This article is a blog post

Take Your Time Declaring a Major Course of Study

By Jenna Moede

I don’t feel like I had really prepared myself when I began college classes.

I didn’t know what my passion was or what my major would be. And, I didn’t take advantage of all the on-campus opportunities that may have helped me shape my career goals.

And now, I feel very strongly that every student needs to understand their full range of options in order to make smart decisions regarding college, choosing a major and moving into a career. 

When I began school, I felt funneled into a career that I didn’t know if I even wanted. I started as an international business major without any real understanding of what that meant or what I could do with it.

I had taken an aptitude test at some point when in the college process, and instead of talking to my advisor like I should have done, I just ended up on a business career track per score results. 

I felt funneled because after the first semester started, my advisor told me that I would have to backtrack in order to switch from the college of business since I had already started degree specific classes. It seemed like I had cemented a career track without figuring anything out for myself.

Initially I felt that I had to declare a major because I had heard horror stories of people going into college as undeclared and taking forever to finish. 

I didn’t understand or had never heard that I had time to try some things out without wasting any classes or credits. 

I wish that I had understood that no matter what major I chose, and regardless of when I declared a major, I still had to take at least two full time semesters of general education. I could have taken those semesters and thought about what career fit my goals best rather than diving right into the college of business and putting my general classes off until later.  

Additionally, I should have challenged myself with those general classes. Instead, I picked classes based on what I’d heard about the difficulty and the professors, rather than my own  potential interests. 

I think if I had pushed myself out of my comfort zone, I could have discovered my passion for teaching and writing while still an undergraduate student. 

I wouldn’t have wasted any time or money, and I would have felt better prepared to make a decision. 

I also could have tried out a greater variety of on-campus, and off campus, clubs. This might seem more difficult with an online university, but every city I’ve ever lived in has groups that get together for just about anything and everything. 

Meet with some groups you might not feel comfortable with just to try them out, and see what opportunities exist. You might discover an unknown passion that will help shape your future.

I also wish I had taken advantage of my professors’ knowledge in college. While my academic advisor could help me, my professors knew the most valuable information about the fields they taught. Talking to them earlier in my undergraduate studies could have broadened my horizons and given me new ideas.

I also had the opportunity to job shadow in college, and I turned it down. I didn’t think I had time, and now I realize I would have benefitted from the experience. 

Most colleges encourage on the job exposure, and even students that study online could seek out job shadows in their local area. Seeing someone working their day to day life in a field that interests you may give you a better understanding of the job itself.

Along the same lines, try to land an internship. An internship offers a behind the scenes look that job shadowing doesn’t by giving you more exposure to the job. Even if you get an entry level internship in your related field, you will most likely get to witness the inner workings of the position.

If you don’t feel that you have an opportunity to job shadow or intern, talk to everyone you can.  I have interviewed several people in many different fields, and I have found that they typically seem willing to answer questions and they give a lot of unfiltered information.

I have conducted interviews by email, phone and in person. You might gain a little insight to the job that you would otherwise not have known. It doesn’t take a lot of time, and the information you learn might prove very valuable.

Lastly, attend job fairs. I know that you can attend job fairs in person, but a lot of online classes offer virtual job fairs as well. Job fairs can offer career ideas you didn’t know existed, and it might present a great networking opportunity as well.

Overall, take your time and really consider your options when you decide what course of study you want to pursue.  If you feel you really know that you have found the perfect job, still try to pursue interviews, internships and challenge yourself with general classes to get to know the field.  I don’t think it can ever hurt to broaden your perspective. 

Start Your Scholarship Search Here

Thinking of going back to school? Short on money?

This is the time of year when scholarship opportunities are open and taking applications.

And, there is a lot of money to be given to military spouses.

Begin your search with The Fisher House. The non-profit, which serves military families, operates a database of military scholarships that you can search.

The database includes more than scholarships. You can also find fellowships, grants, awards and other funding opportunities.

The questionnaire is simple. It asks how you are related to the military member, the military branch and your level of education.

