Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Who Knew?

You most certainly can make up for lost time.
And I highly recommend it.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Heavy Heart

September 29, a family friend paid the ultimate sacrifice while serving our country. Please keep this dear family in your thoughts and prayers. I love them and am deeply saddened by the tragic loss of Senior Airman Mark Forester.

Click to read Tribute to an American Hero - Mark Forester, beautifully written by one of Mark's best friends.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Dear Victoria,

Tomorrow we celebrate your 14th birthday. It seems unreal that so many years have come and gone since your father & I held you. In the past, I felt I wasn't "handling" losing you as gracefully as other mothers handled stillbirth. Each mother walks a very individual path, and no one benefits from comparisons. But, over and over again I would wonder: is it because you were my first, because we returned to a silent home with no other children to hold, or because I was naive and Trisomy 18 had never crossed my mind, or possibly because I was only 23 years old and everything I had known and believed, up to that very moment in my life, was crumbling? What a blessing to finally understand that I have "handled" losing you exactly as your mother should. Not in the way anyone else would, but the very way I was meant to manage this life without you.

I want you to know that you have a little 6 year old sister keenly aware of your presence. She speaks of you often, and it never ceases to amaze me. One of my greatest fears was that this world would forget you. That because we never had the opportunity to share birthday parties and school photographs, no one would remember you. I believe, without a doubt, Chloe feels you close by her. At random times, she will ask me to take your box from the closet. She looks at your picture, reads the cards and letters we received during that time, holds your little hat and tiny dress. When I least expect it, she will begin talking about you and how she wishes you were here so she could play with you. Tonight she said, "It would be super fun if Victoria was here because it would be just the same as having another Cade, except Cade's only 12 and he's not a girl." It made us laugh. And I can not, will not, deny that in those moments, I am receiving a true gift from God...sweet confirmation that you will never be forgotten.

It is remarkable, all that I have learned from you. Of course, we both know that for several years I fought learning many of the lessons. Thankfully, I'm finished fighting and much more interested in putting the lessons to great use. Do you know that I never hesitate telling people I love them...even if it makes them squirm a little because they aren't open books, like me. And, have you noticed that I love to laugh? You were probably stunned by how hard-headed I was, by how long it took me to realize that I honor you most when I live my life to its fullest.

I have so many questions. It's hard being your mother and not knowing your favorite color, what your laugh sounds like, your favorite bedtime story, all the places in this world you would have liked to visit, your hopes and dreams. But I've become okay with not having all the answers. I don't understand most of what happens in this life, and I'm finally okay with that too. Because I believe in something far greater than the here and now.

Loving you always,

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


He is home. (Insert tremendous sigh of relief and a huge smile.) Actually, he's been home for almost 4 weeks. I've not been able to write about how I'm feeling until now. And even today, the thoughts refuse to flow fluidly. They are choppy, messy, scattered. Nine months. That is how much time, from my life with him, was taken from me. My husband spent the majority of his deployment in an unsafe, unsecured, remote area of Iraq. I'm unable to listen to many of his stories. Most of the ones I do hear are equal parts heartbreaking and infuriating. I can't begin to express my relief and gratitude that he has returned safely. The fact that many other families do not have such an outcome is never lost on me. That fact is always in my mind. And it is hard to bear. We only gave nine months, many others give and lose so much more.

War has made me cynical, and less capable of trusting those around me. My family suffered at the hands of others' self-serving interests, in ways I will never be able to freely discuss. When it comes to this world of ours, war has left me feeling cold and bitter. Therein lies the contradiction. One moment I feel cynicism gnawing...I am discouraged and overwhelmed with aggravation toward the people with whom I am forced to share this planet. A few moments later, I feel a softness in my heart that overcomes me. War granted me opportunities to see the very best in people. Experiences that have helped me love others more freely. Experiences that have left me ready to live fully, and enjoy my time on this Earth. My family felt the uplifting, strengthening power of prayer, our own as well as the prayers and "good vibes" of many others on our behalf. Selfish isn't it? The way I speak of how war has impacted my life?

