Tag Archive for Guest Posts

Supporting Military Families Should be a Priority

While I take a brief maternity leave, I am feature guest posts like this heartfelt response from Fallon Wharton of Fallonella’s Almost Fairtyale to the discrimination and challenges many military spouses face in the workplace and elsewhere.

The article about Employee Rights and Military Spouses on ArmyWivesLives.com really bothered me, probably because it hits so close to home regarding a military spouse desiring a stable career of their own while support their husbands stable, yet ever unpredictable military career.  Technically, military spouses are not supposed to be discriminated against when it comes to employment because of our spouse’s career, but so often we are. Even if we keep mum regarding our personal life employers are going to notice on our resume that there we have moved, possibly every couple of years, and the very perceptive ones will realize that each move was around a Military Installation. I have no doubt this is frustrating for those families that need and want to bring in two incomes. The Military spouse all ready sacrifices so much of their own life for that of their spouse’s, on top of that we have to worry about being viewed differently in our workplace or potential workplace due to our spouse’s chosen career field to work for our country. The ever sacrificing military spouse shouldn’t feel forced to live in fear of losing our job or the ability to be hired for one soley because our loved one has chosen such an honorable yet challenging career field, none of which defines our experience, education, or skills. If it defines anything, it defines our loyal, strong, and loving character to support another human being in such an ever changing and important career.

The author suggests living by the adage “Loose Lips Sinks Ships,” and therefore suggests not talking about our personal life with our interviewers or coworkers as it could jeopardize getting a job or being promoted with in one. I know that I am naturally social, shy at first, but very open and friendly none the less, and the thought of having to be so guarded about normal everyday things signifies a somewhat lonely life in my eyes. Sharing your life with you coworkers, on any level, builds camaraderie, as well as levels of trust and though this may not be entirely lost on the Military Spouse in the workplace, it certainly isn’t entirely fair that they aren’t able to operate in the same way that others are on a day to day basis. Granted, overtime the Military Spouse’s work will speak for itself and hopefully they can slowly but surely begin sharing aspects of their life they’ve felt they had to keep quiet in order to keep their job, income, and family safe of discrimination. Though, take the woman in the article, maybe it’s best to never let your guard down and instead always keep half of your life hidden. I don’t know the answer, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see employers’ point of view of not wanting to hire and train someone only to lose them in 2 years. With that said, there is no guarantee of any length of employment with anyone that is hired, not just the military spouse.

First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden visit Sesame Street on Monday, April 18, as part of the White House's "Joining Forces" Initiative and Sesame's military families project, to tape Public Service Announcements asking all Americans to support our military families. © 2011 Sesame Workshop. Photo by Richard Termine.

Our First Lady, Michelle Obama along with Jill Biden have taken notice of our ever sacrificing Military Families and the disconnect between the families within the military and our fellow American families. The Joining Forces Initiative “Aims to educate, challenge, and spark action from all sectors of our society to ensure military families have the support they have earned.” It’s evident that our First Lady has recognized that the families ‘serve’ as well, and she has asked others to help their fellow military families, though my question to all of you out there is, what would help you out the most?

Would it help to just have someone shovel your snowy driveway? Or make a meal a week? Or take your kids for the night? Or, could it just simply be having other women (or men) over for coffee and conversation since you may be in a new place and not live on post? I think if there is a call to American’s from our First Lady to help the families behind those serving, then we need to help them understand what would is actually considered help. Maybe it’s just a simple thank you and acknowledgment of our sacrifices as well, since spouses can often feel overlooked. Either way, I’m extremely curious to hear what would help our fellow military families because though I’m an Army wife, my husband and I only have ourselves and a gorgeous grey chihuahua to look after, so I wouldn’t even begin to understand the complexities, stresses, and day to day strength needed for those of you who have so much more to juggle when the title of Mother that is also attached to military spouse.

This initiative also excites me because bringing about such awareness, and calling on those within our country to take notice of those within the military family could quite possibly aid in the employment issue that many military spouses must deal with, as with the woman in the,  Employee Rights and Military Spouses article. Perhaps, this initiative along with increasing awareness will allow those around us to not easily discriminate and instead look beyond the Army Combat Uniform wearing spouse of ours, or insert your spouse’s branch uniform, and instead view our skills, education, drive, and overall abilities when it comes to getting and/or keeping employment.

I love that Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Biden are using their positions as a platform for such an important cause. Like it or not, there is a disconnect among Military Families and the rest of our society, this isn’t to say it’s because our fellow American’s are bad people, in fact I think they’re great people and are very thankful for our service men and women, but also may not always know what to do as the Military is its own language and may be often misunderstood.

Mrs. Obama mentioned the fact that she has heard more than once that the Spouses of the Military have such a hard time having their own career. I must say, “cheers!” to the recognition for those of us who dream of our own career filled lives. Mrs. Obama has said (excuse the paraphrase) “Our Military Spouses are some of the most well educated and well-rounded individuals we have in our society,” and she is right. All of you military spouses need to remember that we have to stick together, keep each other motivated, and remind each other how very special, unique, strong, intelligent, and beautiful we all are, after all we’re fighting a fight too, just not one that most people see.

