Five years in the army: congratulations to my son!

This is a very personal post. All my posts are personal to some degree…after all, it is my blog, so I get a lot of say in what is said. But this is not about me. It is about my son, Alex. Alex, who, marching to his own drummer, declined our offers and our pleadings to go to college after high school, and determined for himself that he wanted to join the army, is getting out of the army today. September 30 is his last day. He has served five years and a few weeks. He spent 13 months in Iraq with an infantry unit. He has done his share, he served his time, has his honorable discharge.

I am proud of him. I’m relieved that he will be in civilian life again, but anxious that he is coming out at a difficult time for the US economy in general, and veterans in particular, if news reports are to be believed. But most of all I am happy that he survived his enlistment and is ready to make a new life for himself, to create a new plan.

I don’t know what his next choices will be. I’m still hoping he’ll decide to invest in education, but that will be up to him at this point. Whatever he chooses, I know that he will have a different point of view than many people his age. He’s seen some difficult things, seen friends die, lived in extreme circumstances. So have a lot of other people. There are many men and women who deserve our thanks and our support for voluntarily serving in the armed forces. And I do appreciate all of them. But today, I’m focused on just one.

Welcome back to civilian life, Alex. Thanks for doing your part for the rest of us.

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Has this ever happened to you?

Yesterday I got my teeth cleaned. Nothing exciting about it, just a routine dental appointment. My first plan for the time during the cleaning was to take a nap. That may not be an activity you would consider during your dental cleanings, but the hygienist at this office is so gentle I have almost been able to doze off in her chair.

I closed my eyes as she was doing her thing, and just as I was getting comfy, I thought about a funny thing I read recently, and it started. I felt the urge to smile, then giggle, and then I suddenly had a case of the giggles. You know, like when you were a kid and for no particular reason got the giggles at bedtime, or sitting in church, or pretty much anywhere that laughter was inappropriate, and impossible to suppress. The more you tried, the more you couldn’t stop.

I was almost at this point yesterday, almost at the point of embarrassing myself. It didn’t quite reach the annoying stage with the hygienist, but I think I was on the verge. I tried to think of sad things, boring things, anything that would wipe the smile right off of my face. Do you know how hard it is to have hands in your mouth when you have to giggle?

And the trigger? I was giggling about…giggling.

“I laughed so hard the tears ran down my leg!”

Saw that recently…I’ll be honest, I have laughed this hard. I only wish it was tears that ran down my leg! Let me tell you, when you suddenly develop a dark streak down the leg of your jeans, it’s hard to explain away! But if it ever happens again, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. That’s right, those are tears!

Thank goodness it was only giggles in the dentist’s office…don’t know if I could have survived the embarrassment if I had tears running down my leg yesterday. The giggling was bad enough. But I made it through without creating an incident that would haunt me for the rest of my life. No need for a change of clothes! And I got a star on my chart for great brushing! How’s that for a successful trip to the dentist?

Well at least I’m not that bad…

This is a funny take on addiction to social media. I have to admit I keep my smart phone handy and I like to stay connected. But hey, I gave up TV, doesn’t that count for something?!

Enjoy!

Things to celebrate this week

Friday…let the weekend begin!

This week we have had more than 8.5 inches of rain. And that’s just through Wednesday! Now that’s a rainforest!

So, I spend a LOT of time indoors. Here are some highlights for the week:

~ I spent some time looking for online work opportunities. Let me tell you…if you have a project, or want to find work, there is work out there! That’s the good news. The bad news is: you have to bid for it, look for it, sign up for it…in other words, do your homework! But if you’re interested, check out these sites: Elance and Freelancer.

~ I won an award! Another blogger gave me a “Versatile Blogger Award!” Thank you Jeff. Find Jeff here. In turn, I’ll need to recognize some other blogs and share the award myself…kind of a “pay it forward” thing. I’m sorry to say I had this opportunity once before and I dropped the ball. But not again! (Find my friend MJ, who graciously passed this to me in June here.) Look for a list of blogs I recommend shortly!

~ The 2011 Alaska state Permanent Fund Distribution payout was announced on Tuesday. Every man, woman, and child who has lived in Alaska more than a year and meets residency requirements will receive $1,174 in October, Alaska’s way of saying thanks to all the hearty souls who live here! See Wikipedia. The amount varies from year to year. Though it seems like a lot of money, if you fly out once or twice in a year, you’ll deplete this amount and then some. It is a benefit across the state though. You see all sorts of ads for PFD sales this time of year.

