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If you’ve read my blog, you know I’m a worrier. One of the times I worried most was during John’s deployment (duh, haha). If I had too much time to think, my worries overwhelmed me, so I dug into crafts and care packages. Keeping my hands busy kept my mind busy and eased some of those creeping worries. I found one particular craft that makes for a great care package on its own. If you’re dealing with the worries of a deployment, I hope these origami paper stars can help you the same way they helped me!

Origami paper stars are awesome for a few different reasons. First, they’re totally personalizable. The paper you choose can be simple and classic, or something more unique like glow-in-the-dark, glitter, or hearts. (There’s a pretty neat selection of red, white, and blue stars in this collection, too!)

Once you’ve chosen your paper, write some messages on the sides of the paper strips that’ll be inside the stars. Draw a small picture or try your hand at drawing an emoji. Write a short message, like a fortune cookie message.

You can also come up with a longer message, number each paper strip, and then write one word from your message, in order, on each strip.  As your SO opens the stars, they’ll begin to uncover your message and can piece your words together like a puzzle.

Second, I love these because I couldn’t be in contact with John every day, even though I wanted to. Instead, I made enough stars (730 stars, to be exact) that he could open one each morning and each night each day of deployment like a countdown.  I loved the idea that he got to open something that I made just for him, every single day.

If your SO is already deployed, consider sending 100 stars to countdown the last 100 days of deployment.  Or send them like vitamins, with a prescription to “take one a day.” You could even separate out your stars into brightly colored “good morning” and darker colored “goodnight” with matching messages. Like my Open When letters? Create a few categories, like “Open when you’re bored,” “Open when you’re tired,” or “Open when you miss me.” Then write corresponding messages on a handful of stars, separate them into boxes labeled with your “Open When” categories, and send them. Get as creative as you’d like with these little babies!

Finally, these are super easy to do while you’re watching your Hulu or Netflix shows, when you need a little phone-free zen before bed, or any time you’ve got a few minutes to spare. Because they’re made of paper and are rather small, they’re totally portable, too! Just pop your strips of paper into a clean food storage container, toss the container into your bag, and poof! You’re ready to go! Put your finished stars back into the container to keep them safe while you’re on the go.

The post Origami Stars Care Package appeared first on Jo, My Gosh!.

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Welcome to Lizann, the author of The Seasoned Spouse and guest today on Jo, My Gosh! 

A military homecoming is rarely picture-perfect. Even when you’ve planned out the perfect outfit, the best homecoming sign, and a photographer to capture the magical moment of that first kiss, it doesn’t always go the way you envisioned. Sometimes homecoming is delayed until the middle of the night. Or you have the flu. So many things can change a homecoming at the last minute so it doesn’t go the way you dreamed.

The days after homecoming don’t always go as planned either. The time after homecoming is called reintegration. Sometimes it goes smoothly and couples feel like they can pick up right where they left off. Other times, things are more rocky. After the joy and anticipation of homecoming, many military couples are shocked at how challenging it is to adjust to life together.

My husband is currently on his seventh deployment. That means sometime soon we will have our homecoming. Am I looking forward to it? ABSOLUTELY! But after all these years and all these deployments, I’ve learned a few things.

Homecoming can often be followed by intense frustration and disappointment.

Sometimes military life causes the frustration. After deployment comes a big PCS move, or a long school, or another TDY assignment. Or maybe life is getting in the way of ‘normalcy.’ If you had a baby or moved into a new house during the deployment, it may take a while before you and your spouse both feel adjusted. This can be frustrating to a military spouse who has waited months for the deployment to be over so things could feel right again.

It isn’t always the service member’s fault. Sometimes, my dreams and ideals were so unrealistic that they could never come true. Like after his first deployment, when I naively thought he would immediately be allowed to come home and see me (and his family). Instead, we had to wait an additional two weeks before he had block leave and permission to fly home. Or the deployment where I had a baby and expected him to jump right in changing diapers and spooning baby food. I forgot that he hadn’t held a baby for a few years, so he was a little rusty and couldn’t remember what to do.

Reintegration stress often comes from unrealistic expectations.

When separated from someone you love, it’s easy to put them on a pedestal and forget about their bad habits. You may have forgotten the smell of their dirty laundry, the way they always leave dishes in the sink, or the amount of time they spend playing video games. But I guarantee these things are still going to return.

And sometimes, service members add new habits from deployment, such as smoking, drinking more, or cussing. Habits that seemed normal to them during deployment may shock you. There were times I wondered if my husband was still the same person I had fallen in love with, or if deployment had changed him forever.

*Spoiler alert* He was the same person, and eventually his bad deployment habits faded and he adjusted back to our normal life. It just took a few weeks.

