How Two Words and Two Left Feet Still Change My Life

OUR TWO LEFT FEET 

My husband and I have taken ballroom dance lessons for 14 years and currently study with a ballroom dance teacher who calls his dance school  Two Left Feet. We were both in our 50s when we started dancing and have never looked back. We regularly dance socially, compete in regional events, and perform in dance showcases. Dancing has become our favorite recreational  interest and has changed our lives. 

Unfortunately, we’ve had some “bumps” along the dance floor. I broke my right foot and couldn’t dance for several months. My husband needed surgery for an ankle fracture so will be off his right foot for several weeks. 

But thank goodness, our “two left feet”  have stayed safe and healthy. 

a couple in fancy clothes with medals around their necks

showing off the medals we won in a dance competition

 

 

OUR TWO WORDS 

“Two” was also a lucky number for us 45 years ago. We fell in love and married because of two words that changed our lives. But a few years into our marriage, our luck ran out. Here is our story of finding it again. We share it because we know other couples share a similar story and think  it may help them. Maybe that’s you; if so, let us know. Contact us here

“I’M AVAILABLE”

In college I participated in Chi Alpha, a faith-based student group. When I started dating a young man of a different faith, he enjoyed coming to the gatherings with me and my friends liked him. We were fond of each other, but his feelings grew stronger and more serious than mine.

To be fair, I ended the relationship. We parted amicably but he left our group; it was awkward for both of us. Although the breakup was best of us both, I grieved  the loss of our friendship.

One evening several of us were talking when a new member of our group joined us. We knew little about him other than he had recently left the Army and started attending the university.

He looked at me and said, “Where is John tonight?” (not his real name) No one spoke as everyone looked from me to him and back to me. Apparently he was the only one who didn’t know we had broken up.

Finally, one of the girls softly explained, “They aren’t dating anymore.”

Everyone remained silent, I suppose assuming I was upset . I wasn’t upset but I realized everyone else was uncomfortable. I didn’t want our new friend to feel bad about the mistake, so I tried to make light of it. I blurted out the first thing that popped into my head.

“That’s right,” I said smiling.  “I’m available.”

With that, everyone, including me, laughed. Thinking back now, I wonder why I said that. It was out of character for me, a confirmed introvert, and besides, I did not need or want another romantic relationship. I was planning to attend medical school, and romance did not fit into that plan.

However, the young man took me seriously, calling me a few days later to ask for a date. And despite my reluctance to become involved, I said yes.

“What harm could it do?” I thought. “Why sit in the dorm alone on Friday night?”

That night I learned about Raymond’s past. He had served for three years in the Army . He had already earned a bachelor’s degree and was attending graduate school with his veteran’s benefits. I casually asked if he had been stationed overseas. He said yes- he had served in Germany and in Vietnam. I did not realize those words also would change my life.

soldiers at a remote military base

various scenes from the firebase where Raymond was stationed in VietNam; I understood nothing about what happened there.

 

 

 

 

VIETNAM WAR 

This was 1972 and  the American war in Vietnam was raging. The United States government needed soldiers to carry out the engagement, and was drafting them, which they and their families  dreaded. The war was unpopular and divided our country. We watched the course of the conflict nightly on television news (no Internet  or social media then).

Raymond was the first person I knew personally who had served in Vietnam. Service members and veterans of that war were portrayed in the media as fighting an unnecessary, unjustified war at best and as baby killers at worst.

Today military service members and veterans are honored and considered heroes. Today’s veterans feel proud of what they do; far too often those who served in Vietnam did not. 

library interior

The reading room of the library looks the same as it did 40 years ago.

Over dates at  football games, church, social events and study times our feelings for each other grew from friendship to love. He asked me to marry him a few weeks later. We married about 2 years later, as he completed his master’s degree.

Soon after our wedding I started medical school, graduated and started practicing.  He pursued a career in the Information Technology industry. We raised two sons, traveled, attended church.

But our “happily ever after” did not match reality. Our marriage was often tense, unsatisfying, and distant  and we did not understand why. We could not communicate well. He felt I was demanding and controlling. I felt he was insensitive and selfish. We had to look to the past to find the reason for the pain in our present.

a couple sipping from a shake with two straws

sharing a drink on a dance competition trip

 

 

 

Words that changed our lives- post-traumatic stress disorder

Military medicine now recognizes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a common result of service in combat; 40 years ago it was unrecognized and untreated. There were no support groups, counselling or rehabilitative services available.

My husband didn’t talk about his military service, so for years we both suffered the effects of unrecognized PTSD. By the mid-1980s veterans’ groups pushed to recognize and honor Vietnam veterans’ service and encouraged discussion about the psychic trauma many of them dealt with; and with that came opportunities for treatment and healing.

army veteran standing next to a floral bouquet at a memorial

We always visit the traveling Vietnam Veteran Memorial Wall when it comes to our area.

