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A Change in Landscape: A Tribute To Military Members

I thought this was the perfect time to re-share this for Memorial Day.

vikkilynnsmith

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…

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The Two Brothers of Idar-Oberstein

courtesy wikipedia

courtesy wikipedia

It was in times of yore,

that this story did take fold,

High above the Rhine in

the town of Idar-Oberstein.

It is but said there lived two brothers

who never had a fight.

They lived within their castle ruin

both day and night.

Then one day the eldest brother

took for him a wife,

more beautiful than a flower was she

He would love her all his life.

But as fate would have it,

The two would soon be parted.

The husband would become a crusader

not to see his wife till much later.

So in his brother’s care

he did leave his wife

For he trusted his brother

and felt this would be right.

many years did go by and

the younger brother became a man

living with his brother’s wife

was too much for him to stand.

No word was sent to the castle

from the brother who had departed,

it was soon believed that he was dead

so his wife was taken to bed…

And through their union they did find

there love did grow just like a vine,

until one day when darkness struck,

the brother returned, life was amuck.

From his guilt the young brother did please,

for forgiveness for his misdeeds.

But his brother was not thrilled and thus,

the younger brother was killed.

Over the cliff he was thrown,

where he landed would forever be known.

For all the town could surely see,

how sorry the eldest brother had grown.

For where the body had laid,

a chapel was made.

Out of the side of the cliff it did perch,

and it was her that forgiveness the brother did search.

All in the town below did witness,

the sadness of their lives,

the love that had been lost

between two brothers and a wife.

            V. Smith  4/7/87

When I lived in West Germany as a teenager, I remembered how intrigued I was by this story and the castles…especially the church on the side of the cliff. In 1987…before the internet, I wrote this poem for a creative writing class. I just came across it and decided to look up the real story on the internet to see how close I was in my memory..here are the facts according to wikipedia:

The Legend of Idar-Oberstein

Felsenkirche (“Crag Church”), a legendary church and symbol of the town

According to legend, there were two noble brothers, Wyrich and Emich, who both fell in love with a beautiful girl named Bertha. The brothers lived at Castle Bosselstein, which stood atop a 135 m-high hill. Bertha was from a noble line that occupied the nearby Lichtenburg Castle.

Neither brother was aware of the other’s feelings for Bertha. When Wyrich, the elder brother, was away on some unknown business, Emich succeeded in securing Bertha’s affections and, subsequently, married her. When Emich announced the news to his brother, Wyrich’s temper got the better of him. In the heat of the moment, he hurled his brother out of a window of the castle and sent him to his death on the rocks below.

Wyrich was almost immediately filled with remorse. With the counsel of a local abbot, he began a long period of penance. At this time, Bertha disappears from the historical record. Many romantics feel that she died of a broken heart.

As Wyrich waited for a heavenly sign showing that he was forgiven, the abbot suggested that he build a church on the exact place where his brother died. Wyrich worked and prayed himself into exhaustion. However, the moment the church was completed, he received his sign: a miraculous spring opened up in the church.

Wyrich died soon after this. When the local bishop came to consecrate the new church, he found the noble lord dead on its steps. Wyrich was later placed in the same tomb with his brother.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idar-Oberstein

The White Villa Lessons

courtesy of hotel andalusia

photo-google images

The large white villa stood out amongst the tiny Spanish community with its  shutters and wide array of fruit trees. How long it had stood there was a mystery to the family inside. They had come to like the gated house with all its unique architectural features and massive pool. It was the 1960’s, and life here was a colossal of changes for this family of seven. Inside the gates, the boys chased each other around the yard until they managed to find their way out and up the cliffs that loomed above their home. The girl, quiet and tiny, played with her dolls and watched as her mother bartered with the traveling gypsies. It was a world like none they had ever known… one that would leave a lasting impression on them long after they returned to their own homeland.
It was here that some of my most fundamental characteristics were embedded into my being. I, of course, didn’t know it at the time. But now looking back, I realize my experience in Spain affected me in more ways than I ever knew possible. You see, I was that little girl playing with her dolls and watching her mom as she helped the gypsies feed and cloth their young. They say that children learn from a young age, and perhaps I did too. I never really knew when I got the desire to help others… to not judge them by their looks or occupations, but I have a pretty good idea that it was when I was there in Spain. Some of my earliest memories are of this time in my life. It was the first time I had ever seen a gypsy, starving artists, and my first person with dementia. I can still see them vividly in my mind because I remember my own mother’s reaction to all of them. She smiled, she offered help, she did not judge.

