A Veteran’s Lesson in Courage

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Excited to share my first guest post! Thank you to Grinia at Mirror & Soul for the opportunity and to all the veteran students who have made me a better teacher, mother, and learner.

“A Veteran’s Lesson in Courage”

I could tell he was nervous. There is this dance of eye contact aversion that my quietest students have perfected. But I teach at the college level – composition, to be exact – and public speaking is a rite of passage.

In full disclosure, I had been anticipating this moment for over 24 hours. The student, a veteran in his mid-20s, had a story to tell.

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We’ve forgotten how to use our hands

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My father’s hands were always calloused – filthy from the day’s work. His meal ticket wasn’t a college degree but back-breaking labor. In all of my life, I have never seen anyone work harder.

Which is why he readily accepts projects during visits to our home. This past December he removed rotten wood and adhesive from our front steps and completely replaced our laundry room flooring. In the process, he ruined a well-used long-sleeved T-shirt with Virginia Tech, my alma mater, written across it.

My father’s four-year plan ended prematurely, and he didn’t finish college.

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Why You’ll Become That Parent

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You know, the parent who annoys you before you have children…or before you have as many kids as they do. In your eyes, they get it all wrong.

How could they do that?

Why don’t they just do this?

I’ll never…

For myself, I can chase personal guilt back to an observation of “failed” discipline at a nice restaurant early in my first pregnancy. The scene was Silicon Valley, and the parents were older (a cultural norm in the Bay Area). They have no control, I remember thinking to myself. Their unwillingness to face the little giant in the high chair really got under my skin. Before you have children, you can really believe you have all the answers.

But if you are a parent long enough, a realization will stop you in your tracks. In my case, I had to accept an uncomfortable reality: my kids are their own people. They won’t always behave at dinner – no matter how much money or effort you expend.

And, in due time, I did that thing I said I never would.

I learned to let little things go.

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5 Keys to Work-Life Balance (Mom Edition)

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Last fall the walls were about to cave in. Really. In many ways, my world was coming apart.

If you’re a mother, you know exactly what I mean:

  • Exhaustion: Check
  • Countless meals out: Check
  • Irritability: Check
  • An inability to do ANYTHING well: Check

Truly, you can only hold on like this for so long. When last semester ended, I did what any sane teacher mom would do. I disconnected.

No social media pressure. No play date merry-go-round. No books about parenting. And no cheap, meaningless conversation.

In short, I returned to all the little things that I had forgotten along the busy motherhood way. And, in this, I focused on a work-life reset.

So what is the “secret” that helped me pull through?

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Write Club

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The first rule of write club is you don’t talk about write club.

Truly, it’s a secret society of sorts – to be a writer in a sea of non-writers. It’s like every time I pick up a pen or sit down at the monitor, I take an oath of silence.

It’s painful not to talk about what you’re planning to write – what you aspire to communicate to a wider audience. I come up with at least one new book idea every day. But I’m a mom and a teacher, so those ideas don’t necessarily have an appropriate place to be entertained. And time, well, what’s that?

If you, too, are a writer, perhaps you also mull over ideas, stories – really any inspiration that strikes you – for infinite weeks?

Should I write a book?

How can I blog and write a book at the same time?

Should I just try something shorter like poetry?

This is the great difficulty with writing: you spend your days battling words, the very things that – once fully realized – can bring peace.

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A View from the Bottom Bunk

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Don’t be afraid of what you don’t understand.

Easier said than done, of course, but this is my husband and I’s go-to advice for our three-year-old son when we know storms are imminent.

Two nights ago, however, we were no match for the incessant thunder and lightning.

At approximately 3:45 a.m. we awoke to my son’s tearful pleas: “Mommy! Daddy!” There was something different in my son’s voice this time – a blend of emerging maturity and raw fear. He sensed what was happening, yet couldn’t prevent himself from the human desire for certainty…and control.

I led my oldest child down the ladder as Mother Nature illuminated his small room with urgent pulses of white. The night’s antidote would be snuggles with Momma in the bottom bunk.

And, in that 10-minute embrace, shadows weren’t the only images that danced across his walls.

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