We also need to voice what we want or need when it comes to ‘help’ from others. Again, it could be simple or complex, but if we don’t speak now that Mrs. Obama is trying to uplift us then we won’t get what we truly need, and again, it may only be a simple thank you for the hardworkof supporting your spouse. We are afterall, “The force behind the force, and they too are the reason we’ve got the finest military in the world.” Thank you, President Obama.

From one MilSpouse to another, THANK YOU, I know this military wifestyle is often exciting and offers us a lot of different life experiences to check off of our bucket lists. However, it doesn’t come with sacrifice and a lot of strength, so thank you to those before me who have served for many years setting the example that it can be done, and done well.

Much love!

Signing off –

About the Author:

Fallon Wharton is a proud Army Wife who holds a degree in Mass Communications / Journalism and has her own career aspirations.  She enjoys writing poetry and short stories that draw upon her experiences and she blogs at Fallonella’s Almost Fairtyale.

Saving Money in the Military

While I am on a brief maternity leave, I am featuring guest posts, like this informative post from Michelle Dudas, author of www.militarywivessaving.com.

The recent near-shut down of the government highlighted the need for families to hope for the best and prepare for the worst.  Although active duty service members have good job security, pay checks and reimbursements sometimes go missing.  Everything is fixed eventually but in the meantime it is good to have an “emergency fund”.  And in this economy, many military families are budgeting for groceries and paying bills each month on one income – from Uncle Sam.

Unless you are debt free and don’t use credit cards, you may be struggling to find a way to pay for that pricey car repair, unexpectedly high utility bill, or even your kids’ school supplies. Here are some tips to help ease the crunch and put more money back into your bank account.

Shop at the Commissary and Exchange
One of the great perks that military spouses have is getting great discounts on brand-name items at their base Exchange, tax-free. Plus, if you compare apples to apples, the Exchange has lower prices than their off-post competitors. Even if you do find a cheaper price at a retailer off-base, take the ad into your Exchange and they will price match! And as for grocery shopping, shopping at the Commissary actually saves you about 30% or more than the local grocery stores! You can read more about savings at your Commissary by visiting Commissaries.com.

Become a Couponer
Already shop at the Exchange and Commissary? Do you use coupons? If not, you may want to rethink why you’re not using them. With Commissary prices so low compared to competitors, you can score dirt-cheap deals, or even free stuff, just by using coupons! The Commissary actually encourages the use of coupons, with their relationship with large companies such as Kraft and Unilever, just to name a few. These two companies work with the commissary and create coupons exclusive to military only {these coupons will state “military store only” on them}. Some Commissaries even have retailers sit up front and pass out their coupons, hoping you will use them! You can even use coupons at the Exchange as well – in fact, the Exchange allows you to “stack” your coupons {unlike the Commissary where it’s one coupon per item} for even more savings! On the AAFES Facebook page, they have a tab dedicated especially to their own in-store coupons, which they allow you to combine with a manufacturers coupon! You can read more about the Commissaries coupon policy Here, and you can check out the AAFES coupon policy Here.

Visit Frugal Blogs
Type in “frugal blogs” in Google, and you’ll get over one million results. Frugal blogs have gained enormous popularity in just the last few years, thanks to the downturn of the economy. Suddenly, it’s as if frugal living is the hip thing to do! There are blogs that cater to free things to ones that cater to discounted savings on top designer items. Some of my favorite blogs have coupon matchups with the weekly sales circulars, detailing what coupons I need and where I can find them. You can even get the coupon matchups for the Commissary and AAFES at my blog, MilitaryWivesSaving.com. Take notes on what stores have “free” products after store rewards and coupons, and print out the stores coupon policy in case you have issues when you present your coupons.

Make a List

It’s important to make a list of the things you need when you go shopping, otherwise, your chances of overspending are higher than they are when you buy what’s on your list. Making a list will help keep you on track, plus, it will save you time. Divide your list up between cold and dry items, and if you really know your way around a store, jot down the aisle number next to the item you need. And, before you head out to the store, be sure to “shop” in your pantry to make sure you don’t end up buying what you already have.

Have a Budget

Create a spreadsheet with Excel, or keep a notebook of your monthly budget. Start with your take-home pay each month, and then write down each bill you have to pay. If you get paid twice a month, jot down the bills you can pay with each paycheck. Once you have the bills squared away, allot yourself a monthly grocery allowance. It may even be worth it to withdraw that amount you have allowed yourself and put it on a pre-paid card, that way, you know you won’t be able to overspend when you go shopping.

