Lessons

It is my belief that the most significant events or periods in our lives continue to teach us lessons for as long as we live, if we let them.  As time goes by, and as we reflect and remember those past events, we see new things about ourselves, we glean new information about the way things were, and we notice more about why things happened the way they did.

When Sarge was gone for over a year, a world away in the Middle East doing his job, which just happened to be fighting in a war, I was here alone with three kids, a house, and a dog.  I learned to be strong.  I learned to be independent.  I learned that it was okay to ask for help sometimes.  I learned who my friends were.  I learned what was really important.

And then he came home…to children that were a year and a half older.  To a wife that was used to doing things her way.  To a country that forgot about the soldiers and their families.  To a life that didn’t include 60 pounds of body armor and a gun at the ready.  And again, I learned.  I learned to be patient.  I learned to let him in again.  I learned how to be a wife and a mom, and still keep my own identity…something I hadn’t been so good at before. 

And now, the deployment is well in the past.  Sarge has been home for two and a half years, safe and sound.  We are used to living together again.  I no longer jump every time I hear the doorbell ring, thinking it’s a stranger in uniform coming to tell me my husband has been wounded or worse.  I am back to complaining about his crazy out-of-town schedule and his snoring and his camouflage stuff all over my kitchen.  Life is, for the most part, back to normal.

Lately, though, my mind has been wandering back quite often to those days of when he was gone.  I’ve been remembering frequently the days of no phone calls and no sleep for worrying about him.  I’ve been looking back to the moments of panic as I’d hear about a bombing on the news, or waiting anxiously to see him on the webcam, or talking non-stop to one year old Goo about his daddy so he wouldn’t forget about him while he was gone.  It could be anything that brings me back there.  It could be a story I tell a friend about the time we thought Spike might have leukemia, and people were advising me not to tell Sarge, so he wouldn’t worry from a war zone.  That was something I went through alone.  It could be a song about a soldier and the letters he gets that mean so much.  It could be asking Sarge about something funny that happened only to remember that he wasn’t here then, and knew nothing about it.  It could be talk of Hurricane Katrina, something he heard about briefly but was amazed as I described the devastation to him over the phone.  It could be my kids hearing about a trip Sarge has to take for work, and asking if he’s going to Iraq.  It could be anything that reminds me.  Anything.

And as I think back, what amazes me most is our ability, as humans, to cope with what life throws our way.  I’m still learning from that time in my life.  Whenever I think I can’t do something, I remember deployment, and I know that I can get through anything.  If I see a friend in need and think I’m too busy or too tired or too far away to help, I remember the friends that helped me and I find the strength to do what I can.  When I see Army kids missing their parent, I remember to give them extra attention, because they’re missing some from the one who is away.  When I hear people arguing about the rightness or wrongness of this war, I remember that no matter the politics, it is the soldiers and their families who need our unwavering support.  I learn from it every day.  Every moment.

Sometimes I can hardly believe that it truly happened.  Some days I wonder if that time was all just a dream.  But then I look at the pictures of the day he came home.  Or I see the Muslim prayer beads that he brought home with him hanging on my wall.  I hear the doorbell ring and while it no longer scares me, I still remember.  That time in my life, a time I had hoped would never come, has proved so invaluable to me in so many ways.  It is a part of who I am and who my children are.  It is what makes Sarge the incredible man he is today.  It is in the life lessons I teach my children and the advice I give my friends.  It is in the way that I smile and the way that I cry.  When I see myself in the mirror, it is part of what is looking back at me.  It is a piece of the map that makes up my life.

I wonder sometimes what’s to come, and I worry about what’s in store for us.  But when I really think about it, I know that whatever it is…whatever hard times or happy times or scary times or amazing times we will go through, they will be the things I look back on someday.  They will be the things I remember as part of the map of my life.  Part of the journey that makes me who I am.  The things that taught me how to live as me.

I hope I never stop learning.

