Monthly Archives: December 2014

Our Christmas Tree is a Global Experience

Three weeks until Christmas. All week long, Paul and I have been bringing the Christmas decorations down from the attic—lights, wrapping paper and fancy boxes, the pre-lit tree, wreaths, bows, tinsel, greenery … and the ornaments. Lots of ornaments. This weekend, the house will transform.

Our Christmas tree has its own unique personality. Not a designer creation by any stretch of the imagination, but one wholly representative of our life together. From the kiln-fired airplane painted by our son in first grade, to the Rudolph made from a real peanut and decorated with pipe cleaner antlers and googly eyes our daughter made in 2nd grade – each item we put on our tree comes with its own special memory.

Some of my faves include a cuckoo clock from Germany, a photo ornament of our beloved dog, Christmas Ornament from KoreaMac, and a hand painted bulb given to us by a dear friend when we lived in South Korea. There’s a sea shell from Barbados, a Big Ben from England, A reproduction of Mary the Queen Catholic Church (moved from Buffalo to Norcross in My Favorite Christmas Ornaments2010 and gifted to us by our son and his family). A replica of St. Basil’s Cathedral from Russia, foam handprints of our grandchildren, and (recently added) a kangaroo ridden by a koala from Australia.

After the festivities end every year, I painstakingly wrap each ornament in soft paper to ensure its safety. Let’s face it, some of these things are older than my own kids! And fragile, so delicate. The payoff comes the following year when I get to unwrap them all over again. It’s like my very own private Christmas complete with presents! I get to relive some of the best times of my life.

And yes, sometimes I cry.

Amidst the unveiling of all these precious and priceless memories, there are two ornaments in particular that I look for. Christmas isn’t Christmas until they surface. The first (our very first BrotchenChristmas ornament) was given to us by our German landlord, a little something his wife made for our first Christmas together in our first home. She took a simple brotchen (a crusty, hard roll), varnished it, added a ribbon and a little decoration, and penned a note. Gib uns heute unser täglich brotchen” — Give us this day our daily bread. 

We still have that roll. The note has yellowed with time, and the bread is crumbling, but it still goes on our tree, front and center, in a place of honor.

The second ornament is a baby in a blue cradle that we picked up on our first road trip to Italy. (You see the “first” pattern?) It represents the Baby Jesus. We were young, invincible, and owned the world back then. Tomorrow was a long time away. As with most young people, we took one day at a time and without much of a plan for the future. But even so early in our marriage, we knew Christ belonged in our marriage.

I wish you and your loved ones a joyous and Christ-filled Christmas.

Frohe Weihnachten  –  Feliz Navidad  –  메리 크리스마스   –  С Рождеством Maligayang Pasko  –  Joyeux Noël  –  Giáng sinh vui vẻ  –  Nadolig Llawen

Merry Christmas to all!


Life as a Military Dependent

What every civilian fiancé should know about marrying into the military:

For a little girl who’d never been out of the great state of Alabama, I sure jumped into the deep end of life when I married a career soldier. Life with a military man is not a bed of roses, and not for the faint of heart.Army wedding

Below, are five things I think every prospective military spouse should understand before tying the knot. It’s not a comprehensive list by any means, but they can be a real eye-opener.

  1. If the Army wanted one of its soldiers to have a wife, they would have issued one. If I had a nickel for every time I was called a “dependent,” I could have retired ten years ago. The day I graduated from high school and got a job was the last time I was “dependent” on anybody. My parents raised me to be responsible and self-sufficient. The Army views a soldier’s wife and family as gratuitous baggage. You take them along when you move, but they get dropped and left behind the moment the going gets rough.
  2. In the event of hostilities, you’re on your own. Your soldier is married to the Army. Army wifeYou’re more of concubine as long as they remain in the service. We lived in Korea for three years during one tour. Back then, North and South Korea were always teetering on the edge of war with each other. The tension at Panmunjom (the abandoned village on the border between North and South Korea where the Armistice was signed after the Korean War) was palpable. We lived in Seoul, a scant 50 kilometers from the border, which meant the populace remained in a constant state of readiness. As the commander of an elite helicopter unit at Camp Humphreys, my honey and his men were first responders. That meant, in the event of hostilities, he answered the call of duty, and I was on my own with the kids.
  3. Discipline is a way of life. The military trains their fighting forces to obey orders— without question and without hesitation. The U.S. continues to have the most well-trained and educated forces in the world. The dress code, the physical fitness requirements, the mandatory drills—all result from and encourage continued obedience. You’ll never see a wife fuss and fidget about her clothes as much as a soldier in dress uniform does.
  4. You will be alone at times. Face it, the military is on call twenty-four/seven. This may mean maneuvers, training/education, or deployment (when they’re sent to hot spots around the world). When Uncle Sam calls, your soldier will go. Missing your anniversary, the kids’ birthdays, birth of a baby, or a family crisis—in the grand scheme of things, you run a close second, but Uncle will always come first. Don’t get me wrong. The military will often make allowances to keep families together and happy, but it’s just that, an allowance.
  5. Plan on having clean closets for the duration. With a move at least every three years, you’ll have the cleanest garage/attic/basement in the neighborhood. You just won’t have the time, space, or energy to be a pack rat. Of course, you’ll wonder three years down the road what became of that tan dress you liked so much. There will be lots of donations to the clothing drop boxes.

Harsh? Yes. BUT, for every con of military life, there are two or more pros. My world expanded exponentially with exposure to other cultures around the world, and to the men and women of the armed services. The Army takes care of its own. Pride, honor, integrity, morality, principles, ethics, and virtue – what better role models for your children than a man or woman in uniform. And oh the places I’ve seen!

The bottom line for me is, if I had it to do over knowing what I know now … I wouldn’t change a thing!