Posts Tagged ‘commitment’

Intentions and holiday schedules…..damn

Why is this so HARD???

Christmas is almost here! I realized I had not done anything productive, despite all of my great intentions. Planning no longer helps.

I needed to pack a large box, filled with wrapped presents and a Santa I was sending to a niece, from my collection (I will catch the rest of you next year—my bad). Huge undertaking. Had not started. Finally, realized time was of the essence. I spent an evening wrapping each item, and then I filled a huge box with peanuts, shredded paper, and contained everything in a large carton. Needed to print a label, make some serious ‘this side UP’ signs on the box with a fat magic market, and then get the boxes out of here.

Where in hell is my fat magic marker?

I will look later. Right now, I need to pack another box. This is for my sister. I bought her gifts 6 weeks ago and meant to wrap them. Dammit. Ok, ok, deep breath. I can manage this.

So, I have wrapped. I have packed. I have put the boxes into my car, to get to the mail center tomorrow. It is already too late to have them shipped by the post office. Time IS of the essence! It is also 3 in the morning.

Woke up too late! Had a bad night. Forgot to set the alarm. Cannot remember what I did and why I slept far too late. Not a day to drive. Too ditzy. Trying to remember what I was supposed to accomplish today. Dammit.

It is 8:30 at night. I just remembered. The boxes are in the car. Dammit.

I got up early the next day. I had a little bit of coffee, just so I can actually drive, and went to the mail center. I got there at eight. I am golden.

I came home to have more coffee. I am relieved. I am also really sick. The relief is better than the sick. Maybe I can finally get some rest.

Oh. Here is the fat magic marker. Dammit. Forgot to do the box ‘this side up’.

My packages waited at the mail center for 12 hours. Oh. Dammit.

Do you see what I see?

Happy Holidays and to all, a better night than I had.

Walking in shadow

Another  November 11.

It is a day we honor our veterans.

I revere this day. My flag is out early. Beautiful. As I am having coffee, I begin my calls. It does not take long. Many of my veteran relatives have passed. We are losing such an important generation.

My granddaddy served in WWI. He was always so proud of his service. He was a very soft-spoken man. I have his casket flag in a case, on my wall; with a commemorative, ‘plate’ that was evidently popular at the time.

My step-dad, James Wells, passed last year. He served in the Philippines. I had always called him to thank him for his service. He was always embarrassed that I would even mention it. His brother, my uncle also served. Horace Wells was a diver, tasked with finding explosives around our boats, ships, and subs. He passed away 2 months ago.

My father, Frank Conway served in Germany, in the occupation and in Korea when the war was hot. He was an aerial gunner for a time. They had a very short life expectancy. The Army sent him to OCS (officer’s candidate school) and his entire platoon shipped to Korea without him. Enemy forces killed the entire platoon the day they landed. He has never come to terms with that.

He is proud of his military service. His very large family also had veterans. They were all Navy. Dad went Army. His father missed the civil war by less than 10 years.

When I look at this history, I feel awe and pride.

My brother, Larry Conway served 2 terms in Viet Nam. He came home wounded. He is proud of his service, but he will never be the young man we said good-by to in Jacksonville when he was 19. Larry holds himself responsible for a young man who did not come home from an air mission. The 2 crew -members were shot down, KIA and Larry felt responsible. My opinion was that a wonderful angel pushed my brother out of the way. I am grateful. He is ashamed.

Our wounded are coming home in record numbers. Now they include more women than our system is accustomed to accommodating. With that in mind, I now take ‘women magazines’ to the VA centers. I take them books that I have enjoyed, gardening and fashion magazines, anything I think they might have been missing during the last year or two. It is no longer a man’s world. It is our world. Everyone’s’ world.

We owe honor to so many.

Independence Day

I had a dream about my mom last night. She passed away several years ago. Any dream of her is a treat, even when the news delivered is not fun, I still had the opportunity to be with my mom again.

