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.

BOYS TO MEN

My two boys have birthdays every summer, about two weeks (and 9 years) apart. 

We were all together recently (which is rare) and took this picture. 

Our oldest, on the left, used to be bigger than our youngest, on the right.  And the hubs (in the middle) used to be bigger than both of them. James, the baby here, is in the 100 percentile in height for others his 4-month age. Everybody’s growing. 

When did that happen? 

Our oldest son used to look like this. He was three when lava lamps were cool. 

Our younger son used to look like this. 

He wore vests and bow ties and Redskins caps on Easter. 

The older one is no longer blond. The younger one has not been seen in a bow tie since this picture.  Both boys loved baseball, Legos and macaroni and cheese. Those things are still true. 

Now that we have a grandson, I‘m reminded of the days I changed diapers on and gave raspberries to my own sons. When I was home with my children, the hours seemed long at times, but looking back…they are but a wink of one eye.

Somewhere along the line…boys turn into men.  They work through challenges, try to figure out women, change jobs, move, try to figure out women, make mistakes, mostly figure out women, and settle in to the game of life.

They begin to resemble their father, their grandfathers, their uncles.  Not physically (although sometimes), but in action and habit and character.  

It’s supposed to happen, of course, that they grow up and onward, but it kind of happens when you’re not looking.  And then…one day…you just see it.  

With my sons, it was choosing marriage that added a new depth to their lives.  They both met women who sparked in them a willingness to be vulnerable, to sacrifice, and to commit.  These are honorable – and sometimes rare – traits in a man.  

It’s heart-warming to see.   

My sons are not little boys anymore, but strong, hairy adults who give me great bear hugs, which I love, love, love.  My prayer for them is that they continue to grow in tender-heartedness, courage, and conviction.  

Because life will continue to throw them curve balls now and then.  

I want them to know we will always been in the bleachers rooting for them. 



Baby James – a Month Early!

Hope everyone is having a good 2016!!!

Since Christmas, I’ve been wanting to spend some time blogging, but life has intervened. We’ve had a job loss, a move, a snow storm and THIS precious event…

Baby James arrived one month early!!!

By the hand of God, he was 6.15 lbs. upon arrival, so he was not in any danger, but he was wheeled into the NICU anyway, because, well…he was a month early! He spent five days there under a blue light with nurses getting him on a wonderful schedule, and his parents holding him whenever they could.

I WAS STUCK IN MARYLAND IN THE SNOW BLIZZARD!

I can smile about it now, but at the time…my heart was breaking because I so wanted to be here to see our first grandchild arrive. I figured traveling a month before James’ due date to see my sister, I would be fine. James had other ideas. The best laid plans…

I met James the night I came home. We drove straight to the NICU from the airport, where I got to cry over this beautiful child with a full head of hair.  He was wrapped up like a burrito and as warm as a baked potato. I think he winked at me in our time together, but I’m not positive.

I looked at our son, who was now a father, through tears, and I cried as I embraced our daughter-in-law, who did a marvelous job of handling labor (she pushed for only about ten minutes before the boy was free – who gets that?!?)

I don’t even have words to describe our love for this child, who is now home. Every grandparent knows the feeling. I’m now in the ‘I’m nutty about my grandchild’ club, and yes, you’ll have to tolerate photos now and then of this sweet boy.

A side note – I had a great visit with my sister, even once the snow began. I’ve not seen snow like this in 25 years. It was beautiful, I must say. And we had fun digging out.

TWO CARS BURIED

MY FIRST MESSAGE TO JAMES FROM MARYLAND

It was an emotional week. The day James Daniel was born in sunny Florida, even the skies in Maryland celebrated, raining down two feet of angel flakes.

That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.

A Special Book Review: "Kissed by an Angel"

I’m thinking of a dear blogger friend this week named Robyn Campbell. She has a special needs son named Christopher.

Robyn is a writer of children’s books; Christopher is her inspiration.

The two come together in a precious book I read just after Christmas called “Kissed by an Angel.”
 
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Christopher has Sturge-Weber syndrome. Robyn has “we’ll-not-be-defeated-by-this-challenge” syndrome. Sturge-Weber is characterized by a congenital facial birthmark and neurological abnormalities. “We’ll-not-be-defeated-by-this-challenge” is characterized by eyes that see purely and a heart that loves as God loves.

Robyn is a warrior for research on this disease and found one way to bring awareness to the subject by compiling ten short stories and one poem (written by friends) for this children’s book. I read it in an afternoon, one adventure after another. The protagonists (all kids) of these short stories exhibit special gifts, traits that enable them to solve mysteries or see magically.