So now, as we face our seventh homecoming, I have learned to balance my expectations with reality. I allow myself to dream about date nights and quiet moments together and having fun as a family again. But I keep my dreams in check with the reality of our life. I know he will be exhausted when he first comes home, especially with the jet lag from a different time zone. I know he wants to spend time together, but with an upcoming school and PCS move, how much family time should I realistically expect? How much money do we have saved for date nights and babysitters? These are questions every military spouse should ponder before getting caught up in homecoming dreams.

Balancing your expectations with the reality of military life will keep you from being hurt or disappointed during reintegration. If possible, try to talk or write to your spouse before they return.

  • Share with them any ways that your habits have changed during deployment. (I’ve been trying to eat low-carb and want to continue that after you come home.)
  • Tell them some of your top priorities, things that you would be really disappointed of they didn’t make time for. (I don’t care if we go to the movies or a restaurant, but I REALLY want to go hiking on this new trail with you!)
  • And make sure you tell them if you want the house chores adjusted. (I always used to do the dishes, but now that we have a baby, can we take turns doing the dishes and giving her a bath?) Starting these conversations before Homecoming will start off your Reintegration on the right foot.

Reintegration can be tough. It’s all part of the deployment cycle. But with patience and support you can get through it! That’s why I created a free FB group for deployment support. It will have a special challenge week of videos, interviews, deployment tips, free resources, and prizes! Sign up for free to learn how to handle deployment like a boss!

How to Handle Deployment Like a Boss is the Seasoned Spouse’s 1-week Facebook group challenge to help you through deployment. From March 10-16, you’ll have access to videos, tips, and great resources from a variety of military spouses and companies. It’s all hosted by Lizann, the ‘Seasoned Spouse.’ Topics include moving home, having a baby during deployment, care packages, the deployment curse, communication, making friends, health & nutrition, and much more! There will be checklists to download and prizes to win. You can sign up for free here.

The post Win Reintegration: What Happens When Deployment Ends appeared first on Jo, My Gosh!.

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This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of 1 Natural Way, a TRICARE breast pump provider. All opinions are entirely my own.

Having a baby can be an exciting–and kind of scary– thing. The great news for military-connected military moms is that there are a ton of supports out there to help through challenging times. Whether you’re going through this pregnancy on your own while your spouse is deployed, you’re a service member and a mom-to-be, or you’re a new mom who needs a little financial help (or something else!), there’s help out there for you.

I’ve collected the best free resources that will help you get off to an awesome start as a new mom in the military community. You’ve got this.

Deployment communication

If you give birth during a deployment and do not have reliable communication with your spouse, you can get free help to get word to them through your FRG or ombudsman.

The Red Cross can also help; check this page for a toll-free number to call and more information.

Doulas

Doulas are trained to support a woman through the birth process. They’re different from doctors, nurses, and midwives because their focus is on moral support and help, rather than medical help. The Military Doula is an organization that pairs pregnant military wives with trained doulas who volunteer their time. Right now there are 76 doulas who want to volunteer their services.

Operation Special Delivery offers discounted doula services to military spouses who meet certain criteria.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Gabriela Garcia-Herrera)

Free baby showers

There are quite a few organizations that provide free baby showers to military moms-to-be. For many pregnant military spouses and service members, having a baby can be a little lonely. Far away from home and perhaps dealing with deployments and separations, they may not have the support system (at least close by) that many other expecting moms often have. These programs bring the support, celebration, and yes, fun prizes and gifts, to women who might need a little extra morale boost. Some of these programs also go OCONUS to make sure that families stationed abroad also get a little extra special attention. (Some of these program focus on younger families who are enlisted or lower-ranking, recognizing the financial strain a new baby may have on the family.)

These programs include:

Goodies for Navy and Marine families

Complete the Budget for Baby class if you’re a Navy or Marine family stationed on a Navy or Marine base through the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. Upon completion, your family will receive a Junior Sea Bag filled with a bunch of things to help make baby’s room a little cozier–including a handmade baby blanket.

Care packages

Soldiers Angels’ Baby Brigade and deliver care packages to families “1) Have a deployed parent or be an active duty female service member AND 2) be expecting a child OR have a child under the age of one.” You can submit a family (or yourself) for a gift basket that’s filled with goodies, including handmade things from volunteers. And (how cute is this?) every one who receives a gift from the Baby Brigade also will receive a virtual baby shower from real-life volunteers across the country.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nicole Sikorski/Released)

Carriers, wraps, and slings

Will purchasing a baby carrier, wrap, or sling for your little one create a financial hardship for your family? The Carrying On Project wants to make baby-wearing a little easier and cheaper for financially struggling military spouses with partners on deployment. Just fill out a form on their website and they will do their best to match you to your request.

