Ponderings.

I take great joy in observing life. I spend a lot of time pondering my observations. So, one day I thought I would write them down. These are my ponderings. -dana

Friday, December 11, 2015

Soft Landings.

We know that December follows November.  Every year without fail it does that.  So how in the Sam hill does it still manage to catch me by surprise?  Every single time.

I hear myself say cliche things like, "Can you believe it's December already?". 

Uh, yeah.  It's not like you don't have some notice.  Ya know…October, November, DECEMBER.  

Maybe I should plug it in on my phone calendar.  Have the first alert happen on, say,  Halloween.  Maybe the second one on the day after Thanksgiving.  Title it "Helloooo you big cotton-headed ninny-muggins.  It's almost December".

Still I would probably find myself saying, "Gosh it seems like it was just July.  How can it already be December?"  Maybe  my internal clock is confused because sometimes December in Texas feels like July). 

Anyhoo….

I'm five days past the first weekend in December, henceforth to be called "The Busiest Weekend I've Experienced in Eons".  I always think that busyness is relative.  We're all busy.  We're all as busy as we want to be.  I like being busy, so no belly-aching here. Just stating a fact.  I was a busy bee. There's also the possibility that maybe I'm just not on my A-game anymore.  Maybe I'm slipping.  But who am I kidding? Me slipping?  Not possible.  However….   Okay.  Let's just not go there.  And besides, it wasn't anything a few days of post R&R with the maximum dosage of Ibuprofen, a heating pad and stout black coffee couldn't take care of.  So there.


Enough rabbit chasing.

So people were coming.  Lots of people. 

To my house.  

It's all part of holiday festivities in my town to raise money for local scholarship.  Totally worth it and it was only right since my kids benefitted greatly from local scholarships.

The days leading up to it were a blur.  Did I eat?  Sleep?  I can't say for sure.  I think I just cleaned.  And cleaned.  And put up a tree.  And cleaned.  There's nothing like knowing other women will be in your home--some for the first time--to drive you into a cleaning frenzy.  You know the little pull-out bin in your kitchen cabinets where trash cans live?  Have you every looked behind and under those bins?   Stuff lives there.  Scary stuff.  Sometimes fuzzy.  But not at my house anymore.  I'm happy to report that if you wanted to look there at my house today, I would happily show you.  I told you….I was in a frenzy.  A mad woman.  I didn't wash my hair for four days and I'm not even kidding.

But something magical happened on Friday.  

It.  Was. All. Done.  

Well almost.  Only the slobber stains from Pearl,  the 130-pound Mastiff that lives with us,  remained.  Some stains soared to heights of 6 feet on my Sherwin Williams flat Requisite Grey walls.  FLAT.  No washing them.  Only repainting.  So yeah that didn't happen.  So we released it, and by "we" I mean Todd, my husband, released it.   I just put on blinders.

So as I said, it was all done.  Basically.

I'm a minimalist when it comes to Christmas decorating.  Just touches here and there.  Still it takes up space in my head as I plan.  But I love it.  Loathe the cleaning,  but then comes the moment  where I can put little pine cuttings with red berries (that I cut over Thanksgiving at my mother-in-law's house) in little glass bottles that sit in my windows--of course I'm listening to my Johnny Mathis record.  And sweating because it's pushing 80 degrees outside and I have a sweater on.

Anyway.  You don't have to tell me that it's kind of sappy.  I know it.  And still I love it. Judge if you must.  Gag if you must, but it is my own little private joy party.  You can come along if you like or not.  Totally up to you.  But if you come, bring candy canes.

My husband predicted I would be up half the night before the weekend started, but we laid our heads on our pillows at 10:30pm and drifted off to sleep.

At 5:30am I awoke with these thoughts.

I FORGOT TO WINDEX THAT AWFUL DRIP FROM THE WREATH THAT HANGS OVER THE MIRROR IN THE ENTRY WAY.  I NEED TO ADD SOME GREENERY TO MY NAPKINS.  WHERE IS THAT CANDLE I BOUGHT JUST FOR TODAY?

My eyes still weren't open and already I was thinking.  Working myself up. 

I was lying in bed facing the window and the eastern sky when I finally opened my eyes.  I was almost so busy in my head that I didn't notice, but then I quit thinking for just a moment and saw something.

