Category Archives: Random Writing

So Things Got a Little Weird…

A trip to South Dakota usually involves some level of weirdness.  My family is pretty eccentric.  We do things differently and while it’s easy to predict that there will be weirdness happening during a visit back home, we just don’t know exactly what the weirdness will be.  So, I have compiled a list of  bizarre happenings during this year’s trip to South Dakota.

5.  Being on a week-long Prednisone regimen as a migraine preventative during the trip.  Nothing inherently strange about this, except that the major side effect was my insatiable urge to break into spontaneous song and dance in public locations, much like the Leland Palmer character in Twin Peaks.  I performed ABBA’s Dancing Queen using over-sized salt shakers and crispy corn dogs as microphones in roadside restaurants, and shimmied down grocery store aisles to Prince’s Little Red Corvette, much to the mortification of my children.  I’m fine now, absolutely NO urge to sing or dance now that the Prednisone is safely out of my system.

4.  Speaking of Twin Peaks: this totally random and un-staged reference to the show mesmerized me  in the guest room at my parents’ place.

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Paging Killer Bob…

3.  Speaking of random: A visit to the Porter Sculpture Park outside of Montrose, South Dakota.  The sculpture park is a remnant from my childhood.  Originally, sculptures were dreamed up and assembled in St. Lawrence, South Dakota.  As a small child, I would walk the two or three blocks on a loose gravel road from my grandparents’ house to the Porter workshop to stare in wonder at skeletal dragons delicately sniffing daisies and giant goldfish escaping a massive silver bowl.

 

IMG_0088My favorite was always The Ballerina, a naked woman made of tiny metal tiles, kneeling on a platform, scooping up some of her loose tiles with a little broom and dustpan.  There is something both wistful and majestic about her, like she is mourning her loose tiles.  Seeing her on the vast South Dakota prairie was incredible.

We also looked at the giant Bull Head, an amazing structure that hides some rather weird and mystical secrets inside.  Bats, snakes, and demons are assembled inside the enormous structure.  My husband commented as we strolled away, “Does it strike you as a bit Satanic?”  The artist is an interesting fellow — friendly and all about providing tourists with an unusual experience.  He accused my husband of being a Canadian when Van turned down a complimentary post tour Hershey’s Kiss, and he offered to perform a Gypsy blessing on our SUV.  It was the best tourist attraction we’ve ever visited!

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The Bull Head monument at the Porter Sculpture Park, Montrose, SD.

2.  Driving across a surreal South Dakota prairie, post October 2013 Blizzard.  I embraced the opportunity to spend time on some of South Dakota’s less known highways and found myself in areas devastated by last October’s blizzard, which killed tens of thousands of cattle.  I was simply in awe of what the weather left behind.  Instead of clear evidence of the devastation and death, there was nothing but rolling plain upon rolling plain of emerald green, yardstick tall grass, the likes of which I had never seen on the prairie in my years of living in South Dakota.  The cattle that had survived looked fat and slick as they grazed next to plump antelope.  Horses were up to their bellies in grasses, and they appeared to be swimming as they loped across pastures swaying like water.  The killing blizzard and harsh winter with heavy, lasting snows had left an abundance of  food and energy on the prairie for all that had survived, with no mention or apology for the price that had been paid for the shining beauty rolling before us.  It was a strange feeling to know and understand the harshness of the land.

1.  An early Father’s Day gift for Dad: a visit from the American Pickers!  Okay, so it wasn’t the actual Pickers, and I have no real proof of this happening.  But why would I make this up?  So a producer from the show American Pickers contacted me because last year I signed my parents up for a visit (you can do that on the show’s Website).  My parents are hoarders and they live in an 80 year old school = perfect material for the show.  Anyway, a producer from the show contacted me and said he wanted to visit the school to see what Dad had available for the guys to *pick*.  So, using my natural charm and communication skills, I did what I could to make things happen, and the crew (not the actual Pickers – sorry, I realize this is not as cool as I want it to sound) came to scope out the school and interview Dad.  I wasn’t actually there at the time.  I have no proof to back up my story.  I have nothing to indicate that anything exciting even happened, but Dad was really happy that he got to meet a friendly T.V. producer, give a tour of the school, and possibly have a return visit from the Pickers.  It made his day.

