Tuesday, September 11, 2018

9/11/2018

17 years.  17 years since the day our country changed.  So many memories, experiences, emotions.  I look at my youngest child and think of all that he has experienced in his life.  It's his senior year, he is prepping for college, he's growing up.  I have typically rehashed my feelings, emotions, our experience as a Military family but this year I want to share something different.

As a part of my service as an AmeriCorps VISTA, I was able to volunteer with my team at a Veterans Home.  I knew it was going to be a good day but the experience far exceeded my expectations.  From the moment I walked in until I left, my heart was full.  We played dominoes with a 94 year old World War II Veteran who shared with us his tales of service, we witnessed a Veterans council where these amazing men honored their friends who had passed within the last month and paused for a moment to honor those who perished on 9/11/2001.  We got to serve ice cream, a simple but delightful moment to witness these elderly men helping one another with their bowls.  They fought next to each other in war and now they serve one another at some of their darkest moments.

As I caught myself almost in tears many times throughout the days I realized that what I was witnessing was exactly the feelings I felt on September 12th.  We all pulled together, we stood in solidarity.  We helped those who needed help and we felt a sense of pride in doing so.  We pulled together.  These men I spent time with continued that unconditional love.

I do believe our country is still more together than apart but we could do better.  We can remember that we are better together than fighting.  We can treat each other with respect, we can laugh more, we can honor more and we can express empathy for all mankind.

As we were getting ready to leave, we thanked everyone for allowing us the opportunity to come and serve them.  When we turned to leave, these Veterans broke out in applause...for us.  I was overcome with emotion, we did so little and got so much in return.

On 9/11/2001, we suffered a great tragedy and on 9/12/2001 so many did little things that got them so much more in return.  We shouldn't forget 9/11/2001 but we should live our lives like we did on 9/12/2001.

#NeverForget

Saturday, September 08, 2018

The Tale of Sapper Princess

I cannot believe it has been just over a week since we had to make the painful decision to let our sweet Sapper cross the rainbow bridge.  I am still very much devastated.  Sapper was 12 years old and had been struggling with a heart condition that we found out about just a little over a month ago.  I was naive enough to believe the medicine was working when in actuality she was getting worse. 

I was ill-equipped to deal with the loss of our baby girl.  I was shocked at the deepness of emotions that I have been feeling.  We sobbed...ugly, red-faced, loud, gut wrenching cries that echo throughout the room sobbing.  I was not prepared for that.






Sapper came into our lives when our family needed healing.  She has been through combat deployments, moves, breakups, my boys going on missions and off to college.  She has been there through family deaths, Army retirement, surgeries and just because.  While Sapper was closest to me and Neil, she really loved all of us, she went to whomever needed extra love and she was a fierce protector.  I still don't know what she thought she was going to do with her 3.5 lbs of attitude but she sure let you know she was going to do her best to protect her humans.

 We have been a huge mess trying to transition without our baby girl.  I had a really hard time processing my emotions.  I was so confused by how much I would cry or just feel in general.  I didn't cry this hard when my dad died, I never cried this much over a human death and it really perplexed me.  As I continued to ponder on it, I realized it was because Sapper truly gave us all unconditional love.  She loved us no matter what.  My human relations always had some type of condition attached to their love and with Sapper she just loved.  She loved me when I was annoyed at her for not going to bed, or when I accidentally dropped my phone on her or when we were gone all day.  She loved me when I forgot to feed her on time or dropped some food on her when she was hanging out in the kitchen.  She loved me always and she always forgave.
I know eventually our hearts will heal and we will be able to think of her without pain but we are all grateful for this precious soul who was brought into our loves to teach us love and forgiveness. 
We love you Sapper Princess, we miss you and we were blessed with 12 amazing years with you.





Saturday, August 04, 2018

Retirement


I was reflecting a couple days ago about our “retired” life.  I put it in quotations because we are still far from hanging out on the rocking chairs and frolicking our days away.  I should note that I actually know few retirees whose lives are that relaxing!

When we were preparing for our retirement from the Army, I remember feeling a sense of anxiety about all the unknowns.  Was Kevin going to be able to find a job, what kind of job, will it pay enough to pay our bills?  Do we stay here in Missouri, if we don’t want to stay here, where do go and how do we get there?  Do we rent a house, buy a house, stay in post housing now that they have it open to retirees?  Does Nadine get a real job that pays more money?  Do we get additional medical insurance, how is retiree insurance through the military? 

If I’m being honest and anyone who knows me in real life knows that I’m pretty honest, the last few months of Kevin’s time in the Army was a challenge.  I’m going to go ahead and throw it out there for the sake of being real, he had a terrible chain of command and they treated Kevin horrible.  Not only Kevin but a lot of Soldiers in his unit.  That definitely assisted with the transition though because I no longer felt emotionally attached to the Army, I was ready for us to slam that chapter shut and move on.