Breast pumps and supplies

You might know that TRICARE provides breast pumps for pregnant and new moms. But did you know that you also can get a full range of supplies from TRICARE also at no cost too? 1 Natural Way is a TRICARE breast pump provider that does all of the work for you (seriously!). As long as you have a prescription for a breast pump from your primary care manager, you can take advantage of those fantastic benefits and 1 Natural Way can make it super easy. And you can get state-of-the-art, awesome products from 1 Natural Way like Kiinde, Medela, and Spectra, not to mention the Medela Freestyle Spectra S1 Breast Pump, and the Medela Pump in Style Tote/Backpack… all at no cost or very, very little cost to you, through your TRICARE benefits.

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Fill out the insurance information form found here.
  • Pick the breast pump model you like. (And there are no tricks here– all of the models that 1 Natural Way provides are covered by TRICARE.)
  • Enroll in 1 Natural Way’s program, Resupply, so you get breastfeeding accessories and supplies delivered monthly
  • Upload your prescription (and if you don’t have one, just pop in your doctor’s info and 1 Natural Way will do the sleuthing work for you)
  • Open the door and pick up the box of pump and supplies delivered to you by UPS or USPS.
Breastfeeding counseling

TRICARE offers free meetings with a breastfeeding counselor after the birth of your child in a few ways: as an inpatient maternity stay, as a follow-up outpatient visit, or as a well-child care visit. In fact, you can get up to six outpatient sessions with a specialist completely free to you as a benefit of your healthcare.

(U.S. Air Force Photo/Airman 1st Class Erin R. Babis)

Medical care

TRICARE offers comprehensive prenatal, birthing, antepartum, post-partum, and ultrasound care services for moms and babies. There are tons of possible services depending on your needs as you progress through the pregnancy. You can check them all out here. Depending on your TRICARE services, there may be some fees for some services.

Nutrition and grocery help

Depending on your household’s income and the amount of children you already have, you may qualify for WIC (Women, Infant, and Children). The government program is administered state-by-state, but it offers a variety of benefits, including nutritional counseling and food coupons for healthy foods like milk and whole wheat bread. The coupons are accepted at grocery stores, including the commissary.

Other ideas

Keep your eyes and ears open when you’re on base. There might be free prenatal exercise classes at the gym or rec center (pregnancy yoga, anyone?). Maybe there are budgeting classes or installation-specific celebrations, organizations, or events that are being offered for pregnant or new moms.

Remember you can get free legal help from your JAG office on base, which can come in handy, especially if your spouses is deployed or soon to deploy.

Check your base’s thrift store for furniture, baby books, toys, and clothes–especially if you know you’re going to PCS soon and will need to purge a lot of extra stuff. Your thrift store is probably run by an on-base non-profit that supports the community through its sales… so not only are you getting good stuff cheap, you’re also helping to fund activities and scholarships for the people in your community.

And finally, always ask for military discounts when you’re shopping for baby things and new furniture. It can’t help to ask!

The post The Huge List of Free Stuff for New Military Moms and Moms-to-Be appeared first on Jo, My Gosh!.

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This post is sponsored by Nomades. All opinions and work are my own.

I am that person.

I am that obnoxious celebration person. I love holidays. I love non-holidays. When John and I were dating, I made us celebrate our monthly anniversary. And when John didn’t really care about his birthday (or that’s what he said, anyway), I over-the-top celebrated it until he did care about it. (Or at least until he told me he cared about it.)

For the Super Bowl, I habitually buy too much food. John and I have a “Friday Lunch Buddies” date at the end of every week to celebrate the end of the week. And when John was in the military, I made sure that we celebrated the milestones in that journey too.

When John was deployed, I celebrated by sending him a halfway there box. We’ve gone out to dinner to celebrate, stayed in to celebrate, visited places on our bucketlist to celebrate.

I used to be a tiny bit embarrassed by how much I love celebrating and commemorating milestones… but honestly? Now, I don’t care anymore. The truth is, life is too short and it’s too beautiful and it’s too wonderful to drag through it.

1. Photobooks

How often do photos just stay in phones or on Facebook? Get them out of your phone and onto the page so you can remember that promotion ceremony or your first home or that duty station you just left. Photobooks are also wonderful ways to share moments that your spouse misses during deployments and trainings or with family members who are far away.

2. Bullet journaling

It’s tough to keep a daily journal, especially in such a fast-paced world. But if you want to keep track of important memories, achievements, and moments in your family’s military life, consider bullet journaling. You can use any journal, but there are also specific bullet journals like this one. Just date and write a few lines to immortalize the beginning of deployment, the first time your child got an ID card, or that time you finally got over your fear of the base gates. (Oh, that’s just me? Okay.)

3. Flowers

So often women wait for their partners to buy them flowers to celebrate something… and if your husband or wife is in Afghanistan or on a ship or out of comms, you might not get flowers for some time. So, buy them for yourself! Mark the 100th day of deployment, a promotion at work, or just making it to Friday.

