November 2013

The Apocalypse is Upon Us

by Priscilla on November 29, 2013

I say this for two reasons:

1.)  I need a lot of practice saying and spelling apocalypse so I try to use the word as much as I can.

2.)  It’s true.

I don’t know exactly what happened last night, but after shoving myself back from the table, taking a two hour nap, and zipping my jeans back up (thank heavens for that fabulous stretchy stuff they are putting in everything from jeans to female undergarments) I somehow found myself in our car with my husband, brother and sister-in-law and friend on our way to Walmart for what will be my first and last Thanksgiving Night Christmas Shopping Extravaganza.

My sister-in-law is headed back to school for her MSN, and I’m very excited for her.  I’ve told her repeatedly how proud I am that she is doing this. I did not know, however, that this new season in her life would require a new laptop priced at $278 found in aisle 14 at my all time least favorite store, surrounded by lots and lots and lots of folks buying everything from X-box to Rubbermaid storage sets….on Thanksgiving night. I have to tell you, Pioneer Women would have been impressed with the courage I showed in facing such adversity…also, I no longer care about my siste-in-law’s attempts at a stupid advanced nursing degree.  And I say that in all Christian love.

When we arrived, we parked in no man’s land.  What’s no man’s land?  Remember that episode where Mrs. Ingalls parked the buggy approximately three miles from the Olsen’s store in order to get to Nels Big Blowout Fabric Sale?  That’s how far away we parked.  Okay, yes I did just make that up, but I think Mrs. Ingalls would have been inspired by our chutzpah for computer deals. Anyway, the Walmart parking lot was filled…so were all the outlying lots of the strip mall built around Walmart.  So we parked in an Aaron’s Rent A Center lot, grabbed our Camelbaks and surival kits and trekked in.

You can’t tell from this picture, but that’s Walmart in the distance.

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On the way in my friend Janet, knowing my love of all things Happy Family Bumper Stickers, made sure I saw this one. 

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This is a horrible picture, but, yes, there were two cop cars out front when we finally arrived at the front door. Because nothing says, “Welcome to the world, Baby Jesus!” like shoppers trying to flee the store with items they have not paid for.

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Once inside this was the scene – people standing in lines that snaked around from the potato chip aisle all the way back to automotive supplies waiting to get into the deli section where a select few shoppers at a time could pick up X Boxes.  Yes, you read my description correctly. If all you were looking for was a pound of Eckrich garlic bologna, you were fresh out of luck.

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We were told incorrectly by Sales Associate Ted to go to aisle 10 for the deals on laptops. Like salmon we swam against the tide for 15 minutes until we arrived in aisle 10 only to find a few snack items and some fellow shoppers looking for bicycles. We put Ted on the Naughty List.  Then we figured out we were supposed to be looking up for the deals. Helium balloons were located around the store identifying the location of the Uber Deals.

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Clawing and shoving our way back the opposite direction, we ran into a set of twins, who, bless their hearts, clearly spent much of their shopping lives in the snack aisle. We were able to maneuver our way past these lovely young gals, but not before my sister-in-law heard one say to the other, Stick with me, I can handle this. I do this in the lunch room every day. It was clear to me the girl wasn’t lying.

We finally made it to our laptop computer destination. Since most people there were loading up on big screen televisions and flannel shirts (I kid you not. I kept seeing folks with stacks of flannel shirts. Not sure I’d be out on Thanksgiving night for something I could easily pick up at Family Dollar any day of the week, but who am I to judge.), there were more than enough laptops for the picking.

It’s here I have to mention that everyone, and I mean everyone from sales associates to customers were all acting very polite towards one another. I didn’t meet a cranky person in the bunch…except the woman who almost ran me over with her electric cart, but I think that had more to do with her lack of driving skills and not her lack of Christmas spirit.

Thanks to the miracle of Facebook, we discovered a family friend was also in the store at the same time. She was encountering a different crowd from us.

I received this message from her: Omg! This is CRAZY!!!!! We’re in the iPad line. Holy smokes! I’ve almost seen 2 women go at it in the back over the $98 tv’s.

A few minutes later I read this:

And the funniest thing we saw-plus pretty gross-was a woman with gray sweatpants on who peed herself–that’s right, peed her pants, because she didn’t want to lose her place in line! Mom is my witness that this is a true story!!!!