And these still weren’t the weirdest things that have ever happened during a trip to South Dakota.

— G

 

 

 

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Strange Form of Relief

I have taken a rather long break from blogging because of continued migraine attacks.  Anyone suffering from migraines can likely sympathize, as the last thing one in the throes of a squeezing, throbbing, eye popping headache wants to do is stare at a computer screen while attempting to assemble intelligent sounding sentences.  So intense were my headaches that the only thing I could do was curl up in bed after work and pray for unconsciousness or death — whichever was fine by me. I know that probably sounds morbid, but fellow migraineurs can relate.  This insane form of torture has been going on for nearly two months now, with no apparent end in sight.  After several visits to my physician, experiments with various OTC and prescription medicines as well as homeopathic remedies, and one or two nervous breakdowns, I was ready to check in to the ER — for an extended stay if necessary.

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A photo of my Easter Lilies taken by candlelight during the blackout, and edited with a vintage effect.

Finally something happened.  The headaches eased off, leaving me mystified, exhausted, and terrified that, like some invading alien force, they would return just as I was starting to return to a normal state of being.  The paranoia of wondering when I would succumb to another attack was almost as bad as the actual migraines, and I nearly worked myself into a  panic over my own speculations.  I found myself curling up on the couch feeling just as helpless and vulnerable as ever, wanting answers and resenting the person that my migraines had created over the last several weeks.  But, this story isn’t really about the misery of migraines; it’s about the severe thunderstorm that we survived this morning, and how it provided some relief from my current state of discomfort.

The storm was building when I woke up early this morning, so I opened windows to let in the cool, rain scented air, and found ‘Murder, She Wrote’ on Netflix.  Whenever it gets stormy I love to turn on murder mysteries.  I have a full library, everything from the wholesome crime solving school teacher portrayed by Angela Lansbury to the more grisly but highly entertaining ‘Murdoch Mysteries’ series from Canada; and let’s not forget Miss Marple, Sherlock Holmes, or Psych.  But I digress.

After the storm had raged into a flood inducing tizzy, the lights began to flicker, and one last enormous boom of lightning did them in.  My daughters are particularly sensitive about living in Tornado Alley, so I reassured them that we would be just fine.  I lit several candles and placed them around the house, then opened blinds to bring in more natural light.  It was still very dim and gloomy outside even after the rain had subsided, and a river of brown sludgy water rushed down the street.  Our back yard was flooded, but it would drain quickly enough.  I was just relieved that I hadn’t planted anything yesterday — the seeds would have been washed away!

We were without power for a little over one hour.  The house was mostly dark, with fractured light coming through the windows and flickering candlelight in some of the rooms.  I took advantage of the darkness and quiet.  For a migraineur, dark, cool, and quiet is the best possible form of existence.  For the last two months, this is the only way I have wanted to exist.  The cobwebs of residual pain forming in my head when I woke up began to clear as I busied myself with odd jobs — anything that could be done sans electricity.  I swept the tile, put away laundry, organized items on the kitchen counter, all in the cool darkness.  I caught myself grumbling a bit that the electricity wasn’t on “yet”, but then immediately admonished myself.  The break from light and noise was a blessing in disguise for someone like me, so easily overstimulated by glaring lights, beeping alarms, blaring T.V.s and other forms of technology.

With  no excuse to check my e-mail, update my Facebook status, or shop on the J. Crew Web site, I had so much more time to listen to the birds singing in the rain, joke with my daughters about our immense pile of laundry, and let my head clear from weeks of compounded pain.  When the lights came back on I felt a jolt of surprise and slight disappointment.  I almost wished the entire day could have been spent in such a state of conservative peace and quiet, with nature overseeing the background lighting and sound effects necessary for entertainment.

 

Oh, How I’ve Missed You!

I took a short break from blogging — and life — due to severe illness (and panic attacks/hysteria). During that time I thought about what has been missed, and what is important in life.  This is the story.

At the end of February a friend from my childhood approached asked if I would be interested in joining a fitness group on Facebook. Over the last six months I had lost around twenty pounds, but I am not what you would call “in shape” unless that shape is defined as “floppy”.  So, thinking this might be a great way to reevaluate some old habits and improve myself, I said “Sure!”.  The rules were simple: since we are all geographically scattered and have various weight loss and fitness goals, we could check in throughout March with ideas, thoughts, milestones, and even complaints.  I liked the concept because I needed a reason to start taking better care of myself.