With the click of a button, the scholarships in the database whose requirements match your basic personal history, will appear. You can also have the list emailed to you.

You can find the Fisher House scholarship search here:

http://search.militaryscholar.org/

Good luck!

A Good Cover Letter Can Help You Stand Out

By Amy Nielsen

When your skills can fit the job descriptions of multiple industries, your resume will look disjointed at best, and unreliable at worst. This is where the art of the cover letter comes into play.  

My particular superpower is logistics. I can organize cats to march out of a paper bag in nice neat lines, in any industry, as long as I know what or who needs to go where and when. To that end I have worked in industries as disparate as a theater, a water treatment lab and a school kitchen.

What ties all of my work experience together is the ability to logically and quickly see the bigger picture or pattern and identify the flow, where it is ebbing and where it is hitting rapids. Then I smooth out those kinks so everything ends up where it is supposed to be, when it is scheduled to be there.

Applying online is the norm now. But, that online application is rarely going to get you the job. We are in a world that may seem based in our technology, but when push comes to shove, you get the job when your personality, and abilities, are noticed. A well-constructed cover letter can be the foot in the door that moves your resume from the ‘never in a million years pile’ to the ‘how soon can we get her started?’ pile.

How to say enough without oversharing in that letter is the issue. Human resource personnel don’t have time, and won’t the take the time, to read pages and pages of your most beautifully written life story. Save that for your memoirs. What you do need to convey is how your experience can benefit their business.

In order to be clear and concise in the cover letter, first learn as much as you can about the company. First and foremost, learn the name of the direct supervisor or reporting manager you would be working under. Address the letter to them, not to the HR staff, as this person will be hiring you or working with you on a daily basis. All it takes is a quick web search or call to the company.

In my own cover letter, I have a varied job history that spans multiple duty stations and careers. To describe my abilities, I chose to use one paragraph per year to describe the salient points pertaining to the job from that year.

Also, I have several years of unemployment on my resume. I was a stay-at-home mom raising my two girls. I was not sitting on my tush eating bon bons. However, it behooves me to explain that during those years I was very active in our Compass Team, an international peer to peer mentoring organization for Navy Spouses. Volunteer work is just as important and often says a lot more about you as a person than your specific work history.

Work history listed on your resume only tells the hiring company so much. Every industry uses similar terms for hierarchy, but those positions can have vastly different responsibilities. Listing your title as “manager” tells me that you were responsible for something, but not who, what or how you were responsible. A good cover letter can drill down into the how of the jobs you have held and allows you to briefly explain your successes as a manager. It becomes a spring board for later conversations at the interview process. It sets you apart.

So when applying for a new job, stretch your wings in your cover letter. It’s the place to shine and show your personality. It needs to be professional, concise, and grammatically correct. There is nothing worse than bad grammar or spelling in a cover letter. So make sure someone else reads it over, out loud. Then send it off.

Always follow up with a phone call to make sure it was received and ask if they need any information to complete your file. This gives them the chance to ask for references or letters of recommendation. I do not send these with the cover letter and resume, I wait for the HR staff to ask me for them, but I always offer to send them in, both in the cover letter and again when I call.

If you’ve been out of the workplace or are changing careers or even looking for something new in your current field, write out a cover letter to complement your resume, not to compliment your potential new employer. It will help set you apart from the hordes of applicants who are not as shiny as you.

There is More to Social Media Than Just Finding Friends

By Jenna Moede

I know that social media helps us keep in touch with friends and family. In this crazy, military lifestyle that really feels like the most important aspect of social media.  

But, social media can help you with so much more!

I decided to take all the time that I had wasted mindlessly searching through old high school acquaintances and college friends and put it to use for a purpose. I knew a lot about social media because I studied public relations, but I didn’t realize just how many purposes it could serve. 

In my classes, my professors forced the students to become familiar with all types of social media. When we first began using it, I really didn’t understand the point or benefits of using it for anything other than friendships and family relationships, but through my studies, I learned that social media serves as a great tool. 

