Thursday, December 18, 2014

Moving Beyond

Anyone who has been paying attention at all to the world of BRATdom over the past month and a half is well aware of what has happened.  If you're not, I invite you to take a journey over to some of those blogs referenced on the right.    They've done an amazing job discussing the civilian duo who thought that our heritage was challenging, that today's BRATS should be called something else, and that yesterday's BRATS are completely out of touch with what today's BRATS are dealing with (yeah, like a civilian who has never had any military experience, either as a member or a dependent is more in touch because they took a couple of classes. That's not at all FUBAR.)  

But what is next?

How do we, as a community, heal from the very real hurt that has been inflicted?   I take it as an absolute given that Operation CHAMPS is not going to apologize to our community.  They think that they are absolute saints and perfect in every way.  They refuse to look inward at their own missteps, and they refuse to acknowledge that even if their intent was not to cause harm, they have. You'd think that someone from their particular culture would be well aware of this.  That culture focuses on the strength of community, and laws, which may seem odd to an outsider, exist to protect the community as a whole.    There is also a concept of restitution which is very prevalent.   But the biggest obstacle in any of this is admitting the error of your ways -- something I am certain they will never do.  

And if they did, would we, as a community, ever trust them to be faithful and true in their apology?  I don't know that I would, if I am honest.  I'd be looking for their edge, their angle.   I don't trust them not to have one, and I have valid reason for that.  They have been duplicitous and dishonest in their dealings with us.  While they chose to attack our culture, unprovoked, when we called them to task for this assault, they vilified us.   They played the victim card.  They were the ones wronged.   But from my point of view, they had an opportunity to open a dialog with us.    One of them claims to have a degree related to psychology, so I find it rather telling that she was incapable of realizing that the anger she was getting was due to her own action.  She could have apologized, and asked for a dialog then.   Instead, she and her followers chose to deride and insult people who were coming to them, first.   Rather than saying "Whoa!  I missed something.  Can we talk?"  (which we would have been open to), they accused us of being misinformed about their intent.  

We had direct quotes from an organization printed in several articles and on their own website.  We were not misinformed.

That being said...the way they responded has made it so I am unwilling to dialog with them.  I am unwilling to trust anything they say.   They have proven themselves to be deceitful and underhanded,, disrespectful of the community they claim to want to serve.

But that does not move us beyond this.  Where do we go from here?

I've honestly learned a lot about my culture in the past month and a half.  I understand things that I thought were personal oddities are actually related to the things I experienced growing up as a military BRAT.   This is a good thing.

I discovered that I'm really not the only one who felt, literally, exiled from the community in which I was raised.   Driving past military installations actually hurts because, despite being a member of that community for 21 years, I have been discarded.

In many ways, the military is part of our family, but it is a very dysfunctional one.  We are, in a very real sense, the bastard children it refuses to acknowledge.   I wonder how much of that is because they know that the reality of our childhood had an impact on our adult lives and who we became.  They know that the mission itself caused a lot of strife in so many ways.  

Serving in the armed forces is not all parades.  It is sometimes coffins and wheelchairs and  prosthetic limbs.  It is sometimes unseen injuries.   Sometimes, it is alcoholism and violence.  And there are darker, hidden areas -- where the class system between officers and enlisted comes into play.   Of course, there is also the sexism.     There are a lot of wonderful things about the military, but there is also a lot wrong within it.   Its very nature causes much of these problems.   However, these problems impact the service members. They impact the spouses.  And they most certainly impact the children.

The difference is that the service members and their spouses do have support.   The child?  They quickly learn the mantra "Suck it up, buttercup."

Once a military BRAT reaches a certain age, however, in addition to everything else the military has thrown at them, they are exiled.

The military does not want to acknowledge us.  Acknowledging means accepting some responsibility. While we bear them no blame in many of the issues, understanding that the mission of the military itself is a direct cause....something they can control no more than we, the thing we can hold them to account for is their abject dismissal of us.
Service members who approach retirement are given help to transition to a civilian world, which has changed much in the 20 (plus) years they served.    The military dependent, who has never ever navigated this world?  No help at all in navigating this foreign land.   Just "turn in your ID and begone with you"      We are dropped off in a country we don't really know (even though it is our own) with the only home we've ever known closed.  

Is the military dependent sheltered? from many things...yes.  We are oddly sheltered.   We understand war and danger and security procedures.    But we don't really know how to communicate in world where traffic does not come to a stop at 5 pm, where people do not stand up before the movie starts.

We accept immediately that we've been abandoned.   As a fellow BRAT (Marc Curtis) said:  "When they took away our ID, they meant it."  

They don't want anything to do with us.  They don't want to work with BRAT organizations, because BRAT organizations actually know areas where need exists -- and they do not want anything that represents a picture other than a child singing or saluting a flag.

I think the military owes young BRATS access to the aid that can be given, from people who have walked in their shoes.    Young BRATS deserve honesty.   They deserve programs which help them to reach out to one another when they are not in DODDEA schools, and they need programs which give them a safe place to talk about things, their fears, their worries, their stresses -- where their words will not be considered criticism of the military as a whole or their parent and they won't be told to 'suck it up, buttercup.'    

What don't they need?  A civilian pretending to understand them while teaching them what she "knows" about the military.   BRATS already put on a brave face for the rest of the world.  They need a safe place where that mask can come off and they can deal with their emotions.

How many people watch pictures on Facebook of a Daddy coming home from a long deployment and his little girl or boy running to him with abandon?    That's the picture you want to see -- the joy of the reunion.    That's the pretty.

But how many people think of the tears she cried in her pillow, muffling the sound of her sobs because she knew her mother was just as afraid, because she missed her father?  And how many think of the brave face she must put on when she realizes that the man she knew as Daddy has changed so much  that he feels like a total stranger?

It's been documented that psychologists have a hard time helping military members open up about their war time stresses -- because that service member does not feel the doctor understands them.  

Don't young BRATS deserve access to those in our community  who most definitely understand them?  Is it not wrong of the military to deny them access to those of us who came before, who went through this? We may have been raised during a different war, in a different time -- but the fears, the lifestyle...those things have not changed.  

I applaud those who want to help the military child.  I really do. But helping them is not about babysitting, or writing a feel good book.   They don't need songs that say "good bye isn't forever," because trust me when I say it usually is.    They need people who can relate and relate honestly with them.

Those organizations exist.   So the question that should be asked is not why are the military and other organizations supporting those civilian groups....but why are they NOT supporting BRATS?

We're not veterans.   But we're also not civilians.   We're the children of the military.  

Support the troops....but not just by wearing a flag on your lapel or putting a ribbon magnet on your car.

Support their families .... and that includes the children. ...and not just so you can get a sweet photo op.  (And for the love of whatever you swear on that is holy, do NOT post pictures of military BRATS who are overseas on line!   They are targets.)     Support organizations which actually do understand what the military child experiences, and knows the needs that no one will voice.  

Friday, December 12, 2014

Why I'm Proud to be a BRAT

What's a BRAT, you ask?  The short answer is 'child dependent of the people who serve our nation, whether they are in the Armed Forces, civilian service personnel, diplomatic corps (including foreign service and  state department), and educators.'     However, growing up as a BRAT defines a person long past childhood.  

As far as the letters -- BRAT -- it's not a proper acronym.    A proper acronym has an agreed upon meaning.   For example:   USA - United States of America.   If you hear "USA," you know exactly what those letters mean.  The same is not true for BRAT.     That is not to say they do not have meaning -- they have so many meanings, and they are important to us.

The first time I was called a BRAT, my father told me it meant 'Born, Raised, and Trained" .   Military BRATS are Born, Raised and Trained in the military, and that is certainly true.   But I've heard a lot of meanings...and they all resonate with me.   Why wouldn't they?   This is my identity, and these are all words of strength.   When you move every three years (if you're lucky!), and transfer schools even more often, you have to have something anchor, if you will.

So, what do these letters stand for?

Sometimes, it is a sentence or a saying, like "Born, Raised and Trained."   I have seen "Born, Raised and Traveled," "Born Ready and Traveled,"  and "Born Rough and Tough."   Those are just the sentence ones, and I can assure you -- those are the very definition of a BRAT.  

