, and you’re not buying that product on that day, grab one and put it in your coupon pile for the next trip.

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Coupon Books
The last type of coupons to look out for are in the coupon books. These include ones that come through the mail such as redplum, SmartSource, and Proctor & Gamble, or that you find by the door at the Commissary. So when you get your mail and it looks like a bunch of sales flyers, STOP! That is usually where the redplum coupon book is hiding. You can usually find coupon book in your local Sunday newspaper, as well.

Tips for couponing
Overseas military families can use coupons on base that have expired up to 6 months after the expiration date. If you have clipped coupons you aren’t going to use, think about donating them to military families in overseas locations by participating in the Troopons®–Coupons for Troops program.

You will save more money on non-food items, so be more diligent about finding coupons for things like paper products, cleaning supplies, make-up, shampoo, razors, and deodorant.

The commissary will NOT double coupons. If you have clipped it on your rewards card, you cannot use a second paper coupon along with it.

Most civilian grocery stores WILL double coupons. Check your local grocery store to see their coupon policy.

Even though I hate not using a coupon, coupons do not always make a product the best deal. Always check to see if there is a better deal with similar products.

Get a second e-mail address! Whenever you need to “sign-up” on a product’s website in order to receive their coupon, they will relentlessly hound you with e-mails. Get a second e-mail account to give all of those websites so your personal account isn’t cluttered with junk mail.

These tips have helped my family, and with a little patience and persistence, I think they’ll benefit your family, too!

Do you have some must-share couponing tips and tricks? Leave a comment and share the wealth!

Posted by Katie Swogger, military spouse and NMFA Volunteer

Survive and Thrive: Oklahoma City

Oklahoma. I know what you’re thinking…cowboys, dust storms, tornadoes. And you’re right for the most part. But it wasn’t until I moved to Oklahoma City for our family’s PCS orders to Tinker Air Force Base that I really learned how dynamic and unique Oklahoma really is.

Within the state of Oklahoma are quite a few military installations—Vance AFB, Fort Sill Army Base, Altus AFB, and even Oklahoma Air National Guard and Army National Guard. And yes, even a few Coast Guard hot spots, to name a few.

As a native Floridian, the first state I ever moved outside of Florida was Oklahoma, and I quickly learned there were 6 things that everyone needed to know about to enjoy life in the Midwest:

The weather. In Oklahoma City, no weather type is strange (except a hurricane). This is tornado alley, and hearing tornado sirens for the first time can be alarming. Hearing and seeing golf ball sized hail pummel your house is eye opening, and is the main reason most people park their cars under a carport or in a garage. Tip: when the sky turns green, take shelter. When it’s not peak tornado season, you’re likely to experience a heat wave, or even a blizzard. Roads ice over and some businesses close down ASAP to avoid traveling in sleet (#dangerous). Thought earthquakes only happen in California? Nope. Oklahoma City lies near a bed of fault lines that are increasingly more active, seismologists say. Nothing to worry about, for the most part, just get into your nearest doorway for safety.

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Grocery stores are scarce. One of the first things I noticed as a new Oklahoman was that it was really hard to find a grocery store near my house. Gone were the days of running to the local Publix, HEB, Wegmans, Safeway, or Kroger. Instead, my options seemed to be only Walmart or the commissary, and neither were particularly fun to shop at near payday.

Learn to love sports, or stick out like a sore thumb. I’m mostly kidding about the odd-man-out part, but Oklahomans live for sports, especially their beloved University of Oklahoma Sooners and Oklahoma State University Cowboys. College football reigns, and the Oklahoma/Texas rivalry is one of the greats to be a part of…next to Bedlam. Ask any Oklahoman for a lesson on Bedlam. Professional basketball in Oklahoma City is still relatively new, but people love the Thunder. You’ll quickly learn when your favorite team comes to town, your spirit isn’t welcome unless it’s for the home teams. (I got this email from coworkers after my Florida State Seminoles were defeated by the Sooners)

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Catfish is king. Oklahoma is a fisher’s paradise, but most love the waters for the thrill of catching catfish. Fisherman use all measures to catch catfish—like fishing poles or nets—but on a whim, I headed down to Pauls Valley, OK for the annual Okie Noodling Tournament, where the rules are “No hooks. No bait. No fear.” (Translation: catch the catfish with only your hands!) Whatever way catfish is caught, it’s your duty as a new Oklahoman to try cooked catfish. In Oklahoma City, locals enjoy the Steak & Catfish Barn, seen in all its hole-in-the-wall glory on the Travel Channel’s show “Man vs. Food.” Try the Catfish Challenge and see how many pieces you can eat. At last check, the record stood at 90 pieces in two hours.

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There’s all kinds of natural beauty. Within the state, there are landscapes of all kinds for the viewing, from grassy prairies, to desert-like flatlands, to mountains ranges. From Oklahoma City, travel in any direction for a different experience. Oklahoma boasts 41 state parks, 2 national protected forests, and an array of conservation areas and wildlife preserves. Also within close driving distance is Branson, Missouri and Dallas, Texas.

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Real estate is cheap. Most homes in Oklahoma City and surrounding suburbs Moore, Norman, Edmond, Nichols Hills, and Bethany are relatively more affordable than most states. According to Zillow, the median price of homes listed in Oklahoma City is $179,900, and median rent ranges from $990-$1100 for a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom home. For military families stationed at Tinker Air Force Base, homes in Cleveland County are mostly new builds with great schools. And the drive to base isn’t bad, either.

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Getting orders to the landlocked Midwest can be a big shock for military families coming from the east and west coasts, but once you get the lay of the land, and learn these 6 key tips, life in the Sooner state is definitely a set of military orders to remember.