First, learn about new places to explore through social media. This really helped me after I moved to my husband’s first duty station, but since I’ve already covered that one in depth in previous blogs, I won’t say more than give it a try. You never know what you might find.   

Social media also offers a glimpse of new bases before arrival. I didn’t think of this before I moved, so I have never gotten information beforehand, but now that I know it exists, I look forward to utilizing it someday when the Cheyenne wind finally blows us somewhere new. Once you find out your new location, you can use social media to do some recon. 

Try finding out about housing, neighborhoods, on vs. off base living and general area information. I have seen people ask for photos of the houses, room dimensions and number of animals allowed. They do all of this without ever having to connect with housing, and it seems like they receive the most honest information available.

Even if you have lived in an area for a long time, use social media to learn about it. Just last week I learned how late a dog can bark before getting authorities involved, and I’ve even asked questions about the new recycling schedule because my date sheet blew away in the wind. Those awkward, open ended questions that you don’t know where to direct always seem to get answered on social media without making a million phone calls.   

Social media can also help you find other people with the same hobbies as you. My husband doesn’t like some of my less popular hobbies like knitting and cross country skiing, but through social media, I have found local clubs and groups to join that do those activities. 

Social media has brought me a group of people that I can enjoy my hobbies with even when my husband has left town for work. I can also ask questions about recently groomed ski trails or where to find new knitting patterns. The friends and connections I have established initially through social media always have ideas they want to share. 

Don’t forget you can take to social media for reviews on anything and everything too. When I had to find a good dog kennel for a weekend after moving, I posed my question on social media. I got at least twenty responses and each had a suggestion and a reason why. I even received some horror stories on kennels I had considered. Thanks to the helpful responses, I found a reasonably priced kennel that my dog loved. 

Along the same lines, a lot of times you will receive reviews and suggestions on military owned places with special rates or prices. I have seen questions ranging from the best pediatrician in the area to how the coffee tastes at the new local shop. I have received some candid reviews thanks to social media, and checking online has helped me avoid some bad places and try some I might not have considered.

If those tools alone don’t convince you to use social media for more than old friends, try using it for networking. Some social media sites only exist for networking, but really, they all can help us network.

If job hunting matters to you, make sure that you brand yourself and market your skills in a way that brings your most positive aspects and skills to light. Even if you don’t need to job search right now, you may in the future, and it really helps to have a site where you already have connections.

I have seen people post links to internal job openings and even work from home jobs on social media sites. You never know what personal connection may help you in the future and knowing someone where you apply may help give you a slight edge over the competition.

People often use social media as a way to promote their businesses as well. I have seen local businesses, direct sales and blogs advertised on social media, and it seems like a great way to drum up interest. Event planners often advertise their events online as well so you can learn about new activities, too!

Lastly, use social media for study groups. You can find groups for your school, major or even specific class. Spouses and military members alike both tend to forget to use social media to connect with other long distance students. 

Once you plug yourself into those types of groups, you can easily get your questions answered. You can ask about professors, job outlook and homework questions.  I always had random questions pop up, and I would have loved an online network of people who knew all about my university or major rather than search through the university website or talk on the help chats. 

Overall, while I have fun using social media as a hobby, I have enjoyed using it even more as a tool. Take a look at what social media can help you with in your life, and try using it for new purposes. What you find and who finds you might come as a surprise.

 

Reversing Sleep Debt

By Christine Cioppa

We all know that we need to get enough sleep. Precisely, 7-8 hours is needed for adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Besides creating some hefty dark eye circles, skimping on sleep can affect memory and increase the risk for certain chronic diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes and obesity. Sleep problems are also linked to heart disease and depression.

The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) says not getting enough shut eye can cause people to make more mistakes and be less productive at school or work. NSF also says getting enough sleep helps improve memory.

Recently, sleep expert Lauren Whitehurst, from the Sleep and Cognition Lab at University California, Riverside, discussed her study on sleep and memory. The article, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences this past August, was about memory consolidation during sleep.

