Drinking and Drawing

I’ve been drinking a lot more than I used to lately. I am not sure about the official scientific roll-up of all the effects of drinking, but I do know that it’s more calories than when I don’t consume alcohol and that my body feels weird the next day. I also know that while about two months ago, one beer was able to make me feel toasty, it now takes me way too much.

I would like to stop, but at the same time, I do enjoy the friendship that results from going out and sharing a drink. Of course, the obvious answer is that you don’t have to drink to have fun… but there is something about letting loose and just dancing for no reason on the streets.

I feel like quitting alcohol isn’t something that I want to do, but I do what to do it in moderation, and I want to figure out what precisely that means.

The good news though is that I received my Request for Orders (RFO) which for nonmilitary types, that is an order from the Army to give a warning to other people in the Army that I will be incoming personnel. So, it’s not genuinely official, but it’s the paper that allows the official paperwork to be written up and to alert my new unit that I am coming.

I got Fort Carson, Colorado! I won’t officially say I am there until I am physically in processing. There’re always these crazy stories that get told how so-and-so’s friend thought they were going somewhere and as they were driving across the expanse of Texas, they got a call that said orders changed, you’re going to Korea in two weeks.

If I had to bet poker chips on me going to Carson though, I would go all in. My husband is already there, and the Army does try their best with keeping military to military spouses together. My dwell time is still under a year as well. People with 55 months or higher of dwell time… it seems those people have less of a chance of getting precisely the post they want.

I’m still lifting and working out. I could always do better at that front. It’s hard not to get down on myself for not going every single day and running every day but at the same time, rest days are real. I remember when I did this team called Ranger Challenge at Fordham. We used to work out soooo hard that we started to get worse and worse at everything we did, much to the chagrin of the cadet in charge. Easter break then happened, and since I went to a Catholic School, we got a pretty long time off. I will never forget the feeling we got on the first workout back from break – I think we all shaved about 5 min off our run times for the lap we usually tried to complete around the Bronx. It was merely a testament to how vital recovery time is for the muscles. It seems I am saying that story as a crutch, which in some ways it might be, but I also know my body. I’d like to amp it up in a way that’s reasonable to keep me happy.

I am definitely seeing some results.

Remember, I first started lifting at 95 lbs as my one rep max. This last Friday I was able to do the prescribed weight (no scaling) for our group workout. It was 100 reps of 135 lbs straight bar lift split between four people. I was able to contribute 20 reps which, if you do the math, is a little short and I did have to break it up between the other exercises we had to complete, but I was happy I didn’t have to ask for a different weight bar and set up a smaller weight rack.

We got peer evals back, and we got to read what people thought were our strengths and weaknesses as well as being able to see how people ranked us numerically.

Only two people mentioned my physical strength as a weakness, which is nice as I know that it is, but if it weren’t a writable weakness for all 15 members of my small group, I’d constitute that as a win… It is something I’m aware of though.

The most common comments were related to my sensitivity. While a lot simply commented ‘too sensitive’ I did get some that said I ‘cared too much about CCC’ which made me laugh. I know that I take a lot of things to heart and then act out weirdly sometimes, and that is something I will forever have to work on and be aware of, but I don’t feel too bad for caring too much about my TRADOC. I do care a lot about everything, and I take pride in that. I just need to stay calm when things start ‘being wild.’

One person wrote that my weakness was simply, ‘light infantry’ and that made me laugh out loud but noted: when we learned about a breach being wide enough to get a tank battalion through, I did have to adjust my COA sketch because I was not ready to support that, among other mistakes I’ve made in class. This is my saga.

At the end of the day, I’m thankful for getting to befriend so many people. I’m also very excited to move out to be a captain in FORSCOM and to being in a unit again. Plus, living with my husband again will be a plus. I believe last month was the official mark for two years apart.

Writing Again

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Apparently, I can’t write for shit. Writing essays is a perishable skill. These last two weeks or so, we have had to turn in four different writing projects. The first one I didn’t do horribly, but it was an information memo where you are supposed to sum up information for your commander. AKA it needs to be succinct and save your commander from having to read the long paper/research you personally had to do. I am a wordy person so while I kept it at only a page, I was the opposite of concise. The next paper was a persuasive one, and we had to argue if towed artillery was still relevant in today’s fight. Today’s fight was defined as a fight that is moving away from COIN (counter-insurgency) and into multi-domain large scale combat.

Being from the world of light artillery/light infantry I argued that towed artillery is relevant.

I got smacked down on that paper.

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The next paper, a 7 pager I did in one sitting after doing research for three days, I actually feel will be okay. It was an analysis of a commander’s mission command during a specific battle. I got LTC Honeycutt during Hamburger Hill. I actually really enjoyed reading about him and found Hamburger Hill to be impressive. Plus, this paper was in the standard thesis style paper I am used to writing from college, so I didn’t have to count syllables or words the way you’re supposed to for information memos.

I did get a little frustrated this week though because one of the instructors, not mine, walked into the class and told us how company FSOs were irrelevant and that nothing in BOLC was useful for fire support.

Literally, everything I did as an FSO I used in BOLC. So, it made me feel like he was invalidating my fire support time which, while it wasn’t my favorite and was hard, I felt was successful.

I need to learn to stop being sensitive and that no one can know the path I walked. The officer who spoke to us was from Carson. This is a little nerve racking since that is where I want to go. One thing I have learned though is how much I don’t know about heavy artillery or heavy infantry.

