Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Question of the Day: Heroes at Home

Today's Question of the Day is concerning Sears program "Heroes at Home".

Now I'm not sure that you all know what it is, so if you don't, I'll include a brief explanation, as well as the link to the actual site from Sears.

The Heroes website

From what I gather, the program is designed to help active-duty service members provide a good Christmas for their family. I interpret that to mean that the program is designed for families that might have trouble otherwise providing a good Christmas for their family. When I worked at Sears several years ago, that is how it was conveyed to me and that's how I've thought about the program for the past few years. Now, I realize not everyone has the same view of the program as I do. That's fine, if you want to buy yourself a new TV with it, then that's your right, but just know that's not what I think the program was originally designed for. (And yes, I have known someone via online that used the giftcards to upgrade to a larger TV)

So imagine my surprise when I see how ridiculous people are being about this program. There are hateful messages everywhere on Facebook about how Sears screwed families out of their giftcards and even people going so much to say they got the giftcards the last couple years and are angry they didn't this year. Have people forgotten that this program is not a god-given right? That people are donating to this program out of the goodness of their heart. You don't NEED to get a giftcard every. single. year.  I also read a forum post yesterday where a wife who has been seperated  from her husband for almost a year and had repeatedly complained about how awful he was and why they were getting divorced, told everyone she had applied for the program. It's shocking to me how ungrateful and entitled many of these people are. 

Although technically since Sean is active duty, we could apply for it. I don't, because we aren't hurting for money.  I understand that there are years where things are tight and you want to give your kids a great Christmas, but if year after year that is you and your family, then you need to adjust something in your finances.

It's almost to the point where things have turned so ugly about this program, that I wish Sears would just do away with it, but then I realize that would punish the people that might actually really need something like this.

What are your thoughts on the Heroes at Home program and some of the ungrateful attitudes of military families regarding it?

Also, I'm aware this is a hot topic, so keep your responses civil. If you don't, I will delete your comment and you will be banished from this blog. No joke!

Monday, September 26, 2011

What I've Been Up To

First of all, thanks for all your thoughts and kind words on my last post. It felt good to finally share what was going on with all of you and your support is amazing. Totally made my day and made me feel a lot better about the whole situation.

Now on to what I've been up to lately.

1. I've been craving fried pickles off and on since we moved to Italy. Finally I caved, looked on Pinterest and decided to make them myself. What resulted was a mind-blowing experience of fried (well actually baked) pickles and homemade ranch dressing. Here's the link: Fried Pickles.

A few notes about the pickles: One, I used the stackers pickles instead of the rounds. Two, I halved the recipe. Three, I didn't use the recipe for ranch that they did. Instead I did equal parts of mayo and buttermilk mixed with a package of Hidden Valley ranch.

2. Several weeks ago I bought Adobe Lightroom 3 to compliment my Adobe Photoshop Elements that I already had. I'm still waiting on the manual that I ordered for Lightroom 3 so I can learn how to use it, but I've already used it a few times to reduce the noise in several pictures I took last summer in Greece and it is AMAZING. So, so glad I bought it.

3. It's my Min-Pin, Boomers, birthday today. He is 4! I'm one of those people that celebrate my pets' birthdays. So yeseterday he had part of a Happy Meal as his birthday treat. Here is a picture I took of him this morning.

4. I still haven't gotten all my Denmark pictures edited. Mainly because I just took some portraits of a friend the other day and I've been editing those pictures. I'm very pleased with how her pictures turned out. Here are a few samples. On a related note, if any blog readers in the Vicenza area would like some photos done, just let me know.

5. I bought my ticket home for Christmas this year. I'm super excited about it, especially since I missed Christmas at home last year, but the only downside is that Sean isn't able to come with. With tickets coming in just under $1000 per person, it's not feasible for us both to go home. So, being the great husband that he is, Sean told me to go home. I think he's pretty pumped about being off work at that time and doing whatever he wants, although I don't have any doubts that he's going to miss me.

So...that's what I've been up to lately!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

An Announcement

To start things off, let me say that I will be discussing our trip to Denmark this week, but I've been trying to decide over the last few weeks when would be an appropriate time to discuss what's going on in my world and I thought there was no time like the present to discuss it.

Before you guys get all excited thinking I'm pregnant, I'm not. That's not the announcement, although I hope in the next year that I will be sharing news like that, but it's just not in the cards right now and in this blog I'll tell you why.

Some of you probably remember my post several months ago about Sean visiting the doctors in Germany about his back and how they recommended he be medboarded. I was terrified about that at the time and couldn't imagine how different my life would be as someone whose spouse was no longer affiliated with the Army.

Well, a few months have passed and there have been some new developments in the situation. The option of surgery was offered to Sean. He discussed it with several of his doctors, both in Germany and here in Italy and he decided not to do the surgery. Basically we both felt that the risks of the surgery far outweighed anything that could have been gained by having the surgery done. None of the doctors that Sean talked to felt that the specific issues Sean has with his back would be helped by having surgery and most of them felt like it would further limit his mobility, which is not something either of us wanted.

So, after some thought, Sean decided against trying to re-class and instead he is going to try to medically retire from the Army. We will be moving back to Oklahoma, hopefully to the largest city near to where we grew up and Sean will be attending college while I go back to work and hopefully have my photography business on the side. We also plan on buying a house and hopefully starting a family too.

