4.23.2013

Get Angry About Boston

For the past week, I've remained relatively quiet about the terrorist attack on the Boston Marathon last Monday. It's not that I don't have feelings on the subject; it's that I have a whole lot of them, many of them constantly changing.

I was an 18 year old freshman in college when we were attacked on September 11, 2001. I didn't know anyone who was hurt or killed in the attacks, and Chapel Hill is tucked conveniently away from New York City and Washington, D. C. Yet, those conspirators succeeded in striking fear into my heart. I felt terror, in all of its cold, ugly reality, worm its way into my psyche. I have never forgotten it.

Immediately following the Boston attack, my newsfeed was inundated with statements by my friends expressing support for the victims and the city of Boston, pledges to take nothing for granted, and admonitions to hold loved ones close. These are important sentiments, naturally, the likes of which I expect from my fellow Americans. Be supportive. Be aware of the fleeting nature of life. Be appreciative of others.

And be angry.

In our shock and our dismay, let's not forget the facts. As sickening and upsetting as the event was, it was not a tragedy. A tragedy is an accidental plane crash, or a tornado flattening a town, or a fertilizer plant explosion that kills dozens. A tragedy is an accident. This was a calculated, premeditated, coordinated attack. Two savages (assuming they worked alone) were completely and totally responsible for the deaths of three people, including an eight year old boy. They maimed and injured scores of others. I call them savages, because to me they are subhuman. I can't use the word "man" when referring to the type of animal who can look a stranger in the eye moments before blowing his legs off.

In my perfect world, the media would turn it's back on these wastes of the human form and deny them the attention they seek. I don't care about their childhoods, or their immigration to the U.S., or why they felt cheated and discriminated against. There is no human interest story that will make me view them with an ounce of sympathy, and I'd rather we not give other would-be attackers the idea that we Americans will give unlimited air time to every nutjob with an ax to grind and a sociopathic outlook.

Why are we so fascinated, anyways? The truth is, Americans are so obssessed with fairness that when something like this happens, it's too much to process. We've come to expect that everything in life will be fair, that everything will work out, from when everybody on our pee wee soccer team gets a trophy, to when our high school teachers accept our work two months late, to when our parents open their basements to us after college rent free. Things will work out, we believe, because they have to. This is America. Everybody gets a shot at everything - if you can't afford it, it's provided for you, for God's sake.

The problem is, life is often incredibly unfair. Sometimes, an insurgent blows up a mess tent in Mosul, killing soldiers when they're defenseless. Sometimes, a deranged lunatic shoots somebody you know at a gun range for no reason at all. Sometimes, two piece of shit terrorists detonate homemade IEDs in the middle of a marathon in a crowded city. None of these things is fair. Yet, they happen in the world we live in. It's ok to be shocked, and sad, and scared. But don't forget to be angry and indignant that someone dared to force on you the kind of terror that is becoming more and more a part of our reality. Don't be afraid to reject those people, vocally and emphatically, without a moment's thought for who and what they are. Don't be afraid to wipe them from your mind completely in order to focus on their innocent victims. They don't deserve your attention. They deserve less than what they have already had. Forget their names and make them faceless. Lose them completely, and hold onto the anger that comes along with the image of a child sized casket or a double amputee.

We can't let anger consume us, but we must never, ever forget why we feel it.

Despite what we're led to believe, the War on Terror is far from over. Al Qaeda is not defeated, and threats are present more than ever. Refusing to call something a terrorist attack doesn't change its nature, whether it be Fort Hood, Benghazi, or anywhere else. This is not a war we can expect to be won solely by the members of our military on foreign battlefields. This war is fought in the hearts and minds of the people - with the most intense battles in these weak and susceptible individuals who conceive to or are convinced to commit acts of violence. We are all combatants in the War on Terror. This is a war of ideology as much or more than the Cold War was. We, as a people, have to start approaching it collectively like the generations before us approached their adversaries. It's not convenient, and it's not fair. We didn't ask to be the targets of terrorism, and yet here we are. We can't expect to sit passively by and for everything to "work out" the way we've grown so accustomed to. Wake up, everybody. Grieve for the victims in Boston, and of attacks everywhere.

And remember to get angry.

4.09.2013

Support the Petition to Award Ty Woods and Glen Doherty the Congressional Gold Medal

I can honestly say I have never been more appalled by the Obama administration as I was in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on our citizens in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012 (and that's saying a lot). While I don't have the stomach right now for going back through all of the details and he saids/she saids about who knew what when and who called the attack a protest when they knew it was an act of terrorism, I would like to share a petition currently collecting signatures. The petition asks for Congress to award Ty Woods and Glen Doherty, two former SEALs who gave their lives defending the CIA complex against terrorists, the Congressional Gold Medal (the highest award Congress can give to a civilian).

Through all of the media miscontruing of information and official refusal to reveal the truth (remember Hillary Clinton asking "what difference does it make"?), one aspect of the story has remained relatively constant: Ty Woods and Glen Doherty willingly risked their lives to travel to the consulate building in order to come to the aid of those under attack. Later, at the CIA annex, they made the ultimate sacrifice while defending the building from its roof.

All political posturing aside, I think everyone can agree that these men went above and beyond the call of duty in a way that most of us could not even imagine. If they had commited such acts while active duty military, they certainly would be awarded high honors, possibly even the highest. It is a travesty that their families have received so little information and closure in terms of their last hours on Earth. I believe the nation owes them a great debt, and though a life cannot be repaid, it can be honored appropriately.

Please take a moment and read the petition. If you support it, please sign. I urge you also to contact your Senators and Representatives and tell them of your support for these awards.

