Autumn Sunday


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"The Routine"

This blog update is a special entry, for our Tante Randi, who has given me an "F" on my posts.
Honestly, I just didn't know what to write about for a while (okay, and I just dropped the ball), but here it goes again...

After awhile, wherever you live becomes what you know, and what you know becomes, well, ordinary. Even if that ordinary means that large cargo planes blast off and make flight patterns over your own roof several times a day (and night). After less than nine months of being in the military, living on an Air Force Base has become, mostly, normal for me, but every now and again, I remember that I am just still a bit of an alien in "this military life of mine". I had one of those moments last night.

You see, last night I decided that I must start training for a run that I am going to be doing with some friends in October. After being sick for several weeks, I was finally feeling well enough to get out and run some laps again. After laying the kids down for bed, I made my way over to the track. When I arrived, I grew excited for my evening run. Runs in the fall are always fun for me. The air is crisp and cool and begins to fill with that crisp, wet smell of changing seasons. (I am not actually sure what the smell is... wet leaves rotting and decomposing on the ground??) Also, fall always ushers in the football season. And football, to any red blooded American, signals a new year, safety, and good times. So it was comforting for me to see an Air Force tag football team stirring up dust on the soccer field. As I ran around and around the track, I really felt good in my new life. Everything seemed all well and normal-- the way fall should be. And then the eight o'clock "Taps" song started bellowing from the command post tower, and I noticed that people started to stop and stand straight facing the flag. I kept running. After noticing the hostile looks of people I passed, I realized that I was supposed to stop, stand straight, and look at the flag too. I blew it.

I mean, I have been doing this for nine months. I probably should have realized by now that it is proper and courteous to stand during the evening recitation of Taps. I mean, people have died for my freedom. The song is a reminder of their heroic efforts, and I kind-of, well, missed it. I suppose that the song is an ever present reminder to me that life here is anything but normal. Men and women deploy daily and weekly to wage wars in Irag, Afghanistan and perform other duties to ensure our countries' safety. But I am often surprised by the monotony of the basic routine, day in and day out. The same anthem plays everyday at 4:30. The planes repeat the same basic flight patterns. The same military balls are held each and every season. Even deployment becomes routine. The place is just so, institutional. Therefore it is an interesting concept to me that military men and women are masters of routine and yet they are capable of responding to chaos frequently. Their routines and procedures become disrupted every now and again, but they always pick up where they left off. They play flag football every fall and stand for nightly TAPS at 8:00 pm every evening.

This is my life. It is routine. I am growing accustomed to the inns and outs of it. But every now and then, for a second or two, I forget to stop. I forget my ID and cannot get to my home. I forget that we are actively at war. And then I remember that men and women have died for my freedom. And I stop running, turn towards my flag, and I stand a little taller.

Monday, May 24, 2010

There's a Certain Slant of Light...

Okay, so a couple of weeks ago, I was depressed, real depressed. Like, the kind-of depressed where you feel like nothing will ever be right ever again. The kind-of depressed where you feel like you spend the whole day trying not to cry. The kind-of depressed where you feel like you are in the middle of the sea, trying to stay afloat but are being slowly dragged under in spite of your struggle to keep your head above water.

I didn't want to be depressed... really, who wants to feel depressed? But I felt I had reason to be depressed... I mean I had left the home I loved, an awesome family, a great church, not to mention that I was exhausted, had a baby nursing 24/7, and a body that had undergone some huge changes in the last couple of years.

I mean, on the flip side, I had a lot to be grateful for. I could count my blessings-- present tense: I have an awesome husband, two beautiful, healthy children, a nice, new home, a roof over my head, and no huge financial burdens... the list could go on.

But, Emily Dickinson's poem "There's a Certain Slant of Light" articulates depression better than I can, so take a second and read it... and try to grasp the meaning of it... if you dare...

"There's a certain slant of light,
On winter afternoons
That oppresses, like the heft
Of cathedral tunes.

Heavenly hurt it gives us;
We can find no scar,
But internal difference
Where the meanings, are.

None may teach it anything,
'T is the seal, despair,
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the air.

When it comes, the landscape listens,
Shadows hold their breath;
When it goes, 't is like the distance
On the look of death."

This poem is all too familiar to anyone who has ever been afflicted with depression. When it comes, "shadows hold their breath" and when it goes, one feels forever altered.