1-20140226_130515At the beginning of the month, we were encouraged to take a “before picture” to motivate ourselves to firm up those muscles and shed those extra pounds.  I wasn’t thrilled about the idea, but I figured what the hell, why not be honest about myself?  So I took a selfie showing my abs, or lack thereof.  Ironically, this is one of my better selfies.

So after my “before” pic was out of the way, it was time to get the ball rolling on other fitness goals.  I started making homemade smoothies chock full of spinach, kale, frozen fruits, ground flax and chia seeds, and almond milk.  I planned meals for the family so we were all eating better, and I made sure I was sleeping exactly eight hours each night.  I started to think about an exercise plan — maybe Insanity again…I was feeling motivated and ready to roll!

And then, the unthinkable happened.  My migraines started to take over my life.  Before I knew it, March whizzed by in a blur of ice packs, Ibuprofen bottles, and fragmented memories that may not have actually happened.  My brain became so poisoned from the kindling (a term for repeated attacks of migraine that are not adequately controlled or treated) that I started to lose cognitive function.  After several weeks of torture, the migraines broke me.  On Tuesday, crumpled up on a chair and in tears, I voiced to my husband my resentment and fear that my migraines were shutting down my life.   I would have to quit my job (the one I just started) and live out the rest of my days on the couch, in my bathrobe.  Tears streamed down my cheeks as I fumed that I didn’t understand why a disease so brutal could exist, why so much time had been robbed from my life for no good reason.  As I cried, I felt better for releasing guilt and anguish, but worse wasting what little energy I had left.

Exhausted and dejected, I cried all the way to the clinic, absolutely certain there was nothing that could be done.  My husband had warned me that there wouldn’t be a magic pill waiting there to fix everything.  But I have got to stop doubting my physician!  After all, the man cut a skin tag off of my armpit so that I could shave it, he entertained my food sensitivity ideas (when they seemed to be keeping the migraines at bay) and he has never dismissed my concerns with condescending remarks about “women’s issues” like some male specialists I’ve dealt with.  So when I showed up in his office with smeared makeup and a bitchy/dopey expression on my face, he said “Those are some nice shoes.  Let’s talk about the headaches.”

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Okay, I still made a point to photograph my fabulous Zara shoes while hanging out in the doctor’s office.

I will spare you all the gory details because you don’t need to know everything, but: hormonal imbalance was (mostly) blamed, so we implemented a simple solution without a trip to the Army hospital (why I love my physician).  Also, a shot of high potency anti-inflammatory in my right butt cheek killed most of the pain in my head, once the drug traveled through my system. I did squeal like a five year old getting immunizations, just for the record.  By the time I left the clinic, I was still a bit loopy, but feeling better, and so grateful to have been taken seriously and offered a solution that was not invasive to my body or degrading to my sense of self respect.

I stopped at the mailbox on the way home and that turned out to be a brilliant decision. Van had ordered a special device for me from the Canadian company Cefaly, and it had finally arrived.  I couldn’t wait to try it out before picking up the kids from school!  I read the instructions and carefully placed the electrode on my forehead.  Yes, you read that correctly.  The Cefaly uses an electrode to send electric impulses into nerves that transmit pain sensation, particularly during a migraine.  While using the device I thought about things.  What had I been missing in life?  What was important?  What had I moved away from and traded for thing that weren’t as important?  What did I want back?  And what was I willing to work for, and even fight to regain?

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Using my Cefaly for the first time!  This picture is ridiculously huge, sorry! Seriously, WordPress…

Having chronic migraines is infuriating.  When I get sick from them, I get really sick,  and I feel like I become a super paranoid, slightly psychotic version of me.  For the last few weeks the headaches were so bad that I couldn’t turn on my computer and type, or even read another blogger’s post.  I missed you  Jamie Ray, and can’t wait to read about Gracie’s adventures (got the e-mail and saved it)!  I struggled to get dinner on the table for my very patient and loving family.  You guys are awesome for caring and being kind to me while I was a basket case, and I owe you strawberry rhubarb pie.  The Facebook fitness group really didn’t know about my struggle, but was just there as a motivating and supportive force of nature, so thank you!  I wish you all the best and hope to see you all accomplish your goals.  And a big hug to Ross the Dog, who never left my side the whole time I felt ill; love that furry buddy!

