Monday, October 21, 2013

Military Monday: Careers for Military Spouses (Part 2 of a 3 part series)


The way I see it, military spouse careers can go one of four ways. The military spouse (using the feminine pronoun as statistically more common) can:

1. Give up entirely on working/maintaining a career and stay at home.

2. Work at whatever job presents itself.

3. Accept that to maintain a career, she--as the military spouse--will have to stay in one place while her spouse moves and deploys without her.


4. Find a career that's portable.

Although I don't think that any of the above options is the wrong option, or a bad option, I DO think that the most fulfilling choice for me is number 4. I have tried option 1, 2 and 3 for varying lengths of time. For me, staying at home was great when the kids were small, when we were posted overseas and for the in-between periods on a new post or just before moving. But sooner or later, I need to get out and make some money to add to the family income. For my own sanity, and for the mental health of my family I need to do SOMETHING.

So. What careers are the best for an ever-moving family? What careers can move with you? What can a military spouse focus on when looking toward a career? I put this question out on social media and the results of my completely unofficial poll came back looking like this:

Twelve careers that work (in no particular order):

1. Nursing (RN, LPN, RPN...): Great option. Nurses are needed everywhere. Lots of opportunities in different fields (emergency, long term care, surgical...)

2. Dental Hygienist: Again, fairly easy to find work in this area

3. Dental Assistant: Ditto.

4.  Teacher: Often lose seniority, but I know many teachers who have been able to work their way back into the field with each move.

5. Home sales: Lots of options, although difficult to start a new customer base each time you move, it can be done. I have one military spouse friend in the UK who has built her Pampered Chef empire high enough that she gets a free trip almost every year.

6. Tradesperson: Construction, electrician, plumbing...although stereotypically male dominated professions, and military spouses are stereotypically female, don't knock these possibilities. These are good paying options, and are in demand just about everywhere.

7. Transcriptionist (medical/legal): These jobs can be done remotely via internet/phone.

8. Personal Support Worker (PSW): Always needed. Just check your classifieds and you'll see what I mean.

9. Graphic Design: Especially for the web.

10. Any other internet based work...Blogging, content writing, social media, editing, many options here.

11. Physiotherapist/Physical Therapist: As a qualified physio, I can highly recommend this as a portable career. I have never wanted for a job. I actually wait until I'm good and ready before I hand out resumes at a new post, because there is always a position waiting to be filled.

12. Author: Again, I can vouch for this one...although the pay isn't great until you get a few published novels under your belt!

Thoughts? Did I miss any? Do you have a career that's portable that I haven't mentioned?

As you can see, the list is very skewed toward the medical side of things. Again, just check your classified ads to see how badly medical professionals are needed where you live! Sure the reset button is ever-present, with new seniority/pay/vacation with each move, but the jobs are usually there. And if you can get hooked up with a national health care company you may even be able to keep some of those benefits.

You'll also note, I haven't included the gate-keeper professions: Doctor, Dentist, Lawyer, Bank CEO. Please don't think that this is because I don't believe military spouses can't do these professions. They can. And if you want to be a doctor, you should go for it. It's just these are professions which often require a long educational and interpersonal commitment and are not easily portable as a result.

On that note, the next problem a military spouse that moves every two to three years would encounter is how can she get the education to live out one of these careers?

I'll be talking about careers, education, and military spouse assistance programs in my next Military Monday post. If you have anything to add, feel free to connect to me via the comments block below, or via my Facebook page. And don't forget to like my page while you are there!


Monday, October 14, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

This weekend I've been spending time with my family and an overflowing table. As today is Thanksgiving Monday here in Canada, instead of a Military Monday, today's post focuses on the many, many things I'm thankful for. A sort of blogger's acknowledgement page.

I'm thankful for where I'm from. The outskirts of a tiny town with acres and acres of old forests, imagination and inspiration. Loving parents, siblings, extended family and friends. Sure it wasn't always happy-happy, but it was a great place to learn and grow. And the foundation of what made me ME.

I'm thankful for a brain that works and the ability to support myself. I'm thankful that my job led me to my husband, and I am eternally thankful for my husband who supports me in every possible way (and who is incidentally celebrating a BIRTHDAY today...Happy birthday Tom!). I'm thankful for the children that miraculously arrived a few years later. They are amazing and loving and smart and silly and they keep my life filled with sunshine.

