Publicly Exposed!

Over 86% of cancer is caused by environmental factors that WE bring on ourselves and to our family.  These include tobacco smoke, poor nutrition, physical activity, environmental carcinogens, etc.  This means that only 14% of cancer is hereditary.  We tend to believe that because our grandparents had it, we will get it.  It’s just ‘in our blood’.  It may be in your blood, but who put it there is the real question!

I am not one to dwell on regrets, but I do have one that’s been weighing on my mind a lot lately!  I don’t know about you, but I regret not providing a toxic free home to my children (those sweet male humans of my flesh and blood that I love more than life itself).  I regret not reading the thousands of labels (that I purchased with my hard earned money) to see just how many carcinogens were included….you know, the ingredients that the FDA approved as acceptable and I agreed it was okay to consume.  It’s my fault!  I exposed them to such horrible toxins.  I even went to the extent of rewarding them with trips to get fast food, all laden with ‘oses’ and ‘phates’ and ‘lates’ (and this is not a coffee from Starbucks).  Those ingredients that are not raised or grown.  God didn’t provide any of those ingredients in Day 1 through 6.  Just sayin’.

We tend to go through life accepting what is before us without question.  We wait until we are sick and then we depend on the doctor to fix us up.  We again get into a robot mentality and take the shot then buy the prescriptions (again with our hard earned money), all without question.  It’s approved by the regulating bodies of the Federal government, so it should be okay, right?  WRONG.

When you realize that there is truly a better way of living, you get fed up enough to take action.  You take responsibility and become proactive.  You don’t accept the norm.  You stop making fun of all of the tree huggers and don’t mind being called a naturalist, environmentalist, or hippy yourself.  Call me green, or any other color, I don’t care.

At some point in your life, you have to realize that everything you do has consequences, good or bad.  When you take a bite of food, it helps or hurts your body.  There is no middle ground.  If you can’t pronounce it (or event attempt to memorize the spelling), it’s a good chance that it’s not good for you.  I admit, I sometimes forget if tomato has an ‘e’ on the end or not. Thank goodness for spell check. But I do recognize the fruit/veggie and know who created it.  It wasn’t in a lab.

You work hard.  It’s only fair that you are healthy enough to play hard.  Don’t wait till you are 80 years old and realize that your life is gone to pot with poor health, stress, and ‘living life to the fullest’ was just a dream that never came true.   You do have a choice.  Every dime you hand over to the cashier is paying for choices you made while pushing that germy buggy around.  Stay out of the aisles.  Buy fresh veggies that are organic.  If not organic, wash them well!  Buy local.  Buy fresh meat or lean on your local hunters to help fill the freezer.  Farm.  Dirt don’t hurt.

You eat ‘clean’ already?  Great!  What about your laundry products?  Beauty products?  Start reading every label on every product you use in one day.  You just might be surprised to find that YOU are risking your life and that of your family to exposure to cancer.  When that soap and shampoo runs down your backside, you don’t think that it’s getting into your blood stream?  You do know that your skin is very permeable, right?  Download the app EWG and scan your products to see the toxicity level yourself.   You can also visit their website here.

Hormonal?  Think it’s just because you are aging?  Why is your daughter starting her cycle so early in life?  Toxins are endocrine disrupters.  We bring this on ourselves and to our family (those we love dearly).  Why?  Are we lazy, or just don’t care?  Maybe we just didn’t know.  Now you do!

It can be a lot to purge from your home, but you have a choice to make good choices starting today.  Start with one area and work your way through the house.  Throw away all of the plugins.  That’s an easy start.  I don’t know about you, but every time I went to throw away a toxin laden product, all I saw was money in the trash can.  But you know what, it was one less toxin that could cause cancer within me.  I was raising the bar and and reducing my chances of facing that nasty disease.  I could make a good choice and spend my money on safe products.  Buying safe products does not have to be expensive.  Again, it’s just making good choices.

Start today!  In a year from now, you’ll be glad you did.  No regrets.

Here are a few videos of how to make toxic-free products that are less expensive than the standard toxic filled products in the stores:

I’d love to help you make a change for future with wellness in mind.  It’s all about prevention!  Living life to the fullest can be a dream come true!  Now wake up and get busy!

Visit my website for more information!

