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The Fabric of Life.....The Train is Off the Tracks

Cait in High School - Where do the years go? he asks.


I am going to be 56 years old this year. My time in the spotlight has passed and I sorta like it that way. Being responsible for other people and somebody else’s money as a mover and a shaker in Corporate America in not all it is cracked up to be. The sacrifices most people make when they are married to their job end up with the family unit taking the hit. I have alluded to my transcendent moment in past blog posts. Even though I shed the Suits I didn’t end up in a rocking chair on the porch.  

My plan du jour -back in the day- was to try and impart as much wisdom as I could to my kids so they could cope when they ventured out into this cold world.   The only way you can do that is to be an active participant.  You see, I knew they would not have a big inheritance or trust fund or silver spoon to grease the tracks.

Well, the kids are 30 and 23 now with birthdays coming up.  Both of them chose the military and they have been running with the bit in their mouth for sometime now.    I got this email from my daughter today…

**I’ve been writing blog entries to myself for awhile, wanted to share this in case you were inspired to write something about what’s going on in the news. Hey- they may come to a decision tonight and it all be for nil, I don’t know. But just wanted to share. For what’s it worth. I love you and I’m so glad you’re my dad**

When I decided I’d jump off the deep-end of normal 19-year-old girl behavior and join the US Air Force, I really had to sell it to my parents. They weren’t incredibly excited that their sweet baby girl was following in her older brother’s footsteps into the military. There was an edge in their voice, a fear that was palpable, and who would blame them? It was the fall of 2005 and 9/11 was still a big deal. My brother had already served out one deployment and the parental units really weren’t that pumped that I thought it was the coolest thing in the world.

So I sold it. I put on my best puppy-dog, please, please, PLEASE, eyes and I sold it. I know I didn’t have to, seeing as how I was over 18 and able to do what I wanted, but that’s never been my style. I’ve always craved (and had, for the most part) my parents approval. I love making them proud, each and every day. And I was CERTAIN that I could make them believe that the Air Force was the way to a stable and successful adulthood.

I said things like, “I’ll have money to go to college.” Or “I’ll get to see the world.” Or “I’ll learn a job, something that will help me decide what I want to be when I grow up.”; but most of all, my biggest selling point: “It’s a stable job, and in this economy, that’s really tough to find.”

They agreed. I joined. And the rest, as they say, is history. Or it would have been, had the craziness from the last few weeks (or years, depending on what cable news network you’re watching) hadn’t happened.

I’ve never been one of those people who have preached “The military doesn’t pay enough!”. It’s always been enough for me. Am I wearing Dolce & Gabbana, sipping on Starbucks, and driving a new Camaro? Hell no, but we get by, we honestly get by. My husband and I, we work hard, but we also have a little bit of extra at the end of the month and we have fun. We go to concerts, we got to travel in Europe, we buy nice clothes and nice furniture. We’ve always had enough, and we’ve always put just a little bit into savings.

But that savings was supposed to be for our new house. Not to pay our bills while the American government nearly collapses.

In case you HAVEN’T been reading the news, we’re in real, serious, economic trouble. And now- with a government shutdown looming, everyone I know is nervously checking their bank accounts and looking at how much credit is available on their credit cards. That’s because everyone I know these days is a member of the military, and when the government shuts down- we won’t be receiving a paycheck. CNN is reporting about how little the public will notice when the government shuts down. The Atlantic Wire has an article about who the shutdown is affecting most  (Hint: It’s not the people who are making the decision. It’s me. It’s the guy who recently won a Medal of Honor for this country. It’s the kids from that award-winning documentary, Restrepo. It’s my best friends, who just moved back to the states, with a little girl who has a severe medical issue.) The public should notice, I’m hoping and PRAYING the public is going to notice. Because I am definitely going to notice. We have savings, we have enough money to get by for a couple weeks. Put food on the table, keep gas in the cars, and pay our bills. But it’s going to deplete our savings. It’s going to make the idea of our dream house seem a little bit more far-fetched.