~ Check out Pinterest. This is a site that allow you to pin things you find on line, creating virtual bulletin boards. I’m only getting started, so I don’t even know the full potential of it yet, but it looks like a great way to collect ideas, color swatches, you name it, and save for a project or reference.

~ Good stuff! Caramelized onions! This looks so yummy! Whether you make this to give as a gift, or put a jar in the fridge for an easy addition to your own meal prep, this is a great idea. Simple, inexpensive, and best of all, make ahead and enjoy on pizza or add to roasting meat and veggies, or a grilled sandwich. Can’t wait to give this a try. Love the crock pot!

Enjoy the weekend!

Now I know: I’m a conjunction

Here’s a fun piece, heard this recently at a meeting. Turns out I’m a conjunction. See where you fit in the parts of speech.

People
 

People play roles in society in the same way that words play roles in sentences.
Some people are nouns.  They retain their identity no matter where they are or what they’re doing.

Some are prepositions.  They are trendsetters.

Some are verbs.  Their identity comes from what they do.

Some are adverbs.  They get their kicks by being around or witnessing the action.

Others are adjectives.  Their identity depends on who they are around or what organization they belong to.

Some are pronouns.  They have no identity of their own; they just mirror the styles and beliefs of others.

Some are conjunctions.  They are the peacemakers who bring other people together.

Some are articles.  Their identity is based on what they own.

Some are interjections; always interfering in other people’s business.

And some are exclamations.  They don’t accomplish a whole lot, but they make a lot of noise doing it!
 
~Richard Showstack

Birthday wishes

Today was my birthday, and I had a plethora of good wishes on my Facebook page, in my mail, via text, and even a few old fashioned phone calls to mark the occasion. I’m happy to say I did NOT jump out of an airplane (that was Rob’s birthday event this year, which I participated in because I couldn’t ask him to take a leap that I wouldn’t do myself). It was exciting to do the dive, but I think once in a lifetime will be enough of that activity for me, thanks very much.

Most of my wishes revolve around luxuries that I get to enjoy on a limited basis: massage, or shopping for a special item, or sometimes a vacation to a beach that has my name on it. But when someone asks me what I want for my birthday, I usually draw a blank. At that moment, I can’t think of a thing.

Well, this is a post-it note to myself for next year. This is what I really want.

~ I want to begin writing professionally. Not sure I’m good enough for that, but I want to look for ways to grow and stretch; I want to use the tools I have and the tools I can acquire to change the way I earn my living, and ultimately, the way I live.

~ I want to do a coast-to-coast road trip and play games along the way…eat in funky little places, stay in romantic old inns, visit the out-of-the-way parks and sites, and avoid the major attractions. I want just enough structure to give a general direction, and enough serendipity about the trip to be surprised by detours and finds along the way.

~ I want to learn another language. I took years of French and never really used it, and of course long ago lost what I knew. If you don’t use it you lose it…maybe this time I’ll try Italian? (This is about challenge and fun, I don’t expect to be posting in Italian a year from now!)

~ I’ve had quite a year in the past twelve months. I want to build on the things I’ve learned, the changes I’ve already made, to add more adventure, curiosity, margin, and creativity to my life.

I have a lot of wishes for other people, ones that I’ll be working on fulfilling. I’m better at knowing what I want to do for others than what I need for myself. So today I thought about it, and this is my very own to-do list for the coming year.

Here’s to birthdays, to days that make us think, and to the good stuff life has to offer. My birthday challenge to myself, and to anyone who cares to take me up on it for their own list: next year on this day, I’ll review this and see what I’ve been able to accomplish. I have a whole year…think there’s time for a little ice cream to celebrate! But I’ll have to get started soon. It may take a while to get an Italian accent down with my southern/mid-west/Colorado/Alaskan background.

With a capital “N”

The subject for today, ladies and gentlemen, is passwords. I’ve grown quite a list over the years, and as long as I have my trusty planner in hand, I’m good. That’s where I keep my log of who’s who, and who I am on each site I frequent. I can see changes in pets, addresses, vacation sites, and a few other patterns when I look at my login history.

Have you had a password rejected because it’s not secure enough? I love to see the little gauge showing that my selected password is strong. I get miffed when my choice is rebuffed as weak, and even more miffed if I have to change it or add to it. I particularly hate having to put numbers or characters in my passwords. At work, there’s this really annoying requirement that you change your password every couple of months, and you can’t just bounce between the same two words, switiching back and forth. There are also layers of passwords. There’s the login combination to get into the system initially, then to get into some specific programs, there’s another login required, another user id and password to remember. Did I mention this is annoying?

