Monday, November 10, 2014

A Glimpse into my Young Life via Recollections of my Mother

Tonight, we attended an event planned by one of our PWOC leaders.  It was billed as a night of "Soul Food."  What is soul food to an American?  It could range from the traditions thought to be attributed to our African American families, or Cajun food from the Louisiana section of our country, or it could be southern food or who knows what else?  This night happened to be southern traditions, so the menu consisted of such items as fried chicken, pulled pork, chicken and dumplings, greens, black-eyed peas, cornbread, an array of desserts, and sweet tea (plus so many other ethnic dishes).  One of my friends came up to tell me bye as we were leaving, and she asked if I had made the peach cobbler.  I laughed and told her "yes, but if my mother had known that I made an easy"--you know, one of those where you mix equal amounts of flour, sugar and milk and then pour the fruit and juice out of the can on top of it and stick it in the oven--"peach cobbler and passed it off as southern soul food, she would have not been impressed!"

My mother was a wonderful cook!  That was not her only awesome attribute, but she was such an accomplished creator of good, wholesome and tasty food that I grew up in her shadow and have always felt a bit inferior when it comes to cooking.   She could whip up a meal (make a horrendous mess with about every pot and pan and dish in the kitchen dirtied), put it on the table family style, and be gracious enough to make everyone feel so valued.  I grew up eating meat, veggies, bread, dessert and drinking sweet tea every evening.  If she didn't have a dessert like Coca Cola cake, fruit cocktail cake, pecan pie, etc., she would open a Jiffy yellow cake mix and make a single layer cake and pour a hot chocolate sauce that she made "from scratch" over it!  That hot cake with hot chocolate sauce surely was at the inception of my lifelong chocolate addiction.  She did all of this after she had worked a full day in a local garment factory!  We always ate dinner about the time that the evening news came on, so my dad insisted that we only talk during commercials so he could hear the news, but my mom and I would make faces and laugh quietly while my dad would shake his head in condemnation and really was so aggravated that he could have spit nails!  I am chuckling now as I remember those times around our family table each evening.

A couple of funny cooking stories come to mind as I remember my mom in the kitchen.  Every Sunday, almost, we drove to church 20 miles from our home, and the preacher at that church usually was a Free Will Baptist Bible College student who just drove from Nashville to preach at our little country church Sunday morning and Sunday evening.  That meant that he and his family, if he were married, had to eat somewhere and as he was a student and as our church had little to no money, my mother considered it her responsibility to prepare food for our family and for that of the preacher.  I always thought that that college student preacher got a good deal out of that since it included my mom's cooking!  Anyway, Sunday mornings were very hectic cooking, packing it all in the car, and arriving at church to lead the singing and teach Sunday School classes and anything else that needed to be done.  One Sunday night, we returned home, we carried the dishes into the house, my mom began washing them, and I heard her say, "Well, who put this spoon in here?" and I could just hear her howling with laughter!  My dad and I went into the kitchen to find my mom with a obviously dirty spoon in her hand wrapped up in a paper towel with the refrigerator door standing open!  In all of the racing around that morning, she had wrapped the spoon and put it in the frig with no rhyme or reason and all she could do at this time was stand, albeit doubled over, laughing so hard that her eyes disappeared into slits with tears rolling down her face!  We joined her!  (In case you are wondering, she had her full brain capacity at death).

The other story that I remember is that she decided to make teacakes.  She did this one Friday night (thank goodness), and she used a recipe that she had never used before.  They were simple "cake like" cookies with this wonderful vanilla induced aroma and taste.  The only problem was that it was somewhat like the event when Jesus took the 5 loaves and 2 fishes, blessed them and broke them and fed the crowd of 5,000+ women and children. . .well, my mom made teacakes until almost 11:00 that night and filled every container that she could find in our vast kitchen that had a lid.  Needless to say, we ate teacakes until we were sick of them.  We laughed about that for years, but she never made those teacakes ever again during her short 62 years of life!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Day We Left for Australia and Landed in Korea, Part III

We left Colene's very early in the day to be at Hickam terminal for roll call.  That usually meant that the plane would take off 2-5 hours later.  A fellow traveler (didn't verify it) told us if it is a Virtual Roll Call (Hawaii and a couple other bases do this), that the plane usually doesn't leave for 5 hours after the message is sent out.  I am not sure if this is true or untrue. The difference in regular roll call and virtual is that for virtual, an email is sent and the recipient has 40 minutes to respond in order to be placed on the roster.  For regular roll call, all persons who are flying have to be present in the terminal and ready to go.

There was a delay in our roll call, and it was moved from 8:00A.M. to 8:00P.M.  A short time before 8P.M., it was then moved to 3:00A.M.  There is at least one problem with all of this--you can't really leave the airport at 8 in the evening to get a room when the plane will potentially be leaving at 3A.M.   Thankfully, after the first slip, we kept our rental car  allowing us to go to Pearl Harbor and see it again, and we went to Nico's on Pier 38 to eat.  I highly recommend Nico's.
The view from inside the restaurant.  That is not a window, per se, but is just open to the pier.

