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A Veteran’s Experience in REBOOT Workshops

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A veteran’s journey home after service.

In 2013 I went through REBOOT Workshops by National Veterans Transition Services Inc., just a few months prior to retiring from the Navy after 20 years as a journalist, public affairs specialist, videographer and photographer. During my 20 years I deployed to Afghanistan, Bosnia, Bahrain and Horn of Africa to document expeditionary and combat operations. I loved my Navy career but was ready to transition to a life raising my daughter and exploring my untapped potential. REBOOT helped me make that transition and I’d like to share with you what I learned and experienced through the program and my classmates.

Getting the REBOOT

I’m sure we’ve all rebooted our computers to get them to work correctly after a major hang up. I don’t think the founders of REBOOT, a workshop to help veterans transition from military to civilian life, could have come up with a better name for their program. Fewer than one percent of American’s serve their country at any given time yet becoming a servicemember impacts our lives in ways we could hardly imagine as civilians and when we go back to the 99 percent, we tend to be lost. That’s where REBOOT comes in.

I am a retiring servicemember in San Diego just trying to figure out what I’m going to do to support my family when my career in the Navy is over.

I found out about REBOOT through a coworker who is also retiring. He had signed up for the program and told me that he had heard such great things about the program that if I can afford the time to go then I needed to sign up as soon as possible. I took his advice and emailed, called and all but went to the location to find out when I could get into a class before I retired. I was desperate for any information that would help me focus on being successful outside of the military. I felt like I was in crisis mode whenever I would think about my life outside the Navy because nothing was certain.

To give you an example of these moments of despair, let me tell you about when I met a new civilian coworker. He’s a retired veteran and I asked him for some words of wisdom. He said it took him more than four years since his retirement to find a job he was happy to be hired for. He told me that no companies are waiting to hire veterans and he interviewed for about 500 jobs through USA Jobs and only got three interviews. He lived with his mom and dad to get by because his retirement check wasn’t enough to live off of.

I went to my office, closed the door and cried to myself. Here’s a flesh and blood retiree who obviously put effort into finding employment and couldn’t for a long time. I can’t afford to be looking for four years for the job I want or any job for that matter. I have a family to provide for. What made me cry was the thought of not being able to take care of my family and having my life fall apart around me. I decided I wasn’t going to let that happen and started looking for solutions.

Enter REBOOT.

Day 1: Meeting of the minds

When I registered for the class I could tell that REBOOT is in high demand by the emails that emphasized arriving early or risk losing your seat. After fumbling through several changes of clothes I practically ran out the door an hour prior to show time just to be sure I was early. When I checked in I was relieved to get a blue ticket securing my seat in the class. If felt like I was just given the golden ticket in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I held onto it for dear life because if I didn’t then I wasn’t going to get to see the magic and wonder of the factory.

As I sat in the classroom, I looked around at my classmates. They varied in age, sex and race but all had one thing in common, saying goodbye to the military. Whether we wanted it to happen or not, the life we had come to know was about to be or was over and we had to find a way to cope. After getting to know a little about each other through introductions it was apparent that all of us had a unique story to tell and one common goal. To be successful outside of the military and reacquaint ourselves with the ways of civilian life.

Standing before us was Joseph. He is our guide on this journey and right from the beginning he sparked my interest by asking if we knew about the Law of Attraction. I had read the book he mentioned, “The Secret”, and was a firm believer that what you envision for yourself in your mind will manifest itself in your life but I was failing at making it work for me the way it once had so finding out the course involved learning about that important ability made me even more excited.

We spent the morning learning about how the program came about, the generosity of the donors who genuinely care about the well-being of veterans and getting to know a little bit about Joseph and each other.

During lunch I got to know Crystal. She’s a retiring Chief Petty Officer working on her Master’s degree. She’s married to a fellow chief and she’s raising her children while serving her country. In the hour we spent together I learned what a tough and amazing woman she is and that she’s very knowledgeable about the benefits veterans have available to them. She could stay in the Navy if she wanted to but she’s ready to move on and take control of her life. In talking with her I realized that I don’t know half of what I should about my retirement and that I need to figure it out sooner rather than later.

After lunch we started our workbook. It is full of principles by Lou Tice. I hadn’t heard of him before but the information he spoke on had the whole classroom interested in what he had to say. It’s all based on proven science about how the mind works and if I’d taken the time to read a psychology book or two I wouldn’t have thought of some of the odd abilities I have as mysterious.

Like when he talks about finding a parking spot in and overly busy parking lot and how your subconscious is looking for clues to help you find a spot. I always thought it was magic but in actuality my subconscious guided me to a spot becoming available by noticing things my conscious self didn’t like somebody walking to their car in my periphery. Now I know it’s more than that and it made me wonder what else was my mind doing without me knowing about it.

I’ve always thought of myself as very aware, maybe even enlightened but as I learned more and more about the mind, I wondered if I was wrong because I couldn’t see a gorilla.

Lou gave us a little test. He told us to stare at only the players in white and count how many times they pass the ball to each other while a group of players in black were doing the same thing within the group of white players. I did just that and I never saw the guy dressed in a gorilla suit walk through the middle of them while many of my classmates had. I learned that my Reticular Activating System works very well apparently and who knows what else I can’t see besides gorillas. This course is ingenious because it makes you aware of your subconscious and the amazing things it does. Every one in the class seemed inthralled by the subject matter. For me it was not what I expected at all.

Day 2: Getting Comfortable

It’s the second day and everyone is on time and ready to learn more. Everything I have experienced so far has been wonderful. The location is great, the staff is friendly, the free food is a bonus on top of all the incredible knowledge being shared. I think I can speak for everyone in the class when I say that Joseph makes this course truly enjoyable too. He’s very motivating and engaging.

He speaks with clarity and poignancy and puts out topics that we immediately relate to and with little hesitancy we share our experiences with each other. Now that we have had a day to get to know each other there is so much more interaction and participation.

img_2729Today we covered change, how the mind works and why we like our comfort zones. After listening to Lou describe how our minds work and how our fears help us come up with creative excuses for why we can’t do something that could elevate us I realized I had a fear of writing even though I love writing. I had been making excuses to myself about why I couldn’t write about REBOOT even though it seemed like such an interesting subject to write about. I did my journalistic research the night before to see if the program had been written about already and I found a couple TV news stories and a print story and immediately thought I had no in. It had been done and how was I going to top that? I had almost given up on the idea until I thought about blogging as I’m going through it. Right away I liked the idea but I was afraid of sharing my idea for fear of being rejected. Instead of keeping my mouth shut and letting the idea drift off into the ether, I raised my hand to share my fear with my classmates.

The response to my idea of writing a blog about REBOOT was overwhelmingly positive and they applauded me for sharing. It made me feel instantly better and I already had my answer because Joseph loved the idea too and said I should definitely do it. I knew this would be the only way to put the pressure on me to follow through and get it done since I’m a professional procrastinator.

Now that the blog is started I find myself worrying that I won’t do the program or my classmates justice. I want to make this blog interesting and bring through it the fact that REBOOT is amazing. It is teaching us to change the way we think so that we can not only survive outside the military but achieve our dreams and to convince ourselves that we deserve to succeed. I love hearing all the advice, insight and epiphanies being shared throughout the class. On top of that there’s a world of knowledge and experience being shared among 27 people who’s lives are heading in very different directions but whose commonality lies in how they will reach their destination. Their minds will carry them there.