I'm thankful for this amazing career that popped up out of an idea. And I am so blessed that something I love doing is something I can do from here, on my mother-in-law's couch, from a small village in England, or from the top of a fifty story hotel in New York City.

I'm thankful for my husband's career, which may be the cause of many frustrations, sleepless nights and long separations, but it's also the source of exciting postings, opportunities, and a solid, dependable source of income.

And lastly, I'm thankful for YOU, my reader. It constantly blows me away that people actually read what I write. And you come back. And you comment and support and tell me stories that inspire and lead to more stories.

And for that, I'm giving thanks.


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Friday, October 11, 2013

Tina Moss and Yelena Casale: A Touch of Darkness

Today on the blog I’d like to introduce Tina Moss and Yelena Casale, two fabulous writers (and wonderful people) who will be releasing their first book via E-Lit Books this month! I’ve had the privilege of knowing this dynamic duo for a few years now, and even met up with them for lunch on a recent visit to New York City. Lucky me! (Chocolate for lunch...YUM). The three of us were part of an online crit group of five, waaaay back when, and they are also agent-mates with the wonderful  Literary Counsel in NYC! Welcome! 

A Touch of Darkness

BD: Hello Tina and Yelena and welcome to my blog! Firstly, congratulations on the upcoming release of A Touch of Darkness!

TM: Thank you so much for having us here! We are very excited for the release and hope the readers enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed writing it.

BD: So, could you tell my readers how you met?

YC: We actually met at a karate school, where we both came to train. Martial arts are our other passion and we became fast friends and dojo sisters.

BD: When did you start writing A Touch of Darkness?

TM/YC: A few years into our friendship, we realized that we both loved writing. Yelena wanted to start writing again after a long hiatus, and Tina wanted to switch from writing children’s books to adult novels. Just like that the writing team was born.

BD: Tell us a little bit about your process…from first words to agent representation to publication.

YC: We started out with little meetings at the dojo to talk about what we wanted to write and the characters. The meetings quickly moved to a diner, where we would satisfy our post-workout hunger and brain storm ideas. We would also parse out the chapters for the week or two and review parts of chapters that were already written. Our style of writing is very similar and it meshed well from the start. We would edit each other’s chapters and use our respective strengths – Tina for dialogue and Yelena for description – to make them even better.

BD: What are the pros and cons of co-writing a book? How does it work?

The fabulous Yelena Casale
and Tina Moss!
TM: Co-writing a book is, in a lot of ways, a partnership of trust. For this to work, ego has to be put aside. Brainstorming ideas is a lot of fun and can always get you unstuck, which is a big pro. There were days when we would laugh through most of our writing meeting because of all the crazy ideas that came to our mind. But at the end, we had a winning idea and were ready to move forward. You definitely have to figure out a workable, efficient system when co-writing. Whether it’s weekly or bi-weekly meetings, doing everything by email or a combination.

BD: Can you tell us about any other projects you are working on?

TM: Too many. My newest project, Code Black, is complete and with the agents. It’s a paranormal romantic suspense about a fire-wielding heroine and a hot-blooded shifter. The sequel, currently titled Red Alert, is three-quarters of the way done. In addition, I’ve got a paranormal romance outlined, an urban fantasy started, secret project with Yelena, a possible YA contemporary/magical realism serial, and another idea kicking around the old brain that won’t leave me alone. So… Yup, way too many.

YC: Besides the Secret Project with Tina, I’m currently working on two urban fantasy novels.

BD: Anything else you’d like to tell us about?

TM: We’ve been asked about the sequel to A Touch of Darkness several times and the short answer is we’ve started and stopped twice. We did originally have it planned for four books, but decided to see how readers respond before jumping in a third time. However, we can always be swayed by chocolate. Really. J 

BD: Of course, CHOCOLATE! Who wouldn't? Okay on that note, non-writing questions… salty or sweet?

TM: I love both. I’m a bit of a salt fiend which is not the best for my health, so I need to cut back. Sweet is great too, but I’d take salted chocolate caramel over sweet candy any day.

YC: Definitely sweet, although I’ve been known to have salty and sweet at the same time.
BD: Dogs or cats?