4.05.2013

Dedication of the AO2 (SEAL) Marc A. Lee Training Center

On March 20th, I attended the dedication of TRADET. The entire training center was named after Marc Lee, the first SEAL killed in Iraq on August 2, 2006, and a friend and platoon mate of my husband's. The dedication took place on what would have been Marc's 35th birthday, and the first day of Spring.

The ceremony was very tastefully done and the Quarterdeck in the building in beautiful. I wanted to share some of the pictures I took.


One of my husband's least favorite pictures of himself (due to the molestache) made it onto the screen!

 Marc's awards.
 A quote from Marc's "Glory Letter" is below a picture of Marc in Ramadi (that my husband took!).
 Marc's mom, Debbie, makes her remarks.


3.19.2013

From Somewhere Above Missouri - Return to San Diego

I just paid $8 to use the WiFi on the airplane I'm sitting on, so I figure I better be productive.

I'm en route to San Diego for a dedication tomorrow of a Quarterdeck to Marc A. Lee. Marc was a Navy SEAL and platoon mate of my husband's. He was killed in Ramadi, Iraq on August 2, 2006.

Since leaving San Diego for good in April 2008, I've only been back twice. The first time was in September of 2008, shortly after my husband (then boyfriend) returned from his second deployment. We got engaged on the beach on Coronado at sunset. That trip marked a definite moment of transition in our lives - my husband was going on terminal leave soon, and we were preparing to embark on a new course together on the East Coast.

Last year, we came back for his friend's wedding. My husband was a groomsman, and I was happy to accompany him and visit with good friends who are stationed there now.

I get incredibly nostalgic making this trip. The year I lived in Imperial Beach with my husband was a roller coaster most of the time, but in some ways it was the best year of my life. At times, I can't believe we're approaching the five year anniversary of moving away - him to a new home in Iraq for six months, and me to Connecticut by way of a couple months in Virginia. I feel like the blink of an eye ago, I was roaring down the Strand in a fire engine red 1979 Chevy Silverado (roaring due to its lack of a catalytic converter), splitting my gaze dreamily between the shoreline view and the man driving it, who was the most terrifying, most exciting person I'd ever met. It was a big truck, and the arm's length distance the bench seat created between us was always too far.

Now, we're five years down the road and a lot has changed. I can't stay in bed all morning waiting for him to come home by noon from work on a Friday, or eat the most delicious sushi in the world at Meijo twice a week. I can't remember the last time I got someone kicked out of a bar, or the last time my husband punched somebody. We don't live in a neighborhood that would make the Sons of Anarchy blush anymore (although it never bothered me much then, when I lived with three SEALs and enough firepower to take down a small city) and I can't say I've come across any blood trails recently on a morning jog (yeah, that really happened). No more late nights at Danny's with a Devil Dog burger and a shot in honor of the latest addition on the wall where heroes are honored (when we got engaged, we walked directly to Danny's and did shots. Then, we had beers at McP's).

It's not all loss, though. I don't dread upcoming training trips or deployments anymore - because they're over for us. My son knows his father, and I am eternally grateful for that. Today, I return to a land of memories fully conscious of the community I have been fortunate enough to be a part of, in whatever small way. I appreciate the sacrifices they make constantly and honor men like Marc, and the many others, who will never get to make these periodic trips into their pasts.

Besides that, I got to marry that terrifying, exciting man. He hasn't changed.

More on the dedication after it takes place tomorrow.

3.14.2013

The Cherokee Nation of Texas and Chris Kyle

Last Friday, March 8th, I got to see one of the coolest things ever. We were in the Dallas area for my husband's Spring Break when we were invited to a very small and exclusive Cherokee ceremony. Greg Marra's clay sculpture of Chris Kyle had arrived and the Cherokee Nation of Texas wanted to bless the statue with a ceremony.

Let me preface this by saying I had no idea what to expect. It's not that I don't know anything about Native Americans or their history, but most of what I know has nothing to do with contemporary Native Americans. I'm trying to remember the last time I mentioned them in the AP U.S. History curriculum, and the Wheeler-Howard Act comes to mind - 1934. Needless to say, it's a different world than it was some 80 years ago.

We went with Chris' widow, his children, his parents, his mother in law, his brother's family, and a couple other close friends. We were ushered into a small waiting room and introduced to Chief Grey Wolf, who exhibited tremendous energy and excitement at the prospect of sharing a very special evening with us. The statue itself was hidden by a screen. They wanted us to first see it during the ceremony.

The ceremony opened with "Kiowa Jim" singing a number of traditional songs while he played a drum. The singing really did give me goosebumps. The flags were danced in in the Native American rendition of presenting the colors. There were very many veterans in attendance, some in uniform, some wearing hats or shirts that designated their branch of service.

I was struck by how patriotic these people are. I guess it's my own ignorance showing through, but I just never imagined Native Americans to be so committed to the United States of America. It was truly inspiring and awesome to be exposed to a group of people who could be so completely in tune with their heritage and still completely American. I have never met another people like them.

There were comic moments - personally, I thought it was a little funny to watch my husband smoke the pipe with the other veterans, even though it was a great honor. I also knew that during the Gourd Dance, when my husband was dancing in the circle and shaking a gourd around the statue of Chris, that Chris would have split his side laughing.

There were a lot of ways that the Cherokee chose to honor Chris. The chiefs burned sage over the statue, feathers beaded in the pattern of some of Chris' service awards were presented to the family, and there were songs dedicated to the Kyle family. The ceremony itself was begun by opening the circle. When the circle was opened in the mid 1800s, all of the chiefs were killed by white men, and it was therefore never closed. The Cherokee Nation of Texas is working with Governor Rick Perry to be able to finally close it. They will wait until the statue is completeed and close the circle around the statue - for the first time in more than 150 years.