What about him? For months, he lived in absolutely disgusting conditions, and rarely had a decent meal. The aid station, where he provided medical care for Americans & Iraqis, was hit. Mortar attacks were frequent, and robbed him of even one peaceful night's sleep. He was often conflicted, and left wondering why he was there. My husband longed to be home with us. It was hard for a man, who loves his family so dearly, to miss events such as his oldest son receiving the Priesthood. But he also missed things like taking the kids to school, Saturday chores, doing laundry...things that most of us find mundane, possibly even annoying. He has returned, a man closer to God. A man ready to live this life to the fullest. He has taught me much about forgiveness and patience. He has been blessed with an answer to the question that often dogged him. He knows, without doubt, why he went to Iraq. The answer is beautiful and has very little, if anything, to do with war. But everything to do with love, inner peace, and purpose.

What about our children? In two words: innocence lost. They lived months apart from their father, and it hurt. But, that separation has made them far more appreciative of the time they now have with him. They take very little of life "for granted". My children have learned the true meanings of gratitude and service, as well as gaining a clear understanding of what it means to sacrifice. They have had life lessons that stretch far beyond those most commonly learned by 12, 9, and 6 year old children. I have learned so much from them.

I thought I knew a lot about war. I thought I knew what to expect. I was prepared for many things, and unprepared for countless more. My eyes have been opened. I have witnessed the very best, and the very worst, in people. My appreciation, as well as admiration, of infantry soldiers and their families has grown immensely. I am eternally grateful for my husband's safety, words can not express how happy I am to have him back. At the same time, my heart aches for others.

Since his return, there have been several days when I've felt like a piece of taffy that's been left out in the sun. Over the past year, I've been pulled and stretched, rolled in a ball, pulled and stretched some more. And now, I'm melting. Melting back into life. A new life, a new normal.

What a cruel thing is war: to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world.
~Robert E. Lee, letter to his wife, 1864

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Open Letter to Ms. Aniston

Dear Ms. Aniston,

I understand you live in an alternate universe. I understand that inside that universe, there are only repercussions for things such as: using the N word, using the 3 letter F word to describe homosexuals, and being conservative. But I don't live in that bubble of yours. And outside of Hollywood? Here in the real world where we commoners live? Many of us don't appreciate your flippant use of the word retard. I was struck by how effortlessly it flowed from your mouth as you playfully bantered with your buddy Regis.

You may feel I'm being overly sensitive. Do you feel African-Americans are overly sensitive when they object to the N word? Do you feel homosexuals are overly sensitive when they object to derogatory terms used to describe them? I venture to say you would never consider letting n***** or f** slip from your botoxed lips. I'm guessing those words horrify you (as they should!). How about spic, jap, or chink? Again, horrifying! I'm guessing you would stand in line with all of your do-gooding, Hollywood pals to rip apart anyone who uses such language. But retard? Well, who really cares about the retards, right? Because you didn't mean anything by it, right? You were just joking around during an interview, right? I should lighten up, right? My deceased daughter, Victoria, would have been what you consider "a retard". So, no thank you Ms. Aniston, I will not lighten up. What I hope for is free speech coupled with common sense and compassion.

I value the freedom of speech we are afforded in this country. Do I want all of our words monitored, picked apart, placed under a microscope? Of course I don't! And that's not what I'm doing to your words. No picking apart, and I wasn't monitoring you. Simply had the tv on and heard you very clearly throw out "retard". I'm not sure why you would use such a term. Maybe because you are insensitive, callous, maybe you just haven't ever cared enough to consider that using the term "retard" could cause others pain? Possibly the word flowed freely because you don't think there will be repercussions. No powerful groups like the NAACP, GLAAD, or La Raza are going to come after you. This won't be splashed all over the news. Or, maybe it will be? If it is, you know you can simply issue an apology through your publicist. You'll visit a few special education classrooms. You'll flash that smile of yours and once again, all will be well in your alternate universe. I'm not buying it.

