96: Adventure and Attitude Go Hand in Hand

96: Adventure and Attitude Go Hand in Hand

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Positive

Adventure and Attitude Go Hand in Hand

We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.

~Jawaharial Nehru

I was born and raised in a small, rural community, and I planned to live out my life in the same county as my birth. I loved my hometown and was very close to my family. And though I intended to stay in South Georgia until my last breath, still, I daydreamed often of “seeing the world” and longed for adventure that would take me to distant shores.

I was an optimistic person, despite the fact that my family lived on very meager funds in an old, dilapidated farmhouse. I optimistically believed that we’d win the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes, rescuing us from mountainous debt and enabling us to patch the leaking roof, insulate the leaky windows, and finally buy me a pair of shoes that were not, in the words of a fellow classmate, “the ugliest things she’d ever seen.”

The summer after college graduation, I married my high school sweetheart and love of my life, and our journey as a couple began. I taught beautiful children from impoverished homes in the next county over while working on my master’s degree in the evenings; David pursued a master’s degree in entomology and worked as a graduate assistant.

I had absolutely no idea what my new husband planned to do with an entomology degree in Statesboro, Georgia, but I reminded him often that I didn’t plan on going anywhere. He silently kept studying, but hinted occasionally that we might have to leave Bulloch County to find a job.

The closer he came to graduation, the more sullen I became. I realized that my address would soon change, but I thought if I had enough temper tantrums, I could somehow preclude that from happening.

My tantrums, though frequent, didn’t earn him a local job, and he investigated a medical entomologist position with the United States Navy. Who knew that the Navy, which focuses on boats, would need bug experts? When he signed the dotted line that granted him a three-year tour of adventure — isn’t that what the television commercials said? — I accepted defeat and started packing. For a brief time, I was miserable. But, my optimism kicked in, and I decided I could do this for just three years. David assured me that with three years of experience, he’d be able to find an entomology job elsewhere, and I kidded myself that what he really meant was, “We’ll move back home in three years.”

I made up my mind to have a good attitude about the move and look on the bright side of each situation. I really could do this . . . for just three years.

I learned to ignore the loud roar of the P-3’s that flew directly over our two-bedroom base housing complex at Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, and instead enjoyed the beauty of Florida’s St. John’s River, visible from my front porch swing. With much prayer and time spent with new friends who also had deployed husbands, I tolerated the short, but frequent deployments required of a Navy medical entomologist.

I pushed aside my jealousy over my husband “seeing the world” without me, and I took interest in his adventures. On a couple of delightful occasions, I earned stamps in my own passport. We emptied our savings on a plane ticket for me; David took leave; and I met him, first in Barbados, where I ate fresh sugar cane, drank delicious fruit drinks, and saw spectacular shades of blues and greens in the Caribbean.

A year later, I joined him in Quito, Ecuador. I marveled at the Andes Mountains, suffered my first bout of altitude sickness, and stood in two hemispheres at once when I straddled the equator. We watched a Mestizo couple pick bugs from each other’s hair in the park, then eat the protein snacks. I saw beautiful children in bright colored clothing with no shoes emerge from poorly constructed homes with patched roofs and gaping holes in the walls.

As the end of David’s first tour of duty approached, he announced, “I think I’ll sign up for just one more tour.” I reluctantly affirmed his decision and kept my positive attitude. “I can do this for just three more years,” I told myself.

Uncle Sam sent us to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. I thought I deserved a stamp in my passport for this location too, but officials didn’t agree. It was two hours from nowhere, a “cultural desert” as another military wife warned me.

I ignored the unwanted negativism others offered about our new home and determined to find the best. I welcomed new relationships with military personnel from all over the map instead, wonderful families on adventures of their own.

I went deep sea fishing, crabbing, and camping. I joined my husband in Israel and rode my first camel. I saw an olive tree that reminded me of Bible stories. I saw the Sea of Galilee, cringed at Golgotha, and scooped water from the River Jordan that, years later, flowed over my four children in baptism.

I trembled when an Israeli soldier cocked his machine gun. I trembled even more at an empty tomb. I saw beautiful people with empty eyes at the Wailing Wall. I wept.

My next plane ticket read “Puerto Rico,” where I explored the El Yunque rainforest, with its captivating kapok trees and heard coqui frog serenades.

Prayers, my sanguinity, and my eighteen-month-old firstborn enabled me to make it through my husband’s first wartime deployment. Operation Desert Storm separated my family for six months, but simultaneously bound us in a way that few circumstances can.

Post-war decisions signed us up for “just one more tour,” where I looked past the smog, crime, and traffic of nearby D.C. to explore every national monument, admire cherry blossoms, and salute the known and unknown fallen soldiers.

God and Uncle Sam sent our family to the West Coast, where we landed first in California, then three years later, an hour ferry’s ride from Seattle. I wished away San Diego’s gray fog and hot Santa Ana winds and enjoyed the cold Pacific Ocean, giant sequoias and redwoods. I caught a tarantula and saw tumbleweeds.

I accepted the Pacific Northwest’s constant rain and sunless days, marveling instead at the magnificent evergreens, Hoh Rain Forest, and snow-capped mountain views. I soared over Seattle in a seaplane, schlepped through banks of snow on a Christmas sleigh ride, and slewed through snow with sled dogs.

When our “three-year tour” ended twenty years later, I had more stamps in my passport and pictures in my albums than I ever dreamed possible. Life in the Navy was truly an incredible voyage for our entire family. Overlooking the negatives and capitalizing on the positives impacted our time at each duty station, bringing endless joy and a lifetime of treasured memories, especially for this small-town, country girl with big dreams of adventure.

~Julie Lavender

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