An Open Letter to Flag Burners

imageAn Open Letter to the Flag Burners

Let me first say I am a true believer in free speech.  Anyone who knows me well would wholeheartedly agree. I enjoy the freedom of healthy debate and discussion. So if far more learned men and women have ruled that abusing our country’s flag is a constitutional right, then so be it. But just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. I’m going to ask those of you out there burning it, not raising it, defiling it- to stop. And now said in my strongest, fiercest, firmest Momma voice,”STOP IT NOW!”

As I am writing this I have spent hours on and off consoling my youngest child. She is sweet and tenderhearted. Her blue eyes with insanely long lashes are swollen from tears that have flowed down past her round cheeks and soaked the collar of her pink pajama shirt. Her blond hair that frames the curve of her face doesn’t shine tonight; it’s dark and damp from the love that swelled up from her heart and poured out through her eyes.

Why is she crying? What could bring such distress to one so young and carefree?

Her sister’s leave has ended and she heads off tomorrow to her next assignment. My little one thinks her big sister has hung the moon. She admires her big sister. She is devoted to her big sister. She LOVES her big sister. And at the ripe old age of seven, she is beginning to understand what sacrifice means. She knows that her sister has made a commitment to defend our country.

The flag is not just an archaic symbol made out of red, white and blue materials. It is the worldwide recognized emblem, the visual embodiment of being The United States of America. Sure I could try reminding you countless men and women have died defending our country, so you have the freedom to burn Old Glory, but I don’t think that matters to you. I honestly can’t wrap my brain around what sense of satisfaction desecrating our flag brings you.

I’m not going to call you names or hurl insults at you. I’m just going to ask you to please stop. I’m sorry you feel so angry, misunderstood and frightened that you feel the need to have, well, what appears to be an adult tantrum. Clearly life has brought you to a point of very little hope in holding onto the belief that we are a country united. But make no mistake we are the United States of America. I’m proud to be an American. Not a hyphenated American; let’s throw out the hyphen and just be Americans. When I stand in awe of the Stars and Stripes blowing in the wind, I’m not a conservative, democrat, independent or libertarian, I’m an American.

Let’s remember men have placed our flag on the moon. It’s been placed in far-reaching lands in battles. Loved ones have draped it on the coffins of their dearly departed. Our flag is a reminder that we live in a country where you do have the FREEDOM to burn a flag and NOT be arrested and killed. So don’t abuse your freedom. Have your different opinions, raise your fist in white-knuckled protest. Be angry. Just don’t incinerate our flag.

There is a younger generation watching. There is a blond-haired, blue-eyed child with pride in her heart- for now, but that could change, because she’s watching. She’s part of the generation who will one day be making and upholding the laws, fighting the wars, defending our Constitution and country when you are too old and possibly feeble to even muster up the energy to strike a match. And YOU owe it to her. She deserves to live in our great country where her liberties can be exercised. And you will want her to care about America and your freedoms, and to understand what all of that means. Burning our flag will not teach her anything except anarchy. She will need to respect our flag that encompasses all America represents. But understand respect is learned, it’s instilled and it’s earned.

Remember you stand under an invisible cloak of red, white and blue that you can’t burn away; it was fabricated under the sacrifice of men and women of many different nationalities of origin, political beliefs and socioeconomic backgrounds who at the end of the day are proud to be called Americans.

