Is this thing on? (AKA InfoDump 2013)

I haven’t been blogging because I don’t know where to start.  I’m going to start, but I may not know where to end.  Here goes.
Running.  If you would have told me I would be running at 38 when I was a young, fit 23 year old, I would have laughed in your face.  But I am.  I know it's an "in" thing to do.  It's so simple.  You get to wear cool clothes if you want.  Technology is so advanced, you can wear your music on your arm and headphones with no wires.  The best part--I am not being subjected to a timed test, or forced to run in a formation, or being told I'm "slow" (Hi, Army!)  I have been doing this since late December 2012 and honestly, it's the lazy person's exercise.  I can run for an hour and burn 800 calories.

I went to my 20 year high school reunion.  I felt a bit like I did after last year’s college reunion.  I wish I had done more, gotten out more, but then again, maybe I need to stop doing this to myself.  This is how I am.  I have a small circle of friends.  I don’t kiss up, or put on a happy act.  One person told me he “admired” me for getting in to West Point and joining the military.  I never would have guessed that.  Sometimes I still can’t believe I survived four years as a cadet until graduation.  I look at my college classmates and feel like a dud.  So many have advanced degrees.  We have doctors and lawyers, people who continued their education through Ivy League schools.  We have lieutenant colonels and private business owners.  I feel like I have been left behind, when really, they are just far ahead, and the ones plodding along just like I am, are not outspoken about their averageness.  In the bigger picture, I am doing alright.  I just have trouble some days figuring out what I really want to do, and deciding how to get there, which brings us to…

Writing.  I feel like I have fallen off the map and lost my motivation.  I have 1.5 books revised, and now what?  I have decided to go the self/Indie publishing route, which I used to scoff at.  The tide has changed.  I still want an objective edit (possibly $$$$) and a beautiful cover (more $$$) design and formatting (you can do this yourself, but I read the instructions and my brain locks up, possibly more $).  I have to do the legwork and I’m starting off tired.  Why, yes, I would like some cheese to go with this whine.  Right now, I can’t quit my day…

Job.  Without elaborating any further, I will just say it’s time to move on.  You know that point when you’re ready to leave your current job (hello pay cut, hello, watching coworkers get laid off, hello, threat of office disappearing pretty soon?) but have not landed the new gig yet?  I’m there.  And conversely, I am shopping online like it’s my job.  I think this is a combination of compensating for sucky job (because things = happiness) and the pre-Christmas shopping selfishness that goes on every year.

Kids: I love them and they are exhausting.  We took our two on vacation in July.  The 7 year old had a blast.  The toddler, not so much.  She had a horrible fever the first couple of days.  We took her to the nurse, who took her temperature and gave us a cup of Tylenol (kids HAAAAAATE this stuff).  The fever went down, but went back up again. We took the toddler back to the nurse, who made me sign a waiver when I decided not to see the doctor.  Who’s the bad parent now?  She was okay, but I don’t think she enjoyed the trip.  Now the following week with her grandparents?  Guess who was smiling in every photo?  Guess who was bored?

Husband: We are carpooling.  Some days are great.  Some are opt out events.  This morning, at the last minute, I pulled back and opted for the commuter train + metro + walking over commuting with my beloved.  It was a series of annoyances that built up into “I can’t do this today.”  Yet, I am halfway expecting him to call and see if I want to ride home.  And I would respond, “Only if you don’t mind riding in the cold, cold shade I’m throwing, darling.”  I kid (kind of).  Most of the time that is our quality time together.  We have been very fortunate to be able to keep up some version of carpooling for the past 4 years.  We are coming up on 14 years of marriage and 16 years as a couple.  It has been mostly fun and very fortunate. Can you tell I’m not good with writing about these things?  I have a great husband.  Not perfect, but most of the time he is fantastic.

Depeche Mode: Saw them in concert AGAIN.  Still love them!  It always wigs me out to think I am roughly the age (or a bit older) than they were when I watched them for the Violator tour.


A time of peace

I attended West Point a time of peace. While I was there, the thought of classmates dying at war was theoretical.  We were more concerned about  making it to graduation and seeing what waited for us in the "real" Army.  Sometimes we couldn't even see graduation, the focus was on surviving the month, the week, the day.  I knew I would be entering "the profession of arms," but I never realistically considered the full meaning and possible consequences of that profession.
The class of 1997 has lost too many classmates in war -- it's not a big number until you consider there were less than 900 of us.  Not a big number until you attach faces, names, spouses, children, siblings, friends and classmates to those we have lost.  Not every death has been from war, but most of my classmates that have died were in Iraq or Afghanistan.

