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.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The 1%: Advice for joining the Navy

I recently received the nicest email from a reader that just made my day.  She was considering joining the military and asked me if I had any advice for her.  What was initially intended to be a few lines ended up turning into a long, rambling reply on my part.  (There goes that rambling problem of mine again.)  I only wanted to tell her what I had wished someone would have told me a long time ago.  Perhaps it would have helped prepare me a little- as I had felt quite clueless.  Then again, sometimes I wonder if I survived as a result of not knowing the long road ahead.  Ignorance is bliss?

As most already know, the military in general is not a bed of roses.  In fact, it’s going to suck.  Really badly some days.  It's not for everyone.  In fact, only 1% of the country's population raise their right hand to swear to defend and protect our constitution.  The secret to success is simple:  you have to really, really want it. 
Boot camp.
You will wonder what the hell you were thinking on about 250,000 occasions.  This is normal.  Keep going.

You will essentially be living out of a bag and everything you own will fit inside of it.  You will miss the comforts of home and simple pleasures in life such as walking barefoot on grass, listening to music, and eating chocolate.  Even if you aren’t religious, go to church.  It is the one place in which you will be spoken to like a human being and it will feed your soul and help you to go on.

The food will also suck, but it nourishes your body and gives you energy.  So just eat it.  But eat quickly.

You will run in boots.  They will give you blisters.  Your blister will get blisters.  But keep running.

You will do pushups until your arms shake and feel like they will fall off.  But keep doing them.  I assure you, your arms will not fall off.

People will yell at you.  You will be lonely.  So very lonely.  And you will cry.  But when you’re done crying, you will feel better.

And one day- you will graduate.  Your family will come and smile at you and it will be the proudest moment of your life. 

But then your life will keep going.  Days will suck again.  But there will be good ones too.  You will struggle and fall.  Whatever job you go into, you will develop life-long bonds with friends surrounding you that no one else will understand.  Your life will depend on these people that you work with and you will be responsible for theirs.  A trust will be formed that is unbreakable.

Most days are not very glamorous.  You will wax floors and paint ceilings.  You will scrub toilets and pick up crap.  Literally.  You may end up in Illinois, or you may see parts of the world you never knew existed.  You may see many sad things and realize how much we take for granted in our country.

You will work hard and you will play hard, probably drink too much and many occasions.  You may even fall in love.  You may get your heartbroken.
Your life will continue on- but you will carry a secret.  You will have this secret inside of you for the rest of your life and no matter where your life goes- if you decide to get out after one tour or if you continue to do 20 years, you will know.  You will know what it’s like to have signed a promise to do whatever it takes to protect your country and your fellow man working beside you.  You will know something that only 1% of the population knows and understands.  You will stand for something selfless- for something that is bigger than you.  You overcame these obstacles and found a strength within yourself that you will draw on for the rest of your life.  You will have served your country and therefore you know now that there isn’t anything you cannot do.

Some days you may spend scraping food into the trash, or doing paperwork.  But every now and then you will have a moment where you will be walking out to your plane, ship, or tank and realize what a magnificent machine it truly is.  You may end up saving a life or thousands of lives.  You might be a significant part of ending the war on terror.  Or save your fellow shipmates from enemy fire.  Whatever you do, do it well and with pride. 

And maybe one day when you're running through the airport trying to not miss your flight to your next duty station, someone will stop, look up at you, and say "Thank you for your service."  And you will stop.  Smile. And say, "You're welcome."  Because you will be that 1%.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Crime and Punishment in the 21st Century

(CC's actual paper)

My youngest daughter came home last night and declared she had to write ‘I will not write bad words on the bus window’ five times.  My stomach sunk as I took a deep breath, and asked her what she wrote- cringing at what I might hear.


“Poopy?  You wrote ‘poopy’ on the bus window?”  Relief instantly flooded through me and I actually held back a chuckle.  Okay.  I could handle poopy.  However I must not let on my relief.

“CC you know better than to write words like poopy.  I expect better out of you.” And l sent her to bed without dinner.  Just kidding.  I’m not THAT mean.  Instead I made her scrub out the garbage disposal until 2 a.m.

