Friday, March 9, 2012

Kony, Globalization, International Women's Day, and My Intermittent Blogging Schedule

If you enjoy this post, or any of the previous, than please go to this website to continue reading.  It's a new layout, but I'm going to try to continue the majority of writing here!  I'll update this blog from time to time, to hopefully redirect any readers here to the new website! :) Thanks for all the views here at!

It is difficult to keep up with the world and my personal life sometimes.  Sorry for the über-long title.  I am running back and forth between the Housing and Finance Offices on post because this week I moved into my apartment!  I posted some pics on Flickr of this new place. More on that later... now, about these pics below.  This is a picture I took while visiting Cape Verde in 2009, an archipelago off the west coast of Africa.  It's a small country with relatively low rates of violence, a problem with drought, and was originally uninhabited.  It is one of Africa's most stable democratic governments (source: CIA World Factbook).
Woman in Capo Verde
The media frenzy surrounding Kony in Uganda and the fierce reactions I've read from both fervent supporters and disdainful skeptics, have got me thinking about the rights and wrongs surrounding the issue.  It is true that some parts of the viral video are a little misleading... read this article Joseph Kony is not in Uganda by Michael Wilkerson if you aren't tracking yet.

In spite of the misinformation, part of me is inherently opposed to dismissing the international crimes of one individual because they don't directly influence my life.  Still, I agree with a lot of what Michael Wilkerson wrote; namely that there is no clear solution and simply getting media attention is not the answer (and is a bit suspect if it's directly related to a fundraising effort. I'm vaguely reminded of The Twelve Chairs, where Ostap Bender is smoothing appealing for everybody to give money for a "good cause." p.s. if you haven't seen the Mel Brooks film... do it!)

There are a lot of injustices in the world, and globalization almost suggests that the more a country can guarantee it won't meddle outside of its borders, the less likely the international community is to do anything about it.  Eddie Izzard has a great skit about "mass-murdering f***heads" that covers this phenomena.  The atrocities committed by the warlord Kony, are worse than anything NATO Soldiers have done as individuals (because their countries' governments always pursue some sort of disciplinary action even if it's not totally satisfactory to the international community) in recent international conflicts, yet they are so ubiquitous in times of civil war in Africa, they rarely make the headlines.  I think this doesn't excuse Soldiers of war crimes ever, but it is nice to know our Soldiers presumably follow the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC).  Meanwhile, 'warlordism' is a serious problem that developed countries tend to look at with sympathetic eyes without stirring so much as a hand in many a case (and truthfully we can't devote resources to hunt down every single warlord).  Rape as a weapon of war, has been used openly in places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Liberia at an alarming level.  It has spurred U.N. Security Council Resolutions, international conferences, and is a serious issue of justice let alone international law.

Amid all this outcry over Kony and the sad reality of warlordism and the suffering of women and all victims of warmongering, I would like to remind the international community in the global effort for peace it has been proven that women are a key factor, too often an overlooked one.

Which brings me to my next point:  Happy International Women's Day 2012!  I know I sorta missed in my time zone for the post anyway, but it's still going on in my native USA.  It's a great day and I'm sorry I didn't make more room in my schedule to prepare a product this year.  I checked out the book, A Few Good Women at the library and told the librarian Happy International Women's day, to which she replied surprised and chuckling, "Why yes, I suppose so! [smile]  Same to you!"

SO, about my intermittent blogging schedule.  I am currently in the process of moving into my apartment.  I also won't have time to install high-speed internet there before I deploy to Afghanistan... and would have to cancel the plan right after it was set up... so I am just using a stick internet... which doesn't even work that well at my apartment.  I have plenty of ideas I want to blog about, but I have to set up my computer at a McDonalds or the Community Activity Center on post, so it's a little hassle to write.  Then during the deployment my blogs will be more intermittent, but I'll keep up to date as much as possible within reason with operational security (OPSEC).

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Why Do I Care Project X?

In spite of my age, in spite of having a very satisfying job and life, and in spite of feeling successful and what one could call 'attractive' somewhere in the middle on a scale of the elephant man to Gisele Bündchen, I still find myself sometimes sad and downtrodden about my body image.  The recent movie, Project X, is a childish celebration of teenage debauchery apparently, and movie critics rate it as less sophisticated than the hangover series... I guess it got a few points above the Jackass series for featuring more aesthetically pleasing flesh art in the background.  Even though I can make an effort and get dolled up for an evening, I feel like in the day I return to being the average-bodied and far from glamorous though decent looking girl at work.  So I feel a vast disconnect with the movie, me personally.  Therefore looking up images from the movie, I think:
 Project X girls partying
 Me at a Small Fourth of July Party

But even though I feel like I don't measure up, Project X is not reality, and I didn't go see the movie... so why is it bothering me?  Because my boyfriend went to see it, and before he did so, when we saw the previews for it he clearly got excited, and afterwards he was extolling its 'virtues' (okay really he just said it was "pretty good").  And sure, it's just a movies thing, but it honestly haunts my psyche... I did not go to very many high school or college parties, and it becomes easy to let Hollywood tell you how those parties were.

