Summer Transitions: Military Ceremonies Edition

The summer is typically a very active time in the military community. Many service members are changing duty stations (Permanent Change of Station or “PCSing”) and it is also a very common time for Change of Commands to take place.

This year, the summer is a very exciting time for my family – Next week, my dad is retiring from the United States Navy after 30 years of service. To say I am proud of him is an understatement. I am extremely excited to attend his Change of Command and Retirement ceremony and am looking forward to witnessing all the military traditions which will take place during the ceremony. In honor of my dad’s retirement, this week my focus is on military protocol and proper etiquette while attending military ceremonies.

  1. Arriving at the Ceremony
    • There’s no such thing as being fashionably late in the military. The military is a punctual culture and to them, arriving on time is arriving late.
    • At most ceremonies, there will be a greeter and escorts. At formal ceremonies, there will be reserved seating (by name or by section) for distinguished guests. These guests will be personally escorted to their seats.
      • If you are attending the ceremony as the guest or date of a service member, he should escort you arm-in-arm. Service members are not allowed to hold hands in uniform.
  2. The Ceremony
    • Read the program! An overview of the ceremony and event’s history is typically included as well as the background of your host/officiating officer and guest of honor (their biographies will be in the program).
    • Parading the Colors: Stand while the American and service flag(s) are brought into the room and remain standing while they are present. The National Anthem will most likely be played as well. If so, face the flag with your hand over your heart. If the service’s song is played, you continue to stand, but you do not have to keep your hand over your heart. Do not sit until the colors are retired (paraded out of the room) and you are told to take your seat.
      • This is NOT the time to take photos. You should stand in respect of the flag and the playing of the National Anthem, not be snapping photos of the event while this is happening.
    • Invocation: The Chaplain will say a prayer to begin the ceremony.
    • Speeches and Reading of Orders: Depending on what type of ceremony you are attending, the “Order of Ceremony” can and ceremonial pieces included can vary; however, the Guest Speaker and the Host or Guest of Honor will make remarks. Additionally, if it is a Change of Command, Promotion, or Retirement ceremony, the official military orders will be read.
    • The Ceremonial Traditions (my favorite!):
      •  Side boys: When the official party enters and departs the ceremony, “Two to eight side boys, depending on the rank of the Officer, will form a passageway at the gangway. They salute on the first note of the pipe and finish together on the last note.” (Source: Naval Customs, Traditions, & Etiquette)
      • The Change of Command: The current/outgoing Commanding Officer will read his/her new set of orders followed by the incoming Commanding Officer (CO) reading his/her set of orders to take command. Together, they will approach the Officiating Officer, usually a General/Flag Officer, who will relieve the outgoing CO of his/her duties and confirm the new CO reporting for duty. These steps will be acknowledged by the service members rendering salutes.
      • The Passing of the Flag / “Old Glory”: This is a beautiful ceremony in which the American flag is passed hand-to-hand by individuals representing the ranks the retiree has held while in service. While the flag is being passed, “Olde Glory” is read. For a full (Navy) description, you click here.
      • Reading of “The Watch”: One of the last parts of a retirement ceremony is to read “The Watch.” A junior service member will recite it to symbolize relieving the retiree of his duties and the acceptance of that responsible by those who remain in military service. After this is read, in the Navy, the Sailor “goes ashore” for the last time. To read The Watch, click here.
  3. After the Ceremony
    • If there is a receiving line, be prepared to shake hands (potentially a lot of them) and always go through the receiving line before entering the reception.
      • The host is the first person you will meet followed by the co-host, if there is one, and then guest(s) of honor.
      • You should not have anything in your hands. Keeping your purse in your left hand is OK, but be sure to keep your right hand free and ready for lots of handshakes!
      • This is not the place for long conversation. Give a simple greeting and congratulations/thanks such as, “Congratulations, Sir/Ma’am! This is such an exciting/special day, thank you for including me.”
    • The Ceremonial Cake Cutting: If it is a service or Corps birthday, the youngest person and the oldest person serving at the command or who are members of that service cut the cake together using a traditional military sword. If it is a ceremony honoring someone (Change of Command, Promotion, Retirement), that individual will make the first cut in the cake using his/her sword.
    • The Reception
      • If you are attending on your own invitation, be sure to mingle with those you know, but also introduce yourself to new people. This can be a great networking opportunity.
      • If you are attending as someone’s date, take his/her lead on who you need to meet. He/she often has many officers or senior officials who are important to greet.
      • Again, be prepared to shake hands! Always leave your right hand free to shake hands by holding your drink/food (and purse if you have one) in your left hand.
        • A quick review on introductions! Extend your right hand, say “hello,” and introduce yourself using your first and last name.
      • Before leaving, always thank your host!

