Friday, May 25, 2012

Going the Way of Christmas

How do you teach patriotism? What can you do to show your children, or your fellow Americans, what the flag, the fourth, and the fallen mean to you? How do you explain that Memorial Day weekend is more than the public pool opening and hot dogs on the grill? Can they understand why Uncle John had to go to Afghanistan and why we hold our hands over our hearts when we sing the anthem?

Each holiday has taken its turn becoming commercialized. It seems Christmas decorations go up in the stores as soon as the back-to-school displays come down. Valentine's is more about selling overpriced candy then sharing our love. Now the patriotic holidays are taking their turn. In a country where the pledge of allegiance's appropriateness in schools is debated, children are losing sight of what patriotism means. Memorial Day is toted as the unofficial beginning of summer. Television ads and stores stock displays with charcoal, coolers and flip flops.

My kids have learned about Betsy Ross in school and colored pictures of flags, but do they know why they're off from school on Monday? They have a hard time understanding why it makes Mommy and Daddy so proud to see our local veteran waving the flag all weekend from the interstate bridge in town.

So, how do we combat society's bland patriotism? I'm doing my part. I married a man born on Veteran's Day, have a nephew born on Flag Day, and I gave birth to our son on the Fourth of July. Beat that.

The only problem was convincing my oldest that the fireworks were for our nation's birthday, and not his.

I gave my children a little patriotism quiz while I was writing this post. Turns out, thank heavens, the family influence is a lot stronger then the glossy advertising world.  All three knew that Memorial Day was a holiday to remember all the soldiers that have died fighting to protect us. My oldest could tell me the meaning of the flag. No one was quite sure why we cover our hearts for the pledge and the anthem, but they knew it was very important. I was an especially proud Mama, even more so because they all knew that without soldiers we couldn't be safe and happy.

If I had to give a simplified definition of freedom, being safe and happy would be it. This Memorial Day we're free to be any kind of example we want. I hope we choose to teach the value of freedom  over flip flops and suntans.

What are you going to do this weekend to keep Memorial Day from going the way of Christmas?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Blue Light Intervention

Have you ever had an experience so odd and out of place in your day that you have to recognize it as the work of God in your life? A divine intervention, but you have no idea what you're being intervened from? I had such an experience this week, courtesy of the Culpeper Sheriff's Department.

On a drenching rainy day, I was winding my way through some two lane roads in the Virginia countryside when I noticed a police car behind me. My first reaction, as would be most people's, was to glance at my speedometer. Sighing with relief, I was right on fifty-five miles per hour, I had nothing to worry about. Unless of course I was in a forty-five zone. The jolt was all the more harsh when the blue lights started flashing.

Now, I've been pulled over twice before. Once for a dead inspection and just one time for speeding, which I did not get a ticket for. I'm known for a heavy foot on the interstate, but not so much on wet back roads. When the deputy approached the car, my best guess was maybe I had a tail light out. At least I was hoping.

Very politely the deputy asked me if I knew how fast I was going. Well, shoot. I meekly offered "fifty-five?" He smiled and said no, more like sixty-five to seventy. What? Wait, me? I don't think so, but I wasn't about to argue with an officer of the law. What came next blew me away. The speed wasn't a big deal. Really? Ten to fifteen over the speed limit isn't considered a big deal, what kind of twilight zone was I in exactly?

Keep in mind, the whole time this discussion was going on, the deputy was standing in the rain with no hat. With a great deal of concern, he went on to explain that while he'd been following me I had crossed over the fog line at least ten times, that he had counted. I had no idea that the white line on the side of the road was called a fog line. Officer polite didn't think I would be intoxicated at that time of the morning, so what was going on? Was I on the phone or tired?

Now, I was already completely mortified, because like I said I don't have a lot of experience being pulled over by the police, so I was quick and emphatic with my answers. Absolutely I had not been on the phone, I hadn't even touched it! Gee, why didn't I follow up with "honest, officer!" Apparently I came across as very sincere. He smiled patronizingly and asked to see my license. One glance and he nodded knowingly. "You've been on the road quite awhile this morning." I was an hour and fifteen minutes into a two hour trip and it wasn't even nine a.m yet. "I think it's time for a break."

I've never had anyone, outside of family, be so concerned for my safety and well being. This deputy talked to me for several minutes of the dangers of being too tired on the wet roads and how he really hoped I would stop to stretch and get a drink. He even warned me about the possibility of standing water further down on route three. Remember that, it'll be important later.

Before he ran my license he asked if I had any issues with it. The emphatic panic was back. "No. I've never had a ticket." Like he wasn't about to find that out in two seconds.

With my license clear, he said I was cut loose, but again he really urged me to stop at the little store we were at and take a break. There wouldn't be another good spot for quite some time. I took his advice. Especially since he stayed at the store the whole time I was there.

I drove with my hands at ten and two and my car centered exactly between the lines the rest of the day, staying two miles below the speed limit. It wasn't until about an hour later that I realized the whole experience had been a little...odd.

The more I thought about it, the more certain I was that I had not been driving ten to fifteen miles over the speed limit, in the rain. I also tried to think about swerving off the road. Wouldn't I have noticed? My car has a poor alignment and pulls to the right, but I don't think I'm generally all over the road. The next oddity on my list, was the deputy's insistence I stop right where I was. Of course, I was free to go on, but he'd said there wouldn't be a good place to stop for quite some time. However, the city of Culpeper was less then ten miles away. The final straw came from my husband. "He stopped you and stood out in the rain, and didn't even give you a ticket?" It takes a really good hearted person to do that just out of concern.

