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Proud to be a Military Brat

Image by skeeze from Pixabay

Are you familiar with the term “military brat?” This term generally refers to someone who grew up in a family where the parents served in the armed forces.  My father served in the Air Force which makes me a military brat and I say that with pride. Though the word “brat” usually carries a negative connotation in the civilian world, those of us who grew up “on base” know that we belong to a resilient and diverse subculture of individuals bonded by common experience and mutual understanding of what it all means.

Take some time to get to know a military brat and you’re likely to discover that she or he couldn’t pinpoint the city or town where they grew up. That’s because most of us rarely lived in one place for more than a year or two. Childhood friendships seldom carry over into our adult lives since distance and address changes make them difficult to maintain. Furthermore, the nuclear family becomes the centerpiece while the neighbors and friends on the base step in as our extended family. Our grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins all commonly lived in other states or in another country.

If your childhood was rooted in one home or you graduated high school with your kindergarten buddies, all of these descriptors may sound unimaginably disheartening. However, for many military brats, these experiences positively shaped the way we fit in our wide world. Here are a few ways that the life of a military brat laid the groundwork for the lessons intended for me to inform my grownup life.

My family moved every summer during my elementary school years.

Surprisingly, my memories don’t bring to mind sadness and struggles with goodbyes. Packing up and watching men load all those boxes onto a moving truck stirred excitement of what was going to be next. The anticipation of a new house, new friends, and new experiences didn’t leave room for feeling down. My friends and I spoke about the different places we lived and where we were moving to next much like adults speak about summer vacation locations. (“We’re moving to Guam!” …“We’re moving, too. We’re going to Germany!”)

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy to say goodbye but we knew two things. First, we understood that change was inevitable and that by embracing it, we can look forward to what new people and places will add to our lives. The uncertainty of change exists only temporarily so fear not. Secondly, a goodbye many times can be a ” see-you-later”. For example, my 2nd grader friend who walked me home from kindergarten everyday in Japan now lives just 15 minutes away from me in California. I also recall that my sister befriended a boy in California while in middle school only to discover that years before they were in the same kindergarten class in Guam. The point? The world is much smaller that we believe. Particularly with the advancements of technology and social media, the vastness of our planet has gotten even smaller from when I was a child.

We had to embrace different cultures to fit in with our new surroundings.

 For me, accepting others and feeling accepted myself often centers on food and language. Food played a major role in the school cafeteria on a military base. I grew up with many of my friends being bicultural because their moms were naives of countries outside of the United States. Therefore, our lunch boxes across the table resembled an international smorgasbord of deliciousness. Exchanging and sharing treats in our lunches was more than just trying a new food. In our youthful innocence, we were offering a part of our cultural identity and accepting that of the other. Is this not a beautiful demonstration of vulnerability?

This same transfer of acceptance happened when visiting and playing at friends’ homes. Moms from Japan, Taiwan, Germany, Louisiana, Philippines, and so many other places prepared intercontinental snacks for us to experience. Everyone’s house smelled different. The greetings and terms of endearment made each home sound different. However, the feeling of love and welcome were always the same. I also witnessed mothers who spoke different languages and some broken English create friendships over food much the way my friends and I did at school during lunch time.

Writing became a means of maintaining relationships and connection.

Some of you may remember the television series called Big Blue Marble. It featured children from around the world to highlight daily life in a variety of cultures. The show also provided an opportunity to request a pen pal.  (I really loved that show. I had a pen pal from England through that program.) As a military brat, I found letter writing as a way to foster stability and connection. In this way, I learned how much words matter. Words are strong enough to strengthen bonds even when you are miles and miles apart. Moreover, words create connection as I’m experiencing through this blog.

No matter the location, home is wherever I share space with my family.

Despite all the moving across the globe and adapting to different people, my life never felt disjointed. The stability took hold in the fact that my dad, my mom, and my sister moved with me. No matter the change, they were always there. They shared the same unknowing and anticipation of change. Home was neither the house nor the things in it. Home manifested in the feeling of love and comfort from my family. In addition, I found home in the other families that also shared the common experience of unknowing and anticipation. Lingering in our midst was the unspoken understanding that though we look, speak and believe differently, our experiences were the same. We, both adults and children, somehow knew to attach ourselves to what we had in common rather than our differences. Family and community reside in the soul of the people within them.

There’s no doubt that other lessons from my life as a military brat will continue to be revealed to me. However, these four show up almost daily for me in some way. Reaching back for the past helps to make sense of who I am and who I am becoming. I’m so grateful and proud to be a military brat.

Matters of the Heart

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

HEART (noun)

  1. a hollow muscular organ that pumps the blood through the circulatory system by rhythmic contraction and dilation
  2. the emotional or moral nature as distinguished from the intellectual nature
  3. one’s most innermost character, feeling, or inclinations
  4. the essential or most vital part of something

When you look up the word “heart” these are a few of the definitions provided by the Merriam-Webster dictionary. I bring your attention to these specific definitions because they lie at the heart (pun intended) of what I’d like to share in the following post.