We were talking about how to conduct a breach, and while the principles of breeching were the same between light and heavy, it was wild in the difference of scale. In heavy, they have to plan to get at least four tanks/large vehicles through at once which drastically changes how and what assets are blowing the hole. For light, we just have to make it big enough to walk some people through.

So, I’m trying to keep an open mind.

On the friend front, it’s going amazingly.

I’ve said this before, and I will repeat it, Polk sucks because with only one brigade and thus only one artillery battalion, friend selection is hard. Even if you loved every single person you met, there’s still only a small amount of people to hang out with. Here, it’s swarming with captains who just want to hang out! It’s cool getting to expand my social group and try out different things.

They also all are in pretty good shape and inspire me to get healthier and stronger. I’ve been lifting a lot more than I’ve ever lifted before in my entire life. Of course, I’m still not at the running level I was before I got injured. With the weather getting nice, I will start running again.

 

Currently Reading: Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War By Karl Marlantes

Currently Listening To: Billy Eilish

ACFT Stats:

  • 3 Rep Max Deadlift Hexbar: 150 lbs

  • Standing Power Throw: 4.8

  • Hand Release Pushups: 11

  • Sprint-Drag-Carry: 2:32

  • Leg Tuck: 1 2 Mile Run: 16:10

Field Artillery Captain's Career Course So Far

I love living in Oklahoma. The last time I was here for Field Artillery BOLC, I was so stressed out I couldn’t properly enjoy it. My friends and I went to the same handful of restaurants in between panicking on every single homework. Being in FA CCC, everything so far has been less stressful and more doable. I’ve already done a hike, checked out books from the library, and eaten at three new places. I’m sure it’s a combination of the instructor I have right now (a civilian) wanting us to pass gunnery and not wanting to scare us. It also helps that I can actually focus on what he is saying instead of being lost in the sauce and still uncomprehending of the differences between howitzers, let alone how to actually calculate data for them which was my problem as a new lieutenant.

Talking to newer LTs who were fresh out of BOLC at Polk, they seemed stressed too but less so. Sounds like the Artillery branch is trying its best to teach in a more approachable style. When I went through, we weren’t even allowed to have access to PowerPoint presentations but now they pass out every slideshow on discs, and you can take them home and study.

Picture in the hallways at FT Sill of 10th Mountain… my brigade Patriots logo is missing but at least we are the coolest looking artillery unit.

Picture in the hallways at FT Sill of 10th Mountain… my brigade Patriots logo is missing but at least we are the coolest looking artillery unit.

Since I have had less homework, I’ve also had more time to enjoy the surrounding area with friends. There’re many women in my class. We all realized we need to work on the new APFT standards. I am especially terrified of the dead-lift with a hex bar. The minimum standard is 180 lbs for combat MOS and all Officers. Every day during lunch we go and lift together. This week I’ve been doing 85 lbs…95 lbs to go. It’s nice having a group of women encourage me.

I’ve also been going to yoga, and I am in love with the instructor and class. Some of the stuff we are introduced to include: the crow pose, compass pose, handstands… it’s amazing. I’m glad to have a real hobby after work. I probably should’ve picked something like Cross Fit to really focus in on the new physical standards, but yoga gives me joy. In exchange for doing yoga, I must be more motivated by myself to workout. CCC is good about providing you work out time.

In the mornings we workout as a squad. I have three other women in my squad. Not to say I’m not becoming friends with the males, but it’s fun to have girlfriends to giggle about things with and who can assist you on pull-ups.

We pick a topic to discuss while we stretch out before starting a workout. So far, we have considered some thought-provoking things such as: if PT is useful; is staff duty for officers a good idea; is the new APFT a good idea.

You’d be surprised what we come up with. You’d probably think we would all be against staff duty, but the majority ended up arguing for keeping it, we all seemed to like the new APFT but are nervous about retention rates with it, and PT we all feel is a leadership opportunity more than a tool to have every single soldier max his PT test.

If I include working out as essential parts of my day, I still have a full day that probably takes me to 18/1900. But class time itself hasn’t been very long. We average getting out around 1500. Test days we get out before lunch/when you finish the test.

This is such a drastic change from working at Polk where I averaged leaving work at 1900/2000 and was way too exhausted (and hungry) to go workout.

We did get an in brief from the Commandant of the Field Artillery (BG Stephen G. Smith), and he did use the term ‘taking a knee’ aka getting a chance to take a break but warned us that it meant we needed to focus on improving our self with our free time. I’m glad he was honest that the schoolhouse for Captains is structured that way. No need to pretend its hard. Just tell us the reality.

If I can leave the schoolhouse with a respectable grade, pass the new APFT, able to do a handstand or headstand without wall support, and ready to sit and take the GRE, I will call this experience successful.

Maybe my goals and thoughts will change once we move past the gunnery block of instruction: I will keep you updated!

Leaving Fort Polk

Fort Polk is the worst duty station in the Army, and I’m finally leaving it. I get annoyed when other people try to claim that they are at the worst duty station that isn’t Polk. I’ve even had people stationed in Hawaii tell me they’re miserable.

What the hell?

I guess that’s proof that duty stations are what you make of them.

I was here before they built Chili’s though.

Before they built Chili’s, there was nowhere to go on a Sunday besides Walmart and this halfway decent Tex-Mex place.

Of course, everyone always told me that I needed to go fishing on Sundays. I actually never went! I also never went noodling, but maybe that’s a good thing.

You might be thinking that means I didn’t make the most out of Polk. You’d be wrong.

