mom2nomads

ahhh, the life of a diplomatic princess . . .

When the Mighty Fall: Our Family’s Conversation about Ray Rice

We are a Ravens family, my husband is from Baltimore and has always been a Ravens guy, our older two caught football fever and love the Ravens (younger one, not so much, he’s a soccer kid, “American football” doesn’t hold much interest for him). While I’ll sit down and watch a game now and again I fell in love with them because of their Softies, my personal favorite is Torrey Smith who is not only active with the Show Your Soft Side campaign (tough guys speaking out against animal cruelty) but also with BARCS, Baltimore Animal Rescue Care and Shelter; not only have he and his wife adopted a pitbull from them but when they married they asked people to donate to BARCS in lieu of giving them wedding gifts. Good people.

So the news of Ray Rice hitting his then fiancee, now wife, came as a shock to us, especially since we’ve always seen him as a stand up guy (as you can see in my blog that I linked to up there). I’m not going to blog about what we thought of the initial punishment for his abuse, that’s not the point of this, so let’s fast forward to yesterday when the Ravens announced that they were cutting Rice and the NFL indefinitely suspended him from the league. Again, I’m not going to blog about what I personally think of this punishment, what I want to focus on is the conversation we had with our kids about Rice because, for our family, it was an important one.

Shortly after Eric messaged me that Rice had been cut I came across a screen shot in my facebook newsfeed of Janay Rice face down on the floor of an elevator after Rice had hit her, her shoes were askew and her dress looked to be up around her backside. My reaction, right or wrong, was not “how could he have done that?” because I already knew what he had done, my reaction was “what the hell is wrong with the American media?” Janay Rice had already been victimized once, now she was being victimized again by the media. Folks can sugar coat it all they want, claim that it’s important for people to see the violence, but if that was you would you want it plastered all over the place? The best article I’ve read about this second victimization is a blog in The Nation called “The Revictimizing of Janay Rice,” please read it, it’s short and it has been updated to include Janay Rice’s statement about the video being released and about Ray Rice being cut. 

Eric and I talked about how we were going to address this with our kids, in part because they like Rice and in part because we saw this as an opportunity to talk about some bigger issues–domestic abuse, consequences, and how the media is handling this (because they are going to see those screen shots too). Their initial reaction was “WHAT?” Not because they thought Rice was innocent but because they didn’t understand why the Ravens and the NFL had swung so hard in the opposite direction from where they had started. But we wanted them to understand that, regardless of how the NFL has handled this, Rice being cut was ultimately on him–he punched his now wife, he did something nobody should ever do, there are consequences to that and they are life changing. 

And part of their confusion is because the NFL is rife with abusers. Now, so I don’t get flamed, I am not saying Rice shouldn’t be punished because there are so many other abusers in the league, I’m saying the fact that there are (and our kids know this) and that this one, this particular one, has been cut is confusing to our children. It’s hard to explain to your kids why one of their players was tossed when players like the Steelers Ben Roethlisberger, accused of rape and sexual assault more than once, is still playing. Or when Greg Hardy, who plays for the Panthers, was found guilty of domestic assault. So the question of “Why Ray? Why not them?” that our kids asked is a fair one and, in my opinion, points to a league that takes money a lot more seriously than it takes conduct. Duh, we all knew this. But, damn, NFL, you’ve taken this step with one player what about the others? They have changed their policy about how domestic abuse will be dealt with, it now will earn players a six game ban for the first offense and a lifetime ban for the second. That’s progress, if it actually happens, but we still have all these men who are abusers who will walk on to football fields this week, and hypocrisy is a tough thing to explain to a kid. Ultimately, we fell back on “he did something awful, he’s paying the price” but that doesn’t wash away the inconsistency. So, there’s that.

There’s also the larger plague of domestic abuse and this was something we really wanted our kids to understand–this one famous couple is in the spotlight but there are so many others, every minute of every damn day. It’s important, we think, to teach kids that things like this don’t happen in a vacuum, they are part of a larger problem. The fact that NFL does not take violence against women seriously is a symptom of the greater disease, the disease being, of course, that the US does not take violence against women seriously. I watched Liam’s eyes grow large when I told him that every day women are beaten by their partners and that, often, those beatings ultimately result in murder. He didn’t know, now he does, and I hope it helps him put this whole event into some context. And I hope it gives him an empathy for Janay Rice, who I think gets lost in all of this.

Eric and I told Liam that we didn’t want him watching the video, out of respect for Janay Rice. When Liam asked why it would be disrespectful of her to watch it my question to him was “would you want strangers watching a video where you were abused and humiliated?” He hadn’t thought of it like that and he responded with a resounding “no.” Good, neither would I, neither does she. And the fact that people still are is voyeurism at its nastiest.

Ultimately, our kids are kids and we can only expect so much of them. I don’t expect them to turn against Rice, or disavow any loyalty towards him, or say that they don’t want to watch him play anymore–it’s not that simple. Liam stood in our doorway and said “I can’t believe I’m never going to see him play football again,” that reaction went hand in hand with our daughter’s “what? why?” when Eric said stores were pulling Rice’s jersey. Black and white this situation ain’t and as bad as what Rice did is he’s still someone who has given our kids joy and reasons to cheer, I don’t think my personally verbally flogging him to our children serves any purpose. They don’t need a diatribe about how horrible what he did was, they know it was horrible, and the one thing Eric and I won’t do is tell them that they shouldn’t feel the way they feel.

One thing I am thankful for is that Eric and I have been very careful about teaching our children that elite athletes (or any famous person), while fun to watch and often admirable human beings, should not be placed on pedestals or viewed as heroes and the kids take this to heart. There are exceptions to this rule, people who broke boundaries and fought for equality, like Jackie Robinson and Kathrine Switzer, but they are rare.  So at least we have no broken hearts in our little family, just disappointed kids trying to wrap their heads around some very big things.

 

My Ice Bucket Challenge Rant

So last night, while chatting with my DH, I realized how much something is bugging me, namely, this new anti-ice bucket challenge stuff I’m seeing and hearing. I know ice bucket challenges are filling up FB newsfeeds, and maybe people are over it but, damn, it’s raised a big buttload of money for the ALS Association so I just don’t get how people can think it’s meaningless or a stunt or any of the other words I’ve seen tossed about. As of August 27, $94.3 million dollars has been raised for ALS! In the same time period last year the amount raised was $2.7 million. Don’t you think that’s worth a little newsfeed clogging? How can you diminish those numbers and the good that is being done? And, more importantly, why would you? People are having fun and doing something good. To me, pushing against that is just cynical. There are WAY more important things to complain about.