 

Update:

I have added the picture on my previous post.  Thanks to SWC for sending it to me again.  And girl, I had such a great time the other night.  And you’re good people too.  xoxo

A Brush With (Dr.) Death

I have never been to California.  I have also never been to New York City.  Here in the midwest, celebrity sightings are not commonplace.  I did kiss John Stamos once on the cheek when I was about thirteen and he was making an appearance at my local mall.  I am friends with a woman whose husband was a professional baseball player, and he has a World Series trophy in their home office.  I am distantly related to Daniel Boone.  That is the extent of my experience with all things celebrity.

Last night I met my friend SWC (she has a blog but has gone private…some of you may know her) for dinner and a walk around town.  We ate really yummy Mexican food, got some Caribou coffee, and were wandering around a bit downtown when we noticed a cute little old man walking toward us.  S said, “Look at that cute, cozy old man over there.”  I agreed…he was a cute little old man in his cardigan sweater and hat.  It was only then that S recognized him, and I realized she was right.  That cute, cozy old man was Dr. Jack Kevorkian.  Otherwise known as Dr. Death. 

S stopped him and confirmed his identity.  We asked for an autograph, but apparently his lawyer won’t let him sign autographs.  But he does do pictures, so I took my friend’s picture with Dr. K.  He asked if we were registered voters.  He said it was a pleasure to meet us.  He shook our hands and smiled.  (By the way, he had the softest hands I think I’ve ever shaken!)  He was a very sweet, cute old man.

Now, I’ve never supported assisted suicide.  I don’t, at any point, think that a person can be “useless”, and I believe in being strong and staying strong in the face of whatever life throws at you.  Please don’t think I’m cold and heartless.  I have read testimonies of those who wanted Dr. K’s assistance to take control of their own fates and die on their own terms.  I understand that those individuals were in extreme pain and misery, and were only hastening the inevitable.  And I feel for them, I really really do. 

In fact, I’m able to see the other side of this issue.  I can truly see why Dr. K felt he was doing the right thing.  I can see why those poor people felt the need to end their suffering in their own way, in their own time.   And despite the controversy, despite the prison sentence, despite it all, I think that Dr. K really did have good intentions, and really did feel he was helping people.  I don’t think he’s evil.  I just disagree with him.

It was very surreal, meeting this man in person after the reports I’ve heard about him in the media.  I’ve read and heard about the hunger strikes, the controversy, the names he’s been called, his crazy and adamant lawyer.  I watched the news on the day he got out of prison, and have heard that he’s running for office.  I know the stories.

And yet, last night, he was just a cute, cozy old man in a light blue cardigan.  He was just walking around downtown enjoying the beautiful weather, like S and I were.   And I have the picture to prove it. 

 

Signs that My 13 Year Old Son Has Reached Puberty:

Me:  What are you watching??  The news???
Spike (lying on the couch and pointing to the chair across the room):  Yeah…the remote is all the way over there.

 

Me (driving home from the fruit market with the kids and hearing the watermelons rolling around in the trunk):  I’m going to have to pull over somewhere and rearrange the trunk.  My melons are rolling all over the place back there.
Spike:  (uncontrollable giggles)

 

Me (walking into his bedroom to bring his clean laundry):  Dude, what’s that smell??  You need to clean in here.
Spike:  No, I think that’s just me.  I’ve been out of deoderant for a few days.

 

Spike:  Hey, Mom, how much is in my college fund?
Me:  Quite a bit, but it won’t get you all the way through four years.  That’s why a scholarship would be great.
Spike:  What happens to that money if I get a scholarship?
Me:  You can use it to pay your living expenses so you don’t have to work through college.
Spike:  Living expenses?
Me:  Yeah, things you need to live.
Spike:  Oh, like a big TV.  And Playstation.
Me:  Um…I was thinking more like food and clothes. 

Watch Out Jennifer Lopez!!

