TOUCHING ORDINARY LIVES

Do you ever wonder about the lives you touch as you go about your day-to-day routine? It occurs to this ordinary lady that we touch and are touched by a variety of people throughout our lives. Some help us be better, stronger people, while others try to tear us down.  I would like to think that those lives that I have touched are the better for it. That sounds very arrogant. OK, so it not only sounds arrogant, it is pretty arrogant. <grin>

In all seriousness, I do not want to ever be the person who tears others down. Making someone else feel bad about themselves does not make me feel good. It does not gain me anything, at all.  Yet, there have been people in my life who have attacked me (with the intent to tear me down) as if the process is going to make them that much prettier, happier, or whatever.  It is just wrong and hate to tell you, it does not make you a better person. Just saying!Inspire

Recently, I was introduced to a woman, Ashley, who has touched my life and made it so much better. I have never met her face to face and not sure if we will ever get the opportunity to be in the same room (we live in different parts of the country). I hope we do have that opportunity, but being so far apart has not lessened the impact this wonderful woman has had on my life.  She is a strong woman, mother, wife, business owner, and friend. She is the type of woman that some will love to hate, and others will flock to, confident, happy, sexy and happy to make others feel the same.

strong womenAshley and her best friend April are the type of wonderful people that makes me feel better in my own skin.  The two are always saying things that are so profoundly true.  Beautiful women who are happy and confident in their own skin who help other women feel sexy, happy, and confident in themselves as well. Even better to me, they are both real about their body types, and are not twiglets! I know I have said before that I have a very negative self-image (working on it!) both of these ladies make it so much better! Love them.

So the following is a snippet from Ashley in a conversation that I found very inspiring. The conversation was about how once we become a mom people expect us to conform to the “mom ideal” (which is nonsense folks be who you are!):

Losing who you are is what makes you a resentful, bitter, crabby, grumpy mommy. My kids LOVE my wild hair, my tattoos, my funky clothes, my business drive, and my otherness! They find me much more enjoyable to be around when I remember to put myself on the “important too” list!!

Ladies, loving your sweet kiddos the very best means loving YOU too!!!!

The first lesson we teach our kids is how to be comfortable in their own skin! Accomplish that and you my sweet friend are a good mama!

–Ashley B

I love these very real conversations with a wonderful woman who mak1950s momes me feel better about myself. There were times when my younger self seriously believed that I had to conform to that “norm” for wife, mother, lady, blah blah blah. Losing myself was so easy and hurt more than I could have ever imagined. Let me be clear – it was not my husband (or any man) who pushed these “social norms” at me. In fact, my hubby likes me better when I am happy! Which means he likes me better when I am myself! Nope, it was me, letting those women around me put me down and make me feel bad about myself or about my ability to parent. My own insecurities drove me. I would like to think I am wiser now. I do know that we all need to be exactly who we are, who makes us the happiest. So if that is a mom in the 1950’s fashion more power to you! But don’t judge, harass, or be negative to those who have chosen not to conform to that model! Try to be a positive on the lives of those you touch.

Not an ordinary mom

Death is Never Ordinary

Each of us throughout our lives will lose to death a friend or family member. Death is inevitable. The old axiom that no one gets out of life alive is the absolute truth of the situation. From the very moment we are born we are racing towards our death. Not the best visual, I know, but still true. Yet, even knowing that death is an inevitability we are often caught by surprise. Some folks have a long life, and others are taken much too soon.

poem-of-lifeMy family recently lost a member, my cousin. He was much too young (only 55), and his loss was unexpected. He was my cousin, but also one of my best friends. We did not live in the same state, did not get to see each other very often face-to-face but we talked at least once a week for the last 35+ years on the phone, text, instant messenger or Facebook.  I remember reading a long time ago that a cousin was God’s promise that you would have a friend for life. R has always been the embodiment of that promise. He has always been the best friend a person could have. He was funny, cheerful, loving, irreverent, bawdy, loud, and persistent. God, he was so easy to love.

