Friday, September 30, 2011


All dressed up and nowhere to go — that old expression came to life for me, just now. And I stand here wondering, “Is that really so bad?”

Really, I am.

I’m not certain if I’ve just reached an all-time low, or whether — just maybe — I’ve finally passed over into that phase of my life where I give a shit, or not. Could this be transcendence, of sorts?

We’ve only just settled into our new abode — to the north and east of London. We’re in the country, really.

I look around the house and feel settled. The kids are at school. I do not work, at present. And I am lucky to say I have at least one friend who is near and dear.

But today I am alone.

And I took more care than usual just now, getting dressed.

I showered and shaved; painted my toes; did my hair and makeup. I even put on heels. Any one of these could be considered a grand gesture for those who know me. (Surely I’ve gone days without a shower, let alone painting my toes…heels barely know me.)

I came downstairs, hungry for lunch and realized I have nowhere to go.

I had a lunch date with my husband, who just returned (again), but he was caught at work; not his fault. And I knew this before I went to all the trouble, but I did it anyway.

And it’s a gorgeous day, so I wouldn’t mind (theoretically) going off to lunch on my own.

But, instead, I’d much rather pour a glass a wine; make a salad and stay here.

What is that? I wonder … as I listen to nothing and stare … is that PEACE?

It feels strange even to think it, let alone to write it.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


The faces of those we meet

Show us a bit of the place

Where we find ourselves

This day now

Replete with weather

Drawn down from

Gravity or born of

Days without sun, or happiness

Or maybe, sweet

Ripened apples and

Juicy gossip of yore,

Lay rotting on the floor

We come together

Much as before

But never more

Than when we were

At last without incident

Or consequence

Of mostly sheer


We share the road

You going that way

Me this

Passing on the left.

(You say,

"Stupid Americans,"

I say,

"Mean people everywhere.")

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


One of the things, which historically I’ve put off the longest upon a move, is self -maintenance. Finding a haircutter, colorist, pedicurist, waxer, shaper, polisher, buffer — these things all seem quite peripheral in terms of immediate needs.

Or they used to.

Until this morning when, in an attempt to address personal upkeep, I wacked off my right eye brow.

Or most of it. It now has a beginning and an end, but looks rather missing in the middle.

And I didn’t have much to start with. I was really only trying to get after those hairs, which seem more and more to be bopping up beyond the brow. I used my husband's trimmer. It looked fairly simple when he used it. Now all kinds of raunchy references to tools and husbands pop up in my mind ...

Once a friend, upon asking him how he was fairing after a long interval without seeing each other said, “I’m getting both balder and hairier.”

It’s like tending a lawn. You can let go for a while, but suddenly, seemingly overnight, you wake up to patches of unwanted weeds in some areas, where others have gone nearly dead.

Metaphorically, my lawn has gone to pot.

Certain things, upon getting older, just can’t be put off, indefinitely. They must be tended on a regular basis.

Today I am, without a doubt, both balder and hairier. I need to learn to move certain things to the top of the list…

Sunday, August 21, 2011


“I don’t like it. I don’t like any of it,” I said frowning; something I’ve been doing a lot of lately.

“I know. You never like change,” he replied.

He was talking about my new Mac operating system; something having to do with a lion, for which I hadn’t asked and didn’t think I needed. I didn’t like the way my e-mail program now automatically opened into multiple panels, divided vertically on the screen.

On which one do you focus? It felt like my attentions were split into three.

I’m a gal who needs to focus on one thing at a time. My brain already threatens of imploding from too many thoughts, both important and not.

“That’s probably true,” I agreed after a pause.

More loaded silence — not uncomfortable, just filled with thought.

We moved into our house, but it’s in a different area from where we lived when we were here last. I’m not totally in sync with the changes we’re experiencing returning to the UK, and we’re still waiting on our household to get here (It's been nearly three months — I miss my bed, among other things).

Sometimes learning to flex comes at great cost; loss of routines that give daily living order and purpose; loss of friends and community. When I was younger, this didn't seem to come at such a grand personal expense, as it does now.