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We Are Family

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

When we conjure up examples of a strong family, images of a father who provides, a mother who nurtures, and children who obey may emerge because we have been led to believe that this is the standard. However, in our ever-changing world, the limiting definitions of a “traditional” family no longer suffice to fully encapsulate the complexities of familial strength. In fact, it is arguable that we fall short of considering the cultural influences on family structures and dynamics that offer variants on the way family strength manifests in different communities today.

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Feast of Dignity

likesilkto from Pixabay

“We all belong here equally…Just by being born onto the earth we are accepted and the earth supports us. We don’t have to be especially good. We don’t have to accomplish anything. We don’t even have to be healthy.” – Polly Horvath, My One Hundred Adventures

Remember the anticipation of your first day of school? Parents and teachers offered encouragement and reassurance by cheerfully talking about all the opportunities to make new friends. Did you ever move to a different neighborhood or change jobs? I imagine that questions of finding welcoming neighbors or fitting in with your new colleagues crossed your mind during your transition. These thoughts are likely due to the fact that human beings have a psychological need for love and belonging. In humanistic psychology, the human need for belonging aligns with our inclinations as social creatures. Our emotional relationships are driven by our connections among our family, as well as social and community groups. And sometimes, we have the fortune of being a bystander to the fulfillment of this need of belonging and the nurturing of the soul…

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I Can So I Must

Image by Foundry Co from Pixabay

“Judgments prevent us from seeing the good that lies beyond appearances.” –Dr. Wayne Dyer

The fall season has arrived and in our house that means football and wrestling. Over the years, countless evenings have been spent watching our sons practice in their individual sport then cheering them on when it’s time to take the field or hit the mat. Our support for them continues despite the fact that one coaches a high school team that’s a 5-hour drive east from here and the other wrestles at a college that’s a 6-hour drive north. For some it may seem excessive but I humbly learned that everything happens for a reason.

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A Pedagogy for Life

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

In my profile, I mention the synergy I often experience between my career life and my personal life. The past few weeks proved to be no exception. As an instructional coach in elementary education, my role allows me to engage with teachers about maintaining a growth mindset while working together to ensure our practices maximize student learning. Recently, many of my discussions with my colleagues focused on a process called the CRA Model when teaching mathematics. It’s a practice that takes students from Concrete, to Representational, and then to Abstract ways of thinking in order to develop mathematical reasoning and conceptual understanding. I’ve witnessed the powerful effectiveness of this instructional practice with students and wondered…Can this CRA process help us to reason and conceptually understand life lessons as well?

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Brown Face of Hope

“There is something different about this place where we live now. All people are free to go where they want and do what they can. Book learning swims freely around in my head and I hold it long as I want. I see a man reading a newspaper aloud and all doubt falls away. I have found hope, and it is as brown as me.”  – Excerpt from More Than Anything Else: A Story of Booker T. Washington by Marie Bradby

Image by S.Hermann & F. Richter from Pixaby

When my children started elementary school, I took advantage of the privilege granted to me as a mother who made a choice to suspend working outside of the home for a number of years. I was able to volunteer at the school to support my children academically in the classroom and continue with story time, learning activities, and art projects at home. But it didn’t take long for me to understand that my presence at their school extended farther than the academic support of my own children. This understanding became the foundation for why I chose teaching as a career.

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Bravely Curious

Image by Thomas Wolter from Pixabay

In a bright and colorful classroom, several toddlers busily moved about from toy to toy with their watchful mothers following close behind to insure safety and protection. Some mothers were able to sit and chat together, still watchful, as their little sons and daughters found activities that kept them in one place for longer than a moment or two. At Stepping Stones, parents, mostly stay-at-home moms, enjoyed the opportunity to be alongside their children in a structured setting while they learned to socialize, play, and follow their curiosities. It was a space of beginnings and hope.

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Village Elders Aren’t on the Internet

“Our ability to create has outreached our ability to use wisely the products of our inventions.” Whitney M. Young, Jr. (1921-1971) Civil rights activist

Public Domain from Pixabay

In the tradition of many ancient practices and indigenous cultures, our ancestors from all parts of the world turned to the wise for knowledge, information, and problem solving. For example the African storyteller, or griot, ensured the survival of culture and custom through telling both triumphant and disastrous stories of warriors, agriculture, or medicine. It is the way villagers learned when and how to fight, cultivate food, and heal. Today, when we seek insights, or cultural and historical wisdom, we tend to no longer turn to our knowledge keepers. We turn to…the internet. Let’s face it. Our village elders aren’t on the internet.

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The Line Between Self-Love and Egoism

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

The journey to embrace self-love and limit my ego continues to bring internal struggles that ultimately lead me to become an enhanced version of myself.  The work it takes to delve deep into the shadows of my past often feels like rummaging through a mountain of mess to find a  key to unlock yet another lesson, a renewed insight, or a universal truth. However, honoring my Self brings on unexpected external challenges as well. Much like a pebble tossed into the center of a calm pond, adjustments of my own thoughts and actions cause the energies in my environment and the people within it to ripple in kind.  And it’s not always as positive as I assume.

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