Several people spoke. Chris' dad and brother spoke poignantly about Chris, while others described their roles in creating the statue, bringing it to Texas, and bringing everything together for the evening's ceremony. My husband spoke about being in the Teams with Chris, and what kind of a warrior he was. I couldn't help it, when he choked up the tears rolled down my face. I'm amazed at how strong the family has been - I guess we get to live our lives removed from the constant reminders, so when something like this comes up, it brings the pain afresh. His family is living it completely raw daily. I'm sure it must be numbing, and there must be times when you run out of tears.

Once again, I am amazed at the generosity of others. The artist explained his motivation for building the statue, which is to portray a hero with historical accuracy and patriotism. He is a really intense guy, but he's so committed to getting it right. The next day he worked with the family for hours adjusting details so as to best capture Chris. He listened carefully as my husband made observations about the weapons Chris carried and the rest of his gear.

I think maybe one of the most touching things I saw was the look on the face of the truck driver, who (with his wife) donated the transportation of the statue from Florida. While the speeches were being made, he looked like he was almost in tears. Afterwards, as we mingled and met people, he hugged everyone and thanked them. I was amazed by this man, so selfless, who was adamantly engrossed in thanking others, when he himself deserved a huge thanks.

A large portion of the cost of bronzing the statue has also been donated by the foundry, and I believe donations are covering the rest. Ultimately, the family will decide where the statue is displayed, but I hope it's somewhere that many people can see it. Moreso than simply representing Chris, it represents the generosity of others in a time of need and the hope of people who persevere.

I was deeply honored to be invited by the Cherokee Nation of Texas to witness this ceremony. Not only was it awesome as a history nerd to witness traditional dances and hear the singing, it was humbling to once again witness how Texans treat their heroes.



3.12.2013

The Nation's Portfolio: Risky Investments

I'm gonna come out and say it: I'm pro Sequestration. That's right, I actually think it's a good idea that the Fed is cutting spending. I don't know how you could look me in the face and tell me seriously that Washington doesn't have an out of control spending problem. I mean, if I had the same attitude toward household spending as our Congress does toward the nation, I'd be divorced. When your budget is unsustainable, it's a good idea to cut back. Right?

In this case, yes and no. In theory, cutting total spending is a good thing. When you have a government as bloated as your Grandpa after a marathon Thanksgiving dinner, austerity measures are necessary for survival. So what's bad about it? Our fearless leaders, in their infinite wisdom, have chosen to cut more than $500 billion from the Defense Department and other national security agencies. The rest of the cuts are to domestic areas such as national parks, federal courts, food inspections, etc.

I'm for sequestration as far as simple reduction of spending goes. My question about the sequester is this: why is the DoD bearing the brunt of the cuts, when social programs continue to spend money like our government can just conjure it up out of thin... oh, yeah. Don't get me wrong - I'm not one of those supporters of the military who believes every dime spent is put to good use just because it went to defense. I understand there are many areas where spending could be cut effectively when it comes to our military. I do not believe that many of the programs actually being cut, namely Tuition Assistance, fall into that category.

Let's take a little gander at the way the giant Federal pie is carved up. In 2010, our government spent more on Medicare, Medicaid, and health insurance for children than on defense spending ($732 billion to $705 billion). It spent twice as much on safety net programs (unemployment, housing assistance, etc) than on benefits to veterans and Federal retirees ($496 billion to $245 billion). That's not even accouting for the billions spent on Social Security - the same amount as on total defense and security spending. I'm going to leave Social Security alone, because it's too screwed up and because it falls outside the realm of my argument - you do have to work to collect it.

The problem, as I see it, is that lawmakers are unwilling to address the elephant in the room: social programs have a strangle hold on the Federal government. I would say they're strangling the budget, but let's be honest: we haven't had a budget in years. Our president and his Congress practice about as much fiscal restraint as the Sultan of Brunei.

At some point, I think we need to examine what we, as a nation, value. Let's not forget that our military and its veterans are incredibly valuable. Not only do they defend our nation, they represent a selflessness that becomes rarer in America with each passing day. I'm not certain I can make the same claim about many recipients of federal dollars through social welfare programs. This is the part where bleeding hearts educate me about how unfortunate the circumstances are for many of these people, how they were dealt a raw hand, how it's not their fault. I'm sure that's sometimes, maybe even often, true. But the hard truth is that there is a population of people out there that the government supports merely because they exist. At some point, we must acknowledge that enough is enough. I'm not saying these programs should not exist, I'm saying the scale at which they operate is out of control.

In terms of the sequester, cuts to tuition assistance for service members and veterans really bug me. Education is an investment. A good investment yields a return. Providing service members and veterans with the means to obtain higher education means we have better qualified workers entering the civilian workforce, which should in turn benefit the economy. What's the return on the government's social welfare programs? Show me how the yield is equal to or better than the investment and I'll shut up right now.

My family survives on a tuition assistance program. Vocational Rehabilitation offers full tuition, BAH, and other compensation to veterans rated at least 30% disabled and who can identify a vocation they wish to enter. It's separate from the G.I. Bill and it covers a lot more. My husband went to undergrad on the G.I. Bill and now attends PA School on Voc Rehab. It pays our rent and buys his books, as well as completely covers the cost of his tuition at Wake Forest - an expensive private school. Since he got out of the Teams, we have worked it to maximize the benefits he receives from the government.

Guess what? I don't feel the slightest bit guilty. As far as I see it, my husband earned this money with his blood, sweat, and tears. He spent a year of his life in a combat zone, was shot at, and witnessed things I know I couldn't stomach. That's not even taking into account the other years spent doing dangerous and grueling training as a SEAL. I do believe there is a debt - I know he made the choice to enlist willingly, but I don't believe it's wrong for the nation to offer him something in return. What's more, it's not really like he's getting a gift. He's receiving an education. When he's finished, he'll be a Physician Assistant and work in a high demand field. He'll make a contribution to the economy.

