thejuliemeister

Musings from an unsuspecting navy wife


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To my 100 year-old self

I recently entered my first writing competition, with high hopes. I didn’t win. That’s ok. I’m still proud of what I wrote. I’d like to share here. Please note, it is a work of fiction, and not my usual honest story. Here is the prompt:

Write an essay to yourself on your 100th birthday. What would you say to yourself at that age? What would your 100-year-old self tell you back? Would it be a conversation of praise and/or regret? Perhaps praise for the achievements in your career, but regrets about a lost family? Or warnings about the mistakes you made in your projected future or in your past; pitfalls you happened to be dragged into, temptations you could not resist; or celebrations for the good character you were able to display and sustain over a life; a precious life wasted or a life lived as it was meant to be.

This was my submission:

To my 100-year-old self,

Growing up, I never really saw myself past college. Through that point, everything was planned for me. Each step was clear to completion. I would graduate high school, be accepted to some university, and get a degree in whatever seemed most suitable. After that was a blank in my mind’s eye. Sometimes I assumed I would die young.

I drifted. I worked jobs that seemed professional. I paid my bills. I dated boys who had no promise just to feel connected. For a time I put my hope in Dean. It was safe to pine for someone I knew never wanted me. When that crumpled I felt lost again.

Then Cameron came along. We were both adrift. We knew our core selves, but lacked direction. We met at a party in Monterey that neither of us were invited to. Do you still remember that night?

It was a mustache and wig party, which was very much in vogue in 2011. Cameron had a mullet wig and a drawn-on handlebar mustache. He chain-smoked and drank Cobra malt liquor from a paper bag. You wanted nothing to do with him. Not only was he mildly repellent, but he was also a naval officer, and those were off-limits.

God he was persistent. He called, texted, emailed and showed up at the office to make sure I’d go out with him. It worked. Less than a year later we were married, and we have changed around each other and are both better for it. Today he is my heart and hopes.

With Cameron and his career, I’m not lost. I have a path that will take us through the next dozen years before he can retire. But again I find that I don’t see anything beyond what the Navy throws at him with me in tow. Perhaps that’s why I’m not entirely certain what to say to myself at a wizened old age.

Today, the oldest man I know is Mr. Byrd. I’m sure that by 100 the time I spent working in his office will be an insignificant blip, but to me today, it is encompassing.

Mr. Byrd is 86, 14 years younger than you, and to me he is ancient. I cannot fathom myself at his age or beyond. He walks with a cane and it looks like all of his heft has settled low on is torso, as if his skin was a cloth bag where all of the contents drifted down to the bottom in lumps. Every morning I ask how he is and he consistently responds “still here- still alive.” Then chuckles to himself as I giggle uncomfortably. His frame may be old, but his wit hasn’t ebbed.

Will I be like that one day? With papery thin skin that breaks and bruises with little provocation? Will I maintain my mind even as my body ages and fails me? Or will I be like mom’s mom, Grandmae, and slowly lose my purchase on reality until I no longer recognize my own grandchildren? I’ll admit both prospects frighten me.

What frightens me most though is the idea that I’ll never truly become anything. I want to be a mother. I want to be a writer. I want to be able to climb out of my depths when I fall. I want to define myself outside of the life of an officer’s wife.

I assume we’ll have children. I ache for them. But I am so afraid I won’t be able to. If we do, I’m so scared that I’ll do something wrong. I want to be a good mother. Even though I have great parents, I have no idea what to do. Will I be alright? Will I even be able?

What will I regret the most? What will fill me with the most joy? Will I survive Cameron’s deployments? Will he? We’ve never had to deal with the uncertainty of months apart and I’m terrified that it will break me, or us.

I hope by 100 I’ll have everything figured out. I hope to accomplish the things I have set forth for myself to feel fulfilled. I hope Cameron is still with me at a cantankerous 103. I hope to have children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to carry on in my passing. I hope to be unafraid. I hope to still be me.

With that, I’ll sign off. I hope to meet you one day.

-Me (28 years, 4 months, 29 days)

To my younger self,

At 28 we were living in Hawaii- weren’t we? In the course of Cameron’s career, we moved 8 times in 14 years. I recall Mr. Byrd though, and he was in the Hawaii days.

