Would You Like to be Happier?

Now this is relaxing!There are two definitions of happy: feeling good, and the sense of contentment from living a full, rich, and meaningful life. Connecting with what’s happening right now is the best way to experience contentment.

Here are some ways we can affect our happiness:

Be here now-Focus on the present moment. Thinking about the future and what is to come can produce anxiety, while thinking about the past can bring feeling of guilt and regret.

Move your body-Your brain is very active, constantly producing thoughts that can interfere with the present moment. By moving, dancing, stretching and wiggling you interrupt the brain and help balance the chemicals in your brain to feel better.

Thoughts are not the truth-“Thoughts are nothing more than words inside our heads.” Sometimes our thoughts are true, making them facts, other times our thoughts are false. It’s important to remember that thoughts:

  • May or may not be true
  • May or may not be important
  • Are definitely not orders
  • May or may not be wise
  • Are never threats to us

Try some of these exercises to increase your happiness today!

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The information in this blog post is from “Would You Like to be Happier?” written by Jane Riffe Ed.D, LICSW, LPC, WVU Extension Specialist, and can be found at http://fh.ext.wvu.edu/r/download/116895

This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on January 23, 2016.

That’s a wrap! A look at the Early Intervention team’s impact in 2015

In 2015 MFLN Family Development integrated an Early Intervention team to support and enhance the skills of professionals working with young children in military families with disabilities and developmental delays.   The response this new team received has been overwhelmingly positive. Take a look at the impact they had in 2015 and stay tuned for more about upcoming 2016 professional development opportunities from the EI team!

A new year, a new webinar system.

We are excited to announce that effective January 2016 the MFLN has transitioned to the Adobe Connect based webinar platform hosted by the All Partners Access Network (APAN). Connect offers a host of innovative features that are certain to enhance your experience during MFLN learning opportunities. In addition to the ever-familiar chat pod, expect to see multimedia, polls, and perhaps whiteboard collaboration in the near future!

Accessing MFLN webinars has never been easier. Security certificates are not necessary when logging in via Connect. You can now also take the MFLN with you wherever you go – mobile options are available for both Android and Apple devices. Visit the How to Join page for full information.

Check out our upcoming events and “Connect” with us!

Seven Side Effects of Successful Savings

By Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®, Rutgers Cooperative Extension, oneill@aesop.rutgers.edu

During January, many military families make resolutions to save money. Some people set up an automatic savings plan with a bank or employer while others follow the guidelines suggested by one of many available savings challenges (see http://www.slideshare.net/BarbaraONeill/four-savings-challenges-for-new-year-0116).

Find more info at http://militarysaves.org/
Find more info at http://militarysaves.org/

The most important result of saving is having a sum of money available to use for emergencies or to fund future financial goals such as a vacation, new car, or retirement. With savings also comes peace of mind in knowing that you’re not on the “financial edge” with little or no money in reserve to handle negative life events.

Having an accumulated sum of money and freedom from financial worries are not the only benefits of saving money, however. Rather, savings can enhance your personal finances in a variety of beneficial ways. Below is a description of seven positive side effects that can occur when people save money on a regular basis over time:

  • Ability to Earn “Free Money”- Savers can take advantage of retirement plans that their employer offers. Deposits come right out of their paycheck, making it easy to save. Some employers match workers’ savings 25 cents, 50 cents, or even a dollar for each dollar saved. This is “free money” that should not be passed up.
  • Ability to Pay Cash for “Big Ticket” Items and Avoid Interest- When you save money for furniture, appliances, electronics, and even a car, you own it completely from Day 1. Use this worksheet to calculate what you need to save to reach your goals: http://njaes.rutgers.edu/money/pdfs/goalsettingworksheet.pdf.
  • Ability to Avoid Fees– People with ample savings can avoid pesky money-draining expenses such as fees for low bank account balances, late payments, and private mortgage insurance (PMI).
  • Ability to Raise Insurance Deductibles and Increase Elimination Periods- With sufficient money in the bank, you can cut insurance premiums by taking on more of the risk of a loss. Examples include raising a car insurance deductible from $250 to $750 or a disability insurance elimination period (i.e., the time between an accident or illness and receipt of benefits) from 30 days to 90 days.
  • Ability to Drop Insurance Policies– A good example here is term life insurance. As people grow older, it becomes move expensive. Diligent savers, however, may not need a policy anymore, after a certain point, if their accumulated savings is sufficient to protect their loved ones.
  • Ability to Self-Insure– Some people self-insure to cover the risk of needing long-term care (LTC) in later life instead of buying LTC insurance. Savings is earmarked for a nursing home or assisted living, if needed.
  • Ability to Reach the “Crossover Point”- Savings provides “seed money” for long-term investing. Savings provides interest and investments produce dividends and capital gains. Eventually a crossover point can occur where savings and investments earn more money per year than the sum of annual living expenses.

