Tag Archives: military

My Christmas Card List

My early adult years in the mid 1960’s were spent as a military spouse and as such, friends were most likely people who had shared my husband’s and my life. Military bonds tend to run deep, because they frequently involve hardships. So when friends are made, they often remain so for life, at least for me.

For instance, my husband, Byron and I were assigned to a small radar site in northern Montana, six miles from the Canadian border as the crow flies and thirty-eight miles from the nearest town, population 10,000. Temperatures reached minus 50 degrees that first winter and sand storms were the norm in the spring and fall. Twenty-eight houses comprised the living quarters for families and a small BOQ (bachelor officer quarters) held two or three single men. We were lucky to have TV, but the signal was interrupted every 18 seconds or so with the sweep of the radar antenna. Once every three months, we had a doctor, dentist and priest/minister rotate to our site for a few days, so neighbor helped neighbor, regularly. We became family, a concept particularly meaningful to me, having been orphaned early in my life.

I imagine you have an idea what I’m trying to say about how deeply military families extend and grow to include neighbors and friends. And in each place Byron and I were stationed, our original family of three became larger and larger. From our first deployment, I decided to create a Christmas card list so I could keep up with my family no matter where we all were.  Even now, fifty-five years later, after a divorce even, I’ve kept up with many people from those wonderful military days. From Montana, the people across the street, Cliff and Shirley had a daughter who babysat for our son, Rob, when he was three. Cliff has passed now, but Shirley and I still stay in touch. Then when Byron was teaching aerospace studies at North Texas State University to ROTC students, several of those students are still exchanging Christmas cards with me.

Three years in Germany added to the list and New Mexico and Texas did too, and I gained another friend when I was lucky to invade my husband’s remote tour (without family) to Iceland for a two week R&R (rest and recuperation) visit. And during Vietnam, I spent time with my in-laws since I lived nearby. Our last assignment was in Montgomery, AL at Maxwell Air Force Base Wing Headquarters ROTC and we lived just outside the back gate of Gunter Air Force Station, so the family we gathered there were not just military, but members of a Scottish society and civilians alike.

My husband and I may have divorced, but not my through-the-years friends. In fact they became even closer to me since I’d lost part of my family. And I made new ones from neighbors, church, and various interests.

Yesterday, I received a Christmas card from my sister and enclosed was a poem that I just have to share with you. It says everything I feel about my Christmas card list. Perhaps you have your own version.

 

The Christmas Card List

There is a list of folks I know
All written in a book,
And every year at Christmas time
I go and take a look.
And that is when I realize
Those names are all a part
Not of the book they’re written in,
But deep inside my heart.

For each name stands for someone
Who has touched my life sometime,
And in that meeting they’ve become
A special friend of mine.
I really feel that I’m composed
Of each remembered name,
And my life is so much better
Than it was before they came.

Once you’ve known that “someone”,
All the years cannot erase
The memory of a pleasant word
Or of a friendly face.
So never think my Christmas cards
Are just a mere routine
Of names upon a list that are
Forgotten in between.

For when I send a Christmas card
That is addressed to you,
It is because you’re on that list
Of folks I’m indebted to.
And whether I have known you
For many years or few,
The greatest gift that God can give
Is having friends like you!

Author Unknown

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland.
Join her here each 11th of the month.

 

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Belly Dancing…Dangerous?

TopMy twenty year career as a Middle Eastern belly dancer was fun and exciting, but who would have thought it could be dangerous? In the Bible Belt, no less? A version of the following story first appeared in Lelia Taylor’s Buried Under Books Blog over a year ago, but I recently was asked to tell it again.

Part of my job as a belly dancer was to help people celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, farewells, get wells, office parties, etc., in what was called a belly gram. You know, instead of sending balloons or flowers, people hired me to dance a ten-minute routine as a surprise for their guest of honor on his or her special occasion. In the account below I have changed the names to protect the “guilty.”

One day, my friend, Tom, a sergeant in the nearby Air National Guard, called and asked me to dance for Captain Sanders, head of security. The plan was Tom would smuggle me on base in his van, hide me in the clinic, and then he’d call and report a break-in. When Captain Sanders arrived to check it out, we’d all jump out and surprise him. I was told the base commander was in on it, so I agreed.

That day at the clinic, Tom led me into a room where folding screens were set up to hide me and my boom box, the beverages, and the cake. Co-workers helped move gurneys aside to provide an open space for me to dance and then they took their places hiding in an adjacent office.

