On Veterans Day

Susie Sailor girl.. age 19
Susie Sailor girl.. age 19

A rare and welcome cool breeze wafted through the gray cinder-block corridor, carrying on it the faint, distant notes of a nameless, yet familiar holiday tune. The sun had yet to rise which may have contributed to the vague notion that December – at least for the moment – had arrived in Florida.

I was nineteen, an entire coast away from everything I knew to this point in life, and homesick. Basic training was in full swing and it had barely paused to acknowledge the holidays.

That winter the meaning of Veteran’s Day began to transform for me. I’d yet to understand how much my life would change, that soon our Company Commander would arrive with a team of MPs to remove the drill weapons that stood silent century in the center of birth we’d come to call home. That war would be declared in Iraq, or that 25 years later the same surreal mixture of pride and fear that my own mother must have felt would be visited upon me. 

I’ve often written about what my time in the Navy meant to me, the honor of serving alongside so many selfless, heroic, determined brethren.   Many times I’ve climbed upon my infamous soapbox in support of those who came before me, and those who continue to take up the gauntlet of service.  Today though, Veteran’s Day comes to me with new meaning.

It was another December day, oddly enough the same, rare cool breeze wafted off the San Diego bay. This time it carried on it the equally familiar hymn of Marine Corps. In a sea of hundreds of young Marines, all dressed alike,  all standing at rigid attention, I easily found my son.

He is mine.

That day a pride like I’d never known filled me, bringing along with it an ever-present undercurrent of fear. He will serve, no matter where or when. Those who hold his fate in their hands can never know how important, amazing… irreplaceable, he is. 

He’d volunteered for this.  Worked for it. Earned it. 

That will forever bond us to each other in the same fashion that the invisible umbilical chord always will.  We have served. Willingly, with pride.

When you stop to thank a Veteran today, keep in your thoughts those that love them, for they serve as well. 2013-12-05 12.32.07

it doesn’t have to be October

Here in Maryland the fiery glow of early fall is giving way to tobacco hued piles of fallen leaves. The color of autumn is starting to fade. Soon the pink of Breast Cancer Awareness month will start to pass into memory as well. 

There will be fewer pink-clad products on the shelves at stores and NFL teams will take back their home colors. Profiles of courageous warriors will get less airtime, the media move on to the next month’s story.  Breast cancer won’t be going anywhere though. It will still be stalking millions.  It doesn’t limit itself to October and neither should you.

Sharing my story, and Tami Scovitch’s, earlier this month was just the start of the journey. There are still many paths to be taken.

Unless you’ve been off the planet all October long, you’re pretty aware at this point that breast cancer is out there. The challenge now is to stay aware, keep ourselves educated, follow early detection recommendationsand fight for a cure!

I asked the folks at Saint Agnes Breast Center to give me some information to share that help us all take the awareness October has brought and turn it into action. Here is what they shared…

(click the image to enlarge the font)

Saint Agnes Facts

 Remember, it doesn’t have to be October for you to take care of yourself and those you love.

How to get your kids to take a good family photo

Good Family Photos

You spend hours searching for the clothes, the location, the theme and the perfect Photog (or camera if you’ve got those mad skills – which I lack in spades) only to spend even more trying to get everyone to, “smile for real”.. “sit still”… “say cheese!”

I’ve found the perfect time-saving-awesome-picture-resulting-easy-as-heck solution for you.

Are you ready?

Just snap a picture of them acting like weirdos and post it on your blog and every social media account you own! Trust me, nothing gets them to shape up and take a decent pic than you sharing a bad photo of them on the interwebs.

My. Work. Here. Is. Done.

 

Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens Williamsburg: cursed (by my own offspring)

Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream with Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom

Racing heartbeat. Rapid breathing. Unrestrained screams of sheer terror. Public mocking from those you gave birth to. It’s all just a day at the park, if you’re me and that park is Busch Gardens Williamsburg during Howl-O-Scream – Cursed.

Some people get totally into Turkey. Others bring the awesome to decking halls (um, lights synced to music and everything). Me? Well, Halloween is my thing.

I own no less than two full, instructional-grade skeletons. You won’t find a single cuddly black cat or smiling jack-o-lantern in my house. I’ve spent decades perfecting the art of scaring small children – even a handful of grown men. People drive from other cities to test their nerve at our doorstep on Samhain.

I do the scaring. Not the other way around… or is it?