Before too long, you and your Hollywood people will decide you can make a "cause" out of this, you and your celebrity cronies will somehow find a way to make the free speech/compassion combo beneficial to you. Maybe you'll all come together for a prime-time special on tv, you'll take turns answering phones and prancing around on stage. You can share your stories of how you once used hurtful words, but now see the error of your ways. Maybe you could invite Mel Gibson and John Mayer. Maybe even the President...he did have that little slip up when referring to his bowling skills as being on the level of the Special Olympics. Fans will send in money for your cause. Some may even fall at the feet of Hollywood, praising you for saving the world from the ills of hurtful language. But there are thousands of us who have never, will never, fall at the feet of Hollywood. Shocking, isn't it? The fact that not everyone is enamored and awed by celebrities. The fact that there are people out here who already reject derogatory, ignorant speech...and we didn't even need a celebrity to enlighten us.

There are countless numbers here in the real world who already understand words can hurt. We know it isn't all that difficult to think before speaking, to rid our mouths and even minds of derogatory words. Words that pack punches so hard they can knock grown adults to their knees. We are capable of enjoying free speech, and adding compassion to that freedom. When you and those living in your alternate universe decide to preach on this topic, just know we won't be listening. We're way ahead of you on this one. We're way ahead of you on most things.

In the mean time, Ms. Aniston, you might want to check this out:
You could probably learn a lot.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Alone...Not Always a Bad Place to Be

Cheryl, thank you for sharing this.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Let Freedom Ring

"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom,
must undergo the fatigues of supporting it."
- Thomas Paine, The American Crisis, No. 4, September 11, 1777
(above picture: my sweetheart treating Iraqi civilian patients)

"It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Games, Sports, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory.
I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means.
And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction."
- Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams,
referring to the day the Declaration of Independence was signed

"Courage, then, my countrymen, our contest is not only whether we ourselves shall be free, but whether there shall be left to mankind an asylum on earth for civil and religious liberty."
-Samuel Adams, August, 1776
(above picture taken by my husband, while serving in Iraq)

"It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians. Not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason, peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here."
- Patrick Henry

Monday, June 21, 2010

Good Things to Come

Sunday, June 20, 2010

One Day

To: Daddy
From: Chloe

I walk through the memoir aisle of the local bookstore and chuckle.
I think to myself, "If you only knew."

Everybody has a story. Bottom line, there are countless numbers of us who could
write a memoir powerful enough to knock readers' socks off.
Everybody has a story.

If I knew the right people, moved in their circles, and had a fantastic editor?
Ohhh, the story I could tell.
And one day, I will. When the time is right.
Most likely, it will never go further than this little spot right here.
And maybe you will be the only person reading.
I'll be just fine with that.

For now, I leave you with this:
I love my Snarky Dad; although, there isn't much that's snarky about him. That side only shows itself when he's joking around, teasing us. He teaches and leads by quiet example. He is kind and gentle, a shining example of putting others before self. I love and adore him. Some of the things I love most about myself are things he taught me. He traded in every single one of his dreams. For me. You would be in awe if I told you. I'm 38 years old, I lived it....and I'm still amazed. 

I love the man who let Snarky Dad give me a new life and raise me....the reasons why don't matter. I choose to believe it was all for the sake of love. Things feel better that way. I am grateful for the precious great-grandparents, grandparents, aunt, and cousins I have because of him. I cherish those relationships. And I'm grateful for what we have now. I see things in myself that are absolutely him. Time and an open heart have shown me how to embrace every one of them. I love him.

When I was a child, the adults in my life were young, entirely too young. Huge decisions were made on my behalf. Twists, turns, and train wrecks too numerous to count. But I never doubted that I was every person involved. I was angry, confused, and sad at times. But, I was happy too. I knew all of these people would fight to the death for me, if it came down to it. And I've made peace with their decisions. Realized I have nothing to feel guilty about, especially the fact that I love them all. I have a big heart, and everybody's welcome. Whew, it was a long and bumpy road getting here. So glad I made it. I think it's all turned out remarkably well.

I love my husband, the father of my 4 beautiful children. I've been trying. Really trying. No words can describe it. Today, there are no words great enough to capture what my heart feels for him. I can only pray he knows.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Who Wants Mac & Cheese?

