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.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Pure Bliss

As it does for every family, Christmas day came and went this year in a flash.  All of the preparation and planning.  All of the baking, shopping, and wrapping- all for this one huge day.  Like a wedding day- it played out beautifully and then, faster than you can say, "Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle"- it was done.  I found myself like I do after every big event that I take weeks to prepare for, sitting there walking in circles, confused over the slower pace and with a tad bit of post-Christmas blues.  Now what?  What’s the next big thing to look forward to?  How else am I going to fill every void minute of my day?  (yes, I have a sickness called, "ConfusedwhenIhaveasparemoment Disease")

Often this planning for these momentous occasions can overlook the things we  find pleasure in every day.  As much as I hate to admit it, in the craziness of it all I find myself losing my patience with my kids.  Bedtime stories are often cut short or instructed to “choose a quick book tonight,” as I have cards to stuff or messes that are awaiting me.  And as counter-productive as this seems to be towards the real meaning of the season- this is just unfortunately the nature of the beast.  I then resolve to do better in the new year.  I'm sure that like my own, many New Year’s resolutions often are a direct result of the holiday’s guilty decisions.

Yesterday, as a result of my mom casually mentioning how much she loved to go ice skating as a young girl and how she hasn’t done it for years and years, we decided why not bring the whole family to the local ice rink?  So we dug out hats and found matching pairs of gloves for everyone (as in matching the other hand- an accomplishment within itself), and set out on our big family adventure.  And that it was.

They aren’t many that can please and occupy everyone from a crazy rambunctious 7 yr old boy who never sits to 50-something grandparents.  However, on the ice- we all were one and shared the same common goals:  Do not fall and look like an idiot and/or cause an injury that would last well into our new year.  Did we accomplish our goal?  Heck no.  We fell, we got bruised and bumped, and I got a blister the size of Texas that I'm paying for today.  Luckily no major injuries- though my son banged his head pretty hard twice on the ice, but refused to stop skating. Already such a man in so many ways!

We also laughed at our foolishness, and smiled out of delight.  We helped each other young and old, and challenged each other- showing off our skills.  We entertained ourselves in our own foolishness.  We felt like kids again.  And we all left feeling refreshed mentally and physically having done something good for ourselves.  We felt joy. 

This is a picture of my mom.  I love it because you can see nothing but pure bliss on her face.

Me with my two best friends in the world- my sisters :-)  A great day.

What is it that brings your pure joy in its rawest form?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Road Less Traveled

"Ha ha- look there are no center lines on this highway,”  I laughed, easily amused by this.  It felt good to get off the beaten path a little.  I had pushed for the decision based upon the GPS declaring it had 3 magical choices for us. 

Choice # 1:  The quickest route via freeway.  I’m very tired of freeways.   
Choice #2:  A four-lane highway, veering slightly off the freeway for a small distance. 
Choice #3:  Only ten more miles- but an intricate path through hidden and forgotten about cities full of no doubt surprises and new sights to see.

I of course voted the road less traveled.  My better half-although the most logical man in the world, but also wanting nothing more than to make me happy, drove the truck down Choice #3, though I’m sure against all practical reasoning.
As much as I openly hated GPS’s, for some reason on this trip I just decided to throw caution to the wind and just trust in it this time- as opposed to my usual insistence of verifying its calls with my maps.  I love maps.  They never lie.  They could be outdated, but they never lie.  If one gets lost with a map, it’s 99% of the time their own fault.  If one gets lost with the GPS, well, for some reason that just seems to happen to me 99% of the time anyways.  Though my family and friends are always swearing by them and will make fun of me in jest because of my inability to trust in them.

We turned down the near single-car lane, then weaved around either side of an open southern Virginia tobacco field.  Gone were the road numbers and in their place were roads named after their inhabitants for the past 200 years or so.  Miller’s Way.  Jone's Drive.  Big John’s Road.  Possum's Path.  I could definitely see where this had once probably been the trail of horse-drawn wagons, or even perhaps a pack mule. 

Quaint farm houses with pillars over their wrap-around porches and withered red barns that looked like they had seen better days were littered periodically through the field.  I was secretly reassured because I had a cell phone on me.  Just in case. 

Growing up in MN I would have been subconsciously calculating if it would be closer to go to the house I had just passed, or would it be best to keep going in the direction I was traveling in the case of a breakdown, (or more likely getting stuck in several feet of snow.)  This all depended on how long ago I had passed the house.  I looked down at my phone in which I had come to rely on so much.  (I think I may have  even forgotten how to change a flat tire due to my fanatical dependence on this tiny piece of electronic genius- a lesson I was required to pass before I was allowed to take the car as a teenager.)  The reception bars had disappeared from my phone.

