Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Soar High

I wrote this last summer, when Big G had graduated and just before Little G headed to Middle School.  I know a lot of parents are dealing with some pretty heavy emotion-- happy and yet sad.  Even as we know it's true, the reality that our kids are supposed to break away from us can sting, and sometimes downright hurt.

First Steps

From the moment you were born
         You moved away from me.
First breath
First sleep
First smile
         And so began your life on your own.

Your first steps,
         Stumbling, halting
         Then running and soon
         You were finding your way.

First laugh, first words
         Your unique take on life
         Even then an individual
         Doing it your way.

First days of school
         Bright yellow bus
         Bright shining smile
         Learning so fast.

Then suddenly, we face the "lasts"
         Last concerts
         Last days of class
         Last days at home.

I don't know where the time went.
I hope we did what was right.
The next steps are yours,
And only yours.
First steps now turn to first flights--
Soar High.

   (Copyright 2011)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Unexpected Travel

I'm not actually going anywhere.  However, last night I dreamt three separate times that I was headed on some sort of journey.  I called My G to let him know the plans and when I was leaving.  I packed.  And then I gave Little G great big hugs as I headed off.

Three separate times, I dreamt and then woke up.

I'm not a huge believer in the interpretation of dreams, but just in case God or my subconscious is trying to tell me something, I decided to write a little bit.  Especially in case it's one of the unexpected trips from which one doesn't return.

I've written before that life can turn on a dime.  I believe that, utterly.  Someone survives an injury and a surgery, only to face a medical error that ends his life.  Someone else should have died, but didn't.  In a book I read recently, a character referred to it as the Big Blackboard in the Sky-- when your name is on it, it's your time.  If your name isn't on it, it's simply not your time.  The thing is, we can't read the blackboard.  No medical prescription here on earth could possibly help us see the future, ours or someone else's.  So it's important to do what we can do.

Well, if I think about the dreams I had last night, they might have been telling me three things.

First-- Tell people.  In the first dream, I was on the phone and I was saying I'd be leaving soon.  I told him I'd be safe, that I'd be careful.  The most important part of the dream, though, was saying "I love you".

 Is there someone in my life whom I need to tell?  Is there someone in my life who needs to hear those words?  I think I have some cards and letters to send out.  Is there someone in your life?

Second-- Pack.  My second dream was all about packing.  And boy, it was a mess.  Dirty socks, disorganized papers, stuff I needed but couldn't find.  My Mom has always called those "frustration dreams" because you get nowhere fast.  I was trying and trying to get things together, but simply couldn't get organized.

Are my things in order?  Have I set up my life so it wouldn't be a total mess if I did have to "travel" unexpectedly?   I think it's time to sort through some important files and make sure it's not a disaster.  I do this most summers anyway; I'll just start it today.  Are your things in order?

Third-- Hug.  The third dream was the briefest and the sweetest.  It was all about hugging Little G, and then something woke me up.  I wish the dream had included hugs with Big G, My G, and other friends and family, but by its sweet simplicity it still reminded me of something.

Do I remember to hug people?  Do I remember to hold them close, when I can?  I wasn't always a hugger.  I used to think that that people would think I was weird, or that it would make them uncomfortable if I offered a hug, or asked for one.  Now I know the value of the physical, and sometimes a simple touch will go much deeper than the most eloquent of words.  Who do you need to hug?

Three dreams, three lessons.  I hope I'm not headed for any unexpected travel, but I hope if one day I am, I'll be ready.  I hope I'll have said the words, packed my things, and hugged them close.  Just in case.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day-- Some Kind of Way

Maybe it's because of deployment, but this particular Memorial Day weekend has me more emotional than any we've had in recent years.  Songs on the radio, Facebook posts that are meaningful-- they are all getting to me today.   Rather than try to put the feelings into words and end up with a clumsy, half-baked remembrance, I'm going to show you some of what I've seen today.

Feel free to share your memories.

Used with permission from John Holmes, PowerPoint Ranger.

I have a friend who will occasionally say that she feels "some kind of way" when the day is out of sorts, or the mood is a little off.  I guess that's how I'm feeling right now.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tuesday's Ten: Why I Am So Tired

I had last week all planned.  Lots of writing, then pack my stuff and head off to bring Big G back for summer classes.  It was going to be a whirlwind trip, but fun, too, and not a big deal.


