Army brat

CHANGE IS THE ONLY CONSTANT

My life has never been dull, but I planned it that way. I believe I chose it from the spirit world before I was born. It’s been very challenging with lowdown times, along with plenty of excitement, and I’ve been grateful for all of it—especially for all the folks who chose to be a friend or an acquaintance. Some stayed a long time; others came and went. I am a kind person and attracted kind people, for the most part. I believe that’s the way life works—you get back what you put out. But that doesn’t mean any of us have a smooth ride—think back to the histories of family and friends…

I got my worldly view starting at age four and living in Bavaria, Germany right after the disastrous WWII. I had been blessed with a Southern Virginia loving family upbringing, I was totally accepting experiencing a strange, harsh-sounding language and bombed out buildings and learned to speak German fluently. My stepfather was a stern Army officer and I towed the line, for the most part. Another highlight were my teen years in the 1950’s living in exotic Tripoli, Libya, a country of desert sand, camels and a lovely seashore once trod by Romans centuries ago. I can’t say I understand the full implication of the history or philosophy in those ancient lands, but I can understand and relate to their humanity, which makes me more accepting of the upheavals that area has been suffering—with no end in sight.

My sister Tupper and I in Murnau, Bavaria, Germany

My sister Tupper and I in Murnau, Bavaria, Germany

These reminisces are probably typical as we age and are faced with health, financial and social issues. Since I’m a writer and knew that was my destiny from the age of ten, I tend to mull over my life’s ups and downs. Perhaps a reader will glean some self-wisdom from my words.

Viki Williams in 1956--the family Ford in from of our villa on Via de Gaspari, Garden City, Tripoli.

Viki Williams in 1956–the family Ford in front of our villa on Via de Gaspari, Garden City, Tripoli.

I’ve had some typical experiences—a marriage, the birth of a girl and a boy (both fabulous, loving humans), and a divorce. I chose to pursue a career in journalism, writing for both weekly and daily Los Angeles newspapers, before I wrote several books (Melaynie’s Masquerade – a 16th century historical fiction and several other books based on some true experiences – all available on Amazon:) As an author and a longtime newspaper editor, I felt the next best step was editing books. During the past 15 years, I have guided many wonderful authors, some of them first timers, through a wide variety of books.

Although I’ve generally been very healthy, I was challenged in the past few years with mobility issues that were getting worse, but I thought 2016 was going to be a turnaround year since I was getting a new hip on my right side. Instead, I’ve been dealing with various complications that sometimes come with surgeries, like losing my appetite for several months. The latest involved flashing lights and dizziness. Between various tests and doctors’ opinions (it wasn’t a stroke, as I first thought), I’m slowly moving forward, hopes high. Thank the Lord that we can’t see the future, for the most part. And we’re responsible for our attitudes. I’ve always been an optimist, thankfully, and that attitude has always suited me.

Besides an inner knowing that it will all work out, eventually, it seems I won’t be needing to go on a diet or take drugs for high blood pressure in the near future. Since my operation in January, I have dropped 45 pounds. It’s been awhile since I’ve been this slender. And my blood pressure went down about 30 points. The future looks bright.

COINCIDENCES…SYNCHRONICITY

Life is full of Spider Webs…

 

Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect. This is a famous quote by Chief Seattle, a Duwamish/Suquamish Indian, for whom Seattle, Washington, is named.

I’ve remembered this famous quote for decades, and think of it especially now because of the Internet. What is the Internet but a spider web? The web analogy applies to us all and helps explain to some extent the mysteries of connections. How does anything happen except through these unexplainable forces? For lack of a better term, is this “God?”

I would venture to say everyone experiences amazing connections of one sort or another: meeting someone who became special in your life because you made a decision to go to a certain party, for instance. I particularly enjoy these synchronicities because they have happened to me so often–as I have discussed in past blog posts. Some coincidences are very important and others are just fun. If I hadn’t decided to join my parents in Germany after college graduation, I wouldn’t have met my ex-husband and come to California.

Not long ago, my daughter and I went to a nearby laundromat for our monthly load of wash; their huge machines are more efficient than the small machines in our apartment buildings. Even though it’s a chore, it’s a pleasure to meet and perhaps chat with a variety of people who’ve chosen to live in Southern California.

Sometimes, these folks can be eccentric. I can still picture the skinny frenetic musician who resembled rocker Mick Jagger. He was doing laundry for his children and he had a bizarre system. Rather than fill one of the giant machines with one large load of clothes, he had filled up about 14 small machines and then enthusiastically raced around putting in his quarters. When they were ready for the dryers, also huge, he also split up the clothes into small loads. No wonder he stayed bone thin. I also wondered how much money he wasted.