Has your family been stationed in Oklahoma City? What was your favorite part?

shannonPosted by Shannon Prentice, Content Development Manager

3 Tips to Create and Achieve Your Best Self in 2017

In this blog post, we investigated a peak experience of our life in order to become familiar with our Inner Hero. Let’s invite our Inner Hero to reflect back over the past year, and see what self-truths they have to offer to enable us to clarify our 2017 goals.

Struggle #3:  Living with a stranger

The majority of us do not list “Get to know myself better” as one of our top life priorities. While it’s common to get to know ourselves as we age, or due to a major life disruption, most of us simply don’t know how to begin the work required to increase our self-awareness.

The difficulty with this is that it results in a deep sense of disconnect to the one person that we are “stuck” with our entire life – ourselves! In addition, we may create inauthentic goals for ourselves that we aren’t as motivated to achieve.

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Challenge: Ignite your Inner Hero as a tool of self-discovery. Try this:

  1. Reflect back over 2016 like a movie reel being played in your mind. Notice any moments that particularly stand out and write them down, being brave to list both the positive and negative highlights.
    (Tip:  If you have a hard time collecting memories, browse back through your camera roll or calendar from 2016.)
  2. After you have listed at least 6 significant memories from last year, dig deeper. Utilizing the perspective of your Inner Hero, consider your list using the following inquiries:
    • How can I use these moments from 2016 to help teach me what I want “more of” in 2017? Write down what you want more of.
    • How can I use these moments from 2016 to help teach me what I want “less of” in 2017? Write down what you want less of.
    • Reflecting on each of these moments. What were the characteristics of the person I was choosing to be in 2016? Write down these characteristics.

Here are my lists for inspiration:
More of: In 2017, I want more laughter, hugs, purposeful connection, positivity, contentment, understanding, action.

Less of: In 2017, I want less negativity, stubbornness, drama, judgment, rigidity, worrying, dissatisfaction, inaction.

Michelle in 2016: Stuck in ‘waiting mode,’ full of ideas but hesitant to act, adaptable, grieving, knowing, secure.

  1. Now, using your lists of what you want more of, what you want less of, and the personal characteristics of the person you chose to be in 2016, brainstorm the personal qualities of the person you will choose to be in 2017 using intentional phrasing.

Here’s my list:
In 2017, I will choose to take action with the intention of moving forward.

In 2017, I will choose to believe that all roads lead to somewhere significant and that no experience is wasted.

In 2017, I will choose to be kind, gracious, thoughtful, and believe the very best about myself and others.

In 2017, I will choose to let go of the things and people I no longer have, and focus on the things and people currently in my life.

In 2017, I will choose to create an atmosphere of positivity, lightness, and hope wherever I go.

In 2017, I will share my feelings of love and admiration without delay and with deep purpose.

How does it feel to take ownership of who you are going to be in 2017?  What aspirations does it awaken in you for the year ahead? 

mwellsPosted by Michelle Wells, military spouse and NMFA Volunteer

New Year, New Here? Five Tips To Help New Military Families Adjust

Did you ever stop to think that today, this very day, is someone’s first experience with the military? Sure, all of the acronyms, last minute order changes, formal functions, deployments and overseas assignments may be familiar to you now, but they certainly weren’t when you started your military adventure.

Today, there is someone in your community who is experiencing a part of military life for the first time. What if this year, along with the resolutions to be a part of the latest diet craze, eat more kale or write in our empty journals (I will struggle with all three of these!) we resolve to reach out, support and welcome these new members of our military community!

Here is what we can do, together:

Welcome new military spouses. If you are an experienced spouse, seek out spouses who are new to the military. Make them feel welcome, listen to them. Note that I said listen to them, not talk at them and tell them what you know! Listen to what they need, where they are from, and thoughtfully share how your experiences relate to where they are. You will learn something, too!

First time away from home, or first PCS. If you have been a part of this military life for a few years now, you have probably already experienced several moves, and maybe have lived in a different country or two. So when you meet a military family who is away from home for the first time, or experiencing their first PCS, remember how you felt during your first PCS (IT WAS SCARY!). Reach out to these families and give them some encouragement.

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First deployment. Service members are still deploying, and some service members and their families are experiencing a deployment for the first time. If your family has been through multiple deployments, reach out to families who are experiencing this for the first time. Tell them they will learn they are stronger than they ever realized, but it is okay to have bad days. Share what helped you during your loved one’s deployments. Most importantly let families know they aren’t alone.

Military kids. Every day a military kid is adjusting to a new community, a new school or a new home. If you are a parent whose kids have experienced lots of change because of military life, or a teacher who has had military kids come and go from your class, or even if you are an MFLC…you can help. Reach out to military parents and tell them what has helped the military kids in your life, remind parents how resilient kids are, and make sure parents know about the School Liason Officer (SLO), the Interstate Compact, and how the Military Family Life Consultant (MFLC) can support them.

New military parents. Everyday a military couple somewhere learns they will soon be parents! Do you remember what is was like when you were a new parent? Do you remember what is was like when your kids were small and your family was far away? Offer new moms and dads a smile in the commissary, hold new babies at unit functions so mom or dad can have a conversation with other adults or eat something without holding a wiggly baby. If you know a new parent who is alone because of a training exercise or a deployment, reach out to them so they don’t become isolated.

Remember what if felt like when you were a new military spouse, a new service member, or a new parent. Think about the kindness, knowledge, or friendship someone shared with you when you had no idea what you were doing. Be willing to help someone else figure out this exciting and crazy military life.

Tell us the most helpful thing someone shared with you when you were new to military life and how you will join me in helping others this year!

Together We’re Stronger.

Ann HPosted by Ann Hamilton, Volunteer & Community Outreach Manager