Small town girl. Joins Navy. Sees the world. Flies in planes. Hunts submarines. Gets out of military and has 3 kids. Rejoins Air National Guard as an "old lady" of 38.

A humorous compilation of stories and lessons learned. Usually the hard way.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Cabin

As mentioned before, Minnesota is known as ‘The Land of 10,000 Lakes’.  As any place’s surroundings become its livelihood, the lakes were naturally ours.  Not only were they profit for tourism and the local economy, they were also the native Minnesotan’s source of food, entertainment, and enrichment.  For this reason, most locals either lived on or near a lake, or had a cabin or beach nearby to which they would travel.  Our Cabin has been in our family for what is going on four generations now. 

The Cabin, which sits on a perfect fishing and swimming lake, was actually the one-bedroom home to my grandma and her many sisters and brothers.  The house was later moved to this piece of land on the lake that she and my grandpa bought as adults.  Through much hard work, it has become a beautiful little white cottage that sits on the sandiest shorelines around. 

The place bursts with memories of water-skiing, fishing, boating, hide-n-seek freeze tag, campfires, fireworks, picnics, and fireflies.  This was our vacation spot every warm weekend that the Minnesota summer’s permitted.  This was where our family came together as a family.  To all that continue to enjoy the cabin, it is a place unlike no other.

Now for someone that is unattached to these magical generations of memories, they may not see the place as anything too special.  As I said, the house is very old, and continues to get bandaged together year after year to make it last as long as possible.  I’m sure one of the most interesting kickers is that we actually do not have running water at the cabin.  After all, who needs running water when you have a lake 20 feet in front of you full of fresh water?!

Actually, fresh running water would be great; I’m not going to lie.  However, it’s something we just were accustomed to.  There were several workarounds:  We had a sink that would drain, so if we needed to do dishes, we’d just boil some lake water.  We’d always bring our own drinking water.  Every store in the world loves to sell water to any sucker that will pay for something they could get just as well for free. (At least that’s my dad’s opinion)  When we need a shower, we grab a bottle of shampoo and a bar of soap and dive in off of the end of the dock.  And of course when we have to use the restroom, we used the ever-popular outhouse.  

Yes, we have an outhouse.  It wasn’t until I moved away from home that I realized that not everyone has their own outhouse out back.  (My dad came home with an outhouse one day to put in the backwoods as if it were the greatest idea he had ever had.  I believe this stems solely off of the frustration of having to live with four women in a single-bathroom home.)

It has been great entertainment on my end trying to teach my little ‘city kids’ how to use an outhouse.  Yes, you have no choice to tolerate the smell, bring a flashlight at night, and tolerate the mosquitoes and/or other lovely creatures of nature.  Of course my aunt tries to pretty up the place and put smell-goodies in it.  In reality, she is just putting perfume on a pig.  There is only so much you can do, although the efforts never go unappreciated.

The following is an excerpt of a conversation with one of my friends who grew up in L.A. as we were exchanging stories of our childhood:

D:  So, let me get this straight- It’s just... a hole in a building?
Me:  Yes, It’s just a hole.
D:  That you sit on?
Me:  Well, yes.  Eventually we upgraded and got toilet seats. 
D:  And then when you were done- how did you- flush it?
Me:  You didn’t flush it.
D:  It just sat there?  What happens when ‘it’ filled all the way to the top?
Me:  Well, I guess that just didn’t happen.  It just decomposes or something.  I guess I never really thought that much about it.

Our conversation continued along this topic for a bit to which it then made a turn to questions regarding her childhood in L.A.:

D:  Yeah, it became such a common thing to have drive-bys at our parties; we just had to be sure to not linger in the yards for too long.  You were much more of a target then.
Me:  You would seriously have people drive up and randomly shoot guns at you?!?
D:  Yes, it was usually just stupid gang stuff.  They rarely would hit anyone.  At least not life threatening injuries, anyways.  We just had to be sure never to wear colors like red or black.  So you would seriously have to worry about bats and spiders when you went to the bathroom at night?  I don’t know how you could handle that.

