Friday, January 28, 2011

Supporting Military Families

My new job has me connected with the most amazing momentum I have ever experienced when it comes to instigating positive change.

On Monday, January 24, the President, First Lady and Mrs. Biden announced a Presidential Initiative called "Strengthening Our Military Families: Meeting America's Commitment". This initiative will leverage the resources of the federal government to meet military family needs across the board. If you want to watch the announcement, go here.

Then yesterday, Thursday, January 27, the First Lady appeared on Oprah, evolving this initiative from a government effort to a community effort, asking every American to figure out what they can do to support the 1% of Americans who are shouldering the burden of protecting our country.

This is not about whether you agree with the wars or not. This is about whether you support the families that sacrifice alongside their soldiers, whether they are active duty, guard or reserve, Veterans or fallen.

Several phrases have stuck out for me this week as I have listened and watched these stories unfold. First, is the wonderfully alliterative "service, strength, and sacrifice" that our military personnel and their families live every day. Second, President Obama said that when he visited the troops in Afghanistan last month and asked them what he could do to help them, they said "Take care of our families." And third, the First Lady said on Oprah, "I suck it up" when she is having a bad day or feeling sorry for herself and remembers that military families are enduring so much without complaint.

Do you know the military families in your community? Do you know someone who is currently serving or deployed? Do you know how to help?

There is a wave of service-oriented action sweeping our nation and assisting our military families is one way of participating. Be the instigator in your community. Find out what your community is doing to support them and get involved. Let me know if I can do anything to help.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

An Open Letter to The Pioneer Woman

Dear Ree,

I am desperately envious of your life on a ranch, to the point that reading your blog makes me sad and desperate.

My biggest fear is that my fantasy of living on a ranch is not really what I believe it to be and that if I take this giant leap to move out West and figure out how to make it real, that I will be sorely disappointed.

Your website makes me believe that ranch life is all I imagine it would be (although in my version there are no calf nuts or cattle - it's not a working ranch that I seek). Your photos of horses and wide open land and big skies make me ache with longing. I desire the dirt, the hard work, the early mornings, the elegantly simple and functional ranch buildings. With every fiber of my soul, I want that life.

Is it possible for me to find what I seek? If not, please tell me now and put me out of my misery. I would rather know the truth and let this happy dream die than to move my husband and our dog and cats to the middle of nowhere for something that doesn't exist.

I guess I'm asking you for some kind of certainty, which I know you cannot give.

The dreams in my head stem from growing up in southern California, always wanting horses in my life and never quite figuring out how to make it happen. As you know, suburban life has plenty of distractions and I had a generally happy childhood. I went far from home to college and grad school, married my best friend who I met in college, and have finally settled into a career that I love. I make time for Western riding lessons and yoga once a week. We don't have any children yet.

You would think we would be happy. And yet… we are restless.

We dream of open spaces, mountains in the distance, big sky, and horses. Owning land. Riding the fence perimeter and weathering storms.

Our dreams seem to be in stark contrast with "real life". Where do we work, where do our kids go to school, where do we buy groceries? Will we have an internet connection? How far do we want to be from an airport?

And the fear creeps in. Can we handle this? Will our families think we're crazy? Is this a responsible course of action? What happens if we fail? How can we possibly afford to do something so risky? Can we afford it at all?

And yet, I continue to dream.

I dream of a home for my family. A place that encourages exploration and asking questions. A place that is modern and rustic at the same time, balancing access to technology and a reminder of our roots. A place where my children can learn and be challenged and will be prepared to contribute to improving their community on whatever scale they choose. A place where my husband and I can stretch and grow and learn more about each other. A place where we feel free.

I dream of the kind of place others want to call their home too. A place that has lots of visitors, people who come to get away from it all for a day, a week, or two. A place where they can walk for miles and see no one, where they can ride horses, a place where they can eat hearty, healthy food that tastes like home but better. A place where they can choose to spend their time in solitary retreat in their sunny and comfortable room, or where they can join in board games, puzzles, and other group activities with other visitors. A place where they are treated like family and where they feel whole. A place where they feel free.

I dream of a place that is a home for my soul. A place surrounded by open land, mountains, and horses. A place with dramatic thunderstorms, snowy winters, and breath-taking life. A place where a pick-up truck is used on a daily basis to haul things the way it was meant to. A place where cowboy boots are the footwear of choice and necessity. A place where four-footed friends are as common as two-footed friends. A place where I can sit and gaze as far as I can see, watching storms roll in, watching the wild herds running, crows feet gathering in the corners of my eyes from the sights and the smiles this place brings me. A place where I feel free.

Please, either tell me that this is possible and show me the way to achieve it, or tell me that it doesn't exist so I can find some way to be happy with a suburban life. I need to know.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Happy New Year!

Dear Readers,

Thank you so much for returning to my blog after my long absence. I have some very happy updates to share with all of you.

I landed my dream job working for the nonprofit I've been volunteering with for three years connecting Veterans and their families to free mental health professionals. They called me on my birthday (Veteran's Day) and offered me a job. I started with them on January 3 and I'm working from home. I am SO happy. I'm working on a new initiative that is basically community organizing around Veterans and their families. It's such a wonderful project and I'm thrilled to be a part of it.

Life is good here in Pennsylvania. Our dog and two cats are doing well. We're still living in an apartment, but we're seeking our first home, which is very exciting. My husband is enjoying his job and making the most of his opportunities at his company. We're still on the road to starting a family.

I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism in September, so I've been on thyroid medication to sort that out, which seems to be working well. I actually have to make sure that I eat extra calories to maintain my weight - a fate many would love to have!

I've been seeing a counselor to help me with my depression. The thyroid situation contributed to my down days, so now they are less frequent. Donald has been so supportive and understanding and I don't know what I would do without him.

I'm still doing yoga and I started taking Western horseback riding lessons, which make me so happy. It's like my soul is lighter and freer.

Everything is truly falling into place. Thank you for continuing along this journey with me.