Memorial Day – How We Can Honor the Fallen

America is in such turmoil these days. We fight about everything. We demean each other, we shout in protest, we sue each other, we shoot each other; we have become so hateful.

On this Memorial day weekend, when I think of all the soldiers and airman who have died fighting for our freedom and peace, I have to admit, I feel a bit ashamed. My father and mother served in the Navy during WWII. My father-in-law and husband are retired Air Force. Here’s a picture of the husband of a friend, coming home to his young girls after a long deployment.

Serving in the military comes with a price. It is not easy. It is not free. It is sacrificial, sometimes taking the ultimate toll. Spouses lose mates; children lose parents. We lose siblings and cousins and friends. This weekend, we remember those we’ve lost, even those we never knew, soldiers from the Civil war, the Revolutionary war. America has been fought for repeatedly.

I wonder what those who died fighting would say about America today. Would they believe it was worth it? Would they still fight today?

I pray they would. Because as unkind and unjust as Americans can be, it’s still our choice to create the life we want. We can choose to be cruel, and sometimes we do. But, we can also choose to be kind, and we’ve done that too. (No other country is more generous than America). Hard-one freedom sustains that choice for us. 

So, it’s imperative that we remember those who have died trying to preserve our freedom to be kind – or cruel. My parents and husband understood that those in generations to come might take for granted the freedoms of this country. And they were right.

We don’t usually link the most significant choice we have – to love, or hate – to the long-ago or recent death of a soldier.

But, we should.

We can best honor all those who have died in service to America by simply choosing to be kind.

A Heavy Heart

I’ve been blogging in my head a lot lately, just haven’t settled in at the computer to write down my thoughts.

Life has been sobering recently.  (Which implies I’m normally drunk, or high, so that is really a goofy statement.)  It’s been stacked with serious issues that take some deep thought.

1.  Like ISIS, or ISIL, or whatever.  It’s clear we are going to be dealing with these terrorists for quite a while. It’s frightening.  

2.  Yesterday was the 13th anniversary of the 9/11/2001 terrorist attack.  This always makes me sad.

3.  UTIs.  I never knew a urinary tract infection (or 8) could cause such problems.

4.  Publication issues.  I’m a first-time author, and my brain is in constant turmoil about which direction to take my book, The 12 Days of Christmas Adventure.  I think about it so much, my brain feels like this.

Doesn’t this give you a headache just looking at it?

5.  In addition, we received a letter today that our bank account was one of the many compromised in the recent Home Depot hack.  Ironic, as my husband is an operations manager for Home Depot.

Life is scary and sad and anxiety-ridden at times.  Sometimes, it makes me long for heaven.  Like, right now.

When I think of the horrors going on in the middle east, the beheadings, the kidnappings, the brutal taking of human life, it’s more than I can stomach.  Please, come, Lord.  We clearly don’t know how to get along.  Our hearts are so depraved and corrupt, we don’t deserve the life you have given us.

When I take Dad to one more doctor, and we hear that he is becoming immune to antibiotics because he has had so many in the past year, my heart aches.  I pray, Lord, we need your peace and your guidance, because we are coming to the end of what medicine can do to kill a nasty bug called pseudomonas.

When I don’t know which avenue (of several) to take with my book, I just do nothing, which is stupid, because then no progress is made.  Some days I just can’t get past this.  So, I bake some cookies.  And eat too many.

When we get a second letter (my credit card was hacked a few months ago) that our finances have been compromised because some people are greedy, destructive thieves, I want to go back to the barter system.  You launder my clothes, and I’ll make you cookies.  We can swap chores and resources, and forget the paper money and silver coins.  I might have had more peace of mind living on the Prairie next to the Ingalls.  

We just seem to be making such a mess of things.  Why can’t we be kind, and respectful, and share?

I realize I’m not the first human to raise these questions.  And I know the answer, I just wish it was different.  I wish it was repairable.  But, as long as we have free will, there will be messes and hatred and disease.  It’s the price we pay for freedom. 

