Book Chapter Preview: Help! I Can’t Find a Job!

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I haven’t posted a book chapter in a while, and as I make edits on my forthcoming book, I’d like to get certain chapters out there. I’m focused on sharing those that don’t apply almost exclusively to military spouses, since I know I have non-spouse readers as well.

I hope you can learn a thing or two from this chapter, which is aptly titled based on my own job-hunt experiences. The chapter begins with a little story about my job search when I first moved to DC, where I thought I had found my dream career opportunity: 

It was Round Four of interviews at a prestigious advertising and political consulting agency in Washington, DC. The building was in Georgetown, at the waterfront. The inside was like a glass-ceilinged loft, industrial and spacious, with the sun gleaming onto the concrete floors.

Help! I’m Unemployed!

I had this. My background was in media and politics. I had my Masters degree. They kept bringing me back for interviews. They obviously saw something in me.

I wore the outfit I had purchased when we first moved to Virginia. I had a job interview the very next day, but all of my clothing was in boxes that had yet to make their way to Virginia from Ohio.  So that night, Kevin took me to Banana Republic and I purchased a white jacket, yellow blouse, and blue dress pants. It was summery but still professional, and  just what I needed. I felt perfect.

As I walked into the room, I sat down in front of two women who didn’t seem much older than myself. They were DC-polished: hair dyed blonde, tied back, with just the right amount of makeup to look like they were trying, but not too hard. They wore blouses and skirts, and smiled broad, white, smiles when I came in. They seemed like my sorority sisters, in all honesty. Although I had left my sorority because I grew to hate it, I supposed this wasn’t too bad. At least they seemed familiar. They introduced themselves as Sara and Mia (names changed).

They began with that fateful question, “Tell me a bit about yourself.” It’s that question that I will never answer the same way again. “Well, I just moved here from Ohio. This is my husband’s next assignment. He’s in the Air Force…” What I said thereafter doesn’t matter. Because once I uttered those words, their faces glazed over.

“Oh, military. So how long are you here for?” Sara asked.

“I mean, at least four years. Possibly more,” I nervously responded, realizing what I had just confessed to.

Mia and Sarah looked at one another.

“So four years, possibly,” Mia urged me on.

“Yes. Maybe more,” I reiterated.

Then I knew. It was a sticking point. This was only confirmed later, when Sara explained that the company promotes from within. Everyone starts as an Associate, and can be promoted after 3 years of committed work. That’s how one of the VP’s started. Well great, I thought to myself.

I left the interview discouraged, but convinced that maybe the fourth time was a charm. It wasn’t. The HR Manager, emailed me to say that I did not get the position. After my fourth rejection, and repeated efforts just to get to their offices, I decided to go all in and ask the dreaded question, “What did I do wrong? What could I do better next time?”

Stephanie responded with tact and brevity: “Dear Jill, You did NOTHING wrong. I wouldn’t change a thing about the way you interviewed. It just wasn’t a good fit. I’ll let you know if something else opens up, if you would like. I know that would be the fifth time we bring you in, but I can keep you posted.”

I didn’t respond. I was done.

What the Hell Happened? 

When I began to work in military spouse employment, I learned what had happened. I was able to make sense of being brought back five times for interviews, only to have everything come to a screeching halt when I told them I was a military spouse.

Legally, companies cannot indicate that your military spouse status prohibited them from hiring you. However, it is enough to keep them from offering you employment. They can always find other excuses as to why you didn’t get the job. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s often very clear when you haven’t been hired because of your, well, marital situation.

All too often, if your resume reflects that you are a spouse, you simply will not get an interview. It is a depressing but realistic fact that I came to realize in my work at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes. As much as we wish to believe that our nation’s companies support military families, many simply don’t. There are a few that have made the commitment to help military spouses find employment. The majority see doing so as a huge risk they are unwilling to take….

Keep an eye out for more in a forthcoming blog post!