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Motivational Monday (Healthy Eating Habits)

After years of practice (of trying to eat right), I’ve developed 5 things that help me stay motivated in my good eating habits. Sometimes I fail (because I love Edgar’s Bakery), but these basic things are simple and have helped me!

1. Get your mind off of food! Get your hands and body in motion to doing something to keep you busy. The less you think about food, the better off you’ll be. Eat when you are hungry. Don’t eat just because it’s “that” time of day. Just STOP thinking about food. You need to EAT to survive! That’s the purpose of it. Don’t survive to eat. I work with people that come in at 8am talking about what they are going to order for lunch. SERIOUSLY?! Planning is one thing, but letting food RULE your life…that’s different!

2. STOP eating when you are full (eat slow to recognize this point). We were trained to clean our plates because there are starving people in Africa. While that may be true, we don’t send our left overs to Africa. It’s not helping the children in Africa when we clean our plates. STOP THAT MADNESS! Start putting less on your plate. Start using a smaller plate. Stop going back for seconds too!

3. Make a list of foods you LOVE that are ‘approved’. If you eat something and say, “THIS IS SOOO GOOD” (you know where you grunt while chewing), write it on your list. When you get in a rut, refer back to the list and pick that exciting dish that you may have forgotten about. Keep this list with you so when you go to the grocery store, so you can buy the ingredients. When you feel like you are having the same things over and over, go back to the list and pull out that exciting recipe again! You’ll love it again! This will keep you from getting burned out! And another tip: Preparation is key!!!! Don’t be caught without something in your purse to snack on!

4. Think about all that you CAN have. NOT what you CAN’T have! Focus on the goodness that you can engulf yourself in all day long! I like to think of this as one of the shows on Food Network. You know how they have a set basket of ingredients and they can make anything they want with those ingredients? DO THAT! Be creative with your list of approved foods. What all can you come up with from these veggies, protein, cheeses, nuts, etc? Dennis jokes in that I can go to the pantry and fridge and ‘whip’ up a meal with no recipe. I think it’s just from my raising. What spices can you use to change up that chicken dish? What flavors do you enjoy? Make it yours! Don’t be scared to venture out. Don’t forget to write down your recipe once you perfect it. You may think you’ll remember it later…you won’t! Write it down (remember item 3?).

5. Water intake- I noticed a HUGE improvement in how much water I drink when I got my Yeti (the big one). I know it’s dumb, but having the COLD ice water and being able to use my essential oils was huge for me. I also have a stainless steel straw. I like my water cold! I used glass containers for a long time but didn’t like the ‘sweating’ or the melting of the ice. I bought a handle from Amazon and I tote this huge thing EVERYWHERE with me. To every meeting, to the car, to the house, EVERYWHERE! My body now CRAVES water!

A few of my go to’s are:
Cole slaw, deviled eggs, Caprese salad, taco salad (no tacos), roast (with cheese), hamburger steak, steak, shrimp, beef sticks with laughing cow cheese, hot wings, bacon, bacon, bacon, prosciutto wrapped asparagus on the grill, green beans (with ghee, onion and seasoning), grilled chops, baked chicken thighs Mediterranean style (then bone broth with the bones), bacon, boiled eggs, and the list goes on and on……

Separation Anxiety

It’s not the first time I’ve dropped Sterling off with a stranger, but it is the hardest.  For the last few weeks, I’ve spent so much time on the renovation.  Today, I feel like I did the day I dropped my kids off for the first time at daycare or Kindergarten.

The black water tank is barely hanging on, so it has to go.  In the 3 prior towing instances, I’ve been fearful that this tank would end up on the interstate in pieces.  It’s time to have it ripped out.  A new portable tank will be installed in it’s place.

My wish list for “Glenn the Camper Guy” (as listed in my phone) looks something like this:

  • Remove the black water tank and install a portable system.
  • After removing the old tank, see why my bathroom floor is hanging down.
  • Get prices on a new bumper with the storage for potty pipes.
  • Check out the electrical and plumbing – I need it to be safe!  Make changes as necessary!
  • Repair the crossed up wires that causes the left turn signal to initiate break action.
  • Find out why my new tires are leaking- one worse than the others.

Then there’s another list of wishes that we decided would just wait.  Like install solar panels, fix the door handle, install a generator, take out the stove and furnace, etc.