I am hoping Jaimie Leonard was the last.  Her funeral was on Thursday, at West Point.  From the pictures, it was a good send off, but the world would have been better with her still in it.

Life is unfair, but it doesn't mean it hurts any less when we experience the unfairness.


See you Monday (or will I?)

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a promotion of two co-workers. They are in the Army and both of them took the long route toward earning their new rank. The ceremony was a mess, but it was nice to meet the families and take a break from our desks. During the ceremony, we could hear an ambulance siren in the background. Later, we learned for whom the siren tolled. 

“Did you hear? Dr. Rhymes-with-Parker died while waiting to brief Important Dude. Important Dude (ID) was notoriously picky with briefings. He liked clips, not staples, and the documents had to be in a certain format. There was an email with directions of briefing ID, which included forcing yourself to behave unnaturally. If you were there to brief ID, then you look only at ID, even if you are addressing a question from someone else in the room. Answer that guy but KEEP YOUR EYES ON ID. DO NOT LOOK AWAY FROM ID.

So, I thought, “Maybe Dr. Rhymes with Parker” looked away from ID."

I know. Mean.  Eeeee-Vil.

 Back in our office, we talked about it.

 “I just saw him the other day,” said co-worker #1, clearly freaked out. “I LOOKED AT him.”

 “Oooohh—don’t let #1 look at you!” we said for the rest of the day. 

“I looked at him, too.” Said co-worker #2. “And I said to myself, that’s an accident waiting to happen.”

Clearly co-worker #2 is not the sentimental or rose-colored glasses type. He was also correct. Dr. Rhymes-with-Parker was not the picture of health. He probably should have retired and taken care of himself instead of making that last trek to ID’s office. It saddens me that someone died at work on a Friday afternoon, the time you are looking forward to the weekend and the plans you have for the time that belongs to you. The thought of dying at work is a nightmare, but dying on a Friday is an extra twist of the knife.

 “Maybe ID will have new standards for those coming in to brief him,” we guessed.

 “A blood pressure check before you enter his office.”

 “A cholesterol count."

"A BMI of no more than 25.”

 It was so awful we had to joke. It’s like the jokes that came out after the Challenger explosion. It's so horrifying you compelled to distract yourself with something funny.

 “They’re cleaning his desk out now,” said the boss.

 We all shook our heads. This reaffirmed the things we already knew: Life is short, take care of yourself, and if you can help it, don't die at work.


My two cents

--I graduated two years after Paula Broadwell. No, I do not remember her. I knew about the book just from being in the same circles, but that’s it. On Facebook, the class of ’95 started multiple discussions. Of course there are plenty of people in glass houses there. One idiot said her actions do not speak for their class, and therefore... (wait for it) ...the class should issue a statement saying just that. So you want to distance yourself from this situation by inserting your entire class into the media spotlight. Luckily someone had the spine to call this out as a stupid idea (basically saying, I don't want the loudest mouths speaking for me. You all don't represent me.). No one is looking at the West Point class of ’95. No one is saying , “Oh, we knew that entire class was a bad egg.” C'mon, son. The class president also added that the class of ’74 (Petraeus’s grad year) was not issuing a statement so they wouldn’t be, either.

--Also included in discussion(s): She was not the #1 physically fit person in her class, there were many people with that title, as the ranking changed from semester to semester (I am possibly the #1 worst ranked in physical fitness, so that was something I did not know). And there was some petty sniping about her using Facebook to promote her book (because, no other author uses social media to self-promote, apparently).

--I can no longer spy on their class board anymore via my husband’s account, since someone has done an audit and removed those not in the class.

--Despite what many people think, West Point and its graduates represent all segments of society, despite being touted as the best and the brightest and having to follow the Honor Code. Maybe the percentages are different, but I assure you, every “type” is represented there.

--Another day, another groundbreaking revalation, and another person is dragged into this. I am genuinely curious when this will die down.

--If something seems like it came straight from a "Bad Idea" Jeans ad, do not proceed.

--Husband commented (on the drive home, on Friday, when this was breaking news)—"He’s not the cheating type." I said, “what -- you mean he has no swagger?” He said, “I don’t mean swagger, just that he’s not like a Clinton.” I said (again) “So…no swagger.”

--How do people find the time for these shenanigans? Head of the CIA? Married mother of two young kids? I can barely handle a 9-5 and a crappy DC-area commute with two kids. And I have zero swagger.


