Monday, November 11, 2013

A New Appreciation of Veteran's Day

I have always been a Patriot. When I was a little girl, I chose the New England Patriots as my favorite team simply because I like anything that symbolizes patriotism. My great grandfather was a veteran of WWI. My grandfather a veteran of WWII. My uncle a veteran of Vietnam. My dad is retired Air National Guard. My uncle is retired US Navy. My cousin is active Navy. I come from a long line of patriots and my love of my country and the foundations that we were built on (regardless of how skewed they have become) runs very deeply, indeed. Its why I volunteered to try to bring smiles to Wounded Warriors at the recent event I blogged about. You know, I was supposed to go in the Army... was enlisted but became pregnant a couple months prior to basic training with my son, Dakota.

Now, 21 years later, I have a new appreciation for Veteran's Day... while I missed my opportunity to serve my country because I got pregnant with my son, this year I include my son in those thanks. Where I stumbled, he has stood tall. My pride in my son's commitment and accomplishment greatly outweigh my fears and longing to see him. My son... the submariner.

Nicotye and her Son, Kota
When I post my "thank you" to vets and current military staff on social media, I have a deeper appreciation for the words I say. Too often we regurgitate sentiments from habit, no longer feeling the depth and appreciation for what the words mean. How often do you hang up a phone and, just prior to, say "I love you" as more of a closing statement than a deep and emotional sentiment? How often have I said "Happy Thanksgiving - I am thankful for my family and friends" without taking the time to really feel that appreciation? I admit that I have, in the past, often said (on Veteran's Day or anytime I see military personnel walking through an airport or something) "Thank you for your service" without really taking a moment to feel the depth of their commitment and the sacrifice that they have undertaken to benefit America.

So today, being my first Veteran's Day where I honor all of my relatives who have served, the military persons I may not ever know, and my son... today I feel the appropriate amount of gratitude and sacrifice and commitment and pride that I should always feel when I thank someone for their service. If the only sacrifice I can give to my country is through the geographic distance and frequent lapses in communication that I now have by supporting my son's decision to serve is the hardest sacrifice I have to make, I will take that sacrifice willingly over and over again...

...being a Patriot doesn't mean sitting on my laurels and taking solace in the fact that I know my Pledge and my Anthem and respect my colors... being a Patriot means you have the bravery to give what others may not be willing to give. If I could be there with my son, I would be. If I am ever needed, I will go (regardless that I'm "too old")... and no matter how I feel about whatever political environment that may be around, I will ALWAYS be a Patriot.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Azure World

Roatan Islands, Honduras.  Everything about the name of this destination screams “NOT FOR ME”… not for the girl who loves mountains instead of seas, who loves crisp cold over oppressive heat.  Regardless of where I travel during my wanderlust, this has always (and will always) be my personal truth.  But that doesn’t mean that, on a very rare occasion, I can’t find myself enthralled by the antithesis of my heart’s desires, right? 
One of the photos I took at Lam'anai ruins.

I visited Roatan after having already made stops in Cozumel and Belize.  Belize will always have a soft spot for the anthropological archaeologist in me… but aside from their spectacular Mayan ruins, I think they are just like every other third world country.  I’ve heard my brother and dad rave about the scuba in Belize, but I don’t scuba (nor will I take my limited time there for snorkeling when I have so many ruins to explore!).  So, the morning I walked out on the deck and my eyes experienced Roatan, I have to admit I was shocked immediately by the splendor of the rugged and lush hills.  The water between myself and the island was that specific shade of blue that only the Caribe waters seems to create.  If you haven’t seen the Caribbean, I always use the word “azure” to describe it. While “azure” may simply mean "blue" in Spanish… it’s beyond that.  The sultry yet somehow lazy feel of the word on my tongue (Ahz-zhuer) somehow express the devastating yet comfortable shade that I only seem to find here.  Roatan was surrounded by azure waters accented by the crisper, lighter shades indicative of reefs.  Considering I usually went into ports with a sense of “ugh, how ugly” and “welp, at least it’s just a few hours here then back on the boat!”, this was a dramatic change… I was anxious to get off the boat, don snorkeling gear and get in that water.

We (a group of 20 or so) hopped on the deluxe catamaran known as the Jolly Roger and motored a few miles up the coast to a specific stretch of reef.  Experienced snorkelers (or those who were either great swimmers or arrogantly confident that they had no need of a life vest) were allowed to don our gear and hop into the water with a guide to show us to some pretty cool areas of the reef.  I bet you’ve already guessed, but I’m one of those cocky, arrogantly confident types that didn’t want to feel hindered by a life vest.  I have been snorkeling once or twice and I admit that, while I have a wretched fear of the ocean (ok,… of sharks)… I’m also one natural helluva swimmer…. so screw the PFD! (Err… that’s ‘personal floatation device’… a way cooler way of saying life vest.) 

Stoplight Parrotfish c/o
I hopped in the water and adjusted the bikini, meandering out of the way as I waited on M to jump in.  After he did, he pretty much told me to go on ahead as he adjusted and did his thing.  After a quick 10 yard swim, the reef life below me burst into view flaunting vivid colors of reefs and fishes in varied shapes and sizes.  I made sure I stayed in front of my group (never fun to take a fin to the head!) but kept an eye on where our guide went.  Purple giant ‘leaves’ waved lazily  from the sea floor, rainbows of fishes danced in and out of the reef.  I’d take a deep breath and dive down, going 10… 15… 20 feet down to swim between isles of reef.  I held a starfish who managed to both slither and clamber at the same time as it moved over my hands.  I chased a stoplight parrotfish as we played hide-and-seek from reef to reef.  I gawked in awe at the depth and darkness of the bluff that plunged down at the end of the reef.  I didn’t know it until I got back to the Jolly Roger, but at some point I dove so deep that I managed to give myself a bloody nose and quite painful ear pop which didn’t subside even after I equalized.  When the trip was over,  and no sooner had I been out of the water (blood washed off my face) than I wanted to go back in.  The places I’ve snorkeled were never so wild and free as this… and never in 5’ swells, either (which added to my fun!). 

I fell in love with the island, with the people I met from the island, and with the splendor of snorkeling on their amazing reefs.  While Belize may have equally impressive reefs, I won’t ever find that out (cuz they have SO MANY amazing RUINS!).