“But Jo, flowers are expensive!” You don’t need to buy yourself a gigantic spray that rivals the huge ones that end up in five-star hotel (although, if you can and if you want to, go for it. I won’t stop you). Grab a pretty bouquet from a grocery store– they can run between $7 and $15. If you’re going super cheap, stop by an Aldi–they have flowers available for sale for $3.99. (And if you hit it on the right day, the price may even drop to $1.99.) And, you can always stop by a florist to pick up just a single rose or a few daisies.

Enjoy the process of buying them for yourself; get exactly what you want, smell the flowers, decide between colors. Drop them into a pretty vase–maybe that one from your wedding you hardly use– and put it somewhere you’ll see multiple times every day.

4. Charm bracelet

When John and I married, I bought myself a bracelet to add charms to throughout our life together. I thought it would be a fun and meaningful way to celebrate milestones both big and small, personal and military. I have a bead that represents our wedding, one that represents our first move… and then I found Nomades.

The Nomades Collection helps women tell their military journey stories with jewelry that is so perfect for military life, it’s crazy. (And no, I’m not just saying that.) They were founded by four military spouses who wanted jewelry that celebrated things that happen to milspouses. They have pieces like this one.  Yes, that is a PCS sticker. You know, like the ones that you find all over your furniture for the next…FOREVER. (I mean… could one of those tags look any cuter?)

Or like this one which is perfect for commemorating a deployment or a long separation.

They have charms for every branch (and yes, Coast Guard, too!) and for nearly every installation. You can also find charms to commemorate units, rates, and all kinds of other things that you literally won’t find anywhere else.

6. Set up an email

Create a Google email and send emails, pictures, and links of all of the important things going on in your life as they happen. At retirement or when your spouse transitions out, use it as a virtual time capsule and enjoy reminiscing over years of memories.

7. Create a memory box

Grab a $4 photo-safe box from Michael’s. Every year, drop the ticket stubs, cards, programs, and other tokens of your life in the military into the box. Label each box by year to keep everything organized (if the boxes aren’t full, you can always have each box represent multiple years). This is easier than a scrapbook and it doesn’t require pasting things into books. (Unless you love scrapbooking! Then by all means, get down with your crafty self!)

8. Event jar

Grab a mason jar and a stack of paper or small index cards. (These can work too!) Every time something happens–whether it’s a promotion or a move or a graduation–and write a sentence about it. Date the paper, and then stick it in the jar. At the end of the year, spend time with your family reading through all of the exciting moments that happened throughout the year. Then save and label the jar or paste the strips into a scrapbook to save them for later.

9. Home decor

John and I have a habit of collecting pieces of art from the places we love. We did the same thing with each base we lived at, so now we have pottery and wall hangings that remind us of the places that will always be part of our story. I’m not talking about really expensive stuff– these were pieces that we bought from street fairs and boutiques that weren’t outrageously expensive.

Another option–which I love, too–is having installation boards that you continue to add to as you move from place to place. Those boards can also represent family changes–like new kids and pets–as well as deployments and TDYs. Here’s an example of what those could look like (and yes, that is something else Nomades does)!

Start your story with Nomades

So… Nomades loves military spouses (obviously!) and they want to treat Jo, My Gosh! readers to this beautiful set so that someone can start commemorating their achievements, successes, and memories. Just take a moment to drool over this:

The gift package includes a sterling silver bracelet, a Heart of America bead, and two spacers. Want to win it (of course you do!)? Enter the giveaway below!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

The post 9 Unique Ways to Celebrate Military Milestones appeared first on Jo, My Gosh!.

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This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Navy Federal Credit Union for IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.

Six (six?!) years ago, right around this time, I was beginning to hyperventilate pretty much every night I pulled out a huge binder after work. It was my wedding planner–every detail, every color, every idea. I was planning for a wedding to a guy who was 7,000 miles away at the time. And my guess is that right now, there are more than a few military significant others who are feeling that very same pressure, and frustration, and excitement, and emotion. Here’s what we learned over that year apart as we planned and dreamed and saved for our wedding:

Get on the same page

You’ve always got to start with communication. What kind of wedding do you want? Many military couples opt for small weddings whether in a church, on a beach, in a courthouse, or somewhere else. But not all military couples go small. In the same way, some go traditional, others are more daring. This is your wedding– what do you both envision? What is your (realistic) budget? What time of the year are you thinking? As you talk, write your ideas down. Then split them into negotiables and non-negotiables. This is particularly important if your spouse-to-be is on deployment, on work-ups, will be in basic, or will otherwise be difficult to reach while you’re planning wedding stuff.

Set a budget

While you’re having that conversation, make sure money is absolutely part of it. Money can be tough to talk about… but guess what? You’re getting married to this person and you’re going to have tough discussions with them more than once. As you set a budget make sure you are considering how things are being paid for– not just how much you’re willing to pay for them. Will you cover certain things? Will your fiance? What about your parents or other family members? If you’re going on a honeymoon, how will you pay for that? This is also a great time to talk about how you’ll handle financials as a married couple. Will you have separate bank accounts? Combined funds? Consider Navy Federal Credit Union as a way to make smart financial choices and accumulate wealth as a military couple.

