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.

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Harsh Truth

I refused to do it.  I couldn’t bear it.  I swore I never would.  And then... a few nights ago, I found myself doing what I never thought I'd have to do.

"I think it's time," my husband said.  

"No- I'm sure we have more time!"

"Julia.  It is time we are finally honest and own up to everything."

"But I just can't- it will… it will change everything!"

I stood there in silence, my arms crossed defensively.  I felt as if I was being attacked- made to feel wrong for how I felt.  I was not ready for this and I couldn't understand why he would make me.  I felt like a mother that was trying to hold onto her baby in a tornado- as she was slowly slipping through my fingers into the violent winds above.

"It's time we finally told her the truth about Santa."  He looked at me sternly.  Suddenly I felt like he was my parent too.  "She mentioned to me that her friends at school are telling her that there is no Santa and we are lying to her.  I just can't handle that."

He was right.  I didn’t want her to think we were liars.  Stupid friends.  I guess at 10, she was ready- whether I was or not.  We had pulled it off this long- but the jig was up.

Slowly we made our way up the stairs to her room, peeked our head in, and sat down on her bed.

"Hon, we want to talk to you about all of the questions you've been asking lately about Santa.  We never want you to think you cannot trust us."

She squinted her eyes at the light streaming through the door from the hallway.  "Okay," rolled off of her puffy lips.  Her face still looked so cherub-like- especially when she was sleepy.

Her father took a deep breath and slowly began an explanation of how we were the ones who bought, wrapped, and placed the presents under the tree every Christmas.

"But there really is a Santa Claus!" I quickly interjected.  "He lived hundreds of years ago.  He was a saint that gave presents to all of the children in his village."

"Right,” her dad continued.  "However, it would be impossible for one man to bring presents to all of the children in the world in one night-"

"And that is why the parents help!"  I interrupted.  I shot him a glance.

“So there really isn’t a Santa Claus?” she asked, tilting her head to the side.  I knew she already had her suspicions.

I waited for her to panic.  To begin shouting.  Instead, she brushed a piece of hair out of her eyes and there seemed to be a look of relief in them.  Validation.  Wisdom that comes with growing.

“No, Sweetheart.”

“But there is!”  I said- a little too loudly.  “Er, there was.  He’s the Spirit of Christmas!”

She looked at her dad and then back at me- absorbing it all.

I quickly mouthed the words to her, “I believe!” nodding my head up and down.

My husband looks over and rolls his eyes and smiles at his hopeless cause.

But the thing is, it’s true.  I do believe.  Okay, I do put the presents under the tree.  However, I do honestly believe in the magic that surrounds Christmas.  I believe that anything is possible.  People are kinder.  Miracles happen. 

My sister (the crazy one) recently sent me a letter she found on Pintrest that I just fell in love with.  I think the writer sums it up perfectly in this letter for their own child, no doubt full of questions.

“Santa is lots and lots of people who keep the spirit of Christmas alive.  He lives in our hearts- not at the North Pole.  Santa is the magic and love and spirit of giving to others.  What he does is teach children to believe in something they can’t see or touch.  Throughout your life you will need this capacity to believe in yourself, in your family, in your friends, and in God.”

I believe.  And I want my children to as well.  So after our conversation with our first-born daughter, I went downstairs.  Sat on the sofa.  And I began to weep, as any mother that just realized her baby was slipping out of her fingers would weep.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Happy Holidays 2012

From our family to yours...

This year was a big one for us as it marked the first year that all three kids are now in school.  School is great.  I’m always so proud and sometimes quite surprised at all that they learn on a daily basis.  For an example:

CJ:  Mom, we need more Irish muffins.  [English?]

CC:  Mom, once I’m a grownup, will you guys be like old grannies?
Human Development.

CC:  I’m going to throw this chicken bone into the yard so it will grow into a chicken tree.
Agricultural Studies.

JP:  [to CC] You were an egg once.  Did you know that?  It was in egg in Mom’s stomach.
Family Life Education.

CC:  JP’s killing a rabbit for me so I can have one and it won’t run away.

CC:  I ‘fought’ I heard a lion in the woods, so I came inside!  (naturally)
Personal Safety & First Aid.

JP:  When I grow up, I’m going to be a butterfly buster.  Almost like a Ghost Buster.
Career development.

Mom:  Um, why are you wearing that bandana around your head?
JP:  Because I’ve been wearing it for a few days now…  Because it was crazy day at school.  And I looked pretty good.  I got a girlfriend that day.

CC:  Do Indians drink out of their shoes?
Cultural Studies.

JP:  No, we went to a craft store.  Not Michaels.  I think it was called Staples or something.  Actually I think Dad just drove around a lot because he was lost, but don’t tell him I said that.
Driver’s Education

Auntie L. (The Crazy One):  Are we going to drive until we stop?
The Law of Physics.

JP:  Mom, how did God create Heaven?
Mom:  I’m not sure.  No one really knows.
JP:  Can we look it up online?
Information Technology.