photo of gypsy girls

courtesy google images

You could only imagine the chaos when the first gypsies arrived at our gates asking for food and clothing. All of us kids came running to the gate, gawking and whispering to each other. I smile now thinking how crazy they must have been to have come to a house with five children who were passing clothes down the line. But still my mom found clothes to give them. If they asked for food…she found that too. We were not wealthy. We lived in the large white villa only because it was the only house that could fit our large family. I don’t know how my poor father managed to pay for it, as the military didn’t pay him much…but he lived by the motto “If there’s a will there’s a way,” and he and my mother managed to provide for us.

One day a painter came to the tall wrought iron gates and needed food. He looked as though he had been living down by the river and us kids watched him earnestly. He had his paintings with him and was surprised when my mother asked if he’d like to trade. She figured he would rather feel as if he bought the food. My mother selected two paintings, bullfighters in green and blue… he took fruit, meat and small rolls. To this day his paintings hang in my parent’s home…a reminder to all of us children the importance of generosity with humanity.

Then one day I travelled with my mother and our maid (every one had them there) to her home in a small neighboring village. As we walked up to her tiny cottage a large basket swung from ropes in the gently wind. Inside, our maid’s ninety-eight year old mother lay like an infant cooing and babbling like a baby. She was all shriveled up and sucking on her bony thumb. My six-year-old eyes bulged from their sockets as I stared down at her and wondered what on earth was an old lady doing in a baby’s basket. My mother gently nudged me on with a smile and whispered not to stare. But I was mesmerized. I had NEVER EVER seen anything so odd in my short life. But when we returned to our car, my mother told me that the woman had lost her memory and thought she was a baby. That sometimes things happen when we get old and we must not judge people for things that they cannot control. And now…when I see something odd… I think about this small lesson from Spain and find understanding and compassion for those that cannot control their destiny.

The truth is, it was a big house that held within it great memories for five American children. The stories are countless…but the lessons from that period in my life are by far some of the best ones a child could treasure. They are lessons that mold and shape the tiniest of people into caring, loving and understanding human beings. Sometimes it’s nice to think about where those lessons came from…. thanks mom and dad for those days in Spain and all that followed.

Short-Term Memory Novel Writing… Really???

I forgot that I posted this…. JK. Wanted it up front for my newest followers. Thanks for reading!

vikkilynnsmith

photo of manuscript

I had been typing for six hours and my hands were just flying off the keyboard. The story was easy, the chair comfortable and the music calming throughout the room… but ahead of me was danger. I just didn’t know it yet. By the time I had pulled myself from my desk chair two hours later, my back ached slightly and I was giddy with excitement. I had just written the first several chapters of my first novel and I couldn’t wait to tell my husband all about it. When he arrived home I bounced down the stairs and without missing a beat launched into how fantastic my first writing day was. He laughed and said it was so nice to see me excited about something that I was so passionate about. It was true. I was passionate about writing and had been ever since I was a child. But…

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America To Me

CollageItWhen I was in the eighth grade I entered a school writing contest. The contest prompt was… “America To Me.” It was 1976, and our great nation was celebrating the Bicentennial of our country. Ironically, I was in West Germany attending school while my dad served his military tour in Europe. You could only imagine what America meant to me then. It meant, McDonalds, American television, American radio… and everything else we didn’t have in Germany. I know that my paper most likely didn’t mention these few details back then because I was a rather serious young lady at that time… and most likely wrote about freedom, family and country. After all…it was a contest!

 

Now that I am well past junior high, I think my entry into a contest with the same prompt would be quite different. With so many life experiences, I know that there aren’t enough words to express what America means to me. But I would be remiss if I didn’t try to explain just how important my country is in my life on this the anniversary of our nation’s birth.