Roy chatting to some of his Navy buddies--many military and locals frequent this place.
 We ate octopus, different types of marinated raw fish (poke, which Jason and Colene had told us about)--all just as a taste test in the fish market, and then we ordered Hawaiian pulled pork and Ahi as our entrees from the restaurant itself.  Awesome food!  When we returned to the terminal, however, and found that people had released their rooms and rental cars with the expectation of leaving at 8:00P.M., and that, due to the slip we all would be camping out on chairs that were not made to be restful, people were cranky!  I am glad to say that that evening was our one and only horrible experience!  We did fly out early that morning, however, and landed in Japan 9 hours later!  Roy would agree that this was the most tired that we were ever on the trip, but when we arrived in Yokota, Japan, we really wanted to go to the Inn and sleep, but, instead, we walked to the little town adjacent to the base and train station, purchased yen (frustrating experience) from a 7-Eleven (lol) and got on the train for Tokyo!  My overall impression as I drank in my surroundings was one of huge apartment buildings, tall and within spitting distance of each other, with rows of bikes belonging to the inhabitants of the apartments, lined up and chained ready for the transport of their owners from varying socio-economic levels.  Where, in America, we have structures in the city created solely for the parking of our cars, Japan has them created and equipped with racks solely for the parking of bikes.
Typical train scene (notice the not uncommon white mask)
--except when it is rush hour, multiply number of people by thousands!

Business Center Outside of Tokyo Train Stop

When we arrived in Tokyo, we got off in the business section, but after a short time, we found ourselves at Shibuyu Crossing.  Everyone needs to experience this area in Tokyo for two reasons, as per our experience: 1) there is a terrific sushi bar there and 2) for the pleasure of being one in thousands of people at that crossing coming from five directions and converging into utter chaos!

Shibuyu Crossing from the Street Facing the Crowd From Only One Direction

As we made our way back to the base, we grabbed a couple of doughnuts from Mister Donut, took a taxi to the gate to use up our surplus of yen, and climbed into bed and slept like babies.  The one thing we should have done, but did not do, was to cash in our extra yen.  If you wait until you get back into the States, the bank will charge you a $10 fee for returning the yen to the originating country, so the two possibilities in solving this dilemna are to find someone going to the country or go to an international airport to cash it in.

The next day we were off to Osan, Korea.  I need to say that both my dad and Roy's dad were Korean War Vets.  Although, this was not our destination of choice when we began this adventure, it quickly turned into our favorite leg of the journey.  We arrived in Korea, grabbed a shuttle to the Air Force Inn,  walked a short distance to the exchange, ate a meal from Captain D's, and went back and fell asleep almost immediately.  I said all of that to say that Osan AFB had everything together; it is very family oriented demonstrated through the sights of mothers and fathers walking along the sidewalks pushing strollers to the football team of the base high school being front and center as they ate before the big game hours later.   Events and activities were plentiful and highly advertised.  Another fact that made us believe this was the next morning, quite early, we decided we wanted a full breakfast and happened to stop in at Checkertails--the type of little place that might be featured on Diners, Drive Ins and Dives on Food Network--which was just next to the ITT (Information, Tickets and Travel).  As we sat there, three travel buses pulled to the curb, one behind the other.  I (it doesn't take as long to eat pancakes as it does eggs, hashbrowns, bacon, toast) went outside to ask the people who were congregating where they were headed.  Three different day long tours were heading out.  One or two of the people thought that if you weren't signed up then you possibly could not board, but I was encouraged to ask the driver. Yay!  When Roy came out, the driver and tour guide said "yes" but cautioned us that we might not get to go into the DMZ as our names were not on the roster.  It would depend on the military personnel in charge that day.  We took our chances as anyone who knows Roy at all knows that he "can talk anyone out of anything" and if not, it is not for lack of trying on his part!  One of our goals, if we did nothing else in Korea, was to go to the DMZ.  God had walked before us, put us at the right place at the right time, and had scheduled Kol (sp?) to be our tour guide!  The 73 year old who now lived in Seoul with his wife and adult children around him,  who had arranged travel and logistics for South Korean Commanders allowing him to travel to the states, and who had stories to tell became our dear friend.  We told him about our dads, and he sat across from us and talked and shared his cold sweet potato (which we could not recognize as such until we tasted it) with us!

One of Kol's comments about this building (the Congressional building in Seoul)
as we passed it was "This is a building where people go to work but do no work!"  
 I thought this to be quote worthy as it might apply to our country as well.
We stopped at several places on the way to the DMZ, one notable and worthy of mentioning was going into one of the tunnels (#3 of the 5-7 the South Koreans have actually found) made by the North Koreans wishing to enter South Korea for the purpose of killing leadership among other horrible things.  There was very little caution given as to whether a person should go into the tunnel, but when we were given helmets and sent into the tunnel which was so steep that I had to resist running. Those occurrences should have been our clues! After the run down into the middle of the earth, the helmets quickly made sense as you could hear and feel the helmets hit the protruding rocks very close to our heads.  At a predetermined point of the tunnel where North Korea supposedly began, we simply made a U turn and began the journey out walking what almost seemed straight up and utilizing the little benches placed strategically on the "down" side of the tunnel periodically.  I could never figure out why they were on that side!  Of course, our young buddies took no such breaks!  I had no shame in doing so, though, at my advanced age, and I was glad to provide Roy with an excuse to rest!  LOL

Other places at which we stopped all had to do with the DMZ, the train that will hopefully reconnect the two parts of Korea one day, the Liberty Bell and recognition of the US soldiers who fought in the Korean War, and the Bridge of No Return.  It is too exhausting for me and for you as a reader for all of the details to be cataloged here.

