Pam grew up in Daytona Beach, Florida and has been in love with her soldier husband Vic for 16 years. She has held various volunteer positions from Company to Battalion level Family
Readiness Group Leader to Spouses Club President and everthing in between. Her latest position was as the volunteer coordinator in Ansbach Germany where she helped support all aspects of the
volunteer management of the community. Pam is the program advisor for “Operation: Take a Soldier to the Movies”, a non-profit organization which sends DVD’s, notes, popcorn, movie candy and drink mix
to deployed soldiers. She is a seasoned speaker having been a women’s speaker at Faithlift 1998 and 1999 in Seoul, South Korea as well as at the Annual AWAG Convention held in Garmisch Germany from
2006- 2007. Pam finds great joy in encouraging others, traveling and raising her and Vic’s three children. More about the vision of this blog is available on the home page www.notes2grow.com
"And in today already walks tomorrow." ~Samuel Taylor Coleridge
We have piled in to the hotel, exhausted, after a day full of simulated world saving discussions. The fifth graders that I'm chaperoning, my daughter and her friend, have just spent nine hours participating in our state-wide model United Nations conference. They studied the slum situation in Rwanda and other countries and proposed a solution for fixing this epidemic. Fifth graders. I sat for the last few hours in the Model UN Security Council. As a military wife, this council in the real world discusses matters that greatly impact my life. Today's discussion was terrorism, terrorists returning to their society and nuclear weaponry in the middle east. These are discussions that take place over my morning coffee with my military husband, before our children wake up. The profound nature of these issues ultimately follow him into work. These issues indirectly follow me in to work as well. The resolutions to these issues (created by middle and high schoolers) were well thought out, discussed and written. And in the end, these resolutions were fictitiously passed. Witnessing this unfold I couldn't help but express how amazing an opportunity this is for our children. What other country allows the replication of resolution creation and peace treaty making by our children? What kind of country invests this time and energy into their youngest of young and helps them to believe that their voice matters? An Amazing Country. Our Amazing Country. A friend of mine, a retired Soldier, put it all into perspective when I said this country is amazing. Without missing a beat he said, "Amazing enough to die for." And it is........ Amazing to watch my children grow up in the land of opportunity, Amazing to watch as the American leaders of tomorrow work all day to resolve some of the worlds hardest issues, Amazing to know that 1% of this incredible population have sworn to protect and defend these freedoms we enjoy. America Amazing
It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.~ Charles Darwin
I have found myself in an incredible position recently and it dawned on me that I should have expected this to happen. My last year, actually three, but specifically the last year has been dedicated to motivating, encouraging, supporting and championing a team of professionals who do extraordinary things. This team is dispersed across the country and imbedded in a mission field dedicated to the lives and wellbeing of military families in various stages of deployment or activation. This is a mission field. This is a place of struggles and triumphs, of chaos and success, of friendships and families and work that will stand the test of time. I've stood on the sidelines of this incredible team, encouraging, coaching, calling plays, wiping sweat, lifting spirits. It has been an awesome task that has taken all of my focus and energy and felt so very right at this stage of my life.
Most recently, we have incorporated a larger team together and I've been put in charge of this merged group. Change is necessary, and exciting, and has the potential to help everyone better their game. I've seen change play out so perfectly on sports teams when new players come in and really fill the holes of the existing team to make them complete. Change is also daunting and exhausting and unnerving. I've seen change cripple a team because the dynamics of the new group just never really gel.
This merged team, this change, now just barely a month old has been a huge undertaking. In an effort to learn the new players, incorporate the two groups, realign the plays and balance the group dynamic, I've worn myself out. I've loved every minute of it, but I've also internalized the stress and magnitude of the moment.
As the team takes shape and the kinks get worked out, we are hitting a fantastic groove. With this start of the next phase of the group, some of my original team have come to me, especially in the past few days, to remind me of the things I have always said from the sidelines. "Take care of yourself", "We are strong and mighty", "Change is good". It is as if they realized I'm waning a little. It is as if they sensed that I needed a seat on the bench for a second, a splash of cold water and a wipe of a towel. It is as if they sensed that I needed my own pep talk. I am thankful for this team and for their intuition and dedication to not only caring for their families but also for me. With this encouragement I am humbled and honored and lifted up by the strength of the team.
"Life will always throw you curves, just keep fouling them off... the right pitch will come, but when it does, be prepared to run the bases." ~Rick Maksian
Today is a Tuesday that feels alot like a Monday, although yesterday's Monday was a heck of a Monday in it's own right. There is no full moon, there is no change in the barometric pressure, there is no easy sign to explain why the past two days have played out the way they have. They just have.