But sometimes, these letters have meanings:

B - Bold, Brave
R - Responsible, Resilient, Respectful
A - Adaptable, Adaptive, Adjusted
T - Tolerant, Tenacious

I think you can see why we might cling to these adjectives.   They are things we aspire to.   In a world of "suck it up, buttercup," we use those as a mantra.

BRATS have recently added another letter collectively.... S - Spunk!  We are a spunky bunch, and we have to be.

All this is just a little bit of who we are:  as children.

Why is it so important for an adult to cling to this?  It's simple.   Where did you grow up?   Did you have a simple answer, like "Roanoke, Virginia"?    Even if you've left "Roanoke," did not those years help develop you into the person you are today?   You might live in Cheyenne, Wyoming, but you always consider "Roanoke, Virginia" to be home, or at least a part of who you are.  You will always feel comfortable in Roanoke.    I bet you can even rattle off your childhood street address - perhaps even your phone number.

Where did the BRAT grow up?  Everywhere.   We are America's children, spread like seeds in the wind.   We've been all over the globe.   Our hometown IS really our culture...our identity.  We don't have a physical hometown, but we do have a metaphysical one.  

Honestly, we need our name when we're growing up.  We also need it once we've separated.   We cannot go home -- the bases are closed to us.  We've been exiled.   Still, even if we could, even if we could drive down the streets where we once played, there would be no one that we knew there.   No one would remember us -- or anyone we knew.   Our culture is transient in location, but very strong in its bond.

Young BRATS serve this nation from the time they can walk until they reach the age of separation.   They make unrecognized sacrifices every single day -- today's BRATS deal with multiple deployments of one or both parents.  While they have access to communication technology that was not available to the BRATS who came before, they are still sacrificing a childhood of security so that our nation can be secure.     They sacrifice Christmases and birthdays, plays and presentations, playoffs and play dates.   Many of these children have spent less time with their parent than they have apart from them.    Yesterday's BRATS made that sacrifice as well.   And they do this without complaint.   They, like their parents, live Kennedy's challenge:  "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."   They learn to serve this country before they learn to walk.

That sacrifice never stops.   And many, many, many BRATS make another sacrifice -- the loss of a parent in the service of our nation.

What else do BRATS do? When we are abroad, we serve as unofficial ambassadors of this nation.   How many people will ever meet a head of state?  How many will ever have an opportunity to talk to an official ambassador?   Sure, the rich and powerful have those opportunities.   But what about the average person?   Not many.   But a lot of people in those nations have a chance to meet the BRATS (and their families).     We know, from a very young age, that when we are off base, what we do reflects not just on us, or even our parents.   We're representing our nation.   We take that very seriously.   We love our country very intensely, and it is very important to us.  Who do you think we're sacrificing for?  We never forget.

Not while we're growing up.  And not after we separate.  America forgets us though...and that is assuming you ever paid attention to the fact that we also served.  We did not volunteer.   We were drafted with our first breath.   And we are thrown away when we reach our expiration date.

Yet we still love our nation intensely.  

I'm very proud to be an Air Force BRAT.  

There are a lot of ugly things about being a military BRAT -- There is a lack of stability existing outside of our own immediate family.  Some BRATs do not even have that much -- military families are like many others.  Some are supportive and some are extremely dysfunctional.   However, if you do not have the support of your immediate family, BRAT life very very difficult.

I was extremely blessed that my parents were (and are) supportive.   I knew, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that if my father missed something important .... it was not his choice to miss it.     My father went on temporary duty assignments, sometimes for months at a time.   One time, that TDY actually worked to my advantage -- in college! (okay, the TDY got cancelled, but he was supposed to have a TDY at Wright-Pat.   I was in college in Michigan.  My dad was then stationed in Montgomery, Alabama.   Wright-Pat is within a semi-reasonable drive of my college.)   My senior year, the final band concert was during the time he was supposed to be at Wright-Pat.   He had, reasonably, missed all of my college concerts -- and I never bothered asking them to come (I mean... 18 hour drive for a concert?  No.)    But I did ask him to come to this one.   It was a mere 3 hours away.    His TDY got cancelled.   But instead of telling me this, he and my mom did that 18 hour haul for an hour long college concert.  They could have told me the TDY had been cancelled.  I would not have been hurt. I only asked because, for once, he would be close.

In addition to the unspoken but always present knowledge that having a parent in the service brings about a constant threat of loss, many BRATS have to deal with parents who come home and are not the same.   Combat is difficult on people.   But coming home does not end the stress -- it just brings on a different stress.    But BRATS do what BRATS do.... they deal with whatever the military throws at them.  

And there have been a lot of BRATS who, after separation, realized that there is a need to reach out to BRATS of all eras (We each rather identify with an era that defines the experiences we had.   I'm a Cold War BRAT, for example.   I'm very grateful to not have been a Viet Nam Era BRAT -- simply because while they dealt with many things similar to what today's BRATS encounter, they did not have the comfort of a grateful nation to support them.  They had to deal with the stress of a parent in a war zone, and their school mates asking if he was a 'baby killer.'   America owes these BRATS and their families an apology, by the way.  The way we treated our veterans was horrendous, and the way we treated their families was equally so!   I say "we", but I do rather mean those of you who are old enough to have been there!)  

These BRATS have formed clubs to reach out to the kids in civilian schools, so they know they are not alone; they have conducted the longevity studies that other organizations have failed to consider; they have researched and produced works of non-fiction books and documentaries; they have written children's books to help children with deployed parents; they have formed databases; they have worked extremely hard on behalf of BRATS, past and future.   They have done these things without the support of the military or the government.   They have done this with extremely limited support from civilians.     All because these entities do not like the name of our culture: BRAT.

These entities do not recognize or respect that not all BRATS are spoiled.

But we are very proud of our name and our heritage and our legacy.  And woe betide to anyone who tries to take it away.

Here are links to the organizations I was talking about.

Brats without Borders / BRATS: Our Journey Home (documentary)
Military Brat Registry
Overseas Brats
Books for Brats

I'm very proud of those who have worked so hard to preserve our legacy and bring us together, giving us a community long after our exile, and let us know that, as always -- we are not alone.  We never were.

We are your neighbors.  We are your co-workers. We are the realtor who sells you your very first home, or the underwriter who approves your loan.  We are writers and actors, lawyers and legislators. We are members of the global community.  We learned who America was by seeing her through the eyes of the world, and we helped them see our nation for the beautiful place and people it can be.

I'm proud to be a part of this community.  I'm proud of the experiences I got to have as a BRAT -- from spending my 18th birthday in Paris, France and London, England to the world class education I received from some of the best teachers in the business.  

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

November 26 - The Last One

Beginning Word Count:  48,246

I did not get to this yesterday.  In fairness, there was a reason.  Very busy at work, and last night was a once in a lifetime event -- the 50th Anniversary episode of Doctor Who simulcast across many theatres in 3D.  Sorry, this Who Chick was not going to miss that!  Unfortunately, the theatre in question was about 30 minutes from where we live -- so that was 30 minutes there and 30 minutes home.  (In fairness, if we had not moved to Birmingham, that would have been one REALLY obnoxious road trip.  So, we got home around 10:00, which is not ridiculously late, but as I'm not actually feeling well, it was more important to get some rest.

So, today I am writing my last blog piece.

I've learned a few things:  most importantly, I do not care for blogging.  It's always something I think I should do, that I think I should make time for.   But, I really did not enjoy this challenge at all.
As far as what I've written this month, there are several pieces I am rather proud of.

I am happy with the pieces I wrote regarding religion and how it is being used as a weapon.  I feel that each person does have a right to their religious beliefs, and that those beliefs should be respected -- as far only as the religious individual respects those outside of his beliefs.   In other words, if every person practicing their faith would keep out of other people's business, that would be great.   However, that is certainly not the standard.    I am also rather proud of the piece explaining what I believe.

I am very proud of my creepy story about an encounter on the highway.  It was inspired by a drive home from Montgomery one evening.  While driving on the interstate, I kept seeing blobs of gray out of the corner of my eye as I was driving, and I imagined it might be interesting to write a story about this.  So.... that is where it came from.   I had initially planned on letting my main character out of the forest unscathed, and allowing her to go on about her life.  But then I changed my mind.   The fun thing is that shortly after I wrote this story, I read it to my husband, who had to drive to Montgomery and Prattville in the afternoon and drive home at night.  He, too, saw the gray blobs.  I had totally creeped him out with the little story.  I find that quite humorous, but it also is kind of cool.  