While I know that life is more than food, I can tell I’ve made the most of Polk by just talking to others. It is super easy for me to name a restaurant in a 30 min radius that no one I work with has heard of - and my restaurant choices are always amazing. For example, not many people know that the best food in all of Leesville is a place called Cuore Coffee. They have three pages of coffee and fantastic bulgogi.

There’s just no real place to hang out here. Every bar is a strip club. Of course, as I grow up mentally, I know that there’s more to good hangouts than places to drink at. So, my friends and I drive about an hour one way to Alexandria or Lake Charles to go do those escape rooms...

It sounds like I’m complaining a lot.

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I have one more complaint.

My biggest complaint is that Polk is actually so small. No one tells you in college or in BOLC that there really isn’t a lot of lieutenants to hang out with. At Polk, since there’s only one brigade (and support units like the hospital etc. I know, but you guys don’t hang with us) and Geronimo (JRTC OPFOR) it’s really really hard to find a good group. I came to Fort Polk with two other people from BOLC, and they both immediately went to Geronimo where their schedules just didn’t align with mine. I was also on rear d at the time of my arrival so I had only one other LT in my unit and he was fresh from Geronimo aka he had his group.

I apparently found my tribe here though as I got to meet my husband and a few close friends to include one of my bridesmaids.

I also can’t forget that I got my cat at the Western Louisiana Humane Society.

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I also learned a lot career-wise.

When I was in Kuwait during a norovirus quarantine, I got to spend a lot of time with one of my friends from BOLC who got stationed at FT Campbell. After talking to her, she said she had never met someone outside of Campbell that had done so many artillery things. I don’t know if she was just making a hyperbole but everyone calls Bragg and Campbell the place of opportunities, so it was nice to know that Polk had given me a seemingly good shot at making the best out of the Army in the eyes of someone stationed at a prestigious place.

#neverforget my FDC was best in the brigade 🙌🏻🤘🏼

I feel like I can also say I know how to walk in night vision now. Or at least bounce back after running with no sight and hitting a tree full force. Luckily, my next unit should be heavy which means less walking.

Some things I’ll miss about Fort Polk besides getting margaritas at a drive-thru after work is the small stuff -Crawfish boils and spontaneous trips to New Orleans which also means weird festivals, King cake, and oysters.

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I’ll oddly miss sitting in the field and watching all the wild horses.

One of the guys packing up my house told me how his wife likes to dress up in giant fancy hats with her friends and they go down to Natchitoches and have parties and pretend they’re in the film Steel Magnolias. Natchitoches is where they filmed that movie and I regret not wearing a large hat with strands of pearls on that river-walk.

I don’t think I’ll ever come back to Louisiana for fun unless one of my friends (probably a non-Fort Polk person) decides to have a bachelorette party in NOLA...Or if there’s a lawful order for me to go with the Army I guess. Fort Polk is doable, but I can’t wait for something new.

A Summary of Books I Read in 2018

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I’m not sure why I go through intense periods of reading voraciously followed by what can only be described as a literary blackout. I knew something was weird in January of this year when I had almost nothing to show for any book reading on Goodreads and couldn't relate to anything on the best of 2017 book lists. This year, perhaps because deployment is by definition, a little bit boring, I actually surpassed my reading goal. That isn’t a cause for celebration though because the period of not picking up any books can strike me at anytime. Also, a lot of the books I’ve read this year have been poetry and cookbooks, do those count?

The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman 

The His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman competes to be my favorite book series along with Harry Potter. If you saw the Golden Compass movie with Nicole Kidman, please shake that out of your head because it does not shine a light in comparison to how amazing the books are.

The Book of Dust is set as a prequel to The Golden Compass and explains how Lyra ended up at Oxford to begin with. It gives more insight into some of the lesser characters from the trilogy and thus, more depth. While one of the reasons I enjoyed His Dark Materials so much was because of how allegorical it was to Christianity and religion in general, I felt like the Book of Dust was trying too hard to do the same thing. While I definitely enjoyed it, it wasn’t as smooth as the trilogy was and I’d have to sit down again and really process all the different symbolism but I guess that’s half the fun with Philip Pullman.

Sourdough by Robin Sloan

This book is awesome. I was recently reading an article about how Netflix has invented this type of genre called ‘joyful experts’ which is where shows like Tidying Up With Marie Kondo would fall into. Sourdough by Robin Sloan is a work of fiction, but I think it might actually touch into joyful expert genre as it was just enjoying sourdough. It talked about the love and care of building a sourdough oven after experimenting with a dutch oven. The beauty that goes into smelling a starter and the history behind that starter. The fear when you come home and there’s only one bubble left because you forgot to feed it.

I honestly didn’t like the ending of the book because I thought it was kind of childish but overall, it made me happy and long to build my own sourdough oven.

Unqualified by Anna Faris

For some reason, I get a kick out of reading different memoirs by celebrities I know nothing about? For example, I read Mindy Kaling and Amy Poehler’s books and I have never seen their shows. Not even the office. A year after reading Mindy’s books, I did dabble with The Mindy Project but I didn’t like it. I liked her books though… very confusing.

This same thread made me be interested in Unqualified. Plus, my best friend Jackie Gawne sent it to me while I was deployed.

The book was well written and apparently ready to publish before news of her divorce was out. This meant she apparently had to go back and edit all the Chris stuff to be past tense. In the book though, you can tell there is a lot of love and respect for him and while overall this book was only average as it didn’t make me laugh out loud or relate too hard in any direction, it did make me feel for her as a mother and a person.