When we were first married we lived in a apartment with a steep set of stairs. I was famous for falling down those stairs. Every time it flashed through my mind, a sixteenth of a second before it happened "I'm going to fall down the steps". I'd had that same kind of flash earlier on that rainy day, except it was "I'm going to be in an accident".

I can't say if there was any truth to it, and I certainly can't for sure that Heavenly Father sent that sheriff's deputy to delay my path. I do know that I wasn't on route three and didn't take that road at all on my way to my destination. I ended up on it later in the day when I strayed from my gps, so it was good I knew about the standing water.

Take those little spills, wrong turns and flashing blue lights in stride. There is a greater plan, and who knows what you could be intervened from.

Friday, May 11, 2012

I Still Carry His Picture

Mother's day is one of my very favorite holidays. I'll admit, I love the handmade cards and soggy marigolds. The stick figure portraits, that make me look so thin, are a special favorite. Mostly though, the adoration with which these gifts come are what makes my day. The joy bursting from their little hearts let's me know, yet again, that it's Mom that rocks this house.

Sure, Dad keeps us safe, warm, sheltered, the yard maintained, the cars in working order, he fixes stuff and he even grocery shops. But, can he make a pancake pig? Kids don't recognize the millions of sacrifices we make for them everyday, they notice the minutia that makes them happy in the moment.

Mom chases fireflies with them, sucks the middle out of honeysuckle and colors Queen Anne's Lace in food coloring. I turn birthdays into events and the entire Christmas season is a series of magical traditions. Are they head over heals about four wheeler rides with their Dad and his surprise trips to the movies? Sure, but this is about Mother's day. We can talk about him next month.

With this special day upon us I can't help, but count my blessings, and their fingers, toes, and little noses. As happy as I am with my little wonders, I always come up one short. In 2002, on a rather ordinary Wednesday, my first pregnancy came to an end with no warning. I will never forget the kindness of the emergency room doctor. Or, the normally terse head of radiology who was warm and reassuring.

Twenty-four hours later all we had left were a few journal entries, a faded pregnancy test and a small stuffed heart that now adorns our Christmas tree each year.

So many mothers have lost children. Many go on to have more, some are blessed through adoption and yet others never complete their family while here on earth. All of these women have something in common. They never forget those babies.

There are no photographs or baby books for these children, nothing solid to hold onto, but the memories are still dear. No miscarriage date is forgotten, or would've been birthday passed by. My son, I can't be sure it was a boy, is kept safe pressed between the pages of my scriptures. The ultrasound picture is one of the few things I have that makes him real. He was an adorable little blob, spitting image of his father. I will carry that picture until the day I die.

The world may not remember these mothers this Mother's day. There's not a special card and these children aren't here to make beaded necklaces and petunias in Styrofoam cups. I will remember these Moms this holiday in a special prayer, and I hope you do too.

Don't you think they would've rocked the house?


Friday, May 4, 2012

Road Ninja

The era of the road warrior is over. I practically live in my car, and to survive I have become a road ninja. Stealthy, wise, and vigilant a road ninja slips through traffic avoiding aggression and the insanity of other drivers.

Being in sales, I spend eighty percent of my work week on the road. Add in baseball games, scouting, cheer practice and church activities and I'm clocking some serious behind the wheel time. You could say I'm familiar with the gas pedal.

Armed with a floor full of empty water bottles and backseat boosters I have been witness to, and had near misses, with all kinds of mayhem. Just today there was a three car back-up pulling out of a gas station. After several minutes with no movement I looked ahead to see a pedestrian across the street waving, and having a conversation with the lead car. He couldn't hear so he took out his phone and started texting to the driver. A road warrior might have developed a nervous tick or spoken some very un-Christian words in a snarling voice. However, as a road ninja I took a deep breath and shook my head. Being the third car in line there was nothing I could do, and it would make for a good story.

Road ninjas have to be ever watchful for the careless and reckless driving of others. Spending so much time on the road I can now see the signs of someone who is getting ready to swerve into my lane or cut me off. Cars that are pulling out from side roads are dangerous "snipers" that can never be trusted. The problem with being so vigilant, is that it can make me a terrible passenger. Drivers that don't see major windshield time, tend to take in the sights when they drive. If you're viewing the scenery you're not likely to see that car ahead of you that's getting ready to thread the needle between two tractor trailers. Most of our cars have a spot worn in the passenger side carpet from me pressing on my imaginary brake.

Strategy is a key part of the road ninja arts. First is routing. The commonly known route is not always the best one. Sometimes encountering less traffic can be a very good thing. A good back road, as long as you're familiar with it, can save time and peace of mind.

The second strategy is defense. When it comes to highways and byways, the best defense is avoidance. The road warriors of old might have bullied their way through heavy traffic. The wise ninja stays away from distracted cell phone users, maneuvers past swervers and keeps a safe distance. More times than I care to admit I've glanced away from the road for a second, only to have to slam on the brakes when I look back up. Just inches and a prayer have separated me from the next car's bumper. If you're ever coming out of Petersburg, West Virginia by the Pizza Hut, those black skid marks on the road...yep, they're mine.

The more frequent case is the car that is following so closely you can't actually see the front of their car in your rear view mirror. Even a veteran can become shaken when the sound of squealing tires is coming from directly behind you.

It seems like navigating the roadways isn't all that different from making your way through life. Don't follow the crowd, keep your eye on people that are wrapped up in themselves and could be a danger to you. An imaginary brake isn't going to stop anyone, you have to speak up. Most importantly be aware of your surroundings, all the time. A little prayer never hurt either.

So, are you still an old school aggressive road warrior? Or do you have the stealth of a road ninja?