It was then that I realized that I suppose everyone faces their own obstacles growing up.  I have since become quite thankful that I had bats and spiders to deal with instead of drive-bys, pedophiles, and wearing the wrong colors. (I love red!!)  While our ‘vacation’ home wasn’t a condo in the Keys and no, it didn’t have running water, I never felt like I grew up missing out on anything.  I didn’t know any different.

Now that I have a family of my own- we have taken our vacations to Disney and Ocean City.  However, I still think our best memories are our summer vacations spent at The Cabin on the lake.  I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to give my ‘city’ children the opportunities to fall asleep listening to the frogs and learn how to water-ski (where rest assured they do not have to worry about jellyfish or sharks).  I’d like to think that using an outhouse where they must dodge spiders and bats in the middle of the night can only build character.

To know who I am and where I came from, you must know The Cabin.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Truth About Fish

If Minnesota is known for anything, it's for the lakes.  In a land of "Sky Blue Waters" (the Native American definition for Minnesota), and a place with over 10,000 lakes, you can bet the farm there's bound to be some good fishing.

Not only do we have the standard fresh water fishing out of a boat, there are all the different types of ice fishing as well.  There is the basic ice fishing over a hole drilled into the ice.  There is my favorite- dark house fishing in which you sit in a dark house over a hole aprox 2'x4' wide with a live 'shiner' strung from the ceiling that swims around near the surface, attracting the Northern Pike (aka “Northerns”) into your field of view, so you can spear them with a spear attached to a rope.  Then, there is even the old traditional way of stringing a 100' net under the ice, catching small pan fish for smoking.  These are all great forms of fishing- some a bit more challenging (and freezing) than others.

On May 1st every year across the land a very special day emerges.  The Sucker-Spearing Opener.  This is right around the time the 'suckers' began swimming upstream to spawn.  So we as kids would grab our spears, some old tennis shoes and jump into the shallow creeks (pronounced 'cricks' up there) with our spears- some that may have a chunk or two of ice attached to the banks still. 

My dad had a few interesting techniques of his own.  He would go upstream with a bow and arrow, literally taking shots at the fish.  This definitely required a bit of skill on his part.  

A favorite hiding spot for the fish was usually in deep holes that formed right under an opening of a culvert that escorted a creek under a road.  That was the money spot.   Often though, these holes were a bit too deep to reach with our spears.  In those cases, my dad occasionally had a special technique for enticing the fish from their hiding spots.  Let's just say it involved items that were leftover from an Independence Day celebration.  (I could be talking about hotdog pieces here, folks.  Fish could love hotdogs, I'm sure!)

One particular spring, the suckers had a great winter- and were extremely overpopulated.  On a sunny Saturday afternoon, dad suddenly received the call from one of his friends that the suckers had been running like mad in the creek that ran alongside the Alder Road.  The Alder Road was this fabulous country gravel road that cut across through the woods and backfields into the town of Marcell, MN (population 394).  The leafy trees cascaded over the road, in a mystical tunnel of colors.  Whitetail deer grazed on the clovers in the fields.  Wildlife sprung all around us as our tires popped along the rocks.

When we got to the hot spot, my sisters, dad and I sprang out of the truck to meet up with all of our cousins and their dads.  Everyone grabbed a spear- and the littlest kids grabbed nets.  We all spread out around the banks that lined either side of the shallow creek.  The fish were flowing so abundantly that our arms grew tired from the spearing and hoisting them up onto the banks.

As I threw another one off my spear and watched it wiggle in the grass, taking it's few last breaths of air, I suddenly felt a twinge of guilt.  I couldn't think too much about the food that I ate, or I never would eat meat again.  I gazed at the holes that I had left in its body where my spear had been and said to my uncle Tim standing next to me with a sigh, "I guess it's sure a good thing that fish don't have nerves."

My Uncle Tim, who was the farmer of the family, and also an avid animal lover, stared at me with an intent look on his face.  Uncle Tim took over the beef farm when my grandpa passed.  He loved the cattle that he butchered.  It was bitter-sweet.  He stay up for days on end to assist delivery of the calves in all hours of the night, and often during raging blizzards in calving season.  He gave them nicknames based on their coloring or their personalities.  And did some of these cows have personality!

