There’s No Place Like Home: Military Edition! [And a GIVEAWAY!]

If you’re one of the lucky ones who are PCSing during the holidays, we salute you and we’re glad it’s not us! If you’re staying put, but are having trouble getting into the holiday spirit because of other challenges—like a deployed loved one—we have a few tips to make your home a cozy and welcoming space that’s perfect for the holidays, and beyond.

Make it personalized.
Some on-post housing won’t allow you to paint rooms, or make other big changes to make your home feel more yours. But you can easily personalize your space to give it a warm, inviting, and lived-in vibe. Frame your kids’ artwork (we know you keep it all) or those love letters from boot camp for an extra special touch. For the holidays, easy-to-create garland, or DIY candy cane wreaths will bring the Christmas spirit to any room…unless you let the kids use glitter—then the Christmas spirit will be in all rooms…forever.

Make it smell good.
We’ve all been there: a new house with a smell that we didn’t bring with us. Lingering animal dander, or the charming smell of an old home leave us catching our breath and opening the nearest window. That’s where the Venta Airwasher comes in. It’s a one-of-a-kind 2-in-1 humidifier and purifier that cleans the air in any room, leaving behind crisp, healthy, and breathable air for your family. Throw in some essential oils, like their Winter Dream Aromatherapy, and let cinnamon and citrus fill the air and cozy up your home for the holidays. Even pet odors are no match for the Airwasher–my dog loves the cool air it puts out!

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Make it organized.
Cleaning and purging before or after a move is common for most military families. In fact, when it comes to organizing, military families probably take the cake. So it’s no wonder our homes feel the most ‘homey’ when everything is finally unpacked and the last box is on the curb. Hit up Pinterest for some new ways to organize your space—after all, your home is a living space, not a storage space! While you’re unpacking the holiday decorations, throw out or donate what you can live without, and think about buying clear bins or wreath storage boxes to make storage a breeze.

Make it stress-free.
Military life is stressful enough, and most military families will agree that their house is a sacred, safe place where they try to leave the stresses of work and the military at the door. Creating a space that is clean, healthy, and comfortable is essential to stress-free home. We know the stress that comes with sickness, interrupted sleep, and even anxiety or other mental health issues. The Venta Airwasher is the perfect solution to all of these stressors. It keeps allergens at bay, catches bacteria before you do, adds moisture into the air for optimal breathing, and with the optional 100% all-natural Aromatherapy oils, will help sooth restless sleepers and calm anxiety.

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Moving to a new house every 3-4 years is nothing new in the military lifestyle. The tough part comes after the move: settling in and making a house a home. And our friends at Venta want to help you do just that. NMFA and Venta are teaming up to give one military family their own Airwasher system, complete with a bottle of Water Treatment Additive, a bottle of Venta Cleaner, and a 3-pack of Venta Aromatherapy of the winner’s choice.

Enter to win December 12, 2016-December 16th

Don’t feel like entering, but want your own Airwasher? To show their appreciation and support of military families, Venta is giving military families a 20% discount on any size or number of Airwashers purchased. This discount will run Monday, December 12th-Wednesday, December 21th at 11:59pm EST. Use this code at checkout: nmfa2016.

To check out more tips on how to make your military home the perfect retreat no matter the circumstance, visit Venta’s blog post or check them out on Facebook!

How do you make your home cozy and inviting at the holidays?

shannonPosted by Shannon Prentice, Content Development Manager

Military Family Holiday Memories: No Two Are the Same

Ahhh, the holidays are upon us. Visions of sugar cookies, crackling fires, and peaceful family gatherings swirl in my dreams. I’ve often wondered how different life would be enjoying the holidays in exactly the same way every year.

Those idyllic scenes of returning home to grandma’s, posing for pictures in front of the same porch, enjoying the same meals, year after year after year. No chaos, no planning, no surprises. Then I wake up, laugh to myself, and return to the life I actually live. A wild but wonderful, unpredictable but rewarding, chaotic and crazy military kind of life!

Steady, constant, and calm have never been in our vocabulary. Early years of marriage brought us overseas where Christkindl Markts, warm mugs of gluhwein, and a small, budget-restricted return home to grandma. An old photo of the two of us, our dog on our lap, and a Charlie Brown Christmas tree in the background is a happy, but quiet, reminder that we were not surrounded by family that first year, nor some others that followed.