Day 3: Feelings

Which would you rather have, an incredibly talented and skilled worker with a personality that brings down the team or someone who has to learn the ropes but whose personality is magnetic and inspiring? I’m sure with certain jobs companies can’t afford to train workers and their companies reputation doesn’t rely on being personable but for some employers having that personable reputation is critical. Joseph made a good point when he said attitude and personality can’t be trained and it made me look at myself and question whether I am a people person or not.

I consider myself the kind of person who plays well with others but I can honestly say that not everyone I have encountered has liked me. I try not to let it bother me because I think being personable is important so I am very open to improving my people skills if necessary. All I have to do is look around the room and I see so many different types of personalities.

Everyone is at a different stage in their transition from military to civilian life and each has many experiences to share. The one guy everyone seems to listen to intently is our oldest classmate, Paul. I think it’s because he has been out of the Navy since 1995 after serving 12 total years of service and a lot of us want to know his successes and failure. Perhaps to give us an idea of the potential challenges we may face especially since he’s been a business owner as well as working in various fields such as corrections and politics. The thing that I appreciate is that through all the ups and downs he keeps a smile on his face and is optimistic about his next endeavor. So much so that during an interview for a job this morning he had no problem setting a potential employer straight when the interviewer insulted him. He said he deserves better than that. I think we can and will learn a lot from Paul.

Joseph provided a shocking statistic that particularly concerned me about only 40% of awarded GI Bill benefits get used. It makes me wonder if it has anything to do with those of us who have to jump from our military job to our civilian job with no break for school in order to provide for our family. I’m facing the choice of school or working and I’d rather go to school but I have four mouths to feed so it’s a difficult decision to make. No matter what though, I’m not going to let more than $100,000 worth of potential benefits go to waste. I’ve worked too hard to let that happen. Maybe I just won’t sleep while I work and go to school full time while raising two kids with my mom. That sounds more exhausting than all three of my expeditionary deployments combined.

We have a couple young Marines in the class and they shared a touching story about their friendship. Andrew and Mo drive all the way down from Orange county every day to attend REBOOT because that’s how much they value the information provided. It’s only day three but all of us think this is the best workshop we’ve been to and it’s so much more than we expected and maybe that’s why we find ourselves sharing touching moments with each other no matter how tough we have to appear. Mo’s dream is to own a restaurant with a unique theme but he has been feeling like he’d been beaten to the punch on the idea when he discovered that theme already being used overseas.

He relates his creative brain to a dying star exploding and imploding but one of the things he fails to do is capture those ideas as they are exploding so his friend and battle buddy Andrew got tired of him losing those ingenious ideas and bought him a journal. However Andrew didn’t give Mo the journal wrapped up in a bow with a card saying sentimental words. Oh no. He gave it to him Marine Corps style by throwing it at him and telling him he was sick of hearing all these great ideas and Mo not putting them down in writing but instead letting them disappear into the ether. So sweet.

Day 4: Affirmations and chocolate

SENSITIVE CHOCOLATE LOVERS

Today is Valentines Day and there was lots of talk in class about plans with loved ones. To me Valentines isn’t a bad day for those of us who don’t have someone special to share the holiday with. It’s about appreciating those closest to us and for me that’s my children and mother. I didn’t make any plans aside from giving little gifts and hugs. One of those gifts was a giant box of chocolates for my mom. She has diabetes so that really wasn’t a good idea so I brought the massive box of chocolates into class to share. I left them in the break room thinking everyone could help themselves.

We started off sharing stories about what we learned the previous day and one of the guys got all sensitive and said he loved us all and everyone was jokingly calling for a group hug. Joseph asked him where the chocolate was with all the sharing and caring that was going on. I chimed in that I had brought a ginormous box of chocolates in and I put it in the break room. Without hesitation he asked a volunteer to get the chocolates and again without hesitation Martha volunteered to get it for us. She walked the box of chocolates around the class and the already happy spirits in the class lifted just a little more and they thanked me but wondered where in the world I got such a big box of chocolates that actually tasted good. I told them if there were any already bitten pieces in the box to blame my mom. That got one good last laugh before we dived into the day’s lessons.

PROCRASTINATION NATION

Joseph led into talking about getting things done. He said that Sunday, Monday and Tuesday are on the calendar but someday isn’t. We’re all guilty of saying we’ll get something done someday or we’ll have something we want someday. The point is we all say we’ll get around to something we want in our lives but the truth is we procrastinate because most likely it will result in putting us outside of our comfort zone, the zone we’ve built for ourselves that is familiar and comfortable. It’s hard work chasing our dreams and I’m finding out first hand just how hard it is.

I’m a writer and I have been since I was a teenager. My dream is to write for a living and in a way I’m doing that for the Navy. I’ve written lots of Navy related news stories but my creativity is very limited in military journalism. I aspire to write experience pieces and fiction and have my name become recognized as a top writer but in order to do that I have to write and write a lot. A lot a lot. So I find myself making time like never before. I used to procrastinate so well that days, weeks and moths would go by without me writing anything for myself. I have so many ideas and I was steadily letting them disappear through my procrastination. Now here I am in Reboot and I feel inspired to finally get serious about my writing. Even with all this encouragement I am very uncomfortable because I’m exposing myself to criticism and criticism scares me. I know it’s a part of the job but I don’t look forward to the first or tenth time it happens.

One of the ways we’re being taught to overcome these fears that are holding us back is to use affirmations. To me it’s a no brainer to talk positively to yourself to keep you motivated to achieve but it’s harder than it sounds. Negativity is all around us and inside of us so staying positive is a difficult task in the face of so much negativity. See. I just affirmed for myself that staying positive is going to be hard so I need to turn that around and say that staying positive is easy.

It is more than that though, it’s changing a mind set that I’ve had for a long time and my classmates can relate. After doing the affirmation exercises in our workbook there seemed to be a simultaneous sigh of relief from a lot of my fellow veterans. To me it felt good to write out affirmations that relate to my greatest dreams and perhaps they all felt the same as I did as we waited to discuss it.

The section on affirmations in our workbook is relatively big and a little overwhelming for me. How we word our affirmations is important because it needs to be written in such a way that it sounds like it already exists in your life. One of my affirmations was “I am a great writer,” but that affirmation I find isn’t specific enough. I am not supposed to compare myself to other writers but that the first thing I did. I thought of the writers I admire and how I wanted to be known like them. Some would say I need to write for myself but the reason I’m inspired to write is that I hope someone sees value in what I have to say because otherwise I’m just writing for me and that’s fine but I can’t make a living as a writer if I’m the only one who values it. So perhaps my affirmation should be more like “I am a great writer to the world.” That might sound like I have delusions of grandeur but if I think big and focus on a Mount Everest size goal than maybe I’ll at least reach the top of a significant mountain even if it’s not Everest.

CHOICES

How many of us have thought we had no choice in a given situation? We make choices every day without even realizing it. Mike shared a saying he’d heard the dean of his school use. “Life is a series of choices and choices have consequences so make right choices.” I wasn’t the only one in the class to write that down. It hit home with a lot of us. It can feel like we don’t have a choice at times because the consequences of making the wrong choice can have devastating effects on our lives but it is a choice none the less.