A Real Day in the Life of a Large Family Mom

A few moments ago, my six-year old was burping repeatedly and loudly after finishing her last bite of cookie from an impromptu tea party with her siblings. I stopped long enough to shove in the mandatory three cookie minimum. My 17 year old was repeatedly tapping my foot under the table with her shoe clobbering my brand new, first- time worn, gray suede, low-cut boots that were helping me hold on to the last shred of feeling like a hot, groovy Momma in my mind. My 23 year old was spontaneously singing the cover of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Sleeping at Last. I was trying to read a blog post aloud by another mom of a large family explaining why moms with large families never share what it is really like to have a large family.
I felt inspired to write my own blog post about the topic. So here I am with my fingers typing away while my six-year old is melting down and being far to hard on herself as she constructs paper snowflakes for the front window. Don’t worry we have offered numerous times to help her. She is having none of it. The same two previously mentioned children are singing loudly to other select cover songs they choose as they click their iPods back and forth, back and forth. My 20 year old just flew out the door to rock climb. My 10 year old son left the tea party with cookie crumbs on his face which I am sure I may find later on his shirt sleeve to join his 12 year old brother who is recovering from a night of vomiting while still feeling chilled, feverish, coughing, stuffy and just in general miserable. That’s just the ones that are living here.
I spoke last night during dinner to my 24 year old son who is a new dad. Our dinnertime is when it works for him right now.  He calls while driving home from work so when he gets home he can give his attention to his own family. Time was spent both last night and today on the phone with the lets call him 28 year old son ( his birthday is in a few days) coordinating plans for his family’s stateside visit for the first time in three years. And my 26 year old called about the dentist and to get dates to ask off from work for his brother’s visit. Of course, my adorable baby-making husband called somewhere in the middle of all of this chaos to chat and share a friendly hello and a grumble from his work day. Some of you may be envisioning me complete with air traffic control headset saying to yourselves, “Houston, we have a problem.” But here is the thing…
I. Wouldn’t. Change. A. Minute. Of. It
Sure, I don’t usually dissect or describe my day to the degree I just did. For one, it is simply just my incredibly, wonderful day in the life. Secondly, maybe if I did, I would become like an Eeyore or allow myself to constantly be overwhelmed in the constant stimulation of my life.
Most of you do not often hear me complain about the intricate balance of being a mom to a large family. And you probably won’t. Sometimes we large family moms feel like we aren’t allowed to share the difficult days. And so often, when we do open up our hearts, we are either greeted with comments of ” Well if you didn’t have so many children…” or “Oh thank God you aren’t really superwoman-you’re human.” Of course I’m human and if you ever did see me with a cape on, it would only be because I was trying to hide under it or because my dental bib had shifted to my back and was flapping in the wind as I escaped the chair of doom in panic ( but that’s a story for another post).
On the flip side, when we share our triumphs, we have to be VERY careful. Let me say this clearly- it is never the desire of a large family mom to make another mom feel inferior or less than. No one is trying to look like we have it all together. But seriously, it does take a tremendous amount of emotional, physical and financial energy to be a mom. And we come in all shapes and sizes as moms to kids in all shapes and sizes with all different kinds of needs and demands. It’s apples and oranges folks. So why are we constantly playing the comparison game?
Sure I like to think I am a fun, cool, hip, patient, loving mother. And I am pretty sure I am- let’s just go with that definition. But I am not perfect- I am human. I take great comfort in being perfectly imperfect while resting in the only Perfect One who created me.
So let’s just all celebrate one another in whatever stage or season of motherhood we find ourselves. Let’s commit to breathe words of encouragement into one another’s lives. Let’s be glad for our triumphs, laugh at our messes, and cry for our sorrows and defeats- together. Friends, let’s be gracious.
Well, I just got my cue to go. One teenager, not the sick one, is yelling down the stairs, ” The Tylenol are not there.” And I shouted back, “Oh my God ( yep, that’s what I said) if I have to come up there. They are exactly where I said they are in the clear box on top of my little bookshelf in my room!” To which she replied, “Oh there.”

Plus the dog is now eating the paper snowflakes.
To all you moms, I salute you, we are in this together!

Lydia’s snowflakes she made on her own.

Love and the Delayed Flight

Sitting at the airport last evening waiting to pick up our daughter Lilly gave David and I an opportunity to people watch. Lilly’s travel plans had been delayed all day due to inclement weather occurring in the connection city for her flight home. We arrived at the airport on time but found ourselves waiting about an extra hour.

We spent about 15 minutes idling in the car curbside until we realized her flight was delayed. We were parked in front of a woman in her late 50s to early 60s. She had a big quilt wrapped around her and no less than five bags of large luggage. A game of guess her story ensued between David and I. As we were in the middle of our elaborate tales for her life, a car pulled in front of us, narrowly missing the front driver’s side of our vehicle. His haphazard driving focused all our attention on him.

