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Whatever rings Mel's bells

Posts Tagged ‘military’

Aaaaand then life happens.

Two weeks ago, I was going to start the year with a bang.  I had plans to dig into these new wedding ideas and get cracking right away on new products.

Work had other plans for me…

I’m currently working ten hour days, which when you add my commute means I get home and two hours later have to be in bed.  In fact, even eating dinner and taking a shower only leaves me with about seven hours max of sleep a night.  Cut that a bit shorter because of the time lying sleepless, and the situation gets even more grim.

I’m leaning on the small “energy shots” rather than my usual carbonated energy drinks, since B vitamins seem to be the lesser of two evils.  And if I’m honest, driving nearly an hour and a half in the morning is less hateful when traffic at least keeps moving the whole time!  But it’s still wearing on me pretty badly.  I’m a week in with possibly another week left.  And why?  Because of this:

jetkiss1

That’s what two decommissioned A4 Skyhawks are supposed to look like when they’re broken into pieces, painted a couple shades of pink, and installed in a 60′ deep hole in the ground.  Erm, I meant a rail station.  (Same diff.)

Apparently, they’ve been cut and reassembled, painted, and carefully packaged up for their trip to the Great Northwet, where I will likely get to watch them get installed in a few weeks.  This is a recent photo:Jet kiss

Out of respect for a fellow artist, I’ll just say that it’s not my cup of tea.  More power to him for making his vision happen successfully, and I really hope it all turns out exactly as he saw it in his mind.

In the mean time, we have to get all the lighting in place so that future train travelers will be able to see “Jet Kiss,” as the installation is called, in all its glory.  This is where all the overtime comes in!  And my currently insane schedule.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/119481257@N08/  (There’s supposed to be a photo I took of the inside of the station box here, but the internet hates me.  I’ll consult my media and technology guru and get it on here within a day or two.)

As you can see, the space isn’t very well lit right now, so we have our work cut out for us,  But we’re getting there!  And since permanent power has been turned on, we’re in the process of getting all the lights working.  So in a few weeks, hopefully this space will be flooded with light!  Which, for me, is the really exciting part of my work – watching as the project comes together in its final form.  Huzzah!

If you’d like to read more about the project, here’s a recent article with good info, as well as more renderings of the design.  Also, check out the Sound Transit page, which includes a webcam so you can be all creepy-like and spy on my colleagues and I.  ;-D

Great weekend

This weekend was really quite lovely.  Not what I expected in many ways, but lovely nonetheless.

Friday Shawn and I were planning on playing the Life Care Center in Port Orchard, but it was moved to next week.  So we got together and worked on some originals instead – finding harmonies and working out the arrangements, that sort of thing.  Then we put together a full 3-hour set list so we’ll be ready for gigs.  I was once again struck by how much I value these musical friendships that I’ve made recently.  There’s something so special in having at least a few people around you who share the same feelings and joys, and with whom you can share the crazy excited thoughts that run through your brain when you get random song ideas!

Well, after a couple of hours we headed for the Alderbrook, which was fabulous as always.  The crowd was good, the drinks were great, the scenery was incredible.  We played about a set and a half, then Robert Poole and Robert the flutist jammed for a bit.  The band actually went outside and sat down near the water while the guys did their thing!  😉  Then we headed back in to take over again and, lo and behold, Mike Pratt was in the house.  So when we got back up I dragged Mike on stage for a few songs, including a Travis Tritt duet and a group jam on Mustang Sally that had so many people we didn’t all fit on stage!  Before we knew it, it was time to shut down, but the party didn’t stop there.

Since several other musically inclined folks had showed up by then, we all ended up out on the patio around a fire pit, passing around a guitar and making up harmonies to all kinds of wonderful songs.  It wasn’t heaven, but it was pretty damn close, being outside with the music and the dancing and the people and the fire and the water and the stars…  Unfortunately, as the night wore on a very well-lubricated individual showed up and began making too much noise.  This of course Cannot Happen at a respectable establishment like the Alderbrook, so we were promptly removed from the scene.  That’s right, the BAND got bounced!  Priceless, eh?  It’s okay tho, I really had to get home to give Gumby his meds.

By the by, I got refills for him yesterday and I’m really happy!  See, I have to cut one of his three meds in half, and the pill is large and round, hence it tends to crush rather than break clean.  So every 4th pill or so ends up wasted.  (It’s still cheaper than getting the next smaller size and giving him 2 morning and 2 night!)  Well, to make a short story long, the pills are shaped differently now, so they cut easily and cleanly.  *happy dance*

Okay, back to the weekend…  Once again I missed my swim lesson, but this time it was because I had a class to teach at the same time, not because I’d been up too late the night before.  So I did my class, which went very well indeed.  Hopefully I will see my students back for project classes!  I’m really on the fence about teaching up there.  It’s hard to schedule, since my calendar changes around so often.  And the classes are set around 3 months in advance!  So it’s difficult.  And when I end up canceling other plans to drive 17 miles and teach a single student…  Well, let’s just say that the cost-benefit equation isn’t favorable.  But lately I’ve been having lots of multi-student classes, which makes things more palatable.  As you can see, I have reasons for wanting to quit before the next session starts.

