Friday, October 3, 2014

Pregnancy and dental care

 The following was written by me for MilitaryOneClick. I've been offered a regular, compensated gig on their website. This is one of those pieces.

 At the beginning of September, my husband and I found out we were expecting baby number two. While making my obstetrician appointments and the various doctor appointments for my first child, I also had to start making our dental appointments (and finding a good dentist). Pregnancy brings on many changes to a woman’s body, with a growing belly and lots and lots of hormonal changes which we know that during pregnancy can affect more than your mood — they can also affect your gums.

As one who is tries to be healthy and have a great smile – here are my top 10 tips regarding pregnancy and great dental health:

 1. If you’re trying to get pregnant, schedule a visit with your dentist. When enrolled in the TDP, you are allowed two cleanings and 2 exams within a 12 month period. A cleaning and an exam may provide your dentist a preliminary assessment to compare to once you are pregnant.

 2. When you are pregnant don’t forget your annual cleanings. Cleanings are not only allowed, but also extremely encouraged. When enrolled in the TDP, you will receive an additional third cleaning while pregnant.

3. Let your dentist know you’re pregnant (it’s normally a question on your intake forms) in case you need any further procedures.

4. Skip the major dental services and procedures if you’re in the second or third trimester of your pregnancy as these are key times in baby’s growth and development. Exceptions may be made depending on urgency.

 5. Avoid x-rays. But know that if your dentist deems them necessary, the office should take all precautions to protect you and your growing baby.

6. Make (and keep!) your dental checkups. Keep an eye on your gums during your regular oral hygiene regiment and report any tenderness, bleeding or gum swelling.

7. Brush and floss every day. No exceptions!

8. Eat a healthy diet for you, your baby and your teeth

9. If you had any gum issues during your pregnancy, visit the dentist for another evaluation after you’ve given birth.

10. Continue great dental hygiene! Not only is it good for you, but you’re demonstrating to your child(ren) that taking care of your teeth is important.

If you’ve recently moved to a new area or haven’t scheduled an appointment since your last PCS, don’t forget to visit the Metlife TRICARE Dental Program website here. You can easily search for dentist that accepts the TRICARE coverage by simply entering your zip code under the “Find a Dentist” box and you’ll instantly see a list of participating providers! You can even select a specific form of dentistry you need, like orthodontics, pediatric dentists, general family dentistry and more. For more information visit the Metlife TRICARE Dental Program website at www.metlife.com/tricare, their Facebook page www.facebook.com/MetlifeTDP or call the customer service center at 1-855-638-8371. - See more at: http://militaryoneclick.com/top-10-tips-for-healthy-teeth-during-pregnancy/#sthash.FKeBjup9.dpuf

Monday, March 10, 2014

Geography: Week One

-->
Ukraine has frequently appeared in the news recently due to the ongoing discussion of Crimea (for a brief background, Crimea is a peninsula of Ukraine and the only non-frozen port Russia can use during this time of year. The area tends to be very pro-Russia and so was the nation's Prime Minister. He signed a bill that would closely unite Ukraine and Russia, which made some Ukrainians angry. He has since been ousted by Parliament and replaced with a new Prime Minister.).

As a journalist, I find it frustrating when the reporters keep referring to the country as “the Ukraine,” when that isn’t correct. When I wrote for The Fort Polk Guardian, we used the Associated Press Style when writing. AP Style refers to many different ways of writing words, business names, abbreviation, etc. It's basically the Bible for journos. It’s why a lot of service members hate that we write Capt. instead of CPT when writing out the military rank of Captain or Lt. Col. instead of LTC. It’s dictated by a style of writing rather than the military style (it’s also why you don’t seem military time either).

As part of my “Bigger Better Me” journey, I ‘ve been learning geography. I was definitely rusty, but have had fun discovering some countries I never knew, which isn’t difficult when African nations are constantly changing. We have a lot of nations where “the” is inserted before their names: The Netherlands, the Philippines, the United States of America, etc. Why? And why wouldn’t we use “the” in front of other countries like France, Japan and Ireland as well? There’s a surprisingly good and easy explanation.

