Monday, November 30, 2009

Still Here. Just Quiet.

It’s been fifteen days since I wrote last.

I feel badly, in a way, for Zach, that I have to deal with so much fear over and over.

He’s pretty good. He had a tough time after the – gosh, it’s still so hard to type certain words. After what happened. For a while, flying was hard for him.

But he got better. Last week he emailed me that he was enjoying flying again. That was great to know.

Sometimes I wish I was tougher. But I’m not. I’m not tough at all. I’m a big wuss.

I’m sorry. But I promised to keep this honest.

So anyway. Cripes, I’m never at a loss for words.

The truth is, this is just hard someyimes. And that’s that.

It’s time for Courtney to text me that she got a phone call or an email. That’s a great thing I look for each day ;-)

Okay, better stuff now!

Zach sent us pictures for Thanksgiving. He and Scott took a stuffed turkey to the airfield and took silly pictures of it flying, facing down the tail gun. Chillin’ with them in the plane. I loved the photos!

He spent Thanksgiving day flying the Commandant of the Marine Corps around the country (pretty cool!). They got back long after dinner time so his Thanksgiving dinner consisted of frozen pie. Not funny, but I know he doesn’t really care about that. We’re betting the general got some turkey though!

The best news of all is that home time is on the horizon. Clock’s ticking. I think it’ll go faster and faster as we get closer.

Time to remind myself that I planned to use this experience to do good. I’ve been writing about fear a lot. Although I feel it every day, and fight it back when it comes, I feel it lifting. So there are some posts I’ve been meaning to write since the beginning. I’ll get to them soon.

To my friend WarPony who reads: thank you for the Thanksgiving hug! Wow, I appreciate that! And KathyB, your encouragement is so much appreciated. No, Zach doesn't read the blog. Sometimes I send him posts via email, but not all of them; and not the tough ones. When he gets back he can read it, I figure. To my family, to Betsy of HVFC: thank you too. Again and again and again.

Thanks for checking in,

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Panic Attack

This writing thing, I am just beginning to understand. It wakes me up in the middle of a perfectly good night and demands that I put down the words running through my brain and body. Literally, demands it.

So it is three in the morning. I have been awake since 2:30. It’s time to write.

I’m going to describe for you a full-fledged panic attack.

I woke from a nightmare, a ridiculous dream.

My thoughts segued to Zach. What if this dream had something to do with him? What if his plane was down? What if he’d been captured?

My heart started racing. All the awful imaginings began, the what-ifs, and it began to feel like something real.

The heart beats faster and faster and harder. Awareness of it fills your whole perception, and you breathe trying to keep up with it, knowing it is not good for you. It was overwhelming.

I did not know what to do. So I did the only thing I could do, my prayer thing: I sent pure love to him.

You can survive anything, dear heart.
Calm yourself if this is your fear I feel, my son. Take whatever you need from me. Calm strength and deep strong humor can get you through so much. Through what seems almost impossible. I know how deep you run.

My heart was beating so hard, so fast. I knew I was talking to myself as well: calm yourself, Katie. Calm strength and deep strong humor can get you through so much. Through what seems almost impossible. You can survive anything, dear heart.

This stress can kill a person. My son could be fine, and the fear of something happening to him could kill me.

This stress could kill a person if someone they loved actually was in danger. The loved one could be coping, surviving; but the ones waiting could be in mortal danger as well, from the stress of fear.

So what would you do if someone you loved actually was a prisoner of war?

You have to live your life believing that they will be okay.

I was telling myself this, and it calmed me some. I could feel my heart rate going down, but it was still racing, fighting the fear. I was putting everything I had into the contest, but at best was just holding even.

And then some being reached into my heart, and held it. Grasped it firmly.

He’s going to be okay, she told me.

I was told this several months ago. I believed it then, and I believe her now.

He is going to be okay. That belief will get you through.

And my heart suddenly calmed. I could feel her holding it firmly.

What do I do now? I asked her.

Hold up your heart’s light for anyone to see who needs it, she said.

And then she showed me. In my mind's eye, I saw/felt her reach in and take my heart. She held it up high, and it glowed in her hand. She held it like a symbol, like a torch, like something to offer.

I trust her completely.

So here you are, whoever might be reading this, worrying about someone. Believe that the person you love is going to be okay. That belief will get you through. And then hold up your heart’s light for anyone to see who needs it.

We all seem strong at times, but we are all vulnerable. I am too. Faith and fear duke it out daily on the battleground of my soul. I see them, circling like wrestlers, each watching the other carefully, trying to find the advantage, to get a hold on the other and to take it down.

But the victory is always brief; the whistle blows and a new match begins.

It is an inexorable, unstoppable part of life, this uncertainty, this grappling with fear.

So I will approach it the way I have learned to approach anything unsolvable in my life. I will unconditionally love it.

I will reach out to fear with open arms and take it close to me.

Come here, fear. Come here, you bully you meanness you deceiver. I believe that no one got to be awful because he or she was loved too much as a child. I may not be able to make you better, but I will not make you worse. I will treat you with respect and kindness and gentle honesty.