I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for a choice my mother made when she was at the tender age of 16. It was a very difficult choice for her and I am grateful everyday so when I had to make the choice of whether to take care of her or not I didn’t have to think long on it. It was like the choice was made for me deep inside myself out of obligation but in reality I love her too much to let her face life’s challenges on her own so I chose to take her in and share my life with her. Only time will tell what the consequences will be but it’s been a little more than two months and it’s been a blessing.

PEOPLE BUILDING

If people are like buildings then a solid foundation is critical to all the layers that are piled on top. That is what I took from Joseph’s iteration that Reboot is about people building in a big way. It’s about helping veterans restructure themselves so that they are successful when they return to civilian life. Reboot is the most positive course I’ve attended and it’s foundation of building veterans up so that they succeed after leaving the service is priceless. I look forward to writing the graduation blog when I can quote my classmates what they’ve gained over the three weeks.

Day 5: I Missed Something

I missed today’s class and the NAVNET breakfast where I could have met and connected with a lot of employers and veterans in the area. I had a very important date today concerning my family that I could not afford to miss. I am curious what I missed out on because every day so far has been interesting and more than worthwhile so I know I missed something of tremendous value. I have my workbook to go through but it’s not the same as sitting in the class and sharing experiences with each other. Monday is a holiday so I can’t wait to get with my veteran classmates and learn more on Tuesday.

Day 6: What’s Important

“We are REBOOTING from how the military has effectively trained you for their specific mission and system. You are now preparing for a new mission where you are the captain, and it involves family, friends and community,” taken from the REBOOT Workshop Week 2 workbook.

I walked into the classroom this morning and everything was rearranged. The desks were set into groups of two fitting four or five students and I had to find my seat. I felt like I must have missed something big on Friday. Joseph asked me how my weekend was and I shared with him and my classmates a brief description of why I was absent Friday explaining that I had to attend Family Court but that everything went better than expected and it was a good day. As far as the rest of the weekend I worked on my blogs and knocking out to dos. Some said they had a good long relaxing weekend while others tried to catch up on unfinished business around the house.

I enjoy the time we take to share how the previous day’s lessons affected us or if something interesting happened in relation to what we’ve learned. It’s a good lead in to the day. Martha told a touching story about her weekend taking time specifically to spend with her daughter. She took her to Disneyland and she related how emotional it was for her to see her daughter get so excited about the princesses because she herself is more of a tomboy. This was the first time she indulged her daughters taste for all things girly and seeing her daughter so happy was truly eye opening for her. She attributed these special moments to what she learned in Reboot about thinking differently. I think it’s a great payoff in itself especially since I’m a mother of a little girl too but even more so that I have a little boy to care for and I need to think differently too.

Screen Shot 2015-05-24 at 7.43.40 PMJoseph let us know before getting into the workbook that this week is going to be very interactive and we are going to learn a lot more about each other. We discussed the first three units from the workbook where we focused on identifying what is in our lives and building a picture of what we want for our future. We did two major exercises and it really made us all think about what is important in our lives. One of the exercises was to create a personal Coat of Arms that shows everything significant in our lives. I started out sketching an overly detailed picture of me sitting with my daughter and nephew reading a book and then I was going to put other symbols. I realized this was going to be too complicated and I needed to come up with something more symbolic. I came up with a big star representing me and three little stars representing my mom and the kids. Around that I placed words of significance and other symbols like an outline of the U.S. with 2050 inside meaning I believe in the future of this country.

My drawing was not the most creative or expressive and I captured photos of as many as I could. I hope to capture photos every day that show just how interactive the class is. Here is my first group of photos on Flickr.

The point of all this visualization is to envision a dream and to go after it with positivity but Paul warned that sometimes your dreams can be taken from you and you have to start over. This wasn’t the first time he’d told us his story but he made it more poignant because he’s still very bitter about what happened to him. His dream is to own a bar and when his first business had to be abandoned because rental costs had gone up five fold he bought a new space and put a lot of work into getting it up to code only to have it taken from him by the city it was located in. I could tell it deeply bothered him but when Joseph asked where he was at now with his dream he said he was right where he needed to be, in REBOOT.

The workbook contains a lot of exercises and they are very effective in helping me paint a clear picture in my head of where I want to go from here. I always knew my family was important to me but with every exercise I do I find myself putting my family before anything else. Mike noticed from everyone else’s’ drawings that family is an important part if not the most important part of their lives and he said he didn’t have a family. I told him that maybe right now isn’t the right time for him to have a family but if it means that much to him, someday he will. At least he knows that he is too focused on himself and what he wants to achieve to start a family. It’s not an easy balancing act and I have found you can’t be wishy washy about taking care of others.

The other exercise we did was to write a time line of significant events in our lives symbolizing who we are today. I completed mine and I am not looking forward to sharing it tomorrow because before I joined the Navy I wasn’t happy with my life and where I came from. It is a part of me but it is not who I am today. Just seeing it written out is a bit emotional for me but I look forward to what tomorrow has to offer and what I will learn.

Day 7: Emotion on Paper

Today we shared more about ourselves with each other than any day so far of REBOOT. Joseph warned us about it before hand but nothing can prepare you for how emotional it might be sharing intimate details about our lives and our heart’s desires. Most of us have probably never put down on paper exactly what it is that we want for ourselves. I’ve thought about my future but I’ve not taken the time to write it down even though I’ve told myself to numerous times. This is probably one of the most effective parts of REBOOT because not only do we see ourselves as we are today and what we want for our future but so does everyone else in the class.

TIMELINES

Our first task of the day was to present our timeline on large format paper to the class. Like I said yesterday, I wasn’t looking forward to it because I was going to have to talk about my past, my childhood past and I wasn’t at ease with that. I delayed presenting mine as long as possible by taking photos and writing down what my classmates were saying about their timelines. It payed off because by the time it was my turn I was much more at ease knowing others had a similar story to my own. It seems a lot of us have had troubled pasts that we’ve overcome and knowing that we’ve come this far, to me it’s inspiring because we can go even further to separate ourselves from the heart ache and troubles of our past to achieve our dreams.

Screen Shot 2015-05-24 at 7.46.12 PMThere was a lot of good things shared too and some of it was delivered with humor. Steven talked about when he was younger he and his best friend liked to go to Disneyland to pick up chicks. I’m sure there’s more to the story but this is a G-rated blog or at least I’ll keep it NC-17.

When Ted got up to go over his timeline he said that he wore red in honor of our Marine Corps classmates but Mo and Andrew were out today due to a family emergency so they didn’t get to enjoy his humor while David had to take the honor all by himself. Ted has a great sense of humor despite some of the tough times he’s been through. During his first tour in the Navy he was blamed for something terrible but he persevered and fought to prove that he’s an honorable Sailor and continued to serve and move past the set back. I can only imagine that it weighed heavily on him for a long time but to see his smiling face and upbeat personality, I’d never know it happened to him without being in this class and sharing so much about ourselves.

When I shared my timeline I wasn’t sure if I wanted to mention my fathers death but I felt it was important because it’s a very significant part of my past and he was a driving force behind me pushing past what was normal in my family and to set out on my own and make a better life for myself. I’m glad I did because Joseph shared his personal story and it was similar to my own especially how we both had to overcome our uneasiness at handling the types of weapons that took our loved ones away from us in order to do our jobs in the military. It just reiterated to me our similarities and how we’ve all suffered similar pains and joys.

I think we were all glad to get past this part of the course because there was just so much emotion and exposure involved but that same emotion is very motivating.