The sky was ever so slowly changing.  Effortlessly it seemed.  The canvas of black became slowly streaked with the faintest hint of pink and blue.  Just a hint of it.  Like the palest colors in a baby blanket.  The sky was in no rush to get to the goal--a fully lit daytime sky.  It took its time becoming--like it was relishing in the joy each second was bringing to anyone up early enough to see it.  I think to myself how good is God that he would send daylight in such a way. 

It's not like I've never seen a sunrise before.  But I had never seen that one.  The one made for me.

I laid there and watched it until I was so captivated by it that I quietly got out of bed and fetched my camera.  Barefoot and still in my pajamas I went out on the upstairs porch to get even closer to the sky--to the light that was softly landing on me.

I live right smack dab in the center of town.  From my porch, I can see the soft awakening of things…the fog hovering just over the river that runs through the middle of town.  I can see the bridge with just an occasional car passing over it.  As I look at the bridge through my camera lens, I see a star.  Not a real one, but one that has been hung in celebration of Christmas.  


There was a time in my history when these December days were ones of "flitting about and fretting", both internally and externally.  Maybe some of that is unavoidable when there are little ones around, but now I have no excuse for falling prey to it.  I admit the temptation is still there to conduct myself in a manner that is driven by commercialism-letting total strangers get inside my head.  But you know what I really need---what I really want so much more than sweaters in every color from Old Navy at 30% off?   I crave for the joy of this season to land softly on me.  

Over and over again.  

It's likely only a few saw my sky that Saturday morning.  I think I was supposed to be looking.  I think the reminder perhaps saved December for me.

Those Saturday and Sunday mornings--the first ones of the month of advent--were for me the beautiful beginnings of a December that once again arrived sooner that I thought it would.  All weekend I thought about the soft landing of that morning, resolving to be intentional about keeping the rest of them that way.

Candy bowls were filled.  The tree was lit.  Strangers and old friends and family came to visit.  A french girl, too. The sound of children playing Christmas songs on an old piano filled a space that is otherwise silent.  A small-town Christmas parade happened just outside my windows.  A neighbor said, "Come on over anytime".  A young friend danced as a sugar plum fairy.  A friend sat under the tree lights and drank hot tea with me.  And at the end of it, my husband and I soaked in the quietness of the house and the fullness of the days.

Every bit of it landed on me softly because of the Saturday morning reminder to see it that way.  

There are 14 more days until Christmas.  I pray that every single one of them finds a soft landing on you and me.

God's peace be with you all.

-Dana


A river, a bridge and a Christmas star.


soft landings.





















Thursday, September 17, 2015

A Particular Joy.

I was raised in a family of girls, so when I started my own family and one boy came and then another,  I loved it.  It was different.  It was rough and tumble.  It was wild rumpus 24/7.  Okay... well there was a little sleep in there, but mostly wild rumpus.  It was matchbox cars and baseball cards.  It was frog-hunting and paintball. Basketball and baseball.  Lots of baseball.  It was make-believe where I, of course, was the princess of the castle.   I loved being the princess.

When our third child was on the way, I was sure it would be a boy, and I was absolutely okay with that.  We were totally into the boy thing.  We had the toys and we had the clothes all ready to hand down.

But then a real princess came.

My third child--a daughter.  She entered the world large and in charge!  Physically she was the smallest of my three, but no question she was in charge--almost from day one.  Hey, someone has to lead the troops!

All of the sudden, there was a lot of pink in my world.  In some circles,  to speak of colors and toys identifying one gender or another is considered sexist and certainly politically incorrect.  Well then wrap me up in pink tulle and call me guilty!  

Like I said.  So much pink.  And it was glorious.

Baby dolls took their places in the toy box right alongside the dump trucks.

There were hair bows the size of Texas.  Baby dolls and a special little bunny.  And oh the Beanie Babies.  There were Keds in every possible color.  There were painted fingernails.  There were tea parties and dress-up parties.  There was hula-hoop and jump rope.  There were matching pajamas.  And when we pretended, I was no longer the princess.  I was the grandma and my little girl was the mommy.  Me the grandma at age 34.

Then I blinked.

