The Family

The Family

Saturday, October 10, 2015

It's Not fair!!

This blog has been stirring around inside of my head for a couple of months now and I had no intention of getting up this morning and blogging, but it won’t leave me alone so here it is!

Let me start by saying you will not find a more HOOYAH supporter of my husband and sons military careers and I am well aware of the blessings and benefits that it has afford myself and my children.  Please do not take this entry as anything against the military or the choice many make of making it a career.  I am simply going to share from my perspective the impact it can have on our children and how we as parents struggle to watch them work through it.

I sat in a meeting for two hours this week listening to parents discuss their child with behavior problems, I reassured them several times that the military lifestyle often births behavior concerns in our children, mine being no exception.  I shared that no choice they made or nothing they had purposely done had caused their child to struggle greatly when they are separated from them.  That the demands placed on a family effect each family and child individually. 

This has been stirring in my head since we moved back to Hawaii and Zachary made the transition from being a Guam High Panther to being a Radford Ram.  We knew a year ago that the chances of us coming back to Hawaii was strong so we began to talk to other parents and students about Radford.  When I had attended the class of 2014 graduation several months earlier I heard every speaker stand up and share that Radford had been an amazing experience for them, as it was a school where there was annually a great transition in the students coming and going.  Each speaker shared that even though they had at one time been the new kid, they had never felt like that.  The characteristic of the school was one that all new kids were accepted and made to feel valued and welcomed.  Taking all of this under consideration we made the choice to send him to Radford, instead of Aiea where his brother had gone and Campbell where his sister had gone.  We felt that he had the best chance of seeing playing time on the field since Radford’s team routinely had players transitioning in and out of the school.  We made a choice.

As a Panther Zachary was a starter on both the offense and the defense and spent the entire game on the field.  I knew that I couldn’t expect the same of a new school and a new team.  I understand that the coaches have been working with some of their players for the previous three years and they have invested a great deal into them.  I understand that my child is someone they don’t know and haven’t invested anything into.  I understand that they may be aware of the fact that while my child has his fathers GI Bill which will pay for his college, these other players will need to rely on any scholarship they can grab ahold of to make college a reality.  I understand all of these things.  What I cannot understand is how my child can go from being a starter on both the offense and defense in Guam to playing only special teams and second-string offense here.

Now, let me add that this scenario is not unique to my child.  His other friends have went from being starters in Guam, to other schools on the mainland because of PCS moves and found them selves as second stringers.  The athletic trainer from Radford shared with us the other night that they had a player who was a starter on the Radford team who transferred to Texas and he hasn’t seen any playing time at all this year.

As I sit in the stands crying because I know he should see more playing time, but he’s not because we moved him in his senior year of high school or I lay awake at night thinking that we did this to him, two things come to mind.  Number one is that he is handling it so much better than I am!  He stands quietly in his silent warrior mode, accepting that he must prove himself.  He studies his playbook, it goes everywhere with him.  He is early for every practice, he supports his brothers on the team, and he makes every play count. Me, on the other hand, I want to rip into the coach on a regular basis and let him know that he's overlooking my sons talent.  Number two, it’s not fair!  It’s not fair to thousands of military dependents that are scholars or athletes to have to compromise or lose momentum every time a PCS move calls.  It’s just not fair. 

I am thankful for those at Army Youth Sports and Army School Liaison services, as we have had many conversations about the struggles our young men and women have as they transition form duty station to duty station and they are working to make a difference to come up with programs, combines, and networks that will help our athletes get recognition and an opportunity to be looked at by scouts even if they are not seeing the playing time that is equal to their talents because they have not been with the coaches for years.  

I am grateful for the lessons that my son is learning in this process and his absolutely amazing attitude in dealing with disappointment.  I am so proud of the way he mans up each and every time and makes the choice of the higher road.  He has only once said anything that gave me a glimpse into how hard this has been for him.  It was after one of the first games of the season, I was driving home and he said in a very quiet voice, “Mom, you know in Guam I would be a captain and starting.”  All I could say was, “I know son.”

I am also reminded daily that there is a bigger plan at work here, one that I cannot see.  Just as I could not see the benefits or the blessings a PCS move to Guam would bring, I cannot see the plan that God has for Zach, but I do know he has one, whether being a military dependent is fair or not!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Being an Influencer...

When my kids were younger, way back when I had four children under the age of seven, and a husband who was submerged often during the endless eight years of consecutive sea duty we subjected ourselves to at the time I used to tell myself that someday they would grow up and it wouldn’t be so hard.  Well I am not going to call myself a liar, although I often have a few choice words to say to myself when I think back to how deceived I was, I will say that those thoughts were probably some of the most misguided thoughts I have ever had in my life.

Let me fast forward you sixteen years to my reality…having grown up children is much harder than having those little people, who while they drove you crazy all day, and depended on you for everything, had a definite bedtime and little control of their own lives.  These days I go to bed much earlier than my children, and I have no control over their choices or decisions, influence perhaps, but no control.