I dreamed that she was helping me pack. It was not a great time. I was moving to a small efficiency apartment, for the rest of my conscious life. She explained to me that eventually, as I already recognize, I would be ‘discovered’ and moved to full care. Alzheimer’s disease is rampant in our family. I have suffered 4 severe concussions. I know my limits.

The dream was daunting. I finally saw my future and it was not great. A small efficiency. That meant a one bedroom, one bath, small fridge and small stove, small living room. I have been here before.

When my mom left my dad, she left with one suitcase. Many in my extended family have never understood this. We were a military family, living abroad. The military person controls everything in the family unit. My mom and dad had been married 26 years. She left with a suitcase. Her allowance was 40 pounds. Think about that. Everything they had acquired together was under his control. As I look at my bleak-seeming future, I sense her immense fear. My mom never faltered. In my eyes, in my brother’s eyes, she never faltered. Privately, I later learned, she cried into her pillow.

Once she left, she went to the city in which she had spent most of her life. She got 2 jobs. She lived at the YWCA. She took the bus. She walked to work. She saved every penny.

We would have appeared to others to be wealthy. We lived in a 4 bedroom, 3-bath house, based on my dad’s high rank. We had a housekeeper, a cook. At one location, we had had a housekeeper, a cook, a gardener, a repairperson, and a nanny, on staff. It depended on where you were stationed. Therefore, we had a good life.

I joined her after a few months. Life with my dad had become difficult. She was thrilled. She bought me a ticket to fly from Europe to New York, to Florida. She met me in New York. I can only imagine the huge amount of money she spent for this. My dad did not help with the costs. He was angry that I was leaving. I had to leave.

When I arrived in New York, I had to clear customs alone, 13 years old. It was way over my head. My mom was standing in the upper levels of that most incredible terminal, JFK, watching, and dying for my inexperience. In those days, nobody helped kids alone on flights. Unheard of today but this was 1966. When we could finally embrace, it was lasting.

We got on a flight. Amazingly, it was an Eastern Airlines flight. I later flew for Eastern and had never put the two together. After a few years, my mom reminded me that we had come to Florida on Eastern. I just remember the flight attendant being so kind. We were in first class. Holy moly. The only tickets left on the flight. Mom not only had to pay to get me from Europe to the US, she also had to pay for 2 first class tickets to get us to Florida. A huge expense for a woman working 2 jobs, no car, no place to live.

We spent our first night in a relative’s home. The next day we moved into our own place. My nose could not have been higher in the air.

We lived in an efficiency apartment. It was dreadful. In my spoiled life, I had never shared a bedroom. Now, my mom and I were sleeping together, in one bed. We had a small bathroom, a very small living room, and a ‘kitchenette’. I was blown away. I am sure I was not grateful. She had worked so hard to start a new life for herself, then to add me, at my request. She was killing herself to make something for us both, and I was haughty with disrespect. Spoiled.

I began high school where she and my relatives had gone to school. I walked. I had been driving in Germany. You got an international license when you were 14, so driving at 13 was typical. We were poor. I did not remember ever having been poor. It was very hard to accept this new life. I was a teen, attending my junior year of high school.

Women do it all the time. Women are financially bereft by divorce. It is a government statistic that women never fully recover from the devastation of finances after divorce, unless they re-marry, gaining financial stability. Incredible situation. It still exists.

My mother was killing herself working, walking, and paying for an apartment because I could not live with her at the YWCA. The sacrifices she made were lost on me. I was a junior in high school and suddenly poor. This did not bode well for me becoming popular. Spoiled.

When my mom retired, at age 52, she was almost a millionaire. She and my step dad had amassed a great retirement. She was a whiz at investments and she saved every penny. I appear to have inherited that trait and I am so grateful. They had no debt. They owned 15 acres and a custom home. They raised cattle and had an active solar home. It was 1978. She had done it without help from my dad. He kept all of their furnishings, all of their money. They split a piece of land. She did it alone. Grit and determination should be named Marguerite. She did it. When she married my step-dad, he had never owned a checking account. He lived on a cash basis, renting a room in a woman’s home. He and mom loved each other dearly. She was in charge of the finances and served them both very well.