The thing is, I’m pretty sure I wrote much, much worse on the bus window.  I found myself trying to recall if I was just never caught, or my old Deer River bus driver, Dale, just didn’t really care too much if I wrote ‘poopy’ on the bus window.  He had better things to worry about.  Or maybe he was just a realist.

I recall the day I was in kindergarten and sitting in the first seat.  A gross, mean first-grade boy (kid terminology) was sitting next to me going on and on with his annoying self.  Finally my blood was boiling and I couldn’t take it any longer.  I wound up like they did in the movies and with full forced punched him in his face.  I remember being instantly shocked because it made a ‘smacking’ sound- just like it did in the movies.  Yes, that was my first thought.  Did anyone else hear how cool that sounded?  My second was, Holy poopy.  What did I just do?

“Julia!  What did you do that for!?!” Dale yelled at me from the driver seat.  I could see just his eyes in the mirror- staring at me, waiting for an answer.  Mr. Mean Boy just stood there in shock with his hand on his puffy cheek.

“He was being mean to me,” I replied in a very tiny girl voice.  It was the truth.  He was being poopy and I just couldn’t handle it any longer.  So I stood up for myself.  I did something that I’m sure would be immediate school suspension for violence these days- the age in which a child is suspended for chewing a poptart into the shape of a gun.  (Sad, but true story:

Back in 1984, Dale saw it for what it was: A victorious moment for a kindergarten girl who just learned that she didn’t have to stand there and take a bunch of poop from a first grade boy.  Violent?  Perhaps.  But a pretty fabulous lesson if you ask me.  Thank you Dale, for teaching me to always stand up to poop-head people.  A lesson that later followed me around in life as I earned the call-sign “Knuckles” in the military.  But that’s another story.

And Mr. Mean Pants never bothered me again. 

Now, if only I knew what to do about my poopy-mouthed little daughter...

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

What the #%&! is a terrapin?

My not-so-native-Marylander-moment.

“Now remember class, because of the snow days this year, we didn’t get as far into our science chapter about the terrapins as far as we had planned.  So today when we go on our field trip, we are really going to learn about the lifecycle of the terrapin and their impact on our local environment,” the young, hip third grade teacher declared as we all anxiously awaited to bus up for our field trip to the Flag Ponds Nature Park.

My son sat in the desk in front of me, randomly twisting some wire he randomly pulled out of his pocket.  He still was excited that I was chaperoning and I knew my days of doing so for him were numbered.  Soon I would no longer be ‘cool’ enough.  Funny boy.  It’s like he doesn’t realize how cool I really am.

Although I was quite cool, I was from Deer River.  And in Deer River, we did not have terrapins.  Honestly, I had no idea what the #%&! a terrapin was.  But I was going to find out today.  And so of course, I would not let on that I did not know.  Not even to Joey.
The scenery at the beach was beautiful- right out of a magazine.  The Chesapeake Bay was in all of its glory on that fine April morning.  The sun sparkled down upon the waves and the breeze blew a chilled freshness over the sand.  The shorelines were long and slender with a path of darkness stained by the outgoing tide. 

We (the chaperones) were all assigned a station.  Mr. Fred (a park volunteer) went through our instructions explicitly as we were to check the Bay’s salinity, measure the beach for areas conducive for laying eggs, and stream a net through the water for the fun of watching the children wear waders and fall down in the water.  (I’m sure that was the reason)  And of course, they loved it!  We all did.   What a glorious way to spend the morning- even if we had to discipline the 3rd grade boys to leave the large chunks of driftwood on the ground.  Okay, I guess it was mostly just Joey I was disciplining (no surprise there). 

The children were learning about their native environment- how to respect it and take care of it.  And just as I had once learned about respectful logging, making maple syrup, canoes from birch trees, wolves, bears, and freshwater lakes, my children were learning about the Chesapeake Bay and its riches.  They were taught about the tradition of oyster drudging, preserving the beaches and pines, the crabs and…terrapins.  And yes, I still could not figure out what the #@$# a terrapin was.

The park volunteer began instructing the children- adding together the results of our day’s discoveries.   And that’s when she made the mistake that would cost her.  It wasn’t her fault.  Someone should have warned her.  She couldn’t have known what would happen when she used the ‘algorithm’ method of math.  But when she carried that number into the tens place- it was too late.  She damn near was stoned on the spot by those innocent looking kids.  All of the third graders did common core math now.  It was crazy math that changed everything about math as we knew it.  I knew then and there I wouldn’t be raising any more waves today by asking silly questions.

