Archive for the ‘Life’ Category
I was trying to decide what to write for this week’s post. For inspiration, I headed over to my friend’s blog. I liked her “About Me” section and thought it might be fun to do something similar. Here goes.
Name: Kiki. It all started when I was talking to my sister on the phone. She told her son, (who was not even two years old at the time),”Say Hi to Aunt Kristy… Can you say Aunt Kristy… Aunt Kristy…”
“Kiki!” he blurted out. Well, the name stuck. For a while, I was Kiki, then I became Aunt Kiki, once my nephew got a bit older. Now, all of my nieces and nephews call me Aunt Kiki. Some kids who aren’t my nieces or nephews also call me Aunt Kiki. I don’t mind at all.
How to get in touch with me: leave a comment (pretty please?!) Or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Food: chocolate, hands down. My current favorite meal is artichoke risotto (it sounds a lot fancier than it is!). I make an easy version of this in my slow cooker. It’s vegan, gluten-free, and delicious. It’s definitely Kristy-proof. I’m not very domestic, but I’m learning.
Movie: I love Casablanca, Fools Rush In, The Princess Bride, Definitely Maybe. I grew up watching When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle. Apparently I love rom coms.
TV show: Dr. Phil (hey, don’t judge), Once Upon a Time, Doctor Who, X-Files, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones. My husband and I binge-watch shows on Netflix.
Book: To Kill a Mockingbird, The Giver, Harry Potter series, Twilight series, Hunger Games series. For a while there, I didn’t read much for pleasure. But I’m starting to again.
Color: Purple is my favorite, followed by blue, then green. In that order.
Band: I usually get tired of listening to one sound for too long a period of time. Back when people used to listen to cds, I would switch out a cd long before it ended. Some bands/artists I could stand for more than three songs in a row: Sam Cooke, UB40, Beyonce/Destiny’s Child, Norah Jones, Fleetwood Mac, Pink, Elvis
Season: Summer. To me, there are two seasons. Summer and Not Summer. That said, I do enjoy the small window in the fall when the air is slightly brisk and the leaves are changing. That lasts maybe a couple of weeks around here though. I also love a good snowfall. However, where I live, we usually only get maybe three good snowfalls a year.
Animal: I love most animals, but cats of all varieties are probably my favorite. Wild and domesticated.
Soda: ginger ale. I just love ginger ale. Added bonus: it’s caffeine-free!
City: Aw man, I can’t pick just one! I love San Diego, Stuttgart (Germany), Paris, Barcelona, Berlin… I lived in Stuttgart for three years. At least once a month, I would travel to a different European city.
Flower: Lilies – the white ones that smell amazing. Once, I was in a hallway in a government building, when I smelled fresh lilies. I saw someone in the hallway and I said to him, “I swear I smell lilies… is that weird?” He motioned for me to follow him. He then opened a huge steel door behind him. Inside, there was a HUGE bouquet of beautiful lilies. I mean, there were at least two dozen lilies in there. The folks in the office said that someone had sent lilies to their coworker, but no one knew knew who they were from. A mystery!
Recent major life change: I recently left the Navy after 12 years so I could stay home with my son. I am now in the Reserves.
Guilty pleasure: fashion. I love watching fashion and beauty videos on YouTube. I also looove getting comments on my blog.
I was watching my baby son sleep, and I noticed him making “nursing motions” with his mouth. He was obviously dreaming. It made me wonder…
Our little one, at 12 days old: http://www.rebeccadanzenbaker.com/newborns
What do babies dream of?
Blue animals with cotton candy clouds,
A world where darkness never shrouds,
An endless supply of tasty milk,
Diapers made only of silk,
Forever snuggling in their mothers’ arms,
Acres of petting zoos and rolling farms,
Soaring as airplanes in their fathers’ hands,
Someday traveling to foreign lands,
A never-ending game of peekaboo,
An ever-lasting supply of teethers and toys to chew,
Myriad stuffed animals who cuddle and talk back,
Never having to worry if they are “on track,”
Someday growing up,
Finally learning to drink from a cup,
Conversing with another baby?
Connecting with others, maybe?
Perhaps, instead, their dreams are not images, but feelings,
And much more important than our everyday dealings.
Comfort, security, and peace.
Love, and the space to just… release.
Maybe this is what babies dream of.
Man, does my life look different nowadays.
A year and a half ago, I married my husband. I instantly became stepmother to my now 12-year-old stepson. In February 2016, I gave birth to my son. I’ve been on maternity leave since. Next month, I’ll be leaving the Navy (and transitioning into the Reserves). So, I went from being a naval officer to a stay-at-home mom in a couple of years’ time.
