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Best Man

He wasn’t my first choice, though he could have been. His curly black mullet and long eyelashes were more than enough to lure me in Eddy’s direction, but it was his best friend, Jim, who swooped in and made the first move.

Best friends since childhood, Eddy and Jim were students at Ninnekah – a tiny Oklahoma school located in Grady County. I didn’t come along until the 4th grade. Up until then, I attended West Elementary School in the nearby town of Chickasha. I was a year older than Eddy and Jim, so I didn’t know either of them until Junior High when the three of us took Mr. McGuire’s Algebra class. Even then, we did not interact; it wasn’t cool for a freshman like me to associate with 8th graders. For the entire year, Eddy and Jim sat on one side of the classroom, and I on another – each oblivious to the ties that would bind us three years later.

There were two groups of students at Ninnekah High School: those who were destined for college upon graduation, and those who weren’t. Eddy, Jim, and I fell into the second group; we didn’t have the financial backing to attend college until later in life. Thankfully, Oklahoma had a program that allowed high school Juniors and Seniors to learn a trade through occupational training. For four hours every morning, while our peers sat in stuffy high school classrooms, Eddy, Jim, and I attended Canadian Valley Vo-Tech and gained valuable on-the-job training and experience. Eddy was in the Auto Body program, Jim took Machine Shop, and I was in Secretarial Training. I saw Eddy and Jim every morning in the Vo-Tech parking lot. I parked my Chevy Chevette on the south side across from Jim’s 1968 Cougar, and Eddy’s 1971 GMC step-side pickup. It was in this parking lot where the first words among us were spoken.

“You left your lights on,” Jim told me as I hurriedly walked by him and Eddy on my way to class. I turned around and saw that I had, in fact, left them on. “Thanks,” I said, returning to my vehicle. It was still uncool to associate with younger students.

Vo-Tech was half a day; therefore, we took normal classes back at the high school after lunch. As I headed to Mrs. Stockton’s Marriage and Childcare class, Eddy and Jim sauntered over to Mrs. Pruitt’s Typing class. Unfortunately, neither showed any promise of ever learning to type. After two weeks, Mrs. Pruitt kindly recommended they withdraw from her class – and that his how the boys ended up sitting at my table in Marriage and Child Care.

Eddy and Jim were hilarious. Like Abbott and Costello, the comedic duo fed off each other’s humor, charisma, and charm. They started to grow on me; they made me laugh.

Towards the end of the semester, Mrs. Stockton assigned Jim and I to a research project that involved planning a wedding and honeymoon on a fixed budget. We got an “A” on the assignment. Before the semester was over, Jim and I were dating.

Meanwhile, Eddy met a girl named Sheri. She was from Chickasha. The four of us double dated every weekend. When we had money, we went to Pizza Inn and shared two large pepperoni pizzas. When we were broke, we played Wahoo and drank beer at Jim’s house.

The four of us were inseparable, so when an Air Force recruiter promised Eddy and Jim they could sign up and serve together, we were all in. Known as the Buddy Program, this recruitment tool enticed future Airmen with a promise to attend Basic Military Training with a friend. If they played their cards right, the recruiter said, they could even attend the same tech school and get stationed at the same base! The boys took the bait. Both signed the dotted-line, entered the Delayed Entry Program, and got hitched while they waited to go to boot camp.

Eddy and Sheri were married first. I was the Maid of Honor and Jim was the Best Man. Eddy returned the honor four months later and stood next to Jim at our wedding. Everything was going as planned, then the Air Force suddenly changed the play. Eddy was called up to attend Basic Training in December 1991; Jim wouldn’t get to go until June 1992. Uncle Sam failed to keep his promise; we were devastated.Best Man and Groom, October 1991

Phone calls, letters, and Christmas cards allowed us to stay in touch after we went our separate ways. Every few years, we took leave and met up in our hometown. Each visit felt like old times. Eight years passed when the visits came to an abrupt halt at the news of Eddy and Sheri’s divorce. Having known Eddy longer, I naturally gravitated towards him to offer support. Ironically, he did the same for me two years later when divorce invaded my own life.

