Saturday, May 28, 2011

It's personal this year.

Every other Memorial Day was for me a day of national pride. It meant pulling out the red, white, and blue clothing, and eating Dad's steaks on the back deck. It meant being a little prouder of my dad because he served over 20 years in the Armed Forces, wearing the uniform. It was an exciting day.

Then, I married him. A Soldier. He'd been in for a few years, and was a Soldier of the new generation--the Soldiers who go to war. He'd been deployed multiple times. And I knew when I said yes to his invitation for a relationship, yes to his proposal for marriage, yes to his wedding vows, that he'd go again. It's not a matter of "If." It's a matter of "When." And he's deployed again.

So, this year is different. Exciting? Yes. Patriotic? Yes. Sad? Yes. Because this year, I understand the sacrifice required in living this lifestyle. It's a constancy of doing without, of giving up something or someone dear for the betterment of others. It's comforting my daughter or family when I could use some comforting myself. It's nights alone in bed, dinners at an empty table. It's Sunday Church in a lonely pew. It's treasuring five minute skype calls and cards that come in the mail with familiar handwriting scrawled across the envelope. It's calling a friend when life seems dark, or receiving a similar call from a dear friend who just dropped her husband off. It's constant prayer, hope, fear, and solitude.

For the love of a Soldier.

The last four months have been hard. We've kept a joyful countenance, moved forward and focused on daily blessings. But, there have been dark moments. Scary moments. Afternoons in pediatric cancer offices alone, getting that phone call from the unit that he's very sick. Moments I didn't think I could carry on. But, I did.

For the love of a Soldier.

He motivates me. He drives me. He wordlessly encourages me to move forward. When the nights are scary and the days are lonely, I trudge forward. Proudly. Doggedly. When I get the phone calls from friends, I commiserate. I felt the same way, I tell them. And then I vent myself. Get it off my chest, out of my heart. To keep marching forward.

For the love of a Soldier.

Because, if given the choice right now, would I do this again, I would absolutely say yes. My country is worth it. Our fallen men and women are worth it. My Soldier is worth it. I leave the negativity behind at the end of the day. Each morning is a fresh start. A new chance to make the day a better experience, to leave a stronger impact on the world around me. To hold down the homefront, to continue mission.

For the love of my Soldier.

This year, as I pick him up from the airport for R&R, I will remember all those who never got to come home. As I wrap my arms around his neck for the first time in months, kiss his face, smell him, I will think of the spouses who will never have the chance to do that again. Because they gave all.

For the love of their Soldier.

I will think of the brothers and sisters in arms who died protecting their country. Died protecting each other.

For the love of their soldiers.

I welcome home my hero. My Soldier, with the awareness of how blessed I am, how fragile and transitory this joy is. I will thank God for his safety thus far. This Memorial Day, I will garner strength, take rest, and gear up for the remainder of this deployment. I will stop, and honor those who have died while serving our country.

For the love of our Soldiers.

Friday, May 27, 2011

"You know, with everything this family has suffered through, we really are quite blessed. Even with that year in Kansas..."

My mother was dabbing on her make up while my father and I listened.

"Yes, we are." I chimed in. "I think about it daily: Richard's deployed. Even though there are hard moments--excruciating moments--I feel very blessed nearly all the time."

And it's true. I am overcome frequently with how great God has blessed me. When I peer into the face of my daughter--healthy, happy. When I feel the kicks of my unborn child--life actively moving within me. My husband. He is not here. No, I am so blessed there, too. He's off sacrificing so much to defend his country and family. Though he's not here, I have an amazing man as a husband. This man trusted me with his home and family while he is gone. Trusted me to carry on and maintain the home front until he gets home. I am the mother to his children.

Yes, life is full of Crosses and struggles. Some of these last a very long time. But, despite it all, I can still see the blessings amongst the thorns. Thank you, Jesus, for my blessings and also the constant reminders of how good You are to me.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

"Are you hoping it's a boy? So you can be done?"

"No." I laugh. "My husband and I want to fill our house."



Because I only get to live once. Just one time I get to walk through this world, one chance in this journey. You can fill your life with the smart phones and iPads, you may have your fancy four seater cars and yearly resort-island trips. You can choose to have a few years of those pattering feet, desperate calls for Mom-mie or Dad-die, the giggles, the snuggles, the laughs, the cries. You can choose to spend most of your life without children.

