30 November, 2006

Once Again, Into the Breach

Update: ARR here [Oops! Link fixed.]

I have another interview tomorrow! This is a big one. Of all the jobs I've seen open since I moved here, this is the one that I think is best-suited for me (and I for it); it's the one I want, the career field I want to break into.

I'll be interviewing for a receptionist or administrative position at the local office of a national military charity/NGO that is widely respected. It's part-time, but with very good pay. The hours are flexible, so I could supplement it with tutoring, work as an organist, etc., while continuing to volunteer (and network) at the USO and SYMCA.

The best part is that it would be entry-level, something that would allow me to demonstrate my knowledge about the field while I fill in areas of weakness. And ultimately, I would be positioned to move up to a full-time or more advanced job if there are openings either in that office or the wider community of non-profits.

So, this is big. I'm going to be "gaming" the interview in my mind this evening and spending time brushing up on areas of local knowledge that I'm weak on. I'll also have with me a letter from an officer at the base where I'm interviewing. It will testify to my understanding of the issues and day-to-day challenges of military life, as well as my ability to quickly learn more. Hopefully the letter will help me avoid the You're Just an Ignorant Civilian syndrome.

Again, I ask for your prayers, good thoughts, and best wishes!

Read More......

Creative Fundraising

This last fundraiser brought forth some great stories about creative or sacrificial giving for Valour-IT, but this one takes the cake, I think. Here's part of what recently appeared in my inbox:

I am in the PA Air National Guard and we would like to do a fund raiser for your organization during our December drill. Do you have any electronic copies of flyers or anything that we could use to inform people about Project Valour-IT? Anything you could send me would be appreciated.

Also, I am getting married in May and I would like to give a donation in the name of my guests as our wedding favor (we would give people a scroll telling them that we gave a donation in their name to Project Valour-IT). Would I just be able to send you my invitation list along with my donation?

The dedication and leadership to bring Valour-IT to the attention of her fellow guardsmen is great in itself, but it's the wedding aspect that really jumped out at me.

Weddings are almost always all about fantasy and perfection and idealistic beauty. But this couple will be interjecting the reality of the wounded into their wedding. By placing Valour-IT and its mission in front of their guests, they will be embracing the reality of war, sacrifice, and our responsibilities to those who have served. They will be honoring and including the very people who have played a sacrificial role in their ability to have a peaceful and joyous celebration of their love and their future. This is a level of maturity and lack of self-reference that is inspiring, a genuine celebration of life.

I hope my correspondent is in an official leadership position in her ANG unit, 'cause somehow I suspect she's quite good at that aspect of soldiering.

Read More......

29 November, 2006

Why We Do It

Soldiers' Angels (which runs Valour-IT) received the following email a couple of days ago. Here is the end result of Valour-IT's generous donors and hard-working volunteers (repeated nearly 700 times in the last 16 months):

Dear Soldiers Angels,

My name is ___________, and I am one of the wounded soldiers recovering at Brook Army Medical Center. Tonight me and my wife were honored to attend a dinner where I was presented with this New Laptop that I am using right now. So the first thing I wanted to do on this computer is to send you my deepest gratitude.

This is one of the most thoughtful gifts I have ever gotten and I know that me and my family will benefit from this gift. I truly thank God for allowing me the opportunity to cross paths with such caring people. May God Bless you all for the wonderful service that you do for the soldiers and Happy Holidays to you all. Again, thank you very much for his blessing.


[Grateful Soldier]

Read More......

28 November, 2006

USO Vignette

...but not the regular fare.

Today was SOI day (newly-minted Marines coming through on their way to secondary training). A SSgt and Sgt, along with a bevy of assisting PFCs and LCpls from the base are assigned to the USO to direct the flood of literally hundreds of clueless new Marines.

I was there when the group from the base arrived first thing this morning and I was still there over five hours later. Mid-morning, a young (21?) assisting PFC made some crack about me still being there to help him. I laughed about it and agreed that I was.

That led to the following conversation later when I was about to leave (I thought it funny at the time, but now I wonder if I was a bit too crushing)...

21-year-old PFC (in almost whiny voice): You're leaving me now?

FbL (who supposedly looks like she's about 23): It's the end of my shift. And I was here 'til 8:00 last night!

PFC (with mock(?) puppydog eyes): You're leaving me now?

FbL: Yup.

PFC (continuing expression): What?! You're not gonna stay? You're leaving me?

FbL (with a friendly smile and a chuckle and a silly flourish, but starting to get a weird feeling): I'm at least 10 years older than you. I'm most definitely leaving you.

PFC (looking momentarily startled, but covering it well): "10 years?"

FbL (smiling gently): Yes, 10 years.

PFC: But that's okay with me. I...

FbL: Have a good afternoon!

Weird. Just plain weird. I mean, I know I look young for my age, but not that young! And I'm certainly not the type someone would fall for at first sight (and don't argue with me on that!).

Perhaps I should credit his youth--in other words, it was a clumsy attempt to be silly with no intent to actually attract and it fell flat because he thought he was speaking to a peer when he actually wasn't. In which case, I think I responded properly.

Or the more hideous explanation is that to a 21-year-old I look so old and unattractive that he thought there wouldn't be a chance I'd actually think he was serious. In which case...

Ugh. Better not think that way, haha! Still, very strange. I have to say that had someone my age or a little older talked to me like he did, I'd have blushed like crazy!

Read More......

27 November, 2006

Job Search Clarification, part 1

A number of people on and off-line have been giving me increasing amounts of good advice about my job search. I've realized that I've hinted here at times about what I'm looking for, but I've never quite laid it all out here. So, here goes (background first)...