Writing down the story of how we met was kind of interesting.  John knew the story from his perspective -- but not from mine.  John read the story and saw it through my eyes for the very first time.  He's a very sweet, very romantic, very sappy person.   So he teared up while reading it.  It was fun to watch him see how I saw him.

I wrote a Speed Racer fan fiction story, which was rather fun.  It ended up being longer than I anticipated it would be, but I do like how it turned out.

I had a great deal of fun writing the report from our cats.  Cats have such amazing personalities, and each of ours are very social.  They also seem to have a great deal of responsibility which they have put upon themselves.  The dynamics between the boys is fascinating to me, but they also almost certainly have voices of their own.   Logan is rambunctious and playful, and just a little immature...but not mean or malicious.  He is just young.    Thames is a quite creature, who seems a little depressed, but is very affectionate.  He's coming out of his shell and is a wonderful big brother.  I think his depression was that he did not feel he was respected.  He knows now that he is.   Gus is our brave and intrepid leader.  He is very serious, and very responsible.  This cat is very diligent about protecting his family.  Sam is a dignified cat.  I always think of him as the type of cat who would wear a top coat, monocle and top hat.

I do like the imagery of my little piece - faces on the wind -- and in many ways it was an inspiration for the updated ending of my short story.

At the midpoint of the month, I finished the edit on my novel.   To be honest, this is a true relief.   I wrote a piece regarding that.

The Tarot Reading was interesting to me, and also the first full reading using that deck.

The piece I wrote about being a Military B.R.A. T. was very important to me, to explain something that, well honestly, unless you have lived it, it a bit difficult to understand.  And there is a genuine feeling of anger with the military itself that I have, because of how the Military B.R.A.T. is treated.

And the final piece, a retelling of a story I wrote a while ago.  I was surprised at how it turned out -- because I know this story very well.  I know my story, my recasting of the Apollo and Daphne myth, extremely deeply -- it is a story I have always been very proud of.  I am extremely happy with how this new version came out, and I suspect that editing with both in hand, it will improve the story completely and I cannot wait to see how it comes out.

So there have been a few interesting pieces, to me, throughout the month.  There were a couple that I had thought about writing on.  I had thought to write a piece at the mid point about the blog and how I felt it was going; however, at that point, it seemed a bit redundant to do it at both the mid point and write a farewell.  So I scrapped that idea.    I had thought about writing an ode to John of some kind on the occasion of his birthday.   However, I did not feel up to writing one thousand six hundred and sixty seven words on the subject; I was sure it was going to fall flat.

Another topic I had thought about expounding on was the Smart Phone.   I did not write it out, but my thoughts on the subject are pretty simple.  The Smart Phone is the bane of human existance.  It is convenient and is a wonderful tool.  But we have allowed ourselves to turn it into an appendage.  I include myself in this -- I am not innocent in this condemnation.  The Smart Phone, with its ability to access information at a moment's notice, also provides constant access to social media and other frippery.  We must be accessible to anyone who wants to talk to us 24 / 7 .  I rather miss the days of going out to dinner, and spending time with the person I am at dinner with rather than with Facebook.   I miss coming home to voice messages because someone wanted to speak to me and I was not available.  We are so busy checking in and catching up and texting with every one except the person we are with.   We go to events and record them, but do not enjoy them.  We snap pictures of things and look at the world through the lenses of our cell phones.

I had also considered writing a comparison and contrast between movie and book representations.   It is a very broad topic.  I have a t-shirt that proudly proclaims "the book was better" and I have found that to be usually true.  There are a couple of books that are exceptions to this rule, in my opinion (Shining Through and Three Musketeers).   Now, one of my favorite vloggers (bandgeek8408) does a books versus movies review where he tackles them based on several categories - plot, character development, imagery, etc.   Using a comparitive analysis, often the movie actually will beat the book; however, for a sheet enjoyment factor, I usually go for the book.   I had not decided which book I wanted to do the comparative with the movie.  There are a few that I have felt did as good of a job as reasonable.  The one most recently that has annoyed me is The Hobbit.

I'm almost not sure that I want to see The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug.  I was extremely disappointed in the first of the Hobbit movies, and I'm annoyed with Peter Jackson for it.   Because he had done such a great job with The Lord of the Rings, it was almost assumed he would treat the source material with respect.  Sure, he took a couple of liberties with The Lord of the Rings, but the story at its core was treated with respect.  The same cannot be said about The Hobbit.   Spoiler alert: If you've not seen the first of the Hobbit movies, just stop right here.   The story of the Hobbit, as you might have guessed, is the story about a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins and his adventures with dwarves. 

The movie started out innocently enough.  There were deviations with how the dwarves were imagined -- but they were consistent with Gimli of "The Lord of the Rings", so I let that go.  However, the arrival was wrong -- but that could be chalked up to cinematic time constraints -- except Jackson was taking one book and turning it into three movies, which makes 'time constraints' a non-excuse.   Perhaps it was because the meeting of Bilbo and the dwarves was very comical in the book, and Jackson was going for serious.  But still it is very irritating to see beloved scenes demolished.   But we were given lovely music.  But the problem I had that was most glaring was the appearance and prominant role given to Azog the Goblin.    I think the worst scene translation was Fifteen Birds in Five Fir Trees.   I just really am very disappointed in this sequence -- I'm not sure what book Peter Jackson is filming .... but it certainly is not the Hobbit!

So that's that.  I wrote a blog for almost a month.  The holidays are upon us.  Tomorrow, my hubs and I are getting the place ready for Thanksgiving, which we will be hosting.  He will be doing cleaning, and I'll be baking brownies, preparing a meatloaf, starting spaghetti sauce.   I missed a couple of days, some from a sense of over stressing over it and malaise, and one from just being tired.   But ultimately, for "stunt NaNo" it was not a total shambles.  I hit my target far more frequently than fell flat.  I wrote several pieces I am proud of and expressed a few things.

Still, I don't really feel like a regular blog is for me.  I am impressed by people who manage to do it with frequency -- but I think they usually have a voice, something that they need to express -- like a particular life experienc that people share, or an interest, or an interesting point of view.  Doing this, committing to this blog for NaNoWriMo, has shown me that this is not something I enjoy or am likely to do in the future.

Thank you for joining me on the Stained Glass Station Wagon.

Today's Word Count:  1,890

Sunday, November 24, 2013

November 24 - Promises to Keep

Beginning Word Count  45,768

Okay, today's blog piece is another short story.  It is actually a rewrite of a short story I did a while ago, and I do mean rewrite, not edit.  I want to edit the original; however, I'm not exactly sure where to take it -- so, I'm taking the concept and writing the story again. I am sure there will be core pieces that end up very similar -- but it is possible that the story will take a turn somewhere and go into a different place.  I do not feel that would be possible with an edit, as I'd always be trying to fix what is present.

I've also not reread this story for quite some time, which I think will be helpful in allowing it to develop on its own and tell me where it wants to go.  I'm not as familiar with it as I once was.  It's a story I wrote many years ago.   I've always felt it should be more -- but then again, maybe this is a short story that is just that -- a short piece.  Perhaps it can tell itself in just a few words.

There is nothing wrong with that, if that is what this story is to be.  However, as I originally wrote it at a time when I was not particularly good at expanding, I don't know if it is the story or me that caused it to be short.

I've also renamed the story, for this rework.  The original story is entitled "Seasons", and that title may stand.   But for now, it has a different working title.

Promises to Keep

Daphne ran.  She did not know how he had spotted her, why she had caught his eye, but she did not want anything to do with him. Still, she knew his type.  "No" was not a word he understood when said to him.  Sure, he could say it to others and comprehend its meaning full well, but he would not accept it from another.

And Daphne was definitely not interested.  So she ran.  She had to keep ahead of him, away from him. 

And if she were interested, that would be even worse!  Daphne had made a pledge.  She was a Huntress.  She was a devotee of Artemis, and Artemis demanded purity from her followers.  Goddess of the Hunt and the Moon, also known as the Chaste Goddess, Artemis would be unforgiving if her Huntress strayed.

