Wednesday, June 30, 2010

My Civilian Life

I'm a civilian. I grew up in a civilian household although my father did serve in the Army long before I was born. But we were non-military for all of my childhood.

My parents spent the first three years of their married life stationed in Germany. I grew up listening to romantic stories of newlywed bliss woven with threads of post-Nazi Germany horrors and early Cold War schemes. My parents' stories were also decorated with the cold reality of homesickness and the beautiful imagery of affordable, post-War European travel. I was left with a romanticized, adventurous view of military life.

My husband was an Army brat. His father was a career military man and the family moved frequently. They'd pack everything up about once every two years and move from one Army base to another. In the earlier years, these moves were transatlantic and then later, they moved only within the U.S. borders. They lived in far flung places like Zwiebrucken, San Antonio, Bradley Beach, Anchorage, White Sands, Richland.

During each of their moves, they would work in a visit to their grandparents in Alabama. No matter where their new home was to be, they went via Alabama. It is one long trip from Anchorage to Colorado Springs when your interim stop is Clanton, Alabama, especially when traveling in the mode of the day for the enlisted family - the station wagon. But their station wagon pulled a camper so they made vacations of the moves. My husband saw the Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, the Painted Desert, Pike's Peak, all before the age of 13. He traveled the first thousand miles of the then gravel ALCAN Highway decades before anyone in the lower 48 ever heard of Ice Road Truckers. He met John Wayne (yes, THE John Wayne) on the Southern Rim of the Grand Canyon. All of this life experience came courtesy of the U.S. Army.

For a girl who completed her first twelve years of formal education in the same public school district and had barely been west of the Cumberland Plateau, this was the stuff that dreams were made of. My romanticized view of military life was confirmed by my husband's childhood stories.

My youthful, romance-novel-coming-of-age-story view of military life has been tempered by the realities of military life that we all know to be true. I don't mean to belittle the sacrifices and challenges that military men, women and families endure by comparing them to the two examples that are closest in my life. My exposure to the military life is charmed by comparison. But nevertheless, I recognize, as much as is possible from a civilian seat, the truths of military life and I fully appreciate what military families do for my family and me.

We civilians now live steps away from a military base. I can not see it from my house but I am reminded of its presence three times a day. At 0600 hours, I am greeted by Reveille. At 1700, I am brought to attention by the Mess Call. My civilian kids call it the Dinner Trumpet. And then, a lone bugler bids us goodnight at 2200 with Taps.

I love the predictable bugle calls each day. They make me wonder if my young newlywed parents heard these calls as they took their evening stroll down the strasse going home from the Officer's Club. They conjure images of my husband, as a boy looking so much like my own boys, riding his bike through safe streets on Base, racing his brother home for dinner. They don't let me forget that my kids are living in a different world than I and the generations before lived. They comfort me with their constant schedule that while so many things are different, some things never change.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Swimming in the Stars

Now that summer is full on, we are spending much of our days by the pool. Well, the boys are actually in the pool and I am the one by the pool. And this is what I see.

Looks so cool and inviting! I just might get in the water today.

Sweet Shot Day

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Bloggers Love to Play Games

I've been tagged by Tina at A View from a Hill. I don't know who started this game. But I feel like playing so I'll join in. To play, I must answer a few questions. I'm sure you are dying to know some more about me so why not?

1. What’s your staple meal (ie. what meal do you cook most often when you can’t be bothered to be adventurous)?  That's easy...Favorite Pasta...and I'll even share the secret recipe.

2. What do you want to be when you grow up? This is basically a cleverly disguised version of "where do you see yourself in X years?" I can not, and have never been able to, answer those questions. I'm sure that is some sort of character flaw but I refuse to answer.

3. What book are you reading at the moment (if any)? "The Line" by Olga Grushin and "Leonardo's Legacy" by Stefan Klein. I always have one fiction and one non-fiction going at the same time.

