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Gold Star Mother’s Day

30 Sep

Stepping into a new world, one learns the culture slowly. I am one such person when it came (or comes) to military association. In fact I didn’t know there was a Gold Star Mother’s Day until Maria Shriver reached out, about three weeks ago, and asked me to write a piece in honor of the occasion. I have used the Gold Star name association in the past to help convey to people quickly that I, and my family, are “a man down.” I have also done my research on the Gold and Blue star flags and their meaning to ensure I qualify. At any rate, I won’t go on and on about it because I can simply direct you to MariaShriver.com where she has shared the piece today. And of course, you can also read it here below–


The Label of Love, by Rivka Bent

I confess, labels are hard for me. Not that I don’t love several brands whose label signifies something special. I do have dreams of owning a true Chanel dress and a brand-new pair of Dior shoes. But I choose instead clothes that conceal the label just as my only pair of Yves Saint Laurent shoes are devoid an outer marker. It is just a weird quirk of mine, this label aversion. There is one label I love, however, and for which I make an exception. It is the label of Mom. I have absolutely loved wearing this label since earning it 27+ years ago.

When my children were young and called for me, “Mooooooooommmmm,” the name actually sent a soothing calm over my being and brought a satisfied smile to my face. I did not dread the name calling, I very much embraced it. As my son inched closer to adolescence, he replaced the long-winded call with a quick witted “Mama.” To which I answered by quoting the goofy country song, “Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys…,” and would then happily attend to his summons while enjoying the giggle of my own absurdity. Both my children have called me “mom,” and no matter the tone, the label for which it stands has been a source of joy for me always. In fact, it is the label of mother that really struck me about Maria (Shriver). I felt an indirect empowerment from her simply because the first word choice in her biographical title is that of mother. Her inclusion showcases the importance of that role for her and touches me because I echo her sentiments and have loved every minute of my maternal work.

Given this little snippet into my label challenges and my love of mothering, one can imagine the wrestling I’ve had with the seal of Gold Star Mom. While I have sometimes used the new moniker in attempt to ward off further conversation about my son and his demise, concurrently I have also been hiding from it. Quite frankly the Gold Star Mom label I never wanted. But then what mother does? In my grief I see the label as solidifying my story, a reality that’s not supposed to be mine–ever! And even with the understanding that this new status symbol acts as a deflector of sorts, I still question its label value and why I would, or should, showcase it.

With Gold Star Mother’s Day coming up on September 30, my mind is fixed on the company of women to which I now belong. It is in recognizing these other women, I have been better able to see myself. As such, I’ve actually had to set my kicking and screaming aside and allow the honor of the label to shine. My resistance is testament to all of us wearing the brand, for none of us wants to belong to it, let alone wear it! Yet each of us has a story associated with the gold star, and beyond our story is the honor of the sacrifice of our child. If I allow it, my Gold Star tells the story of the 400+ people in attendance at the military processional for my son at the National Cemetery where he is interred. It also speaks of the 21-gun salute signifying his Honorable burial, and then lingers at the somber Presentation of The Flag from the knee-bended Marine who humbly bestowed me the triangular folded stars and stripes. It, tells the story for me.

I am learning, albeit slowly, to wear this Gold Star Mom label with the dignity it is due. Not to shine light upon myself only, but to shine light upon the pathway of honor taken by my son in his short-lived military career. This same recognition glistens brightly for all Gold Star labeled mothers. We wear the label because our fallen are honored by its significance and honoring them is testament of our undying motherly love. Please consider, this 30th of September, to treat an active military person to something special and please, do it in honor of their mom.

Hello Beauty

25 Sep

My title suggests I’m writing about something good. Well, I’m sorry to report this story is wrought with humanity, and more specifically, my humanity.

First let me begin with the scripture that challenges all justice, human justice and my own justifications:

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:32-36 New International Version (NIV)

So for a few weeks now I have really been struggling with a particular person. It doesn’t really matter the who of this equation, though I will shed light that this person has caused me a great deal of pain in one way or another for several years now. But most recently the irritation scale has hit new limits as I have been made the object of their angst. As such, I’ve had to endure harsh words, harsh tones, and a few accusations in between–not fun, I can assure you. And though I found myself wrestling with this circumstance for quite a bit, I have since been able to release it…or so I thought. The other day I saw this person approaching my direction and in the most sarcastic tone I could muster (insert your own audible sarcasm to get full effect), I uttered under my breath, “hello beauty.” Now for just one second I felt empowered over their perspective of me, but only for one second. In that second I had the fantasy of being superior and felt my quick-wit well played. But then my heart (or spirit) caught hold my humanity and the next second I felt small. Small minded and small hearted. In that moment of “next” I was offered a turn, a merciful turn and a loving turn. Essentially I was offered the chance to see beauty, real beauty like from G-d the Father of all. The spirit voice inside me asked if I was interested in remaining “small” or if I’d like to partake in the solution of good. I took the latter and this is what came forth:

Hello beauty, welcome
Hello to the beautiful morning.
Hello beauty, welcome
Hello to a new opportunity.
Hello beauty, I feel you
Hello to the fresh air.
Hello beauty, I see you
Hello to the sun and living things.
Hello beauty, thank you
Hello to love around me.