Glenn said that this seemed a little overwhelming after we got our heads in the clouds with the wish list.  I brought him back down to the original list…I need to be able to tow the trailer safely and be able to plug it up.  The rest of the stuff can wait.  He was fine with these requests.

Now, how long will this take?  Glenn mentioned 3 weeks but he knows I’m anxious to have it back.  My guess is that he will want to get it off of his lot sooner than later.  I think he will be done in a week.  Maybe I’m just being excessively positive.

On a different note, I’ve been trying to figure out the WBCCI numbers that used to adorn the front cap.  Well today in the sunshine, I could read them… 32835.  Now to find out more about the history of this camper.  Where has it traveled, who all has owned it, who had it the longest, etc.  I’ve emailed WBCCI and am hoping they will come through with some answers.

 

Traded in the Twins!

My Sterling (1972 Airstream) was designed with 2 twin size beds, one on each side of the aisle leading into the bathroom at the rear of the camper (see how I did that?).  When I originally tore down some walls, I decided to keep this layout so that I could also keep the storage that was above one of the twin beds.  The storage cabinets are connected to the twin footer wall for support, so I thought it would just need to stay.

After some thought, I decided that I would tear down the wall, remove the above head storage, remove one twin bed, and make just one bed for the other side (the other twin bed) that could pull out into a full/queen size.  I could always create more storage in other ways and this would free up floor space when we were not sleeping.   It would open the floor plan up and give it a more airy feeling.

A quick search on the internet inspired me!  We were already headed to Lowes, so I would just pick up the supplies for my new little Sunday project.

Supplies:

  • 1 x 4 x 8- qty of 15- $1.98 x 15= $29.70
  • 2 x 4 x 8- qty of 2- $2.32 x 2= $4.64
  • Wood Screws- already had those!
  • Hinges- qty of 2- $2.98 x 2= $5.96

Total cost: $40.30 plus cost of screws

I drew out the design, or rather scribbled it out, to make sure that I could make it work.  After measuring my available space and getting back to the shop with the supplies, I became the manager of the project while my husband and son did most of the heavy lifting.  I had planned on doing this totally myself, but since they were the pro’s with the tools, I let them help. I told them what to cut, how long, and how many pieces.  I laid it all out and told them where to place the screws.

Everything went really smooth, until the ‘dry fit’ into the RV.  Isn’t this where it usually goes wrong?   Due to the placement of the wheel-well, you can not have a standard frame, and I knew this going into the project.  There is a small ledge that supports the bed to the wall.  We had planned to utilize this ledge, just as the original bed.  This ledge is less than an inch in-depth.  We could screw the newly constructed bed right onto the ledge, but then we would lose the storage underneath (just can’t bear the thought of that).  We had hoped to use hinges, but decided this little ledge would not support the weight because of the way we would have to connect it.  It’s not a total loss!  Just a little refactoring.  The overall design of the inter workings of the slide was perfect!  The frame is all that needs to be altered and it’s not a huge issue!

I was pretty impressed that I had figured this slide motion out!  I couldn’t find any good instructions online, so I had to just take a concept and run with it.  When you pull the slide out, you need support on the corners and middle.  I thought it would be a great idea to use spindles/table legs to add a little ‘funk’ to the design.  I mean, who would want just a 2×4 leg or block?  Not me!  Back to Lowes.  Whoa!  They are $10 each and I need 3 (one for each end and another in the middle for extra support).  $30 on this small amount of wood wasn’t going to happen for this thrifty girl!  That’s when I get an idea!  All of the time, I see tables at the thrift store for around $10.  I can purchase one of those and just recycle the legs.  Who knows, I may could even salvage the table top for a fold down table or something.  Since it’s Sunday, no thrift stores are open in my area.  I decide to make a post on Facebook to see if anyone has any legs lying around and would give them to me for free or really cheap.  A total strange responds on our local page and is giving me 4 (3 plus a spare).  I’m picking them up tomorrow!

It wasn’t a total success today, but I’ve realized that everything will not go 100% as planned. I’ll document the good and the bad and maybe it will help others along their journey as well.  Once we get everything squared away, I’ll try to post exact measurements and attempt to draw out a real pattern for others to use.  I must say, overall I am very impressed with what I designed out and that the measurements where so accurate.

