My Husband Didn’t Sleep in Our Bed Again Last Night

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While getting up early is never my favorite thing it somehow seems better when I wake up suddenly, and I am shaken from my sleep by my alarm only to realize I’ve been out like a light. There’s something satisfying about a good, hard night’s sleep where your body resembles a rock, and you even check the mirror to see if you gathered moss while you snored.

This morning was that kind of morning, and though I was jolted awake to my disappointment, the sting of wakefulness was soothed by the fact that it was the first time my eyes had opened all night long. The room was dark, and the humidifier was running. It created a beautiful, white noise that could lull even the most insomniac of minds.

The side of the bed to my left was empty. In fact it was untouched. That side of the bed was still tidily made, and that told me two things. One, I really had slept like a rock. And two, my husband had not come to bed at all last night. I wasn’t surprised one bit.

I thought then of yesterday morning when I had been running late for work. As I had gotten into the car and cranked it up I experienced momentary distress. My mind produced images of the illuminated gaslight I had noticed the day before, and I realized that even as time worked against me so did an empty gas tank. I knew I would have to stop for a fill-up despite the lack of time.

But when I looked at the dash a half tank of gas looked back, and I knew it wasn’t a visit from the fuel fairy that had saved me. It had simply been the thoughtfulness of my spouse.

And wasn’t that what it was all about? Doing small, insignificant things, day in and day out, not because you were asked to or because of what you got in return, but simply out of love.

Favorite meals made. A honey-do list checked off.

A tidy house. A tuned-up car.

Love notes and laundry done. Yard mowed and the broken bed mended.

Nothing big, not in the grand scheme, but simply small, mundane tokens that collectively made a house run smoothly. And subsequently made you feel special, taken care of, and secure.

Yet he wasn’t in my bed.

I trudged in a sleepwalk haze towards the bathroom, but not before stopping to find my spouse. There on the living room floor lay my husband, surrounded by three girls, and one of them was actually sprawled out across his chest.

It wasn’t a party I had missed, but an action to ensure I slept undisturbed. The three girls were our rowdy daughters, and the youngest snored softly on her father’s sternum.

An empty medicine dropper lay in the sink for soothing incoming molars, but I hadn’t heard a sound. Not one single cry.

I had slept hard, and good. I had drove to work with plenty in my gas tank, and I had arrived on time. But mostly I had walked into work feeling loved and appreciated.

I felt special, and worth doing the little things for even when nothing was promised in return. I was grateful for the gift of him. Plus I knew he’d be back in our bed come tonight.

Living the Dream

I ran my fingers through her curls, and I knew. As I gazed down at the back of my toddler’s head, finally still after a battle lost to the sandman, I knew I had come very close to making a grave error. I had come very close to allowing discontentment with mediocre routine to steal the deep-seeded satisfaction I deserved to savor at all times.

How easy it is to become dissatisfied with a job that seems unrewarding, or become frustrated with a schedule that is grueling, and busy, and hard. How slippery is the slope that leads to aggravation with the mundane day-to-day.

How often do I dream for a different way, or a better home, or a bigger kitchen? How many times do I wish life could be better, my hair could be longer, and my bank account fatter?

When and how does discontentment toward a small factor within your life lead to an overall longing for more? More time, more room, more children, more, more, more.

Does a longing for more ever lead to fulfillment, or simply lead to more? More wanting.

While a dream is dandy, and striving is sweet, can blinders of ambition blot out the obvious blessings peppered throughout the way? In my dreams for going further in life did I forget that I’m already living the dream?

When a heart loses the ability to practice gratitude what is left? The inability to see grace in all its plenty.

When eyes cease to see blessings on the battlefield then life becomes a war waged against you where you’re forever losing. Forever falling to the tactics of the enemy to steal the victory of joy. The banner of joy is the shelter that is always present, but so often we leave the shadow of its wings in search for the spoils.

So I run back to the truth. I look at the precious, blond curls, the rise and fall of a sleeping chest, and I say thank you.

Thank you for this, and thank you for that. Thank you for the things I too often lose sight of, the blessings that come in the form of hardship, or struggle, or strife. For even then I am blessed.

Forgive me when I forget, when my focus leaves you, and is blinded by the world. Forgive when I want more, or think I have less. Forgive me when I forget it is all meaningless in the face of eternity, or when I take for granted the gifts I am given.

Forgive me when I forget to be thankful, when I lose sight of gratitude, when I stumble and fall. I do that a lot.

Forgive me if I forget I am living the dream. Help me to remember a piece of it is sleeping in my lap, to impress upon me to never lose sight of that fact again.