If you get invited to one of these ceremonies, I hope you take the opportunity to attend! Military ceremonies are beautiful, touching, and very patriotic. If you are attending as someone’s date, remember you are an extension and a reflection of your date – You will be meeting your date’s Chain of Command (his/her bosses) as well as the service members he/she leads and it is incredibly important to leave a positive impression on them. For all those attending, be polished, positive, and poised while also having a wonderful time and experiencing some great military traditions!

To conclude on a personal note, it’s been an amazing life growing up in a Navy family. I am incredibly proud of my dad and thankful for his service. With that, I would be remiss if I did not mention my mom in that same thought. I know my dad could not have succeeded as he did without her by his side. Dad and Mom, thank you both for your service. Wishing you “Fair Winds and Following Seas.” Go Navy! ⚓️

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

Celebrating the 4th of July!

Photo Credit: Lilly Pulitzer

Photo Credit: Lilly Pulitzer

This weekend we celebrate the 4th of July! Happy birthday America!
As we celebrate our freedom and our country, be sure to sparkle in all the right ways! Here are my tips for an amazing 4th of July celebration!

  1. If You are Hosting a Party
    • Be festive!
    • Creating a signature cocktail, whether in how it looks or the ingredients you use, is a great way to put your own creative spin on the party. Here is a cute idea for serving a “Sparkling Spritzer”
      Photo Credit: Style Me Pretty

      Photo Credit: Style Me Pretty

    • Have party favors for your guests to take home or have things you can pass out during the party to get people into the American spirit!
  2. If You are Attending a Party
    • Offer to contribute an appetizer, drink, dish, or dessert for all to enjoy.
    • Take a host/hostess gift.
    • Dress the part – Proudly wear your red, white, and blue!
    • Offer the host/hostess your assistance during the party.
    • Write and send a thank you note within three days of attending the gathering.
  3. Honor and Respect the Flag 🇺🇸
    • Fly the flag all day! Be sure to keep a light on it when the sun goes down.
    • I know it is cute to use plates or napkins that have the American flag on them as a decorative piece, but here is something to keep in mind: Even though it is not technically a real flag, eating off the flag and the act of wiping your mouth or using the flag to clean your hands is disrespectful. Avoid using American flag plates and napkins if possible.
      • NOTE: A design of stars and stripes is great, I mean the actual American flag printed on something.
    • If you are wearing apparel or accessories with the American flag on them, ensure they are tasteful and appropriate. The flag should not be partially displayed (it should always be displayed in it’s entirety), tattered, or “distressed” in any way. You should also never drape yourself in the flag.
    • Watch this interview featuring Gary Biggs of Protocol Partners for additional, valuable flag protocol information.
  4. Remember and thank the service members who have fought and are currently serving to continue protecting our freedoms.

    Photo Credit: Love Bakes Good Cakes

    Photo Credit: Love Bakes Good Cakes

I would love to see how you all incorporated my tips into your celebrations so please share them with me! You can submit a photo or comment on this post or through my Contact Me page.

Have a wonderful 4th of July! God Bless America! 🇺🇸

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

Father’s Day: Showing Your Appreciation!

Photo Credit: Lilly Pulitzer

Photo Credit: Lilly Pulitzer Print Studio

This weekend we celebrate Father’s Day. Just like on Mother’s Day, I think it is safe to say, we all owe a lot to our dads (and to those men who acted like and watched over us like a father). On Father’s Day, be sure he knows how much he is appreciated! Here are some ideas for simple ways to say thank you!

