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Amenities on Base Help New Spouses Feel at Ease

By Jenna Moede

When I first married my husband I remember driving on base and feeling like a fish out of water. I’d come on base many times before with family members, but this time felt different.

I never expected to feel like I really and truly didn’t belong, but I ended up feeling just like that. My nerves won out the first couple of times that I wanted to get on base without my husband, and I didn’t know what resources the base had to offer.

My husband enlisted in the Air Force so names might change according to branch of service. Not every base that I have stayed on has had each of these things, but most do so I have chosen to include them just in case.

Quickly after moving to Wyoming I learned about the Airman and Family Readiness Center. The key spouse for my husband’s flight actually directed me there because she told me they offered a tour of base.

I ended up heading over there because they required my husband to do a budget before he moved off base, and I found that they had a wealth of information they wanted to share with families.

They offered classes for expecting families that helped them with important information before their baby arrived, they offered financial assistance whether someone needed help with a budget or guidance for a financial class, they offered help writing resumes, they had a large list of local places that hired military spouses, and they had someone will to answer any off the wall questions.

I immediately felt comfortable, and I definitely have used the different options there more than once. It also put me at ease knowing I had people to help me build professional contacts.

I highly recommend looking into type of resource no matter what base or branch of service your spouse serves in.

Second, while these have not applied to me directly, I have many friends that utilize the youth center on base and the child development center. Since we moved here, I have discovered that the youth center offers sports for older kids along with many other fun activities for them to enjoy.

Next, outdoor recreation really has great options for families too, but I overlooked outdoor recreation for a long time when we first got here.

At first I didn’t realize that they had equipment that I could rent like skis, camping equipment and even bouncy houses. Once I found out that I could rent equipment easily as well as buy tickets to many attractions both local and out of town, I started using them more and more.

Not only can you rent equipment from outdoor recreation, but ours even organizes trips for couples and families. If you have never stopped by, take the opportunity to see a calendar of events and rental list. Outdoor recreation can open a lot of doors especially when you first move to a new area.

Many times I have taken ideas from the trips planned by outdoor recreation if I am unable to attend something that interests me.

The overall amenities on base can really help new families as well as seasoned families. Some of the resources that our base offers include the Base Exchange and Commissary, a dog park, gyms, outdoor fitness areas, a pool, tennis courts, disc golfing, bowling, a library and a movie theater.

At first I felt nervous about using the facilities on base and I felt intimidated, but I eventually realized that a lot of spouses felt the same way I did. I started to push myself to go to some of the places and my husband and I would go to some of them too.

It turns out that I had a great time, I met some awesome people, and I had some doors open. I can’t say enough about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and utilizing the options and recreational activities your base has to offer.

Finally, Airman’s Attic, as our base calls it, is the last resource I wanted to mention. Airman’s Attic is like a second hand store, but at Airman’s Attic, no one has to pay for the items. Items never cost money for the families using that resource.

Additionally, this resource helps families looking to give away perfectly good items. Oftentimes families find themselves with too many household items, clothes or toys and they want to donate them to a good cause. This type of organization really comes in handy because other military families benefit.

Even if you don’t need items from Airman’s Attic or a similar organization, consider donating to it next time you clean out your closet, and if this type of organization could benefit your family, don’t hesitate to look into whether or not your base or your branch has something similar.

Lastly and maybe most importantly, research. I say this all of the time, but if you research what your base has to offer you will realize what a wealth of information, activities, and resources are readily available.

Whether you have newly married into this life or you have lived it for a while, never feel uncomfortable to use what the military wants to share with you and take advantage of the opportunities presented.

March: In Like a Lion, Out with a Job!

Spring is nearly here. After a mild winter in many parts of the nation, you may be itching to get out of the house and back into the workforce.

 

Military spouse-only job fairs should be your first stop.

 

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation hosts several job fairs around the nation each month. They target military communities and invite only military members and their spouses.

 

The companies who attend, many of which are found nationwide and globally, are there because they want to hire military spouses. They know the experience, knowledge and dedication that spouses bring to the workforce. And they already understand that you may be gone again in three years, or less.

 

So, polish up that resume, pick out a business-like outfit and don't forget to click the link and register. These job fairs fill up quickly and rarely take attendees at the door.

 

Good luck!