We’ll be going to work still, no paycheck. Showing up for duty, not getting our money. Troops overseas going on missions outside the wire with their families back home wondering how they’re going to pay their bills. Now, the way I understand it is we’ll be getting paid when (and if) the government decides on a budget. Is that going to be in 3 days, or 3 months? No one really knows, and for my husband and I, even with money in the bank, we’re nervous. We’ve worked very hard over the last couple of years to be able to move back to the States and buy reasonable cars, furnish a house, and maybe, just maybe, buy a house of our own someday that we could actually call OURS. A house that one day, Henry, our son, will remember as one of his earliest memories.

I’ve never wanted for much. My whole life has been borderline charmed. I remember when my dad lost his job and after my parents got a divorce, things got tough. I could feel his anxiety and his need to provide- and he did. We never went hungry and we always had a roof over our heads. But most importantly, he never missed an opportunity to be there for me, to give me advice, to listen, or to tell me he loved me. As a teenager, you can’t really ask for much more. I’ve taken some of my biggest life lessons from the “baloney years” and I know that those lessons will carry me through this time.

If we have to eat a couple of PB&J’s or baloney sandwiches, then we do. I’ve surrounded myself with strong, resilient, and incredibly loving people: the US Air Force. We’re all fighters and we’re all a family, and that mentality doesn’t stop at 1630 when we all go home. We’ll be fine, so don’t worry about us.

But let’s also not take this sitting down. Email your Congressman (or woman), make sure you know who you’re voting for when you check a box. GO VOTE. Do your duty as a citizen of this country, and we’ll do ours- no matter what.

So how does a Dad respond to this? ” I am sorry daughter but I left you with a F’d up world. Deal with it.” ??? My generation has been shaping these United States for the past 20 years and it is not a pretty sight. I am wholly ashamed of where we find ourselves right now in 2011. Looking back to 1975, I guess I thought Walt Disney was going to write the script that was to be my life. Stupid, naive dumbass.

End Note: No music tonight but a missive from an earlier blog post; the following was taped to my computer monitor during the Baloney Years.

My Symphony

“To live content with small means;
To seek elegance rather than luxury,
and refinement rather than fashion;
To be worthy , not respectable, and wealthy, not rich;
To study hard, think quietly,
Talk gently,
Act frankly;
To listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages, with open heart;
To bear all cheerfully,
Do all bravely,
Await occasions,
Hurry never.
In a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common.

This is to be my symphony.”

William Ellery Channing (1810-1884)

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6 comments to The Fabric of Life…..The Train is Off the Tracks

  • Joel

    Sorry to read this.

    Two wars and military occupations without raising taxes to pay for them. Deregulation of the financial industry.

    Cut taxes without cutting spending. Deregulate without regard to consequences.

    Andy, do you still not get it?

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    • admin

      Joel,

      You forget I grew up in academia. There is not a more cloistered environment imaginable.

      This post is not about politics, It is about where our politicians have led the country. Democrats, Republicans, Independents,Libertarians, Tea Partiers –it matters little as to how we vote; the monied elite is what truly controls our country.

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  • Andy,
    You have a beautiful, articulate daughter. Clearly one to be very proud of. Thank you for sharing her letter.

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  • Cyndi

    I’m reading with tears in my eyes. Tears of frustrations, tears of sadness, tears of anger. I can’t believe this is the world I am leaving my kid. It’s been awhile now, since I’ve written a letter. But I will today. I’ll write a few and hope that the apathy I feel will allow itself to manifest in righteous anger at what the war and money mongers have done. At what we’ve allowed them/us to become. And that anger will find some positive action to take, that will make a difference.

    Your daughter, and all those who serve and protect are always in my prayers and thoughts. Igwien! (I am grateful)

    Thank you for sharing.

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  • Cyndi

    I’d like to repost on my blog with your permission and providing a link, if you don’t mind.

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    • admin

      By all means–please send me the link

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