Sunday, September 29, 2013

Lehua Parker: One shark, No Swim Blog Tour!

Please welcome Lehua Parker, fellow Jolly Fish Press author, to the blog today! Also a busy mom, and farm owner, Lehua is here to talk about balance. Take it away, Lehua!

Aloha, Brenda! Thanks for hosting a guest post from me as part of the blog tour for One Shark, No Swim, book two in the Niuhi Shark Saga. You asked for five tips for balancing writing, family, and farm life.

With all the writing, reading, and reviewing I do, the evil truth is I have no balance. My life is all about holding up an elephant on a high wire and hoping the spinning plates don’t fall. Here’s a peek behind the stage door’s curtain.

1. Harness the Power of Minions

If you’ve done the Mom-job right, at some point, the children you’ve slaved over become indentured servants. My youngest is 13 and the oldest can drive, but not vote, so I figure I can milk this for a few more years. When they walk in the door from school, I sweetly ask how their day was then hit them with a one-two punch of, “Wow. That Monica/Michael/teacher/test sure sounds rough. Glad you handled it that way! Now I need to you vacuum the downstairs, scrub the bathroom, and gather the eggs from the chicken coop. Oh, and throw your uniform into the washer for tomorrow. Thanks, Sweetie.” The best part of this is you can claim you’re being a good overseer  Mom by helping them build character and life skills.

Bonus tip: teach minions how to cook more than microwave macaroni. Everybody wins. (Brenda note: You can microwave macaroni? Who knew?)

2. Buy in Bulk
When I know a deadline is looming and I’m going to have to lock myself in my writer’s cave, leaving my family to fend for themselves in the cold, hard world, I stock the fridge and panty like it’s the eve of the zombie apocalypse. I do things like barbecue mammoth-size packages of chicken breasts for dinner on Sunday. Monday? Shredded chicken tacos. Tuesday? Orange chicken stir-fry. Wednesday? Chicken soup. Thursday? Chicken salad. It’s going to be chicken-something until it’s gone and I have to break down and cook something else. I figure if I’ve made an effort with one part of a dinner, the rest can come out of bags and cartons. Some weeks, however, “effort” is opening cans or ordering pizza. See bonus tip above. (Brenda Note...THE CROCK POT IS YOUR FRIEND. Learn to love it and the world of the cream sauce.)

3. Get a Smart Phone
Like most Moms, my kids are busy. Fortunately, their activities don’t have to be all about them if you have a smart phone. I leverage the time spent at soccer practice, horse shows, and waiting for piano lesson to end by reading eBooks, posting on social media, and dreaming about the next plot point. Really long events like horse shows are especially good for catching up on blog posts and copy editing novels. I take a laptop and work in the stands, waiting for the 10 total minutes of a 12 hour day that my daughter and her horse take center stage in seven events. It helps if you practice saying, “Of course I saw that goal/barrel run/play/miracle pass! You were amazing! Don’t forget to feed the horses.”

4. Sleep is Over-rated
If we’re really peeking under the beds and scaring the dust bunnies, I should confess that for the last few years I’ve been an insomniac. Invariably, around 11 pm when my husband’s fallen asleep on the couch, I lie to myself that I’m just going to sit down at the computer for a minute and check email, but I really end up working for three or five hours. It’s in the wee hours that I get most of my creative writing done.

Second bonus tip: give the minions alarm clocks. Flogging occurs if they miss the bus and I have to drive them. (Brenda Note: We have a rule- miss the bus and not only do you have to call and explain your predicament're grounded for the rest of your human existence)

5. Stop and Sample the Kim-Chee
Time with the minions is fleeting. In a few short years I know I will have to bring the mail in myself and get my own Diet Coke from the fridge. There will always be another book to read, article to write, or novel to plot. The party never ends on Facebook or Twitter or the newest must-connect social media time/soul sucking vortex outlet. Choose the moments that matter. Spend time actually watching the soccer game, listening to the piano recital, or kicking back and asking the minions about what they’re learning in history. Let them laugh at how old you are when you say I remember that while you marvel at their youth. Embrace the chaos whole-heartedly, wet dogs, missing homework assignments, stinky gym bags, first dates, driving lessons and all.

