03 January 2012

Our Year In Review

I had to work Saturday swings from 3-11pm. Mike doesn't have the Saturday schedule so he and BigUn (our oldest) stayed at home and ordered their usual Saturday-night-he-man-woman-haters-club special - a pizza delivered by some poor kid hoping my boys would at least give him a dollar tip, I'm sure.

At the stroke of 11pm, I left my office and went right outside into the downtown city streets which, just a couple of hours before had been empty, were now jam-packed with all sorts of night crawlers. There were people everywhere! Young, older, pets, no pets, women in sneakers and young girls in 8" heels, practically tip-toeing across the crosswalks wearing barely anything at all. I didn't see how they were doing it but then I remembered that I used to run in heels when I was young and wild. I kept a grin on my face most all of the night.

I walked a block or so into the Blue Dome district which, in my humble opinion, really needs more restaurants. The dozen or so that's actually in business there were so incredibly crowded that long lines were outside each and every one. People were shivering and those that weren't, were either bundled up tight or they were all liquored up.

As I walked, I smelled some of the food - BBQ smoking, steaks sizzling and steamy hot dogs from a street vendor. Just fantastic to see everyone smiling and laughing and having a wonderful time.

I thought about some of the things that happened this year to make me smile even bigger because, as I see it, God has me exactly where He wants me.

*** Both Mike and I started the new year unemployed with barely enough from unemployment to cover our car payment much less food. We'd stopped paying on the house months before and knew it wouldn't be long before the foreclosure was a fact. We were prayed up and prepared to walk away.

*** Our oldest moved back in with us for a while. Some might see this as something other than what it was to us - a small miracle. Both my shoulders are shot and I can't lift anything heavier than a pencil at times. Mike has bad knees and I don't like to see him lift things too heavy so having our oldest helped more than anyone would know when it came time to move. He's a powerhouse of strength and between the two boys, we got it all packed up in a day or two.

*** God brought us to Tulsa. I'd been through Oklahoma once before in life but didn't stop in for any length of time so I was looking forward to really seeing it with fresh eyes. I was stressed to the point where I was either sleeping for what seemed days at a time or I was hyper-alert for days. Just about everything we owned found it's way into a donation bin just weeks before so we were starting over again with a Ryder truck full of our stuff and 2 vehicles to share between the 3 of us. We had already lost the house and fought tooth and nail to keep the car without skipping a payment. Thank God the house was in my name only so Mike could keep his good credit. One of us had to have some leverage.

*** BigUn enrolled in welding school and now has been through the employment process with a very large and reputable energy company. He doesn't have a start date yet but it will be within a couple of weeks now. We're so thankful that he's found a profession that he truly loves.

*** Mike is finally able to get into the VA system. They rejected me (although I am also a veteran) because we made too much money in 2010. Unless you're a disabled vet, your time in service doesn't count for much unless you're homeless or you can prove a medical condition existed while you were in the service. The lessons that this one thing has taught me have been many and has given me a different perspective on helping my fellow veterans. I'm going to do more to find out how veterans can get the help they truly deserve.

*** You can never save too much money. There are always rainy days so I'm looking for free things to do to see Tulsa for the short time we're still here (our current employment contract ends in April so unless we find more work, we'll be unemployed again). I need to be a tourist. I need to get out of the house and breath fresh air.

That's it for now. God is so good and we're thankful for Him. Simple as that.

02 January 2012

10 New Year's Resolutions That Beg To Be Broken

Yes, yes, it's that time of the year again. That sweet, wonderful time of the year where you look back on the past year and say:

"Huh? It's New Year's Eve already???"

Yes, sweetness, it's here and with it comes the inevitable task of getting my mind right about those little things that bug me about myself and resolve to make them either -

1. Go away for good by developing new habits


2. Embrace them and keep my sanity about making sudden changes. Sudden changes and sudden movements tend to make me go ninja.

So here are my Top 10 New Year's Resolutions for 2012.

10. Learn To Wear My Makeup

Yeah, ok, so I'm 48 and I'm still uncomfortable with wearing heavy makeup. Construction work has not been in my skill set & besides; something that requires a forklift to get deep into those wrinkles and a jackhammer to take the stuff off with maybe ain't so good for me to learn.

Who knows, though? Maybe I'll try glitter this year to bring actual reflected sunlight into those deep, dark wrinkled crevices around my eyes.

