Thinking Thursday – What’s Your Good News?

I have some amazing, positive, upbeat, and giving friends. Today they seem to be flooding my Facebook feed with acts of kindness, generosity and strength. I have cried more than once, looking at these clips, and I thought I’d share some of them.

But first, today’s question:

What Is Your Good News Today?

Here are the stories that have had me so emotional today.

The Hug Lady

First, Fort Hood’s “Hug Lady,” Elizabeth Laird, received some happy mail when former President George W. Bush heard she was in poor health. He wrote it to encourage her, and to applaud how she has supported our Soldiers (and families) here.  I have met this lady myself and she has hugged my husband three times. The story about how the community is repaying her vast kindness just keeps getting better. The photo in this post also makes me smile because it reminds me that we once had a President who truly loved his troops (and had to make hard decisions), and that he has not forgotten us.  The video shows her joyful smile. 

No Boundaries

 

Then there is a story of Haben Girma, a deaf-blind woman who has graduated from Harvard Law School. My sister-in-law is blind, and she has done many activities similar to the ones in this story. She has also received her PhD in archaeology, which may seem like a “sighted” field.

 

As another reminder of kindness, my friend Chuck (himself a kind and giving person), posted this link about Kid Rock surprising “his biggest fan”. The joy in this kid’s face is palpable.

 

Chuck also posted about a high school football team manager who has autism, and his team’s sweet actions. I love how the opposing team celebrates, too.

 

One last one –

 

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Be Not Afraid

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10, New International Version.

My friend Chris and I have had a long conversation today about the attacks over this weekend in Beirut, Iraq, and especially Paris. The organized attacks in France were especially horrible because of where they occurred. This time, it wasn’t the government that was struck. It wasn’t an airplane, which have felt vulnerable since 9/11 (or for those with longer memories, since the hijackings of the 70s and the multitudes of crashes in the 80s). This wasn’t more violence in a country besieged by violence.

These attacks happened in the safe places.  The strike zones in Paris weren’t symbols of government. They weren’t symbols of the military. These were the kinds of places people go when they feel free and happy. Joy is the enemy of evil.

ISIS is such a faceless, ambiguous threat. And this weekend’s strike in Paris shows that they understand how to fully instill fear – they struck at the heart of a city.  They hit the happy places, where innocents went for dinner, or to see a game, or to catch a few drinks and a concert with friends. They struck families and couples and the lighthearted social centers of the city. By doing so, as Chris wrote today, they struck at “leisure, livelihood, and the freedom of choice.”

We grieve with them. We wonder what is next.

And we fear.

There is so much fear, even as we want to strike back.

We forget what FDR said: “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is… fear itself — nameless unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyses needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.”

Some of us have additional concerns that strike a chill in our hearts. I will admit I understand completely where some military spouses are coming from when they hear the cries of “We must fight ISIS!” and immediately shudder. To the world and to our nation, it is the US military that will be asked to do the fighting, often by people who are unwilling or unable to do that fighting themselves. But to us, it is our family who would be asked to fight and sacrifice.

How do we keep fear from winning?

Chris put it beautifully:  “What I know is this. As shocking, horrifying and mind-numbing as the attacks on Paris are, there are points and times when a person must turn it all off and unplug. Leave the doubts and worry to those who are in charge of logistics. Find a way to help those in need, if one feels compelled to do so. Live your daily life. Remember what happened in Paris, in Beirut and in other places but do not let them consume you. For those that are affiliated with the military, yes.. deployments may happen. Yet those deployments probably would’ve happened even if the Paris attacks had not have happened. Thus, the importance of resuming normalcy is more important than ever. Take the time together that you have now and make the most of it. Just do not do it out of fear.”

Fear not. Be prepared and self-aware, but fear not.  When we live, they lose.

Last Active Duty Veteran’s Day

Technically, active duty servicemembers are Veterans. And they are acknowledged as such during the parades and the ‘we thank you’ promotions at various restaurants.

When I think of Veterans, though, I think of people who have quietly gone about their ordinary lives, rightfully proud of their service. I think of my Dad, who is proud of his short time in service. I think of My G’s dad and grandather and uncles and cousins and their long lineage of service. I think of Brother Sam at my church, wearing his Class A’s on Memorial Day and looking just as dapper as he must have looked when he first joined the service 50 years ago. I think of my stepmother and my friends Penny, and Anne, and Maggie – all women who joined and had to prove themselves in what is still today more of a man’s world. I think of my husband’s and my friend, Desiree, who is still active duty in an Army of great change.