So I began my own logic:  deductive reasoning.

I knew Maryland had some amazing stingrays and skates that were really a neat part of the environment but then when they spoke of laying eggs on the beach, I determined that it could not, in fact, be a stingray.  Perhaps a crab?

Then they spoke about the Bycatch Reduction Device (BRD) on crab pots- how the crabs would swim into them, but the terrapins could swim out.  So nope, it was not a crab.

Eventually the buses came and went.  School ended and everyone went home.  Had dinner.  Kids did their homework.  It wasn’t until I was out sipping a beautiful well-earned glass of wine (it was just that kind of day) out on the porch, telling my dear friend about the day when it dawned on me.  I still didn’t know.

It was in that moment that I turned to her, looked her square in the eye, and asked with the utmost of importance, “Please, can you tell me what the #$%@ a terrapin is?!?”

“A turtle, Julia.  It’s a turtle.”

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Awkward Moments- Help requested.

So, elevators.
Recently, my company moved from the second floor onto the fourth in the building.  It was in that moment I realized just how out of shape I really was.  There is a substantial difference from walking two flights of stairs up to four flights that somehow makes one realize what a complete couch potato they really are.  I decided to swear off carbs then and there.

(I later had spaghetti and garlic bread for dinner that night and realized just how absurd and unnatural it would be it swear off carbs.)

And though the journey to the fourth floor presents its challenges, as I begin to train for the stairs there is a challenge that sits even higher on this scale:  the elevator.

One would think it a simple solution.  Take the elevator, man! 

And one would think that would be a simple solution for a simple person.  However, there is just this one problem...  I have a little thing called elevator social anxiety.  Oh yes, it's a thing.  Only- it's not a thing.  I even looked it up.  For some reason according to The Phobia List ( there is a fear of mirrors, a fear of chopsticks, a fear of vegetables, a fear of wooden objects, and even a fear of the French culture, however there is not a fear of Elevators.  The closest they come is claustrophobia (fear of small spaces) or cleithrophobia (fear of being trapped).

So perhaps it's not so much the elevator as the social anxiety- which my friend, IS a real thing.
Though I consider myself quite outgoing and always eager to meet a new face, there is something extremely inhibiting about being in an elevator with a complete stranger.  It brings me to an all new level of awkward. 

If you recall, I cannot  CANNOT stand silence.  I find it my greatest obstacle in life to fill every silence I know of with noise and/or conversation.  So when I am alone in an elevator with someone my brain is going somewhat in overdrive.  It may sound something like this:

Say something, man. [I call myself man.  It's short for The Man or Spider Man.  Whatever I'm feeling at the time.]  Just say something.  Anything.  Oh wow.  There has been silence for even longer. You really should say something.

Me:  Hi.

Stranger:  Hi

Me:  Ugh.  I sound so ridiculous.  Maybe I could talk about the weather.
So how about that weather?

Stranger:  Um, yeah.  Pretty cold.

Me:  Right?!?  Uh, I HATE weather.  [Well, that was a way to end the conversation.  Quick, think of something new.  Food?  It's almost lunchtime!  No, they realize that.  Did I brush my teeth?  Try not to breathe too hard.  My sicknesses and ailments?  No, too personal and annoying.  Animals?  Too random.  Sports?  Oh yes, sports!  
How about football, right?

Stranger:  Excuse me? 

Me:  You know, how about football?

Stranger:  Er, football was good...  Last season.

[Note to self- pay attention to what sport is current.]

[We stand in silence again as the floors SLOWLY tick by... 2... 3....]  It's been quiet for so long now.  It's making it even weirder.  I must say something!
Me:  So do you come here often?
Really?  Ugh.

Stranger: Well, I do work here. 

[awkward silence and finally the doors open]

Stranger:  I have to go now, bye!

Me:  Bye!  Have a great day!!  Ugh...

Really, it's my own personal disaster.  As soon as I see someone headed for the elevator I will veer off into the opposite direction and head for the stairs.  It's all I can do.

