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Could You Be the Victim of Domestic Violence and Not Even Know It?

Domestic violence.


We’re well aware of these terms…or so we think. Do you really know what domestic violence looks like? You may be in an abusive relationship RIGHT NOW and not even know it.

The common idea of abuse is that it involves being hit, shoved, called names, and degraded; we think physical abuse, rape, or threats. These are easily identifiable.

The truth is, abuse can be downright subtle.

It doesn’t have to be in-your-face to be abuse. It can be insidious, and sneak up on you. Often, it does. You meet an amazing person, they sweep you off your feet. Then suddenly, you start feeling self-doubt. You feel off kilter. You dismiss it as subtle signs of weakness on your part or just a bad mood.

Sure, it could be a bad mood. But it also could be a sign that you are in a domestically violent relationship. Sadly, this could go on for years without even recognizing it.


If you’ve ever questioned whether you’re in an abusive relationship, here are some signs to look for:

  1. You are constantly second-guessing yourself and can feel like you’re walking on egg shells.
  2. Your self-esteem is inexplicably at an all-time low.
  3. You worry what you say and do will impact your partner negatively, so you start avoiding people and situations that may have that effect on your partner.
  4. You find yourself withholding information from friends and family so you don’t have to explain or make excuses.
  5. You feel responsible for everything that goes wrong in your relationship or in your partner’s life.
  6. Your constantly saying “I’m sorry” even when it isn’t warranted.
  7. You doubt your self-worth, your sanity, your intelligence.
  8. You ask yourself, “Am I too sensitive?” a dozen times a day.
  9. You often feel confused and even crazy at work and in other areas of your life outside of your relationship.
  10. Your relationship becomes the primary focus of your mental space, even when your attention is needed elsewhere.
  11. You stop doing things you enjoy because they don’t.
  12. You can’t understand why, with so many apparently good things in your life, you aren’t happier.
  13. You frequently make excuses for your partner’s behavior to friends and family and withhold information from friends and family so you don’t have to explain their behavior.
  14. You know something is terribly wrong, but you can never quite express what it is, even to yourself.
  15. You start lying to avoid the put downs and stress that your partner throws your way.
  16. You have trouble making simple decisions.
  17. You have the sense that you used to be a very different person – more confident, more fun-loving, and more relaxed.
  18. You feel as though you can’t do anything right.
  19. You wonder if you are a “good enough” girlfriend/ wife/employee/ friend; daughter.
  20. You lose your sense of self.

Do any of those apply to you? Sure, you have good times, your partner may even treat you amazingly well during those good times. But like a flash, things can go inexplicably wrong and you are left confused and anxious wanting everything to feel alright again. Hope becomes your best friend. Hope that your partner will be “themselves” again. Hope that this is the last time they make you feel this way. Hope that you won’t do something to anger them again.

A healthy relationship does not work this way. It is important to remember is that it is absolutely not your fault. Abusers are expert manipulators they can convince you that you do not deserve better treatment, or that they are treating you this way to “help” you. Some abusers even act quite charming and nice in public so that others have a good impression of them. In private is a different story, which is often a source of stress and confusion.

A healthy, non-abusive relationship is built on support, respect, admiration, empathy, and personal responsibility. If your relationship feels more abusive than loving, seek help from a therapist. Recognizing abuse is confusing at best. But acknowledging that you deserve a healthy, loving relationship shouldn’t be.

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

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


Advice For New Moms: Just Kidding, We Know You’re Sick of It

Even on baby #3, it still feels like I can’t get it “right.” Part of that is because every baby is so different. But also, what’s “right” is a moving target. Those books you read 10 years ago? Toss ‘em. That advice your doctor gave you after baby #2? That’s no longer the case either. And every mom you meet is full of advice from their own personal experience.

“Oh he’s not sleeping? Have you tried keeping him up later?”

“You should put him down to sleep earlier.”

“Stop nursing him at night.”

“Definitely nurse him at night. You don’t want your breastfeeding supply to dwindle!”

I have to remind myself the breastfeeders and the formula feeders, the co-sleepers and the never-co-sleepers all want the same thing… happy, healthy babies.