Veteran Inspiration: Why & How We Should Salute Our Vets

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Today’s post is sponsored by UV Vodka. Surprised? You might not know this, but they’re doing an incredible job helping vets find meaningful employment all across the country. They’re raising money for Hiring Our Heroes, the organization that I used to work for. In-store purchases of their products will go towards donations to HOH; people sharing the hashtag #SalutetoHeroes via Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter will also lead to HOH donations. In other words, you honor our servicemen and women and UV Vodka gives back. 

Although sponsored, this post is 100% written by me, and the ideas in it are 100% my own. I would never do it if I didn’t believe in it. 

UV Salute to the New Heroes: Share Your Salute

People say “thank you for your service” to Kevin nearly every time he’s in uniform. At restaurants, at airports, at the grocery store, he hears it time and time again. It’s relatively easy to get some kind of salute or “thank you” when you’re in uniform, whether you want that attention or not. 

But many Veterans are never in uniform. While neither vets nor active duty feel the need for a “thank you,” they all deserve recognition and appreciation. Most of them are incredibly humble people who don’t want any public acknowledgment of their service at all. Which makes it so much more important that we give back to them, even if it’s in a small, simple, subtle way that honors their desire to stay out of the limelight. They have done so much and expect so little in return. 

By supporting UV Vodka’s campaign, we can help vets and transitioning servicemembers in a way that goes beyond a “thank you.” Having worked at Hiring Our Heroes as a Military Spouse Program Coordinator, I can tell you what this kind of campaign does by contributing to the cause:

1. It arms our vets with a new kind of tool.

Helping vets find meaningful employment is not about simply helping them find jobs. It’s about teaching them things they might not have needed to learn in their time as servicemembers. They don’t all know about resume-writing, job interviews in the corporate world, or even what to wear to work. Their jobs were generally assigned by the military based on their skill sets, their resumes are rooted in things that are difficult put into words like, well, saving lives, and they don’t usually have a vast wardrobe of business shirts and ties. Campaigns like this one help them acquire the knowledge they need to articulate their hard work and do amazing work at new jobs. 

2. It reminds us there are young vets with expansive futures ahead of them. 

Let’s just be honest here. Sometimes, we hear the word “veteran” and think of our grandparents and past generations of servicemembers. These days, vets served in Iraq and Afghanistan and may have become veterans while still in their twenties. They have their whole lives ahead of them, which is something we need to remember. We can’t forget about them because there’s so much for them to do. They’re people with incredible work ethic, dedication, and integrity and would be assets to any place of employment. We need to help them remember that, especially when they feel discouraged over the job search. Unfortunately, that happens a lot, because it can be overwhelming for people who have only known work in the military. 

3. It helps companies understand why veterans are assets.

The process of veteran employment isn’t just about getting vets jobs and helping them learn more about the “civilian” employment process. It’s also about educating businesses as to why hiring servicemembers is such a smart idea. It’s about ensuring that while some of their skills aren’t conventional, they’re definitely applicable to a wide range of professional opportunities. Leadership skills, commitment to a team, and dedication to a cause transcend any basic job requirements. 

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In honor of Veteran’s Day, my servicemember (pictured above) and I will be saluting the vets we know, many of whom have done tremendous things I can’t even begin to describe here, by spending time with them. We’ll talk about their experiences, as we often do because I love their stories. They’ll give my servicemember and myself advice as we advance in our lives as a military family. And I’ll of course thank them, but I think it is, in many ways, a two-way street. Last week, one of them, a Marine vet, made a statement I believe holds so true: “I’ll always rely most on other military members and their families. We have to stick together. Teach each other, support each other, take care of one another.” 

And remember, even if you aren’t part of a military family, you can still do your part. It all starts with a#SalutetoHeroes. 

Guest Blog Featuring SpouseLink: Flexible Careers For Military Spouses

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Hi guys! Happy Friday. Today I have a little treat for you—a guest blog post. Spouselink, a military spouse organization created by the American Armed Forces Mutual Aid Association (AAFMAA),  was eager to share some of their own insight into the military spouse job search with you guys. It’s always refreshing to have someone else’s unique perspective on achieving your professional dreams.  I can definitely attest to the accuracy of the article they’ve submitted for the blog, based upon my own personal experience.