In the English language, there are four reasons why we would use “the” in front of the name of a  country:

1.) If the name is plural.  That’s why we use the Netherlands and the Philippines.

2.) If a common noun is included, hence the United States of America

3.) If the region is a sub-region of another, hence the Saar

4.) If the country name describes a geographical feature, like the Ivory Coast (describing the coast) or the Republic of Gambia (describing the river).

Ukraine fit rule number two until 1991 when it gained its independence from the Soviet Union and was no longer known as the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Currently, Ukraine fits none of the above rules, so it is formally known as Ukraine.

And since we recognized the Netherlands…

Did you know that Holland and the Netherlands are the same thing, but the country is officially known as the Netherlands? Calling the country “Holland” is like calling the United States “Texas.” There are two Hollands — North and South — that are provinces of the country. Holland is an accepted term, but doesn’t exactly refer to the entire country.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The cuts are coming


Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced February 24 that the Pentagon is planning more sweeping cuts with the 2015 Defense budget. This time, Basic Allowance for Housing, commissary subsidies and Tricare benefits are on the chopping block along with extreme troop reductions. For service members and their Families, this is a scary time. We’ve been here so many times before and have been prepared for the rocky road to come. Remember sequestration?
            As of now, there are still some questions as to what will happen since Congress has not yet voted on these proposals that will be released March 4. However, here is what we know so far:
BAH rollback
• The proposal: Only 95 percent of rental costs will be covered and service members will be required to pay the other 5 percent out of pocket. There will no longer be a stipend in place for renter’s insurance.
• What this means: Your family will be expected to pay the 5 percent and cover your own renter’s insurance. As of now, the 5 percent drop should be implemented over time, rather than all at once, giving Families time to reconfigure budgets.
Pay raise changes
• The proposal: The military will match the 1 percent pay raise offered this year, but it is unknown whether that will continue in years to come. Civilian employees will also see the 1 percent increase. Some have suggested that general and flag officers would see a reduced raise or even a pay freeze. There is also a possibility of a three-year wage freeze for federal workers.
• What this means: We need to be prepared to not have an increase in pay each year and budget accordingly. According to the Army Times, these are the “lowest pay raises since the end of the draft in 1973 and fall below the estimated growth in average private-sector wages in recent years.” Lawmakers have shied away from reduced pay and benefits in the past, but with the suggestions to alter the Cost of Living Allowance of retirement, it is unclear where they will stand.
Cuts to commissaries
• The proposal: An obscene $1 billion will be cut from the $1.4 billion commissary subsidy, but commissaries will remain open and functioning.
• What this means: The commissary spends their subsidy to keep the commissaries up and running. Now, they will have only a $400 million budget by 2017. That isn’t very much. While we don’t yet know how the commissaries will function on the slashed budget, it is likely surcharges will increase and prices will rise on items as commissaries attempt to absorb the costs. That means you may no longer find your groceries most affordable at the commissary. Officials still insist the commissaries will remain open, but we will have to wait to see how it pans out.
Tricare changes
• The proposal: We may see increased health care fees for active-duty families and retirees. Secretary Hagel said Monday that Families might be asked to “pay a little more in deductibles and co-pays.”
• What this means: We really don’t know what this means as there are no official details other than increases in co-pays and deductibles. We don’t know what those rates may be and what services will require payments. Again, lawmakers normally don’t stand to cut benefits, so it is unclear which direction this will go.
Huge personnel cuts
• The proposal: Reduction to the size of forces across all branches, with the most extreme cuts affecting the Army (as low as pre-World War II levels). Special Operations forces would grow from the current 66,000 to 69,700.
• What this means: Many service members will be shown the door.  The Army takes the biggest hit. The current 530,000 Soldiers set to drop to 490,000 over the next few years will now drop lower to 440,000-450,000.  The Army National Guard will reduce from 355,000 to 335,000 by 2017, and Army Reservists from 205,000 to 195,00 according to Stars and Stripes. The Marine Corps was spared reductions for now and will retain the current 182,000. If sequestration is not lifted for the 2015 budget, the Corps could be cut to 175,000.
Calls to set up new BRAC Commission
• The proposal: The Pentagon is asking Congress to set up new Base Realignment and Closure Commissions to help decide what to do with domestic installations. In order to close any installations, the Department of Defense needs Congressional approval. So far, there are no suggestions to close any domestic installations, only scale them back. Stars and Stripes has reported that Fort Jackson, S.C. and Fort Hood, Texas may be reduced.
•What this means: The decision to close any domestic installations falls to Congress. This is a difficult decision for Congress as it affects jobs and economics within their state. Installations help bring in a lot of money and employment opportunities, so it is likely that representatives and senators will fight hard for their states.
•The proposal: Fort Bragg, N.C.; Joint Base Lewis McChord in Washington; and Fort Campbell, Ky. would likely face no cuts due to specialized missions. Some other installations may face reductions, much like the entire military, but there are no proposals for closures.
Equipment cuts
• The proposal: The Air Force will eliminate its entire fleet of A-10 Warthogs, used heavily over the last 13 years in Iraq and Afghanistan, in favor of the new F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters. They will also retire the entire fleet of U-2 spy planes in favor of the unmanned Global Hawks. The Navy suggests scaling back the Littoral Combat Ship program from 52 to 32 vessels, one of the most controversial cuts. The Navy may keep the entire fleet of 11 aircraft carriers, but if Congress doesn’t raise the current budget caps in 2016, that number may reduce to 10. The Navy may also “lay up” its 11 cruisers, taking them out of deployment and leaving them unmanned. The Army will terminate its Ground Combat Vehicle program to save money and the National Guard will turn over its Apache helicopters to active-duty forces.
•What this means: While saving billions of dollars for the United States government, lawmakers will likely object, as they may lose jobs in their states. Lawmakers are already banding together to save the A-10.

