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, January 31, 2012

Shared Joys

“We’re only 10 minutes away!”  She squealed into the phone.

“Ten minutes?!  I’ll be right there!”  I hung up, dropping everything.  The errands would wait- they were almost here!

I pulled into their driveway seconds before I saw the truck making its way up the path.  Tinted windows shielded the glare of the afternoon sun as well as their faces.  I sat back in my seat, and waited. I took a breath.

She would be sitting in the passenger seat.  The thought pasted a cheesy grin on my face, waving my hands in the air for her to see me through the window.  It had been two years.

As she came into view, I watched her gaze up at the new home. Her mouth dropped open as a smile bloomed across her face like a field of sunflowers in the light of dawn.  Her hands delicately touched her face and tears began to fall as she shook her head in disbelief- as if she couldn’t believe the moment was really happening.

Immediately, I recognized that familiar look of pure, raw joy.  It was the joy I saw as I watched her hold her newborn babies for the first time.  It was the same joy she had shown when she held my babies.  My joy was her joy.

We became instant best friends the day Mrs. Stejskal asked me to "show the new girl around" in second grade.  She taught me how to do a one-handed cartwheel.  I taught her how to water-ski.  We were inseparable. 

After graduation, I joined the military to ‘fight in wars' and she went to Africa to build orphanages. 

She is sensitive and pure.  I get angry when she doesn't stand up for herself.  Then I talk her into Chipotle instead of Chic-Fil-A. 

After 25 years, we finish each others’ sentences. I know how she thinks and she knows why I am the way I am.

Naturally, she was my maid of honor.  That day, she cried tears of joy for me.  One year later she married the Best Man.  I cried tears of joy for her.

We raised our babies together and had game nights every Saturday.  Then without warning, they lost their job and had to move.

Now three years later, they found a job nearby. We were neighbors again- 1300 miles from where we first met in Deer River.  They had a home again.  And I felt her joy.  Her joy was my joy.

(A pic of us in 2nd grade. I'm the one with the mullet- thanks Mom!)

*This piece was written in response to a Write on Edge prompt.

Friday, January 27, 2012


Among many of the lessons I learned while serving in the military, an important one was this:

Dear Americans, we do not always know what is really going on out there in the big world.  We, as the general public, often have no idea what is happening outside of our immediate circle.  We really have no idea the extent of involvement that our government already has.  I'm not speaking of conspiracy theories. The government is constantly extinguishing fires left and right from terrorist threats, suspect behavior, rumors of weapons, etc. (the list goes on)

I know this because I was directly involved with some of them, once upon a time.  We were assigned missions that if the general public knew how many times America was targeted, or suspected threats, they would never sleep another peaceful night.  Rest assured though, that is why we have intelligence analysts, the FBI, CIA, and US military.  So Americans can sleep at night.  These guys (generically used) are out on the front lines, fighting the threats and doing all of the worrying for us- so essentially, the general public does not have to.

However, I feel compelled to say it:  WE ARE A SLAVE TO THE MEDIA.  We only hear what they want us to hear.  Many times it is only a portion of the story- or the story is evaded completely.  Depending on the source, the stories are most often swayed. 

So what are the intentions behind reporting the stories that they do?  Shock value?  To sell a paper?   Or report the truth?  I have yet to find a news station or even a newspaper that is not biased- whether it is politically, demographically, or financially swayed.

I have a good friend that works for CNN.  She has told me before that they continuously have a plethora of news stories bombarding them all day long.  However, she is only allowed to report a very select few.  And yet the way CNN airs the same news stories all day long, you'd think they were out of stories.  Not so much. Consider this before making up your mind about a given situation.

Why are we policing the Middle East, but not African or other countries that are under constant genocide?  Why do we not hear about the other countries under a civil war?  Why not the other events that are stirring continuously across the globe?  What is the motivation of the government and what is motivation of the media?  How do we find out the truth? 

We ask.  

Sounds easy enough, right?

Ask someone who has been there.  Respectfully, ask a soldier who has just come home his or her perspective of what they saw- what their opinion is.  Note their opinion.

