Creativity and Business

I always like reading business books and articles to see what else I can learn about business and apply it to my writing.  Sometimes I run across a quote that makes me stop and go, “Wow.”

This one comes from Always In Fashion: From Clerk to CEO — Lessons for Success in Business and in Life: From Clerk to CEO — Lessons for Success in Business and in Life by Mark Weber

Creativity without knowledge and business skills is very limiting.  Learn as much as you can about every aspect of the business and the industry you’re in.

Very appropriate, even for writers. 

And it’s a fascinating book to read.

I’m a size 12 or large or a medium or a small or an extra small

I’ve been trying to buy a few clothes for the cruise coming up, and also because the weather is starting to change. I don’t think tank tops will work really well when the temperature starts to drop.

Anyway, one of the things I’ve been looking for is cocktail pants (which I kept typing as cocktail paints.  Hmm.  Maybe a title for a story?).  There are are two formal events on the cruise, and I really don’t do dresses.  Pants would be something I could use elsewhere, but a dress would likely stay in the closet.

Plus, with my flat feet, I can’t wear certain types of shoes—which is pretty much all women’s shoes.

Well, I still could, but I would be hobbling around within about five minutes of putting them on. I hated the Army pumps we had to wear with the class A’s—I was in so much pain that an officer growled at me that I was a disgrace to the uniform (well, yeah, you try jamming the widest part of your foot into a point).

So I’m hoping the pants will hide the shoes, and the cruise staff won’t turn me away for footwear. It’d be one of these:

A pair of black tennis shoes and a pair of sandals.
My “formal wear” shoes. These both are made by the same company, for flat feet. The shoe salesman (a retired podiatrist) said that there’s very little for flat feet that looks good.

Anyway, Macy’s had three different cocktail pants on their website, but no one in the store knew what I was talking about. I did find four shirts, all in medium, that will be good for the fall. I can use two of them for the evening dining.

Four long sleeved shirts: Purple and black in back, pinkish orange and blue in front
The one on the left is an orangish-pink. I kept looking at it and saying, “No, I don’t look good in orange” (like pumpkin orange). But I was drawn to the color, so I tried it on and was happy with how it looked. The purple and black would be for the cruise.

I also found a sleeveless sweater I liked. Tried on the medium. Too big. Tried on the small. Too big. Tried on the extra small. Just right.

I’m guessing I’m going to order the pants online from the store, but as you can see, I have reasons to be wary.

Store #2 was one of those ones that gets brands after they’re out of season, so really cheap. They had Calvin Klein evening wear that was dressy pants. However, it was part of what was a maxi dress style, so one piece, and it was clearly designed for a woman who was five inches taller than me. The crotch of the pants was down around my knees, and the hems still pooled around my ankles. I wasn’t even sure I could get it altered in a way where I could wear it.

So I looked at some cocktail dresses. I picked black, tried those on. None of them fit well—they all seemed to be designed for someone who is shaped like a stick, and I’m definitely not stick-shaped!

That’s one of the things I don’t like about buying clothes. There’s no standard for women’s sizes, so the companies all go for vanity sizes. That means it varies from brand to brand, with everyone competing for increasingly smaller numbers that make people feel good but don’t mean anything.

I just want clothes that fit with guessing at the sizes!  Is that too hard to ask for?

And done: I bought the pants online. They were on sale, and a really good deal on the sale, so I pulled the plug on them. Keeping my fingers crossed. Wearing white’s kind of scary, too.

Daily Life in the Military: Morning Cleanup

After breakfast, we returned to the barracks to shower and change for the workday. For the female soldiers, we had our own section of the building, and later, after we moved, our own building. During the time after PT, men were not allowed in the barracks at all. It was kind of an unspoken rule, because all the women were getting changed. It wasn’t like we had private bathrooms in our rooms; women were going down to the showers in various states of undress.

