Archives

Leaders Among Us

CollageItThere are times in all of our lives that we stop and reflect on our purpose, our families, and our accomplishments. We wonder why we are who we are? How did we get to this point in our lives?

It’s three in the morning, and I am silently listening to the man I married breathe heavily in an exhaustive sleep. The bed does not move, but his raspy breathing is strong and tells a story that only he and I know. Perhaps I do not sleep because his breathing is deafening in this otherwise quiet room. I do not move to adjust the blankets like I sometimes do to quiet him, nor do I punch my pillow a few times, hoping to make him roll over. I realize at this very moment that he deserves this sleep in his own bed, with his own special pillow next to his loving wife. So I stare at the wall and think about him… not my husband, but the leader he has become.

In this world today, news tends to revolve around the leaders of nations far and wide. We watch as each leader is dissected, re-dissected and left out for vultures to do with, as they will. It’s a sad time, to say the least. But the truth is, that each of these leaders are people, just like you and I. They love, they cry, they celebrate, and yes, get their feelings hurt. It is the nature of all mankind to feel emotion; no matter how it rears it’s head. For me, I understand why their sleep is hard, troublesome, and short. Oh, I’m not saying my husband is a world leader… but he is not just the leader of the PTA or neighborhood HOA either. He is a high profile leader of young people destined to change the world… our world.

When I met my husband thirty-six years ago, he was young and ambitious. Well, as ambitious as you can be, as a fresh boot out of basic training. I suppose what I fell in love with, was his humor and his deep blue eyes. He was fun! We were nineteen. When he asked me to marry him, I could not have been happier. In my mind, all we needed to be successful was love. Silly, I know. But it did get us through the first four years of our lives on a tiny remote island in Alaska. We had nothing, no money, hand-me down furniture, and each other.

As the years went on, we both held each other up, supporting our dreams and goals, while planning our future as best we could. We started a family and found that our two beautiful children were, and always will be, the center of our lives. We were just like you, your neighbor… the leaders among us. And then things began to change. For my husband, his jobs got busier, more demanding. He worked his way up the “so called ladder” with me by his side. I did not have to give up my life for his, I would have, but no, he wouldn’t want that. So we became a team, boosting each other up each rung until one day he made it to the top. It was actually a surprise to be at the top. Our lives changed overnight, like a budding pop star that is suddenly thrust into the foreign world of stardom. We were excited but cautious. All eyes were on us, and our every move.

It’s a funny thing being in a fishbowl where everyone is watching and listening. I found that it didn’t matter what was said, what the intention was, our audience gathered their own impressions and views of us, my husband in particular. Much like the press today, those around us seem to think our lives as people no longer mattered. But the truth is, we are people. You know, the ones that laugh, cry, celebrate and yes, get their feelings hurt? Oh, we’ve been lucky so far; our audience has been kind for the most part. But here’s the thing, we are NOT the only couple in the world living in the fishbowl. Look around you and think of all the leaders you know. How do you see them? Are you looking to find a flaws in them? Are you looking to see if they have what it takes to gain your approval? Are you more critical of them, because for the simple reason, you are jealous of his/her life? Stop.

Now look at that leader as a person. What qualities can you find that are positive? Do you know how they got to that leadership position? Have you actually LOOKED at their face, their body, stature? What do you see? If you haven’t truly taken the time to understand and know the leaders around you, then perhaps you should. Perhaps you will find that they are on the PTA Board, the HOA Board, The Trustees Board for theIMG_6068 Betterment of Man, the church hospitality team, and a mentor to a child at school. Perhaps you will find that they attend all their children’s sporting and theatrical events, that they make their own breakfast each morning at 4:30 because they don’t want to put anyone out, or that they travel three-in-a- half weeks out of the month. And then stop once more and think about this, why would this leader put themselves through the ringer to do the job they are in, if it was not to better our world?

