A Silent Spirit of the Season

On Friday, against all odds — questionable weather, my shoulder injury, and the unpredictability of Covid rules in various states — I’d planned to pile my sons, our suitcases, and me into my vehicle and take a two-day road trip to go and stay with my mom at her house in Louisiana for Christmas.

But it seems it wasn’t meant to happen this year.

Before finishing loading up my car, snow began to fall.

The snowflakes tumbled down in ever-increasing clusters. The street was covered in less than a half hour, and the white crystals continued to cartwheel to the ground with a windswept flourish.

In the midst of this sudden swirly veil of fluff, I was stowing the last items in the back of my car.

Unfortunately, there were patches of ice covered by the fresh snow around the sides and back of my vehicle.

I slipped and fell, my fuzzy-gloved hands landing on the ground, having nothing to grasp, while trying to keep my sneakers from sliding so that I didn’t end up on my knees.

I’d stretched out my injured right shoulder, my gloved hand gripping at anything I could find. All my weight was on my right shoulder, and my muscles were so tense, holding me in place, my body ached.

My son was standing next to me, and I was able to grab hold of his jeans, then use my left arm to pull myself up.

I think my son was afraid to grab hold of my right arm. It may have caused more harm to my shoulder.

A little backstory. I’d just gotten an MRI two Mondays ago that showed I had two small tears in my rotator cuff.

It explained why I’d not totally healed since I injured it by repetitive work (my writing, of course, and probably my posture to a certain extent) back in mid-May. I’d gone through weeks of PT and had a steroid shot in June. But the sports doctor didn’t know about the tears. The ultrasound, x-ray, and CT scan didn’t detect them.

This past Tuesday, I met with the sports doctor. I am to get another steroid shot on January 5 and follow it up with four more weeks of healing PT. He said the type of tears I have should be able to heal without surgery. From the other patients he’s had with this similar injury, he believes I should graduate from these treatments after the PT.

I sure hope so.

So, as you can imagine, I was a wreck, worried over perhaps making my shoulder worse with that fall and having put so much pressure on my shoulder.

I went back into the house and iced up, then took Advil.

My son called my mother and let her know we wouldn’t be making it to her house for Christmas. 😦

It broke our hearts, knowing how much she wanted to spend Christmas with us, her being alone at her home.

So, this Christmas will be very quiet, with my sons and I. We will put up our small Christmas tree due to our mischievous, young cats, and watch our usual Christmas movies this week.

Most certainly, our favorite Christmas movie, It Happened on Fifth Avenue, will be watched on Christmas Day.

I plan to attempt to make a roast beef in a crock pot, and make gravy, mashed potatoes, biscuits, and vegetables for the Christmas dinner. Cranberry sauce will make its usual appearance.

We’ll feast on the roast beast and fill our bellies later with chocolate chip pumpkin cookies with a dab of whipped cream and maybe even a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Why not?

This has been an incredibly hard year for me and my family, with health issues, injuries, personal struggles of faith and severed relationships.

But in the midst of this trying year, there was also the pinnacle event of my debut novel, Passage of Promise, published on May 1. A bright beam of light in the darkness.

But I know the four things I love the most will always be there: God, Family, Friends, and my Writing.

I’ve learned this year that health is even more vital than I’d thought. And I hope that once all of this separation and unexpected illnesses/injury have passed away, I will work harder on strengthening bonds with my loved ones and treasure life even more.

Life is short, and my sons, mom, sister, nieces, nephew, friends, God, and my writing are what I live for.

So many blessings. So much to be thankful for.

May God give me precious time to turn to Him every day and show gratitude for His gifts through love and creating stories that fill people’s hearts with joy and profound experiences.

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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

Candy, Caroling, Community

suburb neighborhood clip art

As I sit in my bedroom and stare out at my neighbors’ snow-covered backyards, in the midst of the time of year commonly called “The Holidays,” I remember this special, wonderful season when I was a child. Thoughts and discussions about the word community have bounced around our media waves and public venues for the past few years. Some talking about the loss of community in our day. Trying to resurrect what has been lost behind 6-foot-tall fenced in homes, tiny front porches, and neighborhood sidewalks and streets devoid of people.

I’ve been pondering these changes over the last thirty to forty years in communities.  If you were a child in the 1970s like I was, you may relate to what I’ll be expressing here.

I grew up swinging on leathery-type seats with rusty chains to hold onto, pumping my legs to reach the sky so that I could jump out of the little seat, feeling the joy of that wisp of a moment of flying before my feet hit the ground–a ground of simple dirt.

old swings

I remember climbing up the huge metal slide’s ladder to its tower-like top. To my ten-year-old eyes, I had to be up at least twelve to fifteen feet from the ground. And being a fan of Mary Poppins, I opened my umbrella and jumped from the tower, waiting to glide gently down from the heights to land with a smile of triumph and contentment.

metal slide

Instead, that joy of flying lasted about two seconds before I came crashing down like a lead weight, hitting the ground hard and falling over on my side. I wasn’t hurt, though. But having learned that experiment didn’t work, I never tried the umbrella jump again.  However, it still was a lot of fun. I had such a fantastical imagination back then.

