Just like a hungry belly, my creative self needs to be fed to function properly. Poetry is one of my favorite dishes. This book, Milk and Honey, was love at first sight. My senses were stimulated instantly–the bees on the cover with the simple title lured my eyes, the soft, velvety texture of the cover was like touching skin for the first time in the most sensual way…it felt indulgent to hold. Her poems are intimate and truly a window to her soul. She fearlessly reveals herself and like the poem on the back of the book says, “this is my heart in your hands.” I love her. I feel her and I connected. My gift back to her is a complete deep dive into every single page, every word, every sketch and doodle…I opened my own heart on the pages and let my creative self out today.
I am the queen of excuses and the master of procrastination. I watched a TED talk about procrastination once (see below) and the whole time I was shouting to my hub, “Check this out, I’m not the only one!” Procrastination has rarely failed me…ok, it has recently when I missed a deadline for a grant application (insert lots of anguish here) but honestly, I usually ROCK under pressure. Timelines are my friend. I have learned one very valuable lesson though (which was reinforced when I read the book Outliers) you have to have your spaghetti ready when the time comes, you can’t just wing it and succeed. LOTS of practice prepares you for success when you’re under the gun. Case in point, my latest piece, “Life Force.”
Over a month ago I picked up my 12×12 wood block from the art gallery knowing it was due on August 4th for the upcoming fund raiser show. I honestly had no idea what I was going to do with this piece–I wanted to do something new, something different and creatively satisfying. So, I took some of my hub’s scrap wood and played around with different techniques. In the meantime, I’d been playing with a new technique where you add silicone to acrylic paint, thin it out and use a palate knife to paint designs on canvas. I created at least 25 pieces until I felt like I was mastering this particular technique and then I walked away for a while. Until last night…2 nights before my piece is due to the gallery. Paralyzed with indecision, I leaned on what I’d been practicing and felt confident I could execute and went for it. The result is this piece and I’m thrilled with it because it shows the movement of the waves I love so much. Water symbolizes life and to watch it move with such force makes me feel so small and my problems insignificant. I love the ocean and I’m happy to offer this piece to my local gallery–I hope it sells!
- Don’t live in the shadow of others and don’t cast a shadow on anyone.
- Be you. You are everything on the list (wife, mother, sister, friend…) but not just ONE = all in one beautiful, incredible package. Others love you for the whole—not just the one.
- Feel good physically — find your happy place (physically), either embrace and accept your current physical self or change it.
- Feel good emotionally — if you need a happy pill, take it.
- Choose to maintain only the friends you want to be old with. Keep a distance to the rest—they are a waste of your time.
- Don’t resent the mojo in others. Your spouse, your friends, your children. Recognize it and be happy for them. Look at them, see how they glow, know you’ll be there too.
- It’s OK to explore spiritually — you don’t have to commit to one religion or dogma. Fine things that make you feel fulfilled and go with it. You can embrace nature like a pagan while enjoying the rituals of a Catholic mass and meditating like a Hindi…it’s all good if its all good.
- Accept your faults, change what you can and accentuate your positive features. We’re only human.
- Make time for yourself any way you can. This is critical. you won’t find your mojo if you can’t focus on yourself.
- Reach out to others. People want you in their lives—our lives cross for a reason. Try to figure out why —are they here for you or are you here for them?
When my daughter was 3 years old I was recently retired from the military, a military spouse (following my husband’s career), still carrying my baby weight on my hips and belly and feeling very lost and without an identity…when I had the idea of creating my own path back to finding my mojo. These steps changed my life and renewed my sense of self, brought back my feelings of individuality and joy. I hope they help even one other person struggling with their journey to finding their place. It’s important to realize that this is not something that is done once and permanent…keeping your mojo is just as important and must be exercised as well. I have revisited this list over the years when my roller coaster dips from a joyful high to a challenging low. The steps continue to work for me–in no particular order–and have helped me stay happy and centered. xo
photo: This image was taken at a butterfly habitat in the Smithsonian…she is damaged but still, she can fly. kms photography
As I was making breakfast this morning I was singing an old, favorite Elton John song (Daniel) and realized it would be nicer to hear him sing it than me — especially since I just repeat the chorus.