I guess the other big pushback I’ve seen from folks is that this is wasting water. Water is scarce in many parts of the world but I’ve seen people who live in some of those parts handle this creatively (like by using a cup instead of a bucket) so it can be done. We live in Honduras, I used the water that came from our cistern (and that’s what I made my ice with as well). Cistern water is what comes out of our taps–apparently it’s fine for bathing and it’s cool to ingest it if you boil it for five minutes but it’s otherwise not supposed to go near your mouth. So it’s a good thing I held my breath when I did it! We’ve also lived in Guinea, West Africa, where our water came from an above ground cistern, including the water we drank. It went through a distiller before that happened so it was, technically, disease free. Which I reminded myself when I made the massive mistake of looking in the cistern and seeing our water with a thick coat of green slime on it. Yes, folks, that’s what we gave the kiddos, no wonder they’re so hearty. So, I’ve got to be honest, I get a little eye rollie (rolly? whatever) about being lectured on water usage by folks who have likely always had all the clean water they need. We’ve gone without water, we’ve lived with chronic water shortages, we’ve stared into empty cisterns and called for the water delivery guy, until the point when it was too dangerous for 18 Wheeler (that was his handle) to deliver water to us because of civil unrest. This, of course, is exactly when our well decided it wanted to throw a temper tantrum, which not only meant we had no water, it also meant that all our neighbors who lived in shacks around our house, for whom we turned on the outside tap twice daily so they wouldn’t have to hike miles for their water, had no water. And, yet, I still think this challenge is worth the water. Because let’s look at the reality of water waste in the US:

According to an article I will link to at the end of the blog (I’m on my iPad and too lazy to figure out the WordPress app bells and whistles in order to insert the link here), about 95% of the water that comes into a home goes down the drain. 95%! Over 1/4 of all drinkable water is used to flush toilets and older toilets can use about 3 gallons of water per flush, which is the amount of water many in other parts of the world survive on daily. We taught our kids the old, if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down saying for a reason. And I would like to know if people screaming about how much water is being wasted by the ice bucket challenge turn off the tap while they brush their teeth because, if not, you’re wasting about 4 gallons of water. How about when you shower? Do you get wet, turn off the taps, lather up, then turn them back on for your rinse? I don’t have the number on how much water you’re wasting if you don’t but I’m pretty sure you shouldn’t be moaning about someone who dumped a bucket of water over their head for charity wasting water.

So, in my opinion, if you are really so worried about water being wasted by this massive fund raising effort then you can start making some changes in the way you use water in order to offset this, kind of like planting trees to reduce your carbon footprint. Then, once you’ve done that, you can let go of your cynicism and eye rolliness and have some fun while raising money for a very worthy cause. Problem done and dusted!

PS: Ive been told that some folks doing the challenge are using things like confetti and wine (oh, the humanity), which misses the point of the ice and cold water, which is to mimic, on that moment of impact, the way ALS makes a body feel. Also that some folks aren’t even mentioning ALS. I understand this kind of stuff happening is the nature of the beast, things like this grow arms and legs and whole bodies of their own. But I DO think losing sight of the original challenge diminishes the importance of the challenge, which is too bad.

water waste in the US

ALS Association

My Top 10 List of the Merits of Growing Up Global

I was messaging with one of my dearest friends the other night, an American woman who lives in Costa Rica, and she asked if I’d ever written a blog about the advantages of growing up global. Which I haven’t, and which I thought was a fantastic idea (thank you, M!), so this will be my list. I’d like to preface it by saying my point is not at all that growing up global is superior to growing up local, I could just as easily write a list of the merits of growing up in one place but that’s not our life so, write about what you know, right?

1: So many possibilities for a layered sense of empathy and compassion: By layered I mean talking to them about empathy and compassion, and then immersing them in situations where these things are called for, drives the lessons home hard. I think of the posts we’ve had in countries with a lot of poverty as empathy immersion school, unless you shelter children from what is around them (and that’s not a choice we make) it becomes very real for them what living in poverty really means.

When we lived in Guinea our oldest played street soccer with the neighborhood children and, in our neighborhood, that meant children who lived in shacks and wore tattered flip flops. Liam knew the children he played with lived a very different life from him, he knew their toys were made from recycled rubbish, he knew food was often scarce, he knew their chances of getting sick were far greater than his. So when we were living in Dublin and preparing for his eighth birthday I asked him “what would you think about having your friends bring presents for Guinean children instead of for you?” and he answered “momma, I have so much and they have so little, I don’t need more” so that’s what happened. The look on his face when we boxed everything up and sent it off to a friend to distribute, was priceless–he took such joy and satisfaction in what he and his friends had done, and he knew in a very tangible way the differences these gifts would make.

2: A concrete understanding that the world is a diverse place: It’s hard to live in so many different countries as a child and not know that our world is vast, and has so much incredible and beautiful diversity. Kids growing up global have endless opportunities to experience different languages, cultures, accents, art, music, history, food, religion, and so much more. And, honestly, it makes my job as a parent ten times easier because all I have to do to teach them this stuff is take their hands and walk out the front door so bonus for me.

3: Extra chances to commune with, and gain respect for, our natural world: From the forest regions of Guinea, to the Mediterranean beauty of Malta, the eerie peacefulness of an Irish bog, the serenity of Lake Superior in the Summer, and the wonders of the Costa Rican cloud forest, our kids have had so many chances because of our nomadic lives to experience the natural world. I think it’s sometimes easy to get disconnected from nature, no matter where you live, and being able to take our kids to so many different places has been a gift for them and for us and, I believe, has helped to nurture the respect and love they have for our planet.

4: Extra chances to go to important historical sites: It’s hard to not experience history firsthand when you’re in a country that is steeped in it. A prime example of this for us is when we took the kids to Rome. We spent a week wandering the city, in absolute awe. Our kids, who all love history, were totally blown away by the fact that they were walking in ancient footsteps. At one point we visited a church which was built on top of an older church, which was built on top of an even older church, which was built on top of ancient streets. We wandered down, down, down beneath the the city, until we reached the bottom and were walking through what had been houses in Ancient Rome. There was still a spring-fed aqueduct that ran through the houses, supplying them all with crisp, fresh water. We stood back as our children approached the water, their faces full of wonder, we watched as they slowly immersed their hands, squealing and exclaiming with delight, knowing they were touching history. Now that we’re in Maya country we already have trips to Tikal in Guatemala and Chichen Itza and Tulum in Mexico on the burners, I think our kids are going to pop from excitement when they see those ruins.

5: If you’re very lucky, and we were, you’ll get a chance to introduce your kids to their own roots, for us, this was Ireland: One of the challenges of raising nomads is helping them understand that being nomadic doesn’t mean being rootless, and this is something we’ve worked really hard on. This came ten times more easily to us when we drove to Belmullet in County Mayo, where my family is from and where we still have cousins. One of the things we did was all load into the car with my cousin Joe, who is my grandmother’s first cousin. We drove slowly along the wild Atlantic coast, stopping in front of a traditional cottage that had long ago been turned into an outbuilding. Joe told us what it was, I turned to the children, saying “kids, this is where your great-great grandmother was born and raised” and their collective response was “whoa!” We went back to Mayo many times, most recently on a trip from Costa Rica, and each time we go we bring flowers to the graves of their great-great-great grandparents, which is pretty cool. For me to be able to say to our kids “this is it, kiddos, this is where your roots first took hold, this is the land that is inside of you” and for them to be able to bend down, rake their fingers through the sand, walk the land their great-great grandparents, and their parents, and beyond, walked, is nothing short of incredible.