I’m hoping to find a folding mattress that will work better than a futon mattress.  I want something really comfortable.  I have plenty of repairs to do before needing it, so I have time to look.

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Yesterday’s Lunch

With my vintage Airstream parked at my grandparents house, memories flood my mind while I’m there working on the restoration.  I recall running and playing through their large flat yard with my Alabama/Mississippi/Georgia cousins at family reunions.  We should plan another for this Labor Day!  It’s been way too long. If I could just pick up pecans with my mamaw just one more time.  The few little dips in the driveway held just enough rain water to have a great time of feet stomping and splashing. I learned what a coop was and loved to help gather fresh eggs.  It’s like I can hear Papaw saying, “Shut the gate behind you or the cows will get out” and, “Put that tool back in its place when you’re done”.  Crab apples still grow on their trees and my boys love to enjoy the tart fruit that still grows in the summer, even though my grandparents are long gone.

The old shop remains with jars full of screws, and bolts, and electrical pieces that I have no idea what they would be used for.  My granddad kept everything.  He recycled baby food jars and had it all sorted out on the homemade wooden shelves that still stand today.  There’s a strong smell of thick black grease in the air.  He loved to work on anything with a motor or that ran off of electricity.  I often wonder about in the shop thinking about what he may have planned for some strange piece of metal that was placed on the shelf.  I pick up a tool and wonder if he was the last to hold it before this moment in time.  I can almost feel him standing there with me wearing his long-sleeved grayish blue shirt, tucked in his loose denim faded jeans.

With the tin door open, a stream of sunshine brings light on the dust that dances in the air.  This was a cherished place for my papaw.  It was his old-school ‘man cave’.  Papaw could use his tools and talents to fix things.  He could escape from the house and Virgie Lee to be alone to do what he wanted.  He could be creative.  He was a deep thinker.  He was thrifty.  He was a fixer.  He was IMG_6818strong.  He is deeply missed.

In the dark back corner, there it sets; a black metal lunchbox that I saw my mamaw pack many a time.  Ben H. Reynolds worked at U.S. Steel.  My daddy followed in his footsteps and retired there as well.  Layers of dust cover the rounded top and leather handle.  I’m not sure how it found its way to the shop.  Maybe papaw saw that it could be used for random supplies.  Or could it be that he came home from his last shift and decided it should be retired as well.  I wanted to pick it up and look inside, but decided to just leave it there for now, just as my papaw left it.  Maybe one day.

So, what’s inside?  A handkerchief, work badge, old food wrapper, insulated thermos, screws or nails, or maybe nothing at all.

For now, I’ll cherish yesterday’s lunch and the memories made with two of the most precious people in my life.  Don’t miss out on making memories with those that will be around when you are long gone.  Life is just too short, way too short.

Note:  If I borrow a tool, it goes right back on the shelf where I got it!

Awww-ning (03/30/16)

3 Blue-striped awnings adorn my ’72 Airstream.  The one on the back-end easily pulled out the day I claimed ownership.  Perfect condition!  Colors are vibrant and there are no tears or worn spots.  The awnings on each long side are a different story.  One was bound up with rope (reason unknown after inspecting) and the other was seized up.

I shimmy up the ladder to undo the bound up arms from deteriorating rope and dry rotted bungee cords.  One of the ropes was knotted and looped and then wrapped around the ventilation box on the top of the camper and then back again to the arm.  Free at last! Since the awning is quite long, I decided to use the removed rope as an extension to the tug strap to make it a little easier to pull down.  I merely looped in the rope.  I set up my phone to capture this moment of truth!  Check it out here!

So it wasn’t so bad after all.  Lot of dark spots to clean and one tiny spot of thinness.  I’ll take that any day of the week!