Quite possibly my favorite commercial. Ever.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Just Tell the Truth

I don't think there's much of anything left in this world that's truly "Fair and Balanced". I'm not naturally prone to trusting others. I have to consciously fight my inclination toward cynicism. I don't trust any media outlets, I don't believe we have reporters and journalists anymore. We have people propelled by an unquenchable thirst for "the next big story". CNN twists, FOX spins, ABC, NBC, and CBS cherry pick "reports" based on what agenda they support.

I don't want to contribute to the lack of fairness and balance in this world. Mostly I share opinions here in my spot. But today, I have to share a fact: President Barack Obama is not the first president to be somewhere other than Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day. This falsehood is all over the web, and being fueled by conservatives (either directly or simply by choosing not to diffuse the rumor). Here I could list the places past Presidents have spent Memorial Days, the different places they have gone to honor fallen soldiers. But, the teacher in me won't let me do it. (Similar to how I struggle with telling children how to spell a's better for them to look it up themselves.)

Am I a fan of President Obama? Nope.
But you know I'm not a fan of any politician. Not one.
I'm not a fan of distorting facts to support opinions either. That mentality does nothing to improve the caustic tone running rampant in our country. Honesty really is the best policy. And there is far to little of that policy practiced today.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A New Perspective

You may be surprised to learn that many of my cares and concerns, regarding this world of ours, are now Gone with the Wind. Recent events between Israel and the Gaza-bound flotilla, my husband's return to Iraq, and my acceptance of the disappointing reality that I, in fact, can not change the world brought on the winds of change.

I'm absolutely uninterested in any debates regarding Israel, Turkey, and Palestine. Actually, I'm uninterested in debating period. Mainly I just wanted to share how Turkey's Prime Minister played a tremendous role in my new perspective. He said this: "Psychologically this attack is like 9/11 for Turkey because Turkish citizens were attacked by a state, not by terrorists, with an intention, a clear decision of political leaders of that state."

Holy crap, what drug is he high on? First of all, his statement simply doesn't make any sense. Secondly, it speaks volumes as to just how blind a large part of the world chooses to be regarding the horrors of 9/11; how very little they care. Nine civilians were killed in this flotilla incident. Thousands of lives were taken on 9/11. Not to mention the far-reaching effects still felt to this day, almost nine years later. I'm not insinuating the nine lives lost are less important than any other life lost. But logically, the numbers nine and 2,973 are far from comparable. I'm sorry Mr. Prime Minister. The 9/11 attacks were planned for months, took place on our soil, involved four jets, and targeted innocent civilians. There is no similarity with your situation, that took place in international waters, between one ship (the other 5 had no incidents) and Israel. You say they attacked, they say they were acting in self-defense. There are many sides to the story. There is only side to 9/11. On that day, innocent Americans were simply going about their daily lives. Without provocation, our entire country was attacked and terrorized. The entire country of Turkey has not been attacked. Nothing about your current situation is, as you said, "like 9/11". Your statement is both absurd and screaming with ignorance. Proof that you have no idea how horrific 9/11 was, and you don't care either.

The remainder of my new perspective comes from the pain felt as I sit, once again, without my husband in this home. Where he belongs. I really wish I could be more noble, more patriotic. I don't know how to give any more than I am currently giving. I don't know how to love this country any more than I do. You know I'm nothing, if not honest. And I'm ready to be completely honest. I hate where he is, I hate that he has been sent there. I hate that the Commander-in-Chief doesn't care more. I hate every bit of it. And, I'm sorry it took a deployment to move me to this perspective. I understand this is what we signed up for, I just wish it made more sense. I can't give details or explanations, but trust me. So much of it makes no sense.
None. Whatsoever.

I'm pretty certain many of you will strongly disagree with my thoughts, but here goes. I want our country to take care of our own now. It's time. True, there are starving women and children in third world countries, but you can find starving people in your own town too. You can find homeless, downtrodden, desperate, exploited, and abused human beings in your city. For years I've imagined ways I can get myself to the war-torn Congo. I've imagined all the good I could do, all the children I could "save". Now I've decided I'll try to help here, in my small, insignificant Georgia town. I can't save the Congo and neither can you.