 

March 1

 

Fort Campbell, KY

https://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/fort-campbell-military-spouse-career-event

 

March 5

Los Angeles, Calif.

https://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/los-angeles-hiring-fair-1

 

March 7

Fort Leonard Wood, MO

https://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/fort-leonard-wood-transition-summit-1

 

March 8

Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio

https://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/wright-patterson-air-force-base-military-spouse-career-event

 

March 15

Washington D.C.

https://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/wright-patterson-air-force-base-military-spouse-career-event

 

March 18

Detroit, MI

https://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/detroit-hiring-fair-3

 

March 20

Houston, Texas

https://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/houston-hiring-expo-houston-rockets-1

 

March 22

Lake Charles, La.

https://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/lake-charles-hiring-fair

 

March 28

Philadelphia, PA

https://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/philadelphia-hiring-expo-philadelphia-flyers

 

March 30

Little Rock, AR

https://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/little-rock-hiring-fair-0

 

For a complete list of all 2017 Hiring Our Heroes Job Fairs, please visit: https://www.uschamberfoundation.org/blog/post/hiring-our-heroes-releases-2017-hiring-fair-and-expo-calendar

Educating Around the Edges

By Amy Nielsen

When I introduce myself these days, I still find myself stumbling on the wording of my title.

I don’t really have a short answer like accountant. I am a teacher, but I teach both adults and children. I teach subjects that are on the fringe of several different fields: art, movement, spirituality and nutrition, to name a few. I call myself a health and wellness mentor, but that takes quite a bit of explaining as well.

I am three quarters of the way through my year-long, intensive schooling that will solidify my new career and carry me through this next phase of my life. But, I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up. I feel like I have so many options that choosing one means that I respect or love the others less. I know I can’t do it all, nor should I. I am truly a Jack of all trades and yes a master of none.

The question becomes, do allow myself the ability to teach many different yet loosely related classes, or do I become master in one of them and practice the others as a hobby of sorts. Or, can I fashion some sort of happy little space where I get to teach those classes I want and mother over a shared community hearth?

Because of the kinds of classes I teach, I can teach in lots of different locations. I have the option to be a master and Jack at once. If I open my own center and have my friends come teach in my space as well, then I become the queen of my space.

Now the dilemma is where to open business.

I have really two options on where locate a center. One is a smaller, lower income community at the county seat with a diverse but fractured population. The community has recently begun a hopeful economic turnaround fueled by the groundbreaking for a new casino.

There are grants to be had, buildings for sale and no other businesses like this in the area already. By offering a variety of price point options for classes, and a commitment to community wellness, I could be well positioned to be a leader as the community changes and grows. The downside: I would be working hard for alternative funding sources as the community is significantly more economically depressed.

The other location is in a more homogeneous population with a greater disposable income base and a decided bent towards the kinds of classes I offer, but there are already lots of other practitioners doing similar work. The pluses to being there are the ability to share space until I determine exactly which classes fly and the ability to charge a living wage for them. The down side is the added competition and the need to find a very specific niche to fill in a crowded pool.

Another option is not staying in one location at all and working as a traveling teacher instead. This gets tricky in our area which sees an influx of tourists. It means working really hard within the community to make sure I am plugged in to all off-season functions and activities. It requires a lot more networking and out of the box thinking. All that said, many of our neighbors live this sort of jack of all trades life here in the hills.

The last option I am working with is to be an association or events style leader. I already know lots of folks who teach similar enough classes that I could plan event days in which I coordinate bringing several practitioners to the same location. This option would require significant networking skills, something I like to do. It would possibly mean less of my own teaching and more administrative work.

In this day and age of growing community activism at a grass roots level, it behooves me to get in with the local communities to develop a space or series of classes that fills known needs. Networking is the only way that happens. We as a society have gotten out of the habit of proper formal introductions. The problem is that nothing gets done if you don’t know who to talk to.

When a friend tells me I should go talk to Mr. Joe Sneaker because he knows him well, I expect to be introduced, not told to simply look him up and cold call. I feel this means the friend either doesn’t know Mr. Sneaker as well as he said or that he doesn’t think my idea will fly with Mr. Sneaker.

If you believe in your friends, and you know someone who might have a mutual interest, it is your job to introduce them to each other, in person if possible.