On this day of our country’s independence, I think of my mother. I think of my future and the way she would have had no nonsense about my next step. Living in an efficiency apartment, a trailer, on your own terms has no shame. You have earned your independence. Embrace it.


I’ve been thinking about my friends. Learning who your friends are is important. Your friends are people you can reach for when you need to lean. I recognize how fortunate I am to count so many.

I have many friends from my airline days. These men and women have been physically absent from my life for decades. If I need any one of them, they will  immediately respond. That is friendship. I just got a phone message from one. She lives in Atlanta. We haven’t seen each other in 25 years but stay in constant contact. Her husband had an affair. Then her next husband did the same. She is living on social security, close to the bone, after marrying with houses and investments. She is now bereft emotionally and financially. She is a wonderful friend to me. We have the same pain. However, we had such fun and wonderful memories. We laugh. Everyone needs to laugh. It reminds us to live and enjoy life. We are fortunate. Sometimes we just need to remember.

I have friends from so many neighborhoods where I had homes. Manhattan, Orlando, Miami, Boulder, Colorado Springs, St. Croix, Gainesville, Salem, Spokane, Nuremburg, Munich, Frankfort, Oberammergau, Ft Knox, Redstone Arsenal, and others that I can only remember vaguely. Incredibly, I still am in touch with friends from almost all of those locations.

Now I have many friends I have never met. They are all on Facebook. According to my profile, I have 176 of them. Amazing. These men and women know of my impending divorce, know I have a cat and recently lost one, know I live in Washington and know I love to write. They know I flew, they know I care. They are my friends.

If these friends were around me on a daily basis, I wonder how much they would still want to be my friend. Am I whiny, controlling, difficult, dumb, or boring? Who knows? The beauty of this group of friends is the instant connection we all know. If I need help, look to Facebook. My friends there will immediately rally. I have seen them come together as a force whenever needed.

I have a wonderful friend nearby. We never see each other. We plan, we swear, we promise, we mean well. It simply does not happen. Like me, she is recovering from an ‘indiscretion’ from her husband, the love of her life. As he has moved on with his mistress, she has had to pick up the pieces of their lives, sell their home, and find a new place to re-start, saying goodbye to so many memories and so much pain. We ‘get’ each other completely. She is about 1 year farther down my road. It helps me to see that. I remember when I learned of her pain. Now I recognize I was not supportive enough. We all just go through the motions of help and support. We do not necessarily tie that to our hearts when we should, as friends. My lesson came later. Gratefully, she has continued to be my friend in spite of my lapse.

This is friendship. We ebb and flow. We understand and forgive. On a daily basis, it might not work so well.

As we each move through our lives, some friends come and some simply stay forever. I am blessed with both. You need some of them for a bit of time. That time finally passes and the friend needs to pass with it. They did their job. You did yours. Time to move. Time to change.

A friend just called. Incredible. We have not spoken in so long. She just asked me to come for the weekend. I am going. What could be better than a weekend with one of your dearest friends?

We have so many and they are so willing to help.

here’s to good health!

Don’t you hate it when your child is sick? They whine and complain, they ‘hurt’ but cannot explain exactly where or how, they cry, wanting more ‘mom’ time but refuse to do as you plead with them to do. They cannot understand the meds they dislike. They don’t want to be ordered about. They are not quite honest about what is at stake and how they really are dealing with the day-to-day.

You want to scream. You want to run away. You want them to grow up or let you parent. Either side would work better than what you have in the here and now.

I just visited such a household. It was difficult. Who raised this jerk? I’m sorry. I know he cannot help it. I know his mom is almost ashamed, as is the sister who had to take on the task of raising this child. However, if he will not admit something is wrong when the TV show comes on, he should not be allowed to suddenly be at death’s door when it’s time to help with the dishes or the laundry. You cannot have it both ways. Neither can a sick kid, but that’s just my opinion.

