Monday, August 22, 2011

The End of an Era

Here I sit on a Monday night, procrastinating some paperwork & savoring my last drops of Hawaiian Punch, made all the more tasty for the fact that I'm drinking it through a neon yellow bendy straw, left over from a particularly fantastic 80's-themed baby shower Friday night. There's more than procrastination going on here, though. I'm thinky. Melancholy, even - and not just from a reawakened desire to bring side ponytails back into fashion. Because in the past few key-tapping minutes, I've come to the realization that, like the end of spandex, rolled jeans, & boomboxes the size of a Volkswagen, a major chapter of my life is about to come to an end. I'm about to wind down my second decade. I'm on a 28-minute countdown until my 30th birthday, & I can already hear it tapping at the door.

It's a funny thing, turning 30. I used to joke about staying 29 forever, although to be fair, it was all in vanity - entirely for the reaction I'd get. In the past year, whenever age came up, I'd casually mention that I was pushing 30, bemoaning my age, in the same sort of self-depricating manner in which I used to whine about how fat I was when I was 21 & in my fighting prime. The truth was that I wanted to hear the reassurance of, "Oh, you could pull it off! I would have thought you were 25!" & the, "You look too young to be almost 30!" Twice in the past year, I've been mistaken for a teenager - by actual teenagers. Perhaps I like the flattery - although to be honest, I think it's my frequently bad skin & the nose ring that give people the perception that I'm younger than I am. In light of that consideration, perhaps it's a dubious honor.

13 minutes left.

Perhaps I'm a little vain about my complete lack of grey hair & my ability to pass for ten years younger. But focusing on that is empty. I haven't done anything to accomplish them. Ultimately, focusing on the temporal is a smokescreen for the fact that I have a faltering pause inside me, an uncertainty that, as I am about to celebrate three decades on this earth, that I've accomplished enough to be worthy of those years. Enough to fill the space of 30 years. To tell the stories of the people I've known, loved, & lost in 30 years. Have they been merely a placeholder for better years to come? The list of what I've accomplished to make this world a better place seems short, at best.

9 minutes left.

I never got around to writing or tackling a "30 before 30" list, but I wonder, if I had, what would be on it? Get married, have children, buy a house? Check. Find a job I love, make great friends, see new places? Check.

8 minutes left.

But yet ... what about the things I haven't done? Get a Master's Degree, write a book, fit back into my freshman year jeans? I'd like to think that they've been temporarily postponed by the things that weren't planned out years ago: move 4 times in 6 years, begin homeschooling my children, get involved in the leadership of a MOPS group.

2 minutes left.

To be fair, I have gobs & gobs of time to accomplish all of those things, & more. But I guess I thought that at 30, I had to have it all figured out. Have a plan, a schedule, an idea of when all of these landmark things would be happening. And as I'm standing awkwardly at the threshhold, I feel a bit like an understudy for the part of a grownup, being pushed onto the stage before I know all of my lines.

12:15 am, August 23rd.

And it's here. Actually, it's past. I missed the moment altogether because I wandered off to get a bowl of birthday cake ice cream (Let's revisit the part about fitting back into my freshman year pants, eh?). That wasn't so bad. I suppose. I still feel unprepared. Still feel like I have a lot of high expectations to live up to - of my own making. Still feel a little melancholy. But the ice cream softened the blow, I'm sure.

Anyway, since the first thing on my yet unwritten "40 Before 40" list should be to go to bed at a decent hour, I'm going to call it quits here. Thanks, twenties. You were good to me, & it was nice knowing you. Put in a good word for me with my thirties. 'Night, all.

Friday, May 6, 2011

In Appreciation of the Military Spouse

Let's pretend, just for kicks, that we haven't fallen off the face of the blogosphere for nearly 7 months, & let's act like this is a normal blog with someone who updates regularly, shall we? It's much more pleasant that way, & I worry less about being fired for dereliction of blogging duties when I pretend this didn't happen. So hello, loyal readers, oh, how I've missed you!

