Monday, December 17, 2012


A few weeks ago, my 10-year-old daughter and I were caught in between the lines.

We were returning to her intermediate school after a doctor’s appointment, and confronted with armed Air Force security guards surrounding her school. One approached the truck and explained in a very calm, friendly fashion, “Ma’am, we’re in lockdown. You may take your child into the building, but once inside you will have to remain in a secured area.”

I was frustrated. I realized the lockdown was a drill, and that I was stuck on a busy day; not to mention the fact that I parked illegally, and I couldn’t afford another driving or parking violation with base security forces. I told myself they were too busy doing other things that day, and went inside.  Gabby was ushered off to her “secured” area. I in mine. That she was in any real danger, was unimaginable to me.

As I sat cloistered in a room, along with other caught parents, I never entertained the obvious — this was a training drill for real-life possibilities. I took it as being one more extraordinary USAF experience. The base drills for all sorts of scenarios. If you are on base, you become part of the drill, like it or not.

I didn’t hear about the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, at first. With the time difference, and physical distance, there is a lapse.  So when I heard a report on the BBC later in the evening, it didn’t resonate, at first. It is hard to fathom the unfathomable.

Then, I came home to see the FB posts from friends stateside. The news began to take hold. I wondered whether, or not, I could muster the strength to seek the story on the internet.  Eventually, I did.

My children, have not seen nor heard much of this. For this small favor, I am grateful. I’m not sure whether they wondered why I hugged them more and snuggled longer with them at bedtime. 

Yesterday, I listened to some of the debate and commentary on gun control in the United States. I grew up with a father who hunted. I was taught the ins and outs of how to handle and shoot a rifle at a young age. I had a BB gun when I was 10. Guns were treated with a good dose of respect for their potential to harm. But it was about accidental harm, not intentional. No one in my immediate circle ever discussed or considered guns as weapons for human hurt.  They were tools for food gathering; for sport.

Even so, a dear family friend died from a gunshot wound to the chest. As a very young father of twins, it was a tragedy. He was cleaning a loaded gun inside his house, with is wife nearby. We all wondered how he made that mistake. We were all taught NEVER to have a loaded gun inside the house. Ours were secured and put away when not in use.

I don’t, however, understand why people feel the need to collect semi-automatic weapons. This, to me, is senseless. I cannot conjure any reason why the average person should have access to these. “Just because you can,” isn’t enough to my mind, though I understand the constitutional infringement.

So while we grieve, and we wonder about the second amendment, I turn my thoughts to my children, and then to all of our children. I think about our boys. All of these tragedies were at the hands of boys or very young men, whose parents seem as shocked as the rest of us.

What is happening to our boys?

Are we giving them the outlets they need to sort through their energies and emotions? Are we, alongside they, holed up inside our houses, isolated from the outside world to the extent that we’ve lost the ability to seek help or to see clearly the effects our current social norms are having on us collectively?

Are we structuring our children’s lives to the point of stifling their ability to blow off steam in their own constructive, active way?

Are we raising boys with respect for themselves, for others?

In a population the size of the United States, there are bound to be downfalls. But they are isolated. Or they were. This story is an impossibly grimmer version of one we’ve heard before, and all too recently.

Gun control is an obvious topic. Continuing to secure and to ensure our schools are safe environments for our children is of great concern. But what about the society that raised the person holding the gun? Is that worth our considerations?

"Sorrow makes us all children again - destroys all differences of intellect. The wisest know nothing."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, December 7, 2012


... a card. We created our greeting by hand this year — one memory at a time.
This is very home-made. from our house to yours — Happy Holidays! 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Every year he asks her what she’d like for Christmas.

Every year she responds, “I have everything I want,” and she means what she says. (At least she believes she means it, or she wants to believe that she means it.)

Every year he gets her something anyway.

She receives whatever it might be with a mix of indignation and surprise. (Though she isn’t really surprised, and not so bent out of shape.)

One year it is a new laptop computer. She wonders why; thinks it too extravagant. She encourages everyone else to use it. Until, finally, she relents.

Now she goes to bed each night with her laptop propped on top of the bedding, like a tray table over her outstretched legs.

She can’t imagine life without it.

One year he gifts her with a fancy Kitchen Aide mixer.

Once again, she receives it with a mix of indignation and surprise. (She secretly wishes for a Kitchen Aide, just not that model.) But he already knows that. He gently explains he bought the better model. Not the one that tilts.

She props it on the counter, in the corner, where it stays for days, even weeks, untouched. Then one day, she gives it a whirl.

Now at least once a week, she makes homemade dough with the mixer.

She can’t imagine life without it.