While Heidi and I removed the laundry from the dryers, I started talking to a woman around my age, who was finishing up 9 loads of laundry! My journalism experience in interviewing has made it very easy for me to talk with people, and they feel  comfortable sharing their lives with me. Consequently, I have discovered many coincidental things in my conversations.

Perhaps because I grew up an Army brat in many parts of the world, I attract unique people. I discovered initially that my new acquaintance’s 40 year-old son was a writer like myself and had self-published a novel on Amazon, like I have. This charming woman was born in Punjab, India, but has lived most of her life in the US. I have Indian connections: an old friend who was born and raised in Mumbai, and now an editing client who comes from the southern part of India. As we talked further, she told me she had lived in Northern Virginia, specifically Alexandria, and her son had attended Hammond School. I was delighted with the synchronicity: I had lived in Alexandria for several years and graduated from Hammond, then a high school and now a middle school.

But there were more coincidences. The mother of a daughter and son, as I am, she was also divorced and makes her living with business writing. Her married daughter is now living in my old neighborhood in Agoura Hills, California, where Heidi had grown up. My former home of 15 years is only a couple of blocks from her daughter’s present residence.  Oh yes, and we both liked Indian Bollywood movies!

 

CHRISTMAS MEMORIES By Victoria Giraud

As Christmas season and gift giving makes its merry way into the lives of those who celebrate it, I think about years past and what stood out about those days. To me, the holidays are sentimental. It reminds me of my parents, my siblings, my relatives and all the friends I’ve known over the years. As each year passes, there are more friends and relatives who are departing Mother Earth and this special time becomes more bittersweet.

I believe my childhood as an Army brat, traveling around the world, probably inspired me to keep in touch with as many old friends and relatives as I possibly could. I saw that my parents did it (my mother signed the cards and wrote the accompanying notes) and I enjoyed reading all the Christmas mail they got in return. I’ve been doing the same for several decades and continue to enjoy everyone’s news, even though I’ve graduated to modern technology and use Email. This year’s Christmas Email was the longest one yet because I had to share my son’s wedding photos and my daughter’s artwork.

There are a few holiday occasions I remember with a special fondness. My earliest Christmas memory is a postwar celebration in Murnau, Germany, in the 1940s. My mother was newly married. Instead of the train I remember asking for, I received a set of painted wooden doll furniture embellished with colorful Bavarian décor. I still have the foot high chest of drawers; it’s in excellent shape considering the years. It doesn’t contain doll clothes, just a variety of items like spare toothbrushes, spare night lights and a few remembrances.

Germany figures in another Christmas, my last one in college. As an Army dependent, I had a free trip to my parents’ home in Mannheim, but it was space available from Maguire Air Force Base in New Jersey. A large group of students and military personnel waited about five days for a seat. An older Master Sergeant became my protector and took me to see the Cary Grant/Audrey Hepburn movie “Charade.”  Once in Germany, I felt like a debutante with all the social activities and attention from eligible Army lieutenants. Winging homeward to the US on New Year’s Eve, a few of us college coeds were invited by flirtatious Air Force pilots into the cockpit to see the Midnight Sun over Northern Canada.

I recall my daughter Heidi’s second year Christmas and the Fisher-Price dollhouse Santa brought. She was old enough to appreciate it, and I can still see it because it’s on film. I was about six months pregnant with her brother at the time.

I can’t forget the memory of the last family Christmas I spent with my parents, sister and brother. My little family—husband and two youngsters–drove  from LA to San Antonio, Texas, in a spacious Plymouth; the backseat was large enough for a crib mattress, an idea I’d gotten from a TV show. I bought a harness for both kids (three years old and eight months old) and strapped them to the seat belts, so they could sleep and also crawl around. It might not be considered safe now, but nothing bad happened.

That Christmas my mother’s kidney disease was just beginning to get worse, my brother was still in college and my sister was going to junior college in Utah. Two years later my mother had left the world for good.

A few years later my sister joined us for a California taste of winter. My mother-in-law rented a cabin in the San Bernardino Mountains, which gave us a whole new perspective on the holidays. We bought a tree on the way there, a bargain since it was Christmas Eve, and then had to lug everything up countless steps to this aerie on the hill with a view of a small lake below. We did our decorating the old-fashioned way by stringing popcorn. Before we left a few days later, my kids tried out sledding for the first time.

Dealing with my new divorce in the 1980s felt daunting, but my sister’s small family and my still single brother were supportive by joining me and my kids in Los Angeles for Christmas. Four small children and four adults filled my house with laughter, and my sister brought along the ingredients to make a lovely little gingerbread house.

Adults: Me, Darb, Tup and the kids: David, Hansi, Heidi and Heather. 

 

May you all have holiday memories to cherish, and if you need more, go out and make them!

