Friday Favorites

Happy Friday, friends!! It’s a short week for Neal since the Army gives a 4-day holiday for Columbus Day. Blue’s school does not, however, so Neal and I are going to try our hand at kayaking the canals at Long Beach today. I haven’t been in a kayak since 2004, but it’s probably just like riding a bike, right? Get in, paddle and try like hell not to tip over because the Pacific Ocean, in case you didn’t know, is freaking cold. All the time. I don’t know how the kids play in it on our beach days. They say once you get in, you warm up, but I’ve never gone in past my knees so I can neither confirm nor deny that statement.

I think on Fridays I’m going to do a little round-up of my favorite things from the week. Please feel free to send me your favorite things, too! As I’ve been saying all along, this blog is meant to be a community where everyone has a voice. So, please…use it!

I Got Back on Instagram…After a Year Hiatus

I had the opportunity to “take-over” the Blue Star Families’ Instagram for the day. On “Take-over Tuesday”, they posted several pictures and captions from our star-studded evening at the red carpet premiere of SEAL Team. They even included a picture Neal took of me interviewing Judd Lormand and A.J. Buckley! Speaking of the premiere, did anyone watch it? Holy explosions and falling stunts, Batman! When Max Thieriot jumped off that rig, the whole theater erupted in applause and cat-calls. Should you ever get to attend the premiere of any TV show or movie, take it! It is a completely different experience when the cast is in the audience with you. 20180925_213631

I Have Awesome Friends Who Do Awesome Things

A friend of mine in Kentucky posted this picture on her Facebook page this week.

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Her husband spent three days repainting the roof of their barn. He had to paint one color at a time. And if you’ve ever heard the expression, You couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn, then you know exactly how big that barn’s roof is. I’m sure this was a backbreaking task, but what a worthy endeavor! And the result is breathtaking. I look forward to seeing it in person someday.

 

M-I-C…K-E-Y…M-O-U-S-E

Fifteen hours after walking the red carpet, I was sitting at LAX, waiting for Mom’s flight to land. We had a hot 3-day date with a couple of mice (and all their friends) down the road. I am going to quietly admit that Disneyland was significantly more fun than I thought it would be. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s the Happiest Place on Earth (because over-stimulation of a six year old is anything but happy), but it was certainly a good time. I’m not sure I would change my stance on the question: Our family wants to go on vacation…should we go to Disney or the Grand Canyon? But I am finally willing to concede that perhaps the answer is: Both, eventually. These are a few of my favorite pictures from the weekend, but you’ll see many more next week (apparently, I have a media storage limit on my WordPress account and I’m at 12% right now. I am wondering just how long it will take before upgrading is my only option.). Beginning Sunday, I will post a 4-part series that will cover what I planned beforehand, what we learned from each park and what we’ll do differently next time (oh yes, boys and girls…there will be a next time).

 

Because One Blog Just Isn’t Enough

I was channeling my grandmother when I started yet another blog this week. She was a woman who, upon finding shoes or clothes that fit perfectly, would buy it in every color. Why have one when you could have two? Or three. Or four. I enjoy writing (obviously, as most of the time I do it for free), so why not create a space for sharing my love/hate relationship with burpees, kale and all of the essential oils that smell so bad but are so good for me. Most of that happens in our garage, which is too small to fit the Prius but too big to not utilize. Also, I don’t have to scrape ice for 2 years and that was a major factor in choosing to convert the garage into a gym. Playing beat the clock while your windshield defrosts is, I’m sure, a game they play in Hell. My paint job will probably suffer but at least I can squat myself to greatness. If you want to join the fun, come find me Behind the Garage Door. I will post Tuesdays and Thursdays.

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Have a great weekend, lovely people! I’ll see you on Sunday!

 

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Our Star-Studded Evening Courtesy of Blue Star Families

If you had told me 6 months ago, as we were following a horse and buggy through downtown Lititz, Pennsylvania, on our way to church, that Neal and I would be mingling with the cast of SEAL Team at their red carpet premiere of season two, I would have slapped you with bread and called you a sandwich. There is no way that was ever going to happen. We aren’t Hollywood. We’re barely Dollywood. But that is exactly where we were last Tuesday night, thanks to a collaboration between Blue Star Families, Academy of United States Veterans (AUSV) and CBS.

The premiere, which was held at the swankiest American Legion I’ve ever been in, kicked off at 5 PM with the press check-in. As the Blue Star Families Social Media Correspondent for this event, I went in search of my spot on the red carpet. I found it right next to a former Marine, who is now reporting for the American Legion, and directly in front of a spotlight that nearly melted both of us by the time we were done. Meanwhile, military families were invited to the lounge downstairs, where they could relax and get a drink.

