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.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Keeping the Watch

My first Thanksgiving after I left home was when I was going through my technical training down at NATTC (Naval Aviation Technical Training Center) Pensacola, Florida, and learning Oceanography and how sound travels through the water.  We students would not be allowed to go on leave until Christmas break, so I was on my fifth month of being away from home and my family since I had left for boot camp back in June.  I had concocted a plan to just go to the galley with a few friends and have a turkey dinner complete with that crazy ‘sweet potato pie’ that they made there.  I had been eating it for weeks now thinking it was a weird pumpkin until someone politely corrected me.  Coming from the North, I had no idea people made sweet potatoes into a pie.  The idea was absurd.
When I awoke on Thanksgiving after the rare chance of sleeping in until 0800, I went down to the common areas to find that my LPO (Lead Petty Officer) of the performing units was setting up a table for our grand lunch.  As the day went on, he and his wife and a few other friends had brought in home-cooked dishes of Turkey, stuffing, and the whole works.  Our folded table stretched long down the hall and fit nearly 30 of us.  That afternoon we sat and gave thanks for our first home-cooked meal in nearly half a year.
The next year, I went on my first overseas deployment to Iceland.  I arrived there a week before Thanksgiving, and felt like I had landed on another planet.  I knew not a soul, but was assigned to combat aircrew #9.  A few days later, my crew and a few of their wives that had come to visit on the rock they called Iceland had made arrangements for a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner complete with a folding table and paper plates.  It was prepared in the Flight Operations room, so those of us that were on duty could enjoy a dinner and reflect on our gratitude.  I had been so lonesome for my family, but that day I had the opportunity to get to know my new family.  I was so impressed that the officers on my new crew included us enlisted guys in their celebrations.  I quickly came to learn that they always would take care of us, ensuring our meals before their own. 
As the years went on, and we were deployed or on duty on Thanksgiving or the holidays, this would continue as our new tradition.  No matter where we were, someone would always put together make-shift meal at some folding table.  Sometimes it would be me, mastering the art of a Ramen-Noodle Casserole, deli-sliced turkey, and canned cranberry jelly, or whatever I could come up with in the barracks.  Really, it didn’t matter.  And as a tradition, we would express our gratitude for all that we had in that moment and remember those less fortunate.  We would all have those fleeting moments of sadness as we thought about what our family back home was doing that moment and the traditions we were missing.  But then we would look around and remember that we weren’t alone.  We had each other.  And together we kept the watch.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

6 Tips for Surviving Thanksgiving

orange cranberry compote

1.  Keep it simple.  I love homemade stuffing.  However, I am the only one in my family that does.  My husband and kids would actually prefer Stovetop Stuffing.  So after years of trying to convince them that they would like my homemade version, this year I’m going for the 10 minutes on the stovetop.  Why make it more difficult than necessary?  I’ll save the elaborate oyster stuffing for a leisurely cooking Sunday afternoon, and eat it all myself.

2.  Drink wine (or another favorite beverage) as you cook.  Remember this is a day of celebrations!  Relax and enjoy as you cook.  On holidays the "after 12:00pm" rule doesn't apply.  (Just be sure to sip water in between glasses!)

3.  Remove expectations for perfection.  This is easier said than done.  I can tell you all day that it really doesn’t matter, that a perfect meal is not the reason we are gathering.  However, I am my own worst critic.  I still long for that satisfaction at the end of the day, after slaving all day over the oven, and pulling it all together in the end for a meal so beautiful it sparkles in your mouth.  This year, however, I am vowing to “let it go.”  The sparkles are not necessary for a good time.  Not this time.

4.  Enjoy each other.  Along with removing ‘perfection’ from the day, you must remember you are making memories.  Allow your daughter to help you make the dessert.  Even if your pie ends up looking like a dump cake, take a picture and laugh about it in the years to come.

5.  If someone offers to help, accept.  Let go of the control.  Make it a potluck Thanksgiving dinner this year!  People want to feel needed and usually love to contribute.  Except for clean-up.  Then they are just offering to be nice.  But it will be too late, and there are no ‘take-backs’ on offering to help with the dishes.