CORE VALUES

Before we got into the workbook to work out our core values Joseph noticed some interaction between Jamelia and Carlos. They both sit at the only table with five people and Jamelia sits at the end of the table next to Carlos and there’s not a lot of room between them so they were getting a little territorial toward each other due to the limited real estate on the tables. Joseph mentioned how he noticed little territorial wars happening all over the classroom. Now that the desks have lots of tools to use for our exercises and with our personal stuff taking up space, it’s just another level of intimacy among us.

We jumped into our core value exercises and we had to widdle down a list of ten chosen words that represent our core values to just one word. Ever since I started REBOOT the word family has stood out in my head and each day’s exercises solidifies it to me as my biggest core value. Almost everyone had a different word that stood out to them such as dependability, happiness, fairness and character. It turns out our core values are a type of code of conduct and we should never compromise them.

VISION BOARDS

Our last project for the day was for us to draw our vision boards. Our vision boards symbolized what we want for our future and again we had to break out our art skills. When I was young I demonstrated a talent in art but not so much anymore. I still enjoy creating pictures but I don’t care much for the resulting art but that’s not the point here and I did my best to convey what I want for my future. I drew my family, an overflowing piggy bank, a large ranch house with horses, a bachelors degree from San Diego State and a globe with an airplane flying from one place to another around the world and my first of many published books. It was a nice summary.

Christopher is a proud Texan and is moving back to startup and run what he hopes will be the largest Angus ranch in Texas. He drew a picture of a Canon camera on his vision board because he wants to get back into photography and he apologized to me while he was drawing it because I use a Nikon. I told him not to worry, both are great cameras and it’s a matter of preference just like Mac versus PC. I love a good steak so I should definitely get in good with him.

These last two days have flown buy just like Joseph said they would.

Day 8: Storytelling and Brainstorming

Hey Joseph, don’t forget the donuts tomorrow! That’s how we started off the day, by harassing Joseph about bringing in donuts for his hungry pupils. We’ll see if he delivers the cream filled and jelly donuts in the morning.

After we got the donut requests out of the way Joseph asked for a volunteer to MC the graduation next Friday and Jamelia quickly stepped to the plate. Everyone but Ted was glad to have her step up because he feels so short next to her. He made a request that she wear flats so when he stands next to her he doesn’t look like one of the seven dwarves. Ted’s sense of humor is awesome and I can’t wait to see what he says next that makes the class laugh in unison.

Screen Shot 2015-05-24 at 7.51.26 PMJoseph gave us a task to tell a story with an ending in two minutes to our table mates. I think I told the longest story at my table but I wasn’t the only one who went over two minutes. Christopher aparently almost lost his foot to an angry shark when he was fishing from a Kayak. Mike’s usually boring watch in Kuwait turned interesting when someone got thrown from between a humvee and another vehicle when the tow chain broke off the bumper after he was told it was too dangerous to be in between the vehicles. That guy was very stupid but lucky.

My favorite story was told by Mo after story time was over when we were discussing golden nuggets of wisdom. He said that he believes in expecting miracles and to be grateful for each day because while he was serving in Iraq he stepped on a total of five IED plates. At first I thought “all at one time and your still here,” but I realized that was kind of a stupid assumption. He continued his story and said that there were different malfunctions like the batteries weren’t connected. The last IED he stepped on had a stiff spring that didn’t give under his weight but he didn’t know what it was at the time and had stomped on it. He must have nine lives but after hearing this story he’s used up five, maybe more. Slow down Mo, I want to eat at your zombie restaurant someday.

The story telling phase had an important purpose. To teach us to be brief but detailed during an interview. Equally important if not more so, is appearance and attitude. The equation is typically seven percent words, 55 percent body language and 38 percent tone. Kirk mentioned that his experience is that sometimes you’re being interviewed before the actual interview begins so be aware of your behavior and what you say to others before an interview.

What is my purpose in life. When asked this question I really had to think about it. If I wanted to be generic I could say it’s to procreate and populate the world like any other red blooded human being but that’s a broad purpose and I’m being asked what is “my” purpose. After doing the exercise on purpose in the workbook I realized that I’ve always believed there’s something big inside me that I need to share with the world through my writing. Maybe my name will reach epic proportions like President Andrew Jackson and Stonewall Jackson (a distant relative to my grandfathers family). A girl can dream can’t she?

Finding our purpose is important because it helps us actively pursue that purpose rather than just doing what we have to, to get by. Find our purpose is a big deal but Mike brought up a good point. Be aware of dream stealers. Those that will tell you what you can’t do or that you’re living in the clouds. He said that when he was young if someone he looked up to said something negative he took it to heart and believed it. There are dream killers out there so be aware.

We had some visitors today. Three Wells Fargo representatives stopped by to see our class and to give us a chance to provide feedback. Brian talked with us the most since he’s a military specialist letting us know about the programs Wells Fargo has available to service members. He asked that we challenge ourselves to value each other while in the workshop and make an diligent effort to keep in touch after it’s over. Kirk shared with the reps how REBOOT has helped him envision a new future for himself after serving 25 years in the Navy and he’s very grateful for what’s he’s learned so far.

Gary called REBOOT a breath of fresh air and Jamelia told them it teaches you to be true to yourself.

The last exercise of the day was for each group to come up with a business idea and an execution plan. Derek through out an idea for a solar power business but I pushed for us to analyze my business idea because I wanted to see if had any validity. I had come up with the idea a couple weeks ago before REBOOT while researching job options for myself. We agreed to take on my idea and we started drawing up a plan. My business idea revolved around a public relations consulting company for small businesses. The company would develop and manage a public relations program for small businesses to help them with start up messaging or damage control or strategic communication during a crisis. I used Christopher’s Angus beef ranch as an example. I created a scenario where Mad Cow disease was hurting his business because fewer people were eating beef. I would develop a strategic plan to boost his ranch’s reputation for having healthy and safe beef to bring sales back up. That’s describing it in its simplest terms but it could work. Mike helped me present the idea by discussing the business aspects and what would be needed to support the company. I am very thankful to my team for supporting working out my business idea because Christopher’s business is closer to reality than my own and Derek had a good business idea too. It got me excited about the possibility.

Mo and Harvey shared their great restaurant ideas as a business plan and I wonder if seeing their dream business on paper touched them the way seeing mine touched me? Jamelia and Steven presented a health oriented business called Fix My Food and Sean and David presented a business called Adopting the Zoo. Everyone went into detail about what would need to be done. It was a great exercise to get ideas flowing.

Day 9: Inspiration Wrap Up

It’s the last day of the second week and we’re enjoying our donuts courtesy of Joseph. Joseph called me out to the class because he said I put him on blast in my blog about the donuts but he was just joking with me. At least I think he was. I also got chastised by Agent Gibbs (Jim) for not putting in my blog why Joseph had to deliver on the donuts. My bad, I somehow missed that but I’ve put Joseph out there enough so I’ll leave it at that. It’s all good though because we got our donuts and a good laugh even if I got harassed a little. I can take it. It’s all in fun and we’ll all be a little sad when this course is over. Ted pointed that out as he shared a conversation he had with the receptionist.

As Ted walked by in the morning she stated that “It’s almost over,” and instead of nodding his head and walking on by he stopped and looked at her and asked her a question. “Have you ever experienced something you’ve never wanted to end?” He didn’t elaborate on her response but his feelings about REBOOT were perfectly clear because a lot of us feel the same way. There was a sigh of disappointment when Joseph told us he wouldn’t be facilitating next week. We’ve really enjoyed him and I think he’s an integral part of the success of REBOOT because he relates so well to us.