Specifically, her study was on autonomic activity and sleep. “When we say the autonomic nervous system, I’m referring to the body: the heart, our lungs, and our gut. All those organs are communicating with our brain…. Our study was one of the first to show that autonomic activity is related to memory processing. In this case, we are looking at heart rate activity.”

Whitehurst says that the scientific literature on sleep and memory over the past 30 years has already established that memories are solidified during sleep.

“I was really interested in the brain-body connection. What are these relationships between the heart and the brain? And then very specifically, in the study, we were looking at memory consolidation…. What we found was, yeah! There is a pretty reliable and predictable relationship between what is going on in your heart—particularly, in this case, how variable your heart is…. Heart rate variability.”

Whitehurst said, “I think the implications are pretty large. Cardiovascular disease is one of the biggest that our health care system is constantly combatting…. What is going on in our body is affecting our ability to remember… affecting our cognition, our learning,” says Whitehurst.

Currently, Whitehurst is studying how suppressing and stimulating the autonomic nervous system affects memory consolidation.

So what can you do now? Helping your memory now still comes down to sleep. Whitehurst offers some specific tips for students:

 

Reversing Sleep Debt

So what happens when you burn the midnight oil too long and are running on fumes, especially during exams?

“If you have two days or even any amount of time of sleep deprivation, you are really unable to remember things the same way that you would if you did get sleep after learning information,” says Whitehurst.

“What I typically say is, really think about the summation of sleep. If you get your 5-6 hours of sleep at night, which isn’t quite enough, and isn’t what’s recommended, but sometimes that is what day-to-day schedules allow, really try to get a nap—a 30- to 45-minute nap.”

If you can’t get in one big nap, try two or three 20-minute naps, she suggests, which can help reduce sleep debt.

 

Study Tip

“I think a lot of times, we say ‘If I stay up late’ or ‘If I cram or if I study really, really hard, I’m going to do much better on this test.’ But sleep has to happen between studying and test taking. So make sleep a priority. Just like you put time aside to study, you have to put time aside for sleep. Make sleep a priority!”

DID YOU KNOW?

After 18 hours of being awake, you may start to function like you’re drunk? —DrousyDriving.org

Student, Spouse, Employee – Take Time to Explore the Places the Military Sends You

By Jenna Moede

I know that I've mentioned this before, but when we first arrived in Cheyenne I didn't participate in the community. I also didn't know where to look to find events and activities. I felt bored after the initial excitement of a new place wore off.

However, once I found motivation, I realized that I could find ideas anywhere and everywhere. I began researching in both common and unconventional places.

I started my search on social media because I could access it easily. I know it sounds super obvious, but I had previously only used it for my dream travel, not my local area or realistic trips. I changed my perspective and started to search local areas for new ideas. The amount of information I found really overwhelmed me.

There were so many good ideas and launching places from social media. Some of the places I found required me to do extra research but for other ideas we could jump right into getting there.  Either way, social media gave me a great launching point for finding entertainment, and it helped me to build my confidence as I learned to plan fun activities.

My social media searches inspired me to broaden our list of activities and try new types of adventures. I always had an interest in hiking, but seeing all the great photos and stories helped me expand our basic hikes to include snowshoeing, skiing, visiting national parks and museums.

I highly recommend trying something you’ve never done before. New opportunities not only expand our experiences, but they also help shape our perspectives about the places the military takes us.

On a side note, make sure you don’t push yourself beyond your abilities like I did a few times. One winter I thought snowboarding without lessons sounded like a good idea. I ended up breaking my wrist, and that slowed me down for a few weeks. But, I had so much fun snowboarding! Just be smart about the activities you choose to try. 

After a little taste of adventure and what the west had to offer, I started looking at anything I could get my hands on. I followed the city on social media sites, and I checked out the city website which had a section on upcoming events. It always gave me great ideas because I could see all the attractions coming for each season. 

