Veterans Day–Thank You to All Who serve and Have Served

Today is Veterans Day.  A day to honor ALL who have served in our nation’s military… ALL who have signed on the dotted line…. ALL who have raised their right hand and swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.

Today I honor those individuals.  The brave men and women who, since the birth of our nation, have served our country and who signed the blank check payable to the “United States of America”.

veteran

I am fortunate to know, to count as friends and to love several people who have served our country.  I have relatives now currently serving and those from the past who have served in all branches of the military, during times of war and times of peace.  My husband comes from a long line of military men, from the beginning of our country, serving in all branches of the military and serving in every war fought as well as times of peace.  We are truly blessed.

My husband is one of those Veterans as well.  Not a single day has gone by when I have not been proud of him or his service to our Nation.  At 18, he signed on the dotted line and wrote that blank check to the United States of America.  He served his country in the Air Force, for 30 years, following in the steps of his father who served 20 years in the United States Air Force.  His brother served in the Marines.  Both of his grandfathers served in the Army.  He comes from a proud military family.

I am blessed to have been by his side as he served in the Air Force.  And blessed to have met many, many military men and women who served proudly in our great Nations Air Force, some still serving.  Every day, I was blessed to know these men and women, to know that I was safe and free because of them and their willingness, selfless willingness, to keep our country free.  They ALL signed that blank check.

Today I say THANK YOU!!  To every man and woman who has ever worn the uniform, THANK YOU!  To every man and woman wearing the uniform today, THANK YOU!  Because of you, we are free!  Because of you, I get to go to sleep every night knowing that I will wake up in the morning in the greatest Nation on this earth.

Every Veteran deserves thanks, today and every day!  Every Veteran deserves to be recognized for their selfless sacrifice for our country, for my family and for me.  THANK YOU!

And to my Veteran—Thank you, for protecting our country and for protecting our family!  I am as proud of you today as I was the day you enlisted!  I love you!

Plant–Bloom–Grow

Dirt.  There is just nothing like getting your hands in the dirt.  And planting something.   Nurturing it.  Watching it grow. 

This year I have rediscovered my love of gardening, of getting my hands in the dirt and nurturing something as it grows. 

I enjoyed gardening as a kid.  Mom bought a house that already had a garden in the backyard.  Strawberries were already growing in part of it, which I was so excited about.  And then mom said my sister and I could each have a section to plant what we wanted.  I planted a few flowers and corn.  I was ecstatic to plant corn.  I planted the seeds, watered them, weeded around them as they grew and enjoyed caring for my plants.  Then the corn grew, and I got 1 ear of corn.  Just one.  But it was mine.  I grew it.  I got to play in the dirt and saw the corn grow.  And when it was ready to be plucked off the corn stalk and cooked, mom cooked it for me.  I had just gotten my braces on, so eating the corn on the cob was NOT going to happen.  So, mom, lovingly cut the corn off my one cob so I could enjoy it.  It was the best corn EVER!  To this day, it is still the best tasting corn I have ever eaten! 

Through my teen years, I found that getting my hands in the dirt, whether it was planting or weeding, was calming.  It was therapeutic.  And I enjoyed it.

When my husband and I started our life together and moved to our first base in Grand Forks, North Dakota, I wasn’t so sure about gardening.  We arrived in February, just after a blizzard and with all the snow (for MONTHS!) I could not picture anything growing.  But then spring and summer came, and I finally got to dig my hands back into the dirt.  And I planted, flowers.  I grew vegetables, just a few that we could pick and eat throughout the summer. 

I loved getting in the dirt.  I still love getting in the dirt.  There is just something relaxing about it.  Over the course of my husband’s career in the Air Force, I had opportunities at times, to dig in the dirt and plant my own garden.  Not every place we lived, but some of the places. 

It has been a while now since I had my own garden, nurtured a plant and watched it grow.  The last couple of places we lived, I just didn’t have the time or the energy to plant.  But this past spring I was able to rediscover my joy of gardening.  We planted around our back yard.  I planted in pots on my back patio.  I enjoyed getting my hands dirty and boy can I make a mess!  I enjoyed the mess!  There is just something calming about playing in the dirt and in nurturing a plant as it grows. 

The dirt here in Arizona is hard!  Really Hard.  Digging in it is quite a workout.  The dirt needs preparation.   And as I helped to plant some of the most recent flowering shrubs, I began to see how gardening, planting and growing applied to our military life all those many years. 

