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 19, 2017

The World's Largest Wild Rice Festival

Well the reunion came and went, and dare I say it was a blustering  success!  20 years of missed conversations with great people all packed into one night.  Anna and I traveled home together sans kids and husbands- something we have not done since our ten year reunion!  Who would have thought we could have the best girls weekend away in Deer River?? (This is us being mature and fun.)

Not only was it our 20th reunion, Deer River, Minnesota also hosted it over one of the best weekends of the year:  The World’s Largest Wild Rice Festival.  What an amazing coincidence!

Yes, in Minnesota, we have festivals around our native foods!  As kids, we always looked forward to the festivities.  Surprisingly, it took me being gone for 20 years to realize what a unique privilege this little celebration was.  Where much of the year Northerners retreat to their summer cabins on the water, or hibernate during the long winter months in their warm log homes and fireplaces, this little gem of a weekend brings EVERYONE- old and young out of the woodworks.

While the Carnival rides go on for the littles Friday evening through Sunday afternoon, Bingo games sponsored by the Lions Club go on for the older folks that are feeling a little lucky.

Friday evening is kicked off by a Turtle Feed. No this is not a place where you buy food for your pet turtle.  Mr. Turtle is the main dish for this event!  (Hide your turtles, kids!)

Next, the Leech Lake Ojibwe Tribe hosts a Pow-Wow for all to celebrate and learn about their Native American culture through song, dance, and dress.  Everyone is invited to observe and even participate.

Later, the local Vets Club sponsors the Beer Garden all night- where the darkest beer you’ll find is an amber that you can still see through- which is a sin in some countries.  On the other side of the block you can find the street shut down and the dance going on both Friday and Saturday evening.  (This is Anna with her "I don't know what to do with two beers" face.)

If you’re up and at 'em early enough the next day, Saturday is kicked off by the Wild Rice Run (race) and a bike rodeo for the kids to have a chance to win a bike and enjoy some ice cream.  This is serious business for these little guys! 

Saturday is also the big day for the flea market and this isn’t just any flea market.  Here you can find some unique gifts, such as taxidermy...

 Shotguns or rifles for hunting...

And raffles that support the local high school trip to Washington DC with a chance to win a beautiful custom-designed bon fire pit.  Though I entered, I wasn't quite sure how to haul this baby home if I was lucky enough to win.

Sunday afternoon is the big parade, where you will find true hometown pride, as we salute the veterans marching with the flag.  Additionally, we pay tribute to the other hometown heroes- the volunteer fire fighters and EMT workers of Deer River and neighboring towns.

Local businesses, student clubs, and even a princess or two can be spotted riding in the floats and on top of cars. 

All will be throwing candy out into the crowds for eager little ones to come racing into the street and fill their bags- because you can still get away with this in a small town.

And this simple festival is all the town needs for an opportunity to catch up with old friends that haven't seen each other since spring thaw.  One can sit down, enjoy an indian taco with some wild rice soup and a Bud Lite.

The weekend was a whirlwind.  I left with a full belly, sleep deprived, and mentally restored.  In addition to catching up with friends, going home to Deer River reminds me to take the time to enjoy the little pleasures in life that I tend to overlook when I am rushing around to the next big thing.  And this is why I come home.
(photo credits to Anna Lise Photography)

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Too Old For Round 2?

“Well, I’m not going to lie.  You’re old.”

This was not necessarily new information to me, but I did believe it was all relative.  Situational.  I mean, in my day-to-day, I didn’t run into too many age discrimination situations.  In fact, it had often been that I was rather young in my current job for so long, that somewhere in there my age must have crept away from me.  Perhaps it was lost in those sleep-deprived, mommy brain moments that came with raising 3 kids so close in age and blurred out much of my twenties.  I had my last child by the time I was 27, so in relation to the other moms that shared kids that were the same ages as mine in  the schools, I was usually on the younger side.  Not that I really even noticed. 

Comparatively speaking, to the young woman in her 20s that sat next to me in this moment in her camouflage uniform, I was old.  I was 38 and a half years old now, and considering most of my peers that had stayed in were now retiring from the military at this age, I was way too old to be entertaining the idea of getting back in. 

“I mean, you don’t just have a break in service, you have been out now for 15 years,” the recruiter continued on.

“Right.  I understand that.”  I shrugged my shoulders.  “I just figured I could at least look into it- to see if it’s even a possibility now that my kids are older and more independent; it would be easier for me to be in the reserves.”

