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The Grief of Miscarriage

By Christine Cioppa

 

“Maybe your baby is watching over you now,” consoled a family member.

 I thought I had a reason to be confident about my last pregnancy. A heartbeat, however faint, was picked up at 6.5 weeks. I was elated.

But at my doctor’s visit at 9.5 weeks, the doctor paused and was unusually silent. His assistant stared on, with a stone-like face. With some prodding about what he saw, he finally confessed I lost the baby. I thought for sure the little sack I saw above his head on the monitor had a tiny fetus moving in it, but he shrunk down the image quickly before I could really assess the situation. 

“Are you sure there’s no heartbeat?” I stammered once, twice, and then three times. “Yes,” he apologetically confessed. I looked back at the doctor, just stunned.

Then suddenly a swoosh of grief overcame me. Fighting an explosion of tears, I pressed my fingers tightly over my eyes, as if to poke the tears back in them. I did not want to see their apologetic faces or have them witness the outpouring of my grief.

After his condolences, the doctor told me to meet him in his office, when I was ready. There he encouraged me to try again and walked me through the different fertility options, should I need them.

Later I learned that miscarriage is common. It’s a secret many women hold on to, until another woman joins the club. Only then is the secret revealed by some. I couldn’t believe how many people told me about their own miscarriages once I admitted mine. Research shows that 10 to 25 percent of “clinically recognized” pregnancies end in miscarriage. It is way more common than I thought.

The doctor told me what to expect physically, but not emotionally. He didn’t direct me to the March of Dimes website for info on loss and grief. Or to the American Pregnancy Association’s web page on emotional healing after miscarriage. Some women, like myself, are left to muddle through the emotions on their own and figure it out.

When miscarriage strikes during a military deployment, the aftermath can feel devastating.

 “Things happen for a reason,” people rationalize. I know it is really difficult for people to find the right words when someone is experiencing grief, so I tried to take those words in the best possible way. I don’t believe there was a “reason” for it.

A friend shared that if it wasn’t for her miscarriage, she wouldn’t have the daughter she has now …  and she couldn’t imagine life without her. She conceived within a few months of her last miscarriage. But month after month passed without another double pink line on a pregnancy test. There was no silver lining for me within the first few months after miscarriage.

 

Many say it is for the best if the baby would not have been healthy. Though, who is to say what is best? Maybe health could have returned or maybe a good life still could have been experienced and lived.

What was comforting for me was when someone told me that not everyone handles “grief” the same way, and that it is okay!

Some suffer in silence with their secret. I had told the world I miscarried. I vented not for sympathy so much but just to vent it again, as if doing so could ease the pain.

In my grief, though, humor has not served me well. When I joke to people that maybe my toddler was created from my last “good egg,” I’m met with puzzled stares or that deafening phone silence. I let my laugher trial off awkwardly, not understanding the disconnect. 

Everyone handles grief in their own way, I remind myself. 

There is a community of women doing it every day, managing their own grief over miscarriage. When we share our experiences, though, with each other, we move an inch further through the grief.  

If you have suffered a miscarriage and are looking for help, please visit:

Healing physically after miscarriage: http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-loss/physical-recovery-after-miscarriage/

 

Healing emotionally after miscarriage: http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-loss/miscarriage-surviving-emotionally/

National Companies Hiring Military Spouses

PCS is over. The boxes are unpacked. The kids are on their way to a new school.

You are still searching for a job.

If you have dropped a resume at every local employer you can find, try visiting some lesser known, and some well-known, national companies.

The editors at Military.com have comprised a list of national companies that are committed to hiring military spouses. Most of these organizations have locations in every state, cover every field imaginable and need part-time and full-time employees.

Their list includes hundreds of employers who want the skills and dedication that military spouses can bring to their company.

Check out the full list at http://www.military.com/spouse/career-advancement/military-spouse-jobs/military-spouse-friendly-employers.html

Grab a cup of coffee and have your resume up and ready to send. Your next career may be waiting!

Daydreams and Time Management

By Amy Nielsen

I feel a bit like a magpie with a shiny new button to examine. The last month of travel has opened my eyes to possibilities that I never felt I had the chops to pursue.

