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.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

This one day- I stalked a veteran.

One time, I was driving and came to a stop sign.  Right smack dab in front of me I noticed a car with a license plate with the words Vietnam POW on it.  Instantly I thought wow.  There is a true-life hero right in front of me.

Then I got a great idea.  I thought, I should tell him that!  I should thank him for his service!  I'm sure it would just have to make his day.  I had it all planned out perfectly in my head.

There was just one problem.  He was in his car moseying down the road and I was in mine.  And so, it was then that I decided to I followed him.  Not to his home or anything.  That would be psychotic of me.  Just to the grocery store where he appeared to be headed.  

I made it look like I was going there all along.  I can always use groceries, right?  When he parked, I slyly  slithered my car in a few parking spots down from his.  Then, casually, I took my time getting out- making sure he and his lovely wife got out first.  I didn’t want to be too obvious.  I checked my teeth in the sun shade mirror.  I rifled through my purse.  I glanced out of the corner of my eye to see them rounding the corner into the grocery store.

I leapt out of my car trying to look casual-ninja like.  I began to whistle and swing my arms, knowing for sure this would help me blend in.

As I entered the store, I cursed under my breath as they were suddenly nowhere in sight.  Ugh- this was starting to get complicated.

I grabbed a cart and skillfully began checking every aisle.  Finally I spotted them near the spaghetti sauces.  I gasped.  I love spaghetti too! 

Quickly and stealthily I raced into the next aisle.  I figured I’d cut them off head-on and make it look like an accident that I ran into him.  Not literally.  I’m not crazy.  Mostly.

So as I strolled about and began whistling again,  I saw him come into my aisle and he was wearing his Vietnam POW hat- which was good.  Otherwise I'd have to explain how I saw his license plate.  I worked up the courage and when he was in ear shot I blurted out with the greatest sincerity, “Thank you so much for your service, sir!”

He paused for a moment, looking surprised for a second and then smiled warmly, “Oh, this?” He touched his hat.  “Well, you’re very welcome.  Thank you for noticing.”

And without thinking, I said, “I just can’t imagine what it must have been like for you- and I thank you for your sacrifice.”

“Yes ma’am.  It wasn’t easy, that's for sure."  He shook his head.  "I spent 5 years over in there in a POW camp.  It was… “ his voice trailed off.  “Well, it was something else.  But I’m home now.”  He put his arm around his wife that stood next to him.  She looked up at him and smiled.  As they walked away she put her hand on my arm.  “Take care dear.” She smiled.  And I knew it meant something.

As I stood there, I came down from the rush of my 'mission' and reality hit me.  I tried to wrap my mind around the thought.  Five years in a POW camp- each day not knowing if it was his last or if he’d ever make it home again.  I could not imagine the things this man must have seen.  Stuff that no human should ever see or endure.  Somehow just saying thank you seemed hardly enough.   And I began to think we as Americans owe everything we are and have to this man.  Everything. 

I think of him today- as well as the hundreds of thousands of others that have gone before me- giving all they had to keep our country free.  Because of them we can go to bed at night and not have to sleep in fear- wondering if our families would be alive by sunrise like so many other countries must think about every night.  Until you've seen a third world country you never realize just how good we have it.

And so on this weekend as we’re celebrating our extra day off of work, barbecuing, or traveling, I ask that you please remember for just a moment what Memorial Day truly is about.  And thank a veteran today and every chance you get.  For our eyes know not what they’ve seen.

Though I personally have resolved not to stalk veterans anymore (or anyone for that matter) I will continue to thank them every opportunity I have.

To all my brothers and sisters in arms past present and future:  thank you.

All gave some.  Some gave all.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

This one night, I had a cop for dinner.

One night, not too long ago, we had a barbecue and invited some friends over.  My sister (the crazy one) invited one of her new friends from her place of work and their family over.  They had a little doll of a baby with completely pinch-able cheeks.  The husband/dad was a local county cop.

He arrived shortly after everyone else, as he had to wait for his shift to be over to join us.  I have to say it was pretty cool having a cop car parked in front of our house and we weren’t in trouble.  I thought- Ha!  The neighbors won’t be messing with us now!  Not that they ever did before.  In fact, they are quite nice.  Still- it felt a little powerful to have a friend in ‘high places’.
But soon, as the night went on, I realized how much this limited my conversations. I mean, I had never thought of myself as a law-breaking citizen, in fact, I’m quite the rule follower.  I don’t litter.  I don’t cheat. I don’t steal.  I’ve never done drugs and I always use my blinker.  However, that night I surprised myself with all of the stories I began to tell and had to cut myself short. 