You can’t make this stuff up, people.

While we were busy dodging aggressive twins and ladies who pee themselves, my brother-in-law was following strangers around the parking lot in order to nab a shopping cart from those already loading their purchases into their trunks and truck beds. He was successful, and no one stabbed him unlike these nice folks from southern Virginia. 

Our check out process was painless. The sales associate was quite delightful and joined in with our smart alecky banter regarding my sister-in-law who somehow didn’t lift a finger during the entire evening, and had us all doing her bidding. (You can get away with this if you are a super cute Filipina whom everyone loves.)

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We made the hike back to the car, shoved in a bike and a computer, left the cart in a mulch bed by a pine tree and made our get away. I’m thankful my niece is getting a nice bike for Christmas. I feel sorry for the poor kid who gets the X-Box that was peed on, however…although my husband just pointed out we didn’t smell the bicycle box to know for sure.

So here’s a recap of things we’ve learned:

  • If you are going to pee standing in line to buy game consoles from the Walmart deli, wear either Depends or choose a darker color of sweat pants.
  • Associate Ted is a liar.
  • My nephew’s hair rivals that of Justin Bieber’s. (So does the number of girls who follow him around at school according to his step mother. ) I didn’t have to go shopping last night to learn this, but I just thought I’d share.
  • People are not afraid of tall Asian men following them around the parking lot when they are too busy cramming crap into their cars to notice.
  • Judging by what I saw in folks’ carts last night a lot of people are getting Rubbermaid containers for Christmas. Lucky them. Also patio furniture…which I have an idea might be used as new dining room furniture for some shoppers I saw there…I’m just sayin’.

Happy Black Friday, folks!

 

 

 

 

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Our Ungrateful Kids

by Priscilla on November 13, 2013

I have a secret to share with you.  You may not like it.  You may deny it.  You may initially say, Not my kid! or my favorite, My child would never.

To which I’m just going to say, Oh, yes, they did.

Our kids are ungrateful. 

Just hear me out and face facts, and then maybe together we can help change some attitudes because at the end of the day, our kids are worth it, and so are everyone else’s.

I work part time in a school cafeteria. My job is to keep the peace as well as pick up the peas…and I pick up a lot of peas, and salad, and chicken bites, and fish sticks, and pineapple chunks…and then I throw them out. Over and over and over I pitch fresh carrots, chilled sherbet and pulled pork sandwiches.  I try my hardest to convince kids that all this food is great for them. I tell first graders that broccoli will make them run faster at recess and sixth graders that fish contains this great thing for their brains and hearts called Omega 3 fatty acids.  I am a one woman shill for the food pyramid. Michelle Obama could take lessons from me when it comes to preaching a healthy lunch. Sometimes it takes, and it’s rewarding to hear a bunch of six year olds say, Hey, I like these pears!

Then there are days like today.  A day when I left the house after viewing too many pictures of the horror that is the Philippines right now.  It happened that the school lunch was fish and sweet potato fries.  Kids don’t like fish and fish potato fries. They throw it all out. I quit counting after about 23 lunches.  I bet we threw out at least 300 lunches today if not more. I mentioned to one girl pitching her whole lunch that kids in the Philippines would kill for a warm meal – heck any meal like hers right now.

In a typical tween I-know-it-all voice, she said, “Not this fish lunch.”

I wanted to grab her her by her prissy little Abercrombie collar and shout, You ungrateful little wench. You have no idea. I didn’t. I just bit my tongue and wheeled my trash can onto the next table to more kids throwing out more meals. Over the next two hours, I got quieter and quieter looking over all the waste. I was getting angrier and angrier.

I thought of all kinds of folks to blame.

There’s the bloated bureaucratic mess that is our  federal government that  runs a school lunch program and politicians who are in bed with major food manufacturers. They say it’s all for the kids, but  I’m 42, and I know how the wheels are greased, and I’m not buying  the It’s for the kids! lines anymore. There are the  parents who expect other people to raise their children for them and aren’t very grateful themselves. There are the parents who overindulge their children and allow for alternatives at every step of the way if their child isn’t happy or pleased with a situation.There are the kids themselves who are selfish and self centered and care only about what’s in it for them.

