Freedom IS NOT Free!

This Memorial Day, re-blogging my own sentiments from Veteran’s Day last fall. This Memorial Day I remember 2 grandfathers, and my father. All veterans who are forever with us in spirit. Their sacrifices never forgotten.

beatingcowdens

When I taught Social Studies I most enjoyed the curriculum that allowed me to teach about the United States.  It made me sad on Friday to overhear conversations about this upcoming weekend, and never once feel there was an understanding of Veteran’s Day.  When I was a fifth grade teacher the children wrote about their “Rights and Responsibilities” as American citizens.  That was a long time ago.

I was raised to answer the question, “Where are you from?”  with, “The United States.”  Growing up, that aggravated more than one person who was looking to learn where my ancestors had traveled from to arrive in America.

Precise language.  They learned to ask the question they wanted to know the answer to, or not to ask.

veterans day 4

I am the proud daughter of a Vietnam Veteran, and the grateful granddaughter to 3 WWII veterans.  Although 2 of my grandfathers are no…

View original post 919 more words

Freedom IS NOT Free!

When I taught Social Studies I most enjoyed the curriculum that allowed me to teach about the United States.  It made me sad on Friday to overhear conversations about this upcoming weekend, and never once feel there was an understanding of Veteran’s Day.  When I was a fifth grade teacher the children wrote about their “Rights and Responsibilities” as American citizens.  That was a long time ago.

I was raised to answer the question, “Where are you from?”  with, “The United States.”  Growing up, that aggravated more than one person who was looking to learn where my ancestors had traveled from to arrive in America.

Precise language.  They learned to ask the question they wanted to know the answer to, or not to ask.

veterans day 4

I am the proud daughter of a Vietnam Veteran, and the grateful granddaughter to 3 WWII veterans.  Although 2 of my grandfathers are no longer here with us in body – their spirits remain strong in my soul.

All of the men I mentioned served in war.  All of them returned home to us.  All of them shaped my life and helped me become the woman I am today.

veterans day pop thompson

Pop T. came home after serving in Iwo Jima, to raise a family of 9 – 8 boys and a girl.  Visiting their house as a child was certainly wildly fun.  My father is the oldest child, and my sister and I were the first grandchildren.  We enjoyed time with Pop who had left behind a promising athletic future before his service in the war.  He had time to impart much of his wisdom before he passed in 1993.  My only sadness is for my many cousins that never got to know him the way I did.  There is no denying his legacy.

veterans day ggpa

GGPa came into our lives later when Mom married Ken.  I was 15 years old, and my sister was 18.  Ken wrapped his arms and his heart around both of us, and truly made my world a better place.  At the time his parents, who came to be known to us as GGPa and GGMa had no grandchildren of their own.  I was so flattered that they accepted us and enveloped us with such love.  GGPa is gone over a year now, but in our years together I got to know the definition of “gentleman” through him.  He was a positive influence, a pleasure to be around and a treat to talk to.  He is missed and loved and appreciated.

veterans day pop and gigi

Pop G. is one of the most amazing men I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.  The fact that I will turn 40 next week, and I can recount my day by saying “I spent some time with my grandparents,” in and of itself is amazing.  Not to mention  that they are 93 and 94 – living in the second floor of their own home.  I grew up during my most formative years, in the first floor of that home.  I had the daily love and support of my grandparents.  When I speak of Pop, and the influence he has had, even I am at a loss for words.  His faith dictates how he lives.  He loves God, his family, and all others before himself.  I am so blessed to listen to his stories, and to revel in years of beautiful memories, while still making more!

veterans day dad

And then there is my father.  The free spirit whose love of adventure has guided him down many paths in his life.  We have conversations that always leave me deep in thought.  He has experiences that are broad, from far and wide.  Most recently in the last few years that road led him right back closer to home, and I have been so grateful to have him just around the corner.  My girl has gotten to know him, and always remarks about his smile.  He tells her he smiles because of her.   His genuine heart, and the depth of his love have made him the person he is today – one I am truly glad to have in my life.

There are children who seek desperately one male influence in their lives.  The amount of time I have been afforded with each of these men is a gift.  I will not squander the knowledge, and life lessons I desperately try to soak up like a sponge.

veterans day 3

Each of them saw things I do not dare imagine.  Each of them lived experiences I will never understand.  Each of them sacrificed, time, love, health, and so much more.

I can only imagine that at some point they have all wondered why they got to come home when some of their comrades did not.  And, while I can not ever know the plan – I can, on my knees thank God for returning each of them safely so they could live their lives.

veterans day 1

Not everyone is as fortunate.

