The grass is greener on the other side (and I can step on it)

Earlier today, I saw a fellow Marine and classmate walk into the veteran office, someone I haven’t seen in a long time.

I asked if he is graduating this May, and he said he is. Which means since he will be returning to active duty full time shortly thereafter.

Though he says he’s thinking about staying a full time civilian.

“The grass is greener on the other side,” I replied. “And you can step on it.”

He laughed and agreed.

A couple of Saturdays ago, I had orders for a Marine Corps muster. When I arrived, I saw Marines in their boots and utes, in their woodland cammies with their sleeves unrolled. I saw collars with black ranks blending in with the uniform, making it hard to see the rank of the person you were speaking to.

I saw shiny bars and birds. I saw crew cuts, the high-and-tights, and they looked fresh. The Marines must have gotten their haircuts the day before if not the morning of, in order to look good for us Individual Reserve Ready Marines.

It’s all part of the look, the image to draw you back in, to finish the remainder of your contract in the uniform.

These are what these musters consist of: they have representatives from the local VA speak to us about the healthcare and the benefits we rate; they have local companies speak to us about job opportunities; they have local organizations speak to us about resources we should know about and benefit.

And lastly, the prior-enlisted recruiters come on stage and give us a death by PowerPoint of the various ways to re-enter the Marine Corps. For those of us who still have a little motto gas left, who can’t find anything in the civilian world and who ache to return base, to have the daily –and sometimes monotonous –routine of waking up, go on a moto PT session, shower, put on a fresh set of cammies, and drive to work.

For some of us, there is a need to find a purpose. We had a purpose in the service: to get the mission accomplished, whatever our occupation may be.

Once you return to the civilian world, you either know what your next mission (or purpose) is, or you go in search of one. All the while, transitioning from the military life you’ve molded yourself –and likely the reason why you decided not to reenlist –to the civilian life you didn’t know you would hate.

Thus, there are the yearly musters. For those of us who miss it, who still have some moto gas left and it needs to be refilled.

Walking in, I admit, a longing came in. Seeing the pull-up bars and the uniforms gave me flashbacks of wearing green-on-green and my hair in a sock bun, gelled and hair sprayed to keep the humidity from messing it up.

I was suddenly back at the shop, shooting the shit during chow time, taking off my blouse and try to do a pull-up or work on my flex-arm hang. I pictured myself in boots and utes, with a smaller waist and a slimmer face. I remember thinking how proud I was –and still am –to be a Marine.

I wasn’t the strongest or fastest Marine, but I know not just anyone can volunteer themselves, raise their right hands and swear in four to eight years of their lives. Not everyone joins, knowing they will have to face the dangers that we know could become.

I missed it, but as I took a stroll on the grass, making a shortcut to enter the building, I didn’t miss it enough to return.

I’m fortunate to find my new purpose, one in which I can still serve my country. I found it in being a reporter, exercising the First Amendment, and trying to find the truth to give to the American people. And I’m having a damn good time doing it.

Besides, I like walking on the grass and putting my hands in my pockets. I like letting my hair down and then putting it up in a messy bun when I get hot. I like wearing makeup and wearing different shades of shadows and lipsticks, and not just the usual neutral colors on a daily basis.

It’s something about those little gestures that makes you appreciate the little things, and it’s a reminder that you shouldn’t take those freedoms for granted.

I learned today: the law and media edition

lowery

The gentleman you see on the screen is Wesley Lowery. If his name sounds familiar, it’s because he was one of two reporters arrested in Ferguson back in August 2014. He and Ryan J. Reilly were at a McDonald’s, a staging area for journalists.

(You can read more about the arrest here: In Ferguson, Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery gives account of his arrest.)

While Reilly hasn’t been charged, Lowery has been charged with trespassing and interfering with a police officer.

He Skyped in at today’s Law and Media seminar speaking about his experience and the effects after his arrest. In addition, he spoke of the stat analysis of people killed by police within the last year. You can view this report at WashingtonPost.com.

Lowery said social media is a place to be human, a place where people can watch the reporting process, give information from the ground as the scene unfolds.

He is a reporter of the Washington Post and has covered other big stories such as ex-Patriot Aaron Hernandez’s murder case. Since the arrest, he has returned to Ferguson a dozen times to continue his coverage there.

The case is still pending and Lowery is due in court in August.

Out of all the panel discussions at the Law and Media seminar, this one stood out the most to me. It made me think about my coverage of the protest on campus the other day. The rally was about Sandra Bland and police brutality, and I and the photographer had to constantly run in order to get ahead of the marchers and get good shots.

While the photographer’s pictures will be used in my article, I took some of my own because of the moment. As Lowery said, it’s a place where you give information from the ground.

You listen to the speeches, you watch the interactions amongst the people (those for and opposed). You write down quotes and observations, and you take pictures or video to accompany your words, because you were there, and you want the audience to see what you witnessed.

It’s one of the most exciting feelings in the world, and listening to Lowery’s words of his experience adds fuel to a fire within me to keep reporting, to tell the world stories they need to know.

