Category Archives: Military spouses

Best Songs for Deployments: And the Award Goes to…

I’ve heard that music is both deeply healing and personal to some people. I’d agree with that, especially because I’m one of those people. I associate songs with memorable times in my life, and frequently use music to change my mood. My favorite songs come from the best times in my life. And I’m not embarrassed to say most of them are from the late 90’s and early 2000’s. I’ll admit it: I probably peaked in high school.

I’ve had music playlists for just about everything; working out, road trips, driving to the beach, driving home from the beach, girls night out, breakups, being in love, getting hyped before a game. You name it, I’d make a playlist. Then I’d turn them into CD’s, which I still play in my car to this day. (Take that, technology!)

No surprise, the playlists continued into military life. A few years ago, I had a pretty fun little playlist to get me through my husband’s deployment. I still love most of those songs, but I’ve got a different perspective now, and a better song selection, I think. And I’ve put them into a few categories that might speak to your life as you face a deployment of your own.

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Best song to play during Week One of deployment: “Soldier,” by Gavin DeGraw
It’s ironic that Gavin DeGraw sings this song in the rain, because that’s basically what week one of deployment is like for many military spouses: lots of face rain (crying). Let this song remind you to be strong for your service member and your family. It’s okay to be sad, but know you’re going to get through it.

Keep this lyric handy: My aim is so true, I wanna show you, I’ll try forever. I’m never gonna say ‘surrender.’

Best song to sing while drinking wine with your deployment buddy: “Hold On,” by Wilson Phillips
Sometimes, we just need to take it back to the 90’s girl band awesomeness. Sing your little heart out with your deployment bestie and pat yourself on the back for being one more day closer to your spouse coming home. Just hold on for one more day (see what I did there?). And because I feel like it’s a crime not to mention these two, honorable mention goes to “Tell It To My Heart,” by Taylor Dayne, and “Say My Name,” by Destiny’s Child.

Keep this lyric handy: Yeah, I know that there is pain, but you hold on for one more day, and you break free, break from the chains.

Best song to send to your service member: “Bring It On Home,” by Little Big Town
Your loved one needs your unconditional encouragement and support during every moment of their deployment. Some days, they might be homesick. Other days, they’re mission-focused and distant. This song is the perfect way to say “I love you and support you. I’m keeping the home-fire burning.” Cue all the feels.

Keep this lyric handy: When your long day is over, and you can barely drag your feet. The weight of the world is on your shoulders, I know what you need. Bring it on home to me.

Best song to blast when you’re sick of this deployment: “Riot,” by Three Days Grace
I know we’ve all had those moments when we’d give anything to bring our spouse home RIGHT NOW. The kids are out of control, the dryer just broke, and we can’t clone ourselves. Channel that frustration and blast this in your minivan. Just don’t actually start a riot, and maybe cover your kids’ ears when you listen to this song.

Keep this lyric handy: If you feel so angry, so ripped up, so stepped on, you’re not the only one refusing to back down. You’re not the only one.

Best song when you’re missing your love: “Fall,” by Clay Walker
It’s bound to happen: your heart is aching and you just want to roll over in bed and put your arm around your bae. Nothing would make the day better than to be wrapped up in their arms, safe from the world. This song is the perfect reminder that marriage is a partnership, and even though deployment is tough, you can get through it by leaning on each other for strength.

Keep this lyric handy: Go on and fall apart, fall into these arms of mine. I’ll catch you every time you fall. Go on and lose it all, every doubt, every fear, every worry, every tear. I’m right here, baby fall.

Best song to remind you why you stand behind the uniform: “Star Spangled Banner,” sang by Whitney Houston at Super Bowl XXV, 1991
Some spouses may be decades into military life, others may not even be married yet, but it’s easy to forget why we support our significant others. Day-to-day schedules overwhelm us, and commissaries, base gate checks, and long waits at the pharmacies just don’t give you the warm and fuzzies of American pride. But let me tell you: when you need a gut check, Whitney Houston delivers. And this emotionally charged version of the National Anthem will renew your drive to be proud and supportive during the rest of this deployment.

What are some of your favorite songs to get you through a deployment? Share them with us!

shannonPosted by Shannon Prentice, Content Development Manager

4 Tips to Get Back on Track After New Year’s Resolution Failures

Studies show that by January 20th, most New Year’s Resolutions are busted. So, if we’re science-ing and being technical, my 2016 is ruined and my life is over because I ate rice crispy treats for dinner last night, instead of a salad. If we’re being honest, I also haven’t exercised every day, like I said I would in my New Year’s resolution Facebook post.

