Living My Blog Out Loud


Last fall I started blogging to silence the voices in my head. Not like split-personality, bat-shit-crazy voices. No, these voices were more like the random lines of poetry, the details of an experience, and the outlines of a plot. At times, they would flood my head, distracting me from life. So instead of missing out on what was going on around me, I decided to write, thus freeing my mind to experience things before me. It also allowed me to dabble in an old dream.

As a child, I wanted to be a writer…but then I grew up. The demands of life took over and my dream faded away. The bigger problem though, was that I was fading with my dream. I was a shell of a person, nearly devoid of passion. I survived to serve others. I was so far away from myself that I didn’t even know what I wanted anymore.

So when I started to write, I didn’t even care if anyone liked my posts (though that is preferable of course). I just need to write. There was no posting schedule in my head. I had no strategic marketing plan. I merely had the desire to put words on paper. Sometimes the words formed poems and other times a fictional story. Then I started posting about my feelings, my life. I started to share stories from my past.

Through this therapeutic process, I discovered the meaning behind my blog’s name, Chasing Life and Finding Dreams (which I chose partially from a TV series, Chasing Life, that I was really enjoying). I realized the name wasn’t as haphazard as I had originally thought. No, deep down, I knew that things were changing. I was embracing life more and more each day. I was trying new things. I was beginning to find me, the real me. And in the process of chasing my lost life, I discovered…I am finding my dreams.

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For the Daily Prompt ~ All About me.

I Don’t Want to be a Rock. Can I not be a Princess Instead?


Independence and strength are great qualities to have, but frankly, I am tired of being the rock.

Throughout my life, I quickly learned that if something needed to be done, I needed to make it happen. No one was going to cater to my needs, wishes or desires. No one was going to stop working on their list of to-dos to work on mine. No, if I wanted it, I had to work for it.

I learned to take care of myself. I learned to take care of others. I learned to take care of things. Trust me, it is not that I want to make all the decisions. I could care less who is in charge. I don’t crave power. Nor do I crave perfection. What I do crave on the other hand though, is shit happening.

When you are the wife of a soldier, the demands of life don’t wait for your husband to come home. No. Things break, bills come and children get hurt. So you get up and take action or you sit and watch everything crumble around you.

When you’re divorced and on your own, life’s demands don’t stop either. There is no one for you to rely on anymore. Sure, you may have older kids, friends or family who can help here or there, but for the most part, it is you making things happen, or allowing things to not happen. It is sink or swim.

When you are a soldier yourself, you can lead or you can follow. Either way, you still have to get results. The only difference is that you are following your ideas or someone else’s. Ultimately though, unless you are THE top dog, you are pretty much always following someone else’s direction. So regardless of where the direction came from, you have to be a rock. You have to be strong. You have to accomplish tasks. (Or should be if you are a good soldier.) Over the years, my mantra has become, make a decision, or get out of the way. I don’t care if it’s the best decision or not a 100 percent plan, but pick something and start working on that plan. To me, some movement is better than standing stagnate with indecision, which drives me crazy.

Combine all of these facets of my life and here I am, a rock. I get things done. I help others. I weigh my options and make decisions. I may not always make the right decisions. Hell, some choices have really sucked. But, you know what? They were mine and I made them, and sometimes even with a little thought. Other times…I probably should have thought a little longer. Such is life though. We learn from our mistakes.

Now, you would think being a rock is a good thing, appreciated. Not always. Sometimes it is just tiring. I don’t want to make all the decisions. I don’t need to feel the power of control. I don’t want to have to consider every option. No, sometimes it would just be nice to show up and follow the crowd. To be surprised by someone taking a task off my list. To be comforted and taken care of. Yeah, I could live with that sometimes.

However much I would like to be taken care of though, I will never ask. Unfortunately, history has shown me countless times that asking for help reduces the odds of getting results. Most times, the only result in asking for help was the loss of time and the frustration of empty promises. Therefore, I just keep rolling like a good rock does. If someone offers help, I will take it with a smile, but rarely, will I ask.

