Tag: Navy life

Grabbing the Blooms Where I can

Summer has settled into the Northeastern USA and I’m making the most of it with walks and long mornings writing on my patio.


My organic veggie garden is something of a hot mess as I always over plant. The green beans and cucumbers are climbing up the tomato cages, and alas, some of the tomatoes. One success I’ve had is with wavy petunias. They were neglected by (cough, cough) certain family members while I was gone for a writing event. They were crispier than bacon on a grill. But with a little shade and a lot of watering, they’re back! I’m taking such joy in seeing a garden progress over years instead of months or only two growing seasons, as we dealt with while living our Navy life.

I hope your summer (winter for our southern hemisphere readers) is off to a good start, too.

NAVY HOPE Chapter Eighteen

Navy Hope

By Geri Krotow

Copyright © 2013 by Harlequin Books S.A.

Chapter Eighteen

“Val, you need to get over to the pool area.”

The tone of Maggie’s voice sent fear coursing through Val.

“What’s going on?”

“Just go. I’ll be right behind you.”

Val made it out of the office, around the lodgings and through the pool fence in under two minutes.

Pepe, the six-year-old son of a U.S. Marine gunnery sergeant who’d died in battle two years ago, was the child she’d told Lucas about during their last briefing. He stood atop the pool’s small diving board, hands clasped in front of his little chest, his hair wet, his eyes screwed shut.

Lucas was treading water under the diving board, fully clothed. His voice was low and steady as he spoke to Pepe, but Val was too far away to make out his words.

Serena, Pepe’s mother, was on the concrete deck with the other group members, two of whom held their arms around her. Val wondered if it was for support or to keep Serena from lunging after her son. Gold Star families tended to be more reliant on each other than other families, but Val had noticed that Serena was especially protective of Pepe. And why wouldn’t she be? He’d been barely five when his father was taken from him.

Val saw Tanya and walked over to her. “What’s the deal?”

“Lucas asked everyone what they were most afraid of. Pepe said he was scared of heights. So he wants to jump off the diving board—to prove he can do it.”

“The pool’s supposed to be a backdrop for the sessions, not part of them!”

“Pepe was wearing his swim trunks. He and Serena have gone in the pool each day after the workshops.”

“But Lucas wasn’t dressed to swim.”

“No, he wasn’t, but he took his phone out of his pocket before he got in and told Pepe to get up on the board.”

“If that kid doesn’t jump, Tanya…”

“He will jump, Val. If he doesn’t, he’s not ready yet, and that’s a good lesson, too.” Tanya’s expression remained neutral, but Val caught the innuendo that was aimed at her.

“I’m not afraid to jump.”

“Hmm.” Tanya gave the uniform counselor’s reply.

Val kept her gaze on Pepe and the swimmer below him. Pepe’s eyes had opened. The air was still and Lucas had raised his voice.

“Everyone’s afraid to make the first jump, Pepe. That’s why it’s always a good idea to have a buddy. I’m your jump buddy for this one. Your mom can be your buddy, too. You can ask anyone you want. Remember, if you jump, you won’t be alone.”

“If I don’t like it, I’m not doing it again.”

“You don’t have to, Pepe. You can even decide not to jump this time. Whatever you decide is okay.”

Pepe looked up, his eyes shimmering with unshed tears as he searched out his mom.

Serena smiled at her son, her lower lip trembling. Tears spilled from under her sunglasses.

“Go for it, mi hijo.

Two Years in the Same House–and We're Not Moving!

We adopted a Dogwood!
We adopted a Dogwood!

My retired Navy family is hitting a major milestone this summer as we approach the two-year mark for how long we’ve been in one house, one home, one spot on the globe–and we’re going to stay here. After 13 moves in 26 years, you can imagine my relief. Even though I know we’re done with the Navy moves, and hope no other moves are in the near future, my brain seems to have a special compartment that must be labelled “Navy Move” or “PCS” (permanent change of station). I found myself restless about a month ago, thinking I needed to purge the house of junk, accumulated clothes or papers, books, etc. But wait–I did that when we moved in. And before we moved from Russia. And before we moved to Russia…

What do normal people, i.e. people who don’t live tour-to-tour, do?