I hope you enjoy their contribution to my blog, and the opportunity to read something written from a fresh POV:

Finding a flexible and portable career is one of the greatest challenges to military spouse employment. Unpredictable servicemember work hours and long deployments place military spouses in a single parent role that often makes a traditional 9-to-5 job impossible.

Other hurdles for traditional jobs come from relocating to remote or overseas duty stations where language barriers, legal issues, and geography create local employment challenges. Yet, with all these challenges, there are employment options that enable military spouses to pursue careers that are compatible with the highly unpredictable, unstable, and mobile reality of today’s military families.

The answer is a flexible career that allows for a military spouse to work remotely from a home office. These one-time freelance jobs or short-term contract projects allow spouses to work independently on their own time within their unique schedule constraints.

You work when you want. For many military spouses, working nine-to-five simply doesn’t fit into their unpredictable lifestyle. As a freelancer you have the freedom of adjusting your work schedule to accommodate your best, most productive working times. The flexible schedule also lets spouses take care of their family’s needs and personal responsibilities within their own time.

You work wherever you want.  With the increasing connectivity of our everyday world, a flexible career gives spouses the option not only of working from home, but also out and about in their home cities or wherever deployment may take you. The idea that flexible careers remove a commute is an idea of the past.

A flexible career removes geographical restrictions. You can work on a contract from America while living in Germany. A spouse can now work globally instead of being restricted locally.

You are your own boss. You know what you like to do, and what you do best, but when you’re working for someone else, none of this matters that much to your supervisor or manager. When you have a flexible career, you’re the one in charge of the assignments you accept—you get to build the career that you want.

Sure, at times you may end up working on projects you’re not that interested in, in order to have work during the downtimes, but that’s a choice that you get to make with a flexible career. Unlike an employee, you have the freedom of full control over the work you take on, and for whom you work.

These careers also build strong résumés that show successful milestones in a short period of time. Advancement in different directions of a preferred field is easier when you choose your course. Having many successful contracts under your belt builds confidence in your abilities and illustrates your marketability with new companies and contracts.

You have more income potential. As a freelancer, you’ll be able to charge what your work is worth, and you get to pocket all the profit after your expenses are paid. Your income isn’t capped by your hourly or salaried rate, either. The more effort you put into finding clients and landing new jobs, the more income you have the potential of making.

You can take advantage of more tax deductions. With a flexible career, you’ll be able to deduct a lot more expenses, deductions that aren’t available to employees. Deductions you can make may include things like the costs associated with your home office, travel expenses, costs related to entertainment and meals, your Internet access, your cellphone package and any other reasonable and legitimate costs which you incur as a result of running your own business. Consult a tax expert and/or financial planner to see how freelancing might affect your taxes.

Flexible careers that are in high demand for employers and fit within a military spouses unique schedule constraints include:

–       Web Development

–       Customer Service

–       Networking and Information Systems

–       Writing and Translation

–       Administrative Support

–       Design and Multimedia Services

–       Software Development

–       Sales

–       Marketing

–       Business Services

–       Social Media Manager

This post was provided by SpouseLink. SpouseLink is a free website for Military Spouses that was created to support, inform and inspire users with a variety of content – anything from pop culture to important Military information. SpouseLink.org was created by AAFMAA, a non-profit, membership association that supports the American Armed Forces community with affordable insurance and widow survivor assistance services.

Where to find Spouselink:

Where to find AAFMAA:

 

For Those Days When You’re Crying in the Shower: The Military “Hard Stuff” No One Want to Talk About

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I know I always write about how to put a “positive spin” on everything and make the most of being a military spouse. But we can all say, “Look at it this way,” or “Be happy about that.” It doesn’t mean we always can. Last night, after I got off the phone with my servicemember, who was out having drinks with his flight while I was home alone, feeling sick, I started to just feel bummed. And I realized that I just couldn’t see “the bright side” of military life in that moment. I was angry that he was having fun every night with his flight while I was stressed and sick at home; I was mad that he was making new friends while I still missed the ones I’d left behind when we moved; I was jealous that he was out furthering the career of his dreams, and I’d left Hollywood behind years ago.