To some it may seem hypocritical, but I grew up believing that we gave these animals a good, happy life, and when they died, it was instant and with dignity.  I believed that was so much better than what would happen for them in a slaughter house.

"What do you mean, they don't have nerves?" Tim asked me, perplexed.

"They don't have nerves."  I said it slower, more enunciated this time.  Uncle Tim just continued to look at me as if I had two heads.

"Yeah, Dad told me they don't have nerves."  

And then Tim realized what was going on.  He simply nodded, and went back to his fishing.  As he turned away, it finally dawned on me as well.  All of this time dad had told me they didn't have nerves.  I was nearly eleven now.  Surely I would've realized had been simply sparing my heartache.

I dropped the spear and stepped back.  All this time.  All those fish.  My mind raced as I began trying to come to terms with it.  It was such a simple thought.  Why hadn't I really realized it all of this time?

Since that day, I have dabbled in fishing a bit here or there.  I always bait my own hook and try not to make a big deal about it.  Mostly I go to be out on the water (as it is my happy place) and fish to satisfy those around me.  But the truth is, when it comes down to it, not a fish passes me by that I catch and don't think of the pain it may feel at that moment.  I didn't want to stop fishing years ago because it was my time with my dad, that made up so many of my childhood memories.  

And now I believe that is why my dad never told me the truth about fish after all of those years.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Believe That Anything is Possible

It's a good day!

Getting Gas in Deer River (No, not a story about Mexican food)

Once, after I had gone for a very lengthy amount of time away in the military, I came home to DR on leave.  You wouldn't think that a simple, routine stop for gas could become such a learning ordeal.

I pulled up to the pump in my mom's beautiful rusty car that she had lent me for my visit.  (It's a rare thing to not have a car without rust in a place that snows nearly 9 months out of the year and uses salt as the antidote to an icy highway.) 

I was used to driving a rickety old white military duty van in Sicily with a manual gear changer in the column shifter.  Finding the gears on this was a pure guessing game- as they were mysteriously unlabeled.  It was often simply a matter of trial and error- along with much grinding- and the slow murder of a transmission. 

So naturally, after spending 6 months in another country, I initially pulled up on the wrong side of the gas pump.  After considering if I could reach the hose across the car and make it look like I "planned" to do it this way- I quickly dismissed the idea, realizing there was no chance it would- and could quite possibly lead to bigger problems.

I still haven't exactly learned a graceful way to play that one off.  Instead, you must duck your head down and admitting guilt, get back into your vehicle and pull it around to the correct side.  Meanwhile, the on-lookers stand fueling their own vehicles all smart-like, staring at you- then quickly glance away- pretending not to notice your foolish mistake- if you look in their direction.

Now, having the gas tank on the proper side, I get out, credit card in hand and step up to the pump.  I grabbed the nozzle, and placed it inside my tank opening and spun back around to swipe my card.  Problem is, I could not find the 'swiper' anywhere.  I began searching- feeling like I was blind- knowing it had to be obviously right in front of my face.  I started reading the instructions.  They said to "Remove nozzle and place in gas tank." Check.  "Select fuel."  I selected the fuel.  Where did I pay? 

Then it dawned on me that this pump clearly did not have the pay-outside option.  I was going to have to pay first inside.  Ugh, I hated that, because I just never knew how much it would take to fill it.
So I went inside.

Lady at the counter:  Hello, can I help you?

Me:  Yes, I would like to pay for gas please on pump #2.

Lady:  [Looking down at the register] Are you sure you mean #2, Ma'am?

Me: [Unsure- glancing outside] Ummm, I think that's the one.  It's the one with the red car right there.  [I pointed outside. People began to form in line behind me.]

Lady:  Hmmm [trying to be polite- and not make me feel like a TOTAL fool.]  You must be mistaken Ma'am. Would you like to run out and check?  It's no problem. I can wait.