I’d like to take this moment to thank all teachers everywhere.  I know it isn’t easy.  Our kids are no exception.  May we all continue to learn every day as we ring in the New Year!

Love to all and wishes for a joyous holiday season!

We survived the end of the world.  Now what's next?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Don't Judge.

So this one time, I had jury duty.

The letter arrived without warning one day in the mail and explained to me that I had been selected.  I then brought it to work, bragging to everyone I saw.  What's not to love?  An excused day from work.  A day with lots of quiet waiting- so I would have to read a book!  I'd actually have time to read.  But my excitement was only met with groans and moans.  Everyone that I spoke to that had jury duty before could only tell me how much they hated it- how boring it was.

Surely, they had to be wrong.  What could be more American, besides voting, than serving on a jury?  After all, Americans are bestowed the right to a fair and speedy trial by their peers.  My mind drifted off to Law and Order, Boston Legal, and OJ Simpson...

Finally the day came.  I picked out my best jury duty outfit.  Something not too trendy- one that said I'm serious, but fair.  I'm up-to-date with modern ways of thinking- but I am a responsible citizen that makes good choices.  (most of the time)  And of course, I was sure to dress in layers, as court rooms always appeared cold.

My long day began by my going to the wrong court house.  When I arrived, I waved my magic paper in the air that notified the security guard that I had been specially selected.  Security did not think it was as exciting as I did.  He simply requested that I put my purse on the scanner and to "please stop waving that godforsaken paper in my face, ma'am."  I was quickly directed across the street to the proper location.  At least I knew my bag would pass inspection.  (I had spent the night before removing anything questionable- lighters, razors, AK-47...)  

I was not to be discouraged though.  I leapt up the stairs, into courtroom number 1 and found a seat in the middle, front row.  I wanted to see everything.  

A couple of girls sat next to me and naturally, they became my new friends (my selection process isn't too rigorous).  We chatted and waited.  We got hushed for talking too loudly.  

Then they showed us a movie about our 'duty as American citizens'.  I mentally took notes.

About half way through, new friend #1 pulled a water bottle out of her purse and took a long, hard swig off of it as if it were a flask of whiskey on a Texas ranch.  But before she could put it down, a large white haired man with a county emblem on his jacket (the bailiff?) came running at her.

"Ma'am!  There is NO drinking, or eating, or chewing gum in the courtroom!  Your water must exit immediately."  It was as if he expected the water in violation to walk out on its own.

Slowly Friend #1 lowered her water.  Friend #2 whispered, "Just hide it in your purse."

Mr. Food Police then quickly turned to a gray haired woman sitting behind us.  "You there!  Is that gum in your mouth?"

Her face turned pale as the 60-some year old woman replied in a hoarse voice, "No Sir, it's just a cough drop.  Are we not allowed to have cough drops?"

"No COUGH DROPS!" and he turned and walked away.

I was beginning to realize how hardcore this stuff really was.  The courtroom looked just like Judge Judy's.  It smelled musty but felt historical and polished.  There were paintings of angry men hanging on the walls throughout.  They all appeared to be former judges.  Perhaps famous.  Some maybe not so much.  But they all had a furrow upon their brow that simply said, "I judge you.  Therefore I am a judge."  As if it was unconstitutional for them to crack a smile.

I could hear Jack Nicholson yelling, "You can't handle the truth!"

Soon the Judge herself walked in as Mr. Food Police instructed, "All rise."

Following her were the prosecutors, defendant, and attorneys.  I waited, half expecting to hear a narration of a completely irrelevant story in addition to why they were here- just like on Judge Mathis.  “The Plaintiff likes to eat cheeseburgers on Tuesday nights and ended up getting a catholic girl pregnant.  He is suing the Defendant for late rent money.”  However, the narration never came.

Instead, the Judge explained that this was a criminal trial today rather than a civil.  The Defendant was accused of second-degree rape.  I was unsure of what the degree meant- but I figured I could Google it later on my lunch break.  I suddenly felt anxious. Holy smokes- this was the real deal.

What followed next was about as long and drawn-out as the movie Lawrence of Arabia.  We began the process of jury selection.  Did anyone know anyone involved in the case?  Was anyone in the jury a felon?  An illegal immigrant?  (because I'm sure they would run up and tell the judge)

We got to hear all about crimes that everyone's family members had committed and/or if those around us were involved in or witnessed a crime.

Someone mentioned a vandalism case and suddenly I was having a conflicted conversation with myself.  I recalled the time I had my iPod stolen out of my vehicle.  No, no. That's not a big enough crime.  But you called the cops and they did a police report.  No, no.  There were no arrests made.  It was a mini crime.  And mini crimes don't count.  I'm sure.  So I didn't say anything.

And then they brought the accused out.  My first instinct was to judge.  How could he commit such a horrible crime?  He's wearing a wrinkly shirt without a tie.  How unprofessional.  He probably never owned a dress shirt- so I'm sure he's a hoodlum.  But then something about his face seemed so young and innocent.  Was he being falsely accused?  Cases like these are so he said/she said.  Suddenly I was worried about having to make a decision that will ultimately decide the fate of this young man.

