Sunday, March 29, 2015

Veteran Vision Project

 This unique project by a photographer shows soldiers in a mirror: who they are in uniform and how they view themselves.  Some of it is tough to view, but that's reality.  A book is being compiled for sale in the near future.  Going to their website shows you photos as well as a video discussing suicide among soldiers, at rate of 22 per day.  It's a rollercoaster of emotion to watch, but it's important.


This soldier was chosen for the cover of the book.
The photos are amazing and covers all walks of life.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Thank You Thursday

Today I salute my (previous) blogger buddy: Thom Robinson, who never lets a holiday or birthday slip past him.  I truly appreciate that caring quality in a person.  

 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

No Way!




          Apparently,  I have reached the age of “No way!”  That’s the moment when you realize the passage of time might be tripping along faster than you’ve had time to worry about.
It started, innocently enough, with a newspaper listing of birthdays.  There was actor Bruce Willis…age 60.  My immediate thought was, “No way!”  I remember when Bruce had hair, a sexy smirk, sly wit and a way of driving his co-worker absolutely nuts on the t.v. series “Moonlighting”.  It doesn’t seem that long ago.  A quick check of IMDb informed me that show ran from 1985-89.  Really?
I grew up believing, “Age is mind over matter…if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter”.   I guess that’s why the passage of time isn’t something I contemplate past planning for the next event on the calendar.  I just don’t think of it in terms of years.  Ever since I was a kid, people seemed to fall into two categories: people my parents’ age and those I admired, who were usually a minimum of 10 years older than I am.
Curious, I checked the newspaper today to see who else has aged when I wasn’t paying attention.  Holy cow.
Gene Shalit, the movie critic on the “Today” show (and the only white man in my childhood who sported an afro) is 89.
Astronaut James Lovell, Commander of Apollo 13 (“Houston, we have a problem”)  is 87.
Feminist Gloria “Era of the burning bra” Steinem is 81.
Aretha Franklin, who’s 73,  still deserves R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
Elton John is 68, (Ah, the singer I never liked thanks to my siblings.  My bedroom was stuck between theirs: Sis played Elton John at the highest volume allowed by parent, while little Bro tried to outdo her with Kiss.  My happiest Christmas was the year Dad got them headphones.  Plus there’s the fact we had a tone deaf friend who insisted on a loud, murderous rendition of  “Benny & The Jets”).
Actress Sarah Jessica Parker of “Sex & the City” fame hit the Big 5-0 today.  Not so sure her character of “Carrie” could’ve handled that one.
Hubby looked at me the other day and asked that eternal, adult question, “Where does the time go?  How could we have been in this house almost 18 years already?  Do you realize this year we’ll be married 35 years?”
          Did I offer a polite nod of commiseration?  A sigh?  My sympathy?
Nope.  I laughed.  Heartily.
You see, when I was a kid, my great aunt had a poem which began,”

How do I know my youth is all spent?
My get-up-and-go has got up and went!

Honestly, that scared the crap out of me!  It sounded like you got to a certain age and “poof!”, you were done.  Not me!  I would go towards the Golden Years high kicking and laughing.  It would be years before I stumbled across that poem again and found the last two lines:

But, in spite of it all, I’m able to grin
And think of the places my getup has been!

See, in my case, laughing was the appropriate response.  And I’m not done yet.  
Besides, I still think Bruce Willis’ smirk is sexy. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

My Annual Rite of Spring

It's not officially Spring for me until I have heard this Ogden Nash poem.

 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Thank You Thursday



This week I salute Traci Smith and Kinga Kiss-Johnson.  (That’s right, my game, my rules).  These are two of the strongest women I know, both of whom represent the best the Army has to offer.  No matter what life throws their way, they get up, dust themselves off and proceed in a classy and inspiring fashion.  Too many women in life compete with each other: both of these women know how to give a girl a hand up when she needs it most.  I thank them for giving me strong role models to admire…and a giggle when I need one.  
 

And usually that's where I'd leave it.  But not this time.

I want you to understand why these woman are admirable.  Both are Army trained, although Traci started with the Marines.  You've heard me talk about Kinga before....my 6'7" pal from Romania who came to the U.S. on a college basketball scholarship.  Sad at the number of one parent families she saw at work because the other parent was deployed, she told her husband she wanted to help.  So she enlisted in the Army, having already begun the steps toward U.S. Citizenship.  But it's where she was sworn in as a citizen that speaks volumes about her character: on Baghram Air Field during her Afghanistan deployment.  You should've seen the pride in her eyes when she told that story.  I only wish homegrown Americans felt as proud.  Traci is the one who told me how Kinga scooped up one of her injured comrades and literally threw him over her shoulder to carry him to safety.  Kinga will only say she just did her job.

Traci, on the other hand, did the kind of shooting where you have bullets fired at you, but you can't really shoot back: she was a combat photographer.  And she didn't hesitate to put that camera down and assist wounded soldiers.  I still can't hear that story without choking up.  She was instrumental in bringing several soldiers to our Foundation's attention who could benefit from what we offer.  To this day we laugh at how the "grump in the corner with the biting wit" became a social butterfly who is hilarious (and he won a car on The Price Is Right!).  He's the first one to wrap me in a bear hug during our soldier events.  Traci & I agreed that our problem child has become the poster child for what you can do when you try.  Traci is the consummate cheerleader, knowing exactly what it takes to motivate a soldier during archery events.  Okay, so I had adjust when she barked at one guy like a Drill Instructor and traded insults with another.  But that's what each needed to keep going. The confidence I've gained in interacting with our soldiers came from Traci.  At one event she quietly pinned something on my collar.  Straightening my collar, she said softly, "It's a combat pin.  You've earned it."  Before I could thank her, she was off, growling at a slack soldier to try harder, while complimenting a shy soldier on doing better. 