While Tom walkie-talkied Captain Sanders, I warmed up my fingers, did body stretches and concealed myself. Within a few minutes, I could hear a commotion down the hall. Voices and footfalls were coming closer. Hurriedly jamming my fingers into the elastic bands of my finger cymbals, I awaited my cue to come merrily out of my hiding place –– hips in action.

Captain Sanders, accompanied by an indeterminate few who were all talking at once, was apparently conducting a systematic search in case the “perpetrator” was still present. As I strained to hear the conversation, I saw a disembodied hand slide through the edge of the fabric screen next to me and punch the start button on my stereo. I hadn’t expected the hand just then and as I was muffling a yelp, my music started. Swallowing my heart, I took a big breath, put on my most alluring smile, wrenched aside the screen, and propelled myself forward with cymbals madly clattering to the lively Arabic tune.

The next thing I knew, I was skidding to a dead stop. My field of vision was reduced solely to the big black muzzle of a rifle, four inches away, aimed at a spot directly between my eyes. When I could think again, I figured my expression was probably much like the one displayed by my opponent holding the rifle. We both stood frozen, like ice sculptures, mouths gaping open. He had on green battle fatigues that, oddly enough, matched the color of his face, and probably mine, too.

I don’t remember who broke the spell first, but I discovered the saying, “your life flashes before your eyes when you think you’re going to die,” wasn’t a myth. I became aware my fingers had restarted clicking the cymbals. It was probably a nervous reaction, but we’ll say it was my…um…professionalism kicking in. Anyway, the sound of music and cymbals brought everyone out of their hiding places and Captain Sanders, rifle and all, was whisked away to his sultan’s chair to star in his role as victim…er…Guest of Honor.

Surprisingly, my routine went better than usual. There’s something to be said for adrenaline, and Captain Sanders actually got up and danced with me to the accompaniment of tambourines I’d given some of the audience members. We ended in a “ta-da” pose to explosive applause. Well, that may not be the best choice of words, but I think you get my drift.

I had cake in my mouth when Captain Sanders apologized profusely for pointing his weapon at me. Can you believe, when I finally managed to get the cake down my throat, I actually told him it was okay? I said I was just glad he or his gun hadn’t had a hair trigger.

Word spread and my apparent bravery “in the line of duty” earned me an abundance of dance jobs for various military events after that. Who’d ‘a thunk it?

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Need An Adrenalin Rush? Read a Thriller by Christine Husom

Some years ago, I left my job as a corrections officer, working with inmates in a jail, to take care of my mother who was a victim of dementia. I knew the change would be challenging, but what I hadn’t considered was that I would miss the adrenalin rushes, common in my former position. Then I went to a thriller movie that was excitingly scary and kept my heart pounding to beat the band through much of the two hours. I left the theater happy, and a little surprised by that. I hadn’t thought of myself as an adrenalin junkie up to that time.

So if you find yourself craving a little excitement, sit down with a thriller. One that will keep you on the edge of your seat. In our everyday lives, very few of us are involved in thwarting assassination attempts or acts of terrorism. All the while, trying to stay one step ahead of the bad guys who would surely want to kill us. Thankfully. But a huge segment of the population likes to read about people who are.

What distinguishes a thriller from other mysteries? For the most part, they are fast-paced, action-packed stories where a smart, resourceful hero must stop an enemy and his or her evil plan without getting killed himself. They are often large scale crimes or plots such as mass murder, or over-throwing a government. But there are also thrillers where an innocent victim is dealing with a crazy person who is out to get them. The suspense drives the narrative, sometimes with ups and slight downs, sometimes with constant thrills. They maintain tension to the final climax when the protagonist defeats the antagonist.

According to Wikipedia, “Thrillers emphasize the puzzle aspect of the plot. There are clues and the reader/viewer should be able to determine the solution at about the same time as the main character. In thrillers the compelling questions isn’t necessarily who did it but whether the villian will be caught before committing another crime

“ . . . Usually, tough, resourceful, but essentially ordinary heroes are pitted against villains determined to destroy them, their country, or the stability of the free world. Often in a thriller the protagonist is faced with what seems to be insurmountable problems in his mission, carried out against a ticking clock, the stakes are high and although resourceful they face personal dilemas along the way forcing them to make sacrifice for others.”