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The One Question Every Parent Needs to Ask

My daughter just turned four this week so I’ve got a while, right? I mean, even though she asked me yesterday, “Mom, am I old enough for a phone now?”

Of course I answered, “No ma’am, you are not!” But still, it got me to thinking, and as I look at her this morning, so beautiful, and so spirited, the thought of that confidence being crushed makes me want to cry. It makes me want to grab her by the shoulders, look deeply into her eyes, and convince her, “You are perfect, you hear me? Don’t let anyone make you think otherwise!”

I think of my own adolescence and I shudder. Is a prepubescent existence ever easy? No. The answer is no. It wasn’t when I was a young girl for sure, and I fear it will be even harder for my girls.

There will always be issues with self-esteem, and I can easily recall looking at my Mom’s Vogue magazines, and thinking, wow, she’s thin! Is that what I’m supposed to look like?

Or I can recall admiring the older girls in school, then coming home and trying to recreate their wardrobe from my closet contents, or practice for hours in front of the mirror to get my hair to stand up that high. (Yep. 80s kid.)

My efforts were judged by a crowd of my peers I’m sure as I made the long walk down the junior high hall, praying that I wouldn’t slip since I was wearing non-skid dance flats with my insanely snug, tight-rolled jeans. A compliment from an upperclassmen boy would make my tween spirits soar, but otherwise, if no one seemed to notice then neither did I.

What I didn’t have was a quantifiable means with which to judge the popularity of my appearance, or others’ opinion of me. I couldn’t place a number on what other people saw, and then use that figure to decide if I was pretty enough, desirable, or well-liked.

My step-daughter has an Instagram account, and we quickly became friends on that social media outlet. Once friends with her, I received follows from other boys and girls around her same pre-teen age group. And what I saw bothered me.

I noticed these young men and women had a big interest in the number of followers their account received. They also desired likes for their photos, and would come right out and beg for them. They took screen shots of how many likes or follows they got that day, and I couldn’t help but wonder, why does it matter?

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I see it, and I can see it’s a problem. I look at my daughter, and then I look at myself. I mean, I’m guilty too, right?

I started this blog with great intentions, and as an outlet for the things I felt led to share, but is my response always what it needs to be?

I remember when my first blog went semi-viral, with over 700K views. I practically crapped my pants! They like me! They like what I have to say!! I was so elated, and then the numbers trickled down.

Again, it happened, well over a million on another post. Yippee! Oh, they do like me! But the Today Show didn’t call, and I still went to work that weekend. Then the numbers went back down.

I’ve seen more viral blogs since, but I have decided they only serve to infect me with a false sense of importance. Isn’t that what going viral really is? Everyone wants to catch it, they all want a post to go viral, but then what?

To feel special for a moment, is that what social media is teaching our children?

Will my daughters enter into a social media tainted world view where they feel the need to gain followers and foster more likes? Will they falsely base their importance or self-worth on how many people comment on their photo? God, please, no!

I can see it happening around me, and I can see how easily one can be influenced. I can see that I must be even more vigilant as a parent, even more involved in protecting their hearts, and helping them develop a positive and realistic vision of themselves, and their self-worth.

It’s up to me to show them they are special, and insist that their value is not based on how many “friends” they have on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or whatever else will be around when they get older.

It will also be up to me, as the parent, to curtail social media use if I see it tearing down their self-esteem, affecting them negatively, or, God forbid, them using it to make another person feel less. I don’t see that as being overly involved. I see it as being a parent.

Things have changed. Life is still hard, that is the same, but I know one thing. I wouldn’t have wanted to grow up in an adolescence full of selfies, video cameras in your pocket, or the possibility of having my teenage social life destroyed on a public, internet platform.

For now I am glad their main interests are dolls and dirt, rather than Instagram and Snapchat. And then I remember she asked me yesterday if four was finally old enough to have a phone.

Sigh. Is it too late to move to Amish country?

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I Hate to Blame the Hormones, but the Dog’s Already Busy

My poor dog just had puppies, six of them, and when she came out from under the shed that first postpartum day, with dirt mixed with unmentionables in her tail, I felt for her. Bad. I patted her head, and I rubbed behind her ears for a long time.

“Good job Momma.” I said, and I patted her tired head one last time before heading inside to my own litter.

The rest of the week hasn’t been much kinder to her, and though the afterbirth has been washed from her fur, she still has that look of sheer exhaustion in her droopy eyes. And that’s not the only thing sagging either.

Her full breasts were dragging the dirt today as she came out to greet me, and I thought, I feel ya there little Momma. My own nipples status post wean are still resembling a stroke patient’s mouth, and I keep holding out hope that the cocoa butter will work a miracle while I sleep.

