Tag Archives: volunteers

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

Alone for Thanksgiving? Think Again!

My husband left to a remote location for an entire year. I knew this was going to be extremely hard for me; I was all alone, with two children, in a place that was not home to me. To top it all off, the holidays were coming. I had never really been alone for the holidays. Money was tight and we even welcomed a baby just a couple of weeks earlier. I had to decide if I really wanted to stay where I was, or go home for the holidays.

This place, I called it, this miserable and awful place.  I was lonely, depressed, and downright stressed out. Let’s not forget exhausted! Don’t get me wrong, the military base where we were stationed was nice, and the military families were very friendly, but it still didn’t feel like home. I hoped my family would fly out and rescue me but no one could make it–not my mom or my in-laws.

I guess I was staying there for Thanksgiving. My kids wouldn’t know it was a holiday, right? What do they know about Thanksgiving, anyway? I thought to myself, “I will just make a TV dinner and call it a day.” Wrong! My four year old asked, “Mommy, when are we getting the turkey?” I responded with, “Not this year, sweetie.”

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The look on his face was like I killed his puppy. So, I had to change that answer with, “First thing tomorrow morning!” Great, so now I have to buy a turkey, cook it and eat the turkey! I wondered how a four year old knew anything about Thanksgiving. But it was clear: he learned from school, and the TV. In his preschool, they made a turkey out of construction paper. When he watched television, they constantly advertised about Thanksgiving. My four year old won and I would be making a turkey that he would probably barely eat.

The next day, I am in the commissary shopping for the turkey, and I see my neighbor. I quickly say hello and continue shopping. “So, what are you guys doing for the holidays?” she asked, all chipper.

Do I lie, and pretend I have plans?

“I am doing nothing,” I said.

Wait…is she giving me the face? You know, the I-feel-sorry-for-you face. Before, I could tell her not to feel bad for me, she came really close, leaned in and whispered, “I’m alone, my husband is gone, and I’m stuck doing absolutely nothing, too.”

Now, I’m giving her the face, right back. We just started laughing, and after a minute, she said to me, “Hey! Why don’t we have dinner together?”

Now that sounds like a great plan.

We invited more military spouses, who were spending Thanksgiving alone, too. Everyone made their own side dish and I cooked the turkey, of course. As we sat down and ate, I thought, to myself, “My husband isn’t here, but I do have my military family.”

If you are feeling alone for the holidays, talk to your fellow military spouses. You never know, you could be buying and cooking the turkey this year, after all!

Do you have a memorable holiday spent with fellow military families? Share it with us!

Posted by LaTanya Roldan, NMFA Volunteer and military spouse, Mountain Home, Idaho

4 Reasons I’m Thankful for my Military Life

I have known one thing my entire life and it is the military lifestyle. I was born into a Navy family where my dad served for 20 years. When I was 19-years-old, I married an Army soldier and moved to another country. And that move was hard at first. Everything and everyone I loved felt worlds away from me. But even that first move taught me about being grateful. I would love to share with you why I am thankful for this amazing life-long experience.

 Traveling. As a military spouse, I serve my country by supporting my husband and the community we live in. One of the many perks of military life is moving! Don’t get me wrong; moving has its own challenges and craziness, but sometimes a move is awesome, and takes you to the most amazing destinations in the world. Thanks to the military I have been able to explore Europe and many places throughout the United States.

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Relationships. Have you ever heard a Soldier or their spouse refer to their friends as their military family? It is a term I use daily. My husband has served for several years, and throughout the years we have added to our family everywhere we have lived. The friends I met in Germany in 2004 are now a few minutes down the road from us. My daughter refers to them as Auntie and Uncle. Throughout the distance, we have talked and FaceTimed. For now at least, I can go over for dinner and be with my military family.

I am extremely grateful for all the love and time I get with these amazing individuals in the military. With deployment after deployment, missions, and schools my blood family cannot always be there for us, but I have my military family.

Support. Since becoming a military spouse, I have seen amazing support for the Soldiers and their families from post to post. And as I mentioned earlier, I was married at 19, and immediately moved to Germany. My husband was going off to war soon, and there I was standing at the Frankfurt airport scared out of my mind. I did not know what to expect as I looked around me. However, I remember how the unit Family Readiness Group, the USO, and Army Community Service reached out to me. I was not alone because of these organizations on post. They were absolutely amazing with support for new and experienced military families.

New traditions. While living in Europe, I was introduced to a lot of new-to-us traditions. In our travels, we took some old traditions and added them to our must-do’s each year! In Germany, we would visit many Christmas markets, which I miss more than anything else. In Texas, we added Bluebonnet pictures each season. Now we are in Kansas, and I cannot wait to add another tradition to the Richardson family. What traditions have you added to your family?

