Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Last weekend I learned how far I haven’t come in life. Or maybe I confirmed circles are the path we follow, after all. I’m not sure, which. But I like the notion of the circular thing much more than the idea that I’ve travelled exactly nowhere in my lifes’ journey. So I’ll go with that. Where did I get to?

I am right where I was when I was 18. I am a lifeguard. Or at least I’m now certified, as such. Again.

I’ve lived a lot of life and gotten a fairly decent education to be where I am. I’ve been responsible. I even achieved a certain level of success in my career. These are all things that tickered through my mental tape when I first entered the room in back of the building next to the garbage dumpster…

It’s difficult to describe, really, the overall experience, so let me just say it was humbling. Humbling to be among a roomful of high school seniors smattered with some college freshman and realize I was the same age as their mother. Humbling to sit on an old van seat smeared with grease stains in a room of old van seats watching Red Cross videos. Humbling to be earnestly taking notes, listening to the presenter while the paperwork processing lady kept pointing to different people in the room blurting, “Have you paid me yet? Have YOU paid me yet?” Humbling to follow behind an econo van resembling a modern version of the child catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and drive another 20 miles (I elected to drive myself) to swim in a freezing pool on a freezing day as an unwitting character in a public relations stunt, while the pool manager runs a play by play through her megaphone letting the pool patrons know exactly what we whacky lifeguard candidates were up to in the diving well. I felt exactly like an unexpected character in a Coen brothers’ film.

But I returned the next day and completed the process. I’m ready to coach. The kids are all signed up for summer swim team.

So it seems I’ll go to great lengths (and depths) to get my children involved or included in the short time we live in any one community. Where we live now is fairly high speed in the competition arena. So when I thought it would be a good thing for the kids to experience summer swim team, I soon realized we couldn’t get in anywhere any time soon. There are waiting lists for most of the pools in our area. That’s when I decided to present myself as a package deal. I’ve been coaching winter league for several years now, and am a certified USA Swimming coach. I knew several pools needed assistant coaches. I didn’t know I’d need to regain lifeguard certification. That came later.

I spend a lot of time worrying about my kids’ involvement in activities, which are transportable. Swimming will move with us and is available in most communities. Lacrosse is not. Fencing is tough, but piano is doable. Soccer is probably 50/50, and ballet may or may not be an option. So I think through this every time one of the kids asks to be involved in something. I want and hope for them each to find a “thing,” which they can take and have with them wherever we may go. An interest that will carry them not only through our moves and be a consistent element, but also through the difficult middle and high school years, which are broaching so quickly now.

I know life happens with even the best laid plans, so I approach this effort with a certain level of “fatedness,” but still, all I can do is try. I mean, I‘ll do damn near anything … once I got past my ego, it wasn’t so bad last weekend. And circles are kind of nice. You get a chance to look at things from a different perspective with every go 'round.

Monday, May 17, 2010


Sometimes the monotony of life reflects the monotony of long distance running and training; or vice versa. You have to keep looking ahead even on the dullest of Groundhog days. Stay the course.

I like to try and keep my pendulum swinging in the middle, but when I begin to feel like this, I always anticipate a sharp leap to the other side of whatever it is I’m going through at the moment. The very carefully created structure I’ve built around our lives seems to suffocate, suddenly. There's a Tom Petty song I've always liked called "Time to Move On." I've been feelin' it...

Mostly the routines I build for myself and my family have a comforting feeling — I hope for all involved, and I rely on them to provide a sense of stability even more when we move. But part of the routine to which I’ve grown accustomed in recent years is the act of MOVING in and of itself. So when I begin to anticipate another call to duty, and it doesn’t happen, I’m left feeling out of sorts. It’s like a two-year itch. I know other military spouses know this feeling. It’s something both dreaded and not. You come; you set up house, routines, schedules, life, and then you move on to the next. It has a certain flow to it, no matter how much we complain. The first year is a bit of a struggle, but by the second the wheels are in fluid, if not easy, motion. And then it’s time to head out again.

Or not.

Presently I find myself NOT wanting to take my annual sojourn to the flower store for all the annuals I usually plant right about now. And I would love a garden, but why bother? I could look for more consulting work in my field, but that would require more networking and energy, which I think I used up last year. I’m in a quagmire of self-defeatest behaviour.

It needs to stop.

So I try to renew my energies for exploring new things right where we are — sites, museums, etc., and create a different sense of adventure; one that accommodates our current schedule. Not the future one that seems to still be in the future, however far, in a yet-to-be-determined locale.

My behavior though, isn’t completely out of the norm. Military spouses are conditioned to behave this way; to operate with a purposeful intent of constantly looking forward. Move in. Make house. Make a life. Move on. Perennial gardens aren’t really an option, or if they are, we leave them behind for others to enjoy — a symbolic “I WAS HERE” gesture.

I caught a segment on CBS Sunday last week, which made me cry. It’s not totally out of the ordinary for this thought provoking weekly to bring forward emotionally wrought stories, but this one, I’m guessing, probably didn’t effect most viewers the same way it did me. It was a feature on Sandra Boynton (of "hippo birdie" greeting card fame) featuring her amazing home and life. Maybe it was the red clapboard farmhouse with matching barn and outbuildings where she lives in works, much like I the one I grew up in, only bigger. Or maybe it was the perfectly replicated 1950s diner below her workspace, much like the one I envisioned years ago for my one-day kitchen space. But most likely it was that she seemed to never question herself or her purposeful intent. I’ve always admired those people who have a clear vision and actually follow their originally chosen path. I’m more of the "wandered off and got lost" sort — the “questioning and constantly searching” variety. Maybe that’s why, more than not, our military mobile lifestyle fits for me.

In any case, that segment stayed with me, resonating like a good book or movie. “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” is a film about erasing all the baggage a relationship eventually collects, and remembering the starting point to the journey. I think of it often when I begin to collect too much luggage in our life all around. Our moves sort of reflect that film; we wipe our slate clean once every two to four years; maybe sooner. But maybe the real message behind the movie is that while you can wipe your physical space and mental outlook clean, there are certain indelible prints when it comes to your core being — like hieroglyphs on your heart— that remain with you not matter what. They’re not easily wiped away. Maybe that’s why Boynton’s red barn and farmhouse pulled so heavily on my innermost being.

I often wonder when this time in life comes to pass, and we move on down the road for good, whether I will revel in making a home for keeps; what it will look like, and where it might be located. I imagine nurturing a garden; being there long enough to enjoy the stableness; nurturing friends and anticipating the fruitful outcome of good composting. Or, instead, will I feel antsy — at least every couple of years — for a new landscape in a different space. I wonder if wanderlust is now a permanent part of the pictures painted on my heart…

Monday, May 10, 2010


Monday morning blues

Wake up you

Day is bright

Morning light

Filters in through the wisps of your hair

Splayed across the pillow

You smell of sleep

And yesterday

Warm and inviting

I want to fold myself into your heat

and push away sounds of wakefulness

Clock is ticking

Day is waiting

Calm and then not

Sweet piano crescendos into

Tempers and torment

Rushed apologies

Tied together with shoelaces, and

Wrapped in lunchboxes

Tossed into backpacks

Reassurances sealed with kisses

A wave of I love you words

Cut off by slamming doors

Sudden and unsettling (at first)

Comes the silence

pa pum pa pum pa pum pa pum ...