A friend asked me how I like staying home with the baby. To which I replied, “Sometimes I feel like I’m going out of my mind, but I’m really glad I won’t miss any milestones.” (I love my son dearly, but he doesn’t talk.) My new life feels strange sometimes. Some days it feels like I’ll be going back to work soon, and other days I just don’t know what to do next. Play with the baby? Clean the house? Meet a friend for lunch? Write in my blog? I’ve never had this much say (or lack of structure) in my own time before. And it feels weird.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s exactly what I wanted. But that doesn’t make it any less of an adjustment. When people ask me what I do, I still say, “I’m in the Navy” (which is technically true until the end of next month). Which leads to a discussion about going back to work.
I’m not sure exactly why I want others to know I’m a naval officer. Maybe it’s because I’m proud of my accomplishment. Or because it took some time and effort to become one. Or because I dedicated 12 years of my life to being one. And it seems as though I’m dismissing that effort just in how I answer one question.
I can’t seem to stay, “I stay home with my son” as my first (and only) answer. Being a mother is much harder, and more rewarding, than my career in the Navy has been. There is also no set hours, time off, breaks, or holidays. I should be proud of “just” being a stay at home mom. Yet I feel the need to elaborate.
Maybe as I settle into this new role, I’ll answer the question of “What do you do?” a bit better. Until then, maybe I’ll learn not to care so much about what other people think.
A Lot of Life Change
I’ve had a lot of life change in a short amount of time. In Spring 2014, I finished my Master’s degree. A couple of months later, my beloved cat of 11 years unexpectedly passed away from kidney failure and other issues.
Later that year, I married my amazing husband, Brett. I inherited my now 12-year-old stepson, who lives about five hours away.
In the same weekend, I was promoted to a new rank in the military.
Then, Brett and I made the huge decision for me to leave my career as an active duty naval officer.
In the meantime, Brett and I became pregnant with our first child together. I am now 22 weeks along. We plan to move to another state to be closer to my stepson in about a year and a half.
Therefore, in a few short months, my life will look very different than it does now, and wildly different than it did just a few years ago. A lot has changed already: my last name (which is hyphenated), my decision-making, my priorities, my personal space, my time, my weekends, and even my friends. Whew!
While As I reflect (Kiki Reflects, get it? hee hee) on my life, the biggest change, for me, is the inward one: my identity. Many of these changes are ones I wanted and therefore actively sought. And in a way, that’s scary. It’s scary because I finally became an active participant in my own life.
Living a Lie
Before I met Brett, I was at a position I hated, working in a toxic environment, in a location I didn’t want to be in, in an unfulfilling relationship. I was so unhappy, and I felt as though I had little control in my own life. As a result, I went into “survival mode.” At work, I pretended I was okay, that this career and life was what I wanted. I trudged on with my schoolwork, steadily earning my Master’s degree in a field I wasn’t 100% sure I wanted to continue in. I kept myself busy, earning additional certificates and attending courses. I was very successful, earning top grades in school and top marks in my career. But it wasn’t what I wanted.
I was living a lie. I had these secret goals and desires, yet my daily actions weren’t furthering any of them. It felt like a storm was consistently brewing inside of me. I often felt like a caged animal.
Then, I asked myself, deep down, what my dreams were. I found that I wanted to get married and have kids someday. I didn’t want a career in the Navy anymore. I wanted a creative outlet. I wanted to help others, particularly in the field of pyschology. I looked at my life and began changing it to look more of the way I wanted it to look.
Taking Steps Towards My Dreams
First, I ended the unfufilling, long-distance relationship I was in at the time. The one where I was emotionally drained after most interactions. The one with no clear future. The one where my dreams were seen as silly and stupid. It was difficult to end, but so freeing. It freed up space for more meaningful relationships. It allowed me to meet my soulmate.
Then, I met Brett. When we started dating, I thought to myself, “Wow, this is amazing. This is the way it’s supposed to be.” Our values aligned and I felt as though I could be myself, and that was okay. Not to mention that Brett happened to be the most attractive man I had ever dated, on the inside as well as out. I hate to admit, but Brett was the first one I was 100% honest with about my goals for the future. One of those goals was to get married and have kids someday. To my surprise, he didn’t run!
Brett encouraged me to pursue my dreams. To do that, I needed to free up more space in my life. I stopped selling cosmetics (something that didn’t really feel like me). I stopped teaching yoga for a while. I finally finished my Master’s degree (it took me four years of being a part-time student by the way. Man am I glad that’s over).
On Christmas day, 2013, Brett proposed (yay!), and we planned a beautiful wedding.
Our wedding was the happiest day of my life… until we discovered we were pregnant. Brett and I also worked hard to pay off all of our debt to become debt-free. Once we did that, we decided it was the right time for me to put in my paperwork to separate from the Navy.