My husband has mentioned that the dog is acting strange, pooping in front of the shed rather than out back, and getting her runner tangled around the tree. He noticed that she just wasn’t acting like herself, and even said, “that dog has lost her mind!”

I feel ya there little Momma.

I hate to blame it on hormones, as I’ve always despised that sort of thing, speaking as if it’s a disease women suffer from rather than the gift it truly represents. But I told my husband regardless, “honey, I think she’s hormonal.”

Today I found myself in a pickle of sorts. It was like I had wound my runner around a tree, and I couldn’t quite figure out how to right myself.

I couldn’t breathe! Why in the world I decided to wear a fitted, button-up blouse with skinny jeans while I was retaining water was beyond me, and as I sat in the van waiting to pull out of the driveway of my in-laws house I considered ripping off my shirt.

I couldn’t breathe, and I couldn’t think. I had forgotten the hotdogs, and my hair was frizzy. My head hurt, and my tummy hurt, and I couldn’t breathe. I waited, and I waited, with my turn signal on, but cars kept coming, and I couldn’t breathe.

Help me Lord! I cried, and hot tears came. And still the cars kept coming, and I couldn’t breathe.

Help me Lord. I have no control over this! And then there was a break in the cars, and I turned left, but I still couldn’t breathe.

“Don’t forget the hotdogs.” My husband had said as I headed out the door, and besides changing shirts, that was the whole reason I was going home. As I looked at him quizzically, I realized he must think I had lost my mind.

I feel ya there little Momma. I was honestly surprised I wasn’t shitting all over the yard too.

I hate to blame hormones, but the dog’s already busy. She’s got problems of her own to tend to, and hungry puppies don’t wait until you’re done crying in the bathroom with the door closed. Do they?

Some days you just have to change your shirt. And then try another one. And then twelve shirts later, with a pile of discarded clothes in the closet floor, you can dry your eyes and head out the door. Because you got a litter to feed, but it’s okay because at least you can breathe.

And sometimes you turn around again. Because you forgot the hotdogs. Again. But you don’t cry this time, you laugh.

I feel ya there little Momma.

Now if someone could just scratch behind my ears, and tell me “good job Momma,” I think I’d be fine. I can breathe, so I think I’ll be fine.

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The Things I Never Knew

They said my life would change, and that it would in fact never be the same. That’s what everyone said when I told them about you.

My belly was still flat, and you were so very tiny, microscopic even, but still friends, family, and even strangers couldn’t wait to tell me all about you. They couldn’t wait to warn me how my life would change when you arrived.

I got your room ready. I bought dainty white furniture, and I decorated the walls with bright colors, and scenes from Noah’s Ark. I bought the smallest socks I had ever seen, and I lined them up in a top drawer, nestled beside the tiniest bloomers I had ever laid eyes upon.

I got strollers, and a car seat too. I got a baby monitor, and even a special place to dispose of your soiled diapers. I looked at the newborn diapers, and I wondered if you could really be that small. My belly felt huge, so surely you were bigger than that.

I waited, and my belly grew even more. People still gazed at my enlarging tummy, and they would smile while they offered advice of how my life would soon turn upside down. I knew enough by then to realize I better nap while I could, but you had gotten so big inside me that I couldn’t rest no matter how hard I tried.

As I folded onsies, and prayed for your safe arrival, I felt certain of one thing. It was the one thing everyone seemed to agree upon. My life was about to change. I looked at your animal-themed nursery, and I straightened pictures on your wall. I’m ready, I thought. I’m ready for my life to change. That I knew.

You announced your arrival with steady, easily-timed contractions, and when my water broke suddenly at midnight I was nervous, but I was ready. I was ready for my life to change. Just like everyone had told me it would.

I remember crying when you first cried, and it was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard. But I think what amazes me the most is how the memory of that newborn squall causes me to weep even now. That was the thing I never knew. I knew when I first heard that cry that my life was changing. What I did not know was that it would never stop.

I didn’t know that today, four years after your birth, that I would still be constantly evolving, adapting, and striving to be better. For you.

Despite everyone’s forewarning, even as God stitched you together in my womb, that you would change my life, I realize now that I didn’t have a clue. How could I?

How could I fathom the extent to which a tiny baby could capture my heart, or how God would mightily use that same babe to inspire profound change within me? I think even if I could somehow travel back in time to tell myself that I still would not believe, or be able to conceive such an alteration of my universe as I knew it then.

Because you see, sweet darling, you changed me. I know, I know. They told me you would, but I just couldn’t see. I couldn’t see what they meant at the time.

I assumed they meant less sleep, or more stretch marks, or even the cessation of going out on a whim. And while all those things were true, it was oh so much more than that. So. Much. More.