When I have moments of "can I REALLY do this?", I think of what these two have overcome.  Kinga's initial archery for therapy has taken her to representing the US at the Paralympic Games in Thailand to competing in Rio.  Just last month, she was named  Archery Coach for the Army's  Wounded Warrior team.  The only one more proud of her than me is probably her service dog, Balto.   (Okay and her husband Bill, a former Army medic).

Traci is currently working on her physical self while at the same time helping raise a 3 year old grandson.  On days that are probably tough for her, she'll post a photo or video of that cute little fellow and get all of us smiling.  She's the one who likes to include me on, "You are a strong woman" posts...usually on the days I need to hear I'm still a candidate for that category.  And she's the one who, out of the blue, will offer a compliment when least expected and most needed.

Thanks ladies.  For your service.  For your friendship.  For just being you.

Friday, March 13, 2015

From The Beginning

Recently several of my Blogger Buddies have reached back into their archives to share.  I've been doing a lot of family tree research this week.  I often have to explain (a) why I don't just want dozen of charts detailing who begat who. (I hear the Grammar Police groaning) and (b) why childless me is even bothering.  Truth is, I want to write a book of stories and make those generations who came before me come alive, not exist as a list of birth/death dates.

This usually inspires more "Why?"  The answer is simple: I love "the rest of the story" moments.  I want to understand how decisions were made, even if I don't agree with them.  So I reached back today and found my very first post on THIS edition of my blog.  You see I had a blog for a year in 2005-06, with a similar name, but it started to become a job, not a joy.  So I quit.

But I couldn't smother the need to tell stories.  (And alright, I missed my Invisible Friends).

So here it is, the first in this Blog series that might explain a little while I feel the need to write about life along my road less traveled. 

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Comfortable Shoes

A while back I took a step off this road to take a breather. Sometimes life can get overwhelming...if you let it. And I was on the verge of letting it, so I sat down on the side of the road to think.

I'm done. Musing in my head, that is.

So I picked Father's Day to start again. Dad may not be walking amongst us anymore but he's here in spirit. Not Ghost Hunter and image on an infrared camera kind of spirit. As in the spirit of fun, living on in my silly sense of humor and the expectation that good will win over evil, even when it looks like evil might have the edge.

You see, Dad kinda broke the family mold when it came to putting on a pair of shoes and going off to see the world. Most of his family had been farmers, until his father's generation got into the furniture business. I think Dad saw the writing on the wall, the family expectations of him to go into that new line of work. And he did. Eventually. You see, Dad had a buddy who wanted to enlist in the Navy. He talked his pals into coming to the recruiting office with him...and the Recruiter talked them all into joining. Dad use to laugh and say he was more afraid of telling his Mom than what Boot Camp was rumored to be like. If Boot Camp was sending a southern boy to Chicago in the winter, I can only imagine what Grandma offered up.

Dad did his four years and despite an invitation to remain, he decided all that being away from home for four more years was more than he was willing to agree to. He joked that maybe he should've stayed: his buddy Ted became Admiral Ted. I'm glad he chose to come home. Even if he did end up in the furniture business. His travels inspired mine. But my path is different.

I guess that down-to-earth farming gene stuck in me...I've never had wanderlust. My feet have never itched to see the world. Maybe it's because Dad was such a great storyteller. Between his adventures and my imagination, I was convinced as a small kid that I'd actually gone to England, Germany...to Triste and Naples. I'd look at old black and white photos while Dad told the tale. I can see Casablanca as we pull into port on a naval transport ship...one which transported people, not weapons. I can feel my feet trying to grab hold of the deck as it rode Hurricane Hazel, salt air spraying in my face OVER the back of the fantail. I still giggle at the thought of my no-nonsense father being reprimanded by his CO because he and his buddies were on deck taking pictures...during the hurricane.

One day I realized the stories fascinated me more than the actual traveling. It seemed the storyteller in me was stronger than the urge to pack a suitcase. My true joy wasn't in the "going", it was in the "telling"...in making people see places they'd never been, yet feel as if they'd just left there that afternoon. And I wanted to know WHY people made the decisions they did. What made my by-the-book Dad stand on deck in a hurricane? Youthful stupidity? Curiosity gone mad? Didn't give it a second thought and just wanted to see for himself? [My conclusion: probably all three].

And so the storyteller in me won and my roots went deep. Oh, I've gone here and there, but not across the pond, as it were. But in my mind I have, all because of what Dad told me when I was a kid. We would vacation at the beach every year. Some people will tell you standing beside the ocean makes them feel small and insignificant. To a tiny kid like me, it was just one more thing bigger than me. But one day Dad paused as we came out of the ocean, pointed at the horizon and said, "There are wonderful things over there." He meant across the ocean, where a variety of cultures and people lived that I might one day see firsthand, just like he had. To this day when I see the ocean, I hear him whispering that in my ear. Of course at the time, I asked him if we used my pail and shovel, could we dig through the sand all the way to China and see people standing upside down.

Wonderful things over there. Over the ocean. But in my little girl mind, it was the horizon that I literally believed was the starting point for seeing wonderful things. And that feeling never left me. Whether from my backyard or someone else's travels, I never lost the urge to want to help people see those adventures so clearly, they'd believe they just left that very spot..that very morning.

So put on some comfortable shoes...or sit back and put on some traveling music. I'm ready to head around the bend and find a new story to tell.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Thank You Thursday

Thank You Thursday salutes Ponita for being the definition of a strong woman. Whether she's remodeling a house or embracing a new relationship after being burned, she does it with compassion and class.

You go girl!