Eddy and I bonded through our experiences.  We talked on the phone on a regular basis and emailed daily. When I completed my bachelor’s degree in 2002, Eddy sent me a large bouquet of yellow roses with a note that said he was proud of me. The phone calls started lasting for hours; on many occasions, our conversation outlasted my phone battery. It had been four years since our last visit; we decided it was time for a reunion.

I was living in New Mexico at the time and Eddy was stationed in Utah. We decided I would fly to Utah and then he would drive us to Las Vegas for a 4-day mini vacation. Seeing Eddy again felt like home. I had missed my friend.

You know that old saying, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”? Well, in our case, what happened in Vegas did not stay there. In fact, it followed me home. What happened in Vegas was I fell in love with the Best Man.

Soon after our Vegas trip, I moved to Utah. Eddy proposed shortly thereafter. Being the honorable man that he was, and is to this day, Eddy insisted upon receiving Jim’s blessing, to which Jim happily provided. Eddy and I were married in 2003 in a little wedding chapel in Edmond, Oklahoma. This time, the Best Man and Maid of Honor were Eddy’s children – my new bonus children – Wade and Shani.

He wasn’t my first choice, though he could have been. But one thing is true: Eddy was and always will be my Best Man.

Jim, Vivian, & Eddy, May 2017

           Jim, me, and Eddy – May 2017

~Viv

Retake

As kids across the globe are settling into a brand-new school year, I am reminded of a back-to-school tradition that has some students beaming with excitement and others looking for the nearest door. I am referring to school picture day – the one day where every student is expected to look sharp and smile for the camera. As a perfectionist, this day was torture for me. I was one of those kids who searched for an escape.

School picture day dates back to the beginning of the 20th century. It is a tradition that parents love; they enjoy watching their children grow and mature in photographs. From kindergarten to 12th grade, my mom proudly displayed my goofy mug shot in metal TG&Y picture frames. She either placed them on top of our T.V. console or strung them across the wood paneled walls in our home. She lovingly carried my face in her purse, while Dad transported me in his wallet. Additional copies were reserved for extended family and were used as Christmas card inserts.

As if plastering my photo at home and forcing it upon our relatives wasn’t bad enough, it would also be placed among my classmates in the yearbook. Because our school was small, every student, from kindergarten to senior high, was represented in one book. The whole town would ultimately have access to this album of photos and school-age memories.

That’s a lot of pressure – oh how I hated picture day.

For starters, living in Oklahoma meant there was a good chance it would rain on picture day. Hours of hair prep and layers of Aqua Net hairspray were simply no match for the thick, wet humidity. Next was the stressful decision of what to wear. Earlier years (kindergarten through 2nd grade) were easy. I loved to wear dresses back then, so I simply picked out one of my favorites. The older years were tough. The older I got, the more my body changed – finding tops that didn’t draw attention to my maturing physique became a challenge.

In Junior High I wore glasses. At first, I was self-conscious, but friends assured me the thick, round spectacles looked cute. The compliments boosted my confidence, so I decided to embrace my fresh, new look. But when picture day rolled around, I was terrified my coke bottle glasses would cause a blinding glare and spoil the photograph. I guess I didn’t think the photographer was experienced enough in lighting, angles, or body placement. Nevertheless, I took matters into my own hands. Just before the camera clicked, I tilted my head slightly. “Crises averted!” I thought to myself. No glare here!

It took about 6 weeks for the packets of pictures to arrive. I recall seeing mine and thinking the photo wasn’t the most flattering, but I was proud for being so innovative – there was no glare. I took them home to my mom, who as always, fussed over them and replaced the prior year’s photo with the new one.

Every school has a retake day to accommodate students who were absent on picture day or who simply want a second chance at a decent photo. My parents and I were okay with my pictures; I had even exchanged the wallet-sized ones with friends. So, you can imagine my surprise when I heard my name called over the school loudspeaker as someone who needed to report to the library for retakes!

Who made the decision I needed to have my picture retaken? It wasn’t me, nor was it my parents. I ignored the instruction to report to the library. It must have been a mistake – or was it?

Yearbooks were published and distributed during the last weeks of school. It was customary to scan the pages in search of your picture then pass it to friends and teachers to sign. The goal was to acquire as many signatures and well-wishes as possible on the blank pages. I planned to follow that custom, but there was a problem. The right margin of page 33 displayed my first and last name in printed, black letters, but my photo was not there. Instead, the words, “Picture Not Available” filled the square where my photograph should have been. But my picture was available, I thought to myself. I had proof.