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Our holiday photo collection has become an eclectic range of locales from snow-capped mountains to sunny beaches to European cities. In many photos, we’re surrounded by family who visited that year, while in others, we’re surrounded by friends and neighbors. A nostalgic one captured our family in a horse drawn carriage, while more somber ones captured the kids opening presents in front of a computer screen with dad on the other end.

This year will be our idyllic return home to both sets of grandmas. No deployment this year, our family unit will be whole. The old photo of the two of us with a dog has since morphed to five of us with a cat. I’m still secretly dreaming of those peaceful family gatherings, the steady and the calm. But who am I kidding? We have been fortunate that the years of celebrating together outnumber the ones spent apart, not one year repeating the previous, not one memory the same as the last.

This holiday season please keep our military families in your thoughts and prayers. Reach out to those who may be separated from loved ones with a simple, “How are you?” Consider inviting a military family who may be dealing with a deployment to join your holiday celebrations, or open your home to a single service member. The most memorable gifts often happen out of the blue and the most cherished ones are surrounded by families and friends who understand.

Are you a military family? What are your most cherished holiday memories?

Posted by Pikkwan Boston, Volunteer & Community Outreach Region Manager

But I Don’t Have Time to Volunteer! (And the Simple Solution)

“If I had one extra minute in the day, I’d use it to sleep. From organizing the kid’s activities, attending PTA and military family meetings, going to school, and working, I don’t have time to volunteer!”

But you do.

This year we heard from hundreds of military spouses, just like you, about their barriers to volunteering. I get it; sometimes it really doesn’t fit into your day. But I can help you find a way to fit it into your life.

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Let’s start with the barriers:

Barrier: I don’t have child care
Solution: Why do you think you have to volunteer without your child? As one military spouse said, “I never had sitters, the kids went with me. If they couldn’t, I volunteered while they were at school. Or, I did things at home, like Key calling, making a meal for someone who is ill, baking for a bake sale. If you want to volunteer, you’ll find a way.”

Barrier: I’ve had a bad experience with…
Solution: Whether you have a bad taste in your mouth from your local FRG, or other on-base volunteering opportunity, we encourage you to give it another shot…and think outside the post. “The military community has expanded into the local communities,” one spouse mentioned. “We still volunteer countless hours, just not on base.” So, if the FRG is not the experience you hoped for, think of other ways to give your time to others.

Barrier: Volunteer burnout
Solution: Take time to figure out why you’re feeling this way. One spouse said, “I thought I was burnt out from volunteering, but what I was really burnt out on was the deployment.” Sometimes finding a different way to volunteer helps; other times walking away for a bit to rejuvenate is the best answer. The best way to take care of others is to take care of yourself.

Barrier: I work full-time and all the volunteer opportunities are during the day
Solution: “I can’t volunteer because I can’t do it in the time slots they need or for as long as they want,” another military spouse told us. Many people have long declared this a problem for them, and frankly, shame on us in the military community if we can’t figure out how to expand opportunities beyond the work day! Or what about weekends? Check with the place you’re volunteering to see about the idea of expanding hours, or simply find a more accommodating place to give back.

I have one more solution for you that covers all of these barriers. Why not volunteer with NMFA? We have virtual volunteer opportunities and ways you can volunteer in your military community.

What do our Volunteers think of volunteering with NMFA?

“I believe NMFA has been very supportive in taking care of its volunteers and their needs!” said one Volunteer. “I certainly appreciate all that NMFA does in support of my own family, as well as all the military families; and that’s the reason why I continue to volunteer through them–I am able to give something back in return.”

How can I help you tear down your barriers to volunteering?

christinaPosted by Christina L. Jumper, Volunteer & Community Outreach Director

5 Gifts Military Life Gave Me (And #2 is a Shocker!)

Around the holidays, it can be hard to find things to be grateful for in military life. During this time, many are going through deployments, trying to figure out if they can make it back home to see family, or tackling other challenges. But for as many challenges as the military throws our way, it’s given me many other gifts in return, like:

My Spouse
If it weren’t for military life, I wouldn’t have met the man of my dreams. We met at Fort Hood, Texas where my father and husband were stationed. My husband and I are from two different parts of the United States. I believe that we never would’ve met if it weren’t for the US Army.