6: Understand that just because a friend is far away doesn’t mean the friendship is over: It’s tough, like really tough, to leave behind friends and family you love or to be the one left behind, the emotional roller coaster ride when dealing with this grief can be nasty. But, at the end of the day, our kids have learned that friendships are not finite, and they do not begin and end with geography.

7: A different way of understanding one’s place in the world: In other words, teaching the lesson “tiny fish, meet endless ocean” is pretty simple to do when kids see just how big our world is. Though they know they are the center of my life, and their father’s life, they are learning that they are not the center of the rest of the world.

8: Developing a very diverse social circle: We have friends spread to the four corners of the earth, American and locals, and we learn so much from their diversity–beyond when Liam proudly announced that he could swear fluently in at least four different languages. From Europe to The Middle East and beyond we love all the perspectives our friends bring to us, and those perspectives only drive home for our kids the vastness of this world.

9: A deep and lasting appreciation of home: The last time we were in DC, which has become home for us in a lot of ways, Liam said to me something along the lines of, yea, all the changes and traveling and moving is tough and jarring but if he didn’t do it then he doesn’t think he would have the same appreciation of his beautiful home country. The kids don’t take the US for granted, they love it and appreciate it in a way that, I think, is different (not better, just different) than someone who has lived there for their entire lives. My kids may not recite the pledge of allegiance, and the only time they sing the national anthem is when we’re at a baseball game in the US, but they are fiercely loyal to their country and bringing them home always feels to them like wrapping them in a warm, fuzzy blanket. And I know that all the insights and experiences they’ve had during their nomadic lives gives them gifts that they will pass on to the US, their perspectives and world views are out of the ordinary and, I think, valuable to our country.

10: Resiliency, because any parent raising nomadic children will tell you teaching those lessons I just wrote about is nearly impossible without it: All this change and flux and transition and starting over requires one thing, resiliency. I have seen my kids move to so many places, take a deep breath, hold their nose, and jump. Or, sometimes, dip a toe in, stand back with folded arms, and sit down to think for a while. No matter how it starts it always ends the same way–two feet planted firmly on the ground. Sometimes there’s adversity, sometimes it’s smooth as glass, but they are always pliable and resilient and I am a proud momma.

This life is full of choices, our choice has been to live as nomads with portable roots, each step we take forward is a conscience decision to continue on this path. And, for now, that’s what we’re doing. So, onward, my little nomads, there is more adventure on the horizon …

The Space Between AKA Crap, I’m Bored

The last few months have been chaotic, stressful, fun, and full of change. I’ve been so busy that it was all I could do to just squeeze everything in, and sometimes I didn’t. Now we’re at post, in our temporary house, living out of our welcome kit (who buys those damn comforters anyway, clearly someone without any nerve function in their skin because those bad boys are like sandpaper!), which means the house is pretty much empty. I feel kind of like a little ball of fur rolling along the tile floors, looking for stuff to do. For the first time in months I have time on my hands. Gobs and gobs of time, in fact. You’d think I’d be happy about this. And I’m not unhappy, I’m just bored. I haven’t reached the level of boredom where I do stupid shit because, as Eric just wrote to me “uh-oh, a bored Heather is like a curious cat!” I’ll force myself to be un-bored before I reach that level but, for now, meh, not so much. Ordinarily I’d set out on foot to explore our new city but that’s a no no in Tegucigalpa–going out would be filed under “stupid shit Heather does when she’s so bored that she’s going to start beating her head against the wall for stimulation”–so that’s out. And we have shiny new maps on our GPS so I can start driving when I work up the courage (I’m the only person I know who can get lost driving around a block so a GPS is a must). My desire to run, even if it has to be on the treadmill, will soon outweigh my cowardice about getting behind the wheel. But, for now I’m here.

This is what I think of as the space between. Between the insanity of an international move, the whirlwind of DC training and home leave, the mad rush of getting settled at post, and truly making this new city our home there exists a no man’s land for me. This is the space where I do a lot of wandering around the house, straightening things that aren’t crooked, talking to our dogs even more then usual, staring off in to space, and writing down all the things I can bake in the one loaf pan I have. I seem to have zero motivation to actually be productive, I’m not sure why and, honestly, I’m not even sure if I care that much. See? No motivation, I tell ya! The kids have started school, Eric has started at the embassy, I keep things rolling along at home and, right now, that doesn’t take much.

This is the part of the roller coaster where you’ve done all the fun twists and turns, felt like you we’re going to hurl a couple of time, maybe screamed a bit, thought “why the hell am I on this thing????” and then BOOM! That hard brake at the end before you pull back onto the platform, moving slowly to the spot where you get off the ride and figure out which one you want to conquer next. For now, I’m just coasting, sitting in my little roller coaster car, twiddling my thumbs, waiting for the next bit.

Maybe I’ll read a magazine. Maybe I’ll brush a cat. Oh, look, it’s 11:27, only 6 more hours till I can get dinner started. Maybe I’ll take a nap …

An American Hero and the Journey of a Lifetime

My grandfather is my hero, I straight up, no holds barred, adore him completely. Everyone who knows him knows that he is a hero, not only because he served in WWII and in Korea, but because of the way he served–with valor, determination, and by putting the well being of his fellow soldiers above his own time and again. He’s also my hero because, through all the battles and the horror, he never lost his kindness and compassion, his gentle nature and goodness. These things are incredible, and some of the strongest memories I have from childhood are sitting and listening to his stories about WWII, especially about D Day. From the moment it all began … when he jumped off the boat and was so top heavy with gear that he flipped upside down in the water, unable to right himself and feeling fairly certain he was going to drown, he felt someone cut his heavy baggage off and help right him, that person was his Sergeant, Sergeant John Weaver. To later on the beach, after his Sergeant had been shot. My Da had risked his life to find a medic for the Sergeant but, in the end, he couldn’t be saved, and Da wouldn’t leave his Sergeant, so amongst the gunfire and the blood, Da stayed until his Sergeant passed, and then he fought on. This is my Da, an American hero

I.L.Harper-Holland-1944 Liam-Da-WWII

 

So much more could be written about everything he experienced during WWII, everything his young wife who waited for him experienced, and I kind of touched on it here, but today, on the 70th anniversary of D Day, I’d like to focus on a trip we all took last May to Normandy, France. My grandfather was granted a wish by a non-profit that gives back to seniors for everything they have given to us called Wish of a Lifetime. His wish was to take his oldest great-grandson, my Liam, to Omaha Beach. Liam is the only child I know who has spent more time than I did listening to Da’s stories about WWII and, not surprisingly, Da is his hero as well. Never in a million years did we think this wish would be granted because it would be such a big undertaking, but the foundation decided it had to be done (you can learn more about the details here) and we decided we had to go as a family. We asked the foundation to please give Liam’s plane ticket to my Nana, we would pay for Liam’s ticket and then all meet in Paris to make our way to Normandy. The foundation was incredible in helping to organize everything, and, eventually, this huge thing happened and we ended up in this minivan–that’s the seven of us with two walkers about to drive from Paris to Normandy, we were a bit scrunched!