We did have one time where one of the male sergeants tried to get in. He was up to no good, and I happened to be the one who stopped him outside and told him, “You know you’re not supposed to be here now.”  He slunk off, and I reported it to my squad leader.

It was a lot of bustling of activity during that 90 minutes. When we had our own barracks, it was something like twenty women sharing three showers, sinks, and toilets. No privacy – the shower was an open bay with three showerheads and an older style floor that always smelled like mildew. We had to wear flip flips – we called them shower shoes – because the floor would give us athlete’s foot.

After showers, it was off to get dressed. The uniform was typically the BDU—Battle Dress Uniforms. That’s the older style green camouflage ones, called woodland camouflage. The uniform was a set standard for the time of the year, so we couldn’t change it up any like wear a field jacket because it was chilly that day. We could change up the boots a little and instead of wearing issue boots, wearing jump boots (wide toe and very stiff sole) or jungle boots (green canvas sides). We could also use a polyester/wool blend sock instead of the issued wool sock (very scratchy), green, of course. Everything else was standard, though.

The hair for the women then was always a challenge. Then we just had to keep our hair off the collar with a rubber band or barrette that was similar to our hair color. I have really thick hair, so it was always hard to put up my hair. Initially, I tried cutting it short, but that’s surprisingly high maintenance. I had to be really on-time getting it cut, and there was a point where if it got just long enough, I was in violation of the regulations but it was also too short to put up.

What I ended up doing was put it in a pony tail or a French braid. Then I folded it up, then folded it down and put a barrette on it. That wasn’t the far off from what the other women were doing. My roommate had hair down to her butt, and she braided it and folded it up, too.

There were women there who would use every minute of that 90 minutes to get dressed and do their hair. I was like ten minutes, and then I could chill out for a while before doing any clean up.

Cleaning had to be done every morning. Two areas needed cleaning: The bathroom and the hallway. One of the women made up a rotating schedule, so everyone got it every few weeks. One of the women typically volunteered to come up with a roster of assignments for the week, so we could go two weeks without cleaning the common areas, the bathroom and the hallway. We still had to do our rooms as well, though.

The hallway consisted of stripping down the floor (usually on the weekend), and then waxing it. After that, sweeping with a mustache broom and then a quick buff. Sometimes we had to go chasing after the buffer – the guys would sneak in and steal it.   The buffer was quite heavy, had bike handles, and was like a bucking bronco – tough to control.

The bathroom was cleaning the floors, cleaning the showers, dumping pine oil in the toilets, cleaning the sinks. If I did it, I dumped bleach on that floor so it smelled clean.

Then we had to clean up our individual rooms. Sometimes that was buffing the floor, but it was also sweeping up, cleaning out the seal on the refrigerator, making the bed, etc. I was never very good at cleaning. The Army wanted us to learn attention to detail by cleaning, but I was terrible with details. Where the first sergeant would bark about cleaning the cracks in the seal on the fridge and expect us to pick up details like that, I simply added “crack in seal” to my mental blackboard of things the first sergeant wanted me to look for. For me, it never translated into how to look for other details like that.

About once every week or two, the first sergeant would make random inspections during the day, checking for cleanliness, so the rooms always had to be pristine.  When I got out of the Army, I practically exploded with junkiness! Staying that obsessively neat was too much for right-brained creative me!

At 15 minutes to 9:00, it was off for another formation.

Waking up, Military Style

The image everyone probably has of the army waking up in the morning is what you see in the movies.

Drill Sergeant flips on the lights to an open barracks of bunk bears. He marches down the middle, banging an aluminum trash and scream for the soldiers to wake up. Maybe upending a soldier’s mattress and dumping him on the floor.

That’s basic training and the job training that follows.

Though I was in a women’s class, and we just had the lights and screaming. No trashcans. Can’t speak for what the guys had.

But it’s different for the regular army.

We had to be out for physical training formation ten minutes prior to 6:30 a.m., dressed in the proper uniform for designated time of the year. Right now, at Fort Lewis, we’d be in shorts and t-shirts and probably would still be freezing.

