The Traveling Child

teddy bear in suitcase

If you grew up the child of a military member, you’ll understand how life was for me.

My life revolved around moves on base and off, from as early as two years old to seventeen.

Since my birth in the state of Maine, my family moved from there to Taiwan, Massachusetts, Virginia, Alabama, Germany, Illinois, Virginia, and Colorado.

While in Germany, my mom took my sister and I with her to Greece each summer so that we could spent it with our yiayia (grandmother), aunt (thía), and our two cousins. We spent three summers in Greece, and the memories are fantastic.

Most of the time, we spent our days at the beach, playing mini golf, eating ice cream and watermelon, and tramping around the suburbs of Athens.

One time, my mom took my sister and I to a disco. It was fun dancing to the BeeGees on colored tiled floors produced by strobe lights and a disco ball dangling from the noisy room’s ceiling.

And the outdoor theaters were awesome–four walls without a roof, surrounded by beautiful flowers with the huge screen on the wall across from us.

My dad retired in Colorado, and I finished up my last year of high school in Castle Rock, Colorado.

Although attending my senior year at a completely unfamiliar and friendless high school was both challenging and incredibly abysmal, the fact that I fell in love with the light, arid, sunny climate and gorgeous mountainous scenery of Colorado helped lessen that year’s lows, and it only got better after I graduated, seeing how I hated high school.

When I was growing up, I was painfully shy, and it took me several months to get to know other kids. Nevertheless, I did each place we moved, and in some cases, I wrote to those I became friends with for many years, until most of them stopped writing.

Writing letters was a normal way of communicating in my day, youngsters out there reading this. 🙂 And writing letters and receiving them in the mail was akin to getting a surprise gift every time my mom would bring in the mail.

One friend, who became my best friend, I met while my family was stationed at Rhein Main Air Base, is still in contact with me today. We’ve literally kept in contact, visited with each other a few times, for the last approximately forty years.

Relationships like that are so special and cherished. In fact, I’ve talked to her recently, and she is planning to come visit me in a few weeks, depending on the COVID rules here in Colorado.

Childhood memories of getting in and out of airplanes, unpacking our things, starting at new schools, are embedded in my mind. Riding my bike with my friends, playing Barbies, going to the roller skating rink to glide around the circular floor and do the hokey-pokey with the lights off and colorful spotlights dancing around the huge space bring a smile to my face.

So many children were in the neighborhoods in which I grew up. You’d encounter them on your street or in their front yards, and soon, you were talking, playing–friends.

There was such freedom in the days of my childhood. You hear that often from older folks like me. But it is so true. Life was full of imagination, wonder, and riding your bike or skating around your neighborhood and beyond with no fear and little limits/boundaries, especially if you lived on base.

I wish it were still like that today. My sons didn’t grow up with the same freedoms I did.

All those moves exposed me to different cultures and different people, and I feel blessed to have had those experiences.

I bring all this up because not only am I reminiscing, but also because ideas of writing about the military brat’s life, using some of my own experiences to create a work of fiction has been swirling around in my head the past few days.

Perhaps this new idea will land on my mind’s runway, and a story will be written. I’m hoping so.

Were you a military brat? What childhood memories do you hold dear?

 

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Pick up your copy of Passage of Promise  via Amazon or Barnes & Noble!

Me with PofP final print copy April 27 2020

Writing Much, Despite Reading Struggles

Fragonard painting of woman reading

(painted by Jean-Honoré Fragonard)

Over the past couple of years, I’ve read many fellow authors’ declarations of being avid readers when they were children. That they would sneak a book under their covers and get in another few precious moments of reading exciting books before their parents would remind them to go to sleep.

Others would talk about remembering reading at a very early age and loving it throughout their childhood into their adult years. This dedication and love of reading books led them to write books themselves. And this seems to make a whole lot of sense. You read a lot, you get ideas, and you naturally write with these inspirational stories having primed the creative pump in your imaginative brain.

But this wasn’t my experience.

At times I feel both sad and amazed that my writing journey is not the usual, logical path of my fellow writers. I’m an anomaly of sorts. I truly believe it.

I grew up hating to read. As early as I can remember, I had little interest in books, other than to look at the colorful pictures and at times, listen to my dad or a teacher read a story to me and my fellow students.

young girl reading book

Reading had been a struggle for me, a lot of hard work. By mid grade school age, it was discovered I had reading comprehension problems. When my dad wasn’t away on a case (he was a lawyer and a judge in the Air Force), he’d spend an hour or so a night sitting with me on the couch, listening to me read aloud one of the classics in large, vivid books with plenty of pictures, but with age-appropriate, tough words.

I remember agonizing through reading each sentence. It was so laborious–a tremendous mental work akin to the hard, physical work of pushing a heavy rock up a steep hill. But Dad kept encouraging me, guiding me along, patiently working with me for about three years (around fourth to sixth grade).

I went into junior high school still struggling to a certain extent, with little interest in reading, let alone learning. This was my academic path throughout high school, as well.

But something had changed. I did read a few assigned books in my English literature class in eleventh grade, and when I a sophomore, I fell in love with the North & South TV mini-series and ended up reading the first two books in the series. Also, when I was eighteen and nineteen, I read the whole eight-volume series of the Kent Family Chronicles (both series written by John Jakes).

I think, perhaps, watching TV and movies helped me create my stories in lieu of reading. I’ve always been a visual learner.

As for gaining an interest in learning, it wasn’t until I went to business college a couple of years after graduating high school, that I was ready to learn and wanted to learn.

But here’s the unbelievable part of my journey.