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Ross the Dog, snuggling against my legs when I didn’t feel well.

 

Because of how my illness has affected my life just recently, I have had time to think (and do little else) about what I want out of life. If my migraines have taught me anything, it is to never take for granted the time I am given.  I must take advantage of the life that I have and live it as best I can!  Oh, how I have missed so many things, but there is still so much to do!

— G

 

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Becoming a ‘Contributing Member’ to Society

Young Housewife, Oil on canvas. The Russian Mu...

Young Housewife, Oil on canvas. The Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, this past week I was employed full time (WITH PAY — that is the important part for a long time stay at home mom) for the first time since — drum roll please — 2004!  Actually, it was rather anticlimactic and not nearly as exhausting as I imagined it might be.  This is probably because for the last two years I have been working with children — other peoples’ children, that is — and have developed a high threshold for noise, weirdness, grossness, and just plain kidness.  After discovering that I can truly work a full week of real adult type work without dying, I want to keep doing it.  It is immensely more fun that folding laundry, scrubbing floors, vacuuming the hall repeatedly to get the scruffy over-traveled strands to stand back up, and loading/unloading the dishwasher.  Also, I get paid real money that is money I earned for doing real work that I did!  I know, that last sentence didn’t make sense to anyone, except perhaps other stay at homes.  The important thing is that I am contributing to the household, and to society, in a way that I haven’t been able to in years, and it feels great!

Anyway, after becoming a ‘Contributing Member’ again, I did discover one tiny flaw in my brilliant plan to be a breadwinner.  When I come home after a semi-grueling day of work (at the school it’s always a crap shoot how much the kids will torture me) I look around the messy house and say “Eww, I don’t wanna do any domestic work! It’s almost dinner time, and I’m starving!  Oh crap, no one made dinner!”   Yeah, reality check.  Luckily I have a very supportive hubby who has been helping me with a lot more around the house, even before the transition to my new job.  And with summer right around the corner, I just have to hang in there for a handful of weeks, to see whether or not I’m cut out to be a full time employee at the school.  It’s almost like a test drive for a job.  Of course, since I get so attached to ‘my kids’ at the school, I have a feeling that I won’t want to quit working full time, not even on bad days, not even when I am tired, discouraged, frustrated, and downright flustered.  Hmm.  maybe I am on to something here.

— G

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We Did It For The Ducks

Last night we had the pleasure of attending the Kaw River Ducks Unlimited Banquet. Van’s best friend Sam had extra tickets, courtesy of his father, a lifetime sponsor of Ducks Unlimited. We knew little about the event other than it was a casual dress fundraiser in a popular venue outside of Saint George, Kansas.  I didn’t know what to expect, but this is almost always the case with Sam’s family.  The rule of thumb when spending time with them is to come prepared for nearly any contingency, including small road trips, Roman candle tag (don’t ask) and all other forms of chaotic fun.  We were in the mood for some spontaneity anyway, and looking forward to a night out.  When we arrived, the fundraiser atmosphere was down to earth and exuberant; I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many burly bearded men dressed in different kinds of plaid, camouflage, or K State insignia, sometimes all at once.  Nearly everyone had a Solo cup of frothy beer, and everyone looked very happy.

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Pencil sketch version of the guys keeping track of the auction proceedings.

Our table, reserved for Sam’s father and family members, was closest to the auctioneer’s stage, perfect for watching the action unfold.  As soon as I saw people pass me, carrying plates of food, I realized that I should have brought snacks.  Having been on a gluten and dairy free diet for almost a year, I should know by now that not every public venue is going to accommodate special diets.  To combat food disasters when dining out, I typically have a large snack/small meal at home prior to leaving, or stash “survival” treats in my purse so I’m not miserable and crabby during the events.  A tote bag full of snacks was thoughtfully packed, but when it came time to hop into Sam’s truck and head to the banquet, I forgot to pull out a few items and slip them into my purse.  So here I was, snack-less at a gluten laden buffet.