The most important lesson I learned is that I am totally capable, even in my rusted state, of running any kitchen anywhere as a chef with no real help coming from any side other than my own backside. I felt powerful. Large and in charge. Within myself fully. And it felt great.

Three days ago I found the exact truck I want to buy. It’s located in San Antonio and is perfect. Not too big for me to run solo, but not too small that I couldn’t run a big show with one or two helpers on board; outfitted with beautiful reach-in coolers for the salads and a delightful area set up with baskets for fresh fruits and veggies. It has a place for self-serve beverages from an old fashioned soda jerk handle. I wouldn’t even have to rip out the offending fryer that seems to be standard equipment in every truck I have looked at so far.

I cannot get my budding food truck business out of my head. So much so that I doodled the adwrap for it while waiting for my kids to get out of the tub last night.

The truck will be really pretty and feminine with a touch of steampunk flare. I need to find a different font though. The one I used is too fussy to read from a good distance away. I was supposed to be doing was the dishes. Or the laundry. Or perhaps washing my kid’s hair. But instead I was doodling little café tables and streetlamps with a sweet little floral border and a big wheel bicycle on the back.

I did finish the dishes, but the girls washed their own hair, or more closely smeared soap on each other’s heads, then took themselves up to bed. I think.

While listening to my class lecture this week I was making up recipes from the ingredients my teacher had on the stage.  I was supposed to be learning about the proper vegetable fruit additive ratio for optimal nutrient density in smoothies. Instead, I was wondering, if I take the cucumbers, mint and the avocado, could I can make a beautiful cool summer soup!

Smoothie, cold soup. Tomato, tomahto. Wait, was that three or four to one with the proteins?

I have a bunch of work I have to do for other people. Projects I promised and projects I want to do. And a project still sitting on the cutting table yet to be sewn together. But I cannot seem to wrap my head around a single task that doesn’t involve growing my business and working toward that blasted truck. The fabric I have to cut for the under tunic would make lovely little café curtains to frame the service window.

Truck or trailer? If I get a truck I can run it around the country easily with a helper. But I can’t take my family on the road without towing a camper. If I get a trailer I can drop it and run more easily with a truck to the store. But a truck and trailer are twice as expensive as a truck alone. Mac and cheese for dinner, need to get the water boiling.

We went to our county summer fair today. I went to every food truck and trailer to see what they had inside. How they operated. What the food looked like coming out and what the menu options were.

My kids have never eaten so much junk in their lives. I fear for my sanity when all of the sugar and chemicals hit their central nervous systems just about bedtime tonight. But they tolerated my insanity until the magician show started, then all bets were off. I learned a lot of great information. Especially that carnival food sells at carnivals and real food doesn't.

I planned into our September vacation to not one, but two food truck festivals yesterday as bookends to our month with Nana. They are near enough to our vacation spot for me to visit both. I hope to learn more about the organizing company as they do festivals nationwide. We are going to eat well those days for sure! It’s too hot and sandy at the beach anyway, right?

What I should be doing is working on packing for the conference I am going to next week. A conference I chose when I had a totally different plan in mind. A conference that is still relevant to my schooling, but not so relevant to owning a food truck. It is something I am still highly interested in, but now it feels like I have to figure out how to incorporate those teachings into my new plan. Maybe it will spark a different idea for the truck. Maybe I will find a business partner who wants to do the truck with me.

How do I incorporate the schooling I am currently doing? This truck thing is a total left turn from where I was going with my health and wellness mentoring.  Is there a way to have my clients be less local and more regional, working long distance with them and visiting when there is a food festival near them? Are the two businesses too different to operate concurrently? Not as the same business but two sides of the same concept. Health and wellness mentoring and a healthy fresh food truck.

I am meeting with a small business advisor next week to discuss possible options for resources, funding with loans and grants, and start up mentoring. I would like to have at least an idea of what I want to start as a business when I talk to them. At this point that means deciding on the model. Both have plusses and minuses for me, my family and my career.

Is Striving for Perfection Healthy?