Apparently dating a rock is no fun either. Now that I a single, I have had men tell me that I am too independent, too busy. Hhhhmmmm. I have to think on that one. I have no choice but to be independent. Who is going to pay the bills? Mow the lawn? Plan a trip? And when you have two jobs, kids, hobbies and no one else to worry about, you may as well be busy and passionate about your life. Am I supposed to sit around and wait for some prince to find me? No. I think not. If he is truly my price, we will find each other while we are out living and enjoying life. And this prince will appreciate my strength and know, I will gladly let him be my rock and I his princess. But until someone hands me my tiara, you will find this princess on the move and making decisions.

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For the Daily Prompt ~ I am a Rock.

List of Adventure for the Weekend


This weekend, I am hosting a fun-filled girls’ party, and I could not be more excited. The only problem with the plan…I may not have time to complete my list of adventures!

It started with the idea that my older sister would visit for a few days. This of course meant that my younger sister who lives closer would need to come too. So while making plans for the sister weekend, one of my Army “sisters” reached out stating she had a free weekend. Of course, I told her to join in on the plans.

If you have followed some of my posts, you already know that I can be full of ideas, energy and lists. Naturally, I have put together some ideas for my sister weekend. We have all had some life stressors recently and really could use the girl time and the stress relief. Adventure, activity and laughs are definitely in need. So here is my list of ideas to make my sisters unwind a bit:

  • Kayak on the river.
  • Take a paddle board yoga class on the river.
  • Go to my daughter’s sorority family day: scavenger hunt and lunch.
  • Hike (and take pictures) at a canyon/state park.
  • Go to a classy symphony.
  • Walk around the farmers’ market.
  • Listen to some free live music at the downtown parks.
  • Go to a painting and sip place.
  • See some girly movies while wearing facemasks and eating chocolate. (Netflix-not theater, lol.)
  • Bake some cookies…and devour them!
  • Make some homemade soup…and then eat it.
  • Chat about life, which may include tears, laughs, screams or all of those.
  • Go eat sushi with girly cocktails.

This is not a mandatory list of course. We can deviate from the plans due to rain, lack of interest, or some other idea. I may be full of ideas but I am not the inflexible cruise director who demands we stay on schedule. No, we will go with the flow. I merely thought I would offer some ideas since I am the host and it is my hometown after all.

In my opinion, lists have to be fluid for them to be good. You can’t make a list so restrictive or complicated that it is hard to complete or it falls apart if one step is missed. That would only set the plan up for failure and disappointment. And in the case of my adventure-unwind weekend, that would be counterproductive.

So my advice to you wonderful followers is to seize your days, each and everyone. Make a list of what you want to do, accomplish and see. Your list can be big or small. Or better yet, it includes both big and small plans. It fuels your need for adventure AND quiet. Make it flexible and fluid. Try new things. Go new places. Through this, you will find out what you are passionate about and what you are not. And when you find your passion, you find your talents, energy and true self.

dp

P.S. So if I don’t post anything until Monday…you will know I am working on the above list:)

Dreams are Like Water: Necessary & Fluid


As a little girl, I dreamt of horses and gymnastics, I wished that I could fly and I wrote stories about having telekinesis. (Don’t ask me how the heck I knew the name telekinesis back in elementary school! Perhaps I was gifted and then my brilliance was re-gifted to another child later.)

Now, a few decades later, I guess my life is not actually what the school-girl me wished for, but it is really not that far off considering. Considering what you ask? Well, for one thing, considering reality.

The reality of my parent’s finances determined I was not going to get a horse or gymnastics lessons. Gravity determined that I could not fly. My lack of access to the supernatural world or superheroes wanting to bequeath their powers to me limited my ability to move things with my mind. I know. Reality kind of sucks. Big time. I learned that as a kid.