  1. Make a Statement, Write it Down
    • No texts or emails and not just a phone call. Find a beautiful card, or make one, with a sentiment that expresses your gratitude. If your dad is someone who appreciates the little things, having this card to keep will mean the world to him.
  2. For All He Has Done and Still Does, Give Back
    • Growing up, we all know our dads have given a lot to help us; now it is our turn to give back. Find something your dad does and do it alongside him.
      • If your dad volunteers, take the time to go volunteer with him.
      • Does he have a favorite hobby (i.e. golfing, riding a motorcycle, cooking/grilling, wine tasting, etc.) he has tried to get you to do with him? Give it a try for a day!
      • Is dad always keeping the yard tidy or fixing all your household and/or tech problems? Treat him to some help extra help around the house, pay for a yard service, etc..
  3. Give a Meaningful Gift, Small or Large
    • A great keepsake and simple gift to put together is a photo album. Collect photos of you and your dad throughout the years, put them in an album, and write down your favorite memories.
    • Do you have a favorite memory or an “inside joke” with your dad? Find a small trinket that commemorates that!
    • Send your dad for some “guy time” or “R&R” (whatever that means to him) and let him enjoy the day.
    • Has your dad mentioned wanting a certain something, but will not spend the money on himself? Splurge for him!
  4. Spend Quality Time with Your Dad!
    • If you can give nothing, give of yourself. Amidst our busy lives, we often forget to plan time with those most important to us. Sometimes, we even take them for granted.
      • No plans this weekend? Hop in the car and drive home to see your dad!
      • Plan a weekend trip (or even just a meal) your whole family can attend. This is especially meaningful if your family lives in different areas/states. Pick one weekend to gather everyone in the same place!
      • You are never too old to plan a “Dad and Me” Day! Go out for lunch and a movie you have been talking about seeing. Get tickets for a sporting event. Go do or see something the two of you have been talking about for a while (park, monument, etc.). The ideas are endless!
  5. Give Your Dad a Hug and Tell Him You Love Him!

What simple things have you done that have meant the most to your dad?

To all the dads out there, especially my own, THANK YOU!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

Wedding Guest Etiquette: Variations of Black Tie

With wedding season upon us, so many of you are receiving invitations and preparing to attend beautiful ceremonies! As the excitement leading up to the big day rises, you suddenly realize you need to plan your outfit. Then, it hits you… “Black Tie,” “Black Tie Preferred/Requested,” or “Black Tie Optional” are possibilities for the attire. Cue perplexed face and the question “So, what am I supposed to wear?” Not to fear! Here are my tips to help you navigate the the various “Black Tie” requests 🙂

  1. Black Tie
    • For the Ladies – A formal, floor length gown is the way to go! Get ready to play dress up! 🙂
      • NOTE: A formal, floor length gown does not have to be extravagant or super “glitzy,” it can be simple, elegant, and understated.
        black tie - women
    • For the Gentlemen – A tuxedo is a must!
      Photo Credit: Friar Tux Blog

      Photo Credit: Friar Tux Blog

  2. Black Tie Requested/Preferred
    • This means the couple really wants their guests to dress up, but understands if you are not able to do so. For some, a tuxedo or a floor length gown is not affordable and the couple realizes this. As a result, they do not want to exclude those individuals from their celebration. If you can afford black tie attire then please wear it, but if you cannot, a formal cocktail dress for ladies and a full, dark suit for men is certainly appropriate!
  3. Black Tie Optional
    • For the Ladies, I see two main options: A Formal Cocktail Dress or a Floor Length Gown
    • For the Gentleman, there are also two options: A Full Suit (with tie or bow tie) or a Tuxedo

      My dad and brother are in dark suits while my mom and I both opted for cocktail length formal dresses.

      My dad and brother are in dark suits while my mom and I both opted for cocktail length formal dresses.