You changed everything. You were like a fire God placed in my heart, and you burn there still. You were a catalyst he used to stir the desire within me to be more, and he uses you still.

No amount of shopping, showers, or preparation could have prepared me for how I would feel about you. It couldn’t have prepared me for how I would suddenly place someone so much higher than I placed myself.

So although they told me I don’t suppose I really knew, at least not until we met in person. Today we celebrate your birthday, but everyday I celebrate you, and the changes you brought, and still bring to my life.

I love you birthday girl. So much. Certainly more than words can say.

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What Type of Parent are You?

If you’ve spent any time in parenting circles, reading parenthood magazines, or pay attention to internet blogs then perhaps you’ve heard of the debate concerning just how much attention you should be paying your child. Heck, I’ve even seen specialists discuss it on Dr. Phil. (Yes, his show is my dirty little pleasure enjoyed with my morning coffee. Until cartoons take over that is).

There seems to be two terms that have taken the forefront in describing what kind of parent you are. These descriptive titles help you to fall into the category and style of parenting that seems to fit you best, or so it seems.

First you’ve got your “Free Range Parenting.” This style makes me think of my childhood. Running free, miles from home, in the coyote infested woods, without a drop of clean drinking water in sight. Free range parents let their kids have freedom, autonomy, and the ability to care for themselves without the hampering effect of an adult presence. Think “walking to school by themselves” or “fixing their own school lunch.”

Free range kids have their own house key to let themselves inside while their parents are still at work. Their parents don’t know where they’re at every single second, don’t freak out if they come home late from school, and they don’t have to have a cell phone to check in intermittently.

It’s believed to build self-reliant, strong, capable kids.

I would have been a free range kid if such a term existed in the 80s.

Then there’s “Helicopter Parenting.” This is the popular term that exists on the opposite side of the spectrum, the style that opposes the free range way of thinking.

Helicopter parents are known for “hovering.” They’re the super-involved soccer mom. All the sleep overs are at their house with mom or dad right in the middle of the fun. Helicopter parents know where their kids are at all times, and exactly what they’re doing.

Helicopter kids text mom frequently, and always answer her call. On the first ring. They’re the little kid whose mom is standing by them while they climb the jungle gym, with arms outstretched ready to catch them if they fall. The free range mom is sitting on the park bench, if she’s even there.

I saw an article this morning that listed traits that can let you know you’re a free range parent. It was a celebration for the relaxed mom who can stand back and allow her child to blossom in autonomy. It got me to thinking, as these types of articles usually do, about what type of mom I am.

I’ve always assumed that I’m probably guilty of being a helicopter parent. After all, I am always there, and though my children are still small, my almost four year old hasn’t even spent the night away from me.

Thoughts of my own child roaming the neighborhood and knocking on strangers’ doors, selling magazines like I did as a child give me a nervous tic.

But I play with my kids because I enjoy it. I take them shopping with me instead of getting a baby sitter because I love having them around. I choose to homeschool not so much because I don’t trust a public school teacher, but because I desire to teach them myself. I worry about them because it’s my job, or at least that’s how I feel.

I do think of moments where I’m friggin lucky I didn’t kill myself when I was a kid or get abducted, but then I remember I don’t believe in luck; I believe in God. And that’s typically when I stand back in faith, and I relax.

So what kind of parent does that make me? A good one, I think it makes me a good one. I don’t need a label or a stereotypical title to tell me that I love my kids, or that it’s okay that I do. I don’t need something to tell me it’s okay to want to be involved, and to want to hold my babies tight. I know it’s okay to worry about them, and I know they’ll never doubt for a moment how much I care. As their mother I know this. Without any other title than “Mom.”

It’s also okay that sometimes I’m like, “whatever.” I’ll let them stumble, and I’ll let them fall. They’ll get bruised up, banged up, and cry. But when they look up and call my name, I will be there.

It’s called free will. Does that sound like a parenting style you’re familiar with?

So I’m not a free range parent I’ll admit. While my children will be allowed the opportunity to make decisions, and to learn from their mistakes, in the end I will continue to practice the parental authority God has placed in my hands to protect them. I think they need to have that confidence that someone has their backs. (This is similar to the peace you feel knowing God is in control).

While I probably do lean more towards hovering behavior, which I also freely admit; I don’t even know if Helicopter Parent is the title I should hold. Because when my children need me, I will be there, but when they need their independence I will place my worry in the capable hands of Jesus.

Maybe I’ll just go with “Good Mom.” Yes, I think that sounds just right.

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100 Mommy Freak Out Moments

This morning before I left for work I decided to sneak in and peek on my sleeping baby. I just had to see her before I left. I tiptoed quietly, and softly opened her door, and there in the darkness of her room I heard a small voice say, “Momma.” Simultaneously I noticed the little figure standing in the crib.