“This one time when I was riding on top of a-  ”

“The other day when I was driving and listening to my iPod to block out the kids-"

“...Remember- I texted you while I was getting gas the other day to see if you needed anything-"

"...And all the empty beer bottles were rolling around under my seat-"  (that was the crazy sister)

“We had to cut down this tree in the forest because it was in our way-"

“I almost got hit running across 4 lanes of traffic to get to the drug store.  Nah, the crosswalk was too far away-"

“The other night I ripped that irritating tag off of my mattress-"

I hadn’t realized that I was involved with so many ‘little crimes’ on a daily basis and I didn’t realize how many of my good stories were centered around these crimes!  Are there such thing as 'little crimes' or is a crime a crime?  The Bible says a sin is a sin.  Still, I have trouble believing murder is in the same category as ripping off your mattress tag- even though it says RIGHT ON THERE that it is against the law.
Soon I decided it was probably best for me to just sit and drink my wine and keep my mouth shut before I ended up serving hard time.  I don’t think I’d survive very long in prison.  I hate confrontations.

After awhile my thoughts were interrupted by the guys showing the kids how to shoot a BB gun at a can in the back yard.  I quickly turned to the cop and apologized. “I’m sorry- I’m not sure if this is illegal or not- in this residential area.  Please, if I have to go to jail, can I-"

He quickly interrupted me, “Relax, please!  It’s all good.  I mean, it’d be a little different if they were shooting an AK-47 or something.  Have another glass of wine!”
It’s like he knew me or something.

And so, I did.  I mean, technically I was directed to by a cop.  And I finally was able let my guard down and enjoy the rest of the barbecue as I watched the fireflies and listened to the sounds of frogs chirping.  In between the gun shots.  What a beautiful way to spend an evening- with my closest friends, family, and an off-duty cop.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Saving Worms

If ever asked, “What is the one reason you fell for him?” My answer would simply be, “Because he stops his truck, gets out, and help turtles cross the road- avoiding the slaughter of oncoming traffic as well.”  I had never in my life met anyone else that does that, nor have I since.  He had me at saving turtles.

I come from a long line of animal lovers and rescuers.  My sister, the crazy one, took it upon herself to find owners for every stray cat that came to her doorstep in Florida’s “Right to Roam” county.  Seriously- they have more chickens wandering around in the city than Old McDonald does on his farm.  

As soon as word got out that she had "the goods" (i.e. cat food), every single stray tramp south of Brevard County was doing a jig on her doorstep.  The line for handouts would wrap around a city block with these feral cats sporting empty bellies and extended paws.
Then she'd find homes for them.  Oh yes, she became a cat-pusher.  My mother could not escape her wrath.  She was talked into a cat.  Another was shipped to my other sister in Washington.  Yep. Shipped.  Drugged and sent on a plane across the country. Her best friend took another one in.  She soon was known as the local cat dealer.  People avoided eye contact on the street because they knew somehow they’d pass her and end up with a cat in their purse or back pocket.  But that’s just my family.  They simply cannot turn their back to an animal.

This was never more apparent than this past weekend as we decided to power-wash the 3 inch thick, green mildew off of the front porch.  Okay, I'm being dramatic.  It was only 2 inches.  Even if I aimed that nozzle directly onto the rail itself, I could barely get the mildew to smudge.  Finally, after an hour of that silliness, we decided to use a coat of bleach mixed with the water.  This (ah-ha!) worked like a champ! 

However, bleach doesn't come without a price.  As the diluted bleach streamed down the cement steps and into cracks along the sidewalk, it immediately looked as if an under-ground bait shop had exploded.  Earthworms descended out from the cracks at lightning speed, doing their best to escape the bleach now seeping into the soil.   

Realizing what was happening, my children were quick to grab a pail of water and dunk every last worm they could find into it.  There they bathed and massaged.  They were then promptly relocated and distributed under shaded rocks on the other (safer) side of the house.  Everyone had a hand in this process and we could all at last breathe a sigh of relief knowing the worms would go on to see better days.