Half of the (grand total of four, excluding condiments) items on the buffet line contained gluten and dairy, so I ended up with a plate of watery canned green beans and greasy pulled pork.  After I finished eating, I was still famished and  began contemplating devouring the contents of my purse: leftover vitamins, extra migraine medicine, and a giant tube of lip balm flavored like gummy bears.  I also considered whether or not eating my spare change (about $4.00 in quarters and dimes) would make me feel full.  Then I wondered if I was being weird.  Van bought me a Coke, which was watered down like the green beans, but it filled my stomach and kept me satisfied while we bid on silent auction items.  Van tried to win me a Bulova watch.  We spent a Kansas sized utility bill on tickets for a camo print Mossberg shotgun.  Van also wanted to win hunting dog gear for Ross the Dog, but I also put a ticket into the bucket for goose decoys.  Van could use them.

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Van and Sam kept tabs on the items being auctioned while Sam’s wife and I entertained ourselves with the surroundings — mostly a drunk guy who kept standing in front of our bench and then leaning over to talk to someone, thus pushing his butt into our faces for minutes on end.  Let me specify.  We weren’t admiring the view, we were being assaulted.  After a while, we got the giggles pretty bad; luckily with all the screaming auction winners and loud beer swilling rowdies, we blended in.  Van and Sam had a scheme to win a hunting trip at a game preserve, but the bids became too high so they contented themselves with adding up the auction totals.  As with many things between the boys, it got a little competitive, and Sam gave Van an F-  for his addition because it didn’t match Sam’s.  By the end of the evening, we had spent some money, but for a good cause — the ducks!  And we didn’t go home empty handed.  Van won the geese that he didn’t want, and the Bulova watch was mine.  Only when we went to settle up with the cashiers, we discovered that someone had stolen the watch from the display table.  So we left with the geese, a receipt, and the promise that a new watch would be sent to us.

This morning I woke up too early, having gone to bed too late.  We had stayed the night with Sam and his wife.  Van had a hangover from too much beer and too much fun, but he had one more surprise (maybe to make up for the watch debacle).  While I was sipping my coffee he laid a small handgun case in front of me and said, “There is one more thing.  Sam won this last night, and I bought it off of him.”  It was the handgun that Van had been wanting to give to me for a long time, a compact beauty of shiny black and gray metal.

“What an amazing surprise!  You are so sweet!” I kissed him on the cheek.

“Aww, crap!  I should have saved this for Mother’s Day,” Van mumbled.

Yes, I do believe I was a big winner last night.

— G

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Passing Time on a Winter’s Evening

A bee visiting a giant sunflower in my Kansas garden.

A giant bee visiting a giant sunflower in my Kansas garden.

After the shock of Christmas has worn off and all the decorations have been packed carefully into closets until next season, we settle into a generally quiet routine and wait for Winter to melt into Spring.  The signal that Spring planting is closer than we think arrives with seed catalogs in our mailbox. We usually have a stack as thick as a phone book by the end of January.  These glossy wish books full of endlessly fascinating plant varieties provide hours of entertainment during even the coldest of winter evenings.

My system for browsing seed catalogs is simple: I choose my three favorites, toss the rest, and then sit down with a hot cup of tea and religiously peruse, looking for coveted packets of heirlooms and rarities for the new year’s garden.  I dog-ear the magazine pages and make an extensive shopping list of seeds that catch my eye.  Before practicality overtakes me, imagination reigns supreme, and I write down absolutely everything the family desires, from fantastical warty pumpkins the size of enormous boulders to dwarf bushes bearing glittering gem colored berries.  Growth and food production characteristics of exotic squash, vibrantly hued okra, delicate bee enticing flowers, crisply fragrant cucumbers, and vivacious snappy carrots are researched vigorously by the glow of a warm lamp.  Only after my exhaustive list is complete, and Spring is just around the corner, do I edit items that won’t quite fit into our budget or our garden.

Asparagus established in our Kansas garden.

Asparagus established in our Kansas garden.

The heartiest plant in our garden: my $5 rosebush!

The heartiest plant in our garden: my $5 rosebush!

In past years I have kept an Excel spreadsheet on my old laptop with all my shopping lists, seed prices from catalog and Internet vendors, price comparisons, and best of all, my garden records.  When we lived in South Dakota I had a glorious garden!  The soil yielded vegetables willingly at the slightest turn of my spade, and I could spend hours fussing about with my little seedlings, helping them turn up to the sunlight.  In South Dakota we produced a bumper crop of carrots, onions, lettuces, spinach, wild kale, beans,  cucumbers and others.