What I know is I spent a horribly frustrating time with family, some overindulgent and some just plain angry and frustrated with the attention needed by one member being under the weather. What is the solution?

The obvious one is that you wait until the illness is past. That always helps. Everyone can relax. But, what if your child is brain-injured? That child will never really ‘recover’ from this illness. Those parents don’t get the opportunity to ‘wait it out’. They live this 24×7, and have no outlet unless they are fortunate enough to have a huge support group. A huge support group. Huge.

I am seeing commercials about health care. Morgan Freeman is a spokesperson for ‘something’. I get the message. We need to help each other more often than we do. I understand that volunteers are needed. I know we should be doing more for our own. What I do not have the answer to is: how?

How does the normal family get the much-needed help when someone in their household is not going to improve but takes a majority of your time and energy? We are all so busy now. We have so many needs to fulfill.

I came home a crying fool. Afraid I had not done enough for my family unit. Sleep-deprived, angry, upset, scared. What I left behind is the mom who still has to deal with this while I fly away. I did laundry, cooked meals, cleaned the house, made beds, pushed meds on a kid who refused to take them, ran errands, and did medical appointments so that she could finally get a break. It completely wore me out. I am spent. Finally, home, I have no energy left. I have a full week ahead of me and don’t know how I’ll manage it. Tomorrow she starts with more doctor appointments, meal prep, housework, and laundry. Taking the medicine we need is not easy. He needs medicine. She needs rest, medicine, and they both refuse it because they are not capable. He needs to be fed and clothed, not simple. He wants things his way; she wants him to wear his underwear UNDER his clothes, not on top. She wants him to eat and is exhausted with the work that entails. He will not drink his juice, wants specific foods and because he is not well, she wants to provide but is close to illness herself as a result.

When I left, we all cried. I promised to come back soon. I always make that fruitless promise. I cannot afford to keep flying there but these people are so important to me. My family is so scattered. Travel is expensive and of course. I have to pay someone to care for my pet, my home, my routine, in my absence. Money. Medical. Misery. What in the world is happening in our lives? Who should be taking care of this, of us, of lives in illness when something has prevented us from having family members to do it? Moreover, with those family members, where do you draw the line? They cannot do everything. We cannot expect anyone to do anything. What is the solution?

Forgive my soapbox here, but why is our country continually working on a new health care program instead of making the program that our elected officials have, the national norm? Shouldn’t everyone have the same option at the same price? It certainly makes sense to me.

So, my stepmother will continue. I know she is exhausted. And the recalcitrant sick boy is my father. How does something like this happen? Until we find solutions for our family members whose mind has eroded, we are all sick.

Can you do this?

I find myself surrounded lately by people who ‘enable’. What is happening here?

My hairdresser is enabling her son and his family. My younger cousins and nieces, nephews are enabling their children. My great attorney friend enables his kids, who have their own families. And if you ever watch something like ‘super nanny’,  or ‘wife swap’ you see constantly that families are afraid of their own kids, when it comes to discipline.

When that generation matures, who is going to give them this leeway?

I have a tendency to view these things in terms of pets. If you die, who will take care of your pet(s)? Just think for a moment. If you have pets, who will they go to if you are hit by a bus tomorrow? You had better make those plans. We never know what is coming around the next corner.

I have a friend who cooks her own pet food. I used to feed mine a raw diet. I have other friends who hand-feed their pets each meal. Still others sleep with their pets, sometimes to the detriment of their spouse.

Here is my concern: if you die, will anyone do all that? I doubt it. If someone is good enough to take in your pet, they will have done more than enough, giving your beloved pet a warm place to sleep and food when needed. They won’t hand feed, they won’t cook and bake, they won’t chop up raw veggies. Once I began to think of this, I stopped that.

Now, my pets get pet food. Plain and simple. Just like everyone else would give them. If they get a better deal: super. But, if they just get a place to ‘sleep’ and food and water, I don’t want them to have any more agony than they already will, wondering where in the world I am. I think it’s better for my pets. And heaven knows, it  has begun to save me time.  And, not requiring so much from friends who might be kind enough to agree to take my furry babies.