4. How do you relax? It's not how, it's where. On The Porch.

5. What color are the interior walls of your home? Are you familiar with Pottery Barn? Those types of colors...Shaker Beige, Chestertown Buff, Camouflage and the like throughout the living and sleeping areas. Red Oxide on the kitchen and dining room walls.

6. What is your guiltiest pleasure? I'm not sure I have one. I enjoy lots of things that I probably shouldn't. But I don't feel bad about it. But I'll have to say Starbucks just because it is ridiculous to pay that much for coffee...but it is soooooo good!

7. What time is bedtime and getting up time? It depends. Weekdays - up at 6:30, bed at 11. Running days - up at 5:45, bed as early as I can (9:30) Weekends - up somewhere between 5:45 and 8 (if not running and very lucky), bed somewhere between 10:30 and 12:30.  Consistency is not something I do.

8. How long do you spend reading blogs (per day or per week)? It depends. There are only a few I hit regularly. Some of those are photo blogs and the posts are short, focused mainly on images. Others are more verbose which require more time. So really the answer to this depends on all of you whose blogs I read. But I am definitely cruising the blogosphere everyday for some amount of time.

So as with any respectable game of tag, I was tagged and made to be "It". Now I, as "It" must tag another. Two others to play by the rules. So I tag Sincerely Shannon and Just...a moment. You're IT!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Welcome to our ool. Notice there is no "P" in it.

We are in Tennessee right now visiting the grandparents. As with most trips I make this far down I-81, I get the added bonus of a trip down memory lane. This is where I grew up. This is where many of my "Firsts" occurred. The First that is on my mind right now is My First Job. I started my work life in the Concession Stand at Springbrook Pool. I knew it as Alcoa Pool then. I slung hot dogs and cokes for minimum wage - $3.35/hour in 1981. But it wasn't only the hourly wage I was working for. It was also the social benefits of the job that appealed to me. Working in the Concession Stand offered constant monitoring of Alcoa's summer pulse. Who was going with who.  Who had broken up with who. All this information was to be had at the pool.

The only thing better than working in the concession stand was working in the basket room (if you are from Alcoa and are older than 40, you should know what I am talking about). And better than that was being a lifeguard. At least that what's I think I remember. I could be wrong about all of this and it was merely a boring summer job.

But today Springbrook Pool is offering different things to me. I am watching my own children (too young to work yet) enjoy the pool. They love the HUGE slide. This was not here back in 1981.

I love that my youngest holds his nose while descending the slide...

...only to release his nose with abandon as he enters the water.

And by the way, we do feed him from time to time.

My older son loves the diving tower.

Back in the day, this tower had an even higher level. We called it "Third".

At some point, somebody decided that kids diving off a platform more than 20 feet above the water was not the best idea. So they removed Third and spoiled the fun for everyone.

Now the kids can only dive off from 15 feet above the water. That's better.

 But not nearly as fun as going off Third.

As an adult now, I can appreciate the history and architecture of the pool. The original pool was built in the early 1930s. It has had a few renovations since then, but some of the original features have been preserved. Like this old stone work.

And this stone work offset against the ultramodern arched entryway...

And then there is the piece de resistance...

...the weird eel/fish head fountain.

I don't know the history of the eel/fish head but I do know that you will get a guard's whistle directed at you if you try to climb on it. It must be important. It's best to stay off the eel/fish head.

And finally like most good things, this day at the pool must come to an end. Unfortunately this one ended with a sanitary emergency, a 30-minute closing of the pool and a Shock treatment.

As I said before, there's always someone who has to spoil the fun for everyone else.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tour de Porch - Evening Edition

It's hard to believe but I think there might be a few who weren't completely taken in by the awesomeness of The Porch. I'll give those few one more chance. The rest of you who rightly recognized the truth of The Porch can enjoy this too. But I warn you, it will only add to your Porch Envy, if you have been afflicted by that.

So if the daytime images weren't enough, take in the nighttime ambiance.