I'd like to tell you that this has only happened to me once.  Or twice even.  But the horrible truth is that it is me EVERY TIME I am in an elevator.

So please, help!  I am taking a general consensus.  What do you do in an elevator?  Are elevators awkward for anyone else?  Do you make small talk?  What do you say?  Can anyone recommend some good one-liners?  Or should I just stay silent and remain awkward internally?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Be a Daffodil.

Photo Credits: Forest Wander

Spring is in the air!  Well, at least I’d like to believe it is- that is- if you can look past the snow on the ground.  Yes, here in Maryland we had a beautiful 70-degree day on Saturday and then fell into a downward evil weather spiral to an ugly 28 degrees and snow on Monday.  Wha?
I’d like to say everyone is accepting this fine, with grace and dignity, but that would be a lie. People are starting to get crazy.  And not just your typical crazy (like my sister), but an edgy, snappy, YES I WILL WEAR FLIP FLOPS IN SNOW IF I WANT crazy.  They are booking spontaneous, unplanned weekend trips to Florida.  They are wearing tank tops under turtlenecks.  It is as though if we wear them, summer will come.  We keep convincing ourselves- making empty promises of suntan lotions and beach bags- as the tips of our toes become frostbitten in the snow.  Oh we are going to make this 40-degree day a TSHIRT day- because if we believe it- it will be TRUE!

Even the plants are going crazy.  Above is a picture of them all snug inside at a flat 72 degrees.  You would think they would be content, happy and appreciating just how good they have it.  Not these little guys.  They have their little faces pressed so hard up against the sliding glass; they are nearly freezing to the window pane.  As they peer longingly into the great outdoors, thinking the grass is so much greener- though they cannot see far enough to realize it is, in fact, still brown.  Dry and brittle, crumbling to the touch. 
They are foolish little plants. So unaware of their quickened death should they boldly venture into the treacherous weather.  For alas, they are just mere seedlings, but a few weeks old.  They have not the intelligence or the stamina that the fearless daffodils do. 
Daffodils, on the other hand, have their own little internal clock.  They stubbornly think that despite what the thermometer reports, by god it is March and they are damn well going to make their appearance if they please.  BACK OFF.  For no one is as brave or determined as the daffodils.  Bless their crazy little hearts. 
Oh sure, everyone else stealthily keeps a watchful eye on the daffodils.  The primroses, forsythias, and even tulips like to pretend that they were there, broken through the frozen soil the entire time.  Meanwhile, they will not step foot above ground until they see that the daffodils have successfully emerged without sudden death or maiming.
It is true, the daffodils are crazy.  I call them this every time I see them.  On the sides of the roads.  In vases.  However, I admire their just-go-for-it attitude.  They throw caution to the wind and are intimidated by no one or nothing.  They are born leaders.  They are assertive and fearless.  They truly believe that you only live once.  Or for a few weeks every year at least- so they just don’t have time to waste and ponder.  They make a plan and take action. 
I cannot help but think that we all would be a little better off to think like a daffodil some of the time.  This spring, I challenge you to be a daffodil.  Crazy but fearless. Time is not promised.  Take action. 
What would you do if failure was not an option?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Doctor Crazy

Stock image of 'crazy girl doctor isolated on white background'

Photo courtesy of Colourbox

This one time, I got gross eye.  Not pink eye or goopy eye.   It was just gross eye.  It was leaky all the time and itched like a sailor leaving Thailand.  Yeah, you know the kind of itch I’m talking about.  It’s the kind that makes grown conscious adults permanently maim and attempt to tear off their skin in any attempt to relieve the atrocious sensation.   I spent most of the day trying to scratch this godforsaken irritation on the teensy part of my lower eyelid with my big monkey thumbs, all the while, attempting to not disturb my make-up.  By the end of the day I looked like I had been sucker punched in the left eye, meanwhile my right was big, bushy and beautiful.  Well, it looked normal anyway.

So the next morning, I woke with my left eye crusted together with spittles of nastiness stained on my pillow.  My eye was literally bonded to my pillow.  And so, I did the one thing I hate doing more than anything. 

I showered (I hate showering- I like the results- just hate that I have to do it everyday) and then called to make an apt to see a doctor.  Any doctor.  I could not wait any longer.  My compulsiveness will be the death of me someday, I just know it. 