I feel the very same way about kids. If something were to happen to us, who is going to treat your 20 year old as if they were still 6? Who is going to treat your 6 year old as if they were still 2? The world does not revolve around any one of us. It certainly does not revolve around our kids or our pets. I feel as if I am keeping my pets in a low-maintenance  area in their lives, so that if needed, anyone can pick up in my absence. I feel that this is the kind thing, the smart thing, and the right thing to do.

No toleration of yelling, screaming, kicking, complaining, when the world is basically just fine. No refusal to become adults.

My wonderful hairdresser gave her son and his ‘due soon’ baby a place to stay. He brought the wife and the dog. That was 7 years ago. They now have 2 dogs, 2 kids and no money. my hairdresser, in her  60’s is supporting everyone in her retirement home. She has one bedroom, they fill 3. Incredible. She wants them to move. They have said they cannot wait to leave so that they can live life the way THEY choose. But, 7 years and a larger family later, they linger. She is enabling them. why would they leave? They give her 200 bucks a month. The own ¾ of her home. They use everything and she cleans after them. if they get ready to leave, she feels guilty. It’s backwards. She should feel guilty that they have never had to learn to support their own lifestyle. It is heartbreaking.

I used to chop fresh veggies, go to the store daily to get ‘fresh’ meat to add to the food. Nuts. I finally realized one day that if something happened to me, the cats would immediately be on death row or be given a bag of cat food. Unless, of course, I left money in my will for them (I haven’t). I prefer having them get a bag of cat food. Any food will do at that point. Pet  food.

I have a friend whose dog has only slept on the bed it’s entire life. the dog was adorable. Now the dog is huge. I stayed over there once and woke to the dog, on top of me. I was not part of it’s territory. I’m lucky it didn’t tinkle on me to mark territory. I didn’t mind too much. It was only 1 night and I love pets. But, if I inherited that doggie, it would have to learn to sleep on a dog bed or the floor or something. And, if it yelled and screamed for 2 or 3 weeks while it was ‘getting that lesson’, I might not be inclined to bend over backwards for someone’s dog that was not properly raised, doesn’t understand that the humans are alpha and the dogs are not.

Hand feeding? Quit it. Dogs and cats and everything else really CAN take pretty good care of themselves. We get in the way.  and….we are supposed to be teaching our children to interact, to get along, to become self-reliant. Anytime you see a kid blowing up, stop to think just how long a different person would put up with that. nobody does it like enabling parents.

Sleeping with your kid? Nope. I won’t. will your cousin or your brother or sister if they suddenly find themselves with your children because you died? I doubt it. They aren’t used to bending into pretzels because you couldn’t bring yourself to do the right thing.

Why have we found ourselves in a world of people afraid to let kids grow up, become responsible, have pets that understand who is in charge? What in the world happened to the generation that followed one of the greatest?

Ooops. Cat needs cuddles. I hear the screaming. Better go get her.

curtain up: it’s all in how you act, isn’t it?

we are all so busy. it’s that time of year. holidays bring more and we all react. Re-act. good word. We aren’t quite ourselves if we ‘re-act’ are we? so many expected examples, traditions, and issues.

I have bats living above my bedroom, in a crack in the roofline. I like what bats do. I dislike what people still believe about bats. I was raised to believe that bats would swoop down into my hair if I were walking in a field at dusk. odd. yet, people believed that. I do realize that bats are some of the most voracious insect eaters on the planet. our chemicals are destroying them. they are becoming endangered. like butterflies, which we love, they and bumblebees, which we require, are being destroyed by the chemicals we use in our landscape.

the nights I can’t sleep, I turn toward my bedroom window and hope to watch bats, zipping around, and catching insects. I know that mosquitoes will not be biting the next day. I enjoy watching them swoop, stop on a dime and swoop in a different direction, catching their prey. I find it interesting.