Oddly, we were not “born” into the same family. I met R while I was a teen, when my aunt married his Dad. I am pretty sure that R never met a person he could not get along with. It always amazed me how he could pull the most reticent person into a conversation and get them to laugh. The most outrageous things would come out of his mouth at times. He told me once that since we were “step-cousin-in-laws” that it was ok to flirt and be bawdy around me. I remember laughing until tears streamed down my face. Like he needed a reason to flirt? Be bawdy? Not ever! Not sure he had any filters – but he was never mean. From the day we met we were family.

tucked-safelyI remember when R was getting ready to propose to his wife, he was so excited. He was so proud on his wedding day. Then the kids started coming along, and with each one that excitement and pride grew in him. R was definitely a family man. And he loved to brag about his kids. Every achievement was proudly proclaimed. I loved listening to him spout off about how wonderful his kids were. Family for R was pretty broadly defined, eventually everyone he met became part of his extended family.

Often very early on a weekend morning, I would login to Facebook and R would be online. He would send me a message “Good Morning Beautiful, what are you doing up this early?”… Which is funny when you consider that my time zone was three hours ahead of his. Did he ever sleep? R and I would talk about everything and nothing at all. His family, mine and our extended family. I read one of the posts in Facebook after his death that said R was the family historian. I find that insightful. He always knew everything going on. A one stop fount of information. I think he had this information because he genuinely cared, and would ask the right questions. I know he always asked about my kids/husband questions that showed he listened to previous conversations and that he was genuinely interested. He will be genuinely missed.

Death hittimelimits hard.  I find myself lost in thoughts about this wonderful man who was taken from us much too soon. I reach for my phone early in the morning to see if he is online so I can tell him some silly story or another. I have lost others, my grandparents, a son, and a few friends to war. So, I know that this dark time will slowly fill with light again.  It just takes time. Even more than 10 years later I still occasionally reach for the phone to call my grandfather to ask his advice or share something special in my life.  Life goes on, and we keep living, sometimes one breath at a time. So, R, my cousin, my friend, I love you and will miss you until the time we meet again, Rest in Peace.

Ordinary Holiday Season

The holidays (Halloween through New Year’s Eve) are traditionally a time to spend with family.  They are a time of giving and sharing. It is also a time of huge commercialism and excess, but that is a story for another day.  Families gather together to eat, catch up and celebrate.

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Family is an interesting concept to this ordinary lady.  Most define family very narrowly as those who share a common ancestry, blood relations, or marriage relations.  32 plus years living and working with the military has changed my definition of family, made it much broader. While I still see family as having a relationship to me through blood or marriage, it is also much more.

Family are the women/men who waited with you for news of our deployed soldiers who are currently under a communication black out. (For those of you non-military types, communication blackouts are not good things. They usually happen as a result of a fatality, or increased hostile presence in an area – which can lead to fatalities. Communication is blacked out until either the hostilities decrease or the next of kin is notified.) Family are the men and women who served down range with you or a spouse.  Family are the folks living in the Government quarters on either side of yours who routinely lend you sugar, watch your kids while you run an errand, or mow the lawn for you while your soldier is deployed.  Family is the single soldier so far from home that he just needs a place to “hang” for a bit and eat a home cooked meal or who spends two weeks in your home taking care of your kids while you finally get an adult vacation. Family is the soldier I never met, whose wife died delivering his twins at the same time I lost my son, whose babies received my expressed breast milk (for months) because it would not dry up and it had to go somewhere.family

Family are those that we share our fears, tears, joys, and lives with, blood related or not.  No matter how you define family, take a moment this holiday season and think about those who cannot spend time with their “families” including military, police, medical services, fire services, etc.  Those folks are out there doing a job that is often thankless. They deserve our respect and remembrance that they are working and away from family so we can spend time with our families. fireman-christmasremember

The holidays are a time of celebration. Many cultures during this time of the year celebrate a specific holiday such as Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule, and Kwanzaa (just to name a few). These holidays have a variety of similarities (families gathering, food consuming, and gift giving/receiving) and a variety of differences or practices.  This ordinary lady is utterly fascinated by the different celebrations. All so similar and yet so different from how I was raised. Yet, each is spectacular in their own right.

Through the military, I was given the opportunity to learn about different cultures up close and personal.  Variations in holiday celebrations are always so fun. Over the years bits and pieces of different traditions have found their way into our own family celebrations. I believe this has enriched our own traditions.  Never at any time have I ever feel offended by someone else’s beliefs or traditions. Instead, I have always felt flattered that others wanted to share their traditions with me.  I know that I do not have to believe the same as someone else to have RESPECT for their traditions. How did we get to this place where everyone is offended by everything?