I just don't see the recipients of social welfare programs in the same light. I understand that there is a real need, but let's be honest about one thing: how many of these people have earned that money? No one wants to say this out loud, because proponents of these programs will accuse you of wanting kids to die of disease and starvation, or wanting single mothers to become homeless. Don't be ridiculous. Just answer the question: which group of people is the better investment?

I know a lot of people agree with me. The problem is, the right people don't. Most lawmakers are out of touch with veterans and therefore unsympathetic to the challenges they face. Look at someone like Senator Dianne Feinstein, who recently said PTSD is new as of the Iraq War, and you realize how far removed from a veteran's reality these people are. I mean, really? As a history teacher and military history enthusiast, I almost think it's funny that someone in her position could actually make that claim. It would be funny, if it wasn't so alarming and sad.

I don't know what the answer here is. I'm not even sure I really have a cohesive point. Sequestration is in effect, and we'll all feel the squeeze sooner or later - some more than others. I just wanted to point out what alarms me most - that we spend more money (tens of billions more) on social welfare programs than on defense and security spending and benefits to veterans. Yet, when push comes to shove, our military and veterans are the ones on the chopping block. You can get technical and argue with me about discretionary spending versus fixed spending, but I don't think that's the point. What's happening speaks to a cultural phenomenon - lawmakers are more willing to take from those who have already given much than those who have already taken much. Clearly, it's political, and I am the first to admit politics is often unfair, dirty, and immoral. I guess I would just ask that everyone take a serious look at who they vote for to represent them in the mid-term elections next year. We need lawmakers who will make the right investments rather than continue to award more and more money to an ever-growing population of people who have not, in my opinion, earned it.

2.25.2013

Deer Me


You know we’re living in a backwards time when soup kitchens can’t give food to the homeless. However, that’s exactly what happened inShreveport, Louisiana recently when it was discovered that the Shreve-Boussier Rescue mission was serving venison to its patrons. Reportedly, 1,600 pounds of deer meat were destroyed by health officials, because it is unlawful to serve deer meat commercially. The meat, which was donated by Hunters for the Hungry (a charity organization in existence since 1993 that allows hunters to donate meat to the needy), was dumped into a dumpster and doused in Clorox, to ensure that not even animals might eat it.
My husband was flabbergasted when I told him about this. He is an avid hunter and yearly stocks our freezer with venison from his hunts. He is so committed to providing for the family, in fact, that when we lost power last fall for 4 days after a freak October snow storm, he installed a generator just to ensure we wouldn't lose the contents of the freezer. We eat it regularly - sometimes too regularly for my taste. But hey, it's high in protein and low in fat, and if you know how to prepare it, it can be delicious. And if you have a moral objection to meat, you can trust at least that the deer we eat lived their lives in their natural habitat, were never fed hormones or chemicals, and died quickly (in most cases - my husband has been known to pick up road kill if it's still warm). I guess our private dietary practices are not really the point.  

I don’t really know what to make of this story. On one hand, I understand that regulations are regulations, and that we must ensure the safety of our meat. It’s difficult to track deer hunted and donated in this manner. Nobody wants a revisit to Upton Sinclair’s Jungle. I’m pretty sure everyone is on board with the Meat Inspection Act (you can thank Teddy Roosevelt for being able to trust you’re not eating rat when you purchase a pound of ground beef at the grocery store). However, I really believe there is a larger problem at hand.

The health officials were tipped off by a homeless person who complained about being served deer meat. To me, this is the epitome of American entitlement and oblivion. What a world we live in, when a person who survives on the charity of others attempts to determine how it should be given. I suppose beggars really can be choosers. At least, they can be whistle blowers when our government is bloated and involved enough to dictate the actions of a privately run charitable organization. I find it particularly disconcerting that this person could not just thank the people who donated time (and venison) to help him. I would like to hope that if I were to need the services of such an organization, I would be thankful to be fed, instead of taking it upon myself to critique a soup kitchen's menu.

There are a lot of Americans out there who want to help others, but Jesus, sometimes it’s hard. We’re living in dire times, economically and morally. It’s a sad and dangerous day when the government overtly seeks to discourage charity.

I gave a bum a dollar the other day. I can’t remember the last time I had done that. I hate to admit it, but I’m pretty sure it was sometime in college, and I made the bum pose in a picture with me before I handed it over. Not cool, I know. There have been many times since then, however, that I have given food to bums. Call me heartless, but I never considered the level of sophistication of said bum’s palate before handing over the bagel. To me, what was satisfying was the simple act of helping someone – not the idea that I catered precisely to the recipient’s tastes. Will people still want to be charitable if the feel-good aspect of it is taken away?

I wrote recently about the awesome willingness of strangers to help others when help is needed. Friends, I do believe it is as important as ever to help others. The powers that be are making it harder and harder, when many people need your help more and more. That being said, we should remember that we are all, at some point, the recipients of another’s kindness. It may not be a free meal, but chances are someone does something nice for you on a fairly regular basis. Let’s not (myself included) forget to say thank you. They are simple words, and they go a long way.

2.24.2013

25 Reasons My 2 1/2 Year Old Needs to Get Out of Bed After Being Tucked In

Ok, I promise I'm not turning this into a parenting blog. However, in light of recent events, I have wanted to bring a little humor to people. No one makes me smile like my son does, even when he's driving me nuts. This isn't completely original - I read a blog post recently that catalogues "46 Reasons Why My Three Year Old Might Be Freaking Out," and it was hysterical. Tonight's bedtime ritual inspired me to make my own list. I write this as I hear the springs in my son's mattress creaking - any second he'll be out here to add to the myriad reasons why he needs to get out of bed after being tucked in.
 