Each time we moved to a new place it was a new garden to be planted in, and we were the new growth.  The new plants.  The new seedlings.  All of us ready to be planted and nurtured. 

Then as we left places where we had grown, it was the season of pruning, cutting back and transplanting…to make room for the new growth that would come behind us. 

At times the soil was very fertile, making it easy to establish our roots and grow strong.  Our blooms blossomed abundantly.

Other times the soil was not as friendly or easy to work with.  Sometimes the soil was hard, packed dirt, making it difficult to cultivate and grow.  Those times and places, we had to work extra hard to get our roots to take hold…. And that meant extra nurturing, a little tenderness and a lot of patience.  Though difficult to grow, it was not impossible.  The roots took hold and we bloomed. 

Life in the military really did reflect the quote “Bloom where you are planted”. 

The past few months, as I watered my growing shrubs and flowers and trees, I remembered all the places our family planted our roots… all the places they grew deep…. all the places those roots were shallower.  I remembered how we nurtured our family so we could grow and how our Air Force family nurtured us so we could grow.  And I thought about the ways we prepared the soil for the next plantings, the new families coming in behind us.  My hands in the dirt reminded me of all those times we had to be uprooted and transplanted and how we bloomed.  

And I smiled as I thought, that just as the seed blows through the wind and sprouts where it lands, we too did just that.  Every move we made.  Every community we lived in.  We grew where we landed. 

Just like my flowers now blooming and bringing smiles to my face and calm to my soul, our Air Force garden of friends and family and memories also brings a smile to my face, a calm to my soul and love to my heart.

And now, in this new season of our life, of our garden, my husband and I are planting roots we hope to grow deep and we plan to bloom here for many years to come. 

Two Days in Normandy, France

Today is the 75th Anniversary of D-Day.

So many brave men landing on beaches, flying in aircraft, and dropping from the sky into enemy territory….. brave men…..

I had read about World War II in books and had seen the movies about D-Day and the war.  I could see it and imagine what those brave men did and saw, yet nothing really prepared me for the reality of that war.  It was not until April 2000, when my husband, our sons and I visited the beaches of Normandy, that I truly understood the enormity of the sacrifices and bravery of the men that day on the beaches of Normandy and on the surrounding land and in the sky.

19 years ago, we traveled to Normandy, France, to visit the beaches and see for ourselves the history of that day.  We planned the trip and the stops we would make in order to show our boys what happened and to show them the bravery of our men in uniform.  It would be two days, packed with history.

st mere egliseWe started out by stopping in St Mere Eglise, where the 82nd Airborne Division parachuted in on D-Day.  The paratroopers landed in and around the town and fighting began with the Germans.  We were there to see the Airborne Museum and to see the church, where John Steele landed, his parachute getting caught on the steeple.  He hung there for two hours while the fighting raged on, until the Germans cut him down and took him prisoner.  I couldn’t imagine it, even after seeing the movies in which this scene was depicted, yet there on the church steeple was the effigy of John Steel, hanging there.  How frightening that must have been for that soldier, to be so exposed to the enemy with no way to escape.  Seeing that church and the museum, I knew this was going to be a trip that would have a long-lasting impact on me and on my family.

Utah beach was the first beach we visited.  Here American soldiers landed on June 6th, 1944.  We had to see the beach first, before the museum… we had to see where those brave men landed that day…. I thought it would just be a beach by now with no evidence of the war.  It had been 56 years since the landings of D-Day.  I was surprised and shocked to see so many of the obstacles used by the Germans still on the beach, where they were placed to deter any invasions.  We could see the wreckage in the water of the American watercraft that brought our soldiers ashore.  The gun mounts used by the Germans and the remains of cement bunkers were scattered throughout the dunes.  This made the war real.  Here it was for all future generations to see.  The Utah Beach museum was built around W5, a German Block House.  It was eerie to see what remained, to know that Germans were here, waiting…..