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Deployments
Okay, hear me out! I know, how could anyone consider deployments a gift? Don’t get me wrong, these were some of the hardest times in my life; my husband did four deployments in the first five years of our marriage. Yet, with each deployment I learned more about myself.

The first and second deployments, I learned I could make it on my own and take care of myself. I learned to pay bills, navigate some family issues, and how to stand up for myself.

The third and fourth deployments taught me how to communicate with my spouse. Our whole marriage was based on emails, chats, and telephone calls when he was gone. It only proved to make us stronger.

Lifelong Friendships
As a military kid, my sisters were with me every time my family PCS’d. Even to this day, one of my favorite people to talk to is my middle sister. We talk at least two times a week, if not more. In my teen years, I met my best friend and just this past September I was able to go see her after 13 years. It was like we were never apart. I have friends in numerous states, and Germany, because of the military. Each has a special place in my heart for different reasons.

New Experiences
How many people can say that they’ve lived in Germany three times? How many have a seven-year-old that loves sushi? The military life has given my family the opportunity, not only to meet new people, but also to see new places. We’ve found new types of food and awesome places we’ve loved living in.

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United States Army Recruiting Command (USAREC)
Being a part of USAREC has given me a glimpse of what living outside of a military installation is like. I’ve had to learn how to get medical bills paid, find a doctor, childcare and so much more. I have knowledge and experience that will help when it comes time to leave the military and transition into civilian life.

How about you? Can you think of some things that you are thankful for this year because of the military?

rdodge-headshotPosted by Racheal Dodge, NMFA Volunteer and military spouse, Chattanooga, TN

Check Yourself Before You Deck Yourself: Stress Free Holiday Decorating Tips

Are you ready to deck the halls? I’m not. For me, this means heading to the storage closet and playing Russian roulette with the 10 boxes I’ve yet to unpack from my move 6 months ago. Is the Christmas tree in THIS “Holiday stuff” box? Or did I put the Christmas stuff in the OTHER “Decorations” box?

I swore last year would be the year I’d reorganize everything into clear bins, and properly mark everything so that this year would be easier. But then I told myself, “No, you’ll remember that Halloween decorations are in the “Decorations” box, and the Christmas ornaments are in the “Holiday stuff” box. And that garbage bag over there isn’t trash, it’s the wreath for the front door—you know, because I didn’t want it to get smooshed in a box.

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This year, I’m actually getting it together. Maybe you’re in the same boat? If so, let me share some tips that helped me get my holiday decorating game in check:

  1. Declutter all the things. The holidays can be a minimalist’s worst nightmare, and if that’s you, don’t try to take on all the decluttering and purging alone. Get the rest of the family involved in donating and trashing so it gets done before NEXT Christmas. Separate things into categories for quick decision-making; try Donate, Keep, or Trash.
  2. Clean all the things. My mom insisted on cleaning what seemed like the entire house before we could start decorating for the holidays. To knock it out in an instant, we all divvied up the chores to get them done quickly, so the fun decorating party could begin. Someone can dust, while another vacuums, and boom. Everything is clean.
  3. Reorganize before it’s time to repack. Whatever you didn’t donate or trash will have to find its place somewhere after the holidays are over. Will you (like me) need a wreath storage box? Or dividers for all the tree ornaments? Take advantage of holiday sales to buy clear plastic bins, baskets, and other organization essentials. That way, everything has a perfect, little home and you won’t be playing Russian roulette with the boxes next year.
  4. Reduce stress levels one drop at a time. The stress of the holidays rarely leaves any stone unturned, and military families are no exception. Between the holiday leave request getting denied, or the last minute holiday party at your kids’ school, this time of year is a hotbed for emotional fireworks. To ease some of the stress, I put a few drops of an essential oil called Winter Dream into my Venta Airwasher (love!) and my house starts to fill with cinnamon and citrus—a perfect way to calm my nerves and reinvigorate the air in my home.

As a military family, moving boxes become decorations in their own right—a coffee table here, and bookshelf there. And if it doesn’t work with your new house after a PCS move, just shove them into storage…holiday decorations included. This year, try a few of these tips to reduce the stress of decorating and disorganization and savor the season.