During our morning sharing session Gary shared how he took a huge step in his life by contacting his ex about his daughter. He hadn’t seen her in a very long time and was very nervous about contacting his ex because they don’t get along. He sent her an email and it took a little more than a day to get a response and as he read the email, which was very negative at first, he remembered what he’d been taught in REBOOT about being positive and by the end of the email his ex said that his daughter talks about him everyday and for him to come see her this weekend. It made me feel emotion welling up in side me because I had put a lot of effort into fostering a relationship between my ex and our daughter but he always made excuses and still does. I could only wish that my daughter’s father would make the effort Gary did. I hope he had a wonderful weekend with her.

Once we got into our lessons for the day we talked about procrastination. This is one of my biggest enemies and I’m sure it’s a lot of other’s too. I have gotten way better about doing things sooner rather than later but it’s so easy to procrastinate. This was a topic of discussion today and everyone was guilty of it. We also talked about letting go of old baggage. It makes sense that living in the past doesn’t help us move toward a better future but sometimes I think I ignore the past a little too much. There are lessons learned there but if they are going to limit my outlook for my future then I can definitely see a reason for letting them go.

When we got into problem solving and the five Ys my table decided to make a little bit of a joke out of it. We asked why someone wouldn’t know how to problem solve and the final answer was because they hadn’t gone to REBOOT. I blame Chris for the silliness but Mike and I enjoyed it. It had been a long week of learning and we couldn’t help ourselves.

A couple of groups problem solved weight issues but came up with different causes and answers. One answer was that it was because of society’s unrealistic expectations and another was because of time management. Another problem revolved around money issues and the result was because we want to support our wants instead of our needs and sequestration was tackled by Kirk’s table. That was an ambitious problem to take on and if I remember correctly the end result was that if it happens it’s because an agreement couldn’t be reached between the president and congress. I’d rather problem solve problem solving. Sequestration is over my head.

We lost our Marines for a little bit when they went to the USO for free food. Everyone was interested in finding out more about the USO’s food program. I looked it up and found out that the USO gives away free groceries from their food closet every Friday to active duty military from 10 a.m. to noon. Andrew and Mo came back empty handed though but didn’t want to talk about it. I am guessing they got there too late. There are so many great programs in San Diego to support our troops but there’s a lot in need so it goes quickly.

We went over putting everything we’ve learned all together to reach our goals and successes then we moved into our week three books. The week three book is twice the size of the last two week’s books so it was a bit intimidating looking at it and the fact we’ve got a week to conquer it. We jumped right into the Meyers Briggs personality assessment. I think it’s amazing a mother and daughter sat down and put this test together and it’s extremely accurate. I’m have an introvert, intuitive, feeling and perception personality or INFP. I think I’m a little more judgement sided though because I love to be organized but bottom line is I’m a dreamer and I’m working to make those dreams come true. This was a very fascinating process for all of to discover our personality types. I’d like to think I’m an extrovert but I know better. I like my solitude.

We have a busy week next week and a lot to learn. I’m looking forward to it but I don’t think there’s going to be as much story sharing as we learn the ins and outs of preparing for the job hunting scene. I hope I can keep my blog as interesting as it has been but no matter what I will do my best to convey all the good things this workshop has to offer.

Day 10: Careers, Money and Zombies

Today was a slightly earlier day for us but as San Diego traffic would have it, some of us were delayed. On the tables were large pink and yellow papers with a big flower outlined on them. It was part of the workbook called “What Color is Your Parachute?’ The purpose of the giant flower was to help us see other career possibilities based on our personality types and the environments we’re attracted to.

Denika, REBOOT’s veteran employment specialist greeted us with a big smile as she introduced herself. She told us that this week is just as important as weeks one and two but we’d be learning from many different facilitators on many different subjects and the days would be longer to fit it all in. She emphasized that if any of us missed too much of this week that those who did would have to repeat the course in order to graduate. I don’t think any of us would be unhappy to repeat the course because we love it but I don’t think our commands would support us being gone another three weeks. Of course some of us soon won’t have commands to answer to anymore, some by the end of this week as matter of fact. Still, that’s three weeks we’d lose setting all the things we’ve learned into action.

Denika is an Air Force veteran just like Martha so they had a moment together because they could relate to each other. Martha is now one of us Navy types so their moment was short lived because we jokingly gave them a hard time about being Air Force. I’ve worked with each of the other services in one capacity or another and there’s always a friendly and sometimes not so friendly rivalry. For us it was friendly.

We took on the big paper flower diagram and started working out sections in the petals. By now each of us has given a solid impression of ourselves to each other but more than that we’ve found out things about ourselves that we didn’t realize. The flower seemed to be working out great in identifying possible careers until we reached the section dealing with the Holland Code. It is designed to help us identify jobs we’d likely be suited for based on a priority of personality environments that we’re attracted to. Almost no one agreed that the jobs they were matched to seemed appropriate based on those environments. I am a writer and I love to be creative but I’m not typically attracted to people like me, I’m more attracted to groups of people that are different from myself. It helps me broaden my horizons. People like me tend to be introverts so I prefer to be around extroverts so I don’t find myself being a hermit. It doesn’t hurt me creatively, I think it helps me actually.

What wouldn’t help me as a writer is a noisy chaotic environment but that is exactly what Paul likes. He wants to own another bar someday because he loves everything about the bar environment. I can’t even imagine trying to write a book or this blog in a bar. I’d be too distracted by all the sounds and people. Mike shared my dislike for noise and crowds and said he has to have virtually no noise in his workspace or he can’t concentrate.

Denika related her story about almost being homeless not that long ago when she lost her job. She focused on the kind of environment she wanted to work in instead of the kind of job she was qualified for. It mattered to her that she had a friendly calm place to work and soon after setting that image in her mind she came across REBOOT. She says it’s a dream to work with the people she works with and that Maurice, one of the founders of REBOOT, considers himself more of a mentor than a boss and that’s inspirational to her. I have gotten the impression that REBOOT is a great place to work because there’s so much positivity flowing from everyone so I know she’s not just saying that. She means it.

Our next project for the day was to write or refine our resumes. I am a writer by trade and writing a resume is a daunting task. I have a federal resume that is a chronological resume four pages long. Now I have to write a functional resume and it is more intimidating to me than writing a military evaluation.

Laurie, a Navy Fleet and Family Support Center representative, facilitated the resume writing section and she was very happy to have an awake group as compared to her morning group at 7:30 a.m. “I felt like I was talking to a bunch of zombies but you guys are wide awake,” she observed. Yes we come to REBOOT eyes wide open to take it all in. The information is too valuable to sleep through and our lively hoods depend on how good or bad our resumes are.

The subject was not cut and dry and a lot of questions were asked. Mo has a very long name and it’s not easily pronounced so he was curious about how it should appear on his resume. After he said his whole very ethnic name in one breath someone jokingly said “Mo!, just go with Mo!” I’m sure he’s very proud of his name from but for simplicities sake he might just go with Mo.