West Point Blues

I went to my 15 year reunion last weekend. Weekends have been work lately. We went from trolling for a new home every weekend to settling on one, buying it, and moving in. It was a short move. Five miles from the old home and in the same town (different zip code!) We looked at countless houses and wound up going back to one of the very first ones we walked through. I don’t want to think about how many hours and gallons of gas we wasted only to end up 5 miles away. On the up side, we saved a lot on moving costs by shuttling everything but the furniture in our cars and not buying a truckload of boxes.

I made the hotel reservation way ahead of time. The last thing you want is to not have a hotel. This is a return to college, yes, but not the college days of getting in the car and hoping someone will let you sleep on the floor/couch/hideaway bed/cot/backseat/bathtub/lobby when you get there. I missed the registration deadline. Yes, I caught it on the right date, however nothing anywhere stated that the registration site closed at 4 pm and not midnight of the last day. The 2004 grad who answered the phone was very polite and helpful in getting things done.

I was supposed to lose weight by the time the reunion came. Do I even need to explain how that went? I don’t think I look bad and I am healthy otherwise, just not entirely pleased with the spare tire I have going on. I know, we are hardest on ourselves. Suck it in or stuff it into some Spanx (or Spanx knock off) and keep it moving (I sucked it in)

I told our older daughter a week ahead of time. That gave her fair warning that we would not be around, but it also meant a week’s worth of guilt trips. I had to remind her that this was a Mommy and Daddy weekend and the next weekend, birthday weekend, was hers. Who falls for the guilt trip? Hint: Not me. My husband promised we would watch a movie and have pizza for dinner before heading out. He also promised that we would stop by the storage and get my “not as sloppy looking as the classic short” black Ugg Roslynn boots. Yes, I know, they are still not a fashion statement but the high for Saturday was supposed to be in the mid-50’s.

I had to hurry up because we had 10 minutes to get to the storage place. You know me and driving and not driving the car I’m used to drive and a time crunch and night time are not a good mix, right? I don’t even know why I was at the wheel.

We got to the gate on time. There was someone coming out of the storage units, which meant the gate automatically opened up and husband did not have to hop out and punch in the access code. I cleared the still opening gate and then curbed the front passenger side wheel. Followed by the rear passenger side wheel. And upon later inspection, removed a chunk of rubber from the rear tire. I tried consoling my husband by telling him the wheels on my own car were more messed up. It didn’t help.

We reached the storage building, my husband punched in his access code. He checked his (analog) watch and said, “Bullshit!” I went to the car and checked my (digital) phone. We were three minutes late.

We went back home (to get the sloppier looking, but bright purple classic short Uggs).

This is why it’s so hard to get anywhere. We forget things. We go back. We underestimate the time needed to wash clothes, pack bags, plan outfits. We left ( again) and in the next town, husband realized he forgot his antibiotics for the cough-sorethroat-cold symptoms he has.  "Keep going," I said.  "Otherwise we'll never get there.  We arrived at the hotel at nearly 2 in the morning.

I woke up around 6 and checked online for the registration info. There was a breakfast from 5:30-6:30 am (as if?). The parade started at 9 but you had to be there almost an hour earlier. Dork that I am, I wanted to go. I went to the bathroom and stared at myself. My eyes were excessively puffy. Like hours of crying and a night of horrible sleep puffy. Like two pissholes in the snow. Not cute atall. Vanity trumps dorkiness and I decided to go for my beauty rest.  I did go to the lobby to get my registration packet. I nearly missed the woman, but asked if she could help me out. “Oh, I’m packing, but if you stop by the Mess Hall after the parade.” I was good with that. But then she said “Wait a minute. What class are you? 2007?” I wanted to hug her. Here I am looking like Mr. Magoo with bedhead and she thinks I’m ten years younger. And when I corrected her, she apologized!

I got my packet and took my arse back to bed.

We had a late breakfast at what might have been the least efficient Dunkin’ Donuts in the history of man run inside of the most poorly thought out rest stop in the history of highway transportation (it had a one way parking garage that required every car exiting to cross the crosswalk for every pedestrian entering and exiting the building). We went to the homecoming game where no one checked our tickets and we were in the nosebleed seats. I texted my former roommate and they had much better seats with much more space. This was another thing. My husband criticized me for not making plans with anyone before the reunion. I know. But in my defense, no one contacted me, either. It happens.

We lost. The good thing is, I can go to a game and not pay any attention to what is happening on the field. I know the basics of football, but not the details. My poor husband played when it was a winning team, and I know it kills him to sit there and watch the new team, with way better turf, practice facilities and a life that includes cell phones and a lot more freedom than we have, lose the game. I mean, games. I mean, seasons. Okay, you get the point.

