Sunday, September 29, 2013

An Unforgettable Night

It's been close to a year since I've visited my own blog... a sure sign that we've moved again and I'm still trying to find my groove. As a military wife of 13 years it seems I should be getting it down by now, but it feels like I'm getting even slower at each transition. But last night I got to be part of an experience that reminded me in a very powerful why we keep doing this.

A few weeks ago when I checked the junk box in my email, I found a message that kind of knocked me over. It was from an officer in the Navy down in Florida, inviting me to play the national anthem at an important military ceremony. Turns out he had found my recording of The Star-Spangled Banner on iTunes. I think he was as surprised that I responded as I was that he had written (see my first sentence above)!

Long story short, I just got back from that amazing ceremony in Florida and want to post a few highlights:

During the sound check the room was being prepared for the event, so I got to play for all the folks setting up chairs and placing table cloths and place settings as a warm up. A very moving slide show was shown while I played - I could not even glance at the screens or that would have been the end of the music, it was such an emotional presentation. So, yeah, my eyes were closed...

The remarkable people who made this such a memorable night - talk about heart - wow. From start to finish, during the program and dinner we laughed and cried and laughed til we cried! Throughout the night we honored military traditions, but much more importantly, we honored the reason the military members do what they do. 

The guest speaker was a Wounded Warrior, a true hero, who would tell you he was just doing his job, and that he would do it all again. He recounted several incidents of extreme suffering and personal sacrifice, but was able to come to the conclusion each time, "I'm a lucky guy." I can't tell you how inspiring this was to me. Perspective, perseverance, courage, resilience, commitment, and a huge heart. I wish every American could meet him.

A perfect night out on the terrace - palm trees, boats on the river, balmy air - so lovely!

Dinner was absolutely delicious, and my only regret was that I didn't have room to finish all my dessert.

Another unexpected, unforgettable experience: when the Commander shook my hand at the end of the night, she put her Commander's coin in the palm of my hand. I was totally stunned! It's a really special honor to receive one even as a military member, but I never dreamed I would be given one as a military spouse! So many things about this trip felt truly once in a lifetime.

One of the sweetest moments came at the very end of the program, when a toast was made to the family members of our military. The tribute made me cry (again) because they gave our boys and I a new title: "Angel Warriors."

This is what I hope I'll remember each time I'm asked to sacrifice in support of my husband's military service - and the next time I don't update my blog for a year because we've moved again and I've lost my groove - that if Wounded Warriors can consider themselves lucky, I certainly can too as an Angel Warrior.

Thank you to my new Navy friends in Florida, for inviting me to be part of such an unforgettable night.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Tree Hugger

I've lived in Monterey, California, for two years now. I have just a couple weeks left before we move, and I've been sad about it ever since we arrived. I love it here. And one of the things I love are the trees. The whimsical, striking, unbelievable, how-did-this-happen, how-is-this-even-standing, full of personality trees.

I wrote in a previous post that sometime I would devote a post solely to my favorite trees. This is it.

 So of course I have to start with the most widely recognized tree along the Central Coast - 
the Monterey Cypress on Pebble Beach's gorgeous 17-Mile Drive. 

But there are a lot more than this that have won my heart. I won't even begin to attempt to name 
them all - but we've named some of our favorites:

The Circle
(How did this happen?! This was the first tree we named here. It caught my attention and got me noticing how much personality surrounds us in nature here on the Peninsula.)

The Bench 
(This is unbelievable to me - two trees next to each other somehow grew to make this little bench between the two of them. I pass by it every day and it makes me smile every time.)

The Camouflage Tree
(Kind of funny that this is in a military housing neighborhood.)

Lean on Me
(It's hard to tell if these two trees are supporting each other, or trying to push the other over. Kind of like the boys in my house some days. Anyway, if you could see both trees in full, it looks like they're rubbing elbows. Cute.)

The Serpent
(It's hard to see, but this is a very horizontal tree, as opposed to vertical. It goes back into the ground before coming up again. This is my view from the gym so I get to think about it a lot. For exactly 30 minutes at a time.)

Pippi Longstocking
(I don't know why, but the branches remind me of funny side pony tails sticking out.)