6.  Have one simple recipe that is easier than it looks to prepare.  Below is a favorite of mine.
This is a recipe I found for homemade cranberries in Redbook Magazine years ago.  Gone are the days of canned cranberries.  It’s so easy and so delicious.  The best part is that you can make Tequila Sunrises with the leftover ingredients!  It’s practically two recipes in one!
Orange-Cranberry Compote
This sweet dish infused with oranges and cranberries is the perfect complement to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

Total Time: 15 min (Prep 5 min/Cook: 10 min)
  • 2 bag cranberries (6 cups)
  • 1 tbsp. grated orange zest
  • 1 c. fresh orange juice
  • 1¼ c. granulated sugar
  • ¼ c. grenadine syrup
  • 2 tbsp. red-wine vinegar
  1. In a large saucepan, combine all ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer 6 minutes, until cranberries are soft and liquid has reduced to a thick syrup.
  2. Pour into a serving bowl. Let cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate.
And just in case you are interested…

Tequila Sunrise
1 shot glass tequila
2 shot glasses of orange juice
ice cubes
1/2 shot glass of grenadine syrup
1 slice orange, for garnish
1 maraschino cherry for garnish

Stir or shake together tequila and orange juice. Fill a chilled 12 ounce glass with ice cubes; pour in orange juice mixture. Slowly pour in the grenadine, and allow it to settle to the bottom of the glass (be patient). Garnish with a slice of orange, and a maraschino cherry.
In summary, let go of control and perfection.  Make memories, and sip wine (or tequila sunrises!).  Now go and put your 30 lb turkey in the fridge so it can begin to defrost!
Mama’s Losin’ It

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Veteran's Voices

Veterans Day is an interesting day.  Formed with all the right intentions, I can’t help but think it is also a very conflicting day for anyone who has served and has suffered loss, pain, or anger due to a multitude of circumstances.  While yes, the free meals and day of discounts are nice - are they really acts of gratitude - or are they just tax-deductable contributions for large businesses, spotlighting the sympathetic, pull-at-your-heartstrings advertisements?  Usually an idealist, I hate to sound so cynical. 


With these thoughts circling in my head, I decided to reach out to various veterans.  Some were old friends.  Some were wounded veterans that belong to an amazing organization that I am proud to be a part of, Shepherds for Lost Sheep.  ( I asked them how they personally felt about Veterans Day.  Did they feel honored, or did it conjure up other feelings that are often too impolite to mention?  Unintentionally, their responses moved me.


“No matter how screwed up I am, I’m proud, honored, and would do it all again (Jun ’87-Dec ’11)” ~Michael


“I don’t mind it… it is a pretty solid way to honor people who generally speaking don’t ask for much.  I however do not take part in any of the free stuff.” ~Erik


“I don’t know if I’d say honored, but it’s always nice to be thanked and recognized.” ~April


“I do believe in the power of having a good life, and that people need a day off to relax and/or party sometimes, so if you need an excuse for it, well then, call it Veterans Day if you like.  Just don’t forget on November 12th that many of those veterans you “honored” still live in the streets.  [Many also] are getting over the stress of last night’s fireworks.  (Here in xx the fireworks are practically launched over the VA Hospital).” ~Deena


“[After much internal debate] I've decided to go to the [Veterans Day] ceremony.  My kids want me there and sometimes it isn't always about me.  It's about them.  Besides...Ella will be in hog heaven with all these kids petting her.”  ~Zach


“Personally, I value Memorial Day more than Veteran's day.  Since I've gotten out, I feel extremely uncomfortable when I am thanked and such. Why thank me? I volunteered. I knew what I was getting into.  No reason to thank me.  Show love and honor the moms and dads who lost their sons and daughters, the children who lost a mom, a dad.  The brother who lost a brother, etc.  I just wanna lead a quiet life... The real heroes never made it home. I’m just lucky. That's my pov.  It rubs people the wrong way but well, it is my view and mine alone.”  ~Andy


“I am honored that there is a day set aside for our veterans when everyone else can honor veterans - personally (most of y'all know how I feel) everyday is Veterans Day to me and I will keep moving forward helping my Brothers and Sisters so long as I draw breath.  I am also disgusted in this day and age of national coffee, chocolate, garlic, onion, bagel, and every other day they can dream up to make a quick $.  Yet no matter how broken I am, if I had 10,000 lives, I would live them all for my country.  I am also with Andy, Memorial Day means a lot more to me.  It's the day I honor those who didn't come home, who paid the ultimate price for our freedom.”  ~Tim


And then Larry spoke up.


