Moments Matter

Basking in Moments

With the gratitude word being thrown around during this time of year, I have a confession: I give stuff, material goods a lot of power and influence in my life.

Baskingmoments

Since I was a small girl, I remember always wanting things.

The idea of wanting more popped into my head during a church service this last weekend. As the pastor kept talking, I began to ponder my materialistic evolution.

In elementary school, I was shipped in by bus to the “city.” At school, kids wore fresh new in-style sneakers. Boys parted their hair on one side and wore collared shirts. The popular girls had bouncy hair and neatly ironed clothes.

Then there was me.

My blonde fro hair looked like one of the “Jackson 5.” I wore bell bottoms and a marijuana leaf t-shirt. There was a thick layer of dirt under my nails. I was fresh off the hippie farm in the 1970s.

Stuff or things had very little meaning. I had little knowledge of the latest gadget, toy, or the need to fit into the latest fad.

After moving into the city from the farm, a dramatic change took place: I began to want what my well to do “rich” classmates had…the designer jeans, the latest shoes, video games…

My family lived in a series of modest old rental homes throughout the city. My parents worked hard to make ends meet at their blue-collar jobs.

I wanted. I wanted. I wanted.

While my dad would lecture: “What do you think I am Mr. Gottrocks?” My mom, on the other hand, wanted so badly to give us not just her children’s needs, but their wants. She opened credit cards that would be run up again and again. On shopping trips with my mom in department stores, I would rarely stand at the register during check-out for fear of the infamous “over the credit limit call.”

In retrospect and now as a parent, I feel selfish and guilty for always wanting “more.”

Isn’t that how it works, generally speaking, we are never fully satisfied? The latest “thing” seems never to be enough. The thought of how I have fallen victim to the dark, weak part of our society whose thirst is never quenched is depressing – especially on Thanksgiving Day.

Growing up on the farm there was no competition between neighbors or friends. Life was simple. I never recall craving more stuff. I do remember being happy and satisfied.

I remember one of the first times when I “had” to have something… the white leather moccasin style shoes. The shoe model was perfectly positioned on the wall of shoes. It sparkled and beckoned me to come closer.

And so my life began a never ending series of wanting more stuff, and not being satisfied with what I had in front of me. Flashes of my history made me feel melancholy. By the end of my step back in time, I am, frankly, disappointed with my incessant need for things.

Last night as we arrived at our Thanksgiving family destination, I broke away from the chatter of the house. The crisp night air was invigorating. I glanced up to the darkness of the night sky filled with a magnificent display of stars. Each one placed in its own fixed spot seemed to shout, “See me, here I am. Are you enjoying me?”

I realized the need to recapture that pure, raw gratitude I once had in my life. And that I should not dwell on things, but moments. I want to live a life that has deeper meaning and is overflowing with moments – both good and bad.

How much better would our world be if we were all simply happy with what we have and basked in moments? What a life-altering thought.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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My Dad, My Hero (A Repost)

Editor’s Note: “My Dad, My Hero” — a repost in honor of all those who serve our great country. Especially my dad, the bravest guy I know.

“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” — Joseph Campbell

If he died, then I would not have been born.

I’m talking about my dad – a decorated, Vietnam War hero. He fought battles. He faced the unknown. He cried. He shook. He felt helpless and alone. He carried wounded and lost brothers.

My dad with his father and sister.

My dad with his father and sister. October 1965.

But I will never truly know what he felt.

I did not understand the effects of war until a family camping trip in the early 1980s when I was about nine-years-old. I recall a helicopter hovering low over our campground. My dad suddenly jumped under the picnic table for cover. His screams of terror were like nothing I had seen before.

Like most vets, he is quiet about his service. This Memorial Day, I feel an obligation to understand more, to learn more about this time of my father’s life by taking a look back in time.

I owe him that.

*July 28, 1965
During a noontime press conference, President Lyndon Johnson announces he will send 44 combat battalions to Vietnam increasing the U.S. military presence to 125,000 men. Monthly draft calls are doubled to 35,000.

My dad was one of those who received his draft letter.

Part of President Johnson’s remarks that day, “…I do not find it easy to send the flower of our youth, our finest young men, into battle. I have spoken to you today of the divisions and the forces and the battalions and the units, but I know them all, every one. I have seen them in a thousand streets, of a hundred towns, in every state in this union-working and laughing and building, and filled with hope and life. I think I know, too, how their mothers weep and how their families sorrow.”

My dad was the flower of his youth at age 19.

August 31, 1965
President Johnson signs a law criminalizing draft card burning. Although it may result in a five-year prison sentence and $1,000 fine, the burnings become common during anti-war rallies and often attract the attention of news media.

My father had never considered running.

October 30, 1965
25,000 march in Washington in support of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. The marchers are led by five Medal of Honor recipients.

By then, this handsome, gangly boy from a small town in Central California was shipped off to boot camp thousands of miles away. It would be his first time riding in a plane.