Border garden around the new paver patio
Border garden around the new paver patio

Remodel! But wait, there’s the college tuition to consider for the eldest kid, and younger kid will be in college soon enough. What’s more economical?

Curb appeal! (HGTV junkie, full disclosure).

But we’re not selling, so who cares about the front of the house? I spend close to three seasons writing on my laptop or iPad on the patio. Shouldn’t it be a place of serenity and escape for me?

I am no gardening expert. After living in so many different places I’ve learned that if I want to have any success I need to stick with native plants. Lucky for me there is a local gardening expert who also happens to write a column in our paper and, for a very reasonable fee, make house calls and landscape design charts.

Because every garden needs a path...
Because every garden needs a path…

This has been a spring of deadlines and looming deadlines, and the excitement of attending a particular writer’s conference I haven’t been to before. But somehow the plans were drawn up, I limited myself to one side of the house per year (or every 5 years!) and besides the start of a wonderful garden I also have a second paver patio from which to write my novels.

How lucky can a girl get?


Self-reflection in the Kremlin Palace
Every two to three years our family goes through a major transition. We move, whether it’s cross-country or across the globe. This year marks an even bigger transition–this may be our last big move in a long while. Our eldest graduated high school and is soon off to college. Our youngest will settle into the last years of her secondary education. I finally am face-to-face with the opportunity to write full-time with no distractions of Navy/diplomat-spouse duties.



I’m terrified.

Yet I’m very, very excited. There are all the practical aspects to be happy about. Finding and purchasing a new home (roots!). Getting active in my daughter’s last years at home as much as she’ll welcome (i.e. allow). Setting up my own office with it’s own door that I can close. Caller-ID so that I can only answer calls I need to when working. Starting over with the nutrition–bringing only healthy, clean, delicious food into the house. Leaving the dark M&M’s on the grocery shelf (we’ll see how long this lasts!).  Getting a new car.

The intangible side of this transition is overwhelming, yet still, I welcome it. Whether I look at it as fulfilling my artistic destiny or  dealing with can-I-swing-writing-only-or-do-I-supplement-income-with-second-job choices, it’s all good. Because I’m still on the path to discovery, still on the road to my dream of being a very successful full-time writer.

Transition is an opportunity to be kind to myself. To applaud the fact that I have an August 1st deadline (yeah, another contract!) and to NOT berate myself that it took 2 years between the 3rd and 4th contracts. I always lose by comparison–no matter what. It’s about my journey and my motives. My destiny.

Of course the big gratitude box must be checked. Grateful for my health, my family’s health, my husband’s ability to be our family’s rock (anchor, actually, but that’s too cliche when you’re a Navy family).

While I don’t wish the multitude of headaches associated with a move on anyone (e. g. the seller on the house we bid on just walked away from the short-sale 2 wks before closing), I do wish you the chance to take stock of your life and your soul’s desire. What is your heart’s desire? Are you taking little steps to get there? Even if you’re working 2 or 3 jobs to feed your babies, can you do something tiny towards your dream today? Just 2 minutes of prayer or meditation, or 20 minutes spent reading something that lifts you–can you find room for it?

Life’s not easy. Transition sucks. But they both bring untold joy if I keep an open mind and go with it.

Dog is God Spelled Backwards

Pets can be the anchor in a Navy family that moves not only from coast to coast in America but around the globe. My husband and I brought home our baby parrot when we’d been married two years, and for the next five years he was our practice infant. We spoiled him and moved him from Florida to California to Alabama to Washington State to Tennessee and back to Washington. He came to Italy and Belgium with us. When we found out we were moving to Russia for two years we were saddened to have to leave him behind, but grateful for the dear friends who are fostering him until our return. The twelve-week-old baby parrot is now 22 years old and loves to torture his foster family.