Oh, I can hear the naysayers, right now. They look at our President and say, he’s in it for his own ego. Perhaps… but when you truly look at these people as a person, you just have to come to the realization that they honestly believe they can make a positive change. They try to do what is right, WHICH, brings us back to the man now snoring in my ear. He did not take his position because he wanted the fame or glory. He did not take it because he had a higher agenda, or that he wanted more money, on the contrary. He took this job because he thinks he can make positive changes in an already amazing organization made up of young people… our future leaders. And because he has committed himself to lead them in a positive direction, he sleeps four hours a night, he answers two phones, his daily calendars (scheduled for him) are full with meetings and events that have him bouncing in and out of our home like a man on a pogo stick. He would not change his life if you asked him, for he knows that this is his calling…

So, I will not wake him to roll him over. I will not whine that I only saw him for thirty minutes today, nor will I let anyone defame his character because they think it’s cool to do such a thing. No, I will tell him I love him, I will tell him to keep up the good fight, I will remind him of our humble beginnings, and I will tell him I’m proud of him. For if we cannot do this for our leaders, what does that say about us? What does that say about our nation and our future? It’s time to acknowledge the leaders among us in a positive light, so that they as a person, can remind themselves of their purpose and bring forth a brighter future for us all.

photo of author and her husband  The author and her husband.

Photos courtesy of nbcnews, Time, Alchetron, PolitiFact, R. Shimpo, HyperActivz, V. Smith

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

From whence this rain cometh?

2017-06-21_1518

The gray skies hover about, crowding the skies above me. It’s not that I don’t like rain, or the chance of rain… because sometimes rain is good and needed. It’s just that I’ve noticed lately that it keeps following me around. There’s no symbolism here, so put that out of your mind. I’m as happy as a jaybird on a sunny day, but when the clouds start rolling in, I get annoyed. The thing is, I like the sunshine. People are happy when it’s sunny. They smile more, laugh heartier, and do activities that encourage friendships… like going to sporting events or picnics. 

When I was living in Hawaii the first time, it was sunny all day until around 4 pm. It was great! Then, right on time, it would shower for fifteen minutes and be gone. It was refreshing and made the flowers seem even more beautiful. But on my third trip living there, it was as if someone forgot to turn off the shower. Days on end it would rain without mercy. My bones began to ache, my head throbbed and I sat at the window like the kids in The Cat in the Hat, just waiting for it to end. I did not get depressed, but I must admit I was a bit grumpy. There’d be no hiking, paddle boarding or golf that day!

I often wonder what people see in the rain in places like Oregon and Washington. Oh, I get that the forests are gorgeous and the rivers and lakes are always full, but to have a black cloud looming overhead most of the day would get old. I imagine hiking and playing in those lovely rivers and lakes on a sunny day must be like heaven… but oh, the rain!! I’d be as fat as a cow if I lived where it rained all day. I’d feel like I needed to bake. Oh no, that would be disastrous!

Its the first day of summer and I must admit, I awoke aching and annoyed! How could it possibly rain on the first day of summer, for Pete sakes? This morning was the third straight day of rain in my Southeast corner of Virginia. Hasn’t someone told the big guy up there that it’s summer?? I slipped on my flip flops and reminded myself that I would have to change shoes if I was to go out later. What a way to start the day… and then, as I fiddled in the kitchen and stretched out my aching bones, a ray of sun slipped through a cloud. It danced upon my face for just a moment before is hid behind a light gray cloud moving across the sky. I smiled. Could it be that sunshine was in my future? 

You betcha!… Suddenly I’m as happy as a frog on a log singing his favorite song! The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and even my favorite squirrel is out collecting nuts. No time for writing now, the sun is calling my name and I’m out the door. Isn’t it great when the rain disappears? Gotta love rainbows!

I Did It All

Vikki on a tour busThe ray of sun beat down through the car window as I moved across the pavement in my hurried state. I wasn’t going anywhere, but the feel of the car beneath me felt better as the peddle pushed further to the floor. I smiled, and knew I should behave and drive as a fifty-something year old and not a twenty-something year old. But what the hell, I felt like twenty, so why not act like it? Today the tunes rocked the small leathered compartment of my new wheels, life was good.

