I Remember

On 9/11/2011, I was a 2nd Lieutenant stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base. That morning my colleagues and I stood in our Commander’s office and watched the towers fall.

Shocked. Stunned. Scared. Moments etched forever in memory.

And then the day became a blur. The base went into complete lock-down. Everyone focused with intensity on their role.
We were the secure location the President was taken to but I, personally, felt anything but secure. I felt acutely vulnerable as we braced ourselves for the further attacks we feared might be coming.

I can remember thinking that everything has changed; nothing will ever be the same.

Shortly after 9/11, I was working a deployment line filled with men and women heading to Afghanistan. It was during the first rounds of post-911 deployments. While there was a renewed sense of purpose and energy in our military community, it was also a difficult time. Families had not yet grown accustomed to war.

One moment from that deployment line will always stay with me. The large room was filled with spouses, children, and parents having final moments with loved ones in uniform. It quickly became time to end the farewells. This was my job. I walked around the room making eye contact with the airmen or tapping them on their arms. They understood that I was telling them to say their final words, give the final hug, and walk out of the room. Unfortunately, they weren’t the only ones who understood. A little girl, maybe five or six-years old, watched me tap her father. She looked at me, burst into tears, and yelled, “NO!”

One week later, I found out I was pregnant. It was one of the most joy-filled moments of my life. And then I became that little girl.

NO!

No, I do not want my child born into a world where this can happen.

No, I do not want to raise my baby in a world that no longer feels safe.

No, I do not want to have to say goodbye to this little one I haven’t even met yet.

No.

But here we are – eleven years later.

And with time comes perspective.

We all still raise our babies and live our lives in a world where terrible things happen. But it’s also a world where men and women ran towards those towers to save people. A world where passengers in Flight 93 exhibited bravery that defies explanation. A world where men and women put on uniforms every day with purposes like protect and defend.

And yet, like all of us who remember that day so vividly, my heart breaks again on 9/11 each year. Because so many will never get to write the words, “eleven years later.” So many in those towers and planes never knew that they were saying final goodbyes and giving final kisses. So many, both that day and in the years of war that have followed, never came home.

Because the world, while still so beautiful, is still so changed.

What do you remember about that day? How has your world changed?

A Joyful Noise

It’s the little things in life that seem to give me the biggest joy. The miracle found in the everyday. Tonight, it was some beauty found in bathtime.
 
My girls (8 and 4) were in the shower and, as usual, being way too loud and taking way too long for me. I went back to give them the riot act and instead was stopped in my impatient tracks by what I heard.
 
These are my babies in the shower reminding me, once again, about joy.
 

I hope your week goes smoothly and you find little, unexpected moments of joy throughout.

Oh, Parenting

I talk a good parenting talk. It goes something like this …

I’ll not be a helicopter mom, bulldozer mom, snowplow mom, or tiger mom.  I’ll not look at my phone while my kids are talking to me or at least won’t talk to my kids while I’m messing around on my phone. I’ll walk that line of involved but not intrusive. I’ll be a fun-loving disciplinarian and practice structured flexibility. I’ll balance the roles of cheerleader, leader, stand-up comedian, mentor, counselor, tutor, confidant, and parental authority. I’ll teach my children about suffering and the need for compassion while sheltering them from some of the harsher realities of our world. I’ll live in the moment while planning for the future. I’ll nurture while challenging, protect while stepping back, and go to battle while letting them fight their own fights. I’ll keep my superhero cape pressed at all times and I will make homemade crackers, organic.

But, regardless of all these good intentions (or sometimes because of them), I’m instead the mom who sometimes forgets to sign the permission slip, who has to carefully select the picture for Facebook that doesn’t show the laundry basket of shame, and who sends the kid to school with clothes that didn’t have time to fully dry in the dryer. Fortunately, I do normally manage to compliment the wet clothes with mismatched socks.

I occasionally bulldoze and frequently text. I sometimes step forward when I need to stand back. I discipline out of anger and give in out of exhaustion. I am human – flawed, tired, and misguided.

But today, in this moment, I’m going to stop.