Military Discounts
This is definitely one perk of military life that you’ll want to take advantage of. Several stores and restaurants offer military discounts, such as Lowe’s and the Home Depot {10% off purchases}, and even some car dealerships offer incentives as well, such as GM’s Military Discount. It doesn’t stop there, however. Some insurance companies offer military discounts, too, such as Geico and USAA. Do some research online to see if your favorite store offers a military discount, and even email them or give them a call. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

Childcare Discounts

With monetary assistance from NACCRRA {the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies}, you’ll be able to save significantly on daycare expenses. Look into their military program at their website Here, and find out if your daycare is partnered with NACCRRA, or call 1-800-424-2246. They do participate with on-post childcare, however, you may want to have a backup, as there can be a waitlist for on-post care. For married soldiers, the spouse must be working, looking for work, or attending school in order to be eligible for this program.

Collecting Unemployment
If you are a working military spouse and your husband has received orders to transfer to another duty station, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits because your decision to leave your job was not any fault of your own. You will need to check with your state’s unemployment agency to see if you may qualify. You’ll also need to apply and fill out a lengthy questionnaire as to why you quit and attach a copy of your notice-to-quit and spouses orders. If you are approved, depending on your states unemployment guidelines, you will need to show proof that you are looking for work each week.

About the Author:

Michelle Dudas is a military spouse and SAHM, as well as the author of www.militarywivessaving.com, where she helps her fellow military spouses save money and get the most bang for their buck. Before deciding to be a SAHM, she worked in the banking industry for over 10 years, where she worked as a loan officer and quality control coach.

Photo by o5com

Choices

Fallon Wharton is a proud Army Wife who holds a degree in Mass Communications / Journalism and has her own career aspirations.  She enjoys writing poetry and short stories that draw upon her experiences and she has launched her own blog. She shared this post with us.

Sometimes life is about knowing… I don’t think all decisions are meant to be permanent, though they so often feel that way. Just the mere fact of choosing something in order to know what it will bring you. Though I use the term ‘mere’ lightly, because it’s never just a mere choice is it? It’s a definite proverbial fork in the road with its glaring signs “this way to…” “Or that way to…” and if you’re lucky, as I have been, neither choice is bad, but the choices are so different that it’s evident each one will bring you completely different results. One result might leave you looking back on your life thinking.. “damn, what would have happened if I would have went that-a-way??” So, I tend to choose the one that I feel won’t derive the ‘what if’ of life, though that’s never really guaranteed.

So often, we make a choice that we know is important to better ourselves for now and the future, and because we don’t want to live with the ‘what if’ thought. “What if I wouldn’t have or would have done that?” We make a choice, we learn, we see after so long where that choice is taking us. We’re then presented with another choice, another, and another. I guess that is the beauty to life. The freedom to choose. I guess that is an adversity to life. The freedom to choose. Through all of these choices some are obviously easier, while others feel, and often are, insurmountably more difficult.

I recently had to talk to my boss about my job, potentially leaving to be with my husband, or stay with the company but working remotely so I can live with my military husband. (I know, odd right, the thought of actually living with your husband?!? Ok, bad joke. ) Mind you, this job is one I love, with a company I can go very far in, not to mention learn a lot. It’s mirroring back to me the potential dream career I thought never was. So, though confronting your boss in this manner may not sound like much, it was by far one of the hardest things I’ve had to face, and a nerve-wracking experience at that. I’ve only been with this company for 9 months, all the while planning on staying here until my better half was done with training in another 8 months. Then we would find out where we’d be stationed, and only then would I potentially leave the office here in Virginia to work from home, transfer offices, or totally walk away depending on what the military decided for our lives. Ah it felt as if we had planned the perfect yellow brick road.. but instead a change of path lie ahead, ie, another major life choice.

Choice decided to have other plans for my husband and I. What’s funny about choice is I wouldn’t even be faced with these choices if we weren’t a part of the Military, which seems very choice unfriendly, or choice-less (if you will) well – to a spouse anyway. You’re at their mercy 100% and if you have any hopes of keeping your family together and pursuing your own career, if you’re career minded the way I am, you have to keep those hopes in order and you better have a strong marriage, oh and eternal optimism doesn’t hurt. Two parties pursuing their career is a great thing… unless one of those parties is in the ever-changing-no choice making-but love my country Military. You can count on being apart a lot of the time even if you do follow your husband post to post (hooah!), and you can definitely count on being apart all of the time if you too decide you want stability enough to allow your own career and life to flourish. (mild applause) We’re faced with these choices… knowing we’re not the first, but sure feeling like we are.

Choice is made and I am moving forward with hope and a realization I can manifest and create what I want, though it often feels easier said than done. I know what I’m worth and as my mom once said, “She’ll grow wherever she is planted,” I have recently learned upon observation that I’ve proved that statement to myself time and time again, and I’ll never cease to grow nor give up on my own dreams, and I’ll always make the right choice as long as I follow my ever-so-clichéd heart, wherever that may be during my husband’s career span to… YES, defend OUR freedom. J I’ll save the what if’s for the birds… and in the meantime cherish every moment I have with the one man who means the world to me, because without my big strong Army Officer… life wouldn’t be as worth living, career or not.