All of the sudden I'm driving into the city for a girl's day with that baby girl.  She has a calendar full of work, rehearsals, hang-outs with friends and gigs, so it takes some going back and forth to find a time that works for both of us.  (Although truth be told, I would rearrange most anything when she gives me the green light). 

When we meet, she drives up in her little olive green KIA…the first car she's paid for by herself.  She gets out of the car smiling and looking so beautiful in worn jeans and boots with that head of thick strawberry blonde hair, those big blue eyes and that smile that is sunshine to me.  

She knows all the coolest restaurants since she's lived in the city for almost seven years now, so she takes me to one of her favorites and we talk about all kinds of things.  Food. Travel. Work. Music. Church. Boys. Friends. 

I don't want the lunch to end.  I just want to soak a little bit longer in who she is--this person who is at once both known and unknown to me.  With layer upon lovely layer of goodness and beautiful imperfection.

That's my girl.

This strong, independent young woman has confidently navigated faraway places--many times going it alone.  She is fearless--fearless I tell you.  A far cry from the little girl who would drag her sleeping bag into our bedroom OFTEN and sleep on the hard floor all night because she was afraid of "bad guys".  Fearful to fearless in about a decade and a half.  Amazing.

This girl.  She can problem solve on the fly when things go haywire.  She can reason with herself when she finds herself  in a less-than-desirable situation--let's say… oh I don't know...maybe on a dairy farm in Sweden.  I'll stop there, since it really isn't my story to tell!  She is unafraid to take a go at life in the manner she chooses and feels called to.  She is unapologetic in pursuing her dreams and her hunger for adventure.  She is at one moment fully dreamer and in the next fully realist.  She is smart--always absorbing new things. She is a God-seeker.

She is kind.  She is caring.  She always thinks of herself very last.  She loves her people and is as loyal as the day is long.  If she knows you for half a second you will become "her people".  She is tender-hearted and an extender of grace.  This I know firsthand.  She likes to laugh.  She's super funny with those she knows well, but quietly feels her way around when she's in a new group.  Sometimes she's a mystery.  Sometimes she procrastinates.  She isn't overly emotional and she rarely entertains drama.    She never needs to be the center of attention, ironic as that seems since her work lands her on stage on a regular basis.  She's at her best one-on-one.  And on this day, I am the lucky "one". 

So as I look across the table at this dear one, who is and isn't mine, I am so thankful she came into my life in a whirlwind of pink exactly twenty-five years to the day.  

I love her soul and her spirit and her belief.  Best, though, I love her heart.  Anyone who has even a tiny piece of it is better for it.

She is the loveliest song I know….a melody that is familiar one second and in the next, brand new.

She is my girl.


"The particular joy in my heart, 
she cannot imagine"
(from "A Newborn Girl at Passover" by Nan Cohen.











Thursday, September 10, 2015

Seeing Good Stuff.

Last week I read this post from a friend who lives inside the city limits of my little town.

"There is a steer on my front porch".

Now that's funny I don't care who you are.  

A little comic relief is like a vitamin B-12 shot to me when the world seems to be free-falling into oblivion these days.  Don't believe me about the "free-falling" part?  Just read a few pages of your Facebook feed.  Sheesh.  There you will find petty arguments between neighbors and friends posted passive-aggressively in those little posters that look so pretty.  Then there are the verbal wars between government leaders.  And of course there is no lack of minutiae to help us waste away our brains.  Like "If I was an animal, what animal would I be?"  Not even kidding.  I got rabbit, and that's not even close!  JK.  I didn't play the game.  No really.  I didn't! 


But it is more than just social media.


There are travesties against humanity right outside our doors.  There's disease for which there is no cure and natural disasters that devastate human lives.  There's greed for money and power. There's hunger and there's war.  Between nations. Between ethnic groups. Between denominations.  So many wars.  What's good is seen as bad.  What's bad is seen as good.


Vertigo.  The world has vertigo.


And my stomach is in knots.


Quite frankly, I find it refreshing that there is a steer on my friend's front porch.  That is just so good!  In fact it makes me deliriously happy and I'll tell you why.



 I was away from home recently, and a sweet neighbor rang me up to tell me she had seen an old truck pulling out of my driveway.  She'd never seen the vehicle around before, and she wanted to make sure we were home and aware.