She’s a good writer.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

A lot of the reviews that didn’t love this book talked about how unrealistic it was for teenagers to talk the way that John Green makes out them to. I disagree with these comments. One of the reasons why John Green is so popular in the young adult world is because I do think he actually gets ‘younger folk’. We are asking those hard to ask questions about life and death. We aren’t Aristotle or Socrates or anything, but as a teenager everything seems important and imminent and talking with someone who understands those lofty questions that hit you randomly are how I’ve developed some of my best friends.

Turtles All the Way Down has the classic John Green voice that also exists in Looking for Alaska. I liked the more modern details he bit in here as well like one of the friends writing intense fan fiction all on her smart phone.

Red Queen, Glass Sword, King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard

These books are definitely along similar lines to the Hunger Games trope of girl who is beautiful but also plain from poor background has special skill power and now must topple the patriarchy.

I love it.

I mean, if something is a trope, that usually means it has worked. It works on me.

If anything, it was just super enjoyable to read. The book series keeps me turning the page for different action whether it’s battles or intense suspense. It might not be super unique but it’s well written.

Queen Song, Steel Scars by Victoria Aveyard

These two books are novellas that compliment the series above. I didn’t think they were as good as the actual series so I wouldn’t start with these even though they’re labeled in such a way that you think you should. You can read them after you’ve become dedicated to the series so you feel obligated to finish these novellas. Unfortunately, obligation was what got me through these but they did answer a lot of questions I had about some of the side characters that the main books only touch on for one sentence.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

This was a young adult book I could get behind. It was lighthearted but still had some powerful stories about growing up and becoming your own person away from home and at university. I wish I had read this book when I was a college freshmen. I thought that the fanfiction/nerd addition to the plot was a little forced and wasn’t really the main story or driving point that you’d think a book called, ‘Fangirl’ would have used it to be.

I still liked it as a coming of age book.

Depression and Other Magic Tricks by Sabrina Benaim

I didn’t relate to this poetry as much as I relate to the author’s poetry performed live. Perhaps I was just reading it wrong? I felt like the formatting was distracting instead of adding to her meanings and more rambling than poetic. I will read her future works though.

Seeds Planted in Concrete by Bianca Sparacino

I thought the collection Bianca chose to include in this book was very smart and cohesive. All the works worked together! I enjoyed reading this book. I didn’t think it was earth-shattering the way a book like Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur is but this book was very genuine and nice.

Adulting by Kelly Williams Brown

I thought this book was going to be funny but it was not. It was literally just a how-to. Almost like googling various adult task and reading the wiki-how for them, but with less fun and awkward photos. I couldn’t finish this and I am not even close to being an expert at adulting. Perhaps, this would be a good stocking stuffer for a fifteen year old, but otherwise, it’s meh.

Your Soul is a River by Nikita Gill

I really liked this poetry book. I also really like Nikita Gill as a person on her social media. Everything she wrote was super relate-able and beautiful. I didn’t give it five stars on goodreads though because I felt like a lot of the poems were redundant and didn’t push the boundary as far as possible, but perhaps that is just her style and her way of processing and writing.

Cakes By Melissa by Melissa Ben-Ishay

This is actually a very clever cookbook. It has the cakes, frosting, and icing all separated out and encourages you to mix and match them to create different combinations. If you’ve ever eaten at Cakes by Melissa you’ll know that she is known for her crazy combos.

She included her startup story in here which I appreciated and found inspiring.

I used her recipe to make a normal sized cake instead of bite sized like she does and wow that was super sweet… no wonder her small cakes work much better. That being said, I feel like she truly gave us her recipes and didn’t change anything for publishing.

The Geeky Chef Cookbook and The Geeky Chef Strikes Back by Cassandra Reeder

These two cookbooks are fun. They make me want to write down every edible thing I come across in a book or video game and try to re-imagine it as real food later on. Cassandra makes me excited about food in a way only other nerds could truly understand.

That being said, I think she is a nerd first before baker? I’ve made quite a few of her recipes and there’s something very different about her chocolate cake versus a more well known chef’s chocolate cake I’ve baked. Something is a bit more basic with hers. That’s fine though as I got these cookbooks to inspire myself and I hope to be at Cassandra’s level one day where I can just make up things inspired by my nerd loves.

Churchill’s Wit by Churchill

One of the French Officers I got to work with over deployment told me to read this book. I think it was his way of mentoring me as a junior officer with him being a senior officer. I will forever appreciate that because while I grew as a Soldier and Officer downrange, I obviously lacked some mentorship as I was one of two Americans at my camp.

I did find this book a bit boring though and me and the French Officer spoke about this. He thought it was super hilarious because the thoughts explained how British men were and really put stuff in historical context….

Having only worked with maybe three British Soldiers ever and only for less than an hour at a time, I couldn’t relate as much as he could.

Life and Death by Stephanie Meyer

This is a retelling of Twilight with Bella as a guy named Beau. It’s actually hilarious because Beau is still passing out at the sight of blood testing in science class and a female Edward has to walk him to the nurse’s office. I’m not one for gender roles but it’s still kind of funny especially since Twilight is very into gender roles. Apparently, Stephanie Meyer made a statement saying if you thought it was weird then you have to rethink your ideals. I’m not sure.

Cravings: Hungry for More by Chrissy Teigen

I love Chrissy Teigen and I will buy anything she publishes. This specific cookbook has her famous banana bread.

Alice in the Country of Hearts by Quinrose

This is a manga. I’m going to count manga in my reading. I don’t read it that often but by counting it towards a reading challenge maybe it can also sort of encompass all the reading I do online?