I’m waiting for the moose to amble into my yard. they always come in the winter. I am awed by their size. opposite of  bats, the moose seem to just destroy my landscape because they are enormous and will eat anything they reach. they reach very well. but, because they are moose, they are forgiven being so incredible in size and not so often seen. and, moose are rarely said to dive at your head at dusk.

then I have that damned skunk. she (yes, I know) comes regularly now. when I was still an idiot, I tried to run her off one afternoon. you don’t do that twice. she comes in the evening. she eats fallen birdseed, next to my hedge. she began digging a hole. I put a stop to that. I do not want a den of skunks. they are hard to shed. and, in most states, it’s against the law to kill them. I am not the type to kill animals. I am more interested in trying to shoo them away. I’ve tried most things with this skunk. she scoffs at my efforts. cute, but not welcome. nor is the raccoon.

that’s the point, isn’t it? things we love and things we don’t. some are welcome, some are not.

traditions are welcome. the strife that comes along, not so much. family, always welcome. typical fights, no. trying to make things ‘just so’ because people are visiting: don’t. it’s just too much stress and reaction.

I remember one evening at my folks’ house. we had almost the entire family visiting. 3 brothers, 2 sisters, spouses, 2 nephews, one niece. I walked into the kitchen to put dishes away from the deck. we had just finished an incredible dinner. when I came in, my mom was madly scooping cookie dough onto sheets, ready to slam into the oven. the look on her face as I walked in was almost terror. I’ve never forgotten it. she was scooping about 15 per minute, it seemed. I offered to help. She tersely said “no, and don’t’ you DARE tell anyone I’m making cookies”. I went back outside. I knew the tension. she wanted this to be fun and easy and obviously it was nothing similar. she was frantic.

when she presented the cookies, on adorable trays, napkins ready, she was beaming and would not look at me. it was too much knowledge. she wanted it to ‘happen to be perfect’. I’ve never lost that lesson. it’s ok to just be ‘ok’. it’s fine to just relax and let people gather, laugh and pitch in. you don’t have to do it all.

so I am starting to decorate for Christmas. I learned yesterday that Christmas is a week from now. ooops. I’ve had no clue. my mind is clouded with so many things. I just knew it was ‘sometime’ and thought I might actually decorate. I was planning to put lights out this weekend. well, I’m not doing THAT now. good grief. by the time I get them up, it’s time to take them down. I have lost track. I don’t have time to react. I had also realized this is my last year in this wonderful home and setting. that makes me sad. that made me decide to really do one last Christmas so I wouldn’t regret it later. ohwell. traditions change. I will make Christmas in my next house and be just fine.

so, while I watch the bats, shoo the skunk and wait for the moose, I realize that everything is really ok. I am not going to change the axis of our planet by what I do or don’t. the big wheel keeps on turning.

I have sworn off the stricken look I saw that night in my mother’s eyes. I have sworn off the rush and need of a calendar. I do things because I enjoy them, not because it’s expected. expected by me or expected by others. they are the same. I need to keep specific appointments, medical appointments, and lunch with friends. not much else is really that important. when I begin to work again I’ll keep those appointments as well. otherwise, I am now on ‘alexa time’ and the living is really not so bad.

I have more time to act.

call me anything

I had a great visit with a wonderful woman over the weekend. she is my stepdaughter.

We have been through so much together. When I met her, she was in 2nd grade, now a sophomore in college. the years have been amazing, the changes incredible.

We laughed about her different ‘phases’, the extreme shyness, the necessity of goth, the girly-girl times, the dates and the heartaches. She is slated to be more a friend now than a daughter and I’m fine with any circumstance. I love her dearly.