Especially with her brother.

Apollo knew full well that Artemis's Huntresses were out of bounds, but he had never considered boundaries to be something to restrict him.  Daphne's brows furrowed. She would hardly be surpised if Apollo had chosen her because Artemis had forbidden it.   She had seen gods before; her own father was a demi-god, so immortals hardly impressed her. She was the Daughter of the River -- she wanted nothing to do with the Sun!  The Forrest was her home. The animals within it were her friends.  And she loved everything about this place.

But if Apollo caught her, she would be banished. 

Daphne cried out to Artemis to help her, to protect her from her beastly brother, but Artemis did not respond.   Her power was strongest when the moon was full, and it was still the afternoon.   In the bright of day, the moon could not overpower the sun.  Daphne wondered if she could keep running, keep herself away from Apollo, until the moon came out.  If she could outlast him, avoid him, at least until then, perhaps Artemis could help her.

Still, Daphne sensed her time was running out.  Apollo was a god.  And he was merely toying with her.  He could appear in front of her on the path at any moment.  There was very little she could do.  Daphne knew she was running out of options.  But while she had breath, she would fight for her own identity, for her own destiny.  She would be true to herself.  So Daphne ran to the river. Apollo ruled the sky, but her father had command of the river within this forest.  Daphne called out, "Father, help me!" 

Peneus, the god of the River, saw his lovely daughter running towards him, pursued by the god of the sun, begging for help.  But Peneus could no more stop the amorous god than he could stop the sun from rising.  He arose from the river.  Daphne, his daughter, stopped and knelt before him.  "Father, help me," she begged.

He looked at her, and back to Apollo who was nearing them.  "Daughter, I cannot turn away a god in pursuit."

"Then make me someone he would not pursue!"

Peneus nodded.  "Stand," he said, softly.

Daphne stood.  Peneus raised his hand, and the river rose with it.  He guided the water forward until Daphne was fully encased in the watery shell.

Apollo reached the place where Daphne stood and glared at Peneus.  "Release her," he commanded.
Peneus smiled and nodded.   He lowered his hand and the waters slowly cascaded down Daphne's body.   But Daphne was no longer there.  In her place stood a beautiful tree -- long flowing leaves which looked a bit like the tresses of her hair, and a slender body with soft and silvery bark.

"Where is she?" Apollo demanded.

"She is there.  Daphne is that tree."

Apollo screamed in rage at Peneus, but then he approached the tree and caressed its bark.  "Why would you not let me love you?" Apollo asked.   He ran his fingers through her leaves and finally took out a knife, cutting a branch away. He formed a crown from the leaves and placed it on his head.  "You will forever be associated with me," Apollo whispered to the tree.   "My symbol will be the laurel tree. For I do love you, Daphne, please... come back to me?"   Apollo rested his head against the bark of the tree and wept.  "I love you.  I promise I will always love you."

Peneus regarded Apollo, but said nothing.  He could see the mark of Cupid's arrow upon the god, and did not know if this love Apollo felt for Daphne was real -- or would fade with the setting of the sun.   Nevertheless, it had been Daphne's wish to be saved from Apollo's pursuit.     

She stretched her fingers on the wind and listened as the wind blew through her hair.  She wiggled her toes and dug deep within the earth to find the river. So long ago, it had disappeared.  They all had.  The gods had fallen silent, and dim, then they were gone.   But she remained, a testament to a time forgotten long ago.  A monument which no one understood.

Still, she was happy here.  She loved it when the birds came and sang to her, and she loved hearing the secrets of the wind as it rustled her leaves.  On occasion, she could even remember her name.  If she wanted to.

She was the last of them.  So she stood for all of them, even those who did not really deserve it.
And then he came.  And everything changed.

Oh, she recognized him, the golden boy.  He did not recognize her, but he paused for a moment and looked up at her leaves before smiling and humming a soft nothing song.  The golden boy reached up and cut a sprig from one of her branches, and formed a crown, which he placed on his head before walking off.

She was stunned.   He was here?  Still? Walking free, while she, his once victim was trapped in this place, abandoned?

Many years later, she saw him again.  This time, Daphne was ready for him.  He wore a different face, and seemed warmer than he had previously.  Different.  Still, he was Apollo.   She knew it the moment she saw him.  He stopped and looked up at her, with a soft and tender smile.  Daphne rustled her own leaves.  He laughed, truly joyful at the sound, and Daphne paused -- confused.

It happened many times over the years, a new face, and Daphne came to realize -- he was tied to her.   He was free to walk the earth, but he had to be near her.  She was his anchor.  And she found she started to look forward to his visits.  He would talk to her, tell her about his life and what was going on in his world. And once he started coming to see her, he would visit her frequently -- all the days of his life.

Daphne watched him age over and over again.  She found that she missed each of his lives when they were gone.   But he always came back.  He told her stories.  She could hear the fondness in his voice when he talked to her. 

Then one day, he came to her with a book.  "Hi there!" he greeted her.  In this particular lifetime, Paul talked to her like she were a real person -- not a tree. He introduced himself to her and always asked her questions, pausing as if he expected an answer.  He never really stopped acting like he expected an answer.

And sometimes, Daphne tried to respond to him.  She'd rustle her leaves, or toss a twig at him.  It always made him laugh when she did.  

"I found a story I wanted to read to you," he announced before sitting at her roots and leaning against her bark.  "It reminded me of you.  I don't know why," he admitted.

Then Paul started to read, and Daphne stood still. The wind blew, but she held herself still and listened.  It was her story.  The story of how she became a tree:

'Apollo, the god of the sun, came across Eros, the god of love, and saw the small deity preparing his arrows.  In disdain, the Sun God derided him and asked him what kind of a weapon love could be.  It was all frills and hearts.  Eros, angered by Apollo's disdain decided to show him exactly how powerful his weapon was, and he took two arrows.  One was filled with love's greatest purity and truth -- and the other was a weapon of disdain.  He shot the arrow of disdain at a water nymph -- Daphne -- then shot Apollo with the arrow of love, and caused him to fall deeply in love with the one person who could not return his affection, but would spurn him.   Both were victims of his arrows.  Soon, Apollo pursued the nypmh, to the edge of the river, where she begged her father to save her from the god.  He turned her into a tree.  Apollo, broken hearted, promised to love her for eternity, and made her his symbol.  He made himself a crown out of her beautiful leaves.'

That was their story, told from another side -- and Daphne had pity on Apollo.  He had had no more choice than she. 

Paul stood up.  "I think I'll call you Daphne," he said as he winked to her.  "Have a good day, Daphne. I'll see you again soon!"

And Daphne felt something stir within her.  She was not sure what it was, but when she tried to move, she found she could do more than just rustle her hair. She could move branches.  
Paul returned and told her more and more, and Daphne felt herself beginning to soften to him even more.  This one, this man -- not god -- was someone she wondered if the nymph Daphne could ever have loved.  And she knew the answer was no.  She had been no more capable of loving while she was a nymph than Apollo had been as a god.  Their natures were not compatible to love.

But what about now?

She was a tree ... and he was a man. 

Daphne stood and waited.

Daphne saw him approaching long before he arrived, and was puzzled.  There was another person with him.   He never brought others with him when he visited her.  That was their time, and she had come to cherish it over the long years.   She hated watching him age, and losing the man he had become -- but she loved watching him grow and become a better person that he had been before.

Daphne loved watching Paul over his lifetimes.  The man he was now was amazing, and nearly unrecognizable from the god she had met.

But he was bringing someone with him.  First he recognized her, and now he had someone?

Daphne was confused.  But she waited.  It was what she knew.  The only thing she knew.

Paul walked up, "Hi there," he said as he winked to her.  "I brought someone I wante you to meet."

"Paul? I thought you were going to introduce me to one of your oldest friends," the woman with him said.

"I am," he said softly, taking her hand.  "Daphne?  I'd like you to meet Daphne."

As if he could ever be with someone bearing a different name.  She had to be Daphne.

"You wanted to introduce me to a tree?" she said, flatly.

He frowned.  "Yes.  This tree is very important to me.  I have called her Daphne since before we met, and your name is part of why I asked you out on that first date.  This tree is my dearest friend.  I've confided in her my whole life."