Dublin, France, Vista 019

We arrived in Normandy, decided to grab some lunch after we got Nana and Da checked into their hotel, and what should have been an easy breezy bite to eat ended up in a trip to hospital for my Nana. All the travel fatigue, and the cobblestone streets, caused a bad fall but , thankfully, we were very near to a hospital. Ultimately Nana, while very bruised and bloodied, was given a clean bill of health from the doctors but they wanted her to spend the night so they could observe her. Eric, my husband, had been the one who was back with her while we sat in the waiting room because they only allowed one person at a time with the patient and he speaks French. Before we left he talked the staff into letting me bring my Da back to see Nana. The memory of the two of them when they greeted each other is still so strong, Da reached out and took Nana’s hand, his face absolutely lit up with love, she patted his hand, he leaned over and kissed her cheek. The love my grandparents have for each other, after decades together, is simply amazing and they are never happier than when they are together.

It was decided that Da would come back to our B & B with us rather than stay in the hotel on his own, and the very nice B & B owner who arranged for him to stay in the one room that was on the ground floor, and the very nice people who had originally been in that room and gladly moved upstairs to accommodate Da, will always have a place in our hearts. Eric and I decided that one of us should stay with Da, especially since the rooms we’d reserved were in a different building of the B & B, and Eric volunteered. So my 6’4 husband, who loves my grandparents as if they were his own, spent the night on the small couch outside Da’s room and, before daybreak, quietly went into Da’s room to check on him and to make sure he was there when Da woke up so he could help him get ready. Have I mentioned how much I love my husband? I stayed with our exhausted children in their room

Dublin, France, Vista 076

The next morning we had breakfast with Da and, by the way, if you ever find yourself in Normandy …

Dublin, France, Vista 078

 

do stay at La Ferme Du Pressoir B & B, it’s spectacular

And we still talk about how scrumptious the breakfasts were

Dublin, France, Vista 077

 

 

Then we started our whirlwind of a day, which included a ceremony in Saint Lo where there is a church that has been turned into a museum dedicated to the American soldiers who helped to liberate France, the mayor of Saint Lo presented my Da with a certificate of thanks and granted him honorary citizenship of Saint Lo.

Dublin, France, Vista 105

We also visited the church where the body of Major Howie, my Da’s Major who was killed, was placed …

 

and the children got to lay down in hedgerows and learn all about the important part the rows played in the battles.

 

We stopped for lunch with our wonderful tour guide, Dale Booth

Da talking to my daughter, Aisleen (can you tell by the look on her face that it was a very full day?)

Da talking to my daughter, Aisleen (can you tell by the look on her face that it was a very full day?)

 

Somewhere in the midst of that Eric was able to go to the hospital and get Nana checked out so she could join us for the rest of the tour, and we continued on to Omaha Beach, which was a pretty incredible experience. To finally be at this place we’d been hearing about for so many years, and to be there with Nana and Da, is something I won’t even try to put into words because words just can’t contain it. We sat there, listening to Dale talk about the battle of D Day, finally seeing where the men had landed, where the Germans had been with their guns, finally seeing the beach that had shaped so many people in so many ways. Our youngest, who was six, had wandered off to play on the beach. I watched him dig his fingers into the sand, jump over puddles of water, search for shells and rocks, and I was thinking of how this beautiful, peaceful beach had seen so much carnage, how so many men had lost their lives here; and there was my baby, playing  in the sunshine on this almost mythical beach. Omaha beach, once a place of horror, was now a place of joy where children were free to run.

Riley on Omaha Beach

Riley on Omaha Beach

 

Da, Eric, and Liam listening to Dale talk about the battle.

Da, Eric, and Liam listening to Dale talk about the battle.

 

Omaha Beach

Omaha Beach

 

Our day drew to a close in a very emotional visit to Normandy’s American Cemetery, where my grandparents took part in the lowering of the flags

Dublin, France, Vista 167

 

After the ceremony we were chatting about the day, making sure Nana and Da were holding up okay, when an American approached Da and asked if he could shake his hand, Da held out his hand and the man thanked him for his service, Da was visibly touched. One by one, surrounded by the silence of this sacred cemetery, American tourists and French citizens came up to Da to shake his hand and speak quietly to him–“thank you for your sacrifice,” “thank you for helping to liberate my country,” “thank you for being part of the greatest generation.” My children and I had eyes that were filled with tears at this outpouring of love and respect. A reporter came up to us and asked if she could interview Da and Liam, Liam had a hard time keeping it together because he was so emotional but he explained it was because this was such a dream come true for him, to be in Normandy with his great-grandfather, who was his hero.

Dublin, France, Vista 178

Then he took a few minutes on his own to pay his respect to the men who had made the ultimate sacrifice

Dublin, France, Vista 182

For so long, men who served in WWII felt that they couldn’t talk about what they experienced because, they believed, nobody cared, I’d heard this from men that Da had served with. Many years have passed since the time when Da could no longer hold his stories and experiences inside, I was lucky enough to be there when he decided he needed to start talking about it, and Da has always known that his family cares deeply about what happened in WWII and, specifically, on D Day; each stranger who expressed their thanks and respect to Da showed him that we are not alone in caring and in being grateful and we, in turn, were grateful for their kindness and for helping to make this journey of a lifetime complete.

 

From Da, on the 70th anniversary of D Day: “70 years ago I, with a small detachment of men from the 111th FA BN of the 29th Div. landed on Omaha Beach on the Normandy Coast. We were attached to the 1116th Inf. Bn. of the 29th Division and came in with the 2nd Wave at 7:30 in the morning. We faced German firepower, shrapnel, land mines, barbed wire, Tetrahedrons. I lost my BN commander, Thornton Mullins, my Sgt., John Brown Weaver, among others on that beach that day. To them and my comrades who survived D Day, my heart has been with you since that day. We did the job we had been trained for and did it well. ’29 Let’s GO’.”

 

SEAS, a Tiny but Mighty School

Every nomadic family knows that one of the hardest things about moving every few years is finding the right school for the kids. So many questions go with this search, so much stress and worry. Will they be academically challenged? Will they fit in? Will the staff nurture them emotionally? Will they be safe? Will they be expected to stuff themselves into a box or will they be allowed to find their own path? It weighs on a momma.

We have three children, each with their own special gifts and qualities, all operate above grade level in many subjects, one operates well above grade level in all subjects, and they have vibrant personalities that need to be allowed to fly free. Don’t get me wrong, they’re not trouble makers, each of them has always been the kids that teachers want in their classroom–they’re leaders, thoughtful and respectful to their peers and their teachers. But they all have large personalities and one of my priorities is to find a school where they will not be expected to minimize themselves in order to fit in.

