Category: Me and Keith

Don’t Give Up!

When I first started writing this blog while I was pregnant with the twins, I mainly intended it to be a way to keep my family and friends updated on the pregnancy and babies. It was also a way for me to continue to put my writing out there. I had left my full-time job at Scholastic in order to move to Colorado Springs, and my freelance writing career hadn’t really taken off yet. So, I had a decent amount of time to spend on my little hobby.

Then life got crazy. The boys, and later Lily, were born. Keith deployed to Afghanistan and was wounded. We moved to California, then to Virginia. We traveled. And most of all, my freelance assignments began to pour in. I found myself with less and less time to devote to the blog.

But then, public relations folks began to take an interest in the blog. They started to reach out to me, asking me to review their products or visit their family-friendly locations. Then I received an invitation to Blogger Bash last summer, where I met and became inspired by so many successful bloggers. I decided to try to spend more time on Double Duty Twins and use it to impart some of my hard-won parenting advice to other moms and dads. And for a while, I was able to post more regularly.

But I’m not going to lie: It’s been extremely hard for me to keep it up. My writing career has really taken off, and I’m regularly juggling several assignments at once. I’m still writing a ton for Scholastic, and Care.com and Bentley University have kept me very busy as well. (You can check out some of the stories I’ve been working on at jennifermarinowalters.contently.com.) I also wrote four children’s books for Red Chair Press that are slated to hit shelves in August.

The kids have also been keeping me on my toes. The boys are in tee-ball, soccer, and swimming, and Lily and I go to Gymboree and other activities while they’re at school. Then there are the play dates, trips to the playground, birthday parties, etc.

It’s a very tough balancing act. I feel caught between the stay-at-home mom and the working-mom worlds. I’m trying to be both at the same time, but I am not fully either one, which makes managing my time really difficult.

I’m not complaining. I love being busy with work. I love doing fun things with the kids. It’s just impossible to do everything, which means something has to get lost in the fray. And that something, unfortunately, is usually this blog.

But I’m trying. I’m always looking for ways to organize my time better. I found a really great co-working space in Vienna, Virginia called Play, Work or Dash, and it’s got on-site child care for Lily. She and I go there weekly while the boys are in preschool. I’ve also been making better use of Lily’s nap times now that the boys are older and can entertain themselves. I have a nanny come about 12 hours a week while I work. And being a night owl helps, too, because I can write late at night while everyone is asleep.

My point is, I am not giving up on this blog. I’m asking that you don’t give up on it, either. It is never going to be my full-time job or my main source of income—especially as I continue to land more and more freelance-writing clients. But it’s always going to be a place where I can speak my mind and talk about the things that I want to talk about. And that is priceless to me.

So I will continue to do my best to write when I can and to find interesting things to share with other parents. I will also attend Blogger Bash again this summer, where I’ll get lots of new material. So please stick with me! If you want to stay updated on new blog posts (whenever they may come) and on my other stories, follow me on Twitter at @jmarinowalters. You can also find me on Instagram at @jmwalters718, and on Facebook at facebook.com/doubledutytwins.

And just for fun, here is a recent photo of my crazy crew during our recent trip to Disney World!

Minnie Mouse Disney World

Hope everyone is having a great month!

 

The Los Angeles Kings Northrop Grumman Hero of the Game

Several months ago I wrote about the Los Angeles Dodgers and the great support they show for our military. Today I want to tell you about another professional sports organization that supports our military—the National Hockey League’s Los Angeles Kings! At each home game, the Kings honor one local member of the military as the Northrop Grumman Hero of the Game. The honoree and his or her guests (up to three guests for regular-season games and one for playoff games) receive amazing seats in the 100 level of STAPLES Center, as well as dinner at the exclusive Lexus Club before the game. The servicemember is honored at center ice during the National Anthem and on the big screen at his or her seat later in the game.

My husband, U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Keith Walters, had the honor of being the Hero of the Game for game 1 of the 2014 Stanley Cup Finals between the Kings and my beloved team, the New York Rangers. It was a truly memorable experience, and we are so thankful to the Kings and their fans for their hospitality and kindness. I want to say a special “thank you” to Jonathan Anderson, the Kings’ Community and Alumni Relations Assistant, for coordinating the Hero of the Game program and for welcoming us so warmly!