I've grown beyond weary of this country suffering because we have some Superman complex pushing us to get involved and "help" everyone else. Have you noticed this rarely gets us anywhere and garners little more than harsh criticism? Here I will add that yes, my husband has been greeted by grateful Iraqis. Of course it's heartwarming and touching. Yes, they can vote and attend school now. Some amazing things have happened there, but at what cost to our own country? At what cost to our fellow Americans?

I guess I'm realizing this great country of ours is a lot like parents enabling their drug-addicted children. There comes a time when you've done all you can do! A time when you just have to step back, let people make their choices, and suffer the consequences. We need to take care of the poor, hungry, abused, exploited, hopeless and helpless here in our country. My church gives tremendous amounts of global humanitarian aid. I love and support those efforts. But I've noticed, that aid is never given in a way that comes back to harm the church or its members. It is in no way an enabling parent. I want to help others. I don't support standing idly by as people suffer. But it's time for America to seriously reevaluate. Much of what we're doing really isn't working. I'm tired of this country harming itself, and its people, all in the name of helping others.

If you know me, you know I'm wholeheartedly in favor of protecting our country, defending this nation and preserving our liberty. That protection, defense and liberty should start right here, on our own soil. We can't save the world. We can't make nations agree to disagree, or choose to live peacefully. They've been fighting since time began, and they will continue in their attempts to destroy each other until time ends. I would just like to get our own country back on track, financially stable, with secure borders so we can protect ourselves. I would like to make certain America's children are well cared for, well educated, and protected before we set out to make life better for everyone else (something rarely appreciated because maybe they don't even want things to change)...leaving America behind in the process.

I'm not so naive anymore. And to the rest of the world I feel like saying...go ahead, fight, feud, disagree, whatever. But leave me out of it.
Because I'm beginning to feel a lot like Rhett!
"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."

And I'm also feeling a lot like Scarlett.
"I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy."
"I'll think about that tomorrow."
Maybe I will. Maybe I won't. I'm leaning toward the won't.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Can You Spare a Moment?

The irony of "fighting" for peace never escapes me. I hate war. Those who thirst after power, and in doing so shed innocent blood, repulse me. But make no mistake. I will always stand and honor the men & women willing to sacrifice for others. Lydia Bixby lost 5 sons in the Civil War. When President Lincoln learned of the loss, he wrote her a letter expressing gratitude for the costly sacrifice that had been "laid upon the altar of Freedom". Throughout our nation's history, there have been countless men and women willing to give all. In hopes of securing our right to speak freely (even if that speech was against them),to worship as we choose, or to not worship at all. In hopes of guaranteeing future generations the opportunity of pursuing happiness. These men & women sacrificed their lives, placed everything upon the "altar of Freedom". The very least we can do is give one moment of our time. Remembrances such as these transcend politics.

"Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend,
oppose any foe to assure the survival
and the success of liberty." -President John F. Kennedy

"For four long years, much of Europe had been under a terrible shadow. Free nations had fallen, Jews cried out in the camps, millions cried out for liberation. Europe was enslaved, and the world prayed for its rescue. Here in Normandy the rescue began. Here the Allies stood and fought against tyranny in a giant undertaking unparalleled in human history. Today, as 40 years ago, our armies are here for only one purpose — to protect and defend democracy. The only territories we hold are memorials like this one and graveyards where our heroes rest. We in America have learned bitter lessons from two World Wars: It is better to be here ready to protect the peace than to take blind shelter across the sea, rushing to respond only after freedom is lost. We’ve learned that isolationism never was and never will be an acceptable response to tyrannical governments with an expansionist intent. But we try always to be prepared for peace; prepared to deter aggression; prepared to negotiate the reduction of arms; and, yes, prepared to reach out again in the spirit of reconciliation. In truth, there is no reconciliation we would welcome more than a reconciliation with the Soviet Union, so, together, we can lessen the risks of war, now and forever."
- President Ronald Reagan, 1984