            To sum up everything, there are a lot of cuts, but keep in mind these are all proposals. Of this list, only troop reduction is guaranteed, as it is already happening (and may expand further), but everything else is unconfirmed. No one out there is guaranteeing any of this will actually take place. Regardless, it’s frustrating for a number of reasons.
            We need to make cuts to the defense budget. I have always said that I will be the first to say there is waste within the military. Have you heard the stories of manufacturers making vehicles and equipment the military isn’t using, but lawmakers continue to say we need them? You’re already seeing it now. The Pentagon wants to fully eliminate the A-10s, saving billions of dollars and replacing them with the F-35. If the Pentagon wants to tradeoff, it probably means they are switching to something better. Yet the lawmakers of states that produce these vehicles and equipment are stomping their feet saying it’s a bad decision. 
            Change tends to make some people angry, but changing benefits almost always make people angry, and with good reason. If lawmakers choose to reduce BAH, implement co-pays and deductibles, change the commissary to make it more expensive, yet freeze pay raises or stop them altogether, how are Families supposed to cope? It’s difficult to alter budgets to account for so much when you can’t depend on a pay raise.
            The government has been tasked with budgeting for centuries, yet it always seems to be done incorrectly. If I am asked to budget to make ends meet in my household, what should I do? I should cut out those shopping trips, nights at restaurants, cable, etc. I take away anything I don’t need to afford what I do need. Yet lawmakers seem to only cut from the budget what won’t cut their votes. The offer is put on the table and lawmakers quickly swipe it off and hope no one noticed.
            One article I read said this: “The Pentagon proposed the deepest and most far-reaching cuts to military compensation . . .  explaining that such cuts are necessary in order to pay for more modern gear and high-tech weaponry.” It left me wondering how many service members and their Families agree with that statement. Lawmakers and government officials justify these cuts to benefits by saying, “we’re doing it to make things better for you,” when instead, they are placing additional stress on an already stressed Family. Lawmakers like to say that they will protect active and retired benefits, but don’t forget that they had planned to reduce COLA and came back saying that was a mistake. We’ll see how they vote this time.
            We need to keep in mind that these are proposed changes. That means we still have time to contact our representatives and senators and tell them how we feel. We can explain the benefits of our commissary, the health care our veterans served for and were promised and how important our health care is (which we already pay for in part).
            Please don’t forget that mid-term elections are this year. If you aren’t registered to vote, do so now. If you want to know who is running in your state, do the research. Look at their voting records and see if they are choosing what is important to you. If they aren’t, consider selecting someone that will. You have the power to influence change of the things that are important to you.
           