So, it’s not a dilemma I can solve.  But, how God must grieve for how we live.  The people we destroy, the opportunities we waste, the gifts we squander, it’s all so ruinous.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been taking a little wooden cross with me to bed at nights.  It’s shaped to fit in the grip of a hand. 

I talk to God as I grow sleepy and ask Him to help me see things from His view.  He sees all the details of everything, and only He can assure me that, no matter what, He’s got His hand on me.

Money will come and go, America will always have enemies, my parents will (probably sooner than later) pass from this life, and my book may never leave my computer.  I need to remember this life is temporary.  I need to hold all things lightly, because all things come to pass.  They don’t come to stay.   

In the end, injustices will be righted, and goodness will be rewarded.  And whatever I can do to walk justly and humbly with my God is all I can do.  It’s all I can do.

FIFTEEN SHADES OF GRAY (part 1)

I’ve been thinking about something for about six months – a decision that, on the surface, seems easy to make.  However, because of society’s standards….I’ve wavered.

On some days, I’m sure I want to make this change.  On other days, it seems…well, unacceptable.  Or, at least unwise.  I mentioned to a friend the other day what I was considering, and she immediately shook her head.  “Oh, no, you don’t want to do that.  You won’t like it, I promise you, you won’t like it.”

Hmmm.  I mentioned it to another friend, who said, “Why do you want to do that?  Oh God, no.”

A third friend said this:  “Oh, gosh, I couldn’t do it.  I don’t know if I’ll ever do it.”

These reactions surprised me.  I assumed friends would be more encouraging.  I hate to think I might have to walk this journey alone.

When I tell you what I’m considering doing, you might laugh.  Or, say, Oh, who cares what others think?  Or, say, Oh God, no, why do you want to do that?

I’m going to stop coloring my hair.

What is your first reaction upon reading that?  (I really want to know.  Please leave your letter choice in the comment box.)

a.  Are you nuts?
b.  You’re going to look 10 years older.  ACK!
c.  Oh my goodness.  Well, it’s your hair.
d.  People are going to treat you differently.  You’ll regret it.
e.  I can’t imagine such a thing.  Let’s don’t talk about it anymore.
f.  There, there now.  You’re clearly out of you mind.  Here, have some chocolate.
g.  Good for you!

Hmmm.

To me, my reasons for giving up this ritual seem reasonable.

1.  I’m tired of it.  I’ve been doing it for 12 years.
2.  I’d like to put the money to other things.
3.  What’s wrong with looking my age?  I don’t even know what I’ve really looked like the past 12 years.
4.  I’d like to be free of presenting a colored version of myself.
5.  I think I’ve reconciled that I’ll look older.  Older than what?  My fake hair color?
6.  I’d like to encourage other women to think about ditching the dye job too.  When did we come to believe we had to look younger?  Men don’t do this (some do, but not most.)
7.  My hair dresser told me we still don’t know the long-term effects of repeatedly painting chemicals onto our scalps.  What if, someday, we learn that fat cells, or wrinkles come from hair dye?  The ultimate irony.

Anyhoo…this is what I’m thinking about.  I want to try letting my natural hair color – whatever it is (it might be purple for all I know) – grow in unpainted. And because I want input about this sensitive issue, I’m going to write about it here.  Even if, six months from now, I run, screaming, into CVS for a box of L’Oreal #5AR.  It might be just be too horrific.

But, I want to see.  I think.  I want to be able to look into the mirror and just say, hello, you.  This is what 57 looks like. 

 Will you join me on this journey of self-discovery?   I might need your help.

PART 2
PART 3
PART 4
PART 5
PART 6
PART 7

I Thought Debt Was a Negative – Silly Me

We live in a nutty world.  Nuttier than a squirrel’s stash in the winter.

I had a conversation with my bank two hours ago that still has me shaking my head.

My husband and I have a joint checking/savings account.  In addition, I have a separate checking/savings account.  Not because we divide the money, or I want more chocolate than he thinks is reasonable.  I simply stash funds in the second savings account until the water heater springs a leak, or the car needs new brakes, or some catastrophe occurs as life rolls along.  This savings account is simply a holding cell until the unexpected happens.

