Saturday, June 30, 2012

Monday, June 25, 2012


I woke up mad again.

After a restless night trying to find a comfortable spot away from the pain in my back, I was standing in the en-suite bathroom feeling shitty, studying myself in the mirror — well part of myself. The mirror hangs above the sink, so the view is limited.

An en-suite is basically a toilet cupboard, which includes a sink and possibly a shower stall with little room for anything else. There is no backing up to increase the view.

I turned to my husband Rick, still lying in bed, but within arms reach and said, “Look! I have BOOBS!”

There’s a scene in “13 Going on 30” where the main character is complimented on her dress by another teen in an elevator. She responds by cupping her breasts and saying something like, “Thanks! It’s because I have these great BOOBS to fill it out!”

I, in contrast, have never felt great about boobs.

For me this wasn’t good news. This meant I was retaining unwanted water, or something, causing them to swell. I mimicked the movie,  cupped the evidence in my hands in boustier fashion and turned to show him.

He chuckled. “Baby you know I love you, and I think you are beautiful. But let’s not get crazy here. You have NEVER had boobs.”

Rick has this deprecating humor and the most exquisite ability to pull me out of whatever funk I might be in. I laughed.

It’s true, though. I have never had boobs. I remember when the WONDER BRA was released on the public sometime in the late 80s/early 90s. I was so excited I was willing to SPRING for one, in spite of my limited income. I remember trying it on, looking down and thinking, “Hmmm … maybe I chose the wrong size.” I showed the sales lady, and she said, “Honey, I’m sorry, but these just aren’t going to work for you.”

So cleavage was a bust.

I came to accept — even embrace what the Wonder Bra couldn’t. I am flat chested . Or I was until recently. I learned to work it. Camisoles are my favorite, and usually the only thing I wear. But lately, I’ve noticed I’ve needed more support.

I don’t like it.

Maybe I’m going through reverse puberty, or something.

For years, I’ve treated my body fairly well and, in turn, expected certain things from it. I’ve muscled through all kinds of little aches and pains, and bumps in the road. And I've managed to maintain a fairly aggressive, active lifestyle. But lately, I’ve been sidelined by more than just my boobs.

I have a recurring injury in my back from a bad recovery and catch in swimming. It comes and goes, sometimes through over use, or maybe just the weather. I usually try to be nice to it and push through it, as I’ve done for years. Last week the pain became so bad, it literally took my breath away. I felt it for days, and tried my usual — lay off swimming; stretch it out; pop some Advil and basically ignore it.

But a few days later I took off for a run and didn’t make it half a mile, before it felt like I was being knifed in the back. I couldn’t breathe. And I panicked. I calmly walked home, but burst into tears when I got inside the door.

I feel like my body is betraying me, in a way, or maybe wondering when it will. Last night I realized I’m about the same age as my dad was when his body began to betray him. Only he didn't know it yet. He just knew something was off. He fought for years, but died at 53 from a degenerative kidney disease.

I think subconsciously I’ve been seeking signs of something similar.

It’s so much more than how I appear in the mirror. I can see lines. And I don’t care (much). It’s what I can’t see that bothers me most. 

Carpe Diem.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Last week the kids and I packed a picnic and joined some friends on term break for a romp around an 11th century priory in Norfolk. We ran around, played hide-n–seek, and enjoyed ice-creams in and around rooms and ruins built 1000 years ago.

While my kids were supposed to be in school that day, I thought it more prudent to enjoy our friends here and embrace the British schedule. In fact, I wish our Department of Defense school ebb and flow were more in sync with our host country’s rhythms, in this regard.

Last week marked the inception of an ongoing celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Earlier on Monday, we picnicked with our friends on a common green in Thetford, and danced to a Queen tribute band. They rocked us in a very Queen-like fashion. In a couple of years, God Save the Queen, Elizabeth will become the longest reigning monarch.

I bought a tea-towel at the priory on which there is a fun graphic chronology of the monarchy. I’ve always had trouble keeping that straight.

Walking around the grounds of the castle ruins, it took me a while to wrap my head around the math, as well as to picture what it might have been like then. The 11th century was the time of Macbeth and William the Conquerer. 

It wasn’t too difficult, really. Parts of the structure are in amazing shape. In some rooms upstairs, you could still see evidence of the red roses painted on the ceiling — in tribute to one of the houses of Rose, probably painted closer to the time before the priory closure in the 15th century, although I'm guessing. I didn't take the tour.