I may have not gone because of my relatively later in life involvement with alcohol, and my early pretty much self-imposed curfew that I followed without much of a fight or many attempts to sneak out, but through the lens of movies like Project X, I didn't go to these parties because I didn't associate with the right people and wasn't invited to do so because I didn't have a drop dead gorgeous face, or the right hip to waist ratio... Looking up the movie reviews, Project X is "pure hedonism without consequences" - Melissa Anderson of The Village Voice - and even on some sad levels mixed in with misogyny-cultivating behaviors... so why would I be happy my boyfriend enjoyed this movie?

I suppose it's just a sad reflection of the fragility of some parts of my self confidence also.  I mean, it's not like he's leaving me on the curb to go chase this stupid dream.  He even told me that's all it is, just Hollywood.  But that isn't really any consolation.  When Hollywood panders to women it's for them to get married or be self-satisfied career women and when Hollywood panders to men it's with not one, but multiple hot "babes" all apparently size 0 or generously endowed and between the ages of 18 and 24.

Women?  We get to appreciate the value of the 'funny guy' and the endearment of the guy we banished to the friend zone who turns out to be 'the one.'  It's not like I could go indulge my sorrows in a movie of some geeky or goofy looking women I could relate to enjoying all sorts of muscular, athletic men vying for their attention. Men?  They can watch any action flick and see hot women in strappy tanks, v-necks, with mini-skirts, boob brushes, asses outlined, a full body camera pan, and a sultry voice tell our hero (whether he is attractive or not) how important he is to the plot, and then they turn an action packed corner and get it again from a barely distinguishable girl.  How could I not love mainstream media?  I need to take a film class.

And I don't know if I'm angry or if I'm just insecure... either way, those images from the movie aren't me and I'm not going to desperate lengths to mold myself to that image, but I think I am just terrified of judging myself by those standards.  If it's all in good fun, why does it matter so much?  First, in my reaction, why is it so strong?  Second, in the effort the producers:  I mean why spend so much money on women to portray those roles in movies?  And beyond movies, why does a book like "The Game:  Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists" have so many avid readers?  Why is it acceptable for these men to play on the insecurities of women, to ply back possibly hard-earned self-esteem to get what they want?  There might be such thing as a gold digger, but I can assure you she didn't make the rich snob feel like he couldn't get another hot young thing.  I'm sure he didn't feel insecure in his ability to attract another money-sniffing playboy bunny.  And when you hear about male exotic dancers, no one says they are out there doing it because of mommy issues, like they do about strippers and daddy issues.  I don't know what I'm accomplishing by writing this post, except trying to analyze and vent my very real if very uncalled for reaction.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Short Post Afghanistan

This post is more about Afghanistan than anything else, it's not a mini country profile like the one I did on India, but more of my thoughts on the history of Afghanistan.*

Currently the U.S. still deploys forces to Afghanistan to support ISAF (the International Security Assistance Force).  President Obama says we are drawing down in 2014, the Secretaries of Defense and Chief of Staff confirm the timeline barring national emergencies and unforeseen contingency operations of course.  The news is ripe with stories of the dependence our national security has on covert Navy Seal and CIA operations.  But lets look at Afghanistan a little more closely, in particular starting at the threadbare story of the burning of the Koran (Quran).  Though many stories about the resulting riots have ensued, it is interesting to me that such a strong response is rattling through the country.  These were not Qurans confiscated from ordinary citizens but from detainees, and they were being disposed of it seems (since the investigation is in progress, these are just my speculations as a citizen spectator of the news stories).  It doesn't seem like the holy books were being desecrated actively by misguided or misled Soldiers.  So, it seems to me to be wise to hold back on all the media judgment.

Delving into the country's history, the fiercest resistance has been intertwined with religious zealotry that many Muslims agree is a warped and twisted representation of Islam.  Even with the sensitivity military forces (e.g. ISAF) must have for the culture of a country that is the target for security and infrastructure development, it seems like making mountains out of molehills to trigger violent uprisings and revolts over the accidental improper disposal of the holy texts.  If other big cases of Quran burning are researched just quickly on Google or Wikipedia, it is clear that in those instances the Quran was being purposely defamed and disrespected.  So it confuses me why this bitter outcry?  Is it being fostered by the self-declared guerrilla fighters?  Is it an overreaction due to misrepresentation of the situation?  Research into the strict religious law imposed by the Taliban and the relationship between the leader of the Taliban - Mullah Mohammed Omar - and Osama Bin Laden and the Al-Qaeda forces, shows the shocking and dehumanizing application of religious texts to an already war torn population.  Of particular pertinence to me is the treatment of women under this strict law:  which was absolutely dehumanizing.  It is not unheard of for cultures to subjugate women as second-class citizens, but it was chilling to see how what was at first a resistance to war-lord-ism became a militarily backed movement to apply a specific set of laws to many different peoples.

Since I first read about the leader who was directly opposed to Mullah Omar, Ahmad Shah Massoud has stood out to me as an extraordinary figure and a true loss to military and political operations in the country of Afghanistan.  Also known as the Lion of Panjshir, he was considered by some to be a war lord, but he fought the Taliban and effectively countered them time and time again in the northern region of Afghanistan.  This sort of internal conflict shows me there is something broken within Afghanistan.  I don't think it is a failed country, but maybe it is failed politics.  It is a country whose citizens question the elections, but that is not limited to Afghanistan.  The same goes for Russia, and it wasn't too long ago that American citizens were demanding recounts of votes in Florida.  The difference is of course in the level of activity of the resistance.  Activist groups in the United States raise money and hold up wildly offensive pickets.  Russian protesters mob streets and bridges showing force in numbers of the people who want to see change.  Afghanistan is a mine-filled, AK-47 plentiful, and dangerous land with snipers and small arms fire a risk in many places.