Gretzky statue
The Kings’ Hero of the Game—and my everyday hero—near the Wayne Gretzky statue in front of STAPLES Center!

Jonathan had us meet him outside STAPLES Center near the Wayne Gretzky statue. (For a hockey fan, that alone was super cool!) He escorted us into the Lexus Club, where we were welcomed just as warmly as the celebrities probably are. We enjoyed a delicious buffet-style spread of seafood, sushi, meats, salads, desserts, and more.

Since Keith was already wearing his dress blues, several regular club members came over to chat with us and to offer to buy us drinks. It was very kind of them, but a bummer when you’re 6 months pregnant! Keith also did not want to drink while representing the Army in uniform, so we had to politely decline.

The best part of our Lexus Club experience was when former hockey great and longtime Kings player Luc Robitaille—now the president of business operations for the Kings—came over to introduce himself and to thank Keith for his service. He told us proudly that he is now a U.S. citizen and that he really appreciates the military. What a classy and sweet guy, and a huge honor for us to meet him!

Jonathan met us about an hour later and took us down to the concourse from which Keith would enter the ice. I got to hang out there for a great view of the ice during the National Anthem. The announcer welcomed Keith and thanked him for his service, and he got to stand next to The Tenors and salute the flag as they sang the National Anthem. On his way off the ice, he got to shake Wayne Gretzky’s hand. (Gretzky dropped the ceremonial first puck of the game.)

Hero of the Game
Keith as Hero of the Game!

The best part? Keith’s introduction and the anthem were actually televised on NBC, so all of our friends and family got to see it! Our nanny had the twins watch it and videotaped their reactions, which were priceless. The boys have since had me play it for them about 300 times. Matt likes to pretend he is the announcer by using his mini hockey stick as a microphone and saying, “Introducing … DADDY! The greatest hero in the world!” What a great reminder that for all the sacrifices military kids make, they are so lucky because they get to have real heroes as their daddies and/or mommies.

We then got settled into our seats, which were incredible—12 rows from the ice! We sat in the same section as Larry David and Gretzky himself. Will Ferrell was in the section next to us. Most of the fans surrounding us were season-ticket holders who all knew each other, but they were happy to chat with us throughout the game and really made us feel at home.

Kings game

Keith was honored on the big screen about 15 minutes into the first period. Nearly everyone in the arena stood up to applaud him. In fact, it was so loud in there we could barely hear the announcer reading Keith’s bio. What an incredible feeling! I stood beside Keith and made it to onto the screen myself, much to my six-months-pregnant dismay. They also put us on the kiss cam in the second period. I totally didn’t see that coming, although I certainly should have!

And let’s not forget the game itself: It was a really exciting one, with both teams playing hard. The game went into overtime, and the Kings won 3 to 2 only a few minutes into it. But despite the loss for my Rangers, it was such a fun and extremely memorable evening. I was so proud to see all the fans stopping to talk to Keith, to thank him for his service, and even to take a photo with him. I know so many great servicemembers who deserve to be honored, but I think Keith truly represents them and the U.S. Army well.

So, thank you again to the Los Angeles Kings for being such a classy organization that truly supports our men and women in uniform. It means so much to military families!

To nominate a servicemember to be the Northrop Grumman Hero of the Game at a 2014-15 Kings game, click here!

My Love Story in the Los Angeles Times!

la-hm-affairs-20140524-001
Nicole Daddona / For the Los Angeles Times

Military life certainly has its share of challenges—frequent moves, long separations, dangerous deployments, etc. But it also opens the door to so many new experiences—and teaches you things you never knew about yourself.

I, for one, was a true New Yorker in every sense of the word and planned to live there forever. Then I met Keith. I first left my beloved city in 2006, kicking and screaming. I quickly discovered that there was a big, beautiful country—and a whole new world—outside of New York.

Today, I had a story published in the Los Angeles Times about falling in love with Keith—and with Southern California. If it weren’t for the military, I would never have met this amazing man, discovered this wonderful place, or had my beautiful children. So for all of the sacrifices I’ve made as a military spouse, I’ve gained a beautiful life full of love, laughter, and joy. Read all about here: Battle of L.A. vs. NYC ends in a love match.

 

 

The Los Angeles Dodgers Support our Military!

