Thursday, February 26, 2015

I Read ...A Lot

Since the day I learned to read, I've never been able to stop.  I was the kid who read the back of the cereal box during breakfast.  I still prefer books to their high tech cousins, Kindle & Nook.  In fact, I'd rather read while in a waiting room than be held captive by a t.v. screaming overhead. If a t.v. is present, I tuck myself in a corner on the opposite side of the room, as far away as possible. 

I love that reading expands my horizons.  I may never get to travel to Ireland, Scotland or Canada, but you, my invisible friends, make it seem as close as my backyard.  It goes beyond politics and's evolved into a caring which makes us do things as simple as automatically converting temperature/weight so the other party truly understands.  Reading moves me, encourages me and often kicks  my curiosity into high gear.  Best of all, reading connects us all as humans who hurt, bleed and sometimes just need a hug of reassurance that things will get better.  A virtual high five makes me smile.

The flip side of curiosity is discovering that the answers are often not pretty.  They're scary, upsetting and have made me squirm in my chair.  The trick is to come away from things which make us uncomfortable with a clearer understanding of the why.  If you can understand another's situation, see it through their eyes, you're more likely to want to be part of the solutions in life, rather than hiding from the problems. 

Sometimes the stories our soldiers share are the verbal equivalent of shock and awe: equal parts horror and discomfort balanced on the blade of unbelievable expectations handled in the blink of an eye.  Our charity offers a method to work through those experiences once a soldier is home.  But I will admit on more than one occasion I've wondered: is this REALLY helpful? Is our assistance enough to aid the healing process?  I believe kindness is a ripple that can spread. But is our kindness effective enough to make a difference?

Today the ripple came back in my direction.

I received a letter from one of our soldiers.  Recipient of a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart his letter began:
      "I would like to express my gratitude and appreciation for the crossbow scope you provided for me and also for what your organization is doing for other wounded soldiers alike. It amazes me how your organization can give so generously to soldiers you have never met.  Your efforts are providing veterans with opportunities to pursue hobbies that would otherwise be non-existent.   With that being said, I will speak on the behalf of all wounded veterans to say we are all truly grateful for your organization recognizing a need for wounded warriors and provide accordingly."

Kind words always make you feel as if you're headed in the right direction.  But you know what truly touched me?  That he shared his story.  From entering the military at 18 to a promotion which sent him to Hit, Iraq while leaving behind a 2 year old daughter and a wife 3 months pregnant...who would give birth while he was away.  Hearing the description of his injuries made me cringe, but seeing him come out triumphant on the other side made me grin from ear to ear.  Yes, he survived, but then there were the physical and emotional challenges of being shot 3 times.  And, like many soldiers, there was the added challenge of, "I was a soldier.  Now I'm not.  What do I do?"

Through his shared words I cheered him on as he finished college and gave his wife a standing ovation for toughing it out (and to hear him tell it, it was tough).  He included photos of himself in Iraq, rehab in the hospital (holding that new baby girl), with the scope we provided and a Christmas photo of a man surrounded by the three adoring women in his life.  And they were all smiling.  Genuinely happy, content smiles.

The photos were cool.  But it's his words I'll remember.  The fact he took the time to share the whole story.  And for me, a "rest of the story" kinda gal, those words were like gold.

In an e-mail I shared that he was a "Special" soldier to us...because he was the 200th soldier we've assisted.  I shared how I'd been there the day we presented a bow to our 100th soldier, whom I jokingly dubbed "Mr. 100".  To this day, that soldier signs his e-mails to me, "Your Friend, Mr. 100".   I jokingly told this soldier not to be surprised if I referred to him as "Mr. 200".

His letter arrived today...Hubby's birthday.  As our official "Archery Guru", I often say Hubby & I KNOW the soldiers, because we're there from 1st contact to a bow in their hands.  While our Board works hard and will appreciate the letter and photos, Hubby will understand on a deeper level.  

I wonder some days if we make a difference.  Today I know the answer is yes.

He signed his letter, "Your Friend.  Mr. 200."

Friday, February 20, 2015

Wild Week

We've been on a roller coaster ride this week, but thankfully came out victorious. Hubby's Mom had a cancerous tumor in her lung removed yesterday...and yes, they got it all! (Happy dance!) She'll be in ICU a couple of days before moving to a regular room. 