Monday, February 3, 2014

A change to Bigger, Better Me

As I started thinking more about my resolution challenge, I realized that working on individual strengths within my life isn't enough to really occupy my time like I planned. After some brainstorming, I settled on maintaining the Bigger, Better Me project, but altering it a bit.

Rather than focusing on the various strengths, I will be spending the next 11 months trying and learning new things. The purpose here is to actually LEARN about what I'm doing. To truly demonstrate learning, you need to be able to discuss what you've accomplished at, say, a dinner party. If you can't discuss it, you haven't learned enough. I also wanted things to take me out of my comfort zone, to really test me and force me to find something interesting about things I may not care so much about.

My list has grown quite expansive, but so far, this is what it looks like:

1. Learn the presidents of the United States, in order, and what they did that makes them important. The key here is remembering the facts so I can actually intelligently discuss the presidency.

2. Take a month for healthy eating and nutrition. I got some suggestions from friends that will be divided into week-long trials: vegetarianism and eating clean. The key is to pay more attention to food labels and really understand what I am putting into my body. The Mr. may hate this one.

3. Get active. I plan to do Yoga every other day and hike every weekend for a month. In this part of the country, there are so many great locations for hiking! The most important part is to work out or gain some form of exercise at least four times a week. I would like to try the Couch to 5K and run my first 5K, maybe even with the Mr. before the end of the year. I'd like to find and attend a Bikram Yoga class regularly, once I'm good enough. This would likely carry over into an additional month, but only count as one. I want to be active to the point where it becomes a normal part of my routine.

4. Learning to bake. I know, it goes a lot against healthy eating and nutrition, but I hope to find a healthy version of cakes, pies and cookies. I also know that it sounds too easy. What you may not understand, is I am a pretty horrible baker. I once tried to bake the Mr. cookies for a care package and it went terribly wrong. Since then, I've successful made cookies and banana bread from scratch. For more on that go here. A friend recommended cake decorating, which I've never done but would love to try. The Mr. would love this one.

5. Learn to sew, stitch and crochet. My mom was always great at sewing and stitching. When I was still twirling baton, she sewed four outfits for me for a performance. She also always did needlepoint and I always admired the talent, though I was never able to sit still and pay attention long enough. I'd also like to learn how to crochet. My great-grandmother made an afghan for me when I was young that I still have to this day. I've always treasured it and would love to make something like it for Antonia.

6. Keep writing! I want to find more avenues for my work, even aiming at some more physical publications like my favorite magazines and the local newspapers. I'd like to being writing a book this year, but at least come up with two book concepts.

7. Try to cook some gourmet foods, make pasta and sauce from scratch and just get better in the kitchen. I've always wanted to do this, but haven't made the time for it. The Mr. especially said he wants me to learn how to make sushi. I'll give it a whirl!

8. Learn world geography. Ever scratch your head wondering where the current country in the news is located? Yeah, me too. It's normally followed by a Google search, then a Wikipedia search to get some tidbits about that nation. I used to know all the African countries and their location. Now I have trouble finding easy places like Kenya. But don't worry, I still know the locations of Australia, South Africa and Russia at least.

9. Volunteer! I'm looking into opportunities with the USO and a local soup kitchen. I also hope to extend some writing to volunteer organizations.

10. Learn about world religions and how they relate to my own beliefs. It's always good to understand them all as a whole.

11. Refinish my bedroom furniture. Over the years and with numerous moves, my bedroom furniture has gotten in pretty bad shape. I've always wanted to refinish a piece, but could never find the tutorials or the time I needed. I spoke to my dad and he said he knows how to do it and would be interested in helping me. I know it's time consuming, but to get that wood shiny and smooth again on such old furniture would mean the world to me.