I was expecting her to be asleep, so for some reason it really freaked me out. I realized there are tons of moments like that in motherhood, moments where you’re shocked, surprised, or scared.

Sometimes it’s something unexpected, but simple. Other times it’s truly frightening, and occasionally heartbreaking. Perhaps it’s exasperating!

Thankfully I’ve never experienced a truly tragic moment in motherhood, but I have been through circumstances where I thought, what if _____ happened? or thank you Lord that it didn’t. Moms worry, and moms fret. Nothing builds trust in God like having children, but even then freak out moments occur.

Some freak out moments I realize are yet to come, and others may never occur. But one thing is for certain. In motherhood freak out moments are plenty. This list could go on forever, but here’s just 100 off the top of my head.

  1. When you sneak in to check on your sleeping baby, and their eyes are open. 

  2. The sound of choking. 

  3. When your toddler falls. Which happens a lot. 

  4. Silence. 

  5. When babies don’t sleep. 

  6. When babies sleep too much, or too soundly. 

  7. When your kid throws up. 

  8. When you look up from your shopping list in the store, and you don’t immediately see your child. 

  9. When the thermometer reads greater than 101. 

  10. When other kids do things your kid can’t do. 

  11. When you realize you’ve yelled all day. 

  12. When you see blood. 

  13. When your kid can’t poop. 

  14. When you read WebMD. 

  15. When you think your baby isn’t hitting milestones on target. 

  16. When another mom asks what you think about _______, and you have no clue. 

  17. The first time your child says, “you’re mean.” Not so much after that. 

  18. When your baby coughs or develops a wheeze. 

  19. As a first time mom; when people don’t wash their hands before holding the baby. 

  20. When you worry too much about growth charts and percentiles. 

  21. Anytime you watch the news. 

  22. In the aftermath of a minor accident, when you think about how bad it could have been. 

  23. In the middle of the night, when you think you may have given too much medicine. 

  24. When you go to unload your baby from the car, and you realize they weren’t strapped in to their car seat. 

  25. When you find your child in the floor with an empty container of anything. 

  26. When you think for a second that your baby is not breathing. 

  27. When your kid is sick, but you don’t know what it is.

  28. When you hear your child scream or cry out. It’s usually nothing, but for a moment…

  29. When you’re waiting on test or lab results. 

  30. When the technician or nurse says “let me get the doctor.”

  31. When your child has an allergic reaction. 

  32. When your kid asks how babies are made?

  33. When your kid hears you cuss. 

  34. When they later repeat that cuss word. 

  35. When they repeat that cuss word at church. 

  36. When you realize your kid is acting just like you!

  37. When you realize your kid is acting just like your spouse!

  38. When your kid won’t stop picking their nose. 

  39. When your kid picks their nose on a public stage, in front of an audience. And eats it. Sigh. 

  40. When you and the spouse decide to have an intimate moment while the kids are asleep. But then they wake up. 

  41. That first night you bring your newborn home. And they won’t stop crying. No matter what you do. 

  42. First day of preschool. 

  43. First day of kindergarten. 

  44. First date. 

  45. First day of college. 

  46. Their wedding day. 

  47. When you still have small kids like me, but realize that one day, sooner than you think, you’ll experience # 43, 44, 45, and dear Lord, 46 too!

  48. When your baby first starts to crawl and you see their bruised knees. 
    I seriously almost bought these:

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  49. When you find your toddler holding a sharp object.

  50. When that first kid is two, and won’t eat anything but chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese. For a full year.

  51. Those immediate two weeks after your first child is born. And you realize you have no clue.

  52. That postpartum period when you decide to take a mirror and look down there to assess the damage. Just don’t.

  53. When you look out the window in the backyard, and don’t immediately see your child.

  54. When you realize you were wrong. Bad wrong.

  55. When your child gets bit. By anything.

  56. When your child gets hit. By anything. Or anyone.

  57. When someone makes your kid cry.

  58. When your kid falls off the bed. Especially the first time.

  59. When your kid falls off the top bunk.

  60. When you catch your kid looking at porn.

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  61. When your kid orders movies without asking.