For me, the depression came as soon I left San Antonio. I knew that it would. San Antonio was like a vacation, and Little Rock was my new life. When I arrived, the base seemed lonely, empty. The houses on our street were empty. I kept looking out my window, tired, lonely, and hoping that things would change, and quickly. I felt like my life was a giant snow globe machine... shook up for months on end and now settling in a landscape that looked entirely different... not to mention the adjustment to having two children instead of one (for me, a huge adjustment).

A few weeks later, I feel different-- like I was rescued quickly from the pain that depression, loneliness, and isolation can bring. Just in two weeks time, I have made friends. Oddly, some of these girls feel like they have been my friends forever. My neighbor down the street is working out with me everyday. Tommy and I found a nice little church this weekend, and had lunch with some pretty awesome Air Force officers afterward. We barbecued with these friends last week, and we are again this coming Saturday. Feeling like I have found friends certainly helps the depression.

I am hoping I am "out of the woods"-- the pieces of my life are falling into place more quickly than I had imagined. But I loved Lexington, and grieving takes time. When a door closes, before a window can open, there is the space in between that is uncomfortable, depressing and deeply lonely. I felt it after college. I felt it after high school, and so I feel it now... like a question mark thrown out into the wind, awaiting an answer.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Moving to a different region of the United States is always a lesson in cultural difference, but stranger still, is the adjustment to vastly different weather patterns...

Growing up in Colorado, I was accustomed to huge snowstorms in October, and failed spring vacations because of snow piled so high we couldn't even exit our street, and the ever persistent snow in May. Snow storms are always fun-- they stop the normal patterns of life and remind us "who is really boss." But I must admit that Colorado's May snowstorms grew irksome after awhile. I grew tired of snow in May, when the rest of the world was enjoying spring weather: new flowers, budding trees, and fresh spring rains.

I was glad to move, then, to Kentucky to experience a true spring... baby horses on every farm, rolling hills the most brilliant shade of green, and the smell of lilacs and cherry blossoms on the most beautiful old streets. I miss Kentucky springs.

Now that I am in Arkansas, I am experiencing a whole new kind-of spring. I try to run every evening here, and my most common path takes me around the cutest little lake and up a beautiful path through the forest where I have seen two cotton tailed rabbits, various birds, and some rather boisterous squirrels. The path is laced with the most aromatic honeysuckle I have ever smelled, and my eyes wander up to a huge tall canopy of trees, the sun glinting through the pine, maple, and cherry trees.

But as much as I enjoy the beauty of this place, I wasn't prepared for the amount of tornadoes that seem to strike the surrounding area almost bi-weekly. The first weekend we were here, Tommy and I spent our days moving and our evenings dragging our tousle haired two year old and baby in and out of the shelter under our stairs. Normally, I wouldn't necessarily even be aware of a tornado approaching in the middle of the night, but here, on the military base, the command post bellows a loud tornado signal, and warns us to "find shelter immediately." Supposedly, a family of six had their base home torn apart by a tornado three weeks ago. The knowledge that they were safe simply because they had taken cover, has me making sure to heed caution with each and every tornado warning-- 8 warnings in all since we've been here. The warning last night had Tommy and I out of bed at 3:45am, dragging the kids and the dog, again, to the shelter under our stairs.

I guess every area has its weather ups and downs. In Kentucky, it was dramatic freezing ice, crystallizing the trees and streets in the most beautiful display of crystal prisms I have ever seen. The downside to the beauty was that trees toppled over under the sheer weight of the ice, smashing into homes and breaking power lines-- a fearsome display of might. Here, the storms come often, smacking our home with rain and lightning storms. But the tornadoes are something I have never experienced to this degree. They come without warning, in the middle of the day when the kids are napping, in the middle of the night when we are sleeping, and once when we were on a walk. We were playing at the park, and within minutes, the command post issued a warning to take cover. We ran home with the kids and spent the rest of the evening in and out of shelter. There were 20 tornadoes in the area that evening. All of this takes some getting used to for us. We were accustomed to Kentucky's weather, but this is all new and more than a little weird.

Well, I think I'll sign-out now... I need the extra sleep since I was up part of the night.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Living, the "Air Force Way"

Living on a military base is very interesting indeed! We have finally moved into our home on base... a brand new base home that we will live in for at least two more years until we move overseas.

So far, I am amused by all that living on a base entails. First, Taps go off at 7 am every morning, waking my two year old almost an hour and a half earlier that he normally does (pre-Air Force). Then at 4:30 every day, when the work day ends for most shift workers, The National Anthem begins to play and everyone on the base stops, places their hand over their hearts (if a civilian) or stands at attention, and begins to sing the national anthem. Even people driving on base stop their cars to acknowledge the anthem. And in the evening, at 8:00, another song plays alerting people that the lights are out, and it is time to think about going to bed.

