Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Paying Forward the Spark

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled
by a spark from another person.
Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude
of those who have lighted the flame within us.

~Albert Schweitzer

I always cringe when people, though well-meaning, say, "I don't know how you do it."

I want to say, "What other choice do I have?" but usually I just say, "I'm definitely not doing this alone."

We've had a village, this whole deployment. I'd be kidding myself to think we didn't have a village before this...from our wedding in a week over 7 years ago that was pulled off without a hitch (except the good hitching of two kids in love), to bringing home our beautiful son the week after the phone call to come meet him....we've had our "village" for many years. Lucky for us, our village has continued to grow, and we are amazed at how blessed we are to be so loved.

It's been a hard lesson to learn that it's OK to need help and take help. When I said yes to a casserole back in September, I had no idea it was going to morph into over 3 months of meals. When a friend offered to take Asher for a playdate so I could clean the day before Jake's R & R, I let her. I've been able to take some "mommy breaks" and go shopping or hang out with friends, while Asher gets to spend quality time with his grandparents, aunts & uncles. When my best friends ambushed me, though not initially on board with their plan, I cannot say enough how much their Christmas intervention boosted my spirits. In fact, the tree is STILL in the corner of our living room. And yes, I realize it is now nearly May. I have come to the conclusion that it does need to come down soon...but only because there are just a few bulbs still lit.

And speaking of lit, that's what this whole journey has been about. Those little "sparks" that have kept me going on the darkest days. Somedays it's knowing I've got a light at the end of the tunnel (Jake). Sometimes it's my little ray of sunshine on a cloudy day (Asher). Sometimes it's that steady shine of my guiding light (my parents' unending love). Sometimes it's the twinkle of laughter and silliness (my sister). Somedays it's the words to a song on K-Love reminding me that the light of the world (Jesus) is holding us in the palm of his hands.

The thing we must remember is that we've got to keep the light going...we can't let the light go out. Sometimes it's hard to keep our own light shining...and that's where others must step in to BE the light for us, or give us that spark again. My husband has been fantastic at being that spark for me through this journey. There were some very, very dark days, and his words, his love, his undying committment and unending loyalty lit me up again. I hope I've been a spark for him when he has needed it as well.

When I was first being showered with amazing dinners by Jake's caring co-workers, I felt overwhelmed. What will I do in return? How will I pay them back? Some dear friends reminded me that those folks were not doing this with the expectation of anything in return, and that that moment in time was not my moment to "pay them back." So, in every thank you note I wrote, I expressed the hope that some day I could "pay forward" the generosity that had been shown to us.

And that time has come. I was recently able to "pay forward" the gift of meals for a grieving family. With the click of a few buttons, friends and neighbors can now use to assist in being a light for this family. It saddens me that a casserole won't FIX anything or heal their hearts, but as I know quite well, it CAN meet a need, and sometimes just having those daily needs met is part of the battle. I knew that if I had the capacity to share the light that I've received, that it was my responsibility to do that.

When I was in need, initially it was difficult for me to say "yes" to accepting the help, but once I wrapped my mind around the fact that this was a way that people could help and wanted to help, I allowed myself to accept that help. Sometimes when we think we know how to pass the light onto others, they may be reluctant to accept it. Offer. Let them think about it. Offer again. They'll come around, usually. If you do make an offer, follow up on it. There is nothing so hurtful as an empty promise. Simply asking them what might be helpful is another way to help. They may not know right away, but asking them shows that you care. It doesn't have to be a huge, life-changing thing that you do. It can be as simple as offering to mow their lawn or having them to your house for dinner, and then making the phone call to invite them with a firm date. Pretty simple to do, but something that may be the spark to light their way that day, that week, that month...

Who has been a spark for you? What can you do to keep the light going for others?


Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday, April 8, 2011

Show me the money...

As most of you know, our elected officials in federal government have failed to agree upon an operating budget for our country. If there is no agreement by midnight, 8 April 2011 (only twelve hours from the time I am writing this post), then our government will shut down. The implications of the shut down are very complex and far reaching. One of the implications is very near and dear to my pay. My pay that my family depends on to pay the car bills, the electric bills, pay the water bills, purchase groceries, put gas in Em's vehicle so she can get to work, pay for child care...the list is seriously endless.