I’d forgotten how afraid and anxious I was back then. Everything seemed up to chance and I agonized over every decision, trying to see every way that it might impact my future. If there’s one thing I’d like you to know now, it’s not to worry so much. It never did any good.

Jobs will come and go. A stable career wasn’t exactly possible with Cameron in service. You’ll freelance write and teach music classes around the world. It will fill your time and make you feel useful.

Deployments will be hard. Cameron’s longest deployment was 11 months and 3 days, and I missed him the whole time. There will be temptations for you both. I can’t say you’ll be flawless. You’ll drink too much and one especially lonely night you’ll kiss another man.

That mistake will haunt you. Many women will have full-blown affairs and never feel an ounce of guilt. One kiss was enough to spiral into shame and never feel tempted again. Cameron forgave you in an instant, but it took longer for you to forgive yourself. Be careful with your heart.

There will be hardships. Nothing will shake you to your bones more than dad’s death. There are tales from antiquity of wailing women beating their breasts in grief. The modern age doesn’t allow for these demonstrations; grief is supposed to be kept impersonal. A post to your online profiles (there will be many) and insincere nods to condolences are all that’s expected. But you’ll know the primal urge to cry out to the universe and shout to the injustice that rips away someone you love.

Dad will be the first to strike you down, unexpected and earlier than you’d dreamed, but mom will follow in years, then others you’ll learn love along the way. People will say that time will heal the void, but it won’t. In time you’ll mold yourself around these gaps and learn to survive the loss. The wounds will never leave.

You’ll only ever try it once, and it was a feeble attempt.   Barely more than a nick below the heel of your hand that won’t even pierce the vein. The pearl of crimson will be enough to break the spell of despair and make you crave life again.

A miscarriage triggered the attempt. It was before we knew if we would have children, and not long after dad. Cameron was deployed. It was a perfect storm of hopelessness that left you teetering between numbness and a tear in the soul. I thought there was no way to soldier on. But we did.

Sometimes, all you need is a good dog. Even when you can’t take care of yourself and grow gaunt in despair, you won’t be able to keep from caring for a dog. And a dog will comfort and care for you when you feel alone. Rico, the Portuguese Water Dog, kept you going through that dark time, and within 2 years you were ripe with motherhood.

There will be moments of supreme joy. You will conceive, carry and birth a child. It will be the most terrifying action of your existence, but it will be worth it. You will get splendidly fat and happy in pregnancy. You will feel full to breaking with glee when you first see our child’s face. It will be covered in blood and birth, and even so you will hold her tight and smother her with kisses.

You will not be perfect. No parent is. Every cut, bruise, break or hardship she feels will cause you more anguish than her. You’ll blame yourself for every pain she ever meets, but know that it won’t be your fault. You can’t save her from living and if you could, it wouldn’t be worth having her.

Cameron will blossom in fatherhood. He will allow our girl to put clips in his short hair and drink countless cups of imaginary tea. You will fall more in love with him as he forgets all self-consciousness in order to make her happy. Those years when she is young will be the happiest and hardest you’ll ever know.

When Cameron goes, part of you will too. He was basically deaf at the end, and cancer had plagued him for years. I know it was a mercy. I know he hurt, but my selfish heart wanted him to stay with me for always. You’ll know by now that it wasn’t always rosy. We bickered constantly. But we only ever fought because we cared, and that caring won’t die with him.

Through it all, you became yourself. In our youth, we felt the need for titles, for acceptance and for validation from others. We fought doing anything for simple pleasure. We fought turning inward to see what in life would make us happy. We tried to always do what was within some outside view of what we thought the world intended for us. None of that really matters.

The world will continue to be beautiful yet hideous, exciting but mundane, frantic and still. It will continue to change beyond recognition, but stay constant. The same is true in us.

-Still Me (100 years and a day


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Big Bottoms

This may date me, or it may be a trait endemic to DJ’s the world over, but I’m fairly certain that every school dance I attended ended with “Baby Got Back” before the gym lights came on. (It was also likely preceded by KC and Jojo’s “All my Life.”) Thanks to Sir Mix-a-Lot, I knew what an anaconda did and did not want before I actually knew what an “anaconda” was.