Me:  [Another person comes behind me in line- all carefully watching me.]- Ah, okay.  [I run outside quickly, run to the other side of the pump.  There is a large, shiny silver #2 written overhead.  Darn lady that doesn't listen.  I run back inside.  More people are in line.]  Yes, it's definitely #2.

Lady:  Well, Ma'am, I don't show #2 having a balance on it.  What is it that you are going to pay for?

Me:  [Seriously?]  Ah, right- I haven't pumped yet- I was just going to pay for it first.

Lady:  [Long pause- appearing as if she's trying not to laugh now.]  Well... how do you know how much you're going to put into it?

Me:  [Sigh.  Finally realizing that there is simply no need to pay-before-you-fuel here.  Why would they need to do that?  Everyone knows your car!]  Um, [I had lost this round.] I guess I wouldn't know.  I will go out and fuel it now.  [Now I looked like the idiot. Again.]

I ran back outside and saw how easy it would have been for me to just squeeze the handle and see the gas come out into the tank- with no need to pay or look for a credit-card swipe. If I only would've followed the directions one step further... I swiftly filled up my tank and went back inside to meet the lady once again to try to pay.

Lady:  All set now, ma'am?

Me:  Yes, thank you. [I handed her my credit card.]

Lady:  Oh I'm sorry, Hun.  We don't take credit cards.  But there is an ATM up at the bank on the other side of town if you need to go get some cash.

Me:  I could just go drive there and get some cash? [Who carries cash anymore??]

Lady:  Oh sure.  You won't take too long will you?

Me:  Well, no...

Lady:  Or do you have an account here?  You could just charge it to your account.

Me:  Well, I don't but my dad does.

Lady:  Oh okay, great.  I'll just put it on his account.  What's his name?

Me:  Maki.  Do you need some ID?

Lady:  Oh no, that's no problem.  You look like a Maki.  [She did some typing and handed me a receipt.]  You have a great day now, okay? 

Me:  Okay, well, you too. 

I left the gas station slightly perplexed.  Did that just really happen?  Had I been out in the 'real world' for so long I forgot what a trusting little town this was?  Despite feeling like a complete moron, I had to smile to myself.  If ever I hear people make statements such as, "This world is just not a safe place." Or things like, "People now days are just not like they used to be,"  I realize these people just have never been to Deer River.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Driving in Deer River

I've never claimed to be a great driver.  My high school hall-of-fame yearbook would confirm that, as I was voted "Craziest Driver" along with my old pal Brian- who was in fact an all-time crazy driver.

I was never in an accident- per say- going forward anyways.  Sure my garage growing up expressed several dents on either side of the garage door from my backing up mis-judgements.  But I have to say- the garage was built after I had been driving for a while and I had my "routine" down.  I jumped in the car, threw it into reverse, turned it around, and drove off.  Before the garage was there, it was a perfect turn-around area.  Many times after, I had the tendency to forget the garage had been built.  My mom planted raised flower boxes to mask the dents on both sides of the garage door.

Going in the ditch is just a right of passage when you drive on icy roads.  I cannot count how many visits I have taken to the ditch.  Life could not stop when there was a snowstorm, ice-storm, or gently packed snow waiting for your bald tires with a fresh coat of dusty snow on top.

It has been stated that I drive just slightly too fast.  I would always deny this conviction, but left questioning my skills after the conversation was long over.

All of this came to my 'ah-ha' moment when I left MN and began driving in Florida.  Turns out I was a great driver in Florida.  Everyone drove as fast as me if not more!  And THEY were crazy drivers.  Same thing happened when I moved to Maryland.  At a green light, the goal is to get up to the fastest speed possible and then slam on your breaks for the next red light.  My dad would say- you sure are trusting your breaks there.  Well, yeah, shouldn't you trust your breaks when you drive?? 

In Maryland.  I learned you can totally get away with going 67 miles per hour in a 45 zone.  (I got pulled over, and just simply warned that I'm going a little too fast & should slow down.) 70 is standard in a 55.  You are holding up traffic otherwise- and who wants to be rude like that?  At last, I felt I fit in.  My fast driving skills were not only standard here, they were necessary in order for survival!