As the road continued to narrow, we came to a stop sign.  The GPS insisted we turn right, though the blatantly orange DETOUR sign told us that was no longer an option.   We soon found ourselves driving down scenic roads that the map was not even aware existed, and the GPS, clearly expressing it’s distaste for our lack of obedience- refused to speak to us any longer.  We were beginning to realize we were, in fact, in a bit of a pickle.

I did my best to remain optimistic, pointing out the fact that we would have missed the beautiful little rock-lined pond and brook had we taken the freeway.  And Lord knows I’m a better person for having seen all of the refreshing farmlands and woods.  I was doing my best to keep the faith for my family, though I knew we only had so many, “Are we there yet?”’s left in us before something inside of us threatened to snap.

I secretly began to pray for a road sign.  Any road sign would due.  Just to prove that we were somewhere that was documented.  Instead, what came into our view as we rounded the corner was something that made me do a quick, silent confession of my sins in my head.

There up ahead were probably about ten to twenty men, lined along side of the ‘highway’.  Propped over their shoulders or hanging down to their side was a rifle.  We continued towards them, not wanting to attempt to turn around and draw attention to ourselves.  Because there was no shoulder, the men were standing about as close as they could to the road without getting smacked in the head by a passenger side mirror.

We traveled past them, with the feeling like we were the singular show in a parade.  “This…is…creepy,”  was all I could muster to say.

“They must be just doing a drive.  I think it’s the last day of deer season down here.”

I was sitting at eye level and could feel there glares looking into my passenger window.  They were not happy to see us and made no attempt to hide that fact.  We were disturbing their hunt.  Or worse.  Their heads followed us one at a time as we passed.

“This couldn’t be any more awkward…” I muttered the obvious.

Suddenly free of the hunters' glares, we rounded another bend only to be greeted by a ‘ROAD CLOSED’ sign.  At this point, I would have insisted on driving through the broken road (there is something about owning 4-wheel drive that causes one to make decisions like these that are less than thought out.)  However, due to the fact there was a ginormous crane that occupied the entire width of the road- there was no driving through this broken road.  Instead, we turned around and reluctantly had to creep past the deeply annoyed and impatient hunters for a second time.  We tried our best to look invisible, but alas, we were not.

“You know, I can see how people could get away with things out here.  All this land and swamps.  No one would ever know anything, because they’d never see or hear anything AND they’d never find a body."  I was lost in deep thought.

He looked at me, slightly worried now.  “I’m glad I’m on your good side.  Well, most days anyways!”

Sometimes I am just as shocked as others are by the things my mouth says without first running them past my head.

After an hour more or so of wandering through the Virginia forests and swamplands, we eventually found our way to an actual road with numbers.  I sought relief in the little things- such as other cars, or gas stations, or center lines in the road.  

An “I told you so” wasn’t even necessary.  As appeasing as he would continue to be, he knew that I had learned.  Sometimes the road less traveled is less traveled for a reason.

Virginia Counties Map

Monday, December 19, 2011

Thoughts from 2011

Every year as Christmas comes to a customary close, like many families, my mother, and sisters and I always have this tradition where we reflect on the past year- since that’s the one time in a year that we are all usually together.  We look at where we are compared to where we were a year ago.  The statement “Would you have ever thought you’d be here last year at this time?” follows that reflection.  The answer is usually, “Not in a million.”  Even when we have a fairly ‘normal’ year, (as in no major life-changing events) there is still this ongoing, changing in our lives. It’s been said that the one thing that you can count on is change.  Our lives are continuously developing, changing, and growing.
The only one sure thing I know of in life is family.  Family is everything.  We are literally spread across the entire country. (WA, MN, MD, MI, KS, NY, ND, CA…) Having moved away from where I grew up, I also consider my closest friends my family, as they are usually the ones I spend birthdays and thanksgivings- and if I count the spread of states in which close friends reside, the results are infinite.  Well, maybe 48 or 49 states.
In this grand year of 2011, we had our annual trip to back home where we stayed at a resort on the lake for a week.  It’s the prime time for the kids to meet their awesome (and sometimes crazy) extended family- and not to mention get a taste of life up in Northern country. 
I also attended two fabulous weddings this year- one a cousin in Kansas and the second was a cousin in Minnesota.  I hadn’t seen my cousins on my mother’s side in nearly 6 years.  (Since my grandmother’s funeral- this obviously was a much more pleasant gathering.)  And yet, we were able to continue our conversations without missing a beat.  We can go months without talking, but that doesn’t change the incredible bond I feel with my family. 
Family will love you and be there for you in a moment’s notice.  Though our families are not perfect by any means.  We all have our crazy ones, the loud ones, and the naughty ones (yeah, you know who you are) but that doesn’t mean we love them any less- maybe we love those ones even more.  I can fight with my sisters like two angry wet chickens, and 2 minutes later, we are over it.  No matter how you disagree with your family; you will always be there for each other- without judgment- without a deep judgment anyways. We all are just doing the best we can.  We make mistakes.  We hurt.  And we forgive.  We laugh together and we cry together.  We survive because we have each other.  We move forward because that is what life does. 
Our family is forever growing as everyone brings in their significant others to the circle.  And then sometimes when we least expect it, happy surprises fulfill the void that we never knew existed- until it is filled.  Other times, as Cinderella once said, “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone.”  That is, Cinderella the 80’s hair band- not the fairytale story.
I would like to think there is a plan for all of this, and someday it will all make sense.  Good comes out of bad.  Happiness comes out of sadness.  And joy comes out of emptiness.  Sometimes things don’t make sense and we fight only to be defeated.  The hardest part of it all is just letting go and trusting that everything is happening exactly as it should in a perfect plan for us.  Sometimes we must lose or almost lose something in order to realize the value of it.
And so for the next year ahead, I wish you many days of joy and contentment.  I hope that whatever is troubling you will fall into its place in perfect time as it should.  I hope for your hearts to be filled with love, and for your friends and family to be abundant and ever-standing.  When you look back at the year’s end, I hope that you reflect with wonder and amazement, but also satisfaction and understanding.  Let go of the urge to control.  Someday it will all make sense.   And finally, I hope for you that you know you never have to go through it alone.  We’re all in this craziness together.
Where are you now and where do you think you’ll be in a year from now?