Really, I could perhaps pretend that after a certain point of negligence, I decided to wait for today, since there is no more appropriate day than today, Military Spouse Appreciation Day, to get back in the blogging saddle. No joke, you can look it up (the MilSpouse Appreciation Day, not the blogging saddle. That's just what I fondly call my well-worn desk chair.). There are e-cards for the day (I sent one from, personally.), & we all know that e-cards make a holiday legitimate. And since we're proudly military spouse owned & staffed, catering to the unique fashion needs & desires of other military spouses & families, consider this our e-card to you, our readers. We are eternally grateful for the support you show to our servicemembers. We share your passion.

Just a few weeks ago, I had the exhilarating & unforgettable experience of driving cross country for work with A. C. Valor. For twelve days, people commented on how crazy I must have been to drive more than 5,000 miles by my lonesome. But to quote Tim Cahill, "A journey is best measured in friends rather than miles." And by that measure, it was a short & pleasant journey indeed. I never lacked for friendly faces to greet me, homecooked meals, or engaging conversation. I had more offers for places to stay than I could possibly have taken up in one trip (But the next one! I will darken more doorsteps!), & I felt truly blessed by the staggering number of friends all over the country who were not only willing but eager to open their homes to me. And with only a handful of exceptions, the tie that bound me to these kind, generous people was the military - a strong, dependable safety net of Marine, Navy, Army, & Air Force spouses, veterans, & civilian employees, past & present, ready to catch me should I have even the slighest need.

Of course, my 12-day adventure across the United States provided me with excellent photographic evidence of the women (and men) who make up the group we appreciate today - military spouses. So truly, exceptionally unique, yet with common experiences to unify them, that it would almost be a crime to not introduce & publically thank them here. So without further ado, a pictoral diary of my journey, a glimpse of some of the people the military has brought into my path (literally, really), & their stories.

This is Ashley.

My first night on the road, I cruised into Little Rock, AR, just before 1 in the morning, bleary-eyed and more than happy to be out of the car after roughtly 15 hours in the car. And even in the wee hours of the morning, I was met by the friendly face and true southern hospitality of Ashley, a lovely Marine wife I've had the pleasure to know for more than four years now. Ashley is a practicing attorney & a southern beauty to boot, & her husband, Cliff, is an up-and-coming country music performer. They're also the parents of two little girls so unspeakably gorgeous, it's a truly fortunate thing that Cliff was a Marine, because just a few short years down the road, he'll need that title to scare away any boys with less than honorable intentions. (I'm going to take a moment here to plug Cliff's music, because he's an extremely talented singer & songwriter. He's also a pretty decent cook - like I was saying, incredible hospitality!) So check him out - Someday when he's famous, I can say he once cooked me breakfast. Ha!)

Anyway, the moral of the story is, that only one day into my drive, I found myself having such a wonderful Saturday morning in Arkansas that I didn't want to leave. In fact, it took me until nearly lunch time to pry myself away & get on the road to Oklahoma.

This is Steph.

Both going to & returning from California, I had the distinct privilege of staying with Steph & her wonderful boyfriend, Richard, a soldier-turned-airman now living the civilian life in Albuquerque. I have known Steph for more than three years, & have seen her journey take her all over the United States. She has recovered from difficulties with the kind of tenacity & determination that is extremely rare & very inspiring, without ever compromising her integrity or her compassion for others. Had I not had a schedule to keep, I could easily have gotten lost in Albuquerque with Steph, happily eating myself through the local Mexican restaurants, watching Army Wives & snuggling her dog.

I have no pictures of Army Wives, but I most certainly have pictures of the mouthwatering salsa:

and my bed buddy, Apollo:

I'm going to have to end this blog post abruptly, since I have the constraints of dinner & bedtime for all persons under the age of six presently hanging over my head, but I'll continue later tonight, so don't go anywhere!