I knew it by 10am yesterday when the second wild pitch was thrown my way. These are those proverbial things at work and life that come out of nowhere, whiz by your head and make you look around to find where they are coming from. We all have wild pitches. The crazy email, the unexpected bill, the odd question from the child, the rant on the other end of the phone you wish you didn't answer.
In baseball, those wild pitches are meant to scare the hitter off of home plate. The wild pitch screams past the hitters face at almost 100mph and you can imagine there is a flight or fight mentality that kicks into play. This happens in life too. Wild pitches are thrown and you find your blood pressure rising, your curse words being reborn, your whole plan for the day thrown out of whack. I have two choices when wild pitches start in on my day; I either walk away from the game at hand or I get back into the batters box and give it another swing.
I'm the get back into the box kind of player. Yesterday, after a few wild pitches, I readjusted myself, looked around, focused on the game at hand and stood back in the box. That's just what I do. By the end of today, after more wild pitches and some unexplainable moments in the game of the last two days, I hit one out of the park.
This takes practice. This takes maturity. This takes confidence in knowing that I'm supposed to be right here. Let those wild pitches fly, let those crazy days come as they will. I've seen a lot in this game of life, and I'm more than ready to step up and play.
"Everything in moderation, including moderation." ~Author Unknown
I distinctly remember watching Oprah before my oldest child turned 3 and having her look straight at the camera, directly at me, and say, "You CAN have it all, just not all at once." These words of wisdom have since repeated in my head weekly if not daily. I'm an energetic, driven and motivated woman. I've always believed I could change the world. The older I get, the more I realize that I can have all of my dreams come true if I'm willing to balance my life and accept moderation in other areas.
When I was in college over two decades ago, staying up late to complete a project was torture and never worked out well. I wasn't the library type, I wasn't the planner type, I wasn't the get my work done ahead of time type. Those late night "Hail Mary's" to finish work hurt, physically hurt. I'm back in college now getting my master's degree and last night I found myself finishing a paper in the 11th hour. It definitely wasn't my best work and I'm not looking forward to the grade that I will receive, but my paper was complete and met all of the requirements that were set for it and it was turned in on time. It is halfway through the completion of my degree and this is my first transgression into mediocrity.
Oprah told me I could have it all; the storybook marriage, the beautiful family, the athletic and fit life, the perfect tidy home, the world renowned cupcakes, the nurtured garden, the hobbies that feed my soul, the volunteer work that serves my community, the incredibly successful career, the continued lifelong learning, the authorship, the serenity ~ she was clear that it would have to be in waves.
My waves lately have been worth riding. This weekend, when I could have been writing that paper, I dedicated two days to sewing a colonial dress from scratch with our ten year old daughter. It lays on the table, a beautiful testimony to time invested, waiting for the zipper which I'll sew today. No doubt, when she wears it to dance the minuet on Thursday, my paper will be the farthest thing from my mind. Yesterday, when I could have whipped up that paper in a few hours, I chose to attend a baseball game with our teenaged son. Three hours of uninterrupted chatter and laughter and silence, sitting next to my hunk of a baby boy; countless discussions with the ticket holders around us about how this young man couldn't possibly be mine; the glorious feeling of doing the wave in the crowd next to a person I'm so incredibly proud of made my paper seem not too significant.
The storybook marriage? it's at 95%, with us striving for those last 5. The beautiful family? Most days. The athletic and fit life? ahhh, hit and miss. The perfect tidy home? sort of but only because of hired help. The world renowned cupcakes and nurtured garden? Contracted out. The hobbies that feed my soul? who needs em? Everything else is almost here or on the list for the coming year.
The promise of having it all at some point, and having what I have for now is a blessing for me. The way I see it ,these waves are worth riding and watching for. It's a good thing.
"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." ~Anne Frank
I was greeted the other morning with a surprise when I picked up the newspaper. In the garden islands of my yard stood three beautiful perfectly red volunteer flowers. Not together, in three separate spots, but so perfectly placed. These flowers were not in the garden last year. I am not so sure which types of flowers they are but I know they are exactly what was needed in those islands.
I'm sure the previous owner planted those flowers years ago and the recent harsh winter revived their passion to grow. The point is they volunteered themselves to be there.
I remember the first time my mother called a flower a volunteer. It sounded so funny. We were in North Carolina and I was in Kindergarten. Because of the school systems back then, I was in a half day kindergarten and she picked me up for the afternoons. Those afternoons together were spent jarring vegetables and fruits from the garden, riding horses, and planting plants. We would walk the vast acres of our country home and mom would tell me all about the flowers. One day we stopped and she pointed at a perfect flower and told me it was a volunteer. Somehow, by some miracle, this flower had found it's way here to our garden and it was special. We didn't know we needed it there but it knew it was needed.