I have received a gift too great to squander, too valuable to toss aside, and too personal not to wear it close to my heart each day.  For it is because of them that I am.  It is because of them that I have learned poise, strength, and grace under pressure.  It is because of them that I know to love so deeply.  It is because of them I have been blessed with my daughter, unique, RARE, and determined to change the world.

Stand for the Pledge of Allegiance and the “Star Spangled Banner.”  Think about the words.  Feel them in your heart.  Educate yourself.  Learn about the sacrifices made to make this country.

veterans day 5

You may want to complain that life isn’t perfect.  You may want to complain about the country.  And while I can agree that many things are not as they should be, remember what my grandfather said to me, “The Constitution is an extremely well-written document, the flaws are in its execution.”

And regardless of your political stance on any war ever – support the soldiers.  Those men and women are there out of a selfless love of country.  They are making sacrifices far beyond what we see and what we know.

veterans day 2

Precise language.

I am PROUD to be an AMERICAN, and even prouder to be related to so many who loved this country enough to fight to defend the principles it was founded upon.

Veteran’s Day. November 11.  FREEDOM ISN’T FREE.

veterans day 6

You STILL don’t LOOK sick (reblog from 5/26/12)

We are headed home tomorrow from a wonderful family vacation. I will have lots of lovely things to tell you about the fun we had and the great people we encountered. Unfortunately there are still some ignorant people… even here, who do not realize you can look perfectly healthy and still be “sick.” There were a few times… especially today when the monorail operator gave us an attitude when we asked for a ramp into the handicap accessible car (even though her chair is clearly marked as a wheelchair.) People can be so frustratingly ignorant. She notices now, and it bothers her, but she is awesome, and she tells me she hopes they never know what it’s like because no one should feel this way. So here it is one more time…

beatingcowdens

“You don’t look sick!”

If I had a dollar for every time someone directed that comment at my daughter or I, I would be retired – a wealthy woman.

We don’t “look” sick.  As a matter of fact we look alike.  A lot alike. It’s probably due to the fact that I, having the ‘honor’ of being the first in my family known to have the PTEN mutation that causes Cowden’s Syndrome.  To look at us, you would see a vibrant mother and daughter duo – 8 and 38.

When I push her through Disney World in her modified wheel chair each summer, I get the stares that say “spoiled.”  When I pushed her through the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer walk last fall so we could support my mom, a survivor, someone actually said “Why don’t you get the ten year old out of the stroller?”  Actually she is 8, and she would…

View original post 940 more words

“Sapphire”

Grandpa, …, passed away on Monday, June 18, 2012. . Born in …Grandpa lived in … for many years before moving to …7 years ago. He worked as a lineman and foreman for PSE&G for many years prior to his retirement. He was a proud veteran of the U.S. Army during WWII and the Korean War and lifetime member of the American Legion. Beloved husband of 60 years to Grandma. Devoted father to…and his wife … and … and his wife …. Cherished grandfather to 6 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren. He was also survived by many loving nieces,nephews and friends.

***************************************************************************

The above is a snapshot of my Grandfather’s obituary.  I removed the names and locations, because really – they don’t matter.  He was a kind and gentle man, loved by everyone.  Classy, and wise – funny, and easy to talk to.

My daughter proved to me again this week, that although we have Cowden’s Syndrome, it does not have us.  It does not define who we are.

She is 8, turning 9 in a few short months.  This was her first funeral.  She went to the funeral parlor with me, alone.  And then to the funeral with our family.  She acted as one of the honorary pallbearers.  She cried, she smiled, she focused, she hugged all the right people at all the right times.  She got through the service, and hours into lunch before we handed over her Itouch – she never even asked.

My Grandfather called her “Sapphire.”  He knew she was special.  He made sure she had a sapphire necklace.  Her eyes lit up whenever they were together.  He will be sorely missed by all of us.

De :fr:Image:SaphirSynthetique.jpg Categoría:M...
De :fr:Image:SaphirSynthetique.jpg Categoría:Minería (imagen) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once again – I am reminded of how precious life is.  And once again, I am humbled and proud to be her mother.

 

 

–>

You Don’t LOOK Sick

“You don’t look sick!”

If I had a dollar for every time someone directed that comment at my daughter or I, I would be retired – a wealthy woman.

We don’t “look” sick.  As a matter of fact we look alike.  A lot alike. It’s probably due to the fact that I, having the ‘honor’ of being the first in my family known to have the PTEN mutation that causes Cowden’s Syndrome.  To look at us, you would see a vibrant mother and daughter duo – 8 and 38.

