Pants and Sweaters

The other day, I pulled a couple of requests off the Angel Tree at the little guy’s preschool. I figured we could take a picturesque excursion to the toy aisle at Target and pick out the perfect toys as a family, complete with to-go cups of hot chocolate. So when I read pants and sweaters as the desired gifts, my self-serving charitable Starbucks-sponsored thoughts were replaced with an ache in my stomach as I thought of the number children bracing for another winter without enough pants or sweaters – so few that their Angel Tree wish bypassed toys for simple articles of clothing. A Christmas of necessities.

Our children (nor ourselves) do not want for necessities. In fact, Clay and I have joked in the past that we weren’t allowed to give necessities as birthday and Christmas gifts to each other. Which, quite frankly, is a disgusting sentiment and I am embarrassed to have thought that way at one time. As I look around our too big house that is filled with too many things, I can’t help but feel that I am doing my children a disservice. They will be receiving even more toys this holiday season, toys that they may want but toys they certainly don’t need.

And while I don’t want to rob our children of the excitement associated with receiving toys from Santa and extended family on Christmas morning, it is important to me that Christmas morning is not a free-for-all. I have no desire to see my children unwrap a gift, glance at it, and then toss it aside in favor of another wrapped gift. I grew up in a family that took turns opening gifts on Christmas morning – of all my family Christmas traditions, this one is dearest to my heart. I absolutely loved seeing a gift that I painstakingly picked-out or made be opened by my parents and siblings. And I hope my children will experience the same joy as they grow older.

grinch redemption

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” – How The Grinch Stole Christmas

This year we vow to do things a little different. Less of a spotlight on what they want for Christmas, fewer toys, and more focus on non-commercialilzed aspects of the holiday. And do so while keeping in mind that pants and sweaters can indeed be the most cherished gifts of all.

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A Smorgasbord of Sorts

I have a lot of little nuggets sitting in my draft folder – rather than attempt to flush a full post out of them, I’m compiling them here because, why not?

When I was 10, I peed my pants while attending a Beach Boys concert at the Arizona State Fair. During my freshman year of high school, I inadvertently asked my algebra teacher a question that the rest of the class interpreted as me inquiring about his penis size. And at our wedding reception, I tumbled down the grand staircase – wedding dress and all. Needless to say, I am no stranger to embarrassment. Nor am I smooth. Like, at all. Now that I am in my early thirties, I am okay with being slightly awkward. In fact, I think it has served me well and I find it makes life certainly more exciting. Who wants to be perfect all the time, anyway?

I am listening to the Better Than Ezra album Closer while writing this post. “Everybody wants to be a part/Everybody loves a situation/Who would ever want to play the part/Of anonymous numbers on a governmental chart.” The songs remind me of my freshman year of college – it really is amazing how a few simple chords can take you right back to a particular moment, stomach flip flops and all. Unfortunately, the album also reminds me of vodka from a plastic bottle (Popav anyone?) and Natural Light.

There are too many days when I feel like I am not mom enough. Which is probably why the New York Times article, Our ‘Mommy’ Problem, resinated with me so much. I think I put this pressure on myself to go above and beyond and BE THE BEST MOM EVER!!!! because I am choosing to stay home during this chunk of time when my children are young. I’ve already sacrificed career-time so like hell I’m going to phone-in this stay-at-home-mom gig. While I have no desire to be like Gwyneth Paltrow (I’m proud to say that I haven’t liked her since her Shakespeare in Love days), I can’t help but strive for the unattainable goal of an Oscar-worthy motherhood lifestyle. There are even dedicated blogs, you guys! Insanity.

The wait to hear about Clay’s next assignment is beginning to enter into excruciating terriotry. Which is crazy because learning of our next move 6+ months ahead of time is downright luxurious in the Army. Furthermore, there are people in the world who have no idea where their next meal is coming from, let alone their next move. So I realize that complaining about not knowing where we’re going next summer is totally a first-world problem and I’ll just shut-up now.

The Affair is our show du jour. A fresh take on the oldest story in the book, the creative storytelling is refreshing and a nice breather from the insanity that Homeland has turned into. Although I find myself exasperated at the notion of someone choosing Dominic West over Joshua Jackson. Pacey Witter!

And with that, the smorgasbord is over.

The Day After

Once while on a walk with the little guy during Clay’s second deployment, I came across an elderly gentleman handing out fabric red poppies with a handful of lines from “In Flanders Fields” typed on card-stock attached with string. While traditionally an emblem of Remembrance Day in Great Britain, the red poppy has also been adopted as an unofficial symbol of Memorial Day here in the United States. But because Remembrance Day and Veterans Day fall on the same day, it’s not uncommon to see red poppies on November 11th here in the states. I forget exactly when I encountered the red poppied man, but I do know that it wasn’t on Memorial Day nor Veterans Day. It was just a day.

My husband is a quiet man about his military service. He’s not one to boast about his experiences or achievements overseas and there is nothing on his car or license plate indicating he is a soldier. Not that he isn’t proud to serve his country, but he prefers to do so by focusing on the task at hand and not fixating on accolades from the general public. It’s just one of the many things I admire about him.

family

Perhaps in effort to counteract the horrid treatment Vietnam-era Veterans received upon their return, the general public currently holds military members in fairly high esteem, at least at face-value. Mediocre chain restaurants advertise free meals on Veterans Day, many businesses provide military discounts year-round, and military homecoming videos become viral at record speed. But when it comes to actual support – such as advocating for mental-health services, hiring Veterans who have since left the military, and helping combat the staggering number of homeless Veterans – well, the vast majority of the American public would rather just say thank you. And I’m certainly guilty of it too. And let’s not even get started on politicians using military members as pawns to further advance their political aspirations…

Additionally, the hero-worship that surrounds the ‘Support Our Troops’ movement only adds to the problem. The men and women who volunteer to serve in the military are doing a job many people are not willing to do themselves. Many are brave, courageous, and seek to make the world a better place. But those who put on the uniform are still human. They’re flawed individuals, just like the rest of us. And there are also a handful of cowards within the ranks, as evident by various news reports over the years. The military is filled with some of the best people I’ve ever met – but they’re not all heroes. Rather than place military members on a too-high pedestal, we should recognize they’re human and simply doing a job not many do and aim to assist with the transition once the job is done.

I think that is why the picture I chose to include in this post is one of Clay not in uniform overseas while holding a weapon (don’t worry, I shared one of those on Facebook). My husband is a soldier. He has experienced war and it is inevitable he will deploy again to far away lands. He is a Veteran. But more importantly, he is a fantastic father, a loving and supportive husband, and just an all-around spectacular person.

So while saying thank you on Veterans Day isn’t a bad thing, it’s shouldn’t overshadow that there are some Veterans who truly need help. It’s probably easier to thank a well-groomed Veteran with a stable job and a nice house. But we shouldn’t forget about those found sleeping on street corners, those working multiple part-time jobs trying to make ends meet, and those battling debilitating mental scars from their time doing a job they were called to do – either voluntarily or not. I am willing to bet that the old man passing out fabric red poppies hasn’t forgotten about them. And he is probably out there right now, on this day after Veterans Day.