The more I thought, and the more I wheeled around my trash can filled to the brim with pitched out food, the more I realized that the problem lies with all of us. Each and every one of us.

Because these are our kids.

Stop right there.  I don’t want to hear that you homeschool so these aren’t your kids.  I don’t want to hear that you send your kids to private Christian school so these aren’t your kids. I don’t want to hear that your kid is an honor student or star athlete or top debater so these aren’t your kids. I don’t want to hear that you pack your kids’ lunches (So do I by the way.) so these aren’t your kids. I don’t want to  hear that you aren’t on any kind of school subsidized program so these aren’t your kids.  I don’t want to hear that you don’t have kids so these aren’t your kids.

This isn’t about the have and have nots, the 99 or one per centers. This isn’t about government waste or how the bad job other parents are doing.

I don’t care if you are in a homeless shelter or own a second home in Aspen. Our kids are ungrateful, and we as a society need to face facts that we’ve got to combat it.  Our kids are going to be our policemen and women.  They are going to be our doctors, our  trash collectors, our politicians, our farmers, our military personnel, our pastors, our teachers, our contractors….you get the idea, and we are all in trouble if we don’t help them correct their apathetic attitudes.

So what do we do?  Well, I don’t have all the answers and I’d love, love, love to hear your ideas of how you combat complacency and ungratefulness in your home, but here are a few ideas I have  just sitting her thinking about it:

– Help your child find some kind of program that works with the less fortunate, and volunteer.  A lot. Thanksgiving Day at the local shelter isn’t good enough.  Our kids need to get down and dirty and it needs to be often…and we need to be down there with them.

– Say grace.  That simple acknowledgement that the food before us came from somewhere, and we are fortunate to have it goes a long way in reminding ourselves of the big picture.  Don’t believe in God?  That’s fine, you can still start your meal with your kids thanking farmers, pickers, truck drivers, factory workers, grocers, check out folks – anyone and everyone in the food process.

– Pack their lunches.  Seriously, folks. You have the time or your kids have the time. Kids who are buying lunches are throwing away too much food, and it’s embarrassing.

– Fast as a family every once in a while – 8 hours, 12 hours, 24 hours. A few grumbly tummies never hurt anyone. Might even remind us how good we have it.

– Don’t pass your opinions onto them regarding what you like or don’t like.  I overheard my coworker tell a child today, I don’t eat fish.  I just don’t.  She’s a very nice lady, but those few words made it okay in those kids’ minds that they didn’t need to eat what was in front of them. After all, if an adult standing right there didn’t like fish, they shouldn’t have to eat it. If you don’t like something either get over it or keep it to yourself.  WE are the adults here. Let’s act like it. (And for crying out loud eat your fish! It’s so good for you!)

– Let’s teach our kids what is going on in the world.  There’s too much of this, Let’s not scare them, or Let’s not make them worry or feel bad, nonsense thinking going on out there. Kids can handle it, and we’re not helping them believe they can if we shield them from every bad piece of news out there. Read the paper with them.  Watch the news with them.  Talk about world events as well as community tragedies. One of the reasons I love author Roald Dahl so much is that he’s got some sad and scary stuff in his books. His characters are orphaned or treated badly by adults, and you know what? They overcome it.  Mr. Dahl respected the fact that kids can handle and wisely process the bad stuff.  The problem is we their parents don’t realize what Mr. Dahl realized, and we candy coat everything.

– Make your kids eat everything.  I get tired of the experts who say Give them 35 options and let them choose.  The real world doesn’t work like that. My boss doesn’t say, Priscilla you have an option of 10 different ways you can do your job.  No, it was pretty well spelled out for me, and if I don’t do it her way, I’m out of luck. I’m not saying shove brussel sprouts down their throats, but if you’ve worked hard on a meal, and you’ve worked hard for the money to buy the food, and if you’ve worked hard to create time to eat together, well, darn it, teach your child to recognize and honor that sacrifice. Teach them the same lesson transfers over to their school lunches, and you expect them – whether they bring or buy, whether it’s full priced or subsidized, whether it’s pizza or pork -you expect them to eat their meals at school.