Now for the other side.  For the seized up awning, I sprayed it down many times with a lubricant.  I beat on it with a hammer.  I tugged and pulled and tugged and pulled.  Nothing.  So, it remained in this state for the last year.  Finally I decided to get to the bottom of this!  I took out the pins that held the awning to the arms.  That was a feat.  I ended up using a flat head screwdriver and a hammer.  I inserted the screwdriver in the loop of the pin and drove the screwdriver in with a hammer.  Then I pulled and pried it back and forth till the pin came out.  The area was way too narrow for me to get my big pliers into the spot and simply pull out the pin.  I had limited tools with me.  After each side was removed, the awning was unrolled for me to check out the condition of the fabric.  PERFECT!  Well, a little dirty, but no holes or tears and it’s as vibrant as the other awning on the back!  The seams are not weak at all!  I propped the awning up on the arms just to see how it would look if it had cooperated with me.  I’ll contact Zip Dee on this 183″ awning issue to see what I do to get this fixed back.  While it’s down, I’ll take time in the next few days to scrub it down.

 

 

 

 

 

Strong Foundation (3/26/16)

The shag green carpet throughout the Airstream was over 42 years old when it came into my possession.  It was one of the first things to go (April 2015)!  A small piece of it remains under the stove area for now.

In the rear of the Airstream (living area), a new piece of plywood was installed over a rotten piece by the previous owner.  When I started to demo my little gem this month, I decided that it was in my best interest to remove the rotten wood underneath.  I can’t be at peace if I just kept laying new wood on top of the wood that was deteriorating.  It would only cause issues later and I would have to address it then.

On Saturday, 3/26/16, I hired my youngest son to help me out for a few hours.  I had every tool imaginable with us; drill, circular saw, jig saw, reciprocating saw, to name a few. We had different size crow bars as well.  Removing the newer piece of wood was easy.  Few screws removed and it was out!  But, then where do you start on the original boards that were BOLTED into the beams of the frame?   Every forum post I had read about replacing the sub-floor, NEVER ever mentioned these BOLTS or the techniques to remove it!  How in the world are we going to remove this rotten wood?  I started to question my decision.  Maybe having a new piece of wood over it would be just fine.  Then the other little voice within me disagreed.  I called my dad and asked him what he would do.  He has an opinion for everything.  Well, everything but this.  Today, my dad decided he didn’t know everything after all.  Meh!

I decided to beat the darkened/rotten wood with a hammer, and it easy splintered in that spot.  I could see through the hole enough to know that there were no wires nearby.  I had to figure out where the cross beams were.  We pried, sawed, adjusted blades, and sawed some more.  Finally after an hour, the first piece was removed.  I was really thinking I would find mouse skeletons, maybe snake skins, and maybe a hidden treasure.  NOTHING.  None of that.  Just some crumbled up insulation.  I was worried that the beams would be so rusted that I might just have to throw in the towel.  NOPE!  They were just fine too!  The beams were a little rusty, but nothing that a steel brush and a little rustoleum won’t fix.  Solid as a rock.  There is a God in heaven!

After much trial and error, we figured out that the best way to tackle this beast was to drill holes around the perimeter of a section of each board- basically between the beams under that board.  We then used the jig saw to cut out a square.  In certain spots, we were unable to complete the square, so we cut an angle out at a corner.  We then pried the partially cut square up with the crow bar and pulled out the section.  Once we completed as many sections as we could for this big piece of plywood, we were able to take off the sections of wood that remained over the beams fairly easily.

Then, there was the dreaded C-channel.  This channel runs along the sides of the wall right up under where the wall panels end.  The subfloor sits inside the C-channel.  When the camper was originally built, there were bolts that went through the top of the C-channel, through the wood, and then through the bottom of the C-channel, holding the sub-floor in place.  Well, these bolts held in remnants of the old sub-floor and it too had to be removed so that new can go in later.  This was probably the worst part of this whole day.  I felt like an artist tapping away at a huge piece of marble.  There was just no easy way to get the bolted in wood to come out.  I even had the ridiculous thought that I could just burn it out.  I never tried that, thanks to my better judgement.

After removing the wood, we shoveled (easily to not puncture the under belly) and picked up all of the old insulation, using gloves of course.  I had 3 garbage bags full of insulation from this 2 piece plywood section.  We vacuumed up the rest of the remnants and all of the old chips of wood and dirt.

What would the underneath belly look like?  It was great!  There are two small rusty spots that can easily be repaired.  I’m thinking some type of sealer will fix this up but I’ll read what others have done for these type of repairs first.  We also had one little spot where we accidentally punctured it with the huge crow bar. My son kinda felt bad about it.  Me, no worries!  We can deal with that!