They were old resentments, and I could have looked at all of these things differently. Some days, I do. I feel glad that he has new friends and spends time with them, since most of his friends are also far away. And usually, I’m grateful for the new dream career I found. But I realized that it’s okay to just hate it all sometimes. I don’t want my blog to lend the illusion that it isn’t.

I think it helps to be reminded that you are so not alone. When you feel awful about the lifestyle, remember that others also feel that way. So when you take a shower and just start crying, remember that we’ve done it to. Probably for all the same reasons, like the ones I listed above.

There are a lot of common things we all think really suck about military life:

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They’re doing exactly what they want to do. We probably gave up our professional goals and modified them to be more flexible. They get to travel while we “hold down the fort.” They hang out with their flight in mandatory bonding activities, while we just hear stories about that one drunk pilot who went home with a waitress, and the rousing game of Cards Against Humanity they all played until 2 am. We miss our group of girlfriends who used to go out with.

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They are often by the book individuals who see things in one clear way. Not all, but a lot of them. We’re “normal people” who may see more shades of gray. They don’t always understand that doing the unconventional thing, or the thing they never considered an option, might also be a great idea. It can be a battle to convince them that you shouldn’t live on base, that you need to move to a new part of the state for the sake of your commute, or that they should try to get stationed close to your family because you want them close. In a great marriage, there’s always a way to find common ground, but it can be really hard.

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Their constant travel makes it seem like they’re always jet-lagged. You’re wide awake while they’re fast asleep, and vice versa. You’re excited they’re home and want to go to the movies, dinner, and a walk in the park. They want to play video games.

Or, they travel and can only call you late at night your time. You want to talk, so you stay up, but feel exhausted the next day.

Sometimes, being out of sync with one another just gets old and you’re tired of feeling like you have to change your schedule to accommodate them.

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It’s fun to feel independent and have your own schedule. Until it isn’t anymore. And you just miss your spouse. Especially because it seems like something always goes seriously wrong when they’re gone.

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The military throws surprises at both of you. Your spouse throws surprises at you (ie “Surprise! I’m going to training for a year in a place you don’t want to live!” Surprise, I found a deployment assignment I’d like to put in for.”) Some people come home to surprises from their spouses like, “Hey, I got a promotion and a raise.” We get surprises that change where we live, how much time we’ll be winging it by ourselves, and that force us to make tough decisions like whether or not we need to live apart from our spouse.

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I’m sick of being stoic. I’ll just be honest. Sometimes, I’m so over seeing the positive, and saying to people, “Yes, don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine.” I’ll still say it, because I don’t want anyone else’s help but my spouse’s. But I think a lot of us get tired of holding back tears when we say goodbye because we don’t want to make it harder for the servicemember. We get sick of saying, “This is a great opportunity for you!” when inside we’re thinking, “What does this mean for me?” 

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Sometimes when I do put my foot down and say, “This just won’t work, I can’t live there and keep my job,” I feel terrible. I signed up for this life, and I told him I’d be flexible. But now I don’t want to be flexible. It’s my turn to pursue my dreams. Does anyone else ever feel like this? You work up the courage to say, “No, this won’t work,” and you feel like his enemy? Sometimes, he has a choice in where he goes and what he does, and when you take advantage of this and say “No,” it’s hard not to feel like you’re being controlling and unfair. We try to take care of ourselves and our own ambitions, but we’re so used to giving in that it can feel super awful.

This list could go on forever. The idea here is, it’s okay to be really upset. We all feel the way you do on those days when you say, “I hate military life. I hate all of this. I’m so unhappy.” You don’t always need to try to see positive. You’ll have to eventually, in order to keep your head above water. But when you’re upset, be upset. Go cry, talk to your spouse or a friend or family member about how you feel, and embrace what not enough of us are willing to say: It sucks a lot of the time.

