Proud Parent Alert: Mia’s Commissioning Ceremony

I tried to find some literary way to write this post, but no go. No matter what I try to write, it comes out all proud and “parenty.” So be it. I don’t want our daughter’s accomplishments to be “eclipsed” by the past few days, so despite our having been in the path of totality, today I prefer to write about her commissioning. More on the rest of our trip later.

This weekend Barry and I celebrated with our daughter, Mia, her graduation from the Tennessee Army National Guard Class 60 Officer Candidate School, an eighteen-month journey filled with muddy treks, the eating of too many MREs, and more pushups, pullups, and situps than I will ever do in my life.

Mia is now a commissioned 2nd Lieutenant. While she may have had her doubts during this arduous (a mild term for what she went through!) experience, we knew that she would crush it, because that’s what she does.

We don’t get to see her enough, so the excitement and frustration of arriving on Friday night but not being allowed to see her until Saturday was maddening. So Saturday morning we were on campus as early as we were allowed to be.

After introducing us to the other candidates, Mia took us on a tour. Of particular interest was The Pit, the place for exercise, congregating, and, apparently, discipline. Despite the heat, I kinda found myself wanting to at least do some planks with her. (I resisted the impulse.)

Mia’s motions are always crisp and executed with, well, military precision. She reminds me of the fitness models in Oxygen magazine. Pardon me if I post WAY too many photos of her below, because it was a pleasure to take photos of her in motion.

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Fitness Model Mia! She’s a record setter, though I need to ask her the details again.

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Wish I could do even one! I lost count of how many she did.

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She cranks these out!

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Look at that form!

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The next class responds to the lunch menu with a backwards dip.

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Class 60 joins in the exercises they assigned the rising class. Doing pullups to encourage? Above (no pun intended) and beyond!

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Mia and Barry putting the shiny on her uniform.

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I photobomb their tender moment.

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MRE! Mia pointed out that the directions tell you to lean it on a rock or “something.” Specificity. Gotta love it. 

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I think someone’s trying not to cry…I didn’t even try not to!

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There she is, officially commissioned!

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Beautiful posture! Her husband, Heiko, is on the left.

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That face! That smile! That certificate!

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Proud, proud parents!

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These photos are clearly out of order. Look at that elegant bearing as she descends the stairs. You can see my hair to the left as we wait to pin her. P.S. I’m not sure who took this photo — credit to Heiko maybe? 

During a tasty cookout sweetly sponsored by the class, the three of us spent precious time catching up and talking about her future plans at a picnic table to the side. I admired the creek and the forest beyond, but since it’s where Mia had to camp and hike in mud I’m not sure she could see it in the same way I did.

Over lunch she (at my request) formulated a fitness program for me to try as I recover from my present health challenges. I can’t wait to do her proud! (Fingers crossed…)

Later we went shopping at Target, which doesn’t sound like a big deal but when you don’t see your hija very often it’s those everyday things you miss.

We ate supper at my newest burger crush restaurant, Five Guys (holla!), because there happened to be one nearby. We did ask if she wanted to go somewhere nicer, but she just wanted to spend time with us. I wanted that AND fries. 🙂

Besides the shiny, specially minted class coins she presented us with (Which are still in the suitcase or I’d take a photo!), she brought an MRE for us to share. She set the timer for 10 minutes because that’s all the time they were given to eat them in the field and she had us try to figure out how to open, hydrate, heat, and eat the meal.

With her help it still took all of the time we had for Barry and I to share the meal. How can one person do it?

It was beef stew, a strawberry shake, and applesauce. (See the package above.) While it was edible, it wasn’t something I want to eat again any time soon.

Mia was able to spend the night with us at our hotel, which we cherished. We all talked until we fell asleep, one after another. Then in the morning we got up with her and saw her off because she had to be at the barracks by 6:30. Mercifully we weren’t due there until 9!

Heiko drove in for the ceremony, as well as a friend of Mia’s. Since her friend doesn’t like having his picture taken I won’t mention his name either just in case. Suffice it to say he’s a good friend of hers and we have met him before. It was nice to see him again.

After graduation (and throughout the weekend), we were bombarded with officers and other candidates telling us how hard working and talented Mia is. We thanked them profusely but they weren’t telling us anything new.

There was a reception afterwards, and then we took her and Heiko to lunch before they had to return to Chattanooga and we had to find our way to the next hotel where we would stay awaiting the eclipse the next morning. (Finding a hotel over Eclipse Weekend was not easy, and we actually had to move to another for the next couple of days. We were just glad to find one.)

While for some this commissioning ceremony will be the apex of their lives, and of course it’s a huge accomplishment and should be viewed as such, if the past is any indication, for Mia it’s just the beginning. But then if I start talking about her accomplishments I might be writing all day.

Told you this post would be nothing but parental pride. I would ask for your forgiveness but I don’t think I will.

Congrats, Mia, and go, my lovey, go!

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Writing is the Ultimate “Choose Your Own Adventure”

When my baby sister, Cherokee, was very young I would read her favorite books to her on Saturday mornings. Too soon her favorite stories were from the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books. I don’t know why but I never really cared for them, but she did. In them you were given two choices at a certain point in the story: does she run away or open the door? Does he give the ball back or toss it into the street?

Writing is much like those books. One of my mentors, Roy Hoffman, once said that when you write you get to a door and if you open THAT door it means you can’t choose the other and soon you are too far away to even get back to the first door. Okay, I am taking probably gross liberties with what he said, but I have long since lost my notes on our phone conversation. Still, the principal is true.

That’s what’s completely wonderful about writing, and what’s so difficult about it: you have all of these freeing choices. You can remake the world. But once you’ve made those choices, unless you either have absolutely no deadlines or infinite patience, it’s hard to retrace your steps. Imagine a maze whose form is completely transformed once you head down a path, and its walls become only those which your hands press, and the rest of them disappear.

I, sadly, have more patience than the average writer, which can be great, but it can also be maddening. I have been known to write twenty pages and immediately erase ten. I have brutally demoted 400 page novels to scant 75 page novellas. But even I come to those points where I have to choose, and I’m there right now: does the painter travel by brig or steamship? Which port does she leave from? To which port does she sail? Who meets her once she gets there? Once there, where does she stay?

I find those questions exciting, because all I need from research is the bare bones of such trips. Once I know that there were gales for five days, I can imagine what that gale felt like. I can decide if my character would brave the gale to go aboard and see the approaching continent. (She would.)

Again, it’s wonderful to have so many choices, but as the title of the series states, you do, ultimately, (as Roy stated) have to choose. But don’t be sad when all of the choices are made — there will always be new questions to ask, new adventures of which to dream. So go ahead, choose your own adventure.