  62. The first time your kid argues. And every time after.

  63. The first time your kid lies. And every time after.

  64. When your child has to be admitted to the hospital.

  65. When your baby finally falls asleep, and then the phone rings.

  66. When a stranger gives you unsolicited parenting advice.

  67. When a stranger corrects your child, and they did nothing wrong.

  68. When your baby finally sleeps through the night, but you can’t sleep because you’re worried when they don’t wake up.

  69. When you keep waking up because you think you hear your baby crying, but they’re fast asleep.

  70. The first time they hop out of the bouncy seat, and you realize that strap is there for a reason. *insert forehead slap

  71. When your kid first uses sarcasm, and you don’t know whether to be proud or annoyed. Maybe both?

  72. When your child almost gets attacked by a dog.

  73. When your kid has a bike wreck.

  74. When your kid has a car wreck.

  75. When your kid’s not driving yet, but you remember how bad of a teen driver you used to be.

  76. When you think about your kid dating.

  77. Puberty.

  78. Your child’s first broken heart.

  79. When your toddler first learns to climb.

  80. When you find your toddler on the kitchen counter.

  81. The first time you get peed on, puked on, or snot wiped on you.

  82. The first time your baby poops in the tub. After that it’s just comical. And annoying.

  83. When your toddler eats their first tube of Chapstick.

  84. When your toddler won’t stop eating your Chapstick.

  85. The first time you attempt to breastfeed in public.

  86. The first time a stranger says something offensive about you breastfeeding in public. Despite the fact that your breasts and infant are covered. And it’s 95 degrees out.

  87. The first time you leave for work, and your baby screams bloody murder.

  88. The first time you come home from work, and your child ignores you.

  89. When your child doesn’t want to be rocked to sleep anymore.

  90. When your child won’t sleep in their own bed.

  91. When your child won’t sleep in your bed anymore.

  92. When you are leaving, and you look back to wave goodbye, and they’re not looking.

  93. When you realize your baby is no longer a newborn.

  94. When you realize your toddler is no longer a baby.

  95. When your child can no longer wear 4T pants, and moves into the big kid sizes.

  96. When the dimples on your toddler’s hands are replaced with actual knuckles.

  97. When your child breaks a bone.

  98. When your newborn gets pneumonia. (True story.)

  99. When you spend your first night away from your child. (Nope, still haven’t crossed that bridge.)

  100. When my kids are old enough to read this list.

So what freak out moments can you add?

9/11 Revisited: My Story

I was 23 years old when I joined the Navy. I was old enough to know what I was doing, but still naive enough to not consider every aspect of the important, life-altering decision I was making. What I mean by this is I didn’t join the military service with thoughts of serving my country, fighting for her freedom, and self-sacrifice at the forefront of my mind. That may sound bad, but it’s the truth.

I was tired of working full-time as a bartender while I tried to pass nursing school. I was tired of calls from creditors as I fell behind on bills, and racked up more student loans. I came from a military family. Despite being enrolled in a nursing program, I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to be when I grew up. It seemed like a natural choice to follow my family’s footsteps and enlist in military service where I could make a descent income and have my education paid for.

I remember looking in a Pier One catalog, longingly adoring some glass martini stir sticks, and thinking, when I become a naval officer I’ll be able to afford stuff like that! I mentioned I was naive, right?

Sadly, I think a lot of young people jump into military service not realizing the commitment they are really making. You see them in bootcamp with big, scared eyes, some pretending to be suicidal or mentally imbalanced, just hoping they can get kicked out and sent back home.

A strange thing happens though when you become part of the military community. You start to see things in a different way. Words like honor, courage, and commitment take on a new light. A sense of duty just comes as second nature. Nothing can hasten this type of thinking along like the events that occurred on September 11th.

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Graduation from Hospital Corps School

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Photo taken in August 2001

I know everyone remembers where they were that day, and I’m no exception. I was in the office pictured above stationed at National Naval Medical Center Bethesda, MD. We were approximately 20 minutes outside of Washington, DC.

I had taken a break from my work, and had gone to my husband’s office. They had a TV there, and they were watching footage of the aftermath of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center. It was assumed an accident at this point. As we watched a second plane hit I remember my heart rising up into my throat while shock and despair overcame me. I immediately went back to my work station to spread the word, but also because I knew it was what I should do.

Shortly after this we became aware of the plane hitting the Pentagon. This was 20 minutes away, and while the Trade Center was more devastation as far as number wise, the close proximity of the Pentagon strike made it more real and frightening to me.

Chatter began to spread through the base, or “scuttlebutt” as we called it. People were saying another plane was in the air and radar had tracked it coming our way. There was speculation of it heading towards the White House or the Capital, but there was a sliver of a thought for me, what if it’s coming here?

We had a large tower in the center of our President’s hospital, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I had irrational fear that day that the plane was heading to our base. I say irrational now, but at the time it made perfect sense to me.

Amidst my fears our communication systems went down. Our phones had no dial tone, and this scared me even more. As a young Corpsman I didn’t realize the base had cut communication for our own protection. It simply served to frighten me at the time.