I’ve been trying to become more involved at my church recently, partly because I feel that my kids are old enough now that I have a little more freedom to do my own thing.  I debated for a while about what I should get involved with, and what my passion would be.  The thing that sort of fell in my lap is the wedding and funeral stuff.  I haven’t had to deal with a funeral yet, though I’m overseeing the entire “funeral ministry” so I’m trying to get my stuff together, so to speak.  We don’t do many funerals at our church, so it’s not a big job all the time, but we have to be prepared.  I’m getting there.

As far as weddings, I’m still in training.  But soon I will officially be the wedding coordinator.  I helped with a wedding today, and it was so incredibly fun.  I love being there for a couple’s special day, to make sure everything goes perfectly and that they have everything they need.  That’s just my thing, I guess…running around making sure everyone’s happy, doing all those little things people need, giving the cues and soothing the nerves and fixing the veil and lighting the candles and making everything look beautiful. 

I took such pride today in seeing all my hard work (and the hard work of our team) come to fruition, knowing that the bride and groom felt special and knew everything was taken care of and generally seeing it all come together and work out just right.  It was nice to sit in the back of the church for fifteen minutes during the ceremony, just watching this couple start their life together.  I know the wedding’s not really the important part.  I know the marriage is what counts.  But to a bride and groom, the wedding feels important, and it needs to be just right, and I feel so excited to have a part in that.

Now all I need is one of those cool little equipment belts like J.Lo had in The Wedding Planner.  Anyone know where I can get me one of those?? 

Stay Tuned

I’m doing some maintenance on my blog today, in my spare (ha!) time.  I’m trying to finally get a blogroll up, some of my favorite links, and just some other cool stuff to make it pretty.  It’s a work in progress, so bare with me!!  And if you’re a regular reader and want to be on my blogroll, leave me a comment and let me know.  I’d be happy to oblige.

Carpe Diem

There are two things on my mind today, and in some strange way they are related.  The first is that I found out this weekend that a guy I knew in high school died last Friday.  He was 34, had been married for 10 months, and just died in his sleep.  No warning.  No hint that his last words or goodnight kiss or the evening before would be his last.  Just poof.  Gone.

I haven’t seen this guy since high school…haven’t really even thought about him since high school, if you want to know the honest truth.  But he was good friends with my friend M, who I do hang out with now and then.  So M has been talking about it and telling me about it, and it blows my mind that a perfectly healthy guy my age just suddenly left this world.

It makes me think about how I’m living my life, for sure.  Am I living each day to the fullest?  Am I saying the things that need to be said?  Am I living my life in such a way that if I were to die tomorrow, I could die with no regrets?  Yeah, I’m thinking on all those things.  But also, I’m looking at the people in my life and seeing that there are a lot of people in this world that aren’t looking at the big picture.

My friend, A, for instance, recently found text messages on her husband’s phone from a woman.  “A friend”, according to him.  The messages were flirty and often in code and completely inappropriate.  But he didn’t like being called out on them.  He didn’t like that A was mad about his relationship with this girl, whatever it may be.  So he left.  He moved out, and now A is taking care of their three children on her own.  She’s drinking more than she should.  She has started smoking again.  She’s taking advantage of her freedom by flirting with other guys and entertaining the thought of finding a new guy.  She’s visiting lawyers and bad-mouthing her husband and talking divorce.  Mostly, she’s in defensive mode, because her husband L is being such a jerk. 

And I look at L and I can tell that he’s acting on this little feeling of unhappiness.  This restless feeling everyone has now and then of being in a marriage for a while and having the responsibility of three kids and wondering what it would be like to be a little more free again.  Most of us brush it away, whine a little about how rough life is, and get on with our lives the best we can.  But L…he’s checking it out.  He’s walking away, just like the eight years and three kids mean nothing to him.  He’s out having fun and acting single.  And his children are paying the price.  His wife is paying the price.  His family is paying the price.  All because he’s not looking at the big picture.