There are any number of types of thrillers in the genre, including: psychological, spy, legal, crime, espionage, terrorism, military, mystery, medical, political, adventure, religious, historical, etc. They are set in small towns, large cities, on the seas, exotic islands, polar regions, desolate areas. Anywhere the author can spin a thrilling tale that keeps the reader engaged to the end.

Do you have any favorite thriller authors, or books you’ve enjoyed? Or, if you write thrillers, please tell us about them.

Christine Husom is the Second Wind author of the Winnebago Mystery Series. Her fourth book, The Noding Field Mystery will be released Fall, 2012.

 

 

 

 

 

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Touchy Subjects

A very good friend, who also happens to be a member of my family, is in the finishing stages of a book that has taken him five years to write.

Now, that doesn’t sound like any time to a lot of writers, but he’s done this living on the edge. The edge of poverty, the edge of sanity, the edge of grief – almost every edge you can imagine.

His motivation is the message he wants to spread. His muse is God.

It’s a very touchy, personal subject he’s writing about and the audience he’s targeting is narrow: abortion within the 19 – 25 year old age group. To top it off, it’s fiction.

He’ll never make the money he needs from this book if it’s ever published. Every agent and publisher he’s approached has turned him away. His subject material has made him a publishing pariah.

The author is sixty years old and has never had any experience in the subject matter. However, he says he feels led to preach, I mean write, about this hot ball of wax topic.

When he discusses his book with me, I keep my opinions to myself except when I can be constructive about the mechanics of his writing. The content is his own business.

He is a good example of writing outside the box. He is writing about issues he is only familiar with through research; he has no firsthand knowledge in the area.

Of course, how many writers have the very personal knowledge in the area they’re penning? In my case, I’ve never held an AK-47, I’ve never been to Austria, and I’ve never been a man in the military. Yet, my main character has all these attributes and more.

There is often a message, hidden or blatant, in good writing.  Without a lesson, the story will leave the reader feeling empty.

What leads you to the topics you read? What leads you to the topics you write? Do you write far from your personal field of experience or do you keep it closer to home?

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and about thirty works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

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‘Tis The Season…For Remembering

As I sit here writing this, I am reminded of the fact that this is the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. All across the country, there will be remembrances and commemorations of this day, which really puts things into perspective when you stop to think about the fact that we are once again, sixty-plus years later, embroiled in another war. This is a difficult situation any time of the year, but it’s especially heart-rending during the holidays.

Whenever I see a clip of a soldier wishing his family well during this season, something pulls a little harder at my heart and I say an extra prayer for their safe return to their families. And I give thanks for the fact that there are people out there who are willing to give up their time, their holidays – and even their lives – so that I might live in a world that is safer for their efforts. Growing up, I was surrounded by people who served their country in such a way. My own father did tours in both the Army and the Air Force. His brother also served in the Army. My mother and one of her brothers served in the Air Force. My stepfather and two of his sons served in the Army and one served in the Marines. My stepmother’s two sons served in the Army. And that’s just my closest relatives.

Fortunately for me and for my rather large family, all of my relatives came back to us safely, some of them better off than the others. Of the group, my father and one of my mother’s uncles (who served in the Army) probably fared the worst. My uncle came back from World War II a little worse for the wear and spent many of his remaining years (for most of the time I knew him) in a veteran’s hospital. My father, who served during the Korean Conflict, suffered from post traumatic stress disorder, which exacerbated his bipolar disorder. In his later years, he was in and out of veterans’ hospitals and never did get a good handle on his condition.

This brings to mind all of the veterans of our current wars and how they often return home damaged in some way. Whether it’s a traumatic brain injury or post traumatic stress disorder, they come home with a condition they did not have when they went overseas to serve their country in this war. I think we owe it to them to take care of them as they took care of us.

So as you grumble through your every day life or brave the malls to shop for your loved ones this Christmas, don’t forget to take a moment to appreciate our men and women who keep our country safe. Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard or National Guard, Police Force or Fire Department, they are all one. They are the people who make our country safe, our world safe. They are the people who make it possible for us to live in relative peace in a country where we still have the freedom to make our own choices and enforce our rights. To all of our soldiers and military personnel, to all of our police officers and firemen – and women! – I say a hearty THANK YOU and I send out into the universe my wish that you all remain safe always but especially in this holiday season. You are never far from my thoughts. And to your families, I also say a hearty THANK YOU for allowing your loved ones to serve us and for taking good care of them when they come home. You are truly special people.

Wishing everyone a joyous holiday season!

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