I long thought I wanted to be a music teacher and I worked my butt off to reach that dream, including receiving an undergraduate and a master's degree from Indiana University. In recent years I discovered that my passion for teaching music to young children was poorly placed, as that career is being slowly strangled in America. But this spring I stepped out on a new dream, one that is going to take time to realize.

My ultimate dream, now? Something similar to the job I applied for this spring: a position that involved monitoring, researching (through interviews, etc.), and synthesizing the issues facing military families, brainstorming solutions, and working with both military leadership and lawmakers to address the identified issues or needs. It would've admittedly been a growth position for me, but I and others in the field believed I could've done it.

Obviously, someone else got the job (like I said, it was a stretch for me). But I've kept dreaming. And people associated with Valour-IT keep telling me that I've demonstrated the skills and knowledge to break into the field of military-related NGOs, etc, through my work on Valour.-IT

The big issue is that paid positions in this field are few and far between. The best way in is unfortunately starting at the bottom--in unpaid positions. Which is what I have been doing at the USO and the SYMCA. This preparation has also been supplemented by my local networking in the military community. But so far, little has turned up. The best thing that I've seen is a part-time position with a respected military-affiliated charity that I'm waiting to hear about.

So in the meantime, I need to pay my bills. My non-musical skills are strongest (very strong) in secretarial-type work: I type 95 words per minute (error-free), I score in the "expert" level on typical office software when tested, and I've got extensive experence in customer service, PR, business communication, organization, etc.

Sounds pretty good, huh? Unfortunately, tht's where the "over-qualified" part comes in. People seem to be very nervous about hiring secretaries with master's degrees, no matter how much skill and experience I have in that arena (an extensive amount, since that's how I put myself through my three college degrees: A.A, B.S., and M.A.)...

And then they see all the work I did in project planning, PR and fundraising with Valour-IT and I start hearing things like, "But you'd be so bored being a receptionist." But if I take the Valour-IT work off my resume, all I've got in the last five years is Muisc Teacher, Church Organist, and three months as a volunteer receptionist at the USO. Yeah, that'll get you a second look for a secretarial/admin position. Not!

But hey, an empty resume with some good references could get me a cashier position and that's better than nothing, right? Yup, and I'd last 2 days in a standing-required position on my battered and surgically-enhanced feet that have caused knee and hip-alignment problems.

So, there's the sob story and the likely reasons I'm still unemployed. Next time I'll put up all the things about me that should make me an irresistable hire for both business and charity (haha), in a format that a potential employer might actually pay attention to.

Read More......

26 November, 2006

Foot in mouth, or just stupid?

Others have weighed in on Rep. Rangel's idiotic statements from many angles, but I think they missed one point. Rangel said:

But I want to make it abundantly clear, if there's anyone who believes that these youngsters want to fight, as the Pentagon and some generals have said, you can just forget about it. No young, bright individual wants to fight just because of a bonus and just because of educational benefits. And most all of them come from communities of very, very high unemployment.

If a young fellow has an option of having a decent career or joining the Army to fight in Iraq, you can bet your life that he would not be in Iraq.

I'm going to set aside the insult that is to every soldier serving in Iraq ("If they had decent prospects, they wouldn't be in Iraq," etc) and look at this from another angle. Let me see if I get this straight... Accoding to you, Rep. Rangel:

1. Young + bright = not sucked in by bonuses and educational benefits

Therefore: young + bright = not enlistees in the army.

2. Members of communities with high unemployment = enlistees in the army

Therefore: members of communities with high employment = sucked in by bonuses and benefits

Did I get that right? Mr. Rangel, somehow I think the poor you claim to represent wouldn't like where this train of logic ends up. Because with the above in mind, I keep coming to the conlusion that:

Members of communities with high employment = not young and bright

Insulting the U.S. military? That's entirely understandable, being the fashion among thinkers like you. But surely you didn't mean to say that people struggling with unemployment/poverty are simply dumb...?

Well, maybe so. I mean, you were smart enough to escape your upbringing, dip your hand in the government till and ensconse yourself among the powerful elite. Maybe that explains your belief that the rest of us are so in need of your wisdom and guidance...

Nobody signs up with the idea of fighting when and where his/her country calls (which these days happens to be Iraq)? You don't have a clue.

Clarification: Just so there's no confusion, I don't think poor/unemployed = not bright. I'm just (rather feebly) attempting to point out the idiocy of Rangel's statements. Frankly, I don't think he really believes what he's saying; he just thinks it's politically expedient for purposes of class warfare--which just demonstrates his idiocy all the more.]

Update: Of course, this tired canard from Rep. Rangel is nothing new.

Read More......

Hear Ye, Hear Ye!

Update: Visitor #50,000 arrived at 9:47 pacific, from Seattle. Unfortunately, he/she arrived via a google search, so is anonymous. However, visitor #50,001 was a regular from Chicago who checked sitemeter soon after arrival. Care to identify yourself, my Chicago friend?

At some point late tonight or tomorrow morning, this blog will receive its 50,000th visitor! I know, I know... small potatoes. But hey, it's a nice round number.

It took exactly nine months to reach 25,000 and exactly seven more to get to 50,000 (looks like you were off by two months, Neffi). But at this rate, it'll only take me... Heck, I don't do calculus; I'm a musician. ;)

I'd offer a prize to the 50,000th visitor, but I'm penniless. But hey, leave a comment and if I can identify you as number 50,000, I'll give you a link or something (oh, the anticipation must be unbearable, huh?).

Have a super Sunday, everyone.

Read More......

