Friday, June 24, 2016

Freefalling in God's Hands

     Back in May, I was counting down the days until June, expecting it would be blissfully uneventful.  As a month of many wonderful things wound down, LtDan and I celebrated our 28th wedding anniversary on May 28 with a fun little get away to our favorite hotel, and we ushered in a new month that promised to be days upon days of life as usual.

     God, however, didn't consult my plans for a slow and easy June.  Dan passed away, out of this life and into eternity, on the 8th.  Never have I felt more out of control - freefalling through life - and at the same time so firmly in the hands of God.  

     Writing is where I feel the feelings and figure things out, but I'm not ready to begin the avalanche.  Even though I don't understand it, I have complete trust in God's timing, and I'll write about that eventually.  But for now, I'm with Bonnie Raitt: to believe in this livin' is just a hard way to go.

     It took me a couple days to realize that the throbbing ache all over my body is my heartbeat.  As dramatic as that sounds, and as deep as this grief runs, I do know that we'll be all right.  In the mean time, I laugh at how not being able to find my writing students or the right classroom last February seemed like life was out of control.  But I find my advice to be as applicable in the big out of control of today as it was in the small out of control then.  Maybe you can use some reposted advice, too.

When You Feel Out of Control (Repost from February 2015)

Dearest Children of Mine,

I don't think I considered myself a "Control Freak" growing up.  I'm not sure I even considered myself a Control Freak ten years ago.  Maybe the need to be in control is something that comes with age.  Maybe it comes with realizing just how fragile life really is, and the necessity to let the people most precious to you venture into the great wide world without holding your hand.  

But I think Control Freaks get a bad rap, because controlling (what you can) about your life has a lot to do with your personal sanity, and what's not to love about someone taking personal responsibility for their own state of mind?

Here are a few tips for those times when life feels like it's spinning out of control.

Set Yourself Up to Feel at Peace

I promise, this isn't a not-so-subtle attempt to get you to clean up your room, HOWEVER ... your environment impacts your mental state more than you may realize.  Keeping your place in order gives you a stable and soothing place to operate from when life throws you curveballs, and it's one less thing to distract you or stress you out.  Life feels better when there's order around you, so especially if you're feeling out of control, give yourself the gift of order.  The result and the singular act of exerting yourself on your environment will make you feel better.

Identify What You DO Control

It's important to identify what you can and can't control in life so you don't use up your energy trying to fix things that you simply can't.  You'll reduce your stress level considerably if you ask yourself if you have any power over a situation before you get involved with it.  When there's something you can do, take action and do that thing!  And when you get to the place where there's no more action you can take, admit to yourself you've come to the end of your influence, and let it go.  Don't dilute your energy by focusing on things that are outside your control.  Throw your action and focus and intent behind what you do have control over.  

Know (and do) What Calms You

When life goes bonkers, you'll naturally gravitate to things that settle you, and you may not even be aware of why it is that you're doing those things.  Explore and observe what calms you so that when things feel out of your grasp, you can purposefully turn to them to find some peace in the storm.  For me, it's putting things in order, which I didn't fully realize until last summer when the Hospice nurse made her first visit to see your Granddaddy and I was furiously organizing his linen closet.  Small comforting actions may not impact the big things you're concerned about, but they will make you feel better.

Don't Lose It

Have you ever listened to Fighter Pilots talking to each other in the middle of a battle?  Or 911 Operators taking emergency calls?  They aren't speaking clearly and succinctly and politely because they necessarily feel calm - their training is forcing their response to the situation.  I wish I could tell you that life goes according to plan most of the time, but sending you off into the world with that unrealistic expectation would do you a huge disfavor.  The truth is, much of life is about coming up with Plan B.  This is normal.  The only thing you are 100% in control of is your response to life, whether you're on Life Plan A, B or Z.  Your response to the setbacks in life become a habit - don't practice losing control when life gets crazy.  Remember that you have control over your response.  Practice staying in control.  And if you don't feel like you've got what it takes, pretend you do.  Pretend you have what it takes to stay in control ... until you do.  

See?  When life spins out of control, you can still have a plan.  It mostly has to do with controlling yourself.  It's the only thing you have control of anyway :o)

Friday, June 10, 2016

In Constant Sorrow

It's with deepest sorrow, and greatest love, and highest affection 
that I repost this entry about my husband today 
as we reel from his wholly unexpected passing on June 8.
Honoring him in every way possible is balm to the soul.

Let me introduce you to Lieutenant Dan.
He cooks! He grills!

He wears ranch shoes ...

He drives a truck ...

He practices Zero Minus One ...

He loves Texas ...

He loves his kids ...

He loves his dogs ...

He loves vacation ...

He loves America ...

He is super nice to foreigners and senior citizens (and he misses his Uncle Roy terribly) ...

He’s an MK (Missionary’s Kid) ...

He's an IT guy, but what he loves most is driving the tractor and working on the ranch ...

When he decides he’s going to do something, it’s as good as done ...

He's irreverant unconventional ...

This is his hero ...

Now that our children are approaching the age when they can begin thinking …. and I mean thinking--- no more! - about marriage, it scares me how much we thought we knew back in 1988, when actually, we didn’t know squat.
We’ve been married 23 years. That blows my mind.
In some ways it seems forever - in some ways it seems like we were driving away from the church just hours ago.

We’ve both changed ... and not changed. Who we are is different ... but the essence of us is the same.