    • When deciding between these two options (whether a lady or a gentleman), consider the following:
      • Ceremony/Reception Venue: If the wedding is being held at a formal location (think historic building/library, a ballroom, castle/mansion), you can certainly lean towards to the floor length gown or the tuxedo. If the ceremony is at a place that could lend itself to a less formal feel, a formal cocktail dress or full suit is absolutely appropriate!
        • NOTE: Always be respectful of cultural or religious aspects. Religious venues tend to be on the conservative side. Avoid neon/fluorescent colors, side cut-outs, excessive displays of cleavage, extremely high leg slits, or backs that plunge so low you can almost see your bum. I am sure you can rock those styles and look dynamite, but this is not the place to do that. It is also usually required and most respectful to have your shoulders covered.
        • Another option is: Wear one outfit to the ceremony (If it’s in a church and calls for something more modest) and change for the reception (wear something a little more fun or flashy if that’s what you prefer).
      • Time of Day for the Ceremony: For evening, I always think long gowns or tuxedos are a classic/sharp look! If the ceremony is during the day, you may be more comfortable in a formal cocktail dress or full suit.
      • Cultural or Local Tradition Influence:
        • If you are going to a wedding with strong cultural ties, be sure to research what is appropriate. One of my favorite examples of this is at an Indian wedding, the bride wears red so stay away from that color. However, other bright colors are encouraged! Additionally, individuals of Indian heritage and those in the wedding wear saris.
        • Depending on where in the United States or where in the world, there may different, local understandings of what “Black Tie” means. For example, there is such a thing as “Texas Black Tie!” (if you cannot tell from the exclamation point, this a personal favorite!) In Texas tradition, gentlemen wear their best, formal cowboy boots with their tuxedo and ladies wear a floor length gown with the option for boots underneath 😉
      • Leave the White Ensemble to the Bride!
      • Personal Preference: No matter what, you know what you will feel most comfortable wearing. If being around people who are dressed more formal than you makes you feel uneasy then opt for the floor length gown or tuxedo. If you are more comfortable in a formal cocktail dress or a full suit, then select that option.

No matter which variation of black tie your celebration calls for, always remember to think sophisticated and elegant. This is someone’s wedding and the spotlight should be on them! Additionally, family members of the bride and groom will be present and you do not want to be embarrassed by wearing something inappropriate. Now, go celebrate these very joyous occasions in fashion! To all those getting married, “Congratulations on your Happily Ever After!”

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

Interacting with Individuals Who Have Service Dogs

Through my work, I have the privilege of interacting with individuals who have service dogs as well as working alongside facility and therapy dogs. The other day, it was pointed out to me that a lot of people feel unsure about how to properly interact with service/working dogs. That inspired me to do some research and reach out to the people I know with service/working dogs. Here is what I learned along with some tips for the next time you interact with an individual with a service or working dog!

  1. Service and Working Dogs serve many purposes!
    • Guide/Seeing-Eye Dogs and Hearing Dogs assist their companion in navigating their surroundings and alerting them to situations needing attention (a car coming when they are attempting to cross a street, someone at the door, the fire alarm going off, etc.).

    • Service Dogs assist their companion living with other types of physical or mental disabilities (i.e. Mobility Assistance, Seizure Alert, Autism, Psychiatric Disabilities, etc). These disabilities may not always be apparent which is why it is important to be sensitive to the individual’s privacy.
      • I commonly see veterans with mobility service dogs who assist them with everything from pulling their wheelchairs to acting as a “brace” for someone with a prosthetic as they stand up or use the stairs. These dogs also assist with opening doors, turning on lights, retrieving things that have fallen or the service member/veteran is unable to pick-up, and so much more! These service dogs increase the service member’s/veteran’s independence and assist with re-integration.

        Service Dog, Bravo, bracing for his veteran as he uses the stairs.

    • K-9 and Military Units use working dogs to effectively secure areas, detect bombs/drugs/etc, and search for/track individuals.

    • Therapy/Facility Dogs are used in settings such as hospitals, mental health services, senior citizen/assisted living homes, universities, and schools/libraries for companionship and emotional support. Often times, these dogs presence helps to ease individual’s anxiety and bring a calming presence to a difficult situation.

