Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Not Just a Bracelet...

A couple weeks ago I was at the lab in our local Military hospital when the young Soldier drawing my blood asked me about my bracelet.  He mentioned that he had seen quite a few people who wore them, mostly Soldiers, and he wondered what they were.  I looked at his young face and smiled and proceeded to tell them what the black bands were all about and then went on to tell him about the two Soldiers for whom my bracelet honored.  As he withdrew the needle and bandaged my arm, he put his hand on my arm and thanked me for sharing.  I looked at him and thanked him for asking.

Everyone wears the bracelet for different reasons.  9 years ago I made a promise to honor these men.  I promised to never forget.  The bracelet is a reminder to me of that promise.  Some people don't need the bracelet and I hope that even if I wasn't wearing the bracelet that I would still be doing my best to honor these men. 

It's weird to think that it's been 9 years since these men were called to Heaven.  I've had people ask me if I am ever going to stop wearing the bracelet.  I don't know.  Whether is 9 years or 49 years, I plan on doing all I can to never forget these men and the many others who were called home sooner than anyone anticipated. 

A couple months ago, Kevin's bracelet broke.  He has worn that bracelet for almost 9 years.  Slipping it on his wrist a few weeks after Bryant and Jose were called home.  I can count on one hand how many times he has taken it off and only out of necessity.  When he slipped it off after it broke, my heart ached when I looked at his face.  This bracelet was important to him.  I anticipated this moment and 9 years ago I had set aside an extra bracelet for him.  It's not just a bracelet to him.

I can't pretend to understand what the Herlem or Gomez family are going through on this day and I don't want to nor do I want to take anything away from them.  I'm simply sharing how important these men are to us and our promise to honor them the best way we know how. 

We live our life serving Soldiers, we try to honor both the living and the dead.  We wear a black band on our wrist...

It's not just a bracelet...it's a legacy.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

April 2nd is Autism Awareness Day, But for Us, That's Everyday

"There needs to be a lot more emphasis on what a child can do instead of what he cannot do." Temple Grandin 

We have always told Neil he could accomplish anything he put his mind to. We have encouraged him and at times even pushed a little. Our goal for him was to live beyond being a label. The journey hasn't always been easy, in fact there have been days where I wondered if we could endure. There are victories and there are challenges and above all of that, there are blessings. 

I hear all the time that people never knew that Neil was on the spectrum. For a long time I didn't really talk about it, not because I was ashamed but because I didn't want him boxed into a label. We worked hard so his potential wouldn't be limited by a stereotype. We've been blessed with educators, counselors and coaches who believed in him enough to push him beyond the shell he lived in for so long. 

Not too many years ago I feared for what kind of life he would have. Today I find comfort in knowing that he is a friend, an athlete, a leader, a coach, a mentor and an amazing son and brother. He is more than a label and a diagnosis. He is my Neil and I'm grateful for all that he teaches me.

April 2nd is Autism Awareness Day, but for us, that's everyday. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

I'm Okay With My Son Losing

We just finished up our last weekend of folkstyle state for kid's club.  It's the last one for our family as Daniel will head off to high school next year.  I can't even believe I just typed that!  Daniel did not reach his goal to be on the medal stand but it wasn't for lack of effort!  Saturday was a devastating day.  Daniel went out in his first match and won by pin.  He went to his second match and fought hard pushing the match into overtime and just falling short of the win.  He went out and won his 3rd match and he fought hard in his fourth but again went into overtime and just fell short.  I could have cried...I might have cried, I honestly don't know.  Daniel was devastated. 

I pondered all night and even yesterday and this is what I came to.  I'm okay with my son losing.  I mean as a parent, we need to teach our kids that it's okay to lose.  Losing stinks and it hurts but it can make kids have tremendous growth if you let it.  Daniel made the decision to stay for the rest of the tournament to support his teammates and friends.  I know how I felt watching everyone else, I can't imagine what it was like for him but he was amazing.  He cheered his friends on.  He hung around with other wrestlers from other teams and he turned a hard situation into a fun one.  It wasn't until medals were being awarded that he broke down.  He sat next to me in the stands, put his head in his lap and cried.  There was nothing I could say to make him feel better.  A friend sat next to him and talked to him, hugged him and made him feel better.

As terrible as that was, I am still okay with my son losing and this is why.  Through all of that, Daniel held his head up high.  After his loss that knocked him out of the running for a medal, he stood up, walked to the center of the mat, shook his opponents hand and even hugged him.  Yesterday as I watched the medal rounds, I saw kids and coaches screaming, throwing headgear and having tantrums when things didn't go their way.  I sat in front of a woman who complained to anyone who would listen using vulgar language for over 2 hours about her son's loss.  She even threatened to beat the other kid if he looked at her.  The kid is 7.  When her son sat next to her, she just told him over and over that he was the true winner.