Do they believe in what we are doing over there?  Was it all horrible or is there any good coming out of it?  Are we making a difference?  Are we helping or hurting?  Why is it taking so long?  I know many of us have been questioning this since it all began.

Ask many.  The more people you ask, the more opinions you will get.  This in turn can help you be informed on what is really going on before believing the first report you hear. So often, they really just are opinions.  Get the facts.  Are pictures swayed?

Ask someone who has lived overseas what their story is.  Note their story and note where they are from.  Everyone has a story.  Everyone has a perspective.  Even the enemy has a perspective- wrong,
right, or otherwise.

I am ashamed to admit that there have been times I have jumped on a bandwagon without asking the questions.  I hated Jane Fonda- yet I was not entirely sure why.  I knew I was patriotic and heard that she wasn't.  I felt more patriotic because I hated Jane Fonda.  After I did some research- I realized many of the stories I had known about her were untrue.  There were true ones and I watched as she owned up to and apologized during an interview again her wrongs.  Suddenly, she appeared human.  

I would like to think I am a forgiving person and I can only hope that I am still not condemned when I am 74 for the mistakes that I made when I was in my 20's- mistakes that I've since learned from and can do nothing at this point but apologize. Why didn't I look into the whole story?  I didn't ask.

I just read an article from an online magazine that sparked something inside of me.  This is from the blog by Michael Yon.  He is a former Green Beret and now reporter in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  He is also the author of Danger Close and Moment of Truth in Iraq.  He has financed his own trips to report from the front lines.  He had questions that he needed answered.  The following is a piece from his online magazine.  It is from the perspective of an Iranian woman:

25 January 2012  A young Iranian woman has written to me off and on for a couple of years.  Yesterday she sent a note.
I responded in part with a few questions: 

What do young Iranians think about our government and about the Iranian government?  Also, do you think there will be war?
She replied immediately.  I corrected some minor grammar: 

“To make the long story short people in Iran, not just youth, hate the government and want to move out of the country as soon as they can...

“I am a patriot and I will remain one no matter where I am, but lets face it. Things are bad and getting worse as every day goes by. I have plans for my future and do not want to stay in a country where my skills and capabilities are most likely going to waste.

"The Iranians do not hate you nor do they hate ur government.  This is all the media.  The people have nothing to do with the media Michael.  No one is against you here except for those on the government's side.  Unfortunately they’re not few, they’re actually many, but they won’t last forever. Someday this is all gonna turn upside down.  Sometimes I ask myself do I wanna be here for the next revolution?  I dunno ..."  

(to read more about Michael Yon check out the following link:

I couldn't help but be blown away by this.  What a different prospective that we would never hear in the general media.

Of course we all can't exactly drop everything we are doing and fly to the Middle East to get some answers.  But we do have the responsibility to research before we believe everything we hear- regardless of where we stand on the issues.

We need to start by asking the questions.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Day Has Come

Oh happy day!  (I must announce my happiness!)

My first book is officially released in stores today! Yay! It can be found on Amazon, Barnes & Nobles to name the big ones.  Proof that dreams are attainable!  "Your mountain is waiting. So... get on your way!"  ~Dr. Seuss

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Salt Water Cure

“The cure for anything is salt water… sweat, tears or the sea.”  ~ Isak Dinesen, pseudonym of Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke

I had to get away.  I sprinted into the repulsive port-a-potty at the base camp.  I locked the door just as a flood of tears began pouring uncontrollably down my face.  I didn’t know why.

I wasn’t okay anymore being stuck up on the mountain.  Not that I ever expected it to be- but I just wanted it to all be over.  I was sick of feeling like I needed to prove something to everyone.  I never wanted to see in innocent life die so horrifically- even if it was for survival. The thought made me cry harder.  I pictured the poor rabbit so sweet in the instructor’s arms.  And then the blood.  The blood speckled the faces of everyone watching the demonstration as the rabbit’s head made contact with the stump and sprayed its contents.  I thought of our rabbits on the farm that we had growing up.  I thought of the other four rabbits in the cage and what was probably happening to them that very second.  Shaking and sobbing now- I couldn’t hold it in any longer.  It wasn’t just about the rabbits anymore.