By Christine Cioppa

Are you a perfectionist? Whether it’s with goals for classes, sports, or something else, you’re probably a perfectionist if you:

  • Dread failure and mope about it.
  • Feel unsatisfied with “less than perfect” results.
  • Get defensive when people offer criticism.
  • Believe mistakes make you incompetent or not worth much.
  • Set standards so high, they are almost unachievable.

Universities such as Vanderbilt, University of Texas and University of San Diego promote an understanding of what is healthy “striving” versus perfectionism. What is known is that perfectionists aren’t necessarily more successful. Perfectionists sometimes spend too much time wrapped up in small details, throwing off good time management.

GoodTherapy.org points out a few other perfectionist traits, including:

  • Focusing on the end product rather than the process of learning.
  • Having difficulty being happy for others who are successful.
  • Believing that anything less than a perfect or ideal outcome is not worth achieving.

Unfortunately, this unrelenting type of striving can also cause anxiety, depression, burnout, and stress, which can be counterproductive.

If you’re not a surgeon, and you don’t build engines or mechanical equipment for airplanes—things that actually could cause fatalities if errors are made—you may be able to take a little pressure off yourself.

In our everyday lives, how can we strive in the most healthful way to propel us toward success and into greatness? The University of Texas at Austin Counseling and Mental Health Center suggests that healthy striving (versus perfectionism) is:

  • Setting high standards that are within reach.
  • Enjoying the process of the work, not just the desired outcome.
  • Getting past failure and disappointment fairly quickly.
  • Having control of anxiety and fear in the face of failure.
  • Being receptive to constructive criticism.
  • Looking at failure as an opportunity to grow and learn.

Are you being too serious about your goals? At Vanderbilt’s Health and Wellness website, Chad Buck, PhD, says, “Mistakes, problems, unexpected detours, and changing schedules are not necessarily the end of the world. Sometimes we actually do learn from mistakes. The goal is not to just laugh it off or to make fun of perfectionism. It is to give yourself a break and let life teach you something instead of just trying to control it.”

Are you a perfectionist? Take the Perfectionism Test from Psychology Today. Find it at:

http://psychologytoday.tests.psychtests.com/take_test.php?idRegTest=3262

This 46 question quiz takes about 10 to 20 minutes. You’ll get a summary of your perfectionist “strengths,” “potential strengths” and “limitations.” You can also opt for a more in-depth report.

Ease the Stress by Creating a Checklist

Take the stress out of making things perfect by creating a thorough checklist.

Doctors use checklists, as do pilots. A paper in an issue of BMJ Quality & Safety in 2015 discusses how checklists in medicine can help assure quality and safety just as it has for the aviation industry for more than 70 years.

If there’s something you need to ensure the quality of (say a research paper or thesis), maybe there are checklists already available. If not, maybe you can create your own. Checklists help you isolate areas of concern so you can double check quality and accuracy.

Talent Communities: Become an Insider Before You Get Hired

If you're a savvy job hunter who knows that 80 percent of job vacancies are filled through networking before they ever "hit the street" then you are probably already networking through family, friends, professional associations, college alumni, volunteering and social media. But, are you tapping into talent communities? If not, start now. In a few minutes you could be directly connected to an employer whose team you've been dying to join.

 

Companies with large recruiting budgets are building online forums, known as talent communities, to engage with potential candidates long before trying to hire them. They can be found in the careers sections of companies websites. You can sign up using a social media account or by providing basic contact information, share a little about yourself and the types of jobs you have your eye on and that's it! You will have opened yourself to a whole new level of networking.

 

Take for example, Zappos, a company that invites you to become an Insider in just a few clicks. Zappos considers its talent community the best way for you and them to get to know each other and touts the Zappos Insider (Jobs.jobvite.com/zappos/p/inside) as "a special membership for people who want to stay in touch with us, learn more about our fun, zany culture, know what's happening at our company, get special inside perspectives and receive team specific updates from areas are most interested in."

 

Marriott International calls its talent community hospitalityonline and has a Facebook page (@marriottjobsandcareers) where you can meet the talent community crew who are the official voices of Marriott International who are here to converse with you on social media channels.