Prioritize

Every couple will have different priorities. For us, we spent more money on photos and video of our ceremony and reception. Perhaps a dress is important to you, or maybe a delicious catered meal is number one. Know what those priorities are, and then figure out how to make the other pieces of your wedding fit together. We quickly learned a few tricks and hacks (like shopping at Ikea for decorations and working a little magic with save-the-dates).

Don’t be bashful

Ask for military discounts as you plan your wedding. (No, really!) We saved 10% of our venue costs because I asked for a military discount… just on a whim. You can bet that I asked for a military discount repeatedly throughout the process. Sometimes discounts were available, sometimes they weren’t, and sometimes we got a little extra perk, even though the company didn’t technically have a military discount.

Use those military benefits

It might not work for everyone, but you definitely want to at least consider how your fiance’s access to military benefits may help your bottom line. Plenty of military couples get married at officer’s clubs or on military recreational beaches, honeymoon at Navy Lodges, or check out the MWR for ticket discounts. If you or your spouse (or both) is getting married in uniform, you’ll probably save a money instead of buying a tux… unless you have to buy a dress uniform or accouterments for the special day. (Just keep that in mind!)

Keep an eye open

Even though you’ve set a budget, figured out who’s paying for what, prioritized, and are using some money-saving ninja skills, you still want to be careful to watch creeping costs and bills. Small things–like the unexpected cost of tailoring or a small splurge on a veil– can add up over time. And if you have credit card debt, those bills could suddenly become monumental and could add to financial and emotional stress. (Let’s be real: You don’t need any more of that when planning a wedding.)  overcoming and reducing credit card debt is important, especially if you are combining your finances as a married couple and assuming each other’s debt. (If you are, you’ll definitely want to look at this information about credit card balance transfers.)

The post How to Save and Financially Plan for a Wedding as a Military Couple appeared first on Jo, My Gosh!.

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“Dear Jo,” the email began. “Thanks so much for your help with military life but…”

Whenever I get emails from readers, I’m both totally excited and completely terrified. That’s because I take this site absolutely seriously. I know that there are real, life people who read it and every one of those people have real, life problems, real, life spouses, and real, life military lives. And so, whenever I hear from someone, I can’t help but be a little scared that I’ve left someone down.

“But…”

I forced myself to keep reading.

“…but I was wondering if you could share some bloggers who are Reserves or National Guard spouses?”

I was thrilled. I had been thinking of a post like that for quite some time anyway, but just hadn’t had the time to put it together. Yes, I wrote back. I’ll get right to work.

Then, just a few days later, I received two more emails from different readers asking for Reserve and National Guard spouse blogs. (Great minds think alike, right? Or there’s something in the water… ;-) )

So, you got it, Reserve and National Guard spouses and significant others! We scoured the internet to find you bloggers who know exactly what you’re going through, looking forward to, and how life is for those who love someone following this particular career path and call.

Looking for some great resources that understand the unique nature of being a National Guard or Reserves spouse? Check out the blogs below, written by and for folks who’ve been in your shoes. (These are in no particular order; make sure that you visit them all!)

1. Homefront United Network 

If you’ve ever felt your role as a Reserve or National Guard spouse isn’t really understood by the military or civilian communities, you’re not alone. Angela Caban, an Army National Guard wife, began the Homefront United Network to build a stronger connection between military and Reserve/National Guard communities while provide better resources for everyone. (Be sure to check out Guard Guide 101!) The blog is authored by a team and their posts cover a variety of categories, including mental health/wellness, career/education, and military kids/special needs.

2. Soldier’s Wife, Crazy Life 

As a National Guard wife and mom of three boys, Julie hit the nail on the head when she named her blog. But don’t let the name fool you–Julie’s rockin’ this milspouse thing! Her posts will give you insight on “surviving deployment, PCSing, and all things military life.” Before her husband transitioned to the National Guard, they were an Army family that spent time OCONUS, as well, so she knows both sides of he coin. Spend a moment checking out her useful resource: Duty Station Guest Posts. These posts let you learn about your next duty station through the experiences of those who’ve lived there. Plus, gain wisdom from her expert advice with Julie’s Guide to the First 30 Days of a Deployment.

3. The Midwest Press 

Erika, the gal behind The Midwest Press, is married to an Army National Guard veteran and member of the Army Reserve. Erika helps you see marriage, deployment, family life, and the challenges of being a Reserve spouse through her eyes. (Erika used to write Chambanachik though, due to a technical accident, she retired this site and moved on to The Midwest Press. Be sure to check out some of her older yet relevant and heartfelt posts on Chambanachik, like When They Thank Him and Her Bravery.)