The Flex
(Doesn't it look like it's flexing?)

The Hug
(The white tree on the right is wrapping it's arms around the tall dark trunk next to it. 
I think it's so sweet!)

Ghosts on the Ridge
(Some days the fog veils the trees and it's as if they're almost not there. Personally, I love it when this happens. Just not for days on end.)

Silent Giants
(This is the view through my son's window screen at bedtime. It's like the silhouettes are all lined up to watch over him through the night.)

Tree Parade
(Speaking of trees all lined up, this one makes more sense in context of the flat fields of crops and no other trees on the horizon for miles. This lineup is a landmark on our way north. Love the cheery red barn!)

The Family Tree
(It's hard to see just how wide the base is, I had to stand so far back to fit most of it in the frame. Ever since we got here, I've thought this would be a great tree for a family picture, because there's so much horizontal space in it to spread out.)

The Halo
It inspires me every time I see it, but it only appears in late fall and during the winter.)

Mini Christmas Trees
(My son and I discovered these near our house and just thought they were adorable!)

The Lone Palm
(There are a few palm trees here and there that remind me this is California.)

Grow Where You're Planted
(Even if it's right in the middle of the street, I guess.)

Whimsy on a Stick
(This picture doesn't do it justice - it's a 360' wonder if I've ever seen one!)

Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary
(On cool, wet days they look like dead leaves. On warmer, sunny days, this grove comes alive!)

Stripped Eucalyptus 
(This is like a work of art to me. And Eucalyptus and pine mixed with the salty ocean air are one of my favorite scents here. Have I mentioned that I'm going to miss it?)

What I've learned from trees:
Many of the trees here are so asymmetrical I've had to wonder how they are even still standing. I've come to two possible conclusions. One is that maybe the roots are strong enough to hold it upright. The other is that maybe the balance is actually in the asymmetry itself. Either way, there is a reason each one has grown into the shape and structure we now see. It's character has been shaped not only by the genetics in it's original seed, but by everything in it's life - the wind, the rain or lack thereof, the sun and shade, the terrain, and especially the other trees around it. Somehow their unashamed declaration of their character gives me a sense of confidence, that we can all be exactly who we are as well. We can be resilient!

I love this quote from Marlin K. Jensen's address, The entire article is a great read filled with insightful analogies.

There are trees in the Sacred Grove that Brother Parrott calls “character trees.” These are trees that demonstrate that opposition can work to our benefit and that in our extremity there is often much to be gained. These trees have had to react and adapt to and sometimes recover from various forms of opposition or adversity—a lightning strike, a powerful gust of wind, a heavy accumulation of snow or ice, the encroachment and abuse of careless humans, and even sometimes the aggression of a neighboring tree! Out of these adverse circumstances have come some of the sturdiest and most visually interesting trees in the grove. What they may lack in symmetrical beauty, they more than make up for in resoluteness and in character.

One other reason I might like trees so much? I love what they can become.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Funny Thing Happened...

... when I tried to buy a D string.

I started my day in work out clothes, heading to the gym after taking the boys to school.

But on the way I remembered I really needed to buy a D string, ASAP. So I drove to the nearest music store.

But I got there an hour and three minutes before they opened. So I decided to get my exercise on the Rec Trail in the meanwhile.

But I parked my car in the nearby Old Fisherman's Wharf parking lot, and decided I'd take a walk on the wharf first. So I headed to the non-commercial, non-clam chowder in bread bowls, unfamiliar to me wharf.

And I stayed for an hour and a half. And I didn't get my heart rate above resting... except when I saw how breathtakingly close I was to the pelicans.

 And the sea lions.

And the sea otters.

Needless to say, I completely forgot about the D string, as well as my workout. 

I listened to the sea lions breathing right beneath my feet as they swam under the wharf. I watched the pelican's throats throb as their breakfast tired to escape. I heard the sea otters tear their freshly caught crabs apart piece by piece and crunch away. I heard the seagulls crying so loud they almost drowned out the barking of the sea lions! And I watched a sea gull flap his wings, sending a feather floating on the breeze, landing right at my foot. I felt the warm sun on my arms and face and felt amazing.