I just want to say that the only way we survived the stress of our last few months in the Army was through the grace of God.  He truly led the way and literally everything fell in place almost perfectly.  Kevin was moved from his last battalion over to the gym.  Apparently, that is the Army’s version of a pasture where they take old horses to spend their last days.  It was a huge blessing!  Kevin was able to take care of medical issues that he had put on the back burner to be the good Soldier that he was.  He was able to look for a job to transition to and found one that he actually loves!  His retirement ceremony was special and a memory I will forever treasure.  I’m glad we decided to go through with it because we were so frustrated about how things were going, we were going to just walk away but I felt strongly that we needed official closure and watching him receive his retirement award and flag provided that.






I don't know what kind of wife he thought I was, but he felt impressed to point out Army Chief of Staff had signed my certificate.  Thanks, I actually knew who he was...sir!



Initially, we were going to stay in our house on post but when they told us how much they wanted us to continue paying for a house that wasn’t even worth that amount and with us knowing we were no longer getting a housing allowance we decided it was time to pack up and move out.  
I took this picture the last day we were in our house on post.  This was what I wrote about the picture:  If these walls could talk...what stories would they tell? We lived in our house on Fort Leonard Wood for 7 years. Today we cleared our house on post and I feel like we have officially closed that chapter of our lives. Now I feel like we are officially retired and beginning the next phase of life. So blessed by the experiences the Army gave us and am eager to utilize the skills and experience to bless others in this next journey!
We were blessed to have a dear friend as our realtor who took phenomenal care of us and got us through the process of buying a house quickly.  That part was a huge whirlwind but thankfully all of our boys were home and we had great friends who helped us out and before we knew it, we were in our own amazing house.
 
We closed on our house on my birthday!
Retirement has been better than I ever imagined.  I don’t miss anything about Army life. We have amazing memories, we made great friends, had growing experiences and we are grateful for the journey but retirement is good!  No more worries about deployments, no more endless calls through the night, no more Army gear all over my living room floor!

We live right outside the Army installation so we get enough Army to keep us going but we are okay not living it every day.  Retirement life is beautiful!

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Just.Be.Kind



Let me preface this post by stating that this is absolutely something I also need to work on.  I am definitely a work in process in so many ways and this is just one of my many “under construction” areas.

This is something I have really been thinking about most of this summer.  I have been really fortunate to witness some powerful moments of kindness but I have also been able to watch, uncomfortably, moments of exclusion and downright meanness.  Both areas invoked much emotion from me.  I used to think I wasn’t that emotional of a person, but the reality is…I am, sometimes too much!

One of the cool things I get to do through my service as an AmeriCorps VISTA is coordinating a leadership camp for middle school and high school students in our local school district.  In our curriculum, we do an anti-bullying lesson.  If I am being honest, I have not been happy with our lesson the past couple of years and really wanted to create something that would leave a long-lasting impression and hopefully spark a desire to truly be an ambassador to just be kind.

I have a dear friend whose family has started a rock campaign in honor of her nephew who took his own life last year as a result of being bullied.  They are located in North Carolina but their story really resonated with me and I wanted to somehow pull their mission into my lesson on bullying.  I reached out to her and asked if she was open to starting a kindness rock garden at our school, hoping to expand that across our district (I am still working on that).   She jumped at the opportunity and came in, shared her story and our high school kids started our kindness rock garden.  This activity was powerful!  I mean people were crying, sharing their stories and in the moment, were motivated to create change.  I can only hope that the students and adults who were a part of that, will be able to carry that through.




After that amazing experience, I made a personal decision to work hard to be a better person.  I wanted to be kinder.  I don’t necessarily struggle to be kind, but I do know that I am often not as nice as I need to be when I’ve become frustrated with people.  I don’t go out of my way to be unkind, but I also don’t go out of my way to be nice.

So, what is the point of this rambling?  I can be very forgiving when kids are kind because I believe they are still very much in the development phases of their life.  They mimic behaviors, they exhibit values and beliefs from their home lives and sometimes they are just unaware of their words and actions because no one has taught them or they have not really grasped the concepts that are being taught.  I, however, struggle when it comes to adults who are mean because I believe they should know better.

One of the most disappointing acts I witnessed this summer was a group of young adults purposely excluding a peer.  It broke my heart and fired me up at the same time.  I went throughout the day replaying it in my head, trying to make sense of it and even thinking that perhaps what I saw was not actually what happened.  After discussing it with a few different people, it was confirmed that it actually did happen and that just made me sad.  I try so hard to be an advocate for our youth because I think sometimes they get a bad rap and I have seen so much good from teens and young adults, I just didn’t get to witness it that day and the fact that it was intentional was so hard for me.

So, after that moment, again, I made a personal decision to strive to be better.  The reality, folks, is that we are definitely not going to click with every person we meet, work with, serve with, interact with.  That being said, we can still be kind!  I have an intense personality that I have worked on mellowing out over the past decade.  I mean, I have worked hard to be intentional in my thoughts and actions.  I falter, daily.  Just yesterday, I spoke before thinking and said something to a peer harshly.  Immediately, I felt remorse and apologized the first chance I got.  It didn't take away any hurt I may have caused, but I hope they recognized that I knew I was wrong and that I tried to fix it.

So, in closing to this long rambling thought is that we all just need to work on being kind.  Not to get something in return but just because it’s the right thing to do and it’s really not that hard.  It’s something I am trying to work on and it’s something we all probably need to put a little more effort in.  Just be kind!

“Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again.” ~Og Mandino