4. Mil-Spec Mom

Nila is an Army National Guard spouse and writes Mil-Spec Mom, a website about her life as a spouse and a weapons instructor. While most of her posts are about more tactical information like how to create a prepper binder or a review about gun holsters and her faith, she also writes about her experience as a spouse. This piece is educational and perfect for those of us who don’t live a National Guard life; and if you do, I think you’ll find yourself nodding along in agreement.

5. Cammo Style Love

Rheanna lives it up a National Guard spouse in Washington, D.C. Her happy lifestyle blog is full of travel, fashion, and books… but she doesn’t forget her military roots either. With articles like 10 Resources Every National Guard Family Should Know and Why It Is Important to Share Your National Guard Story, she’s a blogger who advocates for her community as well as writes about it. And Rheanna has a National Guard-focused Facebook page for more information and resources, too.

6. The Sheepdog Wife

Writing about faith, infertility, and military life, National Guard spouse Jessi is the face and name behind The Sheepdog Wife. While the blog has only been in existence for a few months, Jessi’s heartfelt posts are something that you’ll fall in love with. Check out her post about books that helped her through military life for some great–and unexpected– choices.

7. The Military Wallet

While this blog isn’t written by a Reserve or National Guard spouse (it is written by a current Air National Guardsman), it includes a lot of top-notch, quality financial information for Reserve and Guard families. You’ll have to do some hunting on the site for white you’re looking for since there isn’t a Guard- or Reserve-specific channel for this information. Here are a few examples of what you’ll find: How to Deduct Mileage and Travel Expenses for National Guard and Reserves TravelUnderstanding Guard and Reserve Points – How to Earn Points, and How they Affect Your Retirement, and Can You Join the Guard or Reserves if You Have a VA Service-Connected Disability Rating?

8. The Military Guide

The Military Guide is a wealth of knowledge for military families, including those who are Reserve and NG. The site is broken into a number of financial topics, and while you won’t find Reserve/National Guard as a heading, there are subcategories for those families like Guard & Reserve Retirement, where you can find the Reserve Retirement Calculator, a popular post for the site.

Articles and Books for Reserve and National Guard Spouses

While there aren’t a ton of Reserve and Guard spouse bloggers out there, there’s more when you look beyond just blogs. I’ve compiled some single articles and books that are out there so you don’t feel so alone. Because believe me, you aren’t.

The post The Complete Guide to Reserve & National Guard Spouse & Family Blogs appeared first on Jo, My Gosh!.

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This is not a sponsored post. I am providing this information as a service to the reader. I am only passing on this information because it is a fantastic resource for deployed service members– I cannot solve problems or answer questions further than what is presented here.

Crown Royal– yes, that  Crown Royal– is joining forces with care package nonprofit, Packages from Home. Crown Royal is packing mini care packages in their signature purple bags. Each care package contains four items and a real note from someone who has virtually packed the bag. And yes, it’s absolutely free to you and it only takes about two minutes to complete.

I decided to try it out from start to finish. Here’s what happened for me. 

First, I logged onto Crown Royal’s project site.  You will be asked to verify your age. Because it is a site promoted by an alcoholic product, those under 21 are not allowed to enter.

Then, you’ll be transferred to a splash page that will explain a little bit about Crown Royal’s partnership with Packages from Home. You can click the button that says “Pack a bag online” to get started.

Once you do, you’ll be taken to a page that looks like this:

You’re given the choice to choose four of eight items that are popular care package stuffers. Those care box items are chips, coffee, cookies, instant oatmeal, lip balm, nuts, pretzels, and tea. You can choose any combination of four food or health products. (You can’t choose more than that… I guess only four things fit in the purple bags!)

Scroll down under the “packing” section and you can type in a message that will be included with the personalized care package as well. You will need to verify an email address to submit. And yes, you can only “pack” one gift per email address. Then, just hit “submit.”

While you can’t direct a care package to a particular loved one, remember there are many soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines who, for whatever reason, don’t have someone who sends them things while they’re gone. This seems to be a lovely little way to give back without it costing you a thing (except a little time).

The project will take place until July 31, 2018, so there’s plenty of time to participate.

If you’re looking for other low- or no-cost ways to send care packages to deployed troops, make sure you check out my post that outlines some corporations who are giving back through free care packages. And then there’s this one, with even more free stuff for deployed service members.

The post How to Send a Completely Free Deployment Care Package appeared first on Jo, My Gosh!.

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(This is a guest post written by Brian Niswander, the founder of Military-Transition.org. It is not a sponsored post.)

After studying the military-to-civilian transition process for more than a decade, a group of veterans decided to help military families by sharing advice and important lessons from service members and spouses who’ve gone before them.  The group (known as Military-Transition.org) collects response to the most important transition and employment related questions through social media and on-line survey tools.  Using this information, they developed an interactive website that allows service members to access tailored response based upon their interests, individual situation and military profile (branch, rank, years of service, education and specialty).