I can’t put into words the struggle of having to relinquish the reigns of sanity and reason you have over your children’s lives, to them…  I love my children with all my heart and soul, with everything within me, but I am doubtful about their ability to make sound decisions that will impact them for the rest of their lives.  Looking back to my young adulthood I am painfully aware of the anguish I must have caused my parents.

Looking back scares the bejesus out of me!  I dropped out of college, went to Washington State, eloped with a very junior sailor, moved across the ocean to Hawaii and had a baby!  I promise all of you that should the above even attempt to happen with my children I may require divine intervention.  HOWEVER, when I look back at the decisions I made that kept my parents up at night I realize several things….

1.     It all turned out ok.  Even though we married very young, neither of us having financial stability, degrees, or even a plan, we made it!  We both have our respective degrees, reached a place of financial security, and even though we did not have a plan God did!
2.     That even though my decisions caused my parents some pain and some tears, they NEVER let that pain come between us.  They never took my decisions personally, they never said, “I told you so,” they never stopped loving me.  I am as grateful for the example they set on how to love me, as I am the love they gave me.
3.     Well it may sound like a cliché none of my decisions killed me, but served to make me stronger.  I may have felt pain and had to struggle because of my decisions, but thank God none of them killed me!  I am a better person because of them.  When I lay awake praying in the quiet dawn hours, praying and crying about the pain and struggles my young adults are going through I need to remember that what happened did not kill them, and pray that they use these experiences as a spring board to allow themselves to be healed and taken to the next level.   God knows that we do not ever want to see our children hurting or struggling and it will be the hardest thing we will ever do, but He has a plan and we must have faith that it will all turn out ok.

I shared with a good friend yesterday, that as they enter into the stage of their lives where they have to make decisions for themselves, it is important as a parent to pick your battles very carefully. VERY CAREFULLY.  For example, your young adult may choose to drink, which for me was a hard one to adjust to, but not a battle I chose.  Instead I chose to make my battle cry heard on drinking responsibly.  I can hear many of you discrediting my decision to not fight them on drinking, but let me ask you this, what would you rather have, a child who hides their drinking from you, potentially putting themselves in situations that are dangerous, or a child who is open with you and because you are not arguing about the topic, is able to hear what you are saying, and avoid trouble because of it?  I would much prefer that my children are able to hear me tell them to be aware of their drinks safety in public, than have some one slip something into their drink without their knowledge because no one made them aware of the danger.  I would much rather my children openly discuss the dangers of drinking and how it inhibits you and may cause you to make decisions or put yourself in dangerous situations, than for them to be taken advantage of.  I would much rather my child know that calling me for a ride when they don’t think that they or their friends should drive, than be fearful and making the decision to drive themselves.  Do you HEAR me?  Drinking is not a sin, being a drunkard is, but responsible social drinking is something we should be educating our children on, and its hard to educate them when they don’t listen to you because you chose the wrong battle.

Do I agree with every tattoo, piercing, purchase, word, thought, ideas plan, outfit, music choice, or decision my young adults make?  No, but I realize that I no longer have the control I once had in their decision making process.  I realize that I must trust that I have raised them in the way they should go, and while their actions may not show it, that their hearts and spirits have not departed from it.  I must accept that they must make decisions and stand by the consequences of those decisions in order to learn and grow.  I must accept that my role is one of influencer instead of enforcer.

As I learn to embrace the role of influencer, I will also embrace the opportunities where I am allowed to share reality in conversations where there is no yelling and fussing, but rather open honest communication between adults.

In closing my friends, I leave you with this: Our parents and generations of parents have survived this stage of life, without any generation totally destroying mankind, therefore so will we.  The question is sixteen years from now when I sit down to family dinners, will it be with well adjusted adults who have grown and prospered because they were allowed to make their own decisions and learn from them, adults with whom I have a healthy positive relationship with, or will it be an uncomfortable meal where nobody wants to be present for?

Saturday, May 16, 2015

It Was the Most Amazing, Hardest Three Years of My Life.

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

This has long been one of my favorite Bible versus, it comforts me to know that in every situation that God has a plan for me, even if I can’t see it or even want to see it.

My time in Guam was both amazing and a struggle at the same time.  I have been telling people it was the most amazing, hardest three years of  my life. 

Let me start with the people of Guam, the real people of Guam, not the ones you find inside the confinements of the base gates.  The people of Guam are warm, welcoming, and incredible.  We were blessed enough to meet some people that have become like family, people I would be honored to have in my life forever.  They are dedicated, loving, kind, and so very sincere.  Their hospitality and love of life has given me a new appreciation and love for my fellow man and the desire to connect with people on a more basic and real level.

My football/baseball/rugby/paddling sideline brothers and sisters have become my friends for life, not simply because our children will most likely be life long friends, but because they are people I truly like and admire.  They were my family, my carpool buddies, my fellow sideline critics, and in most cases those I spent some well deserved time at the end of a long week decompressing and laughing with.  We fed, mended, scolded, inspired, took photos of, did laundry for, parented, and cheered an amazing group of Guam High Panthers.  They gave me the gift of laughter and friendship, and re-enforced my belief that it takes a village to raise a child. I also had to learn to say good-bye to these amazing people, as they PCS’d to other commands.  To build strong bonds and relationships only to have them move away at times often seems physically draining.  It was the most amazing, hardest three years of my life.