1.       His arm itches.

2.       He needs to hug and kiss me.

3.       He hurt his head.

4.       He hurt his toe.

5.       He hurt his finger.

6.       He hurt his leg.

7.       He needs a sip of water.

8.       He needs to go poop.

9.       He wants the blanket on.

10.   Not that blanket – the other one.

11.   His pajamas came off.

12.   He heard a sound making noise.

13.   He wants his Ruff Ruff.

14.   Not that Ruff Ruff – the other one.

15.   There’s a monster coming.

16.   He didn’t want to be rocked before bed, but now he does.

17.   He didn’t want me to sing him a song when I tucked him in, but now he does.

18.   He needs to hug and kiss his daddy.

19.   His foot itches.

20.   He needs to hug and kiss the dogs.

21.   He misses his grandparents.

22.   He wants to sleep in our bed.

23.   He wants to watch a little T.V.

24.   He wants to throw up in a bowl (he’s not actually sick – he just believes this will buy him some time upright and on the couch).

25.   He does not want me, ever, to relax.

2.21.2013

Nature v. Nurture? Nature, Most Certainly

What do you get when you cross a Team Guy Polack with a Mick-Kraut Southerner?

Exhibit A:
When I met my husband, it never occurred to me that many of the characteristics that attracted me to him would be traits that, when they manifested themselves in our offspring, would drive me completely insane.

For one thing, my husband is incredibly willful. When he puts his mind to accomplish something, he will not quit until the task is complete. I'm sure his tenacity was instrumental in completing BUD/s, which I applaud him for. It has, however, also been instrumental in the nearly daily stand offs I have with our 2 1/2 year old when he decides to flat out refuse a directive. It's not uncommon for the child to furrow his brow, in exactly the same manner as his father, set his jaw, and dare me with his eyes to try and make him.

Yesterday, a simple request to put on his shoes resulted in a high pitched shriek and right jab (both originating from him, not me). Because we are trying the "choices" disciplinary method in our house, he was given the choice of apologizing for assaulting me or going to his room. He chose his room.

What did I think would happen? I figured if I gave him about three minutes, I could go in there and give him the choice again, and this time he'd just say, "Sorry, Mama," so we could leave for the frickin' mall. I'm beginning to learn, when it comes to our little man, making a prediction is futile.

I approached him and offered the choices. He sat on the edge of his bed, quite calm, and looked out the window. He completely refused to acknowledge me, even when I knelt down in front of him and firmly (ok, at a yell) repeated his choices. I felt not a little like an idiot, on my knees screaming repeatedly "Do you want to say sorry or stay in here?" at a 38 pound stoic.

Because the longer he ignored me, the stronger the urge to solve the problem physically became, I told him that if he wouldn't pick, I'd pick for him: he'd stay in his room. Resolutely, I strode across the room to the door, which I shut firmly behind me. Generally, he hates having his door shut, and when I detected the scamper of little feet approaching, I assumed he was giving in. A smirk of triumph was spreading across my face when I heard the "click" of his door being locked - from the inside.

He knows he's not allowed to lock his door. The manipulative little toddler was sending me a message. I could almost hear his inner monologue: My room is not a punishment. You're not even allowed in it. "Fine," I thought. "I'll have to fight fire with fire." I sat on the couch, iPhone at the ready, and found a video of my son. I played it at full volume, which drew him out of his retreat and quickly coaxed an apology from him.

Phew. I managed to win that one, but barely. The kid is not even three and he's as stubborn as, well, his father and I. In fact, he may be as stubborn as the two of us put together, which should probably set some kind of a record. I fear for us in about 12 years.

Everybody warned me marrying a SEAL wouldn't be easy. I guess I figured most of the hard stuff was over when he got out of the Teams. I never thought to consider the point is who he is, not what he is. The what isn't genetic. The who is. And while I'm sure persistence, calculation, and sometimes even ruthlessness will serve our son well in BUD/s class 300-something, it can make playtime in the sandbox tiring for Mama.

2.20.2013

Chris Kyle, Part II

Last Wednesday (February 13), Congressman Randy Neugebauer and other representatives from Texas honored Chris Kyle in an hour long Special Order. The congressmen and women spoke warmly of Chris' career, patriotism, service to others, impact, and family. The mood in my house was still somber - we'd buried Chris the day before and had only arrived back in North Carolina some 16 hours earlier. We sat on the couch, watching and listening the politicans memorialize Chris, still slightly numb from the past week. Then, one of the congressmen called Chris an "example by which we should all base our behavior" (or something to that effect). My husband and I looked at each other and burst out laughing. If Chris would have thought any of this was funny, it would have been that moment. Don't get me wrong - Chris was all of the impressive things he's been described as in the past few weeks. He was a hero. But if you knew him, you also know he was completely capable of being up to no good. He was, as Team Guys say, a pipe hitter. When I pictured the masses basing their behavior off of some of the rowdier stories I'd heard or eyewitnessed, it was a much needed moment of comic relief.

I was disappointed that more members of Congress did not choose to attend the Special Order. I realize they are busy and I am the first to point out the grave state of affairs we, as a nation, find ourselves in. One can hope they were off attending to the many issues requiring their attention. Still, it would have been nice to see a good showing of politicians who wished to pay their respects. In my last post, I wrote about the thousands of members of the public who have gone out of their way to make such displays. But then again, I do believe one of the biggest problems we face is that our politicians often don't truly represent their constituents. I guess it's to be expected.

If you would like to watch the Special Order, it can be viewed on CSPAN2's video archive.