Our hops going dormant last autumn.

Our hops going dormant last autumn.

Every plant was recorded in my spreadsheet, with seed type, location, date of planting, and success rate noted.  I even added  notes indicating any unusual circumstances surrounding the success or failure of the seeds.  For example, we had a terrible hail storm one year that annihilated the tomatoes, but practically every other seedling managed to dodge the hailstones plummeting to earth like icy buckshot.  After this  storm, the garden thrived and provided delicious edibles for the remainder of the year.  Noting anomalies, weather pattern effects, and strange circumstances in my spreadsheet helped me decide whether or not to continue to attempt to plant certain crops.  I eventually gave up on tomatoes after three straight years of various failures, but my husband has picked up the proverbial spade, determined to get the little buggers to grow come hell or high water (which we had in our yard last year)!

Our asparagus thriving, with bright red berries to mark the coming winter.

Our asparagus thriving, with bright red berries to mark the coming winter.

Sun Chokes, AKA Jerusalem Artichokes, have found a home.

Sun Chokes, AKA Jerusalem Artichokes, have found a home.

The garden in Kansas presented a new challenge.   Uncultivated like that of our beautiful Black Hills soil, it is ugly construction zone soil badly in need of care and refinement.  However, our first year garden in Kansas was surprisingly successful.  We had so much okra that we became tired of gumbo, stir fried okra, curries, and okra pickles, so I let the remaining pods go to seed, hoping the okra would reseed naturally the following year.  Torrential rains and a temperamental spring prevented the seeds from taking, and we had no okra.  We had  similar experiences with other vegetables.  Seeds that had sprung so lively from the soil the previous year failed to even germinate.  My heirloom lettuces and wild kale, the pride of my garden, washed away when the yard flooded in the torrential rains.  The beans were devoured by a mysterious insect, possibly grasshoppers, and Napoleon, my garden toad, could only grimace apologetically at me as if to say “I ate as many as I could!”  

The rosebush enduring the first winter storm of 2013.

The rosebush enduring the first winter storm of 2013.

The final insult felt like a sharp blow when my husband and I discovered that a varmint had plucked and eaten every last sun ripened grape from the spiraling vine I’d been nurturing and (thought I had been) protecting all summer.   As we stared at the last remnants of our efforts I know we were both thinking the same thing: all that work, and for what?  But, as I was tearfully mourning the jars of grape jelly we would never taste, my husband just said quietly, “Well, now we know what to look out for next year.”  This is the nature of gardening: so many risks, so many contingencies we can’t always plan for, and so many heartbreaks when our hard work goes unrewarded.  But every gardener knows that all the hard lessons from the past should not prevent browsing the catalogs, making seed lists, and making plans so to be prepared for the future!

As with choosing seeds for my garden, I had a very difficult time choosing related articles to add to my post…so, I chose them all!  
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Change of Command

Two things have been preoccupying me lately: Army farewells and wardrobe dilemmas.  After a good run, my husband will soon relinquish his company to a new commander during a change of command ceremony.  He has innumerable tasks to attend to in preparation, but there isn’t much for me to do except choose one pretty outfit to wear to the ceremony.  The stress is unbearable!

A pile of dresses with vibrant patterns.  Which do I choose?

A pile of dresses with vibrant patterns. Which do I choose?

Most of my nice dresses don’t fit anymore because I (accidentally) lost some extra pounds, and now they hang off my shoulders like shapeless, circus-y potato sacks.  I was tempted to order a nice pair of shiny pants from J. Crew and wear them with a little wool jacket.  It will be chilly in February and the Kansas wind is notorious for blowing skirts in embarrassing directions, so pants are a wise decision.  Of course, I got distracted with work, children, and everything that fills the mind of a housewife, and I forgot to order them.  Now I am back to staring into my closet, wondering if I can pin anything into a respectable shape and cover it with my wool jacket.  Agonizing over what to wear brings to mind memories of past ceremonies and events attended, the outfits and costumes I painstakingly assembled or just threw together, the revelry of friendship, and the pain of saying goodbye.  For a military spouse, choosing an outfit for a special occasion is bound to make dormant memories spring back to life.