9. Early To Bed - Early To Rise

Who am I kidding? I'm a gamer. Gamers don't sleep. Gamers eat at their computers wearing full Star Wars regalia complete with a light saber to cut our apples with. It's a pretty rotten moment in the space-time continuum when we actually have to get out of our chairs for mundane things like taking a shower & changing our clothes. Which reminds me - I really should get my Jedi robes out of the cleaners.

8. Quit ... Something

I'm pretty sure there's a level of consciousness out there that says smoking, drinking, too much gaming and eating too much chocolate is bad for you.

Not to mention coffee, lest we forget.

However (comma) I don't feel too awfully inclined to actually stop smoking because I don't inhale. I know what you're thinking but soldiers were using that excuse LOOOOONG before Clinton ever thought it up. I can't give up my chocolate so I'm moving on to a healthier choice - yes, that's right dark chocolate. I won't give up the gaming because it's relaxing and it's the one hobby I truly enjoy.

Ok, really....drinking? Come on! It seriously takes me a month to drink a 6-pack of beers and since I have a very strict rule about no drinking and driving, I can't see me getting a ticket from walking back and forth to the kitchen.

7. Learn to Get Over Myself

Come on, how many times have you heard that it's not all about you? Well, I'm here to stand up on my 3-step ladder to tell you only one thing:

Yes it is.

This year, I resolve to be much more selfish about myself than I've ever been. Have you even extended yourself so far into everyone else's life that you honestly can't think straight without a Post-Its, a digital calendar on your computer that hooks up nicely to your Droid calendar app and a personal assistant who calls you every morning to give you a reminder that today is really not all about you because you have 100 MILLION things to do?

Nah, I have to claim some of that time back because God has only given me one shot in this life to make good.

6. I Need To Learn To Relax

I'm nearly 50. I'm too young to relax. When I'm nearly 90, I'll be saying the same thing! Some may think I'm not active enough since I do have a gym membership and never go. Maybe I'll just burn up the road getting back and forth to the gym to watch all the AB Rocket Pros saunter around in barely-there shorts & muscle shirts with a towel permanently hooked to their fanny-packed shorts while I sit at the health bar counter sipping on a mango-slushie-something-or-other protein shake.

*Nixon voice* I am not a slug! I am not a slug!

5. Eliminate The Buddah Belly

I've had this belly for so many years that if I actually didn't have it, I'd stare longingly out a window with binos looking for it on the horizon coming back after a vacation in the Rockies. My belly is comfortable around my waist.

Although, I have to admit, I really long for the days when I was in a size 12 jeans.

4. Work Or Play?

I'd love to find a full-time position with a company that will give me benefits and let me stay a while. Tired of the contract work although, if that's all I'm offered and it means sleeping in my car instead of my bed, guess which one I'll choose.

3. Take a Vacation

Yeah. Ok. Haven't seen the inside of a real get-away-from-home-for-a-week-to-someplace-exotic-and-fun since..... ok, the 80's. I don't see me on vacation for a very long time.

2. Decorating My Home

Decorate. There's a word for ya. Decorating will come when we have full-time permanent jobs and live in a real house and not an apartment. So I'm probably going to miss out on Being Martha this year. But I will try to dream a bit more with ideas on my Pinterest boards.

If you can't actually live the dream, then keep a visual on it and plan for a better day tomorrow.

1. Be a Total CheeseDog

Ok, this one I might not break. I live in Tulsa. Have I seen much of Tulsa since I've been here? No. I haven't even broken a sweat on how much of a tourist I really COULD be. I'm living on Historical Route 66 with a billion-gazillion photo opps that I haven't taken advantage of. I could at least have the decency to try and beg the city for a beat up old Route 66 sign to take back to my storage locker full of old antique type stuff that needed a home somewhere.

So there you have it - my resolutions for this New Year. I'm full of hope that I will actually carry through with either breaking them or making them happen this year so pat me on the head and wish me luck.

01 January 2012

I'll Be Home For Christmas

It was bitterly cold and I was a long way from home.

Christmas 1985 was in Pirmasens, West Germany that year. West Germany then because The Wall was still up. The barracks at Husterhoeh Kaserne was old and drafty as hell but the floors had been shined up like a new jump boot. We all knew to be pretty careful walking around because one false move, buddy, and you're down for the count. Paste wax ain't no joke.

I was waiting for a package from home but here it was Christmas Day and it still hadn't gotten here. The military postal service would still be delivering today if they had gotten anything in on Christmas Eve so no soldier would have a package waiting. They were a pretty awesome postal service back then. I was sorely disappointed that I missed out on Christmas with family and now my Christmas would have to wait until I could get my package and share it with my family, even if only in spirit.