It is really a small and quick moment, the mental/spiritual exchange I had, but it was powerful. It moved me closer to love and further away from the ugly side of my humanity. Hello beauty, welcome–welcome back to me, my heart and where I want to live.

Today hanging on the wall in the office of my colleague I read the following quote by Rachel Macy Stafford, author of Only Love Today. I think it the perfect compliment to my own desire.

Today I will choose love. If I mistakenly choose distraction, perfection, or negativity over love, I will not wallow in regret. I will choose love next. I will choose love until it becomes my first response…my gut instinct…my natural reaction. I will choose love until it becomes who I am.

 

Thanks for taking the time to read and partake. #onlylovetoday

Help, I’ve Lost My Big Girl Pants

21 Aug

There are many a thing I’d like to be more consistent about in my life. For instance, exercise–I would love to up my personal discipline to include a daily walk, on incline terrain, or a bike ride. Right now I’m maybe hitting that goal 3x’s per week, which means my waistline is nearing extinction. Another area of nagging thought, is to write my blog posts (this forum) more consistently, even if just to state something small of value (subjective I know). Both of these inconsistencies in my life are part of my personal goals. They matter to me, therefore they matter. I don’t have a following that requires I write, but I would like my creative writing skills to get more of a work out. And on that note, I honestly just feel better in the land of the living when my physicality is ready to support my shenanigans. So exercise to keep muscles strong gets “goal real estate.” And though tonight my walk and/or bike ride fell off the table of options, I still have just enough juice in my brain to attempt a post–sans my reading glasses (they are in the other room and I dare not loose steam in writing by getting up from this captured moment), so please forgive any blindness errors in typing.

This past week my siblings and I were affected by the sudden death of the husband of a childhood friend. Her husband was only 51 years young and leaves, in addition to his wife, two young girls. Just like that, life as it has been known, shifts. I understand this foundational movement, it’s like the tectonic plates of our lives slip and the tidal wave of change hits at every level. It is stifling! Now not everything I do or think is underpinned with loss, but truly loss lives within me and the effects of it are an underlying reality. So when news hits, such that came last week, those of us carrying the heavy burden already can empathize with those new to the experience. And in empathy there is pain. And in pain, there is exhaustion. And in exhaustion is where I loose my big girl pants.

Big girl pants, or the expression rather, is the notion of higher ground. For the most part it is where I live mentally–a place where I filter my thoughts through the lens of what matters here on earth to our loving creator. I like higher ground, it is a kinder place to be. There is less judgment of others there. There is less time for offense there. Higher ground has the scope of view that understands multiple perspectives, compassion for those unable to see at that same level, and honestly a bit more “brain peace” (quotations used to relay my own creation of term(s)). Aaahhh–brain peace, that is the stuff I enjoy most. Brain peace is when I can hit the pillow and rejoice in a guilt free, regret free environment. And yet, brain peace is not devoid improved planning, constructive corrections, nor even introspective considerations. It’s not ignorant to local, national and global issues. Brain peace knows pain, but not shame. Brain peace helps soothe the aching soul. I like brain peace!

However, last week upon learning the news of loss, the higher ground of which I seek took a dive and I got caught bare-side blank. Yep, my big girl pants were lost and my ass laid bare! What ensued was a mess; seeing the petty faults in others, feeling irritated by being slighted, complaining about circumstances around me and feeling sorry for all the tales of woe I could conjure up. I did catch on to the fact that I was my own problem, not the everything else to which I had ascribed the blame. Even so, I had to suffer through some rough nights devoid brain peace as I wrestled with my angst. Now please know, I didn’t mention the death earlier on so as to have justifiable cause to deviate into low-level thinking. I share the news because of its relevance. Loss is an ongoing antagonist. I carry on in life but still with the weight of loss upon me. Yes, soul muscles get strengthened in time, but the burden is still being carried. It is a very real thing and when a tragedy hits close to home, or close to those we love, our own grief is right there ready to claim its rightful ownership of mind, soul, heart and body. In plain English, we get worn down–I get worn down. And in that place of mental and physical tiredness, I get bugged.

Now the good news is I did find my big girl pants. Of course I knew I would, it was just a matter of time. And even though I played a game of mental ping-pong with reluctancy while searching for them, not only did I find them, I opted to put them back on. Whew! Moving into this mid-week mindset my recovery report still shows quasi progress. I’m not at full altitude but the ascent is in motion. The higher ground beckons, the panties secure.

I will say, in all of this mumbo jumbo of a blog post, I do wish one thing…to have all people wear grown up pants and consider kindness before other options. But for now I will satisfy myself in trying to keep mine on, which makes enduring the naked a truly attainable goal.

Vintage Floral Pants

BentRivka Big Girl Pants

 

 

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