The time that we actually woke up was not important as long as we could be out there by the ten minutes prior. Usually there would be one who would get up at like 5:30. First, I’d hear the alarm going off down the hall, behind a closed door. Then a door slamming. Muted light coming from the crack under my door, from what was coming out of the bathroom down the hall. No one turned on the hall light yet.

Then at 6:00, that was when the rest of the alarms went off. The hallway light came on. Lots of banging of doors. Grumbling, too.

At the time, the women didn’t have to put up their hair for physical training. I just put mine in a ponytail and done. The African-American women usually tried to hide the night’s hair because their hair texture required more time than they had before formation.

They hated when we went to shorts. No more watch cap to hide the hair!

Then we stumbled outside and tried to look awake.

10 Quirky Things About Me

This was inspired by a post from Patty over on Homemaker’s Daily.

  1. If I wake up and look at the clock to check the time, I’m awake — a problem if it’s too early. So if I wake up, I’ve been working on breaking the habit of glancing at the clock.
  2. It doesn’t matter to me what way the toilet paper is installed. I’m lucky to get it on the roll.
  3. I’m not drawn to music. I can listen to it, but I don’t go out of my way to listen to it. I do own CDs, but I play them very little.  I think this is because when I was growing up, my brother and father got into music wars (classical and disco), and then in the military, some of the soldiers would just crank it. The result is I associate music with LOUD and ANNOYING, not pleasant. It isn’t helped by walking into restaurants where the music is playing loud and the employees don’t see that as odd.
  4. I don’t drink any alcohol. Yeah, I got out of the military without drinking a single beer or glass of wine or hard liquor. I’ll cook with it, but the taste of it by itself doesn’t do anything for me.
  5. My writing clothes are tank tops and shorts.   No matter the weather.
  6. I’ve been known to wear tank tops in the middle of winter in Virginia. It’s a California-thing.
  7. I hang my clothes up with the collar opening facing to the left. That’s a habit left over from the military. However, the clothes are in no particular order, and sometimes they’re inside out.
  8. Contrary to other women, I don’t have a closet-full of shoes. I own two pairs of sport stories, one pair of hiking boots, and one pair of sandals. No high heels. I wouldn’t mind other shoes, but my flat feet have other ideas entirely.
  9. The least amount of shoes I have ever owned at once is one pair. I have wide feet, and most place don’t sell that. I usually have to buy up two sizes. One year, I simply couldn’t find anything, so I got what was available (men’s shoes!).
  10. I like reading fantasy, science fiction, mystery, thriller, YA, and sometimes literary. Really depends on the story.

Desert Storm: The Calm in the Eye of the Deployment Hurricane

You know how a room is noisy and then suddenly it gets really quiet, like all the noise dropped away all at once?  It was like that once we packed up all of our equipment and then sent it off to Saudi Arabia.  Suddenly that chaos of trying to make all the deployment parts fit together was done and we had nothing left to do except stare at each other and think about about what was coming.

The company commander tried to give us all days off — we’d come in and report for duty, and then he’d release us.  He thought everyone should have as much time with the families as possible before they marched off to war.  But the battalion nixed that, so we got half-days instead.  Still had to come in, do absolutely nothing, and then go home.

Deployment Hair for Women

My hair is really thick and heavy.  It always made it a challenge to put my hair above the collar, which was a requirement for the military uniform.  I’d buy the standard barettes from the post exchange, use them once in my hair, and they’d break under the weight.  It was always a balancing act trying to get my hair to stay up, and I usually ending up fixing it during the date when gravity finally won.

Since I wasn’t sure what the hair situation would be like once I got over there, I decided I would get it cut.  I went to one of those chain hair cut places and instructed them to “Cut the curl out.”  That made for a very short hair cut.

When I came back for formation the next day, one of the male officers was very impressed at my “High Speed Saudi Haircut.”  High Speed is Army jargon for “cool.”