I was hungry, cold, and lonely.  I wanted to go home.  I needed my mom.  I hadn't showered or shaved in three days.  I disgusted myself.  Four days still to go. Maybe I just wasn’t cut out for this after all.  I knew I had come too far to give up now, but that’s all I wanted to do.  Five minutes passed.  Then ten.

Finally, I decided I had cried enough.  I wadded up some toilet paper and wiped my face.  I waited a few seconds for my eyes to clear and opened the door.

No one was near or had noticed my absence. If they had, they didn’t say anything.  I walked to my group, grabbed a knife and began peeling the vegetables for the rabbit soup.  Four more days.


This post was written in part of assignment for Red Writing Hood/Write On Edge:  "tell us about the last time that one of these three things 'cured' you." [sweat, tears or the sea]

The previous is from the book that I have been working on for some time now- you guessed it: What They Don't Teach You in Deer River.  This is a piece from the chapter on my SERE school training in the Navy.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


Navy boot camp is a total of 9 long weeks.  At the end of week 7, there is one summarizing event where in a matter of 12 hours, one is tested on everything that has been learned up to that point.  It’s the end-all, be-all.  Fish or cut bait.  Cut the loose ties.  You get the drift.  Upon completion of this whopper-size accomplishment, a “recruit” (as the enlisted folks are called during boot camp) will have the ceremonious crossover from a “Recruit” ball cap to earning their “Navy” ball cap. A sign of respect around those parts.  Aside from graduation, this is the next prevalent event for a young sailor-to-be during the boot camp progression.
The entire evolution begins right around the time one is about to fall asleep- that phase where one is just coming into a delusional but realistic crossover into the dreamworld phase.  About an hour after taps a siren will sound indicating that it is time to “man your battle stations,” and simulate a shipboard attack.
The recruits are sprung into action and never stop moving from that moment forward.  The entire night is spent testing everything learned about survival swimming, first aid and safety procedures, fire-fighting, rifle shooting, damage control to name a few.  All of this is performed to the highest standard under intense conditions- always  with an emphasis on teamwork.   Over the next 12 hours in a massive hands-on exercise the recruits will feign a wartime scenario.  It is designed to test endurance, fortitude and stamina.  This had proved to be an incredible test of will-power and preparation of my future Naval career ahead.  It also was the closest comparison to the challenge I (being one of those recruits) would face in the next phase in my life after the Navy:  motherhood.
Last night, as I arose every hour, on the hour for various reasons, I could not help but think comparatively of the night I endured the ultimate “battlestation” test back in my boot camp days. 
The following is a rough play-by-play of my night:
10:30pm- Lights out.  Excited I made it to bed early- I was anticipating the fact that I may actually squeak out 8 hours of sleep on a weekend!  I slipped between the cool sheets and snuggled into my plush, comfy bed and easily drifted off to dreamland.
11:20- Abruptly awakened as my child feels it is necessary to notify me that she is using the bathroom.  Permission granted- I re-emphasize permission is not required.
11:30- Now awakened- I realize how hot the bedroom has become as I forgot to turn down the heat.  Reluctantly, I trek downstairs and turn down the heat, and quickly return to bed.
12:43- 2nd Child wakes up to remind me that she still needs lunch money on Monday.  I assure her that this can be addressed in the morning.  She will not go hungry. 
2:18- I awake to the cat trying to get out of my room.  Apparently she ran in and became trapped inside last time a child came in.  I let the cat out and climb back into bed.  I yet again attempt to fall asleep.
3:45- 3rd child wets bed.  Mechanically, I change the sheets.  When changing sheets- I pull out a tooth secured neatly in a Ziplock bag and realize we had forgotten to leave tooth fairy money.  I set alarm for half an hour in hopes that he will be back asleep so the ‘tooth fairy’ can inconspicuously retrieve tooth under pillow.
4:00- I return to bed.
4:10- 2nd child awakes to ask permission to use bathroom.
4:35- Alarm goes off.  I deliriously awake from my 5 minute slumber to delicately stuff $2 under the pillow and ever so slowly slide out the tooth.  I attempt to be stealthy- thinking like a ninja.  I trip over toys upon my exit.  I realize I am not a ninja.  This saddens me for a second.
4:53- Blasted cat begins meowing outside of bedroom door indicating the expectation of food.  I get up and scold obscenities that can only be spoken at 4:53 in the morning to the cat.
5:01- Cat continues to disrespectfully scratch outside the door-now in retaliation I am sure.  I force myself to ignore the cat.  I secretly promise myself I will invest in a shock-collar with a remote for the cat.
6:02- Kids bombard the bed- announcing the arrival of morning in jubilance.  In a state of fog, I get up, put some cartoons on the TV and retreat back to my bedroom in desperate hopes for just a few more minutes of sleep.  I’m fishing for crumbs.
6:15- Kids begin tattling on each other. I referee. 
6:30- Listening to commotion- I at last forfeit any hopes and dreams of obtaining a good night’s sleep.  I wake and attempt to press on despite my defeat.  I stumble to the kitchen and put on the coffee.
In my stupor, it suddenly occurred to me the countless nights I have relied on my Battlestations training without realizing it.  The digging deeper- finding the extra "umph" inside to push through sheer exhaustion.  Although Battlestations was preparing for us all for a war-time scenario, I didn’t realize at the time the fires I’d later be putting out all night were those of my children’s.  I wonder if all of the old RDC’s that lead us back then realized that their wives were probably going through their own Battlestations at home at that very night. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Unfulfilled Resolutions