As far as this manga goes, I really loved the pictures. The drawings were beautiful and all the panels flowed from one to the next which you would be surprised, but many mangas cannot accomplish this. While I really enjoyed the first half of the book, the second half became super chaotic? The story line splintered the way that the television series Lost did. I needed subtitles to the subtitles to understand what was going on. I will not be continuing this.

Bite Me by Ally Hilfiger

Wow, I really didn’t like this. As someone who thinks they maybe potentially have Lyme disease and that it explains that awful stint in the hospital, I thought I could relate. While I agree with Ally that whatever she went through was awful, the writing made it hard to emphasize with her and came out a bit whiny.

When I come across books where I don’t like the main voice, I always feel vaguely guilty. I can’t figure out if I am mad because she is rich? Am I mad because her writing just isn’t good? What makes it not good? A lot of questions I have that I can’t figure out.

Dorthy Must Die, The Wicked Will Rise, Yellow Brick War by Danielle Paige

These books flip the script on what we imagine the Wizard of Oz to be and who is wicked and who is good. We end up wanting Dorthy to die which I think is impressive to get the reader to buy into that want so quickly after we have been indoctrinated for all our lives by the movie. I found the first two books super riveting and filled with action and good plot but the third slowing down. I read the final book this month in 2019 which is why I didn’t include it on here, but I still hold that the first two in the series were the best.

Hawaii Honeymoon

Listen, I know that Hawaii is super cliche for honeymoons, but Matt and I had an amazing time. It could simply be because we were pumped just to be together for an extended period of time. This September will be exactly two years apart but the current plan is that we will live together before July ends. Thus, not reaching that two year mark. As it’s the Army though, we will just be thankful for the days we do get together.

Since we have already been to Hawaii together (it’s where Matt proposed), we didn’t feel the same kind of stress to ‘must-see’ everything. We ended up seeing a comedy show on one of the days featuring a few comics with Hannibal Buress as the main man. He summed up our time in Hawaii perfectly: you just enjoy the breezes. People ask you what you’re doing? The weather man, it’s great.

Interestingly enough, near the end we both looked at each other and at the same time said, wow this vacation is really long. We are really relaxed.

Not that we are two people who would ever complain about being relaxed.

We did do a lot though. I’m not trying to scare anyone off from ever traveling with me but I am known for being an over-planner and kind of detail oriented? Shocked gasps are heard through out the audience. Here’s an example of the spreadsheet I made to work us through our vacation:

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Those who know me though know that I did cut back a lot on my planning tendencies because the end goal was to end up relaxed so I tried my best not to overload the schedule but we still got in two different islands (Maui and the Big Island) and various meanderings.

Our first days in Hawaii, we were in Hilo and we were honestly SHOOK at how…rural and unlike Oahu it was. Everyone has heard of Hilo so we just assumed it would be poppin’. We were very wrong but we still got a good meal and AirBNB stay. I think the most romantic thing we did was just get a box of food with spam musubi, chicken, and football rolls and find a random black sand beach and just sit and eat.

Not to get too sappy on you.

Our next stop was Volcano, HI which was…more rural but I suppose we weren’t surprised this time. We were also staying in a tree house which featured a hot tub! But also limited electricity and a compostable toilet. We did enjoy the hot tub immensely but we promptly lost power the first day after making coffee and boiling eggs. I suppose I shouldn’t be that surprised because once when I was a Fire Direction Officer (math person for artillery) one of my soldiers plugged in their hot pot and the truck shuttered sadly and died. I guess those suckers take a lot of watts.

As far as compostable toilets go, you essentially just need to bury what you left behind in the toilet.

Like cats.

The Volcano National park was only a five minute drive away. Most of it was closed due to recent problems and rumbling but we still had a lot of fun and saw a lot of things.

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After our stay in Volcano, we made our way to the other side of the island, Kona. This side is the more touristy side which we weren’t mad to see. More touristy means more food! A notable place we ate at was Umekes where Matt tried poke for the first time. It was a place that was featured on Guy Fieri’s show, Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.

We did a day trip to Waipio Valley to look at taro farms. Taro is what poi is made of and if you’ve ever been to a luau (Matt and I have been to three and I’m not sure what that says about us) you know about poi. Luau poi is usually watered down though, and the poi we had at the farm was actually pretty thick, like mochi.

After some breeze-enjoying-days, we headed to Maui on Christmas Day. We forgot to research any food options so we did what every American does when they don’t eat at home on a major holiday, got thai food.

In Maui, we did decide to splurge on a few adventures. From our last trip, we knew that there was no way in h e double hockey sticks that we were going to drive the road to Hana ourselves, so we hired someone and it ended up being one of the highlights of our trip. The guide was able to show us many cool waterfalls that even if Matt and I knew about before driving, we would be too stressed to even park. I guess it’s nicknamed the divorce drive due to the perilous turns and tight corners.

Another Maui adventure was checking out the Haleakala Crater which thankfully was open and clean, despite the government shutdown. I’d like to think that people care for national parks and can be trusted not to litter… luckily Haleakala was amazing and gorgeous. We didn’t wake up early to do the sunrise because we were breeze enjoyers, but we still found it awesome. After seeing what the drive was like in the day though, we were kind of happy that we didn’t risk the drive up in the dark.

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I think the crater was my favorite part of our vacation.

Our last day, we did a stand up paddleboard tour…we got to see a few turtles and just enjoy Maui’s waters. We learned that Matt doesn’t enjoy SUP as much as me.

Thank you for reading Matt and I’s honeymoon adventure.