And there were chamber rooms. I thought those came into play much later.

Originally built inside of a Norman Castle, around 1089, the priory was eventually moved to give the Cluniac (I remember through word association — George Clooney) Monks, which inhabited it, more space. And space they had.

I wonder how our present-day structures will hold-up in 1000 years?

Speaking of present day, it is in the low 40s, and overcast right now. Right now is June 12, 2012. We enjoyed a few days of true summer-like weather over Memorial Day weekend, and many people around us took that opportunity to travel. We stayed home. I loved being here then. 

I love being here now, in a way. I am bundled, but if I get past the initial “UGH” factor and the ingrained expectation of what summer brings, it isn’t so bad. In fact, it’s great running in the woods with Horace; not too hot nor too cold.

Many arrive here with their travel "bucket" lists already mapped out. I have yet to commit. I love the easy access and adventures offered outside of this country, but I also love my immediate surroundings. We are in a relatively rural area, but in great proximity to much of what England has to offer, not least of which is the agrarian bounty, which surrounds us. Right now, I am digging that I can walk across the street to buy asparagus, freshly picked.

Last week, I loaded up on cut flowers from the little lady down the way. I had a literal armful for the equivalent of five bucks.

While it often isn’t easy here, not least of which is due to the demands of the mission, and it is often in sharp contrast to our sensibilities (weather patterns, driving on the left, 120 v 220), being here is ripe with opportunity and experience, right out the door.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


I don’t mind the comin’ … it’s the leavin’ me behind…

That has to be a song; or at least an idea in a song I know. I just can’t think of which one, right now.

We are in HIGH military PCS (permanent change of station) season. It’s no vacation. It marks a time each year when a great shift of the people in our immediate lives — our neighbors; co-workers; friends — takes place. Sometimes it is us, but not this year.

The kids are experiencing  many of their mates leaving for the first time, as it is our first year in Department of Defense schools. Usually it is they who do the bidding goodbye. They are not used to being the ones left behind.

Until now, there was a certain continuity in their minds of all the places they’ve been and friends they’ve met. They are still where we left them, for the most part. This is comforting, and we each find a way to keep the connection. That is not the case here in England, where mobility is great. While we were here before, they were too young to remember. And our dearest friends on the island offer them the emotional bridge, which is such a blessing.

I feel for them, and I understand their sadness, which accompanies saying goodbye to their newly-minted  school friends and teachers. It seems we only just arrived, and we are watching loads of people go.

I suggested to my youngest that she write a thank you letter to her teacher last weekend, and she broke down into tears. Instead, she wanted to write her former teacher from Northern Virginia. I didn’t understand this at first, but then I realized she associated her third grade classroom with a sort of stability and fondness she doesn’t enjoy here. Her current teacher is moving, as well, and I believe my daughter understands she will lose touch. To her 9-year-old self, she is a shapeshifter.

(Of course her third grade teacher is awesome, and wrote her back. She gets it. She is retired military.)

There are so many moving parts in this military existence. We hold dearly to our friends and memories, smattered everywhere. They are our constant.

While we say farewell to many, we anticipate the arrival of others. If I close my eyes, I can almost feel the circular motions of the people in our life. It’s like trying to grasp onto and feel the rotation of the earth. You sort of get it through imagining the spinning and internalizing the feelings as you watch the comings and goings.

While the adventures are many, transience is not something I easily embrace. We all learn to flex, and to hold on to our experiences in different ways to create a sort of permanence.

My son has found a certain social stability through Xbox, of all things. On weekends when the time difference doesn’t matter as much, he is able to link up with friends everywhere and "hang out" with them all these miles apart. I have given Xbox a pass due to this. I don’t dislike the time he spends here as much as I would, otherwise.

My oldest daughter desires more than anything to hang on to her memories and friends in Northern Virginia. She is begging me to let her stay with friends this summer so that she may experience once again the joy she found there. I can’t fault her for that.  I wish I was there right now, too. But I work with her (and with myself) to embrace new, more local things.

For me, my childhood friends have started to pop into my nocturnal life. While my dreams usually never make sense, in recent years, I have reoccurring lyrical imagery of friends who were dear to me. They visit me in my sleep in great detail. I can see them so clearly.

This is a tough one to explain during the light of day. But I believe the shapes and images that float through our consciousness and how we process them, have to do with trying to grasp permanence in a life that just isn’t…