I knew what I wanted.  A fabulous post-baby body.  I would have settled to make it up 2 flights of stairs without getting winded.  Or not get that “disciplining look” when I proudly exclaimed I could pack away a 5-lb Chipotle burrito.  I used to astound with my fabulous eating abilities.  Then my metabolism slowed- and it was not so impressive.

I got the “You look pretty good… for someone who had 3 kids.”  While I realize the intention was good, it’s not exactly a compliment.  It’s like saying, “you look good… for someone who’s had their belly stretched out 10 times its size, 3 different times.”  Not to mention the number nursing does for any plans to be a Victoria Secret model.  I’ll spare the details.

While I couldn’t yet bring myself to diet (I love food way too much) I made a vow to “get healthier”.  I would eat carrots along with my chocolate and I would run more.  I used to run.  Then life got crazy and I stopped.  When my sister decided to start training for the academy, I jumped on the opportunity to have a “workout buddy.”  Suddenly I had a reason to get up when “sleeping in” until 6am sounded so much better!

I anticipated pain.  What I didn’t foresee was looking forward to my morning conversations.  I’m not a quiet runner.  I despise awkward silence, so I usually try to fill quiet time with random stories that pop into my head.  Sometimes this is probably more awkward than the silences- however, they past the time, nonetheless.

I finally had a moment to catch up with my sister.  This was the most time I had spent with her without an argument in… well ever.  I love my sister- but like many families, we can only take each other in small doses.  However, running together brought us to an all new level.  We had a common goal.  Hers- to get into the academy.  Mine- to chip away at my ever-growing derriere.  Both of equal importance.

Strangely, I found myself looking forward to runs before the crack of dawn in the 16° darkness.  Didn’t see that coming.  There’s a chance I may never get my modeling contract with Victoria’s Secret, (I’m a bit short) however, I will never regret the extra time I’ve spent getting to know my sister.  Now, I must go finish my burrito.

Friday, January 6, 2012


The wind whipped like the tail of a dragon, stinging my cheekbones with a snap and drawing water to my eyes.  Most of the snow had melted by now, sparing just a few patches, but the grass that showed was yet lifeless and brown.  Spring had not yet come on this April day.
Suddenly my body that had been numbed to stillness jumped as a deafening shot broke through the sounds of sniffing noses and choked back sobs.  Everyone halted and exactly twenty more followed.
And then, nothing but the lonely sound of a bugle could be heard, followed by an echo off in the distance.  They were the same familiar notes that symbolized a part of who my grandfather was.  He wasn’t just my grandfather for the ten years that I knew him, he was a national hero.  He had lived a lifetime well before I ever knew him.  He had touched many lives.  I realized how many stories I never had the chance to hear.  How many questions I never had asked.  What was his favorite game as a kid?  What did he think the first time he saw my grandmother?  Was he ever scared he wouldn’t ever come home during the war? How did he ever get out of bed again after losing his first born son?  It was a life that was now done- and would no longer exist if the memories were not kept alive by those closest to him.
As I watched them delicately fold the flag into a perfect triangle, I felt the stiff arm of my cousin wrap around my shoulder and squeeze, showing the extent of affection tough country men were allowed to show.  “We sure had a great grandpa.” He simply stated.
No truer words were ever spoken.  It was then that I gave my tears permission to fall, knowing there was no use in trying to hold back any longer.