Our first school here was very mixed for us. Our daughter was badly bullied (which I blogged about here) by a girl in our neighborhood who also went to the same school as our kids. Long story short, months of trying to get the behavior dealt with on the bus and in school was fruitless and we knew our only option was to find a different school. I was having coffee with a friend, talking to her about the bullying, and she suggested that I check out the tiny school her kids went to, so one morning our daughter and I paid SEAS a visit, after five minutes I said to myself “this is it, this is the school for her.” Our daughter, who had been so emotionally bruised and battered, had transformed from an incredibly extroverted, vibrant, joyful child into a shy child, mistrustful of strangers. I was pleasantly surprised when she said she wanted to spend the day at the school, when I picked her up that afternoon she bounded up to me and said “Momma! I made 20 friends today!”  This was the girl who, only the week before, I’d seen wandering the perimeter of the playground of her (now) old school, head down, earphones in–that was a sight that tore at my heart because it just was not who she was. Two days after starting at SEAS, her new school, she was back to hula hooping around the house and chattering non-stop. Academically she’d struggled, for the first time ever, at the first school, her grades were plummeting. She was so lost in the emotional turmoil of the bullying that she couldn’t soar academically. At SEAS she took off like a shot, making such rapid improvement that it was almost shocking to her teachers. We’d gotten our daughter back, SEAS gave us our daughter back. As a mother I have found very few things more painful than watching one of my children suffer, SEAS put an end to that suffering and showed Aisleen that she could trust again, that she was safe again, that she didn’t have to shrink into the background anymore, she could soar and be her colorful, imaginative, dynamic self. I really will never be able to put into words how grateful I am for such an profound gift, the gift of helping to bring our child back to herself.

Our youngest did well academically (though he was operating at a higher level than the other kids in his class and I was frustrated by what I saw as him having to sit in a box that he’d outgrown), fit into his classroom, had lots of friends, but I began to suspect that the kids were allowed to be very rough on the playground when the first words we heard him speak in Spanish were “ayuda me,” help me! And my gentle boy, who at his school in Virginia we’d been told was the most well-mannered and respectful child they’d ever had, became very rough and tumble, beyond what I would consider to just be part of growing up, and kind of rude which, if you’ve ever met Riley, you know is the opposite of who he is. Yep, time to switch him.

Then there was our oldest, who is now 13. When we moved here he was given a series of standardized tests and he scored pretty much off the charts so the school recommended he skip fifth grade and go right into sixth. We thought long and hard, sought advice, weighed pros and cons, and decided to go ahead and do it. He’s always been mature for his age, never has had problems making friends, and school was a breeze for him from day one so, sure, let’s challenge him more. Worst. Mistake. Ever. During our first parent teacher meetings his math teacher told us he was really struggling, which we knew because doing homework with him was a hair-pulling nightmare. We told her that we felt it was probably because he’d missed out on some pretty fundamental stuff since he skipped a grade, her response was “he skipped a grade?” I looked at my husband with my “are you freaking kidding me???” face. The school had never told his teachers that he’d skipped fifth grade, his math teacher had no idea he’d never been taught division. Sixth grade was a struggle but he ended up getting good grades and really rising to the occasion. He’d also made a lot of friends and was enjoying playing oboe in the school band so, cool, we decided he should stay where he was. Second. Worst. Mistake. Ever.

Seventh grade was an absolute bust that ended up in a crisis meeting with his teachers and the director of the middle school, the theme of which is “how can we stop Liam from tanking?” The most frustrating thing to us as parents was that he’d been tanking for a good couple of weeks and until I got a call from his science teacher expressing her concern at his rapid downhill movement I had no idea. His grades were still good but over the course of about three weeks he’d gone into a freefall–utterly overwhelmed academically and clueless how to fix it and, for the first time ever, he didn’t come to one of us about it because, he later told us, he felt like a failure. We decided he needed a smaller school, one that could tailor a learning plan to help him excel in the areas he was strongest in and teach him some of the fundamentals he missed out on when he skipped fifth grade, and one that would help him rediscover his love of learning; he needed SEAS. The school wouldn’t refund his tuition in order to allow us to switch him immediately so we hired a tutor who would work with him on organizational skills and help make sure things were getting done. Luckily, the tutor was his wonderful science teacher who he really liked and who was someone I trusted completely to help him. He ended up pulling his fat out of the fire and, in fact, finishing quite strong in the subjects he’d been struggling with the most. Now, at SEAS, his academic needs are nurtured, and the boy who could barely write a research paper last year is, in social science, history, and English, working at a college level. And far above grade level in math, a subject he came close to failing last year. It’s kind of incredible. And I kind of want to drive over to his old school and shout at the top of my lungs “IN YOUR FACE!”

So, all three kids together in the same tiny school. This school really is more like an extended family, it’s a place where I know my children are safe and loved, challenged and driven, and a place where they are held to the highest of standards academically and behaviorally. No excuses accepted, ever. Consequently, each of our children has learned to take so much responsibility for their own education, I’m kind of blown away. At SEAS our older children have been taught all the fundamentals they need to move on–Aisleen to middle school and Liam to high school. How to research and write a paper, and properly document the research? Not a problem. Math at grade level? Pfffft, too easy, they’re way beyond it. Science? Aisleen was asked by her teacher last year to teach the kids Newton’s laws of physics because, after having been taught the first one, she’d come home and learned and researched them all. Complete with an experiment made up of her little brother and a swinging hammock, luckily nobody was hurt. Also, don’t ask them about chemistry unless you’re prepared to sit for a good, long while. And did you know that Pachelbel’s Canon and Green Day’s song “Basket Case” do this … yea, neither did I until my kids told me (they learned it in Music Appreciation).

Our youngest came back from being kind of angry and rough (like he had to live on the defensive) to his incredibly sweet, loving, thoughtful self in no time once he started at SEAS. This is the child who always greets me with a resounding “Mommy!” and a huge hug, who will always apologize to our dogs if he bumps into them while tearing around the house (complete with that winning hug), who can charm the socks off even the hardest of hearts, and who is just plain old fun to be around. Some of that had been lost at his old school, SEAS let him be himself again, he no longer had to play a child’s version of “survival of the fittest.” Just like the other two, he excels academically, that box he was forced into in his old school fell away immediately. He is in second grade but reads at least at a fourth grade level, can do complicated addition and subtraction in his head (he often comes up to me and says “mommy, write down a hard math problem for me, please!” I haven’t been able to stump him yet), and recently finished a research paper on Leif Erikson. He has also started speaking Spanish at home, this crazy mix of one sentence in English, the next in Spanish, back to English, then Spanish. I love it! His teachers at SEAS recognized immediately what he needed academically, over the past two years I haven’t spent a day worrying about having his needs met. And each one of them, pretty soon after they started teaching him, came up to me with this melty look on their faces saying “oh my gosh, Riley is so sweet …” I know, my face looks like that when I talk about him too. Or when I’m around him. Or when I’m thinking of him. Yes, the child has me tightly wound round his finger.