During the Special Order, Rep. Neugebauer read excerpts from emails and messages he received from Chris' friends and former coworkers. We penned my husband's on the flight home from Austin. Here it is:

Of what are legends forged?
Are legends born of a practiced skill or cold lethality?
Are they bred by tests of physical strength, overcome and surmounted?
Do they exist because of records broken, distances, or kills?
Is a legend made of a number in the desert, a tally kept neatly on a paper in an office?
Can a legend be worn like a trident?

No. This is not the stuff of legends.

A legend is made by a man with immeasurable courage and uncommon valor.
It lives in the heart of the bravest of men - a heart the size of Texas.
A legend is forged by a man who would lead when others would follow, would risk gladly his safety if only to serve God, country, and family.
A legend becomes, through the blood of a man willingly and generously shed in defense of the greatest nation on Earth.
A legend grows through a man's unfathomable love for his wife, his son, and his daughter.
A legend spreads as a man's generosity, warmth, and infallible friendship reach out and engulf all those he touches.
A legend endures.
A legend is forever so long as the man's memory lives on in the hearts of his Brothers, his family, and all those who loved him.
A legend lives on.
Chris Kyle's legend lives on in my own heart - the heart of his SEAL brother, his pupil, and his friend. His legend survives in the memory I pass to my son, as Chris joins the ranks of our nation's finest heroes and warriors.
So long as there are men willing to defend the helpless, to hunt down and destroy evil, and to love their God, families, neighbors, and country, Chris Kyle can never die.
Chris, it was an honor to serve with you. It was a greater honor that you called me friend. Your legend lives on in me.

2.17.2013

Thoughts on the Support of the Public Since Chris Kyle's Death

On February 2, Eddie Ray Routh seriously shook my faith. In the moments and hours after my husband led me quickly away from a friend's birthday celebration and into the street to whisper the shocking news, I seriously questioned what possible meaning such a senseless and cruel act of violence could have. As we struggled through the next few days, my husband's endless phone calls and quiet grief, I bitterly condemned what seemed to be a complete lack of humanity.

When I was very young, maybe 6 or 7, I was pulled out by an undertow while playing at the beach. My siblings and I struggled to get back to shore, ignoring the advice we'd had drilled into our heads over and over: swin parallel to the shore and get out of the current. My oldest sister grabbed my younger brother and got him in, leaving my other sister and I to keep our heads above water on our own. In reality, it was probably only a couple of minutes before the lifeguard reached us, grabbing each of us up under one arm and carrying us solidly back to safety. To me, it felt like I'd survived an eternity of struggling for my life. I'll never forget the fear I felt as I swam as hard as I could toward the shore, only to see it receding nonetheless. I'll never forget watching my sister struggle, either, knowing that we shared the predicament, yet fought singularly for survival. At that moment, we each may as well have been alone, because we could not help each other.

I watched my husband with the same helpless feeling - we struggled independently, our grief in different shades. He bears a heavier burden, having already lost so much, and having loved Chris so dearly. I was drowning again, in my inability to comfort him. I watched him fight the current and knew, no matter how great my desire to save him, I could not pull him out. I felt a deep fear once again, as I watched him struggle and wondered if it would change him. The bitterness surged like a riptide, drawing us deeper and deeper into the cold depths of shock, disbelief, anger, and sadness.

It hasn't been an easy couple of weeks. Certainly, I question the place on the Earth for men like Eddie Ray Routh. I wonder how this could have happened, and why. I don't even care for the answers - they can't bring Chris and Chad back, or fix the hearts broken by their absence. I feel compelled to admit, however, that I cannot assert there is no humanity left in this world. The literally thousands of people from whom I witnessed an outpouring of love, support, and sympathy in the weeks since February 2nd disprove the notion. I stand firm in my belief that there is good in this world, despite an awful presence of evil.

Our first thoughts were to get to Texas, and immediately. As the dust settled, we began to think more carefully - How long could we be gone? Could we afford the plane tickets? How would we pay for the rest of the trip? My husband is a PA student and we survive on his VA benefits. Although we would have spent the thousands to be in Dallas if we had to, it would have certainly been paid for out of our savings.

Fortunately, we were the beneficiaries of immense generosity. I posted one note on Facebook about needing to get to Dallas and was bombarded by messages from friends and strangers alike, offering everything from buddy passes on various airlines, to connections with travel agents, to frequent flyer miles and simple cash. It was so touching that so many wanted to share what they had with us, it was almost overwhelming. Air Compassion for Veterans and American Airlines paid for our plane tickets in full, and took amazing care of us. When we arrived at Piedmont Triad International Airport, the clerk at the American ticket counter expressed his condolences, explained he'd been expecting us, and put priority tags on our bags, for which the fees were waived. Our captain requested we be boarded first, which was incredibly convenient since we travelled with a 2 1/2 year old. Not only were our tickets taken care of, the representative from American Airlines' Military Affairs office changed our reservations three times as our plans continuously changed, the last time only a few hours before our departure from Austin after Chris' burial. We were not hassled, charged fees, or even made to feel responsible for our plans. They simply helped us.

We weren't the only ones, either. There were several individuals who received tickets in the same way, and Southwest Airlines accommodated dozens of military personnel who flew in from San Diego. It was amazing to see such large airlines, organizations that we normally view as so stingy, be so completely generous. We are very grateful.

We booked a rental car and received word that it would be covered by donations taken up by a friend in Connecticut. Once again, people who we have never even met were eager to share whatever they had so that my husband could grieve with his teammates and be there in support of Chris' family.

The Midlothian Law Enforcement Agency provided hotel rooms for literally hundreds of guests that travelled into Midlothian for the memorial and funeral. I believe that the extent to which all of these people went to help Chris' friends and family speaks volumes about the type of man he was.