Networking in the hills is a bit different than networking in the city and networking between the two is proving virtually impossible. That is the main reason that I am leaning away from basing my operations in the northern town. The dichotomy between the year round town folk and the weekend visiting city folk is sometimes astounding. The blinders both sides wear takes my breath away.

So, the search continues for exactly the right opportunity. I keep looking at buildings when I drive down the main street in our county seat and see all of the businesses sprucing up. I keep checking out the shared spaces and other community centers in the tourist town up north. I am exploring what each county has to offer already and who the community leaders are in those areas. As I reach out and keep talking about and around what I want to do, something will solidify. I just have to be ready to leap and fly.

New to the Military? The Benefits Are Endless

By Jenna Moede

I’ve learned over time that life doesn’t always turn out the way that I planned. Sometimes, it turns out even better than I could have imagined.

Life married to a man in the military definitely fits the unplanned bill. Even though I always feel surprised by new things, even after doing this for several years, I found a few twists and turns that surprise me more than others.

I learned pretty quickly that my spouse’s work center and the people he met there became like a second family to him.

A lot of the men and women he interacts with daily live similar situations to our own. They may not have family close by, they might need a place to go on holidays, or they might have just moved here. No matter what the story, it seems that they can quickly bond.

I’ve talked a lot about putting down roots in the community and finding friends outside of the military, but the military has some great built-in friends too. I found that I bonded just as quickly with the spouses, fiancés and significant others of those my husband spends his days with.

This brought us a lot of invites to spend time with friends after work hours, and we got to try things we didn’t know about on our own. Maybe we can bond quickly because we know that this duty station will not last forever, and we need good friends every place we go.

I also found that we benefited from all the events those friends attended. We never felt out of place or alone at command-sponsored events once we started taking advantage of them. We always knew people, and we always had a great time learning more about our friends or meeting new ones.

I’ve never seen anything like the military community before and the way this lifestyle creates lasting friendships.

I also felt rattled when I realized that my husband’s job came before literally anything and everything else. I’ve mentioned before that as military spouses, we need to be flexible, but that didn’t come easily for me.

Many military members have rigid schedules with long work days, and even when I thought my husband had time off, I had to learn to expect the unexpected.

My husband often gets recalled on his days home or leaves for several days at the drop of a hat, and just when I think I have his schedule all figured out, it changes.

I’ve learned to go with the flow, but I still felt taken aback the first time my husband got called in and had to cancel big plans. Now I feel better prepared for the curveballs, but life still doesn't always go according to my plan.

After moving to Wyoming and becoming a military spouse, I started to learn about all the resources that I had available to me.

I used to think that they only had resources for the military members, but military spouses have so many options out there too.

Aside from the benefits like medical, housing, the commissary and Base Exchange, spouses can take advantage of the gyms on base, the child development center, the youth center, the libraries and other fantastic amenities.

My husband joined the Air Force and we have an Airman and Family Readiness Center that will help families, airmen or spouses with just about any question that could come up. They even offered a tour of the base when I first moved here.

They can answer questions about budgeting, employment opportunities and family benefits and classes. Our base even offers a parents’ night out where couples can have a free night of child care. I only found out about it through a class I took at the Airman and Family Readiness Center.

When I first moved, I had no idea how much use and knowledge I could take away from that resource.

I also found out that we have key spouses. Each squadron has a different key spouse and each can answer specific questions. Shortly after I moved to Wyoming, the key spouse reached out to me and offered to show me around and invited me to a couple of events.

I met some nice friends, and I learned a lot about the base, the military, and the opportunities available.

Lastly I learned that not everyone loves the military. While many people we met really have enjoyed living life military style, some have really regretted joining.

While it really surprised me at first, I’ve learned to not concern myself too much with what other people think of the military. I feel grateful for the opportunities the military has given my family, and I try to surround myself with people who also have positive outlooks.

That doesn’t mean that everyone I spend time with has a spouse that plans on making a career out of the military, but I had to find out that I feel more optimistic when I surround myself with people and families who can find the bright side of any situation.

Overall I know it can feel overwhelming when trying to figure out the ropes of a military life, but I really think you get out of it what you put into it. Stay positive and realize that you might never fully know everything about the lifestyle. I learn new information, resources and meet new people daily, and I never really know what the next chapter might bring.

 

PCS ... boosts PHC (Permanent Habit Change)?

