28 July 2014

The Life and Times of a MILSO


I have recently acquired quite the to-do list. With our time here in DC dwindling down, I have finally been able to start the whole Medical Readiness process for our overseas move. After a lot of misinformation, confusion, and embarrassing "my husband--not my wife" and “I’m not active duty, I’m the spouse” I have finally been cleared to go to Guam (to the best of my knowledge)! Even more, I finally turned in all of my paperwork to study at the University of Guam. I couldn’t be more excited to go back to school, even though I know it is going to be hard work. I will be studying Secondary Education, with an emphasis in Social Studies, which completely blows my mind. I’ve always loved history and geography so I’m thrilled to share my knowledge with others!

Another project that I’ve taken on is vlogging on a new YouTube channel:
The reason behind the channel is to just interact with friends and family.  I want to be able to show them what I am doing in my life, along with making a few good laughs. Other than all of this madness, I am still working at a local Starbucks, serving up a friendly smile! I certainly am going to miss all of my friends at Starbucks, and all of the life lessons that come along with serving the people of DC (can you say, 'entitled?'). Being a barista has been one of the best experiences of my life, including giving excellent customer service. In fact interacting with customers is my favorite part of the job! You never know how much of an impact a simple “good morning” or “thank you” can have on a person’s everyday life.

We have lots of adventures coming in our last few months remaining in DC. We can't wait to share it all with you! Stay tuned!

13 July 2014

Keep Calm and Carrier On


I've never been too shy about the fact that I think I have one of the coolest jobs in the world. I am blessed to meet such awesome individuals and lucky enough to have them share their psychological, emotional, and medical struggles with me. However, the specific setting in which I practice this delicate interpersonal science/art is almost as intriguing... and downright cool! You know what they say, "Join the Navy--see the world!"

Last week, my adventures as a US Navy Medical Service Corps Officer took me and my comrades aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) aircraft carrier out of Norfolk, Virginia. Our commander believes that this evolution is important to introducing new psychologists to the operational environment and where we may be serving in the future. 

Our job is quite different than most of  our civilian counterparts. Traditional therapy is about 40% of our work maximum, even in an outpatient behavioral health setting in a traditional military hospital. Other positions, such as the one available for a psychologist on each aircraft carrier, involve much less clinical work and much more interventions aimed at the organizations/systems. On an aircraft carrier (or in a Marine Battalion), the Psych-O (psychology officer) serves as a consultant to the Commanding Officer in regards to the active duty staff's general psychological health and how that contributes to mission objectives. Operational psychologists often serve as expert consultants in how to reward and punish service members for good/bad behavior, giving briefs on resiliency and leadership, aiding in organizational disposition (how service members are discharged out of the service), and observing general unit morale. Needless to say, this is a big job, but exciting nonetheless!

Enough of the boring stuff... Although we were technically "working" this week, it sure didn't feel like it, as we had no contact with patients. Instead, we toured the ship, received briefs from every department, and acclimated to ship-life. The ship went underway for a work-up and qualifications, where it meets certain mission objectives out-at-sea prior to being deployed. We met some really great people and they offered us some very cool opportunities to see some sweet stuff.

I learned a ton! Even before the Navy, I had an interest in nautical ships and aircraft, as I've taken way too many cruises (I think I compared the carrier to a Carnival ship about 100 times), and worked on my single-engine pilot's license a bit. Though an aircraft carrier is technically a naval ship, it's real mission is air warfare--to "forward deploy" (put into a really close fighting position before crap hits the fan) fighter jets and "project power" (basically, protect our national interests by leaving open the possibility that we could attack/retaliate at any time). Suffice it to say, the coolest thing we saw all week was the ship recovering (called "trapping") and launching (via the catapult) these jets.

Trapping involves the jet pilots finding the perfect sweet spot on the moving aircraft carrier so the tale of their aircraft grabs the arresting gear (one of four really thick cables). They don't want to  come up too short, lest they smash into the aircraft carrier, causing millions of dollars in damage. They also don't want to overshoot the line, as they would have to power the jet back up and touch-and-go. They practice this latter skill hundreds of times so they are prepared.

