The Cold Hard Truth About Veteran’s Day

8 years ago, I enlisted in the Air Force

I was 21 years old, and this was one of the biggest decisions of my life.

Amanda Sue in BDU's
Taken in a photo booth at the Lackland Air Force Base BX – Tech School 2007

During the enlisting process, I was told a lot of things by my recruiter. Some one could probably make a Tumblr page of crap recruiters say… cause there’s a lot of it. “You’ll see the world” is a big one.

Well. I was born in New Mexico. I was living in Texas at the time. My basic training was in Texas. My tech school was in Texas. And my first/only  base was in New Mexico. I didn’t get very far on that traveling gig.

I went in with every intention of being a lifer. I’m sure a lot of us did. Some didn’t make it through basic, due to health concerns. Some didn’t make it past tech school, because they just couldn’t make the grade. Some were removed for behavioral issues. But most of us made it to our first base.

They say that first base makes all the difference. I think it’s more than the base. I think it’s the squadron.

Every year, they talk about the suicide rate in the military… and in the Veterans. Today is Veteran’s Day, and this issue is still being discussed.

I have first hand experience with why the suicide rate is so high. It’s not for lack of briefings, although that’s the first thing they ask when something happens… “do we need more briefings?” Gosh no. There’s a briefing every other month on something. Maybe it’s suicide prevention, maybe it’s sensitivity training, maybe it’s sexual assault prevention… but there’s always a briefing.

The problem is that no one takes them seriously. People walk out of the assault briefings, and turn to their buddies, purple nurple them and say “nice rack bro…  hahaha it’s not assault cause you’re not a chick… chicks get offended too easily.” They walk out of suicide prevention and say things like “if you’re such a candy ass that you’re gonna threaten to kill yourself, do us a favor and just do it already.”

The military spends so much time hardening their people, and then wonders why so many of them are cruel. There’s a fine line between tough, and mean. And too many in the military cross it.

I was going through a terrible time. My ex-husband was abusive, so I got divorced. My daughter wasn’t living with me. I had no friends, and no family nearby. Before we got divorced my ex husband spent all of my money putting a down payment on a car, which he then totaled. So I had no vehicle either.

Amanda Sue in dress blues
Me in my dress blues uniform

My world was crashing in around me, and I wasn’t getting any sleep. Insomnia makes everything seem worse… so they tried to put me on sleep meds. Apparently sleep meds can mess with your head too. I was up at work, drawing lines on my arm with a pair of scissors. One of my supervisors walked by and saw me. Now at this point, I should clarify… I wasn’t suicidal, but I had every right to be, and the evidence was very compelling.

Rather than following procedure, which would have been to have a chat with me, and evaluate whether I should be put in a psych hold for my own safety… he squinted his eyes and said “whoa… you probably shouldn’t do that at the front desk.”

The meds were making me so loopy that I told my boyfriend about it. His response was more like a sane, normal human being… “you were doing what?! That’s not normal… you should probably stop taking them.”

So I did… I stopped taking them, and when my head cleared, I realized how scary that really was, and I called my doctor to tell them I wouldn’t be taking those anymore.

Everyone at my shop knew what I was going through. No one reached out to see how they could help. No one offered to sit and have coffee with me. At one point I was even sick, and put on quarters (basically you’re restricted to being at home, unless you need food, or to go to the hospital), and no one checked on me to see how I was doing.

The only people who checked on me, weren’t in my squadron. And they couldn’t figure out why my squadron was so terrible.

When I separated from the military, several people who knew me said that if I’d been in any other squadron, I might have felt differently about leaving. And it’s probably true… I sang in over a dozen on and off base events during my term. One sergeant from another squadron looked over my paperwork, and when he saw what I’d been graded on my last performance evaluation, he said “If the only thing I knew about you, was that you’d sang in 2 retirement ceremonies, I’d know this grade is wrong. Because they don’t ask dirtbag Airmen to sing for retirement ceremonies.”

But I had. I’d sang in retirement ceremonies, 2 3rd of July celebrations (yes 3rd.. they leave the 4th open for families to be together), 1 change of command ceremony, 1 squadron merger ceremony, 1 volunteer appreciation ceremony, and an assortment of sporting events.

Amanda Sue sings for Raptor Rumble
Me singing the National Anthem for our first on base boxing match

But the problem isn’t specific to that squadron. Yes other squadrons may have treated me better, but that attitude is pervasive in the military, not just my squadron, not just the Air Force.