I got dressed and took a walk.

I could smell something cooking from the day room kitchenette so I headed that way. Laughter and smiles greeted me from a few soldiers who had gathered together to cook up some mac n cheese and a few other small dishes, most of it straight out of a can. I stood in the doorway and watched their camaraderie for a few minutes before I headed outside to brave the bitterly cold wind.

(I was in building 4437 and my room caught ALL the wind from the banana buildings!)

I met up with Andy and Mark, who, in their usual winter attire of shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops, were on their way to get a pizza. I declined their oh-so-generous offer of a slice and beer and went, instead, across a small bridge outside the Kaserne which lead to the back streets of Pirmasens. I took the long way getting into downtown Pirmasens and wrapped my coat a little tighter.

It was Christmas. I was homesick.

The day was bright and sunny without any wind (surprise!) and people passed me right and left, arms full of packages, purses and happy but strangely quiet children. Delicious smells from the restaurants as I passed by made me hungry but I kept walking until I got to the Schlossbrunnen, the city's beautiful circular fountain with their famed bull, xxx, sitting quietly atop. I stood and watched the water for a while, clicking off a few photos. I don't have the photos anymore but I still have the memories, sketchy though they might be at times.

It was, after all, 26 years ago Christmas Day.

I made my way to the Eingang zur Fußgängerzone Hauptstraße. Germany has a different smell; a different feel about it that I can still remember. It's the smell of wonderful - the smell of unique. It's amazing to me that even to this day when I remember the freshness of the air in Germany, my heart melts.

And I believe with all my heart that Germany remembers me, too.

The shopping area was mostly deserted and most of the shops closed but I managed to find a small cafe open for just a few hours and ordered a small coffee. It was perfect to sit and watch the people come in and out - a man drinking a coffee and reading a newspaper. A woman with shopping packages drinking from a tall glass and dressed so warmly in a pea-green fur-lined coat and black boots. A young man in his 20's coming in for a Pirminator, Pirmasens special beer only sold during the holidays. It was rumored that the beer came straight off the top of the vat and was highly favored among the citizens of Pirmasens as well as the soldiers who lived and worked there.

I was missing my family. My home. My holidays. It was the first time I'd ever been away from home and I truly wanted to be there to share in the spirit of Christmas with them. I had already bought gifts - I can't remember what I got anyone except Jimmy. I had bought him a black bomber jacket that had a map of Germany on the back of it. I didn't realize that he'd be growing like a weed and would only be able to wear it a short time. I was proud to get it for him.

I finished my coffee and took a stroll around the city looking at the Christmas displays and passed by the small shops with their tempting pastries and smoked meats and fresh-baked breads. I ate at one of my favorite restaurants then headed back to the barracks. I had hoped that a package would arrive from mom while I was out but I guess it was delayed a few days. I had no presents to open. No homemade fudge or cookies to share with the soldiers I was stationed with. No cards, pictures or letters to display.

Man, I was homesick!

I got back to my room and made some coffee. I tried to read but couldn't. I'd already cleaned my room so that was out. I laid on the bed and decided to take a nap but couldn't.

Then.......a knock on my door.

There stood the CQ Runner who had a package for me. Actually, he had another guy help him carry it in. I was so thrilled, I think I kissed them but I'm not sure. I dove in while they went back to their post and the first thing that I saw was......

My Christmas Tree!!!!!

It was so pretty and already had little ornaments on it!

I kept looking and must have pulled 20 packages out of the box. Packages wrapped with pretty paper and ribbons and bows and just wonderful to look at!

I was a happy soldier!

I read all the cards 3 or 4 times - the letters many more times than that and had polished off most of the cookies by that time. Mom had sent me a tape of Elvis Christmas songs so I played it and sang along with "I'll Be Home For Christmas" and couldn't help but smell the house filling up with mouth-watering scents as she and dad cooked the Christmas dinner, complete with fresh coconut cake for dessert. I couldn't help but see the Christmas tree that mom puts up every year that would rival a Macy's decorations any day. I couldn't help but see family and friends coming in and out of the house all day, enjoying each other with hugs and laughter and a bit of fussing by mom not to put their cups on the coffee table because they would make rings and telling people not to step on the dog.

Mom's Christmas village, the nutcracker and snowmen collections and the Old World Santas filled my mind and in my mind, I walked every square inch of the house, picking up small objects in my mind and holding them close to my heart. I laughed and cried for days but that special time will truly be burned into my heart forever.

Forever....and then some.