      Therapy Dog, Bobbie, visiting patients at a hospital.

      Therapy Dog, Bobbie, visiting patients at a hospital.

    • A Major Distinction Between the Types:
      • A Service Dog is specifically paired with one individual to aide him/her with his/her disability and increase his/her independence. Ultimately, the dog is meant to assist it’s companion, not to be distracted or draw attention from others.
      • The job of a Therapy/Facility Dog is to interact with patients, the public, etc. and to be pet. They are handled by a facilitator who works with the dog in various settings with the public.
  2. Approach an individual with a service dog the same way you would someone without a service dog, but be aware of the following:
    • If the dog is a service dog, it should be wearing some type of vest/jacket, “backpack,” or harness. If the vest says, “Working Dog. Do not Pet.” then do not focus your attention towards the animal.
      • NOTE: K-9 Unit Dogs and Military Working Dogs should not be approached or distracted while they are “on duty.”
    • Before interacting with the dog, always ask it’s companion/handler if it is OK. Sometimes, interacting with the dog can disturb it’s focus and take away from the purpose he/she is serving for the owner/handler.
      • If the owner/handle does not want you to interact with the dog, do not become embarrassed or upset. The owner/handler has specific needs and reasons why it is not the appropriate time to interact with the dog.
    • Do not feed service dogs unless the owner/handler has given you permission. They are specifically trained with different methods and some only receive treats at certain times.
  3. It is OK to ask about the dog, but you should avoid asking about it’s purpose, especially when it is not obvious, because that is a personal matter.
    • If you are interested in the dog, you can ask questions such as:
      • What breed is your dog?
      • What is your dog’s name? (NOTE: Sometimes people will not answer this question so that the dog will not be called or respond to others)
      • How old is your dog?
      • Which organization trained your dog?
      • Have you worked with dogs in the past?
    • Do not ask personal or invasive questions such as:
      • Why do you have a service dog?
      • Is it necessary for you to have a service dog?
      • May I see it do something for you? (i.e. open the door, push a button, pick something up, etc.)
    • For business owners, restaurant/retail staff, etc. the only 2 questions you can legally ask according to the Americans with Disabilities Act are:
      • “Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?”
      • “What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?”
      • “Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.”
  4. If you have a non-service dog with you and you come across someone who is using his/her service dog, do not let your dog interact with his/her service dog. Keep your dog under control and always ask if it is OK for your two dogs to interact prior to letting your dog have a little “freedom of the leash.”

Service Dogs are truly wonderful and have an amazing capacity to enhance the lives of their companions. Next time you come across an individual with a service dog, I hope these tips will serve you well!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

The Meaning of Memorial Day

This weekend we celebrate Memorial Day. To many people, this weekend marks the “unofficial start of summer” and an extra day off work; however, the real meaning of Memorial Day is to remember those service members who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom and this country. While celebrating this weekend, here are a few things you can incorporate to honor the true meaning of the day:

  1. Honor Those Who Made the Ultimate Sacrifice. Whether you have a personal connection to this or are simply a grateful, patriotic citizen, take a moment to remember the service members who gave their lives to protect your own.
    • Participate in the National Moment of Remembrance at 3:00pm local time on Memorial Day. (Click here for more information)
    • Include a “We Remember” section at your Memorial Day gathering. The following is a simple and beautiful example:
      Photo Credit: Style Me Pretty

      Photo Credit: Style Me Pretty

  2. Be Sensitive to the Meaning of the Day. Often times you will hear service members say they feel uncomfortable when people come up to thank them for their service – This is especially true on Memorial Day. While it is always a kind gesture to thank a veteran and active duty service member, many service members feel Memorial Day should focus solely on their brothers and sisters who lost their lives defending our country. **Please do not get me wrong – Thank service members for all they do, just be mindful of what Memorial Day represents to them.**
  3. Visit Your Local Veterans Cemetery. While many families keep their service member’s grave well maintained, there are several veterans that have no one to do so. Veterans groups often take on this responsibility, but a great way to show your appreciation is to go place a flag or flowers at the grave of fallen service members.
  4. Watch the National Memorial Day Concert.
  5. Fly the American Flag. 🇺🇸 The American flag is flown at half staff until noon on Memorial Day to honor the fallen then “at noon, their memory is raised by the living, who resolve not to let their sacrifice be in vain, but to rise up in their stead and continue the fight for liberty and justice for all” (Memorial Day Observance).
  6. If you are comfortable doing so publicly, share a photo/post a memorial message of a fallen service member. Memorial Day honors his/her sacrifice.