Thirty-five years later and here I am still wondering:  if I would have followed the school’s recommendation to participate in retake day, would my photo have made it into the 1986 yearbook? Maybe – maybe not. But one thing is for certain, if it had, I wouldn’t be blogging about it today. Below is my 8th grade school picture. It may not be the best picture. It may not have been good enough for the school yearbook. But none of that matters. I love it.

What is your school picture story? Post your favorite (or not-so-favorite) school photo in the Forum!

Junior High School Photo

~Viv

Sleepy Tingles

Iron and ironing board

Have you ever fallen asleep listening to the sound of rain showering the roof? Do ocean waves crashing on a sandy shoreline trigger feelings of serenity? Has Bob Ross, with his tranquil voice and mesmerizing tutorials, ever lulled you to sleep watching The Joy of Painting on PBS? If so, welcome to the world of ASMR!

ASMR stands for:  Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. It is a non-clinical term that emerged in 2010 by Jennifer Allen, who was simply searching for a way to describe the tingling, calming sensation one feels when exposed to certain audio and visual stimuli. Many claim that exposure to specific sights and sounds lowers blood pressure, reduces anxiety, and contributes to better sleep. While psychologists, scientists, and researchers continue to compare theories regarding the mystical phenomena, Allen’s discovery has ignited an inferno of artistic YouTube videos intended to impart relaxation to an audience triggered by sight and sound.

Most adults who experience ASMR were first exposed to it as a child. I am no exception. I recall many instances where sounds, such as blowing fans, rustling papers, and lingering thunder, would highjack my senses and place me under a sleepy spell; the most vivid memory I have is when I hung out with my mom while she ironed clothes in her bedroom.

I loved to climb all over on my parent’s queen-size bed; it was so much bigger than my tiny twin. I would play Gilligan’s Island’ and pretend I was a shipwrecked castaway. My young, vivid imagination transformed my parent’s bed into a tropical island with sandy beaches and tall coconut palms. Our shaggy tan carpet was turned into an ocean of clear blue water. There was only one dwelling on the island, and it belonged to me. Built out of bed sheets and pillows, my hut was warm, cozy, and dark. Though light was barred from entering, sound was both permitted and welcomed.

The ironing board creaked and clicked with every stroke of the iron. The fabric swooshed. The starch can sprayed. The water-filtered iron bubbled as it converted water to steam. The plastic hangers clunked together. The wooden clothes pins drummed against the sides of a plastic margarine tub. Every movement produced a unique sound. It was an orchestrated symphony of sheer tranquility that ushered me into a deep sleep.

To this day, when I find it difficult to relax or have trouble falling asleep, I pop in my earbuds and tune in to an ASMR recording. Without fail, I drift off in a matter of minutes.

Those who create ASMR videos are called “ASMRists”. Just like every artist, each have their own way of expressing their art. Test your senses by visiting Rebecca’s Beautiful ASMR Addiction found in Viv’s Favorite Things.  Share your experience in the comment section below or tell me about it in the MemoryBlogger Forum!  Good night and sweet dreams!

~Viv

Junior the Basset Hound

Junior Story_1

This story is the first in a series of fun-loving memories involving the life and antics of our beloved Junior.

On June 18, 2002, Magnolia Rose and Buford Beaureguard Didley welcomed their second litter of basset hound puppies. At 10 weeks, four of the six had gone to live with new families. The last two would have as well if it were not for the owners leaving town unexpectedly. Their extended sabbatical, however, did not stop the puppies from growing. In fact, they doubled in size and at four months, they were considered too old for many prospective families. No longer in high demand, the owners placed a classified ad, describing the puppies as ‘discounted’ purebreds.

My husband, Eddy, grew up during the Smokey and the Bandit era, and like every other 70’s kid, he fell in love with one of the movie’s co-stars: Fred the Basset Hound. Fred was slobbery, fat, stubborn, and had long ears and short legs. What was not to love? As a young boy, Eddy had two basset hounds: Thermador and Buford. They were perfect for kids, he informed me as he scanned the classifieds in search of one for our daughter’s birthday.