The above was written in response to a prompt from Write on Edge.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New Year Advice (From the Mouths of Babes)

Happy 2012!!!  A clean slate, a fresh start to do even better than ever.

Below are quotes from my little ones from the past year.  As soon as they say it- I'm always sure to write them down- a huge tip I would give to any new parent. 

Hope you enjoy and learn some valuable lessons to take with you into the New Year from my...

CJ: 9 yr old daughter,
JA: 7 yr old son,
& CC:  5 yr old daughter


Me:  Why did you put hand sanitizer on your sister's pillow?
JA:  I do it every morning.  I need to clean it ‘cause she drools on it every night.
Cleanliness is important.

CC:  I need some gasoline [Vaseline] for my lips.
Be careful what you wish for.

JA:  I just ran my muscles out of business.
Exercise whenever you can.

JA:  I got lots of pictures from the Valentine dance.
Me:  Oh really?
JA:  Yeah, in my head.  I got one video too.
Capture memories.

CC:  Mommy, have you ever been to jail?
Don’t be nosy.

CC:  Can we watch Diarrhea of a Wimpy Kid?
Proper word enunciation is very important.

JA:  Can I have some brown sugar for breakfast?  With a little oatmeal in it?
A little sugar goes a long way.

CC:  A few days ago I just learned about everything in the world.
Never stop learning.

JA:  Usually when it’s close to Easter, I sleep all day.
Take time to relax.

CC:  Oh, I broke the antennae off of my apple!
Eat a healthy diet.  Be gentle with your food.

Me:  [attempting to teach a lesson]:  What is something you probably shouldn’t do, even if your friends are doing it?  [thinking smoking, drugs, etc.]
JA:  Stick a sword in someone!  [Understatement of the year!]
Don’t cave to peer pressure.

CC:  Mommy, when am I going to have a beard?
Me:  Um, never.
CC:  Do girls get beards?
Me:  No… not normally.
CC:  Oh.  [Sounding disappointed]
Me:  Do you want a beard?
CC:  [thinking] No… just a mustache.
Embrace your own natural beauty.

JA:  Attention everyone.  While we are at the park, please do not go near the green people.  They could be zombies.
Be wary of strangers.

CJ to JA:  You’re going to ruin your insulation.  [cut off your circulation]
Take care of your body.

JA:  We just planted a bug.  It was dead though.
Not everything grows when planted.

CC:  Do we get to see the magic pencil in Pennsylvania?
Travel much.

CJ:  After 12:38 my stomach starts rumbling.
Always be punctual.

CC:  [As we are walking together] You know what Mommy?
Me:  Hmmm?
CC:  I’m really starting to like you.
Tell others how much they mean to you.

CC:  Mommy, I wish your name could be Jesus.  But that’s a boy’s name.
Aim high.

CJ:  This is freaky, but I have white stuff on my tonsils.
Me:  [after inspection] Um, I think it’s just spit.
CJ:  Oh good.  I thought it was mold!
Get regular check-ups.

JA:  I love you as far as the sun.
CJ:  I love you as far as Jupiter.
CC:  I love you as far as Washington state.
Love much.

"Let this coming year be better than all the others. Vow to do some of the things you've always wanted to do but couldn't find the time. Call up a forgotten friend. Drop an old grudge, and replace it with some pleasant memories. Vow not to make a promise you don't think you can keep. Walk tall, and smile more. You'll look ten years younger. Don't be afraid to say, 'I love you'. Say it again. They are the sweetest words in the world." ~Ann Landers