So, I have been at an absolute loss for how to say thank you to SEAS for being exactly what my children need, for reinvigorating in each of them their natural love for learning, for giving me so much peace of mind. The short answer is that I can’t. I can never say thank you enough, I can never properly put into words my deep gratitude, or express how utterly blessed we have been to be part of this amazing, special school for 2 1/2 years. I will never be able to say how much we are going to miss them, or how devoted we are to this tiny school. This was the only way I could think of to come close to expressing my thanks and to putting into words how much SEAS has meant to our family. We love you, SEAS!

ps. If you check out the website for the school, on the homepage, that’s our oldest with the youngest son of the school’s director/owners on his back (one of the things we love about SEAS is the vast age range of the students because it gives the older ones a chance to mentor and the younger ones a chance to connect with older kids), our youngest with his face buried in a book, and our beautiful daughter in the blue shirt, looking at the camera.

pps. If anyone would like to know which school was the one our kids went to initially, please feel free to contact me. I didn’t name them because I didn’t want this to be about them, I wanted it to be about SEAS.

Saying See You Later, this is the part that really sucks

I should be sorting and organizing but I need to write this, my heart is aching for my children and I have to acknowledge that in words.

Last night we were having dinner, eating, chatting, each child trying to get their voices heard. Our daughter, who is ten, had had a very long day, she’d gone straight from school to the vet clinic where she volunteers and she’d assisted in several surgeries, she was tired but also her normal silly and sassy self. About halfway through dinner, seemingly out of the blue, she looked at me and very quietly said “mom, I don’t want to leave Costa Rica.” I saw tears in her eyes, she looked down and wiped her eyes with her shirt, kept her head bowed for a moment, took a deep breath and let the pain pass. I told her I understood, I didn’t really want to leave either, that I was sorry. I felt completely helpless when faced with her grief. I knew she was thinking of our vet, who has become a good friend to all of us, I knew she didn’t want to leave Anna and her clinic.

On the way to school this morning our youngest, who is seven, said “mom, I don’t want to leave Costa Rica.” I asked him why and he said “because my two best friends are here! I want to stay with them.” Of course he does. The kids and I talked about how it’s so hard to say goodbye. We talked about how, when you live a nomadic life, you learn what is really and truly important to you in a different way than when you don’t move all the time. Bad roads? Too much traffic? Electricity that goes off? Internet that magically disappears? Frustrating laws? Honestly, we learn none of that is truly important. It can all be frustrating in day to day life, and there are days when those problems feel huge, but when we are so close to leaving and saying goodbye to people that we love, we see what is truly important to us–family, friends, love.

So this is the part that sucks. When faced with this pain my children feel I am often clueless how best to comfort them. Hold them. Listen to them. Talk with them. I can do all that, but I can’t make it go away. This is going to be a pretty difficult grieving process and we’re all just going to have to move through it.

I try not to think about my own grief, I try not to think about leaving people that I love. It’s so important to make friends, especially when you’re nomadic and don’t have your family near by, your friends become your family. My friends here have become such an integral part of my life, woven so deeply into my happiness. They’re always there for us in a pinch, always there to listen to me, to laugh with me, to help guide me, and they’re just really, really good people. My closest friend here is someone I see almost every day, I’ve grown to rely on her smile as a way to start my morning, thinking of letting go of such a simple thing is tough. I was at her house the other night, we were chatting with another friend of ours (who is also moving this summer) when she started getting tears in her eyes. It’s inevitable that when she tears up I tear up, and I hate crying in public, so I pointed at her and said “don’t start with me, woman!” and our other friend said “there’s no crying in baseball!” which made us all laugh. Tears were still there though and she said “it’s just that you’re my peeps and I know as long as you’re both here everything is okay.” Two of us are moving this summer, one of us is staying. It pretty much sucks. These women are the mothers of my youngest child’s two best friends, all of our children have a tough road ahead of them.

I am not whining, I’m not complaining, I’m not even having a pity party (yet). But the weeks leading up to each time we move are always some of our toughest and the ones that make me ask questions; are we doing the right things for our kids, would they be happier if we just stayed in one place, are we expecting too much from them emotionally? We’re almost to the tenth anniversary of joining the Foreign Service and I still don’t have the answers to those questions. They’re fantastic kids, they’re healthy, happy, kind, smart, and so much fun to be around. So I guess they’re okay. But how do I best help them say goodbye to people they couldn’t love more if they were blood? I simply do not know.

I’ve spent months trying not to think about saying goodbye but it’s close enough now that it’s not dwelling as much as preparing. I guess what we’ll all have to do is focus on the positive side of all of this, if we hadn’t made such amazing friends we wouldn’t be going through this, the pain is a testament to the power of our friendships. We’re letting ourselves live and love. My closest friend here and I decided this is our theme song, I think it sums this crazy, nomadic life up nicely …

This is Your Brain on Post-Packout Panic …

I woke up at three this morning, suddenly seized by panic at the thought of everything I need to get done in the seven weeks leading up to our move. Where the hell did the time go? How is it this close already? I managed to fall back asleep sometime around 5:30, and then wake back up a bit before seven. The DH, sweet as ever, said “go back to sleep, I’ll get the kids to school.” Sigh … too much to do. I’m not entirely lucid right now and I’m only just starting my first cup of coffee so I can’t guarantee this post will make a whole lot of sense. There are a million things I need to do but if I don’t get some of these thoughts out of my head they’ll still be there at three am tomorrow. Well, they’ll be there anyway but I’m hoping to weaken them.

When my brain made it quite clear, somewhere around four, that it would be damned if it was going to let me sleep I decided to preoccupy it. I eventually stumbled upon a very funny blog post from another FS mom who is also in the middle of pre-packout panic, in my FB feed, and there I lay, in bed at half four in the morning with our youngest next to me snoring away, reading it and giggling. I love our life, I love it as much as I could possibly love a life, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have some seriously stress-inducing, hair-pulling, ohmygodI’mgoingtobeatmyheadagainstawall, moments. At this point I just have to keep moving forward, one foot in front of the other, because I have this monster looming behind me and his speed is better than mine. I feel like the woman in the original Evil Dead movie who is racing through the woods in her robe and slippers while the evil force tears after her. Just keep going, one foot in front of the other and, for the love of god, don’t look back! When you look back you let your guard down, everyone knows that, and then the evil force will get you! It’s like my favorite line from my favorite running app, Zombies, Run!, “Don’t look back! Just run!” Only the move is a lot less fun than running from imaginary zombies. And I pretty much feel like this is where I’m headed …

Freaky, right? Totally freaky. And nuts. Which is how I increasingly feel as the move comes closer. Eventually, you’ll find me sitting on the floor, huddled tightly in a corner, moving between maniacal laughter and quiet tears, the only sound you’ll hear is the “plip, plop!” of tears hitting merlot.