Of course I realize saving (and bathing) worms may seem like a tedious task, hardly worth the effort, but I know to the worms it meant everything.  When I looked down, I swear I could see smiles on their little worm faces looking back at me.  And in turn, I smiled with pride at my kiddos that day, knowing that they too had animal-loving hearts that ran deep in their genes.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Doing the Best We Can

In Honor of Mother’s Day this Sunday, I thought I’d share what I've considered to be one of the most important lessons I believe that I've learned about motherhood.


My best friend and I had our babies within weeks of each other.  The next ones were born within months of each other.  By the time we had our last, we had 5 kids between us- all under the age of 4.  Some days were wonderful.  Most of them were hard.  It didn’t help that our hormones were completely out of whack at the same time.  

A typical conversation of ours over the phone:   “Maybe if we can just get to one of our houses together, we can help each other make it through the day.”  The thought of a simple task such as cooking lunch for the children seemed near impossible.  I was also still feeling weak from my last C-section.  

So we would get together and try to work in 'shifts'.  One would cook with a baby on her hip, serving up plates like an assembly line and the other would be carrying around another baby while supervising the older 3 that were somewhat 'playing' together.  Some days we’d work on thriving.  Some days we were just trying to survive.

We had both struggled with bouts of PPD.  One day it got the best of her.  She fell into an even darker place.  Her husband supported her in every way he could.  Still, it was hard to understand.  And even though I understood- there wasn’t much I could do to help.  I was still struggling to keep my head above water as well.  I listened to her and quietly cried with her.   

On a particularly bad day, I decided that I needed to call her mother- who was like a second mother to me.  She would know what to do.

Without hesitation, her mom flew across the country to be with her daughter as soon as she could get a ticket.  I (trying my best to help out) picked her up at the airport.  At the sight of her I couldn’t hold my tears in any longer.  I wanted to be strong for my friend, but inside I was secretly dying too.

I couldn’t help but wonder what I was doing wrong.  Everyone else made it look so easy.  They said they were happier now as a mother than they’d ever been before in their life.  What was wrong with me?  I felt like I had not only failed myself, I had failed my children.  This was not how I had envisioned it...

I crumbled in her mom's embrace.  Minutes passed.  Finally I pulled myself together enough to drive home.  Along the way I answered many questions and concerns she had about her daughter.  I know she understood.  I knew she’d know what to do to help her.

And then, she looked at me and said, “You know Julia, my mother made many mistakes. She had a lot of things going on in her life when I was young.  I harbored resentment towards her for a long time.   And then one day when I became a mother, I had this simple realization that changed everything. I realized that my mother had been just doing the best she could with what she knew.  I was finally able to let go of the grudges I had held towards her.  And I realized that is all I can do too.  That’s all any of us can do.”

It was such a simple statement, but it changed everything.  I clung to those words.  Things began to get easier as they usually will do.  Not over night, but eventually.  And one day I realized, I too really loved being a mom.

I couldn’t imagine my life any other way.  Despite the fact that I'm not Martha Stewart or June Cleaver, I too had something to offer my children.  All mothers do.

Years later, when given the opportunity, I tell all new mothers- including my little sister who had a baby 3 weeks ago-  we are all just doing the best we can.  It’s such a simple statement- but such a release.  We can let go of the judgment of others and ourselves, the fantasies of being perfect, and the guilt for falling short.  Some days all you need to worry about is surviving.  Tomorrow you can work on thriving.


Friday, May 4, 2012

Defining Moments

Some conversations you never forget.

The night was slow and dramatically drawn out like a cat yawn.  I sat at my desk, spinning my pen with my right hand.  I hated silence and the night shift caused for silences so loud that one could count the seconds
ticking away at the clock that clung to the pale brick wall across the room. 

At last the Duty Officer returned to his desk adjacent to mine after making his rounds. I nearly jumped at the opportunity for some conversation.  I flooded him with questions about his upcoming plans for the weekend.  It soon evolved into talking about his children.  I enjoyed listening as much as story telling.  Almost.

The time began to pass much quicker.  An hour.  Another.  Pretty soon we took a stab at current world events.  I couldn't help but get excited as I do when my passion about a subject leaks out.  My opinions and viewpoints poured on out like a rambling brook.  In turn, I listened intently to his.  Another hour passed.  I felt refreshed.  Cultural stimulation at its finest.  

Then, he crossed his arms across his chest and leaned back in his chair.  He frowned and cocked his head to the side.

“Petty Officer Maki, you’re a smart girl.”  He paused, and I was about to thank him when I sensed there was more to come.  “Why did you go enlisted?”