Not being a soldier, but rather a mother, some of this kind-of annoys me. The alarm testing goes off right during nap time every Wednesday. And then there are constant weather alerts over the loud speakers. All of this really helps me understand that this is "the military" and they have a system that is ready for any kind-of threat.

On the other hand, I do feel safe. I feel like I am protected from even ominous weather threats. Even if there is nothing I can do, at least I know what is going on. And the national anthem going off every day. Well, it is kind-of like saying The Pledge of Allegiance in elementary school everyday. It sort-of gets my patriotic blood flowing again... sort-of reminds me of the feeling of singing "America, the Beautiful" when I was little and being so proud that I live in this country.

I am finding that all of the years of liberal arts educated cynicism is kind-of fading out of me a little bit. I am watching the John Adams series from HBO and loving it. And although I don't think I will ever appreciate the 7am "wake-up happy campers" song ever, I am getting a little more used to all of this... I think.

Monday, April 12, 2010

"Getting out of Oz"

“There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.” I feel like Dorothy clicking my heels as I clutch this porcelain throne (the kind with the industrial flusher). If a toilet has an industrial flusher, it gets the job done, but it isn’t a homey kind-of toilet… if you know what I mean.

A lot of reflecting on life can happen when you are puking your guts out. Why is it that puking in anyone else’s toilet is one of the most deplorable things on the planet? This TLF has been home to me for the last few weeks, and although I don’t mind it, I really, really think it is about the last place on earth I would want to be when sick. First of all, the tile on the floor is pink… salmon colored pink, 1950’s colored pink. You do the math. That was like, 60 years ago. Who knows how many people have puked in this toilet or done God knows what else right on this very ground that I am kneeling on as I vomit. A lot of questions regarding home can be answered when you think about where, if you had to choose, you would want to puke. Now, don’t say it would be in a pretty place either. I would choose to puke in a nasty TLF over a fancy person’s home. That would be embarrassing— that wouldn’t feel like home.

Okay, okay, enough toilet talk. What I am really talking about here is how aesthetics play into our idea of home and how just being in a place we consider homey puts our minds and bodies to rest. If this place was prettier, I would feel prettier. I wouldn’t worry about what disease I might be catching as I kneel on this floor. For instance, my sister lived for a year in the ghetto of Philadelphia. I visited her once and was shocked by the surroundings. There was trash everywhere. Even when there was an option of throwing trash in a bin, people would throw it on the street. After a while, the environment really seeped into her. She became ill. She started having stomach problems. It wasn’t until she moved away that she started to feel well again. I have had one cold and two stomach viruses since I have been here. I am just wondering, then, if this environment is subconsciously making me a little ill.

So to take this question a little further, I am wondering how living on a military base makes people feel? Even the prettiest base is still a base. It is a neighborhood, but it feels like it belongs to someone else. Living on base may always feels temporary at best. After living in a place temporarily, like college, you always want to go home. How does a soldier feel then, when he lives, for years on end, in some kind-of dormitory. Does he forget how home feels? Is he subconsciously affected by the environment around him? Does it make him sick?

All of this "deep thinking" makes me feel for the soldiers on base— it kind-of makes me feel like inviting them over for cookies. I mean, even soldiers need to get out of Oz sometimes.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Small is Sometimes BIG FUN

So, I feel like my new living environment has taken a different spin than I had imagined… yes, in my dreams I had imagined a beautiful base, complete with palm trees, small ponds, and nicely maintained walking trails! However, I didn’t expect to find the “hidden treasure” of community to be so readily available to me in this shabby little TLF. Our temporary living facility is full of children. There are 2 boys and a stay at home mother upstairs who have been here for months longer than us. And next door to her is another mother who has three kids under five. On the weekends, another mother comes and brings her sons as well. And since there is not much to see around here, we are all quickly becoming friends. Our doors are not shut very often, and we spend most of our time taking the kids to the park or walking to the duck pond and feeding giant sized turtles and some really pretty, but rather competitive ducks remnants of stale Wonderbread. The children get so very excited by these little things just as much as they do big trips and fancy things. And since we brought so few toys with us, Teddy has managed to make a few of his own. The pots and pans in the kitchen function as both a drum by day and a pot by night.