The Liberty Bell in Injingak
Part of our tour was to stop at a local restaurant out in the country where a buffet of authentic Korean food had been prepared for our group.  What a wonderful experience!  It was a highlight of our trip, but not as interesting and exhilarating as when we arrived at the Demilitarized Zone.  Roy and I sat quietly as all ID's were checked, and we knew that God answered our silent prayers when we were allowed to advance.  It would take pages to include all of what we saw, the myriad of emotions, and even the humor we experienced via the military tour officers who accompanied us through making us aware of what was allowed and not allowed.  A couple of things that I will share is first that this is one of the few or maybe only place where our military meets their enemy face to face daily.  One of the North Korean guards who is stationed at the door of the North Korean facility has been nicknamed "Bob."  Bob stands watching the activity in the DMZ, takes up position behind a column for a change of venue, and occasionally calls many North Korean soldiers to come and bait and heckle visitors from the "Monkey House" if the visitors are important enough. We were not important enough, but he provided entertainment just standing there and at one time appearing to be locked out while we stood and watched him, never pointing at nor gesturing towards him!  The entire atmosphere is a bit chilling, a feeling intensified by the sheer professionalism and tenacity of the highly trained ROK soldiers as well as some of the best of the best of our own, of standing by the conference table where important peace documents have been signed by historical leaders, of seeing the site of the axe or hatchet incident and the resulting base of the tree (the "Paul BunyanMission", and the Bridge of No Return.  The more I travel to such places, the more I realize how little I know of the hardships experienced and the bravery displayed by our military!
Bob is standing in the building behind.  He can be seen just over Roy's right shoulder

Messages left by South Koreans
for separated North Korean family members

In the conference room with the ROK--stance
of strength!  
The train station where hopefully Koreans
will be able to go both North and South in
some distant future.
To conclude our travels, the next day was Sunday, so we attended the Chapel service on base, just happened to check the facebook page for the Osan Terminal and saw that within a couple of hours we could be back in Japan and headed home ahead of the Typhoon that had kept us from seeing Okinawa and a Chaplain friend and family there.  We made that Roll Call, manifested through to Travis with the understanding that we could fly straight into McChord, if we chose to do so.  Of course, future travelers of Space A, you must realize that this translates to a overnight stay at each base.  The crew of this C-130 was out of McChord, so they were awesome just as every other crew had been!  I should also say that this plane had seats along the walls of the plane and can be as warm or cool as the pilot and crew decide.  Just know to dress in layers to meet either situation!  We did find ourselves arriving in Hawaii about 1:00A.M. of the day before we had actually left Japan--that can really mess with your mind so don't give it too much thought--and given our past experience, we knew that we would be stuck in the terminal trying to rest sitting up on uncomfortable seats.  God sent a precious retired Marine Colonel who loves people and "pays it forward" to travel with us from Hawaii all the way to Osan and back.  As we were standing in the terminal in Japan and trying to decide how to make arrangements and reservations before we actually arrived at Hickam Field, the Colonel invited Roy and myself and another young couple, both of whom are in the Air Force, to spend the night in the "Bates Motel."  We did, and what a joy and blessing he and his precious wife were to us that evening and next morning!  They will be forever emblazoned in our memories of great people!  That morning, though, we decided that home looked good then rather than two days later, so we purchased tickets from Honolulu to Seattle and left for home, specifically our own bed and our furry babies, Huck and Finn, who had missed snuggling!

Australia is still out there, and we are already looking at making that trip in the future during leave time or retirement (although retired people are a lower category, if you are retired you can sign up 60 days out, so check it out)!  I must share that, before we began this, I read everything that I could get my eyes on of people who had traveled this way in the past!  So, my purpose in writing this was for those friends who have said, "I want to get with you and hear about how you did this and what you learned" or for those of you whom I have never met but are seeking firsthand experiences and, truthfully, I have written it for the joy of reliving it and documenting a personal "bucket list" experience.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

"We've Been BOOed!"

Huck, Finn and I stepped out of our front door about 7:30A.M. for our morning walk, and as I looked down, I found the following:

How cool!  After reading the little poem, the fine print instructions below the poem told me to place the "We've Been BOOed" side (after cutting it apart) on my door to let my neighbors know that we had been Booed because my next task was to create two bags or small baskets, reprint the poem found at and secretly leave them at the doors of two of my neighbors who do not already have a "We've Been Booed" sign on their door!  The idea should make its way around your neighborhood.  By the way, our little bag contained pencils, a little flashlight, and some candy with the note tucked inside. 

Try it!  It is fun, and the website has other awesome ideas to inspire you throughout the holidays.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Day We Left For Australia but Landed in Korea, Part II

Picture of us from years of 1979-1981 
After retiring from the Navy many years ago, pastoring a local church for 20 years, teaching school, and rearing three awesome children, we once again find ourselves in the military.  For the past five years, my husband has served as an Army Chaplain, and I, not wanting to be left behind, retired from "the best job I ever had" (stole that idea from The Fury) of teaching high school English and got behind the wheel of one vehicle while Roy got in the driver's seat of the moving van pulling our second vehicle, and we moved across country!

Having been away from "home" for a year, we decided to try Space A once again.  My husband watched patterns of when planes went out, how many seats were offered, and how many seats were actually used.  This went on for weeks, and every night he would read me a list of flights and the pertinent information!  He became quite familiar as he is pretty detail oriented. Realizing that Travis AFB is a hub for the West Coast just as Dover is for the East Coast, we debated whether to commercially fly to Travis or compete for a flight from our base.  Finally, we decided to fly to Travis (we probably will not do that the next time, however).

The process is a bit different now as there are no charges for Space A (although, if a Patriot Flight is your choice, there are minimal charges of tax revenues).  Boxed meals are served on some flights, but when this occurs, they are offered for purchase--less than $5.   Otherwise, one must bring his own food from machines or restaurants from within the terminals.  Dependents can now fly anywhere flights are made available, and there are basically six categories that I will not explain at this time.  Suffice it to say the closer you are to the first category, the more likely that you will make the flight.