Sometimes it’s the little things.

Take Pringles, for example. I’m not a big chip (crisps) fan, but when I crave something crunchy, salty, my sights are on Pringles; the red kind. I like them because they remind me of my Grandmother. I don’t remember her very well, because she died at a young age when I was very little, but what I do recall involves Pringles from the red can with pink lemonade on the side.

The commissary (base grocery) here seems to be out of Pringles, the red kind. I’d forgotten how limited we are with certain things. I have access to curried Pringles and shrimp flavored Pringles, but these things don’t serve me well.

The grocery is small and often runs out of basic things. When Halloween candy arrives, which it is now, people race there and grab up what they can carry for fear it won’t be there at the end of October, which it probably won’t.

For the most part it works. We live in a very rural area. Seasonal food is aplenty. Tomatoes, eggs and runner beans are set out at many curbs in bags with a good price. I love this part. I have simple tastes. Food fresh from the ground, or the sea, is what I favor (and sometimes Pringles, the original kind). I found a fish monger last week. My kids gobbled up trout; heads on. I thought that was pretty cool.

Yesterday we drove into Cambridge and ate at one of Jamie Oliver's restaurants. I think he has a mixed reputation here (I think maybe one friend called him a Prat?), but I appreciate his approach to food and what he's trying to do to overhaul eating habits, world over.

So we're out in the country, but not so far that we can't drive into the city without too much trouble.

I’m getting used to the layout. I have a pastoral view out my kitchen windows, with cows and a white horse. I stare a lot, and my dog Horace loves it, too.

Horace is relearning to run with me through heaths and public footpaths, which, along with wooded areas, surround us in all directions.

If only I could control him on his new lead, as pronged collars are against British standards for animals. I understand the viewpoint, but the reality is that for my coonhound, it’s a much safer, more effective way of keeping him steady.

He sees a jackrabbit and his eyes glaze over. Nothing will deter his desire to chase. As it is, he’s constantly tugging with a force of 10 men, and then choking, with his “gentle” lead, and my left shoulder is about to be permanently dislocated .

I’d let him run free, but chances are I’d never see him again. Some days, I know how he feels.

So we’re working on it. Things are both familiar and different. One step at a time….

Monday, July 25, 2011


Transient housing requires a key card for entry — entry into the gate; entry into our room. Mastering the card requires patience, as it usually takes multiple swipes to get the car into the lot or to enter the door.

It also requires organization. Knowing where the card is at all times between me, the kids and the dog, and remembering to have it on your person, takes diligence.

After nearly 30 days, we’re beginning to crack at the seams. Our past-times here, especially through DC’s extreme heatwave, are limited. I’ve been paying my son to walk the dog in order for both the dog and him to get out and about more. They have BIG energy, and we're in a small space (there’s that patience thing again), so I thought it was a win win —at first. Lately, he is gone mere moments before he raps on the door to regain entry (he usually doesn’t remember the card).

Yesterday, I sent my eight-year-old daughter out with my dog and my son to keep them company. She loves to walk the dog, but her little arms don’t bear the strength to hold our 70 pound coonhound back if he sees something and desires to meet it—full speed ahead.

I stood in the momentary quiet (my other daughter was at a sleepover), looking out the little window in the little kitchenette thinking about nothing.

Suddenly, I caught a blurred furry image streaking past me, with my daughter in flight behind (I’m not even sure her feet were striking the ground) hanging on to the other end of the leash. A quick look over, and I noticed my son was paying no attention to the matter, WHAT-SO-EVER.

So I busted out both doors (which require key cards), to try and save my daughter, who I imagined, by now, was in some sort of peril.

She was fine, and haulted nearby. Horace had seen another dog he just had to meet.

I stood there in my bare feet, BRA-less, listening to the other dog’s owner exclaiming to anyone who would listen but in my general direction, “that is exactly why I do NOT allow my children to walk the dog!”

It was then I realized with sort of a slow motion movie quality effect and a dark sense of despair — I had no key card. I had no keys to my car, and I had no phone to call for help.

