A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom. – Bob Dylan
I look forward to walking my puppy in the evenings. It’s a nice way to decompress after a long day and enjoy the beauty of the seasons. Especially in the summer.
One of my favorite views is of an older church in our neighborhood. The well-kept building and its grounds are beautiful and peaceful. It reminds me of the iconic, Americana view of a sunset, steeple and lush trees.
“We’re going to Disney!” Yeah – I said that. Via text.
It was an extended weekend, whirlwind-trip, that started with my youngest daughter. She researched for some military discounts we qualified for, and I started making calls and reservations. Hotel – booked. Flights – booked. Four-day park passes – got ‘em. When they arrived, I took a picture and sent them to my daughter, my sister and my niece.
13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 KJV
It sure has been a crazy ride, living this military life. There was no way to know what we were in for back in the day. I think about so many who have served – you, our son; my brothers, your brother. Your dad and grandfather. My uncles, your uncles. Our cousins and nephews and neighbors and friends. And by default, all of the spouses and parents and other family members who serve by supporting.
There were a lot of things so foreign to me when we started out, especially all the acronyms. I remember constantly asking, “What does this mean?” And you patiently responded more times than I can count.
How apropos. As a writer, I am always looking out for metaphors and foreshadowing. So when the skies started to darken in the early afternoon, it seemed about right. My mood was a bit gloomy. After two and a half weeks of perfect weather, our perfect vacation was coming to an end.
A year ago at this time, we were prepping for my husband’s deployment. He’d be gone for about ten months. The third time in ten years he’d be gone for an extended time, but this time around, there would be no mid-tour breaks.
Deployments are always a challenge. But this one, by far, was the hardest. Maybe because we’d never been apart ten straight months. In the almost-34 years since we’e been married, the most we’d ever been apart was six months. A week or two of respite mid-tour provided something to look forward to. But not this time.
Ten months is a long time to be apart. Like other military families, we have come to acknowledge that this is now our way of life – our sacrifice. But you never get used to it. And it never, ever, gets easier.
One grows weary of doing things alone – from eating to attending weddings, graduations, funerals and the like. There is always a “Deployment Disaster,” and this time was no different. A few years ago, we had a pipe break under the basement floor. A smelly, messy repair. This time, our hot water tank blew, and the entire brake system in the car needed to be replaced. And the disasters don’t take into account the emotional toll families go through with illness, injury and deaths.
You live for the phone calls – and yes, we were blessed this time to talk almost daily. I learned a few deployments ago to expand my horizons, and this last time was no different. I returned to college to complete my degree; took a few art classes, and stepped out of my comfort zone a few times more than I planned.
At the end of this deployment, we decided to do something completely different this time around. Since all of our children are adults now, we decided to reintegrate after deployment in a brand-new way. Because school schedules, proms and graduations are now all complete, we had no reason to hang around town during my husband’s leave. Plus, we needed something to look forward to after ten months of stress and crazy schedules.
A few years ago, hubby spent six weeks on temporary orders in Italy. I’m mature enough to admit that I was jealous, and I often reminded him of my jealousy. Since I was a little girl, I have wanted to go to Italy. I remember eating many delicious dinners at my godparents’ home, so my love of Italian food has been rooted in me for a half-century. In grade school, I was fascinated that Italy looked like a boot. And then years and years of seeing pictures, reading travel blogs and watching documentaries of this magical place just fed my desire to get there.
And get there, we did.
Not only did I want to see Italy, I wanted to experience Italy. The history, the food, the fashion, the culture and the people.
For two and a half weeks, we ate the most amazing food, drank the most incredible wines, enjoyed delicious espressos and cappuccinos, walked the most historic ruins and relaxed by the Mediterranean Sea. Friends that my husband made five years ago welcomed us both with open arms, and shared their country with us.
It was amazing.
Our entire time in the Naples (Napoli) area was rich with every positive experience I had dreamed of. It was emotionally, spiritually, physically and mentally the vacation we both needed.