If you work with any kid in any way shape or form from babysitting to coaching to teaching to pastoring – remember these are your kids too- and you can model gratefulness by commenting on everything to a soccer field that is maintained for them to play on to a having  mind that can read and understand music. We can put on our coats and gloves this winter and remind each other how fortunate we are to have the means to protect ourselves from the cold.  Bus is late?  Don’t sweat it, at  least you don’t have to walk into work or school or nine miles to get fresh water like some children in Haiti.

Gratefulness is more than a month full of Facebook postings although that’s a nice idea. It’s more than setting aside a few hours to eat with family and remember the Pilgrims and Native Americans. It’s a way of life, and right now, I don’t think we are doing that great of a job modeling it for our children.  Maybe it’s because we ourselves aren’t that grateful.

And if that’s the case, then shame on us.

 

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Veteran Wives

by Priscilla on November 11, 2013

Those of us who write are told to write what we know.  What I don’t know could fill volumes and volumes in multiple Library of Congress sized building. But thanks to saying yes to my roommate’s plea our senior year of college to agree to a date with her brother, a West Point cadet, in October of 1992, I know a lot about playing the role of military spouse.

Military spouses come in both sexes, but starting out my husband was an Infantry Officer,  so the only  spouses I knew were women. I share this only because there are so many courageous and wonderful military spouses out there, and I don’t want to paint a one dimensional picture of all spouses’ experiences.

On this Veterans Day I want to honor the wives I met over the 10 years my husband was an active duty Army officer. I cannot imagine what my life would be like not having met the women I’m going to mention. They were not only my friends, but my teachers on all things life.  As a new bride not far out of nice little Christian school and nice little Christian college,  I had a lot to learn about the Army.  Things like  don’t wear a sundress your first time into an infantry battalion.  Also, get used to the F-Bomb. Soldiers use it like they use the word the.

Sandi was one of the first women I met at our post in Germany. Our husbands were classmates, and this woman never ceases to amaze me – even today. Rearing three great kids. Earning a masters degree while her husband was overseas. Working her tail off on behalf of military children.  Learning every jot and tittle of protocol there is. Sandi was also no respecter of persons. Back then there were still some lines of demarcation between officer and enlisted wives. Sandi and I thought those lines were really rather silly and ignored them much to the dismay of some older officer wives.

Catherine helped me to find a job  on post, and encouraged me to use it to learn everything I could about how an Army base operates.  A consummate professional, she showed me the ropes of a public affairs office, and introduced me to anyone and everyone in the garrison both civilian and military.  There were regulations about regulations that I needed to understand, and she and many others in that office helped me digest them all.

Catherine had a friend, Carol, whose husband was a company commander in my husband’s battalion. Carol was so big hearted and empathetic, and she decided to take on the local Officer’s Wives Club and lobbied to open membership to any wife living on post regardless of the rank of her soldier. Wow. There.Was.Pushback. Generals were called, and officers were told to get their wives in line.  There was no getting us in line. We were altogether, far from home, and this was just nonsense. At the time Carol lost the fight, but not the war. Many of these clubs are all ranks now. I’d like to think Carol was a catalyst. This was my first lesson in how something so seemingly common sense could rock the boat in this new world of mine. Thankfully, I can’t think of too many of our husbands who cared or not whether a higher up called them to “rein in your wife.”

Denise laughed with me. Oh, how I remember that giggle. Our husbands were in the same company – maybe even the same platoon, (My mind isn’t what it used to be.) and we worked hours together planning events for soldiers and their families.

Rhonda, another LT’s wife, and I shared the frustration of wanting more than to be simply a dependent. We’d both worked hard for our degrees in our respected fields, and couldn’t wait to use them. This whole new world of the military oversees didn’t afford us many career opportunities, but we would plug away trying to better ourselves professionally in anyway we could. When we hosted a coffee, the invitations went out late, and we said Let’s meet at a restaurant, instead of having everyone into our homes. Most of the other ladies’ homes had the required crystal glasses and punch bowls. Rhonda and I were lucky to have matching plasticware.

