Seeking Self-Improvement

Good afternoon, everyone.  I know I’ve stayed under the radar a bit this month, but I am doing well.  Rather recently, I finished the first class of my new degree plan.  At this time, I am still waiting for the grade.  One of the Marine Corps leadership principles is Know Yourself and Seek Self Improvement so I guess I’m not as far off topic from my usual writing subjects.  The reason I felt it was important to share is although I am pursuing my second graduate degree, there is always room for improvement.

Below I’ve provided readability statistics from the draft of a recent paper (1st visual).  My husband pointed out my writing was difficult to read and told me I could check out the readability statistics for my paper.  Don’t laugh, but I didn’t know this tool was a thing in Microsoft Word.  It probably sounds bad to say I’ve used Microsoft Word for years now without exploring the many tools within it, but I also do the same with Microsoft Excel.  (My recently completed course also required learning some skills within Excel…turns out some things that look difficult are exceedingly easy to accomplish.)

The more comforable I am when I write, the more I sound like I talk.  I confronted my husband with numerous commas, rather long sentences, and a slew of passive sentences.  His feedback is why I now know about the readability statistics in Microsoft Word.  I checked out the Flesch readability tests on Wikipedia to gain a general sense of what I was doing wrong to make the appropriate corrections.

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The reading ease didn’t change too significantly but it did drop down a grade level; I also knocked down my percentage of passive sentences.

It’s important to share I felt extremely challenged by this 750-1,000 word writing assignment.  I write a lot.  I like talking a lot.  Am I the only person in class who wants more words to discuss life goals?  Maybe.

I included this blog as part of my discussion in the paper, but I could write a whole paper about this blog and its purpose in my life.  I know more about where I want the trajectory of this blog to go than I do my paid work.  There are constraints in the traditional workforce that don’t bode with my creative spirit; as such, I wasn’t too interested in discussing my lack of clearly defined goals.  I’m here to learn.  Instead I focused on what’s important, my interest in veteran issues.  I spoke about changes to GI Bill benefits and continuing to serve veterans in higher education.  My road map for success in higher education is dependable on significant variables, not all of which are within my control, and I have to be ok with these challenges.

After re-crafting my essay, my paper was free from lots of ‘fluff.’  I took out the transitions spelling out my history with veteran issues because 1) that wasn’t part of the paper criteria to share and 2) I wanted more space to spell out my social entrepreneurship goals regarding this blog.  The fact I am a graduate degree seeking student who already holds a graduate degree doesn’t mean I’m perfect.  My writing skills (and many other skill areas in my life) could use improvement and I’m not ashamed to say self-improvement is important to me.  The Marine Corps taught me to embrace self improvement to become a better leader and I encourage others to seek the same for their personal and professional happiness.

Below are the statistics for the final version of my recently completed essay.  I like the improvements, and now it’s just a waiting game for the grade.

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November Check-In

Good morning, everyone.  It is my hope you do not find my distance away from my writing to be disappointing.  Writing is an activity I enjoy immensely but I have a life outside this piece of the digital world.  Not that I think any less of my audience, I appreciate the time anyone devotes to check out what I have to say, but like everyone else, I have moments in my life where my presence is needed elsewhere.

October called me away with the death of a high school friend.

I was unable to attend her memorial service and it’s been a frustrating part of my life lately.  I missed the funeral services for one of my uncles, my paternal grandfather, and my maternal grandmother over the course of my two deployments and I had always hoped my transition to civilian life would mean I never had to feel that guilt again of not being home to have closure.

From my collegiate studies, I’ve learned death and dying are experienced differently depending on one’s cultural upbringing and personal values.  The notification of her illness in February 2012 left me feeling like we would hardly have any time left together and I was reminded of the feelings going through my own mother’s cancer diagnosis.  As her fight against brain cancer continued, we all saw her proving the doctors wrong day after day.  Cancer was not going to take away her life shortly after she received her diagnosis.  This year, she surpassed the five-year mark since this battle began and the joy I felt is something I don’t think I shared.  I saw this moment as one where she would continue to get stronger and cancer would lose its hold.  Many of us learned of her death the day after her passing and in the short time that has passed, it still does not seem real.

Many of my longtime followers know accepting death is a hard thing for me.  It was too present on my first deployment and in the last couple of years veteran student suicides have become too common a reality in my work life.

In the last couple of months there have been some great changes in the DoD community and Department of Veterans Affairs community worth speaking to but as my regular life consumes me, I recognize I have not given time to writing about those matters.

The Marine Corps now has its first female marine infantry officer.  If you want to read a bit about this change, please check out NPR’s First Female Marine Completes Grueling Infantry Officer Course.  We are still too early to tell how her role in the Marine Corps will shape the changing reality of female representation in the Marine Corps but I hope to see more information as time progresses.

The second matter worth discussing are changes to the GI Bill.  More information is available through the VA’s website at Forever GI Bill-Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act.  The summaries of changes is worth looking at for anyone who is entitled to GI Bill benefits.  I recently attended a training conference, since I am a School Certifying Official, to better understand where things are headed and the timeframe for those changes.

As I continue to use the remainder of my own Post-9/11 GI Bill, I am reminded as well what a privilege it is that others have fought to keep GI Bill entitlement for individuals who served.  This gift, earned through my service, requires respect for our taxpayers’ money.  I treat it well and while I am not always a perfect student, I do make a strong effort to make others proud.  With this funding, I’ve earned two undergraduate degrees, a Master’s degree, and with the remaining portion of my entitlement, I have one month and six days for my second graduate degree.  I started this new program, a Master’s in Public Administration, in October.  (I will also speak more to my new degree at another time.)

My apologies this entry is not a long check-in.  For Veterans’ Day, my family and I are going out to breakfast with a longtime friend and fellow veteran who served in the Air Force.  She knows how much I don’t (and neither does my husband) engage in veteran discounts activities on Veterans’ Day so we are going out to a quiet local restaurant.

Lastly, I also wanted you all to know I submitted my Notice of Disagreement with the Department of Veterans Affairs for the conditions I’ve discussed the last year or so.  This time, I packaged all the casualty data for our fallen service members and tied it together with the work I’ve done with my medical care providers plus the fireworks notifications I receive.  I’m not too sure I will be heard this time either, but it’s the biggest chance I have so I took it.  More to follow on that matter once I receive notification back on my case.