The cast began arriving around 6 PM, starting with Kerri Medders, who plays Emma Hayes.

This last picture cracks me up because as they were posing, one of the photographers said, “Hold on. There’s a dog’s butt in these pictures.” And that, my friends, is where Hollywood intersects with keepin’ it real.

By 6:15 there was a steady stream of celebrities, each stopping to spend a few minutes answering whatever questions we lobbed at them. Thank goodness I had made the effort to watch all of season one before the premiere so I could ask questions specific to the characters. They weren’t ground-breaking (or even particularly thought-provoking), but they did pertain to how each role addressed military life. And Dita got to give an interview, although as it turns out she’s a pup of few words.

The ladies next to me were asking cast members to record video tweets in the Twitter selfie mirror and create boomerangs for social media. And that is the exact moment when I learned what Twitter selfie mirrors and boomerangs are. I need someone’s tween to school me.

I spent at least 2 minutes practicing my boomerang while I was brushing my teeth that night.

By 6:45 the cast was all there and we finished up our interviews as they gathered for pictures, including several with the Chief Operating Officer of Blue Star Families, Noeleen Tillman!

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By the time I joined my husband and our friends in the theater, they had already met Neil Brown Jr. and A.J. Buckley. And my husband had taken a selfie with Dita, which was really his only bucket list item for the evening.

It’s the world’s blurriest selfie but I couldn’t not share it because he’s just so happy…and that makes me happy.

Soon the lights were dimming and it was time to find our seats. Being able to interact with the cast before the show and then sitting among them as we all watched it together, most for the first time, was electrifying. I had to keep reminding myself as the first few scenes played out that I needed to stop rehashing the last hour in my head and just enjoy the action on the screen. And there was plenty of action to be had. Y’all will not be disappointed by how season two kicks off!

After the credits rolled, the cast made their way to the stage for a Q&A moderated by former Navy SEAL and author of The Terminal List, Jack Carr.

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Mr. Carr’s questions ranged from how the show was created, to what the technical advisors do to ensure authenticity, to what each character brings to the show. An accurate portrayal of military life seemed to be the overarching theme, with a side of explosions and humor to keep us all coming back for more. One of the directors once mentioned in the special features section of the DVD that it’s challenging to convince people to sit down and watch an hour-long show about war every week. But I think it’s like using Lego men to help our son learn how to add and subtract. When you are entertained, you don’t even realize you’re learning something hard. And learning about what our men and women endure on the battlefield and at home is hard. But it’s the first step in helping civilian communities understand our experience so that we can make more meaningful connections with them. So that we can strengthen their community and they can strengthen ours.

With the scheduled activities wrapping up for the night, everyone began making their way downstairs to the after party. But not before Alex and I scored a picture with David Boreanaz. Because…right?

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Don’t worry, Neal. My heart still belongs to you. And Gary Sinise.

And maybe just a little bit to Judd Lormand, but only because Lt. Commander Blackburn kind of reminds me of Neal, circa 2009.

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We were all about to turn into pumpkins, but it was so hard to leave such delightful company. We had discussed everything from deployments to how much homework our first graders have and it had turned into the kind of evening that I didn’t want to see end. But it was a school night and babysitters were waiting. So, we left the party, which was still in full swing and headed home, via McDonald’s. Because if you ever go to the after party at a red carpet premiere it’s hummus and cheese cubes. So eat before you go or pack a hoagie in your purse. We did neither.

For this Kentucky girl, the entire evening was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that allowed us to fully engage with the community where we are stationed. We weren’t limited by how much money we have or who we know in the industry. We didn’t have to win a radio contest or happen to be in the right place at the right time. We simply had to say yes. And what I’m learning is that if Blue Star Families is involved, I will always say yes. Yes to enhancing life for military families, to creating connections with civilian communities, to reaching out, to strengthening our country by uplifting one another.

Walking the Red Carpet With Blue Star Families

The most ironic part about being stationed in L.A. is that neither Neal nor I have ever paid much attention to celebrities or mainstream television. We haven’t had cable since 2010 so when we’re out with friends and talk turns to the fall line-up or the latest tear-jerking episode of This Is Us, we sit mute and clueless. You want to discuss how Poldark, the period drama from PBS, seems to have jumped the shark in the last couple of seasons? We’re on it. We can also chime in about our hopes for a season 5 of Sherlock or how much that ugly lamp appraised for on Antiques Roadshow. But don’t ask us about crime shows, sitcoms or, especially, military dramas.