23 November, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

It occurred to me this morning that my Thanksgiving will be incomplete this year. Not only will members of my family be elsewhere, but there are many others I will be wishing were at my table this afternoon.

I've had the pleasure of knowing so many of you both on and off-line: I have happy memories of hugs and laughter, of shared food and drink and the lively conversation that goes with both. So I am thinking of you today, thankful for the times we've had together and wishing so much for more.

So here's a table set for all of you; pull up a chair. I know I'll be with you in spirit today, counting you among the things for which I am so very thankful.

In a year of my life that has seen so much that is hard and challenging, you all have been a tremendous bright spot for me. Thank you for being there, for advising me, for challenging me, for picking me up when I was down, and for keeping me honest (I'd add, "keeping me sane," but that ship sailed a long time ago).

My love to all of you, today and every day...

Read More......

21 November, 2006

Support and the Soul

Jules Crittenden's provocative column in the Boston Herald, "Quitting a Worthy Fight Would Be a Great Mistake," has created some interesting discussion on his blog. The issue of "supporting" the troops but not the war came up in the context of the reception Vietnam veterans received upon their return home.

When the U.S. military went into Afghanistan, I had a powerful personal reaction to thoughts of what was being done on my behalf. It was a reaction of overwhelming sorrow and humblest gratitude. At a level that was as yet inarticulate, I understood I was inextricably linked to what happened on the battlefield and that the aftermath of those events created in me and every other U.S. citizen a response born of moral obligation and a debt that would never be repaid. And so from that day I knew at a deeper level than ever that support for our military and its goals was my obligation now that the fighting had started.

But yesterday at Crittenden's blog, a commenter finally gave me words for what I knew in my heart five years ago. He articulated exactly why it's not only incorrect to say one can support the troops without supporting their goals, it's morally reprehensible.

I had first written in comments (in part):

...[Vietnam veteran] soldiers who came home and were told their service was either dishonorable or useless (due to us giving up) had a harder time coping with the psychological and physical aftermath of that service. Humans can bear an amazing amount of suffering if they believe it is a result of [in service of] something noble or admirable, but being told they suffer for nothing good can literally make it harder to cope.

The response from commenter NAMedic:

As a combat medic and Vietnam Veteran who is 100% disabled due to PTSD, I can confirm the general point you make. It was not until five or six years of therapy, peeling away all the layers of horror from the war, that the final root of my problems was revealed. The worst trauma was in coming home, by far, and by far it was the hardest to see, and the most painful to admit. [snip]

A nation cannot ask normal human beings to engage in warfare unless that nation, top to bottom, validates what they have to do in such extremities. Normal human beings cannot remain psychologically whole, believing that their behavior was immoral - and all warfare is internally recognized by any soldier as profoundly immoral unless it is validated by a "higher power" outside the individual soldier.

Yes, it is our obligation to fight a wrong policy with every ounce of our strength before it is implemented, particularly when it involves issues of life and death. But war is a very special case, for so many lives hang in the physical and psychological balance. Once a war has begun, there can be only one course of action. To do otherwise than embrace the soldier for what he does for you is a kind of pernicious evil that takes the selfishness of one's natural desire to avoid the ugliness of this world to a new low [quote continued from above]:

This is also why the whole pose of "support the troops but oppose the war" is so insane and naive, if not deliberately and hypocritically self-serving. The "support" that counts, the only support that counts, is moral validation. If you oppose the war, you are withholding that very validation. You are destroying the soldier’s soul.

Yes, this is a democracy and you have every right to think your soldiers are on a fool's errand. But once it's been started, shut the hell up! Let them do what they must to win so that the duration is shorter and the suffering is less.

With the military power we possess, we have the capacity to win any conflict (it simply matters how much damage we want to inflict), so you cannot argue that a war we are engaged in is fundamentally unwinnable. It simply comes down to whether or not you want to pay the cost. If you don't, or you think that the prosecution of that war is a bad thing, then fine. But the only other option to winning is losing. So face up to it and admit that you want our soldiers to lose, you want them to believe they are doing immoral things for no moral reason, you want their death and suffering to be in vain, and that you are (in the words of someone who has "been there, done that") "destroying the soldier's soul."

Don't you dare stand there and clothe yourself in the rightousness of being "anti-war!" For your actions are not only prolonging the conflict and increasing physical suffering (on both sides), but they are robbing your fellow citizens of the healing they require for what they have done in your defense. And no, short of taking up citizenship in another country, you cannot repudiate their gift to you. It is always there, staring you in the face whether you pick it up or not. And frankly it's a defining moment for your philosophy and and relationship to humanity: are you going to pick it up and embrace the giver in sorrow and gratitude? Or are you going to try to simultaneously kick aside his gift as stupid at best and try to tell him that walking the darkness with the demons was wasted on you as you assure him you "support" him?

This is why what Code Pink did in the beginning months of their protest at Walter Reed ("Maimed for a Lie," etc.) was so evil. This is why military support volunteers do what they do. This is why a wounded senior NCO at WR once said to a friend of mine: If it wasn't for y'all [the volunteers here], half these boys would be suicidal.

War is not something that happens to others on a distant shore. It happens to all of us, and all of us have an impact on how it plays out and what happens to those most directly involved. What's your impact?

If you haven't yet, please read NAMedic's entire comment at Crittenden's; he has important things to say.

[Cross-posted at Argghhh!]

Read More......

20 November, 2006

Valour-IT Media Update

Some exciting things have been on the Valour-IT media front recently.