And don't even get me started on what happens to drivers down south when it rains.  I remember the first time I drove in Maryland when it was a rainy day.  Every store I went into I was warned as I left to 'be careful out there.' I mean, it was nice of them to be concerned, but it really had me worried as to what was going to happen here when it rains?  Most people just cancel their appointments anyways on a rainy day.

Problem is, when I go home, I tend to forget the Minnesota-style driving.  They are courteous drivers who only use the left lane for a passing lane- not a lane to hang out in for extended periods for a better view.  If you do, you are not considered very courteous at all.  No one is really in a hurry much- there is no reason to be.  The scenery alone is just too darn pretty not to slow down and enjoy.  Finally, you never know just when a deer could jump out in front of you- so you always need to slow down and be looking.  My dad taught me to drive in the middle of the road so I'd have more reaction time.  This is discouraged in the city.

Fast forward to this Memorial Weekend in Minnesota:  I was on my way home to my dad's house.  I had just finished early morning church service and was all dressed up nicely.  (See what a good girl I am?)  I was going along on the gravel cut-across road (there is always a short-cut on the gravel roads to somewhere- it's like a secret world of webbing & intersecting roads).  Well, it had been a while since I'd driven on a gravel road.  I seemed to forget that while you can go fast on a gravel road, you can't stop fast on a gravel road, and you sure as heck can't corner fast on a gravel road.

It just so happens the road I was driving on had three 90-degree corners before I reached my dad's house.  I drove it like a Mario Kart racing game, as I sped up to make up time in the straight spots, and slowed way down to take the corners, fish-tailing slightly if I didn't slow down fast enough.  Well, turns out, I had miscalculated.  Just when I thought I was home free and began to make up some speed- the road about a hundred yards down appeared as if it just ended and a field of green stood in it's place.  Two seconds later, I realized while it did not end, it continued- 90 degrees to the left.  I was headed straight for the field at an alarming rate in my tiny little foreign rental car. (another sign that I was an outsider back home)

My effort to slow down failed me and I let off the break as I cornered, hoping the gravel would catch.  I slid around the corner and the starboard side (passenger side) of the car's wheels went off the road and into the steep embankment- coming to an abrupt halt.  I released my death-grip on the steering wheel and surveyed the situation.  I remembered to breathe.  My hands began to tremble, no doubt from the adrenaline that had just surged throughout my body.  It took all of my weight to push open the driver's side door that sat at a nasty angle.  As I climbed out and was instantly bombarded by mosquitoes (how they found me so fast, I'll never know)- I was instantly relieved that the little rental had decided not to roll, as judging from the steep bank it rest on, just a little bit more speed would have been enough to have sent it in that direction.

I hadn't stood there longer (in the middle of no where) than ten seconds when a van came into view, driving towards me.  Two middle aged men sat in front and rolled down the window, asking if I was okay.

Me:  Yes, I think so- I'm just going to call my dad.  He should be able to pull me out.
Kind mini-van guys:  Are you sure?
Me: Yes, I'll be okay.  Thank you.

They drove off.  I began dialing my dad's number.  No answer.  I dialed my step-mom's number.  No answer.  I tried to think of who had a truck around here.  Then I laughed at the thought.  Then I got bit by more mosquitoes and didn't think it was funny.  I called my cousin, Jake.  He didn't answer.  I started to wonder if there was something wrong with my phone.  I called his sister, Jenna.  Finally I heard a human voice that was not the voice-mail lady.