"If it does not fit, you cannot acquit."

All of the famous trials came flooding into my brain.  And then I began to feel light headed.  Not because of the pressure, but because it was nearly 1 o'clock and we had not eaten lunch yet.  This was a big deal.

As the lawyers discussed technicalities with the judge, my stomach began to rumble in the near-silent courtroom.  Loudly.  My mouth was parched.  I was literally starving right in front of them.  I clenched my abs trying to stop the noises to no avail.  Friend #1 and #2 began nonchalantly glancing my way.  Oh crap.  They probably thought I was gassy.  I wanted to whisper, "It's not gas- I'm just very hungry."  But that felt even more strange.

I glance up at Mr. Food Police.  He had his back to me, so I took the opportunity to rifle through my purse for something with some calories.  Anything.

I found some gum and quickly popped it into my mouth.  Mr. Food Police glanced my way.  I did not chew the gum, but began to suck every last bit of sugar I could get from it until it felt like a piece of squeaky rubber in my mouth.  Discretely, I folded the used gum between a piece of paper- careful not to look obvious.  I pretended to wipe my face with the paper.  I continued to do this with three more pieces until I felt somewhat satisfied with the few bits of sugar I was able to get.  It wasn't much- but I figured it'd hold me over for a little while anyway.

The judge asked everyone to line up in single-file when their number was called- as if it were a police lineup.  The Prosecutor and Defendant went through and looked at each person.  Then they whispered.  Then they would either say seat or exit- meaning a stay or go.  For the life of me I could not tell what basis they were using.  I simply could not predict the outcomes.  They were judging the jury!  One person must have looked sympathetic.  Another person looked somewhat angry- maybe with the law.

And then what happened- I did not see coming.  Not by a long shot.  They selected 12 jurors and 3 alternatives.  And then…

They told the rest of us we could go home.

That was it??  All this time for that?  It was after 2 o’clock!  I've never experienced anything so anti-climatic in my life. Six hours straight in a court room.  And now I'll never know what happened?  I mean, unless I read it in the paper.

So I picked up my magazines and gum wrappers and slowly made my way out of the courtroom.  I’d have to wait 3 more years for another chance to be a juror.  And then,  I finally realized why people moan and groan over jury duty.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Art Inspirations: Christmas Carols

I am a Christmas junkie.  It may be possible that I can even get a little ridiculous sometimes.  However, I do follow all of the rules!  I never utter the word 'Christmas' until the day after Thanksgiving.  I promptly take down all of my decorations no later than January 1st.  

However, between Black Friday and New Years Eve- I allow myself to indulge in decorating, writing Christmas cards, drinking eggnog and peppermint mochas, and listening to Christmas music.  Constantly.  Yes, for a complete 33 days my radio plays nothing but yule tide carols being sung by a choir.

Now these Christmas carols have been played over and over for generation upon generation.  The same 50 songs have been remade and re-recorded by every artist known.  Every pop star seems to be required to make their own version of a Christmas album with traditional songs that hit every possible  musical note  and ad libs that one can dream up.  And though each has a slight variation, they all cling to an idea.

As everyone, I have my favorites.   

However, there is one song that can literally bring me to tears every time I hear it.  Tears of joy when performed properly.  Tears of pain when it is butchered by a well-intended lady singing in church on Christmas Eve.  

Every Christmas Eve we attend the mandatory church service.  (Mandatory in my own head.) We listen as  we clutch our candles and try to follow along in the hymnal.  Soon, candle wax drips past our knuckles.  It hurts, I won't lie, but we press on.

Then suddenly, the clouds part and they begin to sing Oh Holy Night.  (people- not the clouds)  Everyone stops and listens.  Moved into an abyss, we no longer feel the pain of hot wax.  

Next time you hear this song- I ask you to really listen to every note.  Hopefully you'll hit one of the good versions.  Whomever wrote this song was a musical genius.   A genius I say!  They had the power to truly capture the moment.  When I listen to the song, I actually feel the power of the night that the Savior was born.  I'm there.  What talent to have captured that.

Another stroke of genius is The Trans-Siberian Orchestra.  If you've never been to one of their concerts- I would highly recommend it.  And I don't recommend a lot of things.  Okay, that's a lie.  But there is something incredible about this musical revelation.  What they have done to our traditional sounds of Christmas has carried them to the 21st century on a 737 vice a camel.  Incredible.

Finally, there is just one other song that holds that kind of power.  It is our National Anthem.  Francis Scott Key was so eloquently able to echo his undying love for his country in the simple words and music that compose the most important song to Americans.  In it, I can actually feel his pride and patriotism.  I get goosebumps.  And I am moved.  I suddenly want to drive a tank, jump out of a plane, and fly Old Glory from the highest mountain.  In that order.

Art continues to amaze me. The perfect story.  The perfect song.  A captivating painting or photo.  A sculpture.  It can change people.  It can move mountains.  It can be passed on for generations and not to lose- but only improve it's meaning and power to all that will listen with an open heart.

What part of art captivates you?  In what way does it do that?