Around me, I looked at fellow drivers as they went by, old and young, going about their business as if no one noticed. But I noticed. I looked to see their smiles, their frowns, their flapping mouths as they droned on to an uninterested listener, and children even, singing in the backseat of a car at the top of their lungs. Watching people and knowing people is what life is all about, and there is no better place to witness life than speeding down the highway. Okay, maybe that’s a little bit of an exaggeration. But boy, the stories I could write about the people I see in cars!

The truth is, it wasn’t the people in the cars that made me smile today, it was the song playing on the radio. The beat grabbed me the moment it came over the speakers, and before I could stop myself, my thumbs turned into drumsticks. Then the lyrics entered, and I realized One Republic was singing about my life. How could this be when I have never met any of the band members, especially Ryan Tedder the writer of the song? But yet, with every word, they sang a song I would have penned for myself if I had songwriting abilities, “I Lived.”

Oh, I know I’m not anyone special, and probably have minor life experience compared to most, but living is not about how many unusual experiences one has, but how one lives! For me, life is finding the positive things around you and learning to experience everything life has to offer.

Part of being successful at living life to the fullest is having confidence in yourself to try something new. I don’t believe that being a person high on life is something you are born with. I’m pretty sure I was a timid little girly-girl when I was young and growing up with four brothers.

But as I grew, and my confidence began to grow, I found that experiencing life was exciting.  I could meet new people without feeling uncomfortable. I sought out strangers on trips and tried to get to know and learn from them. I would travel, and not just to famous destinations, but to out of the way little places like Wall, South Dakota or Artesia, New Mexico to see what was there… just for the heck of it. If there was an adventure park, museum or monument, I stopped and checked them out too. I even stopped once at a strange rock formation in the middle of the desert. Trust me, it was worth the stop. Isn’t that living?

As I got much older, I found more courage than I have ever had before. I began to 10400128_10153299641386671_4670492881694448979_n.jpghike and do sports that I always wanted to try. I even snorkeled in Hawaii’s waters without drowning myself! I’ve climbed lighthouses, traveled Europe, hosted dignitaries at my home, and sat quietly on my porch as birds filled my head with music. Isn’t that living?

I’ve held a new born baby in my arms, comforted a grieving friend, rejoiced at weddings and sang in the shower (even when I knew someone could hear me.) I’ve laughed so hard that my laughter turned to tears, cried till I had no more tears to shed, and marveled at the beauty of a sunset on a cool fall evening. Isn’t that living?

I think “doing it all” is a subjective statement to many, but to me… it’s living every moment, in the moment, with purpose and feeling. It’s taking a chance in learning something out about yourself that you never knew before and embracing the idea that until one’s death, you have the chance to change and grow and live life in ways that you never imagined. For this, I’ve lived.

I’ve lived each day, loved by my family, encouraged by my peers and am now eager to see what is waiting out there for me to explore. For when I pass from this world, those who surround my casket will not mourn me but celebrate and say, “she lived.”

I owned every second that this world could give
I saw so many places, the things that I did
With every broken bone, I swear I lived

I, I did it all
I, I did it all

A Change in Landscape: A Tribute To Military Members

ocean view from Ford Island at Sunset, Oahu, Hawaii

Sun beat down upon the decaying pavement as I padded towards the water’s edge. The air was clear and the skies moved about with the changing island breeze. I had walked this way many times before, and today, with music filling my ears of piano and violins, I slipped away from my busy world. My arms found their way in a swinging motion, like snow-skiing across the vast concrete before me. I was out to replace my previous walking time, and my steps became urgent with purpose. But the truth was, I was distracted by a sudden change in landscape. I tried to push the thought of the island’s transformation out of my head, and raced on past the military patrol boats in the harbor and the once vibrant military buildings that now looked all but forgotten.

Out in the distance the clouds rolled in over the mountains and rain showers replenished the earth with much-needed water. Smiling, I marveled at the vibrant rainbow that soon followed. Still, the sun bore down on my shoulders and beads of moisture dripped from my brow. I loved to walk here on this hallowed land that once experienced perhaps the greatest tragedy in American history. The smaller island found within the confines of a larger one was full of secrets and surprises, and it was perhaps this reason I so enjoyed my walks here on Ford Island.

rainbow behind the USS Missouri in Hawaii

USS Missouri

Today this side of the island seemed quieter than usual. The tourists had all but disappeared and families residing nearby were nowhere to be seen. The Oklahoma Memorial stood like a forgotten ship upon land, while the USS Missouri clanked against the dock, reminding itself that it remained as strong as it ever was.