Because the truth is writers need important things to write about. See, it’s still all about me.

Thanks Lehua! Hope to see you back on the blog again soon!
Lehua Parker’s Biography
Lehua Parker is originally from Hawaii and a graduate of The Kamehameha Schools and Brigham Young University. In addition to writing award-winning short fiction, poetry, and plays, she is the author of the Pacific literature MG/YA series the Niuhi Shark Saga published by Jolly Fish Press. One Boy, No Water and One Shark, No Swim are available now. Book 3, One Fight, No Fist will be published in 2014.
So far Lehua has been a live television director, a school teacher, a courseware manager, an instructional designer, a sports coach, a theater critic, a SCUBA instructor, a playwright, a web designer, a book editor, a mother, and a wife. She currently lives in Utah with her husband, two children, three cats, two dogs, six horses, and assorted chickens. During the snowy Utah winters she dreams about the beach.
Connect with Lehua Parker
Blog & Free Short Stories:
All things Niuhi Shark Saga:
Twitter: @LehuaParker


Monday, September 23, 2013

Military Monday: Finding a Family Doctor

A few days ago I went to my first regular doctor's appointment (for myself not one of my kids) in
four years. As I sat in the waiting room afterwards, lab requisitions in hand, I got thinking about that fact. For me personally, this is not a big deal. The College of Family Practitioners recommends that a female of my age should have a periodic health exam every 3 years. And honestly, if I'm not sick, the LAST place I want to be is the doctor's office.

But what I realized as I sat there, was that (assuming everything is okay) it's quite likely that I will never see this doctor again. It took me almost two years after our posting date to find a doctor and get signed up with her practice, and if the lovely bloodwork comes back negative, I won't need to see her for another 3 which point I'll be somewhere else.

In my sixteen years of marriage and eight postings I've had four 'real' family doctors. Real, meaning a doctor that I might have developed some sort of relationship with. The other postings I dealt with group practices (where the doctor on-call was the doctor you saw), urgent care clinics, or I did without. I HATE finding a new family physician. HATE it. It is probably the single-most stressful part of the posting process for me. Well, beside finding good schools for the kids. On this posting I called at least SIX clinics in our current small home town, and every single clinic administrator but one was rude and unhelpful, acting like I was wasting their time. Then there's the transferring of records (and fees which are sometimes covered, sometimes not) and the 'get-to-know-you' visit (two hours out of an already busy schedule to fill out reams of paperwork). And God help you if you discover that you don't actually like the doctor you've signed up with, because you won't be given the opportunity to find another one.

I know I'm not alone, so I put it out to some other military spouses to see if they had similar experiences with finding a family physician.  Some of the comments I got back:

* "...did not have a family doctor for 2 years"

* "I was without a doctor until I was being treated at hospital for a serious back injury and one of the doctors agreed to take me as his patient...The lesson I have learned is to take control, research and act quickly."

* "It wasn't until I was pregnant in early 2011 (three years later) that I finally was able to get a doctor because I had to call around and be like "dude, I can't just go to a walk-in clinic to have a baby, SOMEONE has to take me" and I STILL had to make a lot of calls before someone would take me."

* "Currently on our 6th posting, and only one of those I couldn't find a doctor. We were only there 2 years thankfully."

* "In Petawawa I waited 1 year and in Cold Lake I got (a doctor) right away."

* "We are now posted to New Brunswick and have to go on a waiting list, which can be at least a year wait. You do not get to choose your doctor, you are assigned one. There are no mediclinics in the town, you have to go to the hospital, which closes I believe at 5 and then you have to go into Fredericton after that. It is a big worry not to have medical service readily available."

* "I am relatively new to the military life (3 years), but I haven't had a family doctor since we left home at the beginning of the 3 years."

* "We got posted to Saint-Jean-Sur-Richelieu Quebec, it will be 5 years next month and we have 3 kids and we still do not have a family doctor..."