Every year, I looked forward to going trick-or-treating with my friends. And most every house, we knew the families that lived there. I knew these homes because the kids that met me at a mutual friend’s front yard would become acquainted with me, and soon, we’d all be playing together, the streets filled with kids playing ball, hide and go seek, ghost in the graveyard, and bloody murder (some folks don’t know this one, but it’s like the opposite of hide and go seek. The murderer hides and jumps out, surprising the group of kids going around looking for him/her, and the first kid tagged by the murderer had to be the murderer the next go around), etc.

We stayed out after the street lamps came on, and dove behind bushes, climbed trees, and hid behind anything we could find, while the person counted in the dark, then set out to find us. I distinctly remember one night, I hid up in a tree, and the kid never found me. I was such a monkey. So much so, my mother used to call me μαϊμού (Greek for monkey).

So, Halloween was lots of fun with the whole neighborhood participating. One year while we lived on Rhein Main Air Base in Germany, my mom dressed in black, painted her face white, and took residence in a makeshift coffin in the lobby to our stairwell (apartment building), so that when children came in, she’d sit up in the coffin, both terrifying and surprising them before they could scramble to the first apartment’s door. But it was all in fun because everyone knew everyone.

Halloween cartoon silhouette pic

So, it was in the past several months to year that I realized how important Halloween is because of its communal aspect. It was ruined in the mid 1980s and after due to sick people putting razor blades in apples, and other poisonous things in pieces of candy, followed by the disappearance of families’ cats (especially black ones) for other sick individuals who’d torture the poor creatures and kill them. When I was a senior in high school, a friend of mine lost her kitten Halloween night to some warped-minded teens who drowned her kitten in the local pool.

The communal aspect of Halloween splintered during and after this time out of fear and a new mistrust of fellow neighbors. I think this was also the time when privacy fences became popular. You no longer could see, wave, or converse with your neighbors while sitting in your backyard.

Back to my childhood memories when I recall community was strong. I remember with great joy the few weeks before Christmas, in the evenings, the faint but melodic voices of carolers outside our apartment on Rhein Main Air Base and off base housing in the suburbs of Virginia and Illinois at that time. I distinctly remember opening our third-story window at Rhein Main that overlooked the patch of cement below, and seeing a group of cheerful carolers, singing, despite the bitter cold evening. It made the coming of Christmas even more special.

Christmas carolers

But I’ve not seen any carolers since the one Christmastime at Fairchild Air Force Base back in either 2005 or 2006. It was both surprising and exciting to have encountered that, bringing a rush of sweet nostalgia through me.

Although there were people who didn’t celebrate Christmas in my neighborhoods growing up, they still seemed to appreciate the carolers and listened quietly with smiles. Caroling was another communal activity in our neighborhoods. I miss it.

I think I actually started realizing the closed up neighborhoods/housing units after we moved to Pennsylvania and lived in a rental home that sat on about a half acre of land with it partly fenced with criss-crossed logs in the backyard and open front yard. No privacy fences. Why? Because these homes were build in the late 1950s. There was so much more space between homes and you could see your neighbors out mowing their lawns, watering their flowers, filling their bird feeders. It was charming.

Before that time, as an adult, I’d believed in privacy fences, and keeping locked up in my house and didn’t make much of an effort to talk to our neighbors, except the ones right next door to us, like in Fountain, Colorado and Callaway, Florida. But besides those instances, there wasn’t much communal activities going on.

I also remember when I was a teen living in Fairfax, Virginia. We moved to the suburbs in a court/culdesac, and a few of the ladies from the houses next to us and a couple down from us actually knocked on our door. My mom opened it, and I watched curiously behind her, as the ladies welcomed us to the neighborhood and gave my mom a casserole dish of something home cooked.

Neighbours stand eating around a table at a block party

At our court in Castle Pines North in Castle Rock, Colorado, in my last year of high school, the neighbors came together a few times in the summer for block parties. Don’t see those anymore.

We moved to Castle Rock, Colorado, October 11 of this year, and we’re in a nice neighborhood with large single-family homes close together, and paired homes (duplex/townhomes), in which we live. Obviously, we were here for Halloween. I went out and bought a moderate amount of candy, not sure if we’d have any children coming to visit our home, because the last two places we lived in Lancaster, PA, and West Roxbury, MA, we had zero children come around our neighborhood, which was, I must say, both surprising and disappointing.

Well, lo and behold, more than fifty precious children knocked on our door this year, asking for tricks or treats, and we had plenty of treats to give them. This experience brought back my childhood and the hope of community.

I walk this beautiful neighborhood and its nature trails as much as I can because I’m in my favorite state with its glorious Rockies towering on the horizon every day. And seeing children playing outside, climbing trees, riding bikes, skateboarding, riding their scooters, and congregating in their small front yards sparks the child in me and a wave of hope and joy wash over me.

Community is still here. I’d like to believe there are many other neighborhoods that mirror this one. Human interaction is needed so much these days, I’m cherishing this as long as I can.

What were your experiences in your communities growing up compared to now?

 

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