Let’s be real: who’s got time to eat all the salads and run all the marathons? Not me.

How can we get this resolutions train back on track without feeling like a complete rice-crispy-filled failure?

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I’ve got four tips:

Redefine your definition of success. And be okay with it. Expectations are the fastest way to kill your momentum when it comes to keeping those New Year’s resolutions. No matter what your focus is, you’re bound to find someone doing it better on social media. But that doesn’t have to kill your vibe. Instead, redefine success.

Basketball Hall of Fame inductee and 27-year UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden, coined his own definition of success as, “Peace of mind attained only through self-satisfaction and knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you’re capable.”

Success = doing the best you can.

Pick new resolutions. I know, it seems like quitting. But it’s not. Did you do your best to keep your resolutions? If not, go back to tip #1. If you did give it your best, and couldn’t succeed, consider getting real with yourself; take a good look at the resolutions you made January 1st. Think about other goals you’re bound to achieve when you give it your best—maybe even something you can achieve multiple times, and maybe even by tomorrow. Pick attainable goals, keep your expectations in check, and you’ll be on the path to keeping your resolution longer.

Celebrate every single win. Once you redefine success, or maybe lighten your resolution load, you’ll find yourself meeting and exceeding your goals (#winning). Resist the urge to devalue yourself and your achievement for any reason—instead, stand in that awesomeness, own it, and celebrate that win. For extra self-satisfaction, write your successes on a Post-It and stick those bad boys some where you’ll see it all the time!

Appreciate each failure, and try again. Unless your resolution is to eat a rice crispy treat every day (and yay for leap years—366 rice crispy treats!), failure is bound to happen. Some may not face it, but many of us will. And the only way we keep from feeling like a lump of a human being with no ability to succeed, is to try again. Being able to appreciate a failure, no matter how unsettling, is hard. But getting up, dusting yourself off, and trying again is both necessary and powerful.

Consider this quote (one of my personal favorites) from President Teddy Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming… who at the best, knows…the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

Success isn’t always winning, it’s found in the wanting, the trying, and the kick-butt ability to keep going, even when you fail.

So what if it’s only January 20th and your resolutions are shot? You get to start over and try again. You faced the arena, tried your best, and came up short…and that’s okay. The key is refusing to define yourself based on a stupid resolution or failure. You are not your failures.

You can get this train back on track! And if all else fails, the rice crispy treat thing is a great option.

How are you doing with your resolutions? Are you starting over? Tell us in the comments!

shannonPosted by Shannon Prentice, Content Development Manager

You Don’t Have an Advanced Degree–So What?

It’s no secret military spouses are a force to be reckoned with; no longer the ‘silent ranks’ of decades past, spouses are determined to play a huge role in the financial stability of their families. More military spouses are leaving the stereotypes of yester-year behind and forging into territories that match their civilian counterparts.

No longer just the baby-making, bon-bon eating, Dependapotamuses they were made out to be, military spouses are so much more than that. And they’ve got the credentials and degrees to show it.

But what if you’re one of the many spouses who don’t have an advanced degree? Are you still a force to be reckoned with?

Abso-freaking-lutely! Here’s why:

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You’ve mastered the art of scrapping. And I mean that in the most rad way possible. Human Resources expert Regina Hartley gave a TED Talk recently, encouraging employers to “interview the scrapper.” Not having a Master’s degree, or even a Bachelor’s degree doesn’t mean your resume can’t stand up to the next guy’s.

Military life means spouses have to learn to be scrappers. You survive deployments, pack up an entire house, deliver babies alone, learn how to fix practically anything, budget like a beast, raise kids, and even work multiple jobs. And you do it all to support your service member.

You face adversity in the job market when you move to remote locations, or places where everyone seems to have a Master’s or Doctorate. It’s overwhelming to compete.

But because you’re a scrapper, your value goes up.

“[Scrappers] embrace their trauma and hardships as key elements of who they’ve become, and know that without those experiences, they might not have developed the muscle and grip required to become successful,” Hartley went on to say in her TED Talk.

More companies are expanding their employee base with diverse and well-rounded people, and not all will be the Harvard grad or the 4.0 GPA intern from New York City. They’ll be the military spouse with 4 jobs in the last 5 years in 3 different states, or the military spouse with an Associate’s degree, who also runs her own business. And you can bet they’ll be the veteran spouse who holds down the fort while his significant other is deployed.