Suzie saved my butt when the principal at the American high school where  I’d finally gotten a teaching position told me he wanted me to coach cheerleading. Yes, you read that right. What I know about cheerleading is right up there with what I know about collecting data from a transponder on a platypus. When the principal told me he wanted me to take over, I called Suzie for help. She and I already volunteered together with the post youth group,  and when I told her how out of my element I was,  she volunteered to come in and work with the squad made up of military and civilian brats (That’s a term of endearment by the way. Not a slam), and together we forged relationships with some great kids we never would have met otherwise.

I can’t write about Gloria without giggling. A veteran herself, she was married to a lieutenant colonel,and somehow we both found ourselves schlepping computer equipment all over Germany being board members of a group called AWAG (American Women’s Activity Germany) that worked to better educate spouses about all things military across the European theater. It was Gloria who introduced to to the rules of investing, and I got so wrapped up in it, that my poor husband asked Can I just have money for one beer?

Hope’s friendship took me into a whole new career that I’d never imagined – that of research assistant, and as much as I love teaching and working with kids, I think I might possibly love research even more. Both she and my husband encouraged me to apply for a job in the field of anthropology and archeology in the office where she was working on post. Juggling career, kids, and marriage to an Army officer, Hope displayed sheer will to survive on more than one occasion. Our lives will always be entwined on Sept.11. We were both at work on post when our husbands both called and said, Get to a television. Not too long after that, her husband left for Iraq. Several years later mine did the same.

Lanette and Judy welcomed me not only into a new community, but also into a new church upon one move. We spent hours planning  activities and children’s programming in one another’s homes. We laughed together. Prayed together. Sang together. Cried together.  My faith has been strengthened thanks to these wonderful ladies’ example and friendship.

Then there’s Amy.  An Army brat herself, she grew into one of the most classy and thoughtful Veterans Wife around.  Using her years upon years of moving experiences, she learned to decorate everything from a tiny apartment to a large brick colonial home -whatever the Army gave her, and she did it with style and flair…and lots of time on the cheap.  I’m so happy she’s turned what she knows into a career. It’s exciting to see things take off for her. More than this, though, I was always free to be irreverent me with Amy. I was as klutzy as she was classy, and she never judged.

There are so many other ladies I’d like to mention, but time simply doesn’t allow. You know who you are. You know your service to our great country is invaluable. You did all the things listed above mostly alone. To quote Dr. Seuss in Oh, the Place You’ll Go, “Alone is something you’ll be quite a lot.”  That line is an understatement to a Veteran Wife.

Today, on Veterans Day, a great Army Wife is being laid to rest in Alabama. Her name is Linda, and her husband, Kevin was my husband’s company commander. This is the part of writing that I hate the most. The part where I write about people after they’ve left us.  Because how do my simple words ever convey to you how strong Linda was? How kind Linda was? How good Linda was? I spent many hours in Linda’s apartment kitchen planning fundraisers and events that would benefit soldiers and their families. In a Facebook post, Denise reminisced about all the bratwurst sales, bake sales, cookbook sales and any other kind of sales we cooked up to raised money for Christmas parties and gifts for soldiers and their families. Linda was all about soldiers and their families. She didn’t see rank. She only saw the uniform and the families who stood behind that uniform, and she diligently took care of the families while her husband took care of their soldier. As much as Linda took care of others families, she was fiercely loyal to her own. I admit I used to think she was insane not only trying to fit in every trip possible in order to see everything she could while living in Europe, but then trying to chronicle every detail of every trip in scrapbook upon scrapbook she’d create. Her daughter was a toddler when Linda cut and paste and wrote like a mad woman trying to finish one scrapbook before heading out on another adventure.  I think that little girl saw more of Europe as a two year old than most college students backpacking their summers through castles and ruins.  I can’t help but think of her,  a senior in high school, today -the day she buries her mother. Linda’s fanaticism about all things travel and scrapbooking don’t seem so insane now. Although cancer stole Linda from them, the memories she created with and for Kevin, and their three children, cannot be taken. Veteran Wives just don’t get much better than Linda.

Thank you for taking time to read my humble words. With them I hope to convey to you the stories and the vivacity, the brains and the creativity, the loyalty and the love of the unsung heroes. The spouses. The children.  The dependents as the Department of Defense likes to label them. They are anything but.  It was a privilege and a pleasure and an honor to work with them and for them and most of all to call them friend.

Love you ladies.

 

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