“Over the past two years, thousands have told us about their transition experiences, challenges and success stories“, said Brian Niswander, Founder of Military-Transition.org.  “The insights we’ve discovered are significant and we’re using this information to help service members and families navigate their journey and gain meaningful employment.“  According to their research, almost half (48%) of service members underestimate the difficulty associated with transitioning back into civilian life, while more than half (59%) indicate their transition took more time than expected.  For many service members, transition back into civilian life is like crossing into the unknown.  Military-Transition.org helps reduce the level of unknown by providing accurate and timely information or what they call “transition intelligence” to reduce the uncertainty and help guide important decision.

One of the most important observations from the research to-date includes the elements of a successful transition, which are:

1) start preparing early for the transition, 2) have a plan, 3) network, 4) learn to translate your military skills and 5) be patient.  “Based upon our research and personal experience, we know the transition can be difficult.  These steps are the best way to minimize the confusion associated with transitioning into the unknown”, said Niswander.

Another important take-away is the importance of attending the military’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP) more than once.  According to the study, participants who attend more than once are 57% more likely to indicate the training was “extremely” or “very” helpful.  The team at Military-Transition.org recommends that members attend TAP when they have around 24-months before transition and again in their final 9 to 12-months of service.

“One of the most important yet overlooked aspects of a successful transition is learning how to network effectively.  I can’t emphasize this enough.  Members should start building a network early in their career with mentors and coaches that are in and out of uniform”, said Niswander.  “Good mentors and coaches will help with important career decisions and share advice to help you achieve career goals.  If you haven’t already identified a mentor, I encourage you to contact organizations such as Veterati to begin the process.”  Another important aspect of having a mentor is the role they play in helping you learn how to translate military skills so that civilian employers understand how these can add value to their organization.

In addition to metric data, Military-Transition.org also gathers text based survey comments and shares these with military families.  The examples provided by veterans in our survey are candid and provide hard-hitting insights for today’s military.  According to Niswander, “our surveys don’t required participants to include names or contact information, which encourages honest responses about their personal experiences and challenges.”

The team at Military-Transition.org recently began a new study (survey link) which looks at employment challenges and identifies best practices for hiring and retaining military spouses.  Niswander said that responses to date are informative, but stressed the need for additional participation in the survey to increase confidence in the results.

“We need current and former military spouses to participate in the anonymous survey to ensure we gather accurate and relevant information.”  Please take a few minutes and share your thoughts and experience to help other military spouses.

Today’s military spouses face employment challenges which can range from not fully utilizing their skills and experience (under-employment) to extended periods of unemployment, stress and anxiety.  The study looks at these issues along with exploring best practices that can be reapplied to help others.

Results from this study will be shared using an interactive website, similar to the veteran transition study on their website (link).  Spouses will be able to view metric data along with comments from others about their employment issues, challenges and success stories.

In addition to the research discussed, Military-Transition.org delivers one of the most comprehensive lists of transition and employment resources available help military families.  More than 160 organizations, tools, training programs, recruiters, advice, employers, and other links are available on their RESOURCES page.

———–

Brian Niswander is a military-to-civilian transition expert and the founder of Military-Transition.org.  For the past decade, Brian has helped service members on their transition out of uniform and into the civilian workforce based upon his personal experiences and extensive research with the veteran community.  His website (www.Military-Transition.org) provides information, data and resources to help the military community return to civilian life.  Service members, veterans, spouses and employers are encouraged to share their experiences and utilize the comprehensive resources available on his website.

The post Check Out This Website for Military Family Transition and Career Help appeared first on Jo, My Gosh!.

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Long distance relationships are tough (especially if you’re new to one)! When I began dating John, I had never been in an LDR, much less a military one. I was more than a little nervous… but pretty much completely in love already. (I know, I know. Here’s our story if you want to hear the whole thing.)

So what does any girl who isn’t sure of exactly what to do next do? She searches the internet, of course! The good news for you, is that in the last few years, websites, books, and resources have exploded when it comes to LDRs and military long distance relationships. That’s great for you!

Check out these free and not-too-expensive resources to get you through the good, the bad, and the ugly of your LDR.