The pay schedule for the military is similar to many private sector jobs - the first and fifteenth of very month we are paid. We are paid for the previous two weeks of work prior to the pay day. As of right now, 8 April 2011, they have already posted my pay that will be deposited on the 15th...a full 24 hours prior to the possible shut down. My net pay is less than half of what I would normally make...LESS THAN HALF of what my family depends on. The best part, if this thing isn't resolved before the 15th, one week away, then my family will not receive any money on the first of next month...none, nada, nothing, zilch. Oh, we have been promised that it will be paid retroactively, but pardon me if I seem skeptic...what the government giveth, they also taketh.

So, while the elected officials still collect their FULL PAY AND BENEFITS through all of this, the men and women tasked with fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan (and now the forces committed to Lybia) are doing so for no compensation...nothing paid to our families while we risk EVERYTHING in this place. I decided to exercise the one of the rights that I am supposed to be willing to die to defend - my right of freedom of speech. Now, as anyone in the military knows, our right to free speech only extends so far and covers only so much. So, while I will not outwardly NOT support my country and government, I WILL express my concerns for my family and their well-being. The following is the letter that I wrote to my House of Representatives member, the Honorable Bruce is my hope that EVERYONE that reads this will do the same :


I am contacting you in reference to the upcoming / on-going government shut down and the loss of pay for the service members of Iowa that are currently serving in Afghanistan. The hardest hit are going to be our lower enlisted soldiers, the ones that are shouldering the biggest burden and facing the greatest threat.

These young men and women are facing the enemy everyday and coming out on top...for now. They endure the hardships of 5 - 6 day missions in some of the worst terrain imaginable and are now doing it for even less pay. Although those soldiers don't have an immediate need for their income, there are families that are dependent upon it...but dependent upon the FULL pay. These young soldiers' families are living pay check to pay check as it is, and now they are going to have to sacrifice even more.

What this all means is our families are going to have to sacrifice not only time and closeness with us, but they are going to have sacrifice the every day expenses on items that are needed...diapers, food, gas, etc.

Mr. Braley, I implore you do to everything you can, work as hard as possible to make the rest of your Congressional co-workers understand that because of the budgetary issue, the men and women our government has tasked to defend our country are suffering needlessly at the hands of the greedy few that have decided the pork in many spending bills is worth more than the service members lives or the well being of their families.

With respect,
SSG Jacob Pries
Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan

I hope he listens.....

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Where's My Daddy?

Deployment is hard enough.

But sometimes the words that come out of your precious child's mouth are just too much.

Yesterday morning I was trying to get Asher fed and dressed and out the door in time to make it to meet our running group on the bike path at 8 AM. Asher was playing and I was trying to get him wrangled into one spot long enough to get his entire outfit on him. At one point he headed upstairs, and I could hear him.

"Daddy? Daaaaady? Where's my Daddy?"

Talk about knife to the heart. He NEVER calls out for his Daddy like that when he's not here.

And he wasn't just playing. He was actively looking for his Daddy. He was saying, "I am sleepy. Where's my Daddy?" Unfortunately, I think he wanted to stay at home & NOT go for a jog that morning...and I kind of felt the same, too!

When I got upstairs, I found Asher crawling into our bed. He snuggled under the covers on Jake's side of the bed and laid his little head down on Jake's pillow, then pretended to snore.

I couldn't have wished his Daddy home at that moment more than I already have if I had tried!

On our run that morning, we neared the armory close to our house. It must have been a PT morning, as there were many soldiers out on the park lawn that morning. I pointed all of them out to Asher...the sun was in his eyes a bit too much for his liking, but he noticed all of the men and women in uniform there.

Today as we were driving past that same armory, the soldiers were standing along the sidewalks holding posters saying "Car Wash" and "Bake Sale," so, in need of an inside AND outside car wash, I figured I'd at least knock one out and make a donation to a good cause.

As we pulled in, Asher could see all the uniforms again and he let the female soldier at the window know, "My Daddy is in Afghanistan!" As we pulled forward and they turned on the hoses against our windows, Asher squeeled with delight. The soldiers scrubbed our windows and he and Sadie enjoyed the show from the backseat. There were soldiers in uniform surrounding our car.

"Where is my Daddy?" Asher asked again for the second time this weekend.

"Daddy's in Afghanistan, baby...these are different soldiers." *SIGH*

I can't say that seeing those uniforms doesn't make me ridiculously hopeful. Even if it's completely illogical, a uniform never ceases to make me believe that maybe, just maybe, MY soldier is there....waiting to come around the corner, or turn around from a group and have it be HIM, or scrub some suds on our window. Stupid, I know. But the mind can play such weird tricks...

Later, when we met up with my family, he let them know, "The shol-jers washed our car!"

Soon enough it'll be your Daddy, Asher...Soon, baby.