A Sense of Peace
Therefore, even though my life is currently a hubbub of excitement, with a lot of life change, I feel more peaceful than I have in years. Because I finally had the courage to say what my dreams were. Out loud. Because someone else believed in me and encouraged me to follow those dreams. And because I am finally taking steps towards fulfilling those dreams.
What am I going to do after the Navy? I don’t have an exact plan for that yet. It’s going to involve something among being a wife and mother, writing, photography, and studying psychology. For the very first time in my entire life, I don’t have an exact plan. And I’m okay with that.
Last week, we lost a dear family member, my precious Aunt Marie.
The family is still reeling from the colossal loss.
Aunt Marie was a sweet and special aunt to me, and a loving mother to her four boys, all grown now with wives/fiancees and children of their own.
Aunt Marie started off as one of four sisters. She was the eldest, followed by my mother, then Aunt Louise, with Aunt Fran being the baby. I never got to to know Aunt Louise – she was mentally ill, diagnosed with schizophrenia at a young age, and died when I was a teenager. The other three ladies, however, became my guides and my lifeblood.
Mom, Aunt Marie, and Aunt Fran made the perfect complement to each other. Aunt Marie was kind, soft-spoken, and non-judgmental. She dearly loved those around her, and they loved her back. She loved being around all of her boys and their families, with all the loud joking, horseplay, and sports talk. Aunt Marie loved to talk to family and friends on the phone, offering a kind word or a gentle joke. If you need someone to just listen and not judge you or offer unsolicited advice, or even someone to watch Grey’s Anatomy with, you knew to call Aunt Marie.
Aunt Marie’s only downfall was that she always put herself last. In spite of the fact that she had diabetes and heart problems, we still couldn’t get her to eat right or stay hydrated, no matter how much we admonished her. She would rather suffer quietly in pain that assertively ask the doctor to do something about it.
Aunt Fran is on the other end of the spectrum. As opposed to Aunt Marie, who loved being in a room full of people, Aunt Fran prefers to be by herself or with a good friend, curled up with her blanket and her cat, watching some good TV. She is assertive and has a strong sense of what she wants in life. One of the things I love about Aunt Fran is that you know exactly where you stand with her. If you need someone to give you some tough love and tell you the advice you know you should be taking, you call Aunt Fran.
There are a lot of people Aunt Fran doesn’t like; if she does like you, consider yourself VERY lucky. Some folks never see past Aunt Fran’s somewhat spiky exterior. But that’s where they’re wrong. Underneath it all, Aunt Fran is one of the kindest and strongest people I know. She would do almost anything for the people closest to her. She also feels things very deeply and worries about her family and friends. She thinks of them and carries them with her through her daily life. I consider myself blessed to know her.
In between these two ladies is my mom, Phyllis. My entire life, she has been my guiding light and my compass. Outgoing and charismatic like Aunt Marie, she loves and is loved by many. She herself has a lot of opinions, but she usually keeps them to herself, unless you know her well enough. I like to think I’m her best friend, because she certainly is mine. My mom taught me how to be a good person and I can’t imagine my life without her.
With Mom, you have to be careful because you can easily hurt her feelings. She wears her feelings on her sleeve and her many, many friends love her for it. At the same time, she is the most emotionally strong person I know. When we lost my dad, she was the only person in the room with him. When Aunt Marie’s time was near, Mom kept pushing on, never leaving her side (except once to go to the bathroom).
If I want advice on how to follow my heart and see the absolute best in people, I call my mom. If I’m going through something devastating and need someone to be there for me, I call my mom.
You see, these three women perfectly complement each other. They leaned on each other throughout their lives, sharing experiences, joys, laughter, and pain. They celebrated each other’s triumphs and mourned each other’s losses. They were always there for each other, no matter how annoyed they got with each other.
Now, it makes me most sad to think of my mom and my Aunt Fran without my Aunt Marie. It’s like a triangle with a missing, vital side. It’s hard for me to imagine that it’s just Mom and Aunt Fran now. It seems wrong, somehow. Now they have to learn how to navigate life without one of the people they turned to most for support. I know they’re lost and I’m lost for them.
I pray that love and faith will see them (and me) through this. I have some comfort in the fact that Aunt Marie is not in pain anymore, and that she’s watching over us from heaven, as our guardian angel. Telling us to not be so hard on ourselves, to indulge our sweet tooth, and to cuddle our pets every chance we get. And to remind us that time with our loved ones is precious, and we never know when it’s going to run out.
Triangles Coming Together to Make an Abstract Rose, Photo Credit
After my post last month on my decision to resign from active duty naval service, several folks have asked for a follow-up. Well, I submitted my resignation letter, and it is officially being processed. It came as a shock to a few members of my chain of command. One of my bosses said he “hates to lose such a good naval officer,” and that he was signing my endorsement, “with regret.”