There were a couple of purebred hounds listed, but their price tags were over $700 – well beyond the perimeters of our military paycheck. Just when he was about to give up the search, Eddy came across the ad for ‘discounted’ bassets. They were only $300, but were located in Brigham City, 45-minutes away from our home. There was no guarantee the puppies would be there when we arrived. Nevertheless, we took the chance.

Both puppies were insanely adorable. They had fat pot bellies, rows of excess skin, droopy faces, long velvety ears, and short, stubby legs. I had never seen anything so cute in all my life. Their comical appearance was complimented by their goofy personalities. We watched the pair chase each other for a few seconds then abruptly plop down in overexaggerated exhaustion. One of the puppies rested quietly while the other rolled onto his back and began wiggling and growling incessantly. He put on quite the show. He made us laugh.

The puppies already had names, though neither responded when addressed. The quiet, reserved one was named Sam and the obnoxious one was named Eddy. The fact he shared my husband’s name was ironic yet confirming. Eddy won us over with his silly shenanigans. He was perfect for us. Since we already had an ‘Eddy’ in the family, we decided to call him Junior.

Junior the Basset Hound became a member of our family in October 2002. For 13 years, he whined constantly, refused to learn tricks or return a thrown ball, and “punished” us when we left him alone too long. He and I got off on the wrong foot. He treated our daughter like dirt. He loved rough-housing with his daddy. He was a master manipulator when it came to snacks. Our lives and decision-making centered around him. He controlled our hearts. We loved him dearly.

I love sharing memories of Junior and I suspect you enjoy sharing funny stories of your pets too. Jump on over the MemoryBlogger Forum and tell us about your favorite furry friend.

~Viv

 

 

 

 

Bessie’s Chicken Wings

Bessie's chicken wings and veggies

I recently read a story from one of my favorite blogs, Pinch of Yum, entitled “Feeding a Broken Heart.” In this story, fellow-blogger, Lindsay, shares with her audience the pain of losing her infant son and her inability to eat, much less enjoy, food after experiencing such heartbreak. Upon learning of the tragedy, angels quickly descended upon Lindsay’s doorstep bearing gifts of hope and love disguised as casseroles, soups, salads, and desserts. This simple act of kindness, Lindsay proclaims, is what helped her find her way again, both physically and emotionally.

Grief has a cruel way of affecting our appetite. For some, a common side effect of bereavement is overeating. For others, appetite is simply held captive by the heartache, thus starving them of nourishment necessary to heal.

Like Lindsay, there was a time when I, too, found it impossible to eat or enjoy food amidst unexpected sorrow. It had been six days since I had eaten a morsel of food. My stomach was tied in an unforgiving knot and my head pounded from dehydration, yet, I had no intention of eating on day seven. Then my angel showed up.

Her name was Bessie – a co-worker at the Regional Personnel Center in Sembach, Germany. I was an entry-level Personnel Clerk, and Bessie was a seasoned Staffing Specialist. From the moment we met, I felt an immediate connection to Bessie. Her southern charm, sassy spirit, and love for God and comfort food were magnets to my soul. It didn’t take long for our newly formed friendship to develop into a special mother-daughter bond.

I managed to keep my sad news from Bessie for an entire week. I guess there was a part of me that was still in shock. When the pain became too much for me to bear alone, I confided in her that my husband of 10 years informed me that he no longer loved me and wanted a divorce. It was an unexpected blow to my heart, one that Bessie knew well from experiencing her own heartbreak. As she held me in her arms, she asked, “When was the last time you ate?” She knew by the look on my face that it had been a while and with that, she insisted on cooking me dinner.

Bessie had our Friday evening all planned – a home-cooked meal, gospel music, and some good ole Christian preaching by Joyce Meyer. I had never heard of Joyce Meyer, but Bessie loved her teaching and was eager to watch her on some VHS tapes she recently purchased. I have watched Joyce Meyer every day since.

I was greeted by a delicious blend of culinary smells as Bessie opened the door and welcomed me inside. I followed her to the dining area where a heavenly feast of chicken wings, salad, bread, and iced tea awaited me. Bessie made one thing clear: my days of involuntary fasting were over.

Bessie’s chicken wings were tender and juicy inside, no doubt the result of being encapsulated within a perfectly fried exterior. I instinctively closed my eyes and listened to the loud and satisfying crunch. The caramelized sauce was a perfect combination of sweet and savory; the flavor was so intense, it aroused my taste buds and sent me on a feeding frenzy.