The only sure-fire way to get ahead financially is to spend less than you earn. Counting on a big inheritance or a settlement, or winning a big prize or the lottery cannot be guaranteed. Every successful financial plan includes some type of savings, which requires living below your means.

In summary, saving money has many valuable side effects besides the actual dollar amount that is saved. It gives people freedom and options. For more savings information, see http://bit.ly/ASaves.

Are you Bogged Down by Stress? MFLN Can Help!

By Kacy Mixon, PhD, LMFT

Work Stress
Flickr [Stressed by Dan McCullough, March 18, 2009, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0] retrieved on September 9, 2015
Stress…such a small word, but the emotional impact from just reading the word can be powerful! We all have stress to varying degrees…in both personal and professional lives. Stress unifies us in a way. It also can be debilitating depending on when, where, and how it settles into our day-to-day routines.  I recently revisited an interesting TedTalk by Kelly McGonigal titled How to Make Stress Your Friend. She highlights ways to rethink your relationship to stress and gives practical ways to do this. I’ve got to admit, I’ve needed to reevaluate my own perspective and coping strategies in dealing with stress. After re-watching McGonigal’s TedTalk, I’ve had an itching need take it a step further by capturing the ways that MFLN Family Development aims to help deal with unavoidable professional stress.

As MFLN Family Development (FD) project director, one of my responsibilities is to innovatively think through ways MFLN FD can provide you, our audience (professionals in the mental health, advocacy, early intervention, and academic realms that work with military families) with professional development opportunities that enhance and compliment the work we do. I’m also hyper-aware of the stressors that can present in this much needed, yet often times cumbersome, work. So, one of the goals we strive to achieve is to  provide ways to enhance the professional development experience of our audience while also providing strategies to alleviate some of the stress that can be associated with traditional professional development outlets. In a nut shell, we want to be a solution to your stress relieving problem, not the cause!

Let MFLN Family Development help YOU “get better at stress”…                                             It is our hope that we offer an accessible and valuable online hub of professional opportunities that cater to enhancing a less stressful experience when approaching professional development. Below is a list of 5 common stressors and reactions we’ve noticed are associated with finding and engaging in traditional professional development opportunities and ways that MFLN Family Development can alleviate these stressors in your life.

  1. MFLN FD offers webinars (live & archived), virtual learning events, podcasts, that eliminate travel and can be viewed at your convenience in home and/or at the office.
    • Planning for travel stress associated with face-to-face conferences and trainings is not fun. With MFLN FD you can obtain professional development continuing education credits from the luxury of your home. There’s no need to worry about if you kept all of your receipts for travel expenses/reimbursement! No Jet lag! No early registration deadlines! No need to hire someone to watch your kids! MFLN FD allows you the leisure and time to watch and complete the webinar trainings at your own pace!
  2. Expenses ($)
    • “Wow, that’s a stiff CEU fee! So much for saving money this month.” MFLN FD doesn’t want you to ever have to choose between your family vacations and professional development needs…this is why we offer completely FREE CEU’s. We understand that work training obligations can cut into your family time, which is so necessary for peace of mind. The online webinar trainings with MFLN FD give you one less thing to worry about.
  3. Organizing/finding resources when you need them:
    • “Now where did I put that handout from last year’s training session?” I know for me, I lose the paper handouts from job trainings almost immediately after receiving them. With MFLN FD there is no need to worry about lost resource items because we provide all of our webinar training resources in a one-stop shop. Resources and supplementary handouts are just a click away. A list of all of our webinar trainings can be found, here. Each webinar’s Learn Event page offers presentation PowerPoints, blogs, journal articles, books, and websites related to that particular training topic! Don’t forget to check out MFLN FD’s resources page, here! You don’t want to miss all of the valuable information available at the click of a button!
  4. Wellness and burnout prevention?
    • “Can someone just tell me how to schedule getting a bite to eat before my next meeting!” As a mental health clinician, I completely understand the importance of burnout prevention in this line of work. To meet that need MFLN FD strives to present webinars that help. In fact we have an archived webinar wellness series to give strategies to prevent burnout. During this series you’ll be provided practical strategies that don’t require revamping your whole lifestyle yet produce effective results. The presenters conducted a mindfulness exercise as part of the presentation. “Learn and relax all at the same time? What a concept!”
  5. Networking
    • “Anyone else feeling alone in their struggle?” MLFN FD aims to facilitate an online professional community of support. This includes helping you to make connections with people and research as well as offering a networking hub filled with other professionals, shared experiences and valuable professional development programming. Ultimately, MFLN FD wants to recognized that often professionals are unified in their struggle and can benefit from a strong network. We believe that strong networks promote strength in the families that we serve.
I know from personal experience how stressful balancing work obligations, family life, friends, etc. can be. Why not let MFLN FD work for you?!