TM: I actually developed a cat allergy as an adult after having a cat for eight months, but I still love the little buggers. That said, I’m pretty much a dog person. My corgi, Chuck, is my website mascot.

YC: Ugh, that’s a tough one. I love all animals. I used to be an all dog person, but I’ve had cats now for about ten years and they are my babies.

BD: Tea or coffee? (VERY IMPORTANT QUESTION…no pressure here…) J

TM: Team Tea!

BD: Nooooooooo!

YC: Tea all the way!

BD: You guys are killing me! Gah! *covers heart and takes multiple deep, painful breaths*...

BD: Sigh. Back to the interview. What is one of your biggest fears?

TM: Mirrors. Don’t laugh. I have a horrible phobia and cannot be in the dark while looking into a mirror. It’s bad enough looking too long into one in the light. I mean, they are so freaky! They’re basically inverse reality and the thought of seeing something that isn’t supposed to be there…ugh.

 BD: Okay...

YC: Being buried alive.

BD: Yeah. I can see that too.
BD: Last one. Favorite place to visit?

TM Oh this is tough. I’ve been very fortune to learn early in life how to travel on the cheap. The most beautiful places I’ve ever been are Bora Bora and Hawaii. Ireland owns a piece of my heart. Italy and Turkey are incredible, but I’ve got to go with Japan hands down. The culture, the people, the land are all amazing. I’d go back any day.

L to R: Me, Yelena, Tina at Max Brenner's in NYC
YC: Any place that has a lot of history. So far Rome and Paris are the current faves. Kiev, the city I was born and spent my childhood in, is an ancient beautiful place that I would recommend visiting. Unfortunately, I haven’t been back there yet.

BD: Thank you so much for stopping by, Yelena and Tina! You guys are awesome. Best of luck in the coming months. When can we do lunch again?

TM: Thanks for inviting us. And lunch at Max Brenner – anytime!
BD: I'm there!
* * *
More about Tina: Tina Moss is a writer of urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and romantic suspense. She lives in NYC with a supportive husband and alpha corgi, though both males hog the bed and refuse to share the covers. When not writing, she enjoys reading, watching cheesy horror flicks, traveling, and karate. As a 5'1" Shotokan black belt, she firmly believes that fierce things come in small packages.
You can find Tina here:
More about Yelena: Yelena Casale is an Urban Fantasy & Paranormal Romance author. When she is not writing, she loves to read, watch TV with her husband (and without), take long walks and cuddle with her cat Bones. She is a second degree black belt/Shotokan karate instructor, and archaeology, history & art enthusiast.
You can find Yelena here:

Monday, October 7, 2013

Military Monday: Careers for Military Spouses (Part 1)

Maintaining a Career
(Part one of a three part series)

After my last post, on Finding a Family Doctor, I got thinking about what other aspects of military spouse-hood are both unique and challenging. What parts of normal life-progression are different for spouses of military members?

For me, one of the top items on this list is Careers.

We move. A lot. Sometimes every three years, sometimes yearly, sometimes more than once in a year. Every once in a while, you might see more than that (I have several friends who managed to stay on the same base for more than ten years), but sooner or later the powers that be will pick your spouse for that brilliant posting and boom! Your professional life is on hold.

Pros and Cons

What makes career path maintenance difficult? What are the advantages of life in the military when it comes to employment matters? I put the subject out there on the interwebs, and got very strong and very thoughtful responses. Here's a compressed version of what spouses were saying:


1. Most careers are not portable. It's very difficult to maintain an actual professional career path
with all of those moves. Moves tend to hit the 'reset button' for careers: putting you back at the bottom of the seniority list, resetting your vacation time to zero, and adding probationary periods. Often jobs are location specific, as well. Jennifer commented:  "I ran a very successful bar and grill taking home more money then my hubby until I moved here. Now I sadly work in a call center... I tried to open my own bar here, (but the) town council shot me down multiple times".

Along the same lines as this, some career paths (border security for instance) only work when the area you are posted to permit it, or the city is large enough to allow a market or a niche.

2. New post, new day care. Yeah. This is a whole post in itself, so I'll leave it at that. Finding a new day care = stress.