"You talk about her as if she's a real person," Daphne said uncertainly.

"She feels like a real person to me," Paul said.   "She's very special. This place -- it is very special.  I wanted to share it with you."  Then he reached up, and cut a sprig from one of her branches and formed a crown, which he placed on Daphne's head. Then he knelt on one knee before Daphne, and asked "Will you marry me?"

Daphne squealed happily: "Yes, oh yes!"

But Daphne the tree tried not to droop.  He had learned to love at last, truly understand love and be generous with it.  And it was not her. Yet Daphne was also happy for him. 

The young lovers kissed happily, and finally the young woman, Daphne, put her hands on the tree and smiled. "Thank you for sharing him with me.  I will take care of him." 

Finally, Paul and Daphne walked away.  Paul looked over his shoulder and smiled:  "Same time next week! I'll see you."  Daphne watched them until she could no longer see them any more.

He would come, she knew, true to his word.  But she would not be there.  Already, she could feel the wind blowing.  She stretched as far as she could reach -- and let go.... of her form, of the earth.   She flew around the clearing once, then hovered far above, forming a face with her leaves, then flew off. 

It was time for her to see the world.

Today's Word Count: 2,478
Total Word Count:  48,246

Saturday, November 23, 2013

November 23 - Turkey Day Plans and The Whoniversary

Beginning Word Count:  43,280

This year, for the first time in my entire life, I will be hosting a dinner at my place for Thanksgiving.  My husband and I will be hosting Thanksgiving for his brother.  Initially, we were going to go to my brother in law's house for Thanksgiving, but plans have changed, and I'm good with that.

Actually, since we got married, we have not hosted anyone to dinner at our home.  So, I'm really rather excited to have the opportunity to do this.  

That being said, it is not my nature to do things the traditional way by any means.

The traditional Thanksgiving feast is usually a variation of the following dishes:  Turkey (or ham or roast beef), stuffing (or dressing, depending on where you live), mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole (or yams), green bean casserole, gravy, rolls, salad, cranberry sauce (made fresh or with the traditional ridges), and several desserts -- pumpkin pie, pecan pie, apple pie.   This is a lot of food.

Especially for a guest list of three.

Besides, I've never cooked a turkey before.  I've eaten my fair share of them, mind you, but I've never cooked one.

I have come up with my own menu, my own Thanksgiving feast.

I'm not sure what time my brother in law will arrive, but it will be in the morning.  My husband has not seen him since we got married.  So I am making those lovely Pillsbury orange rolls for breakfast.   

For nibble food, I'll be making caprese salad kebobs and a tray with a variety of cookies, and cranberry orange curd, and fruit. 

But our meal?  It will be spaghetti and Italian meat loaf with broccoli and garlic crescents, and dessert will be cinnamon apple pie.

It's still a lot of food, but I can make the pie and meat loaf the night before.  I can assemble the cookie tray the night before.  And I can  prepare the caprese salad the night before and kebob it that morning.   I can make the garlic butter on Wednesday night.  I can also put the spaghetti sauce in the crock pot overnight.   All I will really have to do in the morning is bake the orange rolls, assemble the kebobs and put out the fruit, and then bake the meat loaf when it is within time for dinner.

It will also be the first time I've ever gotten to use my china.  I have beautiful china -- my pattern is Sweet Leilani by Noritake.   In fact, this evening, John and I had to go buy some glasses, because I just cannot bring myself to serve dinner on my china paired with our complete set of "Newk's" plastic cups.

So, I'm looking forward to it.  Plus, because we're staying home, I don't have to leave my kitten home alone over night.  I'm not quite ready to do that with him.  Yet.

Today, by the way, is the Doctor Who anniversary.  I'll go ahead and give you a SPOILERS shout -- so if you're reading this and you are a Doctor Who fan who has not seen the 50th Anniversary Special, please close your browser now and read no further.  I'll even give you a few lines to make sure you do not trip.


Okay, Facebook exploded today with Dr. Who.  Actually, the first Whoish thing I saw this morning was Yahoo.   The Yahoo exclamation mark usually does something every day. I's usually pretty silly.   Today, it was the TARDIS.   Google had a fun game to play where the Daleks captured the letters of GOOGLE.  The Doctors had to travel through time and space, and battle Daleks and Cybermen and Weeping Angels and retrieve the letters.  Fun!

And, of course, BBC America ran a Doctor Who marathon in honor of the anniversary, culminating in a Global Simulcast at 1:50 pm.

John and I were, of course, ready.   With bated breat we joined in at 1 for the pre show and waited for the show to start.

Now, my synopses and review.

The episode opens with Clara teaching in a classroom.  She gets a message from the Doctor and hops on a motorcycle, riding off to meet the TARDIS.  She rides into the TARDIS, shuts the door behind her.... and the adventure begins!

The TARDIS takes flight, but the engine is not engaged.  Our first 50th Anniversary nod to the past is on its way:  U.N.I.T.   The Third Doctor was stranded on earth and worked with U.N.I.T..  The Fourth Doctor did quite a bit with them as well.  Eventually, they fell by the wayside, but for a while, U.N.I.T. was a frequent part of the show, and Colonel Leftbridge-Stewart was the Doctor's contact. 

They've been a part of the Modern series a few times.  Ten and Eleven have both encountered them, including the Colonel's daughter.  But they are flying the TARDIS, dangled from a helicopter.
That seems a little weird, but it was a good bit of fun, so okay.  Turns out, the Doctor is needed because something weird is happening at the museum. And the Fourth Doctor's scarf gets a cameo.

We get a Doctor Flashback to the last day of the Time War where we encounter the War Doctor -- this is the life that the Doctor does not want to remember, the regeneration he does not acknowledge, and he had broken into the weapons vault on Gallifrey, where they store all of the weapons which are forbidden to be used -- and which, of course, they have already used -- save one: The Moment.  The War Doctor steals The Moment.

Here is where we get a little bit of information rewrite -- in the episode "End of Days," we heard someone on the Gallifreyan High Council ask if the Doctor still possessed "The Moment."  However, at that point, we had no idea that it was a weapon.  At least, I did not.  I thought perhaps it was something that he held in he possession -- he's a Time Lord, so a Moment of importance is certainly something that a Time Lord could be expected to possess.

But no, The Moment is a weapon.  It is not an ordinary weapon though, and the only reason the Time Lords have not used it is because of the interface -- it is a sentient weapon which will judge the person who tries to use it.  And if found wanting, unable to operate.  The interface will also determine a punishment.  For the War Doctor, who is not wanting to use this weapon but trying to use it because there seems to be no other alternative.   He does not want to live after it is done.  And the Moment says to him: "That will be your punishment then."  It's immediate.  He IS going to have to live with his deed.

The Interface of The Moment, however, being sentient, takes a form of someone in the Doctor's Past "or Future, I can never keep those straight."   Rose Tyler, the companion of the Ninth and Tenth Doctors.  Also known as Bad Wolf -- she once absorbed the Heart of the TARDIS, so she is a part of the TARDIS time stream (and the TARDIS also cannot keep the past and future separate).   She is there for the War Doctor, to show him his future -- who he becomes because of his decision to commit an attrocity -- destruction / genocide of the Time Lords of Gallifrey and the Daleks of Skarro.   The Moment asks him how many children are on Gallifrey.  He says he does not know, and she says he will.

The interface of the Moment has just judged the War Doctor.   But the Moment does not find him wanting.

A time vortex openes up and a fez falls through.

We come back to the present and go deeper into the museum, where we discover that the Doctor married Queen Elizabeth -- this results in another flash back, and an introduction of a Classic monster into the Modern series -- the Zygons. 

This flash back features the Tenth Doctor. He is flirting with Queen Elizabeth the First in an attempt to track the Zygons, and it back fires as he proposes to her, and she accepts.  But she is no Zygon.  
The horse is the Zygon.   The Doctor and the Queen run off, pursued by Zygon.  He sends the Queen off one way and chases down what he thinks is a Zygon, but it is really a bunny.   He's really having an off day.   The Queen screams, and the Doctor dashes off to discover two Queens.  One is a Zygon, one is the Queen.    Suddenly a time vortex opens up and a fez falls through.

