A little over sixteen years ago, I signed up to join the United States Army. I had barely turned seventeen and I was excited. Three years later, in 2003, I deployed to Iraq. This post isn’t about that, however.
Prior to my deployment, my mother had asked her co-workers to come up with ideas for a “Journal Jar” that I could use to keep up with my writing while deployed. And, if you check out the picture below, you will see that I still have it!
Every other week, I will randomly pick a topic and write a short blog post about it. I have written some of these topics before, though I did not get to all of them, and the journal I used thirteen years ago is packed away in storage. And these journal entries will be different from ones I may have written before I’ve had a lot of changes in my life since then!
Today’s topic is: “Treasure Hunts on the Beach.”
The thing is, when I say treasure hunts, I do not mean leisurely strolls along the beach looking for shells, or driftwood, or sea glass.
No, I mean teams of two or three frantically running up and down the beach looking for items on a list so the team can win. My family is ultra-competitive (my brother, mom, and I once stayed up until 2am playing UNO and took our cards with us to bed—so no one would peek at our cards—when we didn’t finish, and then finished the game the next night) and we wanted to make the treasure hunts a competition as well. It is a standard event for most of our beach trips.
One year, in Lincoln City on the Oregon Coast, my mom, aunt, sisters, and myself decided to have a treasure hunt. I don’t remember what the winning team received, but my competitive instincts kicked in. When my aunt and I had every item on the list except for glass, I was determined to find some.
Of course, my sister, who had made this list, had assumed it would be easy. Every other trip to the coast, we never have any trouble finding sea glass. The treasure hunt for this trip, however, simply said “glass.” During my wanderings, I thought about where I would be likely to find glass on a beach.
And then it hit me. The garbage can!
So I ran up toward the parking lot, where an overflowing garbage can sat in the sand just before the sidewalk that led to the parking lot. I grabbed a bottle that was on the sand next to it and ran back down to the beach. My aunt and I won because we were the only team that had found glass. All the other teams had found all but one item on the list, and my aunt and I had all of them.
Of course, an argument started over whether the glass was actually on the beach. I told you we were competitive! When I justified it by saying the garbage was in the sand, not in the parking lot, the rest of the group reluctantly agreed that my aunt and I were the winning team.
There have been other treasure hunts, of course. We love them because it gives us an excuse to run around and act silly, and I love finding things. That time in Lincoln City is one of my favorites because the treasure hunt was so contested. But my team was still victorious!
And they’ve never let me live down the fact that I got the winning glass from a garbage pile. Families are great sometimes, aren’t they?
I’ve heard about this word a lot over the last month. And I’m sure most of you have, too. But what does it actually mean? Not the dictionary definition, but personally, what does it mean to be thankful? What things should I be thankful for? When someone asks me that question, I’m not always sure how to answer.
Should I answer truthfully and say that I’m thankful I’m alive? That seems selfish and tends to defeat the feeling of thanksgiving and gratitude that we’re supposed to show in November. Or do I say “family” or “friends” or one of the other words that people say to stop myself from telling the truth? To keep the situation comfortable and familiar?
Of course I am thankful for my family and friends. I love them and they love me. But I feel that not sharing what we are actually thankful and grateful for—what we’re humbled by because it is such a blessing for us—we are paying lip service to the idea of being thankful.
So, yes, I am thankful for the fact that I am still alive. I wasn’t always. I’ve fought hard to be in this place I am in and I appreciate the struggles that I had to make it through to get here. It’s the best place I’ve been in a long time, emotionally. And I’m thankful and grateful that I am able to focus fully on writing and editing, which for the last fifteen years has been a side enterprise to my full-time working life.
But I still hesitate to share my biggest reason to be thankful—that I am still alive—with people when I am speaking to them. I fear their judgement. I always said I don’t care what other people think of me, but that is not always true. I worry that if I do not fit into the “mold” during a holiday, other people will find me insincere in my thankfulness.
If I tell the truth, what do they say? What kind of response would you give someone who confesses they’re grateful to be alive? I’ve had people tell me that before, that they are thankful they are still alive. And it is difficult to form a response because it is a personal and private struggle that the person is sharing with you. I am humbled by these people, that they feel I am trustworthy enough to know the pain that brought them to that place of thankfulness.
