Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Forgotten Sacrifice

Sitting in the pews of the Post Chapel on Easter morning, I was surprised and saddened by the number of people who had no one there to share the day with. Easter Sunday, a day to spend with family and friends, yet so many were spending it alone.

I found myself staring at the young, smiling woman sitting two rows ahead of us, singing the hymnals in a pretty, soft voice. She smiled at everyone, yet her eyes looked very sad. As the Chaplain prayed for our troops, she glanced at her wedding ring. I wondered if her husband was deployed, and assumed that he was.

I looked at the older man sitting on the other side of the sanctuary, tightly grasping his Bible in two wrinkled, and obviously over-worked, hands. He also glanced at his wedding ring, which looked tarnished and well loved. A veteran, I assumed. And likely someone who outlived his wife. I wondered if she sat at home waiting for him while he served in Korea or Vietnam. I wondered if she, too, had sat in Church alone on many a Sunday morning, waiting for her husband to return home. And I thought about how very much he must miss her.

I glanced toward the young mother in the very back of the Church, struggling to quiet the cries of her two young children. I looked for her spouse, partner, family member—any adult who might be there to help her. But, she and her children were also alone. I wondered if she was a single mother—a single soldier—struggling to care for her children alone, wondering when she may have to leave them again. Or was she was a military wife whose husband was away—again—struggling to balance motherhood with constant worry and fatigue? The look of sadness and exhaustion in her eyes made me assume it was the latter.

I thought back to the dinner our family had out at a local restaurant on Veteran’s Day. They advertised a special for a free meal for military members and retirees. There, too, I saw numerous retired veterans and current service members—some in uniform, others wearing distinctive buzz cuts or tattoos—dining alone. I joked with my husband that we should have invited them all over to our house. I still wish we had.

I thought back also to a recent experience in the airport, picking up a family member. Many US troops were returning from tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. As they entered through the arrival gates, the USO representative would call, “welcome home, hero!” and most people would applaud. (My daughter shot scowling glances at those who did not). Most of these soldiers were greeted by smiling (and sometimes crying) spouses, parents, siblings, and children. But, many were not. They walked past the embracing families with their heads hung low, probably headed to the barracks or a small apartment—alone. I hoped they knew how much we all appreciated what they had done, and how happy we were that they were home. I clapped even louder for those troops, just to make sure they heard.

One soldier was greeted by his wife and their baby, who was probably about six months old. The tears that immediately started rolling down the soldier’s face indicated that this was likely the first time he had held—and possibly seen—his child. I wiped the tears from my eyes as well. Although my own husband missed the birth of his oldest son—and I know how often it happens—I am still always struck with sadness when I think of a parent missing the birth, and early months, of their child’s life. I just can’t imagine.

With thousands of military members being deployed at any given time, and each of their families at home, waiting, worrying, and wondering, it’s hard not to notice how many people are here—alone. It also seems hard not to notice military couples struggling to maintain their relationships through multiple deployments, combat stresses, and the lingering effects of war, resulting in high divorce rates and crumbling families. Spouses left behind, children without parents, families breaking apart, mothers and fathers never returning home, children being born with fathers in combat—all right in front of us, there for us to see. Yet it seems that so many of these stories—these people—go unnoticed. It breaks my heart.

So, I’m asking each of you that if you do nothing else to honor—to thank—military families, please do simply this: Notice. Offer a smile, a hug, a helping hand. Military members and spouses may be frequently on their own, but they do not have to be alone. Reach out. Notice. Remember. And never stop saying thank you.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Where Has the Time Gone?

I read once that a blogger should write a new post at least once a week, preferably more, to keep their readers’ attention.


I apologize to each of you for being absent for so long. Things have been a little, well, hectic lately. Here are a few of the things I’ve had going on in recent weeks:

· Working a new full-time (nine hours a day) job;

· 45 minute commute each way, every…single…day;

· Teaching online courses part-time (usually done in the late night/early morning hours);

· Staying in contact with friends/family (although doing quite a poor job at it, I must admit);

· Trying to continue working out every morning (usually done at 4am);

· Running a consulting business (also done late at night, after everyone else is in bed);

· Mommying (aka, chauffeuring, counseling, hugging, feeding, calming, caring, and coaching);

· Helping my husband find lost socks, paperwork, and anything else that mysteriously disappears;

· Filing taxes (oy ve);

· Maintaining a household;

· Hosting a houseguest (husband’s grandmother);

· Trying to remember to breathe;

· And sometimes, sleeping (although very little).