So, what am I saying?  Not much at the moment, just sharing the thoughts that have been brewing in my mind in light of recent news and forgotten history.  What will history think of this in ten years time?  What will we think in just five years?

*I'm still writing for me at the moment, so this isn't well-targeted writing.  I am hoping that my deployment will get me what I need to really put the right edge of genuine experience into my writing and provide direction for the motivation and passion whirring away madly in my heart and mind:  it's energy that already goes into outlets.  I'm hoping to channel it more productively in the future, though.  Comments greatly appreciated!

Monday, February 20, 2012

My Reaction to DoD opens 14,000 Army jobs to women

My feelings on this can pretty much be summed up in the quote from Nancy Duff Campbell, co-president of the National Women's Law Center,

"It's good, but it's not very much more of a step forward."

I totally concur.  I've written very passionately about this.  I guess I would have mixed feelings if the barriers were removed right now because I've already started my military career and I'm generally happy being a Transporter, but it should still be changed.  I'm really thrilled General Odierno is pushing for more changes, even though I know a lot of his quotes come from a similar article about a month or so ago.  He expressed disappointment the deadline for reviewing the gender policy was not met and he spoke highly of the real contributions women make in our Army.

Unfortunately, I believe a larger percentage than are speaking openly and plainly in interviews and from podiums are reluctant to see the change.  Someone said to me today referencing the article with a shrug about women being in combat:

[Just saying...] "Could you pull me out of a burning vehicle?"

I wish I'd had a better retort on hand, but I was off guard and tired.  I wished I had mentioned Sgt. Monica Brown, the medic who may not have pulled anyone who weighed a ridiculous amount more than her from a burning HMMWV, but who shielded Soldiers with her own body in Afghanistan one day, risking her life to treat the wounded.  And beyond that, on countless missions she provided much needed aid to the unit she was attached to.  Though just doing her job she was awarded a Silver Star for valor.  A few days after the flurry of media attention though, she was pulled from the area because she was too close to combat according to current policies.  According to the unit taking her out on missions though, there was no other medic to take at the time.

Now, reading a story like that, why turn to me and ask bluntly if I could carry you out of a burning vehicle?  I think of the guys who already push 200 lb when they are in plain clothes.  Could he pull that guy with a full combat load and body armor on out of a burning vehicle if the seat belt is in place?  I mean let's quit with the what if statements, these hypothetical scenarios don't address the real issue.

The real issue is that women deserve as much fair treatment in this government job as they receive in any other.  The real problems are not about the chivalry of men, the emotional reaction to combat, or the physical demand of their jobs.  Real problems may be privacy, and preventing affirmative action from debilitating the fighting force.  Additionally, the article mentioned the so few women in high ranks because the best career jobs in the army are in fields closed to women.  For me it is not really about the 'Brass Ceiling'... though that part does have some legitimate backing and research.  If the Army is viewed from purely a career standpoint, than it is a problem, but from a more traditional standpoint, call it nostalgic maybe, but from the the standpoint that the Armed Forces are the real life heroes of a nation - the defenders and upholders of the Constitution - it's just plain heartbreaking.  Ask me can I pull you from a burning vehicle... but then let me try.  Don't look at me, my gender, and simply shake your head.  Defense officials say there is no Brass Ceiling, and that women have "no disadvantage in... promotion rate."  Wonderful, so women have not been detrimental or performed any worse than men in all the jobs they are allowed?  So, give us a chance in the Infantry.  Give America's daughters a shot at Eleven Bravo (11B)!  I think she may surprise you if you'd give her half the chance.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Weather Forecast: Sudden Bursts of Irrational Behavior

I don't understand how I have been so incredibly happy these last two weeks and now all of a sudden I am having this 180 internal crisis.  I am transformed into this delicate, easily tripped, emotional reaction-bomb.

Starting yesterday night I was feeling pangs and aches in my (metaphorical) heart for no reason whatsoever... I started reliving all the bad moments in my life during times of high change and stress and how I wish I had closure or that I'd reacted differently.  I started speculating whether if I had not driven away some people in my life I might be even happier.  I started thinking maybe the happiness I had now was just a farce... because I'm just pretending to be happy through the sadness of people I'm missing.  That maybe I'm hiding a sadness under the surface of my happiness and excitement to be somewhere new??  It's crazy talk, and I know this.

So, the analytic side of me is wondering what should I do to banish these feelings?  Maybe work out, but the gym is closed, it's 34 degrees Fahrenheit outside, and it's 11:40 p.m. I feel a quick push up and flutter kick work out will not make this emotional sea any calmer.

The real problem is I don't really want to do any of the things that would make me feel better.  It's not that I want to sit here moping over nothing... I just know I don't feel like drawing, or editing photographs, or working out, or chatting.  Even though I was chatting just an hour ago.  While I used some poor excuse of a conversation to launch into a more obvious show of my feelings, it's deeper than that.  My unhappiness stems from an unknown source, and hours like this only leave me wondering when the feeling will pass since I apparently have no control over it.