Last week we were contacted by a producer for one of the "Big Three" broadcast news networks. It was just a request for background on the story in prep for a pitch to the decision-makers, so we'll see if anything develops... Keep your fingers crossed.

And Valour-IT was featured as #1 among "People, Trends and Tech on Our Radar" for the last week at PBS blog MediaShift. Written by veteran journalist Mark Glaser, it's devoted to tracking "how new media--from weblogs to podcasts to citizen journalism--are changing society and culture." There is also strong potential for a follow-up article/column on Valour-IT.

Besides the fact that MediaShift obviously knows a good thing when they see it (haha), it's quite a fascinating blog and well worth a visit. Check it out!

Read More......

19 November, 2006

Money, Money, Money...

Extended lack of Job, Job, Job has led to desperate times that call for desperate measures. Thus I have stooped to adding a certain item in my sidebar. If the spirit moves you (it's anonymous, of course)...

Read More......


My troll infestation in comments here has inspired one of the best defenses of banning trolls that I believe I've read. I'll have to think on it, but may adopt it as my guiding principles on that subject myself.

It's worth reading, if merely for the embedded tribute it is to the communities that spring up around the very best of blogs.

Read More......

Liberals and Conservatives and Valour-IT

A new book correlating charitable giving and political philosophy has been making a big splash on the blogs these last couple days. Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism makes a good case for the idea that (adjusted for income), people who follow a conservative philosophy give far more to charity than liberals, in every measurable way: time, money, blood, etc. Many people around the blogs are confirming this anecdotally (see comments).

One of the most recent commenters on this topic is Neptunus Lex, who posits that the explanation for this is the liberal attitude, "It might be a good cause, and all. Just needs OPM (Other People's Money). I think there's some truth to that in many cases, but that's just the average (non-communist) liberal's version of the excuse used by anyone who is basically selfish, a way to assuage guilt for doing nothing.

Assuming both liberals and conservatives have good intentions for the world, just different ways of doing things, there has to be a different explanation. I think that explanation is embedded in the fundamental differences between Liberal and Conservative philosophies.

In their core, liberals believe in government's ability to do good. When confronted with a problem, their first reaction is, "Is the goverment helping? If not, why not?" Then they'll either find the applicable government agency and direct its attention to the person/problem, or create an action plan to persuade the government to start addressing the issue.

In their core, conservatives distrust both the government's effectiveness and intentions. Therefore, conservatives are much happier choosing for themselves how to disperse their charitable impulses (financial or otherwise) than having a bureaucrat choose for them. Thus the conservative's first reaction is, "No need to involve incompetent government here. How can I directly, with great speed and efficiency, help this person or fix this problem?"

While Valour-IT has enjoyed the support of a few liberal (even New Age-ish) bloggers, getting liberals to join the blogger competitions has been largely a losing proposition. And the responses we often get when a liberal encounters Valour-IT prove my points above. Even among the few commenters/bloggers who donate, the first reactions are usually (in order), "The government should be doing this! It's another example of how Republicans/conservatives don't care about the military. I'm going to write my congressman to tell him to fund the VA better." [Please note, I am speaking here of liberalism and conservatism as life philosophies, not as political parties].

I think many conservatives wouldn't argue with that first point, and probably agree with the liberal's course of action as a start. But those of a conservative bent take things a step further and their reaction is, "Stupid, incompetent bureacracy; it doesn't matter how much money they have, they'll still screw it up. Let's do an end-run around it so we can make sure wounded soldiers really get what they need and get it sooner." And so they open their pocketbooks, volunteer their expertise, hit up their businesses for used laptops, and tell everyone they know about Valour-IT.

The liberal attitude towards charity was on display Election Day when I served as a poll worker in a very ritzy suburb in SoCal. The head poll worker was a German immigrant (40 years ago), who had retained her European liberal philosophies. She started lamenting how America was so rich, "but they don't care about the world. They're too comfortable. Nobody here wants to give up of anything they have. The other wealthy nations give so much more to the poor parts of the world than America does."

We were in the middle of the Valour-IT fundraiser (had just passed $100,000) and so I was seeing firsthand the generosity of the American people and--considering the wealth of this particular precinct of which she was a resident--I was sorely tempted to ask when was the last time she'd donated. And how much was it? But I kept my mouth shut.

Her lamentations went on and on, with another worker chiming in about America's great wealth and supposed stinginess, until I finally spoke up, "Acutally, no country gives even close to the amount of aid the U.S. does to the rest of the world, per capita." She literally bristled, and flatly contradicted me. I replied, "On an individual basis, U.S. citizens on average give hundreds of dollars more to poor countries than the 2nd place country does, if I recall correctly."

Obviously, it "didn't count" for her unless the U.S. government was doing the giving. She sputtered and stuttered and finally said, "Well, yes. But since it's not the government, they can give it to just anybody and not where it really needs to go. And it doesn't get to the people who need it because..." She trailed off, realizing the elitism and near-communism of her first sentence.

I finished her second sentence, but probably not the way she would've wanted "...because the dictators in third-world countries are so corrupt that official U.S. government aid never gets to the needy."

She again sputtered and stuttered, then finally saw her opening: "And the U.S. Government supports the dictators!"

At that point I left the room for a short stroll because, had I opened my mouth, the next words out would've been, "So then I'm sure you supported the toppling of Saddam Hussein because it meant the end of U.S. support for him and that he could no longer steal the aid intended for Iraq's citizens, yes? And Syria would be a good next choice, yes? And why don't we go around toppling all the dictators? A new imperial America!" And I was already disgusted enough, having listened to her spend the morning talking politics within earshot of the voters (including discussion of "American Imperialism"), surely a violation of her responsibilities and position.