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With everything in life, you have pros and cons; however, I focus on the positive aspects to keep me going and moving forward. I think looking at things from a positive perspective allows me to be thankful and appreciate this unique lifestyle.

Are you a military family? What are you most thankful for?

jrichardsonPosted by Jessica Richardson, NMFA Volunteer and Army spouse

Making the Most of Your Thanksgiving No Matter Where You Are

We had just made a huge cross country move from Washington State to Virginia. All of our friends and family were on the west coast, and we knew absolutely no one in Virginia yet.

Many boxes still needed to be unpacked and main furniture pieces still needed to be purchased. We mastered the ‘old-box-as-a-dining-room-table’ skill early on, but I knew that wouldn’t handle the Thanksgiving dinner that was just around the corner. Money was a little tight from that move and we were alone on the east coast. We didn’t have things set up in our home, but despite all of that, we made it work somehow and tried to see the glass half full; we had our health, my husband’s job, a roof over our heads, and our family.

A co-worker of my husband told him the USO gave Soldiers and their families Thanksgiving meals, and urged him to go grab one. He managed to get a box, and inside were all the sides we would need for a Thanksgiving dinner, and a gift card to purchase our turkey from a grocery store. We felt so thankful that we were able to be blessed during this time. I had been feeling a little down knowing we’d be alone during the holidays, without friends and family to share it with. Getting adjusted to such a big move and change isn’t easy. All I wanted was to make sure my family was happy (just being a typical mom).

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We got the biggest turkey we could get, and I cooked up everything that was inside that USO box. We had such a feast for our family! We even managed to find a great deal on a dining room table from Craigslist, just in time for Thanksgiving.

It just goes to show you–it doesn’t matter where you are, if you keep a positive outlook on life and have a thankful heart, things just fall into place sometimes. It’s been wonderful to look back and see how everything came together, and it will be one Thanksgiving we will never forget.

How do you deal with holidays away from extended family?

amber-budzynski-headshotPosted by Amber Budzynski, NMFA Volunteer and military spouse

Our First OCONUS PCS: Lessons Learned

PHEW! We just finished another PCS season. Congratulations to those who moved this past summer! We made it! And for those lucky ones who stayed put, you know what I’m talking about.

Confession: I’ve been with my service member for almost nine years, but this was our first official PCS together since we got married. Oh, and it was overseas. I did NOT know what I was getting myself into.

I’m sure many of you are familiar with all the PCS checklists out there; believe me, I think I read most of them. I noticed a few to-do’s that were missing though. Below are a few things I learned on my own during our most recent international PCS.

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Throw a party!
Not at your own house though and schedule it far enough in advance of your actual move! We opted for a local watering hole that was convenient for us and many of our close friends who would be attending. We scheduled our going away party about two weeks before movers came so we could enjoy ourselves.

Drive cross country!
We had to drive cross country since we were PCSing overseas with our dog. Fun fact: no commercial airline can guarantee they will fly a short-nosed dog (Pugs, Shih Tzus, Boston Terriers, Pit Bulls, etc.) in August due to the heat. So we made an unforgettable trip–with our Boxer in tow–by driving from northern Virginia to Seattle to catch our Air Mobility Command (Space-A) flight to the Asia Pacific region. We gave ourselves almost two weeks to follow the Lewis and Clark trail. We first traveled to Ohio to visit family, played tourists in Minneapolis, then followed the trail by driving around Theodore Roosevelt National Park in the North Dakota badlands, hiking Montana’s Glacier National Park, following the Columbia River Gorge, and ending in Seattle. This affordable trip is highly recommended for those history buffs, families with pets, and outdoor enthusiasts.

Your pet is worth it!
Pets are part of the family. My dog is my everything, yes, I’m a dog mom! No, I don’t have children but I’m pretty sure it’s a lot harder to PCS with a pet overseas than with five kids. Despite the countless trips to the vet to prepare for the move, it was worth it. We were extremely organized, which made the flight very easy. Flying AMC was very stress-free and extremely helpful with the pet. At each layover, pet owners were able to walk their pets and give them water. Once we landed, customs took only a few minutes and we took our dog straight to the kennel. It was a great experience.

Have a meltdown!
It’s okay, we’ve all been there. Sometimes you just need to cry it out.

When OCONUS, immerse yourself in the culture!
You only have a couple years in country, so make the most of it. Take advantage of the base’s language and cultural course offerings. Travel as much as you can. Time will fly by!

What would you add to this list?

Posted by Nicole Russell, National Military Family Association Volunteer, Japan

Military Mom’s Gym Bag: 4 Excuse-Busting Ways to Get Your Workout Done

As a military wife and stay at home mom, I’ve had to get creative with my workouts over the past few years. With the help of amazing resources on our post, I have been able to get my workouts in and not make excuses. Before parenthood, I would go to the gym whenever I wanted, but now it is a little harder. I have a deep appreciation and love for exercise, because I feel absolutely amazing after a workout. Are you in the same boat? Here are some resources which might be available to help you get your workout in!