It's amazing what a few yards of Christmas lights can do. Are you sold on The Porch now?

Tour de Porch

Summertime demands lots of porch sitting. And I plan to provide my share of the supply. That's going to be an easy task to fulfill because we have the most inviting back porch. In fact, let's just call it The Porch as in the porch toward which all other porches strive. And inviting isn't exactly the right word. Compelling is more precise, as in the "urgently requiring attention" definition. "I must sit on the porch right now, all else be damned," is the overwhelming feeling you get when you see The Porch. Everyone says so.

The reasons for this magnetic pull to The Porch might be conveyed through pictures. I'll try. But if you don't get the full effect, you are invited to come see it for yourself...if you think you have the time 'cause once you're here, expect to sit a spell.

First, The Porch is surrounded by The Yard. You've seen it before. But just know it's private, expansive and lush. So The Porch has that going for it.

The first thing you see when you enter The Porch is The Swing.

Now you cleary can see that this is no ordinary swing. The Swing was custom made by The Husband. It has 7 feet of horizontal sitting/lying down space. An average-sized grown man can fully relax in repose on The Swing without any of that annoying leg bending that is required on lesser swings. I've seen it happen. Many times.

The Swing is not only for napping. I've seen it swinging in a near-180 degree arc, propelled by the 10 legs of 5 belly-laughing children. The Swing can go from Peaceful to Thrilling in less than 6 seconds. Now that's a swing!

For those that aren't immediately drawn to The Swing on sight (hard to imagine, I know), The Swing appeals to those with more verbal needs. It has a message:

Now who could ignore such a direct command as that? To paraphrase, "Get your stressed-out butt on this swing, relax and let all the junk go!" Now that's what I'm talking about!

Once you're on The Swing, The Porch offers a feast for the eyes. There is so much to take in. Like The Dead Stick Collection guarded by The Frog

And The Decorative Birdhouses made by The Boys, picturesquely flanked by The TetherBall and Tire Swing

For those who enjoy antiquing, this activity can be done from the comfort of The Swing. You can easily take in views of a Pepsi-Cola aluminum ice chest circa mid-20th century 

A 1940's wrought iron glider with original petal yellow Naugahide cushions

 And a 1950's ice cream chair which serves as a 2010 plant stand

And finally, an ancient milk can which has been with my family for years.

If antiques aren't your thing but nature calls your name, you too can be sated on The Porch... The Nature Shelves which hold all manner of rock, shell, feather, dead insect and skeletal remains

If your nature tendencies lean to the prey-predator type, there is always a cat vs. bird hunt underway.

And if whimsy (for the record, I hate that word) is more your cup of tea, The Woodland Fairies can keep you company.

The Porch has one other amenity that makes it that much more unique: The Pick-up Window.

The Pick-up Window has direct access to the kitchen which makes it perfect for passing out cool beverages and lite fare to thirsty and hungry Porch Sitters. A full service Porch can't be beat.

Now if all of this doesn't convince you that our porch is The Porch, you are a hard sell and I might just have to show you the nighttime views to win you over.

If you can't find me this summer, there is probably one last place to look...on the Tour de Porch.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Faces of Field Day

Field Day is a tradition in schools all over America. I bet you could visit any Field Day across the country and see these images represented. Just insert your kids' face over my kids' and have your own little Field Day experience.

There is the face of focused competition

The face of pure fun

The face of determination

The face of celebration (otherwise known as unsportsmanlike conduct)

And of course, the face of Post-Field Day Stupor

And in homes all across America, mothers celebrate the Post-Field Day Early Bedtime ritual. 

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Post Best Described by a Monologue by Julie Andrews as Maria in The Sound of Music

We took our first camping trip of 2010 last weekend. We headed north to Cunningham Falls State Park. The weather was beautiful and we all loved camping again as much as we did last year, both times.

We climbed every mountain,

searched high

and low.

We forded streams

and followed every path we know.