My First Time Sewing: Sailor Moon Cosplay Update

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Ever since I started watching Sailor Moon early in the morning before I went to school, I knew I wanted to dress up as her. These were the Neopets and LiveJournal days! This allowed me to discover the world of cosplay easily after a CompuServe search of ‘Sailor Moon Costume’. The fact that people were making their own Sailor Scout outfits was so awesome to me. My mom had the mystical power of knowing how to sew, but for some reason that didn’t seem like enough to me. I wanted to be the one who created Usagi. I wanted the glory.

This led to a Young Anne requesting sewing lessons.

Young Annes are renowned to get frustrated easily... I never completed a sewing project which ranged from Christmas stockings to quilts. Looking back, I’m sure that frustrated my family but they were always supportive. Thus, I received my very own sewing machine upon moving out. Life happened and I never opened it... until now.

Cosplay has always been fascinating to me. I creep almost every great cosplayer on Instagram and watch a large menagerie of cosplay YouTube videos. Despite devouring the media, I’ve never made anything even with super glue.

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Fate would have it that about two years ago, I was walking around WalMart and saw the best thing ever. A sewing section! The closest sewing/hobby store to me was Michaels and Joann’s and both were about one hour away. Shockingly, the first pattern I pull out of the WalMart sewing cabby is Simplicity S0254 with is obviously Sailor Moon and Chibi Moon.

It had to be a sign.

I didn’t start sewing until a few months ago and by sewing, I mean trying to cut out too many pieces of pattern and fabric!

You would think that’s the easiest part but you’d be wrong. I guess there are things called the nap of the fabric which I completely disregarded so all the stretch is all wrong. I had no idea what selvages were.

Thank god for Google and that’s assuming I was reading everything else right and not making assumptions. Sewing is a completely new language which us non-sewists have no idea about. There’s also a few unwritten rules which I’ve only scratched the service on.

1. Apparently, you’re supposed to pin your entire pattern first before you even think about cutting.

2. I am not completely convinced that you have to wash your fabric before you work with it. Project Runway doesn’t?

3. Just because I don’t understand what pinning with the nap of the fabric means, doesn’t mean I should gloss over that detail and not do it.

After what seemed like ages, I had finally finished cutting everything last week! The takeaway lesson from cutting is attention to detail. Yes, it may seem simple to follow the lines, but sorting out the material and keeping them in piles and in number order would’ve saved me time.

This week, I finally started sewing.

I’m actually getting the hang of it. There’s more vocabulary that I didn’t know. For example, don’t baste fabric the way you would a turkey.

Of course, I’ve ripped out almost every seam I’ve put in due to a few problems like sewing stuff upside down, inside out, etc but I can say with confidence this is the farthest I’ve ever gotten on any pattern ever. I guess the only way to learn for me is to be motivated by the end state. I am so excited to one day cosplay as Sailor Moon that I’m willing to go through the hustle of trying this pattern that is way too advanced for me.

I finished the top part of the body suit, but alas, it doesn’t fit over my head. Guess I will have to add in my own zipper or try to redo it or add in another panel? It’s all very unclear.

Sewing kind of feels like the test they made you take in grade school where they showed you images of a piece of paper being folded and then stapled, and you had to answer with the correct image of where the staple holes would be if you unfolded it again.

Mind is blown.

Wish me luck on this cosplay. Maybe I will finish it before Halloween?

One Day I Will Get This Blogging Thing Right

Celebrating my birthday in Iraq

Celebrating my birthday in Iraq

Every time I start to get into blogging, it feels like it’s when I’m the most healthy mentally. This isn’t meant to imply that when I’m not blogging I’m losing my mind, but in actuality, it means I am very tired. For example, this recent hiatus I will chalk up to having bad WiFi overseas. After deployment, life hit me hard.

I’m a Battery Executive Officer (XO) now which means I am assistant to the boss. Not the main boss of course. It is a lower level than the Battalion Commander. His ‘assistant’ is a Major who is also an XO. I refer to him as ‘Big XO’ as so others don’t think I’m talking about myself in the third person. I focus on things like supply, ordering, and maintenance. While I work later then I want (1900 ish?) I would say that my command climate is very healthy. The Soldiers get to leave way before me so it’s administrative office work I’m finishing up. Of course, every day is an unexpected struggle/experience but that’s part of the Army.

Matt is already in Colorado after having graduated from Captain’s Career Course. His life is more desk work and while he likes that, it actually reminded me that I do not. I’m okay with having a hybrid job of desk life and motorpool life. While I hate sweating for no reason, I also hate my windowless office. At the end of the day, firing artillery is so badass that it makes up for the sweat.

Despite all the normal and healthy stress I have going on, I do want to keep blogging through it. It might be some experimenting to see what that looks like for me in reality. Recently, I downloaded a ‘brain app’ on my phone to study. It had basic math and reading skills all the way up to college level skills. I got to advanced reading, intermediate writing, and just barely cracked intermediate math before I deleted it. It was tedious and made me panic about taking the GRE one day. We all know that is going to be an ~*Emotional Event*~.

Oddly, this silly phone app made me realize that everything is a perishable skill. Because of this, I need to start actually doing intellectual things like writing - even if blogs aren’t the equivalent of reading War and Peace.

The key is just doing something...anything.

When I first started Active Duty, I thought a huge mistake I had made was that I would work and come home and do nothing (IE eat and watch TV). I got through every episode of Pretty Little Liars as a 2LT.

My hypothesis was I got so wound up because all my success and life revolved around my job. I couldn’t reflect on the week with any sense of pride. I couldn't say, "I completed this drawing or wrote this post", instead it was, "omg I haven’t completed anything at work or at life or at all! I’m dying!"