As a child, we’re thankful for a lot of things, too. Sometimes new toys, or our friends, or families. And as children I feel we are completely sincere in our gratefulness, even though it may not seem so. But as life wears away at us we learn to appreciate what we are really thankful for, and for some of us, it is more complicated than we could have ever imagined.
And for me, life wearing away brought me to the place where I can say I am thankful to be alive.
I wasn't originally going to do a post on politics. It's all over the news and I'm not sure I can bring any new insight to it. But I would like to discuss my voting history (but not who or what I voted for), and why this election has been one of the most difficult for me.
I filled in the last circle on my ballot on Friday night, put it in the secrecy envelope, and signed it. It's now ready for me to put into the ballot box tomorrow (my sister is filling hers out today and I'm dropping them both off). We have mail-in voting in Oregon so we don't actually go to a polling place, which is convenient until you set your ballot under a stack of mail and forget where you put it. But that's only happened once and I managed to find it in time to vote!
After I signed it, I was filled with relief. This entire election cycle has been a roller coaster of emotions, and I don't even have cable to see what the media is saying about the Presidential candidates. I have, however, been studying all the platforms of all national and state candidates, their beliefs, and I considered both sides of my state's ballot measures carefully before voting.
I turned eighteen in 2001 so my actual first Presidential election was 2004, but I first cast a vote in the midterm elections in 2002. I know not everyone votes in midterms, but my parents instilled it in my head that voting is a civic duty and one we should take seriously. And I have missed only one election since, as I was struggling with my depression and did not have any inclination to do anything at the time.
See, to me, all eligible Americans should be voting in every election. My parents do, my siblings do, and this one is no different. The reason I am not saying who I voted for is because I believe it should private. It is your vote, not anyone else's. And your friends and family should not directly influence your vote. Of course, the way you were raised and what you believe now will do, and that is often a result of your family and friends' beliefs being similar to yours.
By all means, discuss the candidates and issues with them. With everyone you know, in fact. The more you know, the more likely you are to vote for candidates and measures instead of voting against them. My parents have been discussing politics with my siblings and I since we were children and answered our questions regarding candidates and ballot measures every election. Study and read and be an informed voter. But you are not obligated to share who you voted for or how you voted on state measures.
Voting is a duty, and we must do it. But for those of us who may have family members with differing views, it can be difficult to vote in line with our conscience and not feel as if we are somehow less because we do not vote the same. It can be difficult to even discuss politics during an election cycle, especially this one which has been so contentious.
So what I'm saying now shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, but I'll say it again:
Be Informed. Vote. And Keep Living.
"Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you." ~Pericles
In May, I quit my full-time job to focus solely on my writing and editing career, and moved back to the town where I grew up. I'd been away for a year and a half and realized I missed them.
Of course, that wasn't the only reason. The company I worked for was great, but the job was neither challenging or fulfilling. I needed a change. When my sister called and asked if I could move back and help with watching the kids and the bakery she and my mom started (in exchange for free rent), I said yes. It was time for a change, and I don't regret it.
So I'm living with my sister, brother-in-law, and niece and nephew. I've been living alone for awhile so it's quite an adjustment for me. It'd just been me and my cat before I moved back, and the noise level is certainly something I've had to adjust to!
And now that I'm focused on writing full-time, I realize that it actually is something I want. The hunger for writing hasn't abated-I started writing short stories in 2003 and never stopped, but I considered writing full-time an impossible dream.
Now, that dream has become a reality and it's harder than I ever imagined. I had been in the workforce full-time for over thirteen years when I left in May, and finding the discipline to sit down and write, to edit, to actually do the job, has been difficult. Especially when all I want is to play with my niece and nephew or spend time at my parents' house, now that I am close again.
But I am determined to do this. On days when it's hard, I simply try to remember that I have a gift for words and I want to use it. And so I try, and keep trying, and keep writing, and eventually my first book is going to be finished.
What happens after that? I guess we'll see.
Writer/Editor. Voracious Book Reader. World Traveler. Veteran. Bakery Owner.