All throughout the week leading up to the services, people continued to commit acts of generosity. Fellowship Church sent enough food to feed a small army to the house every night. Nolan Ryan sent steaks and a team to barbeque for us. A tour bus was donated by a band for the use of anyone who might need a bunk to crash in or a quiet place to reflect. The police officers assigned to the Kyle household, 24 hours a day, kept constant and vigilant watch.

In times of tragedy, it seemed to me I was always the one sending "thoughts and prayers to loved ones." It was a startling moment when I realized every time I heard or read again, "My thoughts and prayers go out to the Kyle and Littlefield familes, and their friends and loved ones," that those prayers were for us. Thousands of people across the country and even the world wanted to comfort us. It doesn't change the situation, but it does provide a little comfort. I hope that Chris and Chad's families feel it, too. I received messages from friends who live in other countries expressing condolences - they had seen my husband on the news, serving as pall bearer. It amazed me that even outside our nation people mourned Chris - a notion that was reinforced by the wreath and letter presented from the Polish GROM, among others, at Chris' funeral.

Maybe I should have expected it after the week of support from the public, but I was again amazed on Monday when we drove in a procession to Cowboys stadium. The motorcade was escorted by police, but it seemed to me they weren't even needed. Even cars on the other side of the highway, across the median, pulled over until we had passed. Everywhere I turned, strangers paid their respects to a hero.

The memorial was incredible. The use of the stadium was donated by the Cowboys - it included security, set up, food, everything. Close friends, teammates, and a few others attended a reception before the service. Sarah and Todd Palin, Dean Cain, and Grady Powell were there - unassuming and without fanfare - simply to pay their respects. Numerous politicans and dignitaries were also present, though none drew attention to themselves, as it was clear what this day was about. We were seated on the field and Troy Aikman came and sat in our row. I had to smile to myself as I was once again so impressed with the sheer scale of the memorial, and its singular focus on Chris. Celebrities who attended blended into the crowd. It was really about Chris, nothing else. The service was touching and heartbreaking, and when I walked the aisle to reenter the building under the stands and I looked up at the 10,000 odd onlookers, my eyes once again filled with tears. These people didn't know Chris, yet there they were, standing solemnly, many crying, in love and support for his family and friends.

The most amazing part of the entire week was the procession from Midlothian to Austin on Tuesday morning. For nearly 4 hours, we drove in relative silence. Each of us in the car was captivated by the thousands of people who lined the highway for the entire trip. I honestly don't believe we passed a single overpass where there wasn't a fire truck or utility truck and people holding American flags and signs. Along the side of the highway itself were endless streams of people, many of whom stood in the rain. I saw people crying, uniformed military personnel who stood at salute for what must have taken ten minutes for the motorcade to pass, parents holding small children, and school children whose teachers brought them out to pay respects. As sad a day as it was, I have never been more proud to be American as when observing the most awesome display of patriotism, respect, and honor I've ever had the privilege of being a part of.





Once we arrived at Texas State Cemetery, we were greeted by the hundreds of Patiot Guard who had accompanied the procession. They lined the streets immediately outside the cemetery and its inside perimiter with American flags. They provided the perfect backdrop for the send off we gave Chris.

The service was harrowing and beautiful. Everyone in attendance remained completely silent as the more than one hundred SEALs, past and present, hammered their tridents into Chris' casket. The only sound was the heavy "thump" of a fist on wood, each man paying homage to and leaving a piece of himself with Chris. I had heard and read about these funerals, but never attended one. It's an experience I will never forget and hope I will never have to repeat. As the service concluded, the SEALs took their knees and placed their hands on each others' shoulders, heads bowed. Amazing Grace played on the bagpipes and tears fell quietly. At the song's conclusion, a resounding "Hooyah, Chris Kyle!" boomed from the kneeling men, and a final farewell was bid to a warrior.



I wish we never had to make the trip to Dallas, but I can honestly say it restored much of my faith in humanity. The tremendous public support during such a trying time showed me that, though one man may be evil, he cannot conquer the spirit of a good and free people. We appreciate your love, thoughts, prayers, and support. They have been, in large part, the lifeguard whose solid grip has grasped us both, pulling us safely to shore.


2.02.2012

For the Working Moms

I’d like to take a moment and thank the feminists of my parents’ generation for creating a situation wherein I am expected to balance a family and a career.

Betty Friedan attempted to define it in The Feminine Mystique when she described the problem plaguing young American housewives in the late fifties and early sixties:
The problem lay buried, unspoken, for many years in the minds of American women. It was a strange stirring, a sense of dissatisfaction, a yearning that women suffered in the middle of the twentieth century in the United States. Each suburban wife struggled with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffeured Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay beside her husband at night--she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question--"Is this all?"

Her point was that women were unfulfilled by the doldrums of everyday life as a stay at home mom, and that these women desperately wanted (and needed) the identity one acquires through a career. They needed individuality, a place outside the home and away from their husbands and children to call their own.

News flash, Ms. Friedan: the vast majority of moms with careers end up doing all the shit the women in your book were bitching about, plus answer the demands of a job. They spend the day working for someone else, then come home and make beds, shop for groceries, chauffeur Cub Scouts and Brownies, feed their families, and fit in everything they can in five hours before bedtime. Then they get up and do it again the next day.

So thank you. Without your efforts, I never would have known the wisdom of working a job where I get to spend the day with other people’s children to try and make enough money to pay someone else to take care of my child. Who knew life could be so fulfilling?