She looked me up and down inquisitively, as if she was waiting for me to laugh and say this was all a big joke; that I was just pulling her chain.  This was just the first stop on my way to the muscle car dealership that specializes in midlife crises like the one I was apparently having.  When she finally determined that wasn't happening, she responded by stating, “I’m going to have to talk to my supervisor.”

I sat and waited in the empty office full of military propaganda that was screaming of promises.  It was exciting.  And then for a second I felt like I was betraying my family.  My Navy family, that is.  Here I was in the Air Force recruiter’s office.  The Chair Force.  All those years of making fun of them, (in good fun, of course) and now I was attempting to sign up with them.

After five minutes or so, the recruiter returned.  Clearly, she had not been reassured over this absurd situation. “Well,” she went on, “she said you’re old.”

I sighed, “Right.”  I wasn't denying this.  I was also doing my best not to let it give me a complex.

“And you’d have to go through MEPS again because you’re so old and have been out for so long.”

“Okay, that’s fine,” I replied.  "I had kind of figured that." 

I’m pretty sure I stunned her at this point.  Perhaps she was thinking I’d bail at this point, as my arthritic, pot-smoking days would come to a gentle close.  (P.S. I don’t smoke pot.  Or cigarettes.  Just fish. But not rolled up.  Flat, from a smoker, like everyone else from Minnesota does.)

“Okay.  Well, I guess we can start on the paperwork then,” as she reluctantly logged onto her fancy computer (because these kids nowadays use computers instead of the archaic type writers of 20 years ago.  Just kidding.  We had computers 20 years ago.  We even had the inter-web.  We would just have to use a little thing called dial-up to get it going and it took about 20 minutes to log onto.  Not kidding this time.  And we began the 45 minute physical and mental health checklist.

And that’s how my journey began.  The second time.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Dear Class of 1997

Dear Class of 1997,

Can we eat nachos yet?

As I have the day off today, I am throwing random clothes into my suitcase for my long awaited trip.  (That is a lie. They're actually color-coded and rolled neatly to prevent wrinkles.)  This weekend I’ll be heading home to Minnesota for my 20th reunion.  Only four more days! 

20 years!  How crazy is that?  What an accomplishment.  What a lifetime ago- that seems like it was just yesterday.  And when did we get... old?

I’m so beyond excited; however, I cannot help but see a few apprehensive posts and messages on Facebook in addition to the excitement.  Could it be true- that at our 38/39-year-old place in life, that we are still nervous to see the ones that saw us back when we had overall jeans and mullets?

Quick answer?  Yes.  Probably.  There is some stupid pressure that goes along with having been graduated for 20 years.  We should definitely have it all together by now, right?  We should be gently snuggled into our career field of choice, with a 401K growing ever so diligently.  We should have our debts paid off and a nice college fund saved up for each of our kids, right?  We should have our ‘forever’ home bought and at least a decade into the mortgage, right?  Student debts should all be paid off by now, degrees are all completed, and we’re living all happily ever with our significant other. Oh, and we’ve also managed to lose those 15 pounds we’ve been battling since college, or post-babies, or whatever, right?

Oh crap.  But what if we don’t?

What if we’re still trying to figure out what we want to be?  Or paying off debts, or trying to lose the weight?  Hell, I’m still fighting with pimples- and wrinkles!  What kind of an evil is that about?

 And now, we are 4 days away.  I’m thinking I’m probably not going to lose the weight or the wrinkles.  But I was able to color some of the gray out of my hair.  Because I’m sure everyone will care- because I know I’m going to be analyzing everyone else’s gray hair.  Or… not at all. 

The reality is, I’m so beyond excited to see the friends and classmates that I grew up with for 13+ years.  I cannot wait to hear their stories and what their secrets are to surviving this life.  I cannot wait to laugh at old stories, and reminisce.  I cannot wait to share a beer and sincerely just see everyone for who they really are, because there is something so unique and special about the bond that you form as kids.  There is an understanding- an unspoken knowledge of the many things that we all went through to become the adults that we have become.  They know.  They were there.

And so, four days away from my reunion, as I’m packing my suitcase, I think I’m going to enjoy a plate of nachos and a beer.  Maybe I’ll even wait until after noon.  Maybe.

Air Guard Memoirs of An Old Sailor

Because I don’t really ever do anything the conventional way.

Last Sunday, June 25 marked the 20th anniversary that I enlisted into the Navy to become a Navy Aircrewman aboard P-3s. Today, 20 years and 5 days later, I reenlisted into the Air National Guard with plans of becoming a military flight attendant aboard C-40s. Because, well, it's flying.

And so, because I already have many new stories to this part 2, I will reopen this blog with a new spin on things.  Re-joining the military (Air National Guard) as a wife, mom, and old Navy sailor.