Flying into Oakland, we had arranged for shuttle service to Travis (about an hour away), but when we landed, we received an email saying that the shuttle we had confirmed the day before had been cancelled as they had double booked.  What to do?  Duke with Aloha Airporter had been suggested over and over, but upon calling Duke--and later meeting him, he confirmed in person--he informed us that he no longer picks up at Oakland.  New fees, really application fees, have forced him at this time to choose to not service Oakland Airport.  So, if you choose to fly into the Travis area, the San Francisco airport is the better choice as relates to shuttles.  So, what were we to do?  I'm so glad that God always "has our back."  As I flipped through several pages of possibilities, on about the 3rd or 4th page the name "Lucky Shuttle" leaped out at me.  My husband, in the meantime, had called several companies, and those who would even come out since it was now 7:00P.M. or so--too late to even use BART--quoted him prices of $110 to $175.  Good grief!  That was almost as much as our commercial flight to Travis from Seattle for both of us!!  We called Lucky Shuttle, and the owner checked to see if any of his children who drive in the business with him were already at Oakland, and since they were not, he left his home where he had already settled in for the evening, picked us up and delivered us to Travis for the price of $75!  Yes, he got a tip!  Roy and I would highly recommend this company if you find yourself in a similar position.  We had awesome conversation for the hour ride;  he is a gentle, compassionate person who cares about people and has a very interesting life story.

Since I am writing this not only for posterity but for the value of what we learned for future travelers, I would suggest that it is best to stay on base in Air Force Inns or whatever is available to military as it is both convenient and inexpensive.  However, DON'T PLAN ON STAYING AT THE INN NOR RENTING A CAR AT THE ENTRANCE OF THE BASE AT TRAVIS ON DRILL WEEKEND!  So, we had reservations for Thursday evening, thought that we would perhaps be on the plane on Friday for Australia or, worse case scenario, take a flight to Hickam on Friday.  Well, the Australian flight was all cargo with no passengers, but we were manifested for Hickam.  No problem!  Let the adventure begin!  Our flight was a C5, but, unfortunately, C5's have their problems, so while the retirees and those in categories V and VI were getting on smaller planes and arriving in Hawaii throughout the weekend, our plane did not take off until Monday morning.  In fact, one of those days, we even were seated on the plane waiting for takeoff when they decided to cancel the flight. Talk about disappointment!  Due to it being drill weekend, we had to find a hotel in Vacaville and rent a car from the Enterprise in the same little town, maybe 8 miles away.  Yay!  guess who took us there?   Duke!  I referred to Duke of Aloha Airporter in Part I of this post, so remember that name if you need a shuttle service in and around Travis.  During our time of waiting, we met numerous retired military couples who fly Space A often and were fun and oh so encouraging!  We also became friends with a C5 pilot (I only add his occupation because he was helpful to talk with about our plight) and wife who were a terrific couple with whom we shared stories and laughs!  It is amazing how adversity bonds strangers!

Although, we had been to Hawaii previously, I was so excited to get there again because I had previously messaged a cousin living there whom I had not seen for 20 years or more, and we had tentatively made plans to have lunch or dinner.  She had graciously offered us a place to stay, but I worked under the assumption that it would be easy to acquire a place in military inns (Hawaii has an awesome military resort opportunity but, of course, requires reservations understandably) and was really hesitant about interrupting their lives completely.

Tips:  (Ignore this section if you are reading for the story only and will never fly Space A) When flying Space A, you need to work on the fly and make reservations on the go.   We have used Skype for a few years now to communicate with family members in other states and that works well out of the country as well, but if you want to be able to call ahead for reservations or speak with family or friends who do not have Skype accounts, I would suggest upgrading your Skype account to include Skype Calling.  It is simple to accomplish, and while it requires placing a deposit into your account, it is well worth it.  We placed $25 in our account, called multiple terminals, hotels, car rental companies, and our son, and we came home with $21.22 in that same account.  Skype    The other suggested tool to place on your ipad is to acquire the app  TakeaHop which allows you to have all of the info that you need at your fingertips to call ahead and so much more.  
 To get back to the story, it was not easy to get a reservation in Hawaii when we were unsure when we were actually going to get there.  We did arrive at a good time, so I called Colene, my first cousin, and what a joy it was to meet her little family, see their remodel that will be awesome when finished, eat wonderful food outside while catching up on lost time, and spending the night in their home.  Colene reminded me of my mother as she would not let me leave her home without giving me snacks and magazines exemplifying that giving spirit that says, "I have thought about your needs before you have, and I will actively seek to meet them because I care about you!"  I found this amount of care in my mother and both of her sisters, so she inherited it honestly, and from her mom as well.  Thanks, Colene, Jason, Jack and Hudson!  You are the best!
Roy and I with Colene and her family
The next morning, we slipped out of the house quietly and made our way to the terminal to catch a flight to Japan.  We had missed our last opportunity to get on a flight to Australia from Hickam.  It left on Sunday (and, of course, we weren't there), and when we checked the facebook page to see how many seats were available, we saw that again zero passengers just cargo.  We agreed that Australia was not to be realized on this trip.  So we began to set our sights on Japan and Korea where we could get flights.  -concluded in Part III

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Day We Left For Australia but Landed in Korea, Part I

Before we travel out of the country, we call our credit card company, our service provider for our phones, our bank and our auto insurance agent just as a matter of alerting them, but also, refreshing our memories of what is offered concerning coverage and benefits!  This time when I called our insurance company, I asked the usual question as to the extent of our coverage, stating that we were flying to Australia or Japan or Korea next week--we weren't sure which--, and the person on the other end of the line laughed!  He later said, "I couldn't figure out how someone could not know exactly where they were traveling when you were about to board a plane!"  Well, it is like this, when you take advantage of flying Space A or military flights and you are open to adventure, you just take what is open and available to you.