I had long forgotten that moment until the other morning when I looked up with the paper in hand and saw my volunteers. They stopped me in my tracks. Absolutely beautiful.
That is how volunteers work. When you least expect them, when you have no idea that you could ask for more, they are there. The perfect answer to the question you haven't asked. Volunteers know exactly where to place themselves. Volunteers fit in where they are planted. Volunteers jump in and complete the picture as if they have been a part of our grand scheme from the beginning.
Volunteers are a gift.
"The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit." ~Nelson Henderson
"No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow." ~LinYutang
When you walk into most German restaurants you will be greeted by a table near the front that has a sign on it, "Stammtisch". This is loosely translated into "regular's table" and is the one place where only the regulars sit. If you have the luck of entering the restaurant while the "Regular's" are there, you will be greeted by a glance, maybe a nod, sometimes a Hallo, but always the sound of friends sitting together and sharing their day.
I loved to marvel as the Stammtisch filled with regulars pouring in after work. The friends would embrace, there was a comraderie there that was beautiful and the conversation was so animated. I always wanted to be part of the Stammtisch.
Part of being a military family means that you are always saying goodbye to something. Your friends are moving, or you are moving, or the unit is moving or the civilians are moving. Your children's friends move, your neighbors move. The regulars are always changing. The good thing about military families is that we learn how to reset quickly, because time with friends is normally short.
The time for my family has come when the moving is done. We have decided on this place to build the next stage of our lives. We have found our town.
Our town means that we have our favorite restaurants and know the names of the waitstaff. Our town means that we are watching as families are made, marriages are started, babies are growing up. Our town means we know when football season starts and ends, we know the team colors, we look forward to the next crop of players. Our town means you can't run into the store without seeing someone you know. Our town means that opening day of baseball season is not just the thrill of entering the ballpark after a long off season, it is seeing those you sit beside, knowing the sound of your favorite beverage guy, meeting his girlfriend, looking forward to seeing your sections ticket attendant and sitting in your seats. It is the familiarity of being in a place you have come to know as home, just like laying your head on your favorite pillow and basking in the normalness of what right feels like.
I am finally part of the Stammtisch and it feels better than I ever imagined it would.
Just like coming home.
Drag your thoughts away from your troubles... by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it. ~Mark Twain
You have to wonder what the powers that be are telling you when a blog is written and then eaten by cyberspace never to be seen again. That is what happened with the original "Tell me When", which I slaved over and shed tears writing and then lost on one of my most frustrating mornings. How ironic that it was the blog which expounded on all the things I was looking forward to being over and all that I've endured that I wanted put to rest. The truth is, I'm a volunteer. Always have been, always will be. Once you get settled into a community and begin to volunteer, people learn to seek you out. This isn't always a good thing. Just like Mikey would always try something new in the 70's, you can count on Pam to volunteer to do it if nobody else will. That is what drove me to "Tell Me When". I wanted to know when the coast would be clear and I could once again have my life back. My friend calls my illness "Helium Hand". This is what occurs when someone says, "Who wants to?". My hand raises like a bunch of balloons on a beautiful spring day. "I'll do it". I'll do it leads to months of planning for a huge event, which I had no business being a part of. I'll do it leads to me waking early every morning to pursue my masters degree because someone wanted to give me a grant for my education. I'll do it means I've committed to sewing not one but two quilts before May graduation. I'll bake the cookies, I'll shuttle the kids, I'll do the thank you notes, I'll take the baskets home, I'll deliver the table, I'll input the data, I'll train the other volunteer. You get my drift. But today, after the event is over, after the large paper that was due for school is turned in, after I had a glorious hour to walk on the beach with my love because other things could wait, I'm thankful. Life is crazy. Life is chaotic. Life is breakneck and reckless and filled with purpose. That is what happens when you live the life of a volunteer. I started out wanting someone to tell me when this busyness would be over so I could go on with my life. Thanks to a computer who ate that blog, the answer is already here. That busyness is my life and it is rich. The way I see it, there is no other way to live.
"I think your whole life shows in your face and you should be proud of that." ~Lauren Bacall
I have found that there are days when my mind wants to freeze the moment and save a mental picture of the people I am with inside my heart. These days naturally occur when you have a loved one who has profoundly touched you. The first day of each of our children's lives, the day I said "I do" to my husband, the friends who have been by my side during the hard and great times. These days also occur when you know your time is short. When my mother's cancer returned and was incurable, I spent days reading to her and looking at her sleeping face in the sun. My mind knew that my heart needed to forever remember her face. Times like these sometimes catch us off guard. A few weeks back I was at a conference with a slice of my team to provide conference support. Everyone knew this week would be a busy one and potentially full of chaos and stress. They all signed up. Tasks were delegated, systems were put in place and the week went off without major issue. We had only fleeting moments when we could sit and talk together and those were precious. On the last night before we all traveled home, there was a time where everyone shared their best practices with each other. When the first team member stood and began to talk, that feeling washed over me. "Soak them in...." "Your heart demands it" Remember these faces...." "These are important people to you" Thank goodness I was in a dark part of the conference room because I can only imagine what that mental exchange looked like. As they talked, each one of the team, and the ones sitting and listening, I watched. Their beautiful faces lit up with passion for their jobs. Their voices as they spoke about the people they serve. Their laughter as they connected with each other. Long before my mind registered how invested I had become in this team, my heart knew and it demanded an imprint. So, I soaked them all in and now that we are working so far away from each other I have them here in my heart. They are in my mind's eye and I am blessed.