By Christine Cioppa  

New Year's Eve resolutions fizzle? Not to worry. Your next permanent change of station may help you make new habits stick! A new study, published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, found that a residential relocation causes such a disturbance in old habits, at least temporarily, that people are better able to change undesired behaviors.

“Changing your habits is very difficult," said Bas Verplanken, Ph.D., professor of social psychology at the University of Bath, "including finding the right moment to make a change.”

In the study, Verplanken and colleague Deborah Roy, PhD, looked at 800 study participants’ habits over two months. In this case, the 25 behaviors studied were related to the environment—water and energy use, recycling, food waste, etc.

Researchers found that people’s “minds and behaviors temporarily unfreeze,” during a move, so they are forced basically to go off autopilot, leaving room for being more receptive to change. Researchers also found that the first three months after a move is the best time for making changes stick.

But why isn’t willpower enough?

“Changing from December 31st to January 1st is not a dramatic discontinuity,” Verplanken said. “Many resolutions are made on December 31st, and go down the drain on January 2nd.”

Verplanken didn’t evaluate habits like improving study time, quitting smoking, modifying or quitting drinking alcohol, or reducing unhealthy eating patterns. But, his research does show that relocating provides opportunities for creating a healthier lifestyle.

Whatever you’d like to change, it’s worth a good hard try immediately after your PCS, just like that good hard try you give on January 1.

“Most assumption about changing habits do not take into account the key feature of habits—automaticity. Habits are automatic associations between specific contexts and responses, which are acquired through repeated rewarded responses. ‘Rewards’ can be any type of satisfaction (e.g., pleasantness, efficiency, convenience, approval).

Having strong habits makes people inattentive to new information or the availability of alternative options, and comes with reduced deliberation and decision making,” he said.

When learning new ways of doing things, Verplanken says “People may need information, and may for a while be ‘in the mood for change’ in general…. New behaviors, then, should be helpful and rewarding, in order to stick. Preferably, they should be embedded in other routines.”

So moving to a new neighborhood is the perfect time to try to change because it shakes things up and makes people have to relearn a ton of things. If you combine that with learning about how to change undesired habits, you might be able to finally create a breakthrough in those resolutions, once and for all!

Developing a PCH (permanent change of habit) within the first three months after settling into a new home can make your next PCS a rewarding one.

Nurturing Nature As You Choose a Career

By Amy Nielsen

I am a woman in my mid-forties. I am raising two young girls who are of the age to start to explore what they want to be when they grow up. I also have a stepson who is starting the journey of choosing a college, or not, for his chosen career path. It is an interesting time to be a parent for sure.

If you asked me what I wanted to do for a career when I was a kid, I can say I would have not been able to answer. I had no idea. To some degree, I still don’t. Because, what I am good at isn’t really career or field specific.

 As a child growing up in the seventies and eighties, I was told that I could be anything I wanted to be. Any career was open to me. What I came to understand was that it wasn’t so much the perceived sex of the job it was the color of the collar that made a difference in what was an acceptable career choice or not. Looking back now, I can see that I was never really asked what I wanted to do because it didn’t matter to the adults in my environment. More important was that I wasn’t limited in any way at all. Certainly not at this tender age that my girls are at when I see how much difference the choice of direction, any direction, opens up paths.

I came to understand that I could do anything. Every door was open to me. Which was paralyzing to me. I was somehow supposed to be able to know all that was out there and all the possibilities.  And then be able to choose one without any interference from outward sources. I was being taught to be self-sufficient and resourceful. I knew what I wanted some parts of my life to look like, but I had no idea what careers out there might help me on my path to be the most successful me I could be.

I come from a home of some privilege, more than some, less than others. My family traveled a lot, through Canada, Europe, India and China. I spent most summers abroad. I lived in Switzerland for a time. I have lived, worked in, or traveled by car or truck through every state in the U.S. except South Dakota and Alaska. I went to public grade school, catholic middle school and a private, girls only boarding high school. I hold a bachelor’s degree from a large land grant university where I studied mostly at the local, private, Ivy League colleges through consortium study programs. I also hold an associates certificate, and several certifications.  I have seen a lot of different ways to be, a lot of different careers. What I love to do has nothing to do with any of my studies. What I am good at is used in every career.