Coming to Kansas held promises of new adventures, but I was definitely nervous about interacting with other Army spouses.  I’d previously had little exposure to them, and with my only background knowledge coming from a few episodes of ‘Army Wives‘ I wasn’t sure what to expect.  It didn’t take long to realize I had stumbled upon the Dream Team of spouses in my husband’s organization.  After getting to know several of them, I was enthusiastic to be involved in their community events, fundraisers, and social gatherings.  My husband had no qualms about volunteering me, and by the time he took charge of the company, I was slated to be the Family Readiness Group Leader, even though I had no inkling what the responsibilities would entail.  I learned that the best way to figure out anything in the organization was to dive in, ask many questions, and above all else, be myself.  I was grateful to learn that the spouses in advisory positions were not judgmental, and that they encouraged individuality.  I knew immediately that this organization would be a perfect place to learn, grow and excel!

Not realizing what I had discovered, my husband was more cautious.  When we attended our first social event, a semiformal fundraiser, he insisted that I conceal all cleavage by taping my low cut dress at a severely modest angle on my decolletage, and by wearing a shawl so as not to give the impression that I was a street walker.  Incensed at his lack of trust in my judgment, I nonetheless compromised and taped myself into my dress.  But I refused to wear a shawl! I told him that I knew the other spouses would be wearing the same type of low cut dress, but he countered with “I just think you should dress more conservatively because I don’t know how my boss will react if you have cleavage flying everywhere.”   When we arrived at the fundraiser, I smirked in self satisfaction while he gaped at the throngs of heaving bosoms and short hemmed thighs shimmying around the conference room.  “I told you so,” I seethed, “and this tape is giving me a rash!”  Since then, no matter how emphatically he argues the virtues of bland attire, I refuse to dress “conservatively” for any Army function, with one exception where I ended up dressed like a Nancy Reagan stunt double.  Note to self: remove all shoulder pads from blazers and avoid wearing hair in a pompadour from now on!

A dress with pockets is a brilliant investment!

A dress with pockets is a brilliant investment!

Once I found myself in a group of spouses who would not pass judgment on me for my background, beliefs, point of view, and yes, choice of clothing/questionable fashion sense, I became much more comfortable just being myself.  This opened up a world of possibility for my previously boring wardrobe.  I began to courageously show up at ceremonies in unconventional outfits.  I attended the change of command ceremony for our beloved Battalion Commander in a seizure inducing psychedelic flower printed Cynthia Rowley sundress (complete with pockets), fantastic paisley fishnet hosiery from Missoni, and little black stiletto boots.    I thought my husband would pretend he didn’t know me out of embarrassment, but the Battalion Commander’s wife was tickled; I did it for her anyway.  Life is too short to wear clothing that makes you feel stuffy, especially when attending ceremonies where all you want to do is cry your eyes out while saying farewell to the people you adore!  You might as well be happy with your clothing.

Two dresses: one from when my husband took command and one from when he came home from Afghanistan.  Apparently I have a thing for floral prints.

Two dresses: one from when my husband took command and one from when he came home from Afghanistan. Apparently I have a thing for floral prints.

I probably won’t go overboard for my husband’s change of command.  Even though this ceremony will pay homage to a period of time when his Command Team (which includes me) held the unit together through teamwork, leadership, and love, it isn’t all about me and my fabulous outfit.  But it is a little about me and my fabulous outfit…As the commander’s spouse I will be a representation of the pride invested by Army families when we send our loved ones to serve.  So I really should be dressed appropriately, perhaps a little triumphantly, in clothing I love, to show I am excited and proud that my Command Team is passing the torch of a fine organization.  A well put-together ensemble can go a long way in translating such noble sentiments.

But it also isn’t a fashion show, and my knees have been hurting lately (and it might be icy) so the stilettos will stay at home, and I will probably opt for something more conservative, like my husband originally asked for when we attended our very first event at Fort Riley.  He deserves a little compliance on my part since the ceremony is mostly about him.  I do have a delightful little dress with a flying bird print, and if I pull it off right, I can sneak in “conservative” zippered motorcycle pants and low heeled boots without looking like a middle-aged Miley Cyrus wannabe…

Always Reliable, Always Professional!

— G

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