But I see it differently. I only get one shot. And I want to live it for all its worth. I don't need the smartphones, fancy computers, Nordstrom clothes. I will forgo the small cars and far flung beach trips. Instead, I want a lifetime of life. Of babies, of children and, yes, even of teens. I want to surround myself with people--my people. I want to give as much love to this world, to my world, as physically possible. My daughter tapped into a mine of love, and there's so much there. I feel compelled to give it.

So, when you are digging your toes into the sand while contemplating if you are ready for children, I'll probably be awake for the fourth night in a row staring into eyes that trust me unconditionally. While you purchase your Prada shoes for your evening at the five-star restaurant, I'll likely be cheering on my child as they go-go on the potty for the first time. As you desperately fight for your one teen's attention, my children will surround me demanding mine.

You see, you think your life is so full, and that mine will be so empty. But, when we both reach the end of this life, you will not be surrounded by the beach, the clothes, the electronics. No. Those will be at home in the photo albums, in the closet, on the shelves. You will be surrounded by what you helped create, which was a lifetime of selfishness. I will be surrounded by people. My people. My precious souls that I committed this one life to. I will not live alone, die alone. I will be surrounded always. By my full house.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Little Rituals

We would walk there in the mornings on our honeymoon, hand in hand, basking in the joy of being newly married. The traffic whipping by us, the smell of the beach not far behind us, we felt as though the world had nothing on us. The walk was less than five minutes, and we'd arrive at our breakfast place.

Little Rituals.

Even then, I found the name indescribably comforting. I am a person who derives great comfort and satisfaction from just that--little rituals. That this had become such a ritual for us was no coincidence.

That memory ran through my head as I meandered down the sidewalk with Elizabeth today. Our daily afternoon walk to get the mail, with cards to send off as well, we basked in the beauty of the coming evening. I felt such joy and comfort as she held tight to my finger waking along side me. It was precisely these moments, these emotions, I had wondered at the possibility of feeling before he left. But it is possible. And that brings me additional comfort.

Waking in the morning and drinking my coffee while she eats, as the morning sun shines through the windows. Naptime, and the quiet in the house as I clean. Cooking dinner for the two of us, as the evening sun envelopes the kitchen. Bedtime with its prayers and stolen giggles and kisses. These little rituals each day bring us comfort, bring us joy, bring us hope. We continue through our days, striving for something great, something far away yet always slowly coming. We work and do our chores for the same reason. Because some day, he will come home. Because each day that we fill with joy-filled tasks and comfort-infused moments are days that are successful, days that somehow bring him greater joy. Because he knows we are living happily, even in his absence. For we who are left at home, living days like this make us feel closer to him, make us feel as though we are fighting for him.

Tonight, as the evening sun shines lazily in the sky, I write letters, pen notes to Baby in my journal, listen as my little one falls asleep. Quiet. Comfort. Joy. Little Rituals, in his absence. In his honor.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Time to come clean. I have a major flaw. *Gasp.

I hate asking for help.

This is not a good trait for anyone, but especially a mother and a wife of a Soldier. I insist upon doing everything myself, and as quickly as possible. Last August, when we found out Richard's deployment had moved up six months, I immediately went outside in 110 degree weather, and mowed the yard. I am surprised I didn't pass out. Boy, was I in trouble when the husband got home. But, it needed doing, was bothering me, so I did it.

This morning, I decided to scrub down the entire kitchen. A lofty goal, yes, but not impossible. I broke it down into smaller tasks and was lenient: I gave myself the entire day. I would wash the countertops, put all the dishes away, move appliances and clean behind them, and pull everything out of the fridge and freezer to sort it all. I was motivated! I began my task and was just reaching my stride, when it happened. I went to clean the disposal with citrus fruit, and the entire unit fell into the bottom of the sink, spewing orange pulp water everywhere.

Then, the adventure started. I pulled everything out from under the sink, only to realize there was significant water damage from a previous leak. Bummer! I began sopping up moldy, citrus water and wringing it into buckets. My daughter was penned up, but demanding my attention. Once the mess was contained, I stared at that blasted appliance lying under the sink mocking me. I was going to fix this. By. My. Self.

