Thank You For Your Service

For the past 18 months, I’ve had the incredible honor of working in a role that supports members of the military and their families. Like many of you, I know that when you serve in the military, you might be stationed overseas, your spouse might be deployed not once or twice but multiple times and that while challenging, the benefits in serving are great. In spite of having family members who have served in the military as well as a number of friends and even a neighbor or two (thank you for your service, Uncle Denny, Uncle Al, Tim, Mark, Mary, Dave “Superstar!”, Stephanie, Bob and many others) and having a great uncle who was MIA in WWII and never came home, I never really appreciated what that meant before this job.

These people – the active duty members of the military and their families – sacrifice more than any of us can imagine. They miss birthdays, holidays, first steps, first communions, last days of school and last days of life. If stationed stateside and working in support roles, they might be fortunate enough to see their families every day, and are home for dinner. If they’re stationed what is referred to as OCONUS (Outside of the CONtinental US) then consider that the family packed up what they had and moved, perhaps for the umpteenth time, to a country where they may not speak the language and settle into a house that is probably not new, with appliances, fixtures and carpeting that have perhaps seen better days and no option to replace them because they’re living in military housing. They have to find an English language school for their kids, doctors, places to shop and then just about the time they get it all figured out, they have to pack up and do it again. For those that are deployed, family stays behind while the soldier is serving somewhere around the world, perhaps in a place that the family can’t even know about. When they can call home, they might be limited on the number of minutes allowed for the call and have to call at odd times of the day depending on where they are at, just to make up the time difference to call at normal times for their families. They do this without complaining and with amazing grace and dignity.

They are in service to our country. Think about what that means for a moment. They do what they do, so we can walk freely, speak freely, love freely. They keep us and our democracy safe. It’s selfless, the stress is unbelievable, and when they are serving in places like Afghanistan, Iraq or Kandahar, they don’t know if they’ll come home and hug their spouse or kids, their kids, in a coffin, or at all. I heard retired Major General Paul Eaton speak on TV two nights ago, and he said “our solders are taught to trust their commanders, to go where they are told and to fight for their country without question, because they trust that no matter what, their country will bring them home.” His voice was so full of passion and emotion, it was almost overwhelming to hear. Click here and watch his message on Twitter, and to see his interview with Rachel Maddow, click here. (The link goes to YouTube, the first part is an equally powerful interview with a Gold Star mother, and well worth watching. Eaton’s interview begins around the 12:50 mark.)

We are lucky here in the US. When we have an emergency, we can call 9-1-1 from any phone and help will come. If you call from a landline, they’ll even know your location without being told (unfortunately, that technology doesn’t exist with cell phones, so make sure to provide a location when calling from a cell phone.) When the military and their families are overseas, and an emergency arises, if they need an ambulance they may not be able to simply call 9-1-1 because not all countries have that. Some countries have other emergency codes, some have none at all. Imagine being in a country where you don’t speak the language, and have no way to pick up the phone and call to get an ambulance when you need one. How would you handle it?

I have no frame of reference what it would be like in combat, but would imagine it’s terrifying, regardless of how much training you’ve received, never knowing if the next step results in stepping on a hidden trigger device, or if you’re in the crosshairs of a gun and all the while having the sound of constant bombardment everywhere, day and night. How long would you last? Are you willing to put on battle fatigues, learn to follow orders without question, pick up a gun, and do what you’re told in cold, ice, snow, rain, sand, and desert heat, combined with unrelenting noise all the time, constant shelling and bombs everywhere?

My respect for the military  and their families is beyond what I can put into words, and it is my greatest honor to be in a role where I can continue working with nurses who support and help them every day. We try to make life just a little less difficult for them and from the comments I see and hear I know we are successful in doing that. This week, hearing Donald Trump call those in our military who were wounded, or didn’t come home “suckers” and “losers” makes me sick to my stomach and angry. Our military and their families do NOT deserve to be disrespected and invalidated like that.  A commander-in-chief who, according to a report in Vanity Fair

In one account, the president told senior advisers that he didn’t understand why the U.S. government placed such value on finding soldiers missing in action because they had performed poorly and gotten caught and deserved what they got, according to a person familiar with the discussion.

His disdain for our military is such that he and first wife Ivana said if their kids joined the military they would be “disowned in a second.” Let that sink in for a moment. Their message wasn’t “we don’t want you to do this because we’re afraid something will happen to you”, it was “we think so little of the military that we will kick you out of this family and it’s money if you become a part of it”. This is who you want leading your troops?