 

Recruiting approaches like these obviously benefit the employers, but don't take lightly the fact that they can also push you way ahead of your job market competition. Imagine this:

 

-    Instead of trying to dig up information about what's going on in a company, the information will literally come to you.

-    Instead of getting emails blasts about anything and everything, you decide what types of alerts you want to receive, like those about products and services, business happenings and affiliations with local community organizations.

-    Instead of reading generic FAQs and marketing material, opt to attend company-specific webinars, chats and other online events that enable you to interact with recruiters, current employees and past employees who want you to ask burning questions and who will give you answers.

-    Instead of reading through countless job boards and applying for everything, find out only about jobs for which you are best suited before they are announced to the general public, which narrows down the field of competition and that's the whole point, right?

Once you have gotten to know the company and employees, and become known to them, use all the insight you've gleaned from the experience to present the best picture of how you are a match for that company. Tailor your resume, application and cover letter, and do mock interviews to practice showing how well-informed you are when the right job comes around. Not only might you find yourself on the short list of candidates, but you may soon find yourself on the other side of that very same talent community, providing a leg up to others. Recruiters are going out of their way to find YOU. Be found!

 

After all, as the saying goes, "If you stay ready, you never have to get ready."

After the Storm, Setting a Path Forward

By Amy Nielsen

I saw a meme yesterday, in the middle of a space cadet moment, while writing this blog.

It said: “I love planners, highlighters, giant calendars, nice ball point pens, to do lists, and anything else that gives me the illusion that I am getting my [stuff] together.”

Some days, those memes get it just right.

Now that I have been through the ringer, and have had the proverbial kick in the pants, I need to figure out exactly what I want to do with myself. I have been making lists of what I loved about working away from home, and what I love about being home.

And, what I really don’t like about both.

One of my professors recently gave a lecture about the benefits of writing daily. I have tried this practice from several different points: morning Pages, 300 words a Day, journaling, guided writing and free associations. I always find myself falling off the wagon. I stop. Something gets in the way of my taking the time to write. But I always spend an hour or so in the morning, usually on Pinterest, or on my lists. So, I have come to understand that this is how I chose to do my daily processing. And that it is ok to have a different process than someone else.

I am a list maker. I use them to help me remember things but also to organize and reorganize my thoughts. Of course I have the regular grocery shopping list, daily to do list, long term to do list, Honey Do list, and many others. But these are not the kind of lists I am working on now. The ones I am working on now are more like spreadsheets. They are thought process catalogs. A way to see the branches of the tree I could be part of. I have so many options I need to see them all out at once.

There are many different forms a list can take. If you are a visual learner you might work on a set of lists that look more like ven diagrams or neat bullet pointed graphic masterpieces. If you learn better by listening, set reminders for yourself in your phone to complete certain tasks.

Some of my lists I have to write by hand or I don’t process what is on them. Some I can do on the computer or in my phone and be just fine. Some lists come to me in other places, like books on the shelf. Lists can be about juxtaposition and opposites, just as much as they can be about likes.

I particularly like a site called Pinterest for creating lists. Oh yes, that Pinterest. The hours of your life sucking, gee Nancy that looks easy -FAIL, Pinterest.

But let’s be clear what it really is. It is a visual list board. And I use it as such to help me with the visual side of my lists. It is a brilliant place for someone like me to keep stuff. Like every one of you, I have about 300 different boards and well over 5,000 pins. Followers? Not my thing. I know I have them, but I use it for me, not for you.

I like that I can see all of my pins chronologically so I can see the progression of my thought pattern. Unless I find out that something I pinned was either plagiarized, copyright infringed, or just plain wrong, I never unpin something.

Lists for me are also chronological. They help me order things in time as well as in categories. To that end I have one main calendar in the kitchen we use as a family. It is always the same one. Same layout, color scheme, and same SKU from the big box office supply store.

Everyone in the family knows, if it is not on that calendar it doesn’t exist. With all of the changes we have had over the last two months, that poor calendar is a right ole mess. My “need to move on and see what is happening now” self is screaming to go buy a new calendar so it will be clean.