But I know after a little bit of rest my high spirit will return... just an occasional low in my high-speed speed.  Plus I have a guest to look forward to tomorrow!  Everything else is just growing pains:  I am literally outgrowing the pains of the past.  Unfortunately I cannot be as emotionless as Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory, I am - sometimes unfortunately - afflicted with the strong and high emotions of a very high energy human being.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Living in Germany: Week 2 AAR

I have officially arrived at my unit for two weeks now, and it's great.  Last week I had a bunch of briefings that couldn't be helped.  I have to admit I got some decent information from each one, but they were long days and I felt drained after hours of PowerPoint and the monotonous repetition of, "Welcome to Bamberg."

Friday a friend visited me and we reminisced on our days at the Universidade de Coimbra in Portugal.  I can't believe it was two years ago already.

This Saturday 391st CSSB had a Valentine's Ball, and it was a nice event, I'm going to post some pics soon to my Flickr account.  I'm glad I had my ASU (Army Service Uniform or "dress blues") ready to go, because it would have been a shame to miss it.  While these events do have somewhat a frustrating compulsory aspect to them, they are - like everything else in life - what you make of them.  I ended up getting to know some of my peers in the battalion a little better, and a chance to see the people I've met throughout the week all in one place.  I met some Lt.'s wives (or girlfriends) as well, and in spite of the below freezing temperatures outside even enjoyed (most) of a nice cigar outside.

Sunday followed with more fun because of a group dinner 'party' which included a group effort to cook a dinner.  We tried a new recipe, so no one was entirely certain how it would turn out.  It was sort of a casserole with chicken, carrots, ginger, yogurt, spices, and rice.  Very delicious even though the rice was soggy, we served it in bowls, and since we were just having fun, it didn't matter that the appearance wasn't stellar.  I give the recipe four stars, because even not cooked perfectly, it was totally yummy!

Today as I was investigating the contents of my fridge, I discovered that my freezer actually does work to my chagrin.  The bottle of champagne I was saving for my boyfriend's arrival had unfortunately exploded:

It's a shame, but as you can see, it wasn't too costly of a mistake to make ;) plus I at least know that I will have ice cubes... even it seems to take forever.  Wish I had a balcony because it would be easier to just leave an ice tray outside at these temperatures!

As far as the upcoming week my to-do list is lengthy, even though I don't have a platoon yet, or really any subordinates to speak of (a manager with nothing to manage) it's a sort of free limbo for me:  a rare opportunity to get adjusted without heaps of pressure loaded on me.  It's funny that I should get the honor to deploy so soon after arriving when I never agonized over it like some of my male counterparts.  Some of them right now at West Point were trying to figure out by analyzing the dates of their respective branch BOLC and the rotating deployment shifts of the Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs), but of course it's sensitive intelligence, important to national security; and not everyone can just know it!  I'm pretty sure the people in charge don't even know exactly when and where deployments are scheduled and I am not saying this is part of the disorganization so often associated with government work, but because the world is a pretty fast changing place.  No one can say with total certainty where we will be in the next few years.

It's a short week though, and I have good things to look forward to!  There are exciting pictures and blogs to come in the near future!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Real Deal

I'm in the real thing now, the "real" Army, an actual post, an actual job.  I've been out of college for almost nine months, and finally I get to Warner Barracks in Bamberg only to hear they might be closing this base in a couple years.  I will still get to stay in Germany (fingers crossed) but apparently in a different area.

I will not be enjoying Germany this summer though if approval goes through because my unit is trying to deploy me with a company that is already in Afghanistan. I obviously can't write much about this, just enough to say that this would all be happening pretty fast for me.  How do I feel about it?  Well, it is what I signed up for in the Army.  I didn't sign up in war time thinking I would avoid it.  It's also a great opportunity for me to get tons of on the job training, and an opportunity for me to hurry up and get a platoon - which is a key leader position for someone of my rank.  It's also a transportation position which is awesome because often junior officers are lumped together as logistics if they are transpo, ordnance, or quartermaster.  That's only supposed to happen at the captain level and above.  But it's not uncommon for someone like me (a transportation officer) to get put into a quartermaster or other 'loggy' related position that's not my actual branch.

Anyway, a lot of people (Soldiers here, and the family I've told) are asking me if I feel ready.  Honest?  I don't feel ready!  How could I?  However, I am more than willing.  If someone asked me if I wanted to do this, my answer would be absolutely.  But ready?  I wish I had studied Pashtun with more concentration, I wish I had more experience in my job, I wish the training at BOLC made me feel more confident than I do now.

I do have a lot of great resources of experience available to me though.  I have a friend who deployed in a similar situation to me, and so I can ask her how it worked for her.  The Army has been doing this for a while now, so I would be crazy to think I was facing a unique challenge - well at the general level anyway.  I know even if I got all the preparation I wanted, there would still be suprise challenges along the way and that's why the Army has been leaning towards leaders who are critical thinkers.