Two years? Three Years? Five years of waiting for a family physician? And this is just a fraction of the responses I got. I know that it's not JUST military spouses dealing with the shortage of family physicians, but military families often move every two or three years. That means each move is a new fight, a new waiting list, a new wait time for provincial health cards and a new physician-patient relationship. And let's be honest, it is NOT FUN having a routine female health exam by a complete stranger. Some families seem to have better luck than others, with no wait times at all, but the vast majority of spouses who responded had long waits and very little choice in which practice they ended up with.

Don't bother clicking...not accepting
new patients here!
Another spouse brought up a different side of things--namely trying to get medical care in your own language. French speaking Canadians in English provinces (and visa versa) have great difficulty even communicating with their doctors. One spouse commented, "I have to take someone with me to translate the personal information that is discussed, and depending on the appointment or the seriousness of it, they would even have to come into the room with me for the tests." Military spouses do not get to choose where they live. But, like every Canadian, they should have the option to receive health care services in both/either of the two official languages.

Thankfully, the Canadian Forces are taking baby steps to make health care more accessible to military families and have opened several CF family medical clinics on bases like 14 Wing Greenwood to facilitate the process. Unfortunately some of these base clinics have been forced to close, due to lack of family practitioners to staff them.

Another step in the right direction, in Ontario provincially insured services now have the wait time waived for CF family members.

Better, but still a big problem.

An American friend of mine commented, "I'm American, a military spouse for 15 years now...never had an issue finding a doctor who would accept our family. We've moved 15 times or so. The only time we avoided the potential to not have a Dr. was when we did the exchange tour to Nova Scotia. We lucked out (or "in" as Canadians say!) and the same Dr. who was seeing the family we were to replace took us on as we were the same number of people in our family. I always felt guilty because I knew many of our neighbors (Canadian military families) who didn't have one."

Wow. She felt guilty for actually having a family physician? You know there is a problem when... for me, my medical appointment last week was quick and relatively painless, and I left minus 3 vials of blood and with three extra specialist referrals in my hands. I was pretty lucky. I bought myself a treat, had a coffee and came home. Who knows where and when my next family physician visit will happen? Will I even see this doctor again? Or will it be the same, tedious search for a new doctor in a different town? Province? Country?

I have no idea.

There's no life like it. 

What about you? Have you ever had to find a new physician as a result of a move?


Monday, September 16, 2013

Military Monday: Listen Carefully by Vicki Morrison

Vicki L Morrison
Today's blog is a piece sent to me by my amazing friend Vicki Morrison. Vicki and I have been friends since we met at the Greenwood Military Family Resource Centre about ten years ago. Now a part-time freelance writer (with articles in many newspapers and popular magazines including the Canadian Military Family Magazine) and working on her first novel, she's also my writing BFF.  She is a proud Canadian, a proud military spouse and manages a full-time job while organizing the busy schedules of her three adorable kids. I hope to see her on the blog frequently (hint, hint Vic) over the next few months, as she also has been aware and hugely supportive of DEPENDENT from its infancy.

Listen Carefully
by Vicki Morrison

So, a couple of days ago I'm sitting at my desk at work and I overhear one colleague say to another, "It's a good thing Canada has the U.S. Military to look after us. What would we do without them?" Now, I'm not going to deny the Americans have a fantastic military. They do. I just happen to think that the Canadian Forces does a lot more (a lot more effectively) with it's limited resources and manpower, but as a Canadian military spouse I am a little biased.

So what did I say when I overheard this ignorant comment? Nothing. What did I do? Nothing. I didn't even correct them. Typically Canadian, eh? No quick comeback, no point in getting into an argument, no point rocking the boat. I went back to work, tucking their comments away for the drive home when I would protract a witty, enlightened rebuttal - effortlessly refuting their stupid diatribe.

A week later the anniversary of 9-11 came around. As usual it hit home and it hit hard. The memory of that day slamming me back in time. That feeling of helplessness; knowing there was a chance my best friend, my husband was going to be involved in fighting terror. There was a chance he would go to war. He didn't, but many CF members did. Friends, colleagues, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters. Some didn't come back. Some came back with souls and bodies so bruised and torn they will never be the same. I thought back to the conversation between my colleagues I had overheard. The day I couldn't find the words to speak up on behalf of the Canadian Forces. The day I couldn't be bothered to argue on their behalf, rock the boat, educate the ignorant? I was ashamed.