Still No Date for Deployment

On a Desert Storm message board I’m on, one of the veterans said that his commanding officer came out to formation and announced the deployment date to the soldiers.  We had packed up all our trucks, all our supplies, all our personal gear, and we still didn’t know exactly when we would be deploying.

We just knew we were.

I remember calling my grandmother from the payphone on the second floor (no cell phones in those days) and telling her, “We’re going.  We’re going.”

At the time, she seemed more of a safe haven person to talk to than my parents did.

Nothing I did seemed to make any difference.

The Woman in Turquoise

Today’s The Daily Post poses the following question:

Sherlock Holmes had his pipe. Dorothy had her red shoes. Batman had his Batmobile. If we asked your friends what object they most immediately associate with you, what would they answer?

For me, it’s not an object.  It’s a color.  I’m visual spatial, and I’m immediately drawn to color. In fact, specifically to turquoise.  So much so that particular color keeps materializing in my wardrobe.  I’ll sort through my closet and realize that I have a whole lot of turquoise.


Me with the cowbell
Moo!  This was at a writer’s conference last year.

Turquoise is a uniquely summer color.  It’s the color of swimming pools opening for the season, clear blue and cool, ready to jump into.  It’s the color of exotic beaches where you can just sit and absorb the beauty.  Wouldn’t you love to go this beach and stare at this water?

I used to go to science fiction cons and wear a con-type t-shirt, especially after I got stopped at one because I didn’t look like an attendee (guess what color I was wearing!).  But those t-shirts are really for men and don’t fit well, and besides, they’re  — well, black.  Black’s kind of boring, and everyone else is wearing it.  I thought I might as well be me.

So what should I wear?  The turquoise shirt, the turquoise shirt, or the turquoise shirt?

Decisions, decisions.


The latest off the army fashion runway: New Camoflage

The army announced this weekend that it was changing the current Universal Camouflage uniform (which apparently wasn’t).  It’s actually taking a retro direction, using a woodland pattern like the one I wore when I in the army.

These are ones I wore when I was in the army:

The army changed the uniform from the woodland camouflage I wore to a universal camouflage that was supposed to blend in everywhere, but didn’t.

Why is a new military uniform a big deal to the soldier?

For the individual soldier, like the lower enlisted, it’s what they wear every day.  Unlike on Star Trek: The Next Generation, they don’t get to choose a different type of uniform to wear.  Captain Picard would periodically turn up in a different uniform (supposedly because the actor got tired of wearing the same uniform all the time.  Hmm.  Must be nice.  We sure couldn’t do that!).

When I was in, we were initially issued four uniforms that consisted of:

  1. Woodland camouflage pants
  2. Woodland camouflage shirt
  3. Brown cotton t-shirt
  4. Green wool socks
  5. Woodland camouflage field jacket
  6. Woodland camouflage ball hat
  7. Leather boots

After that, we were given a yearly clothing allowance to replace items as they wore out, on in the case of socks, got eaten by the sock monster in the washing machine.  The brown t-shirts tended to get stretched out, and the camouflage uniform parts got threadbare from so much use.  They were all worn at least five days a week, and during Desert Storm, seven days a week.

The problem with #1 and #2 was that if you tore the knee of the pants, you had to replace the entire set, not just the pants.  The washing of the uniform caused it to fade, so you couldn’t wear a faded shirt and new, darker pants.  Everything had to match.

So it can get expensive for the soldier.  But at the same time, it’s something that was worn on a regular basis, so if something didn’t work right, it was a frustrating experience — and only a daily basis.  That was the case with the black beret.

When the military uniform doesn’t work

In 2000, right before I got out, General Shinseki decided to change the ball hat to a black beret.  If the name sounds familiar, it’s the same guy who’s in charge in the Veteran’s Administration now.

