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Kiki Reflects - Page 2 of 3 - one woman's struggle to answer her calling

Kiki Reflects

one woman's struggle to answer her calling

The Loss of My Aunt Marie

Cloudy Sky

Photo Credit

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

Taking a Turn Towards My Calling

Sunset at Lake

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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.

Family Memory – Dad Teaches Me About Faith

One of my main reasons for wanting to blog was so I could preserve precious family memories.  Here’s my favorite memory about my Dad.  He passed away in 2009 from cancer, so these moments hold extra special meaning for me.

I was around ten years old and annoyingly inquisitive.  I constantly asked questions of everything going on around me.

It was probably summertime, because my dad and I were up late watching a movie, while my mom and sister were upstairs asleep. We were the night owls of the family.  Dad used to love historical movies, as well as movies about biblical scenes. We were probably watching the latter.

Dad was sitting in his old easy chair with it all the way leaned back – one of his favorite spots in the house.  He told me it was time for bed. As going to sleep was one of my least favorite things to do, I begrudgingly walked over to give him a hug and kiss good night.

When I stood next to him, I asked him a question–quite possibly in a ploy to stall my going upstairs to bed. I said, “Dad… how do you know there is a God…you know, that he exists?” I shifted akwardly and looked down at my hands.  Dad looked at me earnestly for a moment.  For a split second, I thought he might be mad at me.  Then he said:

“You know how Moses led his people away from the Egyptians?”  I nodded yes.  He continued, “well, the Bible says he parted the Red Sea and that’s how he escaped.

“Now, some scientists and historians have studied the area and offered other explanations for Moses’ escape. Some of them believe the tide was low as Moses and his people crossed the Red Sea, and so when the Egyptians tried to cross, they didn’t make it because the tide came in and washed them away.

“Others believe that Moses and his people were traveling on foot, whereas the Egyptians chasing them were mostly on chariots – you know, they were traveling on wheels. Those people believe that Moses and his followers were able to walk or swim to the other side of the Red Sea, whereas the Egyptians’ wheels got stuck in the mud.”

My brow furrowed and I looked away for a second, trying to grasp what Dad was telling me.  This was not what I was expecting at all.  Normally Dad had some scientific explanation for why things were the way they were.  Usually, he would answer my questions and everything would make sense again.  But this didn’t make sense at all.  Why would he tell me of other ways to believe? How does this prove there is a God?  At my weekly Catholic school class, the instructors never gave other explanations or points of view for biblical events. Not only that, but both of Dad’s alternative explanations for Moses’ escape seemed perfectly reasonable to me. In my perplexity, I looked back at Dad and stammered, “Um… okay… so what… do you think happened…?”

Dad replied, “I believe the Bible. I choose to believe that Moses parted the Red Sea.  And believing in God is the same way.  I choose to believe in God.  I choose to believe that He exists.”

I didn’t realize it at the time, but Dad taught me a valuable lesson of faith.  I will always treasure this lesson.

I also value how he reasoned with me and didn’t talk down to me, even at my young age. And now, years later, I choose to believe that God exists, and Moses did indeed part the Red Sea.

57 Whole People Looked At My Blog!


 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.

Do you ever get that gnawing feeling?

…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.

Dad written in sand

Photo Credit

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.

5 Budget-friendly, Last-minute St. Patrick’s Day Celebration Ideas

I love celebrating St. Patrick’s day, but my husband and I are on a budget (we’re trying to pay off debt!)  So, I thought I would share are a few ideas to enjoy the day without breaking the bank.

1. Enjoy a free parade or free outdoor concert in your areaThese are not only free, but family-friendly ways to enjoy the day.

2. Go for a walk to look for clovers.  Maybe you can even find some of the lucky, four-leaf variety!  This may sound cheesy, but spending some time outdoors after a long winter can be especially soothing, peaceful, and romantic.  This is also good to do with little kids.

3. Watch Irish-themed movies or tv shows.  Snuggle up with your date and watch several Irish or St. Patrick’s Day themed shows.  You can also cook an Irish-themed dinner together, making this a romantic date.

4. Limit your drinking if you do go out.  If you go out with friends, limit how much you drink, so you don’t spend too much money. The more you drink, the more money you’ll spend – both on the drinks themselves, as well as on food.  Never drink and drive though – make arrangements for one person to be the designated driver before you start drinking!

