Living in the Valley of the Apples

They say you never forget where you were the first time you saw a dead rat. Well, actually I don’t think they say that. Actually, I think nobody has ever said that except for me, right now. But. The fact remains, that if you have ever seen one, you will not forget where you were. I had, up until recently, thought that I had escaped the vermin infested days of my Arizona youth. And for good reason! Things were looking up! I live in California! Surely no rodent dare cross into the golden state! Well, my fellow compadres, let me tell you something. If La Jolla (where I used to live) is California’s poster-child for elegance and success and grace, Apple Valley (where I currently live) is the tweaked out step-nephew who frequents the local lock up. In fact, the area I am currently residing in is, quote unquote, on the outskirts of Felony Flats. Yes, you read that right. Felony Flats. And no, I did not make this up. It is regionally known as Felony Flats, I knew it to be Felony Flats when I moved here, and I do believe you can Google FELONY FLATS and it will point you in my very exact direction. (I feel the need to type Felony Flats as many times as possible to reiterate to my dumb-dumb, no-regard-for-my-personal-safety brain from refraining to repeat such a poor life choice in the future. Felony Flats.) The high desert is a place that people traveling through gas and go very quickly, and a place that locals may never depart from. In Apple Valley’s defense, it used to orchestrate a thriving, you guessed it, apple orchard production and was even a metaphorical oasis for movie stars to escape to, from Los Angeles. But then came a very specific apple tree destroying beetle, and gone went the orchards, and with it, the money, and with that, the livelihood of the town. It’s always amazing to me what can bring down a city. Whether it be an insect, the closing of an important business, a lack of quality water, a reputation.. whatever it is, it leaves behind thousands of people with the life changing choice to either adapt, or uproot. They say that the grass is always greener, but in this case and in this particular place, there is no grass. So it honest to goodness must be greener on the other side. That being said, I have the utmost respect for the people that chose to carve out a life in this 110 degree, dry and dusty desert. And I have about 8 more months here, so it is my mission to find the grass, literal and metaphorical, in this tough little town. But, I can tell you where the grass was most certainly NOT. It was not, by golly, in my backyard, in the back corner, where I saw my first rat. It was huge. It was as long as my hand. NOT including the 8 inch tail. It was almost cartoon-ish. It was unsettling. It was borderline scarring. But it was dead. And not IN my house. And my landlord took care of it. So perhaps, there was a little grass after all. It is my goal in life to live in a place where I do not have to deal with rodents on such a regular schedule. It is also my goal in life to make enough money to not have to think twice about paying extra for guacamole. And to have a pet pig. It’s the little things, right?

Well, Keegan has been gone a month. It is incredible to me how relative time is. How some days can take hours and some hours can take weeks. It’s getting easier, in most regards. The hard part is not knowing where he is, or how he is.. it’s the little things I miss the most. Telling him about my day, laughing about nothing and everything, just the security that his presence, even if hours away, brought me. So, I decided I would write a little bit every night and tell him about my day. Last week, I wrote and told him I ate 3 Del Taco Taco’s and a milkshake and then got really sick, because, I ate 3 Del Taco Taco’s and a milkshake. What I really need to do, is get a life. But really, it’s becoming my new normal and that is okay. (Not the taco binging, I now know my limit is 2 Del Taco Taco’s and a mini shake, just clarifying.) I know that we are going to have a deeper level of trust and understanding and appreciation from this separation that I am not sure can come from anything other than prolonged distance and a lack of communication. The thing that I keep telling myself, is that he is coming back.. and we will look back on this and be so proud of ourselves for conquering this deployment. I know that this time in the desert for me, is going to be a time for cultivating gratitude. Thankfulness for a family that supports me and loves me and is forever for me, for a steady job that is allowing me to reach my goals and dreams, and for a tough deployment that has put this country and this world in a much better perspective for me.