My grandmother watched every day at her kitchen window for years, hoping that would be the day she would see her baby brother come home from WWII. It wasn’t until many years later that she learned he had died in France, and how. We’ve never recovered his remains, and in the last year my mom started working with an agency that matches DNA to unidentified remains still there, in hopes we may still be able to bring him home. Mr. Trump, my Uncle Ches was NOT a sucker or a loser. He was a young man who unlike you, believed in serving his country and defending her against ALL enemies, foreign and domestic. He did so with honor, and yes, he, along with all the others who remain missing, deserve to come home and be buried on US soil.

One of our greatest gifts as a democracy is belonging to any political party we want to and then exercising our right to vote for our candidate of choice and to do so in private. That means you never need tell anyone who you voted for. (This is HUGE!)  However part of being a responsible voter is to evaluate what a candidate stands for, regardless of their party and vote for them based on their platform. What is their record? What have they done, not just what do they say? It’s not only OK to belong to one party and vote another, it’s acceptable, even responsible. You’ve already heard the phrase “Country over party” many times these last 4 years, and it means more now than ever. Please, regardless of the party you are affiliated with as a registered voter, vote for someone who respects and supports our military troops. If you aren’t a registered voter, please get registered. If you’re worried about voting with COVID, go to Vote.org and find out how you can vote absentee in your state. (Whatever you do, don’t try to vote absentee and then in person. It’s probably a felony in your state. )

It’s that important.

Giving Thanks

This is such a strange time of year. Many of us sit at a table, surrounded by family members we’re obligated to spend time with but don’t really want to see, we try to make nice for a few hours and pray to God no one brings up politics while we stuff our faces with way too much food, alcohol and goodies. And pie. Pumpkin, pecan, mincemeat, pumpkin, lemon meringue. Oh, and did I mention pumpkin pie?

Screen Shot 2017-11-23 at 6.44.15 AM

This year is different for me, for a number of reasons. I’ve been out of work for 5 months now, looking faithfully every week for something that suits my skills and career path. It hasn’t been easy, not being able to find something, and I’m sure as difficult as it’s been for me, it’s likely been even harder for my husband. So as I think about what I am thankful for, he really is first on my list: he’s my rock, a source of quiet strength and support at all times. He pushes me to be my best in everything, but knows when to let me be. I’m thankful that we were wise enough to have money tucked away so that I can not worry (ok I worry, but at an appropriate level) about our finances during this time. Yes, we’ve cut way back on spending, and the list of things we need or want to get when I get a job is growing ever longer, but that’s ok. I’m thankful we have a home that isn’t in need of major repair, that we replaced the furnace a couple of years ago now that the temperature is dropping into the teens here. I’m thankful that we’re both healthy, that we have enough to keep us busy in and around the house when I’m not job hunting. I’m thankful for the fact that I can not only make Christmas gifts for friends and family, but that I have enough craft things in my home already to do it, and don’t need to buy much of anything so we’ll be able to have a very affordable Christmas this year.

I’m also thankful for so many other things around me. As the news of David Cassidy’s death broke on the news services, and I was immediately saddened and thought  for the first time, “we’re old!” But I’m so thankful for the joy he gave all of us young girls as teens, and that we got to have him in our life for a time, however remotely. Come on, admit it. You know you had his poster on your bedroom wall back then. I’ll admit it, but we were so young and silly and and young pre-teens and teens just thought he was so dreamy. I found an article yesterday on CNN that is worth a quick read that is a hoot, with a few facts about him we never knew. Take the time to read it, if you were a fan it will make you smile.

I’m thankful for my friends, who listen when I need them to, and who are just there to make me laugh, or hang out, or allow me to reciprocate for them in kind.

Speaking of my friends, I am especially thankful for some new ones this year I didn’t even know that I had. When I was laid off 5 months ago along with the rest of the team I worked with, I was just getting to know the team I’d worked with for only 4 months. We were all telecommuters, and worked from coast to coast, and were on different projects, so we didn’t all interact with each other every day. That meant after 4 months I was still just barely getting to know some of the team. After we were all let go, a group of 5 of us started group texting. It’s become a sometime support group, a virtual happy hour, and a wonderful sisterhood. So I am so grateful for Salpy, Jamie, Kathy and Blair, I don’t know what I would have done without you wonderful women.  Along with them, my friend Morissa, who has also been an uexpected source of support and assistance that I never saw coming. Along with all my other fantastic friends who listen, guide and help me look for jobs, I wish you joy and blessings this Thanksgiving.