And then our men come home, and things aren’t what they were promised to be either. You’re told “we’re your new family, we’re going to take such good care of you.” And then you get out, and it’s months before you have your appointment with the VA. Sometimes it’s over a year.

You get out, and all the jobs that you were told would be thrown at you by the virtue of you being a Veteran, now don’t want to hire you because your experience is more than they’re willing to pay for. My husband got out of the military, with 6 years of mechanic experience, and was on unemployment for over a year, because no one wanted to pay for it.

Life is hard for a Veteran. And we try not to be angry or bitter about it, because we didn’t serve for the benefits. But it’s heartbreaking to see how some of us are treated. And as annoying as it was to be on unemployment for so long, and to be waiting for our VA appointments for so long, I’m even more concerned for the Veterans who came home with a piece of them still overseas.

Amanda Sue & Phillip
Phillip & I on our wedding day – 2009

The good news, is that my story ends well. I’m happily married, with 5 beautiful children, and a business that I love. But today, I want to point out that unfortunately that’s not always the case. Many, many Veterans are stuck in crappy, thankless jobs. Or they’re disabled beyond the point of having a job. Many more are homeless. I can’t pass by homeless men now, without wondering if they were once a proud soldier.

I’d like to encourage you to look in your local area and see if there are any Veteran non-profits that you can help out with. There are ones that rescue shelter dogs and train them (alongside the Veterans) to be service dogs for Veterans with PTSD. There are art therapists, music therapists, dance therapists… someday I’d love to team up with my horse-crazy sister, and bring equine therapy to my local region.

I leave you with this video… the last part is a song that’s very special to me, and the first part is a little bit of the story on why it’s so special. Please enjoy!

Family Traditions: Sopa San Antonio

I’d like to preface this with a few qualifications. I’ve never posted a recipe on here, although I’ve wanted to for some time. So if you enjoy this, please let me know in the comments. Also, I’m not a food photographer or a professional photographer at all. So if my technique needs work, please feel free to email me some friendly advice, but don’t leave a mean comment. I’m delicate you know.

Project STIR is a series of documentary films launching this fall on Kickstarter. The films will follow Abuelitas, Nans & Mamaws passing down heirloom recipes in kitchens around the globe including countries like: Panama, New Zealand, Turkey, Croatia & England. Learn more about how to get involved at

Every year for my birthday I asked for Sopa San Antonio... the best tortilla soup I've ever had.

This recipe hasn’t been in my family for generations and generations. But it has been shared from my mother to me, and that’s how it begins isn’t it? And now I share this with my children.

Many years ago (hahaha love you Mom!!!) my parents would go to various Mexican restaurants, and try the same dish over and over, to see what they did and didn’t like. My Dad would go for the chimichangas, and my Mom would sample the tortilla soups. And over time she developed her preferences and created this soup.

At some point in my childhood I tried this soup, and fell instantly in love with it. Normal children ask for things like pizza or chicken nuggets on their birthday. I asked for Sopa San Antonio. Every year. For years. And now that I’m grown and away from home, my husband usually makes it for my birthday. He’s just that cool.

Sopa San Antonio

1 Tbsp cooking oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
4 oz. chopped green chiles
1 Tbsp. minced jalapeno
1 tsp. ground cumin
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
1 28 0z can tomatoes, pureed in blender
12 oz chopped cooked chicken
2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
1 cup shredded cheese
12 corn tortillas
oil for frying tortillas

(Most of) The ingredients for Sopa San Antonio

In that photo you can see cheese, cumin, garlic, cilantro (yum!), corn tortillas, diced tomatoes.

Not shown: Chicken (because it was boiling at the time), chicken stock (because I’m human), green chiles (ditto), jalapeno (forgot to buy one).

Bonus: The big jahonkin’ shell his momma gave us one year. You’re welcome.


There’s the cooked, shredded chicken. In case you thought we secretly forgot it, and covered it up. It’s a vital part of this soup!

I also took a photo of the pureed tomatoes, but I’ve gotta tell you… those really aren’t that pretty. So I deleted that photo. I know you’re disappointed, but I’ll try harder next time. 😉


Heat up the oil; saute onions and garlic. And we all know that makes everything better, right? Add chiles, jalapeno and cumin and heat briefy until fragrant. Add stock, water tomatoes and chicken. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.