A man with a wedding ring in his 60s got out of the car, popped his trunk lid, walked toward the blanket waiting lady and began picking up her bags. She pulled herself up wearily from the bench, grabbed a small bag and began to what appeared be a painful and difficult walk to their car. She mustered the energy to make the journey for another bag one more time before landing in the passenger front seat. He finished loading, slid into the driver’s seat and pulled off. Not ONCE did this pair make eye contact or utter ONE WORD to one another.

David and I sat in a stupor. Make- believe of their story and lives and who they might be no longer had the same appeal. I mean before he arrived, she was a wonderful Grandmom who had travelled far off to help a daughter with a new born bundle of joy as her son-in-law was stationed in another country fighting for the good ole USA. Or she was a tired, selfless daughter who had travelled to care for an aging parent. But the sadness, the emptiness in their lack of exchange only conjured up stories of deep pain-too deep to even fathom. “Guess my life” was over for them.

David popped in the airport to check Lilly’s flight and we decided to park and wait inside. I have been struggling through sinus/allergy issues for weeks after a virus so I schlepped into the airport and plopped down on a cozy leather couch. After parking the car, David joined me. He offered his arm around me for a shoulder to lean into and between discussing the bands and solo artist from the fantastic music playing from the cafe speaker, our “game” began again. 

It didn’t have the same gusto and flair. We were silenced and saddened by the couple from the curb. We couldn’t begin to guess exactly what was going on in their lives, let alone really know the nature of their relationship. Life can be hard, we know it personally, we’ve weathered it together through tough seasons. But I have to be honest, as I sat curled up next to my life mate, relaxing in the wait, our silly game gave us both a subtle reminder. Let’s never stop touching, let’s never stop looking, let’s never stop talking. Let’s always remember we are a gift for one another and it is in the mundane moments we betray or I should say, display our affections.

Make sure you stop from the dishes, or the bills, your devices, from this post, to look up and really make eye contact and SAY goodbye or hello! Better yet throw in a hug and a kiss. These small little acts may be the very foundation that one day journey your relationship through hard times. I really DON’T know their story and pain, but I KNOW I don’t ever want to feel the interchange they portrayed.

Show your love today and show it often.

The Burp Heard Round the World

My husband and I had gone out a few weeks ago to dinner. It was one of
those, ” I have got to get out of this house” nights. Since our evening out
began as more of a fleeing the scene then a carefully orchestrated evening
out, we had no idea where we were going. We are committed to supporting
local businesses and so we settled on a non-chain Chinese restaurant. We were greeted by an eight- year-old hostess-yes you read that correctly- who took us to our table in an empty dining room. We enjoyed a quiet, unexceptional meal except for the occasional duet performed by a man at another table and myself as we both sang along, far to loudly, to the hits of the 70s and 80s playing through the speakers. I was in need of a night of reckless abandon and also my ears were clogged from the typical, fall, sinus problems that plague many a Cincinnatian. That was my excuse, I have no idea why he was singing so loud.

Bellies full, we all exited our karaoke haven at the same time and
discussed, who did sing that one song? As he and I began to hum the words,
our counterparts grabbed hold of our respective hands and led us into our
vehicles as if gently ushering us into a padded wagon. Hey, some weeks are
just long ones. David and I began to sing songs and reminisce down memory lane. And that’s when it happened. The mother of all burps. It just simply slid out as a reached to hit a note. It was as if all the gas my body could hold, was building up to rush from my digestive system through my esophagus and out of my mouth to replace the words of my song with a deafening belch.

David looked and me and very calmly asked, ” What would happen if you didn’t do that?”

” Do what?”

” If you didn’t allow that sound to come out of your mouth?”

I was a bit incredulous at this point, ” Oh. You mean the burp? I’m not sure
I follow.”

“Well you do that often and I just wondered if it doesn’t feel good or
something? I mean what would happen if you didn’t let it out?”