Few things I’ve learned from this day:  

  • Gloves were a great invention!
  • Small sliver of insulation will stay in your thumb for days!
  • Paying your strong 17 year old son is well worth the money!
  • I really am a DIY gal and not afraid of anything!  Where there is a will there is a way!
  • Today, I’m one day closer to my dream than I was yesterday!
  • Persistence and ingenuity is key!
  • Makers of the C-channel should have stayed in the brain storming room a little longer!  Repairs would eventually be needed!

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Road Trip

Whether you are headed on vacation, or you are trying to reach a goal, there’s a few things you should consider for your journey (literal or figurative).

Before you go on a road trip, you need to know where you are going. Google maps is a great tool b24c2e4810aaabd703fa931d239063a44ut ONLY if you have a starting point AND a destination. Without either of these locations, it’s going to be really hard to navigate the trip! And don’t you just love the option of being able to pick from various routes? I love to take a back-road. The views are so much more interesting than those from an interstate.

So where are you now?

Where does your trip begin?

Where are you going?

Often, the road-trip to your dream destination is the most dreaded part (behind the task of packing or unpacking). You probably have wished that you could just wiggle your nose and be there. That would be easy, right?! After all, you’re all cooped up in tight quarters with smelly boys/girls for 4 hours. He’s touching me! I suppose I’m a little different in that the ride in the car is just another opportunity to bond with those you are close to. They can’t run out the door or hide in their bedroom. It’s a time to laugh, make up silly games, and stop to get boiled peanuts. Have fun on your road trip!

Imagine that you’re traveling along, enjoying good music with the wind blowing in your hair. Not a care in the world. BAM! The trip comes to a halt. Traffic is at a standstill. Now what? You have options. You can wait it out and hope you don’t have the urge to visit the restroom in the next few hours. Or, you can take a detour and keep moving.

You will NEVER see me sit in a line of cars unless there is NO way to get off of the path (such as on the interstate and there isn’t an exit nearby). Trust me when I say, I will take the first exit or road that I see to keep moving!

Recently I was coming home from a beach trip. I had taken back-roads for the first part of the trip. At one point, I was supposed to get on the interstate to finish my trip home. I was about to get on the interstate when we noticed that the 3 lanes of traffic were completely stopped. I stopped at the entrance of the on-ramp and carefully got back on the back-road. There were other cars near me who continued on the on-ramp to ‘get in line’ with the stopped cars. Seriously? Not me! I decided to take another back road and keep moving. I was NOT participating in that version of follow the leader. No way, no how. I had places to go and people to see. I wasn’t scared to take an unfamiliar path. I would find a way to get to where I was going. Why waste all of that time stagnate?

Do you follow people who are at a standstill? The boring? Uninspiring? I’d rather take a path that is inspiring and interesting. A path that is moving in the direction where I want to be. The people you follow in life and on social media will tell you a lot about yourself. Time for a self-evaluation.

Be a leader and make a new path. Step up and set a precedents that others would want to follow. It may not be a “beaten path” till you get there. YOU need to be YOURSELF and YOU create YOUR journey- no one else! YOU are responsible for getting to your destination. You are unique, so do something unique. Don’t live your journey the way someone else wants you to. What is it that YOU want?

The most important thing to remember, is that you know WHERE and WHO you are from the start. Then you must decide WHERE and WHO YOU want to be. You’ll never get to where you want to be unless you start the road-trip, so get moving! Don’t be afraid to take a new path to get there. And by all means, have fun on the way! Life is too short to reach your destination in any other way!12814665_168660756852423_9015663242563794383_n

Relationships and Bra’s

Coming in all shapes, sizes, and colors, some relationships will lift you up, while others don’t prove to provide much support and will bring you down.

​Ever notice how people have their own preference? Padded, lace, sports style, strapless, cross over, underwire, and the list goes on.  We are all different. Life would be boring otherwise!

I’m so glad that I get to choose what’s best for me. No one can make me wear an itchy wool lined bra, if those existed!  I’ll decide what works best!

I’ll pick out my own bra!

Some are binding and make you feel uncomfortable; leaving a mark that takes a hot minute to go away.  Then there are those that bring in a whole new level of frustration.  They are twisted to the point of no return.  No matter what you do, you just can’t straighten things out.  Do you live with it or toss it?  You’ll decide at some point to trash them, it’s just better that way.  It’s just not of value to you (personally) anymore.