What are you especially thankful for this year?

 

Outside the Box

I remember a dear friend once said to me, about her ex (before he was) “You know, he never brings me flowers. Ever. I’d be happy if he’d even bring me so much as a dead daisy.” Bringing her a dead daisy wouldn’t have kept him from becoming her ex, that was a whole other can of worms. But guys, we are happier with live flowers.) This comment from her followed my reciept of flowers from hubby for something, I don’t recall what. Back when we first dated he worked at a car dealership, and they had a guy who would come around once a week or so with roses in a bucket, making it easy for the sales people to pick up a couple of them to bring home so he’d do that once in a while, just because. Now, not so much but it’s ok, he’s replaced flowers with other things. Which really is the point of this story.

How often do we get hung up on what’s supposed to be, instead of being happy about what is? I know I’ve been guilty of it, and sometimes have to have the ‘slap-myself-upside-the-head’ conversations with me about it. They usually go a little something like this:

“OK, what the heck is the matter with you? What are you whining about? Did you really think you needed a pity party for real? You have a great life, remember? Your husband is a really good guy. He doesn’t beat you, he doesn’t yell at you, he doesn’t swear, he doesn’t beat his chest, he doesn’t gamble. He washes dishes and does laundry, and takes out garbage. Okay, so he doesn’t put the seat down enough, and doesn’t cook much. But girl, if that’s all you’ve got to whine about, get over your sad-sorry-self.”

I really think that society, television, the internet and the Kardashians all contribute to the problem. (Yeah, I know I said I wasn’t gonna bash ’em again. I lied, get over it.) Information is just too readily available to us on how the other half lives, and we’re inundated with the glossiness and wonder of it all, and how good it all looks. Who wouldn’t want all that lovely money, or live in that lovely house by the beach? We see all that with blinders on, however and forget that the lens we view through is tinted. We’re see only what we’re allowed to see, and when the cameras and papparazzi aren’t around, most of the rich and famous have issues too. Maybe not the same ones, but I guarantee they have them. I mean, I don’t know about you, but I don’t have that many friends that I can afford to have my husband flapping his digital gums all over twitter, ranting about what ticked him off today, alienating them en masse.

I mean, is it really so bad owning only 2 purses instead of 4? Or is it a crisis if your iPhone is 2 generations old, or your tablet is not the shiniest? So what? Will the world end if you don’t upgrade? Or don’t have it at all?

Is it a crisis if your significant other doesn’t wash the dishes? Make you coffee in the mornings? Shop for groceries? Don’t get me wrong, relationships are definitely about give and take and if one does all the taking and the other all the giving, all the time, it’s a problem. But it’s equally important to find balance, which by the way doesn’t necessarily equate to a 50-50 split. Some days balance is 40-60, some days it’s 75-25.  If he doesn’t wash the dishes, or if she doesn’t make the bed, before you do anything that you can’t undo, or say something you can’t unsay, stop and think for a moment. What else do they DO? Does he pick up your laundry off the floor and put a load in the washing machine (sorting correctly by color) without being asked? Does she always make sure your favorite coffee creamer is stocked in the refridgerator and your socks are folded just the way you want? In moments of crisis when you’re crying your eyes out, will he offer to take your snot filled tissue without a word and get you a fresh one?

We forget about all the little things that make up everyday life, and allow ourselves to get hung up on what we think life should be, because we’re so busy comparing ourselves to the proverbial Joneses, instead of seeing what is right there. Maybe it’s time to think outside the box…the big one sitting in your living room with 188+ channels from your cable or satellite provider, the middle size one that you use to access your news and TMZ feeds, and the small one you use to talk to your kids. I’m not saying get rid of them (do I look insane?) but at least put them in their appropriate perspective. Turn the damn things off people. In the northern hemisphere it’s spring, or at least the calendar says so in Minnesota, although you’d never really know it by the temperature. Get off the couch, put on an extra layer and get outside.

I’m chomping at the bit to plant my spring flowers. My husband thinks I’m nuts, that it’s too early, and he may be right, but I can’t take the drab anymore. I picked up some petunias at the nursery the other day, they’re hardy and can take a lot, and will get those in pots probably later today so I can get my patio at least a little color. I adore my patio, speaking of outside the box. It  all but calls my name with a siren song, every day in the summer. When the temperature is just right, the breezes are lightly blowing and the flowers are in bloom, it’s the most beautiful place. It’s a riot of color that calls to my tropical soul right here in a northern climate. I can listen to music, read, talk to friends, write, or do nothing and be fully at peace in it.

