The book has launched!

Connie Kinsey, Writer-in-Residence for Museum of the American Military Family & Learning Center

The book has launched! I am awfully excited. The book is a project of the Museum of the American Military Family & Learning Center. Each chapter is anchored by an essay from one of the museum’s two writers-in-residence — one of them is me. The book is a serious look at gender, religion, race, identity, culture, and ethnicity in the armed forces. Active and retired service personnel, their spouses, and dependents were sent a survey asking about these things. Because the survey was completely anonymous, the open-ended questions generated additional stories from the respondents. A number of respondents agreed to contribute to the book. Thus, we have 276 pages of stories, photos, and quotes. A team of anthropologists provided a statistical analysis of the survey and their report is included as well. Though serious, the book is humorous, heartwarming, thought-provoking, informative, and infuriating — much like the military itself. This book will appeal not just to veterans, but to those who love them and want to understand their experiences. Proceeds support the museum and the writers-in-residence program.

You can read the official press release here

Letter to My 82-Year-Old Self

Photo by Josh Wedgwood on Unsplash

Dear Older Me,

I’m a little bit afraid of you.  And for you. 

I have not taken particularly good care of our body.  I’ve fed our mind and fostered our creativity all the while allowing us to adventure.  That I’ve done those things should give you rich memories to look back on.  It’s been quite a ride.  But our body is on a downhill descent that feels a bit as if we’re riding strong currents leading to a waterfall.  Eventually, we are going to go over the falls to a different ride.  Perhaps one that is a peaceful glide through the water; or perhaps another wild ride like the last 62 years. 

I’m not even going to hazard a guess as to what the next twenty years might hold. The last twenty have been surprising and the twenty before that even more so.

I hope we stay intact.  That our voice remains a guide assuring that this too shall pass when in the rough waters and laughing in delight at the scenery at the other times. I do wonder if this last transition will turn us into more spectator than participant in life.  Will we begin to make our world smaller?  Turn inward?

I’m already a constant examiner of my life – the one I’m living now, the one I lived, and the one I’m creating.  I can’t imagine becoming even more introspective, but perhaps. It’s exhausting to even think about the possibility.

Possibility.  There’s the rub.  I’ve been told that what is possible reduces itself a bit year by year until there is nothing but the inevitable.  Dear God, I hope not.

I’ve gotten through life with hope for and anticipation of good things to come. 

I’m making peace with the idea that my body is beginning to impose limitations.  I am stiff and old injuries haunt me.  

I can’t sprawl in the grass and look for animals in the clouds any longer.  I would never be able to get up.  My hearing is fading which is disastrous when one is almost wholly auditory.  I experience the world through sound and words and this inner voice in our head that is sometimes akin to talk radio. 

I have no trouble hearing our voice, but it is getting harder to eavesdrop on strangers and invent stories about their life, their hopes, and their dreams.

I think it is a given our inner voice will remain at least until the end and maybe onto the next life.  We’ve become friends. The insecure youth that we were has developed some moxie.

Let’s keep that.  Shall we?  We fought hard for it.  To get there.  To develop the courage to fail. It takes a lot of pressure off knowing we don’t have to be perfect; We just have to do the best we can under our present limitations.

Let’s go out in grace and style.  Observing, yes, but participating in the dance.  We weren’t meant to be a wallflower. 

Let’s make a pact, shall we?

Love, Connie

A Letter to My Younger Self

Dear Connie Lynn,

It’s me.  Your inner voice writing to you from fifty years into the future. 

You may want to know that much to your relief your family will quit calling you Connie Lynn in favor of Connie.  Oh, there will be the occasional family reunion where it will crop up, but just like at school, you will be known as Connie.  You never will have a proper nickname, but there will be boys and men who call you baby, sweetheart, and lover.

But I’m not writing to spoil the future for you by revealing too much detail.  I’m not going to give you any advice either – well not much.  I will tell you that you will live to be at least 62 and when you look back at your life, you will mostly smile.

I will tell you to quit worrying so much about your body.  At this age, you will look back and marvel at your insecurities.  You will be astonished by old photographs that show a girl, a woman, who is attractive and poised and yet still a bit goofy.  You will develop hips that sway when you walk.  Eventually, there will be cleavage, but that phenomenon will surprise you and I don’t want to ruin it. Some will describe you as tall and striking.  Your best friend in your 40s will tell you that while not conventionally beautiful, you are arresting.

Quit worrying about it.  Luxuriate in your body’s suppleness and flexibility. Revel in your youth.  Dance, dance, dance.

Your mind, however, will be your greatest asset.  You’ve inherited your father’s intelligence and have your own innate curiosity that will never leave you.  You will enjoy new and different all your life, while still savoring the known and comfortable.

There will be times of great sorrow, upheaval, and trials.  Your spirit will be heavy, but you also inherited your mother’s optimism and know at the cellular level that this too shall pass.

“This too shall pass” will be your life’s slogan.  You will learn, often the hard way, that nothing is permanent except this—your inner voice.  Treat me well and pay attention.  I will alert you to situations and people that are toxic to you.  Listen to me.  It will make all the difference.

I know.  I said no advice.

I will always be with you.  Your body will begin the unstoppable descent into frailty and disease.  You will look back fondly on all the things you could do with it.  Me, this inner voice, will mature until about the age of 25 when it stabilizes.  For the rest of your life, you will feel 25 until you look in the mirror.  

The brain stays supple and elastic far longer than the body, but it too starts to deteriorate.  It might surprise you to know that you will develop an inability to remember things and small details.  You will carry pen and paper everywhere to write things down.  Your ability to just file it away in your head somewhere for instant recall ends. 

You will say, “I used to have a good brain” and it will be true.

Your life will be rewarding and heartbreaking, enjoyable and miserable, steeped in pleasure, and fraught with pain.  You will nonetheless look back on it fondly.

Love yourself, dear one.  It’s going to be the ride of your lifetime. And at 62 you will smile and write this letter.

Love, Me

In the middle of the road

Photo by Lane Erickson courtesy of dreamstime.com

Lorena suddenly slammed on the breaks. She couldn’t see exactly what it was, but there was something large in the middle of the road. The placement seemed very precise. It wasn’t an animal or a box. She wasn’t sure what it was, but it sure looked like…. yes…. she stopped and put on her flashers and got out of the car. Yes. It was what she thought it was. Large, and white. Three tiers. Fondant ribbons in peach and gray on the top. Peach flowers cascading down the side. A wedding cake. A very elaborate one. More salmon than peach…a slight touch of pink to the fondant.

Lorena was bumfuzzled. Who? What? But more importantly Why?

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