Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Amazons

Imagine this… a group of amazing, accomplished women who all get along and love to eat, drink, and talk.

Yeah, yeah, I am sure you may know of such a group.

But you do not know… the Amazons.

It all started in 1997 or so.

A group of former West Point women classmates who wanted to start a book discussion group.

Only they lived all over the globe.

The Internet and email seemed to solve the distance problem. Every month they would read – and discuss! – a book. Sometimes they were fiction books, often Oprah selections, and other times they were non-fiction. The selection was at times whimsical, at times trendy, at times purposeful.

They read a lot of books over the years. And discussed them.

Book discussion groups were kind of the rage there for a while in the late 90s, early 2000s. The Amazons all loved to read and all loved books. They also liked to just… talk. About their lives, their marriages, their children, their work, their families, their problems, their day-to-day lives.

What bonded them all together, though, was their shared experience as women West Pointers from the same class.

Other women periodically joined the group; some were other Army women, some were co-workers (one of whom may even have been a man!), and there was one mom of an Amazon. Shoot, at one point there was even an imaginary woman member of the group!

“Carmen” was an Army wife, an Italian-American princess from New Jersey, and, boy, did she have some interesting takes on books the Amazons were reading! Some Amazons were really not all that thrilled that Carmen had joined the group. She was brazen, she was in your face, she was funny as hell. She was also entirely made up.

I don’t remember now why I made up Carmen. Maybe because I was bored or frustrated and she allowed me to express a side of myself that was forced to be silent. Frankly, I figured the fact that Carmen had to use my email account to send her emails was a dead give away. I mean, yeah, sure, I – err, Carmen – had made up some lame excuse like her computer had died and they weren’t going to buy a new one until they PCSd back to the States in a few months yada yada yada. I never really dreamed that anyone actually thought Carmen was real. I mean, she was sooo over the top, it was ridiculous. And, in hindsight, I imagine other members of the Amazons would agree.

And why, you may ask, is the group called the Amazons? Well… we had a contest early on to name our newly established group. Everyone suggested names, and we had a variety of contenders. However, the Amazons seemed to be a favorite. I had this “brilliant” idea that we should call ourselves As opposed to That way, we could encompass our love of books ( with our communal history as women West Point grads and Army soldiers. Women warriors. And it would be funny, in an odd, tongue-in-cheek sort of way. Others seemed to agree.

I would go so far as to suggest that “Amazon” is actually an abbreviation or a shortened (albeit misspelled) version of “Amazing Woman.” I have never met such an amazing, accomplished, generous, compassionate, funny group of women in my entire life as these six other women. I think I am just along for the ride.

2002 was the first year we had a physical reunion – or “union.” Many members met at the home of one generous Amazon who was living down in Florida. I was in Alaska at the time, going through hell in more ways than one, and was unable to attend. In fact, was not “allowed” to attend. But these amazing women still managed to call me in Alaska and share in the union. We have had several get-togethers since then – valid “re”unions – one of which was our twentieth West Point class reunion at West Point, and we then decided that we should get together every single year, if at all possible.

Our annual reunion for 2008 is this coming Martin Luther King weekend, and it looks like every single Amazon will be present and accounted for. A first in a long time!

While Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love has been a popular book with women everywhere -- and most, if not all, of us have read it, the theme for this year’s Amazon reunion is: Eat, Drink, Talk.

It really does not matter where we get together, or what we do. Or do not do. What matters is that we are all together. We enjoy each other’s company tremendously. We are all different. We have led vastly different lives, followed vastly different career paths (aside from our shared Army heritage), and encountered different problems and challenges along the way. None of us is still in the Army, but some of us work as civilians for the Army or have spouses in the Army. So there is still that Army connection. Some of us are married, some divorced, some single; some have children, some don’t. Some are conservative, some liberal, some of a more libertarian/independent bent. Some are religious, some not. All read a lot. Some more than others.

Everyone, though, is amazing in her own special way. And has a wonderful sense of humor. Even better, we all like to eat and drink and talk. Talk, talk, talk. And talk some more. And laugh and cry and laugh some more.

We have decided that there can be no future Amazons. There was no vote. No discussion. No membership meeting. But we all know, in our heart of hearts: This is it. We are it.

We are not exclusive. Or elitist. Or snobby. People can join in on our fun at times -- men and women -- but the Amazons are set in stone. We are not a club. There is no “membership,” so to speak. But we are who we are. And we cannot change that make up, that group dynamic, that je ne sais quoi.

We are who we are.

We are the Amazons.

Hear us roar!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

You say you want a resolution....

I think New Year’s is a very bizarre holiday. I get the whole “It’s a new year, so let’s take stock and start anew” stuff. I don’t get standing out in the freezing cold for 8 hours in Times Square, surrounded by millions of people, just to watch a ball drop at midnight. I don’t get camping out on the streets of Pasadena the night before the Rose Bowl Parade. I don’t get partying like a wild maniac and drinking buckets of champagne on New Year’s Eve.

I do get starting a new year off right. Celebrating the new year with traditions, like a giant soft pretzel, pork and sauerkraut, and a toast of bubbly. Taking stock of where you have been and what you have done – or not done. Tying up loose ends. And starting anew.

I don’t really get New Year’s resolutions. Because I think they are done with naiveté and optimism and after too much champagne. And they are made to be broken.

I do get change. And wanting to change. And honoring change. And fresh starts.

That is why I am going to begin this year with a post to this poor blog, which has been dreadfully neglected these past few months. I was simply “overcome by events.” I have no excuse. I put my blog last. As I tend to put myself last.

I am not going to make a resolution. I am going to say that it is my intention to be better at posting this year to my blog. To be better at writing. To bump myself up a few notches on the proverbial totem pole of life. Not sure that will happen. But I hope to write about it either way.

Happy New Year! And all the best in 2008!