I think that everyone pauses and hopes they are prepared for this.  It all seems so fast, I do know that I am willing, it's my job on top of it all.  Is there someone else?  If there was, and leadership deemed it better, they would send that person.  I've got to remember I've been trained up for this.  No one said it would be simple.  I may have to take a break from the blogging for a while, but I'll keep a journal downrange, and I'll still write until I get deployed - about everything, the whole moving to Germany experience.

Which reminds me, I don't have an apartment yet, hopefully will do some looking this week.  I would like to have my own place before I leave.  I do have a phone though which I have been looking forward to endlessly!  I got a plan with O2, a German phone company, it's the cheapest plan, although the phones are full price (which is expensive here, I shudder every time I do the euro-dollar conversion).  I still haven't finished inprocessing, there are hours of online training I still have to do.  I have had a full week though.  My sponsor has been nice, but my unit has been busy because they have a range (shooting range) next week.  My commander is actually a Military Intelligence officer but he requested a command position and he interviewed for and got it.  It just goes to show there's a million and one different ways to do a career in the Army.  I went to two different Italian restaurants in Bamberg already, and the food is pretty good.  I also finally saw my friend who graduated in 2009 and has been stationed here the whole time.  She is awesome and doing Pathfinder school, so good for her!  Tonight is the Super Bowl and I was invited by another West Point grad to a party - which is cool, since otherwise I wouldn't really have a thing to do tonight.  Somehow it's another move to a new place in which I've somehow managed to have something to do from the very first weekend on.  How do these things happen to me?  I am most certainly grateful!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

I Will Never Quit

Somewhere along the way to where I am now, I lost track of what was important.  My aspiration:  contributing to the end of the gender barrier in combat arms.  The wall is already crumbling, look at the Female Engagement Teams.  Yet it is not fair that women are asked to put their lives on the line doing a cultural or SF (Special Forces) assignment, without recognition for taking the very same risks their brethren take in combat arms.

As a woman, I have struggled internally with choosing a path where I could get my dose of adventure and adrenaline high; and choosing a path where I can help women who join the military in the future not have any doors closed to them.  Some days I am frustrated beyond belief because of the opposition from both genders, but I am not disheartened.  I know what I am passionate about beyond all else is true:  that qualification and not gender is how personnel should be assigned.  Archaic ideas of what women should and shouldn't be doing is not how they should get their branch.

There are women who have served who are opposed to this idea because they don't ever want to be in combat arms, but that's putting themselves on a pretty high pedastol isn't it?  Are they saying they shouldn't be asked to make the same sacrifice as any man who has signed up to don a uniform and be a Soldier?  These women would probably never repeat this, but I've heard it muttered before that they don't mind the gender barrier because they sure as hell don't want to be Infantry.  Well, I have news for them:  they wouldn't have to.

First of all, my proposition is that combat arms be open to women, not that women must be integrated into combat arms.  I would propose no minimum quota in the combat arms, at least initially.  Unwilling women already get assigned to Field Artillery and Military Police because minimum quotas are attempted to be met by the Army.  I know from watching one or two Branch Nights at West Point.

Second of all, and more importantly to me, I would like to say for the record:  Puh-leeze!

If one is scared of being roped into Infantry (Queen of Battle, Hooah!) or having to go to Ranger School, I assure you the commander will readily sign the memorandum to get you out of his or her branch since you probably wouldn't offer much to it.  And as for Ranger, don't worry just refuse to do one of the obstacles, and easy, you're out.  I'm not trying to be snide... well, not too snide, just pointing out that commanders should have a large amount of leeway to reassign disqualified candidates.  Which brings me back to my first point, that minimum quotas are a bad idea.  They leave a bad taste in everybody's mouth.  I am not just trying to call out the timid, I also think that the most enthusiastic woman who cannot meet the demands of combat arms should not be allowed to stay on in that role.  Not everyone wants to serve their country, and not everyone who wants to is capable.  Ask any recruiting office; they will tell you.

But do an experiment and have a couple recruiting offices be allowed to put women into combat arms in a few different locations nationwide, and you might hear some surprising reasons from women why they want to join the Army.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Hoping for a Partner

Nothing is as motivating and as potentially heartbreaking as hoping you have found someone to share hard work, personal and career goals, and a drink on the rare nights when the two of you are together somewhere with a chance to be alone.  If I can just keep my expectations reasonable I might bridge an unexpected gap and keep a friend who has qualities I admire.  He is more friendly, more upbeat, and more positive, but he does have a darker side. Decisions that I shun or uncomfortably try to ignore, and are - quite frankly - none of my damn business.

Though I find it difficult to trust people, that's no excuse for judging them too quickly on their personal life choices.  I struggle so much to just accept others; and often try to overlook my own glaring flaws.  I wish I had an invisible friend who could calmly and non-judgmentally ask me why I am bothered by someones' asinine behavior, or fecklessness, or tactlessness, or carelessness and recklessness.  I frequently find myself measuring someone else up and writing them off.  I wish I could be more careless and reckless, and I am strangled by jealousy when I see a free soul, even a fool.