Here is the BIG dilemma, the one I face with every move– how do I live three lives at once? I have present day life, which is a wonderful and full life with friends, my running (this is therapy, it cannot be sacrificed), volunteering at my kid’s school, trying to squeeze in a few more weekends at spots we still want to see, keeping in touch with friends and family back home, keeping up with all the day to day responsibilities of life. And then there is packout/moving life where I have to sort through an entire household of stuff to determine what gets tossed and what comes with us. And if it comes with us do I put it in our air freight or do I put it in HHE (House Hold Effects–this arrives much more slowly than the air freight), or do we drive it to Honduras when we (knock on wood) drive our animals there to set them up in the new house before we leave for the US for six weeks? And how do I organize it all so it doesn’t get mixed up? I am not the most organized person in the world, and I have a very tenuous hold on the concept of “attention span.” I’m the person who will sit down, telling myself I will focus and, fifteen minutes later … Oh! Shiny! So I’m thinking what I’m going to need to do is turn off the internet during the day so I can’t get distracted by facebook, email, or quizzes about what kind of seltzer water I am. Because between the house, the stuff that has to happen for our medical clearances, the paperwork, and all the eight billion things my DH has to to on his end well, see the above video.  I swear, I have opened the seven year old’s closet a half dozen times this week, gazed at the vast amounts of crap, sighed, and quietly shut the door. “Closet, you have defeated me, once again. Fuck you, closet, just, fuck you.” Yes, I am firmly in the place where I am actively and frequently muttering swear words at inanimate objects and household space.

The third life I’m living is future life. This is co-coordinating with my DH what we need to do for our new adventure in Honduras–the house, the logistics of moving our animals, going over info for different schools, figuring out what we need for life in Honduras, putting out feelers to see if we can do the activities we love, trying to find activities for the kids– I feel like I have one foot in the present, one foot in the packout, and one foot in the future. Except I only have two feet. This is a problem.

So I make lists, master lists and sub-lists, and I plot and I plan and life gets in the way and the move prep gets put on a hold for a day and I inch ever closer to madness. And have I mentioned we have two foster animals we’ve been trying to find homes for? A one-eyed cat and a four pound dog. Both very sweet and wonderful, and adorable! See for yourself …

Mooshie 008

 

Aren’t they fantastic? Wouldn’t you like one? No? Okay. Sigh …

So, here’s my final question to anyone reading this, and this is an incredibly important question so please take it seriously. Is it acceptable to have a glass of wine at three in the afternoon in order to help me tackle that evil closet? And every evil thing I need to tackle after it? Because, three kids, three closets. And our daughter has two closets. So I’m thinking two glasses of wine when I do her closets. That’s acceptable, right? Please? And please don’t tell me that they should organize and sort their own closets because then I’d have to smack you, and that would be ugly. I will co-sort with them but, ultimately, as I just reminded them this morning, “this is not a democracy, this is a dictatorship and I AM THE QUEEN!” to which our oldest helpfully responded “that would be a monarchy, Mom.” Somebody pass the wine, please …

Boomerang Lessons, How My Kids Inspire Me

“Boomerang lesson” is the term I’ve decided to start using for things I tell my kids that I need to pay attention to myself; in other words, listen to yourself speak, Heather, you might learn something. This past Sunday we ran a 5k race with our two oldest children, our 13-year old boy and 10-year old girl. It was a charity run for the Children’s Museum here in San Jose, my husband ran with our son and I ran with our daughter. Our kids are athletic and, despite the fact that if we let them they would immerse themselves for hours in electronics, they really enjoy being active. Since the time they were pretty young our kids could hike for miles and miles, the hubby and I are not parents who would push a 5-year old in a stroller–move forward and push on are lessons our kids learned early in life.

Our daughter was a bit anxious, she told me that she was worried she would slow me down, which I found a bit funny because I am not a fast runner, I consider myself to be a speedy turtle. My response to her was that I didn’t care one bit how fast we went, I only cared that we ran together and crossed the finish line together. I reassured her that she would set the pace and tried to drive home the lesson that there is no shame in walking or in running slowly, the only thing that matters is that you’re out there, having fun and challenging yourself and, in this case, being together.

The morning of the race came, she had butterflies (loads of them, she told me later) but was excited. I reminded her of all the things we’d been talking about, reassured her that she could do it, she nodded and smiled and we were off! We ran, we walked, we talked. The boys were far ahead of us (I’ve written before about how my hubby is a much faster runner than I am) but we all expected that. About two thirds of the way through the run her brain started getting the best of her, she began to believe she couldn’t do it, that it was too hard for her. Luckily for both of us two things are true: I believe in her completely and I have a Pinterest board that is brimming with inspirational running quotes! I told her that her brain could either be her best friend or her worst enemy, which side it landed on was entirely up to her. I told her “runners run a race in three parts–the first is with their body, the second is with their brain, the third is with their spirit and your spirit is so strong!”  She nodded, she liked that but she was still doubtful. I reminded her that she’s run 5k before, I reminded her that I believe in her. She still was not convinced. So I used a trick that I use for myself and told her we would just run to the next stoplight, then we could walk to the one after that, then run to the next, then walk. Running is a good metaphor for life in so many ways, in this case, just like in life, if things seems too large it can be overwhelming, but doing a little at a time can get you through to the finish line. We did this until we rounded a corner and she said “This looks familiar!” I told her to look straight, to the end of the street because the museum, and the finish line, were there, about 4 blocks away. She got a huge smile on her face and said “I can do this! I CAN DO THIS!” And she started to run, with me shouting after her “You’ve got this, girl! GO!” She ran and ran, walked for a few seconds, then hit the last 100 meters, a daunting hill–and she started to run, weaving through people, completely pushed forward by that unstoppable spirit of hers, totally focused on the finish line! She reached the top of the hill with me behind her, I caught up to her and we ran the last few meters, crossing the finish line together, just as we had wanted to do, it was a pretty incredible moment for both of us and, as her mother, I couldn’t have been more proud of her.

We stopped running, both winded from the hill and the last sprint to the finish line, and saw my husband and son walk out of the crowd towards us with huge smiles on their faces. Hubby told me he and our son, Liam, stayed together the whole way, then they hit the hill and he told Liam he was going to sprint it and then wait for him at the finish line. About halfway up hubby looked behind him and there was Liam, determined to keep up. They hit the finish line just a few paces apart, Liam felt pretty satisfied, then he moved to the sidelines and promptly booted– thank goodness that didn’t happen at the finish line!