And on that same note, or similar note, I have found one of the keys to happiness. At least in my life. My grandma always has said that life is a roller coaster, full of highs and lows and everything in between. And you don’t appreciate the highs without the lows. And whenever she would say that, I would always think, “Uhhh, I think I can appreciate the highs all the time. Don’t need no lows for me!” (Apparently my mental train also had no formal education, but that is beside the point.) But guys, she was right. Like she said, we live in the valley. And I don’t think we should fight to live on the mountain top any more than we should fight not to live in the canyons. Being satisfied and fulfilled in the valley means that when you get a mountain top experience, it exceeds any and all expectations. Let me explain.. last weekend, my sister came down to San Diego for a basketball tournament. Now, as already mentioned, I lived in La Jolla for awhile. Absolute paradise. And I truly thought I appreciated it while I was there! The ocean, the flowers, the people, the food! But it’s so easy to get complacent, to keep reaching for better and better and not being satisfied with where you are, and I found myself not being happy. Not being happy with my job, with my lack of friends, with things I took for granted. But then I moved here. And I decided to have a better outlook, because having a positive outlook on life is the only way a person can survive here. So by the time Grace came down, I had acclimated to my new valley. And I was okay with it. BUT. I got to spend a whole day with Grace in San Diego and La Jolla, and let me tell you, I have rarely felt so much joy in my heart. Even on the drive over, watching the terrain change and the temperature drop, my heart began to swell. That day, I marveled at the many vibrant flowers, stood in awe of the mighty sea, tasted tacos (not Del Tacos Taco’s) that rivaled perfection, and truly indulged in what was, by all accounts, the perfect day. I relished the company of my sister and am so thankful for her kind spirit and generous heart. It was one of those days that, even as it’s happening, you know is going to be one of those special, special memories. So, I learned that I would take as many valley days as it takes for one day on the mountain top, for one day of pure, unadulterated joy.

So, all of that being said, did I mention where I slept that night? No? Well, let me tell you a little story. Apple Valley is about a 2.5/3 hour drive to San Diego, and I had fully planned on returning Saturday night after her games, and returning Sunday morning for more. But 5pm rolls around, and Grace and I are having the aforementioned day, and NO WAY IN HELL am I breaking that up to drive back to AppHELL Valley. So, 7pm rolls around and I have been intermittently calling hotels, googling rates and rooms, and going further into a state of denial about my continued failure in finding a vacancy. I drop Grace off at 830 at her hotel, sit in that parking lot, and continue my quest. Nothing. And by nothing I mean NOT a thing (and by that, I mean nothing under $200). But I, armed with my pride and the bank account of a pre-airline pilot, decided in no way am I about to drop that kind of money on a hotel that LOOKS SKETCHY IN THE PICTURES. I almost wanted to call some of these people back and just tell them that even their website pictures of the hotel look sketchy, and I was personally offended they could even CONSIDER charging someone that much money for such a dump. It was robbery! And I was out of luck. (I do need to mention here that my parents offered multiple times to pay for a safe hotel, but dammit I am an adult and I don’t need no help! (There is my uneducated mental voice coming back.. going to have to work on that, I think it is the Idaho coming out in me.)) But then I had a light bulb. I had an air mattress, a blanket, AND a pillow all in the back of my Rav4! You know me! Always prepared! (This is untrue, I just happened to work a 15 hour day the previous week and we are allowed to take a nap and I was too stinkin’ lazy to clean out my car.) So, after about 30 minutes of mental dilemma and steeling myself to the idea, I pulled around the hotel complex, it truly was a safe area, and parked in a lit area with lots of nice looking cars with little family stickers on the back. I then put down the back seats and started to fill up the mattress. Well, the pump thankfully is battery operated but MAN was it loud. I didn’t want people to think I was sleeping in my car, so every time somebody came even remotely within hearing distance, I slammed the back door and ran around to the driver’s side. In hindsight, I looked like some type of drug dealer or maybe even a drug consumer. But rather that than hotel-less!!! I eventually got it filled up (with only a couple of parents quickly ushering their children to the other side of the parking lot to maneuver around the cracked out backseat drug dealer, might I add!) I do need to mention, that when I moved from La Jolla to Apple Valley, Keegan helped me pack up my car. And he put items in cracks and crevices I didn’t even know existed, but thanks to him it only took one trip. However, when I was trying to put down my seats, they wouldn’t budge. So I did some investigation and I found, wedged underneath the middle seats, my long lost magic bullet, Tupperware specifically designed for salad with a separate dressing compartment (Thanks, mom) and a fork. And with the front seats now completely full of my flight bag, suitcase, and numerous other oddities, I decided to just leave it in the back with me. So there I was, in the back seat of my car, closing out one of the most perfect days of my life, nestled between a magic bullet, a salad specific container and a fork. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. (ESPECIALLY the $200 those hotel robbers were trying to get out of me.)