 

 

CHRISTMASES I REMEMBER

As Christmas season and gift giving makes its merry way into the lives of those who celebrate it, I think about years past and what stood out about those days. To me, the holidays are sentimental. It reminds me of my parents, my siblings, my relatives and all the friends I’ve known over the years. As each year passes, there are more friends and relatives who are departing Mother Earth and this special time becomes more bittersweet.

I believe my childhood as an Army brat, traveling around the world, probably inspired me to keep in touch with as many old friends and relatives as I possibly could. I saw that my parents did it (my mother signed the cards and wrote the accompanying notes) and I enjoyed reading all the Christmas mail they got in return. I’ve been doing the same for several decades and continue to enjoy everyone’s news, even though I’ve graduated to modern technology and use Email.

There are a few occasions I remember with a special fondness. My earliest Christmas memory is a postwar celebration in Murnau, Germany in the 1940s. My mother was newly married. Instead of the train I remember asking for, I received a set of painted wooden doll furniture embellished with colorful Bavarian décor. I still have the foot high chest of drawers; it’s in excellent shape considering the years.

Germany figures in another Christmas, my last one in college. As an Army dependent, I had a free trip to my parents’ home in Mannheim, but it was space available from Maguire Air Force Base in New Jersey. A large group of students and military personnel waited about five days for a seat. An older Master Sergeant became my protector and took me to see the Cary Grant/Audrey Hepburn movie “Charade.”  Once in Germany, I felt like a debutante with all the social activities and attention from eligible Army lieutenants. Winging homeward to the US on New Year’s Eve, a few of us college coeds were invited by flirtatious Air Force pilots into the cockpit to see the Midnight Sun over Northern Canada.

I recall my daughter Heidi’s second year Christmas and the Fisher-Price dollhouse Santa brought. She was old enough to appreciate it, and I can still see it because it’s on film. I was about six months pregnant with her brother at the time.

I can’t forget the memory of the last family Christmas I spent with my parents, sister and brother. My little family—husband and two youngsters–drove  from LA to San Antonio, Texas, in a spacious Plymouth; the backseat was large enough for a crib mattress, an idea I’d gotten from a TV show. I bought a harness for both kids (three years old and eight months) and strapped them to the seat belts, so they could sleep and also crawl around. It might not be considered safe now, but nothing bad happened.

That Christmas my mother’s kidney disease was just beginning to get worse, my brother was still in college and my sister was going to junior college in Utah. Two years later my mother had left the world for good.

A few years later my sister joined us for a California taste of winter. My mother-in-law rented a cabin in the San Bernardino Mountains, which gave us a whole new perspective on the holidays. We bought a tree on the way there, a bargain since it was Christmas Eve, and then had to lug everything up countless steps to this aerie on the hill with a view of a small lake below. We did our decorating the old-fashioned way by stringing popcorn. Before we left a few days later, my kids tried out sledding for the first time.

Dealing with my new divorce in the 1980s felt daunting, but my sister’s small family and my still single brother were supportive by joining me and my kids in Los Angeles for Christmas. Four small children and four adults filled my house with laughter, and my sister brought along the ingredients to make a lovely little gingerbread house.

Adults: Me, Darb, Tup and the kids: David, Hansi, Heidi and Heather

 

May you all have holiday memories to cherish, and if you need more, go out and make them!

 

 

WORDS ON MY MIND – 1st ANNIVERSARY

At my desk, contemplating, with the globe behind me.

 

I began this blog, WORDS ON MY MIND, on May 13, 2010. Since then I’ve written  123  blogs on all sorts of subjects, from life as an Army brat, especially in Tripoli, Libya, to adventures living in Southern California. Since I’m considered a senior citizen now and have worked/created as a writer and an editor for 33 years, there have been lots of events to write about. Over the years I’ve interviewed many fascinating people, edited over 80 books of all types, written a screenplay, Drake,  an historical novel, Melaynie’s Masquerade, and co-written a memoir with Wendy Wong, When the Phoenix Rises.

Starting a blog can be daunting, even though I’ve been writing all my life. When I was ten, I sat down in front of an old portable typewriter to write a story about a dog, a story I have long forgotten. If memory serves, my family was on vacation in Jacksonville Beach, Florida at the time. That’s my memory, at any rate, but I’ve recently learned you can’t completely trust your memory! You change it, someone else may add their two cents, which revises the story, etc. As is touted all the time, the only thing in life that’s constant is change…

My life has been one of many changes; perhaps that’s a reason I wanted to write: it was a way I could create some kind of base, a form of security. I’ve kept a diary off and on since high school and have saved the notebooks. I’m even one of those people who composes a yearly Christmas letter to friends. I work on keeping it balanced: describing highlights as well as the lowlights from the past year. Currently, I write on my computer. Who will be interested in what I’ve said once I’ve gone on to non-physical pastures? What difference does it make? Probably none, but I’ve pleased myself. Conclusion: it’s the reason I’m now blogging. I want to share my thoughts with more people.