Rebel Heart Hangover

 

rebelheartcurtain

The curtains at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas on January 12, 2016. Madonna came on late, but she was definitely worth the wait. | Photo: Sara Samora

I saw Madonna performed for the second time on Tuesday night. She is the definition of success, of breaking barriers, of outlasting and beating her naysayers, and dare I say in cliché, someone who dances to the beat of her own drum.

I received these tickets on my birthday, so it was a show I longed to attend. I love her latest album. Moreover, I have the fear that one of these days, she will say, “This is my last tour.” So why not see her while she’s still doing her thing enthusiastically?

When I watched Madonna’s Rebel Heart Tour Workshop videos on her YouTube, the music and the rehearsals created anticipation for this show.

And as I watched these videos, I couldn’t help but remembered a quote from one of my drill instructors from Marine Corps boot camp, when she had my platoon practice for initial drill evaluation.

She would slap the rifle, and ease it down to her side, butt facing the ground. Then she would yell at us –as every drill instructor does –and tell us that it was wrong.

“An amateur practices it until she gets it right,” she said. “A Marine gets it until she can’t get it wrong.”

When I read how often Madonna and her dancers rehearsed –even in her ballet days in Michigan and New York –it made me think about this quote.

Seeing the show live, with the acrobats, the special effects, the dramatics, it all looked so easy.

Every intricate dance move, every swing on the pole, and even a fall back leap from the stairs on stage, looked natural and dramatic, bringing excitement and gasps from the audience.

Might I add, some of the more acrobatic choreography were without harnesses. And if they had them on, her road crew did a great job hiding it.

Sometimes I think if Madonna had not gone the road of worldwide superstar, that she would have been perfect in the military. The woman is fit and very disciplined. Moreover, she does have a –ahem –colorful sense of humor.

I can’t help but imagine how she would play games with her junior cohorts. If the below is any indication of what kind of games she would play:

“My daughter has a problem picking things up in her room, so if you leave your clothes on the floor, they’re gone when you come home,” Madonna explains.

“[Lourdes] has to earn all her clothes back by being tidy, making her bed, hanging up her clothes.”

The little one’s wardrobe also gets taken away if she throws a tantrum over which outfit to wear.

“We have got down to one outfit — she wears the same outfit every day to school until she learns her lesson,” Madonna says.

While I do think her junior cohorts would probably despise her, they would probably love her at the same time. Seeing someone like her pushing hard, going above and beyond, looking over their uniforms like she does her dancers’ costumes, making sure everything is in order and then teach them a thing or two about culture and/or traditions.

“She’s pushing us to go harder, because she’s going so hard.”

She would want her unit to be the best, to give their all on the daily tasks. She would only want the best and would push them to keep up with her.

It’s inspiring to watch her career, to watch her try, and either succeed or fail. Regardless of what critics say about Madonna, she’s going to prove you wrong. And if she does fall, she will try again, or try a different route.

But that’s what a rebel heart is; being different and true to yourself.

Now if only I can convince some of my friends to look past the ageism, past the genre and the decade, and see what she can do. They would be amazed, and they won’t be disappointed.

 

Hello Gym, It’s Me

First of all, HAPPY NEW YEAR!

And today, I made it to the gym.  A gym that I have been paying for, but have not visited in a long time. I realized this when I couldn’t remember how to check in.

I also noticed the towels they sold were no longer white, but blue.

Hello, it’s me

I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet.

I wasn’t too tired to go (which I usually am), and perhaps this winter break is doing me good by allowing me to catch up on sleep.  When I walked in, an employee at the front desk helped me with checking in, and then asked what I would be working on.

I told him I was only going to work on cardio, but not running, and then mentioned my ankle injury from boot camp. He offered to tape me and weigh then go over a plan and do a 20-30 minute workout.

So now, I have a 10 a.m. session and mini-counseling with him. (Granted, he’s going to find out a couple of more service-connected injuries, but why not surprise him?)

Now usually, I would have declined –and if added to the monthly fee, I was definitely going to decline –but since it’s part of my gym membership, why not?

Another reason I said yes is so I can get myself to the gym. I needed another reason, perhaps for accountability, to have someone depend on me to be there.

I don’t like working out with people; I like working out alone, it is my “me” time. It’s when I can move around and ponder over the day instead of pondering it in my bed or on the couch in front of the television.

Mostly, it is what helps me focus a little better, and improve my health. After getting out of the military, I was relieved that I no longer had to worry about staying within weight (my max for my height was 136). At the time, I felt like I could eat whatever I want. No more scales, no more physical fitness tests, no more stress.

Just eat, eat, and eat.

But I went overboard. Now I am at my heaviest at 175.  Thus, it’s time to get back on track.

Now, as I have mentioned in the previous post, the goal right now is to get to the gym. I need to make it to the gym, do what I need to do –at a beginner’s level, no less –and try to make it a habit. It has to be a habit that would make me cringe for even missing a day.

Then, I can proceed to the weight loss goals.

People quit because it takes too long to see results, because they can’t figure out that the process is the result.

–David Wong, 6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Resolutions or Goals?

Yesterday, one of my friends posted her achieved goals for 2015, many of which were her acting/voice-over accomplishments.