I guess that living here for the last few weeks has taught me a few things about myself. I really don’t need a fancy home or even that pretty of things (I mean, I still want those things… I am human). But I like this too! I really, really enjoy the community, friendships, and mothers banding together during the long hours that husbands are working and mothers are at home! We have had great fun walking to the lounge, getting ice-cream from the front desk, and letting the kids eat it while looking for baby frogs underneath the rocks in front of the TLF.

Fun comes in all forms. And this is small fun. But for me, right now, it is perfect.

Blessings Come in All Forms

Well, I must say that blessings come in all forms (said with laughter) after arriving at Brooks AFB in San Antonio and realizing that the base is basically a Ghost Town. The first glimpse at security should have alerted me that Brooks was not exactly typical for the military. When we pulled up at the 100% ID check point, the overweight security guard quickly laid down whatever he was chewing on, and ambled up to our car, barely checking only my husband’s ID , before giving us the nod to move forward. What was rather laughable became less than amusing when we realized that the base was not maintained at all. The golf course we passed on our way in was being choked out by weeds, and the bowling center and child development center were completely shut down. When we arrived at our TLF, we found the facility open, the card reader in disrepair, and the apartment, well, a unique design to say the least.
Tommy tried to break the news of our new dwelling to me lightly by saying “well, it’s not as nice as the last TLF, but I think it might be bigger.”
Hmm, sweet husband, but I knew that was a bad sign. When I opened the door, I was surprised by how the space was not very functional. The kitchen was basically in an ill lit hallway, and what was maybe once an oven had been converted into open shelving. The small counter space that was available was cluttered with a small coffee pot, a microwave, and a few other gadgets. The place was devoid of a dishwasher, the bathroom lacked a tub, and the laundry room was not only non-existent, the closest one was in another building. But for a personal touch, (spoken with sarcasm) the decorators really went all out on things like mints on all of our pillows, and a metal silhouette of 3 cowboys and some horses above the living room table.
Although I may sound dramatic, I was actually not too upset by the “necessities” that I found lacking in the building. During my time in YouthWorks, I had lived in much uglier places and lived in much worse conditions. But I didn’t have children then. With apprehension in my eyes, I looked at Tommy and bravely muttered, “the important thing is that we are all together.”

San Antonio Blessing

A week ago, Tommy and I prepared to embark on a 6 week journey to San Antonio because he has a course he must complete called Aerospace Medicine Primary. Initially, I was very concerned about all of us joining him for the course because housing typically does not allow for families to come along—at least they won’t pay for families to come along. When I found out that the Air Force was putting Tommy in a La Quinta Inn, complete with two beds, a mini fridge, and a microwave, I realized that we absolutely could not come unless I found an alternative arrangement for all of us. After trying to locate off base housing and realizing there is next to nothing on the south side of San Antonio, I prayed for God to be merciful to us. But not one ever said it was a crime to beg, and so I mustered up the guts to beg Michelle in billeting for temporary lodging for our family.
My prayer worked, and God was so faithful. The lady who arranges billeting must have felt sorry for me, because as soon as she heard my two year old crying in the background, she arranged for us to move into a temporary living facility. I was so incredibly grateful and began gushing “thank-you, thank-you” enough times to stifle an embarrassed laugh out of her. If I had been closer, I would have hugged her. Not only did we get lodging, we managed to get a TLF, which has two bedrooms, a semi-functional kitchen, and a living room. I feel so blessed to be able to travel with him, and I hope he has enough time to make this 6 week trip to South Texas FUN!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Family Advocacy Group

When I arrived at base last week, I was given some advice to head to the family readiness center as well as the family advocacy group. The family readiness center gave me 20 free hours of babysitting while we PCS (permanent change of station)... I haven't used any as of yet, because I didn't want Teddy to have another unfamiliar situation to adjust to, but I have 60 days to use them, so I will save them for later.

The family readiness center was a great help. They gave me two nice books about parenting, and then had me fill out a rather intimidating questionnaire about my beliefs on parenting, etc. However, I went to two playgroups last week, and I found them to both be full of fun toys and games for the kids as well as nice conversation for the mothers ( and some fathers). This was a huge help for me because I found that many women are experiencing/have experienced all that I have in the chaos that is moving with the Air Force. One woman just arrived from Japan. Another woman is here while her husband trains. She leaves in August for Japan with him. They are living in temporary housing and all of their belongings have already been sent to Japan. Another woman thought she would only be here for 2 months while her husband trained. Two months has turned into 3, and 3 into 4, and 4 into 5. Needless to say, she is very tired of living with a baby in a hotel room.
All of the shared experiences don't make our situations any different. I mean, we are all women with little children living without our belongings in hotel rooms, but at least we are not alone it. There is a strength that comes from our collective discomfort... a discomfort that all who have served in the military become uncomfortably comfortable with after awhile... I hope.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Worry less-- a Work in Progress