I was trying to decide if he was sincere or being passive-aggressive and so
I just answered him honestly, ” I have no choice in the matter. It came
without warning. There was no time to batten down the hatches. It was just
there.

“Oh”

Now feeling slightly hurt and wanting to justify myself and reclaim my
desire to be placed in a proper lady category, words tumbled from me, ” I
don’t mean to do. I would stifle them if I could, although my mom told me
Dr. OZ says holding gas in is unhealthy. It just comes out. I don’t know,
gas just leaks out of me. I guess my elasticity is weak all over. You know I
HAVE birthed nine babies for you. I imagine that has wreaked havoc on my
body.”

“I know you have honey and I appreciate it. I just wondered if holding it in
brought you some sort of distress.”

I believe it was my sweet husband’s subtle way of trying to help me find
ways to control my problem with gaseous fumes. But what can a girl do? No
one tells you that you grow older and your body can’t always contain itself.
That sometimes you might burp and “pass gas” simultaneously as if you are
participating in a 21-gun salute.

As I lifted myself off my seat cushion to exit the car, my mouth said, “Well I’ll try harder, it just happens,” but my body had its own idea of a
revolt as my bottom released the toot heard round the world.

The Mousse in My Hair

So yesterday I went to get my hair cut. It’s not something I do often. I make promises to myself when I look in the mirror that I am going to go more regularly, and then I don’t. I settle for the ” lived-in” look I guess I get busy with other adventures in life.

After my styling extravaganza, my youngest three and I went shopping at Whole Foods. We were waiting for Lilly to finish a store meeting ( she works there) and I needed to pick up some yummies for a tea party we were hosting and a lunch later in the week.

As we unloaded our groceries, I enforced an edict that we were going to rest for a full hour while we ate lunch and then we would prepare for our company. I settled down to my lunch of guacamole, blue corn chips and quinoa sushi ( my mind was divided on the international flavor my taste buds would enjoy) and began to peruse Facebook and emails. And then I smelled the smell.

” Hey kids, I smell something, do you?”

One of my cherubs answered, ” It’s quiet time Mommy, are we supposed to answer you? No talking, remember?”

” Yes, I remember. Do you smell anything?”

I began to describe the illusive scent. “Maybe very strong water. I can’t place the smell. Someone get down on their hands and knees and see if it is coming out of the heating grate. “That’s it, good job, take a deep breath.” No I was not trying to accidentally cause my offspring to become asphyxiated. No luck with the smell.

Then I blamed the dog. I wrangled her between my legs, trying to smell her breath and fur. She ran from me with a crazed look in her eyes, or was the crazed look in mine? Anyway, I recruited Lilly to snag her and subject her to the smell test.” Smell her good, it might be pee. She could have gotten into the toilet again, and if someone didn’t flush…”

“She smells fine. It’s not her. There ,there sweet girl, it’s okay, Lexie,” Lilly reassured her.

I placed my nose further in the air, and begin to sniff feverishly. “This is making me crazy! I smell an odd odor. Almost like a hyper-chlorinated water, but that doesn’t make sense. Wait, it actually smells like sugar cookies. Hey, do we have any left from decorating the tree? I could go for one now.”

And then it hit me. The smell was coming from me. It’s my hair . I began to sniff and snort with such a passion, I think Lilly worried I would hyperventilate. “It’s my hair. It must be the mousse.”

I was ecstatic the mystery was solved. Lilly was humorously puzzled, ” Let me get this straight. You went from thinking it was a gas leak, to pee on the dog’s snout, to over- chlorinated water seeping from somewhere to sugar cookies and it’s mousse in your hair?”

“Yes, ” I replied sheepishly.

And then I found myself unsettled by that thought. “Would you sniff my hair for me?”

Lilly obliged and I am happy to report my hair merely smelled like shampoo. Moments later as we unpacked a borrowed tea set a friend lent us, we realized the odiferous scent was the lingering odor of fabric softener trapped in the bag.

I know certain faculties are the first thing to go as you age, but my olfactory system is working just fine. Now my brain, that may be a whole different story.

