My Son is a Soldier

My son became a soldier last week.

I was privileged to watch him swear his oath to defend our country. I was a bit disturbed when he had to vow to obey the orders of the President because I rarely, if ever, agree with most of the actions our Presidents take. I’m proud of my son because he is able to set aside his personal political views in order to do a job so many of us have never experienced.

It seems so often that the life of our soldiers — what they endure, and what they have to give up — goes unnoticed and unappreciated by so many as they focus on how right or wrong war is, or try to prove why their political party is ‘better’ or ‘more correct’.

Before Vader was sworn in, I talked to him about this choice he wanted to make, bringing up the very real possibility that war may be coming. I wasn’t discussing it because I didn’t want him to join — I believe the choices my adult children make are very much their own and they need to know their mother supports them — but I wanted to make sure he’d thought it through on many levels. And he had. He explained what he thought about serving in wartime, how his weekly training through Future Soldiers had helped prepare him for the likelihood of serving during a war, and helped me understand that he had peace about his decision. We talked about how our relationship will transition from mentoring into friendship and he liked that idea and the freedom it holds.

I don’t feel anymore that Vader chose the Army to please his father or to try to have some connection to him. I realize that this choice comes from somewhere else inside Vader and I deeply respect it.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have times where I’m afraid, or I wonder if he made the right choice, but I know that’s my emotional mommy trying to take over what I know to be true: this is what Vader wanted to do.

It hurts me to see people post things on social media about how soldiers are just killing machines, or that they are murderers. I suppose some people can’t really understand the oath our troops swear until we’re watching our own kids doing it. My son promised to carry out the orders of our President and Congress, period. He will do it no matter what his personal feelings might be at the time. He will do it with honor and courage borne from his incredible sense of duty to the country he loves.

I miss my son. His first several weeks in boot camp require no contact with us. I spend a lot of time wondering where he is, what he’s doing, and how he’s faring. I pray for him many times throughout the day and trust that the God I love and serve goes with Vader and will keep him safe.

Every one of our troops is someone’s son or daughter, someone’s brother or sister, someone’s husband or wife, someone’s daddy or mommy. They are human beings living and working apart from their families to defend our country, to defend us. 

My son isn’t a killing machine – he’s a man of honor who stepped up to the plate to carry out a job so many of us would never do, but love to criticize.

Here at home we’re staying Army Strong because that’s what he taught us and that’s what our soldier needs.

I’m so thankful to love a soldier.

 

Father Of The Bride

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My first husband, Chuck, and I were married in May of 1989. We had a fairy tale wedding — no two people were more in love than we.

A year into our marriage we learned that we were expecting our first child. I was frightened, but from the moment he found out, Chuck was elated. Once I overcame my initial fears, we had a great time planning and dreaming, making lists of names, buying baby clothes, putting the crib together. Chuck wanted a girl and shared with me so many of the things he couldn’t wait to do if we were blessed with a daughter, but the greatest thing he looked forward to was lifting her up and swinging her around in the air.

He died on a stormy afternoon, the day after our baby’s due date. Our daughter, Melody, was born a week later. Devastated over the loss of my husband, my heartbreak deepened when I delivered our beautiful baby and discovered Chuck had been sent the daughter he had yearned for but would never get to meet.

My Melody is now 24 years old and in eight days she will be walking down the aisle to marry her soul mate. She and I have had talks about her daddy, we’ve discussed how to take traditional roles her dad would have filled at the wedding and how to change them to accommodate someone else without giving the impression that they are filling in or taking his place. I was honored when she asked me to help walk her down the aisle and to give the ‘Father-of-the-Bride’ speech.

I’ve lamented the unfairness of his absence during Melody’s life, but today I’m especially grieved that he won’t be physically present on her wedding day. I don’t need lectures on how nothing in life is fair — I’m well aware. It doesn’t change that outrageous feeling, though. Melody and I were robbed, it wasn’t fair, I have never gotten over it, and I know I never will.

But that’s okay. It’s okay to have moments where I say it’s not fair. God hears me and I believe He’s just quietly and lovingly acknowledging that no, it isn’t fair, but it will be alright.

As I take that slow, sweet walk with my daughter on her wedding day I believe Chuck will be there walking with us. I think he’s happy for his baby girl and is bursting with pride over the remarkable woman she has become.

I know I am.