I called my brother, who instructed me that "all I had to do was lift the disposal back into the sink and twist the collar." Ha. "Watch out. They can be heavy." Not too heavy for me, I thought. I went into the kitchen and lifted it. I got it maybe six inches in the air, and it weighed heavy in my arms and I put it back down. Crouching in a new position, I tried again. I got it back into the sink, and attempted to twist the collar. It wasn't lined up properly, and was too heavy to maneuver. It came crashing down. Onto my knee cap. I let out a tirade.

I can't do this, I thought horrified. I need a second set of hands. Hence, second tirade against appliance for deliberately breaking while the husband was gone. I stared at the royal mess in my kitchen. Not even my stubborn pride was strong enough to fix this. I looked at my gash. Well deserved, I thought. I should never have thought I could lift that thing alone, especially pregnant (and my back has suitably punished me for this all day, as well).

"Hello? Adrienne?....Oh, of course! Let me call your dad. We'll bring some dinner over and we'll help fix it!"

They came, with hot food and two sets of hands. It took the three of us to figure out the problem and reattach it to the sink. It's fixed, though. And in less than ten minutes. And between the three of us, there were no backs thrown out or knees gashed. Go figure.

So, hopefully, this has taught me a valuable lesson. While I have gotten better, I still struggle with asking for help. It's not my pride, completely. It's also a guilt of imposing on others. Imposing on those who have spouses with whom to spend time, their own problems to fix, and not a lot of free time. But, when I do ask for help, the most surprising thing happens: people usually say yes!

So, I will continue to work towards squelching my pride, and working on my humility. Because gashed knees and aching backs...well, they are just not worth the stubborn pride. At all.

Monday, May 02, 2011

I was on the phone with the TV muted last night, when the words on the bottom of the screen changed to USAMA BIN LADEN CONFIRMED DEAD. Goosebumps pricked up all over, and a sense of anticipation rose within me. I yelled the news to my mother over the phone, and we hung up as she ran towards her television to turn on the news.

Ten years. We have lost thousands of innocent civilians and military troops at the hands of this man. Americans and the world have lived in fear daily because of him. My husband is away fighting a war because of his influence. And now he's dead. Finally.

I am "happy." I am "joyful." I am "relieved." Unashamedly so. Many are criticizing others for their celebratory attitude. Bible verses posted about not taking pleasure in the death of the wicked, the negativity of a Christian rejoicing in another man's death are all over Facebook. I felt compelled to respond.

Yes, I am thrilled this man is dead. I am relieved that someone who took joy out of destroying others as violently as possible has been stopped. I wanted to grab my American Flag and run down the road cheering last night. I am so proud of the group of Soldiers who fought a fire fight with this evil man and his henchmen, and not one of them fell in the process. Thank God. I am even more proud of my husband and our military friends who have played a long and vital role in finally gaining this victory. I am proud--so proud--to be an American today.

I guess it's just different for me. My husband and his peers have been putting their lives on the line for ten years to ensure this man's capture. Countless lives have been lost. I rejoice that a man who stopped at nothing to kill others has met with justice. This is not to be confused with taking joy from a man's death.

At the same time that I am digging through and pulling out my patriotic and military wife shirts and am planning mini-celebrations with friends, I have a cold fear for this man's soul. At the moment of death and that opportunity to repent for his numerous and grave sins, likely he will not do so. I pity him. I almost feel sorry for him, for the eternal fate he is meeting.

No, I do not rejoice in a man's death. I fear for his soul. I celebrate that a man of evil has met with justice. After ten years and countless lives lost, we have achieved a great victory, in that a man who was a catalyst for thousands of deaths, separations of families for nearly ten years, and a daily fear for Americans and those around the world has been killed. While an attitude of "responding with love" is a Christ-like response most of the time, Jesus too grew justly angry at times, and acted justly as well.

So, while I pray he repented in his final moments, I unashamedly rejoice in the elimination of a threat to our peace, safety, and security. I celebrate the annihilation of a man who worked tirelessly to kill thousands. I am so proud of our troops stationed around the world who all played a vital role in achieving this victory, especially those separated from their loved ones.

God bless America, and God bless our Soldiers.