There are tales of time travel, and one story about a sneaky millipede. “The Captain’s Call” is about friendship and bravery and sacrifice. I think it’s my favorite. Unless it’s “The Flying Fish Mystery” about a missing painting and how a pastrami sandwich offers telling clues. Then, again, I loved “Grandpa and Loor” because of its unique and magical take on the relationship between a girl and her grandfather.

These are great bedtime stories. Or day time stories. Read aloud tales, or read-on-a-road-trip tales. All the young heroes take risks, and do so bravely. Children with Sturge-Weber syndrome (and other disabilities) take risks too, and that’s why this is such a touching book. Families who deal with Sturge-Weber must be open to procedures and medications that are sometimes cutting edge, but can be frightening as well. In the search for a cure, there are risks to be taken. There are hugs to be given and tears to be kissed away.

I’m highlighting this book today, because I want to collaborate with Robyn in her efforts to tell her story and find a cure for Sturge-Weber. If you know a youngster ages 8-12, please purchase a copy of this anthology – it’s under six dollars. If you have no youngsters in your life, buy a copy or two for your local elementary school library. I’m telling you, these are great stories for kids. All proceeds from this compilation go to the Sturge-Weber Foundation.

AMAZON link: KISSED BY AN ANGEL

If you’d rather simply make a donation to the Sturge-Weber Foundation, you can do that here. STURGE-WEBER FOUNDATION. 

I had never heard of this disease until I met Robyn. This cause has stayed with me because seizures usually accompany Sturge-Weber, and my brother Greg had seizures, due to epilepsy. It is a unceasingly worrisome problem.

In the New Year, we often try to commit to new endeavors – lose weight, stress less, give up something, take on something, maybe learn something new. Take just a few minutes and read about Sturge-Weber on the link above.  It will make you grateful for your own healthy children, and I pray it will inspire you to share a bit of what you have towards helping those like Christopher, who is the apple of his mama’s eye. Robyn would be forever grateful.

CHRISTOPHER WITH HIS BELOVED DOCTOR
MY DAD WITH GREG (ABOUT AGE 7 HERE) WHO HAD A BROKEN ARM

And I would too.

Trump, Planned Parenthood, and Other Difficulities

I’ve tried for a week now to write a post, but crummy stuff kept happening that made me think, I can’t write about that, so I wrote nothing. I finally decided I’m going to write a grumpy post, because sometimes life just makes me grumpy. And I need to get it out. I’m betting you’ve been there too.

If all you want today is sunshine and giggles, this is not the post for you. Feel free to click to facebook. I won’t mind.

1. I’ve had a heck of a head cold this week. At times, it has felt like Strep, and then bronchitis, and then a sinus infection. I’m on day 9, and I still can’t shift the mucus in my head. That’s probably too much information, but, as I said…grumpy post.

2. Donald Trump. I get why the guy is popular, I do. He says what he thinks. What you see is what you get. We don’t get that with many politicians. But, seriously…the guy is not a statesman. If America allows him to get as far as the Oval Office, I will be extremely concerned. And awfully grumpy.

3. My portable hard drive died this week.  Quietly, with no warning, it simply stopped working. All my writing, all my photographs for the past five years – buried in a cold, black, plastic rectangle the size of half a sandwich. I was in denial about it for two days, just kept plugging it in, thinking it would work. We even put it in the freezer (some online advice) after which it flickered a bit. This gave me tremendous hope, but then….it loaded nothing. Even with being plugged in all night, the little wheel just kept turning and getting nowhere. I mailed it to my brilliant nephew, Jim, who is an IT specialist, in the hopes that he can work a miracle.  If nothing can be retrieved….I don’t even know. I’ll be in mourning for awhile.

4. My mom does not seem to be returning to the woman she was two months ago. After a fall and six weeks of various treatments for various issues, she’s lost some of her interest in life. She’s become fixated on a few things, she prefers to just stay in her room, she wants to sleep a lot, seems withdrawn. She’s told me she’s ready for heaven, and she seems to be just waiting for Jesus to come get her. I know passing from this life will bring her peace, but I really can’t imagine my life without her.  This makes me more sad than grumpy.

5. The Planned Parenthood videos. They are horrific. The worst one I’ve seen shows bloody, fetal remains. Selling body parts is barbaric, yes, but I have to say, are we not being enlightened about the realities of abortion? We must be BRAVE and WATCH the videos. I know it’s hard, because then we have to take responsibility for what we’ve seen. We need to start doing that too.