Even without an advanced degree, you are a valuable asset because you’re a pro at cultivating relationships. You are constantly moving, reinventing, and holding sorting ceremonies to find your new tribe (feel free to join me in Ravenclaw). And that’s not something a Master’s program can teach.

As a military spouse, you know the only thing you have full control over is yourself. You are sometimes at the mercy of the service, and ‘to expect the unexpected’ is as prepared as you can be. Because of their ability to thrive and bloom, regardless of whether they have a degree or some fancy letters after their name, military spouses and scrappers, alike, have “a sense of purpose that prevent them from giving up on themselves.”

Just because you didn’t finish your Bachelor’s degree, or you decided to forego debt and pass on getting your Master’s or that other certification, doesn’t mean you aren’t valuable to a company. And it dang sure doesn’t mean you aren’t valuable as a military spouse, friend, and human being.

There are many ways to break free of those old stereotypes, and having a degree isn’t the only one. You’ve already mastered the art of scrapping, what will you do next?

What would you tell those military spouses without an advanced degree? Do you think a degree makes a difference?

If you’re ready to take the next step in your career, or decide it’s time to achieve your next educational goal, NMFA is here to help. This year, we’re giving away over $500,000 in scholarships to deserving military spouses. Don’t miss out. The application period is open until January 31, 2016, and there are SO many different opportunities waiting for you on our website. Apply today!

shannonPosted by Shannon Prentice, Content Development Manager

Five Friends Every Military Spouse Needs

After 10 years of life as a military spouse, my network of friends has become huge. Everywhere we go, I am able to find a new tribe of friends who hold me up, encourage me, and keep me laughing even when life is tough. Even though the faces are different, I’ve come to realize that my tribe always seems to contain the same kinds of people.

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The Pollyanna
When I get really negative and whiny, this is the friend I need the most. She’s always able to see the positive in every situation. She can see the little things that make each duty station special–even if it’s the way the light shines in at an angle this time of the year, or how beautiful those yellow flowers are off the highway. She knows we can “do anything for a season,” and knows we have to “bloom where we are planted.” She’s the perfect person to get me to see the bright side.

The Resourceful Friend
This friend knows all the in’s and out’s of military life. She can tell you the difference between TRICARE Prime and Standard, she knows all the entitlements and benefits that come along with military life, and can decipher an LES with her eyes closed. I call her when I can’t quite figure out how to get a referral, or I want to know more about using the GI bill. She knows everything about everything, and if she doesn’t actually know, she knows where we can find out.

The Go-To Friend
I often meet this friend on the first day we get settled into a new duty station, and I am waiting in the office of Child, Youth & School Services on base, or the school, or at the hospital, trying to fill out forms. She offers to be my emergency contact, and not long later, we’re getting together for play dates and coffee. She’s the first person I call when I need someone to watch the kids so I can go to the doctor, and we routinely swap kids for date nights when our husbands are home. I can always lean on her when “home” is too far away. Before long, this friend becomes family.

The Wine Night Friend
This friend is always within walking distance…and for good reason. She comes to every event with a bottle of wine in hand, and doesn’t judge me for opening it during our summer play date in the backyard. She’s not too serious at first, but is willing to talk about the hard stuff after a glass or two. She’s often my confidant and closest friend.

The No-BS Friend
As nice as it is to have a friend who will sympathize with me, what I really need is a friend who is going to tell me to suck it up, encourage me to change out of my sweatpants, and get out of the house. This is often the friend who calls me on day three of a deployment, and helps me stop feeling sorry for myself. Some people may think she’s too rough around the edges, but she’s the perfect person to stop me from wallowing in self pity.

These five friends have been my support network in all the places we’ve lived on our military journey. I love them, appreciate them, and think they’re awesome. In a life where we have to rely on our tribe to get us through another day of deployment, a uncertain medical board process, or even a quick PCS across the world, I’m glad to have this bunch in my corner.

Do you have any of these friends in your milspouse tribe? Who else would you add?

HeatherPosted by Heather Aliano, Social Media Manager

Military Spouse Scholarships are Waiting for YOU!