So, I opened the Spotify app on my laptop and logged in. Instead of looking for EJ, I am distracted by the “Friend Activity” section and suddenly my inner voyeur is turned on. I decide to peek through the window of my friends’ musical choice from 11 hours ago…hmmm, what time was it there [where she lives] when she listened to this song…ok, it was about midnight. I click on the song and now I’m on sensory overload as I close my eyes and imagine myself in her shoes, listening to the sexy, slow but pulsing vibes wondering where she was when she was listening. Was she in her car, in her apartment or in someone else’s home? Was she chilling out, drinking, dancing, coming down from a long day and taking off her make-up before bed or was she having the kind of sex that you see in a beautifully directed film, smoky light and everything is perfect…no laughing or quick movements, only slow motion bodies (not real but a good fantasy).
Hmmm…I wonder what she’d think of me stepping into her 4:35 second song moment? Would she feel a little exploited, indifferent or excited? She knows me, she wouldn’t be surprised but if I told her would she change her behavior and play songs to make me curious in the future? Would I even notice?
What should I play next and who is listening?
The images and voices of the original Star Wars keeping running through my brain, “stay on target, stay on target, stay on target,” says the Rebel pilot as he maneuvers through the topography of the Death Star before he fires that fatal blow to its core…
Drama Queen, maybe, distracted writer, definitely. My short term goal is to narrate my 6+ months on deployment to Bosnia. I dutifully kept a journal, this should be easy, but I’m mentally, physically and most of all emotionally distracted by the present. I also want to write about the current political climate as well as the emotional roller coaster of facing another year-long deployment (the hub is off again). I want to write about the power of friendships and the need for more gentle words, love and kindness in todays world. Finally, I want to write about my friendship with my new neighbor who lost his wife to a stroke recently and our long talks and developing friendship. If only I had a boss and a deadline—that would make it so much easier!
I’ve decided to travel back to Bosnia for today.
12 October 2002
I went to my first “liaison meeting” today. I quickly learned this was just an excuse to get the nationalities together to drink. So, we broke the rules and drank. (We are under “General Order #1” but the other nationalities were not so they stocked the booze and we locked up our guns for these events.)
The room was filled with Dutch, Fins, Danes, Russians, Frenchies, Italians and Americans. Michelle (the woman I was replacing) and I were the only US Air Force people, and there were 2 US Army girls there too. This was clearly a social function and it was fun—the wine was good. I was glad to have Michelle by my side since I was so new. As the night progressed the Army girls got randy and hung all over the guys—gag. I have no idea if they were married though it usually doesn’t matter anyway.
13 October 2002
It’s Sunday night. Today was the base “Oktoberfest.” For the first time, the leadership let everyone dress in civilian clothes and drink 2 beers. The Air Force personnel had to turn in our weapons for the day—apparently the Army can drink with their guns? Yikes.
Everyone seemed to have a good time. The “tent” was set up with a ton of board games and card games but it was mostly an opportunity to hang out together and talk over a beer (most of us chose wine over the beer because they didn’t measure their pours and, after doing some quick math, we figured out that we got a smidge more alcohol in our SOLO cups this way). After a couple of hours, I was bored since I didn’t know many people and civilian clothes didn’t seem like a special treat to me yet.
After Oktoberfest, I checked out a couple of movies from our in-house movie rental shop (pretty sweet deal, thanks to awesome people who donate movies for troops), washed my clothes, hit the dining facility (DFac) called Shane and then FINALLY really cleaned my hooch. This room is now clean. It was really nasty when I moved—feels better now.