Five Friday Fixes: Looking On the Bright Side


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I don’t claim to be the most positive person ever, but I’m a huge believer in trying to see the bright side of things whenever and wherever possible. There are a lot of elements of military spouse life that we can look at as “drawbacks.” If we look at something just the right (or really, wrong) way, it’s pretty easy to see it as something negative. But as easy as it is to see something in a negative light, we can also turn it on its head and see it optimistically. It’s taken about five years of military marriage to finally see how pretty much everything I dislike about my husband’s military career can be seen as a good thing, also. But hey, at least it took five years and not twenty! I’d like to share with my fellow military spouses what I’ve found most challenging and painful about military life, and how I’ve come to see these elements in ways that make me happy:

1) The Negative: We regularly spend time apart. Some months, he’s gone more than he’s here.

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The Positive: Time apart causes us to miss each other, and appreciate the other person more. I miss having him come home, and instantly feeling comforted by his presence. He misses having someone to make jokes to him as we go about our days together. We can’t really get sick of each other when he’s gone a great deal. 

2) The Negative: We can’t plan too far into the future because we don’t know what it holds.

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The Positive: We always appreciate where we are, and make the most of the food, the weather, and the people in that location. We know it’s not forever, so instead of staying home and watching tv on weekends, we get out there and act like tourists in our own city.

3) The Negative: Our friends are super far away and we don’t talk to them, or see them enough because let’s be honest—who has the time?!

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The Positive: When we can see friends due to vacation time or because we’re traveling to a particular part of the country, we always have a place to stay and “locals” who can guide us around their city. There’s also always so much to talk about and share. 

4) The Negative: Tricare can be very difficult to deal with when it comes to getting the referrals you want, namely if you have Tricare Prime.

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The Positive: Is there a positive here? Why yes, ma’am. You learn a lot about the way that military insurance works, including how to “outwit” it. There are different terms you can use and different medical professionals you can get involved to help you out. I think this will have to be a future blog post. Once you learn the system, you can help other military spouses, and fully benefit from what can be pretty comprehensive coverage from quality caregivers. 

5) The Negative: The possibility of deployment, training, an accompanied tour or a TDY always looms over you. 

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The Positive: You take advantage of time together. You know that you don’t always have it, it could end soon, and there are a lot of military spouses who have it much worse. If anything, military life teaches you gratitude for one another and the opportunity to enjoy someone else’s company. You don’t take it for granted that you have someone to wake up to each morning, and come home to at night, because all too recently you were doing it all alone!

In Print: Writing From September/October

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Here’s the latest from my writing on the web. I hope you guys love reading it as much as I’ve loved writing it! Over the past month and a half, I was able to interview actor Robert Duvall’s wife, profile some incredibly inspiring military spouses, and post about fitness (my favorite topic!)

Fall in Love With The Season With The 5 Best Fall Hikes in The U.S.

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Lots of us pack away our hiking boots once a chill hits the air, assuming (incorrectly, of course) that there’s really no reason to partake in many outdoor activities now that autumn has rolled around.

 

Confidence Building Yoga Poses For All Levels

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Put some sass in that side plank and learn how to take your yoga practice to the next level!

 

Milpreneur Courtney Slazinik: Click It Up a Notch!

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You’re in Okinawa, Japan, a mother and military spouse in a foreign country. You’ve got a degree in education in your pocket, and ambition driving you. But where do you go from there?

Robert Duvall Children’s Fund

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You probably know him from The Godfather or Apocalypse Now. We imagine Robert Duvall as a seasoned actor and quintessential “tough guy.” To most, he’s characterized by lines like, “I love the smell of napalm in the morning,” and “Mr. Corleone never asks a second favor once he’s refused the first.” The disparity between the characters Duvall plays on film and the generous, down-to-earth person he is in the “real world” is a testament to his skill as an actor.

 

Five Friday Fixes – Military Spouse YouTubers: A Whole New Way to Have a Conversation

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I don’t know about you guys, but I love watching YouTube videos for tutorials, fashion advice, and recipes. Recently, I discovered that there’s a military spouse community on YouTube, filled with a lively group of young women who have fun and valuable insight. Because let’s be honest, sometimes it’s great to just watch something or listen to milspouse advice/stories instead of reading about it!

Here are my current favorites:

1) DiamondsOnDeck76

These young women post Military Spouse 101 videos every Monday, and some of them (like in the video featured above) offer insight to young spouses and those who are still in a relationship but unmarried. They offer a great look into the experience so you get the full picture of military spouse life—down to the nitty-gritty.