For our soup we had to make a slight alteration because we forgot to buy a jalapeno. Plus we have beautiful fresh green chiles because we got some in a Bountiful Baskets, so we just chopped those up instead of using canned green chiles, and we used that to cover for the jalapeno too.


Meanwhile, cut tortillas into 1/4-1/3 inch strips and fry until crisp. I know what you’re thinking… uhmmm Amanda, those don’t look like they’re 1/4-1/3 inch. That is correct. My husband thinks recipes are a starting point. And directions are like rules. And rules are like guidelines. Soooo he’s obviously one of the Pirates of the Caribbean.


Everyone knows when you photograph a recipe that you pretend like you always use the nice dishes. So here’s the pretend nice dish we used. Just kidding. We really used it… mostly because my husband said “I’ve already put the soup into it, we’re not wasting a dirtied dish”. In case you’re curious, the super kid friendly, colorful plastic bowls are behind it. Actually we’d use this bowl more often if I hadn’t accidentally picked out dishes that were dishwasher UNsafe. Whoops.


Alright. Time to get down to business. Put in a good handful of chips. And then put a little more. Just because homemade chips! And then you put cheese. I took a photo of that too, but it looked weird. (Again, I’m not a food photographer.)


Now you ladle in the soup. Mmmmmm soup.

Every year for my birthday I asked for Sopa San Antonio... the best tortilla soup I've ever had.

And then you sprinkle on a bit more cheese, and put sprinkle pile on the cilantro. And if you don’t like cilantro, we can’t be friends. Just kidding. No I’m not. Okay I am. Maybe. And most importantly, you enjoy!


Working Around Your Husband


One of the hidden struggles of working from home, is working around various family members. Today we're talking about our beloved husbands.

Today is Week 3, Day 1 in a 5 week series called Strategies for Success. These posts will drop on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. This week we’re talking about Working Around Family Members , and today’s topic is how to work around your husband. If you want to make sure you catch all of the posts in this series, you can subscribe in the sidebar.

Our husbands can be a great source of support in our businesses. They can even be a partner. Working around your husband can be one of the best parts of business. It can also be one of the greatest distractions.

My husband jokes that he’s my silent partner… he’s not officially on any business documentation, and he’s not a writer for my blog. But he’s one of my biggest cheerleaders, and he’s always there to remind me why I love what I do.

But if I forget to keep him in the loop, he can unintentionally be underfoot. One of my early coaching calls, I forgot to let him know I’d be talking with a client. Thinking I was just Skyping with a girl-friend, he was cracking jokes off-screen. Whoops! Fortunately she took it in stride, but it was a little awkward until I explained what was going on.

Some of this goes back to last week’s post about the family meetings. Family meetings are a great way to prevent those kind of shenanigans from happening.

But as good as family meetings are, what’s even better is starting your day by reminding him (and your children if need be) about the goings on of the day. If you have a client call, remind him the night before, or that morning.

Also, make sure that he’s invested in this too, and that this is a shared dream. Your business doesn’t have to be a dream of his necessarily, but what will happen because of that business should be. The house you two will buy, the places y’all will travel to, the vacations the family will go on, etc.

How do you keep your  husband involved in your business?


Create A Command Center

One of the best things you can do to maintain sanity in your family schedule, is to create a command center. Come on in, and find out how!

Today is Week 2, Day 3 in a 5 week series called Strategies for Success. These posts will drop on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. This week we’re talking about Family Communication, and today’s topic is how to reduce schedule stress-outs by creating a centrally located command center. If you want to make sure you catch all of the posts in this series, you can subscribe in the sidebar.

Okay, so on Monday we chatted about keeping the family in the loop. Easier said than done right?

One of my favorite methods for reining in the calendar chaos, is my creating a family command center. There are lots of different ways to create a command center, and you’re only limited by your budget & your imagination.

Some possibilities include:

  • A corkboard & thumbtacks
  • A designated wall-space and Post-Its
  • A wall calendar (or 3)

Or you can combine those ideas and really get funky with it. Ha!

Right now, my organizational system is on a combination of the Cozi app (more on that Friday), and my Me and My Beautiful Ideas Planner, and to-do lists.

The Happy Planner from MAMBI (Me & My Big Ideas) is one of my favorite planners ever!