At the other side of it, I am wiped out.  Big G slept reallllly late today (but in her own nice) and I crashed for a nap this morning after Little G went to school.

So why am I so tired?

1.  I managed to smash my right big toe not once, but twice last week.  Limping makes everything harder.

2. At the last minute, Little G and I realized that she had an after-school presentation thingy Thursday.

3.  On Friday, Little G had to be at school an hour early to head off on an all-day field trip.  Then it was time to fly...that was the smoothest part of the whole trip, I must say.  Yay, American Airlines!

4.  Friday afternoon, I helped Big G sort out the rest of her packing.

5.  Friday night, I got to watch a (schmaltzy) movie with my Mom.  That was a neat treat, and well worth the fatigue from staying up too late.

6.  Saturday, I woke up at 6.  Really?!  Nothing woke me up...just BLINK and I was awake.

7.  More packing....But we got almost everything in and only had to ship one big item.

8.  Dinner with My G's parents and his Grandma and cousin...I am so incredibly blessed to have married into this family!

9.  Another movie...this one was MUCH better.  We laughed and talked a lot.

10.  The drive here took at least 2 1/2 hours longer than it should have.  I'm still not sure what happened.   We didn't take lunch, other than eating in the car, and dinner took half an hour.  We did stretch our legs to gas up but it still shouldn't have taken us that long...It was earrrrllllyyy the next morning when we got in.

Bonus:  Adjusting to having two kids again instead of one, adjusting to having an adult child in the house, adjusting to schedules and end of school for Little G, still in deployment/independent mode, healing toes, confused cats, weird weather and trying to do a job hunt...  Nah, those wouldn't be part of it now, would they?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tuesday's Ten: Books I Have Never Actually Read

There are many "must-read" books that I have never actually gotten all the way through.  Many of them were assigned in school, so I know the basic idea, but I got very good, very young, at figuring out what was needed without actually, erm, READING the book.  I spent some serious time on Goodreads today, filling in books I would like to read, and updating my "oh gosh I couldn't even finish this book" shelf.

Just for fun, here are ten books I'm rather embarrassed to not have read:

1.  1984.  As an adult, I'd like to try this one again.  But in a high school class where we read book after depressing, dark, horrible book-- I couldn't do it.

2.  Moby Dick.  We were supposed to have finished it.  Mmm...No.

3.  The Bible.  I will admit I read this more as a collection of stories or poems or truths than a full-fledged, all-the-way-through book.

4.  Heart of Darkness.  This was just awful.  See above about the dark books.  I wonder sometimes if that teacher had issues with depression?

5.  The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  This one may stun more of my friends than the Bible.  What can I say?  I have interesting friends.

6.  The Shining.  It's been on my list for a long time.  I just have never picked it up.

7.  Gone With the Wind.

8. Brave New World.  Like 1984, it is possible to know quite a lot about a book without actually ever READING it.

9.  Uncle Tom's Cabin.  How is it I've never read this?

10.  Catch-22.  Any book that creates a phrase and sums up a situation with its title deserves to be at least skimmed...but, no. Not yet.

So what's on your list?

My favorite bookstore.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mothers' Day

Facebook is on fire with Mothers' Day posts...  Husbands helping kids make breakfast, sweet kid whispers "we told her we'd wait til 9", flowers and chocolates and acts of kindness.

My own gift was a 3-minute phone call that took him 15 minutes of hitting "send" over and over until he could get a connection.  Hearing "I just wanted to be sure to call you" made my day.

I talked to my Mom, I talked to his Mom, I talked to my Mom2 who has been as much a mother to me over the years as anyone has.  I got hugs, and hellos, and smiles, and a chocolate-covered strawberry from Culvers, which was amazing.

I've tried to focus on the day, but a part of my heart is thinking about other people this Mothers' Day.

There is the 90-year-old woman, sobbing over her own mother's grave.  50 years and the pain is still fresh for her.

There are the friends who hold their kids and families tighter, because they know what it is to bury a child.  And somehow, some way, pick up their lives and live again.

There is the mother whose child will never make her breakfast, and never make her a grandma-- but who loves her daughter enough to always look at the bright side.

There is the boy who graduates high school soon, and his sister, who wish for one more year to tell their own mother "Happy Mothers' Day".  I know the angels are holding her close, but we all miss her sass and spirit.