Throughout my entire schooling career, I was told I could do anything, be anything; what I wasn’t told was how to get there. I was taught was that girls can do anything boys can do, and that women can do anything men can do. We are just as smart. Just as strong. Just as intelligent. We are capable and able to succeed at anything we choose to do.

“So what do you want to be when you grow up?” isn’t really the question to ask. The question should be, “What lifestyle do you want to follow?  What problems are you good at solving? What do you have a natural aptitude for? How do you exist in the world? What room in your house do you spend the most time in, doing what?”

While I was out busy seeing all of the wonders of the world, I was filling my head with all sorts of interesting places I wanted to go back to. I saw people doing all sorts of neat things. I still had no idea what I liked to do, what made me tick, and what I was good at doing. I didn’t know how my piece fit into the world.

I have been struggling most of my adult life with figuring out not only what I want to be when I grow up but what that life looks like, exactly. I have had several somewhat related careers in my life. If I had had conversations specific to my adult life when I was in the formation stages of my younger years I feel I would have been better settled and less searching in my careers. I might have seen a straighter path.

Until recently I didn’t know what it was that tied all of those fields together and why it was that I was good at them. Turns out it wasn’t the fields, it was how I work within an organization that I excel at. It’s something I have been good at for a long time. Something I have been using for decades. Until it was pointed out to me by a recent mentor friend, I would not have put the pieces together. I don’t know who would have initiated those conversations with me when I was a kid, but I know that I will begin to figure out how to have them with my girls starting now.

It is a difficult thing to tease out the essence of a being and find how they move in the world. It is easier seen when kids are younger, when their natures are so much closer to the surface. But it means being observant and leaning in close to hear the whole story. It’s one thing to ask a kid what they want to be when they grow up, it’s another to help them find their calling.

As a parent it means searching deeper within myself to find out what questions I ask myself, then simply ask my girls and listening to their answers without judgement. My older daughter wants to be an astrophysicist, but not an astronaut. There is a big difference and it is as fundamental in her as wanting to touch the stars and lead teams to great discoveries, but not let her feet leave this precious earth of ours. By hearing her now I can help her set her dreams for the future. By asking her to be specific she can start to explore her strengths as a leader and as a researcher even if her eventual field of career is underwater basket weaving. If I just told her she can do anything, she would have no direction to reach for, no specific reason to hone her leadership skills.

So while it is good to be told you are terrific and that you can do anything you want to do, without direction, passions and talents can become buried and sidelined. A better question might be, what do you really do all day? How are you all day? Where are you all day? Where are your thoughts all day in your quiet times? Then find talents and passions to support those talents and that allow those natures to shine.

 

 

Online Students Should Tour Campus Virtually

By Jenna Moede

When you marry a military member, you commit to a lifestyle that sets certain limits. Educational opportunities for spouses are not one of them.

When colleges began moving their classes online, the world opened up for students like military spouses who need their school to follow them from place to place.

And every day, online colleges become better at offering students a typical college experience, without ever setting foot on campus.

The first step is touring the school, on foot if you are at a brick and mortar campus, virtually if you plan to attend online.

To start, just as you would with a traditional campus tour, make sure you know what you want out of a college. 

When I planned my traditional campus tours, I wanted answers about the size of the universities, the number of undergrad students and typical class sizes, but when I choose my online undergraduate school, I didn’t shop around or take those same questions into consideration.

Don’t do what I did. Make sure you have your list of questions for each university so that you can find answers to your concerns. Decide what matters most to you before you begin your online tours.

After you know what you want, you can start looking into different schools. You might have some in mind or you might have to do some digging to find a list of schools, but once you have narrowed your choices, start simple and visit the school websites.

Try to note your first impression of the website. Online classes demand you spend a lot of time with the website so really look at it and consider how well you like it.

Make notes about the website, ease of use, format and overall user friendliness. Take a quick scan of the menus, contact information and basics that the homepage offer. All of the initial observations will help you build further thoughts on the school. 

Next make sure you request information.  Even if you don’t have strong feelings toward the school, college tours pass out informational packets and they typically contain valuable information. 

Sometimes colleges with online programs mail the packets, others send them electronically. Either way, hold off making any decisions until you have examined the information the college provides.

Also, reach out to the admissions team. They may contact you when you request information or you may have to make contact with them, but they can often answer simple questions or provide you with direction for more specific needs.