(We eventually made it back inside. Thanks to Horace. He began barking his incessant coonhound bark when the other dog left. He wanted to play. Another guy from our building came outside to complain about the noise …)

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Mornings are different now.

I wake up to the rumbling footfalls above my head — somewhere in the vicinity of 5am and think, “Wow. Army folks get goin’ early.”

I lay there and listen to their morning routine, measured in the strike pattern. I haven’t seen my upstairs neighbor. Whoever it is comes in late and rises early. I’m signaled to their comings and goings by the slamming of doors and their 300 lb gorilla steps.

Why am I the only one who wakes? The kids don’t seem bothered at all. But the dog hears and is ready to go out for his morning constitution. He comes and licks my face soon after Army guy begins his morning shuffle.

I trip around the dark trying not to wake my 12-year-old son sleeping on the pullout sofa in the other room. He lies between me and the door.

He didn’t remember to pack much, besides his clock radio with the nature sounds. He’s always had trouble falling asleep. Apparently he’s found peace with the frog symphony that fills the air around him.

Horace and I find the door after stumbling around for a shirt, some shoes, etc.

We’re in Army “transient housing” for the next 30 days while we wait out our dog’s quarantine and fulfill our summer swim team schedule.

We are transient.

Army guy just stomped down the steps and slammed out the door of the apartment complex, which is right outside ours.


So the day begins.

Friday, May 13, 2011


What about daily living trips you up most?

You know when you round the corner and anticipate pulling in the driveway (and home is like a warm beacon of shelter from the cold cold world)? I was about to turn in today after all the stops and starts I thought I needed to negotiate when I remembered I forgot the dry cleaning … again.

Dry cleaning hits the top of the list of things I don’t (want to) give a hoot about.

Yet there it is.

It hits the top five on the list of “life’s minutiae I’d like to kick to the curb.”

Knowing this, I try to buy only clothes with the strongest chance of survival through the home laundry evolution. It’s like Darwinian Garment Theory (DGT). This is tricky. Once in a while an item slips through and, the dreaded dead-end cycle of dry cleaning begins. (I’ve never bought really nice lingerie for the same reason. We’re just not delicate people…)

It all starts with the duly assigned dry cleaning receptacle. I have a hamper for those items that require special care and shipping. This solution came after many an occasion when said items found their way into the general pile and were never the same again (thus becoming extinct).

So once the hamper gets full, and this may take a while for the previously mentioned reasoning (we don’t do daily dry cleaning), I put it into a tote.

The tote may sit a while, before it finds it’s way into the trunk … where it might sit a while … you get the idea.

Only when I go to grab a pair of trousers that I cannot find do I suddenly remember the blasted dry cleaning tote, which has been residing in the trunk for weeks. On those days, I remind myself to stop at the dry cleaners and with not a small, “hrrumpphhh,” I choose something else to wear.

Paying for clothes for which I’ve already paid also gives me pause. I know it’s technically the care of the clothes, but something about exchanging money over the counter gets to me. Again — it’s the little things that trip me up the most.

Then there’s the question, “What really happens to said clothing after it leaves the counter and before it takes a merry-go-round ride all nicely bagged and ready to be picked up on that whirly gig?”

I’ve always been curious (and maybe a little bit suspicious). Maybe it was the years working at Angie’s List, which really tipped my lid — so many below B rated dry cleaners given by so many dry cleaning users.

Eventually, I submit to my ridiculousness and the inevitability that I need to a) find a dry cleaner, and b) take my long-awaiting pile of clothes.

I get really excited at my nicely packaged goods upon pick-up. So much so, that when I hang them in my closet all nice and like-new again, I find I avoid them for as long as possible, because then they won’t be ironed and clean anymore, and

…there it goes … the whole cycle over again.

I admire those homes I pass with their dry cleaning hanging on the front door, softly swinging in the

breeze. I wonder what special people must reside there to have their very own dry cleaning fairy. This I don’t imagine as a possible solution for my own laundry woes.

