Friday, May 30, 2014

A Tribute and A Challenge

Yesterday afternoon, a man driving a car forever changed the lives and broke the hearts of so many people.

A state police officer was engaged in a traffic stop when the man crossed lanes and hit the trooper killing him instantly.  Allegedly, he later confessed to doing it intentionally.  Police eventually found the man after a K9 and foot pursuit hiding in the woods, completely naked.  Early reports said he did not appear to be under the influence of any substances.
There are so very many things wrong with this.

More nights than not I sleep alone.  My husband works the dreaded night tour and he has for nearly nine years.  I help him strap on his kevlar- not completely bullet resistant but better than nothing- vest, watch him check his gun and handcuffs, kiss him good bye and pray for his safety every time he walks out that door.  My heart drops a little as his old Ford Focus pulls out of the drive and it doesn't return to its normal position until the next morning when I get that 8 am "I'm alive" phone call.

Each time he goes on duty I have, somewhere in the back of my mind, the thought that I might never see him alive again. For the first two years he was on the job, I didn't sleep at all.  I was high on caffeine and sugar all day long and wide awake, waiting for the phone to ring all night long.  That was when I took up writing, to be productive in those hours when my husband was on the streets.  I think I thought that  I could protect him some how if I just didn't go to sleep.  Now, I sleep but fitfully.   I wake up regularly, check my cell phone for messages, make sure the house phone is turned on.  I don't want to miss it if someone does try to reach me.

Country artist Reba McIntire put out a song several years ago called "Sleeping With The Telephone".  The first time I heard it I cried like a baby.  Check it out on youtube.  It is amazing.

I hope to God my telephone never rings in the middle of the night.

My heart breaks for all the families of all the fallen officers.  They had no idea that when their loved one left for work they would never, ever see him again.  I hugged my husband extra tight last night and said an extra prayer for his safety and the safety of the men and women he works with.  It didn't feel like enough though.  It never does.

I know police officers are not necessarily the most popular guys (and gals) on the block, but they are dependable and always there when you need them.  Our EMS, police, firefighters and Paramedics/EMT's, are heroes.  They run in when others run away.  They lay their lives on the line without question.  And they have families who love them dearly.

Life is unpredictable.  Any one of us could walk out that door and never see our loved ones again.  It is so important to seize the moment and not let a single opportunity pass us by to tell someone how much they mean to us.  You never know who they might encounter during the day and if it is someone hell bent on committing murder, well you just never know...

We have a hard and fast rule in our house not to argue before he goes to work at night.  If we do occasionally slip, it's usually about stupid stuff and we apologize and make up before that graveyard shift begins.  I never, ever want my last words to my husband to be in anger. How would I live with that if that "I'm Alive" phone call never comes the next day?

I would like to challenge each and everyone of you to take the time and tell the people you care about how you feel.  Make it a habit to say I Love You or you are special to me and make sure that if you never see them again, nothing has been left unsaid.  It will be hard enough to deal with their absence in your life without the realization that you never got to say the things you wanted.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Value of Play

We are a mere twelve school days away from summer vacation.


After the daunting 180 days we faced back in September, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

As a teacher I, of course, am absolutely thrilled.  I am as exhausted as my students and ready for the sort of re-charge I can only find on the sandy shores of the Atlantic ocean. Twelve weeks without lesson plans, parent conferences and grading papers does wonders for the soul.  Not that I won't work all summer....those months are reserved for cleaning out the house, organizing piles upon piles of stuff that has accumulated during the school year and caring for all of the things that were overlooked during months of ball games and practices for not one, but two dedicated players.

My boys are ready for summer vacation too.  They had such a wonderful weekend playing outside with friends and cousins, soaking up the southern sun with out anything scheduled into their day.  Dragging them out of bed this morning was darn near impossible.  In fact, last night my oldest actually asked permission to go to bed right around eight o'clock.

That's how you know they had a good day.

That is how I remember my childhood....the years before every eight year old had a smartphone and playing with your friends didn't happen through an online video game.