With each passing year, he gives her everything she needs. But still, he finds a way to give more, until she realizes she can’t live without it — or him.

… and so it goes.

(for Rick)

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Life is a convergence of things, both large and small.

Last week I ran into the library. In my usual fashion, I buzzed in to return a few things. While there, and within five minutes, I chose four more books. One for me, and one each for my three children.

Sometimes I hit a homerun with my fast grabs, and sometimes I don’t. But I figure, they’re from the library, and who cares if I mis-choose? I’ll just return the rejects and try again.

Often these days when I introduce something (anything?) to my son, who is now thirteen, I am met with either straight out rejection, or at least cynicism. This time, I merely placed the book in his room. I let him know it was there (about five or six times), before he asked on Monday, “Mom, where’s that book?” in what I fathom to be a moment of desperation.

We spend a lot of time in the car travelling to and from after-school activities. Nothing is close by. It takes us forty minutes to get to and from swim practice five times a week. So my kids have learned to dive into books. We all do.

Recently during a different “fast grab” library hit-and-run, I picked up “Born to Run” on tape by Christopher McDougall. In what may just be the longest running slump in my lifetime, I found great pleasure in listening to this book during my week of multiple pool runs. A few days into it, my daughter asked, “Are you ready to listen?”

I was thrilled she seemed to be getting something out of the book as well. Even the other kids in the car who catch a lift with me asked about the book after I finished it. Hmmmm…. This might be a new trend….

By the way, books on tape to which I haven’t previously read come with pitfalls. Warning — to all would-be listeners, there are some patchy language/theme spots.

 “EARMUFFS!” I yelled whenever we hit a rough patch.

So on Tuesday, just a day after my son “discovered” the book I chose for him, I looked down at his place marker and realized he was almost to the end.

We were once again about to leave for swim team.

I asked, “How late were you up reading last night?”

“I dunno, maybe two…”

“Two am?!&(*&(&^. Great son.” This I said as we walked into practice, where, after a full day of school and after-school activities, he was about to lay down a time for the 800 free to qualify for champs.

But secretly, I was thrilled that he obviously enjoyed something I introduced to him. It doesn’t always happen. I’ll take the small victories.

Today, I picked up the book in anticipation of returning it and instead began reading. I can’t put it down, either.

 “The Warriors Heart,” by Eric Greitens is a great read. Written with young people in mind, it is an adaptation of Greitens’ work, “The Heart and the Fist.”

Coincidentally, Monday was Veterans Day. I read a lot of expressions of the day. But wasn't sure how to express my own thoughts. Now I do.

Greitens, a former Navy SEAL, founded an organization called The Mission Continues. It is an organization, which utilizes the strength and courage of retired veterans in service projects around the United States for people in need.

Greitens’ non-profit organization helps bridge the misconception many Americans have about our service veterans, while initiating and funding continued service closer to home. Check it out.

Check out his book, too.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


Sometimes, as a military spouse, I feel things differently. Not because I’m particularly special in any way, no, it’s more due to the environment in which I find myself, this day, now. It is different. Some variances are subtle, others, more profound.

I write — simply because I have to in order to make sense of my world. It is how I negotiate my way through life. I blog — I’m beginning to understand —because it is my effort to bridge the divide between the civilian world (where I came from), and my military existence (where I am now). I equate it to carefully placing messages in bottles (I see wine bottles), and sending them off to sea; wondering who might be on the receiving end on the other side of the ocean.

Where I am now is living in a country where Thanksgiving isn’t a national holiday. But we Americans who live here find a way to celebrate, anyway, even if the turkeys aren’t quite plump enough for table, just yet.

Instead of celebrating and giving thanks for natures bounty, for country, for each other, the British have fun with Guy Fawkes each November. With typical British bent, the folks here town after town, light bonfires and fireworks, in tribute to a man who failed to overthrow the government. He was instead executed after the failed “Gunpowder Plot” of 1604.

Our fireworks celebrate independence. Theirs celebrate botched rebellion. Both were born out of giving thanks. But it is different. I guess, it is England’s way of giving thanks for what “might’ve been” — the then British government as they knew it, the monarchy, in shambles.

I see many who post things for which they are thankful.

I am thankful to represent my country, alongside my spouse who actively serves. But I’m not sure this morning my country quite understands the sacrifices made by so many to support the foundations of freedom. We are a nation in crisis. Only time will reveal the reality of our choices.

The United States resembles ever more the European model from which we fought so hard to be independent and free.