For the maybe three of you who don’t already know this, Keith was honored on the field at Dodger Stadium on October 7 as the Veteran of the Game. At every home game, the Los Angeles Dodgers honor an active duty or retired military member with an on-field ceremony and free seats for his or her family. Keith’s friend Steve Cole, himself an amazing Army officer, nominated him for this honor. (Thank you, Steve!) It was an incredibly memorable evening for us, capped off by a Dodgers win against the Atlanta Braves to clinch the National League division title and advance to the National League Championship Series!

I want to apologize to my Facebook friends for the onslaught of photos and status updates about that evening. I blame every one of them on my being an extremely proud wife! But my pride is not the reason for this post. This post is to acknowledge the incredible amount of support the Dodgers organization and its fans show for our military. Keith and I were humbled by the onslaught of cheers, handshakes, and kind words he received that evening.

Let me point out that the Dodgers could not have asked for a better Veteran of the Game. Anyone who knows Keith knows that he pretty much eats, sleeps, and breathes baseball. I can also think of few people who love LA—Keith’s hometown—as much as he does. So simply setting foot on the field of Dodger Stadium was a dream come true for him.

The Dodgers’ Veteran of the Game program is run by the wonderful Laura Levinson, the team’s Manager of Community Programs. She told us to arrive at the ballpark an hour ahead of time, which we managed to do despite the infamous LA traffic. Laura escorted Keith down to the field, where he thought he was simply going to chat with her until the national anthem began. But it just so happened that his all-time favorite baseball player, Steve Garvey, was there to throw out the first pitch. Laura arranged for them to meet, a cameraman filmed them talking, and then Keith was interviewed about it on the big screen. He also had a chance to give Don Mattingly his 2-14 CAV pin for good luck before standing on the first base line and saluting the flag for “The Star-Spangled Banner.” (The pin proved lucky that night; not so much for the NLCS thus far!)

Keith Garvey talking
Here’s a photo of Keith chatting with Steve Garvey on the field before the game. They are just to the right of the fan in the blue Dodgers hat!
Interview
Here’s a shot of Keith being interviewed on the big screen before the game. The black at the top of the photo is the overhang I was standing under.

The actual ceremony honoring Keith took place in the middle of the third inning. He stood on the field just next to the Dodgers’ dugout, looking sharp in his dress blues, as the announcer said a few words about his career and then asked the crowd to give him “a warm Dodger Stadium welcome.” Everyone cheered loudly. Many stood up. It was an incredible moment.

But for me, it wasn’t the highlight of the evening. For me, the best part came after the ceremony. As Keith passed the dugout on his way back to the seats, several Dodgers players hurried over to shake his hand or to pat him on the back. Then, as he made his way up the aisle toward me, so many fans rushed over to thank him for his service. It was breathtaking for me to watch. 

But it didn’t end there. We still had to make our way back to the Dodgers office so that Keith could change out of his uniform. As we did, fans kept stopping him to shake his hand and to thank him for his service. Every time we’d start to move again, more people would surround him. And it wasn’t because he was a famous ballplayer or a celebrity. It was simply because they wanted to thank and show respect for a veteran. What an unbelievable feeling for both of us!

Big-city folks sometimes get a bad rap for seemingly being out of touch with the military. Dodgers fans also often get a bad rap for supposedly being bullies. But I didn’t see any of that in these fans, so many of whom went out of their way to simply thank a member of the military. (Even later in the game, when a rowdy man in a Braves jersey stumbled into our section looking for trouble, everyone just heckled him good-naturedly until he left. I saw no indication of Dodgers fans being jerks!)

Every MLB team supports our troops by holding at least one Military Appreciation Day per season. Many (including the Dodgers) give free or discounted tickets to military members.  But what the Dodgers do—taking a few minutes out of every single game to honor a veteran—is truly incredibly.

I did some research and found that several other MLB teams, including the Washington Nationals and the Houston Astros—also go above and beyond for the military. In a future post, I will highlight what some of those teams do. But for now, I want to send a huge thank-you to the Dodgers players and staff (especially Laura Levinson) for supporting our nation’s veterans. You are all part of an organization that is truly a class act, and for that, you will always be winners in my book!

As I write this, the Dodgers are down three games to one against the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS, and are less than two hours away from taking the field for game five. We need a big rally! Let’s Go Dodgers!!!