This “offended” attitude is very clear especially in the various holiday greetings. I cannot image why someone would be offended by a sincere greeting of “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Hanukkah” even if you are not Christian or Jewish. The greeting “Happy Holidays” is bound to start offending some folks soon, then what do we do? Bah, it is all nonsense. If you are offended, then just be offended, quietly! Last time I checked no one has died of feeling offended.offended

So I say to everyone, try to practice tolerance of the beliefs of others, suspend your need to be offended that others have different beliefs. Say, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Joyous Kwanzaa, Happy Hanukkah,  Merry Yuletide,  Feliz Navidad, Fröhliche Weihnachten, joyeux Noël, Mele Kalikimaka or any appropriate greeting, not to offend others but as a sincere desire for others to be happy.  I promise that I will not be offended by any holiday greetings given to me.

May you all find JOY in this holiday season!

Ordinary Veterans Day

fb_img_1464382185932A short message from an ordinary lady who is a veteran and is married to a veteran. Today is Veterans Day. A day established to commemorate all US veterans and victims of all wars. Originally called Armistice Day which marked the end of hostilities of WW1 that occurred at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month. This day is celebrated on the anniversary of that end on November 11th.

I would like to thank all those who are serving or have served in the military, past and present. Your sacrifice has not gone unnoticed though at times it seems that way. Know in your hearts that many people support and appreciate all you have done or will do.  Thank you for your service.fb_img_1464392643289

I would also like to thank the families of all our services members. The mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, husbands, wives, sons, and daughters of all who have served or are serving, I thank you all for your sacrifices as well.  For all the “important” dates you have spent without your soldier, sailor, airman or marine, I thank you. Being left behind can be even more thankless than those that are wearing a uniform.  Your sacrifice has allowed our veterans to do their jobs and invaluable task. fb_img_1464640977105Thank you for your service.

To all those who are not personally touched by military service, spend a few minutes today and reflect on what your lives would be like if not for our service members, past and present.  If you see a veteran today let them know that you appreciate them even if it is only with a smile.

Happy Veterans Day!

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Ordinary Courtship

A couple of months after my 18th birthday I ran away from home and joined the Army. Seriously, I did not tell a soul that I was leaving until the day the recruiter came to the house to pick me up and put me on a plane to basic training. Now, I am sure this confuses some, but most of you will get that the home life was not exactly stellar. Joining the Army may seem a bit extreme but to me at that time it was the only way out. Not telling anyone  that running away to join the army is the right path, just that it  saved that ordinary young woman extraordinary arguments. To face facts the younger me was not up the weight class of my mom in arguing, so I jumped ship, ran for the hills, got out of dodge! I guess at 18 I was an adult and  did not need to actually run away, but it seemed the best at the time. When we are young extremes seem much less extreme. Really, how is joining the Army to go off and get shot at better than dealing with family drama? Boggles the mind and really not recommending this as a solution to others. Heh, I learned that we drag all our issues with us wherever we go – just saying. So might as well learn to deal.

So two months in South Carolina for basic training, then nine months in Georgia for Military Occupational Specialty training led me to my permanent duty station at Fort Detrick, Maryland. Before going to Maryland, I flew home to California to pick up my clothes and car and made the drive to Maryland for my first duty station. My grandfather, Popo, made the drive with me, five of the very best days of my life. When we made it to Maryland, one more night in a hotel then I put Popo on a plane home and headed to my first unit. Since it was Labor Day weekend, I was assigned a temporary room and given directions where to show up on Tuesday after Labor Day.

No sense of unpacking the car of more than necessities when I would be moving rooms in a couple of days, so bored I headed to the day room. A day room for you non-military folks is basically a common area in the billets for soldiers to relax and socialize. The room often contains a television with a variety of seating areas.  This particular day room had one other feature, the extra duty soldier responsible for manning the desk and answering the phone. A very cute guy with who I commenced flirting. We chatted, laughing and both of us flirting like mad for the better part of an hour before anyone else showed up in the day room.

