Things I’ve Learned While…

In the mountains on a weekend getaway:

Upon venturing into the mountains in an attempt to escape the desert, a number of things became brutally obvious…

1. Altitude sickness is a very real thing. It is inescapable unless you are completely accustomed to the terrain. It has the ability to make a person feel hungover without the benefit of having been drunk the night before. Staying hydrated will help, but the only thing that will alleviate the pain is evacuating the elevation.

2. Yellowjackets can harmonize. Sure, they buzz around being nothing but nosy. But in case you miss them, they will suspend themselves in front of your face and recruit some of their friends. If you still fail to notice, they will sync the sound of their buzzing in a last-stitch effort to grab your attention. And if at that point you have still failed to notice, well, benadryl will probably be in order.

3. All manner of wildlife (deer, coyotes, squirrels, woodpeckers, etc.) coexists on a golf course in the mountains. They are not afraid of you. At all.

4. When you’re planning a relaxing weekend getaway in a remote mountain location, it is probably a good idea to ensure that your reservations do not fall on the same weekend as the annual Ruff Riders bike rally.

5. You should also avoid scheduling the same getaway when Bret Michaels is in town.

6. If it happens that you inadvertently make your reservations when both Bret Michaels and the Ruff Riders are in town, park yourself in a well-lit area, and watch the crowd. It’s an interesting one and will keep you thoroughly entertained for an indefinite period of time. Just don’t let them catch you looking.

In some ways I feel so much wiser for having experienced this weekend, but more than anything life’s ironic sense of humor has not been lost on me.

Which Came First: The Book or The Reader?

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been trying to figure out what happened to my inclination to write. I feel like a part of me has checked out and taken my inspiration with it. Wherever it went, I hope it’s having fun. I’m expecting a postcard any day.

Then I started thinking about my reading habits over the past few weeks, and it hit me. Like a ton of bricks.

I’ve always believed that there is a direct correlation between what I read and what I write; one is all but completely dependent on the other. I am not alone in this belief. In his book On Writing, Stephen King suggests, “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.” I wholeheartedly concur.

Without even thinking about it, I glean ideas from what I read. Books, articles, the backs of cereal boxes all prompt me to ask questions. I don’t mean to suggest that I get personally introspective because of what I read on the back of my box of Special K. But I think that when I read more, I am more perceptive. The world becomes clearer and more ambiguous at the same time. I find myself questioning more frequently that which is presented to me as fact. I get curious.

With that said, school is officially finished, and I have all the time in the world to read what I want. So here’s to a summer full of good wine, good books, and good writing! I hope.

Some Things Just HaveTo Be Said

Disclaimer: While I don’t normally like to get too personal in these ramblings, sometimes there’s no other way to say what needs to be said. Permit me to be personal, if only this one time.

Nearly ten years ago when the planes hit the towers on September 11, I was changing the letters on the school marquee to announce the coffee house being sponsored by the drama department at my high school. I watched in confusion as the details unfolded, and I wondered what application these events would have to my own life. I cried for the families at the time not only because of the tremendous loss they suffered, but because I knew that the road they faced was a dark and unpleasant one. And one they would have to travel alone. No matter how patriotic I became or how many American flag t-shirts I purchased I would never be able to fill the void created for those families on that day. My hands were tied, and there is nothing I hate more than being powerless.

Over the next few years I watched as our nation activated its military in a way with which I was completely unfamiliar. And while it all seemed vaguely real (I had heard of people in my hometown deploying or a friend’s cousin’s cousin’s nephew being sent overseas), it still didn’t seem real that it was happening in my lifetime. My life progressed regardless of what was happening across the globe, and I never felt much connection to what was going on. I graduated from high school and moved to college, and the world kept turning for me. But one day things changed, and the whole concept of September 11 and the War on Terror wore a new face.

I fell in love with a man in a uniform, and I knew that things would never again be as easy for me as they had been. When we got married, I knew deployment was a reality I would have to face with him, and so I bound my heart to his and watched as he prepared himself the best way he knew how. We spent a year apart, and although it was stressful and difficult, painful and uncomfortable, I still consider that a small sacrifice. I know men and women who have watched their spouses deploy three, four, more times than they care to think about. A year seems pretty small in comparison to what they’ve given. But they keep going, spouses and soldiers alike.

It’s been awhile since I’ve heard the name Osama bin Laden. For awhile it seemed like people had put him in the backs of their minds. Sure, his name pops up on September 11 as we commemorate those who died and those who go on living without them. But what about the other 364 days of the year? Army life became the mission of my family, whether that was before, during, or after a deployment. The reason for deployment seemed lost for awhile.

Now that the spearhead of the attacks has been effectively eliminated, I am reminded once again of what all this is for. I am reminded of the way I felt that September morning; I am reminded of how I felt watching my husband go off to war. And I am reminded of how much my life changed between the two events.

The road may not be any less difficult for those who lost someone that day. It may not be any less difficult for those who lost mothers or fathers, sons or daughters, sisters or brothers, husbands or wives on foreign soil over the past few years. But somehow I feel like I understand it a little better. And it is my hope that these families will derive a new sense of hope, a new sense of pride from the news we have today, knowing that it isn’t all for nothing. Knowing that we will never forget.

Bless our troops, and bless this country. I am proud to be an American.