 “If I could go back and change things, would I? I don't know if I would, because my life would probably be different. I know I made bad mistakes. I know I was wrong. But that's what you've got to do sometimes to learn how to be right.” ~James Frey

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Live Nativity Scenes: The Verdict is Out

I love living where I live.  There are always enjoyable activities going on- especially now that the holidays are upon us.  Just last weekend there was a huge festival downtown.   The streets were lined with actual candles glowing (not the fake light bulb in a can kind)and Santa makes his appearance by riding into town on not some boring old reindeer, but one of the ginormous local fire engines with the lights glowing and horns a blowing.  All of the shops along the street hand out enticing cookies and warm apple-cider, and it is really a time full of celebration.  We’ve enjoyed this tradition since we moved here and it is one of those events that delivers the small-town vibe.

However; there is one thing that I can’t help but have mixed emotions about- and if anyone can enlighten me, I welcome it!  Now please don’t think I’m being cynical to religion- because I’m not at all.  I am very much all for remembering the true meaning behind our Christmas celebrations.  And I do consider myself a very religious person.  I’m even a Sunday School teacher- that’s already a free pass into the Pearly Gates, is it not?  The thing I just don’t get the big excitement behind or the point:  LIVE nativity scenes.  I’m talking about using REAL people instead of statues made of porcelain or plastic. They are the kinds that different events and such will advertise: LIVE Nativity Scene from 3-7!  Come one and all to see!   

So they had one of these Live Nativity Scenes on Friday night in front of one of the old beautiful churches.  It was very nice of the people to volunteer their time.  They came and sat in their appropriately assigned seats in the manger.  Mary and Joseph in robes and rags and a few shepherds scattered about.  Mary held a Cabbage Patch doll that represented the big guy himself.   

My family and I all joined a group of on-lookers that were already gathered around the scene and we stood there, watching them.  Mary and Joseph, no doubt looking for ways to pass the time, carried on a conversation about where to get the latest iphone for the best price.  One of the shepherds pulled back his fancy robe on his left arm and checked his fancy digital watch to see how much time of his shift was left.  We just kept staring-wondering what the appropriate length of time was to watch.  Awkwardness began to creep in.  When we felt we had met the polite time requirement, I patted my children in front of me and said, “Okay guys, let’s keep walking.  There is much more to see!”  (we had already seen it all- I was looking for a polite way to say, "Let's get out of here- I'm feeling uncomfortable now.")

To which my 7 year old son protested and said, “Wait mom, I want to watch this.” 

I speculated he thought at any moment a pageant was about to start.  While I was happy that something had actually caught his attention long enough to keep him still for over 2 minutes, I regretfully had to inform him that this was, in fact, all that was going to happen.  He looked up at me with a confused look on his face as if I had just told him that the color of grass is not really green, but actually has been purple all of these years.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, this is all they are doing.”

“Well, why are they doing it then,” he asked with all of the innocence of a first grader.

“Well…” I stammered.  “To show us what it looked like back then the night that baby Jesus was born.”

He watched them for a minute longer in silence.  “Hmmm.  Okay.”  And with that he turned and walked away.
We all followed his lead.  I have to think he said it best, as it was just one of those things that made you go ‘hmmm’.  Perhaps if there were live animals so we could see camels and cows and such- it would have added a bit to the show??  Though I’m sure it’s not always easy to borrow a camel ‘round these parts.