 

 

 

 

MISSING PEACE

Through counselling and a support group my husband faced the past and started to move forward. After reading a book , A Missing Peace, written by another Vietnam veteran, he considered taking a trip back to Vietnam and after much thought and prayer, signed up, although we were both apprehensive.

He chose to travel with Vets with a Mission , VWAM,  a faith-based non-profit organization whose mission is “reconciliation” between former enemies in the Vietnam war, and also within the veterans’ themselves.

By touring the country and meeting Vietnamese people in peacetime, Raymond began moving past the painful memories and creating a new history. He found a country still suffering from the after effects of many years of war, and found a new purpose for his life- to help the very country that had caused us so much pain.

man with Vietnamese boys laughing

Raymond making friends and having fun with some Vietnamese boys

That trip led to another, and another, and another- thirteen trips  serving on volunteer teams to Vietnam with VWAM.  He served by teaching the computer technology he spent years learning and mentored Vietnamese professionals as they developed skills like his.

I accompanied him on many of these trips, serving as physician on medical teams, treating poor Vietnamese citizens in free clinics. We made friends with other veterans and their families, and with Vietnamese people, who often respected American Vietnam veterans more than Americans do.

Raymond found “reconciliation”  for himself and we experienced it in our marriage.  It was a process and still is.

 

“All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”

       

2 Corinthians 5: 18 , VWAM’S MOTTO

                                                                                   

an American veteran and a North Vietnamese veteran

TWO VETERANS-ONE AMERICAN, ONE NORTH VIETNAMESE

 

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

As  a pre-teen I read a book about an American doctor who treated poor people in a foreign country. This and other books sparked an interest in  health care and I decided to become a doctor. I dreamed of someday traveling overseas and treating people like he and other doctors did.

I didn’t remember anything  about him except his name. I did an Internet search and found his story- Dr. Tom Dooley. Now deceased, he served  as a physician in the United States Navy and in the 1950s was assigned to direct the care of refugees- in Vietnam. (After his military service, he founded a humanitarian organization and tragically died young of melanoma.)

When I watched  the war in Vietnam on TV news,  I didn’t realize the doctor I had read about had worked there. I never imagined that I would ever go there. And I never imagined that war would  help me meet my husband, and create a family that brings me joy every day.

When I said, “I’m available” I had no idea how true that would be.

man and lady dressed in dance costumes

And I never expected us to do a ballroom dance routine for an audience!

 

 

 

WORDS TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE

 

Raymond researched and wrote about a little known battle of the Vietnam war. His is an eyewitness account of the events and aftermath of the Battle for Tra Bong. It is available as an eBook for Amazon Kindle or for free Kindle Reading apps for any device. 

Battle for Tra Bong Vietnam: Events and Aftermath

The following is an excerpt.

Fire Support Base (FSB)/Landing Zone (LZ) Cindy was established in 1968 by being relocated from Tam Ky, Vietnam. By 1970, the FSB was considered a “model” for other FSBs in South Vietnam.

The base operated on the high ground of the Happy Valley with an Observation Post (OP) Searchlight (SLT) unit that provided illumination at night for the entire valley. Next to the FSB was an Armed Forces Vietnam (ARVN) unit of 100 men. Besides the helicopter landing zone, we had the shortest airstrip in Vietnam managed by a Military Air Command Vietnam (MACV) unit. The Tra Bong village was between MACV and FSB/LZ Cindy.

The firebase had tremendous firepower with automatic weapons, 50-caliber and 60-caliber machine guns to include a Quad 50, Dusters, 8 inch and 175 howitzers, mortars, grenades, claymores, flares, etc. In the year 1970, FSB Cindy had zero Wounded in Action (WIA) or Killed in Action (KIA) men by enemy forces. Also, the North Vietnamese (NVA) did not penetrate our perimeter because our unit operated as a team.

A Battery remained at FSB/LZ Cindy (BS342882) providing general support to both US and ARVN units. On 16 September 1971, A Battery was moved to Chu Lai to begin stand down activities.

During Christmas of 1971, the ARVN camp was overrun by NVA/VC and wiped out.

The firebase did have a major battle in September 1970. That battle and how it impacted the war in general and one soldier’s life specifically is the subject of this book.

We who served on LZ Cindy in 1969 and after when the unit left in 1971 did a job that had to be done to save more lives than were taken by the enemy. All of us were there because we were asked or drafted to serve this country and help the people of Vietnam survive.

Those of us who did the job on LZ Cindy did the best we could to survive and help those who served with us. It is unfortunate that some of those did not survive, but in war people die, and there is nothing we can do about it.