These are confusing times. I watch from afar. In order to make sense of where and who we are as a nation, I went in search of the founding principles. I needed to re-visit. I wish to understand …

… Four years ago, I wasn't so far away from the president, in all respects. We lived exactly eight miles from the White House. I rode my bike down to the National Mall to listen to Obama’s inauguration. Yo Yo Ma’s fingers froze. So did my A*&. It was cold. But that didn’t do anything to quelch the energy emanating from the crowd. I felt it. It was intoxicating. I blanketed myself in the word of the day — hope.

I don’t feel that today. Today I bundle up to run into the woods — away from the confusion these last four years have created, where I feel free.

I believe leadership is largely demonstrated in actions, not words. I’ve watched closely every chance I get to President Obama’s mannerisms, his physicality. He seems most comfortable in the limelight. He loves the spotlight, and he performs well, there. I often wonder how he functions when he’s not on stage. When his propensity to pontificate isn't on call, but instead his ability to make decisions as the commander in charge.

The founding fathers did not intend for presidential elections to be popularity contests. Did Obama win because he is popular — because he sidles easily next to  David Letterman and alongside Bruce Springsteen?

Did he win the election because he has demonstrated he is a good leader?

I watched Obama and Biden pass each other on stage yesterday. They each bit their lips and gave each other the “got ya” point with their fingers, fashioning their hands in the shape of a gun and thumbing the trigger. Obama’s agenda gives me pause. Biden simply gives me goosebumps.

I couldn’t help imagining this same gesture, only pointed toward our strength as a nation, our freedom as individuals, and the constitution as we know it (this term, Obama will most likely be responsible for replacing not one, but two US Supreme Court justices.).

I trust the constructs of our government to remain sound.  What is for certain in my mind is this —the legacy of this president will no longer balance on top of another administration’s back. He will have only himself to hold accountable for our country in four years, and in that time, I wonder where we’ll find ourselves as a nation. This time I watch from afar.

This time, into the woods I bound alone, away from the crowds; away from an uncertain leader in uncertain times.

"I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government.." — Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, October 11, 2012


I keep thinking about circles.

Circles of time;
Circle of life;
Traffic circles.

And, given the time of year, as I look around my festive house, I realize I have a thing for witches.

I don’t know if the two are related, or not — circles and witches — but it seems like maybe they should be, at least in my life, especially this time of year.

I never thought of myself as a collector. But I must be. I have a myriad of witch hats; witch art, witches that fly; witches that sit. Witches that light up. Some that don’t. I find them to be a delightful combination of mystery and edginess. 

They’re all out right now keeping me company in a very inanimate way. (One of them though, looks so life-like, she might take off in flight at any moment. SPOOKY.) Every time the calendar circles to October, we dig into our Halloween fare with verve. I love this time of year.

Apples and pumpkins are circle-like. I love apples and pumpkins; and the beauty of a harvest moon.

Holidays are the time when I think about my Grandma Rose the most. She was a collector. And my memories of her house always include decorative nods to the time of year. I do that now — passing the tradition on in the circle of life. I hope I carry forward the same warm joy that apparently I picked up from my early days at Grandma’s house.

And that brings me to traffic circles. In England and Europe, they are everywhere (it isn’t just Boston). Traffic circles of various proportions engineer traffic flow in a nice way without using stop signs. Sometimes you trigger your indicator, sometimes you don’t. This depends on where you are and in which direction you travel. I prefer them to stop signs.

I have a history with stop signs. When I was 16, I managed to obtain three traffic tickets in a row at the very same stop sign located on Evening St, (I think, it’s called) just East of Worthington High School. (Do you remember the one?)

My license was revoked, and I had to ride the bus downtown and attend traffic school, along with a motley crew of teenagers who casually threw around phrases like “hit and run,” and “driving while intoxicated.” I sort of relished what I viewed at the time as a gritty city feel I got from riding the bus to and fro, and the rule breaker teenagers with whom I kept company for a spell. I also had to do 60 hours of community service. (The circle of those hours ticked by slowly.)

It was fall then, too. I remember having trouble getting to my service hours on time from x-country practice. I love running in the fall to this day. This is why I cannot commit to living in a warm climate. I am strung with strings, tuned to the change of seasons. I like to run through them, like imaginary banners; one to the next.

And as it goes, things come around again — now, and in this time of year. I still absolutely love running in autumn. And it seems I still have issues with police and stop signs to this day. The "American-ized" base has them, along with traffic circles. (I never get into trouble with traffic circles.)

Once again, a stop sign violation has landed me in remedial traffic school with the threat of my license being revoked, due to two incidents within a year. This doesn't bode well, as I live in a foreign country at the mercy of the government, and my partner often is away. This time the only edginess I feel rests along the line of over the edge

If only I had a broom.