Flashback to 1978-1980
In 1978, my husband was a sailor, and I taught at a private Christian school in Virginia Beach, Virginia.  We had little to no money, but we were already blessed with an oversized bump of a spirit of adventure.  I taught Spanish, but I had never travelled to a Spanish speaking country in my life.  I was, afterall, from the south, an only child and the daughter of  a former Airman father who was part of the Korean Conflict and had travelled all he wanted to by the time I came along.  Traveling would not be part of my future unless I took the "bull by the horns," so to speak.  But then I met and married an Eastern Kentucky "son of the coal mines" who hoped to never see the inside of one but did want to "see the world," so he joined the Navy.  We met in Virginia Beach, Virginia and got married. So, in an effort to meet some of my dreams, Roy (my best friend, dream delivering husband) decided we should go to Spain using "MAC" flights--Military Airlift Command--now known as Space A and controlled by AMC (Air Mobility Command).  In the seventies, the rules that applied to active duty personnel were that travelers paid $10 individually and dependents could not fly within the continental US using MAC flights.  Being in the Norfolk area, we were on the coast, so my husband had to take enough leave to give us flexibility, and we were off.  No glitches.  Just signed up, donned our backpacks, got on the plane, ate our boxed meal (paid for by the $10), and several hours later landed in Rota, Spain.  The flight itself does beg for explanation.  Our carrier across the Atlantic Ocean was a C5, a huge plane capable of transporting tanks, other aircraft, etc. on the lower level and move 73 passengers in seats not unlike commercial airlines in the upper level.  By this point in my life, I had only flown one time, so although I was not a frequent flyer, I noticed right off that there was one little quirk!  The seats faced the back rather than the front of the plane for the protection of troops in the event of a less than stellar landing.  Can you imagine my disorientation as we took off with our bodies leaning forward and upon landing, our backs were pressed to the cushioned seats behind us!

When we landed in Spain, we were on a viable and hopping busy military base.  We had arranged to stay with a friend of a friend in her small, off base apartment.  I was introduced to studio apartments and milk with a shelf life--the shelf in the pantry rather than the fridge--and in a box, not a carton or bottle.  No, it was not powdered.  Taking in my surroundings, I saw beautiful flower gardens being watered every morning by gardeners (I think our water was being rationed in Va. Bch. that year when it came to washing cars or watering grass), and buildings were white with a view of blue water and swaying palms moving to the rhythm of the cadence of the Spanish language in surround sound.

Well, I digress from flying Space A.  The stories of the trip are for another time or post.  We were so thrilled with this week in Spain that included a trek along the Mediterranean with stops in cities like Malaga (encouraged to not drink the water and we experienced bedbugs), Granada (the Alhambra--total uphill climb). Mijas(a little mountain town where only donkeys and carts provided transportation), Madrid (hostel requiring couples to be married and were serenaded from the street under our window), all of the sights between, and culminated back at Rota where we flew out of stateside bound, that we decided to repeat the experience one more year.  We had learned that if we put our final destination down--not our first stop but where we wanted to end up before flying back to the states (called being "manifested through"), then we would only be charged $10 one time and $10 for the return trip.  Who, in their wildest dreams, could fly to Europe for $10? And, I might add, who gets to go into the cockpit of a C130 while flying over Europe?  Answer:  the blessed wife of a military man! 

The second year, we travelled to Spain, flew an inexpensive commercial flight to Torrejon (outside of Madrid),  flew from there to Germany for one night and day (visited the little town of Landstuhl), and then we flew on to England, rode a bus to Scotland (saw the Crown Jewels, etc) and back, then reluctantly left England for home. We paid for the commercial flight from Rota to Madrid, the bus ride to Scotland, and shared the cost of the ride through the Chesapeake Bay Tunnel with a fellow soldier who drove his car from Dover, Delaware (where we had to re-enter the US rather than Norfolk) down the Eastern Seaboard, dropping us off at the terminal in Norfolk.

We left the Navy and Virginia Beach at the end of my husband's contract for the purpose of  his attending college in Nashville, TN.  Although, he remained in the Naval Reserves, the rules did not allow non-Active, other than retirees, to fly Space A.  So, for the next 35 years, we flew economy class on commercial flights or made a cruise ship our home, competing for the best prices my "Silas Marner" husband could scrounge for us to see England over and over, Italy, Rock of Gibraltar, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Belgium and France (one trip to see Normandy and the other Paris and surrounding areas) plus other states in the US and varying islands in and around the United States.  In case you are wondering. . .I LOVE BEING MARRIED TO SILAS MARNER!  Without his miserly ways, we would not have had half of the adventures because they would not have been affordable for us!