I made a decision to never let the opportunity pass again. The opportunity to represent the Canadian Forces as a military spouse. To speak for those who no longer have a voice. To stand up for my husband's profession, his bravery, his dedication. On the anniversary of 9-11 I sat down with my co-workers and I told them about life as a military family, about my friends who are military spouses too. As military families our stories are varied and, in some cases, unbelievable. But they're our stories and they need to be told.

So I prayed with my co-workers. For our military. For wisdom and clarity for it's leaders and courage for all soldiers. I made my point. There are stories to be told. Words, once only whispered behind closed doors, that have to rise above the din of everyday Canadian life. Only when those stories have been heard will the Canadian Forces – members, and the families that stand behind them, be respected. Respected for the sacrifices they make everyday, across this country and across the globe.

So listen carefully. Our voices are rising. The words have been penned. Soon, you'll hear our stories. We will not be ashamed.

Thank you Vicki, for stopping by the blog and sharing your thoughts. Hope you can come again soon!


You can find Vicki on Twitter : @Morrisonminutes
On her blog here.
Or on Facebook here.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

ELSIE PARK: On Publication Challenges


Please welcome Elsie Park, newly published author, to the blog! Her debut novel, Shadows of Valor, was published by Jolly Fish Press earlier this week on September 7th! She's here to talk about publication challenges today.

Congratulations and welcome, Elsie! I'll let you take it from here. :)

Thanks for having me as a guest on your blog, Brenda! I’m glad to be here and happy to share whatever I’ve got to give *smiling*.

Is this a fab cover, or what?
The topic you asked me to write on, "Five challenges on the road to publication, and how I met them head on", is certainly a good one. When I read the topic, I thought, “Sheesh, I can only pick FIVE challenges on the road to publication? – LOL. Sometimes it seems like there are a gazillion. But, I managed to come up with five that are at the top of my personal list. For some they may seem miniscule, for others, daunting. Everyone picks and chooses their battles, and these were mine:

1) Taking that first step - Many people say, “Oh, I cold NEVER write a novel!” But I’m evidence that ANYONE can write a novel. As my father likes to remind me: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” The thought of a full length novel was daunting to me, so I started out with a few scattered scenes. I simply typed them out in no particular order, on a word document and entitled it something to the effect of “Story Idea.” I then pieced them together in a tentative plot. Then I put in a few more scenes here and there. Then I let my mother read it and give me feed back, resulting in her suggesting some more things she’d like to hear about in the story. So I added more scenes. Little by little, the story grew in pages and before I knew it, I had a full-length novel on my hands.

2) Finding the time to write and placing it on your list of priorities - Learning to utilize the time given to me between children, household, school, church, groceries, cleaning, you name it, was a big challenge (and still is). I had to balance my time between my little ones and my writing. This often led to staying up late to type, losing sleep and feeling very tired the next day. But I’d eventually catch up on my sleep and feel that the work I’d accomplished on my novel was worth the fatigue. I didn’t meet this challenge head on, though. Sometimes I actually dodged it, which is why it took me about 6 years to get my final draft done and published. I had set the manuscript aside for months at a time, because of newborns in the house, not having enough money in the budget to send my manuscript to any more publishers and agents, being so tired after a day of being a mother that I didn’t have the energy to stay up late or get up early and write. I’m happy to say that I manage my time a little better now.

3) Rewriting – Paying attention to good and correct grammar is essential in lessening the number of rewrites and for not getting burned out over the entire process. Every time people read the manuscript and have “plenty” to say about it results in yet another rewrite. The thought of doing so causes literal headaches, chocolate fetishes and difficulties in finding ways to get motivated again. The hardest thing for an author to hear is “constructive” (or “destructive”) criticism about their writing. Criticism ruffles a writer’s feathers like nothing else – LOL! BUT, in the end, we admit that many who gave their opinions presented good points, great ideas to think about and wonderful lessons in humility to learn. A smart writer will listen to the readers with an open mind and humble pen. I revised my manuscript probably 15+ times over the six years I worked on it. Each time I revised I wanted to cry that I had to spend days and days changing something I thought had been perfect, but in the end I realized that each version ended up better than the last thanks to all the blood, sweat and tears put into it.