I remember a Bible verse from Matthew 6:25 "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?"
I must admit, this verse has been a challenge for me lately. I have had so many worries, compounded by lack of sleep. We don't have a home right now, and I have been so concerned with finding the right home for the four of us (and a dog, Nigel). So far, we haven't been able to find the right place, and we are moving again for 9 weeks for Tommy's aerospace medicine training. We found a home we liked, and it rented this morning. At first, I was disappointed. But then I felt this relief wash over me. I was torn because I wanted the house, but I didn't want to pay 9 weeks of rent on a home we wouldn't even be living in. Besides, we still have a home for sale in Lexington, KY. Now that there are no available homes for rent in the area I want, I can just worry about the present moment-- like taking Teddy to the airplane park this afternoon. No rushing off to get a key to look at house we may or may not rent!
I think one of the biggest challenges of not worrying about the home situation has a lot to do with my sons! Since Teddy saw that house, he has been crying 'house, house!" Obviously he has picked up on the fact that we are living in what is basically a hotel. He misses a home as well. I worry about there being so much change in his life. He clings to me more than ever and seems scared about new situations, whereas he was more adventurous in the past. I want stability for my boys-- a sense of home. I realize that in the military, this may be seemingly impossible at times. That is why the pressure is on me to provide as much stability as I can for them. So I am trying not to worry... and this has always been difficult for me because I am a type "A" personality by nature. I worry about everything... what people think of me, finances, my boys, the future. This has always been my "Achilles heel". I want to be spontaneous, worry free, laid back! I want to trust God more and my ability to have everything be perfect less! It seems there is always a new situation for me to grow in this lifelong pursuit. But I am still learning, still trying. I am still a work in progress.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Air Force-- 1st week

My first impression of the base in Little Rock is that it seems fairly small and is nicely laid out. The lake is pretty and Arkansas forest cover part of the grounds here. The housing is deplorable, but they are working on building new housing. I am not sure what I expected the base to look like, but I think that in my heart, I had hoped for some instant community, but I have yet to experience that yet.
People on base come and go and are, for the most part, not unfriendly. But to think that anyone is overtly nice, that would be to confuse this place for a small Christian college town... not an Air Force base. I mean, this is business. People live here and people work here which creates for an interesting dynamic. I mean, college was a place to socialize, and laugh, and play volleyball and learn. But we weren't exactly working together in college. I mean, the professors didn't live with us or by us. They had separate lives and homes and families.
So, I have to make a decision about where to live. Where do I set up our home? In the community near the base or off the base. Base housing isn't even open for officers yet. So I guess that makes the decision easy. Off base we go...

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Officer Training

This is not the world's most creative title for a blog, nor is this the world's most creative title for a post. But can I be honest with you? My creative juices have really waned as of late. Perhaps the reason for this is the fact that I have a 9 lb bundle keeping me up at night and a toddler draining me of all of my creative energy during the day.
"Excuses are like noses, everyone has one" my dad would say. But here I am, writing this blog even though I would like to be sleeping right now. But what's another hour of sleep deprivation when I have so many hours that to sleep would only be like taking one small step out of a very large hole. Why am I so tired, you ask? Well, my husband is gone at OTS. I can't believe how lonely I am without him around. You know, he was gone often in residency, but I could still call him and talk to him almost daily. OTS is a different experience. It is like he is in another world that I cannot visit. When he calls, which isn't often, he is so tired and his experience is so far removed from mine. He is busy from dawn till dusk with so many task, too numerous too count. I am busy from dawn to dusk with the same repetitive tasks that new moms do constantly when their children are young (wiping noses, wiping rear ends, wiping goobie eyes... feeding toddlers, feeding babies, picking up food that toddlers throw, wiping up food that babies spit up). Yes, our jobs are both exhausting, but they are worlds apart. And that is how I feel right now-- worlds apart from my husband. Embarking on a journey with him that has him doing most of the "journeying" and me doing the same old tasks but without him around.

Of course, that brings me to my other point. We don't have a home yet. I am living at my mother's house. I moved there after he left to get help with the kids. Funny how much I appreciate my mother and how her home still feels restful to me and always will, but it isn't my home. My husband is my home, and he is miles away.