We started our second day in Normandy by stopping in a little village, Graignes, to see a the church at Graignes (2)church there.  On D-day, paratroopers were dropped here, accidently.  This was not where they were supposed to be, so far into German held territory.  And the villagers here helped those American soldiers, hiding them and helping them to go back into the marshes to recover their gear and equipment over the days following D-Day.  When the Germans discovered the Americans were there, a fight ensued, and the village bore the brunt of the German revenge.  The remains of the church, set on fire by the Germans, now stands as a memorial to the American soldiers who lost their lives here and to the villagers who were killed by the Germans in retaliation for their kindness to American soldiers, to include two Priests.  A solemn place.  Standing in what was left of the church, I couldn’t help but feel the strength and courage of those villagers as they helped the soldiers there to liberate them.  Their courageous spirit lives on in that memorial to their sacrifice.

omaha beachOmaha beach was more of a beach, with monuments along the road above the beach, reminding visitors what happened here.  But unlike Utah beach, the debris and obstacles were not visible, long removed.  I watched others walking on the beach and wondered if they knew what occured here on that day in 1944.  So many fought here to defeat evil.  We then went to the museum just up the road.  The museum told the stories of those who fought here and those who died here.  Our boys were learning so much about a war that was way before their time.  I could see the impact it was having on them….

I asked both of my boys recently what stood out to them, and they both said the craters.  Point du Hoc was one stop on that second day and it was the one that stood out to all of us as the depiction of war.  Point du Hoc is a surreal landscaped, high atop a 100-foot cliff that overlooks the English Channel and is the high point between Utah and Omaha beaches.  Perfect for the Germans to spot any Allied Forces coming in.  It was here that Army Rangers, using ropes and rickety ladders, scaled the cliff to reach the top and take Point du Hoc.  The U.S. Navy had began bombing before the Rangers began to scale the cliff and the craters were evidence of that bombing, or as one of my sons said evidence “of the madness of that day”.  We walked the land there, covered with craters from the U.S. bombs and it felt like we were walking on the moon.  The craters were big….. not just big, but huge.  And 56 years later they were still there, a lasting reminder to the world of what war looks like.  Hundreds of craters.  Everywhere.  As far as we could see.  And bunkers.  And gun mounts.  We were shocked by what we saw.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And then we walked to the edge of the cliff, looking down….. how did those Rangers make it up that cliff?  I could not fathom what must have been going through their minds as they climbed up the cliff, with gunfire and grenades raining down on them.  The fear.  They were being killed by the Germans and yet they persisted.  And they took Point du Hoc.  Those brave men…… giving so much for the world and for the freedom they believed so strongly in.

Point du Hoc remains the most impactful part of our trip to Normandy.  The craters.  The cliff.  The lives lost.  And the brave men who fought for freedom.

Later, as we walked through the Normandy American Cemetery, I could not help but to Normandy American Cemetery and memorialbe sad for the lives lost.  And grateful.  Grateful for the brave men.  Grateful that these men were willing to fight for and die for our country and for others in the pursuit of freedom for all.

Many fought gallantly in World War II.  And I will remember and honor their courage and their sacrifice.  75 years ago today, men stormed the beaches of Normandy and dropped inland, all willing to die for this fight and for others.  Some came home injured, but alive.  Some came home and never talked about that day or the war.  Some lost their lives, buried in American Cemeteries overseas or brought back to the U.S. for burial.  Some were never found… still missing in action.

These brave men will never be forgotten.  Their bravery will never be forgotten.  Their sacrifice will always be remembered, today and every day.

Memorial Day– A Day of Remembrance

This morning, our town held a Memorial Day Ceremony hosted by the American Legion-Post 39 and the Gilbert Historical Society.  It was held outside at the Gilbert Historical Museum in HD South.  My husband was the guest speaker for the ceremony.  It was an honor to be there to honor and remember all who have given their lives in service to our Great Nation.  And I couldn’t be prouder of my husband and the words he spoke to honor them.  May we never forget those who died keeping us free and my we always remember to honor them!

61254302_10156437501747901_385411913963536384_o

Here is his speech, in honor of the men and women from all branches of our military who paid the ultimate price to keep us free-

“TIME WILL NOT DIM THE GLORY OF THEIR DEEDS”
– General John J. Pershing
MEMORIAL DAY 2019

Mayor, Councilmembers, distinguished guests, great patriots of the American Legion, fellow citizens and veterans of Gilbert, and to those among us who have an even deeper, more personal connection to this special day. It’s an honor to share this morning with all of you as we remember the fallen…… recognize their sacrifice…. and express our infinite gratitude to their families.

“Time will not dim the glory of their deeds.” These are the words at the base of a large stone eagle located in the middle of an American military cemetery in France. I found myself reading them as I stood among thousands of American graves as I visited the St Mihiel cemetery almost 20 years ago. St Mihiel is just one among many of the dedicated resting places for those to whom we owe so much.