4) Making a good first impression with a great query letter – A publisher or an agent usually doesn’t know you from Adam, so your first impression could very well be your last if it’s not done with professional precision. I think I spent just as much time on my query letters as on my manuscript. If a query looks bad, is sloppy, not typed, has bad spelling and grammar, is printed on hot pink paper and doesn’t follow the guidelines set by that particular agency, then it will get tossed more often than not. The publisher doesn’t have the time to give your unprofessional-looking query the time of day. Make yourself stand out with your good writing, good grammar, and obvious ability to follow directions is the way to get noticed.

5) Not getting discouraged – A key to meeting this challenge head on is drawing strength from yourself, your loved ones and your true friends who give you confidence and support. Also, going to writer’s conferences helps immensely as you meet with authors, both published and unpublished, who share the same goals and challenges and give each other strength and encouragement. Every speaker at a conference is there to help advance your work, and you leave feeling buoyed up and ready to try again. Believing in yourself is key. Believing that you’ve written something that needs to be shared and that people would love to read is essential to getting over discouragement.

I hope these things were helpful and encouraging to readers.

Thanks so much for having me here on your blog, Brenda!
Anytime, Elsie! I wish you all the best with your debut!

A little background info...
SHADOWS OF VALOR overview: Taking place in 1300 A.D. England, The Shadow (aka Sir Calan), a knight-spy working under the direction of King Edward I, hunts down and arrests smugglers who defy the law and evade paying their taxes. The Shadow’s duty is fueled by vengeance from a childhood experience against smugglers. Dealing with society at its worst, The Shadow becomes cynical and struggles to reign in his desire to execute lethal justice before turning the perpetrators over to local authorities. He feels his soul turning black with hate in his continual fight against evil. A childhood acquaintance, Lady Elsbeth, enters his life years later, bringing light to his soul once again, but she has a story of her own, accompanied by physical and emotional scars. Calan feel he needs Elsbeth in his life, but in an effort to keep his identity and duty secret, he must deceive her. This creates distrust and uncertainty between them, as she accepts another man as her suitor. But Calan must ask the question: What’s worth fighting for more? His long-standing desire to avenge a childhood friend or the woman who may be his salvation? What entails is a glorious tale full of deceit, greed, inner struggles, betrayal, and most of all—love.

About Elsie:

Growing up in a small mountain town outside of Yosemite National Park, California, U.S.A., Elsie enjoyed playing soccer, playing piano, reading, writing, art and spending time with family and friends. Years ago she spent 18 months in Italy teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. Seeing the castles and old Roman cities only added to her fascination for ancient and medieval culture. In college she studied zoology, botany and criminal justice. She’s worked as a wildland firefighter, security guard and a police officer, but she is currently a stay-at-home mom, spending time with her children and husband. She loves thinking up new ideas for interesting stories and musical compositions to go with them.

Want more information? Want to by Elsie's book? Look here:

Twitter: @elsiepark1

Monday, September 9, 2013

Military Monday: Separation and Reunion (Kathy Gaudet)

I'd like to welcome a very special person to the blog today: my sister, Kathy (Corey) Gaudet. Kathy has a special perspective to bring to the blog. She spent 9 years as a medic in the military, met her first husband (who also wore the uniform) there, and went through the pain and dark days of a difficult divorce. She persevered, reconnected with Bob, an old military friend, and they married a few years later.

Kathy and Bob know first hand the challenges of military family life, and over the past few years they have dealt with deployments and other separations, moves, retirement and the nasty echoes of post traumatic stress disorder.

Kathy has graciously offered to discuss a few topics with us over the next few months, and today she's talking about separation, and the problems that result from long periods of living apart. I'll let her tell it her way...