Now on to 2014. . .
I suppose everyone over 50, thanks to Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholas,  surely has a bucket list.  One of the items on our bucket list is to see Australia--specifically, Darwin (inspired by the movie Australia which my husband loves) and the Great Barrier Reef, and, of course, Sydney.  We were excited to see that Australia is now a possibility, though a difficult one, flying with AMC.  So October, 2014, in commemoration of our 1979-1981 trips on MAC, we donned our backpacks with three outfits only, 5 days of undies, and 3.4 liquid oz per container of sundries all properly stored in a ziplock plastic bag, and we flew to Travis to begin our journey to AUSTRALIA!  --con't next post

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

"Jesus Is the Sweetest Name I Know"

Yes, I have sung that old song many times with my mom and dad and congregations across the U.S., but never has it had greater meaning than today as we visited a chapel on Osan AFB, Korea.  As the offering was taken, a group of four females--two Korean and two American gals--sang the song so sweetly, blending their individual accents around the name of "Jesus."  Preview of the voices of Heaven praising the name of Jesus?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Give Me Air Conditioning Lest I Die! Not!

Now that fall is here, I find that there is something that I have realized that makes all of the difference in our neighborhood, and it is now missing!  Many windows are being closed in the evening and early morning as the temps are dropping during the evenings giving us a sense of being closed off from each other's lives.  Coming from the southern part of the United States, I would absolutely die without air conditioning during the hot, humid summer months of the south.  Here in the Pacific Northwest, however, it is a different matter!  As we were moving our furniture into our current home, our discussion turned to the lack of air conditioning within most homes in the area.  Of course, I could absolutely not understand how my neighbors could survive, so I turned to the group of Chaplains and Chaplain Assistants helping us to get settled (such a blessing, by the way) and asked, "What do the people here do without air conditioning?"

I will never forget one of our Chaplain's comments accompanied by a knowing smile, "On the one or two days in the summer when it gets really hot,  just go to Walmart!"

"What?" and I laugh with no true concept of what he was saying.  This summer, though, I did think of him on several days when it was much warmer than even the Washingtonians remembered in the past few years.

The real point of this all is that I have come to love walking throughout our neighborhood during the mornings and evenings of the summer.  Windows are up (even after it is too cold for me to have my own windows open), and as I walk the furry babies, I hear the sounds of babies cooing and hitting their spoons against the high chair tray, children laughing and talking excitedly while parents sit nearby clinking silverware on dishes and interacting with the children and talking of their expectations of the day.  Again in the evening, it doesn't get dark until 9:00 or a little later, and as we all walk or ride bikes or visit with immediate neighbors across the alleyways that separate our houses, people are eating dinner in the "sideyards," as I call them,  or their dining rooms, and the sounds and smells of dinner waft through the screens, and there is this feeling of community!  The sounds of a community shut off in the south because, although we southerners are friendly people, air conditioning is a must!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

FAMILY with a Capital F

Oh MY Goodness!  Where have I been?  I made a vow to myself to get my blog going and be consistent, but here I am at this point in my life again when I have to apologize to myself!

Ben and I at the Market
. . .Well, life and my undisciplined self got in the way.  What have I been
doing??  Our daughter and son-in-law came in December of 2013 (don't know if I mentioned that!), and our son came in January.  That only leaves our older son and his family (the three grands) who have not made it out.  Since our older son lived here for a period of time in his grown up and single life,  it is not a high priority to come back the Pacific Northwest.  They, too, have been making big moves--like from Georgia to Pennsylvania!  Anyway, I am blessed with an awesome husband who sent me to Florida and Kentucky in March of this year where I got to spend time with all of them.  We enjoyed some real family time in Florida, and I worked Ben to death in Kentucky.  Enjoyed them all so much!
Enjoying Sushi in Daytona
I returned home to Washington thinking that I was good to go only after a couple of months of routine to experience the PCS migration, the end of PWOC, and the closing of my regular gym/pool.  I wrote a post about that moment in time and will now post it as it has been experienced and overcome!  Ha!  By the time that the end of June arrived, I was wanting change!  My husband again decided to spring a trip on me this time!  So off to Kentucky I go for a week and the July 4th tradition of being with our best buds, Martha and Billy Jackson.  Oh, did I mention that this trip was a surprise for Phillip and Rachel as they were moving back to Kentucky, and Roy, Ben and I pulled it off!  That was payback for their surprising me in December!  Woot Woot!

Well, that brings my timeline up to date, somewhat, so now I will begin to write about the here and now!   Also, you may see a little ongoing post about our furry babies--Huck and Finn--that I am writing to share with my oldest grandson who is new at reading and also for one of my new favorite young writers named Ryleigh. 

But Everyone is Leaving!

(Drafted in May, published in August 2014)

I have written 50,000 blog posts in my mind during the months that you have seen nothing published on my blog site.  Today, however, I am feeling that I will burst open at the seams if I don't write this and publish it as a therapeutic gesture!  Being part of the military family is both an adventure and a harrowing ride!  You spend a number of months, when it comes time to make a change, of living in flux that you yourself cannot control.  While you are living in this "valley of someone else's decision," the people with whom you have gotten really close in the vast scope of faceless others living on and around the base are getting orders and the "hail and farewells" begin!

 I feel alone in a crowd. I feel held in suspended space while everyone around me is spinning around bumping unto each other!

The sun is beaming outside, and if you know anything about the Seattle area, you know that more times than not it is raining!  As I prepared our juice for the morning, my husband and I watched a Allied moving truck, two times the width of our house, maneuver it's way in front of the house next door.  We are saying goodbye to the precious little couple and their little boy next door as they move off to San Antonio and forever sun.  In a few short days, our neighbors next door will be in the same position as they move their furniture to a bigger house a few streets away in preparation for the new baby who will be added to their family of three.  This along with recognition and goodbyes to all of the PCSers (for non military, this means Permanent Change of duty Station--the irony being on the word permanent) at PWOC (Protestant Women of the Chapel) yesterday produced my "being all alone on an island" feeling.