Based on past and present feedback, I am a good naval officer. I received several awards, top marks on my evaluations (the Navy calls these fitness reports), and filled some tough positions that were higher than my pay grade. Even my subordinates told me they thought I was a great leader and they enjoyed working for me.
Therefore, my decision to leave my 11-year-long successful naval career probably looks like I’m throwing a lot away: a good, steady job, great benefits, upward mobility, the opportunity to travel and meet new people, and instant respect from strangers the moment I put my uniform on. I understand why people look at me like I’m nuts when I say I’m giving that up.
That said, every time I put on my uniform and walked into work, it felt as though I was fulfilling a role, like I was in a play or something. Sometimes I worried that others could see through me, seeing me for the phony I was (or maybe still am?).
Currently, I’m reading a book called, “The Art of Work” by Jeff Goins (2015). It is a wonderful piece to help you find your life’s calling. Goins argues that it is “possible to succeed at the wrong thing” (p. 77). I have to admit; he’s absolutely right. Being a successful naval officer, I have been succeeding at the wrong thing for the past 11 years. Goins tells us that,
“In any vocation, there comes a time when you realize the path you’re on is not taking you where you want to go. All this preparation has culminated in helping you achieve the wrong goal… What do you do then? …You realize it’s never too late to change and take a turn in the direction of your true calling” (p. 81).
That’s exactly what I’m doing. I’m taking a turn in the direction of my true calling. While I may not know exactly what my true calling is yet (writing? counseling? teaching yoga? photography?), I know it isn’t being an active duty naval officer.
Photo taken from Free Images
Today, I checked Google Analytics for the first time. I discovered that 57 whole people looked at my blog yesterday! That’s up from 12 people the day before. Wow. And I thought NO ONE was looking. Hopefully someone will actually leave a real comment!
I hope this serves as a reminder that we all have to start somewhere. And start small. Sometimes, when I’m jogging, I catch myself saying, “Man I’m slow… I bet some people could walk faster than this.” But then, I say, “Well, I’m faster than the people not out here.”
At least I’m honoring the calling I received several years ago – to write. I’m trying. Here goes nothing.
…You know, the one where you want to accomplish something, but it just hasn’t happened yet? Well, I’ve had that gnawing feeling for about five years now. I thought maybe it would abate, but it hasn’t. It’s still there, eating at me.
Ever since my dad passed away from cancer in 2009, I’ve wanted to write a book about him. Yet, life always got in the way.
It finally dawned on me this year, that I would have to make it happen. I made a New Year’s resolution to start writing my book by the end of March. That means I don’t have much time! I need to start this week! My plan is to start writing this weekend. By making my goal known, I’m hoping this will kickstart my writing.
What about you, dear reader? Is there anything you’ve wanted to do for a while now, but have been procrastinating on? If so, leave it in a comment below, along with when and how you plan to start on it. By making it public, I’m hoping we can accomplish our goals this year.
Last week, I finished drafting my resignation letter from the US Navy. Now, I’m merely waiting for my boss to come back from leave so I can submit it. Once it is submitted, I will probably be out of the military in about 10 months.
I’m thrilled and overwhelmed at the thought of no longer being in the military. For the first time in my life, someone else won’t be calling the shots. I’ll have complete control over my time and my future. It’s scary.
I have spent the past eleven years on active duty, and the four years before that in a college NROTC unit. Back then, even though I wasn’t officially in the Navy yet, it still controlled many aspects of my life. It gave me the structure of knowing that I didn’t have to look for a job after college graduation. I didn’t need to; I was going into the Navy.
That means that the past 15 years of my life have been largely controlled by the military. By default, the Navy dictated my appearance, job, home, and free time. It even controlled how I presented myself. I often chose not to share potentially unpopular views to fellow military members. That meant that many I served with were kept at a distance, not able to see the real me. Sometimes it was, well, lonely.
I got really good at making the best out of bad situations, which is a very useful skill to have. However, I also stopped taking risks. Going along, from duty station to duty station, was, for me, the “easy way out.” I was just going with the current.
As I prepare to leave the military, I realize that now, I have to take responsibility for my life. It is all my decision now, how I choose to live my life. It’s daunting. I feel like a salmon swimming upstream. But I’m lucky. I have the support of an incredible husband and partner; he is my soul mate and best friend. We are navigating this journey together. He has been a huge supporter of me becoming the person I set out in the world to be.
I am looking forward to discovering who I am (so to speak!) and dusting off my creative side which I have been hiding from the world for a long time. Here’s to saying goodbye to a former life and to new beginnings!