This post was written by Kacy Mixon, PhD, LMFT, assistant professor at Valdosta State University’s Marriage & Family Therapy Department and project director of the MFLN Family Development (FD) team which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, YouTube, and on LinkedIn.

Q&A on the TSP

By Molly C. Herndon

Did you join our January 12 webinar “Thrift Savings Plan Review”? If so, you know speaker Stewart Kaplan discussed several of the changes coming to the TSP as well as answered many questions participants had about the savings plan. Here, Mr. Kaplan provides detailed responses from our webinar participants:

Q.     Can you move current TSP funds from traditional into a TSP ROTH? (Are there any opportunities to roll Roth accounts into a TSP ROTH? Or Can traditional TSP funds be moved into ROTH TSP funds?)

A.      This is an in-plan rollover.  There’s a fairly detailed history of legislation that led eventually to the The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (“ATRA”), P.L. 112-240.  Basic ally, the change allowed plans to do in-plan Roth rollovers of more than just “otherwise distributable amounts.  Plans were never required to put this option in effect.  Some did and some didn’t.  The TSP conducted an exhaustive study considering all aspects to include experience and data of plans that had adopted it, a comprehensive study of the tax effects, etc., etc.  The results of the study were carefully considered by the FRTIB Executive board and they made the decision not to adopt this option for the TSP at this time.  This does not mean it will never be adopted.  So, it’s still possible at some point in the future, but it is not currently an option.

Q.     What type of income qualify for tax free ROTH TSP contribution? Combat pay?

A.     A service member can make contributions from: Basic Pay and, if they contribute at least 1 percent from basic pay, they can also contribute from special, incentive, and bonus pay if they receive it.  If receiving CZTE pay, that can be contributed to the TSP.  Although CZTE pay falls under the Annual Additions Limit, contributions designated as Roth are limited to $18,000. Basic Allowance for Housing, Basic Allowance for Subsistence and all other “allowances” are not pay and are NOT taxable and therefore not “income,” and not eligible to be contributed to the TSP

Q.      Will retirees be allowed to contribute in the future from retired pay?

A.      No.  No Defined Benefit Plan accepts contributions from anything other than the pay of active employees.

Interested in learning more? Watch the recording of this webinar here.

Military Caregiving Webinar – Back to Basics: Webinar

Double exposure of abstract smart medical doctor working with operating room as concept
Mark your calendars for our upcoming MFLN Military Caregiving (MFLNMC) professional development webinar Back to Basics: Medicare.

 Time: 11:00 a.m. Eastern
Date: Wednesday, January 27, 2016
Event Location: https://learn.extension.org/events/2358

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is the largest health payer in the United States, covering almost 90 million Americans. Medicare, the federal health insurance program for over age 65 and other qualified individuals, accounts for more than 48 million of those Americans through expenditures of more than $545 billion.

During this webinar, Andy Crocker, Extension Program Specialist in Gerontology and Health with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, will provide a broad overview of the Medicare programs Parts A and B. In addition, the presentation will introduce the CMS National Training Program as a resource for further training and information. Webinar participants will have an opportunity to learn about:

  • What is Medicare?
  • How does Medicare work?
  • What should military helping professionals and caregivers know about the program?

Join us for the answers to these questions and more!

CEU Credit Available!

The MFLNMC has applied for 1.0 National Association of Social Workers (NASW) continuing education credit for credentialed participants. Certificates of Completion will also be available for training hours as well. For more information on CEU credits go to: NASW Continuing Education Instructions.

 Interested in Joining the Webinar?

Registration is required to join the webinar, but can be completed on the day of the event. To join the webinar, simply click on Back to Basics: Medicare  The webinar is hosted by the Department of Defense Connect System (DCS), but is open to the public. For those who cannot connect to the DCS site, an alternative viewing of this presentation will be running on Ustream.


This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on January 15, 2016.


Field Talk: A Q&A with Providers Supporting Military Families

Title Field Talk: A Q&A with Providers Supporting Military Families
DiPietro-Wells, R. (2015). Field Talk: A Q&A

Field Talk is a monthly blog post sharing the voices of early childhood providers who serve or have served military families of young children with disabilities (birth to 5 years old).  We hope you find it to be educational, personable, and encouraging.