I was immediately struck by two very different thoughts.

Thought one.  The goodness that lives in the human heart that urges us to look after each other.

Thought two.  The sadness that in our world we are all on high alert against bad stuff.

When bad stuff happens, we tend to forget about thought number one--the good heart.  The good stuff.

So I went through a little self-help rehab some time ago and I'm happy to report I'm not a news junkie anymore. Of course, I still hear things, but I don't watch the news or listen to talk radio any more.  I just don't do it.  It's my effort to starve the fears that have already been rooted inside me, while hoping to stave off any new fears that try to get through my bubble.  It was kind of an act of self-preservation, I guess.

Don't misunderstand.  I'm not living with my head in the sand, but watching replay after replay of recent tragedy cannot increase my sympathy and my heart for those suffering.  I'm already there. I hurt for them the minute I learn the news.  Continuing to watch the media circus that surrounds  these events, though,  does nothing but make me slowly forget about goodness--the goodness that lives in most human hearts.  I begin to feel fear creeping in.    


I begin to think more about the bad.  


I have to say that I need zero extra encouragement to look out for bad stuff.  Even on the brightest, most gorgeous days with blue skies and marshmallow clouds,  I can imagine it lurking in the bushes, around the corner and a mile down the road.  So when bad stuff happens, it just confirms what I suspected would come eventually.  It's one of my very worst traits.  See how important it is that I cling to goodness?


Sometimes I think I'm on the verge of thinking bad is winning.  I know better, but the images I see and the words that I hear are such a contradiction to good. 

We just can't do that--forget about "good", I mean.  It is our life-line.

I'll tell you who hasn't forgotten about the good.  My friend John.  He publishes a newspaper with only good news.  Seriously.  Only good news.  He is the hardest working writer I know, running all over the Texas hill country trying to photograph and report as much good news as he can.  He writes about and photographs dog parades, boat races, charity fish fries, concerts, art shows, benefits, awards given to law enforcement officers, new businesses and so much more.  He applauds any good endeavor that he knows about, and he does it all with his trademark smile plastered all over his face.  Even if he's been going all day and it's 100 degrees outside, he smiles. John is one of the most beloved individuals in the community.  His paper just makes you feel good. It's his mission and he is intentional about it!


So in an effort to not forget about it,  I started thinking about good.  Really thinking about it.  And there was so, so much of it that I had to write it down.  The more I wrote, the more there was.  I couldn't write fast enough.  

This is a portion of my list.

The bright, almost glow-in-the-dark color of green on the mesquite trees as they begin to bud out in spring, despite the drought.  It's my favorite color.  That is good.

The way my little piano student laughed so hard he couldn't even talk when I sang him "On top of spaghetti, all covered with cheese.  I lost my poor meatball when somebody sneezed".   Hysterically good.

The sweet note I received from a friend.  She was already in bed and thought about me and wrote a note on the yellow pad that was within reach.  That is oh so good.


Coffee with my favorite creamer in the morning.  Hot good.

The brain surgery of a young boy that was a huge success.  Goodness.

A random email from a son.  Way good.

Watching the river flow by.  Peacefully good.


My student playing his entire lesson the week before Easter in bunny ears.  Funny good.

Seeing a picture of old friends holding a new grandchild.  The most adorable kind of good.

Little bitty tomatoes growing on my tomato plant despite my thumb that isn't even a little green.  Delicious goodness.

Young love that is turning into marriage.  Good, good, good.

A picnic lunch with friends at the park, complete with green, polka dot napkins.  Simply good.

Losing 5 pounds.  Gooood.


Sharing a breakfast of eggs and fruit with friends.  Sweet.


Sneaking into the back of a large church service in another town  just to hear my girl sing.  The best kind of good.


Hearing my husband tell me in a sing-songy voice when he walks in the door, "Something's smelling good in there".  Silly good.


My dog Pearl.  Good doggie.


Pumpkins.  Fall-is-here good.


There is so much good stuff in life.  So much.  Way more good stuff than bad.  


So when I hear bad stuff, I can say to myself, "Well, yeah, but there's this".  The this of course is my list.  My good-stuff list.