We come back to the present and go deeper into the museum.   Here the Doctor encounters the reason he's been called.  The glass in all of the artwork that is considered too dangerous has been broken.  The Doctor realizes that it has been broken from the inside.  Clara wonders what did it, because they are all landscapes.  But they are not supposed to be.  There are beings in the paintings, and those beings have escaped!

A time vortex opens up.   But the Eleventh Doctor tosses his Fez in.  Then he remembers seeing the Fez.   And he jumps through, and lands as the Tenth Doctor is putting on the Fez.

A bicker with Clara ensues, and the fez is tossed again.  It does not go back to Clara.

They ask "where did it go?"  Cut to the War Doctor.   And shortly after that, the War Doctor joins Ten and Eleven, who are mortified to see him.   They both know him, and he is the life they want to forget.

The War Doctor here gets the best lines regarding the sonic screwdriver.   Ten and Eleven are weilding it like a sword, and War Doctor pretty much pokes holes into that and says "You're holding an instrument of science."  Later when they are charged by a group of soldiers, Ten and Eleven again try to fend them off with their sonics, and the War Doctor asks them if they are going to build a cabinet at them.  Hilarity!

They are throw in the Tower of London, and finally they start to work together, while the Moment stays with the War Doctor.   The War Doctor, at the behest of the Moment, asks if they ever found out how many children.  Eleven says he does not know.  Ten says "2.7 million."  Then Ten is mortified that Eleven has forgotten that number.

Meanwhile, in the present, we see that the Zygons are taking over U.N.I.T. and Clara has to escape.

Basically, there is a lot of Timey Wimey brilliance going on.   The long and short of it is that Clara realizes that the War Doctor has not yet destroyed his people, at the same time that Ten and Eleven are trying to talk the head of U.N.I.T. out of blowing up London.   They clearly regret that decision, and if they had it to do again, they would not.  They force a negotiation by activating a piece of alien tech that will not let the negotiators know if they are a Zygon or a human, so they have to negotiate fairly.

Clara says to the War Doctor: "you haven't done it yet, have you?" and he shakes his head no, and asks her how she knows.  She tells him his eyes look young.   The War Doctor decides it is time to grow up, and leaves with the Moment.

To destroy his people.  He's ready.

One of the things you know from watching Doctor Who is that there are points which are Fixed.  He mucks around in time and space, but there are moments that are Fixed and cannot be changed.  The destruction of Gallifrey is one of those moments

But, the War Doctor possesses the Moment.  And the Moment unlocks that moment.  She talks about the sound that the TARDIS makes, and how it brings hope to all who hear it.   Even the War Doctor.
And we hear the sound of the TARDIS.  Ten and Eleven join the War Doctor.  They apologize to him.  They tell him that he was the Doctor when it was impossible to do good.   They finally understand him and accept him.  And what he had to do.   But this time, he does not have to do it alone.

But this is why the Doctor travels with a Companion.  The Companion's life is fleeting.  The Companion, unlike a Time Lord, does not live forever, and has a very different perspective.  Clara says that the War Doctor is the Warrior.  Ten is the Hero.  And "You."   Eleven asks her who he is.  She reminds him that he is the Doctor and makes him remember what that means.

And the three of them hatch a plan to rewrite their own history.

This is the moment to send the fans into geeky squees.   First we get War, Ten and Eleven.   But then they show clips from One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine..... and Twelve (who we will formally meet at Christmas).  All of them, in that scene.

They change their own history.    They do not know if they failed trying to do the right thing, but they agree it is better than succeeding at doing the wrong thing.

Clara, to me, earns her stripes as a Companion in this episode -- because of how she is willing to feel and express emotion for the Doctor in a way that he can no longer do.

Before the Doctors return to their own time streams, Ten and Eleven call the War Doctor by a new name, acknowledge him finally, "the Doctor."   He was the one they would not acknowledge.

Then comes the moment.  Four appears as The Curator, and has an enigmatic conversation with Eleven, where he shows him that Gallifrey Falls No More, but Gallifrey is missing.
Lots of questions are generated by this episode.  Is Eleven still Eleven or is he Twelve?  Do they renumber now that Nine is really the War Doctor?  

I think this is absolutely the best of the multi-Doctor episodes.  Ever.  It was the best written, and most willing to embrace the different Doctors and really play with it.   Prior ones have had some sort of contrivance so that they did not spend a lot of time working together.  This one threw that to the wind and just let them go.  I loved that.   Just wish they would have let more of the Classic Doctors in.

But Moffat gave McGann(Eight) a regeneration scene, and he had not had one.   And Capaldi (Twelve) who has been cast, but not technically been regenerated into yet, was also allowed to play.   Moffat lies, by the way.   And really...the people who work on Doctor Who should be working for the NSA.  Talk about keeping secrets!

Today's Word Count: 2,448
Total Word Count:  45,768

Friday, November 22, 2013

November 22 - The Big Move

Beginning Word Count:  41,240

I am a mortgage underwriter.  I've only been doing that for about nineteen months now.   Before that, I was a mortgage processor -- and I did that for about nine years.  Anyway, in May 2012, I got promoted from processor to underwriter, and I've worked pretty hard to learn the new job.  When I first received the promotion, my position allowed me to remain in Montgomery.  However, at the beginning of 2013, my company made the decision to centralize underwriting.

And that meant I had to choose between changing jobs or moving towns.

I had worked really hard to become an underwriter.  Really hard.  Still, it was not just my decision, so after a short talk with John (who is a very supportive husband), we decided that we would move from Montgomery to Birmingham.

I'd lived in Montgomery since I graduated from college.  I own my own house.  I had three cats.   And moving, well, I had not done that since I bought my home fourteen years ago.   To say that this was frightening was an understatement.

But still, my company was willing to pay moving expenses, and it was just an opporunity that we could not let pass us by.

So, after a family discussion, I let my company know that I'd be moving from Montgomery to Birmingham.   It's a mere ninety miles up the road from Montgomery, but it might as well be another state.   

Firstly, after we decided we would move, the hunt for a place in Birmingham to live began.  This sounds easy enough.   Except we had three kids.  Fur kids.   John and I knew that we were not going to buy a house in Birmingham, at least not until we were more familiar with the city and we had sold the house.   So that meant renting.

This is when the stress began.  Every apartment complex listed a pet policy that would be a problem.   No cats.  If cats were allowed, there was a maximum two pets.  Monthly pet rent on top of pet deposits.   We have three cats.   I was not going to get rid of one of my cats.  They are all my kids.   Sam has been with me for fifteen years.  Gus for eight.  And Thames was our unexpected kitten, all grown up.   How could we pick one? And what kind of parents would we be if could?  or even would?

So we looked elsewhere.   I started looking on Zillow and found a cute little apartment, and emailed the manager about it.   And right after I clicked send, I realized that the apartment did not have central heat and I kept looking.   But that manager wrote me back.  I emailed him and told him I really was looking for central heat and air.  And that we had three cats.

And he wrote me back again, with three apartments and confirmation that we could have our furr babies in the apartment. 

We finally had some hope.  John and I set an appointment with him to look at the apartments.   The day before we were to meet him, he wrote that he had to cancel because of something coming up.   Still, John and I had the addresses, so we decided we could at least go see the neighborhoods.
Thus began my first trip to Birmingham with a destination other than the Galleria, the Summit, or the Office.   Every time I drove to Birmingham, it was I-65 to I-459.  But this was a different trip, with a different exit from the interstate.   And Birmingham hit us with the roads....and the hills.   The GPS took us the absolute most annoying way to get to our first destination, a place called The Terrace Apartments.   I can find it now a lot more easily.   Still, that first drive was terrifying.  Steep hills with stupid stop signs at the very top.   Coming around that corner to that first visit to the Terrace, we were treated to a beautiful view of Birmingham.  Then we turned to the driveway and drove up to our first Birmingham apartment complex.  Firstly, I'm surprised my steering wheel survived that driveway without permanent indentations.  It was steep, probably the steepest hill we had encountered yet that day.  The driveway led to an obnoxious parking lot.  While it was not undriveable, I could not get out of my mind that in Birmingham, they do get some winter weather.  Sure, it is nothing like the northern states, but still -- ice and snow happen with greater frequency than they do in Montgomery.  And the driveway and parking lot looked treacherous dry.  I didn't want to contemplate driving them wet, or in the dark, or in the snow.  Still, we were here, so we parked.

