The Drums of War. Again.

Earlier in the week, it seemed flippant to write about how we’re in the middle of planning a trip to Europe this upcoming summer, or how we decorated our home for Christmas, or about how we spent Sunday afternoon drinking Shatto coffee milk and watching Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer over and over and over again. While everyday life continues for our little family, we’re painfully aware of the turmoil experienced by one of our closest allies.

On Friday afternoon, Clay and I continuously checked our phones for updates on Paris, not wanting to turn on a 24-hour news channel in effort to protect our children from such news – instead we watched Curious George. The horrific attacks in Paris, in addition to the most recent acts of terrorism in Beirut and the conflicting reports about the Russian plane disaster, has brought about a change in tone by which we discuss ISIS, their sympathizers, and the heartbreaking plight of refugees fleeing the violence.

Soon after the attacks, social media became infiltrated with red and blue toned profiles, status updates of je sis Paris were everywhere, and many in the western world were wondering if their home is next. But by Sunday things were different – not only does the world feel more contentious but our country seems particularly combative toward one another, which I suppose is the goal of such attacks because terrorism thrives on fear. I do wonder if we’ll look back on the attacks on Paris as the turning point – the turning point for what, I am not sure. But it seems dismissive to assume that nothing will result from these attacks – good or bad.

A couple of years ago, I wrote about the drums of war in regards to Syria. Those drums have varied in volume since that point but they seem louder today. The reduction of our military forces combined with a continued presence in Iraq and Afghanistan and now the growing threat of Islamic State has most military families bracing for another multi-front conflict fought by the few and in front of a divided country that hasn’t exemplified bipartisanship in years. It seems inevitable that cauldron is going to boil for awhile longer – I just wonder how long it can go before the pressure becomes too much for all of us to endure.

A Tenacious Spirit – Veterans Day 2015

We are at Fort Leavenworth for the year because my husband is attending Command and General Staff College (CGSC). His CGSC Small Group is comprised of 16 military members representing a variety of branches, specialities and experiences – a true cross-section of the military. So when the Marine in his Small Group invited us to attend the United States Marine Corps 240th Birthday Ball at Fort Leavenworth, we gladly accepted and looked forward to experiencing another branch’s birthday celebration.

We were a little late to cocktail hour because we were watching the end of the Clemson/FSU game. Go Tigers!

Over the years, we’ve attended countless formal military events together – my first being a Clemson ROTC Dining Out as a young 18-year-old freshman. Since then, we’ve dined on banquet-quality chicken, drank cheap wine while toasting the President of the United States, and listened to numerous Generals bestow their wisdom upon us. But we’ve never experienced an honored guest quite like SSgt Jerry Ingram, USMC. So perhaps that’s why it seems fitting to write about him this Veterans Day.

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{source – The Kansas City Star}

Staff Sergeant Jerry Ingram enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1942 at the age of fifteen. At sixteen, he became a tank commander with the 4th Tanks and participated in the amphibious landings and battles within the Central Pacific at Roi-Namur, Saipan, and Tinian. As a seventeen-year-old, he went ashore at Iwo Jima with the 4th Marine Division. Following WW2, Jerry as a tank platoon sergeant with 1st Tank Battalion, First Marine Division in North China (Tientsin). He then served in the USMC Reserve while earning his degree from University of Kansas, graduating in 1952. For the 30 minutes he spoke, he held the attention of the room as he discussed how the fighting spirit he earned as a Marine and his faith in God carried him through some of the darkest moments of his life.

In 1981, he survived the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel fire – the only one in his elevator to do so. He has had over 400 subsequent surgeries and continues to have a hand in the operations of the company he owns. His body is slowing down but his spirit is just as tenacious as ever. It was an honor to hear SSgt Jerry Ingram speak and I doubt his heartening words will ever leave me.


{source – USMC Archives}

Pictures of the veterans in my life hang in our house – a daily reminder of the sacrifices made by generations before us. This Veterans Day, go beyond #thankaveteran. Go to a parade and shake hands with a veteran. Give food to a homeless veteran. Listen to a veteran living in a halfway house. Hire a veteran desperate for work. Donate to a worthwhile cause. And please don’t forget about the day after Veterans Day either.

Having Enough

I’ve noticed something quite peculiar as of late – it appears that being too busy to experience the simple pleasures in life is not only aspirational but enviable. Emphasis is placed on money – there will never be enough and if you’re not wanting more, you’re doing it wrong. Furthermore, if you have the time to read a book midday, spend the afternoon building a puzzle with your children, or able to spend the evening hiking in flowered meadows, you’re not participating in a worthwhile pursuit.

Since choosing to become a stay-at-home mom, I’ve struggled at times with missing my career and to be honest, I’m unsure of how I am going to re-enter the workforce in just a few short years. But choosing to become a one-income family is something we’ve never lamented. Now I realize that it is a luxury that we even have the choice for a parent to stay home with our children while they’re young but it is a decision that is still met with sacrifice for us. My husband is in the military and is compensated in a manner that ensures we live comfortably but there are drawbacks to the lifestyle. Even so, we enjoy being a military family and we are grateful for the experiences we’ve encountered along the way. Yes – we will never be rich in the monetary sense. And that is okay. Because over the years, we’ve learned that we truly have enough.


Photo credit – Rachel Murphy Photography

Money is important. But it shouldn’t be our end goal. Life is so much more than chasing the biggest salary or being able to purchase the shiniest objects. Shouldn’t true wealth be defined as having few wants rather than determined by our earthly possessions? Now that I am in my thirties, I find myself not wanting a big house with a kitchen that would make Martha Stewart weep or a luxury vehicle with all the trimmings. But rather I want a more meaningful experience – one that isn’t dictated by outward signs of wealth. I want our family to be in a constant state of learning.  I’d like us to travel the world, to experience other cultures (here in the US and abroad), and most importantly, I want us to have the moments of extraordinary joy that seem to accompany the occasions when absolutely nothing is planned.

When we find ourselves grumbling about our tiny bathrooms or temperamental heating system, we remind ourselves that as long as we each other, we have enough. And when I think of the moments of true jubilant joy in my life – not one memory involves quartz countertops, leather seats, or designer labels. There is beauty in simplicity. Just sometimes we forget to look for it.