I’m not complaining. In fact, I feel blessed to be so busy. But, I do regret that I’m not able to write as much as I’d like. I also regret that haven’t been able to post about the important topics we discussed earlier for April. But, I will. We may just have to push some of those discussions into May. I hope you will all understand.

The full time job I recently started has given me the opportunity to work with military families through deployment, reintegration, and relocation issues. And, I must tell you, it has given me an even deeper appreciation for what we all do—each and every day. The bonds we build, the tears we hide, and the sacrifices we make. They may not be visible to everyone, but they are very clear to me. So, to each of you, I say thank you. And even while I’m absent from the blogging world, please know that you are in my thoughts every day. And, if no one else has told you recently, I’m proud of you, and thankful for all that you do.

Bye for now. But, I promise, I’ll be back!

Friday, April 1, 2011

April: The Month to Speak Up

April brings so many exciting things: April Fool's Day (which is in full force in my house), the final onset of Spring and warmer weather, Easter, tax day (ok, that one's not so exciting). But, April is also a month to recognize many great causes, a few of which I want to draw specific attention to today. I hope you will join me in making this a month to remember, and a month to make a difference.

First, April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. As a survivor as well as a long time advocate, this cause is very near and dear to me. One out of every three women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. That means that each of us knows someone who has been a victim. This epidemic will touch each of our lives in some way. And it's time we get involved, learn more, and find out how we can prevent sexual violence and support survivors.

A few ideas for how to get involved:

* Volunteer your time and gifts to your local sexual assault advocacy program.
* Take a stand against sexual violence in all its forms, including victim blaming, sexism (including so-called "jokes"), and sexual harrassment.
* Support survivors. Here are three things to say to a survivor of sexual violence: 1. I believe you; 2. This was not your fault; and 3. I support you.

For more information, visit:

April is also Child Abuse Prevention Month. No one wants to see a child hurt. Yet, child abuse is a persistent problem in our country. Every child deserves to feel safe and loved. The best way to accomplish this is to start listening to children and holding perpetrators accountable for their abuse.

A few ideas for how to get involved:

* Become a supportive person in a child's life. Having just one caring adult can drastically change a child's outlook and chance for success. Be that person.
* Support protective parents. The best way to support a victim of child abuse is to support their non-abusive parent. For example, rather than judge a mother whose child has been abused, ask what you can do to help her.
* Volunteer with a child advocacy or domestic violence program in your community.

To learn more, visit:

April is also Autism Awareness Month. To be honest, autism is something I knew very little about until meeting my nephew. He is smart, adorable, and sweet--and he is also autistic. And after seeing how much his parents fight to get him the support, care, and education that he deserves, I've realized how important it is to raise awareness. He, and all children and people with autism, deserve our love and respect.

A few ideas to get involved:

* Find out more about autism. There are numerous websites, books, and other resources to help you learn more. Take the time to do so.
* Support a family who is living with autism. We all know someone.
* Stop viewing people who have autism as different, and start seeing them as unique, valuable people, who also have something special to teach us.

To learn more, visit:

And finally, April is also the Month of the Military Child. And, of course, I have three adorable reasons to be passionate about this cause. Whether they're at home worried about their parent who's once again deployed, or preparing for yet another cross country move, military children endure incredible sacrifice and heartache, and do so with amazing resiliency. It's time we start showing them the support they deserve and so desperately need.

A few ideas to get involved:

* Thank a military family. Not just the soldier, the entire family.
* Buy a Daddy/Mommy Doll for a military child. Our kids love theirs, and it's great to have something to hug when your parent's deployed. You can order them here:
* Understand that the war is not over. And even after our troops come home, they and their families still have to heal. Help by offering a hug or a shoulder.

To learn more, visit:

It may seem overwhelming to learn about each of these issues, but each is important, and deserving of our time and attention. And they are also all connected: They each teach us that we have a duty to ensure every person in our society has a voice. That does not mean speaking for them. Everyone has a right, and has the ability to, speak for themselves. Whether they are a sexual assault survivor, victim of child abuse, military child, or a person with autism, everyone has a story to share. Our role is to silence the voices of abusers, critics, and those who choose to be apathetic and uninvolved. By silencing these voices, we make a space for everyone to speak their own truth. And that, for me, is the only way to truly raise awareness.

So, for all of these reasons, I’m renaming April “The Month to Speak Up.” We can all take a stand, raise awareness, and make a difference. Won’t you join me?

I will be posting more about each of these important issues throughout the month of April. So, stay tuned for more ways to Speak Up.