"They are not dead who live in lives they leave behind.
In those whom they have blessed, they live a life again." -Eleanor Roosevelt

From (White House Commission on Remembrance):

The National Moment of Remembrance asks Americans wherever they are at 3 p.m., local time, on Memorial Day to pause (for 60 seconds) in an act of national unity.The time 3 p.m. was chosen because it is the time when most Americans are enjoying their freedoms on the national holiday. The Moment does not replace traditional Memorial Day events; rather it is an act of national unity in which all Americans, alone or with family and friends, honor those who died for our freedom. It will help to reclaim Memorial Day as the sacred and noble holiday it was meant to be. In this shared remembrance, we connect as Americans.

The idea for the Moment was born when children touring the Nation’s Capital were asked what Memorial Day means. They responded, “That’s the day the pool opens.” A Gallup Poll revealed that only 28% of Americans know the meaning of this noble holiday.

The Moment provides a time of Remembrance for America’s fallen and to make a commitment to give something back to our country in their memory.To have Americans participate in an act of national unity and demonstrate gratitude and respect for those who died for freedom since the founding of our Nation. To provide a sense of history to our citizens and ensure that younger generations understand the sacrifices made to preserve our liberties.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Helping People Help Themselves

"I feel that I can do anything." I was touched by the joy she finds in simple things I take for granted, or even dislike (laundry). I'm going to do better.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

I've Sunk to the Level of Spewing...and it is not pretty

My husband is home from the sand pit of hell for exactly 2 weeks. That's all, 2 measly weeks. And I'm trying to "enjoy every minute", "cherish this time" we've been given...etc, etc.

I'm intentionally staying away from news channels and anything that distracts from the warm, fuzzy, happy-happy-joy-joy moments we should be having. And, for the most part, it's working! Or I should say, it was working. Until this afternoon. Until I was directed to this story that has to be shared.

And now I feel sick. Just plain ill. I'm sure my level of disgust is taken to an entirely different level altogether because my husband, and so many others, have taken an oath. An oath that calls them to lay their very lives on the line, if necessary, so that others can speak freely and protest. But this is taking those rights entirely too far! COMPLETE IDIOTS terrorizing A CHILD...A CHILD so scared he has to HIDE in his OWN HOME, the one spot that should be his safe place! The pathetic wastes of skin who pulled that stunt DO NOT deserve the sacrifices of honorable men and women. Yes, I am yelling. This is NOT about politics. This is not about standing for what you believe in and protesting peacefully. They could have done that outside a bank or an office building. This is about CHILDREN and their right to feel safe inside their homes!!

No arrests were made because officials were worried that might "incite" the crowd. There were some in the mob who actually followed the man into his home as he was trying to reach his scared son.

Where in the hell was the mainstream media on this one?!? OHHHH, let me guess...covering those lunatics at the Tea Parties! Covering the president of Mexico chastising America on the floor of Congress...covering his condescending remarks, but never asking him to share what exactly his people do to those entering his country illegally. Interesting.

In case you're wondering, spewing does make a girl feel better. A nice release so she can go and "enjoy every minute"; otherwise, the girl would sit all night and worry about the kid who was terrified, hiding in the bathroom of his home.

Friday, May 7, 2010

I Am That Mother

First of all, it's ridiculously overdone. Secondly and more importantly, I worry that I might make things harder for women I truly love, women who find the day to be bittersweet or even unbearably painful. Those are the reasons I didn't write about Mother's Day last year, and why I almost didn't write about it this year. Then, Jen threw out the challenge. Feeling as though I had valid reasons for not accepting the challenge, I began looking forward to reading what others would have to say. Obviously, I changed my mind. Jen's good at making me think. And as I thought, I found some things to say. (Don't I always?)

Often I've heard people describe their mothers as having "the voice of an angel". To be honest, this description unfailingly causes me to hang my head in shame, to quickly recall the countless times I have yelled at my children. I've always found the phrase "the voice of an angel" to be relentless in its torment. A tsunami of guilt enveloping me, as I look around, only to see others smiling, nodding in agreement. Apparently, their mothers also spoke with this angel voice. Holy crap, am I the only mother on the planet who speaks with a voice that holds NO resemblance to that of an angel? I must be. I am that mother.