Come here, fear. Come here, you frightened child beneath the awful skin you put on to hide how vulnerable you are.

Come here, and I will hold you and love you.

Of course, I am terrified to do it. Fear can be mean and cruel. I am certainly not up to the task. But I know no other course. And I have to believe that this one will work.

At the end, I thought of the Statue of Liberty’s torch. I thought how the shape of the flame she holds aloft is much like the shape of our human hearts, if we pulled it from our chests and held them high.

It looks like what the other she was doing, holding my heart aloft, its light glowing out.

I heard the words again. Hold up your heart’s light for anyone to see who needs it.

I am just one person. But I will trust her, and not feel foolish, and hold up my light for whoever needs to see it.

The Statue of Liberty is holding her heart’s light high up, for anyone who needs to see it. I pulled up pictures of her on google.

She looks serious. This is serious work, this fighting of fear. But she looks determined and calm.

I will think of her. I will think of what she stands for, a symbol of our American struggle for independence from the lack of freedom and choice. I will think of her holding her light up high for anyone who needs to see it.

Hold up your heart’s light for anyone who wants to see it.

Good night, Zach. We look for you to come home safe. And now it is time for me to go back to sleep.


Thanks for checking in,

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Letter To Zach From Riley

One December, Riley arrived at our house. Riley is a big young Weimeraner. He's Zach's dog, and he'll be living with us while Zach is in the Marines.

think bouncy, like Tigger. And then add Extremely Very Bouncy Lived With Marines And Is A Big Goofball.

Every now and then, Riley writes Zach a letter to tell him what it's like living at Camp Home. He gets in trouble a lot and it makes him feel better to complain about how unfair it is in a letter to Zach.

This is his most recent one.

Dear Zach,

Well, something remarkable has happened. Something truly wonderful!

Someone besides me is in trouble!

It is always me who is In Trouble. I have to tell you, it is just wonderful to hear Mom mad at somebody besides me.

Now, Really Perfect would be if The Little Cat got in trouble! I mean, Mom dotes on The Little Cat as if it was her baby. But no, that thing is never going to be in trouble. No.

And I don’t care if the Big Cat ever gets in trouble. I mean, that thing is almost like a dog itself. It is massive. And it’s not all cat-persnickety.

And it’s not me. I already told you that.
So have you guessed? Well, I’ll tell you. It’s Amy.

Now, you know Amy and I get along pretty good most of the time. But sometimes she annoys me.

I mean, she does her stupid little Trick and everybody goes on and on about what a cute little beagle she is. So I have to knock her over. Then I get yelled at for being too big and too bouncy and too rough.

And, okay, sometimes I do Bounce her and knock her down just for the fun of it. But honestly, it’s not because I’m jealous of the attention she gets.

Not exactly.

But anyway, I’m just delighted that SHE got in touble today instead of ME! It’s ALWAYS me! And this time it’s AMY! And it’s the worst kind of trouble.

You know Mom hates poop. Hates it.

Especially, especially dog poop. She absolutely cannot STAND the smell of it.

I’m laughing already telling you about this.

Two nights ago Mom was turning on the lights and looking furiously all over her bedroom in the middle of the night. She had been sleeping and had woken up, as she was saying, to the “horrific smell of dog poop in my bedroom”.

Apparently Mom’s nose is pretty good. Because she found a pile of poop right on the floor next to her bed. ON HER SOCK.

Oh, she was mad. She was SO Mad. Amy must have gotten up, took a dump on her carpet, and then trotted into the bathroom to get a drink.

Mom was so gagging she had to wake up Dad to clean it up. She tried, I’ll give her that. But it was pretty bad.

Then they went back to bed. And I was all pleased. I laughed to myself over and over because Mom was mad at Amy all the next day.


It gets SO much better.

This morning, Mom was getting dressed and I heard her say
…wait for it….
….wait for it…

“Why is my heel all black?”

Then there was a little quiet moment and she picked at it... and then

She started making The Noise Mom Makes When She Is Absolutely Repulsed.

Mixed in with cuss words at Amy.

She had dog poop on her foot. She must have stepped on it when she woke up. And then went back to bed and didn’t even notice.


Mom called Dad and was telling him how upset she was that she had dried dog poop on her foot, and while she was on the phone, she said that she remembered that when she went back to bed that night, she had kept feeling something wet on her sheets.

She said she thought she had stepped in the wet clean rug, and that’s what the wet was.
…wait for it again….

And while she was on the phone with Dad, she pulled back the sheets and saw that SHE HAD LITTLE BITS OF DOG POOP ON HER CLEAN WHITE SHEETS WHERE HER FEET GO.

Isn’t that wonderful? !!! Do you see why this is So Very Good?

I mean, she NEVER lets me sleep on the bed. Never. “No dogs in my bed!” How many times have you heard her say that?

But Amy got poop IN her bed. In it. On her sheets. And on her foot.

That’s just money, my man.