 

USS Arizona Memorial and USS Mercy in Pearl Harbor

USS Arizona and USS Mercy in Pearl Harbor

 

 

Like a long-lost friend, the old banyan tree with its names proudly etched upon it, welcomed me as I made my way up the street past the house with nineteen cats. Its foliage shaded my overheated body, and as much as I wanted to stop, I did not. For not but a few steps away lie a beautiful memorial of white, and its appearance was always changing depending on the day. I looked forward to seeing the USS Arizona each time I walked, and today was no different. Its flag flew strong and vibrant against the island trade winds, reminding me once again of those that had fallen in time of war.

I did not stay long to recall the reason for the memorial, for still I was haunted by the change of landscape found within the confines of the island. Moving past the deserted playground with the sun blurring my eyes, I knew it wouldn’t be long before I was upon the site that most troubled me before my walk.

With the sidewalk bending its way through uncut grass, I found myself suddenly upon the main road. Long and straight, hot and silent. I stopped as if at Arlington or Punchbowl to take in the sight before me. Boots. Not just one pair or two, nor twenty or one hundred, but thousands. Each with a name tag, photo, Date of Death and an American Flag. Stopped like a wooden statue, my eyes scoured the main roads in and out of the island. As far as I could see, they were all still there, boots… calling to me to pay attention, to stop and read and remember those that gave all.

rows of military boots lining the roads of Ford Island with tags and pictures of those that have given their lives since 9/11

My phone found its way out of my pocket and I lowered myself to the level of the first boot. Taking a photo, I stopped suddenly, remembering that this was not just another photo-op of history but a memorial to a real individual. A Marine who gave his life in 2004. He was young, like my own son… Catching my breath, I righted myself and watched as cars moved slower than usual down the once img_4732WWII runway. How strange to have a boot of a fallen soldier upon the same soil of fallen WWII airmen.

As I began to walk, my eyes caught each ghost soldier, sailor and airman’s eyes as they followed me down the long stretch of black now radiating heat greater than usual. I zigged and zagged across the street reading names and learning about loved ones who would never forget their lost brother, sister, husband or wife. Replacing flags and righting boots I mourned for those left behind.

And then I saw them. Two boots laced together, a husband and wife. Choked up, my hand could not bear to take a photo. Three boots of MP’s, buddies till the end… Four boots, forever together. I began to run along the road, seeing for the first time the faces of people standing in a long line waiting for something…. Their vacant eyes searching mine, their smiles urging me on. Not a runner, my breath was not labored nor quick, but steady as I passed each individual. They reminded me of my freedoms, my family, everything that was good in my life. My eyes moistened and my brain began to scream at the horrors of war. And then I stopped, crying in the street with lone boots at my feet. I would remember. How could I not? I would remember them all as I should, as we all should…. And why wouldn’t we?

Boots of fallen MPs4 boots strung together

 

 

 

 

 

As I turned towards my car, I stopped and glanced one last time down the two long roads before me. Boots stood at attention as others followed my footsteps, reading, remembering and crying. The boots won’t be here for long, but the memory of them will be here forever.

Boots lining the road as far as one can see

Imprisoned

View of mountains of North Shore Oahu with clouds rolling in.

In the quiet of my room, I do not hear the sirens blaring or dogs barking. I cannot see the walls that surround the  unlikely fortresses on an island of sand and tourists, nor the cats that stare from beneath the bushes. But I know they are there, and just that fact makes me sad. I didn’t know they were there when I first arrived on the island, nor when I entered my shiny new house on the hill over-looking the city. But one day, while I was out exploring behind my house, I saw them hidden just at the base of the hill, nestled in a small valley out of sight from the world…the penitentury and the animal quarantine center.