12. Read at least one CLASSIC book per month. This will be a bit of a longer challenge over time, but totally doable.


I think this will be much easier to complete than my original idea. Looking over the list, it's easy to see that each one of these "tasks" relates to the original health concepts I envisioned. It may even be more fun this way.

I wrote each idea on a piece of paper and threw them all in a bowl. Antonia got to pick one out and she chose the geography challenge (blame her if it doesn't interest you). For the next month, you will see updates about my geography challenge. I know, it isn't the most exciting idea, but I'll try to make it so!

Hang in there, because there are better challenges ahead!

How are YOUR resolutions going?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A resolution update (Day 23)

The Bigger, Better Me project has been going a bit more slowly than I would like. The bitter cold and snow has cooped me up in the house for longer, so I'm hoping for warmer temperatures. Or at least enough that I can stand outside for longer than a few minutes.

The physical fitness portion is slow-going. I enjoy walking, but little Antonia can't take the cold for that long. I keep saying I'll wake up and do Yoga, but I haven't gotten there yet. My goal is to wake up early tomorrow, before Antonia is awake and try to get in at least 30 minutes of Yoga. It may help with me stress levels as well. For now, I just hope to develop big guns toting around an 18 pound little lady. Yeah, maybe that will work.

With some Christmas money, I purchased the military edition of "The Five Love Languages." So far, it seems like the author just added "military spouse" in front of each person's name, along with some cliche military story, but maybe that will get better. Nothing in the book seems special to military couples, but we'll see if it changes. I've always said there needs to be a military relationship book out there, so maybe this will be it. The Mr. agreed to read it too. I'm underlining what I feel is important to me to help it stand out to him when it's his turn.

The emotional health portion is also slow-going. I find that my mood levels are a big issue. I can't self-diagnose, but I'm sure it has something to do with the ranging hormones post-pregnancy. I was on a generic brand of birth control for a while that helped level me off and I felt amazing. The mood swings were rare and I felt a strong satisfaction in myself. I used up my three-month supply and had my prescription refilled. The problem was my CVS in Lancaster didn't carry the same kind I was taking. The switched me to a name brand and it was terrible. I had intense and sudden headaches, extreme nausea and dizziness. I took it for four days, hoping the symptoms would eventually ease, but it didn't work. I stopped taking it since the symptoms were so debilitating. I have a call in to my doctor to have a discussion and ensure the mood swings are indeed due to the hormones and not something else.

I once read an article that it takes a woman two full years after conception for the hormones to return to normal. If it's true, I still have 10 months to go. It's just another thing people don't tell you before or during your pregnancy. You find it out later by suffering through it and putting all of your family in a difficult position dealing with your outbursts. I'm sure it can be handled and I can't wait until it is.

One a more positive note, the Mr. and I were able to have a date night last weekend. My mother had Antonia for a whole weekend, which gave us much-needed private time. We spent all of Saturday in Annapolis, MD doing some sight-seeing, shopping and, my favorite, eating. We started out at an Irish Pub, Fado's, where an intense soccer match was underway. Tables throughout the restaurant watched, cheered and booed. The atmosphere was great and what I hoped to find. We walked to the Maryland State House and St. Anne's Church, then veered off on Main Street for some shopping. A wine tasting was in progress in one shop, so we ducked in to taste a few blends. We left with a French version that the Mr. and I knew nothing about, other than that it tasted good. I fell in love with a used book store along the way. I can't remember the name, but it was heaven on Earth.

My mental heath journey is underway. I did some brainstorming, but all my ideas for "learning something new" fell into my interests. The reason I want to try new things is to get away from what is comfortable and familiar. I want to expand my interests with things I never would have thought of trying. Maybe I'll enjoy it so much I continue it long after the year is up. So far, with the help of some friends, I have one month devoted to health and nutrition where I will try my hand at vegetarianism, I have another month devoted to cake decorating and another for hiking. They sound fun and are things I would not normally try on my own.

My spiritual journey has been lacking a bit and that needs work. I'm going to try devotionals each day, as well as some personal reading in the morning and at night.