I’m ready to take over the job now. I don’t think it will be difficult—in fact, I’ll be challenged to keep myself productive. I really wish I could be in a targeting job working a real mission instead of sitting in a peacekeeping role/unit providing current intel to a sexist, asshole who doesn’t even like intel.
My new boss is Colonel Joe Jackhole (ok, that’s not really his name but it will be throughout this blog). He’s touchy-feely, sarcastic, cynical, rude, arrogant, and completely unlikeable. He’s been in the AF for 28 years and is an old EF-111 pilot—that jet has been retired for at least 5 years so I don’t know what he’s getting paid for now. He is in AETC when he’s not sexually harassing female intel officers in Bosnia.
Anyway, I’m not going to dwell on him anymore tonight…time for bed.
I’m watching Birdcage—it’s a good laugh.
“Danger UXO Area”signs were all over the base…it was smart to just stay on the path!
Fast Forward: As I read this, then typed it, then thought about it again…I found it infuriating how some things never change. Always a sexist wanker in charge somewhere. Another thought was that I CHOSE Bosnia over the desert, where the crap was about to hit the fan…coulda woulda shoulda.
6-10 Oct 02
From Anchorage to Ramstein
I’m sitting in the cockpit of a C-130 from Georgia. It’s being flown by a Guard unit called the Savannah Guard Dogs. Nice guys—they offered to let me sit upfront so took them up on it. Yay. Here I sit with my M9 by my side, wearing my gortex jacket, earplugs in and I’m chewing orbit gum—even though I look like a big tree, my teeth look fabulous!
Anyway, there’s a problem with a gauge so we’re waiting for a replacement part. Apparently, engine 3 keeps reading too high of a temp and they’ve narrowed it down to a gauge, hopefully that’s the fix and we’ll be off soon. I am ready to get this party started. Your deployment days do not count until you are in-country. I enjoyed my short stop in Georgia with my “other parents” (my friend Katie’s folks took good care of me). When you are in the military you have friends, friends of friends or parents of friends in nearly every state. On this trip, Katie’s mom (Sandy) was delighted to show me her newly renovated kitchen. Dad was equally pleased since he knows how happy she was about this long-awaited project.
Our flight to Germany went well. When we arrived, we were all put up in a billeting space that was used strictly for troops in transit. I think they did this to keep the cost down since we all shared rooms and there appeared to be very few niceties such as coffee machines and TVs. No one seemed to mind since we were still in Germany and could drink beer and drink beer. For my 3 day layover I enjoyed the schnitzel, rumpsteak with garlic butter, bib lettuce (dang the Germans can make a yummy salad), pomme frits and, of course, the weizen bier. (FYI, our weapons were safely locked up in the armory the entire 3 days.) In addition to feasting and drinking, I had the pleasure of reconnecting with a friend I had not seen in years–someone I knew in a past life and was excited to see again. Tracy and I were Airmen together–she was stationed in Northern Germany and I was in Belgium (in the 1880’s my daughter would say). Now she is married and they have an adorable little girl (Darian) whom I was privileged to meet. (fast forward–she’s all grown up and ridiculously beautiful & smart like her hot momma.) We hit it off just fine.
10 Oct 02 (2100)
From Ramstein to Tuzla—day 1 of 180
Upon arrival to Tuzla Air Base, I was greeted by “Michelle” (the woman who called me her new best friend—I was replacing her), who showed me to my hooch. Its late, I’m exhausted and I’m going to bed now. Tucked in my well-worn, twin-sized bed I can say it’s not too bad. My room is about 20’x20’ and has a TV, VCR, DVD player, a medium size fridge, microwave, little couch, table and chairs, and 4 x large lockers. Michelle was nice enough to give me her room right next to the bathrooms so I only need to take a couple of steps to the shower/toilet/sinks. She moved into a temporary room until she leaves next week.
Joan of Arc (my patron saint) is on the TV right now, how poetic. I’ll watch her until my eyes close, which won’t be much longer.