Paul related how one employer pulled him aside after an interview and informed him that he was not selected for the job but that the employer wanted to let him know about something he should change on his resume. He told him that it was kind of scary that he emphasized his weapons qualifications on his resume. This was good information to be shared especially in today’s world with the controversy around guns. Most of us in the military have some kind of weapons qualification and we’re proud of our level of efficiency with those weapons but if we’re applying for a job in a corporation as an engineer or an executive position, weapons qualifications are irrelevant and yes to some, scary. Of course if you’re applying for some kind of security or law enforcement job then by all means, let them know how proficient you are with an M-4 or a 9mm. I’m a sharp shooter with both types of weapons but in my career field it’s not a necessary job skill. I’ll save it for the Zombie Apocalypse.

The next section was of particular interest to me because it’s something I think about everyday. Finances. Two representatives from Merrill Lynch, Charles and David, tag teamed the money issues we all face. Charles was very animated while discussing the best ways to conquer debt and setting up for a secure future. Dave was very quiet and had only a small but important section to discuss.

Charles related financial statistics through asking questions about our financial stats. Only two people in the class are debt free and two others don’t have or use credit cards. Charles used the word consumptive a lot. It made sense because it meant that we as a society consume a lot of ‘things” and most of those “things” we don’t need.

David, our senior Marine, was brave enough to volunteer his debts to be used in an example of debt reduction. If he sticks to Charles plan he’d be debt free in about two years. Charles emphasized that the secret to reducing debt is to make little sacrifices to our “consumptive” lifestyle here and there but don’t go crazy and start living off of cat foot to save money. I don’t think he has to worry about any of us eating cat food.

David, Charles’ counterpart, stepped up to talk about maintaining good credit. In order to establish credit it takes credit cards and loans so it’s good to have them but not good if you max out your credit limit. Why save up for an iPad when you can just buy it on credit right? Even though I know a lot of this information already because I am working to get out of debt, it never hurts to have it reiterated because it’s that important.

We finished up around 4 p.m. so yes the days are a little longer but we learned a ton. Thank goodness I’m writing this blog so I can remember the wealth of information I’ve learned not just share it.

Day 11: Education and Appearances

Today I’m a little extra excited about the topic this morning. EDUCATION! Education is my biggest hurdle next to maintaining dependable employment as a freelance writer. I’m intimidated by higher education, not because I’m unable to learn but because going back into a formal learning environment scares me. Almost everyone in the class has completed more education than I have and I wish I had done more during my career. Now’s my chance to take advantage of education opportunities so no more excuses.

Tina from Alliant International University introduced herself and jokingly apologized because she’s a veteran of the Air Force and knows that we members of other services like to call it the Chair Force. At this point we’re all family, we’re all veterans and all jokes aside I think we respect each other no matter the service. She told us we’re her heros and that she hoped we heard it often from others as well. On this day more than any, she was my hero because she had more information than I could have expected about veterans education benefits. By the end of the brief I felt empowered and hopeful that I could go to school full time and provide for my family.

She went over various scholarships and grants and the benefits of using an education loan when necessary. She emphasized taking as much time if not more than what you would put into buying a car when researching potential schools because it’s an investment in your future.

There was a tremendous amount of information provided but few questions and stories shared because almost everyone was taking it all in and processing how best use all these education benefits to their advantage. Like I said, I was overwhelmed with all the knowledge but excited at the possibility of being able to afford earning my Masters in Communication.

After lunch the ladies separated from the gentlemen for a session on dressing for success. There are five of us in the class so we met up with Lauren, an image consultant to talk about how we can maximize our image and make the best impression possible on potential employers.

Each of us had a different view on what was comfortable for us. Martha’s style is very causal with t-shirts, jeans and boots while Jamelia is the opposite because she loves to dress up with heels and jewelry. Crystal, Virginia and myself are somewhere in between but with little variations. I feel like I”m still evolving a style but I’m enjoying discovering what looks good and is comfortable for me.

Lauren had a stack of photo cards she passed out to us and asked us to judge the people in the photos based on their appearance only. We each gave our impressions and the exercise showed us how we automatically judge others based on how they are dressed. She asked if any of us had been on an airplane and based on a person’s appearance we did or didn’t want them to sit next to us as they are coming down the isle. That made me think about how when I get on an airplane with my two young kids that right away most people are praying I don’t sit next to them. It wouldn’t matter what I was wearing because no one would see me. They’d only see two little kids and the potential nightmare their plane ride might be but yes I have not wanted a person to sit next to me because they looked a certain way.

I liked the way Lauren was dressed with a colorful scarf wrapped loosely around her neck and falling over her black blouse under a black blazer with black slacks. It made the scarf stand out and I liked that. Virginia complimented her on her demeanor and poise and asked if she taught that kind of etiquette. Lauren was blushed a little but said she’s had a lot of practice.

I was curious as to what was going on in the men’s image class and if I had to guess I’d say there’d be jokes between Ted and Jim while they argue over what makes a sharp dressed man because their khakis are going into the closet permanently.

We wrapped up our fashion lesson and gathered back in the classroom to meet with Deputy Under Secretary for Economic Opportunity, Veterans Benefits Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Curtis Coy. He talked about the demand for veterans by employers but that employers are still learning where they need to look for these veterans. The VA is working to improve the employer and veteran link so that veterans can find quality jobs and employers can find quality veterans.

Paul spoke up about how he applied for 470 jobs on USA Jobs but was never called for interviews. The Under Secretary showed concern for the struggles that Paul faced looking for a job but countered with knowing that he has heard the opposite happening to other veterans where they were offered and hired to good jobs. He talked about the changes being made to the VA’s transition assistance program (TAP). He emphasized the importance of REBOOT to help transitioning veterans but TAP is a mandatory program. They both offer something different but equally valuable to servicemembers leaving the military.

I hope that someday the services endorse REBOOT as a highly recommended program in addition to TAP to help those getting out. I’d like to be the one to write the article for the Navy promoting REBOOT.

The last hour of our day was spent learning about the benefits of social media like Facebook and Linked In. Our host was John Walker who had commented on my blog before I got to meet him. I know how important social media is to promoting yourself and any business that wants high visibility today but some in the class weren’t convinced. It’s not easy to expose yourself to the world but if you know what to do and not to do then it’s perfectly safe and a great tool. I’ve had Facebook for a few years and I set up my Linked In about a year ago. I’ve expanded to a fan page on Facebook to share my writing too.

John shared a lot of good information about social media and connecting especially using Linked In. I’m definitely going to take some extra time to learn as much as I can and use it to my advantage.

Day 12: Veterans Benefits and Veterans Jokesters

Today was an important day for all of us. Why? Because of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits brief. Carozio, a veteran and a representative from the VA, shared a ton of valuable information with us. Aside from my military retiree benefits, my VA benefits are the most important benefits after serving in the military. I was eager to learn all I could and by the end of the day Carozio had cleared up some things that were unclear to me.

We went through introductions again. Even though our intros were much shorter one caught Carozio’s attention. Ted, our salty sea daddy veteran, said that he was living in El Centro and Carozio wanted to know how he heard about REBOOT all the way out there. Ted was concerned about his transition just like the rest of us and while doing some research he came across an article by Ronne Froman describing how REBOOT helps veterans with the difficult task of transitioning from military to civilian life.

During the introductions proud Texan, Christopher, had a friendly rivalry with Sean and Paul, both native Californians. I’ve never met a more proud American than a Texan so I don’t blame Christopher for having a little fun. Besides we all want one of his Angus steaks when he has his dream ranch in Texas so we give him leeway.