L claims to have no “emotional interest” in A at this point.  He just doesn’t care about her or their marriage anymore.  He’s done.  Overnight, practically, he has decided that he wants out.  He probably thinks that he is seizing the moment, and doing what he needs to do to be happy.  But I think I’m wise enough these days to realize that in truth, there are two ways to go about that.  He can leave his family behind to pursue “new” happiness…the excitement of a new girl and new possibilities and a new life.  Or, he can man up and do what he needs to do to make his current life happier.  Make more effort.  Be a better husband.  Be a better dad.  Care.  In the end, which would he regret?  If he died tomorrow, would he regret staying?  Or leaving?

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying there’s never a place for divorce.  I have many friends that are divorced and it was the best thing for them…they are much happier now.  What I’m saying is that people too often don’t look at the big picture.  Too often they take the “easy” way out.  They don’t try hard enough.  I think that if you are going to take steps toward divorce, especially if you have children, you need to make every possible effort to save that marriage first.  You need to exhaust every minute possibility.  You need to fight your butt off before throwing in the towel.

Somehow this has turned into a post about divorce.  That wasn’t my intention.  But it’s a valid example of how easily many people today throw away things in their life without much consideration.  We take the “easy” way out…we are selfish and do whatever we want to do to fulfill our fleeting desires…we toss aside people and pursue our own agendas.  If I could talk to the high school friend who just passed away, what would he say his regrets were?  I think it would be the people he hurt.  The things he didn’t say to those he loved.  The things he didn’t do for them that he should have.

But for us, it’s not too late.  Now’s our chance.

 

My Blogger Party Dream

Goo woke me this morning at 7ish, and after getting him settled with his older brother and sister, I went back to bed for a while.  It is times like these that I dream most vividly, and that I remember my dreams the best, and today was no exception.  Today I dreamed that I was at a party with a bunch of my bloggy friends…mostly people that I was pretty friendly with when I was at my old blog on Blogger…some of whom have not followed me over to my new blog. 

In my dream, I sat next to Mishi and rocked little Alexis to sleep while her blog-famous Mom was sociable. I waited excitedly to meet Lunanik because she was running late. There were others there that I don’t know. There was a beautiful Indian woman with her three gorgeous daughters. There was a woman with curly hair and glasses who had, like, eight children. Stella and I had a great chat. Mamarazzi was there dressed all in pink. It was a fun dream.

And yet, just as in real life, I felt slightly seperated from a few of those bloggers I admire most. Mr. Lady, BusyDad, and Huckdoll were huddled in a corner in deep conversation. OhMommy was looking fab in her stillettos, chatting with Joeprah.  I stood back and watched.  I was envious of their connection.  I wanted to be a part of it. 

I think about this, though, and I don’t understand myself.  These are all people I am on friendly terms with.  Busydad and I have had some great conversations via comments.  Huckdoll stood up for me in a major, humbling way when I got some hate mail.  Joeprah gave me a great review once on his blog.  All of these other bloggers would be, I’m sure, generous and friendly and gracious and wonderful if I were to meet them in person.  They would not, in a million years, think of me as “less” than them, even though my readership, especially here at my new blog, has gone way down and I’ve been posting much less than I used to.  So the fact is, the problem lies with me.  Once again, I feel inadequate.  Once again, I feel not good enough.  And as a result, I’m being held back by my own low self-expectations. 

I know it was just a dream, but I should have gotten up and talked to those people standing around.  Why would I wait for them to approach me?  I am not shy.  I am not introverted.  I am outgoing and friendly and funny and fun.  Why am I so afraid?  Why do I think that I will be rejected?

I think dreams can, at times, teach us a lot about ourselves.  This one, for sure, showed me just how much I’m hurting myself by having these ridiculous fears.  It taught me that I need to think more of myself than I do, and I need to figure out a way to gain confidence and to know that I’m a pretty great person.  Other people tell me all the time.  It’s time I started believing them.