I can’t count the number of times I prayed and thanked God for the gift He gave my husband and I with our trip.
I can’t count the number of times I have shared our trip with others, and the excitement and peace that I found on that trip is recreated in my soul.
I can’t guarantee that I won’t bore some people to tears with tales of our adventure. I guess that is a risk that you, my cherished reader, will have to take, as I present to you a series of posts on our trip.
I felt broken in 2016. I lost myself in the myriad of problems I faced while my husband was away. Grieving the loss of loved ones; health problems and surgeries of loved ones; loneliness, even though I wasn’t necessarily alone; loss and dismay due to the nastiness brought on by politics. I had a writer’s block that couldn’t be budged, and an anxiety level that could rock me to the core.
And yet, once I boarded the plane with my husband, all of that angst began to melt away. I have never felt more relaxed in my life. I appreciated my faith more – and it had nothing to due with air turbulence or insane driving experiences in a foreign land. I felt rooted; I felt grounded – maybe that’s what the mountains and the sea will do for one’s soul.
Over the next few weeks, I will write about all of our experiences and travels in one of the most beautiful regions of the world.
Yes, it rained on our last day in Italy. And when we met up with one of our friends – who is learning English – he apologized that it was raining on our last day in country. “Italy is sad to see us leave,” I said. He smiled, nodded, and replied, “You make a joke that I understand. It is funny.”
Yes, it may have been funny. We were pleased he began to understand our tongue-in-cheek vernacular. However, the rain mixed in with my tears as we said “arrivederci” to our friends. It wasn’t the weather we wanted for our last day, but for sure, it provided a great metaphor to use, and one that I etched into my heart and my travel journal.
“The sanctity of our battlefields, monuments, and veterans institutions is of utmost importance to preserve military history and pay respect to those who fought.” Henry Waxman
One of the perks of having an “almost-empty-nest” is the ability to travel more frequently. As it happens, the opportunity for an extended weekend away from home has happened a few times this fall. Most recently, I tagged along with my husband on a trip to Maryland.
I had never been there before, and we had a great time getting to our destination. Driving through Ohio, I was manning the interior controls of the rental car, and almost cooked us inside out when I turned on the heated seats full blast while trying to find the air conditioning. Fun times – always a laugh a minute with yours truly. Continue reading “Patriotic path to Veterans Day”
It is Memorial Day weekend, a chance to have a reprieve from work, spend time with family, and, hopefully, enjoy some decent weather.
But, Memorial Day means so much more. It is the day set aside to honor our military’s fallen heroes.
As a military family, we are truly humbled by this holiday. We know the sacrifices made in order to serve. And we are in mourning with the families whose service members made the ultimate sacrifice.
Over the past few years, I have written about service and sacrifice, and compiled a few of my “reader favorites” here, complete with links. Some of these essays have been picked up by other sites, which was a real honor for me.
Please take a moment to remember our fallen heroes and their families this Memorial Day weekend. Whether you attend a parade, a service at a cemetery, or just pause for quiet reflection, know that freedom isn’t free, and we are immensely blessed by those who do serve.
It is hard to believe that our youngest child graduates from high school this month.
For 25 years, we have ushered children out the door, snapping photos of the first day of school, chaperoning field trips and asking, “do you have homework?” Twenty-five years of concerts, conferences and sporting events. Each fall I would get writer’s cramp from filling out sets of emergency contact cards and writing dates on the calendar. Two and a half decades of sticker shock from back-to-school clothes and supplies.
The decorations are up. The baking is done. Candy dishes are filled. Presents are wrapped. It is the eve of the holiday, and yet, all I hear is, “It doesn’t feel like Christmas.”
In our area of the country, there is no snow. Yet. We have a 50-50 chance that we may have a white Christmas if this depressing rain turns to snow. Is that why it doesn’t feel like Christmas? I have lived in places that it never snows, so I don’t think the icy white stuff has anything to do with the feeling.