2) Rachel Earls Vlogs

This military spouse doesn’t offer advice per se—she’s new to the military spouse world. Instead, she’s more focused on talking about her adventures and experiences with her servicemember. Honestly, she’s so much fun. Her vlogs are a great reminder of the wonderful relationships we share with one another, and our military man/woman.  She also reaches out for advice to other spouses, and it’s fun to see what insight the audience offers in the comments.

3) Roxanne Renee

This young military spouse is energetic and honest: two qualities I love! She hasn’t been married long, but you learn a lot in that first year of spouse life. Her vlogs make you feel like you’re hanging out with a friend, and she definitely gets personal—which is so helpful when military spouse life gets hard or challenging.

4) zachsgrl04

This vlogger shares lots of relatable military spouse experiences, and all the while keeps a smile on her face. A number of her subscribers are military spouses and moms, which may appeal to a slightly older demographic of spouses. Still, it’s fun to watch her interaction with her spouse, and hear her talk about military events, deployments, and family life.

5) MilitarySisterhood

This is a sort of conglomerate of YouTubers who really cover the spectrum of military spouse “issues” that could come up, ranging from things that new military spouses should know to truths that a lot of military spouses try to sweep under the rug. I love that there’s always a new and unique voice shared in this channel’s videos.

Military Spouse Travel Destination: Destin, FL

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Long TDYs are tough; there’s no getting around it. If and when you can, why not try to make it a little easier, and visit your servicemember? This past weekend, Kevin and I scheduled a little meetup in Florida in our effort to cut down on the time apart. He drove three hours from the base he’s living at right now, and I flew down from our home.

This is definitely not something I would recommend for a military spouse who has trouble being away from her servicemember. It might sound like a wonderful idea and a great comfort, but the reality is that it ultimately makes things feel a little harder. Just when you’ve gotten used to being on your own for a while, you’re thrust into each other’s lives again and you feel all the same joys of being together. Then, in just 48 hours, you say goodbye again and the same loneliness and sadness can rise to the surface. You have to overcome it all over again. If you feel comfortable with time apart, then a little visit is a great idea. If saying goodbye is hard for you, I’d say forgo it.

Protip: Being apart gets easier the longer you’re apart. 

If you do decide to meet up, depending upon where you’re located, I simply can’t think of a better place than the Destin area. There are lots of military bases around here, from Eglin AFB to Maxwell AFB to USCG Station Destin. It just might be convenient to you and your military spouse. You’ll see more military in a several mile radius off base than you ever see in one place in Northern Virginia. Bars offer military discounts, and there a lot of American flags, military flags, and men/women in uniform. It’s oddly comforting when you live in the DC area—a region where military families are widely scattered across the region.

Military Spouse Travel Tips for Destin, FL and Surrounding Area:

1. Take Advantage of Adventures. 

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Kevin and me parasailing!

There are lots of fun things you can do with your spouse to make the most of your time together. This is a resort area, so try out paddleboarding, go parasailing (it’s only about $50/person for an amazing adventure), or hop in a kayak. These kinds of activities are wonderful for bonding, especially since one or both of you may feel a little nervous if you’re doing something you’ve never done before. You can turn to one another for comfort. And I have to say, it’s pretty fun to laugh together and sightsee while parasailing over the Gulf. It’s a memory you won’t forget anytime soon.

2. Be a cheesy tourist.

Rosemary Beach, near Seaside

Rosemary Beach, near Seaside

It’s fun to just let go. Check out the amazing tourist spots, from the little “tourist-trap” boutiques in Seaside (a very preppy but absolutely gorgeous town where The Truman Show was filmed) to the beachside restaurants. The water is so bright and clear, and the white sand beaches are a treasure. I had never seen them before, and could not stop photographing them. Rent beach cruisers and bike, pop in little beachside kite stores and candy shops, and savor the opportunity to feel like you’re on vacation in October.