When I thank a vet, I do not thank my husband because his service is ongoing. I thank these other people in my life.

I just don’t think of my husband as a Veteran. We’ve been too busy being Active Duty. The uniform isn’t worn for special days – it is an everyday thing. He wears it more often than he wears his blue jeans! He doesn’t go to parades or special events for vets because he is usually finishing up with some field duty or other work that the military is still requiring of him. Or he’s simply tired and wants the quiet of home.

Next year, though, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, we will have been a civilian family for a few months. I don’t even know what that will feel like. This is his last Veteran’s Day as an active duty Soldier. Eventually, God willing, he will be one of those older vets with their service pins on their caps, shakily saluting the flag as it goes past. That is my fantasy for the future.

Today, he simply took off his boots and hung his uniform at the end of 24 hour duty. He slid into bed at dawn, until the next time. Next year, I can hug my husband and “thank a vet”.

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Talk about an understatement….geez.

So what am I thankful for this 11th day of the 11th month?  I am thankful for all of those who remember. I am thankful for the veterans of wars long-fought and long ago who are still with us. I am thankful for these men and women and their dedicated service.

Tuesday’s Ten: Interview

A few years ago, I was writing a different blog and I used to do a “Tuesday’s Ten” count each week. I liked the format because it was quick, had bullet points (I love these) and it allowed me to summarize several short thoughts concisely. I tend to be wordy, so the short format was challenging for me.

This week, I’ll begin this series with some GREAT news.

  1. I applied to a job last week that sounded like an amazing fit.
  2. I got a call YESTERDAY for an interview to be held TODAY.  Fast turnaround!
  3. I learned that I must iron clothes the night before I need them.
  4. No one noticed any creases.
  5. The interview went GREAT!!  What a wonderful conversation it turned out to be.
  6. Reading interview tips the night before an interview is actually a really good idea and one I think I’ll continue.
  7. Later, because I. GOT. THE. JOB.
  8. Yes, already!  I hadn’t even sent out the thank you note yet…
  9. I am so excited and happy today I can’t stand myself.
  10. I’ve had some good jobs go south, and some bad jobs get better – but for today I will celebrate.

I think it’s pretty obvious what I am thankful for, on this tenth day of November.  Happy day, indeed.  Also thankful for the note I saw this morning.

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Little G makes me laugh (she’s the “B”).

The Roller Coaster of Retirement

Retiring is a roller coaster, I have come to discover. The years leading up to this last military year have been preparation for the Big Ride. We have been waiting in line, watching the ups/downs/spins/loops from afar, wondering which of those tracks was the one for our actual ride and trying to learn as much as we could.  We could hear the delighted (and terrified) shouts and screams, but it didn’t really affect us because we weren’t on the ride yet. We hadn’t yet committed to the ride, and hadn’t strapped ourselves in.

At the preparation stages, we could watch and learn from those who had ridden the ride before us. Were they reeling from the experience? Where they laughing, crying, looking lost? I don’t know about you, but when I’m waiting for my turn on a ride at an amusement park, I watch all the people around me. I watch the people in line, I watch the ride, and I watch the people who stagger off the ride at the end. Waiting in line gives you a lot of time to prepare and to think about the experience itself, but at a safe remove.

It’s different now. Now, we have official orders in hand. We have started the process and we are getting on the actual ride. Where do we put our stuff? What straps are there?  Where are the safety cushions?  There are safety cushions, right?  No one just lets people get on this ride and allows them to flop all over the place…right?

At the moment, our retirement roller coaster is doing that lovely click click click as the car is getting pulled to one of the ride’s peaks. Just as with most of the best rides, we can’t see over the other side, but we know without a doubt there will be some fast parts and some slow parts and some scary/exciting things we can’t see yet.

Buckle up.

roller coaster

So what am I thankful for this ninth day of November? I’m thankful for the job interview I have tomorrow (more on that to come) and as always, I’m glad for the fact that I get to take this ride with My G.

All the Times of Me

We sang my first favorite hymn today. Most of the songs we sang in church when I was little were pretty quiet and didn’t have much meaning to me. Honestly, as a kid I thought they were all pretty boring. “Down At the Cross” has such an upbeat melody to it and is so easy to learn that I was able to remember the lines and the melody quickly. I sang it loud, and often.  As I sat on the swingset in the yard, as I cleaned my room – my poor mother.  Only today did I realize that the song is categorized under “suffering, loss, blood” in our church hymnbook (but not in the one I have from our old church).