Freedom eludes me, it runs through my fingers like sand.  I want to not care what others think of me!  I want to have freedom from society's constraints!  And unfortunately I see no way to do this presently.  I end my inner cry for freedom with silent and internal weeping locked in my mental blocks.  I still care too much, I still put too much of my well-being in anothers' hands.  I thought I'd learned to stop. Yet the cycle repeats itself.  Good intentions or not, I will never ever put myself in this situation again.  I don't care how long it takes, how much hard work, how much loneliness or how high I must lift my chin and stare unblinking into the judgmental cacophony of the world... and this isn't pride!  I do not think I am above anyone or everyone!  I am not trying to be any one's enemy!  I am trying to throw off mental shackles that make me someone I am not.  I would like to be the free and happy woman that I am when I am fully occupied with my goals and career, and the same woman who makes adult decisions that she accepts because she has the freedom to stretch her imagination and take risks from which occasionally she will be burnt.

And this hopefully includes a partner... all partner decisions aside, I am pretty positive I have found another friend to add to my support network.  So far I have a few very good friends who have started to help me grow and learn, but none yet in the Officer Corps.  I have friends who I can turn to for help even in the Army, but no mentor or partner in the traditional Army career path of an Officer. But thankfully, maybe through this blog, I have come a little closer to acceptance and a little closer to seeing that all my harsh judgment is really an attempt of my inner conscience to be more free and accepting of the me that I hold back.  A me that takes higher risks and isn't eaten up with anxiety all the time.  A happier me that will hopefully help me on my way to my goals, because what fun will it be accomplishing them if I'm too uptight to enjoy the result of my efforts?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Feels Like Home...

...because it almost is!  My good friend is driving me back to El Paso where I will consolidate all the things I absolutely need to fly to Germany at the end of the month.

In the meantime, Monday morning I have to report for hometown recruiting assistance program (HRAP).  I am showing Texas to my New England driver/counterpart and he approaches the trip with the same attitude he approaches so much of life:  open enthusiasm and a cheerful point of view.  Basically he drives since his car is manual and I haven't quite graduated from the 25-35 mph zone... we theorized I would drive some couple of hours on the open stretches of highway but it hasn't happened yet typically enough.

We drove from Richmond, VA to Mobile, AL on day one.  Plenty of cute though so-so pics taken hastily from the highway.

Today we made it from Mobile, AL to Austin, TX to meet up with a couple friends who I went to high school with.

Drinking Shiner Blonde, maybe can write a guest blog for I Love The Sauce if they haven't written on this beer yet.  I had to get a Shiner beer since my guest isn't from around here!

I guess the road trip is a success so far since we don't hate each other yet.  So much to do, and so little time is all I feel like... tonight the streets of Austin and tomorrow the Riverwalk of San Antonio.  Then my "little" hometown, the sprawling city of El Paso.  I just hope there is enough time to properly enjoy it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Everyone is Valuable, Right?

Why why why why why why why is this so difficult for me to grasp?

Our class speaker for graduation was Major General Luis R. Visot and he emphasized the importance of respecting everyone, or how everyone contributes.  This Army is a team effort, so on and so forth...

Yet I am consumed from the inside out with contempt for some people!  Even when I see the good they contribute, could acknowledge it, label it, commend it (succinctly), and praise it (reluctantly), I still find a fireball of dislike for those individuals.  Even if I can keep my mouth shut around them, I still find them slinky, annoying, cloying, lying, cowardly, unintelligent, and overall defunct and lacking.  I find it difficult to believe the Army has any trouble at all finding people to label as below center of mass, needs vast improvement... one might even say immeasurable improvement impossible to achieve before the next promotion.

Okay... deep breath.
So... in spite of this tirade against any and all disgusting, miserable carcasses filling uniforms (and filling them quite tightly if you know what I mean *cough cough, tape test*) ... I recognize this sort of intolerance and short temper does nothing to help myself or the Army.

Now I want to be clear I have nothing against the large boned or slow learning.  What I do have an issue with are people who are so wrapped up in their cowardice and low self esteem that they do more harm than good to an organization overall.  If you have the moral courage to improve yourself than I respect and admire you.  I have in my heart an overall good intent.  I do not wish to sabotage or attack people who are working hard to achieve goals.  I want myself to be kinder, run more, be stronger, think faster, speak more languages more fluently, lead better, and be more at peace with myself and the world... but I expect the same drive and motivation from others even if it's in different measures.

I find peers who are too scared to say anything the worst of all.  It is easy to tell a subordinate to fix something; I would go a step further and say it is your job.  It is difficult to tell a supervisor to fix minor things, but there are clearly outlined methods of dealing with more weighty problems.  It is a very difficult thing to deal with a peer, and it is very obvious if you are afraid of a peer.  Suffice to say, during the 12 weeks at TBOLC, I dealt with and saw a very sorry individual for whom I have very little respect left.  Not only did they assault my ears with the pitch of their complaints at every single turn, not only did they fail time and time again when pressure was on, but they managed to do so while convincing themselves that they had personal courage!  The personal courage to get into a fight with someone that everyone liked and respected and who certainly shouldn't have had to waste two seconds of time on a spineless prat like this individual (and no, not me, I burned a nice handful of bridges).  The reason I am writing anything at all about this person is because I believe that they have the best chance of progression of the few people I had very low respect for.  The others were self-sabotaging or had so little ambition as to make them harmless to the organization overall.  This person that I am talking about has done three things:  be horrible and hopeless at any real charisma or leadership, be in utter and total denial of the problems in the way of them improving his or herself, and finally (and possibly most importantly to being included here) has managed to personally get involved in my affairs in a somewhat distant and unrelated manner.  I can tolerate - in a gritted teeth won't write about it sort of way - many things... but for certain trespasses there is no other recourse than for me to swear constant vigilance if ever an opportunity to reduce this person's toxic influence comes my way.  I wouldn't go out of my way to do anything, it's just not worth any effort on my part... but I will remember the character of this sort of person and it will play a part into any decisions made in the future that may regard said individual.