Well folks, that’s it for now. I hope all is well with you. Love to all.

Maggie

Hidden Sacrifices

Hello my friends,

It has been quite awhile since I last wrote. Recently, there have been some events in my life that have caused me to really examine who I want to be as a person, and the type of person I want to become. I enjoy writing, it is a release of sorts to me. So I am going to try and start blogging again, mostly for myself but I hope you get some enjoyment out of it. I want to continue to bring humor into much of what I write, mostly because it keeps me looking at the bright side of life. I look back on my previous posts, and while they bring a smile to my face, I also remember how scared and alone I felt at times. I didn’t write about that, perhaps to try and pretend like I was above all of that, I am not really sure, but going forward, I am going to be as real as I can here. I am going to share my joys, my griefs, my delights. There will be short thoughts, there will be rambles, there will be humor. But mostly, there will be realness. And truth. Thank you for your patience and encouragement, it means the absolute world. And please, if you feel inclined, share your truths with me as well.

About 90 minutes after this picture was taken, it felt like half of my heart was being ripped out of my chest.. I had to say goodbye for quite awhile to the man who had become my other half. But before that, as I was walking around watching all of the pre-deployment festivities take place, I realized something that really shifted my views on this country.

I saw wives clinging to their husbands of less than a year, trying to memorize and re-memorize every feature of their faces, I saw grown men stroke their daughter’s ponytails and tear up as they thought about the months of their lives they were going to miss, I saw late term pregnant mother’s rubbing their stomachs, watching their husbands load up their gear into the bus that was about to take them away, knowing they were going to miss the birth and first few months of their child’s lives.

I saw women who were trying so hard to be brave for their Marines and would only let a tear slip or their chin tremble when he wasn’t looking.

I saw couples getting ready to go through this for the seventh time.

I saw strength and courage and sacrifice that I have never experienced before, I saw what makes this country great. It’s the constant sacrifices of thousands of men and women, children and families who are torn from what they hold most dear to their hearts, so that millions of Americans never have to experience the pain that comes from such separation. Before Keegan, I had always heard about the great service our military does for our country, but until I literally watched hearts breaking right in front of me, and felt my own shatter, I never knew the depth of that sacrifice.

And the thing that really is getting to me, is I still don’t.

These men and women are willing and ready to sacrifice their very lives for people they will never meet. I will never fully be able to fully grasp such an honor, but I will always be so incredibly thankful to them, to all of you, for what you have given up so I can be free.

Thank you, and thank you to the families that stand behind these men and women.

 

Much love to all,

Maggie

Just Another Empty Nester

Today was laundry day.

Well, today was the day my laundry got done. Laundry day should have been about three days ago.. but I digress. This should not be a blog worthy story. It should have been a simple, mundane task that took about an hour. But no.

Upon waking up today and deciding it was time to get dressed and welcome the morning, I came to a rather stark realization. I had nothing to wear. Nothing. Usually I have a few pairs of shorts to spare or a shirt or two but (aside from a few dresses and winter jackets.. not sure why I packed the latter when it typically doesn’t get below 65) I had nothing clean but the pajamas I had on. I looked down to see what I was wearing, was not all that impressed, but needed to get to the laundry room so I made a judgement call and began to gather the soap and necessary washing items. As I was doing so, I caught a full length glimpse of myself in the mirror and froze in shock and mild horror. During my previous scan of my outfit, I must have had my eyes closed. I looked a fright. I had on Hobbit Pants (think Lord of the Rings.. moss green felt.. 48 sizes too big), an oversized Larry Bird collectors shirt (#TeamLarryForLife #ThanksDad), and my hair in a bun directly on top of my head.

But my laundry needed to get done.

I opened the door to my room.. made sure there was not a soul in sight.. and ran as fast as I could the 100 yards to the Laundry Room, high stepping over the bug carcasses, while carrying a bag full of clothes that would have rivaled the Grinch’s bag of stolen Christmas Gifts (I watched that movie the other day.. what a classic). Phew. I made it unseen. I threw all of my clothes into one washer, colors and whites be damned, and ran back to my door. I could hardly believe my luck! Not a single person saw me in my Hobbitish glory!