So, “Is this all?” Ms. Friedan? No, you dumb shit. It’s the most you can ever hope for: to be blessed with the ability to raise your own children, should you choose to have one, is a privilege. When did our society start to view women who stay at home so differently? When did the expectation become that every woman should seek a career? I’d give my right foot to be the one spending the days with my boy. I believe that part of the problem for these women was that they had not been out there and seen the alternative. They had never left the house for work before their child woke up and come home from a long day in just enough time to see him for one hour before bed. Marry the right man and you don’t mind doing a little laundry. Try leaving your kids for a while and being “just” a mom might not sound so bad.

10.13.2011

Rant on Occupy Wall Street

I've seen a couple of posts related to OSW, some pro and some anti - for example:
And:

Here is my response:


I am a college graduate. I have a BA and an MA. I pay for all of my living expenses by working as a teacher in a public high school. I pay for some of my husband’s expenses, too – he’s a disabled American veteran finishing his undergraduate degree on the G.I. Bill. Between the two of us, we support our young son.
I’m not debt free, but I make smart choices. I have two credit cards, but rarely use them. I have a car payment I can afford, we have a mortgage we can manage on a modest home, and when I graduated from grad school, I consolidated the education loans I took to pay for my education. I’ll have them paid off in another 14 years. I buy things I want when I can afford them, but don’t buy things when I can’t. We don’t get to travel much. I drive a Honda. I’m ok with that – I’m proud of myself for making my own way and taking care of myself. I don’t complain or feel bitter that other people have more than me. And I don’t feel bad that I have more than others. I worked for what I have, and will continue to work until I have more. That’s the work ethic my parents instilled in me.
My husband and I manage our debt because we live below our means – we even save money. When he got out of the military and we moved to the East Coast, I could only find a part time job. We made it work, because we had responsibilities. We didn’t believe being bailed out or shirking our duties was an option. It has never occurred to me to not make a payment, even when it meant liquidating my investment fund from the Florida Retirement System when I was in a tight spot.
I understand how our government works. That’s my job. I am appalled at the lack of knowledge about the way our government works in the so-called “Millennial” generation, and subsequently the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Technically, I’m part of this generation, but I don’t claim them. I’m aware that not everyone in this world is given a fair shake or starts on a level playing field, but that doesn’t excuse the pervasive sense of entitlement present in young America.
An unprecedented half of Americans currently collect some form of assistance from the government. My husband is part of this half – but he risked his life and paid for that assistance with his blood, sweat, and tears. I think he deserves it because he earned it. Merely breathing isn’t earning it.
If making less than $350,000 a year makes me part of the 99%, then yes, I am part of the 99%. But I’m not delusional enough to blame Wall Street for the nation’s economic problems or believe that protesting in front of office buildings will bring change. If you believe there is a problem, then realize that the real problem is in Washington, not Wall Street. Wall Street’s actions may be unethical or immoral, but they are not illegal. Since the Clinton administration, legislation has been passed enabling Wall Street to behave the way it does. The bottom line is, if you have a problem, take a Civics course. New legislation is the only thing that will make meaningful change, and the only way to bring new legislation to the floor of the House or Senate is through a member of Congress. While you’re at it, review the concept of a social contract. It’s an agreement between the government and the governed – not the people and the people.
It’s a dog eat dog world, and capitalism is what America great. I spend over 40 hours a week dealing with teenagers who expect to have everything handed to them on a silver platter and need their hands held. I’m sick of seeing it in “adults” in society, too.

10.12.2011

Obama: The New President Grant?

           Hear the words Ulysses S. Grant and what immediately comes to mind? Obviously, if you’re like most Americans, you probably think of the Civil War before anything else. Most people know that he was the Union general Lincoln finally hired after a series of terrible choices did botched jobs at leading the Union Army, and that he led the Union to victory over a depleted and ragged Rebel Army in 1865. If you're a nerd, like me, you might know that he was born Hiram, but that he changed his name at West Point.
            But what about his presidency? What do you know about his administration? I teach U.S. history, and still every year I have to go back and reread the material, because when I think “Grant,” I normally just think “alcoholic” and “Whisky Ring.” Fact: the only memorable thing about Grant’s two terms in the White House is the fact that there were 11 scandals associated with his administration.
            President Grant himself was never directly implicated in any of the scandals. However, his failure to deal with the guilty parties in an effective manner or publicly denounce them has discredited him in our collective memory. Nepotism was rampant during his administration and he was certainly guilty of cronyism.
            At this point in his administration, Obama runs the risk of becoming another Grant. First of all, he hasn’t accomplished much so far, so there's not much to distract us with - no shiny objects to wave in front of our faces and say, "Hey! Ignore the man behind the curtain! Look at what I've done with America!" His healthcare reform efforts have been stalled by the challenges being posed in federal court. The economy sucks. Unemployment is high. The deficit soars.
            What President Obama has done, however, is preside over several scandals. He may not be directly implicated, but members of his administration are. Eric Holder was subpoenaed today in relation to the Fast and Furious scandal, which is building quickly. This scandal is potentially career-ending (as it should be – it’s a disgrace). The fact that Obama has not commented or distanced himself from Attorney General Holder is disconcerting, but not surprising.
            Solyndra and LightSquared are similar cases – whether or not the president can be directly blamed, somebody in his administration should take the heat for these massive (and in the case of Solyndra, expensive) screw ups. The fact that he hasn’t pointed any fingers, fired anybody, or called anyone out is telling. He’s guilty of the same type of cronyism that Ulysses S. Grant was.
            So the question is: what will we remember President Obama for? One hundred years from now, when some history teacher is thinking about teaching Obama (hopefully briefly because he had only 1 term) to her class, is she going to have to dig out her book and remind herself the details, because “Obama” is synonymous with “scandal” and nothing else memorable? If he doesn’t clean up his back room, Chicago style politics and get rid of those in his administration responsible for these digressions, then maybe.