November 14-16, 1965
The Battle of Ia Drang Valley marks the first major battle between U.S. troops and North Vietnamese Army regulars (NVA) inside South Vietnam. Upon landing, the troops quickly disembark then engage in fierce fire fights, supported by heavy artillery and B-52 air strikes, marking the first use of B-52s to assist combat troops. The two-day battle ends with NVA retreating into the jungle. 79 Americans are killed and 121 wounded. NVA losses are estimated at 2000.

November 17, 1965
The American success at Ia Drang is marred by a deadly ambush against 400 soldiers of the U.S. 7th Cavalry sent on foot to occupy nearby Landing Zone ‘Albany.’ NVA troops that had been held in reserve during Ia Drang, along with troops that had retreated, kill 155 Americans and wound 124.

November 27, 1965
In Washington, 35,000 anti-war protesters circle the White House then march on to the Washington Monument for a rally.

Boot camp was is in full force for my fatherHis fate not his own.

November 30, 1965
After visiting Vietnam, Defense Secretary McNamara privately warns that American casualty rates of up to 1000 dead per month could be expected.

December, 31, 1965
By year’s end U.S. troop levels in Vietnam reached 184,300. An estimated 90,000 South Vietnamese soldiers deserted in 1965, while an estimated 35,000 soldiers from North Vietnam infiltrated the South via the Ho Chi Minh trail. Up to 50 percent of the countryside in South Vietnam is now under some degree of Viet Cong control.

In early 1966, my dad had arrived in Vietnam for combatIt was then he began to write letters home to his father.

March 21, 1967
The Battle of Suoi Tre occurred during the early morning hours in Operation Junction City, a search and destroy mission by American military forces in Tay Ninh Province of South Vietnam, to the west of the capital Saigon.

He fought this bloody battle heroically. The intense battle was the most action my father had seen since deployment. He feared the worst, though, as his troop and those fighting along side him were being overrun by enemy forces. Fortunately, reinforcements arrived just in time. As my tough-as-nails 69-year-old father described it best: “We kicked their ass.”

He finally returned home after a grueling two years in the jungles of Vietnam.

 The rest of our boys came home nearly eight years later.

April 30, 1975
At 8:35 a.m., the last Americans, ten Marines from the embassy, depart Saigon, concluding the United States presence in Vietnam. North Vietnamese troops pour into Saigon and encounter little resistance. By 11:00 a.m., the red and blue Viet Cong flag fly from the presidential palace.

When the war finally ended, my dad had been home for several years. In 1971, he became a father to a beautiful baby girl. He was no longer the flower of his youth, but a wounded hero.

I love you, Dad. Words cannot express my gratitude for your bravery.

“Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices.” 
- President Harry S. Truman

*Sourced from My Dad, The History Place and Wikpedia.

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Staring Down Diabetes (A Repost)

Editor’s Note: The following post appeared on Clearly Kristal earlier this year. However, since November is American Diabetes Awareness Month, I wanted to reshare…

I worry about her. For good reason. My five-year-old still wets the bed. She seems tired. Could she have it?

No.

I’m just being a mother. But her cousin has it.

Courteney (far right) with her younger sister at the hospital soon after her diagnosis of Diabetes. It was also her birthday.

Courteney (far right) with her younger sister at the hospital soon after her diagnosis of Diabetes. It was also her birthday.

Probably for life.

This horrible, miserable disease named Type 1 Diabetes can develop at any age, but it is frequently diagnosed before adulthood. It accounts for about ten percent of all diabetes cases, and affects approximately one in every 400 to 500 children in the United States.

Why do I even worry?

As I’ve written previously, my niece, Courteney, battles type 1 diabetes. She has been found on more than one occasion in her bedroom unconscious.

Near death.

Scientists do not know exactly what causes type 1 diabetes, but they believe that a combination of genetic and environmental factors are to blame.

Which is why I watch and worry. I Google key words about diabetes, scan data about genetic linkage, symptoms and studies every few months.

In my mind, I should not live in fear of this cruel disease. But fear grips my very soul. I sometimes lie awake at night in a sweat. My mind flashes to needles, blood and ice cold bedrooms…

Unexpected Prayers
This past week, I thought of my niece in the most unexpected way – while doing a return at the retailer T.J.Maxx. At the counter, I saw the circular-shaped donation card. The cashier explained the Give-a-dollar Campaign benefits Joslin Diabetes Center, the world’s largest diabetes research and clinical care organization (affiliated with Harvard Medical School).

I made my small donation, but I knew this was a sign of something more.

I hadn’t thought of diabetes in a few months. But I know my niece thinks of it every day.

IMG_5662As I wrote her name in black marker with a heart, tears filled my eyes. I prayed in this moment. I prayed for Courteney’s continued strength. I prayed for a cure.

I also recognized that it was her strength and courage that inspired me to now let go of my own fear.

Diabetes will not win. Fear will not prevail.

I love you, my dear, niece. You are the bravest girl I know.

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer.
 Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
 I will face my fear.
 I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
 And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
 Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
 Only I will remain.” – Frank Herbert

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