Soldier Boy

It’s been a roller coaster of emotions this holiday season — from the general business of preparing for Christmas to the gamut of emotions we all experience this time of year. December marked the 5-year anniversary of our flight to freedom from my abusive ex-husband and Christmas Eve would have been the wedding anniversary with that ex-spouse. My kids have mixed feelings about all of this — appreciating their freedom and safety but wishing their father would have made better choices for the family. Bittersweet feelings about a wedding anniversary of the parents who don’t speak to each other any more. The heartbreak of having a father they can’t know or talk to because he’s residing in a prison 1,200 miles away. Not having their birth family intact for the holidays.

All the while they are experiencing the joy of the holidays and the appreciation they feel for their step-dad, whom they all love so much more than I think they ever believed they could — or wanted to. I see them during their extreme highs and their extreme lows. I can tell when they’re hurting, even though most times they don’t say anything. Sometimes we get through these times successfully and sometimes we fail miserably, but no matter what we keep walking together.

Amidst all of the holiday preparations and celebrations Vader asked if we would meet with an Army recruiter he’d been talking to at his high school. He’d taken some practice ASVABs and scored remarkably high and my son was excited to get all of the formalities out of the way in order to enlist. The meeting went well and we were able to set up formal ASVAB testing during Vader’s winter break from school. It turns out that he scored even higher on the real tests. My boy is so excited about enlisting. He’s to be sworn in next week. It’s moving so fast I haven’t had time to take a breath and process most of it, so I cry a lot — I’m so proud of him, yet the severing of the apron strings hurts.

Vader was groomed for service in the military by his father. Since my son was born, I was told that he was going to be a soldier. When we were free from his father I encouraged my son to do whatever he wanted and assured him that nobody expected him to become a soldier just because it was what his father expected of him. Now he’s come full circle and has chosen the military for himself.

Part of my tears are for what was lost for Vader. He can’t call his father and tell him what a huge success he has experienced with the ASVABs. It breaks my heart for my son, and it makes me angry at Rail yet again for the choices he made. He’s missing out on knowing these beautiful children and watching them grow into wonderful people. I don’t feel bad for him, but my heart breaks for my children who will always live with not just the repercussions of a broken home, but the void of the absentee father in prison. They couldn’t pick up the phone to share their good news even if they wanted to, and that makes a broken family all the more difficult to ‘fix’ — it’s another time where we just keep walking and try to figure it out as we go.

I am insanely proud of all of my kids. They’ve been through hell and back and they have all chosen to take those experiences and use them to overcome and thrive. My heart feels as if it might burst right now as I watch Vader transitioning from boy to man. I worry that he doesn’t realize how much I love him or that I’ll always be there to support him. Atticus reminds me that I don’t need to worry about that because if Vader doesn’t realize it now, it will come to him eventually.

Vader, I love you, I’m proud of you, and I’m your biggest cheerleader. I can’t wait to see what’s next for you — I believe great things are coming!

 

Service

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Over the summer my oldest son, Artie, announced to the family that he planned to join the Navy. It was a shock to me because I knew my artistic son wanted to attend art school and eventually design automobiles. I cried and told him no matter what he chose to do I was behind him 100%. We had many discussions about military life, careers, why he chose the Navy.

My very first concern for Artie was how he could truly desire a life in the military because he’s such a mild-mannered, extremely warm, gentle young man. In high school he was encouraged to join the football team because he’s a big guy, but he had no desire to join, fearing he might hurt someone. So my mother’s heart wondered how a military career would suit my son, but I came to understand that with my boy’s gentle and loving heart came a deep desire to honor and serve his country. I see him as my first-born baby boy, but he’s a man wanting to do what comes naturally to men: protect.

Eventually I grew accustomed to the idea as Artie learned more and shared openly with us about his desire to pursue a career as a mechanic in the Navy. When it was time to get serious with the recruiter we discovered that Artie wasn’t currently eligible to enlist because he’d been diagnosed with asthma as a child. In order to join he had to see a specialist and have testing done to make sure he no longer has asthma. His lack of medical insurance has made it a hindrance to join for now, but he’s working to slim down a bit and become more physically fit, which is still a very positive step in the direction he’s chosen. I know he’ll get there when he’s meant to.