Innuendo may have escaped me, but the knowledge that I lacked a bodacious behind did not.

My derriere has no curvature. From the side, it’s hard to tell which aspect is front or back. It’s pitiful. I’m confident that whoever invented these panties had me in mind. I’ve written about body acceptance before, and in general, I do make every effort to love my body, but man, sometimes I wish for a bum capable of breaking the Internet.

One of my besties has the opposite problem. She buys jeans that are too big in the waist to accommodate her backside. I asked her if I could write about her butt, and she agreed. There are good friends, and then there are the friends who are totally ok with it when you ask to write about their butts. (This is the same friend who had the unfortunate task of explaining to both of our mothers that Ginuwine isn’t actually an equine enthusiast.)

My galpal doesn’t understand my fascination with big booties. She thinks of it as a curse. She gets teased sometimes. She wishes she had a more even dispersal between breasts and butt. I can’t help but thinking boobs are great, but the poetic accolades attributed to bottoms far outweigh those for milk-makers.

Think about such greats as the “Thong Song,” “Bootylicious,” “Shake Your Groove Thing,” or my personal favorite, “Big Bottoms,” because how could you leave that behind? Boobs feel so tawdry by comparison.

As with most things, I suppose we always want what we can’t have. Despite countless squats and running literally thousands of miles, my fanny has never really shaped up. I’ll live. But I’ll always wonder what it feels like to actually fill out a pair of jeans and get noticed for it.

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Growing Up

The other day I was binge-watching shows on Netflix. It was a cop drama, my fave. The lady cop was going through a box of childhood belongings, and I saw a beanie baby in the mix.

My first thought? “She’s WAY too old to have played with beanie babies as a kid! I played with those! And she’s a grown-up cop!”

Wait a minute. She’s probably late 20’s, same as me.

Holy crap I’m an adult.

I have no clue when it happened, or how I managed not to notice. I’m married. I have several nieces and nephews. My husband and I are thinking about starting a family. I pay taxes. How did this escape me?

Somewhere a shift happened. I’m no longer in that “young” demographic. Teenage soap opera addiction aside (I love me some Pretty Little Liars), I have more in common with the parents in a sitcom than the kids. I’m no longer the youngest person in my office. In my head I’m still a teen.

Maybe that’s just how it goes. One day we realize that we’re in the next phase. We can’t stop the world from moving forward, and if we’re lucky, we’ll keep moving with it.

I’m older now than my mom was when she became a mother. Considering how little I know now, this fact is completely terrifying. It’s finally dawning on me that my parents really were making it up as they went along. I had always assumed that they knew everything. Now as I’m thinking of starting my own family, I realize that I’ll be doing the same.

There is no trick to adulthood. There is no one to tell you if you’re actually doing it right. Well, there are jerks who will give their 2 cents, but nobody really knows for sure. Not even Oprah.


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2014 Stats- I’m humbled and amazed

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 18,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.


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To My Dear Niece Piper,

Piper and her Gramps taking a nap

Piper and her Gramps taking a nap

You cannot know this yet, but you are massive. At 4 months and 18+ pounds, you outweigh many healthy babies twice your age. You are over 26 inches long, which is literally off the growth chart. You, little-big-miss, are destined to be tall.

At my measly five-foot-nine-and-three-quarters inches tall, you will likely surpass me before reaching high school. I anticipate you will be well over 6 feet, just like my great aunt (your great-great-aunt) Rita. Above averageness tends to run in the family.

Usually, being tall will seem like the coolest blessing ever. You’ll stand out amongst, or above, your peers. But there is a responsibility that comes with being tall that is never fair.

Grown-ups will always assume you’re older than you are. Unfortunately, grown-ups generally judge age by measuring a kid against themselves. You won’t fit those guidelines. At 5 they’ll think you’re 7, and by 12 you’ll practically be an adult. You will always be held to a standard higher than your age requires.