IMG_2237

There might be prettier gardens, or professional outdoor designer Jamie Durie might look at this and say I’ve done it all wrong and completely reorganize it and make it look amazing, but guess what? None of that matters…because it’s mine, and I’m happy with what I have. I’m content in it. That’s the point.

 

Tribute

I’m saddened this morning to read of the passing of Pat Conroy. If you’ve never read any of his work, you’re missing out on an amazing experience. I only recently discovered that, having tried to read his work many years ago and finding myself not ready to appreciate it. When I picked up The Prince of Tides a few months back, perhaps because I am older, or wiser (I hope!) for whatever reason, it was the right time.

What a gift he had to tell a story! I found myself so immersed in the book that I alternated between wanting it to never end and needing it to, so I could get on with my life. It’s as if each word had been selected so as to maximize the effect and nuance, not wasting them needlessly, so I’ll do the same.

As is often said, gone too soon.

Bliss List

While driving out to the family gathering for Thanksgiving today, we were listening to one of our two annual radio programs. The first is a usually a broadcast of “Alice’s Restaurant” by Arlo Guthrie, which clocks in at 18:37, and will only occasionally make the list of longest recorded songs, since it wasn’t considered a rock song, and probably not a pop song at the time but was really more of an anti-Viet Nam War song. If you’ve never listened to Alice’s Restaurant, you’re missing out. It’s really only marginally about Alice, and the restaurant, and is more about the absurdity of life, and the uselessness of war. And, of course, the 8 x 10 colored glossy pictures, with the circles and the arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one…  Thank you, Mr. Guthrie.  But I digress, not unlike the song, actually…

The second is listening to Minnesota Public Radio and on today’s “Giving Thanks” program, their guest was Christopher Kimball from America’s Test Kitchens. He was talking about his Bliss List – those moments of perfect happiness that make up his life. That got me to thinking, what are some of mine. It took me a while to come up with them. I mean, you start to remember something, and then blam! And you think, nuh-uh, not including THAT one, or how about…nope. That one won’t work either.Sigh. I have NO truly happy memories? I’m suddenly picturing the characters from  the movie “Inside Out” inside my head…where was Joy when I needed her? Couldn’t she just drive the bus one day without the others? Why did Anger or Sadness have to even show up?  They are such party poopers. (If you haven’t seen that movie, full disclosure, go see it as fast as you can and take tissues!! It’s wonderful). But then the memories started to trickle in.

Sitting in my grandmother’s kitchen when I was about 5, eating cinnamon graham crackers and dunking them in thick, rich ice cold whole milk. There was something special about the ritual of breaking the crackers in half, then in half again to get those narrow rectangles that fit so nicely in glasses, and of course it was before we had any idea that whole milk was bad for you. Now it’s nearly as cringeworthy as drinking heavy cream, but growing up it’s what we knew.  Walking to the barn with grandpa and holding a baby chicken that was so yellow and soft. Going to my other grandparents house, and helping grandpa in his general store. Getting to slice summer sausage (with him doing it and me ‘helping’) in the big electric slicer. Sitting on a sled in the winter and having our dog pull my sisters and I. It was a big sled, and we had a huge St. Bernard named Heidi, because there was a movie by that name, based on the book by Johanna Spyri, that we loved. I try not to dwell on the dog too much, because you know what they say about big dogs… big poo!

The first time I learned how to drive a stick shift. The first time I drove a stick shift and didn’t grind the gears. (No, they weren’t they same day. They weren’t even the same year or city, for heaven’s sake!) But being able to do that gave me a feeling of confidence and independence I’d never felt before. Standing on the deck of a Windjammer, at 2 AM as we neared Grenada on my last night of a weeklong cruise. Sea breeze on my face, looking up at more stars than you can imagine, and seeing the Southern Cross for the first time. As the song goes, “you understand now, why you came this way“. My wedding day.

That rare instance when one of my silky soft cats jumps up on my lap, gracing me with their presence and allowing me to pet them for a few minutes. I close my eyes and am in another place, instantly transported to Bliss, and I’m grateful for the moment.

Even though Thanksgiving is past, or if you’re from a country that doesn’t celebrate the fourth Thursday in November the way we do in the USA, take the time to think of your own Bliss List and be thankful for those moments of pure joy.