After you have read through the information that the college provides, you need to learn about the online platform that the college uses.  Like I mentioned before, you will spend a lot of time online and with the website, and knowing about the online platform before committing can help you make a decision.

You might not have access to login, but you can usually click on the student portal and at least get an idea of what you will use if you choose that school. Look around and click some of the links so that you can see how the online platform could fit with your needs. 

Next on your online tour, learn everything you can about the school. Build off of what you discovered in the informational packet and learn more about the history of the school and the university specialties. 

You can also look into statistics like student retention rates and actually tuition costs for each specific program. 

Make sure you dig on the website to answer any lingering questions about accreditation or the university policies that may concern you. 

After you feel comfortable with the university, start to learn about the student resources offered by the school. 

This can include anything from tutor centers to full online library access. These tools can make a huge educational difference, and you will not regret looking into them before committing. 

Along with student resources, look into extracurricular activities that the university offers to students.  Find out if the school hosts seminars online, if they broadcast speakers online for their students, and what other events and clubs you can join.

Find out if the school offers clubs or professional connections for your field or dream job.  Often colleges will have professional chapters you can join depending on your major, focus or concentration.   

Next you need to look into financial options accepted by your school. Consider the cost of tuition along with other costs like books, lab fees and access fees. Also, find out what types of funding the university accepts.     

Additionally, I recommend looking into school specific scholarships or program specific scholarships.  This types of scholarship can also help you determine whether or not the university specializes in working with military affiliated students. 

This type of information can make a huge difference for you when looking at how to pay for school and may ultimately help you choose a school. Some schools offer more military benefits, and scholarship money, than others.

Along the same lines, take a look at the college’s social media pages. You could find reviews from real students, new and upcoming events from a Twitter feed, or great resources in a blog. You may even have the opportunity to connect with current students or alumni to get direct reviews.   

Lastly, look into graduation policies. Find out if you have to pay to apply for graduation, if you will have requirements for graduation, and if you will have an opportunity to walk for graduation, if that interests you.

Additionally, you can research whether or not the university helps with career counseling and job databases after graduation. 

If at the end of the process, you have any lingering questions, ask them. You might discover a deal breaker or something better than you imagined, and you will feel more confident with your decision if you don’t leave anything unanswered.

Just because you don’t physically attend class on campus doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy hunting for the right school.  Remember that you might not find the school that checks every single box, but you can find the best fit for you and the place you will feel the most comfortable.

Are Volunteer Expenses Tax Deductible? You Bet!

Military families are also often dedicated volunteers, sometimes to several organizations.

Tax return time is a chance to recoup some of the money we spend to help our communities.

Sure you get a warm and fuzzy feeling for helping out. You make new friends. You learn new skills. And, if you keep your records correctly, you can use the money you spend to volunteer as a deduction on your annual tax form.

Just to be clear, there are rules. Lots of them. The IRS has a form that tells you what charitable organizations qualify, what types of contributions you can deduct, how much you can deduct, how to track your donations and how to report them on your IRS forms.

The IRS details this in a handy publication you can find here:

https://www.irs.gov/uac/about-publication-526

And it is important to note that not all charities are recognized by the IRS. So, before you donate several thousand to a local needy food bank or school group, check the IRS list first to make sure you can deduct part of that money. You can find a list of eligible charities here:

https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/exempt-organizations-select-check     

Basic IRS rules give three types of contributions that can be deducted: cash or check donations; property donations and out of pocket expenses you pay to do volunteer work. This last category is the most nebulous.

Dues and fees you pay to join a volunteer organization  cannot be deducted, neither can items that that organization reimburses you for. There is also a clause for “gifts from which you receive benefit.” Basically, if you are enjoying the experience or using a volunteer trip as a partial vacation, you need to be very careful with your deductions.

For example, to deduct a trip with a scout troop to a local attraction, while you may not be able to deduct the ticket to the attraction, since you were there enjoying yourself, you probably can deduct the mileage you logged ferrying yourself and a car full of scouts.

To deduct mileage, you must keep track of the date, where you traveled to and from, and the exact mileage of each trip. You can be reimbursed for the actual cost of the gas and oil or be paid 14 cents per mile, but not both.

Not to mention, there are very specific rules set forth by the IRS for deducting gifts you make of $250 or more.