When my roommate said temperatures were in the 30’s for the parade (yes, I’m a big dork, and I honestly wanted to be there for it), I didn’t feel so bad.

She looked great. Most of the women in my class look great. Someone commented on the bright purple Uggs. The men—ehhhh. And as a cadet, guess which sex got dogged (hint: not the men). Living well is the best revenge.

The hard part was the social thing. If I didn’t talk to you or vice versa when we had four whole years together, it’s really awkward for me to catch up. Yes, there is Facebook and LinkedIn. I am on both of those. I just have a very difficult time small talking my way through sooooo, what have you done in the past 15 years. Or talking about my job like it is any kind of representation of me or my personality. This makes me look stuck up and rude, but I don’t mean to be either of those. I just tend to run out of words past, “Hey, great to see you!” and, "Where are you living these days?"

It was great to see some people, but generally I am in touch with them already. And it’s easier to talk in smaller groups vs. "Hey, look, here is a whole room of people and….GO!" On the last day, I ran into one classmate who posted on Facebook that anyone who voted for Obama should be “ashamed.” I hugged her and acted happy to see her. I don’t wish anything bad on anyone, I just will not forget being scolded via Facebook because I didn’t vote the same way she did. I also didn’t engage on Facebook, because that is another way to raise blood pressure and drive yourself nuts while obsessively checking back for the latest volley -- a lesson learned by yours truly from another extremely conservative classmate who shall not be named, but was subsequently unfriended out of pure annoyance. Subject? The now not-so-relevant-and-the-sky-didn't-fall-when-it-was-repealed, Don't Ask Don't Tell policy. 
This is a total tangent. I’m glad I went. Sorry I was not more social. I say the same thing about my time as a cadet. Some things don’t change.


Civic duty done

While on maternity leave, I received a questionnaire from the county hinting that I was under consideration for jury duty. I filled it out, sent it back and about a month ago I received my summons. You get assigned a number and a date to report for duty. You're supposed to check the number on the website or by dialing in to see if you're needed. I was #29.

If you were number 1-164, you were supposed to report for duty, do not pass go, do not collect $200...oh, wait.
Woo hoo, I was in!

Soooo....following a very poorly drawn out strip map on the back side of my summons paperwork, I made a bunch of right turns until I found the poorly marked parking lot. I showed the police officer guarding the lot my summons (I guess people try to park for free) and found a spot. Then I took the poorly drawn strip map and walked up to the "Judicial Center."

I had to go through metal detectors. Then I had to go up to the jury lounge (but only after asking information because there were no signs). The "lounge" was a huge room where everyone who had been summoned waited. I was #29 out of 164. I checked in (no one checked ID, but I saw my age and sex marked on their paperwork), got my juror packet and this lovely sticker:

I found an empty seat and waited. I also asked where I could pump and the lady in charge said there was a room in the library on the third floor. Unlike work some places, the "judicial center" accommodates nursing mothers without making an issue out of it.

Well the way my fine county does it is first, they see if there are any trials because some of the scheduled trials settle out of court. There were only 3 criminal trials taking place (and yes, I got excited--no boring civil cases!), and each one requires 12 jurors. When selecting jurors, they called our numbers in order, so I was 29 and each group of prospective jurors is about 35-40 people. They call numbers in order, so I got called up in the first group. We had to go up to the court room to be selected. So then in the courtroom we all sit and the judge asks questions, like whether you are a cop or you know police officers or law enforcement people, whether you have family members that are lawyers, whether you have sat in a criminal case before, etc. Basically trying to weed out people that may be biased. One person wanted to get out. She claimed her job was important and she could not afford to be there longer than one day. The judge was unsympathetic. "There are no other psychiatrists in the entire District of Columbia? What if you get hit by a bus?" And so on.

So the next thing they do is go into further questioning with certain members who answered a certain way. Some of those people got booted (people who knew cops or lawyers, people who were cops or lawyers, etc). Then they start filling the seats on the jury. So the lawyers on both sides can say they don’t want someone as a juror. From what it looked like, they wanted women, but they did not want older Asian women or any men. "They" claim to not look at race or sex or age, but "they" are hoodwinking. "They"(the lawyers) are looking for advantages.

There were 11 women on the jury and one man, and one male alternate.

The case was about two neighbors who had once been friends. One filed a “peace order” which is a restraining order, against the other. They lived in adjacent townhouses. The case was about whether the one lady violated the order. The one who filed had three daughters. Well, the mom was at work and the oldest was watching the other two. They heard a bang on their back door but did not see what caused that. Then the oldest one opened the sliding glass door and said the neighbor was looking at her and “using profanity.” The kid called her mom, who was driving home from work and the mom said to call the cops.