There are also assumptions people make about tall folk. Get used to hearing the following four words: “do you play basketball?” Maybe you will. Unfortunately, if you’re anything like your mom and me, coordination and organized sports won’t really be your forte. Your mom once broke her foot trying to run backwards. That was the end of her volleyball career.

Good luck finding clothing that fits. I was wearing adult-sizes before the end of elementary school because I needed longer pants. You will almost never be able to find clothing in a regular department store, and will instead be a connoisseur of Internet retail.

Sometimes you’ll find height can be awkward. You will always be designated to put up posters and grab things from high shelves. You’ll need to stoop through some doorframes, and you’ll frequently be able to see over the top of bathroom stalls (try not to make eye contact). But you’ll learn to take it in your ultra long stride.

If there’s one thing I want you to know, it’s to never let anyone make you feel like you’re un-feminine. Some boys will feel threatened by you, or think that you’re an Amazon warrior who cannot be tamed. But that’s their problem. You can be the girliest girl who wears platform pumps every day if you want. Or you can wear chucks and jeans if that’s what suits you. Always remember that it’s your choice to decide who you want to be.

So Piper Jane, that’s what I’ve got for you. You’ll be the envy of many, and you’ll probably never need a stepping stool. With giant parents to guide you, I’m sure you’ll be just fine.

Love,

Auntie J


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Auntie J

I’ve known my sister my whole life. Sometimes I’ll say Allyson is my oldest friend. She and I met the first day of 7th grade and have never fallen out. And while I love Allyson, and I consider her my sister, the fact is, I have a sister, and truth be told, my sister, Sarah, is my oldest and truest friend (sorry Al).

My sister was 2 years, 9 months old when I was born. I’m confident my mom regrets getting pregnant just as her first child entered the terrible two’s. Neither of us made it easy on her, or each other.

I locked my sister in a closet once. It was an accident. I was maybe 3, and she was probably 5. We had decided that the closet was a secret cubby-clubhouse. Sarah would sit in the closet and I’d close the door. After 3 knocks I promised to open the door for her. She couldn’t open it from the inside. It was a measure of trust to my tiny being. I had to be vigilant to the sacred cubby-clubhouse.

I closed the door. Then my mom called out that lunch was ready, and all that my sister heard was the thump-thump-thump as my tiny feet scampered towards a delectable grilled cheese sandwich.

She knocked three times- nothing. She called my name- no response. Her 5-year-old brain concluded she would live in the closet the rest of her life, and the only food she would ever eat was pancakes- because they were the only edible item that could squeeze under the closet door.

To this day, my sister isn’t comfortable in confined spaces. I can’t think of any other relationship that can withstand imprisonment and stay intact. But now we laugh about it.

I remember that around the time she was in double-digits and I was merely a single-digit child, we fought all the time. We lived in Michigan then. I still remember one day skating on the frozen pond out back in the winter and her trying to apologize for something, and me being obstinate and skating away. I’m sure another day the same happened in reverse.

As we grew older, we still fought. I stole so many of her clothes, which inspired many battles. There were years when I wasn’t sure whose panties were whose. To this day, I still wear a pair of her old workout shorts.

By high school she was a senior and I was a freshman. Sometimes it felt like we were in different worlds. Then one day she had a high school tragedy. Several of her friends banded together to share a limo to prom. Sarah and her boyfriend (now husband) had not been invited.

Sarah found me at lunch. She was distraught. She had other friends who hadn’t been in on the prom-deception, but she wanted to talk to me. She wanted to be able to cry in front of someone. I didn’t know what to do, but I listened.

That was when our relationship started to shift in my mind. We had always loved each other, but to some degree, it had been an obligatory love. We’re sisters after all. But that day I started to understand something that it’s taken me years to vocalize. I began to know that we need each other.

Siblings are the only ones who know where you came from, and how you came to be who you are today. They’re the ones who will accept you no matter what, even when you accidentally lock them in a closet because you really wanted a grilled cheese sammie. They’re the ones who will be there with you through the greatest joys and deepest sorrows. Sarah was with me when our grandfathers’ died, and we held each other’s flowers during our respective weddings.