Which was all just more hypocrisy than I could take at that moment.

Read More......

16 November, 2006

Wish Me Luck...

Update: The architect interview was a bust. The placement agency went well, but it'll be a few days. The O-club is tomorrow.

Yay! I've got three interviews in the next two business days. This is in contrast to the two interviews I've had in the 4.5 months since I've moved here, and the four temporary agencies who've never placed me in a job.

One is a ho-hum but well-paying receptionist's job in an architect's office. The other is with an excellent placement agency that has already said they think they have a couple jobs I'd be "a good fit for."

And then there's the most interesting of all... A couple weeks ago I threw my resume into the general Human Resources pot at a local base that used to house Navy flyboys. Today I got a call asking me to interview for a job as receptionist at the O-club.

Hmmm... That one could be fun! :D

Seriously, the person scheduling the interview didn't know anything about the job, but I believe it's part-time, so it might fit well with the Really Cool part-time job I have my eye on (and for which I spend the day crossing just about everything that can be crossed).

Read More......

My Epitaph

Take this quiz at QuizGalaxy.com

[H/T Chaotic Synaptic Activity]

Read More......

15 November, 2006

Un-useful Idiots

Update: The troll infestation in comments below has inspired one of the best defenses of banning of trolls that I believe I've ever read. I'll have to think on it, but may adopt it as my guiding principles on that subject myself.

Lex concludes a withering assessment of people who have shown themselves stupid beyond description with the following lines:

These people aren’t even useful idiots and their notions are as drearily predictable as they are morally obtuse: No more soldiers, no more wars! Get it?

Which is true, actually. But after the barbarians - and there are always barbarians - have finally slit enough throats, the rest of us will have to give up every privilege that we’ve come to consider as rights. We had that luxury, as well as the privilege of taking stylized positions inside our protected citadels, because somewhere on the outer rim good men and women are even now sacrficing a portion of their own freedoms in defense of ours.


Go read it all. It's good stuff.

Read More......

Job Search

Now that the Valour-IT fundraiser is over, I can go back to trying to raise money for myself--aka Finding a Job That Actually Pays!

So far, it's been pretty bad. Apparently I'm "over-qualified" for the kinds of administrative assistant, receptionist and "all we need is a warm body" jobs that I could do superbly in my sleep. And I'm "under-qualified" for the kind of dream job I know I can do well and grow into, but for which I don't have a track record of paid positions.

If one more potential employer calls me up and says, "I got your resume for Position X, but I see you're over-qualified," I may spontaneously combust. My initial thought in response to idiots like that is, "Then why the hell are you calling me???!" Three quarters of them dither on the phone about how "surely you wouldn't be happy in this position," and the rest I manage to talk into an (unsuccessful) interview.

The savings ran out about a month ago. I've done babysitting for friends and collected on some debts that allowed me to pay the basics, but the car payment and (huge) student loans are now officially past due. This is gonna be fun...

(And no, I can't go back to teaching, for reasons I'd rather not explain here).

On the bright side, I think I've finally morphed my resume into something that gets a second look (hence the "over-qualified" responses, vs. no response, haha). And yesterday I applied for a local military non-profit job that could only be more perfect for me (and me for it) were it full-time. But it's enough for me to live on at the moment and it has huge potential for future onsite growth or a stepping stone into the new career I want. I'm waiting on pins and needles for them to ask for an interview and half-scared that before that happens the new and highly-improved placement agency I found recently will offer me a job that I would HAVE to take due to desperation.

But hope springs eternal... Despite repeated attempts, it hasn't been crushed out of me yet. ;)

Read More......

14 November, 2006

Holiday For Heroes

Here's a chance to get involved with Soldiers' Angels for a day:

Soldiers' Angels Holds Packing Party in Terrell, Texas - Over 40,000 Gift Bags will Head to Deployed Soldiers

Soldiers' Angels is holding a packing party the week end of November 17th for their 'Holiday for Heroes' campaign. Members of Soldiers Angels are flying in from across the United States to Terrell, Texas in order to assemble, pack and ship Holiday gift bags for our troops.

Pasadena, CA (PRWEB) November 14, 2006 -- Soldiers' Angels is holding a packing party the week end of November 17th for their 'Holiday for Heroes' campaign. Members of Soldiers Angels are flying in from across the United States to Terrell, Texas in order to assemble, pack and ship Holiday gift bags for our troops.

'Holidays for Heroes' is an annual mission to ensure that the brave men and women serving our country are not forgotten during the holiday season. Soldiers' Angels is a non-profit 501(c)3 charity.

"Here at Soldiers' Angels, we know that Angels come in many shapes and sizes; and from many different parts of our great country. A Girl Scout troop in Meridan, Idaho, earned their angel wings on this mission, "says Debby Frerichs, Vice President of Donations for Soldiers' Angels. Frerichs says "These girls, age 11 yrs, held a drive to collect items. Not only did they collect 43 pairs of socks, 130 packs of cider mix, 339 packs of hot cocoa mix, but one scout even gave $6 of her own allowance with the soldiers, to help pay for the postage of these items. Now THAT'S truly Angelic! "

Soldiers' Angels continues the time honored tradition of civilian support of American soldiers, and, in addition to 'Holidays for Heroes', sponsors programs which provide first response backpacks, support, and laptop computers to wounded soldiers who are receiving treatment at American military hospitals; care packages, letters, and support to deployed soldiers; armored blankets to military ambulances; and memorial trees for the families of soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their country.