So here’s my boomerang lesson … tomorrow I’m running my first 10k and, honestly, I’m pretty terrified. I can do it, I’ve done the distance, I’ve been training for this specific race for weeks and weeks but I am truly frightened. I’m not sure about what because I know I can finish it and I know even if I finish last, hey, at least I ran it! But I guess I’m intimidated by doing something new, and something that seems pretty daunting to me. So I have to remember all the things I told my baby girl while we ran, and I have to remember her spirit that refused to give up, and the determination our son had to keep running with his dad. So tomorrow my children, all three of them, will be my inspiration. The strength with which they approach life, all the change they go through, all the difficult transitions and goodbyes that go along with the life of a nomadic child, and the grace with which they handle these things, will be my inspiration to run, to keep moving forward, to not give up, and to believe in my own strength and spirit.

There was an amazing runner on Sunday, a man who would run to the front of our pack and then to the back, the whole time pumping his arms and shouting “Si, se puede!” Yes, we can! So, forward, and si, se puede!

Me and my baby running uphill, I reassured her that pretty much everyone had the look on their face that she does here, it was a tough way to end a race.

High five! The hubby crosses the finish line!

Liam crosses the finish line (pre-spew)!

Time to show off the medals!

The Tortoise and the Hare, Kind of.

Me and the hubby crossing the finish line of our first race

Me and the hubby crossing the finish line of our first race

This past Sunday my husband, Eric, and I ran our first race, a charity 7k to help Costa Rican police officers buy school supplies for their children. Neither one of us ever saw ourselves as runners but, for a variety of reasons, we’ve both been running for a while now. I’m in pretty decent shape, I do distance running three times a week, usually putting in about 14 miles a week, and I do hill running and strength training twice weekly. Eric does hill running at least five times a week, sometimes six, and when we run together he can leave me in the dust–but he never does. The first time we went running together we ran about 2 1/2 miles, I’d just started seriously running after too much time away from it so I was a bit spent, he’d been hill running for a while and had more stamina. We got back to our house, Eric turned to me, smiled, and said “I’m going to do some hill running, just to get my cardio up.” I shot him a look of absolute disgust as I bent over to gasp for air before squeaking out “I hate you,” he smiled more broadly and took off running up the hill, I dragged myself through our front door. We have a good natured competitive thread in our marriage …

Obviously, for a lot of reasons, men and women run differently, just by virtue of the fact that he’s nearly 6’5 he’s going to run faster than I am, monster legs and lungs count for a lot and the man has mad cardio strength. Eric is the kind of runner who does not need to take walking breaks, I haven’t gotten there yet. On my runs I’ll run for a mile, walk for two minutes, run to the second mile, and repeat that pattern until I’m done my run. So I told him going in to the race that he didn’t have to stay with me, we could each run at our own pace and I’d see him at the finish line, he said no, he wanted us to run together, that was part of the point!

The day of the race came, he calmed down my jitters, as he always does. I said to him “why the hell did I sign up for this?” he laughed and said “sweetie, you got this, you do this distance all the time!” We stood together, watching the clock, bouncing a bit to keep our muscles warm. We both had our music in our ears at that point, getting into the zone before the run. With a few seconds left on the countdown clock I touched his hand, we looked at each other and smiled, then we were off! After running for a bit I stopped to walk and motioned to Eric that he should keep going, he shook his head and stayed with me. For reasons I couldn’t figure out I was feeling a bit more worn than usual (I found out later it was because I was running at a faster pace than I normally do), I questioned the wisdom of running the 7K, asked myself why I hadn’t started with a shorter race my first time out, my brain was starting to beat my body down and I felt like I was dragging. I did a good stretch of walking, wondering if I should just walk the rest, reminding Eric with gestures that he should not wait for me and, each time I gestured to him to do that, he shook his head no. He never stopped running, he just slowed his pace to stay with me.

At about the halfway point we crossed a set of railroad tracks, a man who was racing in a wheelchair tipped going over the tracks, Eric and I, as well as the runner the man was with, stopped to help him. The men got him righted, I handed him his water bottle, he smiled at me, then we all continued on. I don’t know if it was his perseverance or just the fact that I hit my stride but I stopped feeling so sluggish and just ran, time and a couple of miles sped by, I walked a bit but just enough to get what I needed before running again. As we were rounding a corner Eric said something to me that I couldn’t hear, the look on his face let me know it was important so I took out an earbud and asked him to repeat, he smiled at said “it’s the last two hundred meters!” Sure enough, I looked ahead and saw the finish line. I nodded to him, put my earbud back in and we both started sprinting, he could have gone much faster but he stayed with me. About a hundred meters out I felt a bit winded but my brain, that had been so evil to me the first part of the race, had seen the light and said “you are not walking across that fucking finish line, run!” And I did, Eric and I crossed the finish line together.

A friend of ours who’d also run, and had already finished, snapped the above photo and when he posted it to my FB page it struck me as a metaphor for our marriage– Eric and I were together, running together, reaching a common goal together, just as we always do. I will freely admit that it takes a fair amount of patience to be married to me, I don’t know if I could do it. I’m not being overly hard on myself, just honest. I can be driven to a fault (common sense sometimes goes out the window) and very stubborn. And is there a term for “strong willed” that is stronger than strong willed? If there is, that’s me. I come by it honestly, it’s in my blood. Shortly after my great-grandparents, who were both from Ireland but met in the US, were married my great-grandfather handed his new bride a pair of his pants and asked if she would iron them. Soon after, she handed him back the ironed pants, only instead of ironing them so they were creased down the front she’d ironed them so they were flat as a pancake with the creases on the sides, clearly sending him the message “I’m your wife, not your mother, iron your own pants,” which he did from that day forward. So, yea, we Cawley women can be a bit strong willed and we’ve got tempers to match. Oddly, Eric loves those things about me. On the day of our wedding my Da (my maternal grandfather) pulled him aside and said “you’ve married a woman with Irish blood, the two most important words you need to know are ‘yes, dear.'” My Da says those words to my grandmother tongue in cheek for the most part, it either makes her laugh or roll her eyes, depending on the circumstances, and Eric and I are the same.

I can take a lot of patience, I have a selfish streak, I sometimes miss the forest for the trees and Eric has spent countless hours talking me down off ledges created by my tendency to fly off the handle. We’ve not always walked in lockstep but we’ve always managed to find our balance when we’ve misplaced it, hitting our stride and moving forward. We just had the eighteenth anniversary of our first date, in August we will have our sixteenth wedding anniversary and I can honestly say, with my whole heart, that I know we will spend the rest of our lives together. The fact that Eric stayed with me throughout the race, even though he could have gone much faster, is so quintessentially Eric and so quintessentially us–no matter what, we are together. He’s always been one hundred percent dedicated to staying by my side, and I am so much stronger for that. Whether it’s in running or any other thing we do, we’re together. I hope he does run a race where he really lets himself fly, even if that means I’ll sit it out and cheer him on at the finish line. But, for yesterday and for every day before that and every day after, I want to thank my amazing husband for always being my biggest cheerleader, for always believing in me, for always believing in us, and for never leaving my side.

The official crossing the finish line photo

The official crossing the finish line photo

 

Post race selfie, tired but happy!

Post race selfie, tired but happy!

Post Navigation

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 90 other followers