There is a part of me that says, we always keep the same calendar every year, all year, no matter how crazy. In fact, they go in the year-end financial box when we change over in December, so why change it now? I should keep a record of this chaos like I always do. Just because it is my chaos, not Navy chaos, is no different. Besides, in September when the page flips, I won’t see it anymore.

While all of this thinking time is good, the clock keeps moving on and I do need to make sure I do not become stuck in this moment, in the processing. There is, and will be, a fine line and I think a defining moment when it will be time to stop listing and start doing.

I have set up several meetings with people who I have identified as having interesting ideas and possible input from a third party review. I have a concrete timeline for when I want to be starting the real business process. I have personal and financial goals for the immediate and near future. But first, I need to take the time to dream and percolate what direction I really want to go in since there are so many options out there for me now.

Where to Find the School Supply Deals

By Christine Cioppa

 

It’s that time of year to start stocking up on ink, paper, pens and other supplies for the start of a new semester or school year—for both ourselves and our kids. Checking the weekly circulars for hot deals in your local area can help. But a little online digging can get you even more good deals. Here are a few ways to keep more money in your pocket this fall and throughout the year.

 

1 Cent Paper Reams

From time to time, Staples.com lists 8.5”x11” paper reams for once cent after rebate. Go to staples.com and select “Deals” in the dropdown. Click on Coupons. Right now, you can find Hammermill brand ream for 1 cent with easy rebate. (In-Store Coupon Code 19470)

http://www.staples.com/coupons/?icid=HP:HP:DEALSDROP:COUPON:TEXT:WEEKLY:20140101:0

 

Dollar Deals

Head on over to your local dollar store or Dollar Tree for $1 deals on everything from binders and notebooks to pen multi-packs and tape. Everything is really $1 at many “dollar” stores. If you don’t have one in your town, you can buy online at https://www.dollartree.com.

 

$4 Flash Drives

Get 16 GB of memory with a Lexar Jump Drive for $3.99 at Office Depot—right now. With this sale you save $11 per drive. Stock up!

http://www.officedepot.com/a/products/326118/Lexar-JumpDrive-TwistTurn-USB-20-Flash/

 

Discounted Ink Cartridges

While many big office supply stores have excellent ink reward programs, you can save a fortune by buying from vendors that sell off-brand replacement ink cartridges. The quality is comparable, though ink may leak out during installation for some types. A little extra TLC during installation is a small price to pay to save up to 80 percent off ink. Here are a few places to check out:

http://www.compandsave.com/?utm_source=internal&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=orderdetails

http://www.inkpal.com

http://www.123inkjets.com/

 

School Supply Database for Lowest Prices

Want the best deal now? Check out Passion for Savings website. You can sign up for e-mail alerts to be notified of deals and you can search the database for the best school supply prices at major retailers such as Staples, Walmart, Office Depot, OfficeMax and Target. Right now, Walmart is selling two-pocket folders for .15 cents each. Walgreens has Index Cards for 3/$1—cheaper than Staples and Walmart.

http://www.passionforsavings.com/back-to-school-supplies-price-list/

DOD Virtual Education Fair is Tomorrow! Register Now

Have questions about your education benefits? Not sure what schools are most military friendly?

Tomorrow the Department of Defense is hosting an online education fair to answer those questions.

The fair is from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST, Aug. 11.

Organizers say this is the second installation of the pilot program and is intended to make higher education more accessible to military members, veterans and family members.

You must register to participate but registration will be open throughout the event.

Register at: www.dodeducationfair.com

The fair will include participation from more than 40 academic institutions and government organizations. You will be able to ask questions about education benefits and how to access them as well.

When Your Dream Job Falls Apart

By Amy Nielsen 

I am not really sure how to describe what is going through my head right now. In the past week I have felt higher highs and lower lows than I have ever in my life; including the phone call telling me of the death of my father in a car crash; including the possible still-birth of our second child while my husband was deployed to Afghanistan without communication home.

 I went to Colorado on the offer and verbal agreement to do a specific job. It quickly became apparent that that job was in fact far larger than I had originally thought. And, the problems that came with it, both professionally and personally, were much deeper than I expected.