Since then, I’ve tried to do an ‘Anne Thing’ every night but I’ve been falling into the TV pattern again, but this time feels healthier.

My best friend Jackie is a connoisseur of television - she works for The Ellen Show and majored in Television at Fordham. She humors me when I text her about the political implications of Brooklyn Nine Nine (noice noice) and offers her thoughts on Todd Offerman when I live text her about the show Making It. Before, I was keeping to myself. It wasn’t watching TV that was so bad, it was just living quietly. Now that I’m reaching out about what I am doing, even if it’s just a text, it feels so much more refreshing.

You could even say that watching TV is essential to anyone striving to be a good writer. Most of the writing I know takes some semblance of mainstream media as a reference and a way to connect with the reader. The biggest thing about only watching TV after work is that it depends on what you do with it.

Crafting and blogging is a natural way to reach out. After you make something, you want to show it to the world because you’re so proud. Blogging is writing and leaving your journal in a public bathroom and letting people view it.

Hopefully, I have a Brooklyn Nine Nine themed blog post soon.

Back Home In Time For Summer

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Getting back to the states has been amazing. It isn't just getting to do fun things like drink alcohol, but it's getting to simply relax. My job wasn't very hard at all - I wasn't lifting heavy things or having to go without a shower - but there is something to be said about having weekends completely free. As I worked more on call and made my own hours, I still worked everyday which meant no lazing around or being unavailable. Just the thought that someone can need you at any moment is a lot more stress than you'd think. Again, I'm not saying my job was ridiculously hard, but I certainly learned to enjoy the comforts I take for granted back home.

For example, I always wore a bra to bed just in case of indirect fire. I didn't want to run and take cover with nothing under my shirt. 

Sorry if that's TMI.

Once arriving home, after a week of reverse SRP (blood work, finance paperwork, etc for Army to file), I got to go to Arizona to see my fiance, parents, and cat!

The summer was pretty simple. Visited home which included getting to see some old friends from high school like Liz, Sara, and Sam. We played through an entire deck of cards.

We also got to visit Matt's family friend in Sedona which was awesome. We had good conversation with her and got to hike during the day time.

Since we were decently close to the Grand Canyon we also stopped by there where we didn't hike but just gawked around with the rest of the tourists. Instagram is really changing the game at National Parks. I once read an article that people think it's bad as the sudden influx of people is causing the growth along paths to be stunted and that enjoyed the quiet of the great outdoors is almost impossible now... check out this NPR article. While I understand the sentiment, I think it's unfair to say that. Sure, at the Grand Canyon it's almost comical to see hundreds of girls from around the world dressed like an Urban Outfitters front page instead of hiking boots walking around on the ledges but at the same time, if they are going where visitors are allowed to go, why not? The tone of those articles are always concerning to me because it implies that you have to be special visit national parks when that's the exact opposite of what national parks are supposed to be for. While that article mentions some really bad stuff (like waste disposal problems), maybe it's a call for national parks to build up their infrastructure. Apparently at Horseshoe Bend, they've started to build a fence around the area so visitors don't fall to their deaths. Is it annoying for photos? Probably, but they're ready and if you've been to the town around Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend, I'm sure you can agree that the town is in love with the tourist revenue. And again, that's okay for them to be! 

I actually plan 90 percent of my vacations with Instagram. What better why then to find what their is to see then to see what others have already proven is awesome?

Me doing Savasana/Corpse Pose to join the yoga pose Instagram trend.

Me doing Savasana/Corpse Pose to join the yoga pose Instagram trend.

While in Arizona, Matt and I also got to do a lot of wedding planning which included: seeing the venue; meeting with our DC/MC and picking all our songs (we are still stumped on first dance song, any suggestions?!?!); and meeting with the florist. We also got a timeline which means I'm just one motivated Sunday away from actually ordering the formal invitations.

It's coming sooner than I think, I have a feeling. I still need to do dress fitting and buy things like shoes...real tempted just to wear flip flops since no one will see them but at the same time my brain really wants Louboutin shoes just because I can use the event as an excuse to spend all that money... we shall see. Probably not heels though because I'm not trying to fall down in front of my entire family.

While we were traveling, I managed to get Matt to start using my camera so I can be in artsy shots too! Here is his progression:

 

 

 

Acclimation is Slow

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The french camp I'm at right now is actually kind of quaint. They went out of their way to plant trees along the walkways. Measly trees but definetly oxygen prouting sticks. There's also fun vases with painted smiley faces. Whatever was planted there before is now dead, but I appreciate the effort. It's a very stark contrast to the camp I was at for three days while waiting for a helicopter to take me to this current one. This first one was massive and had coffee shops and pxs. But, it was just concrete everywhere. Occasionally, there would be some painted unit symbols to break up the grey but overall, it was just dusty and bleak. My body starts sweating when it recalls the overall Army feel of that camp.

It did have separate female bathrooms though.

At this small french camp, i share a bathroom with the males. It's kind of nice because just close the door behind you like a female restroom and it's not problem. No urinals out in the open so I don't have to see any of that. The only struggle for me is I don't want to be an inconvenance so I try to wake up early to workout and shower before everyone else. They built a sign i can put up in front of the shower area so I can have some privacy but I don't want to make people wait on me. I think coed bathrooms could be the way of the future for the army but separate shower time is needed. Maybe I am being too girly?