Maybe I took on more than I should have, but I'm not giving up just yet. I know that as I focus on one health, another will lag behind. It's OK as long as all of these healths improve by the end of the year.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A New Year and a New Me

For the past (almost) three years, this blog has been primarily about military life. This year, I'm making a slight transition into a New Year's project, so to speak. I'll still have information about military life, but that won't be the focus. Consider this the "Bigger, Better Me" project.

It's amazing to sit and reflect back on the past year and I did so yesterday while rocking my now six month old daughter, Antonia, to sleep — the individual that has set an entire half year of change in motion. This time last year I was almost three mo
nths pregnant, finally passed a trimester of morning sickness (which should really be called "all day sickness" because that is how long it lasted for me) and feeling some relief. My husband, then a 1LT in the U.S. Army with a Cavalry regiment, and I lived in Louisiana at our first duty station. We knew we were leaving for Arizona some time in the coming months, but didn't yet have orders after a three year stint. We were ready to move on.

I dreaded moving that March. I was six months pregnant and concerned about the long drive through secluded land with few places to stop.  Little did I know that the two-day trip would turn out to be a breeze compared to the four-day haul across the country with an infant, dog and cat, copped up in one vehicle towing a trailer. But that wouldn't happen for six more months.

Arizona's dry climate was a welcome relief compared to the humid, hot Louisiana summers. Despite being pregnant, the heat wasn't too intense thanks to the high elevation and mountain breezes. My husband and I chose a townhouse close to Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista. We were close to everything — another distinct change from Louisiana. We settled in and my belly (and baby) continued to grow.

Antonia, named for the title character in Willa Cather's "My Antonia," would arrive on July 6th — four days before her due date. Our little beauty was a quick, healthy delivery and we rejoiced. While the challenges of parenthood weighed on us. we always enjoyed watching our baby grow and develop.

What a year it has been. Three homes, two moves, the birth of our daughter and career successes.

Now, we've reached 2014.

While thinking about the numerous changes brought on by 2013, I kept revisiting Antonia's arrival. After all, it was the most life altering experience — even more so than marriage. I've had hopes about the kind of woman she will grow to be, as much as I dreamed about her smile, what she would look like when born and what her laugh would sound like. Will she marry young like I did? Earn an advanced degree like her father? Be a writer, doctor or lawyer? Would she grow up to be a better person than I am? I've always and will always hope so. But how can I make her a better person when I don't strive to be the same? What basis do I have to even consider teaching her what a better person is like? How can I have such an expectation when I don't illustrate it?

I want Antonia to have a kind, loving heart. To believe in the God and love Jesus. To always have dreams and strive to not only follow them, but reach them. To never stop learning or looking for answers to the questions many deem unanswerable. To take care of herself, but not be afraid to indulge. To never settle for anything less than butterflies and love a man deeply and wholly. To respect people's feelings, but never stray from honesty.

I can't possible make her believe or follow any of these things, but I can show her examples in hopes that she will follow suit. After all, children are much brighter than we give them credit for. So, for once, I've developed a resolution this year.

I've never been big on resolutions — they often set people up for failure with unrealistic expectations compared to the amount of work they feel they can muster. How many people actually succeed? According to The Guardian, at least 68% of people admit to failing.  A resolution should be lasting, meaning that you continue with it long after you succeed for the year. That is why I've chosen to finally follow through on a resolution. I have chosen to build a better, healthier me during 2014. Not just for me, but the people around me and, of course, Antonia. The resolution will consist of health in four main areas:

• Physical Health

This is all encompassing of physical health. Eating right and exercise are the basis for a healthy life, but I want to move beyond that. I will keep up my annual exams with my physician, dentist, optometrist and, of course, gynecologist. I will actually follow their advice and suggestions.

• Emotional Health

As with many people, I became so consumed with my own thoughts and feelings that I often forgot others. That's OK to admit, but important to change. I plan to improve my relationships with my husband, family, in-laws and friends. My relationship with my mother-in-law has been rocky for the past two years. It's difficult to distinguish who is "at fault" for what and has reduced to us starting over. I still have trouble sometimes accepting our past and working to improve it and often feel like I'm under a microscope, or maybe more accurately, tiptoeing through a minefield. I need to deal with my anger over our past and move forward to fully repair and improve our relationship. My relationship with my husband has also taken a bit of a toll since Antonia was born. I know a lot of it has to do with stress, frustration an lack of sleep, but I realized long ago that it is no excuse. It's time to deal with it. I want to work on communicating with friends I may not have spoken to in a while, so time doesn't deteriorate the relationship.