I had been looking over the valley at the neighboring mountains when the alarm rang from below. Echoing off the canyon walls, my eyes instinctively traveled to hence the sound came, now loud and clear. There amongst the red dirt and blue sky, barbed wire dotted the tops of the secured white facility, running into the small towers thatprison hidden in a valley stood guard over unwanteds, criminals the world wanted to forget. Watching as best I could from my perch, I waited curiously to see if there had been a jail break or fight in the yard. But there was nothing…just the steady siren sending a message to someone somewhere that all was not right within the walls. Nearby, businesses crowded an industrial complex. Cars sped down the road just in front of the prison as if it were simply not there. No one seemed to mind the blaring sound that still wailed from within the walls. With a heavy sigh, I continued on the path I had begun in the direction of the city.

IMG_0328The sun now rose high in the sky and perspiration dotted my forehead as I caught myself from stumbling down the steep incline in front of me. If only there were a breeze, surely the path would be more enjoyable, I thought. A cat scurried across the path before me and as I came upon it, I found several sets of eyes peering out from under the brush. I had never seen a group of cats congregated in the middle of the day, and as sweet as I said,cat hiding in bushes “Hi Kitties,”I felt uneasy as their stares urged me to move on. Having only taken a few steps beyond the unfriendly felines, I got the first notion that up ahead something unusual was occurring. My steps quickened as the first barks grew in volume. Was there a hunting club nearby? I wondered. But, of course, that would be silly since there was nothing on the island to hunt.

As I rounded the bend, a site that I will never forget came into view. Stopping in my tracks, my breath caught in my throat as I froze in utter surprise. The sound grew as one after another dog joined in chorus, as if calling me to rescue them. Before me rows and rows of brown outdoor kennels lined the floor of the valley, each with its own chain-linked outside area. The hair lifted on my neck and then the tears welled in my eyes. How could these poor dogs be forced to live like this, a voice inside me shouted. I realized that I had found the island quarantine center.dog quarantine kennels

Suddenly my feet were moving quickly across the now paved road that ran along the hillside. Pushing myself up and away from the animals, I rounded the bend and headed home in almost a sprint as the howls and barks chased me from behind. Not until I was half-way home did the sounds fade within my ears, and I slowed my pace dog kennelsfor the rest of the climb back home. Reaching my door, thankful to be home, I heard a new siren belt its way up the hill, and I quickly opened the door and escaped inside my walls of silence.

Leaning against the counter, my labored breathing settled to a steady pace as I shook my head in confusion. How could two totally opposite facilities be sitting next to each other, one that housed animals that people adored and loved and couldn’t wait to have in their homes, and one that house a different kind of animal that no one wanted and hoped would never be released? And as I stood there in my quiet kitchen, I suddenly realized that the cats were unbelievably caught between the two opposing sets of animals, for they must have escaped the quarantine but had no one to love them. I moved to my patio window and looked out across the valley. From my view I could not see the two facilities below me, but I could see the cats scurrying past my yard in search of something I knew not what. I pulled the blinds not wanting to see.

And yet, here I sit in the quiet of my house, the sounds of sirens and barking dogs lost in the darkness outside. I know that somewhere a cat awaits someone to love, a dog barks for its owner and a prison mate wonders if he will ever be free… and me, I am imprisoned by that which surrounds me. For I am a tender heart, and knowing that each of these animals suffers makes me no different than them.

 

Golden Retriever

In memory of Sequoia

Author’s Note: As an animal lover, I encourage you to help through donations or volunteer activities at your local Humane Society or Animal Shelter. You might even find a Quarantine facility nearby that needs your help too. For more information following the links below:

Humane Society

ASPCA

US Quarantine Stations

The Boy on the Beach…

 

Handicapped young man standing at the shore break

The tide crept in as the sun shone high over head.
The waves steady and loud crashed upon the shore with each roll of the tide.
Shifting in our seats as perspiration found its way across our skin, we watched silently at the lone figure just at the shore break.
His thin body dancing as sea-foam touched his toes.
His arms flailing above his head, mouth screeching with excitement.
Next to me my husband straightened and placed his hands upon the arms of his chair.
The waves grew with each approaching tide, and yet, the young man remained at the edge of the water.
My relaxed feet upon the sand, now steadied themselves into a standing position, I too shifted in my chair.
He was not your ordinary teenager… he was special.