We adopted our first dog, Shadow, while in Memphis. I rescued her from the unkempt backyard of a lawyer in a very nice part of town. Animal abuse and neglect knows no socio-economic borders.

Shadow with Cookie Flour on her Nose
Shadow with Cookie Flour on her Nose
Shadow quickly became part of the family and joined us on our moving adventures. She came to Moscow with us at age 10, and I had some fears about her making the full two years here but she’d been so strong and healthy to date (save for the usual lab-mix issues of skin, allergies, and eating whatever she could find wherever she found it).

She stood guard at our apartment window when the President came to town and watched the First Lady’s motorcade go by.

Shadow gave the kids comfort when Daddy had to go far away for months on end, defending our freedom. The Christmas Eve that it was just the kids and I on Whidbey Island, WA, Shadow provided the comic relief needed by taking off with wrapping paper as I tried to valiantly to play Mom, Dad and Santa while the kids slept and my husband prepared his squadron for wartime a world away.

Shadow was the Gandhi of dogs. Little kids flocked to her as did adults who’d say “I’m not a dog person but Shadow’s different.”

So it was with great sorrow that the kids and I returned from our vacation/smoke evacuation this summer to find an emaciated dog that’d barely made it through the record-breaking heat and debilitating smoke. Our housekeeper took wonderful care of her, so I knew it was something more than just the rough summer. Within days we knew our beloved dog had cancer and there was no going back.

Making the decision to put a pet down is heart-wrenching. Shadow went to heaven in my arms, in our apartment (they come to the home for such events in Russia). I knew I’d never love a dog as I’d loved Shadow. The kids and my husband where equally distraught but each of us showed it in different ways. Our vet gently suggested there are so many dogs that need homes in Moscow, but I didn’t want to hear about that. Not yet.

As we grieved Shadow the house seemed so empty. The grieving brought us all together and we were able to laugh over the silly things she’d done. What I’ll remember most of all is Shadow’s strength. She could have let go while we were gone but she didn’t. She waited until we came back and could say good-bye to her properly.

Within a month I had that “feeling” that there was another dog waiting for us. Nothing tangible, but those of us who have adopted pets know the deal.

I wanted another lab-mix female. But when I showed up at a local shelter the puppy fitting this description all but ignored me. A male German Shepherd mix puppy kept leaping up on my lap and kissing my face. The mastermind behind Moscow Animals rescue, Barb Spiers, snapped a few photos. I held the boy puppy’s sisters, but they weren’t interested in me either.

I left the rescue apartment and as I walked the streets of Moscow I had an incredible feeling of peace settle over me. I figured it was just my husband’s telepathic relief that I wasn’t bringing a new puppy home on impulse.

Over the next few days the puppy wouldn’t let go of my thoughts.

“He’s going to be a regal dog, like Shadow. He’s the one for us.” I told my husband this and he quietly acquiesced to my need for a new pet in our home.

I’m a woman of a certain age with children preparing to leave the nest. It’s a sad, exhilarating, scary time.

IMG_1157 [1600x1200]Yet instead of getting a new sports car or plastic surgery, I got a puppy. And for today, it’s just what not only I need but our family needs. Instead of allowing a lump to grow in my throat each time I watch my eldest walk into the room, knowing he’ll be at college less than a year from now (if we both survive the application process), we toss the ball back and forth and play with Misha.

My daughter and I giggle over how the men of the family lavish oodles of praise and “touchy-feely” cuddles on the new dog.

I’m still grieving Shadow’s loss. I feel her, see her face around the corners of the apartment. But I can’t help feeling that somehow she brought us Misha.

For this last year that we have both of our chicks in the nest, an unlikely new family member is helping us to continue to bond and love each other through the inevitable changes. Misha, our native Russian dog.