Dry cleaning is just one more service provider replacement conundrum every time we move. I know there are good ones out there providing quality service. I just need to find them … over and over again.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


In times of transition, I find it difficult to settle down and write. It seems my thoughts flow only when I feel calm; and grounded. At those times, the dam opens, and out pours months of marinated mindfulness.

At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself, because right now, I can barely put my panties on straight, let alone string words together in any kind of cohesive, colorful, thought-provoking pattern.

Lately, my energies and focus have been keeping our daily life consistent, even as we’re working every day toward our move overseas. The paperwork alone ...

My mom sent me a card the other day to help lift the spirits she noticed were swimming somewhere in the deep end. And in it, she reminded me basically to "keep it together," as I am the center of my family’s universe.

For a moment, that sentiment calmed me and rejuvenated my sense of purpose and my resolve to "keep it together" during our time of transition.

Then I thought …

If that’s true — If I am the core — then our universe is swirling.

Or is it?

Deliberate change, I’ve come to learn, isn’t my strong point. I’m better at consistency and cultivating gardens with patterns that grow only with time and constant care.

Maybe though, my place isn't a structure with lots of trees, a wrap-round porch and a garden filled with loads of vegetables and flowers to cut.

Maybe, I’m beginning to realize, if I pay closer attention to life’s connections through people, vs through structures that come and go, I can realize my desire to nurture things that grow.

I have to step back and remind myself that even if I had consistency in life; a solid house in a solid place with a solid school for my children and the kind of innate sense of direction that comes only with time —a knowledge of where to go and how to get there without using my GPS — life would still offer up its daily hurdles.

It took me some time — a flood; a dead car battery; lots of lawn mowing, and a few other signals, like my children's thoughts in their Mother's Day wishes, before the message began to knit together for me.

And then came the clincher.

One of the best things about our time spent in DC has been our involvement with our church. My faith has taken some different paths over the years; sometimes on, sometimes off my confirmed religion.

When confronted with a new place and a new space, I know whether or not going to church consistently is going to work for me by two things: the first time I walk into a religious space — the feel of the building/architecture; and by hearing the pastor speak — their ability to reach me through presence and words.(Okay. Maybe three — good music rates high with me.)

I found that here — a connection with the pastor. And I've been lamenting leaving. And then last week I learned my favorite Godly man is taking a leave of absence from his priesthood. Wow. (I wish him well, and I think I like and respect him even more now).

It took all this to remind me life is never consistent. On the good days, when I'm able to simply be present, I mostly just feel lucky for the amazing people I’ve met and spent time with along my journey. Each one has helped build an interior structure, which packs up nicely and travels wherever and whenever I do.

This is a place where I can enter and find comfort no matter where I am. It cannot be bought, sold, or rented. It travels with me. Maintenance is my responsibility. I try to keep it open with light and air, even during periods of renovation, so those around me can gain comfort from my center.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Brief Pause for Self Identification

Pauses. Time to reflect; relax; take a deep breath; gain perspective before moving forward.

At times when military marriages are split by deployments, or temporary duty assignments away from home, it brings that — a brief (or not so) intermission. Time to stretch.

Many people in the civilian world cannot fathom spending months, or even a year apart from one’s spouse. But we do it all the time.

I find it gives me time to decompress and remember who I am apart from my spouse and his very demanding life’s work. I don’t mind it, always.

Although it can be very tiring. Running the show solo takes a lot of energy and maybe an extra dose of patience, especially when living in a place, which offers no family nearby for support.

But we get through the rough patches. For the most part, everyone steps it up a notch.

This is how I feel today, anyway.

I might have a different perspective in a month, or two...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


When I was about nine or ten years old, I experienced the first big shift in my life. My mother finally convinced my farm-loving father to move into a neighborhood in the vicinity of town.

This was HUGE. The farm, and all it entailed, was all I knew. A lot changed.

My pony went. In its stead, I received my first Schwinn bicycle from Bicycle Bill’s in Vermilion, Ohio. It was that burnt brown color; a ten-speed. Clearly this was meant as a trade-off.

There were others. My dad bought a bigger boat. He named it “Compensation.”