Chicago blessed me with amazing friends, who gifted me with their support, camaraderie, love, and laughter.  This group of people was my support system, the ones who knew things about my life that I wasn’t able to share with the rest of the world because of OPSEC.  They identified with the loneliness of deployments, late nights, and missions.  We filled our time with pedicures, painting, movies, 5K’s, and enough pinterest ideas to put Martha Stewart to shame.  And of course there is the one piece of advice passed on to me by my dear friend Erin T, the CO’s wife, “No matter how they act, NEVER let them see you react in a way that will hinder you from walking away with your head held high and your dignity in tact.”   Then there were others who caused me to have to use Erin’s very wise and sage advice.  These people also taught me that it doesn’t matter if they know who I am, it only matters that I know who I am.  They also taught me that you have in your power to eliminate negativity in your life simply by not entertaining it, but walking away from it. This group of people taught me that I need to be selective in whom I share myself with and that not everyone does or needs to appreciate what I bring to the table and I should not be offended by their attitudes, but rather save what I have for those who are ready for my gift, and who really want it. It was the most amazing, hardest three years of my life.

There was another special group of people who taught me additional valuable lessons.  This group of people cannot be named or identified, because I simply wouldn’t know where to begin.  This small pocket of people, were quite possible the most ungrateful, unhappy group of people I may have ever encountered.  This group complained about everything from the front gate, to crosswalks, to speed limits, opportunities offered on base, or opportunities not offered on base. I am not sure if this happens on other small bases, but this is the first time I have encountered such a clump of grump!  They made life uncomfortable for everyone on base and caused divisions and tension in many instances over simply childish things.  These people taught me to be grateful for those people who work so hard for our families, supporting them and providing services on base.  It was the most amazing, hardest three years of my life.

My job began as a struggle, and ended amazing.  Our branch of the base organization was being run by someone who had no experience in running a federal entity and in other areas of the world would have been fired for their gross violations of every EEO law in place.  I struggled to work in an environment that I knew was corrupt and in violation of my rights and the rights of those around me.  I often woke up on Monday mornings crying, dreading having to work under such conditions for another five days.  The poor morale of the organization and the fear in the employees eyes were a tangible thing, they could be felt, smelled, and tasted.  A year and a half into it we received our freedom when the individual quit.  It was like the curtain of darkness had been lifted and we were new people.  The spirit of healing began to work its miracles as we collaborated, laughed and moved forward.  I was blessed enough to be selected for the position that the negative individual had vacated and given the opportunity to spearhead the healing and turn around of such an amazing team.  We accomplished more in that year in a half than had been accomplished in the more than ten years prior. The freedom and healing also allowed healthy relationships and bonds to form among the staff, and the people I left behind at CYP Guam will always have a piece of my heart. I was also blessed at that time with an amazing boss and an amazing group of fellow department heads, which made coming to work fun and enjoyable, even on our craziest days. It was the most amazing, hardest three years of my life.

Chicago blessed us with a very successful tour and allowed us many opportunities to celebrate.  Two Battle E’s, Master Chief, Command Master Chief, numerous highly successful missions, numerous dependent cruises, opportunities to travel, opportunities to meet leadership from other nations, a special relationship with the wonderful members of the 721 Club, and an overall an amazing crew and command.  Those amazing opportunities came with a price, just with any other leadership role.  I learned not to be offended when people took my husbands decisions personally, and said unfavorable things, I learned that not everyone wants to be close to you because they have a sincere interest in sustaining a relationship with you, but rather what a relationship with you will benefit them.  I learned that it is truly lonely at the top, and there are very few people you can talk to.  However, these hard lessons I learned birthed a deeper fellowship with the Lord, the only one I had to talk to at times and contentment with myself.  It was the most amazing, hardest three years of my life.

Coming from Hawaii you would think that Island Time would be something I would be used to.  On Guam Island Time is Hawaii Time slowed down, stopped, and then started again. At first it was very painful for this girl from the east coast to slow it down that fast.  The maximum speed limit on the island is 35 MPH.  Yes you read that correct 35 MPH.  Imagine attempting to drive only 35 MPH for three years.  Checking out at the store takes longer, walking in the mall takes longer, ordering and being served at a restaurant takes longer, and I swear that the traffic lights take longer!  Getting items shipped to Guam meant shopping for items you needed six months in advance because that’s how long it takes to ship certain items. Over the course of the three years we were there it taught me to slow down and appreciate life, it taught me how to relax and make time for the things that matter. It was the most amazing, hardest three years of my life.

I have said it before and I will most likely say it again.  I would not have chosen to go to Guam, but given the choice again, I would do it all over again.  It was not an easy tour, but it was amazing and it did teach me many valuable life lessons and blessed me with an amazing group of people who I will always hold near and dear to my heart.

It was the most amazing, hardest three years of my life.