The best way to deduct your volunteer expenses? Keep all receipts. Log your miles in a book or excel spreadsheet and consult a tax professional.  

The Value of Rest

By Amy Nielsen


I have been going full tilt buggie for the last few months and my candle is truly nearing its middle.

However, in the last 24 hours, I was given the rare opportunity to not be in charge, and instead, focus only on my daughters as we headed to another of my youngest child’s out of town medical appointments.

It also gave me a chance to learn to be a passenger, which I never am.

The main reason I drive everywhere is that I get horrible car sickness if I do so much as glance to the side rather than straight out the front window if I am not in control of the vehicle I am riding in. I took this trip as a challenge to try to beat car sickness once and for all.

I am working on a class to teach calming meditation to children. So, I said, “Self, it’s time to meditate your belly into submission. I know people can sit in the back of a car. Look at those two!” I whipped out some of those lessons from my cranky brain and went to work on calming my unhappy belly.

Because I could not drive this trip, and because the vehicle we were riding in was a passenger van, I sat in the way back behind my girls in the middle seats. In the exact center. For three hours there, and three hours back.

I got to see the trip from a new vantage point, which was fascinating. It gave me time to figure out how I was going to make it to our hotel and then home again today without being totally miserable. Once I did that, it was delightful watching my girls enjoy the trip from their usual vantage point. It was like being a big kid myself.

I use my sense of hearing a lot when I drive. I rarely play the radio except on roads I know well. Sitting in the back was like hearing the music from speakers turned the wrong way around. It felt like everything was a half second in the wrong direction. I never realized how connected my sense of hearing the road was to my sense of movement, which triggers my car sickness.

I found that this imposed rest time, as I focused out the window, traveling on well-known roads, gave me a chance to find an interesting groove. The roads we travelled are not the greatest for adequate cell service for music downloads, so I had to find music in the rhythm of the road. I love these roads, they are fun to drive once you learn them well. They will teach you respect if you are sloppy though.

My meditation let me feel the rhythm of the road, hear it and know when the tactile sensation would come in relation to it. Learning to hear that timing was what helped me be able to not get sick. I was eventually able to interact with the girls, look out the side windows, and even do a little crocheting by the time we reached our destination.

I was exceptionally proud of myself that I didn’t barf in the van. In fact, I felt only a little green.

When I drive, it feels to me like I physical put the vehicle on, like clothing. I have driven a lot of different vehicles in my time, including some larger trucks. I love to drive. I had to learn to put the vehicle on from a different position.

I created tapes yesterday in my head that allowed me to know how the vehicle sounded under certain conditions and how that related in sound to my location in the back seat, then into my body. I found that if I kept the window cracked I could hear the speed better and I felt less sick. It didn’t hurt that it let in a bit of fresh air. I also found that if I sat near the center I felt better than on the sides.

It has always caused me a bit of annoyance that I always have to drive. I envy those passengers the rest time to do things like read, write or crochet. I get plenty of thinking time when driving, and I see some extraordinary stuff that they miss by looking down, but I would like to be able to nap or watch Downton Abby or read my friend Tony’s new book.

The ride wasn’t as successful as I would have liked. I am definitely a bit more groggy today than I was yesterday. And I think crocheting will have to wait. But then I’m still learning. I know that I am much calmer from working so hard on meditating for such a long time. I know that the forced rest where I couldn’t Facebook, or read, or be mentally elsewhere from my kids meant that we got a chance to talk about all sorts of things we were seeing. We got six hours of connected time that we otherwise usually use differently.

I learned that in cases like this I can manage to be a passenger. I think the front seat might be a better option, but I can do it. It gives me hope that in time I might be able to be a good passenger. Kind of like a good customer. If you are a good customer then you will get good service. I know what it is to be the one who has to drive, I know what it takes to be a happy driver. As a good front seat passenger, I can help a good driver be really comfortable.

So if you are one of those souls who is blessed with the ability to be a passenger, be a good one when we unfortunates who have to drive are cranky and sleepy. No, you can’t offer to drive, unless you sedate us or make sure to have a very large waterproof bag. And if you are a driver, there is hope that you too, someday, may be able to let someone else drive. Maybe.

Are You Waiting for the Perfect Time to Go Back to School?