Most of the soldiers hated the beret because it wasn’t very practical.  The ball cap was easy to put on, and when you took it off, you could fold it in thirds and stick it in your cargo pocket.  It also was made of the same material as the rest of the uniform, so it could be thrown in the washing machine.

The beret, though, was wool and had a hard band around the rim.  It was hard to put on and get positioned right, and it didn’t really work well being stuffed in a pocket.  Then there’s pesky problem about it needing dry cleaning.  Do you know hot and sweaty a hat can get?

It was like senior officers got all excited about making changes and forgot that people actually had to wear it in environments where it was impractical.

So why is a uniform change important to the leadership?

Changes to the uniform usually happen when the very senior leaders want to make their mark on the military.  A uniform change is a very simple, but very visible change because everyone can see it.

Unfortunately, the senior leaders usually make the change right before they retire, so they can have the glory of the change, but not deal with the problems the change causes.  I almost think this is a requirement for the officers to do — both my company commander and battalion commander volunteered my unit for extra duties in Desert Storm right before they changed command!

Sometimes it’s easy to fix something that isn’t broken and ending up breaking it instead.

the Practicality of the army uniform

A to Z Challenge Badge
A to Z Challenge Participant

The Army is ruthlessly practical when it comes to the uniform:

  1. The expandable cargo pocket is big enough for a soldier to put an MRE in it. Or a paperback book, in my case! There are priorities.
  2. The fly uses buttons instead of a zipper. Zippers break and then the pants have to be sent out for repair. But a button can be fixed with a needle and thread in a few minutes.
  3. Lots and lots of pockets for putting anything and everything inside. On the pants, there are two cargo pockets, 2 front pockets, and 2 back pockets. On the shirt, there are four more pockets.
  4. The pants tuck into the boots. That means no hem alterations. That was probably a good thing since the uniform was way too big on me. I could cover my feet entirely with the hems and still have cloth left over.
  5. Long sleeves, which were loose enough to be worn down in winter or rolled up during the summer. No need to have a short sleeve version and a long sleeve version when one would work.
  6. A t-shirt worn under the shirt. During the Civil War era, women used detachable collars and under sleeves to keep the dress from wearing out. The t-shirt serves the same purpose.
  7. Washable in the washing machine. Granted, I usually sent it out and had it starched — so much easier than me spending time to do it (and technically, it wasn’t supposed to be starched, but everyone always expected creases).

It’s quite different from buying clothes at the store. I find clothes that are “hand wash only,” or “dry clean only.” Or, like a sweater I have, I have to detach the fur collar before I can wash it. But a soldier may have very little choice about what how she gets the uniform cleaned.

Next up will be “living Quarters in desert storm” so tune in, same military channel, same military time tomorrow.

Seasonal Changing of the Military Uniform

In an area where the seasons change, the military uniforms change with the seasons.  But it’s not like the soldier looks out the window and decides to put on a field jacket today because it’s cold or rolls up her uniform sleeves because it’s warm out.  Every change in the uniform was directed, so everyone looks alike.

We wore Battle Dress Uniforms (BDU) for our regular work.  Every morning, we’d have a formation where the First Sergeant or Company Commander put out information.  When the post commander decided it was time to roll up our sleeves for summer, it would be sent down to all the commanders.  On the specified day, our first sergeant would tell us to roll up our sleeves.  Then we would all jump to getting them rolled up and helping anyone who was having trouble.  After that, we reported to work every day in sleeves rolled up until some point during the fall when the post commander decided we should roll down our sleeves again and the whole process repeated itself.

The same thing applied when we went to Desert Storm.  We had both the BDUs and the Desert Camouflage Uniforms (DCU), but because supplies were low from the mass build up, we were only able to get two DCUs.  So our first sergeant picked two days that we would wear the DCUs and the rest were BDUs.  The only exception was this one sergeant who was unable to get any DCUs.  He was very tall, and they didn’t have any in his size, so he just wore BDUs and stood out in green in formation!