What I also learned over time was that I could still get those dreams. I just had to work harder, smarter, and shape those dreams around the confines of reality.

As a teen, I volunteered my time to teach little kids dance, ballet, tap, jazz and acrobats. This service allowed me to get my own free lessons. Sure, it wasn’t gymnastics exactly. My short, stocky, flexible frame had missed the Olympic window after I passed the age of 7 anyway. But, with those lessons, I at least learned to do a little bit of dancing and flipping. Even now, I can still manage to do a cartwheel and a back-bend. (OK. Not the Mary Lou Retton I wanted to be, but hey, not bad for a 43-year-old who only had local dance lessons.)

When I got to adulthood, I still could not fly. (I know, you are surprised. ) Well, at least not by myself. I had to be a little more creative. I had to take some risks. I had to dish out a little moola…or deploy. As an adult, I have literally flown though. It was just with the help of planes, helicopters, parasails, bungee cords, and zip lines. Each type of flying is different, but each has had a wonder to it.

I did manage to get my first horse a few years ago too. She is not actually the magnificent pure-breed mount that commands attention, but hey, neither am I. What we are together though, is a compatible team that respects and takes care of each other. We go on trail rides. She walks. I manage to stay in the saddle. We wander through nature. I admire it. She eats it. See. THAT is team work.

Now, as for the telekinesis. This one takes a bit more creativity and work. No matter how many times I have stared at objects, they still refuse to move. Unless of course you count the times people have moved away from me after staring angrily at them. That has to be close doesn’t it? OK, maybe a reach there. But how about when I walk by things and they literally do jump of the shelf and onto the floor? My friends call this clumsiness or karma though. I call it, my-awesome-vibe-on-the-world effect. (Because I wear rose-colored glasses.) But, as I age, the adult-me realizes that I have to tweak my image of the telekinesis. The child-me wanted to move things. The adult-me wants to move people. Yeah. I can do that if you consider moving in some of these categories: inspiring, directing and reacting. I think I have moved people a time or two with my words and pictures. I have moved people into to action with some instructions/guidance/advice/military orders. I have moved people to react to my actions. See. I DO have telekinesis after all.

That’s the thing with dreams and wishes, they belong to you. No matter how you change through life, you can still acheive them. It just takes a little hard work, and sometimes, you may need to change the form of those dreams to reflect the stage of life you are in.

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For the Daily Post Writing Challenge ~ Ice, Water & Steam.

Hindsight on a Bad Leader


Naturally, I have made many mistakes in my life. Who hasn’t? There are also a plethora of missed opportunities I wished I would have seized. That is the thing with hindsight. It is always so much clearer…later.

I was talking about deployments to someone the other day, and it dawned on me. I missed a big opportunity, and I regret it. And oddly enough, I was given multiple chances, two deployments, and one conference to seize it. I let it float away like a butterfly though.

It started on my Iraq deployment (2005-2006). I was a first lieutenant then. It was not a high rank, but I was in charge of ALL of the embedded media for the first Iraqi election. So, I did have a fairly important job that I did alone for most of the deployment. As the Multinational Force Iraq media embed coordinator, I did everything concerning the embedded reporters. I mean everything. I coordinated their plans of what units to go to when they arrived and their travel plans on getting into Baghdad (which was only weeks of countless emails and phone calls at a minimum). I would literally go pick them up at the flight line or armored bus area. I took them to get a media badge. I escorted them to meals. I answered their questions. I helped them with their bags and a place to sleep. I assisted them with work space. And, when it was time for them to head out to their unit, I played liaison and taxi again. While on they were embedded, I remained available for any questions they might have (as well as for the leaders of any units they were with). I had to know at a moment’s notice, what media was with what unit, what was their latest story and what were their upcoming plans. My leaders always wanted to know these things. So it had to be in my head, on slides and in full detail. It was the first Iraqi election after all, so the pressure was understandable. When the reporters were ready to leave, I had to play helper and taxi in reverse if they passed through Baghdad on the way out. It was an all-consuming job. My phone was constantly ringing. My inbox never had less than 80 emails. I was struggling to keep up and stressed. But, I managed the program very well for a staff of one I have to say.