 

We all show our patriotism in our own way. Some of us are quite stoic while others are flamboyant in our pride of our nation. As was the case during the last few games of the soccer World Cup when America fought to win. All across our nation people painted their faces; wore red, white, and blue, chanted USA as a way to express their pride in their country. I couldn’t help but smile and be just as excited as I screamed USA USA to the television. Don’t ask me why since I was all by myself and no one could hear me. It’s kind of like wanting to sing our national anthem whenever I hear it played instrumentally. Somehow I have been trained from birth, like it’s engrained in my mind, that I am to show my pride for my country….this is what America is to me.

 

America to me is a lifestyle that allows for family and friends to come together to celebrate holidays and weekends. It’s the joy of attending sporting events and concerts that aren’t available anywhere else but here in the good ‘ol USA. America to me is watching our youth grow from toddlers to successful adults in a capitalist world. It is also watching those defeated find their will to fight, to regain what was lost… the epic American Dream.

 

America to me are the things I see like the Rockies, the Southern California beaches, the Blue Ridge Mountains and all the vast incredible natural wonders our nation has to offer. It’s the battlefields and monuments, small town town-squares, and the different accents that dot our homeland. America is the boy waving a flag while soldiers march in a parade. It’s neighborhood BBQs and children running through sprinklers. It ‘s friends helping friends, and strangers offering to help.

 

America to me is everything that makes me feel happy inside…it’s what makes me yell USA at the top of my lungs…because the truth of it all is…I’ve been all over this great land and there is NOTHING more beautiful than the country I call home. There is nothing more incredible than the freedom I was born with…Nothing more perfect than the United States of America.

Stories of Best Friends for Life

Courtesy of Google  Images Commentsyard.com

Courtesy of Google Images
Commentsyard.com

Today I was reminded of the true meaning of Best Friends. We all say we have them. Sometimes we say we have more than one. Perhaps it’s possible to have decade best friends, or school best friends….or even work best friends. But no matter how you cut it, a best friend is someone special. A best friend is someone you have for life…they are someone who takes a special place in your heart that no one else can take away. These are a few mini-stories of best friends….

 

~She sat with him all night as he rested in the hospital bed. The nurses arrived almost every hour on the hour keeping her awake. Exhausted she knew she needed to be by his side to support him and give him encouragement.  She shifted in her hard-backed chair watching his breathing thinking back to the time they met as fourteen year olds. Little did she know then that they would marry  and live a life of fifty-seven years together. Her best friend would do the same for her she was sure, that’s just the way it should be after all.~

~She hugged her best friend as she excitedly emerged from the long car ride. They hadn’t seen each other in years, yet they both looked the same. Their smiles revealed their bond that had been forged in middle school. She grabbed her best friend by the hand and said, ” I’m not sure where I would be without you.” Her best friend shakes her head and replies, “I feel the same way about you.” Thirty-eight years later and they seemed like they hadn’t been apart a day.~

~He stood tall and lean as she raised her eyes to him. Reaching up she placed the baby in his arms as a smile crept upon her face. They had been married nineteen years and now were finally blessed with a child. They had suffered the heartache of lost babies, but not once did their love for each other falter. Their lives would certainly change now, but as long as her best friend was by her side, she knew everything would be okay.~

~They stood together as a team while the onslaught of customers crammed into their small ice cream shop. They had once had different jobs, but wanted to started their own business together. She barked out an order to him as he lugged a tub of ice cream from the back and set it where she pointed. She smiled up at him and said with a hint of laughter, “What would I do without you?” His reply caught the woman at the register off guard, “Find a new best friend?” They laughed, for ever since law school they had celebrated being best friends.~

~Their grandchildren scurried up the stairs ahead of nana and pops, eager to find the latest book to read. She laughed as he caught her at the top of the stairs and put his arm around her. “I love you!” he whispered quickly into her ear. “And I you,” she replied with a soft smile that warmed his heart. He could hardly  believe she was still his after all this time. He had found his best friend and married her within three months…and now they were grandparents…grandparents in love.~

~He stood tall with his medals on his chest as he scanned the room. Saying goodbye to the service was going to be difficult, but his time had come and he welcomed the road ahead of him. In front of him was his best friend from training school. They had started out together and through the years had shared the love of flying, family, and friendship. He was his best friend to be honest…a friend who no matter where he was stationed was always there for him. Now that he was retiring he knew there was one thing that would remain the same in his life…his best friend of thirty years.