In the rare instance you find one that works perfectly for you, you hang on to it and vow to never let it go.  You handle it with care, making sure not to just throw it in with the rest of your soiled laundry.  It’s a beautiful thing!  Others will look at you with jealousy.

At the end of a long day, you need some alone time.  Sometimes it happens as soon as I leave the office!  Just sayin’.

The key to success is finding the right fit!  It often takes times to find the one that works.  But when you do find it, you’ll know it!

Close Encounters of the Heart Kind

In spite of the camouflage, I can see her sharing last minute hugs with the family she leaves. Behind the irregular shapes and shades of beige and green, she begins to fight her first battles; the struggle to hold back tears and to remain strong for those who aren’t. As they watch her stride toward her departure gate, they savor the last glimpses of their soldier while their minds are filled with hopes of her safe return. She doesn’t look back. She can’t now. All she would see would be blurry images of those she holds dear to her heart. Her eyes are now filled with tears, just like those who stood with her moments before. Within hours, the distance between them will turn into thousands of miles, however the distance isn’t captured by a measurement; but rather it’s the mere fact that they are now apart and for a great deal of time.

The airport employee holds out his hand for Sergeant Johnson’s boarding pass, scans it and then very respectfully he boldly thanks her for her service. His words are spoken with profound sincerity. It is obvious that he is not speaking from a memorized training script. Following just a few steps behind Johnson I’m taken by the emotions welling up within me in just the few minutes that have passed. I think about how her friends and family are feeling, how the airport employee has shown his respect and thankfulness, and how the other passengers are reacting. I wonder why Johnson is pulling on my heartstrings. It’s not the first soldier I’ve seen, nor is it the first time to see ‘good byes’ made in an airport. But today, it is just different.

There she sits, mysteriously patient, in the back row of first class. As I waitd5699bf9adb23e4877bad7ec95f4816b in the holding pattern just within the door of the plane, I think about how there is probably an automatic upgrade to first class for the military and how honorable the staff of the airlines should make her flight. This will be one of the last times this passenger touches U.S. soil for a while, if ever again. A passenger just ahead of me speaks to Johnson, but I’m not sure what was said. I wait longer and my heart beats even faster. I know that I cannot walk by without speaking; the urge is too strong to contain as I feel it welling up inside. What will I say? I try to come up with something creative; something that she hasn’t heard before and something that doesn’t sound foolish. Before I know it, I’m standing in front of the one who will soon face much more than I will ever see. Even though I try to prepare for conversation, nothing seems sufficient. “Where are you headed?” Without expression she replies, “Afghanistan”. “You are in my prayers and I want you to know that I appreciate your service”. My heart continues to beat faster.

As I step slowly in line down the aisle looking for seat 9D, I wonder what it is that she actually does. Will she be on the front lines, or back at the barracks assisting the injured? Will she be standing on her feet all day cooking for the troops? What is her specialty? What is she called to do? I try to focus more on locating my seat as the line comes to a halt. Row nine is only just past first class. With Johnson almost within reach, I stow my cute lime green backpack overhead and sit in seat “D”, just one row behind first class. With two more empty seats next to me, I wait for the other passengers to board. I’m sure I’ll have to stand up and move for the next to sit down at some point, so I’m sure to not settle in just yet. The window view is a favorite, but for this flight, the aisle suits me just fine. I have a clear view to the fascinating soldier.

For only moments at a time, can I take my eyes off of her? It is as though a magnetic force is pulling my spirit toward hers. Her every move is like a picture saved in my memory. She gently strokes her silky black hair bound in a perfect circle on the back of her head, as if to make sure not one single hair is out of place. The flight attendant interrupts her concentration by offering another beverage and this time there is a snack. I continue to watch as if a movie is playing on a screen. The attendant returns promptly to ensure every need is met for her VIP travelers. As if I’ve seen a falling star, I make a wish that Johnson take advantage of every snack and drink offered because going forward such little luxuries will be very limited. She makes a choice without hesitation, consumes the chintzy bag of chips and settles in for this leg of her journey.