I must rely on friends to send me restocks of shampoo and soap in the mail or I can simply slip a 10 dollar bill to someone who gets to visit the big camps for business and if they have time I ask: "can you please pick me up some hot cheetos and as much laundry detergent as possible". Apparently Sephora can ship to me though. I haven't tried yet but every soldier orders pre-workout and vitamins from GNC so I feel like Sephora is the same thing, just a different set of priorities. Sometimes, you just don't want to smell like the only scent at the Army PX: Old Spice Body Wash.

Needing to speak French isn't incredibly vital. Would it make things a lot more efficient? Of course! But a lot of the officers seem to be pretty fluent in English. Fun fact, I no longer believe that Frenchmen are picky about accents. It took me 30 minutes of hand gestures and discussion to realize that what they were trying to tell me was "Sean Penn is a great actor" and not "champagne is great" because apparently I am the one who needs the right accent!

I'm doing my best to learn. I bought a subscription to "news in slow french" and Rosetta Stone. Rosetta Stone is mind numbingly boring but I bought a 90 day subscription so I. Must. Persevere.

I didn't realize how prevalent American television and movies are though. I tried asking a lot of people what french shows I could watch assuming this would help me learn French culture and French language. Alas, everyone just named off shows I have seen in English. Watching something more that once (besides Mulan and Amelie Poulain) is very painful for me. My goal is to become more social and also to speak more French and luckily for me, every week they play a movie for everyone to view together so I want to try to go to those more. Two weeks ago was Deadpool (with french voiceover). This week I think it was The Revenant? I'm sure all three words spoken in that movie were in french.

At the end of the day though, i just need to try to speak french even if it's ugly! Also, studying is just as painful as it was in school so I need to get motivated and try to study a lot more than I've been doing here.

Wood Bridesmaid Gifts

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I am getting married! What does that mean... cute wedding planning blog posts. 

I was inspired by Pinterest of course and decided to find some quotes from my board and pick relevant ones for each girl. One of my goals for these initial boxes was to make it really personal. 

Michaels is where I got most of my supplies but luckily I already own paints. I did cheat a little and used sharpie for the words and then just painted the edge of the words to have the illusion of being completely painted by hand. 

Wood block per each bridesmaid, multiple sharpies because the wood and the paint texture eats up the ink fast, some fine tip brushes, tissue paper to wrap the gifts in later.

Wood block per each bridesmaid, multiple sharpies because the wood and the paint texture eats up the ink fast, some fine tip brushes, tissue paper to wrap the gifts in later.

The cost of all the supplies did add up to a little more than I expected but there were a lot of corners I could've taken such as smaller sized wood blocks. I thought bigger was better but in retrospect I could've gone down two sizes which would've saved me about 10 bucks per lady. That being said I am really proud of my work with the gifts.

The lettering was the hardest part and I'm glad I wrote the phrases in pencil first even though it was difficult to erase. I had to go back with a lot of white paint to paint over whatever stray marks I could.

For my final box I also included nail polish in my wedding color, cute one dollar erasers I found at walmart, and whatever random thing I thought each girl might enjoy.

Photo taken by Liz 

Photo taken by Liz 

Artists That Inspire: Jessica Harrison

It was Jessica's enamel figurines that caught my eye. Her beautiful statues remind me of the women that sit in my grandmother's glass cabinet except with a glorious twist...

                                                                           Image credit: Jessica Harrison/www.jessicaharrison.co.uk

These enamel figurines have ink on them!

The reason I love these so much is because they put a great modern day component onto something unexpected. Usually, the un-inked versions are sold in Hallmark stores and I always fantasize that these are the kind of things I would get people when I go to their weddings... or maybe I would buy for my wedding cake topper? Now that I know these exist though, I'll have to reconsider.

These are especially excellent because when I read articles about those considering tattoos, I see a lot of blogs and internet comments considering how tattoo placement will effect them on their wedding day.

I say that should not matter! If you want a tattoo on your back a wedding should be when you get to show it off not something you have to cover.

You can check out Jessica's work here.

Women in RTAC and Field Artillery

My future is for the most part, pretty clear. I was able to branch my first choice for the US Army and will be an active duty Field Artillery officer.

While I do get a very positive reaction to branching FA, I always have to field the question of if it was my first choice. The conversation then leads to discussing how many females were 'forced' to branch FA for year set '15.

It is unfortunate that women must be ‘forced’ to fill slots that did not want it but I think it is important that the Army does this. There is a stigma with combat arms even for males. In my experience, those that want infantry are considered the ‘tough guys’ who want to run around in the woods. The same goes for females in Field Artillery. By placing more females into this branch, younger generations can see that it is not such a big deal to branch FA and can thus imagine themselves doing it even if they are not the stereotypical tough combat arms female.

That being said, I am still confused about where women stand in today’s military.

Just because Field Artillery is trying to integrate women still leads the questions about what is the Army doing next.

I think it is great that we are having females go through different pre-ranger schools such as the recent news that 5 females have completed Ranger Training Assessment Course (RTAC). It is just a testament that if the Army is gender blind and sets the standard, any Soldier should be given a chance to meet that standard.

I do not think anyone in favor of seeing the combat role increased for women is saying we should lower the standard for females.

What is not being talked about it that this is just an experiment and that these RTAC courses might not include women when ‘testing’ is over.

The verbiage for combat arms inclusion of females is still grey:

...the Pentagon ordered the services to open ground combat fields to women by 2016. Services can still request a waiver if they want to exclude women from any occupational field. -USA Today

Also, for Army ROTC duty station selection, it should be noted that females such as myself branching field artillery are restricted to what posts we can pick. Currently, I can only choose between nine posts compared to my male counterparts who can pick between 16 different posts. Some of the posts I could not pick were Alaska, Hawaii, and Campbell.