Most of it, she was able to achieve. Some of it, she didn’t. Nonetheless, she has written her goals for the New Year, and she’s ready for what 2016 will bring.

Today, another friend of mine wrote her New Year’s Eve wish, which includes finding a good man, and either going to a park to look at the stars or go to a secluded beach with a bonfire.

As you can see, one has long term goals, while the other mostly has short term. Thus, it made me think about what I want to accomplish in the New Year.

The thing is, I don’t make resolutions, nor do I like to make them. I feel with resolutions, they are bound to fail. It’s as if the world is your genie, or Samantha from Bewitched, and you voice your wishes in hopes that with just a nod of a head or a twitch of the nose, your New Year’s resolutions will come true.

But that is not the case; they are bound to fall through.

In a 2010, Examiner’s Sandi Porter wrote that 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions are broken within the first two weeks of the New Year.

“What’s the use of making resolutions if you are going to break them?” Porter wrote.

However, I do have goals I want to achieve in the next twelve months.

So I got to thinking: what is the difference between a resolution and a goal?

In 2011, family physician and University of Ottawa professor Yoni Freedhoff wrote in his blog, Weighty Matters, that one is a hope, while the other is a plan.

“A goal might be to lose weight, get in shape, eat healthier, love better, get a promotion, higher grades in school, etc. Those are things you truly hope you’ll do in 2012,” Freedhoff said.

As for a resolution?

“That’d be the plan that’ll actually get you there,” Freedhoff said.

Porter herself explains the difference between the two.

“A resolution is a fact,” Porter wrote. “It’s a ’formal expression of opinion or intention.’ It’s a resolve or determination to do something…. It’s an absolute. You are going to do ‘this.’”

She writes that a goal is also a fact, but that it’s the result or achievement in which one puts forth effort into.

“A goal is something you strive for, you achieve to accomplish something,” Porter said. “You see the end result and you make steps to get there.”

I do not have many goals for next year. Really, they are goals that I have been working on for the past few years.

My first and big goal for 2016 is to graduate, to finally earn my bachelor’s in May.

The second big goal is to get a job that makes me happy, but is also secured.

The last goal is to get in the habit of PT-ing, or exercising in general.

With the latter, I don’t want to say, “I want to lose 50 pounds and have the Marine Corps body I once had.” No. I just need to make it a habit of exercising regularly. Once I can get that going, then I can move on to the weight loss goal, or find a resolution to achieve that goal.

Regardless of goals, Porter said in that in order to follow through, it has to come from you heart. She asked the following questions below:

What do you really want to do?

Why do you really want to do it? 

How are you going to accomplish it?

What is your heart’s desire?

“Forget resolutions and what has not worked in the past,” Porter said. “Look into your heart and see what truly matters to you.”

So what matters to you? And how are you going to achieve it in 2016? Hit me back and say what you want to accomplish.

 

 

On My Own, Or At Least Getting There

I know this is not a big deal, but I changed my own headlight today. And I’m damn proud of it.

Let me give you a back story.

A friend of mine is dating this girl; she’s fantastic. She has a Masters in Business Administration, she has an amazing job, and really, at the age of 25, she is living the life I had originally planned for myself. Except she achieved it, and I give her props for knowing what she wanted to do with her life and be so put together.

However, the complaint my friend has about her is that she doesn’t know how to be domestic: she doesn’t know how to cook or iron. This bothers him.

The way I see it, she’s set; she can pay for cooking classes; or, as her mother had told her, “You can pay and have someone do it for you.”

In Latino culture -and specifically, my Mexican culture -we have our mothers tell us to focus on studies, on finding ways to have a better life than what they had. I don’t see this as a fault of hers; and if it does bother him, he can always teach her himself.

Nonetheless, his thoughts had me thinking, and I feel like in my case, should learn and/or improve not only in becoming a domestic goddess, but a goddess all around.

I’m the single gal. I’m the one who has been living alone. Moreover, at 35, I don’t know if I’ll end up getting married. Daddy or a mechanic in general will not always be available. So why not do it on my own?

So today, I headed over to AutoZone today to purchase and finally change one of my headlights.

I wanted to change it myself, so a few days before I watched a YouTube tutorial on the process for my car model. I only watched it once, but it looked easy enough. I could get this, right?

Fast forward to today, and I still wanted to change it on my own. Thus, I made my purchase and decided to install the new bulb on the AutoZone parking lot.

For one, I was anxious to get it done. And two, AutoZone was also my “SafetyZone;” my just-in-case-I-screw-it-up-and-I-needed-to-go-inside-and-get-help.

Though, the latter was a last resort.

While I struggled a little bit on taking off the bulb, I grew excited as I completed each step: taking off the lid, taking the bulb attachment out of its place, taking the bulb off and lastly, replacing it with a new one.

For my final test, I turned on the lights to ensure I did it right. Sure enough, I did. My car no longer looks like it has an eye patch cruising through the night.

Again, I know it’s not a big deal. However, it’s a proud moment for me.

Now, bring on the oil change.

I just have to find a place to park and do it.