Something else that came out consistently was that a lot of us want to start our own businesses after working for someone else for so long. Even I’ve considered starting my own business in communications but plan A is attending school full time while freelancing on the side. I have some time to figure it out because I know there’s a lot involved. I wish them the best with their businesses especially Mo because I want to eat a Zombie Burger at his restaurant.

After the introductions were done we got right into discussing our benefits. As Crystal would say “I’m about my money,” because in the end our benefits equal money in our pockets for things we don’t have to pay for. We’ve paid through our service and now we get something very valuable back as long as we know how to get those benefits.

We discussed education, health care, life insurance and burial benefits. Each had it’s own set of rules and having the workbooks outline those rules was very helpful. One program that’s available but everyone agreed is pretty confusing is the Vocational Rehabilitation program. Steve commented that it’s so confusing as to who qualifies for it that he called it verbal judo discouraging veterans from applying because they assume they don’t qualify. It’s a truly valuable program to help retrain veterans for other careers. The benefit is separate from the GI Bill education benefits available but it seems more confusing then the GI Bill. Once we got some more understanding about the programs we had a moment of levity and I caused it.

Carozio wanted to know how to pronounce my name and I told him it’s like Hare Krishna, the Hindu god. He asked what nationality I am and I paused looked down and said “a white person.” The whole class laughed for about a minute and one guy said, “He asked what nationality you are not race.” I know what he was getting at because I’ve been asked many times before. How did I get the name Krishna since I’m obviously not Indian? I explained that my mom was very young, coming out of the hippy age and she liked the song My Sweet Lord by George Harrison of the Beetles where they sing Hare Krishna over and over again. This had to be the funniest response I’ve ever made to the question because I didn’t mean it to sound like that but being of Irish/German decent, I always get asked how I got the name Krishna.

The jokes continued but it was Paul’s turn. The last discussion before lunch was about VA burial benefits. Ted, who likes to make out like Paul is the oldest in the class, joked that we were getting ready to talk about Paul’s benefits. Paul was looking around trying to figure out what was so funny so I picked up my workbook and showed him the page on burial benefits. He gave me a half smile but he got the joke and noted that Ted is about 14 months older than he is. So much love in this group and soon enough Ted was focused on me with his humor.

I met up with a colleague for lunch to talk about what he’s learned about job hunting since he retired in December. I was going into the restaurant when I heard my name called loudly from the parking lot. I saw Ted and Dave heading into the restaurant next door as I waved to acknowledge them. Apparently my wave wasn’t good enough and they gave me a hard time when I came back to class. They joked that I had a date at lunch and they busted me as I was trying to sneak in the restaurant with my sunglasses on to hide my identity. They made me sound like an actress trying to avoid the paparazzi. I was enjoying their attention and I told them I was going to miss them and their silliness. It has added a level of lightness to what is a very serious process of learning for us.

I can honestly say that I will miss my classmates because we’ve gotten along really well and the humor and jokes are all part of the happiness we’ve all felt going through REBOOT.

Day 13: Interviews and a Late Lunch

I’ve haven’t even made it past understanding how to write a good resume and now I have to learn how to conduct myself during an interview. Yes I’m a writer but resumes are one of those documents that has to use specific words and formatting that gets you noticed from a pile of hundreds of resumes and what might look good to me could look like a joke to a potential employer. So if I’m lucky enough to get picked because my resume conveyed how spectacular I am, I have to make it through a phone interview and then a face to face interview. If you ask me, it’s sounds like I’ll have a lot of chances to blow it.

Have you ever seen the movie Never Ending Story? The hero, Atreyu has to get through one obstacle after another to save the kingdom of Fantasia only to watch his hard work get destroyed by The Nothing. The good thing about the story is that when all seems hopeless the child reading the story, Bastian gets to recreate the world of Fantasia and make it greater than it was before. That’s what I’m hoping comes from any failure I might, or as statistics might have it will encounter, a new beginning with a greater than imagined outcome.

In class today we had a wonderful guide who not only inspired us with the information she provided about successful interviewing techniques but impressed us with her dedication to veterans. Her name is Kelly and she’s a beautiful and articulate woman with a great sense of humor. Right away I thought she’s going to fit right in with our class of jokesters. She asked how many of us were ready for our first job interview and there were not a lot of confident responses. It was obvious we needed and wanted to learn how to give a great interview. Before we got into the nitty gritty we went through introducing ourselves. Yes more intros but it’s to be expected since we have had so many different presenters and each one wants to know a little about us.

Carlos beat Ted to the first joke of the class by saying, “Hi I’m Carlos and I’m an alcoholic.” We all responded with “Hi Carlos!” Kelly laughed at the slight sarcasm from Carlos at the repeated introductions we’ve made this week but she let us know that she works with alcoholics too and is willing to help if needed. She is dedicated to helping others and is working on her doctorate to better provide care to veterans suffering from spinal injuries too. With everything she dedicates herself to, it means even more to me that she is here sharing her knowledge with us.

When it was Ted’s turn he said that he knew her from Spain. They went back and forth for a minute talking about Spain and their time there and agreed that it’s small world. Yes and military service can make it an even smaller world. Once I ran into and Army officer in Bahrain that I had worked with in Afghanistan two years earlier. Small world indeed.

When Jim talked about being called Agent Gibbs from NCIS, Ted jumped in and told Kelly “Look at him, he’s Agent Gibbs!” Everyone laughed and Jim just shook his head. Get over it Jim, you’ll forever be remembered as Agent Gibbs by this class.

In learning interview techniques I was surprised to learn it would be acceptable to delay talking with an interviewer when they call in order to prepare for the phone interview. Basically if a potential employer calls at an inopportune time like if you’re driving then ask them if they can set a time to call back. That way you can get prepared by bringing up the job description and make sure you know exactly what company you’re interviewing with. It sounds like it’s easy to get confused if you’ve submitted multiple applications and resumes in your hunt for a job.

Kelly in her straight forward manner, asked, “What do you have to offer my company?” Almost everyone struggled to give a specific answer. She emphasized that it’s important to know the company’s mission statement so you can answer a question like this without stumbling. Even if an employer wouldn’t ask this question, it makes for good practice.

When Kelly got around to me she paused and asked how to say my name. I told her it’s like Hare Krishna but I asked her not to ask me how I got the name for fear of putting my foot in my mouth again. She respectfully moved on and I felt a sense of relief. I love my name but sometimes explaining how I got an Indian name is a pain. I’m Irish and German with some Native American and Cajun mixed in so I definitely don’t look Indian and it almost always sparks the question.

We broke up into groups of 3 or 4 and practiced interviewing for a position as an assistant to a demanding boss. I liked the challenge of pretending to be the boss from the Devil Wears Prada and asking Christopher why I should hire him with my best uppity attitude. When the tables were switched I had to prove to him I was qualified to help him run his Angus beef ranch. I guess I did ok because he hired me by the end of the interview. Others weren’t so impressed and said I used a lot of uh-ms. I didn’t even realize it. Back to the drawing board.

We all did pretty well but no one got away without a criticism or two. Jamelia defended Joe when Mike criticized his delivery. She thought he was well spoken and made her want to hear more. More than just Mike criticized what Joe said. I think Joe has a strong commanding voice so that alone attracts a listener. Interviews are meant to be tough right?