When my oldest son was a little boy, he loved to watch Mister Roger's Neighborhood.  He hands-down preferred it over Sesame Street.  It always baffled me because Sesame Street had all the bells and whistle and was a high-dollar production.  They even had movie stars as guests from time to time. But no.  He loved Mister Rogers best.  He was in love with Lady Aberlin.  He was mesmerized by  Meow-Meow, the Trolley, and King Friday.  I think now it must have been because it was a simple show and it was just so full of goodness.  I believe it was completely due to the good heart of the man who created it.


One of my favorites quotes of all times is from Mister Rogers himself---also a fan of good stuff.

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping.' "


That is truth.


That is seeing the good stuff.


Today when I got up, I sat out on my porch and watched the sun break through the clouds.  It reminded me of how really big God is.  And how, no matter what, good wins.  It triumphs.  It soars.


And that right there? That is good stuff! 

"Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious---the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse". 
Philippians 4:8 (The Message)

Boy.  Playing piano.  In bunny ears.  It can only be good!



Saturday, August 1, 2015

A little boy on a plane.


Bronson.

That was the name of the little three-year-old boy sitting behind me on the plane.  Of course I'm only guessing at his age, but after raising some of my own I'm usually pretty darn accurate! 

So this is the story about a plane ride I shared with a little boy named Bronson.  

I knew his name well before the plane even lifted off.

"Bronson.  Zip your bag and put it under the seat."
"Why?" said Bronson.
"Because I said so".

"Bronson.  Not so loud.  We're on a plane".
"Why?" said Bronson.
"Because we are".

"Bronson.  Turn the tablet off".
"Why?" said Bronson.
"Because the pilot said so".

At age 55, I felt a certain kinship with Bronson.  We were both a little excited and antsy for our journeys.  I was on the first leg of my very first European adventure, a trip my husband and I had planned for months.  I wasn't exactly sure of where little Bronson's journey would take him, but I  heard mention of "Grandma" and "Maine". Wherever this little fella was going, I could tell he was excited by the way he enthusiastically kicked the back of my seat.  

"Bronson.  Don't kick the seat in front of you".
"Why?" said Bronson.
"Because it bothers people".

However Bronson's mom couldn't focus all of her attention on him, because in her lap she held a very small baby and in the seat next to her was another child I guessed to be around five years old.

This was one brave mom.

I remember flying alone once with my 3-month-old.  I ended up with puke all over my shirt and all over my son before the flight even took off.  I remember trying to tidy us up in the confines of the airplane bathroom. I remember the bathroom was hot.  So hot.  That was the stress of flying with only one kid.  This mom had three.  

As I said.  Brave woman.  Super hero even.

When the plane took off, Bronson was fine.  I could tell because there was not a second's lapse in the kicking of my seat.  However, the older boy was a little nervous I guessed because his mom began to explain to him how she used to be scared to fly.  She talked with him about basic aerodynamics.  About how a plane is really just a glider.  She spoke in a soft and comforting voice that ended with her one final comment on the subject.

"So once I learned all that, I was never afraid to fly again".

And because little boys believe their moms to be the smartest humans in the world, her words did the trick.

Just a seat over, Bronson wasn't concerned at all about the safety of the flight.  He had a window seat and he was in awe.

Kick, kick, kick.  

The more excited he became, the more intense the kicks.

My husband and I grinned at each other every time we heard the sweet little boy voice say "Why?",  remembering our own familiarity with the word.  With all of our babies grown and gone, we were enjoying the energy playing out behind us.  There were conversations between the two brothers about how super heroes would fly the plane.  There were a few arguments over whose turn it was to use the tablet.

I'd brought along with me the Harper Lee biography, but I gladly closed it and packed it away because the story going on behind me had me hooked.  That, and I was getting a little air sick trying to read while my seat was being pummeled!

"Bronson.  Stop.  Put it away.  Don't."  Firm words spoken calmly.

At some point in the four-hour flight from Texas to New Jersey, the voices from the row behind me grew quiet as all the little ones slept.

I was happy for their mom.  If anyone deserved a break, it was this gal.  

I took out my phone, clicked on my "notes" app, and began to type the bits of conversation I'd heard from the row behind.  I thought I might later write a light-hearted blog about this funny little boy and the ride we'd shared.