I decided it was not possible to complete the job in a fashion I felt professionally comfortable with. I am perfectly capable of doing the work, just not under those circumstances. That decision triggered a whole host of personal conflicts and issues I was unaware were so tightly wrapped up in this project. I was, and still am, broken from the ordeal; in heart, spirit and body.

I turned to my tribe. Those that came, came running in force to bring me spirit, heart, encouragement, gentle and not so gentle criticism. These are the people I love deeply. I honor and trust them. Their support is the deep well that I draw from to keep me rolling forward, especially now when I feel so fragile.

 I have never felt more supported by the family, the tribe I have curated and cultivated across the far reaches of the globe who had my back in this moment. But, at the same time, I have been left quite literally hanging in the wind by people standing next to me who I thought were my heart.

What frightens me now, as I re-read what I posted on social media less than 24 hours ago, is the lack of response from friends and family who are trained in crisis management. Who, when they hear a cry for help from a stranger, have professional training that causes them to drop everything and help. Now, that I was in need, the opposite response was given to me. There was no help. It was devastating.

I am not a person who makes phone calls or confronts someone easily with a deeply personal matter. It makes me physically ill to think of my response to those conversations. To feel and replay the lack of empathy and the lack of compassion from people I considered to be part my heart rips me to the bone. 

I started my drive from Colorado back to New York in a frightening state. I was still unsure of exactly how to go home from where I had been. So much has changed. So much has happened. So much has been said that I am unsure exactly how to exist right now.

The planes of the Midwest and the rolling hills of the heartland were a meditative soothing balm to my tattered mind. The wheels and miles rolling ever farther away from there and yet ever closer to here. Once I hit Des Moines though, it was all downhill into the seething pits of the humanity of the East.

Moving along and rolling forward, brings me finally and irrevocably to the state of New York. I think I am beginning to believe Billy Joel. It's a New York state of mind I need to achieve before going home.

I have to figure out how to assimilate all of these emotions bubbling to the surface. And I will take another couple nights of sorting myself out before I try to enter back into the womb I was delivered from four weeks ago.

Retirement Means Letting Go, In More Ways Than One

I am alone in my house right now, a rare thing these days.

The kids are out of school and my husband switched out of his job last month to focus on retirement and out-processing, so he only goes into work for a short time each day.

Which means I went from spending most of my time alone to having three other people in the house, almost constantly.

I love my quiet time. I love being alone. I don’t even mind going out for lunch by myself, or shopping by myself or taking a long road trip with no other company but my iTunes playlists.

But, this is going to be my life for the next year or so as my husband retires and my family and I travel the U.S. in our fifth wheel trailer. We will be together. All the time.

I’ve thought a lot about what all that together time will mean for our family. Hopefully we will grow closer, and repair some of the bonds that have been weakened by deployments and work and stress.

I’ve thought about how my two kids might react to spending so much time together in close quarters, how my husband might need some time to get used to actually being a part of the family, and even how our cat Chuey will adapt.

What I didn’t really think about was me and what I would need to do to make this work.

I have been in charge of the household for the entire 26 years my husband and I have been married. I take care of all the finances, vehicle maintenance, and vacation planning. I deal with house hunting, vehicle shipping, loan applications and everything PCS-related.

Since we have kids, I have been, for the most part, the sole authority figure in the house. I take them to the doctor, sports practices and school. I help them make new friends and say goodbye to the old ones. I talk to them about the important things in life and feed them and make sure they have everything they need to be healthy and happy.

This is true for most military spouses I know. We all run the house, the family and get done whatever needs to be done.

I’m not saying my husband does nothing. He’s a great dad and does what he can when he can. And, obviously, he provides for us financially in a way that I could not, while at the same time serving his soldiers, their families, his commanders and his country.

That is pretty impressive. But what I’ve realized is this: I feel a sense of power and control over my household. And now that my husband is around to share the burden, I have to figure out how to let him.

I need to pull back and let him co-parent. I need to let him answer when the kids ask if they can have a sleepover with friends or go to the movies or need some money. I need to let him talk to them about the important things in life. I need to let him do his thing, even if it’s not necessarily the way I would do it.

I have a real partner in the household duties now. This is something most of us military spouses are not used to.

But once I do get used to it? I think I am going to like it.

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