Many of those whom we recognized yesterday, in addition to the many more who were not there, are Chaplain's wives.  That is significant for many reasons.  The first reason is because my husband is a Chaplain, and it is with these women that I have attended coffees or learned to make bread in the home of our Senior Chaplain of the Post wife's home, or prayed together over one of our Chaplain spouses who was diagnosed with cancer.  Secondly, within our own SF Group this summer, three Chaplains will be covering down for what would normally be six positions.  What a hole to fill!

In civilian life, I have had friends move away;  in military life, I have had many friends move away all within days or months of each other!  That may be the harrowing ride of the military, but I readily acknowledge that the spouse of a frequently deployed Soldier may have many things to add to the dark side other than moving friends.

The adventure of all of this is that I am constantly meeting new people and making lifelong friends that I would have missed had we lived in our small town in mid- America.  I would not have experienced living in the Pacific Northwest or in the Mid West or where ever else The Lord and the military sends us had we not been part of this family of people.  I would not have pushed myself to engage in classes like water aerobics or yoga, or in community choir performances, or in spouse events requiring total foolishness on my part, or to help my husband meet needs of fellow Soldiers who need some encouraging words or home cooked meals!  The sun is shining, and my heart is at rest as I trust God to lead us and plug the lonely holes in our hearts.

Juicing--the Swisher Experience

Update to this post that has been a draft since February--we are still juicing!  We are still doing fruit juice and have only added green veggies one time with a not so good result.  My next experiment, though, is to perfect the green juice and make it palatable to us.  My husband loves pineapple always + a carrot and apple each time.  I vary the addition of pears, peaches, blueberries, strawberries, grapes and various kinds of oranges.  We have nixed the mango and rarely use kiwi.  My daughter and son-in-law, who now has a juicer, shares recipes with me occasionally, and she and her husband may be a bit more adventurous with their fruit and vegetable choices!

(Written in Feb. 2014)

Last year in the two months or so that I lived in Kentucky,  I kept reading the research on and exploring the practice of juicing.  Although I was impressed with the benefits, I, in the end, decided not to pursue purchasing a juicer because I really like to chew my vegetables, and if I eat fewer carbs, fruit is not one of my choices!  My son, the one who shares my love for the unusual in food and in the preparation of food, observed and discussed with me my search for answers in regards to juicing.  This Christmas, he surprised me with a Jack LaLanne juicer.

I must say that my husband and I have tried multiple workout routines and modified nutritional avenues --okay, call them diets, if you must--in the past two years trying to get our 50+ bodies in shape, reduce belly fat, and just, overall, maintain our good health.   Although I lost 40 pounds using the Adkins diet 10-15 years ago, the low carb agenda no longer works for me!  It must be my current age and hormonal plateau that I have reached that is to be blamed because getting unwanted pounds off is extremely hard!  After the low carb diet, my husband decided that we should count calories!  Ha!  I'm sorry, but I am not good at journaling my intact by calorie, and, in particular, I can forget putting my calories in an app in which I cannot find exact replicas of the food I ate to even put in!!!  That kind of frustration drives me to eat!!!!

After getting the juicer, we have made more changes;  changes that I believe are good, sound health choices.  Those changes revolve around our intake of "sugar," a solution to bread choice, and the infusion of fruits and vegetables.

The Sugar Experience

 I have retrained my brain to stop feeling guilty if I eat things that are high in carbs (I must confess, though, that it is a work in progress since I lost the only significant amount of weight in my lifetime following the Atkins plan).  I do still steer clear of white flour and sugar.  I use Splenda in my tea, and I do buy ice cream sweetened with Splenda.  Yes, I know the research concerning artificial sweetners, and I have Stevia in my cabinet, but the aftertaste makes me be a non-follower.  In fact, I recently purchased a six pack of Zevia colas, and I had to give them away as neither my husband nor I could consume them.  I also have added honey to our arsenal of sweetners.  I make homemade bread every couple of weeks because I can control what is in it; our homemade bread of choice is whole wheat with flaxseed added.  We do not eat bread everyday!  So our journey continues as we attempt to make healthy choices.

Creating Outside Living Space on a Budget

(Written in April 2014)

Two things you need to know:
1) Currently, we live in a rented house outside of a military base
2) My husband is away for 12 days of military training

Why are those things important?   While we have a place we call home which is our "retirement" house where we do not mind speeding money on improvements, I do not want to spend a fortune to "improve" someone else's investment or a rental house.  Also, I am officially admitting that I cope with short term change/stress in my life by taking on projects for the purpose of self-distraction by keeping myself busy and very tired.

One of my projects in my husband's absence is to work on our side yard that now contains a hot tub and some retro lawn furniture that I purchased last September, when we first arrived, at a local estate sale.  I paid $60 for the cute little set on our front porch and the retro group--plus, the broker threw in covers for the furniture for the winter months.

All Wood Shelf which was
obviously used outside
So how can I create a comfortable outdoor living space for my two furry babies and myself during the days that it does not rain in the Seattle area and give myself a pop of color outside of my windows on wet days without investing a month's retirement check?  YES, I CAN!  My newest "go to" place for miserliness is one of our base thrift shops.  I only bring home things that I  a)have a need for  b)don't mind leaving them when we PCS or c) simply have fallen in love with.  So, I chose a few items to create hardscape and mainly hold my flowers.
Plant Holder?
Tabletop Fruit Holder?