If you’ve read my blog post on my to-do lists, you already know I use them to keep up with my various responsibilities. Recently I started using them on my oldest daughter, so she can keep track of her assignments as well. I tried it as an experiment, expecting her to fight me, but to my surprise she loved having a list “just like mom”. I guess you never know what kids are gonna get a kick out of!

Alright, just in case the command center is a new idea for you, I want to leave you with some extra brainstorming power.


Do you have a command center? What’s your favorite way to create one?


Make Your Business A Family Affair


One of the fastest ways to make your business run more smoothly, is to keep your family a part of it.

Today is Week 2, Day 1 in a 5 week series called Strategies for Success. These posts will drop on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. This week we’re talking about Family Communication, and today’s topic is why you should make family meetings an integral part of your business . If you want to make sure you catch all of the posts in this series, you can subscribe in the sidebar.

One of the things you can do to make your business run more smoothly, is to keep your family in the loop. Sounds simple right? Trust me on this one… if you don’t keep them updated, you’ll wind up with your husband cracking jokes during your client call, because he thinks you’re on a Google Hangout with your buddies. Not that I’d know or anything.

I recommend having a family command center (more on that Wednesday), so that you can keep an eye on all the moving parts of your family’s schedule.

If you have important calls, make sure your husband knows about it, and let your children know as well (if they’ll be home).  Have a family meeting once a month, or more, so that you can evaluate what’s working, and what could use improving. You can also use this time to assess the chore rotations, brainstorm menus, etc.

If you have children, sit them down and explain what you’re trying to accomplish. Set up a vision board in an area of the house where they can see it. Get them excited about your goals & visions! Letting them be a part of the experience means that you’re not just raising future adults, but hopefully future entrepreneurs as well. And at the very least, they’ll have a healthy respect for other entrepreneurs.

Let me just quickly say that in this process, make sure that your children understand their importance. Make eye contact with them when you talk to them, don’t stay glued to your computer. Make sure that they have time with you on a daily basis. And don’t forget your husband either! My husband jokes that he’s my silent partner, but seriously he is. He is the backbone of my business, and it wouldn’t be half as successful without him. He cooks dinner, holds the kids at bay during important calls, and reminds me why I do this when I’m having a bad day (cause we all do!).

What is your number one tip for keeping your family included?


When Crap Happens

Ever have a day where things just don't seem to line out, and everything's getting in your way? Yup! Me too! Here are a few ideas on how to deal with that.

Today is Week 1, Day 3 in a 5 week series called Strategies for Success. These posts will drop on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. This week we’re talking about Time Management, and today’s topic is how to handle things when life throws monkey wrenches your way. If you want to make sure you catch all of the posts in this series, you can subscribe in the sidebar.

Oh dear. My mother would not approve of the title of this post. (Sorry Mom!)

Seriously though, we’ve all had a day like that, right? Let me give you an example of a day that went horrendously wrong for me.

I was awakened by my phone ringing. Normally I don’t answer numbers I don’t know, especially if they’re calling that early in the morning. But in this case, it was a local number, so I went ahead. It turned out to be my landlady asking if I’d had any overnight company. She’d found a homeless woman in her shed, that they think slept there. Upon being busted, the woman told her that she’d stayed with me, and we were having a garage sale, and I’d I sent her to scope out the goods.

Uhmmmm negative Ghostrider, on all counts.

From there my husband went to test for a fire station, and missed the next phase by only 3 points. At this point we were super frustrated, but I thought I’d get some crocheting done.

Guess again.

The baby was teething, and feverish, and cranky. To make matters worse, just as I finally soothed her to sleep someone pounded on our door, causing me to startle, and her to wake up. I left my room and my middle daughter was yelling that there was a “pa-pleese” officer at the door.

As it turned out, he’d been cruising by our neighborhood and spotted the electrical spool we use as a table on our porch, and wanted to know where we’d gotten it.

Imagine me doing the Jim Carrey “Alrrriiiigggghhty then” about now.

Crap happens. And okay, so sometimes the day just isn’t recoverable. But this is when having a to-do list comes in super handy for me. If things throw me off balance, and I get scattered, I can come back to that list and remind myself what I should be doing.

If you’re feeling crazy disconnected or scattered, another favorite of mine is to stop and have a dance break. Some people would say to take this moment and breathe, but I’ve just never really been a palm-press and ommmm sort of person. Soooo dance break?

How do you handle it when life throws a monkey wrench in things?