But my class did go well, and after that I had a good chat with Jon about Navy issues while we moved more of Albert’s things out.  I’m going to sit down with Jeff the recruiter (Should I go all Mr. Rogers and capitalize that?) about the officer programs.  Jon suggested I go in as a yeoman, spend the first year getting my Bachelor’s, then go for a commission and the big money.  Not a bad plan!  And worth considering, since the band thing doesn’t seem to be happening.  }:-(

Saturday night we were at the Man-Pub, which was not nearly as busy as it usually is.  Perhaps everyone was nursing sunburns, what with the beautiful weather!  Honestly, it felt like we were a little off…  Not sure what the deal was, but to me it felt like we were trying too hard and it just wasn’t working.  I know Shawn was – he pretty much lost his voice by the end of the night!  We were both struggling to get some of those songs at the end.  But we (once again) overfilled the stage area – Tim and Kim Silke came out, so of course we had to drag Tim up front to join us.  We ended the night with Southern Cross and Seven Bridges Road, which was absolutely fabulous.  I love singing with these guys – the harmonies make me sooooooo happy!

Today I had anticipated playing at the Downtown Market, but as it turned out they had entertainment lined up already.  So…  I slept in.  😀  Can’t argue with that, huh?  Got down to Evergreen in time for my set at Kitsap Pride, but unfortunately that didn’t go as well as I anticipated.  First of all, the audience disappeared just as I started.  (The drag queens performed, then Michael spoke, then Derek Kilmer spoke, during which many people departed.  *phooey*)  So I stood up to a greatly depleted audience – and promptly started playing in a different key than I was singing.  *facepalm*  And more people left.

The rest of my set went well, and in fact they kept me for a couple of encores, which was sweet.  But the best part (aside from having friends come out specifically to see me play, which always gives me warm-and-fuzzies) was that I met some gals who live right down the hill from me!  So I made some new friends, and we’re gonna get together and jam some time.  How cool is that?!?

Went home, stopping on the way to drop booth stuff in storage for daMama and to hit the grocery store for a few things, and commenced with the domesticity.  In particular, the making of chili and the baking of various breads.  I was planning on white bread, wheat bread, corn bread, and banana bread.  Unfortunately, I did not realize that my milk was nasty – so much for the wheat bread!  And I took too much time on the other things, so the white bread wouldn’t have time to rise before I went to bed.  So that was out.  And then I ran out of cumin, so knowing that my chili wouldn’t be ready tonight I said “to hell with it” and put the cornbread off till tomorrow.  So…  Um…  I has banana bread muffins.

All in all, the weekend was lovely and fun and filled with many wonderful memories.  Not at all what I expected…  But isn’t that just how life works?  Tomorrow morning I’ll be meeting a couple of the other vixens at the garden, and we will break our fast with banana muffins and coffee, and then work our ass ends off to feed ourselves and our families.  So I guess it’s time that I put the last nail in this weekend’s coffin and hit the hay.  Good night all, and let’s all enjoy another week filled with unexpected surprises!

Wow, has it really been a month?

Apparently it has.  So here we go with the updates:

I have yet to hear back form the Navy Band about whether I’m accepted or not.  My recruiter hasn’t heard anything either, and he may or may not be getting tired of me calling him.  😉

Albert has moved back in with family in anticipation of me leaving.  It’s really weird to be broken up, but I am enjoying the peace and quiet.  Not to mention the lack of TV in my home!

I’m trying to get out more, especially spending more time with musical people and friends who I’ve neglected.  I’ve said “Sorry, I can’t” to so many invitations over the past few years, it feels great to say “I’ll be there” instead!  It’s running me a little ragged, but mostly because I’m not managing my time well enough.

My workouts have been inconsistent at best, though I’m seeing a little bit of improvement in the holding-of-breath-when-swimming department.  The brain is still NOT PLEASED with the fact that I’m doing hard physical work and am unable to breathe whenever I want.  Kinda turns me into a gasping mess at times…  So I go play mermaid and wear flippers and swim around underwater so I can’t cheat and take a breath when I’m not supposed to.  It’s hard, but still kinda fun.  And I try to go with daMama and Rosi instead of alone.