I also started reading the local newspaper. I always pulled up our local paper online, and they featured an article every weekend about traveling the local area and the outdoors. They gave fantastic suggestions on hidden local gems and always had places that I had never heard of, even with all of my research.   

In addition to the paper, I read flyers that came in the mail and the base paper that was delivered to my house each week. I had always ignored those things before, but I soon realized these resources helped me find great, new, day trips. 

We also started to pop into outdoor recreation office on base once at the beginning of each month to see the upcoming trips and grab a schedule of events. Early on in our marriage I definitely didn’t give credit to the military for all of the things they try to do for families. 

I realized that if I didn’t take advantage of the trips they offered, or at least borrow their ideas, then I couldn’t complain about our location.  Even if we couldn’t do the trips when outdoor rec had them scheduled, it helped us learn about new things and we could plan similar excursions on our own time. 

Likewise, I requested Wyoming’s tourist guide from the state website. It broke the state apart by regions and listed not only things to do but also parks, events and the best times to visit. It proved super valuable and now I request one every year. 

Lastly, I ordered some travel guides. I could have easily borrowed them from the library, but I love to mark books up so I bought different brands of travel guides and also hiking guides. They became incredibly helpful because they gave cost information, hours and parking in one convenient paragraph. 

I started looking at Wyoming and Colorado as a tourist that wanted to see all the best sites. I realize that I have a limited amount of time here and I don’t want to miss a thing. 

Finally, listen to other people. Listen to people in the community, other military families, people you work with and friends because most likely everyone has some interesting knowledge. Talk to the people you know about what they have done and ask questions. Not only will you build your community roots, but you could get suggestions for places you didn’t know existed.  

Now that I have embraced where we live, we have had so much fun exploring the area and playing tourist. While I think community roots have value, I also think you have to look at your city with the fresh eyes of a newcomer so that you can always find the excitement going on.

I recommend setting a goal to get out and explore locations near you especially because, with the military, you never know how long you will live there. Go for every opportunity!   

Looking for a Job in 2017? Start Here!

Does your New Year’s Resolution include finding a job?

Then your first stop in 2017 should be a military spouse only hiring fair! The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation hosts hiring fairs around the country every single month.

The events are only open to military members and their spouses.

Check out the listing below for the job fair closest to you in January and early February. Don’t see your city here? Check out their full schedule for 2017 at: https://www.uschamberfoundation.org/events/hiringfairs

Don’t forget to click on the link and register! Events fill up quickly and they often have a waiting list to attend.

Good luck!

 

Jan. 19

Cleveland, Ohio

https://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/cleveland-hiring-expo-cleveland-cavaliers-0

 

Jan. 25

Austin, Texas

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

 

Jan. 26

Tampa, Fla.

https://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/tampast-petersburg-hiring-fair

 

Jan. 31

Dallas, Texas

https://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/dallas-hiring-expo-dallas-stars

 

Feb. 1

Fort Bragg, N.C.

https://www.uschamberfoundation.org/events/hiringfairs

 

Feb. 15

Los Angeles, Calif.

https://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/los-angeles-hiring-expo-los-angeles-clippers

Practice vs. Habit

By Amy Nielsen

Practice versus habit. That is the topic today. I recently started a yoga practice. I am also trying to stop the habit of smoking. Why is one called a practice and one called a habit? Why does one have a positive connotation and one negative? Can I change my habit with a different intention, a different word? Can I practice stopping smoking? Should yoga become a habit?

In exploring words lately, I realize that the intention behind the word is the key. So I went to look at the definition of practice and habit.

Prac·tice - noun - 1. The actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method as opposed to theories about such application or use. Synonyms: application, exercise, use, operation, implementation, execution. 2. Repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it. Synonyms: training, rehearsal, repetition, preparation. Verb - 1. Perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one's proficiency. Synonyms: rehearse, run through, go over/through, work on/at. 2. Carry out or perform (a particular activity, method, or custom) habitually or regularly. Synonyms: carry out, perform, observe

Hab·it  - noun - 1. A settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up. Synonyms: custom, practice, routine, wont, pattern, convention, way, norm, tradition, matter of course, rule, usage. 2. A long, loose garment worn by a member of a religious order or congregation. Verb – archaic - 1. Dress; clothe.