We have a lot in common.

When I push her through Disney World in her modified wheel chair each summer, I get the stares that say “spoiled.”  When I pushed her through the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer walk last fall so we could support my mom, a survivor, someone actually said “Why don’t you get the ten year old out of the stroller?”  Actually she is 8, and she would much rather walk.

You can’t see the AVM in her knee.  The one that has cost her 4 surgeries with an expert people travel the world to see.  You can’t know by looking at her that in February he told us he could not “fix” it.  That he was placing us under the care of another surgeon hours away.  You can’t by looking at her, see the constant swelling.  You can not see the pain.

That is because she is ALWAYS smiling.  She can work a room, and make everyone feel welcome and important.  She is a star student, reading almost 2 years above grade level.  She is friendly, and funny. (She had to get something from her DAD.)  She is confident enough to dance, and participate in storytelling contests.  (Not sure exactly WHO that comes from.)

She takes medicine for pain, medicine for anxiety, medicine for viruses that plague her, medicine for allergies, medicine for her stomach – to ease digestion.  She takes countless diet and nutritional supplements.  She follows a Gluten Free, Casein Free, Soy Free diet without a minute’s hesitation.  She is polite, and extremely well behaved.

I am so proud of her.  Last week when she was having one scan after another they called her a “model patient.”  Now I must confess when she was a baby and I was wondering what she would be good at, being a model patient wasn’t on my list of aspirations.  But since she is good at so many things, the fact that she handles her appointments in stride makes me proud, and confident that she will have the ability to stay out in front of this wretched disease.

“You don’t look sick.”

But yet, we are.  She had surgery in February for that pesky AVM.  I had a diagnosis of breast cancer in March, and a complete hysterectomy in May.  Next month we will take her to have the precancerous thyroid nodules reevaluated, and to have another scan on the knee to pin down when the next surgery will be.  Not if, but when.

With all of these ‘invisible” illnesses come worry.  It is not uncommon for me to talk to my 8 year old about if she will need a mastectomy, even before her own breasts have developed.  She asks me if she will need a hysterectomy.  A wild question, when the concept of what she will be when she grows up hasn’t even been ironed out.  But she is astute.  She knows she will likely walk my road.  She watches.  She thinks.  She asks.

So no, she doesn’t look sick.  Neither of us do, but some days reality is tougher to face than others.  Some days that happy face is a little harder to find.

So, when she woke up today after PT Thursday, kickboxing, and swimming lessons on Friday, she was sore.  Really sore. The celebrex wasn’t helping.  She couldn’t bend her knee.  I rubbed and stretched.  She was annoyed.

She is allowed to be annoyed, here in this house.  She is allowed to be discouraged and disgusted.  I have been all of those things this week, and I know its important to let them out.  I am recovering from my second surgery in less than three months.  I am tired.  I am annoyed, and aside from a few treasured folks who keep checking in, I am really really lonely.  This surgery seems to have pushed a lot of my support network over the edge.  They are a bit tired I guess.  It’s hard to be there for someone when your own life still keeps going, I know.  Especially when they don’t look sick.

So, today she had a turn.  She was discouraged about the prospect of more surgery, and disgusted that the knee seems to remain swollen.  She mourned her dream of running track.  She cried about the permanence of this disease.  She told me she wished she could get sick with something “normal” like a broken arm.  You know, something that can be “fixed.”  She sobbed out her frustration with doctors, surgeries, cancer, and the worries connected with each.  She wants to be more like her friends.   More carefree.

My heart ached as I held her.  She is a tough cookie, but we are all entitled to lose it.  I cried because I felt sad about giving this to her.  I held her tightly and told her how much I love her.  We went through a few tissues, and some long talks.  Lots of things I can tell her I understand, and then some things I can’t.  I told her she can cry.  She can be mad.  She can worry.  She just can NEVER let it win.  She can NEVER let it define who she is.  I will always be sorry she had to inherit this, but I will NEVER be sorry I have her.  She is my heart and soul.  She is my sunshine.  She saved my life.

“You don’t look sick.”

She brushed it off after a few minutes.  Back to the Ipad, and back to taking care of me.  No one outside of my husband and I will ever see her like that.  Her carefully guarded emotions will only let loose where she feels safe.  No one else will ever know her anguish, her pain, her heartache, her worry.  No one, not even our closest family members would ever guess.

I think about all those people, and their quizzical stares.  I know I can’t be too angry.  They don’t know any better.

“You don’t look sick.”

She and I are a lot alike, in so many ways.  And I wouldn’t change a thing.  We are going to be just fine.