It’s incredible to think that over 1.2 million Americans have been lost in service to our great nation since those first days when the ink was still fresh on our founding documents. So many Americans have made the ultimate sacrifice for liberty across the globe. So, I want to take you on a short journey of remembrance this morning.

If we travel 7,000 miles to our west, to the Philippines and the Manilla American Cemetery, we will find 17,000 servicemembers laid at rest. A little closer, in Hawaii, we remember the over 2,300 servicemembers lost in December of 1941, including over 1,100 on the USS Arizona alone…those lost on the Arizona included 37 sets of brothers and also a father and son.

Across the United States, in the 151 national cemeteries as well as in community cemeteries and family plots we remember hundreds of thousands of fallen warriors…the bravest of the brave…geographically separated but eternally linked in their sacrifice.

As we journey to our nation’s eastern shore, just across the river from the Lincoln Memorial in our nation’s capitol, we come to Arlington National Cemetery…final resting place of so many of the fallen. At the epicenter of this most hallowed ground …. The Tomb of the Unknowns. Perpetually watched over by the Army’s Old Guard, a tradition they have maintained for over 70 years, the Tomb is a reminder …. A reminder of those lost in conflict that were never recovered or returned to their
families. Since WWI over 86,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen are still listed as missing in action …… but it’s been said, and I’m certain all of us would agree, that a servicemember is only missing if they are forgotten….so today we also remember those American heroes who rest in unknown graves.

As we look across Arlington’s Tomb of the Unknowns, just downhill and towards a rising sun, we find Section 60, also known as the saddest acre in America. It is the final resting place for so many of those brave young men and women killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa. It’s where you will find the still grieving Gold Star families and friends of those most recently lost. These graves aren’t as old as the others in the cemetery and it’s not uncommon to find a family member kneeling
next to their lost loved one’s headstone in silent prayer. It’s here that you will find Army Staff Sergeant Alex Conrad, a local Hamilton High School graduate and special operations soldier killed in the line of duty just last year. We especially honor the sacrifice of those families today.

As we continue to move farther east and cross the Atlantic, we find Western Europe and North Africa dotted with 21 American military cemeteries where over 100,000 Americans are buried.

At the Normandy American Cemetery, situated just uphill from that historic beach, we can walk among 9,300 graves of America’s bravest from WWII …… and a single grave from WWI.

It’s at Normandy, inscribed at the cemetery’s entrance pavilion, where we find the immortal words of Sergeant John Ellery who said … “You can manufacture weapons ….and you can purchase ammunition, ….but you can’t buy valor and you can’t pull heroes off an assembly line.”

Among Normandy’s graves, we can find President Theodore Roosevelt’s eldest son, Ted Junior, who at 56 was the oldest to land during D-day. He would receive the Medal of Honor for his actions on that beach but would not survive the war. As many of you know, he had been instrumental in the establishment of the American Legion after WWI. Ted had been gassed and wounded during the summer of 1918, then had returned to Europe to serve his nation again in a second world war.

At Normandy, Ted is buried right next to the only world war one grave in that cemetery. That grave belongs to his brother, and President Roosevelt’s youngest son, Quentin. Quentin had been killed in 1918 in aerial combat when he was only 20. He had been buried in an isolated gravesite until, a few years after the end of WWII, he was moved to the Normandy cemetery where he lies today, side by side with his brother.

As I mentioned earlier, it was just about 20 years ago that I found myself in France, about 300 miles to the east of Normandy. I was with my unit and we were participating in a combined military exercise.  While there, I made time to visit three local military cemeteries.

I first visited a French military cemetery to pay my respects. It was in a bit of disrepair….crumbling headstones and unkept grounds greeted my eyes……those young French soldiers had been forgotten.

Next, I came upon a German military cemetery…..and found a group of young military cadets doing their best to maintain those German graves, marked by metal crosses, so far from home. Their countrymen were remembered.

Last, I visited the American military cemetery at St Mihiel…over 40 beautifully landscaped acres containing 4,153 graves and a memorial to 284 missing in action. There I found a cemetery employee on his hands and knees moving from white marble headstone to white marble headstone along a perfectly aligned row of graves. Carefully, he sanded each to ensure they were a pristine white. I was
proud that the Americans buried there were not only remembered, they were cared for and honored each and every day. And on this day, we remember the sacrifice, often made in faraway lands, of our servicemembers.