Let’s look at the synonyms for each word, those for practice are movement oriented, those for habit are more static. Exercise, use, training, repetition, perform versus custom, pattern, tradition. As I think about how to actually go about doing either thing, breaking a habit or starting a practice, it occurs to me that no matter which I choose I still have to do it every day for it to move me forward along the path I want to go down.

What on earth does this have to do with starting a business you might ask? Almost everything.

How you think about starting your business will determine if it will succeed or fail. If you think about your business as a habit, you will eventually lose love for it and learn to resent its hold on you. If you think of your business as a practice you will actively work at it every day and it will become vibrant and dynamic and changing and exciting always.

What habits do you have now that you need to rework into practices to get yourself unstuck? Not to practice in the future, but to practice right now. You know those memes that say, “The zombie apocalypse is here, your only weapon is the thing to your right! How screwed are you?” Yes, do that right now with a habit. In order to succeed, you have to take that thing - that one habit - learn everything about it and turn it into a practice that furthers your inspiration.

In some cases that may mean finding a new practice that is opposite of the original habit. In order to get there you may need to start out with something close but one step better. The old adage, know better do better, applies here. Really look at the habit you want to remove and decide what purpose it has served until now. There may be a piece of the habit that is useful in building a new healthier practice.

Take smoking. So many people want to stop smoking but, try as they might they can’t seem to do it. They haven’t really discovered what smoking does for them that they might use as a spring board to a better habit. For many, it is breath work. The act of inhaling a deep breath is really what their bodies crave. It is a deeply ingrained response to stress. So many of us live under 24/7 fight or flight response living that we have tightened our muscles up around our rib cages to tight that we literally cannot breathe. Smoking is our body’s way of getting a deep, relaxing lung full of – adulterated - air.

So what to do? How to quit and stay quit of the habit of smoking and turn it into a practice of self honor in four easy steps? First, find an herbal smoke blend made by a trained herbalist that is formulated specifically for you. Or find a good smoke shop that carries herbal non tobacco smoke blends and ask the proprietor about them, make a personal connection. This person can be very helpful in your next few steps.

Next, buy yourself a beautiful pipe that makes you feel regal when smoking it, something that you will use every day. Ask your new friends where you might find a nice one. Look in fancy tobacco shops. Third, learn when, where, why, and how you smoke. Is it outside only, during work only, in the car only? With friends at the bar? Start smoking your new pipe in place of cigarettes when you normally go out to smoke.  Slowly you may find that the smell of cigarettes isn’t as great next to your beautiful blend in your lovely pipe. You might decide that you want to move away from that time to smoke another time. You might find a new time during the day where you can practice your ritual of smoking your beautiful new pipe with some delicious herbal blend. Draw deeply of the smoke and visualize yourself in a place where you feel this way all the time. Eventually you may find that the breath work of smoking takes over and turns into a meditative practice and you cease to use the smoke and continue to use the breath work.

Make your smoke time a special time to check in with yourself on your progress down this path from the habit of smoking to the practice of breath work. If you begin with the intention of stopping the habit of smoking and starting a practice of breath work this progression will naturally follow. They are mutually exclusive but the path to get there isn’t.

There, you have successfully quit smoking and developed a practice of honoring yourself in breath work and relaxation. This same principle is true for business habits moving into business practices. Do you hate writing billable invoices because it makes you feel badly asking for money for your services? Turn the habit of writing invoices into the practice of accepting abundance into your life.

Words matter. Intent matters. Is your business a practice or a habit? Your success may rest with that decision.

Enjoy Winter Break, Rather Than Stress Over Grades

By Jenna Moede

Winter break and the time for relaxing and resetting has finally arrived. I feel so excited for a break this year, and I can’t wait to re-energize for the New Year.  