October is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Awareness Month. If you’re a mom, you know about SIDS. It’s our worst fear. Once we finally get over the fear of losing our baby in utero, we move on to this next phase that keeps us up at night (along with the crying newborn).

In honor of SIDS Awareness Month, let’s try something different. I’m not going to tell you to how to take care of your baby or how to create a safe sleep environment. We get enough of that, right? Instead, let’s narrow down the whole conversation to two important points.


  1. Babies need to breathe.

Mary Adkins, a member of the National Action Partnership to Promote Safe Sleep (NAPPSS) steering committee, agrees that moms get bombarded with enough advice.

“Parents are so tired of everyone telling them what to do and making them feel like a bad parent,” she said. “That just doesn’t work.”

Preach, sister. We are tired of it. I’ve read it all; I have a (sleep-deprived) brain; I can make my own informed decisions.

Keyword: informed.

“If you think about how tiny that nose and mouth really is and how very little it takes to obstruct that. If you can get that visual and always keep the air around your baby’s nose and mouth uncompromised, the other recommendations follow logically,” Adkins said.

  1. Babies will exhaust you in a way you never thought imaginable.

My one year old woke up EVERY HOUR for the first 7 months of his life. Even now, he’s up once a night. The toll this takes on your body and mind is no joke. You make decisions you wouldn’t normally make—letting your baby sleep on your chest while you sleep in a recliner, for example. No judgement, I’ve done it. Is it safe, though? Absolutely not.

“Parents, especially first time parents are pretty stunned about what that baby requires,” Adkins said. “They are not prepared for how different the sleep cycle of an infant is from their own.”

Unfortunately, there’s not a national program to help military spouses with newborn sleep, but there are programs like Mission Sleep taking steps to make a difference.

And here’s something I wish somebody had told me: you’re not going crazy. This is what babies do, and it won’t last forever.

Most importantly—ask for help and accept it when it’s offered.

Military spouses often find themselves in a particularly vulnerable situation: alone with a new baby while their spouse is deployed and their families are across the country.

If you find yourself in this position, don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor or your FRG leader about support groups. Take advantage of the military spouse tribe near you.

If you’re like me and you’re still not getting it “right,” don’t worry. That’s what ice cream is for.

What kept you sane during those rough, sleepless nights with your newborn? Share your encouragement in the comments!

besa_2016Posted by Besa Pinchotti, Communications Director

Another “First Day of School?” Check Out These Tips!

School is back in swing, and we know it can be an exciting time filled with new experiences, teachers, and friends, but along with that excitement often comes a bit of apprehension. Those concerns can be amplified for military children who, according to the National Military Family Association, change schools on average six to nine times during their K-12 years. Pediatric neuropsychologist, Dr. Jim Olsen states, “uncertainty is the number one challenge for kids and the cause of most anxiety during [a] move.”

If your family has recently relocated to a new duty station, take a moment to recognize that mixed emotions are normal! Staying in touch with friends from former duty stations can help kids establish a sense of continuity in their nomadic military lifestyle, and the era of social media, smart phones, and Skype has made it easier than ever to do so. I’ve found that social media can also be a great way to engage with a new community. Check out school social media pages for clubs, sports, and other ways to get involved and meet potential friends.


In the quest for new friendships, don’t forget to encourage your family to occasionally put down the electronics and reach out to others in person (neighborhood Halloween party, anyone?). Sometimes the best ways to make new friends are the decidedly old-fashioned ones. If you have older children, volunteering over the summer, or during breaks at school, can be a great way to make new connections, fill school community service requirements, build a resume for future college applications, and a surefire way to start feeling at home.

What else can you do to ease your military kid’s transition back to class this fall?

Use the first few months of the new school year as an opportunity to establish good communication with school and educational staff. Let your child’s teacher know about any special circumstances that might impact their classroom performance such as a current or upcoming deployment, homecoming, reintegration challenges, or changes of duty station. This is particularly important if your family is living in a non-military town where teachers and staff may be less familiar with the lifestyle challenges of the military family.