When we met she was going through the demise of her family unit. Her parents had divorced but in her mind hope was always intact. When her dad and I married, she was not pleased. It was very difficult for both of us. I had worked with children all of my life, as a volunteer in various areas. A single professional woman, I had never married so had no children of my own but really loved kids. I was always the favorite aunt, the neat ‘mom’s best friend’, the fun next-door neighbor to kids but never a mom. I proceeded slowly, getting into her life. Her dad wanted to rush us but I knew better. Still, she was rushed and it hurt her. I was unwelcome. For the first time in my adult life, a child did not want a thing to do with me. I was so surprised,  hurt, and confused. I tried everything,  I thought.

What I finally had to relent to was the unvarnished truth. After a particularly bad visit I was finished. I had no thoughts of trying further. By this time she was a freshman in high school. She had done some unforgivable thing and I was shattered by the memory.

When she came back, I invited her to have a talk. I laid my cards on the table. I loved her. I had worked very hard to love her. It was not something that just happened because I married her dad. It was a conscious decision and I had to be certain it took. I loved her. I would do anything in the world for her. I was so sorry about her parents’ divorce and her upheaval but I had nothing to do with any of it. I was also a child of divorce and knew the pain. I simply married a man I had fallen in love with. A divorced man. And she came along with the package.

I asked her to please tell me 3 or 4 things I had done to cause her pain, to hurt her, to make her angry. I wanted to know so that I could try to improve but I was fatigued with being treated badly and being unwelcome in my own home and life. I did not intend to allow any more ill treatment. She cried. She explained that it was nothing I had done. She said I had always been wonderful to her. She knew I loved her. Then she said it was not me, it was what I represented: that her parents were really over.

What a huge statement for a young girl. What a truth.

We both cried, held each other for the loss each of us had suffered and for the mending we were needing .

After that day, we went into sync. Our relationship began to flourish. We had both learned huge lessons. I believed I had known just what to do with my new kids, to help them like me and then maybe love me. Yet, I could not have really understood their feelings. I wasn’t them, they weren’t me. We all had to navigate this together and mostly, we had to be willing. One person in a relationship cannot maintain without the other being engaged.

She is a young woman and I am an older lady. We have 15 years’ history. We have a relationship that will continue in some version even though we will never again live near each other and even though she is now watching her father move out of my life. She is something of a niece to me now. A friend. A daughter of a friend. My daughter. She is important to my life. She needs no label. Neither do I.

We have love, respect and enough history to understand each other. We have continuity. How lucky is that?

Duty and Honor, Veterans Day

today is set aside to honor all of our nation’s veterans.

veterans fill my family. my granddaddy served and was very proud to do so. my father served and made it into his chosen career. my brother served, doing two tours in viet nam. he came home a much different man than the one we said good-by to at the airport. he remains proud of his service. I am fortunate to have the coffin flag from granddaddy’s service. I remember very clearly the day it was handed to my grandmother.

my uncles served as well, but not for long. after the war, they all returned home to civilian jobs. my dad is the only one I remember in the immediate family who stayed in. except for my mother.

military families are always in flux. the people who quite often hold the family together are the spouses, the wives. when my father was in the military, women rarely got the opportunity to do more than secretarial work. the wives were sharing the military load at home.

whenever my dad would come in the door to announce we were moving, it meant my mother would have to give notice at her job, immediately and begin to pack, organize and ‘clear quarters’. this is military speak for “be sure there is no evidence that you existed in this home.” there was actually a ‘white glove’ inspection at the home and the wives had best pass it. if not, they had to work until it was exactly as it had been before we moved into the place. the wives bore such a heavy load. the military would immediately relocate the soldier. the wives would pack the whole family, get the kids’ school records, medical records (no computers in those days), find a new house the DAY they arrived at the next city, state, country, register the kids into a new school system and begin unpacking. the dad would come home from work, for dinner. not many women are up to such a task today. they would balk at the system. it’s very one-sided.

we now have women serving in the military, in jobs they actually aspired to and husbands staying home to take care of the children, clear quarters and maintain the home front. interestingly, not many husbands ‘stick’.

it’s hard to have your lives controlled by an agency but that’s what you sign up for and that’s what you are required by law to do. you have to be willing to support your military spouse completely because that spouse is required to honor their contract.