Fast Forward: I remember feeling comfy in my little nest when I lived in this hooch. The mission was winding down so everyone had private rooms on the Air Force side of the base. I would soon see how the Army lived—in tents with a minimum of 8 Soldiers to each tent (didn’t matter if you were an officer or enlisted). On the flip side, it got lonely in that room too and although I wouldn’t have traded my shitty twin bed for a shittier cot, it was probably comforting to have people around you day and night. You could get into your head enough on these deployments without the benefit of solitude.
It was my first, long deployment, I was a newlywed and new dog-mom too. We were stationed in Alaska and my assignment team basically gave me a choice on where I would go (very unusual)—the desert or Bosnia. Hmm…Europe or the Sandbox, tough choice. It was after 9-11 but before OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM. There were whispers of what was about to happen in Iraq but I didn’t really know for sure and I knew the Bosnia gig was a peacekeeping effort since the war that tore this land apart had come to an end and Milosivec was out of power. So, I chose Bosnia for the next 6 months.
I had no intention of keeping a journal of this time but my friend, Jill, gave me one at my farewell and inspired me to do so. I’m forever grateful to her for this since so much happened that I would have forgotten. It’s interesting to climb back into the cobwebs of your mind and revisit yourself years later. I’m sharing this journal and putting myself in front of you now. This is a much younger version of myself (15 years ago) in years and life experience, I wonder how the future me will read the pages of today.
4 October 2002
“Friendship is the bread of the heart.” Mitford
That quote was on the lovely card Jill presented me tonight, along with this cute journal. These gifts were truly heartfelt—these friends are gifts to us. Jill and Cary are wonderful people and I’m glad we met them.
As I packed today I worried about forgetting something, not cleaning the house enough before I go, not calling everyone I’m supposed to, all kinds of little things but I never, for a second, worried about my relationship with Shane. What a comfort and joy! Our relationship is blessed and I thank God constantly for this incredible blessing. I hardly feel worthy of such a blessing but I promise to cherish my sweet husband forever in an effort to show my thanks for this man I’ve been entrusted with—he trusted me with his heart.
So, I’m sitting at the airport in Anchorage, I’ve said my good-byes. I was “fine” until Shane and Zoe-dog dropped me off at the airport. Then, the small lump in my throat suddenly grew from the size of a bouncy ball to an orange and I found myself swallowing hard and blinking wildly to avoid a breakdown. I walked up to the ticket counter—unable to look back as they drove away and nearly lost it. The man at the counter was so nice and helped me but I couldn’t smile or joke with him…it was all I could do to keep from crying.
I went and bought some water and sat in front of the magazines for a while to get my mind off my sadness. It helped—funny how looking at stupid fashion and tabloid magazines can get your mind off everything. I found myself picking apart the models, the stars, the ugly, expensive dresses and feeling much better (an escape). I’m glad I avoided the temptation to go into a bathroom stall and cry my eyes out. The orange in my throat is down to a lemon now…baby steps, right?
Well, time to board. I put Enya in the CD player, I have my pillow and eye mask in hand and it’s off to Atlanta. St. Francis of Assisi is on my mind.
Fast Forward: All these years later and I read this thinking about how much I always avoided crying. I was taught (by my tough-guy dad) that it made you stronger to stay angry or stoney faced when your emotions wanted to take control. Ask me someday how many teeth I have lost over grinding them instead of just having a good cry. Too many. Ask me how many pills I’ve taken to avoid my emotions…I’ll tell you that not only have I damaged my kidneys, liver and stomach by swallowing pills and vodka instead of my pride, I also had stomach surgery to stop the heartburn, I bleed internally from my colon to my gut and still can’t cry. I’m a fucking robot now. What we teach our children can hurt them. Take care.
PS. I think it’s hilarious that I compared the lump in my throat to a bouncy ball. New dog-mom for sure! 🙂