Two Years Ago Today…

As many of you know, Keith was honored at last night’s Los Angeles Dodgers NLDS Championship game as the Veteran of the Game. It seems fitting that the honor took place on the eve of October 8. Today is the two-year anniversary of the green on blue attack in which Keith was wounded in Afghanistan, and in which we lost two American heroes, Captain Joshua Lawrence and Captain Drew Russell.

As he stood on the field of Dodger Stadium last night, Keith was thinking about these two brave men, killed in action on October 8, 2011:

Josh Lawrence
Captain Joshua Lawrence
Drew Russell
Captain Drew Russell

It was a day that changed everything for our family, and everything we do now is in Drew and Josh’s memory. They have no doubt inspired Keith to be a better Army officer. We love you, Drew and Josh!

How It All Began

Eight years ago on a beautiful July day, I boarded a plane to Los Angeles with a one-way ticket and a heart full of hope. Everyone I knew had called me crazy. My parents questioned whether I’d return home alive. But I just knew what I was doing was right.

I guess I should backtrack and explain how Keith and I met, for those of you who don’t already know. I was an editorial assistant at TIME For Kids magazine in New York City. It was an entry-level job; the first rung in the ladder I was planning to climb to the top of a magazine’s masthead. I absolutely loved the job, but since it was such a wonderful place to work and people rarely left, there wasn’t much opportunity for me to advance. I was starting to feel restless.

Then one afternoon, my editor rushed into my cubicle and asked if I could take a story off her hands. It was about anysoldier.com, an amazing website through which you can send care packages to “Any Soldier” stationed overseas. She was set to interview the founder of the site, Marty Horn, the next day, but things had come up and she was swamped. I told her of course I would write the story. I recall even making a joke along the lines of, “Maybe I’ll meet a hot soldier. Hardy-har.”

Anyway, I did the interview and wrote the story, then decided to send a care package myself. I went onto the site and ran my finger up and down the list of names in true eenie-meenie-minie-mo fashion. It landed on John Molamphy, First Sergeant of B Troop, 2-14 CAV of the 1st Stryker Brigade, 25th Infantry Division. He was the point of contact who would pass out packages to soldiers in his troop. I  sent him a package and then quickly forgot about it—until February 4, 2005, when I received an email with the subject line, “Thanks from Iraq.”

The email was from John Molamphy himself. He thanked me for sending the package and wrote a few paragraphs about his unit. I replied and told him about the story I had written. A week later, he responded with some more small talk and the following:

“I was going to tell you good things about my commander, Keith Walters, but he just told me I couldn’t go on a mission tomorrow, so I’m mad at him.  He thinks I need to stay safe or something.  I’m going to give you his email so you can tell him off for me.” And he left the email address.

Now, I must be incredibly dense, but—I kid you not—I had no idea that this was an attempt to hook me and Keith up. Growing up in New York City and knowing nothing about the military, I thought a troop commander must be some really old guy. I thought John was just trying to have fun with his commander. So I decided to play along by doing exactly what John requested—I sent Keith an email and told him off.

A few days later, Keith wrote back. He made a few jokes, then wrote:

“John says you live in New York? I went to college upstate and love NY, even though I’m a Los Angeleno to the core! Want to start a friendly coastal rivalry?”

And THAT is how this crazy adventure began. Keith and I started a written battle about the merits of Los Angeles vs. New York. No topic was off limits: Dodgers vs. Mets, Tupac vs. Biggie, Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind” vs. Randy Newman’s “I Love L.A.” We even took turns writing lyrics from songs about California or New York. (His lyrics were very Beach Boys heavy, as you can imagine.) Before long, the conversations moved to our lives, our interests, our thoughts and feelings. Only a month later, I declared to my uncle over dinner that I was going to marry this man. Something about the way I said it made him believe me.

Waving
Here is one of the first photos Keith ever sent me of himself in Iraq!

So there I was in July 2005, after five months of practically being chained to my computer, flying to LA to finally meet Keith. Of course, it was everything I’d expected it to be. Everyone always asks if there was a movie moment the first time we saw each other; if time stopped and we threw everything down and ran to each other with some cheesy love song playing in our minds. But there was no movie moment. It was better than a movie moment. Keith pulled up to the baggage claim at Long Beach Airport (which is outdoors), got out of the car, and handed me a rose. We gave each other a hug and a quick kiss that felt more familiar than they should have, considering we’d never even seen each other in person. Then I got in the passenger seat of his Acura TL (which we still own), said, “What is this crap you’re listening to?” and changed the radio station.