I can do almost anything, and she’ll forgive me in a day or two.
But Amy is going to be In Trouble For Life.

For LIFE, I tell you!

I’m so glad I didn’t do that.

Your dog,

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Welcome Back, Peace Of Mind

When I’m not posting here, it’s one of two reasons:
Swamped…or I don’t want to be dithering on and on again.

The news last Monday of the helicopters that crashed in Afghanistan took a lot out of me, writing-wise, for a little while. I had been driving back home late the night before, and I was thinking about Zach.

It’s true that moments of worry hit me, despite my general determination that worry is of no use, and that he is likely to be fine. I have my ways of dealing with them so that they pass.

But this mood was a little different. Something felt wrong. I worried that my instincts were in active mode. I remember thinking to myself “am I going to have to write AGAIN, ANOTHER post, about fear?”

And I remember thinking to myself how stupid I must look sometimes, always focusing on “WHAT IF” drama, worrying unnecessarily. They’re safe, I told myself. You don’t have to keep doing this to yourself.

Kathy Wilt woke me up to tell me about what was on the news. We agreed to start trying to find out whatever we could.

Here is how human nature works.

Our concern…or is it our fear?...spreads out like a ripple from our core.
It must be some kind of instinct, some drive to survive. Because the first thought is Let it not be mine who is hurt.

And then with a little hope, your heart has a little generosity, and it says let it not be ours that got hurt.

And the awful thing is that the whole time you are hoping and praying it’s not your loved one especially, and then not his friends, and then not his squadron…

You know it’s somebody.
It’s an awful truth that can’t be made better.

In addition to the worry about who it was last Monday, and the worry about Zach, about Scott, their squadron, and whoever it was that would bear it,

there was a weird little sense of vindication in me. Of, see…you were right to worry.

I was going to write this last Tuesday. But I’m glad I waited a week.
Because now I know who that voice was, saying that.

Hello, again, Fear.

Fear is almost an embodiment to me. I can talk to it when I’m not afraid. I give it a name so folks know who/what it is I’m talking about. Some might say hello, Satan…there you are again. Or maybe hello, Mara the Tempter.

I believe that fear is the root of all evil. So I just call it the simple name. easier to understand. Harder to misinterpret.

As I write this, Amelia Buttercup, my little cat, is curled up in my lap. Amelia Buttercup is the antithesis of evil. She is the most loving little creature. Love comforts us and makes us strong.

Of all the animals I have known across the years, Amelia Buttercup is unique in how dearly she loves. I wrote a children’s book about her, and I am hoping to get an agent for it soon.

In fact, what I really want is for Candlewick Press to publish it. They do many of the finest children’s classics, and I want the stories about her to reach a lot
of children. Her love can go even farther that way.

So if you know somebody at Candlewick Press, please let me know.

Know why I’m talking about that here? Me neither. But I think it’s just another way of me saying to fear, hey, buddy…wait your turn. You’re not that important to me.

Back to last Monday. Anyway, this little voice was saying, see! See! You SHOULD worry!

And last week, I believed it.

Fear almost got me roped in again.

But I’m back! Because not too many moments ago, I finally translated what it was saying to me, and here it is, unpackaged by the moment.

Translation: you should live your life in anticipation of bad things happening. You should always be on guard, expecting it.

Oh, Hell, no.

Read that sentence again. Literally. Oh, Hell…no, I am not going to give in to your temptations.

When we talked to Zach after the news, he said, with tremendous frustration in his voice, “I don’t know how those two helicopters could have collided. I just don’t understand it.” He knows the formations they fly, and the precautions.

So I am back to not fearing.

Now: I promised myself that I would be completely honest in writing this blog, unless it compromised the security of the men and women working over there.

Here’s a truth.

Zach’s helicopter was involved in a crash landing a few weeks ago. But good training kicked in, everyone stayed calm, and they landed safely in a textbook demonstration of handling that particular incident. Helicopter repaired, they flew home.

I don’t feel ready to put anything more than that in here just yet.

I don’t think Zach and I have the same views on how Afghanistan should be handled right now. He is over there right in it regularly, and I have the luxury of the mile-high view. I have to completely respect his opinions, while keeping working on my own.

All I know is that he loves the packages we all (you all!) have been sending. Little gifts of healthy food have mattered a lot. I think little things to distract them and give them humor have helped.

There are so many thoughts. The timeline of when they come back is fuzzy to me. I feel bad for National Guard soldiers, who go for a far longer timeline. The desire for all of them to come back safe regularly fills our thoughts.

And the mom advice. My emails seem to hardly ever get through, but I want to say to him if you have an approaching date, it will chafe at you as it gets closer. Don’t look at the whole thing that needs to be done or it gets harder. When you are climbing a mountain, do not look at the whole rise above you, or it will defeat you. Look at your path right now, right this second, and do that. Never look at the hill.

So stop looking at the calendar. Look at today.

I think that is good advice for me, too.

I have good things to do today. I hope you do too.

Thanks for checking in,