I overheard a conversation between three locals, just shooting the breeze. They talked about how old they were getting (two of them revealed their ages: 63 and 67), how good young people look when they're tan, but if you're tan when you're older, you just look tan and old. "Thanks a lot," one of them replied to the his buddy. I laughed to myself. A few minutes later when I joined the conversation, I found out that these men had grown up as military "brats" and had found their permanent homes here. They're pretty much living my dream. One of them looked at me and said, "Has anyone ever told you that you bear a resemblance to Barbra Streisand?" Then I really laughed, at which point his buddy said, "Obviously, she has." I told him he'd made my day, he gave me a fist bump, and I went on my way as the sea otters came back up with a fresh round of crabs.

The D string... oh, yeah. How did I end up in such a different world than the one I started out in? 

So the rest of the story, not nearly as fun as my morning began, goes like this. I made it back to the music store, decided to buy an entire set of strings in case I really liked how the D sounded, and headed home to try it out. What I really wanted was to go back for clam chowder in a bread bowl and a boat ride around the bay, but I stayed focused on the D this time. 

I got home, pulled it out of the envelope (attempt #1), and could not believe it. There was a defect in the D string, something I've never seen in decades of buying new strings. So I dug through my stash of used strings, and wonder of wonders, found one brand new D string of the same brand. Why hadn't I started there in the first place? Because I was going to the gym, that's why. 

I began attempt #2 at what I thought would be a routine string change, and could not believe it - the thread at the ball end was too thick to fit through the tailpiece hole! And not just my D, but the defective D as well (attempt #3). I looked at the tailpiece compared to the other couple of violins sitting on the couch, and sure enough, those holes were indeed narrower than the standard size. How could I find out if a different brand of string would change the tone if I couldn't even restring it?

So I went back to the music store, explained the problem, and asked politely for a refund. No such luck. I could not believe it! I'd just spent 70 bucks and wasted a lot of time, for a set of strings I couldn't even use.

The conclusion I had to come to? Today was not about the D. Obviously. It never was supposed to be! And for that, I am glad.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Opening Up

Surprise! This is what that sweet little bud turned into this past week. It's pretty amazing that a blossom that big can open up from such a tiny beginning. I love that the petals are even still wrinkled, hinting that it's still coming into it's own. It gives me hope for a brilliantly beautiful tomorrow!

Monday, March 5, 2012

"Let us cherish the beauty which surrounds us"

Sometimes benches are not only well placed, but they have great quotes posted on them. So it gives you something to think about while you sit. I especially like this one.

And I especially like all the beauty that surrounds me right now!

This last one is my favorite. I don't know yet what it will look like, exactly what shade it will be, or how big it will bloom, but I think that's what I like about it. It holds the promise of Spring: Potential. New Birth. Beauty surrounding us. And it starts out tucked away, deep inside.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Lamppost and the Leaves

I'm fascinated with the trees here on the Monterey Peninsula. Sometime I'll post pictures of all my favorites. Today though, I'm writing about a new discovery - I just found out that one of my best friends (and neighbors, who sees the same trees I do every day) shares that same interest. Yesterday she pointed out a tree I've passed by daily but hadn't really seen before, at least not the way she had. And it's really cool.

It's not so much about the tree itself, but about the lamppost and the leaves. She pointed out to me that all the leaves have long since fallen to the ground - except - the leaves right around the lamppost. They're even still green for the most part, at the end of December. It must be the light from the lamp at night that is keeping them alive.

I love analogies and I think there's a good one here! In fact, these lyrics came to my mind as I thought about the power of that light:

Thou gracious God, whose mercy lends
the light of home, the smile of friends,
our gathered flock thine arms enfold
as in the peaceful days of old.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809 – 1894)

This was a beautiful reminder that in this past year, His mercy has brought me the light of home, the smile of friends, and deep, inner peace as I've felt His loving arms gather me in. Like that lamppost, His light has given me the extra strength I've needed to keep holding on through long, dark nights. May this strength and peace fill us through the weeks and months ahead. Wishing you all a Happy New Year!