I never use the checking part of this account, never have.  For ten years, it’s had all of $3.50 in it.  I don’t even think about it, forget I have it.

Yesterday, I got a letter from our bank stating that for three months, I’ve been over drawn on this checking account.  My balance is now -$2.50.  What?    

I called the bank.  A very nice woman named Nicole looked into it and then asked me, “Do you have a daughter?”

“Yes,” I said warily.  Had our girl been swiping a dollar a month from this forgotten account of mine? 

“Did she have a car loan with us?” Nicole inquired.

“Yes.”  I wondered where this was going.

“It looks like that’s been paid off,” Nicole informed me.

“Uh-huh.”  I think we co-signed for the loan, which was paid off this past summer.  “Okay….”

“Oh, I see,” Nicole said.  “You’ve been moved from a platinum account to a gold account.”

I’m still trying to put things together.  “We got demoted because our daughter paid off her loan?”

“Well, you’re now in a different status.  You have to maintain a certain balance in this checking account, or there is a fee.”

I’m still thinking.  “Are you telling me we’re being penalized because we have less debt?”

“It’s not a penalty,” Nicole said.  “You’re simply in a different status.”  She then said something about how we used to be at the platinum level, which was $2700, now we’re at the gold level, which is $750.

“Let me understand this,” I said.  “Because our daughter no longer owes you money, we have to keep a minimum amount of funds in this checking account, which we don’t use, or we will be fined.”

“Correct.  You’re at a different level now.”

“Yeah, I get that,” I said.  “We’ve been bumped down a notch.  So instead of getting our daughter’s money, you require more of ours.  It looks like the bank benefits from our family being in debt.” 

Nicole kind of chuckled.  “Yeah, that’s how it works.  Paying off the car loan is what changed things.”

Am I really hearing this?  This is insane!   “Well, you know, Nicole, I’m not going to use this checking account.  I’ve never used it.  Can I get rid of it?”

“You can close the account,” she said.

“Can I keep the savings without the checking?”

“Yes.  But you can’t go online to pay any bills if you don’t have both.”

“I don’t do online banking from this account,” I said. “I move the savings money over to our joint checking when we need it.  Can I still do that?”

“Oh, yes,” Nicole assured me.

“Close the checking account,” I said.  Before it costs me one more penny.  Before I have to take out a loan to save money.  I can’t believe I just typed that.

Nicole tapped away and removed the checking account.  I’m surprised she didn’t charge me anything to do it. 

I admit I don’t have a high finance mind; I don’t understand Wall Street and interest rates, but shouldn’t you be rewarded for paying your bills?  Shouldn’t you get a higher status for being responsible?  Like I said, NUTTY. 

I have no idea how being only a gold member at my bank will change my life.  I didn’t know I was previously a platinum member, so I’ll now be paying attention to how my life degrades.  Gosh, once we pay off the last of our son’s college loan in April, we’ll probably tumble to the tin can level.

There’s a lesson here somewhere, but darned if I know what it is. 
  

 

WHERE WERE YOU?

The morning of September 11, 2001, I was at the gym.  The aerobics class I normally took on Tuesdays was cancelled because the instructor was stuck in Washington D.C.

Her flight had been delayed, for – to us – an unknown reason. 

Fifteen minutes later I arrived home and flipped on the news.  Matt Lauer was interviewing an author, when he interrupted the conversation to announce that a plane had crashed into a World Trade Center building.

That was the beginning. 

Minutes later, I watched in disbelief as a plane flew into a second building.

Then we knew.  Someone was intentionally killing Americians.

9/11 picture: United Airlines Flight 175 crashing into the World Trade Center's south tower
news.nationalgeographic.com

It was incomprehensible, just didn’t seem real.  I tried to reach my daughter, away at college in Pennsylvania.  My son called from Maryland.  Is this really happening? we kept saying.

When the towers fell, I became nauseous.  This is what evil looks like, I thought.