Our base went on lock-down, with no one in or out. We mobilized and sent assistance to the Pentagon. I’ll honestly admit that I’m grateful I didn’t go to DC that day. I just wouldn’t want those memories.

I stayed on base contacting patients via my cell phone, and later serving as a sentry to guard the perimeter while lock-down procedures advanced for full security of the base. It was a long, emotionally draining day. It was only the beginning.

I would see our base change. I would see a Nation change. I would watch people put aside their differences and join together in support of our country. If there’s anything I wish people could remember it would be that. I wish they could remember how we were a people united in the aftermath of 9/11.

I saw myself change. I saw my commitment to country and my fellow man grow ten-fold. I remember watching our President, George Bush, speak after the incident, and I loved him.

I cried. I didn’t think I would stop crying. I would watch footage of people jumping from windows to avoid fire, and I would weep.

Our ship would deploy to New York to assist with rescue operations. A nation would watch with bated breath as they tried to excavate survivors, but the days would drag on, and grief would ensue.

I would hear so many personal stories of people spared, and even knew one myself. A friend who was a Bronx firefighter would choose that day to leave early for his son’s birthday. He would see the explosion as he crossed the Brooklyn Bridge, and turn around quickly, but discover his crew had already gone on-site before he returned.

I would watch him cry with guilt because they had all died, and he had been left. He took us to Ground Zero months after, and I was astounded at the continued devastation.

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While on Ground Zero we witnessed the discovery of a body. Rather than simply removing it, they performed a funeral procession to exhume the remains. I think what affected me the most on that trip were the flyers and personal letters that were plastered on every available surface. There were missing posters, letters to loved ones, and notes from children to their parents. You could feel the raw emotion and quest for closure emanating from the paper.

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I would watch a War on Terror start, and I would wave goodbye to my first husband as he deployed to Iraq.

I would see him return a different man, with hollow eyes from things witnessed that he couldn’t seem to forget.

About three years ago I stopped watching the documentaries. They were so draining to me, being unable to watch them simply as history, but instead feeling the strong emotion as if it were still the aftermath of 2001.

I thought with time my emotional response would fade or lessen, but it hasn’t. Earlier today I watched a speech by Bush from Ground Zero, and I wept just as I did then. I don’t know the answers to the question “why.” I know wickedness and evil exists in this world, but I do not fear them. I only fear The Lord.

The memories of 9/11 only strengthen my resolve to pray that God can deliver us from the evil we have created in this world, evil that steals mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, and friends from us. I will never forget.

*All the pictures in this post were taken with my personal camera.

God Wants You to Be Happy

Do you ever wake up and just feel oppressed? I know that’s a strong word, but do you know what I mean? Your eyes burn, and you think, why am I so tired? You roll out of bed and notice a crick in your neck. Great. I must have slept on it wrong.

You pad into the kitchen, and as you stand at the sink you hear a child waking in their room. Well, there goes my idea of some quiet time to myself. You reach for the coffee canister because you just can’t deal, not yet, not without some caffeine. Then you spill coffee grounds all over the counter and the floor.

As your bare feet track coffee across the kitchen you realize you just don’t feel good, in fact you feel lousy. You feel down in the dumps, and you don’t even know why. For some reason the not knowing, the inability to give cause to your mood makes it even worse.

Did you know God wants you to be happy? I’m not unrealistic. I understand that some days will be bad days, and some circumstances will be too much to bear, but I wonder how often perhaps our situation could be changed if we could only believe it’s possible.

I think for myself personally I’ve been guilty of believing that God doesn’t have the time for something as simple as my hormonal or emotional frailty, or that perhaps I’m not even worthy of his Holy Spirit, and its ability to fill my heart with peace and joy. I think, although I need it I don’t deserve it. Yet, he still gives it.

Before Jesus left this earth in bodily form he promised I am with you always. He didn’t say sometimes or only if you deserve it, and although you must be a believer and follower of him to receive this great grace fully, it doesn’t alter the fact that he is present. Always.

Aside from believing the lie that I am undeserving of such a gift, or of his valuable time, I often think maybe that’s just the way things are. After all, they say the life of Christianity is a difficult one, a narrow road that is often hard to walk. This bearing of my cross must be why I feel bad. The fact that I’m not skipping down the street paved with gold taking the world’s easy way out must be why I’m so weary.

This might make some folks a little unhappy with me, but I think that’s a load of malarkey. While the Bible does state the walk of a Christian will not always be easy, I don’t think that means it always has to be hard. God himself wants us to enjoy life. It’s this sinful world that makes the way difficult.