Gerri Riley, a member of the 'Holidays for Heroes' team, explains that "Many soldiers have no family and are often forgotten during this time of year. In the past couple of years we have received many thanks from deployed soldiers who say that the simple gift and a friendly letter from home warmed their hearts and raised their morale. We know that support for 'Holidays for Heroes' by the community is appreciated by the soldiers."

Americans at home may be dreaming of a white Christmas, but Soldiers' Angels is going to send the red, white and blue to every soldier serving our country.

If you would like more information about 'Holidays for Heroes, 'visit www.soldiersangels.org or contact Debby Frerichs or Gerri Riley at (615)676-0239. If you would like to schedule an interview with Patti Patton-Bader, founder of Soldiers' Angels, please email Debby Frerichs.

Debby Frerichs, Vice President of Donations
Or Gerri Riley, 'Holidays for Heroes'
c/o 1792 East Washington Blvd.
Pasadena, California 91104
Tel. (615)676-0239
Website www.soldiersangels.org

Read More......

13 November, 2006

Valour-IT in USA Today!

Well, the USA Today Tech_Space blog, at least...

Check it out!

Read More......

The Rest of the Angels

For the last two weeks we've been intensely focused on just one great project of rhe amazing Soldiers' Angels organization--Valour-IT. But there's so much more...

Courtesy of Laurie, here's a sample of some of the other great things Soldiers' Angels does for our troops:

Click here to learn more.

Read More......

Valour-IT Preliminary Totals

Preliminary totals for the Valour-IT fundraiser are up at the project blog (we still have to count the checks).

Yes, I'm not telling you here. You have to go look. Pbbtttt!

Here's a hint: it's not $184,000.

Read More......

12 November, 2006



As of yesterday evening the online team totals exceeded $180,000.

The final total will be much higher, as we haven't counted checks sent it and haven't included non-team online donations (my conservative estimate of the final totals is $210,000).

The checks won't be counted until next week, but I will have preliminary totals from online donations and the auctions up this evening.

Congratulations to all the amazing people who made this happen! I'll be pointing out specific individuals in the coming week, but I just wanted to say that you all have stunned me again. Just amazing....

[Cross-posted at Valour-IT Project Blog]

Read More......

11 November, 2006

A Sacrificial Gift

Haven't given to Valour-IT yet? Here's some inspiration...

Flag Gazer tells us how sheap-shearing and Valour-IT are connected:

When she got here, we were talking about our troop support activities - something she always asks about. When we finished shearing, and I was getting ready to pay her, she said, "I have a proposition for you....

Read the rest here.

Read More......

Veterans Day

I don't have much to say today. For today I am no more grateful for those across the generations who have kept us safe than I am on any other day. Words will never be enough to express my gratitude. And the words seem to come less and less easily these days...

So, here's what I wrote last year. It still applies, for when I think of Veteran's day, I think of two strains: the history of what has been done for my country, and the veterans who grace my life today.

I was raised to respect and appreciate the sacrifices members of the American military throughout our history have made for our country, its ideals, and the individuals it comprises. But I did not have friends or close family members who were current and former military, other than my father who served mostly before I was born and died before I knew what it meant. But I read and marvelled at their heroic deads, and enjoyed the sense of peace and freedom and prosperity their service helped protect.

But all that's changed in the last year. In the last year I've gotten to know a lot of current and former military members to varying degrees. Some I only passed in a fleeting moment. For some I was merely a devoted blog reader, others a source of packages and letters when far from home. For some I have been a willing student, and others I now count among my special friends. But in knowing them and having them a part of my life, the patriotic feelings of Veterans Day suddenly become very personal.

Encounters with some of the soldiers I've known the least have stuck with me the most. One that I often come back to as a bit of a puzzle is my encounter with one of the soldiers from Gunner Palace at the local premiere of the film. I'm a 30-something white girl and he was a very young black man, but somehow we connected in an unspoken way. He was surrounded by grateful well-wishers who wanted to shake his hand. He obliged them. They crowded around him in no particular order, but he graciously took their hands and accepted their thanks. I was anxious to leave, so I merely reached through the crowd for his forearm to momentarily get his attention and then say, "Thank you." I wanted to say more, but didn't have the words to express it, so I looked him in the eye and said, "Thank you" with the greatest amount of sincerity I could express.

To my great surprise, he turned towards me and reached for me, embracing me. I believe he said, "You're welcome," or something like that. The hug lasted just a beat longer than expected, and in the moment I felt something I'd never felt before: the crash of the meeting of my world of safety and security with his world that included having fought in a war. In a split-second rush of thoughts I flashed between the things I'd just seen in the movie and the fact that I stood there in all my innocence with a life that had nothing to do with fighting and fear and violent death... because his life now forever did. These arms that held me so gently but thoroughly had felt the heat of Iraq, been covered in foreign dust, had been used to fight and guard and do what had to be done. When he had been on the other side of the world, his arms had protected me. And now they did it again in this gesture symbolic of his larger role in our country.

And that IS how I see our veterans... We live within the safety of their arms. Even in relative peacetime, their very existence and excellence are a deterrent to aggressors. And even that peacetime service involves separation, sacrifice and devotion to something much greater than self.

My veteran friends are great people whom I'm proud to know, simply because of who they are as individuals. But knowing what they have done and why they did it makes them even more special to me. For they have done what I could not do for myself... at great personal cost, sometimes to the point of psychological and physical suffering, and always with a sense that self was secondary to the greater good.

And so to me, Veterans Day is about my friends who have given of themselves for the rest of us, in big and small ways... with the result that we are forever indebted for not having had to do the same.