“I’m waking up and realized I did not have a dream! I always told myself ‘It’s ok, I don’t need to go to school,’ because I never wanted to take money away from the things my family needed.” –Emily Yancey, NMFA Military Spouse Scholarship Recipient

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Emily Yancey and family receiving her scholarship from NMFA Executive Director Joyce Raezer

At the National Military Family Association, we meet so many military families from all walks of life. We hear their stories and, whenever we are able, we try to make their family’s military journey a little easier.

Since 2004, NMFA has awarded $3.3 million in scholarships to more than 3,500 military spouses. Emily Yancey was not one of those 3,500 recipients, yet, she still wanted to make a difference through NMFA. Earlier this year, Emily helped NMFA secure a grant to assist local military spouses as they pursue their career and education dreams.

Emily’s dream is to pursue a certification in culinary arts, which will allow her to contribute to her family, lifestyle, and community. She says cooking as a family has helped them heal after their lives changed when Emily’s husband was medically retired two years ago.

In Emily’s NMFA scholarship essay, she wrote, “It is important that military spouses pursue their education and career goals because it is important to keep personal identity. I personally know how quickly and easily personal dreams and aspirations can get put on the back burner. My husband is 100% disabled and it has taken me over two years to truly understand a little time for yourself will go a long way. It is not necessarily a negative thing but, it is important to stay true to you. My husband has always been my biggest supporter to get to school but following through on my part is another story. Being a military spouse means traveling to new duty stations, quickly adapting, and most importantly being the glue that sticks the family together. It’s a tough but rewarding job to help encourage and support the ranking military spouse but it is also that important to follow through for yourself.”

NMFA is thrilled to award Emily with $2,500 scholarship to help her pursue her culinary dreams. But then, an anonymous donor heard the Yancey’s story and was so inspired they decided to surprise Emily and her family with a scholarship that will allow her to finish her degree!

As you can imagine, Emily was surprised and graciously shared her feelings with us. “Words cannot say loud enough how thankful I am for each person that made this happen for me. Thank you!”

Are you a military spouse pursuing an educational or career licensure or certification? NMFA’s military spouse scholarship application is open until January 31, 2016, and we’re ready to help you achieve your goals! Apply now!

Jordan-BarrishPosted by Jordan Barrish, Public Relations Manager

But I Didn’t Really Know What I “Signed up” for…

News flash: military life isn’t a Goosebumps Choose Your Own Adventure book. But it can be scary, and the choices you make might not turn out the way you think, because I don’t think anyone really knows what to expect when they marry into the military.

I wish people would stop saying “You know what you signed up for.”

Because, actually, I didn’t.

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Telling a military spouse that he or she should know what to expect out of military life is condescending and should be banned. Sure, there are some obvious challenges, but no one’s challenges are ever exactly alike, and by bunching them together and saying they’re all the same can make someone feel like their experiences really don’t matter. It makes them draw back from their peers, and disconnect from the ‘support’ network they thought they could count on.

Military spouses, we have to stop telling each other to suck it up. Each time we do, we crack the foundation in our solidarity a little bit more. We need to support each other through the ups and downs of military life. Let’s be in this together.

I didn’t know what I signed up for. I knew the title of the book, but I had no idea who the characters were, what the plot twists would be, or how it might end.

So why do we tell each other “You knew what you were getting into?”

How could we know all the twist and turns of a life we hadn’t even lived yet? Some challenges require us to stand there in a full-blown, can’t-get-through-this moment in order to come out stronger on the other side. How else do we glean the knowledge (and survival skills, am I right?!) to pass along to MilSpouses who follow us?

If we don’t leave the bread crumb trail, who will?

When we marry a service member, we have no way of knowing what plot twists will be waiting. We might not have the tools to fix cracks in our relationship. We might not know how to process the emotional stress of going through labor alone during a deployment. And we certainly won’t ever be able to understand why fate calls on our loved one to pay the ultimate sacrifice.

We can’t read the book of life backwards, people!

I really appreciate military spouses who tell me some honest, raw, emotional truth based on what they’ve lived. There were times they didn’t want to finish the book, but they kept reading. And now they know things others don’t. They have suffered and survived.

Imagine if we didn’t have those people in our lives, but rather, ones who tell us to ‘suck it up’ because we knew what we were getting into?

Did we choose our own adventure? We sure did. Are we strong enough to survive? Absolutely. But should we have to ‘suck it up’ because we ‘knew what we were getting into?’ Absolutely not. We deserve better. And we owe it to each other.

Do you think a military spouse really knows what they ‘sign up for’ when they marry a service member? Tell us in the comments!

shannonPosted by Shannon Prentice, Content Development Manager

Running Towards an Enhanced Career: Lace Up and GO!