Before we knew it, Manhattan Island came into view out our windows--Bronson's and mine.  The row behind me began to stir and the flight attendant announced we were beginning our descent.  Bronson began talking excitedly and loudly.  I waited for his mom's response, and it came.

"Bronson, we're still on the plane," she reminded.
"Why?" he asked.  
"Because we are," she answered, patient as ever.

And then there was the one other announcement.

The passengers were told there was a fallen soldier on the plane.  We were requested to remain seated when the plane landed until the family had made their way off the plane.

That's when Bronson said this.

"Are we gonna see Daddy at the hospital?"

His mommy, the brave one traveling with three small children by herself responded.

"No.  Remember Daddy's not alive anymore. We're taking him home."

My heart fell all to pieces for this mother.   So calm.  So patient.  In the midst of unimaginable sorrow.  Incomprehensible grief.  I had only a glimpse of her face when I sat down in front of her,  yet I'd listened to her voice for several hours.  Her peaceful voice.  

God.  The only thought I could think.  Dear God.

Then there was Bronson's voice.  So full of life and so matter-of-fact and curious.

"Where is Daddy?" he asked.

"He's under the plane",  his mom answered.

"Did we run over him?"  he asked.

"No.  We didn't run over him",  she answered.  "He's inside the plane,  just under where we're sitting", she said.  So patient with her little boy's logic.

And then we were on the ground.  There was a flurry of movement in the seats behind us…a gathering up of gadgets and backpacks and diaper bags.  

The plane fell quiet as this little family emerged from their row behind us--the very last row on the completely full plane.  I thought they should have been in first class.

They spilled into the narrow aisle.  The oldest child.  Then the mom and the baby.  And then little Bronson, wearing his backpack like a big boy, pulling up the rear and following closely behind his mommy--the brave woman I mentioned earlier.  Only then, I didn't know the half of it.

I looked at that little boy, so full of life and a million and one questions!   I felt such sadness that his dad wouldn't be there to answer any of them.  Slowly they made their way to the front of the plane--with the sorrowful eyes of every passenger watching--and then they were gone. 

I continued on my journey, and Bronson continued on his.

I went to Europe and little Bronson went to Maine to lay his daddy to rest.

And here's the thing.

My best day is someone else's worst day. I had forgotten that until God saw fit to give us some crummy seats on the back of a plane in front of a rambunctious little boy.

I am grateful for the reminder that life is strong and fragile, ugly and beautiful, happy and sad--all at the same time.  And that grace is sometimes only a whisper, but oh so present through all of it.

I am reminded.

My reminder came with a name.

Bronson.









Monday, May 25, 2015

Old Glory.


It's exactly 5:20 a.m. on Memorial Day 2015.


I've been wide awake for a solid hour because I want to fly my flag today.  It's our first year in a new place--a place made of stone and brick.  Hanging a flag holder requires drilling with a special bit.  With other renovations, we just haven't gotten around to it.  So my mind is working on other proper ways I can fly my flag today.  Soon my thoughts are drifting to the American Flag and my interactions with her in my 55 years.  


Once the thinking begins, sleeping is hopeless.  So I thought I would write about the things I'm thinking.


When I was a kid in 6th grade my teacher was Mrs. Groom.  It was 1971 and girls wore dresses to school with knee socks and track shoes.   We improved our reading skills through a color-coded curriculum called SRA.  Right before we said the Pledge of Allegiance--or maybe after--there was a scripture reading over the loud speaker.  It was a huge deal to be chosen to lead the Pledge and read the scripture.  We would giggle when a classmate mispronounced the scripture reference.  Like the time a boy pronounced "Psalm" as "Possum".  


We played Jacks at recess.  


We couldn't have candy in school, but with a little fake cough we could have Luden's Cough Drops which we consumed as if they were candy.  To get the Presidential Physical Fitness Award,  girls did something called the "flex-arm hang".  I'm pretty sure the boys did pull-ups instead.  We had weekly spelling bees in our classrooms.  

We had a janitor named Curly--a big, round older man who didn't have a single hair on his head.  Curly was known for handing out silver dollars to random students for good behavior.  I still have one of them in my keepsake box.  