After the selection and opening arguments (fun seeing a very pregnant state attorney and the hired defense attorney trying to dramatize what looked to be pretty simple turn of events. Not fun knowing my taxes probably funded part of this process. Here's where my taxes didn't go: the building itself. It looked like it had not been updated or redecorated since the '80s).

They were trying to prove that the neighbor was trespassing by reaching over the privacy fence and banging on their door, and that the neighbor was “attempting to contact” by yelling at the kids.

Most of the discussion hinged on the height of the fence and whether the neighbor reached over and knocked on their door. We don’t know it happened because no one saw it, they just heard a bang. There were no photos of the fence or anyone reaching over to the neighbor’s door. It just was witnesses saying how tall they thought the fence was (anywhere from 5 ½ to 7 feet) and speculating whether the neighbor could reach across and bang on the door.

The judge had closing arguments and released the alternate. The 11 angry women and one man went to a back room to deliberate.

"I wanna believe those kids" one person said.

Another one: "I'll bet those kids could talk some shit too."

We sympathized with the defendant. The woman was in and out of her townhouse and had to face a neighbor who filed a "peace order." When you live in that kind of set up, giving someone the wrong look could be enough for them to nail you. It was not enough for us to say she was “guilty beyond reasonable doubt” so we all agreed she was not guilty and we came back after an hour and said that.

What was that about boring civil cases? I said that not knowing "criminal" cases could be boring too.


Hacky new year!

The other day, on Christmas Eve, I was sitting on the couch with my laptop on Facebook. Someone messaged me. It was a friend, but not someone I am in touch with regularly. He graduated two years behind me.

This guy: Hi
How are you doing??

Yours truly: what's up (insert friend's name here), how are you?

TG:Am not too good at the moment

Rut-roh. I didn't like where this was going. I kept it breezy.

YT: I'm alright--just chillin' (aside from all of that, does anyone say "just chill in' anymore? I mean besides me? No? Okay.). I'm sorry you're not doing well.

TG: I am currently stuck in London,uk......got mugged at a gun point last night
(so I'm going to write a random friend on Facebook about it instead of filing a police report)

At this point it sounds eerily familiar to a sob story a (real) friend shared about one of her Facebook friends contacted her about (except I think that "friend" was in Scotland).

The rest of the conversation:

YT: Jeez. Awful--sorry. I hope you did not get hurt

TG: All cash,credit card including cell phones were stolen away
i was hurt on my head

YT: I'm so sorry. I hope you can get everything straightened out soon. Take care of yourself. I have to go, but I will keep you in my thoughts.

TG: Glad still have life and passport saved.......i need your help

You see? I tried to break off. When I got the "I need your help" line I knew for sure something was amiss. I emailed my friend with the pasted conversation to say "Hey someone is scamming me" since she is familiar with random peeps (Does anyone still say "peeps?" Just me? Okay.) writing sob stories from the UK.

So once I realized--hello, someone got hacked. Someone is not having an adventure gone awry. Someone is not suffering from a head injury. This guy is probably okay and probably would never Facebook message me. My friend emailed back with: "Well you know, you have to tell him he got hacked, right?"

Well, yes. It's an unwritten rule. Even though I told her, "No ma'am. I don't want to. I don't want have to hear a fake sob story about someone getting assaulted in the UK (you see? My imagination is still picturing a vicious mugging, Euro style). I tried to give myself an out--I don't even have his email address. But then I remembered--I am connected with him on LinkedIn.

So I wrote and told him he got hacked.

And he replied "I reset me (sic) password. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year"

Ohhh. Okay. You're welcome. Do I need to add I pictured you on a dark London street with blood oozing from your ear and I wasted time feeling bad about it for you to be grateful?! Because I did!

Why do people not even say thanks for the heads up? It's almost like you're wrong for even saying anything. I did the same thing when Steve Jobs died and all of that crap about Free iPads was going around "in honor of Steve Jobs." I told someone THAT was fake and the guy just deleted it from his page. No "Thanks." No warning to anyone else. Just delete. Poof. It never happened. Ohhh! You're welcome.

I think people are ashamed to admit they fell for the okey doke (I do it every day). If you call that out publicly (see also: replying to alarmist emails with a link to snopes disproving it), you're the bad guy, not the one pulling the hoax or hacking the account.

Today I saw someone post this. And I thought "No way did she fall for this. How is 100 shares on Facebook giving someone a free heart transplant. That HAS to be fake." I googled (the truth is out there), had my suspicions confirmed and said nothing. Someone else can be the messenger this time.