Scene from Someday: 
Me:  Let’s jump off this cliff NOW!
Loving Friend:  No, I’m not sure that’s a good idea.  Maybe we should think about it.
Me:  There’s no time for thinking.  We are being chased by flesh-eating meerkats!!  We must jump NOW!  There is no other way!!
Loving Friend:   Wait!!!!  There may be another way……

And back to Present Day: 
I go to my apt. 
Doctor enters room.
Doctor examines my eye.

Doctor:  Well, Julia, it seems you have an allergy in your eye.

Me:  An allergy?  Just in one eye?  Like one eye is super-weirdly sensitive and the other is not?  Is that even possible?

Doctor:  Oh, it’s very possible.  I’ll just prescribe you some antihistamine eye drops…

Me:  Ah… [my jaw drops, crickets chirp… for awhile…]

Doctor:  Is everything okay?

Me:  Well, it’s just that… I kind of have this tiny fear of eye drops.  But it’s okay.  I can do it if I have to.  Actually, my husband helps me.  [God love him]

Doctor:  What?!  That’s absurd!  We’re going to get you over this fear right now!

Me:  Ah…  What?  No, no.  It’s okay, really.  I’ll do it when I get home.

Doctor:  Oh no!  You can’t just depend on him to help you.  What if he's not home?  You need to learn how to do this.  You’re going to do this.  Right now!

Me:  Oh, no-  I can do it.  Really.  I just...  [Good lord, what is this woman going to do!?]  I’m just a little nervous…

Doctor:  Sit down.  No, just sit.

Me:  Oh God, this doctor is seriously crazy!  Where is a nurse?  Anybody?

Doctor Crazy grabs a Texas-size bottle of eye solution, then turns and begins coming towards me with the bottle in her hand.  I take a step back and hit the examining table.  I’m trapped. 

Doctor Crazy: Have a seat on the table.  Now you’re going to do it like this.  [She takes the bottle eye torture, thrashes her head back, and begins shooting the solution into her eyes- as if it is the most normal thing to do in front of her patients.  I cling to the table, cringing, looking for an out of some sort as artificial tears begin pouring down her face.  I must be on Candid Camera.  That’s the only possible explanation].

Now, you try it.  [she thrashes the bottle into my hand]

Me:   Um, [I try to stall…] shouldn’t I have a mirror or something?

Doctor Crazy:  No!!  You can’t look in a mirror!  You must look up at the ceiling.  Now try it!

Me:  Why is this happening to me??  [I tilt my head back and hold the evil solution over my face.  My hands are shaking and my eyes begin blinking uncontrollably.]

Doctor Crazy:  Now stop that blinking!  Tilt your head back more!  Here, give me that!

What happened next, I could not make up if I tried.

[Doctor Crazy snatches the bottle from my hand and literally straddles over me on the examining table.  Normally this alone would be completely awkward; however, my fears were overshadowing the obvious strangeness of the moment.]

Me:  Wait!!!

Doctor Crazy:  Hold on, you’re fine.  Look up.  Open your eyes!!

[She begins squirting artificial tears all over my eye.  I close it as it stings.  She treats the other eye that is not irritated.  She just continues to squeeze the bottle.  The solution is now pouring down my face and running down my V-neck shirt.  I am covered in solution to my undergarments before she finally lets up and decides enough is enough.  And still, very little has actually entered my infected eye at this point.

Doctor Crazy:  Well, I guess that didn’t quite get it in there, but you get the point, right?  And now, you’re not afraid anymore, right?

I nodded, dabbing my eyes, face, and chest with tissue.  I am soaking wet.  I grabbed my purse and ran for the door before she could even begin to think of doing a round two.

As I sat in my car in the parking lot and locked my doors.  I glanced back at the office door, fearing I may see this crazy woman running towards me with the bottle in her hand.  My hands trembled. 

What in God’s name had just happened in there?  How did a simple gross eye turn into Dr. Crazy taking it upon herself to cure me of my fears?  Instead, they had only been made ten times worse.  And so it remains:  I still hate taking showers and going to the doctor’s office.  Though I will continue to shower as a public courtesy- I will never go to the doctor again unless something is clearly broken and protruding through my skin or I am bleeding enough to need a transfusion.