We drove directly to Jamba Juice in Santa Monica, got Orange Dream Machines, and drank them on a bench on the palisades, overlooking Santa Monica State Beach and the Santa Monica Pier. That night we went to dinner and a movie in Pasadena. The next day, we hit the road for an 18-hour drive to Washington State so that Keith could process out of Fort Lewis.

We spent the next eight days in Seattle, having a blast. We went to a Mariners game, ate at great restaurants, walked around, and just enjoyed each other’s company until I had to get back to New York for work. On the evening before I left, Keith asked me if I’d move to the San Francisco Bay Area with him, where he’d be attending grad school at Stanford University for the next two years before heading to West Point (his almer mater) to teach history. I said yes. I quit my job and moved in with Keith in Mountain View, California in January 2006. Nearly eight years later, here we are.

Us at Point Reyes
This photo was taken at Point Reyes the week after I moved to California to be with Keith. Look at how young we looked!

Needless to say, my life as an Army wife started out in a rather adventurous way, and the adventures have not stopped. I knew life would be a roller coaster, but I had no idea just how down the downs would be and how up the ups would be. Less than three weeks after our wedding and only a few days after we got back from our honeymoon, Keith moved to Norfolk, Virginia for nine months for an Army assignment. We had expected him to be at West Point for a third year, and I had recently started a job as a senior editor at Scholastic News, so I stayed in New York. We took turns visiting each other every other weekend.

VS-169
The saber arch outside the West Point Cadet Chapel just after we got married, July 18, 2009

Then we moved to Colorado Springs in the summer of 2010, and I feel like we hardly saw each other for a while. Keith spent a lot of time training. He’d be in the field anywhere from a week to a month, over and over again. Even when he wasn’t in the field, he’d work incredibly long hours, sometimes not getting home until 8 or 9 pm. Two weeks after our twins were born in June 2011, Keith deployed to Afghanistan. Three months later, he was shot in a green on blue attack in which we lost two very good friends, and was sent to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to recover.

Yes, it’s been a very, very long road. But here we are back in LA, where it all started for us. And I have to say—I feel 100 percent content and complete in all aspects of my life. I love Keith more than I did the day we met, and we have two incredible little boys.  I am doing work I love that allows me to spend a lot of time with Matt and Nate. Keith is enjoying his fellowship at the RAND Corporation. And—here’s the shocker—I love living in L.A. I mean, I really love it.

Yes, there are all of the obvious reasons I’m having a blast here—the amazing weather, the gorgeous beaches, the great food, etc. But what I love most are the possibilities. (That’s my favorite thing about New York, too.) I love waking up every day not knowing what might happen. When we go to our local beach, will we see a movie being filmed? Will we see dolphins and sea lions swimming only a few yards from shore? Will we see a real-live rescue taking place? We’ve seen all of these things.

On Tuesday evening, Keith and I found ourselves on the Sony Pictures Studios Lot, watching an advance screening of Captain Phillips for RAND employees and donors and their guests. This weekend, we are headed to SeaWorld San Diego with the boys. On Monday evening, before the Dodgers playoff game, Keith is being honored in a ceremony on the field of Dodger Stadium as the Veteran of the Game. They will show pictures of him on the big screen and the announcer will talk about his Army career.

I can’t believe all of the good things happening for us, and sometimes I wonder what we did to deserve it. But then I remember, we did earn it. Keith has three Purple Hearts. We’ve been through a lot of heartache and challenges. We were apart for the start of our dating life, apart for the start of our marriage, apart for the start of our journey as parents. Now we are together and having a blast.

Our family Torrance Beach
Our family at Torrance Beach on Labor Day 2013

I ask that you take two messages from this story. One is, take chances. Send the package. Write the email. Board the airplane. Don’t be afraid to take the bumpy, uncertain road in life. You never know where that road might lead you and where you might end up. Whoever knew this New York City girl would be relishing life in Los Angeles as the wife of an Army officer and the mother of twins? I sure didn’t—but I’m so glad it’s the life I’m living!

And the second message is: Don’t forget about all of the men and women in uniform who are still deployed overseas, and their families. Many of our friends have just deployed yet again, or are getting ready to deploy in the coming weeks. There are still so many people out there fighting overseas, and so many military families making sacrifices.

Thank you all for reading!!!

What Happened on October 8, 2011