The new guy who entered the room was a mess. Seriously, a complete mess. He had on very old and threadbare cut off jean shorts, a t-shirt that I was pretty sure was also threadbare in the places that still had fabric. Definitely his Sunday best, holy for sure! Do not get me started on the ball cap on his head, really let’s not go there. I will just say that I have seen better caps on the side of the road that have been run over by dozens of 18-wheelers. Enough said. Add in a pair of shower shoes, a fashion maverick in the making. On top of this fashion wonder was the road rash on one whole side of his body, cheek, elbow, knee all scraped to hell and gone. The icing on the cake here was the BCG’s he was wearing too! (BCGs is military talk for Birth Control Glasses, in other words the most butt ugly glasses the Army will provide for you free of cost!)bcgs

New guy inserted himself into the conversation (read flirtation) I was enjoying with the desk duty guy. Ok, so new guy was sweet, and funny, geeky and just would not go away. Sort of annoying really, but really sweet. An hour or so later, new guy asks if I had seen anything of the town yet, and what I was planning for dinner. I had not, and had no plans. Not sure how it happened but just a few minutes later I was in a car with new guy on my way to a tour of the local town and to grab a quick dinner. During the driving tour I found out that the road rash was from a motorcycle accident the previous week. The BCGs were because he could not bend his elbow enough to get in his contacts. The clothes, well let’s just say there is no real explanation that I have figured out, and I have lived with the guy for 30 years now, so yea, no taste at all in his personal clothes.

The whole evening was wonderful, we had dinner at a Roy Rogers since as a California girl I had never heard of the place. We drove around for hours and ultimately ended up in Gambrill a state park not far from the base. The lookout points were amazingly beautiful in early fall, still so green with just a few hints of the fall colors starting to show. The park had a swing set that we sat on for hours more, talking, always talking. We had so little in common, yet so much in common. It was strange and wonderful. Over those hours new guy went from sort a sort of goofy looking geeky guy, to a handsome young man who I was starting to really like.

The whirl wind began. From a goofy guy inserting himself into a flirtation to a guy I could not get rid of. Seriously, he was everywhere I was, every turn he was there. Persistent devil, I will give him that. I tried ditching him. I tried flirting with others, the lets just be friends route. All of it was sort of flattering really in an annoying sort of fashion of why the hell can I not get this guy to leave me alone you stalker you! I think we had been dating for a month before I realized that we were dating, and that he was serious. Capital letter SERIOUS. How did I know he was serious? Well because he told me he was planning to marry me, raise a family and grow old. All with me. After only ONE month!

To say that I was taken aback by that conversation it to understate it excessively. A couple of months later, in a hotel room in Georgia (after we had just spent a day as six flags in Atlanta). My soon to be husband pops the question, sort of. What he actually said was “so when are you going to make an honest man of me?” He was giving me those sad puppy dog eyes, looking so put out as if I was purposely compromising his virtue. I laughed, a lot then I took pity on him and we were married nine months after we first met. Yep we met and married in nine short months. My husband likes to tell people that he went away for training and came back to a wedding. And he did not want to disappoint me, so he married me. Huge favor he was doing me, the ass.

We were both on active duty and could not get any leave time to go meet each other’s families before the wedding. I got to talk to his parents frequently on the phone. Since he came from a military family they completely understood our not visiting before the wedding. My family, sigh, let’s just say the drama never goes away. Running away did not change it, or fix it. I think the thing that hurt the most was when my baby brother called in tears. Evidently, my mom told him that the reason I was not going to be coming home to get married (grew up in California – married in Maryland) was because I did not love him (my brother) enough. At least that is how an 8-year-old interpreted his mother’s rants. I was seriously annoyed, enough was enough. Called dad and told him I was flying my brother out for the wedding.  Dad took care of everything, which means that mom came out with my dad and brother. Yea!

My soon to be husband spent the two days before our wedding, and the day after our wedding annoying my mom. I think he was having way too much fun. She hated him, and he just kept up the hick routine to annoy the hell out of her. That and he would hum random tunes, or whistle through his teeth random notes. At the time I could not figure out what was up with that nonsensical noise. Honestly, I think he did it to keep me sane. Pretty sure he did not like my mom, and every time I would be close to tears he would start again. The whole long weekend I was not sure if I wanted to smack the crap out of him, or laugh hysterically. I chose laughter, a theme in our marriage. We celebrated our 29th anniversary this year. Years of love, laughter, tears, and fears. An anything but ordinary beginning for an enduring relationship that started with flirting, with someone else!