~Tears ran down her face as she laughed hysterically at his imitation of her. “I do not do that!” she managed to say as she tried to catch her breath. He had always made her laugh from the very start. It wasn’t that he was a funny person, he just had a way about him that made her laugh. They had been through thirty-three years together, and still they loved being in each other’s company…after all they were best friends.

“I’m glad I married my best friend,” she stated as she wiped her eyes.

“So am I,” he said. “Who else would I pick on and love all at the same time?”~

Best Friends come in all shapes and sizes, color, and ethnicities. They defy logic and are worthy of great literature. We all have one at least once in our lifetime…and if we’re lucky we have more than one. Who is your best friend? What’s your story?

 

The Demise of our College Graduates…

college-graduate

She rolled over as the sun peeked through the blinds. Glancing at her cell phone she noted the missed calls and pulled the worn pillow over her head. What did she care that it was going on noon, it was just another day like the last. She was tired of being told to get out of bed and get a job. What job? No one seemed to understand…she was a college graduate, Cum Laude even, and yet she wasn’t knowledgable enough to land a job. She hated the word “JOB” and when it was used around her she felt her anxiety grow until she now took medicine to control the anxiety.

He stood staring in the mirror, his tie, all shiny and new, stared back at him, mocking him and his long ago dreams of making it big in the business world. His face was clean shaven, his cologne light, his brow furrowed. How did this happen? He dreaded the next eight to ten hours behind a desk answering phones for what? His paycheck barely covered his rent and utilities, let alone any extras like food! But he was tired…tired of the job, tired of people telling him he was lucky to get a job, tired of living a life that was anything but his dream. This wasn’t suppose to be like this.

The line grew long and she struggled to wrestle the watermelon into a cart for the customer. Behind her she could see Mrs. So and So and she wished her supervisor would suddenly grant her a break. How could she face her here…at the local grocery store? Trying to smile she met her previous teacher with a heavy heart. The conversation was light, but she knew what Mrs. So and So was thinking…”Poor dear! So bright and now working at a grocery store. She was going to change the world.” And then she asks, “Didn’t you travel to Uganda for a year and help build schools?” Yep…that was her, the girl that was going to light the world on fire, now she was selling firewood to people in a grocery store. It wasn’t suppose to happen this way…was it? Didn’t the government promise her that they would help her find a job when she returned? Didn’t they tell her that she was one of their brightest young minds, the future of the world?

All about us these stories grow in number. College graduates are disgruntled, perhaps more now then ever in the history of our country.Blame it on the economy, the government…whatever…does it really matter? NO IT DOES NOT! You see, life is different for most of these young people, different than when most of us graduated from college. I know that my generation was the one that
still had only a few children in the household attending college. Now every child in the household is expected to attend…a college degree is like a high school degree. Successfully attaining a degree only offers you a job…not the one of your dreams…just a job. (My generation you had to have a high school diploma.) For some, the job may be working at a grocery store, or answering phones. Both which really do not require a college education…yet, who are employers hiring? You got it. The college graduate. Does this mean that graduates should get their masters? NO…again…NO! A masters degree doesn’t guarantee a job in a particular field anymore than the BA did.

So what are the youth of America to do? Here is the answer according to my very wise husband…
They must take control of what they “can” control. Instead of waiting for something good to happen…our youth need to start helping themselves. The truth be told, our youth have had everything promised to them and those promises went up in smoke when they graduated. Our graduates need to begin a strategic plan to work their way to happiness. They must realize that “they” must start at the bottom of the totem pole and climb slowly and with purpose until they are the head of that very totem. These young people need to ask themselves what they could do to better themselves, to get more experience, to make themselves more marketable. IF that means he/she must take a few classes here or there, take them. IF it means that he/she must volunteer on weekends to get experience somewhere…then do it gladly. IF it means making connections at the local book club…then join the club. These young Americans were promised a bright future…but let’s be real…no one promised it to them on a silver platter. They need to learn how to polish the platter before they can eat off of it. It is sad to see our youth in such a predicament…but the best way out of it is with enthusiasm to keep learning and better oneself. It’s the only way their bright future will come to fruition.