A New Normal

For the past two years, we’ve been spoiled. Our year at Fort Leavenworth while Clay attended Command and General Staff College* lived up to its reputation of being one of the best years of our Army life. His schedule was the most relaxed it had been since he commissioned and we were able to experience a ridiculous amount of quality time as a family. Because of this and the friendships made during that year, Fort Leavenworth will always hold a special place in our hearts. Our move to San Antonio meant a transition back to ‘regular’ Army life. But while the hours were long and many weekends were missed due to work, TDYs were few and far between.

When Clay accepted this new position, we knew he would be gone. A lot. Separations are nothing new for military families and our little family has certainly gone through various separations – long and short – over the years. But because we’ve been spoiled over the past couple of years, the constant coming and going associated with this particular job has meant that the kids and I have been adjusting to it being the three of us a lot more often than it being the four of us.Of course I miss my husband while he is away. He is one of those mythical creatures who is a fantastic husband, father, and an all-around amazing human being. But we’ve been at this game for quite some time now so the constant stream of goodbyes and hellos has been our normal more times than not over the years. The kids are doing fine. I’d like to think because I am an outstanding mother. But more than likely it’s because they’re pretty easy-going and incredibly resilient. They’ll wake up asking, “Where Daddy is today?” and I’ll get to tell them a different place than the day before, which they seem think is pretty cool.

We have a simple cloth map hanging about our living room couch. The little guy drew a plane that we’ll use to track our soldier’s travels around the world. And when he comes home from these trips, we’ll welcome him home and smother him with love until he leaves again for another adventure. Deployments, constant TDYs, long-hours, and government-imposed separations are normal in the military realm. While we’ve been lucky these past couple of years, it is time for us to embrace the new normal for our family. It’s nothing we can’t handle. We can do it. We always do.


Let’s Meet Again on the Bench

We hosted our first visitors over the weekend since returning to the national capital region, which meant we logged a lot of hours being tourists in our own city. Russell Baker once wrote, “The worst thing about being a tourist is having other tourists recognize you as a tourist.” He writes the truth.The kids had a blast exploring the National Mall with their cousin and hitting up some museums and the National Zoo. There is a lot less construction in the area since last time we were stationed here so in some ways, it feels like we’re experiencing the mall with fresh eyes as well. While this area does feel like home – at least more-so than other area we’ve been stationed – we still feel like tourists at times. Curse of military life, I suppose.The Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool was quiet while we were there. I am always struck by the dichotomy of how the tree-lined shallow pool has an aura of peace and the fact that it has been the site of many historical events, protests, and marches. And as our country currently struggles to find her balance between protest and peace, the atmosphere surrounding our national monuments, legislative, judicial, and executive buildings feels heavy. It could just be the humidity because Washington DC was literally built on swamp land, but I like to think that the buildings feel the weight, just like us.Whenever I am on the mall facing the Washington Monument, I am always initially startled by how close planes taking off from Reagan National Airport fly by the iconic structure. I always stop and watch. Quite frankly, there is something poetic about seeing a plane fly overhead distinctly American landmarks in our capital. I like to think that it is a testament to our resiliency.

During times of such political turmoil, I often find myself thinking smaller, rather than bigger. I focus on the tangible relationships within our communities – the heartbeat of our nation, if you will. It takes a village. Because of this, I seek ways that I can help locally. I celebrate the relationships between neighbors, regardless of race, sexual orientation, creed, etc… To be human is to love.

And perhaps that is why this bench at the National Zoo resonated with me so much that I had to take a picture. Perhaps there should be more benches for us to meet on in this country. We all have a story. Some more interesting than others but every single one of us has a story worth telling. Maybe more benches will help us listen better. It can’t hurt, right?

Is a Hotdog a Sandwich?

My son injured his elbow in soccer practice on Tuesday evening, which resulted in an emergency room visit, which meant a late night for the entire family, and a seven-year-old in a split as we wait for the appointment with the pediatric orthopedist later this afternoon. The novelty of having an injured arm wore off quickly and yesterday, he informed me on the walk home from school that he wished his injury never happened. He began to cry as he told me that he wants to go back in time and change the outcome of his soccer practice. My four-year-old daughter then piped in that if she could change time, “I’d make it so rainbow unicorns eat apples from the tree in our front yard!” We don’t have an apple tree in the front yard. But she made her brother laugh and his spirits brightened. And thus began a conversation on our walk back home surrounding the question – if you could go back in time and change one thing about your life, what would it be?

One of the nicknames I had in college was Camp Counselor Karen due to my affinity for asking conversation-starting questions while enjoying a drink (or ten), despite never being a camp counselor at Camp Firewood or anywhere else. Some of the questions were ‘appropriate’ and a lot of them were not. And while I am still apt to ask the occasional question that makes my husband question his decision to spend the rest of his life with a weirdo like me; most of the time, I like to think that the questions I throw out into group conversations offer little tiny windows into one’s outlook on life. I am often fascinated by these answers and I have learned a lot from friends – new and old – from such seemingly mundane questions as “What would you name your boat if you had one?” and “What terrible movie do you love?

As of this week, I am officially on a quest to find my moxie. Somehow, as I marched my way through my 20s and into my 30s, I lost my chutzpah. I settled into a version of myself that was perfectly fine but one that didn’t necessarily feel 100% authentic. I continued to care too much about what others thought, which shaped my attitude toward my own goals, dreams, and aspirations. Not by much. But by enough. It kinda sucked. But I’m done with that.

So let’s do an exercise. Let’s start a conversation and see where it takes us. Please answer the question (see below) in the comment section and please feel free to ask a question in return that anyone (myself included) can answer. This may fail miserably with no one participating. But if it works, it may end up being a pretty cool conversation. So without further ado…

Is a hotdog a sandwich?