The complex had a stunning view of the city, and included a walking path up to Vulcan Park, which also has a beautiful view of Birmingham.  The Terrace boasts that it has the best view in Birmingham, and from what we could see while touring the premises, I can understand why they would make that claim.  And I can give them credence.  They have a stunning stunning gorgeous view.   They also have a freaking treacherous driveway and parking lot.   Ultimately, we were pretty sure we did not want to rent there at this point -- based purely on the parking lot.

But we were not yet done. We had no idea at this point that the Terrace was nothing. NOTHING I tell you.  That parking lot was... tame.

The next place we looked at was a place called The Irish.  From the pictures I had seen on line, this was the one that I knew I was most interested in.  It was beautiful.  Hardwood flooring, sculpted plaster fire places, big french doors.  Stunning.   So we drove up 13th Street.  Okay, I had thought the road up to the Terrace was scary.   I was wrong.  13th Street is scary.  13th Street is steep.  Then there were cross streets which had drop offs.  And I was driving up the street thinking "I cannot do this in winter.  I can't do this in rain.  But maybe it gets better."  

It didn't.   We finally made it to The Irish.   It had a flat parking lot.  That was about the only flat part of the area up there.  Just driving by, we could figure out no way to get into the parking lot, much less locate a space for our car.  It was impossibly crowded, ridiculously crowded.  So, we did not stop to walk the premises.  I just drove down the street.    At the bottom intersection, cars were parked along both sides of the street I was on and the cross street, making it impossible to see oncoming traffic.   John had to get out of the car to spot so that I could make a right turn. And that was pretty much it for the Irish.  There was no way I could drive those streets.  I could not see driving home or to work or parking the car.   I decided right then and  there that I did not even want to see the Irish.   What would be the point?  I'd walk in the door and fall in love with the place, and then be torn.   I could not drive that road, not without nearly screaming.  I could not face that day in and day out. 

So we ruled it out, and drove to the last one.  I can't even remember that one's name.  When we arrived there, we discovered there that the apartment had street parking.  This is code for "we don't have parking.  you figure it out."  Still, that was just one black mark.  We found a place to stash the car, and went to look at the premises.  It was what is known as a brownstone.  There were two outside leading to a communal stairwell, and that led to the apartment.   The stairwell should have been secure, but, one of the tenants had left the stairwell door open.   So we almost went in.   But the place smelled.   it was a bit...disgusting.   We were unimpressed.

However, while we had been driving around, we saw these signs for Blue Canoe Properties.  Every one of them looked nicely maintained.   We decided to give them a call.

A couple of weeks later, we were back in Birmingham, this time to meet with Blue Canoe Properties.   Blue Canoe showed us five places,  and each one of them had strong positives...and a negative.  Then they showed us the Courtyard.  The parking lot.   I've come to accept that this is Birmingham, and driving up hills is going to be a necessity.  However, 13th street remains daunting and unnecessary.

Once we had accepted the size of our new place, packing began in earnest.  The apartment was half the size of my house.   And it was on the third floor.  Things had to go away.  Only half of what I had could reasonably come from Montgomery to Birmingham.  

We gave things away, and threw things away, and boxed things up. 

The day before our move, we drove up to Birmingham, with the cats, to take them to the boarding facility.  We took both cars so that John's car would be here -- as he was driving the truck.   The cats got dropped off, and promised that we would be back the next day to get them.  We lied.  It was two days before we could get them.    Honestly, we didn't want to leave them where we did.  It was not the best cat facility.  It smelled, and they stuck them in the surgery room.  I didn't really mind them there -- but I knew right then and there (we both knew) that this would not be their vet.  The surgery just didn't look sterile.

Then we drove home to  spend our last night at our home in Montgomery. 

On the day of the big move, leaving Montgomery was not too bad.  But when we got to Birmingham, things went south.  Firstly, we had an issue with backing up the moving truck.   That was a nightmare.   The drive is a bit steep (yeah, you didn't see that coming), so John drove the truck down and tried to do a three point turn.  Unfortunately, the driveway/parking pad where he pulled forward for the back up is constructed really wrong.  There are two ledges and a couple of hidden curbs.  And of course John got the tires caught between them, and the truck got stuck.    Fortunately, we had a friend who was helping us move, and he was totally unintimidated by the stupid thing.   They had this thing licked -- until the power chord tried to get stuck between the truck cabin and the storage area.  They had that handled too.  So after about thirty minutes of parking what was soon to be officially dubbed the Truck From Hell, the moving truck was finally secured in a spot, and we were ready to begin.

Unfortunately, that was not the last strike of the Truck from Hell (that really should be said with a booming voice that echoes).  In fact, that was the mild attack.  That was, in fact, nothing.

Despite telling me while he helped me load the truck in Montgomery that he would NOT be helping me unload the truck in Birmingham (with no argument from me, mind you), my Dad decided that since he was going up the stairs to see my apartment, he would bring a box, he opened up the back, and fell off the truck.  And broke his leg.   On the plus side, we got to find out the response time for emergency services and discovered that the hospital within walking distance of my apartment is really awesome.  On the down side, my dad has never seen my apartment.  He spent three nights in the hospital in Birmingham and then three weeks in rehab in Montgomery.  Six months later, he is still recovering from that.

It was truly the Truck from Hell. 

And while I pared down my house by more than half, I cannot honestly say I have missed the things.  I love the new city that we live in, and every time we go out, it is a new adventure.

Today's word count:  2,040
Total Word Count:  43,280

Thursday, November 21, 2013

November 21 - The Rant of a Military BRAT

Beginning Word Count - 38,650

I am a Military BRAT.  For those of you who don't know what that is, it is a derogatory term that we decided to own and repurpose.  Born Raised and Trained.   I remember the first time I was called a BRAT, I was offended.  I was in line with my mother to register for seventh grade in a non-DoDDS(Department of Defense Dependant Schools) institution (incidentally, the first I was going to in a while that was non-DODDS), and this woman asked my mom what my father did.  My mom told her that my dad was in the Air Force, and she turned to me and said "oh, you're a brat").  The way she said it was highly insulting, and given that no one had ever called me that before, I was rather annoyed.  Her son had been being obnoxious, and, quite frankly, bratty during our wait, and the woman had the nerve to call ME a brat?

My mother didn't respond, but she knew I was pissed off about it.  That poor boy never recovered in my opinion.  I had a few classes with him.  I even remember his name (Richard. He went by Richie.  I called him Turkey.)  

When I was complaining about it later, my dad told me what it stood for when we Military Brat's used it. We are Born, Raised, and Trained in the Military.  We are BRATs.

And we are the ones who never volunteered.   We were drafted at birth.  Yet we DO serve this country.

We are never acknowledged, and at the end of our 'service,' we are disposed of without so much as a thank you.

When I was born, my father was stationed in Hawaii.  My mother was not able to join him there until after I had been born, so my dad was not able to be there for my mom at the time.   He was not granted leave to fly to Indiana to be there.  So my dad did not get to meet me until the doctor cleared me and my mom to fly out to join him.   I, of course, do not remember this.   But from the moment I was born, the military had an impact on my life.

Please do not get me wrong, I do not resent it.  It is the life I knew growing up, and honestly, growing up and staying in the same town your entire life is baffling to me.  I cannot imagine going to the same elementary school, junior high, and high school my entire life.  I cannot imagine what it must be like to have the same core group of friends from elementary school onward.   That is something that is beyond my reference.

If you include the pre-schools I went to, by the time I graduated from high school, I had attended eleven different schools.  I had lived in Hawaii, California, Texas, Arizona, Indiana, and England.  

I was blessed with experiences that are equally foreign to anyone who is NOT a BRAT.  I learned to drive on the wrong side of the road.  My high school French classes actually took field trips to France.   I spent part of my 18th birthday in the capitals of two different countries (London, England and Paris, France).  My high school prom was catered and held at a five-star hotel, and pretty much looked more like a modern wedding reception (without the cake, of course) than a stateside prom, where the dinner is not included and the dance is held at the gymnasium which has been decorated with streamers and balloons.  