God wants us to be happy, and he desires for us to depend on him for that happiness. When this world weighs us down and brings us distress he wants us to ask for his peace, his comfort, and his joy. We don’t have to struggle through our day burdened by what surrounds us, and feeling like that’s our cross to bear, or just the way things are this side of glory.

Being happy and enjoying this life doesn’t mean you look forward to eternity any less. It means you know how to be a good steward of the gift he has given you here on earth, albeit a brief one in the grand scheme. And when you struggle with it he desires nothing less than for you to lean on his strength and ask for his mighty hand to lift you out of your daily despair.

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Three Things Wives Need to Know

“Momma, who’s your best friend?”

I replied, “Your Daddy.”

“Well who’s Daddy’s best friend?”

I replied easily, “Me.”

This was a recent conversation I had with my three year old, and although she ran off immediately seeming uninterested, I was hopeful that she had heard every word I said. I was sure she had.

Little kids hear most everything and see even more. My biggest prayer is always that I can be a positive influence, and be half the woman she deserves me to be. I would also hope that the example my husband and I set of marriage would be appropriate and something she can learn from and use in her own future relationships.

We haven’t always done things right by any means, and we’re far from perfect, but I feel like when our children see us hug and smile at one another they never doubt our love for each other. There are things I will teach her as she grows older, but some things she will simply learn by our example. She will learn these things that every wife should know.

1. Your husband is your best friend. I told my child this one, but I’m pretty sure she already had it figured out by simply watching us.

And it’s true. A wife’s best friend should always be her husband. He should be the one you stay up for, tell your deepest secrets, and share your loftiest dreams. You should desire his company and he yours.

A marriage is a team concept sure, but you should also enjoy spending time with the other person. If you don’t then you might want to try and figure out why. Are you spending all your free time with your girlfriends or other family? While an occasional girl’s night out is fine I believe your husband deserves the majority of your time.

Between work and childcare the amount of free time a woman has is slim. Factor in time spent cleaning and on hobbies, and you’re left with even less hours in the day. Sometimes you have to make time. Make time to spend with your best friend, and if that best friend is anyone other than your husband you might need to rethink things.

2. Don’t talk bad about your husband to your family. My child will never hear me speak bad about her father. Ever.

Let’s say you’re spending your free time with your family instead of your best friend, your husband. Why is that? Is your opinion of your spouse being affected by that of your family? More importantly, how are you depicting him to your family?

If you rush-off to spill your discourse to your family, half-cocked and angry after a disagreement with your spouse, don’t be surprised when they later despise him. You can’t expect your family to respect your husband if you do not. And if you’re telling every one of his faults to them then you are not respecting him.

I agree that finding the counsel of another woman, preferably an older woman with more years of happily married experience under her belt is a plus, but if you are constantly airing the worst about your husband to others then that is all they will ever see. You then have no right to be angry when they hate him. You see?

This also goes the same for over-sharing the private matters of your relationship with your girlfriends. Some things are better left to be discussed in prayer, and then with your spouse. Not an outside party. He’ll likely find out your discussions of discontent and be hurt. Imagine how you would feel if he discussed with his buddies how terrible your skills as a cook are, or how your figure went out the window after the last baby. Men have feelings too, and we sometimes forget that.

3. Don’t focus of your husband’s failures. If you are a woman and your husband is a man then you’re going to notice immediately how different you are. The physical is just the tip of the iceberg. The emotional differences are vast, and what you consider of upmost importance will vary. While a bedroom carpet free of dirty clothes may be my thing, it might not rank up there with my hubby.

The differences in men and women are varied, and the things you will see as undesirable are many, but how you choose to deal with that is paramount. You cannot change another person, and you can’t make them fit a mold. But you can accentuate the positive rather than dwelling on the negative. You can decide what issues are important and deserving of further discussion, and then you can let the rest go. Some differences are just that, and while you might find them annoying they are not worth consistently fighting about. Not if you’re in it for the long haul. Who wants to be told about the toilet seat or how to clean the bathroom sink for fifty years?

Instead of letting the fact that your husband leaves his stinky socks balled up under the couch consume you try to focus on how he always takes out the garbage, without you even asking.

Another thing to consider is that you’re not Betty Crocker, Martha Stuart, or even Mary Poppins. Unless you’re a perfect wife then you have no right to nitpick all the faults of your spouse. I’m quite certain there’s a ton of idiosyncrasies I have that my husband lets go. And I’ve been pretty hormonal lately, so actually I’m definite there is.

I still have to work daily to be the wife my husband deserves, and I know he in turn does the same. He’s my best friend, and my confidant. I only speak highly of him to others as I know he does of me. We have built this mutual respect and loving relationship that is Christ-centered, and therefore it is unconditional. I’m grateful my daughters can see it, and know what to expect of marriage in the future.

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