With appetite suppressed, the time has come for Johnson to take advantage of the opportunity for some extra sleep. I can only imagine of what this warrior has endured knowing her deployment date been set and drawing near. The mental stress would only contribute to her pre-war fatigue. As she begins to drift off to sleep, her muscles flinch. Is she dreaming of playing on a Sunday afternoon in the park with family and friends? Maybe she is having a nightmare about being in a fire-fight with enemy fire screaming past her. Does she dream of flying away, escaping the battle she can see below? Maybe she is dreaming of a sweet return home. Johnson will surely wake with a pain in her neck from the awkward sleeping position. Sleeping in a tightly packed airplane does not compare to what she will soon be exposed to. With eyes shut, she dreams. I stare in wonder.

Slowly Johnson wakes, positions herself back upright in her seat and begins once again to ensure her hair is tightly bound, all silky strands in place. Waking up in an unfamiliar place, she looks around as if to make sure nothing has changed since she drifted off. Reality sets back in as her flight is headed to the war zone. Her flight wasn’t a nightmare after all, then again, maybe it is. She reminds herself that she chose to serve her country and that she will overcome the unknown fears ahead. She is proud to wear the government issued clothing and rugged boots, but now she will be tested far more than boot camp ever prepared her for. The thousands of miles between home and her destination are reducing by hundreds every minute now. Leaning over to look out the small filmy window, Johnson knows the beautiful fall mountainside view will turn into a sandy desert all too soon. In the midst of the storms she will ride out in the future, she hopes to recall in detail this vivid landscape for which she is fighting.

As the flight draws to an end, my heart begins to race with thoughts of how I will never see Johnson again. Not knowing her first name is wearing on me. What can I do in these last few moments? I want to be able to keep in touch with the soldier who unknowingly made an impact on me today. There may be times where she cannot share with her family and friends, but could confide in a total stranger or soon to be friend. “That’s me”, I want to urgently declare. I quickly grab for a pen and paper. I need to pass on a note to her as if it is her last chance to have a new- found friend. I know that she can live her life without ever knowing me, but maybe I could be the one who would be there for her during those tough times. Coming from a conference where a name badge was provided, I decide to use the back for my message. Okay, reality is that it is the handiest piece of paper and I only have a few minutes to get this done. Before turning the badge over to the back, I read over the conference logo and my name clearly typed out. Amazingly, the theme of the conference is fitting for Johnson as it is titled “Survivor- Outwit, Outplay, and Outlast”. Second thought, this theme seems to fit me for this hour of my life. The reminder to ensure seatbelts are buckled, seats are upright, and all electronic devices are turned off, blares over the speakers. Faster I write to finish my message, all with the intention of asking the stewardess, who will soon walk by checking seatbelts, to hand my note to Johnson as she exits the plane. I look around to ensure that I have all of my belongings, all while holding tightly to my only hope of staying in contact with the brave angel who boarded before me today. I wait patiently. I wait. I look around anxiously, but the flight attendant is nowhere in sight. Surely she’ll check on her passengers just one more time before touching down. I wait. My ears begin to pop as we descend lower in preparation to land. Hopes of keeping in touch with Johnson start to wither and optimism turns to pessimism with every foot drawn closer to the runway.

With my body being pulled forward by the momentum of the landing, I find that there are more parts of me being moved than anyone could ever begin to imagine. With disappointment, I gently fold my heartfelt written words as if I’m closing this chapter of my life. At the same time, I look up to see that Johnson is deep in thought as she gently touches her bottom lip with the pointer finger of her left hand. She is intensely pondering over something, but what? From moving several hundred miles an hour and traveling over several states, we now are at a complete stop. The cabin is now depressurized and we are about to be released out of these constrained quarters. As everyone prepares to stand and exit, I’m overwhelmed with a sense of clairvoyance. Sure enough, Johnson turns her head slightly to the left as if she is looking to her neighbor. At this point I know without a doubt that she senses me, just as she has the past hour but chose not to admit it. She boldly turns her head to look over her left shoulder and our eyes meet for the second time, all while feeling as if it was the first. A connection is clearly made. It was as if this was the final moment where the last breath was to be taken and I’m the one who watches so grimily. So much still lies ahead, but this chapter ended prematurely. Happily ever after will only be seen when Johnson’s boots are walking again on U.S. soil and her arms are tightly wrapped around a body which holds a heart that longs for her. For me, the chapter ends with words never to be.

The End.