 

 

We also recommend Robert Seiple’s book-

 

A Missing Peace: Vietnam : Finally Healing the Pain 

by Robert Seiple and Gregg Lewis

“The gripping account of the author’s experiences with “a war without closure” as a Marine aviator and as head of a relief agency ministering in that country. Through his own search for personal and national reconciliation, he shows us the only way to find real closure and genuine healing.”

(Amazon review)(This is an affiliate link.)

 

 

 

 

 

sharing the HEART of health

I appreciate all of you who follow this blog; there are numerous other blogs to choose from so I am honored you chose to spend some time here. A special welcome to all my new followers from this past month.

To start following Watercress Words , use this form to get an email notification of new posts . Please find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn, links are on the left side bar here and the Home page. And check out my resources page where you’ll find links that will help you and help support this blog. Thanks so much.

                              Dr. Aletha 

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From Doctor to Fashionista- the journey to Shelfie Shoppe

Physicians spend from 10 to 15 years, sometimes more, in school and advanced training before beginning practice. Even though we begin receiving a stipend during residency, compared to the number of hours required, the financial return is minimal. Most physicians are in their late 20s to early 30s before earning a salary comparable with their training. And they often start out hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.

So you might expect that once in practice, doctors would work at it for life, and most do. But a significant number don’t. After all those years, some doctors realize that medicine is not for them, either because they don’t find the work satisfying and fulfilling, or because their personal  and family life suffers, or a combination of these and other factors.

Doctors solve this dilemma in various ways. Some redirect their career to a different specialty, which usually requires going back into training and completing yet another residency. Some change to a non-clinical medical position- administration, teaching, consulting. Some continue using their medical knowledge by  writing, speaking, consulting, teaching, in a non-healthcare setting.

One physician did none of these. Several months ago I shared a guest post from another woman doctor who faced a similar dilemma.  She solved her problem in an unconventional creative way. Here is her story, followed by an update.

 

 

My Unexpected, Crazy Journey from Medicine to Fashion

By Joanne Jarrett MD

woman in an apron holding a wooden sign-
Dr. Jarrett enjoys cooking too.

“Hi! My name is Joanne Jarrett, and I am a retired family physician. Not the “golden years” kind of retired, but rather the “retired sounds better than I quit” kind.

a career in the making

If you’d told me in my twenties that I would be designing loungewear for women and preparing to move to a farm in rural Montana in my mid-forties, I’d have said you had the wrong girl. I was a determined, sharp, ambitious, successful medical student and resident, and I was planning to have it all.

My husband and I wanted kids, but that would have to wait until all of our training was complete. We took turns going through our residency programs, and we moved home to Reno, Nevada from a two year stint in Lincoln, Nebraska with 24 weeks of my first pregnancy under our belts and a new practice to run.

Needless to say, my being a stay-at-home mom was not plan A for our family.

a fast track career

When I became pregnant, I was working a full time family practice, seeing patients at 3 hospitals before and/or after my full day, doing urgent care some nights and weekends, and taking call for our large group a week at a time every 7 weeks. I knew that schedule was completely incompatible with motherhood, but we thought I’d work 2 or 3 days a week and have my mom nanny while I worked.

Then Delaney was born, and reality set in.

I realized that I didn’t have room inside of me to be the physician my patients deserved and to be the wife and mother I wanted for my family. I already knew that during those 6 years of marriage before kids I worked hard all day, gave every bit of myself away piece by piece, and then came home and offered my husband the crappy leftovers. He knew how hard I was trying and didn’t complain much.

It worked, but a baby tipped the scales. We couldn’t both work jobs where emergencies make the schedule predictably unpredictable. I was exhausted and knew there was no way I could face the emotional lability and intellectual demand of being a physician in my state. And I loved being with that baby girl. When I was away from her I felt an undeniable tug back.

Then Bailey arrived less than 2 years later and it was decided. I was staying home. For good.

 

a career crossroads

At first, I was in survival mode and didn’t care about the changes I saw in myself. I just wanted sleep and ice cream. But eventually I started to wonder if who I used to be would ever matter again and how to find her.

Over a decade in, that woman is back. But she’s better than she used to be. More patient. More settled. More fulfilled. Less scared. Looking back, I’ve transitioned from professional to harried new mom to seasoned household CEO, self respect and vigor for life mostly intact!

a woman walking with two girls on sand
Dr. Joanne’s grand mother  with her daughters

Running my family has been pretty much all consuming, but I’ve always had a creative side and, through the years, I have developed hobbies that foster that. Scrapbooking made sense when the kids were babies. Combining creativity with a means of wrangling the millions of photos we were taking was a win win.

A limited decorating budget and a very picky décor taste lead to me borrowing my mom’s sewing machine and making an entire house worth of curtains, learning on the fly.