I've actually known we were going to do this for the last few months and I've already been looking at the housing/job market in the city where we will be moving.  I didn't want to share anything on the blog, because quite frankly I didn't know the timeline of when we would be leaving Italy and going back to the States. I actually still don't know, as Sean is still going to doctor's appointments in Germany and has not yet put in his packet for this medical retirement/VA evaluation. We were slated to leave Italy in January 2012, but it appears we will be here longer. Sean is estimating we will leave here in late spring and I have to admit I have mixed feelings about it.

1. I want to have a baby. Like now. However, I don't want to have one in the middle of us moving from Italy, trying to buy a house, trying to find jobs, etc. That's just too many things for me to handle at one time.

2. I miss my family and friends a lot and I'm missing a lot of things at home, including weddings of several friends. I want to be home in time to attend, but there is a chance I might not. It's missing things like that, that make me wish I was back in the States.

3. The plus side of staying longer in Italy is more travel! Instead of leaving in 3 months, I have a bit longer to see some of the places I so desperately want to see.

4. I feel like our lives are kind of on hold right now. I can't do anything with my photography, except build up my portfolio, we can't buy a house yet and there are just a million other things I feel like we can't do yet..because it's not the right time being overseas. you guys know a bit more of what's been going on with us and why I have been more silent than usual the past few months. There are just so many mixed emotions with this whole process.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Canyoning Pics and Copenhagen

I promised in my last post that I'd share a few pics from my canyoning adventure once I got my hands on the CD and so here are a few of those pics.

This is me walking in front of one of the waterfalls we got to see along our way. Although I was glad we had the wetsuits since the water was so cold, they were not flattering at all on my body.

Here I am rappelling for the second time. Evidently the tour company used to give people the option of jumping off this cliff instead of rappelling, but stopped that once a girl shattered her spine while jumping. Scary much?

This was probably the scariest portion of the day. Jumping off the cliffs into the water. Glad I did it though!

I haven't been up to much this past week except planning where Sean and I are going on this upcoming four day at the end of this week. We tossed around the idea of going to Athens, Greece or Oslo, Norway, but in the end the price of tickets to Greece skyrocketed and the timing of the flights to Oslo just weren't working for us. So, we chose Copenhagen, Denmark. Technically our plane isn't landing in Copenhagen, but it's close enough that we can take the train/bus there and still be only a couple hours away from the airport. Not too shabby!  To be honest, Copenhagen wasn't high on my list of places to see in Europe, but I've never been to Denmark and so I'm welcoming the chance to go. The only thing I'm not excited about is that the Scandanavian countries are pretty pricey, but I think since we're only going for a few days that we'll be ok.

Monday, September 5, 2011

New Adventures

Since I've started my 30 Before 30 list on my 28th birthday, I've been trying to push myself to do new things. Things that I normally wouldn't do because I thought I wouldn't enjoy them or I was too scared to do them. This weekend I pushed myself in a few new adventures and I'm happy to say I survived!

Our Outdoor Rec program offered a canyoning trip this weekend and immediately when I saw the flyer for it, I knew I wanted to sign up.  Canyoning was not on my 30 Before 30 list, but it should have been because the elements of canyoning are things I've never done and wasn't sure I ever wanted to.  Basically canyoning is making your way through a canyon by rappelling, jumping off rocks into water and swimming through deeper parts of the canyon. 

We ended up canyoning north of Verona, up near where the Dolomites are. Luckily, a girl I knew from Crossfit was on this trip, so I had a friend on the trip and wasn't all alone. I asked Sean if he wanted to go with, but his exact words were, "that looks dangerous to me, no thanks".

The first big test for me was rappelling down a 20 meter cliff. I've never rappelled in my life, but I wouldn't let myself think too much about how scared I was. It was....intense and the water at the bottom was ice cold, but I survived and I enjoyed swimming between the rocks and a waterfall to get to the next part of our journey.

During the rest of our two hour trip down this canyon, I jumped off several small cliffs into the ice-cold water. I'd say the highest I jumped off was around 15-20 feet. There was a higher cliff, but I could just not bring myself to jump off it. As it was I had butterflies in my stomach as I jumped off the smaller cliff. We rappelled down cliffs twice and we were supposed to slide down a natural slide that was quite narrow, but I didn't end up doing that. The reason being because we were supposed to jump down into the pool above it and then manuever ourself so we were going down feet first and then cover our face with our arms. The girl in front of me was a small girl and before she could manuever herself, the rapids picked her up and took her down the slide head-first. She ended up with some awful bruises on her face and big gash on her forehead. After seeing that, I was NOT going down that slide. Luckily besides the gash and bruises she was fine, but it was still so scary to see.  That was the most exciting and scary part of the trip!

Yesterday, Sean and I decided to try a restaurant that we'd never tried before and we also knew that they served horse. Neither Sean nor I had tried horse yet and I was a bit hesitant to try it, but I decided it was something I wanted to do before we left here. So...I ended up getting a horse filet with balsamic vinegar sauce and it was delicious! Seriously, if I didn't know it was horse, I would have thought it was a cut of beef. It didn't taste different to me at all. A friend of mine also told me that sometimes they put shavings of it on pizza. I'm not so sure about that. Sean and I also shared mushroom risotto. Risotto might be one of my very favorite Italian dishes. When you find people who can make risotto and make it right..well then you've stumbled upon a bit of heaven.

I should have a cd of pictures coming from the canyoning trip. Once I get it, I'll have to share some of the pictures with you.