Born in Danville, VA, I was raised an Army brat—on my way by age four to Murnau, Germany. I learned to speak Deutsche—it’s easy when you’re young. My family moved many times: after Germany came New Jersey, Ft. Leonard Wood, MO; Jacksonville Beach, FL while dad fought in Korea, the Bronx, Ft. Knox, KY; Tripoli, Libya; and Alexandria, VA. During my years in college at William and Mary, in Williamsburg, VA, my family went briefly to Carlisle, PA before landing once again in Germany (Mannheim and Frankfurt). The wanderlust was still with me when I graduated, and I ended up working as a secretary at Heidelberg Officers Club in Germany. Marriage brought me to Los Angeles and I’ve been here ever since. At last count so far, I’ve lived in about 27 different homes in my lifetime.

Los Angeles, which I love, is a microcosm of the world—we’ve got nearly 4 million people from every culture here and we come in various colors, shapes and sizes. In my apartment building, I can visit with neighbors from Romania, Israel, Turkey, El Salvador, New York City, and all over the US.   Some who have grown up here have families that have come from: the Philippines, Armenia, China and various Latin American countries.

I believe we’re all connected as humans, no matter what the country, religion or political view. Writing is communication…connection…about everything. To remember the wonderful connections, the uplifting or sad experiences, the oddities and synchronicities, I write to share my experiences.

 

 

 

 

 

GROWING UP AS AN ARMY BRAT

I was a draftee in the US Army from the time I was born. The old joke tells it best—I didn’t enlist, I was drafted.

My young mother, Garnette, wanted adventure, but I don’t think she bargained for the extra baggage so soon. After high school in Danville, Virginia, she took off for nearby Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, and got herself a job as a clerk-typist. She was a beautiful woman and had no problem finding Victor, an eligible Infantry lieutenant and a West Point graduate, no less. It was 1942 and the US was already at war. I’m sure there were a slew of babies “hatching” in the pouch and military fathers doing the honorable thing by marrying the mothers.

Victor & Victoria, the draftee!

Although the marriage only lasted through the war, I think my mother loved Victor. Being a Southern lady, she didn’t tell me I was the result of a romantic dalliance until I was 19. She’d already found herself another Army lieutenant as the war ended. After a Reno divorce (she had to live there six weeks: see the old movie The Women), they married and then honeymooned in San Francisco.

Mom, new dad and me - Munich train station

My stepdad, Darby, was my new commander-in-chief and he and Mom added two new draftees, Joan Tupper and Darby III, as the years went by. Being Army brats, there were always travel adventures for all of us: Murnau, Mannheim and Frankfurt, Germany; Tripoli, Libya, the Bronx, Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri; Ft. Knox, Kentucky; Jacksonville Beach, Florida, and Alexandria, Virginia, essentially. They traveled back to Germany while I was in college, and I joined them when I graduated. Who wanted to miss the opportunity?

Luckily, I loved moving and making new friends, even though I was a little bit shy in my younger years. One learns to be resourceful and comfortable wherever you end up. Orders are orders. Housing can be spacious or cramped. Before we got officer’s housing in Ft. Knox, we were in a cantonment area, (temporary quarters)—a one-story converted old wooden hospital with closed-off corridors near the famous Gold Vault.

Regular officers’ quarters were usually more than adequate. You’d never mistake them since they look almost identical in any US fort: solid and respectable-looking two story brick with basements and garages and a decent-sized yard. Some of these leftovers remain in the Army’s famous Presidio on the best real estate in San Francisco, now privately owned.

In Germany, right after WWII, as the occupying forces, we lived like rich folks in a two-story 18-room mansion in bucolic Murnau (undamaged by the war) with a separate garage, spacious grounds, a maid and a houseboy. Murnau is now a spa town and quite lovely. The skiing area in winter was about a 10-minute walk. If that wasn’t good enough, a longer excursion would have taken us to Germany’s tallest mountain, the Zugspitze in Garmisch. Quarters never got that good again, although our Tripoli villa was top notch. The photo below shows the home with the staked tomato plants in front. And my dad was only a captain!

I don’t think “socialism” has particularly bothered me politically, or universal health care. Those were Army services. Housing and health care was provided, and you took what they gave you. I’ve never hankered after a specific family doctor. If any of us had a health problem, we’d accompany my mom to the dispensary, have our temperature taken and then wait. If it wasn’t serious, it might be many hours. Getting shots was not a choice; my mother hauled us into the dispensary every year as needed for what we needed, depending on where we were going next. As I often heard it said, however, “The Army takes care of its own.”

To be continued

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