Besides the relationships, I need to develop a more positive attitude. I used to be the girl that was almost always optimistic, confident and saw the best in people. Lately, I feel like I've gotten pessimistic, jaded and less hopeful about people and I often wonder where that girl went. Turning those feelings around can greatly enhance my outlook.

• Mental Health

No, I don't mean this in the sense of psychotherapy, but rather intellect. Every month until the end of the year, I want to learn something new. Whether it's reading a book about a topic I don't know or would never be interested in, taking a class or joining a club, it needs to be more out of my comfort zone and not always following my own hobbies and interests. Something like learning all the president's of the United States in order, plus knowing important contributions they made. But that's only an example. No Wikipedia or other shortcuts. I also need to learn enough about the topic at hand to be able to discuss it at a dinner party or other social event. Because really, how do you know you've learned something? If you can discuss it at length, it's probably a good sign.

I also want to develop my writing career. I went to college and earned a degree in English and Journalism, graduating in 2010. My first job was with The Fort Polk Guardian as a staff writer in February 2011. I loved it. I had this thirst for learning and understanding new, but not necessarily exciting topics. Subjects I would later explain to the readership. Sadly, I left my position in August 2012 to move on to other things.

That same month, I started writing for MilitaryOneClick. I wrote weekly at first, but was reduced to once a month as our blogging volunteers grew. Now I'm looking for my next big break. Maybe a book?

• Spiritual Health

It's time to pick up that Bible more frequently for personal studies as well as devotionals. I would also like to learn more about my own faith in relation to other major faiths like Judaism and Islam. After all, the stories all overlap. My parents were both raised in Christian homes, but when my older brother, Adam, and I were young, they stopped going. Church was mainly reserved for Christmas Eve and Easter, unless I was staying at a friend's house and went to church Sunday morning with their family. I never objected to going, I just never knew where to go. Around high school, my parents found a church they loved and we started going almost every Sunday (sometimes I had to work). I later became a regular attender.

In college, I met my husband and he attended with me. I was baptized there (as was my husband), the head pastor married us, we became members and Antonia was dedicated there in November. My personal faith has developed on its own, but like many other things, there is still room to grow.

All of this seems like a lot, but I believe it's doable. I explained my resolution to my husband on New Year's Eve. Being the history lover that he is, he told me that Benjamin Franklin was also interested in self-exploration and remarked that Franklin felt we improve some traits at the expense of others. It was called "The 13 Virtues" and was a system developed by Franklin in 1726 to develop his character. They consisted of temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity and humanity. He often went astray.

I think straying is expected and I highly doubt my journey will be perfect or flawless. There will be trials and ordeals all along the way. It's about the experiences and trying more than success.

Regardless, I look forward to beginning.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Win tickets to the Army-Navy game!

Win a one of a kind VIP Army-Navy Game Experience from MilitaryOneClick!

USAA, the presenting sponsor of the 2013 Army Navy Game, has generously donated game tickets (lower bowl seating) plus pregame field access passes!  Two lucky fans will each win a pair of Army-Navy Game tickets, plus a pair of pregame field access passes.   
 
The game is Saturday, Dec. 14 at Lincoln Financial Field. Gates open at 11 a.m., march-on is at 12:15 p.m. and kickoff is at 3 p.m.

To enter, send an email to contest@militaryoneclick.com, using the subject line Army-Navy.  Please include your name, age, contact phone number, contact email address, and state of residence.  All entries must be received by noon EST on December 11th, 2013.  Winners will be notified by email on December 11, 2013 at 5pm EST.  Please see Official Rules for details.

Please note, all travel arrangements to and from the game are the responsibility of the winners.
 
USAA_MA_Ribbon_49ers_cmyk_blu