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Strollers and Mommy: This is an exercise class where moms come together with their kids in their stroller. I have not personally done this; however, the one on post is taught by a personal trainer. In my location, the first class is free. What a great opportunity to see if it can work for you and your baby! Check out what options are available in your area, and if there aren’t any, consider starting a group!

Community Center Gym: Do you live on post? Well, if you do, you might be able to take advantage of the housing office community center gym. I have used the gyms in my housing community on Fort Hood and Fort Leavenworth. The housing office offers a small gym which has a play area for the kids (though all might not). It’s been a true blessing for this mommy, for sure! I can exercise and watch my kid Monday-Sunday from 5am-10pm. If I want to go when the housing office is closed, I have a key card which allows me to enter. Remember, this is usually a smaller gym, but it should be equipped with cardio and weight training. Thanks to this resource, I am not paying for a gym membership, daycare, and/or extra fees.

MWR Gym:  At this point in my life, I don’t use the MWR gyms as much as I did in the past. However, I do get over there from time to time when my husband can watch my little one, or if she is in preschool. These gyms are much bigger and offer many more machines and activities. Free weights, cardio, weight machines, classes, basketball, and much more all under one roof. Another great reason I use this gym is the sauna and shower. I can work out, use the sauna, shower, dress, and go home. This is a great option, so I can get home and spend more time with the family.

Child Development Centers (CDC) Hourly Care: Once you have been through registration at the CDC, you can reserve spots for your child in hourly care. For a few dollars an hour, your child is looked after. I have used hourly care on several occasions for my three-year-old, and it is a true blessing. There are days when I want to go running or not stop every five minutes with weight training. CDC hourly care is another great option. Plus, it is usually a few streets away from the gym.

Working out takes dedication, even for those without children, but with a little extra effort and resourcefulness, you won’t miss out!

What tips do you have for other military spouses trying to balance parenting and exercise? Share it with us!

Posted by Jessica Richardson, National Military Family Association Volunteer, Fort Leavenworth, KS

Tips and Tricks for a Successful DITY Move!

My husband and I just experienced our first true PCS move together as a married couple and we decided to do a DITY move (also known as a Personally Procured Move)! I will be honest: the idea of people in my home, packing my stuff and then moving it across the country made my Type-A personality incredibly uncomfortable. I have heard stories about moves gone bad. At least with a DITY, any issues were our own!

Some DITY best practices:

  1. Start early and clean out often. We had to really rationalize if something was worth moving…again.
  2. Pack up the seldom used items first and then decide if it might be time for a garage sale or to donate. This is a great time to pack them up those “necessary” wedding presents and promise yourself you will use them at the next place or put them up for sale!
  3. Shop where you can save time and money. Amazon Prime gives you access to 2-day shipping. I used Amazon for most of our packing materials. FYI: Packing materials are a reimbursable expense. You can also use Amazon Smile to have a portion of your proceeds go to the NMFA! Home Depot was my second go to for this move. I used a packing calculator to determine how many boxes we would need and ordered a variety of sizes. We kept all of our boxes from this last move and plan to use them again. The we picked up our rental truck from Penske. We chose Penske because they had the lowest rate overall, offered a 10% discount for booking online, as well as a 10% military discount when you pick it up in store.
  4. Don’t forget about your pets! Moving can be stressful for your animals, especially during a DITY move. Bring plenty of water, treats and food, comfortable bedding, and toys for your animals while traveling. Also, keep their vaccination records on hand and make sure their microchips and name plates are up to date. As for hotels, La Quinta will let up 2 pets stay for free in a hotel room and they even have dog potty stations at their hotels.
  5. Have help for loading and unloading. This was probably the most difficult part of the move. If we did it again, I would hire movers to load/unload the truck.

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Other tips:

  • Invest in plastic storage bins
  • Keep in mind that while weight is a crucial part of your reimbursement, the more items you add to your truck is more you have to unload when you get to your destination
  • Research weigh stations beforehand! The closest weigh station was 50 miles in the opposite direction from where we lived.
  • Don’t forget that some costs will need to be paid up front

Despite the difficulty of the move, it was nice to have all of our stuff as soon as we got here. Within 2 days, it already looked like home. We made sure to save our receipts for reimbursement and researched the rates to get an expected amount for per diem, dislocation allowance (DLA), mileage etc. We spent about $1,800 upfront and our reimbursement was close to three times that.

Would I DITY again? Yes, I would, and I would recommend it to anyone that is up for some hard work and adventure (or if they just want to ease their mind by doing it themselves).

Have you ever done a DITY move? Leave your tips for others in a comment!

Posted by Lesley Boatright, NMFA Volunteer, Fort Benning, GA, Army Spouse