IMG_0207
Why was he alone at the beach? Surely there was someone nearby…
Crashing at his knees, the waves rose towards the young man.
His unsteady legs beat against the sand as he charged the slope of the beach.
“AAAhhh,” he screamed in desperation.
Stopping, he turned to eye the water and without pause, chased the receding water to the rocky edge of the shore.
Eyeing my husband in silent conversation, we watched worriedly.
My husband shifted uncomfortably forward, preparing himself to rescue the man-child should the ocean catch him off guard.

IMG_0206A splash of red caught our eyes as a woman quickly descended upon the beach.
Her eager hand caught the teenager as a wave perilously charged overhead.
Rising we watched, ready, worried.
Giddy and energized, the boy stumbled behind his mother, she smiling through her panic.
Falling, the water tumbled across their bodies as they crawled haphazardly away from the shore rocks.
Her voice was lost to us, but her smile remained throughout her rescue.
He, unaware of his peril. She, fully committed to his safety.
Holding onto one another, they weathered the wave one after another.
Laughter rising above the waves, easing our worry.
We lowered ourselves into our chairs…
Watching as mother guided, warned, encouraged, and loved her son while embracing a day at the beach.

Beneath the Old Tree

 

Hawaiian Hau Tree

Hawaiian Hau Tree on Pearl Harbor Base

The cool trade winds rustled the leaves overhead, as the music drifted over the prestigious crowd. Laughter filled the air, while voices raised and lowered as the music kept its pace. No one paid any mind to the leaves overhead, or to the branches that wrapped themselves in braids high above their heads. Nor did they notice the disarray of branches weaving in and out of the iron latticed-cover of the pergola. But the tree, now weathered, and living longer than most of its peers, listened as he had so many times before to the crowd huddled below its lighted foliage. Times were different now of course, because he was older and wiser… but the conversations were the same as they had been for as long as he could remember.

Hau Tree canopyThe military officers in their finest uniforms stood in huddled masses discussing the latest military issue. While the wives shifted from one leg to the other giving rest to their weary feet. All about them caterers in crisp uniforms glided from one group to the other carrying trays of miniature entrees and desserts. Some nights were different of course. Some nights found the officers in Aloha shirts and slacks, but the women really never changed. Their hair piled high upon their heads or long and endless notified the tree of yet another decade now gone…faded like the sunsets over the ocean nearby. But still the ladies were the same, wearer of dresses, light perfume and a touch of lipstick to accentuate their lips.

Tonight the tree arched its branches towards the outer perimeter of the patio as if reaching to grab the musicians just beyond its reach. The IMG_0152music, his favorite, played across the crowd, bouncing back against the house and resting on each leaf, energizing them. If only his trunk were not grounded to the earth he would step gracefully across the patio as if he were the most famous dancer in the world. Instead he is placated by the sounds of South Pacific, and allow his leaves to sway in the breeze in unison to the notes floating through the air.

It wasn’t long ago that this music was new to him. He was half his size now, and there was a war going on around him. Life was so different then, so urgent and combustible. Those that met below his branches then were living for that moment alone, and had no time to think about the future.

A small tug on a branch, and the tree finds a man inspecting its thickness. If only the man knew the difficulty in maintaining his livelihood through the years. Like the old home that now had become his friend, he fought to live amongst the ever- changing world around him. There IMG_0154was always someone trying to cut him back, or redirect his roots so that they would not disturb the house or guests. But little did they know that his roots now held the pipes down of the old Admiral’s quarters, and his massive canopy was truly a blessing for guests on hot summer days when even the band struggled to sound upbeat.

The old tree didn’t mind the clinking of glasses from the bar below him, or the warming lights dangling precariously from his limbs. He didn’t mind lovers who leaned against his strong trunk, stealing kisses before returning to the dance floor either. For this is what he was meant to do, to record history as it was made beneath his branches. And so, on this glorious night below the stars, the old tree leaned into the gentle breeze and whispered thank you to those who could not hear him…those beneath the old tree.

IMG_0155