the kids yell, scream, threaten, and cry when new orders come in. we would have it no other way. once grown we came to recognize the value of that life. military kids (brats, we are called) can walk into just about any situation given and fit in immediately. they are friendly, natural leaders, better educated, very well rounded, and easy going. we know how lucky we’ve been. when we were in europe, the junior high and high school teachers were mostly professors. the educational standards were very high. we got smart. when I came back to the US, I spoke German fluently and only needed one class to graduate from high school. I was a junior at the time. the next year, in another state, I was speaking German and French and only needed one semester to graduate from that school. compared to US standards, our educations were pretty advanced… as a result; my last two years of school bored me to pieces. there was no challenge.

as many of us did today, I flew my flag. I think a great house-warming gift for anyone is a nice flag and a bracket from which to hang it. I leave mine on every home I move from, hoping it will inspire the next family to fly a flag as I did. as many of us  did today, I thanked vets everywhere as I came into their paths. we owe them so much. they deserve our respect and our support.

it was just today that I really thought again about the sacrifices that my mother made repeatedly during her life. she was completely controlled by an agency because she married my dad. she honored the tradition and did her part. it cost her in many ways but she never complained. my brother and I revel in the stories of our upbringing in various parts of the world. we know we were lucky.

thank you dad for your service to our country. thank you mom for always making it fun to relocate. thank you everyone who has served and let us not forget the issues it causes at home to have a part-time parent sharing the load. In a way, the veterans are everyone of us. we are all in this together.

a horse is a horse

I am lucky enough to live where animals are still free. wild animals. the other day we got a report that a cougar was spotted not far from here. when we moved here, I was warned to be careful. so far I’ve had to be careful of horses, racoons, moose, deer, coyotes and a hundred or so bird varieties. I’ve also had to be careful of a few people who would mean me harm.

I haven’t been scared, yet.

but, I still find it interesting to watch the horses down the hill.

not long ago I saw that someone had put a huge earthmover into the pasture. it was big. true to form, the 2 horses were standing by the earthmover, plunked into their territory. you could almost envision the foreman leaning on his shovel, watching workers in the ditch. but, these two horses were curious. they always seem to be curious. they were by the big machine and just giving it a long  ‘once-over’.

I ran some errands. when I was driving back home, I glanced over again. this time the horses had moved, together, to the other side of the big machine. again, they were looking over the thing that had invaded their territory. you had the impression they were discussing the thing, wondering why it was in ‘their house’ and what it was for and how long it would stay.

I am always taken by the ‘herd’ instinct horses have. I don’t think it’s only safety in numbers. I think it’s friendship. horses just seem to be pals with most other horses. I have seen one horse that didn’t like another. the one horse bit the other. they didn’t get along. but, for the most part they seem to want to be together. just like they want to come to the fence to see who has stopped for a visit or to bring a snack. I’ve noticed that when one sleeps, the other stands guard. they know they have safety in numbers.

I live in the country so am able to observe. I also recognize the value of my friends and neighbors. they have become my herd.

I rarely call on anyone for help but I know several of them I can. out here, we have safety in numbers. we all watch for people we don’t know. we call one another when someone comes in or intrudes in our privacy or safety. intrusion is only welcome when we feel safe and in control. there are some people we know better than to trust. like the horses, we won’t go over to the fence when those particular people are near.

once, there was a huge fire, causing mass evacuations. one of my neighbors called me, saying they were packing. I went next door, to a new neighbor, telling her I was leaving. another neighbor was away, calling me to learn how our houses were doing. we all knew we could do very little to stop the progression of the flames. we also knew we could rely on each other to try to maintain our individual safety.

when I returned home the next day, all was well. the horses had been moved but were already back. they seemed to fall right into routine. my neighbors were mostly home. we all got into our routines. that fire was like a huge uninvited guest and we just had to make the best of it.

like the horses, we look at everything new in our world, trying to figure out how long it will be there. we look things over and then return to our routines.

I think it makes us feel safe.