By the time a fourth plane dove into the ground in Shanksville, I decided it was time to wake up my husband, who was working nights at the time.  I hated to do it.  He had served the Air Force for twenty years.  He would be heart-sick.

I got him up, and together, we stared at the TV for the rest of the day.   How could such a thing happen?  We kept shaking our heads, unable to imagine the level of hatred that devises such a plan. 

news.nationalgeographic.com

Through all the horror and grief, Americans united to support one another and stand resolute that this tragedy would not break us.

Today, I am praying for those who died on that day.  I’m praying for their families.  I’m remembering the days immediately following 9/11/2001, when the best of us emerged.  We turned to God and each other for comfort and healing.

And yet, years later…we are again bickering about politics, economics and social issues.  It seems we have forgotten how easily we can be humbled when the worldly things in which we place our trust are destroyed. 

The aerobics instructor returned safely to Florida to tell her story of how, after the first two planes struck, passengers in the airport were told to run from the terminal.  With hundreds of others, she ran for her life to an empty field and waited for instruction. 

There are many lessons from 9/11.  

blog.heritage.org

A frightening one is that evil exists.  

The good news is that, in the end…God wins.  

Off-site Ponderings

Some of you might remember I contribute to the Mormon Mommy Writers blog twice a month.   I won a short story contest through that site a few months ago, and the writers there invited me to share a thought or two twice a month.

I’m not Mormon, but I’m a mom and a writer, and a woman of faith, so we all have enough in common.  That blog challenges me to write things I might not write here on my own crazy blog.  It inspires me to dig deeper and maybe formulate some serious conclusions as I go.   Like this post on the Zimmerman/Martin trial:  WHAT I LEARNED…   I’d like your thoughts on this one.

Sometimes I just share a tidbit from real life, like taking Mom to drop off a urine sample at the lab.  Seems like much ado about nothing, but with Mom….you just never know.   You can read that short post here:  WHEN YOU GOTTA GO.

I hope your weekend has been delightful.  I’ve eaten too much grilled salmon and chocolate cherry bars.  I now need a nap. 

Throwing Stones

I’ve been thinking about Paula Deen a lot this week.  Her face has been plastered on the news every hour or so.
                                           
I watched her tearful interview on the Today show, and my heart went out to her.  She’s clearly upset by and ashamed of the behavior that got her in this current mess.  She’s terribly hurt by the condemnation she’s received from so many of her sponsors.  She has apologized over and over for her language twenty-seven years ago. 

Apparently, an employee filed a law suit, claiming the working atmosphere in Deen’s empire is discriminatory.  Over the course of the trial, Deen admitted she has used racial slurs in the past – almost thirty years ago.  Immediately, the Food Network dropped her.  Not two days later, Sears and Home Depot dropped her – they won’t be selling her cookware anymore.  She’s losing her Las Vegas restaurants.  And there’s probably more to come. 

I don’t know every detail of the suit filed against her, but this punishment upon punishment seems extreme.   Yes, she needs to correct her work environment, clean up whatever unjust shenanigans are going on.  I don’t deny people have been hurt.  Deen is a senior citizen who was raised in the south, and, over the years, some attitudes might have needed adjusting. 

But, the woman is facing it.  She acknowledges that years ago she used some hateful words.  Not anymore.  Not for decades.  One can’t build her brand to the level Deen has by systematically treating people badly.  The demonization of the woman seems unnecessarily brutal.

I imagine we all have said things we later regretted.  I certainly have.  The human heart is often ignorant and insensitive.  It can be fearful and defensive and prideful.  This is the condition we all share with Paula Deen.  Every one of us.

I pray we remember this as we watch the Deen saga play out.   Because she is a high profile figure, her sins are glaring and repeatedly highlighted.  She is paying for her mistakes in a very public, painful way.  I would never want that focus on my imperfect heart. 

I pray forgiveness for Deen emerges soon.  Nobody benefits from being incessantly dragged through the mud; certainly not the drag-ee, but not the dragg-er either.  God alone is qualified to judge the deeds of man.  And all of us will stand before Him someday.