With each bite, I literally felt solace enter my broken spirit. Joy began to replace depression, and hope assumed control over impending despair. Hours earlier, I was depleted mentally, physically, and spiritually. Now, I was happy and fulfilled. My angel provided the strength and nourishment I desperately needed to move forward. Everything was going to be okay – I was going to be okay. I had been fed.

Today is National Chicken Wing Day! Head over to the Forum and share your favorite chicken wing story or recipe.

~Viv


Bessie’s Chicken Wings

  • 2 pounds of chicken wings (about 20-25 pieces)
  • 1 cup olive oil (or utilize a deep fryer)
  • 1 cup corn starch or flour (I prefer corn starch, it makes them extra crunchy!)
  • ½ cup of packed brown sugar
  • 2 10-ounce bottles of La Choy Sweet & Sour Sauce
  • 1 6-ounce bottle of Louisiana Hot Sauce
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Rinse chicken wings with water and coat with corn starch. Place coated wings into deep fryer or frying pan with pre-heated olive oil.
Fry wings until golden. Set aside.
Combine brown sugar, sweet & sour sauce, and half a bottle (you can use more if you like them more spicy than sweet) of hot sauce in a mixing bowl. Stir until brown sugar is dissolved.
Dip wings into the sauce and place in an ungreased 9×13 baking dish.
Bake in oven for 10-12 minutes or until sauce begins to caramelize.
Remove from oven. Serve hot.

*Note: The above recipe has been slightly modified to cater to my family’s taste buds.

Pom-pom Mom

When I was a young girl, I used to do flips and cartwheels on a blanket in our front yard. The blanket was supposed to protect my hands from getting pricked by stickers, but it failed miserably, as was evidenced by my bloody palms.

I dreamt of becoming a cheerleader, but I had neither the talent nor the financial backing to bring the dream to fruition. So, I improvised. I bought two purple pom-poms with my allowance money, and I choreographed my own routines at home. I practiced religiously and once I had enough confidence, I put on a show for my mom. I could always count on her to dish out overexaggerated compliments. I was never as good as she made me out to be, but her praise was genuine and loving.

Little did I know, watching me tumble, dance, and cheer in our yard brought back memories of her own childhood. Unlike me, however, my mom fulfilled her dream. Long before my sister and I were a glint in her eye, our mother marched in parades to the Broadway hit Oklahoma! and performed halftime shows at local sporting events. Our mom was a pom-pom girl!

It all started in the late 1950s at a high school basketball game. She was there with her family, watching her brother, Dennis, play. My mom idolized her older brother and loved cheering for him at games, but that night, her attention was drawn to something other than the game. That night, she was drawn to the girls with the colorful pom-poms.

Their performance only lasted a few minutes, but that was just enough time to hook my mom. Although it took some convincing, she eventually talked my grandma into letting her try out for the team, and within a few weeks, she became the newest member of the squad.

My grandma went right to work making a pair of pom-poms out of maroon and white strips of crate paper, and sewing my mom’s uniform, which consisted of a white blouse, short skirt, and a pillbox hat with a strap that came around the chin.

The night of her debut, my mom was filled with nervous energy. She marched out with the other girls and stood in her designated spot. Then it happened. She failed to wait for the cue. She was a half-step ahead of everyone else. While the squad danced in perfect unison, my mom heedlessly performed against the grain. It wasn’t until she looked up to the bleachers and saw the horror on my grandma’s face that she realized she was out of step. But it was too late; she had completed the routine. There was nothing left to do but stand there and politely wait for the other girls to catch up.

I am proud of my mom for the resiliency she displayed at such a young age. She did not let embarrassment hinder her. Instead, she paid better attention, practiced harder, and performed with her squad the remainder of her 8th grade year.

I love that she and I share a similar childhood memory. What fun memories do you have in common with someone you love?  Tell us about them in the MemoryBlogger Forum!

~Viv

Marilyn’s Story

Marilyn the pickup truck

She wasn’t much to look at, but her body enticed my husband the moment he laid eyes on her. He saw something others were simply too blind to see. He saw through her shattered exterior. He saw potential.