Like a lot of people, I recycle my choices. If you ever crack one of my accounts open, you’ll have the key to about 95% of my logins. But that’s just a risk I’ll have to take. At least I’m down to four or five combinations. If I can’t remember what I used, there’s a good chance I’ll figure it out before I get locked out for multiple failed attempts.

My husband calls to me from the living room. I’m deep in kitchen world, mixing up banana bread. He needs to know my password for a website. I tell him it’s one of our pet names. I wait. I know what comes next. “Is that with a capital ‘N’?” Yes. The answer is yes. Unless a site won’t allow capitals, I always use them if I’m creating a password from a name.

I know what comes next. Why do I make it hard on myself? Who uses capitals in passwords? Sorry, can’t help it. It’s like writing an email and not using punctuation. I have these things built into my head, and they won’t leave me alone. If I type a name, it’s going to be capitalized. You’d think by now he would know that. Hey, I figure if I’m one of the few people using capitals, it adds to my online security.

Well, security can be over-rated. I don’t always have my planner with me, and if my login is too secure, I’ll have to go through the whole “forgot my password” game…log in, admit that I lost or forgot or gave away this VERY IMPORTANT PIECE OF PERSONAL INFORMATION, and then wait to get the reset link emailed. And then reset myself, which I already know is going to be a variation on the theme I’ve had established for some years now…so really, do we have to go through all of that? Can’t we just all click a button in the registration process that swears us to absolute best behavior when browsing internet sites? Really, is there anyone out there so bored with their own life that they need to see my buying history or my bank account? (Neither is interesting, trust me on this.)

But no, even though credit card companies promise to make it easy on the customer if ever someone illegally lifts someone else’s card number and goes on a spending spree, we’re still scared. So we all have passords, logins, etc., etc., etc., to protect us online. Problem is, sometimes I’m the one that’s kept out, inconvenienced, irritated, frustrated, and finally, embarrassed if I have to acknowledge to another human being out there in support world that I can’t remember my password, or, even more shocking, was careless with it!

At work, there’s a little reminder message that pops up when I’m in a secure program. It reminds me to NEVER share my login information with anyone. As if! Someone is waiting to haul me to JAIL if I do that. I work in a hospital, and patient records are right up there with sacred writings. I might give up my personal information with the right persuasion. But you’re not going to pry the work goods out of me.

Passwords…private, deeply personal, a reflection of what’s important to us…or what we can remember from day to day…humorous, playful, random, repetitive, bizarre…well, mine begin with capitals, whatever else they may be. Just remember that, if you’re every trying to crack my code.

Is this someone you know?

A friend shared this quote with me recently: “Often wrong, never in doubt.” No, no, it wasn’t about me. It was just shared with me. I’m too often in doubt for this to ever apply to me. But I immediately thought of a few acquaintances who should have this for their personal motto. Bet you’ve known a few of these folk too.

Well, a little humor on a Friday is a good thing…so next time you’re with someone who knows all, you can think of this and enjoy a little smile to yourself. Happy Friday!

Need to nurture

I have a need to nurture. I’ve known that for a long time, but I’m sometimes embarrassed to admit it. Does this mean I’m not done mothering? Or am I somehow seeking to make myself necessary to others by providing comfort? I like to bake, and I frequently take food to work to share. Does this mean that I’m needy, looking for approval? It can be confusing. Am I giving comfort, or seeking it?

Well, like many answers in life, I’m guessing the truth is somewhere in the middle. I am giving comfort with food, or by doing a favor, or by…(fill in the blank here). And of course I enjoy the approval that comes my way when my food is appreciated, or I know I’ve made a difference in someone’s day by helping out.

But I also think the answer is more complex than either of these obvious choices. The truth is, I am comforted and nurtured when I give to others. That doesn’t make me a saint or anything special. In fact, it could be argued that because this behavior feeds me emotionally, my giving is more about me than others. But it’s really a nice balance between the two. Everyone has strengths, and I believe that strength is a reflection of behavior or attitude that flows naturally. My strength reflects my core.

I know people who are wonderful leaders, decision-makers, clear-thinking and strong enough to create their vision for work, mission, family. I know others who are detail oriented, dedicated to seeing the smallest task through to completion. I know people who dream big and see the goal to be met. Each personality has strength, and mine happens to be sharing comfort, nurturing when I can, in small ways or large.

It took me a long time to accept that about myself, to recognize bringing comfort to others as a strength. It seemed like I was just being nice, when all along, I was being strong. Good to know!