I’m back into too-busy-to-bother-with-food mode, so if I turn into a skeleton just buy me a sandwich k?  Make it a club with cheddar and light mayo please.  I’m not starving myself on purpose, it just kinda happens…  I’ve been watching the Food Network while on the treadmill tho, which makes me hungry for two reasons and then I’ll eat something.  Plus, it gives me all these great ideas which makes me WANT to cook later.  Not that it helps all the time!

Spending more time with musical people has made me want to write better.  In fact, I spent some time with Mike Pratt last week, and I’m basically feeling shamed into improving!  LOL  Not that he’s less than gracious about his own abilities, but he’s a very talented and skilled songwriter and I’m feeling motivated by exposure.  In fact, tomorrow I’m going to a songwriters’ show and (if I can get the cojones up) I’m going to play a few of my songs – to a room full of other songwriters.  This, my friends, is a very frightening prospect for me.  All y’all people who don’t want to sing in front of me?  I’m in your shoes now.  I have to take my inadequate, half-written pieces that need more help than I’m presently able to give them, and present them not only publicly, but to a group of people which will include at least a few folks who have done this for much longer than me and are consequently much better at it.  I am not looking forward to it.

I’m going to leave things there, since I have to jet to Silverdale and teach a class now.  I know I say this all the time, but I’ll try to update more often going forward!

Announcement

Big changes are a-coming…  There’s no way to work up to this, so I’m just gonna pull the bandage right off in one yank.

I’m auditioning for the Navy Band.

Yep, I’m going to enlist in the US Navy and join the band and be a Navy rock star for the next few years.  Didn’t know the Navy had rock bands?  They do.  In fact, they have 11 fleet bands around the world, each of which has 2-3 vocalists.  One of those fleet bands is stationed at NBK-Bangor, right here in my backyard.  If they station me there, I’ll only be gone for about 7 months (8 weeks of basic, 21 of A school) and then I’ll be back home again for most of my tour.  If they don’t, I could end up in California or Europe or Hawaii or on the East Coast.  Who knows?

At any rate, I’m offering what I feel is my greatest talent and skill in service of my country.  It’s a decision I have not made lightly, and in fact one I was on the verge of making two years ago.  In 2010 I decided to stay here, but I guess it was just a matter of time!  I keep telling people that if I’d known at 18 that I could do this, I’d only be a few years out from retirement right now.  But no, I had to talk to the Army recruiter…  And the Army doesn’t have a dedicated vocalist position.  You know, it never occurred to me to walk out the door and into one of the other branches.  But hey, life is funny that way and playing the “what if” game is stupid and unproductive.

So this is the plan:  I serve for 5 years, and if I like it then I stay in until I want out.  If I don’t like it, then I’m back here in 5 years buying a house and picking up where I left off.

Either way, I’m excited and ready for a change.  Both Etsy stores will remain open for sales in my absence (big thanks to Albert who will be shipping packages out for me until I’m able to take back over) tho there obviously won’t be any new items available until I get to my duty station.  Keep an eye out for future communications as to when I go – it’ll be business as usual for the next couple months, or however long it takes for me to get on the road.

Arron’s Retirement

I had the immense honor of being asked to sing at my friend Arron Sterling’s navy retirement yesterday.  Not only did he hire Tuck and I to sing for his reception, but he asked me to sing the national anthem for the actual ceremony!

Now, I always love to sing the national anthem.  Every time I do, I feel like I’m part of something much bigger than myself.  It’s kind of like my own little form of national service.  Silly, I know, but there you have it.

And it was so flattering that he asked me!  The man’s a Lieutenant Commander, for heaven’s sake, he probably knows a dozen people who could do it.  He asked me.  Damn!  Did that make me blush?  Oh yes, it made me blush.  Right down to the tips of my toes.

So I cleared my calendar for the day, got all gussied up in something appropriate to the occasion, even shaved my legs, and took a nice leisurely drive up to Indian Island.  And it was a fantastic day for a drive.  Took one wrong turn because I didn’t read the directions carefully enough, but I recognized my mistake right away, flipped Rizzo back around, and got headed the right direction.  Got there with plenty of time to spare.

I do love military retirements.  I’ve attended several, and I gotta tell you, I cry every time at two points.  First, there’s a ceremony called “Old Glory.”  Several servicemembers stand in a line, representing the ranks previously held by the retiree.  The lowest ranking person holds an American flag, and they pass the flag from one person to the next, all along the line.  Each person moves slowly and deliberately, saluting before receiving the flag, then saluting again after passing the flag to the next person; it’s a very regimented and precise sequence.  The retiree him or herself is the last person in line, and when he or she takes the flag, he or she can then present it to a parent or spouse, or someone else very special to them.  The entire time the flag is being passed, the following poem is read:

I am the flag of the United States of America
My name is Old Glory.