Yesterday Vader came to me after school wringing his hands and telling me he needed to talk to me. I knew it was serious and I immediately felt a sense of dread from the vibes Vader was throwing out. He began to tell me how he’s wanted to join the Marines since he was in ninth grade, but when he saw how difficult it was for me when Artie announced his plans for the Navy, he felt that he couldn’t tell me what he wanted to do with his life. I cried and had a small panic attack because I immediately envisioned my son on the front lines and I couldn’t even breathe. He asked for permission to stay after tutoring this week to talk in-depth with the recruiter at his high school. I asked him to give me some time to process that because I was due elsewhere for a meeting.

I sent texts to my brother, Tate, my daughter, Melody, and my Wonder Twin. My brother was behind Vader from word one, encouraging me that it would be very good for my son and would help him with his anger problems. Melody and I talked back and forth and she, too, suggested that this might be the best thing for him. My Wonder Twin has a son who serves and she was very positive, telling me not to panic, he had a long road to walk and lots of testing to pass.

After the meeting I went home and sat down with Vader. I told him that I wanted him to hear what I’d told all of my kids when they talked to me about major life decisions: find your passion, plan your future, then run towards that future with arms wide open and DON’T. LOOK. BACK. Then I talked to him about two of my concerns. All of his life Vader was groomed by his father for military life — mostly, I believe, because it’s what Rail wanted but wasn’t able to pursue due to a birth defect. I urged him to think carefully about this choice, and that he needs to enlist if it’s what he wants, not because it’s what he knows his father wanted for him. My second concern was that he was choosing military because he didn’t know what else he wanted to do with his life. He promised me he would think carefully about my concerns, but that becoming a Marine was his passion.

I’m worried about the choices Vader will make in the next few months. He’s the child who is fueled by anger and rage and makes decisions based on those feelings. I know there isn’t much I can do except be available to Vader if he wants advice. What it comes down to for me is trusting God to help my son navigate these monumental decisions. I choose to actively place my faith in God — to believe that He will always walk with Vader and provide for him, even if my boy never chooses to follow Him. I don’t say this lightly — I still feel off-balance, panicked, and fearful, but I do know that the more I pray and believe God’s got Vader’s life in His hands and wants the very best for him — even more so than his own mother — those feelings will subside and Vader’s future will sit well with me.

Thank you for joining me today for my very late entry in the A to Z September Challenge!

Quit

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The struggle with my son Vader has not lessened or ended. It changes as he searches for something he’ll never find: the quick fix. He’s looking for that one thing that will erase the past, make it right, remove the pain, return his dad to him. I’ve watched him jump from one thing to the next for almost 5 years. It’s a difficult and painful thing to watch your child experience, especially when the next quick fix is a failure.

Most of us know by now that there is no such thing — that healing takes time, work, and forgiveness, which can be an arduous task. In the meantime, he takes the pain, anger, and hatred out on his family. He is feared by so many of us because we’ve experienced his plunge into rage so deep and dark that it became disturbingly violent. So we choose to placate, tiptoe, and generally avoid his pissy moods as much as we can.

I set some new boundaries lately and called a family meeting to discuss them. I laid out some new rules for Vader about sleep patterns, reasonable bedtimes for a teen who has to be up at 5 am for school, and helping out around the house. My son, of course, had some choice words about all of it, and those included his hatred for God and his ‘decision’ to quit attending church with us. God was one of those things Vader thought would be a quick fix, but when that didn’t pan out he gave up and moved along.

One of the expectations I place on my children is that we all attend church together on Sunday. They aren’t required to speak to anyone, or participate in any other extra activities with the kids at the church unless they so choose. It’s family time, and I hope they will also discover by attending that they are loved and valued in God’s house — it’s a place they can always seek and find help.

So I shot down Vader’s decision about quitting church, which displeased him greatly.

My other kids were hurt and distressed over Vader’s disdain for God. They wanted to know why, but Vader has no answers he’s willing to share — mostly, I think, because he doesn’t really know why himself.

Later on, in our bedroom, Atticus and I were talking about what happened with Vader and the things he said. My husband gently suggested that I need to figure out the right time to quit. I’m not a quitter, and said as much. Then he explained that I need to find the place where I stop thinking I can do whatever Vader needs, or find whatever Vader is looking for, and quit so that God can take over.

It’s a monumental undertaking to attempt to stop helping enabling my child in order to let God take over and be there for him.