My sister! Kathy (Corey) Gaudet
The Hard Stuff (by Kathy Gaudet)

No one every said it would be easy being a military wife and it wasn’t.  I understood that my husband would be away frequently, but I never anticipated raising 3 kids on my own for a majority of the time.  I know that may military wives have similar stories, but this is mine.

For me, there was always a distancing period prior to my husband leaving for any tasking, course, or deployment. It wasn’t intentional, but instinctual. I started planning what I had to do and prepared myself for the task ahead.  I wanted to spend as much time as I could with my best friend, but there would be discussions and arguments about how things should work while he was away.  Planning if and when he would be coming home.  When leaving for a deployment, there was always fear that he would not return....

While he was away, it always took about a week for things to start running smoothly.  I became Mom and Dad.  We generally did not get posted close to family, so we were on our own.  I hope that I could rely on my friends if anything happened that put me out of commission for a few days.  I made sure there was a list of emergency phone numbers for family by the phone.

I learned to wait patiently by the phone in hopes of hearing my husband’s voice, even if only for a few short minutes.  I counted the days on a calendar down to the minute when I would see him again.  I prayed daily for his safety and that I wouldn’t have a Padre show up on my door step, which is never good.  Many nights I would cry myself to sleep, just wanting it all to be over.

Reunions were bittersweet.  With my husband being constantly away, there were the constant transition periods--the days when he did make it home on the weekends after being away.  There was always tension when he got home and some days you could cut the air with a knife. Should he be helping more, because I was so tired of doing everything?  While he was away, I did everything from making sure the kids got to school, working, my schooling, grocery shopping, cleaning the house, transporting kids to activities, paying bills, mowing the lawn, repairing the toilet, and so on. 

I was so used to running everything my way, I would become angry when he didn't do it the way I did.  I would fold and put laundry away in a certain spot, when he folded clothes, nothing fit in the drawer the way it normally did.  Not putting his dishes in the dishwasher just about drove me crazy, it meant more work for me.  It may sound trivial to get mad about that, but what was wrong with the way I was doing it? I don’t want another person to pick up after! 

Kathy and her husband, Bob Gaudet
When disciplining the children, I would ground them and stick to the punishment.  When dad got home, the kids always asked him if they could go out, they new he would generally say “Yes.”  He didn’t know they were grounded or had restrictions for reasons, because we hadn’t spoken about it due to time restraints. Or he wanted to be the good-time dad because he was leaving again in a few days and wanted to see the kids happy.

It was difficult for the kids, not knowing how to deal with discipline from two parents and at times they would play us against each other.  I would be lenient in some areas, as I just didn’t have the time or energy to fight with the kids over minor things.  I loved it when the kids were invited over somewhere for a night.   I could also be very strict, and I worried more than the average mom about their safety. I didn’t need more things to occupy my mind. 

As for my husband, he wanted to have some rest and relaxation, stay at home doing nothing. I wanted to get out and go do things--things normal couples do, like dress up, going out for dinner, and just have some adult time.   While living apart due to work, my husband stayed in hotels or under canvas (in tents).  He would eat military food or meals from restaurants almost every night.  When he came home he wanted a home-cooked meal, wanted to sit in his chair, have a beverage, and spend time with his family.

Hope this gives you a small glimpse into what it is like for a military mom.
Thank you, Kathy! Living apart is never easy, and the weeks after military spouses return from a deployment or other military duty are often incredibly stressful. Thank you for your honest account of how difficult it can be. I'm sure many of my readers can relate.

Friday, September 6, 2013


I grew up in the most magical place in the world. I'm convinced. And I've been to some pretty magical places in my day.

Where is this fantastical place, you ask? The Irish hills? The Black Forest in Bavaria? Nottingham? Egypt?

Nope. Not even on the same continent. On the outskirts of a tiny town in the sparsely populated province of New Brunswick, there is a farm with hundreds of acres of inspiration. It's where I played when I was younger, where I read and explored and learned. It's where I walked and dreamed. There are acres and acres of forest trails and fields and tall trees.