This is a story of love, devotion, and legacy. This is Marilyn’s story.

For as long as he could remember, Eddy had his eye on a 1971 GMC step side pickup. It rested on blocks at Performance Auto and Marine in Chickasha, Oklahoma. It was just a shell of a truck – no wheels, tires, transmission, or motor. It didn’t even have seats or a steering wheel. The telephone pole imprint embedded in the grill was evidence it had suffered a collision, which would explain the missing hood. Despite its imperfections, Eddy saw potential and every time he and his dad drove by the shop, Eddy looked to see if it was still there.

At age 14, Eddy convinced his dad to drop by Performance Auto and ask the owner, Garry Snow, if the truck was for sale. Garry said he planned to run it across the scales at the Dog Leg Salvage Yard that week. He thought he’d get about $50 for the scrap metal; if they were willing to pay that, then the truck was theirs. With the money Eddy earned roofing houses for his uncle, he happily forked over the cash.

The truck was hauled and stored at his uncle’s mechanic shop, and for the next two years, Eddy and his dad scouted local salvage yards for parts. Piece by piece, the truck was reassembled and slowly brought back to life. However, the build was far from perfect. Although Eddy did his best to straighten the grill, the telephone pole imprint was still clearly visible. It was missing the tailgate, and the wooden liner was so eroded, you could literally see the ground through the rotted holes. The transmission and motor were the final two components needed to complete the project, however, finding ones that fit Eddy’s budget proved challenging. Luckily, both became available the day his dad wrecked the family’s 1964 Chevelle. The car was no longer drivable, but the transmission and motor lived on in Eddy’s ‘71 GMC.

The blue directional wheels and white-letter Daytona Radial tires Eddy bought from Ralf & Sons Tire Center complemented the cheap $400 blue paint job. It was not the prettiest or safest build, but by the grace of God, it passed inspection and was ready to drive just two days before Eddy’s 16th birthday.

Eddy drove and drag-raced his ‘71 GMC until he joined the Air Force at the age of 18. On December 26, 1991, Eddy parked his truck in his dad’s backyard and handed over the keys with the promise he would return soon to reclaim her. He had no way of knowing at the time that this agreement would eventually land his dad in the Grady County jail.

Twelve years of neglect and rodent invasion took its toll and in 2003, an Enforcement Code Officer told Eddy’s dad that the unsightly truck needed to go or else it would be impounded. His dad informed the officer that he had no intention of getting rid of the truck, as it belonged to his son who was currently fighting the war in Iraq. Furthermore, he said, if the officer ever stepped foot on his property again, he would shoot him. Now, threatening an Enforcement Code Officer was obviously not the proper way to handle the situation and his utter lack of judgement cost him an entire evening in a cold jail cell. The next morning when he went before the judge, he provided the same explanation (minus the threat) as to why he was not going to move the truck. Although the judge did not approve of his misconduct, she dropped the charges since the vehicle was indeed owned by a military member deployed to a war zone.

Eddy honorably served our country for 20 years and retired from the Air Force in 2011. He planned to return to Oklahoma and retrieve his GMC soon thereafter, but found it difficult to take time away from his new job. Therefore, in September 2014, his dad hauled the truck from Oklahoma to be reunited with its original owner. Eddy was shocked to see how much it had deteriorated over the years. All four tires were flat, and it had been overtaken with animal waste, nests, and tree remnants. Critters chewed through the wires and left massive holes in the seat cushions and carpet. Eddy immediately began nurturing her and for the next three months, he called his dad every Sunday to brief him on the progress and his vision of turning the ‘71 GMC step side into a ‘68 Chevy short wide bed. Sadly, on December 10, 2014, the phone calls came to an abrupt halt upon learning the devastating news that his dad passed away due to a massive heart attack.

For 7 years, this restoration project was a weekend escape for Eddy. From mechanical to electrical, to paint and body work, he accomplished every bit of the work himself. Though he executed this project solo in our garage, I am confident my husband was never alone. Just like all those years before, my father-in-law was right there with his beloved son – building, smiling, and encouraging. And when the day came to take Marilyn for her first joy ride, he was right there, riding shotgun.

Story also featured in LMC Truck Life.

In loving memory of Pop.

