Friday, November 18, 2011

California Dreamin'

"Goin' to California with an aching in my heart."  - Led Zeppelin

In my last post, I wrote about what it was like to grow up in the military lifestyle.  It got me to thinking about HOME and what that means. It probably means something different to all of us.

When I was younger, home meant where my family was, wherever it was we were living. But I also had another sense of  home--a deeper meaning which came from my family history. A sense of place based on that history, filled with stories of family beginnings, lives lived, and stories told.  A place where we would go back to in between moves, where our extended family was, and where we felt we belonged. That place for me was always California.

California is the home state for both my parents. My dad grew up in San Jose and my mom grew up in Roseville. When my dad was in Vietnam, we lived in Roseville in a small rented home. This was so my mom could be near her parents and have some support and help with us kids. When dad came home, he was stationed at Oakland Army Base, so we moved to Walnut Creek, a small town closer to Oakland.

Then we got sent to Maryland, and my brother and I were NOT happy about it! We were quite content with our life in California. Well, as it turns out, Maryland was a great place to live. But as much as I enjoyed it there, I still pined for California. In all the places we lived after that, I never lost my longing for HOME. I knew someday I would get back there.

All the years we moved around, we would always make trips back to visit my relatives, usually in the summer. We loved spending time with my grandparents and my cousins, and we loved the sunshine. It was always hot in California! I think most of all though, it was the connection to something consistent. I was always very sad to leave.

My longing for California intensified when we moved to Ft. Lewis, WA. Let me tell you, for a girl who loves the sun, the constant rain and darkness up in Washington just put me into a depression. Every year, I tried to scheme a way to get to California. Couldn't I go live with my grandparents? How about my cousins? Please? No, my parents did not go for these ideas.

When I was in 9th grade, my best friend, Jean, and I devised a brilliant scheme that we called "Operation C." The C of course stood for California. Our plan was to save all our money, every last penny, and in the summer, we would hop on a bus and take a trip down there all by ourselves. We didn't know exactly what we would do once we go there, but we were pretty certain it would involve rock music, Birkenstocks and San Francisco.

We saved all our allowance and babysitting money. We even begged small change from our friends, saying we  forgot our lunch money. Shameful, I know! We put all this money in a shoebox, and by June we had $300. Not bad for piddly change, I'd say.

Well, then of course we realized the futility of our scheme. What would the two of us really do out in California? Where would we stay? Was $300 enough? We might be in danger and we wouldn't want to worry our parents.... So much for our California dreams. Instead, we split the money and went to the mall.

All through high school, I continued to fantasize about living in California.  Then it became obvious to me how I would finally get there.  It was simple really. All I had to do was choose a California college.  So, in the fall of '82, my dad drove me down to Sacramento to begin my new life--the one I had dreamed of for so many years.

I never looked back.

I  love living here as much as I knew I would. Even with all its financial and political problems, I still love it. It is a beautiful state with interesting people and a laid-back, free-spirited culture that I enjoy. It is HOME and I don't see myself ever leaving.

What does home mean to you?

"Someone told me there's a girl out there, with love in her eyes and flowers in her hair." - Led Zeppelin

Friday, November 11, 2011

I was a brat

It's Veterans Day. While I am grateful to all service men and women who have made sacrifices for us and our great country, the person I think of the most is my own father.
My Handsome Dad

You see, my dad was a career Army man, so I grew up immersed in the world of soldiers and all things military.  Base housing, military schools,  the PX (Post Exchange), the Commissary (grocery store), MPs (Military Police), military IDs, moving every 1-3 years, making friends and leaving them, standing and listening to the Star Spangled Banner at the theater before the feature movie, epic 4th of July celebrations, security checkpoints to get on base, and seeing my dad in uniform almost every day of the week.

Growing up military was a mixed blessing. But overall it was pretty awesome.