During this time of year, as an undergrad student, getting the most out of my time off felt critical because I finally had a second to enjoy life without school. After my last final every semester, I sold my books and organized my notes that I would need later on in college. Once I had gone through my school stuff, I put everything away where I could forget about it.

Then I forced myself to let go of everything that had happened during the semester. Of course, I still logged online to check my grades once I knew my teachers had posted them, but other than that, I gave myself over to enjoying the break. 

First, I told myself that worrying about my grades and the things that had already happened wouldn’t change anything. Grades, whether good or bad, didn’t roll over into the next semester and wouldn’t affect my future grades. 

If I’d had a great semester, I would always feel proud of my accomplishments, but I would try to reset my mind and prepare myself for another great semester. Since past good grades didn’t mean anything in the future, I had to work hard in every single course, during every single class.   

Likewise if something hadn’t gone my way during the semester, I reminded myself that the bad grades didn’t roll over into the next classes. I had a difficult time changing my thinking at first because I had always thought pessimistically when it came to grades, but adjusting myself to understanding that the past could not be change helped me to think positive.

Once I got used to thinking optimistically, I learned that I had a fresh slate with each new semester. Of course I still had a cumulative GPA, but I realized that I could only focus on what I could control at any given moment in the present. 

Letting go of the happenings of the previous semester, good or bad, always really helped me adjust my attitude and mindset for the next semester. Then, I could enjoy my break.

Forgetting about school and setting my things aside always really helped me, but I never forgot my motivation or resolve to do well. Even though I didn’t focus entirely on school, I still knew that I wanted to work hard even when I mainly focused on enjoying my time off. 

Once I had celebrated or commiserated the last semester and had forgotten it, I would always try to do the things I enjoyed most that got shoved aside during the semester. 

My study time always turned into free time during breaks from school, and I loved reading books that I had accumulated on a list over the semester. I always loved winter break for reading because I grew up in Wisconsin and books and hot chocolate with the snow for a backdrop really set the stage for a good, cozy day. 

I also spent as much time as I could with my family and friends because I knew that school really would start again and I wouldn’t have as much time to spend with them after that. Also, I would always spend as much time as I could enjoying the cold winter weather. 

I never felt that I had enough time to spend outside during the school year, so during the breaks, I always had fun skiing, winter hiking and ice skating. For me, getting outside totally helped reset my mind and rejuvenate me for a new semester.    

Lastly, I learned that even though all good things have to come to an end, more good things can follow. When the end of break neared, I would dig out all of my books and notes again, and I would think about the new adventures I would have and the new things I would learn. 

Having taken a really true and positive break from school really helped me feel like I could handle whatever came my way.  I felt excited to tackle new challenges and assignments.  A positive outlook after coming back from break not only improved my attitude, but it also really helped my grades.

For those people that have a hard time letting go and enjoying break, try to remember that each semester you get to start new again, and you can’t change what has already happened.  We can only move forward and enjoying the breaks we get and using them wisely can really help us do that.

Enjoy the time that you have off wholeheartedly so that you can truly feel excited and ready to continue studying and discovering your passion. 

Going LIVE!

By Amy Nielsen


So this is the week.

This is the week I go live with my first class offerings. I have finished writing it all out and posted the description on my page to advertise for my first class. I am in active negotiations for a space to hold my first class. I cannot believe it. It’s here!

I can honestly say I am slightly terrified, and probably not for the reasons you think I would be. I am terrified that I will actually have people interested in taking this class. That I will have to stand up and know that I will make mistakes and that that will be embarrassing.

How I handle that will be the key to how successful this business becomes for me. I have honed the tools I need to succeed.

I could be worried that no one will want to take my class. That no one will want to listen to something I think is really neat and important. I could be worried that what I have to teach is misinformation somehow; or that my teachings are disingenuous because I am young in my studies, that I am not a master.

But, there in is the point. In this line of work – I am a Culinary Herbalist and Energy Worker – by opening my practice to teaching others, I am opening myself to greater learning. So, by choosing to teach my level of knowledge to those around me on this path, I learn more about my personal practice. The old adage of see one, do one, teach one works in all endeavors.