At noon today, our flag will move from half to full staff and the memory of the fallen will be raised by the living. We will not let time dim the glory of their deeds but resolve that on this and all future Memorial Days to not let their sacrifice be in vain, but to rise up in their stead and continue the fight for liberty and for a bold future… for our children……our grandchildren….. and for our great nation.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A Visit to Our Nation’s Capital

Last month my husband and I took 6 teenagers, his students, to Washington DC on a Leadership Fieldtrip for 6 days. Those 6 days were filled from morning until night with tours of historic sites, historic buildings, monuments, memorials, military sites, museums and a ton of walking. We were pretty worn out after that trip.

But it was so much fun!

And we learned a lot!

My husband and I had lived in Northern Virginia for 6 years and knew our way around so we were excited to take the kids to see our Nation’s Capital. Some of them had never been and some had been before but did not see all that we were planning.

The kids got to see and learn about the workings of all three branches of our government through our tours of the Whitehouse, Capital Building (where they also met their Representative), and the Supreme Court. These tours gave them insight into the way our government works and let them see for themselves what they had learned about in books in a classroom.

 

We took them to the monuments and memorials—for some of our Presidents, for our military and the wars fought and for historic figures who had great impact on our country. All of them moving, especially when toured at night. So many only see these sights in books or on tv….but to stand there in person, next to or inside these great monuments, well, the emotion overtakes you…..they really are a sight to behold, the inscribed words inspiring all those who have come after and those who are still to come….a reminder of our great country and those inspiring individuals.

We visited some of the Smithsonian museums, letting the kids explore and see what interested them.

We spent some time on an island in the middle of the hustle and bustle……an oasis that has long been one of my husband’s favorite places and a place that honors one of his heroes, Theodore Roosevelt. As we walked through the trees and down the paths, we could not help but relax and enjoy the time there together as a group.

We also stopped and toured our National Cathedral, a first for most of the kids and a first for my husband and I. And we also spent time inside the Library of Congress, one of the most beautiful buildings in Washington DC.

 

Midweek, after our tour of the Whitehouse, we went to the National Archives, where we saw the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution, the original oct 6 a Mt Vernon (4) copydocuments…..amazed to see the signatures of the very brave men who helped to establish our democracy and create our country. Our last day, before our flight, we visited Mt Vernon, home to our first president. These historic documents and the historic home of George Washington made the founding of our country, real. How wonderful it is that our country has kept so much of its history.  

We saw a lot while in Washington DC. There was traffic and tour groups to deal with. There was great food to be had. There was shopping. There were protests witnessed, reminding us of the freedoms afforded Americans. There were also more security screenings than we have EVER experienced! And yes, there was LOTS of walking!

oct 1 Air Force Memorial (4) copyAnd then there were the military sites—a cemetery, a battlefield, museums, the Pentagon and war memorials….all honoring our military men and women. The military sites were among the first sites we visited, starting with the Air Force Memorial, standing tall on a hill above the Pentagon with an amazing view of Washington DC. We had arrived in DC at 7am after a long night of flying, stopped for breakfast and then headed out to see some sites before checking into our hotel. It was only fitting that our first stop should be at the Air Force Memorial…..after all, these kids are part of the Air Force JROTC at their high school.

We then attempted to stop at the Iwo Jima Memorial, but it was closed for refurbishment and could only be viewed as we drove past it….so we instead went to the Pentagon 9-11 Memorial. The kids were all babies when the horrific events of that morning in 2011 happened, so they only knew it through the stories told to them…….unlike most of us, who remember it all, every moment of that morning and the days that followed. We solemnly walked around the memorial, stopping to read the names of those lost on the plane that morning and those lost inside the Pentagon. This was a sobering memorial, bringing to reality all those lost that day. The kids, as part of their AFJROTC group, participate every year in a 9/11 Flag Raising Ceremony and now they were seeing for themselves, why they do it, why they honor and remember those many lives.

Over the next few days we visited more military sites and memorials—The war memorials on the National Mall to those who fought and died in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, and Manassas Battlefield, the site of the first major battle in a war that almost tore our country apart. We took the kids on a tour of the Pentagon, where they learned about all branches of our military. And we visited both Smithsonian Air and Space museums.

Our visit to Arlington National Cemetery was quite moving. We walked, rather than taking the shuttle, to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We walked so that we could see the graves, read some of the names on those white headstones and honor those who have protected our country. Heroes, all of them buried here in our Nation’s Military Cemetery. And then we watched the changing of the Guard at the tomb of the unknowns. The kids all stood for the ceremony, watching as the Changing of the Guard occurred…..honoring the unknown soldiers buried there, the soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country, including their identity. Words are hard to come by to adequately describe the Changing of the Guard, the reverence these Sentinels show for those entombed here. A solemn ceremony. And the kids watched. They absorbed it all…..the meaning, the honor, the sacrifice. And for the kids who themselves are part of the AFJROTC Honor Guard, this ceremony held even more meaning, showing them the highest honor for any Honor Guard member. Arlington was a very emotional, solemn place.

oct 1 National Museum of the Marine Corp (1) copyOur last stop on our first day before we checked into our hotel was at the National Museum of the Marine Corps. We were all pretty tired by the time we arrived here, but once we stepped inside our energy renewed and we were ready to tour the museum and learn about our Marine Corps. When we first entered the museum we noticed chairs set up for some kind of ceremony, one we assumed had already occurred. We headed further into the museum, enjoying the history of the Marine Corps from inception to current day. The kids enjoyed the interactive exhibits. The museum was a wonderful way to honor our Marine Corps. We came to the end of the exhibits and wandered back into the main atrium, ready to head into the gift shop, when we noticed the ceremony was beginning…the chairs were filled with those there to celebrate the Commissioning Ceremony for a Navy Sailor. And we stopped for a minute, noticing that the Honor Guard was preparing to present the colors. We watched as the Honor Guard moved to the front of the ceremony and presented the colors and then the National Anthem began…..and we all stood, facing the flag with our hands over our hearts. This was our flag, our anthem and our military. And then I noticed we were not the only ones. Everyone there in the museum stopped walking, stopped talking, stopped moving and hands over their hearts they, too, faced our flag and honored this Sailor and our country. There was only honor and respect being shown. Here in the middle of a museum strangers stopped and paid tribute to our country and our military….young and old…..male and female….all races……for a moment we were all a part of this young man’s ceremony, a part of a military tradition.

I was moved to tears.

And the kids were moved by the respect shown here on this afternoon.

Our trip to DC was filled with many opportunities to learn and to see firsthand the greatness of our Country…..how our government works, the history of our government, the honor of military service, the freedom we all have to express our opinions, and how inspiring and impactful one individual can be in making things better for others.

This was a GREAT trip for many reasons, but especially because of how meaningful it all was!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOLD!

My husband was in the Air Force for 30 years and we moved a lot. For most of his Air Force career we lived in the housing on whatever base we were stationed at……. all over the US and in Turkey and England. I loved living in base housing, in the community where others were going through the same things we went through. Each house became our home, where we laughed, loved and created memories. It was never about the building, it was about the love and the memories. But we knew they were all temporary homes.

We only lived in off-base housing, twice in his career. The first time was when we were in Alabama for my husband to go to school. We rented a house then and loved the house and quickly made it a home.

After Alabama my husband was sent to the Pentagon and base housing was not going to be an option for us. We were okay with that. We made the decision to buy a house, a decision that was hard for me because I knew that the house we bought would become our home, I would get attached and I had never desired to buy a house until it was THE ONE, the last house we would live in. So, I went to Virginia, alone, to find us a house.

I looked at a lot of houses and then I found the one that I could picture us living in and in a neighborhood that looked wonderful.

Sierra Exif JPEG

We bought that house.  Brand new.  Never lived in.  Ours.

A house is just a house, until you fill it with family, friends, love, memories and the sweat and tears that go into making a house a home. And we did just that.

our house

It was our home. Filled with lots of memories of holidays, birthdays, fun, and even sad times. We painted every room in the house and all of the halls…..colors that reflected us, no more white walls. And my husband and youngest son worked hard building the fence that would make our backyard an oasis for our dog. And they built a beautiful deck for us to relax on while watching the corn in the field behind us grow. We landscaped and planted the flowers, trees and bushes we wanted. We had friends and family visit us. And we all worked hard finishing our unfinished basement, creating a space where more fun family memories were made—playing pool and playing Wii games.

We had only planned to live here 2 years, the norm for us. But that two years became three, then four and before we knew it we lived in our home for 6 years…..the LONGEST home either my husband or I  had ever lived in. Our youngest son completed all of his high school years in that home. We had teenagers in and out of the house, became close with our neighbors and built a life in that community. This home was the last one our dog would live in.