Unlike most women, I've known my Mom-in-law since I was 16 and dating Hubby.  I got lucky in that she embraced me rather than accuse me of stealing her son....her only son.  Hubby has three sisters.  I remember telling his Dad, "Gee just what you need, another girl in this family."  To his credit, he hugged me and said,"Ah, but you haven't heard all my stories.  And you LIKE my slide shows."   Well of course I did!  They were military who'd traveled to places I'd only read about.  In fact, Hubby was born in Japan.  They've always treated me like family.  And I'm grateful.

So while the job has been a royal pain this week and it's colder than normal, (Ponita, did you leave the door open in Canada?) everyone's okay.  Hubby's new knees have improved his disposition as much as his walk....and he usually has a pretty sunny disposition but pain occasionally crimped it.  We're working on shipping bows to soldiers, which always makes me happy.  Keep your fingers crossed that the "next big thing" for our Fundraiser comes to fruition...we've been working on it for a year.

So I leave you with this, my wonderful, invisible friends...

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Trying To Remain Cheerful....

...and yet.

Oh I'm fine.  
Temporary annoyances on the work front.  
This made me laugh.  
And that's how I win the battle.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Thank You Thursday

Saluting my friend Kim Ayres. He has unknowingly taught me how to slow down and take a second look, to see what I might have missed at first glance. And that second look is always amazing!

Thanks for reminding me....

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Thank You Thursday

This week I thank someone who has been there for me since I was 18....and she's still here, cheering me on.

I met Claudette my freshman year of college.  I'd signed up as interested to write for the campus newspaper.  I can still hear this woman calmly proclaim, "Hello, my name is Claudette and I'm the Editor for the newspaper.  I hear you're interested in writing.  Could you be available for a staff meeting next week?"

I agreed, yet hung up the phone with reservations.  I loved to write, was even fairly good at it, but I was shy.  One of the reasons I loved writing was because I could sit with one person at a time, listening to discover who they were, then return to the safety of my room to explain that person to the rest of the world.  For me writing was like breathing...dealing with more than one person, not so much.  Besides, I envisioned this confident sounding Claudette woman as some 5'8" blonde with a killer body and a trail of men following behind, tongues on the ground.  I knew I could do the job, if only the brain in my short body wouldn't get derailed by her sophistication and beauty.

I walked into that meeting the next week, mumbling to myself that I was worthy.  A dark headed woman with an ear to ear smile stuck out her hand and said, "Hi, I'm Claudie!  Welcome!"  I was so accustom to looking up at people when speaking, it took me a moment to realize we were literally seeing eye to eye.  We later agreed it was Friendship at first site.

Claudie was a military brat, accustom to traveling while I was the hometown girl use to seeing her military friends move away every four years.  We were like Ying and Yang: she was brave and adventurous, I was shy and the voice of "reason", occasionally questioning the wisdom of the proposed adventure. 

Although separated geographically, we've been there for each other through school, marriage, job changes and her two pregnancies.  I considered her fearless and myself cautious.  We have the kind of friendship that when she  shared at her baby shower that impending motherhood, "scared her shitless", my abrupt reply of, "Good!", made both of us laugh.  I'll never forget the first time she visited with her firstborn.  I opened the door, she smiled and said, "Here," as she handed me her son.  I sat and held him for the next hour as she shared her adventures in motherhood.

Claudie was the person I called when selling my first article; she insisted I frame the acceptance letter, which I still have somewhere.  She is the living embodiment of, "A friend truly knows who you are...and loves you anyway."  We can go for months without talking or e-mailing, then one of us will pop up with, "I just couldn't get you off my mind today...what's up?" to which the other would say, "I was just thinking about you!"  To this day, one of my favorite tug on the heartstrings moments was when she looked at me and said, "I wish we'd met when we were little kids, so we could've grown up together."

Well, my friend, we are growing up together.  And when we get around to rocking chairs as a form of transportation, we'll sit together on the porch and reminisce about the day we got even with the male staff members.  The day we got tired of trying to have a staff meeting while they gawked out the window at girls in short shorts walking across campus in the Spring sunshine.  The importance of learning that us making the same comments as males walked across campus not only got the male staff's attention, it got us scolded for being sexist.  And you laughed.  Loudly.

As the picture shows, we are linked on a level where we find humor when others don't get the joke.  I don't remember what was said, but I still remember looking at you before laughing out loud.  Thank you for the laughter...and for being always being there when it matters most.