3. Get a local flavor.

 

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You need to eat seafood here. Plain and simple. The Destin Seafood Festival drew people from six hours away, all to this one location where you can have what is arguably the best grouper I’ve ever eaten. My hosts were kind enough to ensure we had a true Southern, coastal experience, and we enjoyed everything from incredibly fresh fish and shrimp to Dairy Queen. Having grown up in the Northeast, this was incredibly exciting to me. I’d never been to Dairy Queen before, and I’m officially a new fan. As my hosts told me, “It’s a classic Southern place to go.” Even in Seaside/Santa Rose Beach, which I described to friends as The Hamptons of Florida, we enjoyed food that “in the know” locals gravitate towards. A grilled cheese truck called The Meltdown 30A (see pic above) offered what I have to say is the best grilled cheese sandwich I’ve ever had. I would go back to Florida just for my grilled goat cheese and strawberry jam with prosciutto sandwich.

4. Realize you’re pretty much in the South.

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Found this book in a Seaside bookshop

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This was a wonderful bonding experience, but also a cultural experience for Kevin and me. I’ve never really been to the South, and I didn’t think that Florida qualified as “Southern.” Little did I know, this is a place where Vineyard Vines, Lily Pulitzer, books about Southern manners, grits, and lots of Southern twangs abound. It was a whole new experience for me, culturally speaking, and I couldn’t stop soaking it in. I loved how different it felt from everywhere else I’ve lived. And how fun is it to explore something so “foreign” with your spouse?! (And yes, I know I live in Virginia, but I assure you—this is nothing like Northern Virginia).

5. Skip the museums.

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Kevin and I did stop briefly at Eglin AFB’s Armaments Museum, but for such a short weekend vacation, it was worthwhile to avoid the traditional touristy museum stops. Instead, we did our best to enjoy being outdoors. We went out on a friend’s boat, we enjoyed water sports, we ate outside, and we popped into random cafes filled with locals for coffee or a quick breakfast. In this area, there’s so much to see and savor outside, that you can truly have the best time enjoying the water, the beach, the food, and the incredibly nice and hospitable people.

I realize not everyone can get the time away to enjoy a mini vacation with their servicemember during a long TDY. It’s a luxury I’m very grateful for. But if you can manage it for a long weekend, fly out on a Friday afternoon, enjoy an amazing 48 hours with the person you miss most, and hop back on a plane Sunday night. You’ll miss them even more when you say goodbye, but in my view, the experience together is worth that little twinge of sadness you feel when you realize you’ll still be apart for a while.

Get Fit & Give Back

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I’ve written about how important volunteerism is to me before, and it’s especially close to my heart when it comes to volunteering time, money, or energy to help fellow military families. I feel like it’s somehow my responsibility as a military spouse whose husband is happy, healthy, and successful to help others who may have been less fortunate in their journey with military life. While there are so many ways to accomplish this, one of my favorites is actually right in line with the goals of the Military Spouse Wellness Summit coming up in October.

Mind you, this post isn’t sponsored. I’m sorry if it sounds that way. I simply want to raise awareness of this amazing opportunity to do something great for yourself, and others.

Lately, I’ve been using an app called Charity Miles, which I don’t think enough people are aware of. You turn on the app, and it utilizes the motion-sensing capabilities of your smartphone to track the miles you walk or run for exercise every day. Donations are made, based upon your mileage, to the charity of your choice. My choice has, of course, been The Wounded Warrior Project. While each mile may not seem to raise that much money, it all adds up, especially if all of us partake.

I use the app on my morning walks with the dogs, my evening walks with the dogs, and when I go for a run. If you commute every day on foot, this is another opportunity to use the app. We all have fitness goals, but why not raise money for something wonderful while achieving them?

Of course, it’s also race season and there are tons of charity races you can partake in, including events that work closely with Wounded Warriors like Tough Mudder. You can use your fitness goals to help motivate you in the volunteerism department, and your desire to help others as motivation for working out.

Either way, I think we all owe it to our military community to do something to give back. Even if it’s something small, like taking a walk. Here are some great ways to use Charity Miles, especially if you’re participating in the upcoming Wellness Summit:

Walking With Friends: Take a walk every morning with a neighbor you enjoy hanging out with. This is especially easy if you live on base where, let’s be honest, you probably know more of your neighbors than you’d like.