There are the single moms, some of whom are fighting for the best things for their children despite the difficult choices this requires.

There are those who always thought they'd have children by now, but don't.  They funnel their energies and love into four-legged children, or nephews, or the students and patients they reach every day.  To them I say, you are still mothers.  You give so much heart and soul and love to everyone you touch.

There are also the mothers, miles away from their children, who are forgotten.  I am an optimistic person, and I believe most of these children probably meant to call, or send a card, or they just don't realize how sweet it is to hear "I appreciate you," "I'm glad to call you my mother" on a day like this.  I know their hearts still ache.

So to all of these women and children, sons and daughters, I say "Happy Mothers' Day" to you, most of all, because I know the day can be difficult.  I hope tomorrow is brighter, and the pain fleeting.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Please Don't Tell Me

Often, I think our military spouses forget that we worry. We cope so well, generally speaking, that they tell us many details about things that we would rather not hear.

Tonight, I bring you some of them:

*  We had to stop training for a bit because someone mixed in live bullets with the training rounds.

*  Our flight was delayed because parts kept breaking.

*  Our flight got canceled because of too many mortar attacks.

*  There is a $15k bounty (US dollars) on dog handlers.  $20k if they got the dog, too.

*  Oh, that's just mortars coming in.

*  In-depth details about how a fellow soldier was injured...especially during R&R, after which that wife's soldier returned to battle.

*  Didn't I tell you that our MRAP hit an IED?

*  When we first got there, we didn't have showers for 45 days.  ("As the woman who washes his socks after ONE day...yeah, I don't even like to think about that!")

*  When asked why the flight suit smelled odd, he said they had to land in a freshly fertilized field due to smoke and oil in the cockpit.

*  Going to be late tonight...  Soldier thought hand sanitizer would make him drunk, not poisoned.

*   Absent-mindedly showing photos "This is my vehicle after we hit an IED".  An IED the spouse didn't know about.

*  Me and the PLT Sgt had a sniper bullet go right between us!

*  On the phone-- BOOM  "Love you, gotta go".  Then nothing for several days.

I was told I shouldn't ask for these stories, that they violate OPSEC (Operations Security).  I was told that these should be kept secret, between a husband and a wife.  I was told that I was a troll, an internet person who was just trying to stir up trouble.

None of these is necessarily true.  They weren't private admissions, they certainly don't violate OPSEC, and I am no troll.

After hearing these comments, I really had to think about what I set out to do by asking the question "what has your Soldier told you, that you'd prefer to not have heard?"   My goal, truthfully, was to bring a little bit of humor to something that isn't funny.  The humor isn't in the stories themselves, although one woman wrote about her very pale, very tall soldier running in only a teeny towel while bullets flew.  (The mental image of that makes me laugh.)  The humor is in the offhand "oh, yeah, I thought I told you" way we hear most of these things.  The humor is in the guileless presentation of something that, to a soldier, is a fact of life.

Thanks for reading, if you got this far.  I love comments, and feedback, and followers.  :)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tuesday's Ten: 20

Yesterday, we celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary.

Two decades have gone by since we said "I do".

It's a long time.

We were all the things we shouldn't have been.  Young.  Not fully independent; heck I still lived at home.  Unprepared.

But we were also many of the things that a couple should be:  Friends, similar in values, determined to learn about each other, accepting.  

That friendship thing goes a long way when you have a disagreement.

This week, we celebrate all the important stuff.  Twenty years of laughter, of support, of hugs, of shared joy, of shared pain.  It's pretty amazing.  Glenn's family has a long tradition of "keepers"-- his grandparents celebrated 61 years together before his Grandpa passed, and his parents have been married more than 45.  We've learned from the best.

What happens in 20 years?

1.  We've had 5 elections and are heading into number 6.

2.  We've had 3 Presidents.  We might get a fourth this fall.

3.  Oklahoma City, Columbine High School, and both World Trade Center attacks, as well as the attack on the Pentagon-- they all happened.

4.  Hurricanes Andrew, Katrina, Irene, Ike and more have all wreaked untold damage.

5.  Nearly 80 million babies were born in the US.  Two of those were ours.

6.  The US military has fought in Somalia, Bosnia/Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.  (Those were the big newsmakers; we know other military members have been assigned elsewhere when it wasn't exactly peaceful.)