Wrestling isn't always fair, I will say that.  You have one man as a referee who doesn't always see what we see or share the same opinion as we do as to what should be points or what shouldn't be.  It's frustrating.  Guess what?  Life's not fair either.  Sometimes things aren't what we think they should be in wrestling or life.  We need to teach our kids that just because their best efforts don't give us the results we want doesn't mean that they failed.  We need to encourage without taking away from others.  Why must we step on others to bring ourselves up and why are we teaching that to our kids?  Yes, it is frustrating when it seems that someone has an easier journey but we just have to take away that perhaps we have something to learn from our own path.  I was so proud of Daniel's actions on the mat and off the mat.  He was a good friend and good teammate.  I definitely learned from his example over the past couple days.
A smile during a tournament earlier in the season

He didn't step on others to make himself feel better.  If losing made him a better person than I am all for it.  This is but a moment in his life, he will look back at this and use it as motivation for the coming years as he continues his wrestling career.  Even if he never stepped on the mat again, I will forever be grateful for all that he has learned from this sport.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

I'm Grateful for Perspective

November brings messages of Thanksgiving and plenty of food.  Yesterday when I woke up and pondered on what the day would bring, I was surprised that I wasn't feeling depressed that Michael wasn't here to celebrate the holiday.  I reflected on that for a moment and wondered how I could have such peace when in the past during separation from anyone in our family, I have felt extreme sadness.  What I realized quickly was that my heart had a deep understanding that Michael is exactly where he should be doing what the Lord wants him to be doing.  The slap in the face for me came when I realized that I should have felt that way during all of Kevin's deployments as well.  I say I know that the Lord has a plan for us but my fear and worry in those cases contradicts that.  I should have prayed for peace and understanding that Kevin was also on the Lord's errand, it just looked different than Michael's.

So many other missionary moms talk about their sadness and pain and I started to wonder if I was the weird one because I wasn't overcome with those emotions.  I fully expected to be as Michael prepared to go on his mission.  I mean, let's be serious, I am the mom that stresses when the kids drive themselves to school.  I almost had a heart attack a couple days ago when Neil drove to work out and it started snowing while he was gone.  What's interesting is that I don't have that anxiety when it comes to Michael being in a completely foreign county. 

Michael is on the Lord's errand and He is the one in control.  I can't be sad that Michael has been obedient and willing to do as his Heavenly Father has asked.  I need to be obedient and not live my life with fear and worry.  I need to exercise my faith that all will be well. Who better to watch over Him than his Father in Heaven?

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Boys of Fall 2014 - Daniel

 Daniel had a great season.  He was a tackling machine!  He was frustrated that he was on "B" team but eventually just focused on going out there and doing his best.  He was happy just hitting people.  I am constantly amazed that my little boy is so athletic.  When he first started playing he was so awkward and now he is a force to be reckoned with.  I love the games where they announced names of those making tackles...#29 is a beast!!!

Thursday, September 11, 2014


I always think on this day that there isn't possibly anything else I can say about the events from now 13 years ago.  What's interesting is that every year I am taken back to the images and the emotions.  They are so clear.  I gauge how far we've come by where my kids are in life.  They were so young then and now our oldest has left the nest and is on his own adventure.  I remember being so scared that day wondering if I would ever be strong enough to let my boys leave the house again.  Obviously I have.  Now Michael is in Germany serving a mission for our church.  He still wants to join the Military when he gets back which amazes me.

Just last night Neil came home from college night talking about the Military recruiters he had chatted with.  He has always talked about joining the Military but we always thought it was just that.  Not only does he have a desire to serve in the Military but he wants to be a Navy Seal or Army Ranger.  His sense of duty and honor run deep.

Daniel still seems so young to me but he was just an infant that day.  He has known no different life other than that post 9/11.  He has grown up with Patriot Day and a dad who was gone more than he was home.  He learned the reality of war in a close intimate way when we lost a friend and spent many hours, days and months with his widow.  Daniel has such love and respect for our Fallen.

Our three boys know that 9/11 is more than a day to be remembered once a year.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Boys of Fall 2014 - Neil

 I love watching Neil wrestle but there is something awesome about watching him play football.  He didn't play last year and I didn't realize how much I missed watching him until his first game of this season.  I was overwhelmed with excitement!  It is so fun watching him on the field.  He really hoped to be on Varsity as a linebacker but those spots are taken by seniors this year.  He does play on kickoff and while it's not quite enough for him I'm happy to see him on the field every Friday night. 

He is a starter on his JV squad and is a beast.  It's funny to think that when he came home in 7th grade I was so nervous about him playing and now here he is, often a leader.  I am so proud of how far he has come and look forward to seeing him get even better.

Go #90!

 One of the things I love the most about Friday night football is watching the four boys from our church gather together in prayer before each game.  I love these tender moments!