These are all just random memories.

And there is one more thing I'm remembering today.


It was a huge thing to be chosen to raise the American flag in the morning and lower it when the school day was done.  I don't know what the selection process was, I only remember that I felt special when I got to do it.  We worked in teams of two or three.  In my mind I can picture exactly where the flagpole stood in front of my school.  We were taught to carefully unfold the flag in the mornings, being mindful to never let it touch the ground.  We were taught that the flag shouldn't fly in the rain, so if it began to rain during the day we would bring her down quickly.  We were taught the proper way to fold the flag and we took our job very seriously.

We were all just a bunch of carefree 6th graders whose main goal in life was to play.  That's it.  Mostly we never thought about freedom at all and we never considered what it would be like not to have it because we didn't even realize we had it.   Still, when we raised and lowered that flag we were reverent.  We understood that the American flag stood for something, but we couldn't fully grasp what that meant.
  

The American flag still evokes in me a feeling unlike any other that I have.  It's a feeling of pride for sure.  Of resolve.  Of a patriotism I aspire to.  


Sometimes its image can move me to tears or at least cause a very large lump in my throat.


The American flag.


Being raised high as an olympic champion receives a medal.  Seeing it soar over bent beams, broken glass and a huge hole in the ground where the World Trade Centers fell.  Being raised over every single sporting event I've attended in person or watched on TV.  Being raised as I drove through a military base very early one morning.  Waving all through my little town on days like today and on every Fourth of July.


All these flags waving and singing in unison "People!  We are free!"  At least that's the song I hear.


Mom and Dad always flew a flag, and ever since my husband and I have had a home, we've flown an American flag on days commemorating freedom and sacrifice.  There were times when we flew the old girl everyday, until the wind caused her to ravel and fray at which time she would retire.  We were taught that there were appropriate ways to dispose of the flag and that the Boy Scouts were the ones who would in a ceremonial and honorable fashion, burn her.  I always gave my worn out flags to the them until the last time.   I asked a scout leader about doing it and she said she didn't know anything about that. 


It made me sad.  Not because I couldn't do it myself, but because it just seemed like another sign that the American flag is ever so slowly losing her glory.  

It's ironic isn't it?  Free people tromping upon and burning and trying to ban the very thing that symbolically allows them to do so. 


With every sad image, I imagine our freedoms going away a few at a time.


There was a time when the American flag was revered.  It stood for something.  But then again, there was a time when people stood for something.  I'm not talking about social media rants that require no backbone.  No.  I'm talking about having such a strongly-held conviction about something that death is not too high a price to pay. 


Like my family's friend Ron Horn,  who died in some humid jungle far away from his family.  It was 1968 and he carried the weight of my freedom and yours on his shoulders.  And he didn't even know you.  He was 30.  I was only 8.  I only have a few recollections of him.  One of him sitting on our kitchen floor playing Jacks with us kids.  I remember his pretty wife Barbara with her black hair always fixed just perfectly.  Few can understand the heart of a patriot like Ron.  I always think about him on this day because he's the only person I've known in my whole life who died in battle. Recently I searched for information on him and his service and found this:

“Ronald Horn re-entered the Army while working for Shell Oil Company in Eunice, New Mexico and volunteered for Vietnam.  He had served three years, jump qualified and had been a member of the 101st at Fort Campbell.  A graduate of The University of the Americas in Mexico City and a native of Andrews, Texas.  He was a poet and a true patriot.  He was killed attempting to retrieve ammunition from a downed helicopter in order to help save his buddies.  He was awarded the Silver Star.”

I also read a tribute written by Ron’s daughter.  I remember her as a little baby.

“I miss you.  I always will.  I will always feel like there’s something missing in my life.  I’m constantly looking for something that I will never find.  I am a child of war,” she wrote.

And so the soldiers aren't the only casualties.

I hope I can find a way to fly my flag today.  But even if I can't, I'll look at all the other flying flags and remember Ron and his family, who all made sacrifices I can’t begin to comprehend.  I'll remember—and hope that as our soldiers are daily willing to sacrifice, that we--all Americans in support of our soldiers--can become brave patriots once again.

You’re a grand ‘ole flag, you’re a high-flying flag.


And forever in peace may you wave.