Me:  Jenna!  What are you doing?  Where's Jake?
Jenna:  I'm just at the farm with my mom.  Jake should be at home.  Is something wrong?
Me:  I just tried calling him.  Couldn't get through.  [Meanwhile another truck comes into view, heading my way.]
Jenna:  Is everything okay?
Me:  Yeah, I'm just sorta in the ditch right now.  Don't worry- I just need to find someone with a truck.  Actually, there is a guy in a truck stopping here right now-  I'll call you back, okay?
Jenna:  Are you sure- where are you?  I'll try to call my dad.
Me:  Okay- great [the guy is stopped in front of me now]  I'll call you back! [I hang up the phone and the guy is getting out of his truck.  He is a older gray haired farmer, overalls and everything driving a red Ford F-150- probably about ten years old]

Farmer guy:  Hey there, Miss, you alright? [my white high-heels are sinking down into the gravel road now
Me:  Yes, I'm good.  I just was driving a little too fast and slid off the road.  I'm trying to get in touch with my dad who has a truck, but I can't seem to reach him.
Farmer guy:  Well, I live just around the bend there, and I've got me some chains.  If you hold tight here, I can run home and get 'em.
Me:  Oh really?  That would be great.  Do you think the car will come out okay- it's a rental, so I'm really nervous about doing any damage to it.
Farmer guy:  Oh sure. [he gets down on the ground to survey the situation]  Yep, I can hook her up right here and puller out like nothing.
Me:  [realizing I don't have a lot of options at this point and my skin is infested with mosquitoes at this point]  Okay, sure if you think it would work.  That would be wonderful.
Farmer guy:  Okay, I'll be right back then. [leans in closer and voice gets lower] Say, you haven't called the cops or anything yet, have yer?
Me:  Um... no.
Farmer guy:  Okay, just checking.  I've had a couple shots a whiskey this morning- just wanted to be sure.
Me:  Okay... sure. [oh geeze!]

The farmer gets in his truck and heads back in the direction of his house before his truck disappears in a cloud of dust.  Soon, another truck, this time a blue Chevy is headed my way, slows down and rolls down his window to talk to me.  Next to him on the passenger seat is a chocolate lab perched with his tongue hanging out, smiling out his window.  The dog also turns his head to look at me.

Man with dog:  Hey there.  Looks like you've got yourself in a bit of trouble.  [Ah, nothing like stating the obvious when you're already down.]
Me:  Yeeep.  I guess I was just going a little too fast on these gravel roads.
Man with dog:  You call a wrecker yet?
Me:  Well, actually a guy that lives just up the road is going to help me.  He's running home real quick to grab his chains.
Man with dog:  Oh, that's not Bob is it? 'Cause you know he may be tippin the bottle a little.
Me:  [great]  Um, not sure.  Do you think I should call a wrecker?  I can't risk having any damage to my rental.
Man with dog:  [getting out of his truck now to also look under the car]  Well, then you best be calling a wrecker to be sure.  [Just then, I could make out a red F-150 coming back down the road]
Me:  Oh, this is him-  [At this point I have no idea what to do.  I can't risk the rental being damaged- but aren't sure what other options I really have. The truck pulls up and the man gets out and grabs the chains out of the bed of his truck.]
Farmer guy:  Oh hey John!
Man with dog:  Bill!  What's going on? [Of course they would know each other.]
Farmer guy Bill:  [Gets out and starts hooking up the chains under his car.]  Just helping out this young lady.  I figure I'm just gonna giver her a gentle pull.  Probably won't even need to put her in four-wheel drive.  [All vehicles around her are called 'her'.]
Man with dog, John:  Well, are you sure there, Bill?  You sure it ain't gonna bend that frame.  It's just one of those foreign cars, ya know?
Farmer guy Bill:  Oh ya.  It won't be a problem.  [He climbs back in his truck as all the chains are hooked up now.  I climb back into the foreign rental and pop it into drive.  I began to pray.  John stands back but monitors closely.  The dog tilts his head to the side and watches us.  Maybe I'm feeling vulnerable, but I began to think the dog is judging me too.  The chains tighten as the F-150 moves forward, and my little car pops out of the ditch like nothing.  Farmer guy Bill was right.  It didn't take any effort.  We all get out of the vehicles.]
Me:  Oh, thank you so much!  [I shook his hand.]  Can I pay you?  My dad is Mr. Maki- and he lives just up the road.
Farmer guy Bill:  Oh sure, Maki. I know your dad.  In fact, think he hauled me some firewood there last winter.  No ma'am.  No money necessary.  You just best be slowing down now.  This ain't no city driving on these gravel roads.
Me:  Yes, sir.