NO ONE ELSE CAN PLAY YOUR PART

I was looking through a website recently and I saw a shirt that was imprinted, ” No one else can play your part.” It would be easy to pass over and not give it a second thought, but the statement is so simple, yet profound.

NO ONE ELSE CAN PLAY YOUR PART

We all play a part every day. We wear our various “hats”. And those roles are different for each of us, yet similar in so many ways. Sure if we wanted to be cynical, we could break down what every one around us does and conclude that we really aren’t that special. Millions of other people do the same job we do and we could be easily replaced. Why, maybe even a trained monkey could do our part.

NO ONE ELSE CAN PLAY YOUR PART

Life can be hard. We recently took a field trip to a local TV station. Our professional and informative guide repeatedly stressed the importance of letting our children watch the news. She campaigned at every turn that it was necessary to stay informed in the world. She conceded that yes, some of the news is unpleasant, but it was still imperative to be educated about the world around us. It’s easy to want to crawl under the proverbial rock and tune out the vile and sadistic acts that occur to us and around us and not see the beauty. This big world of ours abounds in beauty-new treasures and discoveries waiting to be noticed or uncovered amidst the bleakness of this fallen world we live in.

NO ONE ELSE CAN PLAY YOUR PART

I think of the bullied. The afraid. The assaulted. The lonely. The isolated. I think of the child having sand thrown in his face on the playground for the forty-first time. The teen being rejected in the lunch room just begging with his eyes for a safe place to sit. I think of the mom standing on the fringe of the circle of women, just trying to find a way to make a new friend. I think of the steady, reliable employee, beaten down one more time because he has integrity and won’t compromise it for his job, so he’s passed over- not part of the network. Eliminated.

NO ONE ELSE CAN PLAY YOUR PART

My daughter Phoebe recently turned 16. Just say the number 16 and for some reason most of us become nostalgic. Many become giddy with great excitement at the thought of hearing someone turned 16. I’m not going to write a paragraph with a list of the reasons why it appears a magical age, but I will say, in large part it seems like an age when a person is on the precipice of adulthood with all the hopes and dreams and ideals a heart and mind can hold.

NO ONE ELSE CAN PLAY YOUR PART

Sometimes though life throws us curveballs. We find ourselves stepping through doors and walking down roads we never wanted to step foot on. This is a broken world and it is not a matter of if hardships come our way, it is a promised matter of WHEN hardships come our way. And then we have new roles to play.

NO ONE ELSE CAN PLAY YOUR PART

And our part may be a role we don’t want to play. We’re tired. We’re hurt. We’re weary. Our hearts have been assaulted to the deepest level of our beings. And for all of us, what brings this sadness to a level of crushing burden is different for each one of us, but it is important to press on, because…

NO ONE ELSE CAN PLAY YOUR PART

Look around you. Many of us keep our most heart-wrenching tales buried neatly in the deepest pages of our storybooks. Meanwhile people are questioning and making statements to themselves. Could someone else play my role better? No one else understands how I’m feeling. I don’t want to play this part I’ve been given-it’s too hard. Maybe no one will notice if I just stop existing. I am too ashamed my life isn’t perfect. This isn’t what I signed up for in life.

NO ONE ELSE CAN PLAY YOUR PART

Well news flash, none of us signed up. We are born. And with your birth, you begin a journey. A Creator who knew you before you were formed is with you every step of the way. It may not always feel like it, but you have not been abandoned. You were uniquely created to play your part.

NO ONE ELSE CAN PLAY YOUR PART

So whether you are struggling or you know someone who is, remember this.

NO ONE ELSE CAN PLAY YOUR PART

You are loved. You are special. You are important. You are not the sum total of your experiences. You may feel that way, but there is so much more to you then what has happened to you. It may feel like you are stuck and there is no way out and this is who you are going to be the rest of your life. Hardships and burdens are trying to overpower you and define you, but that is NOT who you are and all you can be. Life is a journey. There will be many roles to play and with each new season you play a part.