Monday, October 18, 2010

What my toddler taught me about fashion

I have a 23-month-old daughter - my mom likes to call her the Divine Miss M (Bette Midler ain't got nothin' on my baby!) - who likes to be dressed up, likes to be pretty, & loooooves to be fancy. Some days she'll wear a boa to the commissary. Others, she'll wear her tiara to the coffee shop. But no matter what accessories she wears, she's certain to pick her shoes first. She just doesn't feel complete without shoes. And I love that about her. She'll slide them on, shuffle her little toes tap-dance style, & then say, "Pretty shoes." Shoes make Miss M feel polished.

And that makes me think, what makes me feel polished? What can I not leave the house without? Or, since I'm a mom & can leave the house without pretty much anything, my dignity included, when the situation demands it, I guess the better question for me & my fellow mothers is, "What makes me feel complete & wholly confident when I wear it?"

That's a hard question for me to answer. I might say a manicure, because I do obsessively gawk at my hands when they're all spiffed up, but I am a cyclical nail biter, so periods of manicuring never last longer than two months for me. Perhaps makeup, but that's cliche, & it's also patently untrue for me - I am happiest when I'm fresh-faced (provided my skin hasn't had a puberty relapse). Maybe wearing really great jewelry? Except that I know for a fact that I can feel poised, even at the gym, when I am blingless.

I guess, for me, I feel most polished when my unruly hair has been straightened - something I rarely have time to do, because taming the beast that is my hair is a thirty to forty-five minute ordeal at a minimum. A blowdryer & ponytail can be accomplished in fifteen minutes, tops. As a result, the practically of a ponytail wins out around here very frequently. But on the days when I do straighten my hair, brush each lock out until it's silky & shiny, until it cascades smoothly over my shoulders, I feel most confident & put together. Most ready to take on the world as a take-no-nonsense, multitasking mother. Most polished.

What Miss M's shoes are to her, my sleekly straightened hair is to me. Knowing that about myself is powerful, because it helps me know which events are worth the time to give myself that extra boost, that finishing touch. It's good to have that feeling that makes me want to shuffle like my toddler & beam, "Pretty hair." And that's what fashion is really about at A.C. Valor. It's not about getting the hottest trend off a runway in Milan or wearing a big name label on your arm. We make our clothes & accessories with the thought, "What detail can we add that will make someone smile into the mirror? How can we help them capture their signature style to present themselves to the world?"

So what makes you feel polished? What's that one finishing touch that gives you your personal femme fatale? (Or, men, your, er, man fatale?) Tell me what really makes your day, what you consider your fashion "thing". And I'll get back to you later, because I think I need to go straighten my hair now.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Striped Pink Pajamas & a Holiday

That's what the top of this blog reminds me of.  I wish I could say I own a pair just like it, but I don't.  Maybe I'll suggest pink stripe pj pants as the next A.C. Valor fashion-forward idea.  Even the most motivated among us have to sleep, you know.

Speaking of, I probably *should* be sleeping right now.  It's fortunate for me that blogging while drowsy isn't as dangerous as driving while drowsy, because I apparently lack the willpower to not get behind the keyboard right now.  I have to publically celebrate that today is the greatest holiday in the month of October, (except maybe for Halloween, but definitely a close second).  Why, golly gee, it's National Boss's Day!  I know that, traditionally, because it falls on a Saturday, that most workplaces celebrated it yesterday, on the 15th.  But since I don't work in a cubicle down the hall from my boss, but, rather, a day's drive across state lines away, I feel absolutely free to embrace the holiday ON the day.  On a Saturday.  Imagine!

According to The Huffington Post via Adecco, the greatest percentage of Americans polled would like to work for Oprah.

It's a shame that no one included me in this survey, because I, for one, would like my vote to be counted that I would rather work for no one but Michaela Smithley.  Michaela, who embodies the determination, dedication, & resilience that makes other military wives proud.  Michaela, who gracefully balances a busy family of 6 (and soon to be 7!) with a successful business, all while having an active duty Marine husband whose own schedule is none too accomodating.  Michaela, who was my friend before she was my boss, & I'm proud to call her both.