My brother and I both agree on that. We didn't know any other way of life. As military "brats" we got to do and see a lot of things that most children never get to. We lived in many different parts of the country and even in Europe. I was born in Frankfurt, Germany and we lived there for several years, so I actually have some memories of it. I remember our apartment building and I remember my Oma,  a lovely German grandmother who would babysit us and help my mom when she needed it. We also lived in Italy and I remember going to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa and Venice. In the states we were stationed in California, Virginia, Georgia, Maryland, Kansas, and Washington.

My favorite place we ever lived was Ft. Meade, Maryland. Although when we first stepped off the plane and felt the extreme humidity in the air, I wasn't so sure I would like it! We were coming from California and I had never felt that feeling before.  Humid summers aside, it was a great place to live with so much to see and do. Historical towns, battlefields, museums, and of course Washington D.C. was right next door. We'd go there almost every weekend in the summer and there was always something new to see.

Friendships are made easily and quickly in the military. Everyone is in the same boat--new place, new people. Most folks were friendly and eager to make the new place their home. However, that was also one of the draw-backs. We made good friends, but then everyone moved away. We got used to leaving people behind, but it was still difficult.  I so wanted to stay with my friends forever and grow up with them. But instead, we had to pack up and move to a new home and go to a new school.

My least favorite place was Ft. Lewis, WA because they had no schools on base, so my brother and I had to go to a civilian school.  That was difficult because the civilian kids had grown up together and weren't eager to let new people into their groups.  All us military kids kind of stuck together. It took a long time to make new friends and feel like we belonged.

Our base housing at Ft. Lewis.

That was the last place we were stationed.  My dad retired and my parents bought a house and remained in Tacoma for awhile.  Now they are happily settled in Oregon. After high school, I left for college in California and am still here. My brother  joined the Marines and then the Army (just like Dad), but left the military after the first Iraq war. Thankfully, he did not have to fight in that war.  He also lives in California, not far from me. 

Though mom and dad are settled, they still have a strong love for travel and are lucky enough to do so often.   Me, not so much. I guess I  had my fill, and now I prefer to stay in one place. 

The military life shaped and formed us all in many ways. There was a camaraderie amongst us that I have not experienced since.  Military friends are always your friends. My parents have stayed in touch with many of their old friends, and they have had several reunions. Since Facebook came on the scene, I have found a couple of my childhood buddies and it has been really fun to catch up with them.

I feel lucky to have grown up the way I did. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for giving us a unique and wonderful childhood.

Thank you to all those who are serving our country.  Your way of life allows us to have our way of life. You are much appreciated.

This song is for all those old friends....

Friday, November 4, 2011

Random Thoughts

I've had a busy and stressful week and my brain is pretty fried. This is what I'm thinking in my head today....

1. I really like the foamy soap that comes in a pump. WAY better than the liquid soap. That stuff tends to pool under the dispenser and make a gloppy, soapy mess on the counter. The foam just goes right where you want it and is so much easier to use. Two thumbs up!

2. I know the organizing "experts" say you should dispose of all your junk mail the minute you bring it into the house from your mailbox. But what about recycling? I am obsessed with recycling. And you can't just toss most of that junk mail in your paper recycling bin for a few reasons. First, most of those envelopes have plastic windows and you can't recycle paper with plastic. Second, some of that mail has private information you don't want to make available to those identity thieves that are rifling through all your trash. So, you really do have to OPEN the damn junk mail to deal with these sticky situations. You have to rip apart the envelope to get the plastic off, and then throw the paper parts in the recycling bin. Then you have to separate out the personal information so you can put that in the shredder. Oh! And you can't just put an envelope with plastic windows straight into your shredder for future recycling, because, again, there is the plastic issue.

So see? All you organizational "experts" are just wrong on this one. It's much more complicated than that.

3. Why am I getting mail from the local funeral home? I'm staring to get concerned.

4. Send us your tips!  Why do women's magazines pay someone money to give us stupid advice like, "Have your kids set out their backpacks the night before, so they won't have to rush in the morning." Really? Someone got paid $100 for this tip?

5. I stayed in my bathrobe today until 2:30 p.m.
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