I fly atop the world’s tallest buildings.
I stand watch in America’s halls of justice.
I fly majestically over great institutes of learning.
I stand guard with the greatest military power in the world.
Look up! And see me!

I stand for peace, honor, truth, and justice.
I stand for freedom.
I am confident . . . I am arrogant.
I am proud.

When I am flown with my fellow banners,
my head is a little higher,
my colors a little truer.

I bow to no one.
I am recognized all over the world.
I am worshipped.
I am saluted.
I am respected.
I am revered. I am loved.
And I am feared.

I have fought every battle of every war for more than 200 years…
Gettysburg, Shilo, Appomatox, San Juan Hill, the trenches of France,
the Argonne Forest, Anzio, Rome, the beaches of Normandy,
the deserts of Africa, the cane fields of the Philippines,
the rice paddies and jungles of Guam, Okinawa, Japan, Korea, Vietnam,
and a score of places long forgotten by all but those who were with me.

I was there!

I led my soldiers.
I followed them.
I watched over them…
They loved me.

I was on a small hill in Iwo Jima.
I was dirty, battle-worn and tired,
but my soldiers cheered me,
and I was proud.

I have been soiled, burned, torn and trampled on the streets of countries
I have helped set free.
It does not hurt . . . for I am invincible.
I have been soiled, burned, torn and trampled on the streets of my country,
and when it is by those with whom I have served in battle . . . it hurts.
But I shall overcome . . . for I am strong.

I have slipped the bonds of Earth
and stand watch over the uncharted new frontiers of space
from my vantage point on the moon.

I have been a silent witness to all of America’s finest hours.
But my finest hour comes
when I am torn into strips to be used for bandages
for my wounded comrades on the field of battle.
when I fly at half mast to honor my soldiers…
and when I lie in the trembling arms
of a grieving mother at the graveside of her fallen son.

I am proud.
My name is Old Glory.

Dear God . . . Long may I wave!

I read recently that this was written in 1983, which I found surprising because I always thought it was a much older tradition.  All I know is that I cry every time I hear it.  (Well, I cry when it’s done well.  I’ve heard MCs who didn’t know what they were doing, and a butchered reading doesn’t always bring up tears.)  The other part that always gets me is when they read “The Watch.”  Again, visualize me weeping like a baby.  A sad, angry baby.  (For those of you who aren’t Firefly fans, that’s a quote.)

Aye mates,
For many years, this Sailor stood the watch …
While some of us lay about our bunks at night,
This Sailor stood the watch.

While others of us were attending schools,
This Sailor stood the watch.

And yes, even before many of us were born,
This Sailor stood the watch.

As our families watched the storm clouds of war,
brewing on the horizons of history,
He stood the watch.

This Sailor looked ashore and saw his family …
Often needing his guidance but he knew he must stay,
Because he had the watch.

For many years he has stood the watch,
So that we and our countrymen could sleep soundly, in safety,
knowing that a Sailor would stand the watch.

Today, we are here to say “Shipmate, the watch stands relieved.
Relieved by those you have led, trained and guided.
Shipmate, you now stand relieved, We have the watch.”

Again, with the right person reading it, this is a huge tearjerker for me.  Yes, I get sappy when I think of everything that is given by those who serve.  It’s not just the lives they lay down, it’s not just the ones who died on our behalf.  (Though how the word “just” could ever be applied to that kind of sacrifice, I don’t know.)  Like anything else one does, the willingness to give over a long period of time is just as significant a sacrifice – holding fast, day in and day out, while all the little costs add up.

A life given in service to the military is just that – a life given in service.  I’m too selfish to do that.  I freely admit it.  I want to do my own thing with my life.  I don’t even want to work for a corporation, or anybody else for that matter, because I’d rather be accountable to myself.  I enjoy self-employment, because I can make all the decisions myself.  I am amazed and wonderstruck and incredulous at the many men and women I know, and the many more I’ll never know, who have given five or ten or twenty – or in Arron’s case, 28 – years of their lives to defend us.

And then, after all that, they don’t even get the national anthem at their ceremony.  Yep, that’s right folks, the sad, sorry truth is that when the time came yesterday for the MC to announce me, he skipped a line and went right past.  Poor Arron, I felt so bad for him.  I felt pissed for myself too, you understand, but really, for me it was an opportunity to be there for a friend, and to honor the nation that is my home and those who ensure its (and my) safety.  For Arron, it was the culmination of his entire career, the ending point of his life as it’s been and the beginning of his life as it will be.  He deserved fewer glitches, IMHO.

But of course, at the end of the day, he was still retired, and we had an awesome party later on.  At which, of course, he let me sing the anthem.

It wasn’t fairy-tale quality, but it was still a happy ending.