The new school year is also a good time to assess how your child is progressing academically and determine if any assistance is needed to reach educational goals. The Department of Defense offers free memberships to for all K-12 military students providing one-on-one online tutoring and homework assistance in math, science, social studies, languages, and test preparation. Check it out!

If you are located on or near a military base, make sure to take advantage of the many resources available through community service programs designed to help your child succeed in school. Have a child with special educational needs? School liaison officers are available to serve as disability advocates. Need help purchasing school supplies to start the school year? Check out Operation Homefront’s Back-to-School Brigade program which distributed more than 25,000 backpacks full of school supplies last year to children aboard military installations nationwide. Reach out to your family readiness/liaison officer or ombudsman for more information about these and other installation specific programs.

Making the transition from the lazy days of summer back to regular school routines can be stressful for both children and parents alike. Calm first day of school nerves by practicing the new routine a few days in advance. Routines are comforting for children, and knowing what to expect will make the first day run much more smoothly for everyone. Most importantly, don’t forget to smile for those first day of school pictures! It’s the beginning of a brand new year of learning and fun.

What are some tips you have for military kids who are starting a new school?

Posted by Barbara Eastom-Bates, NMFA Volunteer

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.


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

The Post-9/11 GI Bill: What Can Spouses Actually Use?

I know, I know. Shouldn’t you save the Post-9/11 GI bill for your kids? Or your spouse? I can’t help you get over the guilt of using your service member’s Post-9/11 GI bill (that’s a private convo for you two to have), but I can tell you how the benefit works if you decided to use it.

There is a lot of confusion about what the benefit provides if a service member is using it, or a veteran, or a spouse, or a child. Remember, the rules vary depending on two factors: (1) who is receiving the benefit and (2) the service member’s active duty status when the benefit is being used (i.e. is your service member on active duty or a veteran?).

How Does it Work?

For a spouse to use a transferred benefit a service member must:

  • Have 6 years of service and agree to serve 4 more;
  • Complete a “Transfer of Education” benefit form; and
  • Be on active duty. (There are no exceptions to this rule.)

The benefits a spouse will receive when using a transferred benefit will depend on whether the spouse uses the benefit while a service member is on active duty or in veteran status.

Spouse beneftis table

A spouse can access the benefit while the service member is on active duty for up to 15 years after service member leaves service. Tuition and fees are covered at the in-state tuition rate at public schools, or a maximum cap at private schools. The private school maximum cap is adjusted annual and as of August 1, 2016 is $21,970.46. A spouse is also eligible to receive a $1,000 book stipend prorated based on enrollment. Keep in mind – if you do not attend full time, you won’t receive the entire $1,000 book stipend.

A new law to be aware of is the Choice Act. Under the Choice Act, public schools may only charge in-state tuition and fees (not the out-of-state rate) to a veteran spouse using the benefit within 3 years of service member leaving active duty. While the Choice Act does not apply to active duty spouses, a spouse of an active duty service member can receive in-state tuition where the service member resides or is permanently stationed, regardless of whether they are using the GI bill.


The housing allowance is for a veteran spouse only. You can’t access this stipend when the service member is on active duty because the service member already receives a basic allowance for housing. The housing rate is paid at an E-5 with dependents rate for your school’s zip code. To receive the full rate, you must attend more than 50% of the time, and in-person. If you attend online the housing allowance is a flat rate of about $800 per month for the 2016 academic year.

The Yellow Ribbon Program is only open to veteran spouses and is used by select private schools. Schools that participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program agree to pay additional funds to help buy-down the cost of tuition at private schools. This means a student receiving Yellow Ribbon funds, would receive funding beyond the annual private school cap. There are several nuances with the Yellow Ribbon Program. Ask early and ask often – there may only be a limited number of Yellow Ribbon spots. Spots vary by school and degree program. For example, a school may only have 5 graduate student spots, but an unlimited number of undergrad Yellow Ribbon seats.

Are you a military spouse or veteran spouse using the Post-9/11 GI Bill? What other tips would you share with families?

katiePosted by Katie Savant, Government Relations Issue Strategist