The military loves acronyms. I got a kick out of this one — Driver’s Improvement Program (DIP). I called and said, “I’m calling to follow up on a notification I received yesterday requiring me to attend the DIP course.” The staff sergeant on the other end of the line replied, “Ma'am?!”

So I went in for my briefing today. I had a private class this time. "No other underbelly rule-breakers to accompany me on this occasion," I thought to myself as I entered. I sat down and waited. The nice sergeant explained he had no protocol for my kind of violation history. His course was intended for those who’ve obtained DUIs, or Hit and runs, for example.

I nodded my head and said with ernest, "I understand."

"A circle is the reflection of eternity. It has no beginning and it has no end —and if you put several circles over each other, then you get a spiral." — Maynard James Keenan.

Thursday, October 4, 2012


There are times when motivation just isn’t there anymore.

It picked up its coat and simply left the building without saying goodbye. In fact, it slipped away so quietly and without notice, it takes time to recognize its absence.

In athletics, this leads to lackluster practices or workouts, and ultimately to one of those slumps, out of which it is difficult to climb. Sometimes, it is an instance, event, or a person, who catapults the divide and brings motivation back; sometimes dragging behind on a leash; sometimes jumping into the circle, dead center with flourish.

When life’s ambitions grind to a halt, it can get tricky. Not only did motivation leave without saying goodbye, but it left for parts unknown; difficult to traverse.

There are days, when all it takes is a bit of make-up and maybe a pedicure to jumpstart a fire.

When days turn into weeks, then, it takes a bit more encouragement.

When weeks begin to add up, only then I begin to actively wonder, “What the hell?”

Ingredients in such a recipe are so unmeasured and unmatched, it’s difficult to pinpoint which one caused the soup to sour.

I tend to retreat and to begin mentally editing out all the things that bring me down —whether, it is people, places or events. As I go along, I look for clarity in the white space that results on the page when unnecessary thoughts and images are removed, enabling me to see things more clearly.

Seeing clearly doesn’t necessarily lead to action, though. This takes some doing. This takes motivation — and I’m still waiting for that SOB to return.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


If you are going out of your way to make me feel ridiculous, you really needn't bother. I feel completely ridiculous most of the time, anyway ...

I had a very Bridget Jones experience yesterday. Only there was no Mark Darcy at the other end of the sentence.

Have you ever received advice so banal you simply want to wad it up and throw it back into the face of the sender?

Was said message well intended? Probably. Valid in content? Most certainly.

In my case, the delivery was so lacking in imagination, I simply was incapable of  receiving it with grace.


Take it back.

Certainly I needed a smack of something. But this smacked of — a platitude I didn't desire to receive.

I wanted to mark it "return to sender," only I could't. So instead, I simply threw it away. In a crisis of conscience, I scoffed at self recognition and decided instead to act the part in which I am cast, or cast myself.

I think it's called being an adult. Or, in my case, being a military wife (and an adult).

No, really. I'm that stubborn. So much so, I refuse to see myself in the mirror of truth reflected by another.

Repetition helps.

My daughter auditioned for her first school play this week. She felt she "rocked it." In essence, she's been preparing for this (or any and every) role since birth. She is cut from thespian cloth; employing life as a tool — lining her experiences up on mental shelves, only to be brought forth as needed; props or parts for her own personal stage. 

At times, she's more comfortable in her imaginary world, then in her every day world.

I guess in that, we are alike.

She once told someone in 2nd grade that her house burned down in a fire. She was so convincing in her story her classmate went home that day and told his mother, who then called me to offer aide. I didn't know whether to punish her or to congratulate her for her creativity; or both.

She may have even believed her fabrication— at least when she delivered her monologue. She falls into her roles with great conviction. She was new, and I think looking for a way to connect. However misguided, we can all relate to this desire.

I often look at her with awe, and wonder how I might apply her imaginary tactics so that I am more comfortable and confident on life's everyday stage. I want to live better in my own character. 

I stumble a lot and forget my lines. Once in a while I lose my place entirely. So I tend to retreat until I remember.

I listened to a homily in church on Sunday about acting the part until it becomes you. If you are not feeling charitable, for example, then participate in acts of charity until you feel the beneficial effects of giving. 

While also simple in script, I was able to receive this particular parcel with greater dignity and grasp onto it without finding fault.

It's in the packaging, or at least in the patterns, which are formed by a conversion of points, delivered on different days, in different ways. Eventually they knit themselves into a cohesive message. Only then can you suspend your disbelief; absorb the content; and wrap them around yourself in acceptance.

Oh. Really.