“The short and long of it - whenever someone approaches me and says "thanks for your service" - I have flash backs to San Francisco International Airport, April 21, 1973.  [I was] looking good in my dress white uniform, coming back from deployment that included my "in-country" adventure, [and] looking forward to seeing Cathie.  Then 4 strangers come straight toward me and spit on my uniform as they quickly pass me.  Bottom line is "too little, too late".”  ~Larry


His response nearly brought me to tears.  I still cannot fathom everything this man had gone through, and then to come home to his country and be made to feel like he didn’t belong.  How did this happen?  Are we too late for the Vietnam generation?  Those veterans suffered (as all before them) for decades in silence without help, therapy, or acknowledgment for their life of sacrifice they were forced into for their country. 


I’m not sure when things flipped for America and when it became patriotic once again to serve your country.  I am relieved it did.  However, just like so many other historic mistakes (Indian wars, slavery, the Holocaust, etc.), we cannot change the past.  Our generation knows better and has learned from the mistakes of the past, so therefore we do better now.  But are we? 


Though they may not show it, so many are suffering in silence every day.  Their wounds may never heal.  As they suffer, so are their families.  Though it may bring up difficult memories for some, we must continue to honor and remember our veterans not only on Veterans Day, but every day.  Thanking them is good.  But choosing to honor a veteran is even better. 


How do we do this?


By showing respect.  Respect to those that have served, and those that have fallen.  Showing respect to our flag and what it represents.  By removing our hats when we hear the National Anthem.  By teaching our children to respect their elders, their flag, and their country.  By teaching them the Pledge of Allegiance if they don’t learn it in school.  By teaching our children to respect and thank veterans.  Volunteering at the local VA hospitals, ( so they know that they aren’t forgotten.  And honoring those that will not be coming home.  Freedom is not free.


Freedom.  It sounds so simple to us, so basic, that we’ve come to take it for granted.  We do not know what the eyes of our military have seen.   They have witnessed what life is like in countries that do not have Old Glory.  They have shielded the general public from ever knowing what that kind of a life is like.  Without our veterans, we wouldn’t know what it means to have choices.  Without them, we would not be a free nation.  We must never forget this. For the sake of our veterans, and for those that never came home.   





Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Photo Shoot.

There are three things in life that really bring out my awkward side. 

1.      Silence. I feel the need to fill it. 

2.      Elevator rides- usually because of the silence. 

3.      Having my picture taken.  I was not blessed with the photogenic attribute.  Not even a little.  


I write because I love to tell stories and I’m not a good public speaker.  I write because I’m not photogenic.  So it really threw me for a loop when I was “strongly recommend” to provide a picture and bio for my book and the publishing website.  Ugggh. 


I begged my sister to help me out, as she is building her photography company.  (Studio 308) We both knew it wasn’t going to be easy.  One does not simply sit for a picture, and not get awkward.  I felt the need to talk back to the camera, hoping it would project a ‘friendlier’ face.  “Hello!  Oh, I would love to have lunch with you!  Chipotle?  How did you know?  I agree, hormone-free range chicken is the way to go!”  Talking to the camera did not end up helping.  In the end, I just ended up with more awkward pictures.


You can imagine my relief when the idea for my book cover photo shoot this past Saturday was to be ‘shot’ from behind.  Oh thank god, we don’t have to work with my face.  Anna, my other photographer and best friend was also relieved- as she knows all too well that I am “photo-challenged.”


So this past Saturday, four of my good friends that I served with in the Navy and I lined up in flight suits at parade rest.  We looked on as if we were gazing out into space at the great unknown- imagining this secret aircraft to be photo-shopped in the future as flying by.  As we stood there, it was silent.  And we were being photographed.  Naturally, I could not just stay silent.


“Thank you so much for coming today," I began chatting as Anna clicked on.  "I really appreciate your help on an early Saturday morning.  So how’s everything?  How are the kids?  Any plans for Halloween?  You must be retiring soon!  What are your plans after retirement?  I can’t believe it’s been that long…”  This went on and on- for as long as the photo shoot did.  Then we would move to another place to find better lighting, and the mostly one-way conversation began all over again. 


Finally, when it was all done, I believe everyone breathed a collective sigh of relief.  It was over.  We got the shot.  And I could finally stop talking. 


“Happy Halloween!!”  I called out and waved as the grown men drove away.  Yes, I’m so awkward.  But in the end, thanks to an amazing photographer, we nailed the shot.  So awkward or not, my cover for my novel is done!  Whoo-hoo!  We are so close to the final printing phase I can taste it.  And I could not be more excited and/or in disbelief that this moment is so near. 
I cannot release the book cover just yet, as it is not quite complete.  However I'll post my not-as-awkward photo that we ended up using for the bio.  (found at  I labeled it in the "Not Horrible" folder.  And thank you Liz and Anna for putting up with me always.