3. The job hunt process. Changes in employment rank high in the top 100 life stressors according to famous stress list makers Holmes and Rahe. An un-looked-for move involves an emotional and mental upheaval that can include:

*Leaving an old job (generally not by choice)
  *Searching for a new job: resume writing, searching the internet and a lot of unavailable time while dealing with all of the other time-consuming move items.
  *Walking into established social situations and trying to find your place.
  *Changing your schedule to meet your job requirements.
  *Rejection after rejection after rejection is hard to take. I have a wonderful friend who went from an Executive position to applying to more than a hundred jobs over several years before she found employment--and that at a significant downgrade in seniority and pay. It was a very difficult and very stressful time for her.

4. Licensing requirements change from province to province, state to state and country to country. As a physiotherapist, I know this issue quite well, and often have to weigh the benefits of having a license in the province/state/country against the effort and money required to obtain a license. This became painfully clear when returning from an out-of-country posting. I discovered my 'hours worked in the past five years' did not meet the provincial requirements. I had to write the national board exams to be re-licensed. One year, three thousand dollars and many, many stressful hours later I was able to work unsupervised again. Lets just say that the next time I let my physiotherapy license lapse will be when I retire...or my other career (writing) becomes self-sustaining.

5. Stereotypes. Hard to believe, but some employers are afraid to hire military spouses, knowing that they might move in the near future. What they miss.

6. ....And all of this happens while you are often dealing with your spouse away on training or deployment, mountains of boxes, finding a doctor, dentist, hair dresser, schools, cable company, grocery store, veterinarian and pharmacy...!

But enough moaning and groaning. There ARE some plusses to being a military spouse!


1. Variety. Really, there's so many options for work, even within your own career path. One spouse commented: "I'm a RN and have never been without a job at each move. There's so much you can do. I've worked in small hospitals, large ones, on base. I've also taught." (Thanks Vanessa!) And another spouse (also in nursing) said: "Moving is an opportunity to try it all! Med/surg, community, OR, resume is varied." (Thanks Laura!)

2. Opportunities for personal growth. I like to meet challenges head on. And what I personally have found is that each challenge I overcome becomes a huge surge forward on the personal satisfaction scale. Sure it's hard to find a new job, but that first pay-check feels GOOD.

3. Meeting new people. Making new friends every few years becomes a daunting task. And our
Me in the middle, with my two wonderful
(and pregnant) coworkers,
Jenny and sad to have left that job!
We had such a great time there...
military spouse friends are often our first, and longest lasting friendships. But working allows a new outlet to meet people. It may be hard at first, as local non-military women and men tend to be skeptical of putting the effort into a new friendship, but these people are virtual mines of information about dentists, hair dressers and schools. And often these friends become lifelong connections.

4.  Military spouses are great employees. We have a lot of desirable attributes. We are hard working, we are resilient, we have great skill sets and we are often willing to put in the extra effort. If employers latch on to this, and recognize our value, they can become great assets in our career paths. And we have a lot of resources available to help us transition from place to place. Military Family Resource Centres in Canada have an entire section dedicated to Employment Assistance services. If you haven't already checked it out, you should. And there are many military spouses looking for others to network with,  and potentially hire. You can find one such group (The Military Family Small Business Association) here.

There are also many career counselling services and spouses-helping-spouses programs available for newly posted military spouses. Just a quick google search will give you a long list of available options. Resume writing, job searches, aptitude testing...government run and otherwise, there are many options available for you if you feel stuck.

4. And lastly, but certainly not least...That reset button can be a LIFE-SAVER. Wow, there have been times when I couldn't WAIT to move on to something new. Inter-personal conflicts, nasty work schedules, long commutes, stressful job situations...they all GO AWAY with a new move. Even without all of those things, a fresh new job and fresh new outlook can make a huge difference in your mental and emotional well being.

So what are your thoughts? Any other pros and/or cons of military spouse career-hood you'd like to share? Any suggestions for overcoming difficulties? Please click on the comment button and share your opinions!

Next week I'll be listing careers that withstand the military lifestyle. Tune in next Monday, or leave your suggestions on my Facebook Page! And while your at it...why not 'like' my page and get regular updates on Military Mondays and my new book, DEPENDENT, due out July 29th, 2014!