Singing it in the midst of my church family, I could feel all the versions of me singing this same song. The childhood me, swinging in the air. The new-Mom me, singing it to my babies because it was the only song I could think of.  The slightly-crazed me, waiting for the end of another deployment and needing something familiar to hum. And now, the me who stands at the brink of so many changes.

Standing there, the child/the girl/the woman all together and repeating those familiar lines, I felt a sense of peace and even warmth towards the past and present versions of myself. A kindness and even forgiving feeling, letting go of past mistakes and various screw-ups. And I realized anew that this is what the song is about – we are washed in that forgiveness, we are loved despite ourselves, and we are to feel joy in the midst of what might seem categorically to be a tragedy. This is what God offers us.

So what am I thankful for, this eighth day of November?  Today I give thanks for Mrs. Janie Quincey, who chooses our songs for us each week and plays them so well. And I give thanks for the message that I heard, singing between the lines.

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Glory to His name…

Accepting the Glitch

I was supposed to be at an event today, sharing my love for essential oils and hopefully making some money for the holidays. I had things pretty well planned in my head, down to table decorations and the sugar lip scrub I’d make.

It didn’t work out. I wasn’t able to go, for a variety of reasons, and I wasn’t able to find someone to go in my stead. All day I have felt a vague, niggling unease, like I’d forgotten something or as though I were playing hooky.  I felt like I was letting someone down, and honestly that someone may very well have been me.

So mainly I am writing this for myself – get over it.

Sometimes, despite good intentions and the best-laid plans, a decision is made that this particular opportunity isn’t the right one to take. Or situations arise that make the opportunity impossible, or at least a bad fit. Illness, accident, husband’s duty schedule, finances, other options – there are as many reasons for plans to change as there are freckles on my arms. And I am a very freckly person.

Any time that I take second-guessing my choice about today, or any other event that might not end up being a good fit for me or my family, is time that is stolen. It is time that I could use building this blog. It is time I could use developing a business model, or filling out job applications, or brushing up my skills. It is time I could use watching a movie with my family, and cherishing our moments together. Time is already finite, and when plans change and a block opens up for other options – I am not going to spend that block of time fretting about what I could or should have been doing during it.

Sometimes we have to shift our personal lives to make room for our professional goals or obligations, at differing levels of success and benefit. Sometimes we have to shift our professional plans when our personal lives take priority. Neither is all good nor all bad.

I wish I could say that I will never have another circumstance where I’ll have to back out of a planned event. I try very hard not to say “yes” until I know it will be a “definite”. I find I say a lot of “maybe” and then follow it up with a final decision. However, there are times when what seemed like a good fit, isn’t. Or times when a schedule gets changed for one member of a family and everyone has to adjust. Semper Gumby- I pride myself on always being flexible. And some days I have to remain flexible enough to accept the glitch when things don’t work out.

So what am I thankful for this seventh day of November?  I am thankful for the chill in the air, the rain we have needed, and the fact that my parents raised me to worry less about what others thought and more about what mattered in the long run.

morning-time-alarm-bell

Why We Allow Personal Days

It may not be a particularly popular idea, but we allow Little G one non-health-related “Personal Day” per quarter. Obviously, if her grades are hurting or if she has been ill a lot that quarter or that semester, this gets revisited, but we allow her to call “time out” one day per quarter and just – stay home.

She can’t do this if she has a concert that night, or if she is supposed to babysit that evening. If she is well enough, in any regard, to do those evening obligations, then she’s well enough to go to school.

But, otherwise, yes, she can stay home.

Why? Aren’t we trying to teach her responsibility? Don’t we think school is IMPORTANT? Aren’t we trying to help her mature and become familiar with the REAL WORLD? Doesn’t she get enough time off in the summer/winter/etc?

Well, yes. And we also know that sometimes as adults we can call time-out and request a personal day. We take vacations. We get weekends, usually. And we are responsible enough to know when we need to bring work home and when we need to work longer hours and when it is ok to let the office go on without us for a minute.

We want her to learn that same kind of mutual responsibility. Responsibility towards obligations like learning and school attendance and singing her heart out at concerts and caring for others (while making more money than I did doing the same). And responsibility towards herself.