Unless that mother tells her children many times a day how she loves them. Not just that she loves them, but exactly how and what she loves about them. Unless that mother laughs, often and wholeheartedly, with her children. Unless that mother carefully chooses her words (even if they are spoken loudly), so as never to harm the fragile and developing egos of the young souls under her care. Unless that mother quickly and humbly speaks the words "I'm sorry" when she knows she has not been on her best behavior. Unless that mother is whispering the words "it will be okay" into the ear of a sad, lonely, hurt, or ailing child. Unless that mother is teaching, reading, or singing to her children.

I've realized "the voice of an angel" has many different sounds. There are times I yell. Loudly. I wish there weren't. There are times I am too quick to speak in frustration or anger. I wish there weren't. And if that is the only stick by which "the voice of an angel" is determined, I am certain I don't measure up. But if I consider the times I use my voice to encourage, praise, love and adore my children? Well, I am that mother.

I believe I've had the blessing of learning from one of the greats. My Snarky Mama started on her journey of motherhood at the entirely too young age of 16. That's right, 16. I don't really know how she did it, and I'm pretty sure there have to be times she wonders the same. I know every single odd out there was stacked firmly against her. She was that mother. She yelled, she spoke in frustration many times. But overwhelmingly, she spoke love. She never hesitated telling me that I could do anything in this world I wanted to do...even if deep down, she knew I couldn't. She let me learn that on my own. She never took one dream from me because she knew that eventually, the world would. That's just the way this life works, and we have to learn to live it. She says things like: "What if this is the best it ever gets, what if right now you are living the best you will ever get? What are your choices, you live it or you don't. Giving up isn't an option, living is the only option."

She taught me I should never hold back praise for others. Do you think someone is smart, funny, kind? Tell them! Do you think someone is beautiful, has cool hair, or you love their shoes? Tell them! Because you may be the ONLY person who does. She taught me that acknowledging others' gifts, talents, beauty, or intelligence doesn't diminish your own. In fact, it does the opposite.

She taught me loyalty. You fight to the death for those you love, and ask questions later. Family is first. Plain and simple. And even though she yelled at times, my siblings and I were not allowed to yell. There was no name-calling, no fighting. We didn't always agree, and there was the one time my brothers were teenagers and decided to get pushy-shovey (something about a door coming off its hinges)...but that's my happened so rarely, I can actually remember the one time. My mother was adamant about how the sibling relationship should go, and that is one of the greatest gifts she's given me. We were taught siblings are more important than any friends we would ever meet. Everyone that knows us finds the relationship my brothers and I share to be remarkable. I am trying to pass this on to my children.

She taught me to stand for what I believe, alone if necessary, and never be afraid of the punches people will throw. At least you're fighting the good fight.

She continues encouraging me to be comfortable in my own contradictions. It's how I came up with the term "Snarky Belle"'s who I am. People rile me up and aggravate the snot out of me. At the same time my heart hurts, and you can find me in my closet weeping because I feel others' pain so deeply. I'm intolerant of intolerant people, judgemental of judgemental people. I call people out on dishonesty and rudeness, but I'll be first in line to offer thanks for kindness or provide words of encouragement. It takes a special woman to raise a contradiction...thank you Snarky Mama.

She taught me it's unacceptable to judge other mothers. I don't care if you have ten children, one child, or one who is not with you on this Earth. In my eyes you are a mother. I don't believe you score more points for each child you bring into this world....because mothering is not a game. I don't care if your children came to you through C-section, with pain meds, without pain meds, or thanks to a mother loving unselfishly enough to let her child become your child.

I don't care if you nursed, didn't nurse, if your kids eat organic fruit or if their only fruit source comes in strawberry pop-tart form. Because it's not my place. Because I will choose to believe that as mothers, we're just trying to do our very best. And we all have times of feeling that we're failing miserably. I won't be the one who adds to that feeling of failure. I won't be the one making you feel less than because you "only have" one or two children, and I won't stare at you as if you're a circus show because you have 15 kids. Instead I'll be the one cheering you on, with a big fat grin on my face, reminding you that you can do this.