To the brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice, we are forever indebted. May God bless and watch over their families and may God bless America! 🇺🇸

memorial day

How To: Appropriately Handle Work Stress

Photo Credit: My Pretty Pennies

Photo Credit: My Pretty Pennies

What is there to do when work is piling up on your desk and the requests keep coming in? Short of staying late and working extra hard to get it all done, how can you handle the stress level appropriately and graciously? Here are my tips for managing stress in the workplace:

  1. Minimize the Distractions
    • Put your phone away. If you are someone who keeps your personal phone on your desk, hide it in a drawer or keep it in your bag to prevent yourself from getting distracted or checking that most recent text which then turns into a long conversation.
    • Stay away from your social media accounts while at work (at least your personal ones). Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. can all be like a blackhole for losing free/spare time. What starts as a quick check for something you need to know can easily turn into hours of scrolling.
    • Keep office chatter to a minimum. While it is always wonderful to be friendly with your colleagues, sometimes it is necessary to say, “I would love to chat, but I have a lot to tackle today. Unfortunately, I have to cut our conversation short.” Just remember, this refers to personal/social conversations, not professional meetings or talks with your boss/supervisor. However, if a meeting is getting off topic and taking too long, do not be afraid to steer the conversation back to business so you can wrap up the meeting.
  2. Manage Your Time
    • Stay organized. Keep a running “To Do” list to track what needs to get done or what needs to be assigned. This is especially helpful if you are working on more than one project at once. Not to mention, checking something off the list is an incredibly refreshing feeling! Additionally, keep your work space clean. Working in a cluttered environment produces anxiety for a lot of people.
    • Prioritize. Evaluate your workload and decide what needs to get done when. Keep timelines in mind and be sure you are working on the matters that take precedence. Working between multiple projects is doable, but sometimes you need to focus all your attention in one direction.
    • Make a timeline or schedule for yourself. Break down your work into smaller, more manageable tasks and have checkpoints along the way. Think of it as setting mini goals for yourself to help reach project completion!
  3. Ask for Help and Advocate for Yourself
    • Delegate roles and responsibilities. If you have a large scale project, event, etc. you are working on and know you need assistance, ask your coworkers. Organize a team meeting and delegate roles and responsibilities to others. Just remember, do not pass off your work to others – they are there to help, not do your job for you.
    • Advocate for yourself. If your boss is continuously passing things to you and your pile is growing larger than what you can handle, ask to meet with your boss. Explain to him/her that the quality of your work is important to you and while you appreciate his/her faith in you for asking to do so much at once, you do not want to spread yourself too thin and compromise the quality of your work. Ensure your boss you will get the work done by discussing an achievable way forward.
  4. Remember to Breathe!
    • Literally breathe. Just take a deep breath and exhale the stress.
    • Every so often it is good to take a break from the computer. Get up from your chair and stretch or try a relaxing yoga pose.
    • If you have a few minutes to spare, take a short walk outside for a change of scenery and a breath of fresh air!
  5. Take Time for Yourself
    • Take Your Lunch Break. It is good to get out of your office and eat somewhere other than at your desk. Not only does eating at your desk keep you sedentary for longer, it also leads to eating more.
    • Use Your Vacation Days. After a long, high intensity period in the office, it is good to reward yourself with a little “rest and relaxation.” Planning trips (long or short) and having something to look forward to can be a big motivator to keep pushing through the busy times.

In stressful situations, what have you done to manage it well?

Just remember, you are capable of handling all you are being asked to do!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra