Beatitudes of my life

Being grateful for everything in my life…. no matter what…

Contemplating September 11th September 11, 2012

Filed under: Blessings,Football,Life Balance,Navy Life — beatitudesofmylife @ 3:40 pm
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It’s been eleven years since that terrible and horror-filled day when terror struck our nation. It’s been eleven years of remembering…. eleven years of sadness… and eleven years of trying to make sense of a series of senseless acts. There have been movies made, documentaries filmed, and stories told… yet we’ll never be able to fully explain the importance of this day. The depth of connection varies so much from person to person that we each have our own memories of that fateful day…

For me, it was a typical Tuesday morning. I had sent both boys off to their respective schools (D was in Middle School-6th grade and E was in Elementary-4th) and was settling in for the morning. I knew we had football practice that evening and M had been away in Dallas for a few days of travel for work. He was due to fly home that evening, so I was slowly starting my day.

I had the Today show on in the background when the first plane hit the World Trade Center. They cut into the news feed on TV and were dissecting the situation when the second plane hit… and that’s when all hell broke loose. Information, however spotty and inaccurate, was being shared as quickly as it came into the stations. Flipping from station to station was useless. No one had the proprietary rights over the story at that point, so everyone was just talking…incessantly and mindlessly talking… as if their words would in some way explain what had just happened.

The plane hitting the Pentagon came next. M and I heard later that some former USNA soccer players we knew had felt the plane overhead as it approached and then crashed into the Pentagon…. they were stationed at the Annex and closest to that carnage. Shortly after, the plane crashed in PA… and then, for me, the doorbell rang.

My next-door neighbor’s wife had family in the Northern Virginia area. Like me, she had been watching the news while feeding her young son, but her reaction to this tragedy was much more visceral. She couldn’t reach her family on the phone and she was frantic. Rather than waiting to hear more news regarding the current situation, she felt that she had to see her family. While I knew my boys were safe in their schools, she had no idea if her mom and sister were involved or safe. As crazy as it seems looking back on the situation now, she HAD to get up to Arlington…. it was a deep-seeded urge that compelled her to be present with her family. She needed me to watch her son and explain her absence to her husband while she attempted to reach them in the middle of the chaos. There was no question, at that moment, what I needed to do… I simply took her son from her and wished her God Speed. I then sat down with him and began to pray. (Note: while it took my neighbor many hours to reach her family, she was blessed to find that no harm had come to them)

While my friend was putting her fear into action, there wasn’t much I could do. My husband was in Dallas and had called just after the second plane hit. He and his boss had already checked out of their hotel, so they got their rooms back and extended their stay until they could better evaluate the situation and come up with a workable situation. I was loathe to have them take a flight back from Dallas… I could rationalize that there was little chance of another plane being hijacked, but the point was moot… all flights were grounded, and would be for days. To say that I was grateful for cell service is an understatement… hearing his voice any time he called was a balm to my soul. It meant that he was safe… even if he was hours and days away from me.

Late in that first day, a man from ADT stopped by my house (our development was pretty new at that point) and, while I’d held things together pretty well up to that point, I lost it on him. My husband was OOT… I was there alone with my kids… he needed to go away and go away NOW. I was not diplomatic… I was not controlled and kind… I was pissed. How dare he come by and imply that having a security system installed in my home would somehow make all this horror and fear go away. I was definitely not a fan of his tactic… and was not shy about telling him how I felt at that moment.

Over the coming days, the stories came in… photos were posted… more and more information was shared regarding each plane’s trajectory and velocity and weight and… and… and… and… it just didn’t seem to end. Taking solace in the little things suddenly became very important. Gathering with other families during the boys’ football practice on Wednesday night was helpful… just talking with other adults made such a difference in my outlook.

In the end, there was nothing I could do. I could only pray and lean on God… I could provide a strong place for my boys to rest their own concerns… and I could wait for my husband to come home. I knew I was blessed.. my husband was, indeed, coming home. He and his boss had kept their rental car and began the long trek home. Even the inconvenience that M hadn’t brought his car charger and his phone was about to lose power wasn’t important. He was driving home to me and would be home as soon as he could physically make the drive. In the midst of horror and tragedy (and as embarrassingly selfish as this statement will come out) the only good thing I could see was that M was coming home to me.

It’s fitting, somehow, that I have the opportunity to spend today with my beloved M. September 11th will forever be a day that lives in infamy. There is no true “silver lining” or “good that comes from bad” when referring to the events of September 11, 2001, but I don’t think we can discount that our country, and her citizens, became a little more patriotic… and little more appreciative of the blessings with which we live.

As I sit here, at the Navy-Marine Corps stadium of the United States Naval Academy, I’m surrounded by reminders of our military presence and participation in and around the world. Across from the press box, the words, GO NAVY, are visible on the second deck of seats, Battles from Marianas, Philippine Sea, Peleliu, Leyte Gulf, Lingayen Gulf, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Battle of the Atlantic, North Africa, Sicily, Salerno, Anzio, Normandy, and Southern France are listed along the front of the lower deck.

Being here on September 11th, somehow feels right to me. The men and women who graduate from this amazing place are those who will endeavor to defend our country when terror and evil tries to take over. We must continue, without the need for another horrific event such as happened on 9/11/01, to support their brave decision to put themselves in harm’s way for our sake. Those who stand for justice, honor, and goodness, no matter what military or service branch are answering a higher calling. September 11th should be a day to remember those who died, but it should also be a day to honor those who follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before… much like Memorial Day. Let’s not give evil any more time in the spotlight…

Oh… and remember that ADT guy that I unloaded on earlier in this story? He came back by our house on Saturday morning, after M had returned home. He started his conversation to me with “I see your husband got back home… would you like to discuss a security system now that he’s back?” My response to him was so visceral in its own way that it’s really not fit to print. Let’s just say that he’s never EVER been back to our house to ask about installing an ADT system.

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The thing about Friends… June 28, 2012

Filed under: Blessings,Communication,Girlfriends,Life Balance,Navy Life,Parenting — beatitudesofmylife @ 6:52 am

I have truly been blessed with some wonderful friends over the years.  Throughout my life, some amazing people have shown up, stuck around, been there for the best and worst, or simply popped in at the most God-divined moments that I feel the need to write and share with the blogging world.  Maybe you, too, have had some similar situations?

The friends of my youth:  These people met me when my parents’ marriage ripped apart, my world collapsed, and I was learning how to be Humpty Dumpty by putting all the pieces back together again.  I tended to categorize my friends geographically or by activities… those I knew through one HS or another, those I met in marching band, those from Camp Robin Hood, those who knew me through plays and musicals, or those who knew me at church.  Many of these groups of people didn’t coincide, so my opportunities for knowing a large number of people was great… I just wish I had realized that at the time.   I wasn’t a particularly unkind child, but I do wish that I had paid attention more in those formative years.  Having the gift of seeing these people now that we’re adults provides a glimpse into the life I lived then and allows me to use hindsight to foster better and more lasting relationships with some really terrific people.

The friends of my college years:  The people from my college years saw me though the most important and formative years for my personality.  I loved and lost… I triumphed and failed… and I was slowly able to craft myself into someone of whom I could be proud.  Not “proud” like, “look how cool I am”… but more along the lines of taking pride in creating a person on whom others could trust and depend.  I learned to make my word not only matter, but make it meaningful.  I found people who helped me learn self-respect and taught me to expect that from others.  I truly believe that my four years at Hood College, and the friends who meant the most to me, helped form me into the person I wanted to become as an adult.

The friends of my adulthood:  These people have watched me grow as a new wife and mother… new to the transitional life in the military… and learning to be “an adult” instead of a child.  It was the women I met in these years who demonstrated to me the attributes I most wanted to emulate and incorporate into my own life.   Seeing how other couples treated one another in public offered me the insight, however misguided, into how I wanted my own marriage to be seen by others.  Being honest, trustworthy, dependable, loving, caring, and forthright, all those “white knight” characteristics I had so admired in my darling M during our college years, became the  structure from which I endeavored to build my own life.

While the Navy, and subsequent moves, would add and subtract people from my day-to-day life, it has been the friends who stick with me that matter most.  The words of a well-loved poem (of disputed origin) come to mind when I think of friends…  it goes something like this:

People always come into your life for a reason, a season and a lifetime. When you figure out which it is, you know exactly what to do.

When someone is in your life for a REASON, it is usually to meet a need you have expressed outwardly or inwardly. They have come to assist you through a difficulty, or to provide you with guidance and support, to aid you physically, emotionally, or even spiritually. They may seem like a godsend to you, and they are. They are there for a reason,you need them to be. Then, without any wrong doing on your part or at an inconvenient time, this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end. Sometimes they die, Sometimes they just walk away. Sometimes they act up or out and force you to take a stand. What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled; their work is done. The prayer you sent up has been answered and it is now time to move on.

When people come into your life for a SEASON, it is because your turn has come to share, grow, or learn. They may bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh. They may teach you something you have never done. They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy. Believe it! It is real! But, only for a season. And like Spring turns to Summer and Summer to Fall, the season eventually ends.

LIFETIME, relationships teach you a lifetime of lessons; those things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation. Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person/people (anyway);, and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas in your life. It is said that love is blind but friendship is clairvoyant. Thank you for being part of my life…..

I am grateful for every friend I have ever made.  As Facebook changes and redefines how we term someone as a “friend”, know that I am blessed and forever changed by every person who has ever allowed me to lay claim to the term “friend”.

The thing about friends?  They are what makes the world go on… the sunshine seem brighter… and life seem that much sweeter.  Open yourself up to a friend and you will be forever changed.  Allow yourself to be affected by a friend and your life will be made that much richer because of it.

The fabric of our lives isn’t cotton…. the fabric of our lives is friendship… that’s the thing about Friends.

 

How I became a Sports Photographer February 22, 2012

It’s the beginning of lacrosse season and one of my favorite times of the year.  I’m grateful to be busy as a photographer and am constantly reminded just how organically  this career path came to be.  As weird as it sounds, it all started with my kids and my husband… as does much of what is right in my life.

E started playing lacrosse in the fall of his 8th grade year.  He had decided not to play his final season of association football and had opted instead to play lacrosse.  We knew nothing about the sport at that point, so we figured this was just his way of choosing to “do his own thing”.  We supported him, but I made the decision to remain with his former football team as their team mom and equipment coach since I had already committed to them for the fall.  Truth be told, I could have quit that job if I’d wanted to do so, but really loved being on the sidelines and helping the team.  I also felt it was important to show the boys that one doesn’t just quit something if you’ve made a commitment.  I pulled back a bit from football, but still did all the typical organizational stuff that I so loved.   That fall was a bit more chaotic than usual, since we were attending all E’s lax games AND I was going to all the association football games.  D was a sophomore in HS and in the marching band, so his activities didn’t really conflict with all that was going on for E and me.

It turned out that E was a natural on the lacrosse field.  We had parents who asked us where he’d been playing before… that surely this kid hadn’t just picked up a stick and figured out how to play in just a few short weeks of rec ball.  When he asked about trying out for the Middle School travel team, we encouraged him again but were sure he’d be passed over for those who had been playing for longer… instead, he was selected and became a stronger player as this second season went along.  He still was in his very first full year of playing lacrosse, but it was obviously becoming his passion.  We jumped in with both feet and began to learn the rules, help behind the scenes, and do whatever we could to help him improve his skill sets.

He tried out for our local travel lacrosse team when he was in 9th grade and, not surprisingly now, made the team.  Schedules were adjusted to accommodate this expensive hobby and both M and I learned where our own skills would be most helpful to the program.  I found that I loved watching the action of a lacrosse game but I missed being on the sidelines.  Having spent four years on the sidelines for football (M called me a “bench Nazi”) it was increasingly difficult to pay attention to the game itself when parents kept shouting their “helpful words of encouragement” to/at their children.  I wanted to get away from them and do something productive… and then I found a camera…

One of the dads had a Nikon D40X.  It was simple… clean… workable… and I wanted one.  My darling husband found one for me for my birthday in 2008 and the rest, as they say, is history.  I fell in love with the idea of capturing the feeling of a game through photographs.  I asked questions… talked with professionals… experimented with different settings… read countless articles and books… and slowly got better.  I never stop learning about photography but I’m significantly better than when I started.

Around this time, a website that M helps to moderate (gomids.com) made mention that they were looking for someone who’d be willing to be their photographer during the fall Navy football season.  My darling hubby sent me a text asking if I was “interested”…. and I almost fell over trying to quickly text my emphatic YES! back to him before he could rescind the offer. Thankfully, they let me start in the fall of 2008…. and what an incredible journey that has been, but I’ll have to touch on that later.  Still trying to focus on explaining how organically my sports photographer career came to be…

E was still playing club travel lacrosse at this point.  He attended a lacrosse Showcase in the fall of 2008 that really drove home the point to him that his skills really were competitive with many higher level players… he stripped the ball from some kid in one of his first shifts on defense that had parents around us gasping and applauding his talent.  I was taking photos of him as often as I could and it got to be a joke that he was “levitating” down the field when he played, since I seemed to catch him in the air more often than not. I kept asking questions and learned how to take better pictures as we continued to follow E’s lacrosse career.

By this time, I had been given many photo opportunities since getting that Nikon for my birthday and, after fighting and questioning my own abilities, had finally started to call myself a “Sports Photographer”.  I’d earned that title… by now I had been on the sidelines of Navy football for two seasons, I had photographed lacrosse for three seasons, including summer travel games, I had shot volleyball photos for two years and covered the event when E’s HS team went and WON the State Championship, and I’d “taken one for the team” and gotten run over by a referee during a lax game, giving me a black eye for a few weeks. Note: you can see the faint purple mark under my eye in this photo, two weeks after I got the black eye.  I was also cautiously photographing D’s college lacrosse games and learning how to share them with the team via Facebook.  It was time to say I was a Sports Photographer.

Eventually, it came time for E to graduate HS.  E was selected for the Richmond area’s US Lacrosse All-Star game and I was bound and determined to photograph this accomplishment.  When we got to the event, being held at a nearby college, I introduced myself to the US Lacrosse president and asked if I could shoot the game.  I gave her a brief overview of my abilities and promised to stay out of the ref’s way… no need to get plowed over by another one, right?  I walked away to rejoin my family, happy they were going to allow me this small concession.

Here is the cool part of the whole thing for me.  A little while later, this same woman came up to me and asked if I would consider being their “official photographer” for the game… photograph the remainder of the girls game, all the awards presentations, and then photograph the boys game and awards… that their Official Photographer hadn’t shown up to cover the event.  O M G…. how often does something like this literally fall into someone’s lap?  She then asked me about my event charge and my website address…. I quickly collected myself and asked if I could email that information to her after the game…. I had NOTHING at this point!  Wow… talk about organic?  I looked at M and said “I need to figure out how much to charge for an event and I need a website ASAP.”  FYI:  My website address is www.alisportshots.com.

That was in May of 2010… I’ve since been the photographer for Swim Championships, College lacrosse games, Milestone Family events, Senior Nights for volleyball teams, and of course, Navy Football (and lacrosse) for GoMids.com.  It’s been a whirlwind journey for me.  Each time on the sidelines is truly a gift and I am constantly reminded how much I truly adore this job.  I’m blessed to have an eye for sports action and consider each event I photograph to be the most singularly important thing I do at that very moment.  I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished in such a short time and am grateful that God has seen me worthy of these blessings.  It truly is magical to do what I get to do…

 

Communication is the key… February 20, 2012

My darling husband just left on travel for a few days and I’m already missing him.  Yes, he’ll only be gone for three days.  Yes, we can talk/text/Facetime throughout his trip.  Yes, this is a great opportunity for him in his work life.  Yes, I have made plans for one of the evenings he’ll be gone.  Even so, I know that I’ll miss him terribly.  It’d kinda pathetic that I will miss him so much, but I also see it as a huge blessing in my life.   He chose me back in 1987… and I see that as the greatest blessing of my life and do my best to honor that choice…

Over our 24 years together, we’ve had times where we’ve been separated for much longer.  When he deployed with the Navy, we got the BEST deal the Navy had to offer in that his deployments lasted 14-17 days at a time and he always landed on land (as opposed to landing on an aircraft carrier with spotty to no communication available).  We were one of “those” couples… the ones that called upon arriving, checked in often while away, and gave ETA’s that were as exact as possible.  Never was there a time when I couldn’t figure out how long it’d be til he was able to call and let me know he was ok.  He flew an EC-130 with the squadron, when they were based at NAS Pax River, MD, and I worked as a Drug Addictions Counselor for an area addictions unit.  We had strange schedules and (imagine this) NO CELL PHONES, so “calls home” were literally calls to home.  I had a pager that I carried for work occasionally, but we made our phone calls a priority, especially when he deployed.  I could never have been one of those women who say, “I have no idea where he is… he’s deployed and I won’t hear from him until he comes home in 2 weeks”.  M and I just don’t function that way.  I could do the “flight math” and know that I should expect a “zero-dark-thirty” call on any given deployment…. it was worth the lack of sleep to know that he was ok.  Maybe that seems co-dependent to some, but as long as it worked for us, that’s all that matters.

Since leaving the military, we’ve had other “travel challenges” over the years.  M had a 3-hour daily commute when we lived in MI at one point, which was pretty rough on both of us, especially in the “pre-cell phone” days.  He’s had various travel assignments for work and we’ve always made our communication a priority.   I know many couples who are comfortable with much less communication, but I believe we learned fairly early in our courtship that we can handle anything life throws at us as long as we’re able to talk with one another.

Being friends first certainly helped our communication with one another, but we were definitely blessed when we quickly recognized how well we “work” as a couple.  Finishing each others’ sentences gave us a clue, but those long phone conversations, when we were first dating, really cemented us in my mind.  I’d never felt so emotionally tied to someone, after such a short time, and it both scared and thrilled me.

The odds really were stacked against us… I was living in MD and M was in flight school in TX when we first started dating.  In our first year together, we lived through my job change and subsequent move home, M’s first duty station assignment, M’s winging, M’s move to Little Rock, AR for training, deciding that this was IT and trying to figure out how to tell our parents, losing my job and searching for something to do, and then helping M move into a temporary place until we could get married and get base housing.  Thinking back on all those events now, I’m reminded that we made it through everything because we continued to talk as often as we possibly could.  M would call when he got back from a functional flight or off duty… I would call when I got to whatever hotel I was living in when working as an Admissions Counselor for Wilson College… we talked about everything and anything, just like we do now.  It was expensive then; there were no cell phone plans with unlimited minutes, but worth every penny.

There are so many people these days who say that they don’t like talking on the phone.  They’d much prefer to text or email than carry on a conversation.  In our case, this simply wouldn’t have worked.  Hearing the nuances in M’s voice can change my response in a heartbeat.  I know how his words sound in my head when I read a text, but that’s not always how he meant for them to sound.

I know that our way of communication isn’t ideal for everyone.  Heck, it’s probably not ideal for many, but it’s exactly the right amount for us.  M has left for a few days of travel, but I know I’ll be able to handle it because I have faith that he’s going to call and text so we can stay connected.   After 24 years together, we both know that we need that connection to make it through the day.  I’ve left a note for him in his backpack that he’ll find shortly.  I’m sure he’ll call and laugh at me for putting it in there, but he’ll have yet another tangible way of knowing that I’ll miss him and that I love him.

Communication, however you make it work in your relationship, is the key.  It may be hard to figure out the balance needed for both of you, but once you do, the rewards are priceless.  I’m married to the man who is my best friend, my better half, and my soul mate… he’s my forever Valentine and I will never stop telling him how much I love him, cherish him, adore him, and appreciate him.

Communication…. that’s what it takes these days…

 

Thoughts of the past on a quiet morning… January 10, 2012

Filed under: Life Balance,Navy Life,Parenting,Uncategorized — beatitudesofmylife @ 3:58 pm
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It’s still early…. well, early for my guys.  I’ve been up since M left for work and, since I don’t work today, Christmas FicusI’ve been going slowly about my day.  Making coffee, catching up on emails, planning out errands, and generally enjoying the peace that rests in this house when no one else is up or around.  I’ve cheated and kept a string of white lights on a fake ficus tree in the corner of the living room so those are the only lights on.  They’re like having a little piece of Christmas around throughout the year.

The hard part for me will be when both boys leave again for college on Sunday.  I have them home for a few short days and then the chaos of school, classes, and sports will take over again.  I’m not worried any longer about having them leave…. they always come back.  It’s just the small readjustments that need to happen to take up the gap between being a daily family of four in this household and a daily family of two.  Cooking for Two?  I thought that was a joke… something that only “old” people did… certainly not something that my dearest and I would be doing in the middle of our life together.  I love having the boys around.  Love that they feel comfortable bringing friends to come over any time.  I’ve always wanted that sort of home… and have been “training” for it before we had completed our family…. really!

I’m known to be a planner and I can be extremely focused when planning things that are really important.  Take being a parent.  If you read my “About” section, you know that I planned to be a parent long before I ever was one.  It was the same with how I envisioned our home and family life.

When M and I first married, he was a Navy pilot, stationed at NAS Pax River, MD.  I learned a great deal about being a good mom and an involved spouse/parent during that duty station.  Wives were left for long periods of time while (primarily) husbands deployed and flew missions.  During those times we did a lot of bonding…learning how to be a “wife”, raising children, talking, venting, and generally using one another as sounding boards for our lives.  The wives club, since we lived on base, was my life and my social circle.  I saw, by example, visions of marriage that I did and did not want.  I realized this was a choice… I could create any sort of home for my husband and my children that I felt fit us best.  When our next duty station was assigned, I knew I had my opportunity.

Our second (and final) duty station was at the Naval Academy.  M was stationed in the sailing department and would teach as needed.  We were offered base housing just outside Gate 8 at USNA and were thrilled.  With our move scheduled for June/July, I proactively called in April about becoming Midshipman Sponsors.  The gentleman who answered was a bit taken aback by my request.  Being firm, I asked to have three plebes (freshman) assigned to us.

“Three??” he asked. “Why three??”  My response was this, “If you assign us one plebe, we’ll sit and stare at him all day.  If you assign us two, it’ll be our luck that they won’t get along.  If you assign us three plebes, we’ve got a chance in hell that two of them getting along”.  We were, thankfully, assigned three plebes that summer.    He also asked if we preferred male or female midshipmen.  I explained that I already had a son and planned to have another child soon after we arrived (though I wasn’t pregnant yet) and felt that this was my opportunity to learn how to be a mom of boys…. girls would inevitably come over, but the boys would be part of our home.   As it so happened, we were assigned three male midshipmen and then ended up with a few more that seemed to gravitate to our apartment, for one reason or another.

Through this experience I learned some valuable lessons.   I believe I was made to be a “boy mom”.  I can tie a gorgeous bow and play Barbies with the best of them, but I much prefer sports to playing dress up.  My house will probably always be cluttered, a little dusty, and comfortable.   My boys know that they can bring anyone over at any time of the day or night.  I’m never without the ability to make some sort of sweet (cookies, brownies, etc) to feed hungry boys and their friends.  While the Navy was teaching my husband a myriad of useful skills, that same Navy was teaching me how to live.  I learned that it’s never going to be about how clean you keep your house… it’s about taking the time to show those in your life just how much they mean to you.   I try to live that way each day… personal connections are what sustain people on whatever path they are traveling.   A kind word… eye contact… a smile…. each one can go a long way to making someone else’s day just a little bit brighter.

Sometimes, looking at the past can allow us to recognize the most precious blessings of our lives…

 

 
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