What’s your go-to tip for stress-free holiday decorating?

shannonPosted by Shannon Prentice, Content Development Manager

4 Ways to Manage Holiday Stress without Being a Grinch

The holiday season can be stressful for even the most organized, intentional, or laid back person. Take me, for instance. There’s a little over 3 weeks left until Christmas and I have no tree, no Christmas lights, and I have a permanent ban on the radio stations that play Christmas music 24/7. My holiday decorations aren’t organized, I have no space in my apartment for a 9 foot tree, and so to deal, I just put a moratorium on Christmas like a textbook Grinch.

Maybe the holidays bring about these same emotions in you, too? Military life is stressful enough as it is, add a loved one’s absence, issues reintegrating after a deployment, or even dysfunctional family dynamics, and it’s bound to trigger the Grinch in anyone.

Ba-hum-bug.

It’s normal for a service member to have trouble ‘fitting in’ with their own family after a long deployment, or even upon transitioning out of the military. Reintegration is a process, and there are tons of resources to help—even for children and spouses.

If the holidays are a stressful time for your family, consider these tips:

  1. Mentally prepare yourself for the holidays. The Real Warriors Campaign suggests considering what makes you uncomfortable; certain people, triggering questions, small or crowded spaces, even crying kids can be a damper. Think about what you may say to questions about tough topics, like deployments, and consider how you will deescalate emotions when they surface.
  2. Know what your children are feeling. Military life isn’t easy for even the littlest heroes, so when life changes and a parent leaves (or comes home), their adjustment can be tough, too. In fact, one in four military kids will suffer from depression, so knowing how your child might think, or process emotions—like testing the rules, or isolating themselves—can ease the stress in your home.
  3. Stay active and engaged. It’s easy for some of us to deal with stress by isolating ourselves, or refusing to take part in activities. Try an activity you know you’d enjoy, like that kickboxing class you’ve been considering, and relieve some frustration. Stay connected to your trusted circle of family and friends, and encourage yourself to engage with them, rather than isolating yourself. If something gets uncomfortable, refer back to #1, or this next tip.
  4. Know when to say no. Though it may seem like a double-edged sword, this is the best tip, in my opinion. Talk out with your spouse and kids where you want to spend your time this holiday season. If a certain event is notoriously hectic, consider skipping it. Your time is valuable, and so is your sanity. Choose wisely, and know that saying no is okay. Your loved ones will understand and respect your boundaries.

The hustle and bustle of the holidays is undoubtedly a stress-filled time for some. But the stress can be manageable, and with a few tips and tricks, even the coldest Grinch heart can grow three sizes and the true meaning of the holidays can come through—get ready for all the feels!

For more tips and resources about managing holiday stress, check out the Real Warriors Campaign.

What tips help your family deal with holiday stress?

shannonPosted by Shannon Prentice, Content Development Manager

You Can Empower Military Families on Giving Tuesday

Recovering from the hustle and bustle of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday?

Today is Giving Tuesday, a time to take a break from all the buying and shift our efforts by giving to causes that matter. As you pause to think about what’s important this holiday season, please consider giving to our nation’s military families. We are 15 years into America’s longest war. Think about how the families who sacrifice for our freedom are doing.

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Meredith, a Marine Corps spouse, knew she wanted to work in the mental health field, but battled her own obstacles getting there. “My dream was to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, but I married my Marine and we’ve moved 6 times in the last 11 years, so the mobile lifestyle made it really difficult to achieve that dream.”

With constant moves, military spouses working to enter the mental health field often feel they’re taking one step forward and two steps back in the journey.

“There are many times throughout my husband’s career that I’ve felt my dreams and goals have been modified, adjusted, and even compromised,” Meredith shared, “I wish the Military Spouse Mental Health Profession Network and NMFA scholarships had been around when I went through grad school.”

Your tax-deductible donation to NMFA allows us to better the mental health of our nation’s families in multiple ways, including scholarships for military spouses entering the mental health field.

In 2015, nearly 10% of military spouses who applied for NMFA scholarships were entering the mental health field. Of those, 20% are spouses of wounded or fallen service members.

Your generosity is why NMFA continues to empower and strengthen our military families.

Because of you, their sacrifices won’t go unnoticed.

DONATE NOW

shannonPosted by Shannon Prentice, Content Development Manager