Veterans of America who have stood the watch, guarded the lane, supported the front lines, and faced down enemy fire: Thank you. You have a place in my heart not just on Veterans Day, but every day.

Read More......

10 November, 2006

Go, Navy!!!

Team Navy has roared in from the back of the pack to take a tremendous lead and cross the $45,000 goal line first this morning. And in typical gracious fashion, they have invited their blog readers to donate to Team Marines to help their brothers cross the finish line next.

Way to go, Navy!!!

As for me, I have some making up to do. So, I've got Team Army up in the sidebar for the rest of the competition.

Read More......

09 November, 2006

How Valour-IT Helps

This comes from "Cricket," a regular commenter at Villainous Company. Several years ago she was in a very serious car accident that resulted in massive injuries, including a broken arm that did not heal for a year:

...We can do no less than embrace them and help them to have a life. It is a small thing we do, but having been a bedridden grouch myself, and having needed a laptop with Dragon Naturally Speaking, I know how much this means to them.

It wasn't until two years ago that I was able to get more function in my left arm, and begin to type again, and that was a year after I was injured.

The first thing [my husband] did was get me a laptop with the software. I didn't feel so isolated, hurt or angry. And you will never know how much it meant to me to be able to travel beyond my four walls and the terrible pain.

I think that about covers it. Go donate and help more soldiers travel beyond their own terrible pain and the four walls of their military hospital rooms.

Read More......

Valour-IT Auction Update

The Valour-IT auctions are growing and they have some great items up for bid:

The Navy team has submarine, naval aviation, and general naval memorabilia, two signed copies of No Higher Honor: Saving the U.S.S. Samuel B Roberts, a signed poster of the documentary Speed and Angels and a signed copy of Lex's amazing Rhythms.

The Army team offers two signed-to-order copies of Blood Brothers: Among the Soldiers of Ward 57 by Michael Weisskopf.

Air Force offers signed copies of Marines in the Garden of Eden and Gulf War Chronicles by Richard S. Lowry (total for this auction will not be credited to a specific team).

Air Force also has Thunderbirds memorabilia.

So, go check it out. Don't miss this great stuff!

Read More......

Valour-IT and Blood Brothers

Valour-IT auction has something new and very special: Two copies of Blood Brothers: Among the Soldiers of Ward 57. I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy and wrote:

This one's a must-read. Go get it. And it wouldn't hurt to thank Mr. Weisskopf for the service it's going to do to wounded warfighters and those of us who love them, either. John Donovan and I have been in personal contact with Mr. Weisskopf, and for all his journalistic "objectivity," his response upon hearing of Valour-IT tells us where his heart was in writing this book: "I wrote Blood Brothers for the very people your organization helps."

Now,we offer two signed-to-order copies of this book that explains better than anything else what faces the wounded warriors Valour-IT helps. Go and bid. They're worth every penny.

Read More......

07 November, 2006


I'll be away from a computer for most of the next two days. You can direct Valour-IT questions/issues to John of Argghhh!.

You guys have been awesome!

Read More......

06 November, 2006

The Journey Ramps Up

Update: Things are very much in flux. They've gone and changed it all again. I'll keep you posted.

About a month ago I posted this:

Somebody I know and care about was informed at monthly drill that his unit will begin training for deployment as early as January. They'll be in Iraq and outside the wire.

It certainly looks different from this side of the starting line.

It could've been as late as June, but he got the word this last weekend: Mobilization Training begins in January. It's his second time, so he knows what he's facing.

We were talking last week after the rumors started. He's a no-expectations cynical type (longtime soldier/cop), and he told me matter-of-factly that no one would care if he "didn't come back. Out of sight, out of mind." I'm hoping that in the coming year+ I can count on some of you to help me disabuse him of that ridiculous notion and show him he will not be forgotten...

Read More......

05 November, 2006

Absolute Must-See

Make sure you've got the volume up, then go and watch this powerful creation brought forth by one of our fighting men.

What are you waiting for? Go!

Read More......

04 November, 2006

Team Navy Auction

Updates Below

Neptunus Lex has come through for Team Navy with some great items to auction:

2 flight suits worn in combat
1 flight helmet
1 USS Ronald Reagan ballcap
1 USS George HW Bush ballcap
1 Signed and printed copy of Rhythms with two brand new chapters

Details of the items can be found at Lex's place. Bids for items can be placed at the Valour-IT auction page. All proceeds go to Valour-IT, of course (with credit to Team Navy).

Thanks, Lex!!

Update: As long as we're talking auction, don't miss the signed copies of Marines in the Garden of Eden and Gulf War Chronicles. This auction is being hosted at eBay, not the Valour-IT auction site, and proceeds will not be applied to any particular team's totals. Details at Op-For.

Update II: The Navy auction page is really taking off now, with the addition of posters, coins, and commemorative wine glasses. Check it out!

Read More......

This Is What It's Like

Valour-IT helps recipients realize they can continue to do many of the things they did before; they just have to find different ways of doing them. Having a voice-controlled laptop can jump-start that discovery in the middle of the long and difficult recovery process.

The role Valour-IT can play was highlighted in a post by Homefront Six, writing about wounds her deployed husband "MacGyver's" dear friend recently suffered. CPT Chuck Ziegenfuss (whose hand wounds inspired Valour-IT in 2005) replied to her post from personal experience, with comments about what their newly-injured friend may be facing:

Let "MacGyver" and your friend know that it really isn't the end of the world; it's a setback. I love working with my hands, and do a lot of projects too... everything from brewing beer to refinishing furniture. It takes longer, and I have to take my time and actually watch what I am doing, instead of working by feel, and I think my playstation days ended a long time ago, but the hard thing to get through my head was that it wasn't the end of the world. You have to adapt, and the fixes are neither immediate or easy.