This week, my sister had her first child- a girl, Piper. It is hard to describe my joy. I didn’t conceive or carry this child. But I feel connected to her because she is a part of my sister, and that makes her a part of me.

This baby is something my sister made. My sister, who is claustrophobic because of me, who has known me since before I was born, who is the most understanding person I know, this woman has had a baby. She helped to take care of me even when I fought it. And all I can think is that she’ll be fantastic at raising her baby girl.

Piper is a lucky lass.IMG_1238


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All Bodies Have Issues

Lately I’ve seen several videos or general Internet posts about loving your curves. Thank God. As a teen, I was chubby. I felt like I was wrong. There were no idols or messengers readily available to say that I should love my chubs. I vividly remember a magazine that on one page chastised the modeling industry for promoting blatantly unhealthy body types, and on the next page used those same models with microscopic waists to demonstrate fall fashions.

Today, there are role models. There are women with curves who say that curves are good. They provide a younger generation with hope for acceptance. They make larger ladies feel more confident and less self-conscious. All of this is good.

But there is a price. It seems like many of the spokeswomen for curves can’t speak up for curves without either directly or indirectly saying something negative about thin women. It’s as if in retribution for not being classified as the current cultural ideal, there is a need to vilify individuals who fit the current “model” mode.

Ladies, let’s be real. Why can’t we exalt being fat or thin, and everything in between, without putting down our opposites?

Ideals on body size are malleable. My mom told me that in the 60’s, she used to get teased for being skinny. Her classmates called her Olive Oil, after Popeye’s girlfriend. Her scrawniness was not considered a blessing. If she’d been a teen in the 2000’s she’d probably be considered crazy hot.

Socially desirable body types change over generations and across cultures. Germany’s Renaissance artist, Rubens was famous for commemorating fleshy women. A few centuries later and the English Victorian era brought on corsets that made every effort to reduce waists to zero while lifting breasts to impressive heights (the only casualty being lung capacity).

Today, it seems clear that the model ideal is tall and thin. Everything else is just so-so according to fashion week. I’m sure some women believe that growing inches and dropping pounds is all it takes to achieve perfection and happiness. But truly, no physique is perfect, and curvy or thin, it’s most important that we’re happy with ourselves and we treat our bodies well.

In my life, I have purchased jeans in sizes ranging from size 2 to 18. I am 5’10” and my height combined with former size 2 frame might be considered ideal. At a size 2, I still had cellulite. My thighs still touched. My waist was tiny and my body fat was low, but I can testify that it was not perfect.  

I still felt awesome as a skinny minnie. I ate unending vegetables, drank infrequently, and was able to run at super speeds. My body felt healthier and more energetic than ever. It wasn’t perfect, and I definitely had body image issues. I can honestly say I obsessed over my shape and felt disappointed that my body didn’t look like those in magazines. It was like I’d leveled up to the ultimate size, and found that I was still lacking. But over time I realized that I physically felt good, I felt comfortable in my skin, and I could let the other stuff go and be happy with where I was.

Right now, I’m hanging in around a 4-6. I’m out of marathon training, which usually sees me gain a few pounds. Training for my next race starts this week and I anticipate I may go back to the minute frame after a couple of months in the regime. Unfortunately, I know from experience that being thin garners as much judgment, both positive and negative, as being overweight. Frankly, I didn’t want to be judged as a chubby chick, and I also don’t want to be judged as a skinny one. I’d rather have folks form opinions on me based on who I am. I am smart, I like to read, I like to play music, I run obscene distances and I watch an absurd amount of trash tv. All of this says more about me than my pant size.

It feels like anyone who calls attention to being awesome for being any specific body type shifts the conversation from being about personal attributes to being strictly about size. I understand that body image is an important part of the female psyche, but should it be the most important? In a perfect world, would we judge ourselves on our size, or on something else?

So ladies, I’d like us all to make a pact. Let’s all agree to love ourselves, regardless of our size or shape. Let’s agree not to judge each other for being big or small. Let’s agree to focus on mind and body health. Let’s decide to change the conversation from being fat or thin, to a discussion on what makes us tick.

This is me.  And I’m going to try to to keep happy with that.

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