Boom- another shot at my driving skills by a complete stranger.  I suppose I deserved this one.  The next few days I was in Minnesota were full of receiving much grief and getting poked fun.  Somehow, it was easier to take these days than it used to be growing up- because I finally knew the secret.  Yes, they may be right.  I may not be a very good driver.  But I've personally concluded that while I may not be a very good driver in Deer River, I am an excellent driver everywhere else.  At least that is the story I am sticking to.  And thank you Bill and John. Wherever you are.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Welcome to Caribou Coffee

It was the morning after my cousin, Sheena's fabulous wedding in Grand Rapids, MN.  We were enjoying seeing family I hadn't seen in years, and celebrating- I didn't get more than probably 2 hrs of sleep.
Needless to say, on the drive from the hotel back to my dad's place, my sister Liz and I needed coffee.  And lo and behold, the sky parted and in front of us stood a Caribou Coffee, twinkling under the sunshine.  Perfect.

We pulled up to the drive-thru, the only ones in line, sitting in anxious anticipation, scheming our plans of what fufu coffee we would order.  Such a treat!  Not more than 5 seconds had gone by when we heard through through the crackly drive-thru speaker.

Girl:  Welcome to Caribou Coffee!  Would you like a grilled cheese?

Liz, who was driving, sat for a second, slightly stumped. She glanced over at me with a confused look on her face, and turned back to the speaker and politely declined.  Well, not a moment after she expressed her disinterest in a grilled cheese than the thought of the succulent sandwich of melted cheese sounded good to me- despite the fact we had practically just woken up.  I was feeling a little "tired" from the previous night's festivities and was looking for anything to make me feel better.

Me:  Wait- that kinda sounds good! [Liz stopped ]

Liz:  Okay, on second thought, we will take a grilled cheese. [My sister replied to the speaker with the voice of a young girl.  I was satisfied.  Tired, but satisfied.]

Girl:  Okay, ma'am, what kind of grilled cheese would you like?  [Liz turned back to me, yet again, confused.  She mouthed the words, What kind?  shaking her head to me, as if we had options like we were ordering a soft drink.]

I shrugged my shoulders in confusion, and Liz turned back to the girl in the speaker.

Liz:  Um, what kind do you have?

It was then that the girl in the speaker began her to attempt to ramble off every kind of gourmet cheese, though unable to pronounce the majority of them and soon began slowly sounding them out.  This continued for sometime and at this point, Liz and I couldn't help it any longer.  We lost it.  We began laughing uncontrollably at the situation.

My first thoughts were, Oh wow, we're totally going to offend this girl.  But they were quickly put at ease as she began cracking up as well.  So there we were in the coffee drive-thru line and this girl is going through the lists of all of the different types of grilled cheeses they had, meanwhile the line of cars behind us continues to grow.  After her list seemed done, Liz answered.

Liz:  Um, which is your favorite? [she asked the girl as neither one of what she had just said as we were too busy laughing]

Girl:  Well... do you like spicy?

Almost in unison, both Liz and my stomachs turned at the thought.

Liz:  No, not spicy-

Girl:  Okay, well how about the blah blah blah kind?  [Still have no idea what she said]

Liz:  We'll take it!  And can we also get two coffees?  I need a nonfat peppermint mocha with whip and a white chocolate mocha without whip.

Girl:Okay so you want whip on both?

Liz:  No, just whip on the peppermint mocha.  [how did this get so complicated?]

Girl:  So no whip on the peppermint mocha.

Liz:  Whip on the peppermint.  No whip on the white chocolate.

Girl:  Okay, do you want milk, white, or dark?

Liz & I:  What?? [we began cracking up again]

Girl:  [silence]

Liz:  I feel like I'm high- I can't stop laughing [more laughter]

Girl:  [more silence]

Liz:  [hoping she didn't hear the last comment and called the cops.]  Okay, I'm sorry.  What was it that you said?

Girl:  [sigh] Do you want to just pull up to the window?

Liz & I:  [more laughing]  YES!!

We pull up to the window.  At this time the line of cars is nearly out to the road.