Dancing Like Crazy: The app tracks your movement; you’ll build miles just moving around the room. When your spouse is TDY (or just not home), turn up your favorite song and dance because I promise, everyone does it.

Traveling: When you go to a new city, state, or country, what do you do first? You explore! This is almost always best done on foot, so put on your sneakers and gain some miles while checking out your new spot

Shopping: You probably don’t realize how much walking you do at the grocery store, mall, BX, or commissary. Turn on the app while you’re running errands.

Getting Coffee: If you can walk to your local coffee shop, why not do it? That’s such a great excuse to use the app and exercise. For some reason, I find it so fun and fulfilling to wake up early, walk about a mile to Starbucks, and walk home.  Maybe not every day, but once in a while, it’s pretty fun and it makes my morning that much more special.

Getting Crafty: Gift Baskets For Fellow Military Spouses

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As you all may know, most of my blog content is all about inspiration and living well. But once in a while, I love to mix it up and share the little bit of craftiness I have. A lot, and I mean a lot of military spouses have Etsy shops, blogs, and online shops devoted to making incredible care packages, welcome home banners, and the like. I will never be one of them, though I wish I could be.

With that said, sometimes I need to get a little crafty. We all do. There are always those times when your spouse heads out of town (or out of the country!) for a while and you just want to make a nice care package. Or, in my case, when a fellow military spouse I’d befriended at a previous assignment moved with her husband to our area! It’s always an exciting development when you’re reunited with friends. Sometimes, the stars just align during the PCS process!

To welcome an old friend and her husband to the area, I decided to make a sort of “housewarming” basket, even though they’re renting their home, and even though they’ll only be in their current area for about two years. Why not make them feel at home, when home is so transient anyway?!

With that said, I think this is a great idea for any military spouse looking to give a friend something fun to welcome her to a new assignment. Read on for my gift basket tips:

1) Head to Cost Plus World Market

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When you know you want to give a housewarming present, but you simply have no clue what it will be, Cost Plus has got your back! They have amazing foods, drinks, toiletries, and home goods that anyone can use. The store is filled with little knick-knacks that just add a sense of comfort to a new space. I promise, this isn’t sponsored. I wish it was, though!

2) Raid their baskets

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They have an entire section of gift baskets (at least mine does), knowing full well that lots of people come in to buy presents, I suppose. Some are simple wicker baskets, ranging in price from $5 to $25. Others, like the one I purchased for $6 (a great deal!) are intended specifically for wrapping. I was able to purchase a wicker basket that came with filler, plastic wrap (to seal it all up), twine to close it, and a gift tag. I think it looks at least fairly professional, and it goes perfectly with my theme. With that said, on to Step 3.

3) Pick a theme

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For any kind of gift basket, I think it’s easier to choose a theme. This way, it seems like one present in spite of the fact that you have a bunch of goodies in there. Since it’s fall I went with a seasonal theme and chose items that looked appropriate for the time of year. An amazing Mexican Pumpkin candle and elegant wood coasters that I honestly wanted for myself seemed ideal. I also thought the brown wicker of the basket went well with my theme.

4) Get personal

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Jessie’s adorable Shiba-Inus

If you haven’t seen each other in a while, and let’s be honest, most military spouses haven’t seen their friends in a while, it’s awesome to show that remember the things your friend liked. That’s why I chose a cute little fox spoon rest (I couldn’t find the same one online, similar idea here though), an ideal choice for a friend who loves foxes so much that her dogs look like little ones!

5) Think of the whole family

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Even dogs love Pumpkin Spice Lattes. So basic.

If you and your spouse were friends with the entire family, acknowledge that! That’s why each item I purchased was something for the home that I thought the both of them would enjoy and admire. Our dogs, believe it or not, were also great friends! That’s why I decided to throw in a little something for her dogs, from mine, that had a seasonal touch: The Pup-kin Spice Latte from my favorite place for dog treats, Three Dog Bakery! (Side note, I also purchased this treat for my dogs, and it smells amazing. All ingredients are natural, and frankly, delicious. Yes, I tried one treat because it smelled so great).