Almost every day I’ve gone to lunch with Crystal and Martha. Even though I shouldn’t be eating out every day for a number of reasons, I enjoy their company and it’s worth it to me. Today we went to Island Burger because Martha was in the mood. We had a great lunch but on the way back we got a little lost and were running late. I got a call from Dietrice at the REBOOT office looking for me. She sounded irritated with me for running late and told me that some media folks were there waiting to talk to me. Uh oh.

We walked in two minutes later and she had no mercy on me about being late and I didn’t make excuses I just took my medicine and went on to class. The media had left but they were there to meet with Maurice and he provided me the information. It’s never good to make the ones who are trying to promote you look bad but it wasn’t my intention. This organization is top notch and I hope I can help promote them too.

It all worked out and I now have an opportunity to share this blog on a media site. Thanks Maurice! Perhaps if this connection leads to another and another I won’t have to interview for a job. If I could be so lucky.

Day 14: More Resumes and Graduation Tears

Today is the last day of REBOOT for class 43. Some of us are glad to be moving on getting to work on that vision board we created and turn it into reality. Others of us are sad because we’ve found this to be one of the most inspirational experiences of our lives. We started off the day a little earlier than usual and even more sharply dressed. Compliments were not in short supply. There was a sense of pride being shared between us because our journey together instilled a sense of confidence not easily hidden. Now we had to finish up our last lessons of the workshop and figure out how to summarize three weeks in 30 seconds at graduation.

Dennis, our guide on writing a federal resume was ready to go with the first lesson but first we had to go through introductions….again. With our introductions he asked us for something a little different than everyone else. What kind of animal we choose would be? Almost everyone had a different answer. I said I’d be a wolf because they are very social animals and live in packs. I’ve always thought of them as majestic and intelligent. I think most everyone liked Mo’s answer the best though because he would choose to be a badger. He admired their tenacity as an apex predator saying they have no natural predators except man and can kill a bear. I’m not sure if the bear killing part is true but I definitely know they are tough ombre.

Ahhhh federal resume writing. I’ve already tried to tackle this beast and it is more tenacious than a badger. It’s like taking parts from my evaluations and stacking them by year to summarize my experience except I have to make sure that key words are in there to get attention from a computer scanning it for matching qualifications. A friend tried to help and after investing hours into creating it, I didn’t think it was up to par but a position I was interested in was closing soon so I sent it on anyway. I definitely need to learn more about the government hiring process though because I didn’t make it past the computer. Boo hoo.

While learning about federal resumes we would leave for mock interviews with real employers from the community. I had the added pressure of doing my interview with a video camera taping me. I might be featured in a reality tv pilot on transitioning veterans so I had to be in front of the camera instead of behind it where I’m used to being. The interview went fine and I left my resume with the interviewer and thanked him for his time. He was an actual employer who helps REBOOT conduct mock interviews but gets the added benefit of meeting potential hires. He didn’t have anything for an aspiring writer or communicator.

On my way back to class I stopped and talked with Denika. One of the things I’ve liked most about REBOOT is the staff because they genuinely care. Denika and I talked about how busy we are as working mothers and that I usually can’t sit down to write my blog until after 8 p.m. when the kids are off to bed. I’ve sacrificed sleep but I wanted to commit myself to writing this blog as a way to be serious about establishing myself as a writer.

Later I got a chance to talk with Dietrice about our common love for creative arts. Getting more personal I talked to her about the challenges I’ve had raising my nephew. She gave me some advice that more than made sense to me. She has worked with inner city kids helping them overcome some of the hardships they have faced and she gave me a great idea to help me bond with my nephew. I told her he makes up crazy stories and has had his teachers contacting me with great concern because they thought his stories were real. Dietrice said “You’re both story tellers and maybe you could have him write his stories down and you can blog about them.” I hadn’t thought of it that way but she’s right so I’m going to try it. Before I left to get ready for graduation she assured me that I now have a wonderful support network and if I need anything, like advice on my hyper and creative nephew, to give her a call.

To add a little more inspiration to the day, one of REBOOT’s previous graduates stopped by to share his success story. His name is Ashley and he recently landed his dream job with a local company. He talked about how during his transition he and his wife had to consider moving because he wasn’t getting the response he thought he should be getting based on his extensive experience in the military. He kept pushing through the barriers and ended up with two offers from separate companies competing for him. He said the average time for a veteran to find a job is six months and luckily he found his about one month after separation. Ultimately we’d all like to have jobs to walk into but a lot of times that is not the case. The one common message we’ve been taught in REBOOT is to be persistent and not give up. I pray none of us gives up.

Prior to the graduation we met our guest speaker, Mr. John Rixey Moore. He’s an actor but more than that he’s a Vietnam veteran and his story is amazing. He was a Green Beret in the Army and after almost dying during a mission he ended up back home in London with his family. Later he moved to Ireland for work but his injury from Vietnam was hindering his ability to work so he moved on and ended up staying at a monastery recovering from his injury. Soon he moved on to Canada for a job in a mine and finally he realized he wanted to live his life’s dream in the performing arts and like he said, the rest is history. He certainly had Mo’s attention but we were all impressed with the level of adventure this man has experienced in his life.

Now it’s graduation time!

We gathered in the lobby for the ceremony and to have our group photo taken. I’ve seen the graduation photos on REBOOT’s website and Facebook page and now we were going to get ours. I can’t wait to see the photos when they get posted on Facebook. I wish we had a group photo from our first day just so we can see the difference. I am sure our transformation is visible and it would be great to have a before shot.

The ceremony started off with an amazing voice. I couldn’t see who was singing the National Anthem but her voice reverberated off the tall high ceiling and sounded incredible. Amazing is all I can say about the performance. Jamelia did a wonderful job as the Master of Ceremonies and seemed very natural as she introduced each of us before we approached the podium. Everyone had something different to say and some made us choke up with tears and emotion. Gary’s speech especially touched me because he shared his story about his daughter and making the effort to have a relationship with her despite the difficulties he faces with her mother. He thanked REBOOT for helping him realize he has the power to make his dreams come true.

When it was my turn I almost choked on my words because of the emotion I felt. One common message each of us shared was that we had REBOOT to thank for opening our minds to our potential and ability to succeed. I told my fellow classmates that I’m sure they’re glad they won’t have to deal with me putting the camera in their faces every day but they’ll thank me for capturing this experience as it happened. I will be grateful myself and when I need a boost of inspiration I can go back and read my blog and remember I’m not alone. I told them I will miss them but in today’s age of communication, it shouldn’t be hard to keep in touch.

The one thing I didn’t do was thank the REBOOT staff individually. They were instrumental to the success of all the information provided over the last three weeks. Almost everyone thanked Joseph Almond in particular because he didn’t just teach us about thinking differently, he inspired us. He is a great story teller and engaged each of us, getting us to open up about our challenges and what we want for our futures. He received a lot of hugs at the graduation because he deserved them. He’s changing veterans lives and it means more than I think he can possibly imagine.

Ronne and Maurice were also given particular attention because they created this more than beneficial program. They deserve to have this program fully financed and supported in whatever capacity they can find. The reputation of REBOOT is reaching more and more people every day and I believe that one day someone will see the value this workshop provides and make an executive decision to finance it whole heartedly. I think it is super important to convey the emotion behind the changes being made in the hearts and minds of veterans. I hope this blog has helped to do that. Thank you REBOOT for being the platform from which we veterans are launching ourselves into bright futures.

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