Self-care is an important idea in our family, and with good reason. She is the only person who will know her limits, and she can and will stretch those. She is the only person who will ultimately know her needs, and will be able to seek out help when she has some. As her mother, it is my responsibility to help her identify those needs, and to address them as appropriate.

“These kids are already so lazy and entitled…and this is why!”

I have a friend who teaches at a high school, and she has said her administration lets the kids get away with so much disrespect it is sickening. Students have literally stolen from her and gotten in her face, with little to no consequence, and her hands are tied. These are not the kids I am talking about. These are schools and systems that have utterly lost their way and I don’t have answers for those situations.

The kids I am talking about are the ones who are expected, regardless of personal affinity, to join clubs and extra-curriculars, to do exceptionally well at (honors, preferably) classes, to have an idea what they should do in college and beyond, to pass exceedingly & increasingly difficult and vague exams, to work part-time, to learn how to drive, to keep their rooms clean, to be nice to people, to volunteer, and to still fit in with their peers. This does not include the outside pressure they feel to look or act a certain way. If they’d rather work with their hands or muck in the dirt, they are told they won’t succeed and better go to college. (Thankfully, this last part is changing, thanks in part to people like Mike Rowe and his efforts.)

This is at the same time that they are going through the biggest brain and body changes that they have ever gone through, with the possible exception of birth to age two. Think of your baby when they were first born. Then think about them a year or two later. Think of the vast changes that occur.  Your teenager is going through the same kinds of brain changes now; they just are able to walk and talk and wipe their own rears. Some even do laundry.

I’m not saying that we expect too much of these amazing people. They are capable of so much. I just think we need to be realistic and supportive. And, for us, that looks like a Personal Day.

Personal Day

Shows shown are only suggestions, not really what I or Little G plan to watch. But this is what I’m pretty sure she’s planning on doing for her Day.

Thinking Thursday – What Is Your Good News?

Last week was pretty rough.  Two friends were told their jobs had been eliminated as of the beginning of 2016.  One friend was diagnosed with cancer, and is in the fight of her life.  My husband’s plans to prepare for life after the Army are getting threatened on a regular basis.

Oh, and Texas keeps trying to flood.

It’s been an exhausting time, and emotions are a little raw and tender right now.

We could all use some good news, don’t you think?

For that reason, my question today is:

What positive thing happened to you this week?

Any little thing.  Your cat snuggled with you (or did not get in a fight with other cats). Your kid gave you a hug, unasked-for.  The sun came out and it was a beautiful afternoon. You stole some of your kids’ Halloween candy and it was delicious.

What happy thing happened?

Little things like all 5 cats peacefully in one area - it counts.

Little things like all 5 cats peacefully in one area – it counts.           Yes I know it’s blurry – I had to act FAST.

Thinking Thursday: How Do You Give Thanks?

So November has turned into a full month of gratitude, instead of saving it for one day towards the end.  This is fabulous, though it makes me wonder where everyone is the rest of the year.  When we are truly grateful, amazing things can happen!

Gratitude can ease depression symptoms, make envy disappear, and open doors of service because once we truly see what we are blessed with, we tend to share.

My question for you this week is:

How do you give thanks?

Some families have Thanksgiving traditions where everyone at the table says one thing they are most thankful for.  Some write “thankful notes” and put them in a jar to look back on later, when their outlook is not so sunny.  Some people do acts of service at soup kitchens or the like.

I was brought up to write thank you notes – hand-written and gift-specific, they were very simple things when I was really little and they grew to more detailed and sharing letters as I got older.  I was also raised to say “thank you” for even the smallest acts of kindness, such as a door held open or someone letting me through a tough traffic spot.

Giving thanks can be a simple habit, and it can also be an intentional act of giving back.  This year, I have become more involved with my church’s offering to Operation Christmas Child, where we pack shoeboxes full for little boys and girls to open at Christmas.  We give them things like hair ties, crayons, small toys, and little bags of candy.  We also give them small tools (for the older kids especially), sewing kits, soap/washcloth packs, and toothbrushes.  Our church is tiny, but we have packed more than 200 boxes and we are not quite done yet.  This is a special way for me to remember what blessings I have, and share them as I am able.

Today I am thankful to live in a home with lots of soap. clean clothes, soft pillows and people who love me – I am also thankful to attend a church where the members care so deeply that they send out so many boxes to those who daily live without any of these things.

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Boxes are double, sometimes triple-stacked on those shelves.