5. Have a few friends over for a St. Patrick’s day themed dinner party.  Tell each friend to bring a dish to share so you don’t break the bank.

Have any more ideas?  If so, please leave them in a comment below!

Saying Goodbye to a Former Life


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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!

Morning Glory

Photo Credit

Family – Wesley as Wesleyman

For me, family is very important.  Therefore, I created a small section of my blog with the sole purpose of sharing memories and stories of the people I love.

Who: My wonderful nephew, Wesley

Age: 4

Date: 15 Apr 2011

My nephew, Wesley, proclaims that he has superpowers.  So, his mom asks him if he’s batman or superman.  To which he replies, “No Mommy, I am Wesleyman!”

Hilarious!  I love that kid.


Part Two of the “Best Of” Vegan Cosmetic Series: Best Eye Makeup Remover, Overnight Moisturizer, and Eyeshadow Primer

In Part One of this series, I outlined my journey to find vegan toiletries that are free of harsh chemicals.  Here is what I’ve found so far.

Best Eye Makeup Remover

First to run out was my eye makeup remover.  After reading several articles and trying various DIY eye makeup removers, I found that the best for me was plain ol’ extra virgin olive oil.  You can read more about using olive oil here.

In the past, I always had a tough time finding eye makeup remover.  It had to be unscented and non-comedogenic (meaning it wouldn’t clog pores).  It turns out that I could have simply walked into my kitchen instead!

Olive oil mimics your skin’s natural oils, so it is absorbed and won’t clog your pores.


Best Nighttime Moisturizer

In fact, I started using extra virgin olive oil as my night cream, applying it to my whole face before going to bed.  In the morning, I then would wake up with soft, smooth skin and no break-outs.  Olive oil breaks down makeup too.  Some folks even use is as primer.

Best Eyeshadow Primer

After watching several of Sam Schuerman makeup videos (I love her and think we might have been good friends in a former life!), and seeing her use “eye shadow insurance,” I realized I needed a good eye makeup primer.

As usual, making things difficult for myself, I didn’t want just any eyeshadow primer.  Mine would have to be vegan, with none of the harsh chemicals mentioned here.

And I found one!!  It’s the Vegan Oily Lid Eyeshadow Primer in Buff from the All Natural Face.  I love this stuff.  It’s inexpensive (only $3.50!), works well, lasts all day, and does not have the harsh chemicals mentioned earlier.  All products from the All Natural Face are made to order, which means they’re fresh.  It also meant that I had to wait several weeks to receive it in the mail.  It was well worth the wait though!!

As you know, this series will be published sort of slowly, because I’m taking a more economical approach. I’m using up what I already have, before going out and buying new products.

Do you have any recommendations or great products you’ve tried?  Please leave your comments below!




Part One of the “Best Of” Vegan Cosmetic Series: Introduction

Part One of the “Best Of” Vegan Cosmetic Series: Introduction

I’ve always loved makeup.  I remember my 13th birthday when my mom took me for my first makeover.  We ended up buying most of the products they used on my face.  I was thrilled, and the products stayed with me for a long time.

Now, here I am, in my 30’s, and I still love cosmetics.  I generally use makeup to hide my rosacea and dark under-eye circles (I’ve worked long hours in the military=not enough sleep).  In the photo below, I am sporting a more natural makeup look.  One that is office-appropriate.


As I get older, I care more about what is actually in my cosmetics and how they’re made.

Since I try to eat mostly vegan and gluten-free, I want the same in my cosmetics.  I was already gravitating towards vegan toiletries for a while; my favorite companies were Arbonne and Simple.  However, after I read this article, it made me think.  What was lurking in the products I was using?  After a few ingredient searches on the products I was using, I did not like what I found.

As a result, I started seeking out new products, ones that pass both tests: 1) to be vegan; and 2) to be free of harsh chemicals.  Equally important is that they need to work!

And, as if that wasn’t difficult enough, I have another restriction.  I’m trying to do this on a budget.  As in, without spending a small fortune replacing all of my products at one time.  So, I’m replacing my products as they run out.

Do you have any suggestions for the “Best Of” Vegan Cosmetic Series?  Products that meet the strict standards above?  If so, please comment at the bottom and I will check them out!

Up Next: Part Two of the “Best Of” Vegan Cosmetic Series: Best Eye Makeup Remover, Overnight Moisturizer, and Eyeshadow Primer