I have an infinite number of flaws and weaknesses. But, I love BIG. I will never stop loving big and sharing that with my children. I will praise, discipline, encourage, teach, joke and laugh with them. And if those words come from my mouth, along with the occasional yells, or unfortunate cuss words? Well then, my children will also one day be able to stand and say: "My mother spoke with the voice of an angel."

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Break in the Clouds

"Do not always resort to the thought of coincidence,
there were many angels working diligently for it."
~Author Unknown

Cloudy sunset over the Grand Teton, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Monday, May 3, 2010

Apparently I'm Predictable

Eight Year Old: "I'm usually not so excited to get back to school on Monday."

Me: "Why are you already looking forward to Monday, it's Saturday afternoon."

Eight Year Old: "Remember that cute girl I told you about? I get to sit by her in the program because we're two of the tallest kids. Monday we're gonna practice for our program. And I think I'll wear the new shirt you bought me on Tuesday."

Me: "Tuesday, why not Monday?"

Eight Year Old (complete with eyes rolling, head shaking, and a slightly condescending chuckle): "Mom. You can't be for real. That is sooooo predictable. Every kid that gets a new shirt on Saturday wears the shirt to school on Monday. I'm not that kid. So, I'll wait and wear my shirt Tuesday. That's how I like to do things."

I don't love this child any more than I love the others. Promise. It's his material. Twelve Year Old is funny too, when he's making his iMovies and acting out entire movie scenes. It's a different kind of humor. And Six Year Old (because she informed me she's "too grown for the nickname Princie")? Well she makes us laugh also, but in the same way that every kid on the planet makes his/her parents laugh. But Eight Year Old is witty, without ever trying to be. And he's anything but predictable.

On a different note, my Snarky Mama had some things to say about illegal immigration. Snippets of what she wrote:

Do not preach to me about ancestry, predecessors, family immigrants. My grandfather dropped out of school in the 3rd grade. He could barely read, he could hardly write, he was pulled out of a field at 16 years old to be a "sparring partner" for boxers and wrestlers. He had worked in those fields 12-14 hours a day for one dollar a day...a dollar.
He was not angry, he was not bitter. He knew if his children did not want to do virtually the same, they had to change the course and direction of their lives. His son, my father, worked 3 jobs while going to medical school with 4 children, one who was critically ill and spent most of his childhood hospitalized. My father EARNED the "American Dream." He is the last of a dying generation, people who knew what "Let Freedom Ring" means.

I will be the first to say there was a time in this country that the color of your skin was demonized and many, many innocent people suffered at the hands of those who ignored "and justice for all." That was a time of shame for us all. We have learned and we have grown, no one can deny that...there is evidence of that growth all around.

The operative word is "illegal." I do not want words like "illegal" watered down. I want those who are sworn to uphold the law to do so with integrity. I want the country that was preserved to thrive...I want my "America" back...if you do not want to follow the rules to be here and you want to be rewarded because you "showed up"...I will be damned before I say that is o.k.. Far too many lives were lost and too high a price has been paid for this piece of land to be cheapened. Come with the willingness to stand beside me, regardless of MY skin color, and fight WITH me to preserve this land, [come with] DESIRE to obey the law and do so with respect for OUR flag, OUR forefathers, OUR language, OUR freedom. That's right...YOU, ME should EQUAL "OURS"...ONE NATION assimilated together with a rainbow of colors standing side by side to keep this the greatest nation on earth! If you are not willing to do that, do not come at all.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Thanks Are in Order

Dear Mother Nature,
Thank you for doing your job.
I'm sure it hasn't been easy on you...what with getting dumped and all.
Needless to say, your recent upturn in mood is sincerely appreciated.

I thank you.

The children thank you.

Even my girl's feet thank you.

And did you know Lantana plants are my favorite?
Imagine how excited I was when I found this Lantana TREE!
Another favorite?
Sitting in my rocker waiting for the kids to get home from school.
Happy days are here!
Thank you Mother Nature.