I’m not even being ironic with that opening paragraph, people. I screamed. I was mocked. This weekend I suffered the revenge of countless trick-or-treating folk and new family tradition, (a-la-Rosemary’s-baby) was born.

It all started out rather slowly. The park we’d visited in the summer had gone through a creepy makeover. Gone were the Union Jacks that hung in London Square, replaced with posters of Jack The Ripper. Jack-O-Lanterns were strung amongst the trees and some scary spiders lurked. But other than the ghoulishly awesome upgrades, the park remained the same. 

Busch Gardens Williamsburg

Emily rode her favorite flying dragon. We enjoyed some Guinness in Ireland, the big kids waited forever to take on Verbolten. Then, with the sinking of the sun, came an eery sound track and time for the small ones to head back to the hotel with dad. 

I stayed behind with Ryan and Kaytie to check out the scares. Yeah, like some theme park is going to be “terrifying” – pfft!

We waited in line for our turn in, “Root of All Evil,” a greenhouse themed haunted house walk through. The wait was long, but there were vendors along the route peddling refreshments, and trinkets. note: the barbequed scallop skewers – worth the waiting in line. Time with my teen and Marine made the waiting fly by.

Walking into the maze I was keyed up to get new ideas for this year’s festivities – then the wall came alive and growled at me! I screamed like a 4 year old, and it was on. At every twist and turn another something, or someone popped out at me and nearly caused me to pee!

This isn’t your mall parking lot “haunted” attraction people. IT. IS. SCARY. I haven’t involuntarily cursed that much in the presence of mixed company since my days in the Navy. Chased through fog so dense that you can’t see two people ahead of you, actors lurk through the hanging vines emitting noises that are decidedly non-human. Emerging back  into the open air, you might think you were safe… until a guy with the chainsaw chases you!

A CHAINSAW!

At one point the adrenaline coursed so rapidly through me that I picked my 20 year old son – a muscular, solid US Marine- up off his feet and tossed him at .. whatever the hell that was that just tried to grab me!

Weak, shaken and down right terrified I turned to my kids for succor. Wrong answer. The two of them where breathless with hysterical laughter.. at me.. THEIR MOTHER!!

At least the small crowd that gathered to point and laugh, having been near me in the maze, weren’t related.

Busch Gardens Howl o scream

Naturally this meant we had to head over to, the “Catacombs” for more. But first, we had to get there. Through Canada where it seems there was some sort of biological disaster. I honestly don’t know because I was hiding behind my son – who pointed me out to nearly every actor roaming the scene all too happy to take part in a game of “Scare the Old Lady.”

Inside the Catacombs it was so bad that I needed to throw my son again – since he obviously wasn’t going to save me. It didn’t help that  his sister sold me out too. I turned around at one point to comfort her only to come nose to bone with a guy in the BEST skeleton makeup I’ve ever seen. Though that didn’t register as I tried to climb UP the wall.

Apparently I’m the best attraction at the park – or at least that’s what the guy ahead of us felt compelled to share.

So traumatized was I that while heading out of the park I felt a soft brush on my arm and took off with a hop. I thought something had come out of the trees after me. Turns out it was only the water bottle clipped to my backpack. Yes, the kids will be telling that story for years to come. 

There is only ONE weekend left in this year’s Howl-o-Scream event. 

When:  October 24-26th 2014 (but is an annual attraction)

Tickets: $75 (ages 10 and up) $65 (ages 3-9)

Parking: $15

Those tickets are pricy, so I did some math for ya. Here in Maryland Bennett’s Curse (a haunted walk through attraction) will set you back $30. Howl-o-Scream features SIX of these type of attractions, PLUS the full fun of the park before the sun goes down, so you do really get your money’s worth.

Not into scaring yourself (seriously, I had nightmares) for fun? Then give it a couple of weeks. On select days November 21st  through December 31st Busch Gardens turns on the charm for Christmas Town.  Sip hot cocoa, stroll through “Europe” enjoying seasonal traditions from all over,  and take in the lovely lights. You’ll love it as much as we do… but dress warm. We learned our lesson on that one last year when we almost became part of Frosty’s family!

This post was made possible in part by my participation in the Busch Gardens® Williamsburg Ambassador program. I paid for my oldest son’s ticket, though the rest of family were provided park passes in order to experience the park and share with my readers.  All other items, including, games on the mid-way, feeding the birds, food and drink (nothing like Guinness on tap), I paid for. My opinions and those of my family are 100% our own – because YOU deserve nothing less!

I have four kids and an opinion.