Things that used to be easy, or even so simple I didn't consider them, are now often insurmountable (like buttoning a cuff or collar.) I was once completely unable to bathe myself, my hands were so sensitive I couldn't hold the poofy soap things. Hell, at one point, I couldn't even wipe myself. Luckily, I was unable to kill myself, too.

CPT Z has written only briefly about this before. But this is the situation a newly-wounded soldier finds himself in, and this is where Valour-IT tries to reach them. In the middle of pain and frustration and even feelings of humiliation and inadequacy, we show that they there are things they can do, that they are not helpless. We connect them with their support system, which CPT Z writes about next:

It wasn't luck, it was love that saved me though. Carren and my Mom spent months picking up the pieces, putting me back together, and pushing me to do the little things that make up a normal day.

Don't get me wrong, I wanted to do things, but everything was so hard I had no idea where to start... They stuck by me and kept me focused. Valour-IT was a start, of course.

Valour-IT was the easy part, the one thing that didn't cause pain to learn. There is a slight learning curve with the software, but CPT Z has remarked that the mild frustration was worth it. He continues to describe the long recovery process:

As swelling went down and "angry" nerves calmed, I slowly regained strength and flexibility. I re-learned how to do things like get dressed in something other than sweats, and (the Matterhorn of challenges) tie my kid's shoes. (It still takes a while).

It's been 17 months now, and I am so far from where I was on 22 June 05 that it's hard to believe it was only a year and a half.

The surgeons and nurses at the Army Medical Centers are geniuses, as are the occupational and physical therapists--all the kings horses and all the king's men, as it were.

[...] As I look to the future, I see a lot of changes... I'm probably never going to teach the boy to throw a fastball properly, and never start that second career as a brain surgeon. Okay, so that was a long shot to begin with.

Things get better. Even if my injuries had been worse, things would've eventually gotten better. I doubt things will ever be the way they were (unless I sprout some nerves and bones--damn you, BushMcHalliburton, why can't we do more stem cell research?) but then again, it'll never be last Thursday again either. Plans change, life changes. Sure, when the movie we wanted to see isn't showing, we see something else. Not hard, really. When something requires not only a conscious decision to do something else, but long, determined action(s) to make it happen (some of which fail, miserably) it is much harder to see the point in trying, and continuing. You continue anyway, making adjustments as you go [more].

These last paragraphs show a man of strength and maturity whom I am so proud to call friend. Like he says, it's been 17 long months. I take a very small amount of pride at his words that "Valour-IT was a start, of course."

Please help us make sure that other soldiers like CPT Z can look back on their own long roads of recovery and realize that it started with a laptop that showed them what they could do, and kept them in touch with the world during the kind of long and challenging time CPT Z has faced.

Please. Donate to Valour-IT.

Update: CPT Z's wife, Carren, writes about Valour-IT from her perspective.

Read More......

Valour-IT News and Notes

UPDATE: Soldiers Angels/Valour-IT's official press release about the competition

Supporters of Valour-IT, you've been doing amazing work. Not only have we raised a tremendous amount of money, but there's been a lot of great work going on behind the scenes that is starting to bear fruit.

But we're gearing up for the last week of competition, and we're not yet halfway to our goal. Let's get to work! Here are some news and tips that should help us make it to the top:

Auctions: We now have a one-stop auction page. To bid on available items or put something up for auction with proceeds going to Valour-IT, check it out. More info at the project blog.

Flyers: New and improved flyers are finished. You can get them by clicking here. You can find some tips for using flyers here.

Media: Keep pushing the local media angle (newspapers, local TV, news/talk/music radio); we don't have a chance of meeting this goal without reaching far beyond the blogosphere. Tips for contacting media here. We're finding that the technology angle is a great pitch: the laptops are high-tech, the project was conceived and implemented online by a wounded soldier and a music teacher who met each other through blogs, and the bloggers are what drive the fundraising--those three aspects are all great media fodder. If you're asking simply for a little attention, see if they'll just link Valour-IT on their webpage.

Reaching Out to Win: As I wrote above, we have to reach beyond the blogosphere if we want to succeed. With that in mind, here's what you can do:

1. Talk to your friends, neighbors, community and religious organizations of which you are a member. Tell them of the need and impact of Valour-IT.

2. Compose an email briefly explaining Valour-IT and send it to everyone on your email list (be sure to send them here to verify it's legit). Remember, Valour-IT is non-partisan and can practically sell itself when you tell people what it does.

3. Email the big-time, national talkshow hosts that you think might be interested in Valour-IT, especially if you have a membership in their "insider clubs." The more emails they get, the more likely they'll take it seriously or one will be noticed.

4. If you have a connection to a media bigwig, please let us know.

5. Keep up the great work! Mention Valour-IT on your blog at least once a day or put a up a post that stays at the top. We're heading into Veterans Day, and these wounded veterans deserve the very best effort we can give them.

Keep up the great work! I am constantly amazed at the creativity, energy and intelligence of all involved in this effort. You are awesome!

Read More......

Valour-IT has an Auction Page

Valour-IT has an auction page!

1. Bidders and owners of items for auction register
2. Owner posts an item for auction
3. Highest bidder donates bid to Valour-IT
4. Owner verifies donation with Valour-IT
5. Owner and bidder arrange shipment

Many, many thanks to NZ Bear for his work on this auction page and all the other crucial work he's done for Valour-IT: he spent hours creating/editing the button and tracking code for the competition and cleaning up the official website.

Read More......