My mom received her house in the suburbs; away from the farm. I’m sure I didn’t have a firm grasp on the full meaning behind that name, compensation, but I get it now.

Give and take over a life time of togetherness, I believe, must balance. I’m a big believer in the pendulum. And, for the most part, it does. But when the bar begins to swing away; too far for me to grasp, I begin my retreat.

It’s happens often enough that I recognize the symptoms, although, I still haven’t managed to wipe them out, completely.

When Rick goes TDY or on a long deployment, our lives begin to shift away from the comfort I’ve created and with which I’ve worked hard to surround us. In response to this intrusion, I begin to construct my perimeter wall; an emotional barrier with which to shield any potential hurt or hardship lurking out in the distance.

It’s what I do. Not intentionally, but it's my coping mechanism; my atonement.

I know others who follow similar patterns. Some spouses make large purchases, again, somehow in restitution for a sense of loss.

“This American Life,” from Chicago Public Radio, had a segment last week titled, Will They Know Me Back Home? It features a dramatic read taken from excerpts of a book about military life. One of the vignettes includes thoughts from a wife coping at home, while her husband is deployed for a long period of time. I related so strongly, it prompted me to recognize some of my behaviors of late, anticipating an extended absence.

I’m rusty — out of "deployment condition." The guys call it "readiness." My military spouse went from rarely being home to rarely being away from home in recent times.

I need to polish my armour; remember how to embrace the change, and wait for that balance to come back full center.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Do you ever wake up feeling anxious, but you can’t quite peg it?

Sometimes you can’t identify a feeling until you’re able to relate it. I woke up today feeling off; my heart rate was up more than usual. I’ve been told I have an amphibian-like heartrate; really really s-l-o-w, so I notice when it’s up a pace, or two. And I hadn’t yet had an overage of coffee, so I knew it couldn’t be caffeine induced.

I was less than patient with the dog and getting the kids ready for school and out the door this morning, but for no reason I could identify.

I looked at my calendar, but I haven’t missed any appointments (yet). I started a new journal of all my lists associated with our pending move. This brought on by recent bouts of sleeplessness. I’ve been unable to turn my running ticker off at night of all the things that can only be answered with time.

So I try and keep present, and not look too far down the road. I haven’t developed any outward signs of feeling stressed (I remember an unrelenting tick in my eye right before our wedding). But driving home just now, I remembered a moment in time when I felt similar.

It was years ago when we lived in Cambridgeshire, England. I was driving from our home in Ely to Mildenhall in Suffolk where the base is located to meet with friends. Behind the wheel I thought I was having a heart-related issue. It came on suddenly. I couldn’t breathe. I panicked. But there was no where to pull off the very narrow (in America it's width would have sufficed for a one-way) B-road I was traversing; only deep ditches on both sides, so I kept driving with all three kids strapped in the back.

We arrived at our destination safely and, upon seeing my friends, I burst into tears. They understood. I didn’t have to explain.

Turns out I wasn’t alone. Several of my co-horts were having similar symptoms and episodes. It was reported then that emergency visits to the flight clinic were on an upswing for these afflictions.

It seems we were all stressed out, but we weren't associating the physical ramifications. At this point, our husbands had been gone for weeks, and we still hadn’t heard from them. We didn’t know where they were, or whether they were safe. But we all thought we were managing.

Today I know my husband’s approximate where-abouts, and I believe he is relatively safe, so that’s not it.

Preparing for our return to a place where so much happened brings a lot back to the surface. Simply prepping for an overseas PCS can be tricky. But I have perspective now, which I couldn’t possibly have the first time around. Hopefully this will be enough to balance out the panic moments.

If not, it I were to meet with my beloved co-horts today, and burst into tears without any apparent reason, I know they’d understand. It’s not only the active-duty members who develop bonds of closeness out of shared experiences, which cannot possibly be matched in the civilian world. They often refer to each other as "brothers."

This is the same kind of matched understanding (I imagine) brought by any heightened experience in life, shared equally by and with others.

I cherish these relationships — my soul sisters — no matter how far and wide we’re presently scattered.