I watched one episode of Army Wives, before I was even officially an Army wife, and hated it. “They make us look like goal-digging homewreckers!” I yelled from the living room one night. Neal and I finally did settle on The Unit for a few seasons and then went back to PBS after it was inexplicably canceled. Hollywood just couldn’t seem to zero in on an accurate depiction of military life. They were portraying it from a civilian’s perspective and the last thing we, as military families, needed was civilians perpetuating their own point of view. So, when I noticed signage for a multi-day taping of SEAL Team at the beach where our son had aquarium camp a couple of months ago, I largely ignored it. I posted a couple of pictures of the crew’s trailers on Facebook because that’s a fun perk to being stationed in this part of the country and then forgot about it…until a fellow military spouse tagged me in a Blue Star Families Facebook post about tickets to the upcoming SEAL Team premiere.

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My awareness of Blue Star Families has been largely limited to their summer program, Blue Star Museums. Each year, between Memorial Day and Labor Day, military families can access over 2000 museums across the country, free of charge. Very few discounts have boosted our family’s morale, especially after an arduous PCS, like Blue Star Museums. We look forward to it every year. So, my immediate response to Candace’s tag was, If Blue Star Families is affiliated, this must be worth it. My next thought was, I wonder how they got involved. I contacted a friend who works for Blue Star Families and she put me in touch with Meghan Wieten-Scott, the National Events Manager for Blue Star Families.

Meghan, a military spouse herself, has been with Blue Star Families for 8 years. When I confessed that my knowledge of Blue Star Families has been confined to where they have gotten us in for free, she laughed. “That’s OK,” she assured me. “Programs like Blue Star Museums are great, feel-good opportunities. They are wonderful morale-boosters for military families!” And it certainly opens the door for further conversation about Blue Star Families’ mission; to strengthen military families and our nation by connecting communities and fostering leadership. “It is our hope,” Meghan continued, “that once people find out about us they also find out about other programs we offer, including Blue Star Parks, Blue Star Books, Blue Star Spouseforce, the annual Military Family Lifestyle Survey and Caregivers Empowering Caregivers.” Exclusive events, like the SEAL Team red carpet premiere are just one more way Blue Star Families is supporting and enhancing military life.

“Over the last couple of years, Blue Star Families has worked with several different TV and movie production companies when the show or movie has somehow hit on an aspect of military life,” Meghan mentioned. From an episode of Disney’s Andi Mack where a character’s mom returned home from deployment to an upcoming episode of Magnum P.I., the premiere of season 2 of SEAL Team is yet another opportunity to bridge the gap between military and civilian communities. “What better way to do this than on a celebrity scale,” Meghan explained. “The cast is reaching out, through the show, to say they appreciate military families. They are also gleaning a glimpse into military life by researching and portraying a character in the military or a family member.” For our neighborhood families, it has truly been a win-win.

About a week after we RSVP’d for the event, I decided we should watch the show. I ordered the first season from Amazon and crossed my fingers, hoping it wouldn’t be a bust. From the first 10 minutes of the pilot, Neal and I have been completely sucked in. We’ve watched 2 episodes per night to get caught up before the premiere and we’re thoroughly enjoying the fast pace, the music and the character portrayals. Neal appreciates how accurate each episode has been so far, especially in regards to how Servicemembers speak to and behave around one another. And I applaud any show that can help me better understand his experience as a Soldier. He’s not a SEAL and I’m sure there are differences, but at least once during each episode he is next to me, cackling about some spot-on quip by Jason or Sonny. Last night, he was doing push-ups and sit-ups in preparation for an upcoming PT test while the opening credits rolled. It was very Hooah in our house at that moment.

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As the days tick by, the excitement about this event has been building, both in our neighborhood and in our home. Meghan understands why. “We have found that these opportunities really resonate with our members. How cool is it to go and see a sneak peek of an upcoming episode and interact with the cast. They often will talk about the inspiration behind the show and how they get into character, even when they have had no previous experience in the military.” Sure, being stationed in L.A. has its advantages, but Blue Star Families is also ensuring that those advantages are extended to the military families stationed here.

I have a vintage clutch with a stash of questions for the cast and a back-up battery for my cell phone. My dress, purchased for an Army Ball six years ago, is hanging in the closet. Neal will shave his head and don a suit. We will take a lot of pictures and enjoy this unique experience together, with one another and with other military families. And we salute Blue Star Families for helping to make it all possible.