I’ll stop measuring myself and comparing everything to some elusive, imaginary standard. I’ll face the fear at the root of my expectations – the fear that I’ll leave my babies wanting, leave them less than whole, less than prepared. I’ll acknowledge my fear that I will fail them in ways so much more important than permission slips and laundry.

So, today I’m going to stop, take a deep breath and enjoy them. And tonight, when I fall asleep, I’m not going to evaluate and replay and second guess. I’m going to pray.

“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for the opportunity to love so powerfully in my life. Thank you for the moments to step outside of expectations and fears. Thank you for their growing minds and tender hearts. Thank you for making me, with all my flaws and fears and expectations, their mother. Thank you for making me enough. Thank you.”

Jesus in the Bathroom

My religious knowledge failed me.  I went to Baylor University, for goodness sakes … surely my stint in the land of the Baptists would give me the right words.  Nope.  Nada.  I had nothing.

It started with three-year-old Molly on the toilet yelling, “MOM!!! CLOSE THE DOOR SO JESUS DOESN’T SEE ME!”

I closed the door and walked away tickled by her precociousness and the hilarious Facebook status this would make.

But she wasn’t done.

“MOM!!!”

I walked back into the bathroom.  She was still sitting on the toilet (obviously physically uncomfortable at this point) and said with a tinge of panic, “But MOM … he’s INBISIBLE!!!” She then looked up to the sky with wide eyes that conveyed her discomfort at this situation. 

I went for the easy answer, “That just means you can’t see him right now but the door will still work.”

 “MOM. He is EVERYWHERE.”

I tried to go with creationism, “Sweetie, God made your bottom … he’s allowed to see it.”

She responded with an answer I’d been drilling in her head for the past three years, “The bathroom is a place for PRIVACY!!!”

I replied with a comment that I’m fairly sure has no Biblical backing, “Baby, Jesus respects your privacy.”

“Can you ask him?”

“Ask him what?

“TO RESPECT MY PRIVACY!!!”

So we said a prayer … in the bathroom … while Molly sat on the toilet. 

“God, we ask that you respect Molly’s privacy while she goes to the bathroom.  Amen.”

**********

The faith of a child, even when coupled with a bathroom emergency, is refreshing.

As adults we complicate things by either over-thinking or, ironically, under-examining. 

For four-year-old Molly it was a no-brainer; the presence of God is as real to her as the laptop I’m typing on is to me. 

In fact, her belief is so solid that she instantly felt uncomfortable when her belief in privacy (can I get an “Amen!” on that one?) came head-to-head with her belief in an ever-present God.

There’s something awesome about that.

I want that.  I want to feel uncomfortable at times because my faith is so powerful that it comes in conflict with my day-to-day life.  There’s quite a bit going on in our complicated, adult world that should hit a discordant note when it comes head-to-head with a belief in divine love. 

We should cringe when we force truth to fit our own agenda.  We should feel embarrassed when we desperately attempt to strengthen our faith by weakening the faith of others.  We should experience shame when we ignore our duty to stand by our neighbor in the face of prejudice, poverty, or hardship. We should grieve when we let judgment replace love. 

The faith of a child is so simple but so difficult for an over-thinker like me.  I don’t have all the answers.  I don’t know all the whys.  I don’t even fully understand where this story is going to end.  And while there’s definitely a time for seeking and questioning, there’s also a time to just stop and take a moment to believe. 

May you all find moments to sit in the certainty of love and, of course, find privacy in your bathrooms. 

 

One Day

She lies on the bed with her eyes closed, her hair puffed around her like a cloud. She’s not sleeping inside those closed eyes. Her body is still but she laughs along with someone I can’t see. I come closer and tell her I’m there and she says, “Momma?” When I take her hand she giggles and talks to me about candy. Her hand feels so fragile, her skin tissue paper inside my hand. She is 95 years old.

But in that moment she’s a child holding her mother’s hand. And inexplicably I’m reminded of my daughters.

Later that day, when I’m cuddled up with my kids at bedtime, I’m reminded of that woman. It resonates with me deeply that in her last days her mind clings to moments like this one. These moments matter – deeply.