~Viv

 

My Red Shoe Diary

Viv Dangling Her Red Mila Boots

Do you have a favorite pair of shoes you love? I do. Right now, they are a pair of red Mila boots from Allen’s Boots in Austin, Texas. I have always been drawn to the color red. I think I inherited that trait from my Grandma Schmidt (my mom’s mom). As far back as I can remember, she wore red. Red clothes and shoes, red lipstick, red fingernails, and for many years, she even dyed her hair red. I always admired her boldness and loved that she was so flashy.

Vivian Cumins Childhood Red ShoesI got my first pair of red shoes when I was five. My mom purchased them from the Goodwill store in Chickasha, Oklahoma. They were made of shiny patent leather and had a little chunk heel. A small strap crossed the top of my foot and joined a buckle on the side, and if you looked closely, you could see tiny hearts on the sides too. They were beautiful, and I felt like a princess when I wore them. And I wore them, literally, every day.

At five years old, my sense of style was questionable to say the least, as I paired those fancy red shoes with everything. Dresses, pants, shorts—it didn’t matter to me. I had a “no sock” rule that accompanied my fashion statement, and with that rule came severe consequences. My feet would sweat from hours of outdoor play and by the time I came in for dinner and a bath, my feet were filthy from a mixture of sweat and red Oklahoma dirt. Dare I even mention the smell? It was horrendous. My sweet mom knew how much I loved those shoes. I suspect she wanted to just throw the nasty little things into the garbage, but she did her best to eliminate the odor by pouring baby powder in them in the hopes it would soak up the stench. It never worked.

I wore those red patent leather shoes until the day I could no longer squeeze my growing feet into them. It was a sad day to have to say goodbye. Well, sad for me—my mom was probably overjoyed. Forty-three years later, I am happy to report I have a new favorite pair of red shoes. However, the old saying holds true … a girl never really forgets her first love. Tell me about your favorite pair of shoes!

~Viv

Little Miss Perfect

Colorful Roped Throw Rug

Nobody’s perfect. Things happen. We make mistakes. So, what makes a five-year-old little girl strive so hard for perfection? One would think a five-year-old’s life would be full of imagination, baby dolls, and Barbies—not anxiety, worry, and the need for everything to be “just so.” But for me, everything had to be perfect. I had to be perfect.

MemoryBlogger Vivian Cumins, Age 5, KindergartenMy first memory regarding this notion of perfection took place at West Elementary School in Ms. Clayton’s kindergarten class during naptime.

The carpeted area in the corner of the classroom was reserved for watching Sesame Street in the mornings and taking short naps in the afternoons. Each of us kids brought either a small blanket or a large beach towel to lie on. Those who were serious about naptime also had pillows. Not me, though. I recall my bedding looking different from the others. Mine resembled a roped throw rug but was softer and more flexible. I thought the thick woven threads of bright red, green, yellow, and purple were pretty. The texture was unusual, but I didn’t care.

I was always the last one down. One by one, the other kids would toss their bedding to the floor, curl up, and drift off to sleep … but not me. While everyone else was enjoying a siesta, I was busy fanning my throw rug. I needed it to lay flat and straight before I could lie on it. Most days, it took many attempts to get it right, but every now and then, I would get it right the first time. This was my daily ritual.

Ms. Clayton exercised great patience with me, so the day she snapped came as a total shock. Perhaps I had fanned my rug one too many times or maybe she was just having a bad day. Regardless, her tone that day suggested she was in no mood to put up with me or my ritual. From across the room, Ms. Clayton called out my name and said, “You do that one more time, and you are going to get a spanking!”

What?? Spanking? What had I done wrong? Embarrassed and confused, I let the rug fall to the floor and climbed on top of it. I tried to straighten it with my arms and legs, but it was difficult to do from a horizontal position. Less than satisfied, I felt my embarrassment and confusion quickly turning to anger toward Ms. Clayton—not because she yelled at me in front of the other kids but because she forced me to accept mediocrity.

Did you know perfectionism in children is common? According to child development researcher Katie Rasmussen, as many as two in five kids and adolescents are perfectionists. The good news is there is a plethora of resources available to parents nowadays. For instance, check out this article on How to Help Your Perfectionist Kid. It is a good, easy read.