The solitary thing that makes all the difference is that Lt.Dan and I both love the Prince of Peace. And when that's true, you know where the other person is trying to go. Even though you can't predict who someone will become ... you know their template for who they’re striving to be.
Every single day I’m thankful for Lt.Dan … he makes me smile, he makes me laugh, he’s still a great date. He's most definitely my best friend. And for me, he’ll always be the best man in the room.

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Best End of May

I may or may not have mentioned that our May was so busy  packed with lots of life to live.  At the end of this lovely action filled month was the best event possible to end a long month, much less 10 weeks of missing one of your children.  

In March, our eldest shipped off to Army Basic Training.  He wrote us some wonderful letters at the beginning, but after the first couple of weeks, his schedule (understandably) didn't allow much time to sit around and write letters. There were a few all too short phone calls, just long enough to grow a healthy appreciation for long conversations.  But at the end of May the wait was over and we attended Basic Training Graduation.

 How awesome it is to see one of your children doing so wonderfully well.

We arrived at Fort Sill on Family Day, looking forward to Charlie Company's informal presentation before the graduates were released for some free time.  We seated ourselves with many other families and patiently waited for the program to begin.  It was supposed to start at 9:00, and I tried not to judge that the program hadn't started by 9:40.  That's when I got a phone call from Ben ... apparently, we were waiting in Foxtrot Company's part of the building  - ha!  He told me to walk to the sidewalk and head the other direction, at which point I saw two young men in dress blues waaaaaay down there.  It was him!   

That moment was just the best.  

It was such a shock to see him with next to no hair - it's certainly the shortest it's ever been.  And he's worn a beard since he was ridiculously young, so it was a double shock to see him clean shaven.  Abbie later accused me of being starstruck by him (and yes, okay, she totally nailed me, what can I say?) but I don't think I was alone in that for one minute :o)

 We took a brief driving tour of Oklahoma, which by the way is beautiful, and ended up at a quaint hamburger joint called the Meers Store and Restaurant.  

We had the obligatory burgers at Meers, which was established in 1901.  It was filled with ramshackle charm that was only overshadowed by amazing hamburgers which were only overshadowed by the BEST peach cobbler and homemade ice cream in gargantuan proportions.  Two minutes into the meal, Ben sighed with exasperation and I thought something was wrong with his burger.  He laid down the three bites that were left and said, "I forgot that I have more than five minutes to eat!"

We took our soldier back to the hotel to relax a little bit, and he took a nap - the first one in ten weeks,  a well-deserved nap!  He stayed in uniform the entire time, shiny shoes and all.  Other things of note were that he had to be with at least one other person at all times, and he could not walk and use his phone to talk or text - he had to stand still if he was looking at his phone.  That one might be a good one for the civilian world :o)  

After the most wonderful day of just drinking in how great he looks and how happy he seems to be and how comfortable he is with what he's doing and where he's going, we took him back to base so he wouldn't miss his 8:00 curfew.  

The next morning was graduation!  The graduates were seated before the chapel was opened, sitting at attention (or that's what it looked like), very stern and serious.  Drill Sergeants were introduced (they looked terrifying), distinguished graduates were honored, and each graduate marched across the stage to shake the Commander's hand.   It was a pleasure during the graduation ceremony to honor the veterans, Ben's granddad and uncle among them.  After singing the Army song, the graduates were presented to a room full of immensely proud friends and family.  "These men and women have overcome every obstacle to become the newest defenders of America" got an easy standing ovation. 

Following the ceremony, we gathered with LtDan's parents and his sister and my brother and sister.  Ben chose Korean food for lunch and we all thoroughly enjoyed a huge and very tasty buffet at Pusan restaurant.   

We're all just a tiny bit proud!

After lunch, we headed back to the hotel to just relax - after ten weeks of high structure and rigid schedule, Ben just wanted an afternoon with no plans at all.  I don't blame him a bit.  He got a video game fix, and we updated him on important internet things that went on while he was gone.

The one and only unhappy thing about the entire time was that Nathan had to miss the event because he couldn't get off work.  It was a double whammy of good and bad, since he's proven himself well enough to step into a position of greater responsibility but that meant his schedule wasn't as flexible as we once might have hoped.  But his younger sister and brother represented well for him.

It was time to take our soldier back to base; graduation at 10am and off to Advanced Individual Training at midnight.  It was time to go and I couldn't stop taking pictures.

Before he left us, we went to see the obstacle course area and Treadwell Tower, a 40 foot high beast that all soldiers went up and down many times over the course of their training.  Ben got called out for smiling on his way down once.  Our boy is a thrill seeker.

We were standing in the common area with other soldiers and their families, taking pictures and chatting for just a few more minutes.  Ben had just explained that you are not to step on the Charlie Company emblem painted on the ground when he yelled a booming, "At Ease!" and everyone stood still at ease ... one of the Drill Sergeants was walking through (a woman Drill Sergeant, as a matter of fact, very impressive).  This is what you do when someone of higher rank enters a room, call out "At Ease!"  Civilian that I am, I instead took a blurry picture of the brick wall in my flurry to figure out what I was supposed to be doing, because I'm cool like that.

He's off to his next post in San Antonio, where he'll go through sixteen weeks of medical training along with many of his fellow basic training graduates.   He said his sergeant told him on Monday - Memorial Day - that the job of a 68W (medic) is to make people's Memorial Days less memorable.

I hope he does that many, many times over.