7.  We have lost pets, and gained new loves.

8.  We have moved 5 times, which for a military family is a pretty small number.

9.  Together, our children have attended 9 schools, not including after-school or day care/preschool programs.

10.  Three deployments, three years of recruiting, one tour in Korea and untold NTC/gunnery/STX/field trainings later-- Yeah, I'd still do it again.

20 Years, 20 Roses

Saturday, May 5, 2012

You Are Always Here

You tell me how much you wish you could be with us, how it seems you can never be here when scary things happen and I must stand on my own.

But you are wrong, dear one.  You are always here.

When my pet was old and ill and quaking, and I had to let her go-- it was your arms I felt around me as I held her one final time.

When we rushed to the ER after Little G fell to the concrete with a concussion, it was your voice that steadied me.

When Big G's pet was failing, we both felt you with us.

During what Big G termed "a conga line of doctors" recently, it was your messages and voice that kept us going, helped us to remain hopeful.

We ate M&Ms with you in spirit, even if you weren't the one who poured them for us.

We celebrate good news and bad news with you at all times.  When you can't be here physically, it is harder-- but you are here.

You are always here.

When I make the drive home, I feel you in the seat beside me.  It is "our" music I listen to, and our jokes that the kids and I repeat.  It is your voice I hear in my head as we decide when to stop, and what is safe.

There are things that you would usually do, that are now my responsibility.  I try to do them as you would, or ask for help, so your presence is still felt and still strong.   When I am tired and the day is long and it is tempting to do a half-baked job, I remember how tired you must be, how your spirit aches-- and I finish the task.

I never want you to come back home and feel like you have to fix what I have done, or spend your precious time here making up for any time you feel you've lost.

I just want to see your smile, and feel your hug, and hear your laughter unsullied by the hesitation of phone lines.

Part of the Army life is knowing that hard times, and good times, will come.   Kids don't hold off on emergencies because of training or deployments; if anything, they seem more prone to disaster as soon as we receive those orders.  Concerts, parent-teacher meetings, graduations and school dances -- time is the truly unfailing Soldier, marching forward without pause.

But you are always with me.  The seat next to me at a concert may be empty, the teacher may not see you, but your strength and your love and your influence are always with me and always with our girls.  We have lived this life for 22 years now, and while sometimes I have felt lonely for your touch and your smile-- I am never alone.  I have learned to gather close our moments together so they are stored within me, the memories strong enough to hold me close when you cannot.  This can be a lonely life, true, but I don't want you to think that we do anything truly alone.

I want you here with me for all the big things, too.  Physically here, and holding our hands.  I am not so strong that I could really do this alone.  You are here, and you are supporting us, no matter where the Army tells you to lay your head.

You are always with me.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Tuesday's Ten: So Much Bigger

So today, for reasons I may write about later, I am thinking about some pretty deep things.  But they are manageable at this point, so I am going to focus instead on things that are much bigger than I am, much bigger and scarier than even what we are facing this week.

1.  The doctor, who came here from another country so his children would have a better chance for freedom.  He calls his mother every day he can, for she is still in a war-torn region that erupts with daily, unimaginable violence.

2.  The woman, earning pennies above the poverty line, who lives in fear that something will break, or fail, or need fixes she knows she cannot afford.

3.  The Soldier, coming home, unsure if he will still have a job or even the services he has earned.

4.  The child, frightened of her parents.

5.  The Mom, watching her hair fall to the floor and knowing that it's just a baby step in her fight for her life.

6.  The college graduate, thousands of dollars in debt, searching for a job and unable to even flip burgers because they are overqualified.

7.  Soldiers/Airmen/Marines/Sailors, away from their families and wanting so badly to hold hands and give hugs during Murphy's visits.

8.  A school is reeling today after a shooting left one student in critical care and an officer on administrative leave.

9.  The teacher, doing the best they can but stuck between school districts that are top-heavy and inefficient and parents who never told their children "no".

10.  I'll leave this one blank for you to fill in for yourself-- I'm sure you get the idea.

The fact is, every day, even as we are in our own small little sections of the world and wrapped up in whatever crisis is affecting us right then, there are the foes of fear, waste, sloth, apathy and anger affecting others, too.  How can we be anything less than understanding of others' battles?

How can we be less than kind?