Launching an aircraft is also specialized to the carrier. There's no way to build a carrier long enough to simultaneously launch and recover aircraft naturally (it would take several hundred yards to take-off and land). Instead, steam catapults get the jets moving at full speed instantly. Yes, zero to 350 in one second. This is a ton of power, and the whole ship shakes when the aircraft land and are launched. Needless to say, the carrier environment is a very large and loud industrial zone.

We were fortunate enough to be right on the deck for the launch of some! Not going to lie, I had to take a knee when the aircraft took off, because I was actually concerned the power would throw me overboard. Hey, it could happen! 

Finally, it was time to return back to land. The ship was staying out for a couple more weeks, but we needed to return to the hospital in DC for work. The only way to get us back to land from the middle of the ocean--aircraft, of course! I knew prior to the trip that we would be taking a C2/A Greyhound, the standard double-turbo-prop the Navy uses to carry personnel. What I didn't know was that this aircraft, too, is launched via the catapult. Also, the seats face backward, and there are no windows. This is one totally messed-up roller coaster, but it was actually fun!

Can't wait to do it again! Lance was probably happy to get rid of me for a week and live his never-before-lived bachelor life. But between you-and-me, he was probably sick of eating cereal for every meal. :)

01 July 2014

Our Wild and Wonderful White House Visit


Yesterday was one of the most epic days of our lives.  A couple of weeks ago, we received an invitation from the President (yes, really) to attend the LGBT Pride Month reception at the White House. We truly have no idea where this invite originated, but accepted nonetheless! Not only was this an opportunity to visit the President's home, but Barack and Michelle Obama both attended the event.

 One of the most beautiful views in DC

Upon arrival, we sweated our way through the doors (it was quite a hot summer day), and quickly found the food and drinks.  If there is one thing you should know about us, it is that we LOVE to eat! The scene was something out of The Hunger Games, when Peeta and Katniss are surprised by the opulent offerings of The Capitol--yes, we're those people. After scarfing down several cookies, cakes, quiches, and cocktails, we meandered to the East Room where we listened to a great story of an Illinois couple who just became legally wed after 53 years of being in a committed, monogamous relationship. How many others can say that?


That couple then introduced POTUS, who spoke about the progress our country has made in regards to LGBT rights. He also initiated an executive order banning discrimination based on gender identity among federal employees. History continues to be made!

Truly Speechless!


The Obamas then shook a few hands--including ours! Mr. Obama said, "Hey--thank you two for being here. And thank you [Kyle] for serving us! Glad you boys could come." There's the plain 'ole 'thank you for your service' and then there's 'THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE' from your Commander-in-Chief... this was pretty cool!

Michelle (clearly the crowd favorite) took a little bit longer to get through her crowd of fan-girls. When we finally saw her, she looked at each of us and smirked. 

     "Are you two... [insert two index fingers pointed toward each other in a fifth-grade manner, complete with a kissy-face]?" 
     "Yes, ma'am," Kyle replied with a big smile [Lance is actually, genuinely speechless at this point. He is FLOTUS' biggest fan.]
     "Well... I didn't want to assume, but.... [another big smile]."
     "With this one [pulling Lance close], I'm proud for you to assume, ma'am!"
     "Well, welcome! So glad you could come to my crib," she finished. 
The last couple words might be an approximation, as we couldn't remember exactly what she said due to our starstruck status.


Some of our impressions of the Obama family:

  • They are hilarious! They seemed to make joke after joke, including Barack responding to a furiously crying baby (at a time when he was talking about congress' inaction), saying "I know! It's terrible!" He also suggested his pastry chef put "crack" in the White House pies (because they are so addicting). Michelle wasn't a fan of his comment, and gave a clear look that said, 'Fox News will have you pegged as an addict within the hour.'
  • They are extremely down to Earth.  They speak with such humble voices and deep concern that I felt a million different emotions during their speeches. They're not perfect people, by any means. Just the same, we do have a huge amount of respect for them and were honored to be there.
  • They know how to throw a great party!  We met many people yesterday, including Sam Champion (GMA), Laverne Cox (Orange is the New Black), and Amanda Simpson (first trans woman appointed to public office)... oh yeah, and POTUS/FLOTUS.

We are truly blessed and cannot thank the White House folks enough for their hospitality and graciousness.  It will be a moment that we never forget.

Perusing the Obama's library, I found TONS of this! Barack loves Missouri!