NO ONE ELSE CAN PLAY YOUR PART

So go out there and play it. Don’t think for a moment someone else could and don’t doubt that you can play it. Resolve to play it well. You have a choice of who you will be and you have the ability to choose grace to rain down on you as you make your way. Today is a new day and remember…

NO ONE ELSE CAN PLAY YOUR PART

(Mr President, I Am a Stay at Home Mom) Ready to Verbally Blast the President Or So I Thought

Saturday, I scrolled numerous FB post and countless articles that cited an excerpt of a speech by our President. I am assuming reporters isolated these remarks from his speech to incite stay-at-home moms and the families that embrace this idea as a core value to rage. The President had been quoted as saying, “And sometimes, someone, usually mom, leaves the workplace to stay home with the kids, which then leaves her earning a lower wage for the rest of her life as a result. And that’s not a choice we want Americans to make. So let’s make this happen. By the end of this decade, let’s enroll 6 million children in high-quality preschool, and let’s make sure that we are making America stronger.”

Watching repeated clips of this 28-second sound bite only incited me further. I spent different moments throughout the last several days carefully crafting a post in my head, a rebuttal. I was ready to actually blast and in my opinion cross a line by verbally accosting the President of the United States in print. Whew! I am glad I dialed my rage back a notch and did a little research.

I didn’t create my blog to become a political forum. I didn’t create it to join the political divide that continues to create a deep chasm in our country. I assume that through my posts, most people who read my thoughts would gather certain opinions about me. It wouldn’t be far-fetched if they concluded that I value God, my family, my marriage, my ability to be a stay-at-home mom, a good sense of humor, and honesty. I mean, after all isn’t honesty, even transparency in a conversation and in the situations around us an essential to everyday living? A key ingredient in our interactions that allows us to gain a certain level of comfort, even trust, in a person, company or idea?

I don’t want to speak to the complete integrity of our President or my beliefs on many of his policies. I can tell you that I do not pull the imaginary lever, push the button, or blot out the circle with his name next to it at election time. Even so, I am dismayed at the lack of honesty and shoddy reporting on this sound bite. During this speech at Rhode Island College, the President took an enormous amount of time building his point before and after the alleged offensive comment. I searched out reading the speech ready to be armed with information filled to blast the President. But it simply cannot be so. I could not find fault with his sound bite statement that was actually building his case for having better education for preschool age children and fair standards in the workplace for women.

I might not agree with his agendas on who women should and can be in the workplace, and he may very well devalue me as an American because I am an intelligent, vibrant woman who chooses to stay home daily and work within my home, but that was not the essence of this speech. In my opinion it was dealing more with the reality of what our workplaces, daycares and homes look like because we do have an America with legions of women working outside the home. It really was a speech aimed at supporting that fact in more concrete, viable ways. Again, I may not agree with him completely about how we make it better, but that’s not the point.

I wouldn’t begin to disparage these women. They have been my mother, my sister, my best friends and neighbors. They are hard-working women that for various personal reasons and circumstances have chosen both career and motherhood. And I simply don’t believe media, columnists, and fellow stay-at-home moms are doing women any favors as a group within the population by falsely raising our arms and pens to attack the President in this instance.

Let’s not do it, friends. Let’s not be labeled as lunatics who take every potshot possible to degrade the reputation of the President. If you are a stay-at-home mom, like myself, and hold your right to be closely to your heart, I understand and I stand in the daily trenches with you. But let’s not allow erroneous reporting to not only bombard our President but to annihilate and create an even deeper divide with women who do not make or have this choice. These women are not behind enemy lines.

No, I’m not the President’s biggest fan by a long shot. But I am not a fan of partial truth when it comes to reporting such an important issue. Actually, I want the whole truth in life. Just give it to me straight.

I am an American and I am a stay-at-home mom. And I don’t feel devalued by this sound bite when it is placed in the proper context of his entire speech. In the words of my former high school History teacher, Mrs. Hattie Suber, “It would behoove all Americans to copiously peruse this speech and give it serious meditation. We do not need to plant some erroneous statements to start a brouhaha.”

You can read the speech in its entirety here http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/10/31/remarks-president-women-and-economy-providence-ri

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