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, October 19, 2017


I used to have the news on in the background as I would get ready in the morning.  My mom always did, and I guess I felt something nostalgic about it- like it was something you did when you’re a grownup.  However, over the past few weeks- I have really hesitated to even turn it on.  I knew it’s not going to be good.  More deaths.  More hate.  More conflicting opinions resulting in longtime friends and even family members turning against each other.  The same thing carries through onto social media.  It’s overwhelmingly dismal.  I find myself having to step back and focus on what is directly in front of me- the welcomed monotony of endlessly reminding my kids to brush their teeth (and yes, even shower) every day.  I almost welcome the chaos of getting three kids out the door, because it’s a happy stress.  Not the feeling of devastation for mankind that is coming through from the media.

Then, last week I went down to Dallas.  My publisher, Tactical 16, was sponsoring and participating in an event to raise money for The Lone Survivor Foundation.  I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I knew there would be a softball game with a mix of celebrities and veterans.  Matthew McConaughey and TobyKeith were the headliners.  I knew to bring my books.  I was armed without expectations, but knowing it had potential to be a great time.

The night before the game I was introduced to Tim Klund (the organizer of the event), Ryan Weaver, and Cristina Coria- and each of them blew me away with their amazing personal stories.  Weaver is a combat veteran, Gold Star Family member- not once- but TWICE, as he lost both his brother and brother-in-law in combat.  His journey of rising to a successful country music star is unlike any others. 

Coria is a retired veteran of the police force.  She has survived many things in her life to include tragically losing her father at the age of 12, being hit (and temporarily paralyzed) by a drunk driver, and a gunshot wound that she barely escaped with her life.  She went on to become a guest on the reality TV show Survivor. 

What captivated me the most with both of these two was their enthusiasm and kindness.  They were survivors.  They had been through the ringer.  And all they wanted to do was to help others that were going through an even more difficult time.

The next night I set up my table of books and began meeting and speaking with many of the guests in the audience.  After the game, the night continued on, and I met the players- celebrities and veterans.  The theme was resounding.  Everyone was here for a reason.  They all had stories.  They all had endured some of life’s greatest hardships, but it didn’t break them.  And they were here to make sure no one else would break.

At one point, I looked out from the top of the stadium at the audience and the players under the lights.  It was a complete rainbow.  They all stood together- black, white, Hispanic, Asian- all colors and nationalities, from all parts of the country.  Everyone had a story about how they got there.  Everyone had ties to or were there to support the military in one way or another.  The veterans weren’t in a war overseas anymore, but they were still fighting for their brothers and sisters standing next to them.  They were still fighting for the people of our country.   

The event served as a huge reminder that we were all united, simply under Red, White, and Blue.  And in a world where so many of the bad stories have become the focus, they gave me hope. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

How to Survive MEPS: A brief down-and-dirty of what to expect.

I often get questions about boot camp and surviving the military in general.  Having just gone through the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) a second time, I thought I would post some informative advice while it was still fresh in my head, to help get you through one of the very first steps towards your military career.
  1. Don’t lie.  But lie a little.
    Don’t lie about the marijuana you did last week.  It’s going to pop up on your drug test, and then you are just wasting everyone’s time.  If you’re planning on going to MEPS or into the military- just don’t do drugs.  It’s simple, and there is no tolerance.

  2. Lie a little.  They are going to cross-examine you. 
     Them:  “If you took any type of pill in the past month, and you don’t list it on this form, you will be kicked out!”  This does not include the TUMS you took after dinner two weeks ago.  No one cares.   You don’t need to write down TUMS.
  3. The same rule goes with allergies.  If you have a deathly peanut allergy or have asthma, you need to report this.  If you touched fiber glass, poison ivy, or poison oak and broke out in a rash, congratulations.  You are normal and the military doesn’t care.
  4. Get over your insecurities.  They are going to watch you pee into a cup for your drug test.  It’s gross.  No one enjoys it- least of all them.  Just follow directions- like every step- and you will be done quickly.  If you do not, you will be there twice as long.
  5. To piggy back on #4.  They will examine EVERY part of you.  They are just being thorough, and it’s not intended to be a personal violation.  They are professional doctors.  If you can’t handle it, you shouldn’t go into the military.  There are worse things in life.
  6. Don’t hit on anyone.  MEPS and boot camp are NOT the places to flirt.  You want to be taken seriously and this is not why you should be there.
  7. Please, for everyone’s sake, wear clean underwear.  You will spend a lot of time in it with others.  Women, for the love of god, don’t wear a thong.    No one wants to see you in a thong doing the duck walk.
  8. You will have to do the Duck Walk and other awkward coordination checks.  Just listen carefully, and once again follow directions to get done as swiftly as possible.
  9. If you’re going into the Air Force, you’re going to have to valsalva.  Practice this ahead of time, as MEPS should not be the first time you valsalva, nor should boot camp be the first time you attempt to do a push up.
  10. Make sure you are within the military standards for weight.  This will save you time and embarrassment if you’re not.  Lose weight first, and then sign up.
  11.  Above all, BE RESPECTFUL.  Follow directions, only ask questions if you really need to (there are such things as stupid questions), and just go with the flow.  This will also serve as good advice to get through many of your trainings ahead.  Relax.  You got this.

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.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

And the Story Continues Here...

Get your copy today!!

As my memoir has officially been released in paper/hardcover and e-books, I will wrap up this blog with a link to the book behind the blog as well as pictures from the release party.  I cannot thank everyone enough for all of the great support.  Get your copy of the story here: 

     I grew up in Deer River, MN - a one-stoplight town of 903 people. Two weeks after I graduated high school way back in the old days (1997) when everything was in black and white, I enlisted in the Navy in a combat aircrew position that had just been opened up to women. At first we were mistaken by tiny hairless men. Quite a few people told me I was crazy and I would be back home before I knew it. Some of the old WWII veterans patted my shoulder, and nodded, wishing me luck. My dad, fearing my safety, begged me not to go. Honestly, I had no idea what I was getting myself into - which probably was best that way. I just knew I didn’t want to fail.

     Spoiler alert - I didn’t go off and become a war hero. I didn’t save the world. I didn’t win the Noble Peace Prize or even receive the perfect attendance award (I was runner-up); however, I did serve my country, met some lifelong friends, flew over 1300 hours in a war-fighting machine, kicked some submarine ass, and learned a few lessons (the hard way). This book is a compilation of short stories and those lessons learned.

     If you are looking for Steinbeck or Dickens, you probably should put this book back on the shelf and keep looking. However, if you are looking for random entertaining stories that begin with conjunctions, contain cheesy metaphors, and improper sentence structure- well this, my friend, may be the book for you. You may laugh. You may cry. You may want to dance on a barstool next time the opportunity arises. I’m not a writer, I’m a story teller. And this is my story.

I will continue keep my site updated at and will be available to answer questions/comments to the best of my abilities here:

I hope it inspires, informs, and entertains you.  Always remember- there isn't anything you cannot do!  Dreams come true every day.  Who's not to say today is YOUR day?!

I have the most amazing friends!

My Mom

With Anna, my BFF

The VP-8 guys

My old SS-1 "Rugged"

With friend and fellow military blogger, Dog Tags And Heels

And don't forget- I have books for the little readers out there. 
No, not this book.

These ones:

All my best. ~J.