With all the nudge-nudge, head-pointing, cough-coughing suggestion of the above post, I believe I can rest a little easier.  Sure physical fighting would be a much more satisfying outlet, but the person I am thinking of recoils so easily from a verbal confrontation, I know they would most likely faint at the suggestion of a quick 2-minute wrestling brawl.

Back to MG Visot's suggestion... seeing the good in everyone.  Is it possible?  Yes, I suppose I could wrap up this post that the aforementioned individual was adequate at physical fitness, and that they probably won't commit any war crime wittingly... so it is a start to being a decent human being.  I could admit that they gave me endless possible use to my sarcastic attacks, which has been both amusing and a good exercise for when I need a quick prod or poke for anyone of a similar nature who I meet down the line.  They have also given me a taste of how much I will need to bite my tongue when the feelings of disdain rise up to the levels they have in the past 12 weeks.  So, it wasn't a total loss.

There were a lot of good people in my class.  A majority of them were good Soldiers.  A majority of them that I didn't get along with were good leaders.  They will take care of their own Soldiers and uphold the main tenants of the Warrior Ethos.  I know this blog could have focused on that instead, and for that I'll make a mental note that I feel better as a person when I focus on the good.  I really do hope that the people who worry me when it comes to taking care of Soldiers will get mentored.  I also genuinely hope if they cannot be mentored they will be sifted out of the Army.  I have a lot of respect for the institution overall.  I only wish it were fully integrated when it came to gender.

Hopefully my next post will be a slight bit nicer.  But then again, my blog is about sadness, anger, or determined hope.  I know the other feelings don't necessarily help me, but I cannot help how much they flow into my life.  I can only try to exorcise the influence they have on my treatment of other people.  I hope that I can treat people - all people - more kindly in the future because then I might suffer less from people who don't know how to deal with aggression and sarcasm.  In spite of my own sharp tongue being a double-edged sword, I am at least secure in my ability to be insulted, pushed around, and aggressively challenged and still move forward.  I am not someone who has tried to surround myself in sickeningly sweet marshmallow padding and then laughs too loudly at mere comments and jokes that break my heart and self confidence.  I am strong, but I need to learn how to relate to more people.  I need to learn sympathy, kindness, and mercy.  I am certain I need to learn forgiveness as well... but it's a lesson I am too proud to approach at the moment.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Life Plans Dashed Against the Ceiling

I've been feeling like lying down and staring at the ceiling.  I don't want to sleep.  Why I feel like my life plans are dashed against the ceiling is just the result of my nature.  I can never let sleeping dogs lie.  Right before significant events in my life I have to fight, have to cry out, and have to make my stand.  I cannot wait for more peaceful moments.  I can always blame the stressors in my life:  having guests, not being fully signed out, not having a car, and suddenly feeling "trapped" and like an inconvenience.  These are all factors in my current crisis.  And although I know I am 'catastrophizing' I am able to see for the first time with slightly clearer vision that I am not the sole wrong-doer.  I put other people on the spot with my ill-timed fits, but it tells me volumes about themselves.  The problem isn't with the individuals who I hold in contempt, it is with the mutual friends we have.  The people that I care about, in many ways, I care too deeply about what they think of me and how they live their lives.  I don't want them to be taken advantage of, and I don't want to feel like I am treading on their happiness or trespassing on their peace.  I would rather walk out of peoples' lives than ruin them, I just can't seem to learn the art of quietly bowing out.  Instead I toss the lighter over my shoulder and light the bridge (and fifty gallons of gasoline) on fire walking away from the subsequent explosion.

So what, you may ask, is the event?  Tomorrow is graduation from Transportation Basic Officer Leadership Course (TBOLC).  Fifty-five members of my class will show up between 0800 and 0830 at the Transportation School and seat themselves in an auditorium to be recognized for the 12 week feat.  It's an accomplishment, but not exactly the high point of a military career.  It's sorta like getting a 75% on your drivers' test.  You have proven you can pass... which the same could be said of the Doctor who got C's in med school, but med school is slightly more difficult and mentally demanding than Transportation BOLC.

It's not that I'm not happy to be done; in fact, I have a great big bubble of relief rising up in me waiting to burst when we are released tomorrow and we can scatter to the four corners of the world for a nice break from each other.  I know the Transportation Corps is small.  The Army is small, and the Transportation Corps is the third smallest branch in the Army.  It would be foolish to imagine not running into peers down the road.

With deployments decreasing though, it is becoming less likely to run into the Reservists and National Guard Officers.  I know... that I won't know until I get more experience, but I suspect I may not be on a regular career path.  I have plans that are outside the left and right limits of most people.  It's not arrogant to say this because a brief conversation or 12 weeks of observation would reveal this about me.