Places like this...
...that are leaf strewn and old and smell of dark, rotting things.
And like this...
...where water magically bubbles out of the ground in a deep, clear pool, and then trickles away past moss-covered rocks and ferns. There are old and mysterious places that some ancient farmer touched and then were forgotten...
Where ghosts and hobgoblins lurk and await some unprotected soul...
And where faeries dance in the moonlit night.
The pictures can't portray the smells of wintergreen and growing things or the hushed sounds as you walk on the trails. Or the size of the ancient maples, the smell of a forgotten apple tree or the taste of just-picked wild blueberries and partridge berries and clear spring water.
I came home from our vacation with a thousand stories brimming in my head. From the crashing Atlantic ocean in PEI, to the quiet forest trails of my old back yard, inspiration was all around me. Can you see shadows in the photos? Can you imagine the characters and creatures that would walk the paths in these woods?
Where do you get your inspiration from?

Monday, September 2, 2013

Military Monday: Vacations

A week and a half of bliss.

Rose bushes by our PEI cottage
For twelve days my family have enjoyed one another's company while driving almost 4000km (close to 2500 miles), visiting three provincial capitals, touring historical buildings, national treasures, and one absolutely beautiful beach. We've eaten a plethora of just-off-the-boat shellfish (OH, the LOBSTER!), fresh croissants, rabbit pie and even a home cooked and very delicious gluten-free birthday cake. We've body-surfed and had (slightly rude) late-night Scrabble games. We've biked, toasted marshmallows, read more than twenty-five books collectively, and watched shooting stars from a red-sand beach.

Pure heaven.

I've been quiet in social media circles for a week or so, but if you caught my tweet/facebook post a few weeks ago, you will know that this is the first true and un-blemished vacation our military family has had in years.

What do I mean by un-blemished? I mean a vacation that is neither tacked on to, nor involves any of the following:

*a house-hunting trip
*a move from post to post
*a family emergency
*the beginning/middle/end of a deployment
*a major holiday (ie Christmas/Easter/Thanksgiving...or any other religious holiday which generally involves semi-mandatory family get-togethers)
*a work/military conference or trip

If you are a service family of any sort, or have had to move away from family as a result of your/your spouse's job (RCMP families? Oil-rig workers?), you will understand what I'm getting at. Sometimes a vacation can be just being together in your own house for a week, with no demands on your time other than what game you're going to play or what park you are going to walk to.

It's hard to be away from your parents, grandparents and siblings. And vacation time with them is precious. Incredibly precious. So every vacation has to be planned and plotted and judiciously organized to maximize this family time. It's even more complicated if your respective parents live in two separate parts of the is the case in our family (almost 1400km apart). Just going 'home for the holidays' is a delicate balancing act, not to mention an expensive and potentially stress-filled prospect. Even worse when your posting has plunked you in a completely different part of the country or the world.

Don't get me wrong! I'm not complaining. Sometimes the military lifestyle works to our advantage, and little bonuses come our way. Like this past January, when I got to tag along on my hubby's New York City visit (I blogged about it here...). Or when the kids and I flew over to Italy to meet up with my hubby during his two-week mid-deployment break (see A Vacation in the Clouds here).  I have one friend who has just completed a cross-continent family adventure as part of their move from Florida to Alaska (loved reading her Facebook updates!). Another went to Hawaii with her hubby when he was tasked there for a month. Military families are great opportunity maximizers, and can turn a stressful situation (a 10 day drive to a new post) into a once in a lifetime trip (a family adventure to see the coast of Maine and the Rocky Mountains all in one tour).

Thunder Cove Beach, PEI
But these military 'facilitated' vacations are few and far between and sometimes bitter-sweet. I have to say, one of the hardest good-byes I've ever experienced was our Venice adieu, watching Daddy as he left on his plane to head back to the Middle East while we waited for ours to take us back to a very quiet and Daddy-less home. The magic of our two-week vacation ended with the close of a door.

When we were plotting our precious yearly vacation time waaaaaaaay back in the winter, we decided on Prince Edward Island for many reasons, but the military had no part of this decision. We went there because we wanted to  and not because we had to. A rare occurrence in our family existence.

And the extended family visits on the way? Well, they were just a bonus.


Got a family vacation story you'd like to share? A move that turned into an unexpected adventure? Drop me a line in the comments below!