Anyway, at some point during all this, some group of leaders were having an email discussion on the embed program and how it was broken. I was copied on the email conversation. So naturally, I thought I could contribute to the discussion.

I did a reply-to-all response that I drafted very carefully and edited. I professionally stated that I did not think the program was broken per say, but certainly could be improved. Then, I laid out a couple of paragraphs detailing ideas on what I saw wrong and how it could be improved. I chose my words cautiously and think the final contribution to the conversation had value. I was THE embed coordinator for the entire country/war after all. I thought I had a very good perspective on the situation, at least at the boots-on-the-ground level. I was wrong, very wrong.

Shortly after my email response, my boss did a reply-to-all email as well. His email simply stated, “Please disregard 1st Lt. Lunato’s response. It will be discussed internally.” Well snap. That was a slap in the face if I ever saw one. I did have the nerve to ask him after that (via email) why I was not entitled to speak on something that I was in charge of. He reply was short, sweet and very to-the-point. “There is only one voice of the CPIC (Combined Press Information Center), and it is not yours.” Well hell. That was clear. I was just to be in charge of a program and not offer input. That message was received loud and clear. I can’t say it was a great mentoring moment though, and I completely lost respect for that leader as there were other situations similar to this.

Years later I regret not having the courage to ask him why he had such a problem with me, and I had multiple times to do it.

I could have done it tactfully during the deployment. There were certainly a handful of situations like the you-do-not-have-a-voice situation where I was slapped down. I could have approached it from a learning point angle. I could have straight up asked him if he had a problem with me. I could have asked him to mentor me and show me why he did the things he did. I didn’t though. I just brewed irritation with the leader.

Then years later, I missed another chance. I was at a military conference. He was there for the entire three-day event. There was plenty of mingling time. We crossed paths a number of times, but I refused to speak to him. I simply smiled, nodded and moved on. I had so much to say and ask this man, but it just didn’t see like a good time.

On my third deployment, I ran into him again. (Small world huh?) Though I was deployed to Afghanistan this time (2010-2011), I had to travel to Iraq (twice) to visit one of our battalions. While at one of Saddam’s palaces, I was trying to find a friend who worked in the building. Who do I run into on the stairs? Yep, the dismissive leader from years ago (who a friend I referred to as SAM, for Short Angry Man). This time, he stopped me. I couldn’t really avoid it as we were on a spiral staircase, alone. (If I thought I could have jumped from the staircase, I think I would have.) He started some small talk. I was polite, professional, but very curt. After exchanging some meaningless courtesies, I said I had to move out on my mission. My brigade did send from one war zone to another after all. Clearly, I was a big deal, or so I made it sound, lol. I had nothing to say to the man. There was no point in reminiscing or catching up. What I had to say could not be said on a staircase in passing…and probably would seem silly bringing it up years later. Clearly, it still bothered me though.

Now, I feel like I should have asked him. Obviously, it upset me since I remember it so vividly. I look at some of the things he slapped me down for and can see his twist or perspective made sense or offered some validity. What I don’t understand is why he delivered his messages or decisions in such an arrogant way. He could have been a wonderful leader and sat me down to say hey, “You have some good ideas but we are going to do it this way and this is why.” That was not his style though. He was not a mentor or leader; he was just the Short Angry Man in charge.

Well SAM, it is said that you can learn from bad leaders just as much as good ones. You thought me how NOT to be. You also taught me that if something bothers me that much, I just need to speak up and ask questions about it. Maybe that is why God kept making me run into him? Perhaps. Or maybe God was just teaching me professional restraint and thought it would give me something to write about today.

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For the Daily Prompt.