Enlisted.  The word was spoken like a pungent metallic taste in his mouth.  Had I heard him correctly?  Don't react.  Don't react.

I answered slowly, carefully choosing my words.  “You… think… I enlisted because I wasn’t smart enough to go to college?”

“I didn’t say you weren’t smart, but isn’t that why most people enlist in the military instead of going in as an officer?”  His demeanor was as casual as a Sunday picnic.  It was why I had previously let my guard down.

My fists began to clench.  “No, Sir.”  I was nearly whispering by now.  “Actually, my father begged me to go to college up until the day I got on the bus headed for boot camp.  He promised to find a way to pay for it.  Whatever it took.”  I shifted in my chair.

He looked even more perplexed as he considered the thought.

“I enlisted because I needed to get out there,” I continued. “I wanted an adventure and the Navy seemed the easiest route to do so at the time.”

“Oh.  Okay.”  He paused for a moment as he studied my face.  “Did I offend you or something?”

I had enough conversation for one night.  I began spinning my pen on my desk again, not bothering to look up.  “No, Sir.  Actually, you enlightened me."


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Lies I Consistently Tell

Lately, it seems that I find myself constantly stressing the importance of telling the truth to my children.  One broken-record day, I had a realization of just how much I really do lie in any given day.  I have to believe that I'm not the only one.  All with great purpose, of course.  That makes it better- I’m sure.  So here are a few: 
1.   I’m good.  How are you? 

Ah, the classic one.  Unless you are my mom, I know you don’t want to hear about me locking my keys in the car, the PTA lady that hurt my feelings, my over-compulsive shopping habit, and the big pimple on my chin.  If asked “How are you?”  I’ve learned to always just reply, “Good!”

2.   We don’t have any.

Dessert, money, whatever.  This usually ends the begging, pleading, whining from my kids.

3.   I don’t know. 

It’s not true.  I almost always know what I want. [Is that an oxymoron?] I just know you don’t want it- so I’m being kind and letting you decide.

4.   I have nothing to wear. 

I have plenty to wear.  I just feel extra-large today and have nothing to wear that doesn’t make me feel like a beached whale in florescent spandex.

5.   More dessert? Alcohol?  Oh, no thanks.  I’m good. 

I ALWAYS want more dessert or alcohol.  Or money.  But sometimes I just may try to be polite and refrain.   I said sometimes.

6.   I have no regrets.  

I only say this because Wayne Dyer and Oprah say I’m supposed to.  Everything I’ve done makes me who I am today.  Well that is very true.  But surely there was an easier way to have figured it out??

7.   I’m not sick.

Sickness is weakness.  I could be sweating buckets of saltwater, have a fever of 103, and vomiting all over the room and I will refuse to admit that I am sick. Darn it.

8.   I wasn’t sleeping.

If I’m ever caught napping I’ll refuse to admit it.  It’s a guilt-thing my dad instilled in me.  I’ll probably need years of therapy to get rid of it- but just haven’t had the time.

9.   I didn’t have time. 

Of course my schedule is more packed than a box of Christmas lights, I mean, isn’t everyones? However, if it’s something I truly wanted to do- I’d somehow find the time.

10. I’ll think about it. 

Chances are I’ll probably forget about it until the next time it is brought up.  This buys me time to avoid answering.  The truth is, I’ll probably think about coming up with a better excuse answer.

11. Oh it was no trouble at all. 

Often it is trouble- but who would admit it and make someone feel bad? (See they’re not all bad lies!)

12. Oh they were so well behaved.

They were terrible.

13. It’s not a big deal. 

It’s always a big deal.

14. It’s fine. 

Fine is a 4 letter word.  It doesn’t mean good.  If it was good- I’d say good.

15. I didn’t know!

It is far better to ask for forgiveness than permission.  “Oh, I didn’t know you aren’t allowed to put penguins in your purse to sneak them into the theater.  No one ever told me!”

16. If anyone ever asks “Do I look fat?”
       Always lie.  Politely make modification suggestions.  “Of course not!  But perhaps you want to wear this trench coat all day.  I heard it’s going to be chilly!” (another feel-good lie that shouldn’t count)

Those are just the ones I came up with in a matter of minutes.  It makes me nervous as to what I would come up with if I gave it a week’s worth of research. 
So… What are some of your consistent lies?
Mama's Losin' It