6. I’m really missing a friend who moved away a few months ago. We used to walk once a week and vent about our lives and pray about our families and laugh about life’s absurdities. I think about her every Friday and talk to her in my head, but it’s just not the same.

A heavy couple of weeks.

Some good things happened too, I must tell you:

1. A dear blogger friend, Robyn Campbell, reviewed my ebook (you can see that here: 12 DAYS REVIEW)

2. Our first grandchild is growing along very well. It’s now the size of a plum.

3.  My daughter and husband both skydived for the first time and landed safely to say they would do it again in a heartbeat.

I know I have to put weeks like this into perspective. My head understands this. It’s just so darn full of mucus right now.

My heart takes longer to to course correct. It likes to drag its sad, little face around and whine. Sometimes, eating chocolate covered graham crackers and listening to a whiny heart is just easier.

I’ll snap back in a few days. In the meantime, thanks for listening.

Reflections On a Family Renuion

It seems like I’ve been off the planet for a while, but I really just went to Denver. I had spotty Internet service in the mountains, so I felt somewhat disconnected. After the initial withdrawal symptoms, it was nice. I played corn hole and watched no television. I hung some clothes on the line and, I felt like Laura Ingalls’ neighbor. Half pint and I would have been friends.

I was attending a family reunion that included lots of twists and turns and some unexpected blessings. Over the course of my trip, I had eight plane flights with nary a delay, nor unpleasant seat companions. How often does that happen?

Once the relatives arrived from California and Florida and the Midwest, we had great food, lots of laughs and a few tears as we remembered the death of a loved one eight months ago. I saw cousins I don’t see very often. We all decided we’re turning into our parents, in appearance and ailments.

Our reunion was hosted by a relative by marriage who had not met any of the regular attendees. She opened her home and refrigerator to strangers, and by the time we all left, she was their favorite person in the room. Only God can open hearts in such a way. We are a blessed family.

As we overate and shared memories, it struck me that people become intimate by sharing their struggles. We can bond over joyous occasions, but true intimacy (into-me-see) comes from sharing a disappointment, a loss, a heartache. Because that’s when we realize we are not alone. Every heart has been broken by one thing or another. No one escapes this life unscathed.

No matter what facades we erect, we all have fleshy, vulnerable hearts that long for security and affirmation and peace. It’s how we’re wired. When people gather in groups, there can be much superficial chit-chat, so I appreciate when people are genuine and open to connecting with another human soul. We had a lot of that at the reunion, aging cousins who shared our worries over declining parents and our hopes for grown kids still finding their way.

Colorado is a long way from Florida – a day’s travel and enough of a time difference to mess with my sleep cycle for a few days. But at the Kemp reunions, it seems like we all live just down the street from one another.

Here’s a picture from forty years ago…and one we recreated last week with the same cousins. 

Cool, huh?

This group is from my mom’s side of the family – my mom who no longer attends the reunions because she’s 95 and travel is not an option for her anymore. We called her and passed the phone around, so she could talk with everyone, although she doesn’t catch much over the phone. When my mom and her two remaining siblings are gone, this group of cousins will become the elderly group in the family. We still feel like the kids, so this is weird to think about.

I don’t know where the time went. But, it sure went fast.

Life at Both Ends

My 94-year old Mom has been in the hospital for nine days.

A few states away, there is a new baby in the family, just two days old.

Both are wrapped in cozy blankets, both are fragile and needy and vulnerable.

Both are loved so much.

Opposite ends of the spectrum, these two lives. One is surrounded by joy and tears. The other is accompanied by frequent sadness and tears. Both tug on the heart and draw us closer to God, who authors all life.

Mom will be 95 in just a few days, and in a month, her latest great grandson will be visiting. I pray we can get a photo of these two together, but today Mom talked of being so tired and getting a feeling that her life is winding down, so we will see what God has planned.

When I look at Mom, I see a long, full life.   When I gaze on this sweet new grand nephew of ours, I see a long, full life. Mom has many memories; our grand nephew has none. I cannot visualize our grand nephew at 95.  Only God knows what his journey will be. 
Life is short and long at the same time. When I’m sitting with Mom, who is often confused these days, the hours are long because there is a relenting grief that this may be the last day I see her.  When my brother holds his new grandson, I’m sure he’s aware that this little boy will grow up as fast as his own sons did. Time seems to be measured by the heart – what we are celebrating, and what is painful. 
Life is amazing and scary and surprising at both ends.  It has value at both ends.  And every day in between.