P.S. To my incredible team, thank you. You are amazing people doing extraordinary things in a world that so desperately needs you. Thank you for your dedication and passion. I am incredibly honored to be a part and you have impacted me greatly.
"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not." ~Dr. Seuss
I am officially at the age where our oldest child doesn't listen to me anymore. The minute I begin to impart wisdom and knowledge I can see the door to his brain shut and his eyes glass over. I don't know when this happened, but I'm so thankful I saw it coming. I knew he would stop hearing me sooner or later so I laid traps. Well, they aren't really traps, per say, as much as they are wise trusted adults that are strategically placed in his path that he does listen to. They are his teachers, his best friends parents, and many family friends who stand at the ready to guide and mentor him. Most recently, our teenager has been coming home and imparting the wisdom of his health teacher who also was his first football coach. He exhorts us about our caloric intake, the teen preaches about salt and carbs and the importance of the largest meal being lunch, he tsk tsks at me when I grab a piece of chocolate. Thanks to Coach, our son is eating better and more conscious of his fitness level. Never mind that I have been saying the exact same thing for over a year. The teen doesn't listen to me, but he does listen to Coach and for that I'll be forever thankful. Over a year ago I met a gentleman at a training who was a friend of a friend. His daughter was in her last year of high school and had fallen into the wrong crowd because of a boyfriend. This man was worried for his daughter and had hoped I could talk to her, be a listening ear and a mentor. She mentioned at one point to her dad that military service interested her and he felt my military understanding as a spouse would draw her to me because she no longer listened to her parents advice. He also hoped that as the mother of children I'd be an ally in his camp, one of those "traps". He was sure he would lose her if something didn't happen soon. I gave him my business card and he promised she would call. The call came yesterday. Out of the blue, my phone rang and the voice on the line was his daughter. She is in another state, far from home, and realizing that what her parents said may just be right. We talked about how she is, we talked about where she wants to go in her life and we talked about how to get her there. Most of all I listened. The last thing she said before we planned to talk again was that she had kept my card and that she was so happy she did.
When I hung up the phone I looked over at my teenager and two other precious children and thanked the Good Lord for Coach and the many others in their lives. Listening and being there, even when you least expect it, that is how you save a life.
"Excellence is not a skill. It is an attitude." ~Ralph Marston
I love watching the show about "Diners, Drive Ins and Dives" on the food channel. The host, Guy Fieri, has the fantastic job of scouring the country looking for the best food in diners, drive ins and dives. On the last episode I watched, Guy had found this amazing hole in the wall joint on the West side of Chicago. Guy ate his way through the menu, pot roast open faced sandwich, turkey BLT, and even the donuts with mocha dip. Every step of the way we were able to see how things were made and then get to watch as patrons and Guy just melted over every bite. At one point, Guy looks at the chef/owner and says, "You swing through every pitch!". What a complement! In the game of baseball, when you are the hitter, your primary job is to connect the ball with the bat. The pitcher pitches the ball and you hit it and then run. I believe it is natural for us to visualize the spot where the ball and the bat will meet and then try to make that exact connection happen. As the ball flies in over the plate, we swing to meet it. That is the goal, after all, to hit the ball. The true greats, though, know that the magic is when you see beyond that point of contact. The true greats know that swinging through the pitch means knocking the ball into the outfield. If you perfect the swing, you hit the ball with a greater force and you send it flying over the outfield wall. The difference is in seeing just the connection of the ball to the bat, or of considering the hit as a whole with everything you have ~ power, timing and technique. Our Chicago diner chef saw every recipe, every plate, every sandwich with everything he had and in doing so he swung for the fence. You could see it in the faces of the patrons at his tables, their eyes dancing with delight. You could see it in Guy's face as he bit into every meal he tried. Whether we are at home plate, the drawing board or the cutting board, we can all swing through and visualize the outfield wall. It isn't enough to just make contact. Excellence is about reaching for the fences. Today, I'm working on my swing, and I'm keeping my eyes on that outfield. Nothing less will do.