And I have always had a thing for wrapping a beautiful gift. To the point where I have a whole wall full of paper, ribbons, and other do-bobs to help me wrap a stunner at a moment’s notice.

Sewing flat, square things like curtains and pillow covers slowly evolved into kids’ costumes and then street clothes. I have a thing for fabric, and the combination of creativity and precision that following a pattern requires satisfies my creative flair and my bent towards the analytical.

I began altering clothes in my closet to better fit my (ever varying, eye roll!) shape and began seeing the potential in clothes instead of the mere reality of what was on the hanger.

I also have a passion for downtime. This wasn’t always the case. Scott and I have been married 20 years, and at first I had no idea how to relax. Saturday would come and I’d say, “What do you want to do today?”

From the couch, he’d say “this!”

My skin would crawl .I just didn’t know how to have a recovery or leisure day.

Well, I’ve learned well! You’ll never catch me hanging around at home in my jeans and underwire bra. Huh-uuuuh! As soon as I get home at the end of the day, I head straight to my closet to get into my cozy clothes. I live in them when I’m home. Even if I’m busy with this and that, I like the psychological change triggered by putting on those comfy clothes.

But those clothes aren’t perfect. I’m setting out to change that! We need a little coverage and support despite that fact that the bra is off the team at home. I discovered shelf-bra camis and began wearing them as loungewear and pajamas. I could never figure out why this concept wasn’t expanded into other pieces.

a career changes directions

After years of googling “shelf bra pajamas” and “shelf bra nightgown” and coming up with nothing except slinky lingerie (get real!!), I decided to design a line of cozy loungewear for women who want to be comfortable at home in something soft, cute, flattering and supportive. Something that feels and looks great to wear in the “no bra zone” but that is fit for public consumption should the need arise. I figured if I couldn’t find them, I’d make them and maybe other ladies will like them too.

And not all shelf bras are created equally, if you know what I mean. I set out to design the perfectly soft but flattering shelf that has enough thickness for coverage and enough separation to look great. I embarked upon a know-nothing journey into apparel production and have learned an entirely new industry over the last year.

I call the line “Shelfies.” Shelfie Shoppe launched on May 8th , 2018 taking preorders as part of a Kickstarter campaign to fund the first production run.”

a shirt with a tag-shelfie

Like infatuation, excitement is fleeting. Strength of will and commitment will get me to the finish line.

Joanne Jarrett, M.D.

 

Where Shelfie Shoppe is now

In March 2019, Joann posted an update about the project on her blog (although she had been sending updates to her Kickstarter supporters, like me, all along). In the update she details all the bumps and unexpected detours that repeatedly slowed down her journey. I encourage you to read about it at the link I will give you, but here is a sample of what got in the way of progress.

  • She had to change factories when the one she contracted with lost too many employees.
  • A fabric she counted on using was unexpectedly not available.
  • A pattern piece wasn’t fitting correctly.
  • They had the wrong bra pads.
  • Her family moved and while staying temporarily in a camper, she didn’t have WiFi, making communication with her suppliers almost impossible.

What Joanne has learned on her journey

“It has been said that the most common cause of failure for entrepreneurs is simply giving up. After this roller coaster, I can see how that happens.

Discouragement can feel like eminent defeat, but they are not one and the same. I have allowed myself to get down-hearted at times, but difficulty is not a worthy adversary to my determination and perseverance. I am excited about Shelfie Shoppe, but like infatuation, excitement is fleeting.

Strength of will and commitment will get me to the finish line and excitement will be there to meet me.”

What we can learn from Joanne’s example

When the circumstances of life leave us feeling
• impatient
• unsettled
• unfulfilled or
• scared
we may need to evaluate if change is necessary.
It may not be as drastic a change as she made, but even small steps can get us to a place where we can use our talents and passions to create a life that satisfies us and blesses others.

However, we can expect bumps and snags along the way, which may seem like insurmountable problems but can be opportunities for learning and growth that we didn’t anticipate.

Here is Joanne’s update. Check it out and follow her blog to find out what happens next. And when I get my shelfie dress from her, I’ll post a photo and tell you all about it.

HERE’S THE LATEST IN THE CLOTHING LINE SAGA. KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN SUCCESS AND THE BUMPS THAT FOLLOWED!

Thanks for exploring the HEART of health with me.

I appreciate all of you who follow this blog; there are numerous other blogs to choose from so I am honored you chose to spend some time here. A special welcome to all my new followers from this past month.

To start following Watercress Words , use this form to get an email notification of new posts . Please find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn, links are on the left side bar here and the Home page. And check out my resources page where you’ll find links that will help you and help support this blog. Thanks so much.

                              Dr. Aletha 

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