Now I am just eager to get away from everyone.  The feelings of dread and anxiety have built up enough that I just want to be alone in my apartment.  I have no such solace at the moment, though.  I have lashed out at my closest friend here for forgetting me and failing to account for me in his schedule.  I am hurt, and I am confused, and I am not acting very rationally.  I know I should be grateful for his efforts to help me.  Instead I am so upset he is taking me for granted, and so flustered he is throwing my schedule and personal plans askew, that I decided to choose tonight to yell at him about a guy who has been (intentionally or not) antagonizing me.  You might ask why it is his fault.  It's not.  But when I start my tirade about offenses I took personally, I am looking for a fight.  I didn't finish explaining myself I just waited for him to oppose me, and then I started to give him the silent treatment.  Worst time ever to do this!  Yet even now I cannot stop yet.  I had some valid reasons for what I did, I just explained and acted on those reasons in the worst way ever.  Now tomorrow I have graduation madness.  I wonder if I will ever have a drama-free culminating event.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Colder than I've Ever Been in Virginia & Master Resiliency Training

The chill has returned now that it's January, and it feels worse than it ever did in December.  Maybe in the previous month it was more tolerable because the holidays were a distraction.  While it's not the same as a Gray period at West Point, since there is still so much green and no snow on the ground, it's still a down period.  If I was to apply anything I learned yesterday it would be to identify the Action/Event that triggered this mood.

Yet, looking at my emotional patterns and the things I've written from this blog to my journals:  I am more sad, less grateful, and less personable than a lot of people.  I want to improve some of this, but some of it I want to embrace.  That I don't have a sing-song lilt to my voice when I address people has never bothered me before, but now I hear myself trying to emulate this to sound more friendly.  It's false on my lips.

Some things I enjoy because they drive me, I have been leaving on the side.  I haven't been able to get through the first story/chapter of Band of Sisters.  I haven't been studying languages for the last 12 weeks.  Yesterday I managed to get halfway through a German lesson before heading to bed for the urinalysis that began at 0400 this morning.  I managed 30 mL by 0600, I am a shy pisser.  I haven't been in touch with my good friend "Sunny" who always saw the best side of me.  I wasn't able to find out why one of my friends went to the foreign country she is now in, and I don't know for how long.

I'm supposed to make my "positive" list from yesterday and it goes like this:
  1. One of the women in my class who I enjoy the company of gave me a piece of Dove chocolate and a sip of her Cappuccino yesterday; it was a great pick-me-up.
  2. A friend and I compared our 24-Strength List and read it in reverse as a 'weakness' list.  It was very funny.  I enjoy laughing.
  3. I read about the Army World Class Athlete Program in the Army Times about the Army wrestlers who qualified for the Olympic Trials.  One woman, Iris Smith, won the 158.5lb weight class.  I haven't been keeping up with Women's Wrestling and the Summer Olympics are coming up!
And I'm supposed to theorize how to make the things that made me happy continue.  I know I need to start keeping up with women's wrestling again, that's easy enough.  I can continue to seek the company of those two friends because it wasn't a specific event that made me happy.  I need to avoid a source of distress and anxiety for me right now.  I'm stuck with it anyway for a good amount of time and distance.  Then I can focus on these things I've let slide on the side and, well, doing my job.

I've got to remember who I am also.  I'm not a sweetheart from a large family who is a good "people" person.  I'm the youngest, I tend to be self-centered, and I like individual events even though I like socializing.  My close friends are generally more somber and serious individuals (who when we go out, still know how to have fun of course!).  They might be more subdued and less exuberantly buoyant... but they mean a lot to me, and their affection means more to me than from someone who is as extrovertedly kind to everyone.  Those people are great, don't get me wrong, I am learning to appreciate and admire the excellent way I see them appeal to everyone's taste.  They are wonderful for certain tasks, but there are many ways to contribute to the world and mine is not that way.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Year 2012

Rang in the New Year right in downtown Richmond.  It was a fun time for everyone, and there were even bagpipes playing at midnight in the street when everyone came outside to greet the new year with a kiss.  If the way you bring in the new year is in any way indicative of the way the rest of the year will turn out I will probably be inebriated most of the time and very well bipolar as I was at times exuberantly happy and at times almost distraught.  The night ended correctly though and everyone pulled together.

On the way back we stopped by a diner that I'm pretty sure was making their profits for the year by being nearly the only place open for breakfast at around 2 in the morning.  They only had two servers though and three floors of seats that were for the most part full of people.  Seeing as they had no public restroom though, I had to cajole the others with me to ask for a seat in order to use the facilities...  but when I exited the bathroom I found out the others had decided to leave and were waiting for me outside.  The friend waiting for me pointed out that the restaurant wasn't even cooking food for each customer they had buffets of breakfast laid out... at which point we grabbed handfuls of bacon and ran.

It was a great round of partying with pizza ordered afterward instead of attempting to stay in the hellish diner. And now that I have had some time to think about it, here is my list for 2012.  Not resolutions, just goals, and screw having to make them measurable:

  1. Train for a half marathon
  2. Restart training in freestyle wrestling... failing that (or in addition) Join a BJJ or MMA club
  3. Be nicer and more sociable (whatever this means)
  4. Try exercises to be more calm whether breathing, yoga, meditation
  5. Send a letter through the regular post at least once a month