This month we talked with Linda Stanfill, OTR/L.  Ms. Stanfill is an occupational therapist and the owner and operator of Cornerstone Pediatric Therapies, LLC in Clarksville, TN.  This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Describe your current role.

My role is to provide therapeutic care to children ages birth-12 years and parent education to enhance the self-care, play, and academic skills of their children. My other roles involve managing a small clinic with 6 employees.

What’s your favorite part of your current job?

My favorite part of my job has always been working with the children and getting to know their families intimately. It has been my great pleasure to be a part of the journey that families find themselves on with their children.

Tell us about experiences you have had working with military families.

Ninety percent of the children I see are members of military families. Being from a military background myself, both as a child and as an adult, I understand the challenges and benefits of this unique lifestyle especially being separated from your extended family and having limited access to help with life’s daily ups and downs.

How did you come to work with military families?

I moved to this military town with my family when I was a teenager. Once I began working with children in this area 18 years ago, military families became the most common population referred to my clinic.

Describe a rewarding experience working with military families.

My experiences with those I serve have been very rewarding. It is my intention to make every family feel like our staff is their extended family offering any support, encouragement or other special needs they may have as they provide for their children, including lending a listening ear when needed, giving Starbucks cards to a frazzled mom, and even using my roadside assistance for a locked car. I do not need to be thanked for what I do but I have many treasured cards from families who have moved away or “graduated” from therapy telling me about the impact our clinic has made in their lives. I am grateful for the unique position I have.

Describe a challenging experience working with military families.

One of the most challenging aspects of working with families in general, but especially military families, has been keeping the child on a consistent schedule. It is difficult to be far from home with no one to assist with daily challenges. Initially, our families have the perception that we do what we do for monetary gain alone. It takes time for a family to begin to relax and let their guard down, but once they see we are not here to judge but to help, our relationship becomes deeper.

From your experience, how are military families similar and different from other types of families? How do you change your practice between families?

Military families have more difficulty making it to therapy on time or at their scheduled appointments. They come into the lobby frazzled and with several children in tow. We have mostly mothers who bring their children to therapy. At times they have to arrange transportation with their spouses, dropping them off at work prior to using the car for therapy or errands. We also have mothers whose spouses are deployed and they are in the area without family. We have children whose mothers are deployed and their other parent has a much more difficult time justifying leaving work for their children’s appointments. We try to make life more manageable in any way we can. This means we make every effort to schedule appointments when it is best for the family. We have very flexible families and if we ask one family to adjust their schedule because another family needs that time, military families do not hesitate to do what they can to help.

As providers, how can we support military parents who are deployed or away frequently due to trainings/school?  

Being aware of the family’s needs outside the realm of therapy is a great start. Adopting a perspective of treating the family as a whole actually has multiple benefits for the child’s progress toward goals. It has to be a partnership to achieve goals that fit for everyone. What we do once or twice a week will not effect nearly the same change as what the parent can do during the remainder of the week.

Describe a specific stressor that military families with whom you have worked have shared or experienced.

We meet moms who have very little contact with other parents. Many enjoy the company of other moms in the waiting room while their children are in therapy. They receive fellowship, advice and support regarding their child’s disabilities or life in general. Lack of time and management thereof is the biggest source of stress that I see in the parents we service.

What “insider” tips or advice do you have for service providers working with military families who have young children with disabilities?

Making home exercises manageable and functional for their daily lives will increase the likelihood that exercises will be performed.

If you could change or improve one thing for military families with young children with disabilities, what would it be?

I would love to see moms become more confident about their abilities to manage their responsibilities. Too often, they second guess themselves or feel judged by others. These moms are amazing at the flexibility and resilience they must have to provide so much of the family’s needs on their own. I wish they could be proud of what they accomplish and not focus so much on the tasks left undone or performed in a “less than perfect” way.

What types of resources have you sought out to feel more confident and competent at meeting the specific needs of military families? (e.g., trainings, blog posts, organizations, etc.)

I read articles written by colleagues and seek assistance from resources. I get a lot of my child friendly activities from Pinterest because the moms and therapists who post on that website have amazing ideas!

This post was written by Robyn DiPietro-Wells & Michaelene Ostrosky, PhD, members of the MFLN FD Early Intervention team, which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, YouTube, and on LinkedIn.