I think every one of us knows what it means when you turn ten.  Ten is a big birthday for the Military BRAT.  It is bigger, to me, than turning sixteen for a non-BRAT.  At the age of ten, we receive our very first Military ID.  This is a passport!  With your own ID, you can enter the Shoppette (it's rather like a convenience store), the Commissary (Grocery Store), Base Exchange / Post Exchange (BX/PX) (Department Store), bowling alley, movie theatre, library, any base service all by yourself.  Before then, you had to have someone (a parent) with you to access these places.  But at age ten, you're given a key to the city and the independance to access things.   Who needs a car when you can bicycle around the whole base!    Sure, at sixteen, you non-BRATS get your drivers licenses.  But nothing is the like getting the pass to go into these places on your own.   When you are on a military base, you know what you're dealing with.  They are not laid out the same, but they are similar.  You know what you should expect to find, how to get directions, what departments are responsible for what.  They are small cities, but their government structures are reliably consistent.   They are our "home town."  No matter what base it is, it is something we can identify and be comfortable at.     Each one has something special that defines it.   They all have things that are the same.  The rules are the same on each base. 

Ours is a unique culture, and it is one that any Military BRAT can identify with -- regardless of branch of service.  Find out someone is a Military BRAT and you immediately connect.  You have a common lifestyle, even if you never set foot on the same base.   You know the New Kid In School?  In a normal school, that might be the hardest thing in the world to be.  But at a DODDS school?   No big deal.  You're new today, I'll be new tomorrow.  Welcome to Base X.  Someone is going to introduce you around and take you under their wing.   Why? Because it won't be long before they will be the new kid.  We're used to it.  The worst thing about your day is explaining how to pronounce your name.  Well, that and finding out what was covered here last year...that your last school won't cover until this year.   [Excellent point: I went to third grade in Texas.  I went to fourth grade in Hawaii.   Hawaii covered multiplication and division in third grade; Texas covered it in fourth grade.  We discovered this after I failed a math test.  I learned a year's worth of math in a week after my mother convinced the teacher I was not abysmal in math, I'd just never been taught multiplcation.  A week later, aced it!]  That's the fun stuff.  What did you miss out on because it was taught last year when you were not here? What are you going to be bored to tears over because you learned it last year in your old school?    We rattle off our bases with precision and ease.  

Most people have one or two best friends while growing up.  The military BRAT has a new one every two or three years.  I had five or six different best friends.  (I'm not in touch with any of them.)  In many ways, it is extremely hard for us to form long lasting relationships.  We're used to our friends moving every two or three years.  And if they do not, we do. 

I think it is very evident that BRATs grow up in a foreign culture.   We consider ourselves to be third culture kids.  (There is even a Facebook petition for the Third Culture Kid to be recognized.)  Even our parents, unless they are second or third generation military personnel, have little notion what it really means to be us.   My parents, for example, both lived in the same town almost all of their lives when they were young.  My dad grew up in a small town in Texas, and my mother grew up in a small town in Indiana.  They both attended school with the same people all of their lives.  

And they have high school reunions where they can reasonably expect to run into their actual classmates.

I do not.  My high school (London Central American High School) may have reunions, but it is not "Class of 1986" returning to the campus.  It is a reunion of anyone who ever went there, in some random city.... because my school is closed for one, and my school is on a military base where I would not be able to access, as I'm not military.  I don't have the identification to get on base.

They grew up around their extended families, seeing grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins on a regular basis.  For me, it took a special trip to visit with them.  I would see them for a week at a time once a year, if that.   Just on that basis alone, we differ.

But if you ask my mom where she is from, she will give you one of two answers:  Elkhart, Indiana -- where she grew up.  Or Montgomery, Alabama, where she currently lives.  The same is true for my dad:  Paris, Texas or Montgomery, Alabama.

PLEASE do not ask me.  I beg of you. Just don't.  It is the question almost universally reviled by the Military BRAT.  No matter what branch of service our "sponsor" served in, that question is fraught with traps.  Do you mean: Where do you live now?  Where were you born?  Where do you identify as home?  Where have you lived the longest?    Where am I from?   Who bloody knows?!   I'm from America, and I do not have a home town.   I was raised all over this country, and abroad.
But the one place I cannot return to is "home."   If my parents (or another military member) is not with me, I cannot go onto bases, where I might have spent time.  

The most annoying and rather heartbreaking recently to me:   A few years ago, I went to Hawaii.  I had spent six years of my youth at Hickam Air Force Base, where my dad had been stationed (once right after I was born, and I do not remember it; once from fourth to sixth grades).  I went to Honolulu, which is the big city closest to Hickam AFB.   I remember that base.    But I was not with my parents.  So I was not able to go onto the base to visit my old elementary schools, or drive down the street past my home, or go to the church I spent Sunday mornings at, or go to the movies at a theatre I used to go to, or go to the beautiful beach that is part of that base.  It does not matter that no one I knew from that time would be there, the place itself was a place I would have loved to have seen again.   I was, however, banned from visiting it.   A piece of my childhood was barred from me.

That is one of the things that annoys me most about how Military BRATS are treated once we grow up.   We served.  And we are not acknowledged.  We are discarded.  When you turn 19, if you're not in college, you have to hand in your identification card.   And when you graduate from college, you have to hand in your identification card.   You're no longer a dependant, so you're banned from the home you've known, the culture you grew up in.   Twenty-two years of service to the country, and without so much as a thank you, the military tells you to get lost.

Like spouses, we never took an oath.   But spouses get retirement benefits -- access to the grocery store (even if they divorce, if they were married for a certain period of time).   But the kids?  Screw em!   We had no say in our enlistment.  We had no options.  A spouse can always decide that this is not the life for her (or him), but the child cannot.   The child has no say in this.  They serve as long as the sponsor does.  They go where the sponsor goes.   It does not matter if they have made plans for something amazing, once orders come, those plans are discarded without consideration.   And the Military BRAT goes.  (I'm not saying they go without complaining and whining, but they DO go.)   By the way:  The big plan I missed out on?   My Girl Scout troupe trained to hike the Grand Canyon.  Between our first practice hike and our second, I found out our orders and knew I would not be on that hiking trip.  I bet it was amazing.   (The bribe?  My high school French classes spend a week in Paris, so if I took French, I'd get to go to Paris.)  I know we all have something we ended up missing, because of the Military.

But that was the job, the life, and the sacrifice.  I am extremely proud of the fact that my father is a retired Air Force Master Sergeant.  He worked for our country for over twenty years, and did a lot of important things that I know I don't know about.  Things that I am sure were more important than a hike down the Grand Canyon.   And my parents did their level best to make sure that I did not transfer in the middle of a school year, ever.   They placed a high premium on my education and worked very hard to make sure it was as consistent as possible.   That sometimes meant tutoring me to help me catch up in areas that did not overlap systems.  And sometimes, that meant sending me to my grandparents' house because my dad was transferring about three weeks after the start of school and we could not come over until adequate housing was found, and having me stay there to finish the year -- because only a couple of months remained once they did find housing.  So they made sacrifices to insure that my education was a high priority.

Still, despite the sacrifices we made, Military BRATs are not acknowledged.  The Military cares so little about us that despite the way we grow up and the life we lead and the sacrifices we make, they have never bothered to study how this life impacts us.   There have been studies of almost every aspect of child development and childhood impact...but no one has looked at how the life of the military BRAT impacts us futhur in life.  We are just not important.  We're something to be tolerated and regulated.   But not something to be respected.  Or recognized.  We are there in the shadows, standing at attention and serving our country.  

And honestly, that pisses me off.  We have been a support. We had to learn to be responsible, because OUR actions reflected on our sponsor.  Get in trouble?  you might lose your sponsor a stripe.  At best, your sponsor would get dressed down by his or her superior officer.  While your sponsor (by the way, that is the parent who is serving in the military) is active duty, and you are a dependant, you must live by certain rules outside of those your parents make.   My dad, as an active duty member of the Air Force, sacrificed his right to freedom of speech.

So did my mother and I.  So if we had wanted to protest something, we had to keep in mind how that would impact my dad's career. 

I was lucky.  My dad rarely had TDY (Temporary Duty Assignments).  He was never deployed.  But the next time you see a service member out with his or her kid, do me a favor.... thank that kid.  No one ever does.   And he deserves it too.

Today's Word Count:  2,589
Total Word Count:  41,240