By Jenna Moede

 

A month has passed since people made new goals for the new year.  When I discussed resolutions with my friends, more than one put going to college on their list. 

 

So now, after a month has passed, I’ve talked to those same friends who said they wanted to go back to college. I’ve heard a laundry list of reasons why they have decided not to.

I want to examine a couple of the main reasons I’ve heard that cause spouses to hesitate before taking the leap to attend college.

I often hear that spouses don’t know how to choose a college or a major. Many women have some idea what field they would like to work in, but they have a hard time knowing what path will fit their needs the best.

I felt that way too when I studied for my undergrad degree. When I got married, I knew that I needed to transfer, but I had no idea how to choose an online college for my program. 

I ended up choosing one out of convenience. My university accepted most of my credits, and I didn’t have to backtrack very much in order to finish my degree. 

While I finished my degree quickly, I wish I’d had more information when I chose my school. 

If this issue troubles you, I advise you to not put it off and to do your own research.  Don’t rely solely on the opinions of your friends and family no matter how much you trust their ideas.

Reach out to the universities and colleges that interest you. Talk to the admissions staff at your potential schools because they have the best information on their programs.  

As far as choosing a major, if you know what field you would like to go into, you have an advantage over some students. However, if you don’t know your passion, you have a great opportunity to explore new things. 

I’ve talked quite a bit about general educational classes before. These types of classes can give you a great overview of many fields and can help in your decision making.

If you want to go back to school but you don’t know what school to choose or what major to choose, don’t stall. Talk to universities and colleges and do your research so you can make an informed decision and not put off your goals. 

Next I hear a lot about timing. Many spouses show an interest in going back to school, but they worry about making school a priority right now. 

I’ve heard every reason for why spouses have to wait to go back from moving to childcare, but if timing causes you to hesitate, consider that it might never work out perfectly. 

For me, after high school it felt natural to go right to college, but after getting married, it didn’t feel as easy.

Since most spouses will never have that perfect opportunity right out of high school, they have to make the timing feel perfect whenever they have to motivation to start classes.

I have never regretted making the timing work for me, and I always tell myself that I need to pursue my dreams now.

Along the same lines, frequent moves cause many spouses to suspend plans of pursuing a degree. Many worry that they might work hard to earn a degree that won’t help them in the long run. 

If this sounds familiar, I recommend looking into many degree options. If you have a field that interests you, do your research. 

Know what career options your degree offers and recognize whether or not you will learn a portable skill.

Be careful though. While some degrees move easily, other jobs have state requirements. Make sure you learn if your chosen degree has any state requirements to practice in that field. 

Also remember that once you have your degree, you have an edge. In many career fields having a degree helps gain opportunities for non-entry level jobs. 

Overall, don’t let the military define what career you can or cannot pursue. Look ahead, do your research and decide what you want. 

Additionally, spouses I know often worry about the time commitment of school. Even though it might look overwhelming at first, with all the classes and schedules, don’t let it intimidate you. 

Even if you always feel busy, you might still have the best opportunity to go to college right now. I always think that no matter what happens, I will always feel busy, so I don’t like to let time stop me. 

If you feel this way, take classes at your own pace.  As I’ve mentioned before, online classes really help with time management. 

With classes online, you will have more options than traditional campus classes. You will work under a deadline, but when you have time available. 

Additionally, work at a pace you’re comfortable with. I have studied both full time and part time and while I preferred full time, other students have found that part-time schoolwork has fit their needs better. 

You don’t have to do the same thing as your friends. Find which one fits your needs and work within the constraints of your own schedule. A time commitment doesn’t have to stop you.

Lastly, the financial commitment worries many spouses, and I completely understand. Knowing that I had a financial obligation caused me stress at first, too. But you can lessen the obligation if you know what to look for.  

I suggest scouring the internet for scholarships and grants open to military spouses. I didn’t even know those types of grants and scholarships existed when I got married, and I missed out on potential opportunities.

I also urge you to look for other scholarships and grants. While you have a plethora of scholarships open to only military spouses, you may qualify for others too. 

Give yourself time to do research and leave no stone unturned when it comes to looking financial options.  It might take a lot of time, but you might just earn one of the scholarships or qualify for a grant.

So, if you have one of these issues standing between you and college, remember that you can overcome it and earn your degree.  You can pursue the career you dream of even with the twists and turns of  military life.

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