Free Stuff
  • If you’re new to your LDR and seeking some seasoned advice on the dos and don’ts for managing a relationship across the miles, Loving From a Distance’s “Making Your Long Distance Relationship Work!” is a great ebook for you. Not too short and not too long, this free PDF book will help you start or maintain your relationship on the right foot.
  • One of the toughest parts of being in a LDR is being alone, especially if your friends and family haven’t been in LDRs, too. It can feel like no one really gets it when the struggle is real. Enter Loving From a Distance’s online forum. This active community allows you to connect with other folks in LDRs for support, advice, and camaraderie.
  • LDR Magazine has three free e-books for people in LDRs: Over the Line, a book of word games and puzzles to spark conversation; Creative and Fun Webcam Date Ideas, for those who are looking to have some face-to-long-distance-face fun together; and 30+ Romantic Ideas for LDR Couples, a guide to keeping things feeling close no matter the miles. These e-resources are awesome for LDR newbies trying to figure out how to make it work, and old pros who want to keep their relationship lively.
  • Not in the mood to tuck into a whole e-book? Life too busy to commit to a long read? Modern Love Long Distance has you covered with their list of 50 Best Tips for Long Distance Relationships. From how to improve your communication to how to connect your partner with your family and friends, this list provides some great ideas that you can implement right away.
  • Cornell University created this short reference sheet for their faculty and staff members in LDRs. While you may not work for Cornell, their tips, ideas, and keys to success can definitely support you.
  • Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine has a nice resource for those in LDRs. Check out this PDF which outlines some keys to success, some common pitfalls to avoid, the emotional stages of a LDR, and how to know when the relationship is in trouble. This resource is awesome because it demystifies some of the feelings and reactions we often feel we have to choke down when the distance gets difficult.
  • Check out the Best Long Distance Relationship Books list on Goodreads.com.
  • This blog claims to have the “Ultimate List” for LDR activities.  Take a look at the 40 options they propose. Do you already do any of these activities? Which ones do you want to add to your routine? Would you add anything to the list?
  • If your LDR has you singing the blues, check out The Free Woman’s take on the challenge of doing things long distance. Michelle can help you reorient your thinking and find a positive spin on being apart from your partner.
  • Long Distance Diaries is “an all-inclusive community for couples in long distance relationships, for others considering them and for any curious minds.” They’ve got blog posts, DIY ideas, and advice. 

Not-Too-Expensive Resources

  • Looking for some LDR reading? The former Center for the Study of Long Distance Relationship provides some free reading guides.

Okay, so this one isn’t really a resource as much as it is entertainment… But all the work of a LDR means we deserve a little R&R, right? There’s a web series coming out, called “Distance” and it looks new, innovative, and interesting! The series follows a couple: Sam lives in New York, Emily lives in Los Angeles. Not that interesting yet, right? But wait–there’s more! Each episode is filmed from two perspectives: his and hers. Watch them in the order you choose and see their stories unfold. 

The post 14 Free and Budget-Friendly LDR Resources appeared first on Jo, My Gosh!.

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John and I dealt with a government shutdown in 2013, just 3 or so months into being married… and pretty much broke. I had left my job (so we could get married and live together) and both of our cars had died a week apart from each other. (Well, not so much died as spectacularly gave us double middle fingers and committed seppuku. It was bad.) Our nerves were frayed waiting to see what Congress would do. Finally, they did pass a bill and we were relieved. Up until that point, we weren’t sure how we would pay for huge student loan bills with the paltry savings we still had after buying a modest car. It was a close call.

My heart goes out to military families, especially those who are just starting out and haven’t had a lot of time to accrue much wealth (or any at all). Finances can be tough any time, but it can be especially frustrating and difficult when it’s not of your own doing or choosing… and when there’s no end in sight.

Here’s a list of resources especially curated for military families and spouses that all have the best, up-to-date information on the government shutdown that I could find so that you don’t feel alone and in the dark.

Explanations

While some effects of the shutdown are yet to be seen, here’s a historical look at what happened in 2013 and what could be coming down the pike in regards to military benefits and services in 2018 from MilitaryOneClick.

Another piece from Military.com explains pay and benefits and how the shutdown is affecting them.

And this article focuses directly on military family benefits and services, too.

National Military Family Association has the answers when it comes to relief aid from within the military community as well as the questions that retirees are asking.

Financial help

If you’re a Navy Federal Credit Union member, here’s everything you need to know about the assistance the organization is giving their clients.

USAA is also offering help to their members should the shutdown go past the next military payday on February 1. Here’s all of that information.

And here’s an even larger list from ArmyWife101.com of banks who are offering financial assistance to military families that bank with them.

Benefits

I absolutely hate writing about death benefits, but it’s a sad, difficult truth of life. Fisher House is providing death gratuities in place of the suspended governmental death benefit right now. Here’s more on that.

Services

AAFES stores will stay open, so you can grab a bite to eat at the food court, use the gas station, or do a little shopping.

More than just the commissary will be affected by a shutdown. From DoDEA schools to MWR, here are the family services that are currently impacted.

Guard and Reserves

Reserve and National Guard trainings have been cancelled for the foreseeable future. Here’s more on that.

What to do

Financial guru Kate Horrell has a financial checklist for military families worried about the shutdown and their financial readiness. Take a look at it here. 

Hopefully the shutdown won’t be going on much longer, but if it does, I will continue to update this article with more resources to keep you in the know.

The post The Military Spouse’s Guide to the 2018 Government Shutdown appeared first on Jo, My Gosh!.

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