For those of you who may be wondering … no, that incident did not stop my ritual. I just worked harder at getting my rug to lay flat the first time. And yes, I still struggle with perfectionism, but I have learned a lot over the years. I am a work in progress. In fact, I only rewrote this story three times instead of four!

~Viv

Hi, I’m a Military Spouse

Eddy and Vivian Cumins

I became a military spouse when I was only 19 years old. I remember feeling both nervous and excited the day we gave our lives to Uncle Sam. I say “our” lives because a military lifestyle affects the entire family, which is something the Air Force recruiter failed to mention during his sales pitch. Instead, he boasted how the Air Force was going to take great care of us. The service, he said, would pay for college, give us a housing allowance, provide free medical and dental, and fit the bill for worldwide travel.

Eddy Cumins with Vivian at Military RetirementAll true. Every bit of it. He had us eating out of the palm of his hand in minutes. Looking back now, I suspect his failure to highlight the challenges we would face—I would face—was more intentional than accidental. After all, he was a recruiter with monthly quotas to meet.

Nevertheless, I embraced my new role, and, for 20 years, I proudly served as an Air Force spouse. Here are a handful of observations and lessons learned from my journey:

  1. When your spouse signs the dotted line to serve our country, the whole family begins a life of service before self. The needs of the country will come before yours.
  2. Finances are tight in the beginning. The resources offered to military families regarding financial planning are invaluable.
  3. Getting involved in a military spouse group ensures you are never alone, despite living away from home or in foreign lands.
  4. Family Readiness Centers are situated in every military branch to promote self-sufficiency, mission-readiness, and overall adaptation to the military lifestyle.
  5. The service member is on the clock 24/7. This means they will be late to evening meals; miss dance recitals and birthday parties; and frequently cancel date night. Expressing forgiveness and understanding toward the service member is honorable and appreciated.
  6. The first deployment is terrifying. No amount of preparation or briefings prepare you for the experience. Relying on faith and leaning on your military family, family, and friends helps you to get through it.
  7. Subsequent deployments are just as terrifying and never get easier—they simply provide additional tools to equip you for the next one.
  8. Practicing good OPSEC (operational security) during deployments keeps your service member and our country safe. This include being mindful of what is said to family members and what is posted in email and on social media regarding the deployed location.
  9. Every moment counts when your service member contacts you while deployed downrange. This is not the time to argue, complain, or fuss with your spouse. The reasons why this is so important go without saying.
  10. Never be afraid to ask others for help.
  11. Learning the customs and courtesies surrounding the National Anthem, Retreat, and Reveille—and adhering to them—is respectful and expected.
  12. A military spouse is considered a dependent, and their actions affect the service member. My husband was counseled many times regarding my speeding tickets on base and overdue library books!
  13. It is imperative to keep children’s routines as normal as possible while your service member is gone.
  14. Kids are resilient and typically bounce back quickly; however, changing schools, friends, and scenery every two to four years is not easy for them. Seeking resources to assist with the moves will help them cope.
  15. Having the conversation about funeral arrangements, living wills, and military death benefits stinks but is necessary.
  16. Taking care of yourself benefits not only you but those you care about as well. Nurturing your spiritual well-being and ensuring you eat nutritious foods, drink plenty of water, get some exercise, and sleep at least eight hours will give you strength to be present for others.
  17. Allow time for transition after a deployment. Patience, understanding, communication, and prayer go a long way toward helping you settle back into your normal routine.
  18. Flexibility is paramount. Nothing goes as planned—ever, but the sacrifices are worth it.
  19. Not everyone gets to travel the world on Uncle Sam’s dime. Making the most out of every assignment ensures you have a great military experience.
  20. Purchasing a few formal outfits to have on hand for formal dinners, dining-ins, and military balls saves you the trouble of last-minute shopping. Nowadays, there are places you can rent formal attire for such occasions. Check Rent the Runway, an online service that provides designer dresses and accessory rentals.
  21. People who are not military will not understand anything about the lifestyle. Leaning on your new military family for support will help you avoid frustration and disappointment.
  22. Once a military spouse, always a military spouse. Sharing stories, becoming a mentor, writing a blog, and donating time or resources are ways to keep serving long after retirement.

God bless our current, separated, and retired service members … and a special thank-you to those who bravely love, honor, and support them—my sister and brother, you rock!

~Viv

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