I am at the halfway point in my Nutrition studies and have received my certificate to student teach. So my school has confidence in the amount of knowledge I have be subjected to that, in their opinion, they have given me the tools to begin successfully. Ok, I can stand on that. I do know in my heart, that I do know the material I have learned so far. I have been talking it about it to just about everyone I know. Some, ad infinitum, sorry.

I am two-thirds of the way through my herbal studies. I have been working steadily on my formulas and material medica. I have a compliment of herbs I can go to with ease and know for a fact they will work as I intend them to. I have had repeat clients for my remedies because they work. I can stand on that.

I am working through several related books and online classes to farther my knowledge base. I have one class lined up to start next month and another to start in March. I am beginning to work on several documents that bring all of this learning together into what I hope is a cohesive teachable practice with several classes to offer. I can stand on that.

I began this journey a year and a half ago starting my herbal studies in the living room of a dear friend who has turned mentor for me. At that point I envisioned myself as a family herbalist making home remedies for family and friends, generally effecting only my own personal circle of health. I was at the same time trying to figure out where to go from here. Here being in need of a new identity since leaving my most recent identity as Navy Spouse for Retiree Navy Spouse.

It is not an easy thing to be a relatively young, mid 40’s, retiree spouse. Especially if you have young children. In my case, children much younger than those women usually have in my age bracket.  We cannot afford to be stay at home moms, but we also often times do not have marketable, current skills. I have a BA, and a post graduate degree, both in fields I am no longer current in and would be hopelessly outdated in. However, I do have a brain and I did not spend my military spouse career sitting on my tail.

I challenged myself at the start of this year to figure out who I am, what I do and how I do it. Not from a career or job focus, but as a human being.  I wanted to find my real identity.

What I discovered is that I have been very good at taking on everyone else’s identity. And that is ok. I am a chameleon, a rainbow, a multifaceted gem. It’s ok to have had four major careers in my life and to be launching a fifth. I have been a lighting designer, a chef, an Intake and adoptions manager at an animal shelter, and a mentor for a peer to peer Navy Spouses support organization. Not to mention a mom. What I understand now is that all of those have a singular theme of flow.

I took that teaching from 2015 and applied it to 2016. The outcome was astonishing to me. I never in a million years thought I would find myself tying together all of those seemingly totally unrelated fields into this new field. But it really does make sense.

Lighting Design is about illuminating the human condition, literally. It is about energy flow and supporting the scene with the most visceral element in the theater tool kit. Lighting design is not about light but about shadow, what don’t you light, what do you leave in the dark? A good lighting designer is never an afterthought in a good director’s team.

A chef, well, food, fire, flow. It is everything. When you are in the heat of the kitchen in the middle of rocking a service there is nothing but zen flow. An angry chef never produces nourishing food. A passionate chef’s food will make you feel like you have sunshine in your belly and clouds at your feet, even if it is a simple grilled cheese sandwich.

If animal rescue work doesn’t teach you compassion for humanity, absolutely nothing will. In that line of work you see some of the best the human kind can offer and you see the depths to which humans are able to sink into. Both deserve utmost compassion and generosity of spirit. And if you don’t have it, you either find it within your passion or you burn out very fast.

Mentoring Navy Spouses taught me hierarchy and structure, rules and regulations. It can be seen as binding, but if you have the right frame of mind, it can be perfectly liberating. Within structure there is latitude and within order there can be chaos.

These four very different careers have all taught me exactly the lessons I need to be successful in this new piece. I know I can work well in a team and bring a fully crafted, well thought out, illuminating piece of knowledge to the party. I know that I can take the heat and be in the fire with the flow swirling around me and be grounded in my focus of my piece of the meal and know that it is good. And I know that I can share in great joy and great sorrow and hold compassion for all. Boundaries within structure can bring great space for deep work. I can do all of these things because they are who I am. And because of that, no matter what I do now, I will be successful.

So bring it on! I want to teach!

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