Some people believe that when we’re heading in a bad direction in life that it’s God who will take us as low down as we can possibly go in order to bring us around to what is right. I don’t. I believe He allows us to continue choosing what we want, digging ourselves a deeper and deeper hole, until we realize we have nothing and see Him standing right there with us, ready and willing to help us climb out of whatever pit we’ve sunk into so completely. It’s that place where we really meet God — and it’s a situation of our own making, not God’s.

No parent wants to see negative things affecting their children, but I suppose Atticus was saying that I have to let Vader wallow in whatever muck he’s choosing until he sees that God is the One who is always there — the only One who will never fail him. Right now I don’t know that I can step back and let Vader fall on his own — not because I don’t trust God to be there, but because I’m afraid that stepping away would fail my son.

I have so much to think about.

Mom

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It’s hard being a mom.

I’ve been a widowed mom, an abused mom, a survivor mom, a warrior mom, a single mom, a happily married mom, and a step-mom. There is not a stage of being a mom that is easy or uncomplicated. We don’t receive a guide when we deliver our firstborn, although I do tell my kids all about the rules in the Mommy Handbook that came with each one of them before we left the hospital. When they are young they believe in such a book and are more willing to follow the rules because they purportedly come from a book of life skills.

I’m always a bit sad when they come to the realization that there’s no Mommy Handbook. I wonder what they think — what assumptions they make, what conclusions they draw. Do they realize Mom is just winging it? That I’m just living day-to-day garnering wisdom as I walk this life? Do they understand that the reason I fail at making certain decisions is because I’m just as human, as incomplete, as fallible as they? Are they able to comprehend that much of what I do, what I teach them, and where I lead them is based off of gut feelings? Still, they trust me to keep leading them despite my shortcomings and downright failures.

Nothing I’ve ever gone through in my life was as challenging or difficult — or rewarding — as being a mom, but in writing this I’ve realized I survived it all because I was a mom — for the sake of the hearts who depended solely on me.

What great and boundless love we have for the children we call our own, whether they were delivered from our own bodies, or entered our hearts in other ways. What wouldn’t we do for them?

What, indeed.

My family at Bok Tower and Gardens

My family at Bok Tower and Gardens

Thank you for joining me today for the A-Z September Blogging Challenge. I hope you’ll take a moment to visit some of our other writers:

http://madeformusicforever.blogspot.com/

http://rsliwa.wordpress.com/

http://heidibethbaker.weebly.com/blog

http://squeezingthefruit.blogspot.com/

http://diaryofamotorhead.wordpress.com/

http://freckledfaerie.blogspot.com/

Judgement

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Judgement.

It’s an ugly word. Either we’re dishing it out in unwanted bushels or we’re on the very uncomfortable receiving end. No matter where we are standing it isn’t a good place.

It is so easy to believe we know what is happening in a certain situation and therefore we have the right to comment or offer unsolicited advice.

You know what I mean. We’ve all heard someone criticize that woman in the grocery line who is holding a smart phone yet using food stamps — if she can afford a phone like that, she shouldn’t be leeching off of the government. Or the mom with ‘too many’ kids who should be ‘smart enough’ to understand how to use birth control — and how many daddies are there, anyway? What about the man at the church food bank who took his food and loaded it into the back of a shiny new Lincoln Navigator? As easy as it may be to cast aspersions in these situations, we know nothing about what brought any of these people to where they currently find themselves.

After church today we needed to do some shopping and return some items to the library, so Atticus suggested that I do the shopping with help from my teens while he took the borrowed DVDs back to the library. Upon entering the store and heading for a cart I realized I was very unstable on my feet. I was teetering precariously until I could hold onto the cart to stabilize myself. I saw that there were several motorized carts available and wondered if I should use one instead of walking. Artie said it was a good idea because falling would mean broken bones and a possible fracture or break in my neck. I considered it briefly, the decided against it.

You already know why.

Judgement.

Today I wasn’t willing to put up with the arched brows and the critical stares from people who don’t see an obvious disability. So I risked my safety for the peace of mind I had blending in with everyone else. My boys weren’t very happy with my choice, but they accepted it because I told them why I chose to walk. They know too well how it feels to be on the receiving end of unmerited criticism, so they quit giving me grief and let me do things my way.

Having a disability that is currently not visible has helped me have much more empathy for others. We need to remember to stay quiet until we’ve walked that mile in someone else’s shoes…and even then we need to open our mouths with only support and encouragement.