Aaaaand my door was locked.

As I checked my pockets for the 14th time.. I came to the realization that in my haste to run to the Laundry Room, I had left my keys in my dorm. But being the level headed and quick thinker that I am, I decided I had two options. The first was to hide in the communal bathroom for the next 4 months until the semester was over and everybody had left, and the second was to march my little self across campus to Central Housing and get an RA to come unlock my door. After about 10 minutes of listing the pros and cons of both .. sure death by starvation or eternal humiliation were the key contenders.. I decided to go get the key. I also decided that if I looked like I was fine with what I was wearing, then everybody else would not look twice. Fake it till you make it baby! And fake it I did. Twenty minutes and 52 strange looks later, I was safe in my room.. key in hand.. pride only slightly damaged.

These last couple of weeks have been busy ones. All of my flying is starting to become very complex and mentally draining which has led to a significant amount of sleeping and studying, in that order. I shot my first approach a while back and am now about to start ILS approaches as well as ATC Communication (Booo radios!!) to start tying things together. I am still enjoying it and am still having fun although I wouldn’t mind doing an aileron roll or a loop every now and then.

I wore a sweatshirt last night and it was 78 degrees. I am becoming a disgrace to North Idaho. Please forgive me.

Some friends and I were cruising around Douglas one night, trying to find an elusive frozen yogurt shop that I had driven by once but been unable to find again, and we came upon a movie theater. Yes, an honest to goodness movie theater! I haven’t been that excited since I found out that we were having pumpkin cobbler instead of pudding for dessert the previous night! Up until our discovery, we had been driving 45 minutes to the nearest city to go to movies every once and awhile. Albeit, this theater only shows two different movies for a week or so and they aren’t exactly new releases and the times are really all that convenient and there is a perpetual firework on the right side of the screen because the projector is 72 years old but hells bells!! It’s something to do! And on Wednesdays and Thursdays it is only $5 for two people!! Wahooo!! We go hard in Douglas.

On another note, my birds are gone. I knew the day would come, I knew that they had to grow up and literally spread their wings, but I never imagined it would be so hard to emotionally let them go. And I am being one hundred and fifty percent honest when I say that I love my little birds. And that the day I woke up and went to say ‘good morning’ to them, and they were gone.. was easily the worst day I have had down here. I actually almost cried. I know it is irrational and to a very real degree, ridiculous, but they were born around the time I moved down here, and seeing their cute little faces every morning was a constant that I looked forward to and took for granted. One day, two of the four were gone and the next day there was only one. And the following day.. my little nest was completely empty. As mentioned, that was a rough day. I actually called my parents and told them how sad I was, and my daddy mentioned something about that was how he and my momma felt about me leaving .. and that was about the most depressingly beautiful thing I have ever heard. I found it in my heart to try and let them go, but there were four tiny holes where my babies used to be.

But the next day.. there they were! Sitting, waiting for me in the morning again! Fully grown, beautful as ever, except now they could fly. They could fly, but they still came back to me. And maybe that is how life is. You grow up, just enough to be able to be on your own and fly away for a little bit, but then you come back home. Not forever, and maybe not very often, but you know where your heart is because that is where your family is and then for a little bit, everything is okay in the world again and life is as sweet as ever.

If you all thought I was a Crazy Bird Lady before that last paragraph, I shudder to think what you think of me now!

I miss you all and will be better at trying to keep this a weekly Blog.

I would love to hear from you all and if you have any questions or thoughts, please don’t hesitate to comment below or to e-mail me (Maggie.Kirscher@gmail.com).

Maybe it is because it’s late, or maybe it is because I am in a sentimental mood, but I would just like to thank all of you, my family in particular, for creating such a beautifully supportive and loving nest for me to come home to. I love each and every one of you and am so blessed to have you in my life.

 

Love,

Maggie

 

P.S. I would like to give a shout out to the coolest, funniest, sassiest, most beautiful sister and best friend in the entire world.. GRACE KIRSCHER .. for turning 15 on the 11th. I love you Grace, more than you will ever know. 

 

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Above are Todd and I, cruising down some Arizonian Highway, a line of my birds and their friends after they flew away, my last bird to leave the nest, and a happy picture of me. I will try to be better about taking pictures of myself and my activities and my friends.. I just never have a camera on me!

Goodbye for now 🙂