Throughout all of my struggles with reading, I wrote all the time with little effort, from second grade all the way through my teens and early twenties before putting it aside when I married and had children.

As you know, if you read any of my older blog posts, I returned to writing in 2014, and it felt so good to be back where I believe I belonged.

How could a child, a young girl, a woman, write stories with plots, decent sentence structures, spelling, some stories over a hundred pages in length, but rarely ever pick up a book until her late teens, early twenties?

It’s a tiny miracle to me.

shining bright light of miracles

This tiny miracle tells me this is my talent, God’s gift to me.

I finally realized this only about two years ago. It hit me like a refreshing, cool breeze on a warm spring day. And I’m so glad it did. Since my early twenties, I’ve been reading and continue to read many, many books.

 

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Too Many Gadgets, Too Little Memory

electronic stuff

We bought a new car in March.  We hadn’t bought a new car since 2005, and before that, 1999.  So, you can imagine how bewildered we were….correction, I was…my husband took it all in without so much as a blink….when the car salesman introduced us to all the gadgets on our new car and how they worked.

To be honest, I was intimidated by it all.  The alert beeps for your blind spot, for warning me when any exterior part of my car was close to touching another car or any other object or person, the annoying humming sound that vibrated me into panic mode if I wandered an inch over the dividing lines on the highway, and all the lit up little icons on the dashboard and little screen.

It was overwhelming at first, but once I drove the car the first time, I relaxed a bit, even if I didn’t know how everything worked outside your regular immediate buttons and such.

It got me thinking about the technological advances over the years and decades since I was a child.  I grew up during my elementary school years with my parents purchasing one of the first VHS recorders.  My growing up years was also the time when TV remote controls came out and cordless telephones.

Related image

Pong, the first video game I remember came out, followed by Atari, for which my parents bought.  Who could forget playing those video games with those ancient joysticks that caused hand and thumb pain within a couple hours?  Good old Atari games like Astroids, Centipede, Pac-Man, Maze Craze, Space Invaders, Frogger, and Pit Fall.

atari video console

In the music realm, boom boxes were in, that were a combination of radio and tape cassette player, with a mic jack and two speakers.  And the Walkman became popular shortly after, I think.

boom box

Dad’s Commodore 64 with its permanent blue screen sat on his desk in my teen years.  When I was sixteen, I used that computer to type up my first novel.

commodore 64 computer screen

I remember when my parents bought me a cell phone around 1993 for me to have in case my car broke down.  It was bulky and weighed a ton.

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And I distinctly remember my first caller ID.  None of my friends or family had one at that time.  It was so cool being able to see who called at that time because I lived in my apartment then and could tell when a guy I liked called, but he didn’t know I knew.  Haha!

Image result for public domain pictures of the first caller IDs from 1993

And then came the CDs, DVDs, desk top computers, etc.  All of those new gadgets were pretty cool.  They didn’t make us too lazy.  But I’d have to say, that’s changed.

I’ve been watching many TED Talks on our addiction to our computers and phones, and also, the gadgets that think for us, like our car’s lights shutting on and off on their own, the doors locking and unlocking on their own, warning lights and beeping sounds to alert us to a danger of a car too close to ours, and the like.

Our cell phones keeping our appointments, waking us up for work in the morning, storing all of our friends and family members’ phone numbers, telling us how many calories the meal is that’s sitting in front of us at lunch or dinner.  You know what I’m talking about.

These are all very convenient, easy, and helpful.  But they also make us lazy and lose our ability to remember/memorize things, such as an appointment date or a friend’s phone number.

I don’t even know my family member’s cell numbers, except my husband’s.  I don’t know my sister’s or my mother’s by heart.  That is truly pathetic.  When I was a teen up through my thirties, I could dial a number no more than twice, and it would be stuck in my memory from then on.  Because I don’t have to remember these numbers since they’re stored in my phone, they aren’t memorized.

Now, I realize when one gets older, a little help in the memory department is needed, but our brain’s memory can be boosted by walking or doing jigsaw puzzles, for example.

So, I ignore focusing solely on the camera on the small screen in my car and physically look behind me when backing up, and make sure I still look toward the blind spot before moving into another lane.  I manually lock my car doors when I get into my car most especially in parking lots.  I think it’s the safe thing to do for us women going grocery shopping and other places by ourselves.

I don’t think we can rely so much on computers.  They do malfunction at times, have glitches, and can be hacked.  Obviously, you can guess I’m not one of those people who is anxiously awaiting buying or traveling in a driverless car.  I think I’ll skip that, thank you very much!

In my psychology course I took a couple of years ago at my university, I learned the twenty-first century sedentary lifestyle is not normal or healthy for the human body and mind.  We are meant to move and move around often, and use our minds critically.  If we’re not careful, we’ll become like the folks in the Pixar movie, WALL-E.  Was that not a glimpse into the future, or what?

WALL-E pic 2

We have to find ways to exercise these days.  Join a gym.  Join an exercise class.  Buy exercise equipment.  Pencil in jogging several times a week.  When in the generations before this age, people walked or rode their bikes to work, worked outside, walked to stores, opened their cars’ hatchbacks, manually rolled up and down their cars’ windows, lifted their garage doors, and got up to turn off their TVs.

Since being a sloth is too familiar to me, I struggle to get up the energy, and it’s even harder because of my time spent on the computer for too many hours a day.  It is my goal to keep doing things that jog my memory, such as walking and doing jigsaw puzzles, and doing what I said above with regards to my car.  I even started doing tai chi two weeks ago.  It brings me stress relief and serenity.  Do you do anything to keep your mind working and body in motion to counter today’s sedentary lifestyle?

 

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