This is Michaela.  She really is as sweet as she looks.  But don't let that fool you.  She has grit, determination, & ingenuity in spades.  Also fashion sense that makes me envious.  (That's probably why she's the designer & I'm the blogger.)  She started the business that is now known as A.C. Valor in her living room six years ago, sewing camouflage totes from old uniforms when the Marine Corps made the switch to digital cammies, rendering the macropattern obsolete.  Within two years she was creating a licensed company & introducing a line of clothing, which was carried in Marine Corps Exchanges worldwide within another year.  The business has done nothing but expand, serving a growing population of young, trendy military wives, girlfriends, mothers, & children, to name a few of our customer base. 

And yet, Michaela is humble, approachable, & willing to roll up her sleeves.  This spring, when her head printer was called to jury duty, Michaela gladly screen printed 300 pairs of shorts herself.

This might be less exceptional in its own right if you didn't know that two hours later, she had to be at the airport to greet her husband, who was returning from a six month deployment!  And yet when he arrived, she looked fresh as a daisy. 

And yet even while keeping the schedule she keeps, Michaela has an innate ability to be thoughtful & gracious.  In the years we have worked together, we've PCSed to new states, bought new houses, seen our husbands leave for and return from foreign countries.  We've even been pregnant together.  And she has always found time to remember & to ask about my children, my husband, even my parents.  She has commemorated milestones with me, & I'm so very grateful to have her as my boss, & even more grateful to have her as my friend.

So here's to you, Michaela, & a very happy Boss's Day.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

In the Beginning

Good heavens, we've done it.  We've stepped confidently across the threshold of the blogosphere & prepared to introduce the innermost thoughts of A.C. Valor to the world.  It's thrilling.  It's shocking.  It's a little intimidating.

What does one write about in a first blog of a military pridewear company?  It would seem that introductions are in order for those who stumbled upon us by sheer internet happenstance.  To those who have done just that, welcome, & thank you for sticking around long enough to begin reading.  To those for whom A. C. Valor is a household name, welcome, & thank you for standing by us!  The official company introduction goes something like this: 

A.C. Valor is a company, founded by a military spouse, that is dedicated to creating a stylish line of clothing and accessories to honor the men and women of the Armed Forces and their families worldwide.  A.C. Valor's Core Values of honor, courage, & commitment are a direct reflection of the values of the United States Military - an elite group of men, women and families whom A.C. Valor supports through the design and marketing of Military pride wear.  Currently, Glam Gal by A.C. Valor can be found at Marine Corps Exchanges around the globe, online at, and other fine retail stores across the country. The company is a testament to the spirit of the Marine Corps family with their ever-changing, fresh approach to providing families with fun, fashionable military pride wear!

See?  Official, right?  All 100% true, but still not exactly capturing the essence of A.C. Valor.  At our core, A.C. Valor is a family.  It's a calling.  It's a passion.  It's a service for those who serve our nation.  It's a company of men & women who stand shoulder to shoulder with their customers because they're living the same lives.  When a son waves goodbye to his tearful mother & boards a plane for a foreign land, we've been there.  When a breathless young girlfriend rushes through a graduation-day crowd to leap into the arms of her new Marine, we've been there.  When a toddler takes his first faltering steps before collapsing unceremoniously onto a camoflage-clad lap, we've been there.  And we love it.  We embrace it, & we're proud of it.

So it is easy for us to make military pridewear for thousands of families around the world because we are personally invested in it.  We step out of our houses in it in the mornings & dress our children in it before we tote them onto base for an event. 

I could go on, but, really, I think for now I'll end this cyber-handshake, conclude the how-do-you-do, & just express, once again, how appreciative we are that you've come to our blog to get to know us better.  Leave us some comment love, ask us questions, & just generally make yourself at home!