Happy New Year: Learning Opportunities for Nutrition and Wellness

Creative Commons Licensing [Flikr]-by-Finn-Frode-Happy-New-Year-to-you-all-Explored-31.12.2015-88-Taken-Jan-1-2016
By Robin Allen MSPH, RDN, LDN

The MFLN Nutrition and Wellness concentration got off to a good start in 2015 presenting a variety of informative webinars for military care providers, specifically military Dietitians, Veterans Administration and Extension specialists. A new year, 2016 is here, and we have  another very exciting lineup of webinars and CEPU opportunities for Registered Dietitians.

  • January 26, 2016, 11:00 am ET   Cooking Up Nutrition Education  https://learn.extension.org/events/2285   Cooking up Nutrition Education presented by Veteran’s Administration Dietitian Lori Carlson, MS, RDN, LDN, and Chef. Everyone loves cooking shows, and you will learn how to present your own cooking class while providing evidence-based nutrition education.
  • February 25, 2016, 11:30 am ET:  Trans Fats https://learn.extension.org/events/2356 The Skinny on Trans Fats presented by Presented by Kristie Crowe-White, Ph.D., RD. What is the big deal about trans fats, what is the status of legislation, and what are the differences between naturally occurring and man-made trans fats.
  • March 29, 11:00 ET 2016:  Balancing Work/Life for Military Dietitians                             March is National Nutrition Month! Balancing Work/Life for Military Dietitians presented by Lisa Kinderman, Clinical Counselor. In honor of Registered Dietitians we are presenting a webinar on work/life stress management. We know how stressful your jobs can be, and you need to be well balanced and nourished to be your best.
  • April TBA 2016: Breast Feeding presented by Rose Marie Straeter, MA, RLC, IBCLC. One conversation with Rose and you will find out how much you did not know about breastfeeding practices, challenges and how to best help your clients.
  • May 24, 2016, at 11:00 ET:   Bariatric Nutrition presented by Ashley McCartney, MS, RD, LDN, Bariatric Dietitian for Carle Hospital in Champaign, IL. Bariatric surgery is becoming a more viable option for the morbidly obese, learn the special nutritional needs of this population.
  • June/July no webinars but stay tuned on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn for continuing nutrition and wellness education.
  • Future webinars in the fall include topics of Nutrition Apps and the Snap program.

You can still earn CPEUs for the 2015 webinars by visiting the links below, watching the video and taking the evaluation.

Nutrition and Wellness is always looking for suggestions on what topics are of interest to you? Please contact us with your suggestions or if you have a webinar you want to present.
So mark your calendars and cheers to 2016.

This post was written by Robin Allen, a member of the Military Families Learning Network (MFLN) Nutrition and Wellness team that aims to support the development of professionals working with military families.  Find out more about the MFLN Nutrition and Wellness concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, and LinkedIn.

It’s 2016: Is Your Organization Moving From Training to Social Learning

Bob Bertsch, Steve Judd and I presented at the National Association of Extension Program and Staff Development Professionals (NAEPSDP) in December 2015. Our topic of discussion was Building Networks for Organizational Learning. This post is a recap of my conversation on why organizations need to move from training to social learning.

Autistic Services Team Development (72)

Social Learning is not a new phenomenon, but rather it is based on the social learning theories of Albert Bandura, Lev Vygotsky, Jean Piaget, and others. These theorist posit that learning does not occur through repetition as behaviorists propose, but rather learning occurs through individuals constructing knowledge through observation or their real world experiences. In essence social learning is learning as we always have, but with utilizing social media tools for access and scalability.

In support of social learning, the 70:20:10 Model holds that 70 percent of what people learn occurs from real-life and on-the-job experiences, 20 percent from people in our network, and 10 percent from training events. This model supports the position of organizations moving to social learning not as a replacement for training programs, but rather as a complement in organizations development programs.

Today, organizations must be vigilant in continuous social learning that is not possible in traditional training. Jane Hart, Founder of the Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies, points out that “workplace learning is no longer something that is wholly owned and managed by L&D; everyone now has access to resources and tools to solve their own problems”. Furthermore, the late Jay Cross gave an excellent illustration of comparing traditional training and development to social learning. In his illustration he summarized it by comparing organizations of the past as worker-centric and individual focused to organizations of the future who are group-centric and work group focused.

Organizations have to transition from training and development to social learning organizations. Doing this requires organizations to embrace social learning tools and networks for knowledge transfer. Organizations that continue to practice the hierarchical control of knowledge will soon find that they are no longer relevant

Author: Terrence Wolfork (+Terrence Wolfork,@trwolfork )

This post was published on the Military Families Learning Network blog on January 12, 2016.

Photo from Flickr user Michael Cardus (Autistic Services Team Development) (CC BY 2.0)

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.