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!