We were putting down deep roots.

The memories created are strong in that home, filled with love.

Then the day came when the Air Force moved us and the thought of leaving my home, my friends, my community really hurt. I was attached to this place and I wanted to stay. But the Air Force had other plans.

At the time, we could not sell the house, the market had dropped drastically. So we rented it out, in the hopes that we would return after two years and move back into our home. But the Air Force had other plans for us……we never did move back to our beautiful home.

IMG_20140522_185713954

Now here I am, 8 years after leaving the house we made a home. Others have been living in the house since we left, renting from us. 3 years ago, we went back to Virginia to make repairs to our house to get it ready for the next tenant and it was then, in the midst of the damage caused by our first tenant that I realized this house was no longer our home. We weren’t living there, creating memories anymore and what we had created was no longer there…..it was now just a house.

The only reminder of the family who made this house a home was the growth marks still visible on the laundry room wall.

We made the decision to put the house in Virginia up for sale when the lease ended. I was ready. My husband was ready. Being landlords was not a job we enjoyed or envisioned we would ever find ourselves doing. So, when we started the process, I was surprised by the emotions I found welling up in me…….this had been our home……the memories made there flooded back…….I was sad about selling our home. But it wasn’t ours anymore and hadn’t been ours for the past 8 years.

Today we closed on our house, selling it to a young couple who I hope will see those growth marks and realize that at one time this house was a home, filled with love, laughter and tears. And my hope is that they make this house into a home and fill it with wonderful memories and lots of love and raise their family, with new growth marks on the laundry room wall.

We only own one home now! We are relieved. The stress associated with owning a house on the other side of the country is gone. A weight lifted off of our shoulders.

And I am a little sad…..it was our home and the memories made inside those walls will forever be cherished!

IMG_5608

Family

We are born into a family, related to them by virtue of birth.

And some of us, me for instance, are adopted into a family, related not by blood but by love, chosen to be a family. My mother often reminded me that she CHOSE me.

We have family that we marry into and family we gain when our children marry.

We have family born of old friendships from our years growing up.

Families come in ALL forms…….Thankfully!

And then there is the family that is related by a common bond, born out of a shared nomadic life—a life in the military.

My husband served 30 years in the Air Force and we moved A LOT. Everywhere we moved to was new, foreign and a little scary for this shy girl.

Our first move away from home was the hardest for me. We were moving many states away and it would be the first time I moved out of the northwest……away from my sister, my in-laws and my friends. It would just the three of us—my husband, our three-year-old son and myself…..alone. I was nervous and scared. I was shy and making friends had been hard for me every time I moved as a child. And now we were moving to a state in the northern tier, in winter.

I didn’t know how I was going to survive the cold and snow, let alone survive without my support system.

Despite the long months of snow covered ground and roads, and despite the isolation in a time when we did not have internet or cell phones to stay in touch with long distance friends and family, I thrived in our new home.

I made friends.

And I learned during that first assignment away from home that the Air Force was a family. We were all related through this common bond of service. My support system grew and the bonds of those friendships grew stronger every day, lasting all these many years later.

Each time we moved, our family grew. We were so very blessed to be given this family and to be there to support each other through moves, deployments, long hours, births of children, deaths in families and so much more….through everything–the good, the bad and the difficult–our Air Force family was there and I could always count on them. We celebrated together, we spent holidays together, we laughed and cried together and we took trips together. This was a family I did not originally choose, but am so very grateful for, Every. Single. Day! My Air Force family made the good days better and made the struggles survivable.

My husband retired from the Air Force a couple of years ago and we are no longer moving around the country. But that does not change the family we have in the Air Force. We are blessed to still count all those friends we made through our military life as our family. And no matter where we go, we have family to visit—around the country and the world.

It is a blessing to us when we get to visit with our military family—to catch up with their lives and laugh with them again. When we see them, we pick right up where we were the last time we were together, no matter how long it has been.

Over the past couple of months, we have had the opportunity to visit with those family members while we were traveling…..such a blessing to have so many to visit wherever we go.

And we have been visited by family as well, while they were traveling through……just last weekend we got to spend a few hours with friends, family really, who were in the area for a short visit.

Families come in all forms—through birth, adoption, marriage and shared bonds.

I am truly blessed to have such a large family, in ALL forms!