Girl: [Comes to the window]  Okay, would you like milk, white, or dark chocolate in your peppermint mocha.

Me:  [I'd never been asked such a question before and clearly was unprepared]  Um, what is your favorite?

Girl:  I like white.

Me:  I'll take milk.  [wasn't trying to dismiss her feelings, but after second thought- milk chocolate definitely sounded best.]

The girl shakes her head, hands me my grilled cheese in a bag and goes off to make our coffee orders.  We hear her take the order of the person behind us & once again, trying to sound out the names of the cheeses.  This cracks us up yet again.  We are nearly crying now.  Girl comes back with drinks.  We thank her through our laughter.  Liz is trying to hand her a credit card.

Girl:  Wait- did you guys already pay?  [It strikes us as the funniest thing ever and we start laughing again.  Liz shakes her head no through her laughs and hands the slightly annoyed girl her credit card.  We pay and drive off.]

Suddenly I spot the Dairy Queen and all of a sudden Dairy Queen seems like the best idea ever.  We proceeded to go through the Dairy Queen drive thru...

I Found My Cause...

I had the honor and privilege to volunteer with some of our countries true heroes.  It was at a golf tournament in Bethesda, MD and the slinkiest little country club you ever did see.  The women’s locker room was bigger than a banquet room.  All the amenities imaginable.  It’s good to be King!
My first assignment on this day- registration.  Working alongside a former sailor herself, Miss Linda was a PN back in the old salty-sea dog days.  Surely this woman has seen and done it all.  Together we checked everyone’s name off as I got to give the shpeal “If they go down and test drive a vehicle at John Colman’s Cadillac, they will validate this $75 gift card to be used on Callaway products.”  (I learned that Callaway products are golf products.  Good to know!)  Sounded simple enough.  After about 50 times of repeating this same ol line as fast as I could so the people did not walk away from me, I quickly began to feel like quite a salesman.  Something that I am anything but!
And then the games began…   There were introductions, thank yous and dedications.  The National Anthem played, the Color Guard presented the colors like only they can do.  The Warriors were then individually introduced.  A handful of young men that look like your typical guy-next-door.  Except some were missing an arm.  Others a leg.  And some carried their injuries much further inside of them.  All of them carried a secret of a brotherhood that only they could understand.
In moments the time had passed, and the golf carts were off!  Excited to ride in one, I was willing to make up any excuse to go– to help deliver water, etc.  Truthfully I just wanted to see what was going on.  Everywhere.
All in all it was a great day and meeting some of these Veterans was extremely eye-opening.  Some of their injuries were physical, others were mental.   No one escapes such experiences without being a changed person.
I met a young man, and father of five, named Ramon.  He was missing his right forearm, but didn’t miss a beat as he used his golf-club attachment designed just for him.  He told me his story in a matter-of-fact tone.  Not once did he feel sorry for himself.  He had the most positive attitude of any person I’ve ever met.  He said, “How can I complain- I get to golf all over the country, meeting people and raising money for the Wounded Warriors so they can help other wounded veterans.  It doesn’t get any better than this.”
If a man that has seen combat and left behind a piece of himself, it definitely gives perspective to our everyday problems.  I hope to since adopt the motto and live each day believing “It doesn’t get any better than this.”  I’m not a fool- I know I continue to have my moments- but all I can do is start each day over with the same mentality.
As an additional note- I feel like I’ve finally found a cause that is close to home for me and that I feel passionate about.  I will do more in the future for the Wounded Warriors Foundation.

In the Beginning...

Hello my favorite friends and family!  Welcome to my first ever blog site.  If you know me at all, you know I constantly have the most random thoughts that pop into my head.  I usually feel obligated to share these most profound statements- as if I have just discovered the meaning of life- with my top 5 favorites on my cell phone.  Well it's become so regular, half the time I don't even get a response from my sisters or mom anymore because I think they just don't even know what to say anymore other than, where do you come up with this stuff?  I have no idea.  Probably driving.  Yes, I do believe my best thoughts come while I am driving.  So, hop aboard and enjoy the ride!