You are at the starting line, with the finish probably no where in sight. A gun goes off. And then you run.

For me, this applies literally–to actual running–and metaphorically to continuing my education. Currently, I’m attempting both. Both journeys are endless pursuits of self-fulfillment and self-improvement.

I started running about five years ago. We had just moved to sunny southern California, and my husband promptly deployed. I knew just a handful of people, had a job that I disliked, and was spending too much time moping about.

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So I ran. I started with up and back loops in my neighborhood. I took the dog for company, and we chatted about how my day went, what was for dinner, and what type of treat he wanted when we got back.

Those first weeks were painful. I was doing Couch25K before that was a ‘real thing,’ and I was frustrated. I remembered, from high school track, what it felt like to go fast, and I remembered my sub-three minute 800 meters. I remembered flying around the track. Now, I was barely wogging (if walking and jogging had a baby) along, even with frequent trudging breaks.

Right now, I am going back to school for an additional certificate in education. I am scared out of my mind. I’ve been out of school for over five years, and this whole program is online. I’m not sure how to pay for this, or how much work it will be, or if it will be worth it in the end.

But I’m trying it. If it is a disaster, at least I tried.

That’s how I viewed running when I started out: even if I am the slowest person on the road, I’m still faster than the person who never left the couch.

So I kept going. I laced up my shoes and pushed myself farther and faster every single day. One day, I was running again, not just jogging or trudging, but flying.

Education isn’t new to me; I’m a teacher. So you could say I’m pretty comfortable around a classroom. However, my program is in teaching English as a Second Language. English is my first, and only, language. Fine, I can throw a few “holas” around, and could probably find the bathroom if lost in France. Beyond that, I’m hopeless. How am I going to be able to teach children who are coming in without any English language skills?

Also, we just moved. Once again, I have no connections to the education world in sunny SoCal. My course requires that I teach sample lessons. I need to find a classroom. I need to do so many things to make this successful.

As the worries about ‘what-if,’ and ‘what-then’ overtake my mind, I think back to the very first race I ever ran post-high school,:an off-road 5K up in the hills of Camp Pendleton with my running buddy. I was so nervous at the starting line, my stomach was knotted up. I was pretty sure I might actually throw up, or pee my pants. Then my friend looked at me, smiled, and the gun went off. There we were, two former track runners conquering this intensely hard trail run together, side by side the whole entire way. The amazing part was that we both placed in our respective age groups. She got second in her group, and I pulled off a first place finish in mine. At that moment, I was hooked. I loved running, and everything about it.

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I’ve run many races since then. I have only placed in one other race–second place in that same trail’s 5K the following year. But each and every time I cross the finish, I am victorious. My journey to that place, in that moment, has been a triumph of my will over my body, the weather, the road, and my negativity.

My favorite races have been the hardest. The Marine Corps Marathon 2012 was the hardest race I ever ran. Completing a marathon less than six months following a PCS move from SoCal to DC, training through humidity and heat, and healing an injured knee, was just plain hard. But nothing would stop me from lining up that morning; not even Superstorm Sandy, and not even the nausea that hits before every race. I hit the wall hard at mile 20, but trucked along, pretty sure that I would need to stop, but willing myself forward. When that Marine handed me my medal, I had tears of absolute joy rolling down my cheeks.

Right now, as I look over my program–the expense of it all, the time required–I’m pretty sure I might throw up. How on earth can I balance military life, being new to my region, raising a toddler, and taking these courses?? But then I remember how satisfying it is to cross that finish line. How rewarding it is to overcome all of the obstacles placed in front of you by the military, by motherhood, by finances, by sheer self-doubt.

So, I’ll lace up my shoes, pay that hefty bill, and move forward. I will overcome everything in my path. I am a runner. I am a mother. I am a determined, courageous, highly-educated military spouse who WILL advance my career. Because when I reach the finish line of life, I don’t ever want to say I didn’t get off the couch in any part of this journey.

Have you ever conquered something awesome in your military life? What made you push through and do it?

meg-flanaganPosted by Meg Flanagan, a special and elementary education teacher who holds an M.Ed in special education and a BS in elementary education. In addition to classroom experience, she has also worked in private tutoring and home schools. Meg is passionate about education advocacy for all children, but especially for children with special needs and children of military and state department personnel. You can find Meg online at MilKids Education Consulting, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.