But it’s not that thought that steals my breath away and makes me tremble with new awareness. It’s this:

Someday, if our stories go as I hope, my babies will be old.

Someday their chubby, little hands will be wrinkled and fragile; their skin will be tissue-thin.

I hope that when that day comes my children will be surrounded by family. I have to believe, with every ounce of faith I can muster, that someone will love them as fiercely as I do and care for them and give them words of comfort when they’re scared.

One day my children will be vulnerable, weak, and maybe even call for me – but I won’t be there.

It’s heartbreaking and terrifying. But it’s also, ultimately, okay.

This is how life was designed. There’s an Irish proverb that says, “It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.” Today, it’s my role to be the shelter. I protect my children, nourish them, and teach them. I do these things so that eventually they won’t need me. And then, one day, they will become the shelter – for their children and, perhaps, for me.

This is life.

And it’s beautiful, miraculous, and scary.

It’s also simple. We need to love each other. Protect each other. We need to be the shelter for the people who have no one left to look at them with love and memory.

And the next time I hold the hand of someone on the other end of life, I’ll remember that I’m holding the hand of someone’s child. And I will be their shelter.

“Resolve to be tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant with the weak and the wrong. Sometime in your life you will have been all of these.”
Dr. Robert H. Goddard

My heart goes out to those whose stories didn’t go as hoped, especially to parents who fiercely loved children who did not get the chance to grow old. Life has so many different truths and I hope my words didn’t cause any pain.

The Day The Music Died

Kids are obnoxious.  It’s not their fault, obnoxious is a developmental stage. 

But there is nothing (NOTHING!) that raises their obnoxiousness to new levels like when my kids have a song stuck in their heads.  Repetition does not faze kids.  Things do not stop being funny.  They are relentless. 

 I respond with my parental repertoire of encouragement, redirection, bribes, threat, and (finally) either hysterical laughter or tears. 

Then, once they finally stop, I come face to face with the horrible truth that these songs are now stuck in my head … for forever.

So, in order to share the misery serve as a warning to all parents, I present you with the top two songs my kids have been torturing me with lately.

Peanut butter and jelly anyone?

How about a little circus afro?

The only solution is to fight fire with fire. 

Oh yeah kid?  I see your Circus Afro and I raise you a Mahna Mahna.

What songs have your kids been torturing you with lately? Parents of older kids, does it ever stop?

Good neighbors don’t flash each other.

We don’t have blinds on some of our windows yet.  The reasons for this blaring, privacy-prohibiting oversight are things like indecision and blinds on back-order.  (Of course, personally, I blame Keith.) 

Our new next-door neighbors are also somewhat blindless, which only seems fair.  I’ve become used to scenarios like David pronouncing from our dinner table that the next-door neighbors are watching basketball again. 

It’s a great way to get to know the new neighbors.

However, it’s also like performing nightly on an open stage.  I’m fairly certain that the neighbors are not overly concerned about any of the activities in our family room.  (And by “fairly certain” I mean I know they’re not.  I never see them watching us when I’m watching them.  Scared yet?)

However, it does make those oops the shirt I need to wear is in the laundry room moments a bit awkward. So, I’ve mastered the crouch walk that keeps me below line of sight (at least in my head).  I’ve learned to sprint through the family room when wrapped in a towel.  And I’m getting fairly good at making it look like I’m lovingly correcting the children when I’m, in fact, yelling at them.  (Thank God they don’t have a sound feed into our family room!)

I feel like making these efforts is just plain neighborly.  Good neighbors don’t flash each other.

I was tempted to make this blog post about feeling exposed.   I thought I could explore how we expose ourselves every day through social media and that we should be more aware – apply some filters, hang some blinds.

But I’ve decided not to do that.  This post is just about my efforts to not flash my new neighbors.   Because I think we need a bit more of that in the world.  And I know I’m not the only crouching, sprinter out there.  Just know you are not alone.  And, one day, you and I will both have blinds and we’ll remember these days.

One day.