$9 Investment from Walmart
Throwaway from a Neighbor
I went to Lowe's (because Lowe's and Home Depot are awesome at giving a military discount) and purchased a bit of paint and other small screws, etc. needed to change the purpose and look of these items.  Huck and Finn and I worked a couple of days on putting it together, and. . .here it is, for under $100 (including the furniture but not the grill)!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Cool and Inexpensive Gift Ideas Collected by Me 2013

Ok, so I have been missing from my blog for a month and a half or so, but this is a post that I wrote right after Christmas.  It is not as inclusive as I had originally intended, but so that it is not time and effort lost, I have posted it rather than hide it in my drafts.  Feel free to add other ideas, if you are so inclined!

Gift 1--We are ornament collectors, and I have always tried to give my children an ornament each Christmas that depicts, in some way, an event or accomplishment or hobby or character trait demonstrated during the year.  Sometimes, they are hard to be found, so I have to create.  This year, I was the recipient of a cool ornament from our PWOC group leadership who lead in a study of Mark Driscoll's book Who Do You Think You Are? in which he listed all of the "benefits" we have as children of God.  The ladies purchased clear ornaments, printed the "benefits" on diverse colors of paper, cut them apart and placed them inside the ornament.  So meaningful to me, but I see the endless possibilities of other interests as well.

Gift 2--This one came from craft fairs and holiday bazaars that I attended this season.  I attend such events, yes, to purchase unique gifts, but also, to get ideas and make my own.  One of our retired military wives has, in the past, hand printed various sayings on cardstock, framed them and then sold them for $6 or so.  They are very simple, and while I am not very artistic, I certainly can use a computer right down to the art to enhance it!  The Dollar Tree sells 5x7 and 8x10 for--you guessed it!--$1.00!  For less than $2, I can create something personal and inexpensive.

Gift 3--Very similiar to gift 2, but a unique idea for a Christmas card.  Going through my mom and dad's collected items this past year yielded vintage cards of all kinds;  some were even from my grandmother's collection.  I have not only Christmas cards, but birthday, thank you, and other sorts of cards.  These framed in frames to fit the card style itself make wonderful gifts.  Two downsides would be 1) I have a hard time parting with them myself when it comes to my families' cards and 2)  I believe that you would have to find these at estate sales or yard sales to keep them inexpensive.

Gift 4--I've mentioned The Dollar Tree already, so there you go.  This year, for an inexpensive gift for right at $10, I purchased a popcorn bowl shaped like the retro movie popcorn containers ($1 each),  a cellophane sleeve for baskets (2 for $1), a classic Christmas movie from Amazon (varies in price, but at the most $8 with free shipping with Amazon Prime), and a variety of hand written recipes for caramel corn and others, popcorn flavor shakers (buy several small ones from a variety of stores and split up the packages), and hot chocolate for a "classic" Christmas basket.  Plastic Coke glasses would be cute additions, and the list of ideas go on!

Gift 5-- Last year since my daughter and son-in-law were in their own home for the first year, I decided to collect items to mark the holidays throughout the year for the purpose of decorating principally and make those one of their gifts as a couple.  Some of the items were reusable while some were consumable. If you gather these as the special days arrive, depending on what you want to spend, you can get quite creative and still remain conservative in price;  after the gifting, it is a year of remembrance of the one who gave it.

Yikes! I am Becoming My Dad!

Whenever I look in a mirror, I see my mom's arms and a few of her facial features in my own!  I hear her voice speaking from my lips--several of those phrases I use to hate to hear from her, I actually find myself repeating!  However from the beginning of my life, if I look myself in the eye in the mirror, I have seen overall the look of my dad!  Recently, I am finding that I am beginning to take on many of the same "thoughts" that made my dad my dad!  For example, I hear myself say "you need to eat plenty of good fruit and vegetables," or what really scares me is that for the past few weeks I have found myself wanting to save empty food containers or old shoe boxes for the purpose of storage!  I didn't grow up in the depression era as my dad did, but I find myself thinking, "oh, I might want to use that later to put scrapbook materials in," or "I could put those small things in the garage in that shoe box."  Stop!  Hold it!  I spent the entire month of March 2013 cleaning out all of those collections boxed up, suitcased (I do realize this is not really a verb) up, and coffee canned up in my dad's house and three storage areas following his death!  All through his life, it had been a joke between us that he was going to leave all of that "stuff" for me (the minimalist compared to him)  to clean up after he was gone!  So with that memory, I will overcome the urge to keep all things!

One thing, however, that I will keep is the attempt to waste less and repurpose more.  Food, for instance!   When I move to a new place, is difficult not to waste at times as I can't find the brands or flavors that I am used to from the prior place of living.  My best example of this is with bread.  I fell in love with Honey Wheat Berry bread by a certain company, and I have tried to duplicate it ever since I arrived in Washington in September.  I have had failed attempts, to say the least.  That fact, coupled with an overly ambitious waitress at Outback a few days ago who greeted us as we sat down with two loaves of their finest dark bread and brought us two more loaves (which we brought home) before we had finished the first two,  put the idea in my head to make my own croutons!  Afterall, Outback has scrumptious croutons on their salads!  I did it!  I googled or pinterested (another made up verb) several recipes and combined the ones I thought would be good and turned two loaves of Outback bread and a half of a loaf of Honey Wheat Berry bread into a airtight container of goodness which can be kept up to a month!  Thanks, dad, for all of that good training!!!

Tip:  if you order pizza in and get the parmesan cheese packets and have left overs, I found that these make a good source of flavoring for homemade croutons.