Don't get me wrong...I LOVE my laptop and would be lost without the internet.  I am a writer, I research, read up on odd news articles and play the occasional game of Candy Crush.  I check the weather and the news in the wee hours of the morning like most cop's wives.  As any LEOW (law enforcement officer's wife) will tell you, insomnia is par for the course.  My laptop is like a security blanket for me- if the local news sites don't report any shootings or stabbings I know I can go back to sleep safe in the knowledge if I wake up in fear again, all I have to do is log on and check the news.  I am just as dependent on technology as anyone, but it doesn't stop me from recognizing that there are things far more important in life than how many people commented on my status update.

My kids each own an older model Nintendo DS and a Kindle that they use occasionally to look up videos on how to create elaborate lego structures but the only other video game system in our house is an original play station from the 90's currently covered in a layer of dust.

We don't have "fancy" cable, just the basics.  I have never seen any of HBO's amazing television series and my boys have limitations on what they are allowed to watch on television.

They don't have cell phones either...nor do they need them.  If a young lady wants to talk to my son on the phone, she can give him her number and he can use the house phone.  Sound old fashioned to you?  You bet.  And that is exactly how I like it.

I want to know what my children are up to.  No, I don't need to be in their business all the time but a little knowledge can go a long way in teaching them not to make big mistakes that will follow them the rest of their lives.  I also want them to have a taste of the good life, the way I grew up, where weekends and summer days were meant for hanging out, building relationships and playing a pickup neighborhood game of kickball.

In fact, I picked up a kick ball this weekend at our local discount store.  Guess what they did all weekend?

We have a huge backyard and a set of plastic "bases" I found at the dollar store.  When kick ball got boring, they played wiffle ball and helped their dad gather twigs and sticks for a bonfire with the neighbors.

Technology is awesome.  I rely on it everyday at work and home for a variety of things but I don't feel like it should define us as people.  Kids need to play.  They need to explore the world with their imaginations.  At a baseball game we went to a couple of weeks ago, there was a boy who entertained himself for an hour and a half with a stick and the dirt at the base of a tree.  His imagination went wild.  I bet he grows up to be an engineer or an architect or graphic designer or maybe a writer.

Let's not forget the learning that goes on when kids play.  Building relationships, developing organizational skills and discovering ways to resolve conflicts without anger and violence can't be taught with video games and internet videos but they can be learned on a playground.  My oldest son had a coach once who said he truly believed world peace could be achieved on a baseball field.  At the time I laughed, I didn't really get what he meant.  I get it now.  In order to learn to interact with others, we have to actually interact with others.

Adults need to play too.  There was a meme going around on social networking last week that asked the question- where will you be looking at your electronics this weekend?  Sadly, it is true.  We have all seen it- entire groups of adults out to dinner at a restaurant, each one with a cell phone in his or her hand instead of giving their undivided attention to their companions. Really?  Why not save yourself the cost of a dinner and eat a freezer meal alone at home with your tablet for company?

Play time is great family time too.  It doesn't have to cost money to play.  The park is a wonderful, free place to spend a day.  Toss a Frisbee, play catch, take a bike ride.  Many a Saturday night we have friends over to play cards or now that we have our new fire pit built, enjoy a bonfire and some laughs.  Even the tightest of law enforcement family budgets has room for a board game.  Without the cell phones and tablets present please.

 In a LEO family, playtime is all that much more important because family time is often limited due to crazy cop schedules, court cases and unexpected overtime. 

Life is short, make every minute count.  Work because you have to, play because you want to.  What sort of things do you and your family do to "play" together?  LEOW's what sort of budget friendly family time activities can you share?

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Decoration Day

  "I pledge allegiance to the flag
                  of the United States of America,
                              and to the republic for which it stands,
                                                  one nation, under God, indivisible,
                                                                     with Liberty and Justice for all."

Originally composed by a gentleman by name of Francis Bellamy in 1892, Congress adopted this statement in 1942 as our official pledge.  I envy the man who could put so much heart and soul into so few words.  That one sentence, pledged by school children across the nation every morning, says so much about what this great nation of ours stands for.  In this time of so much political strife, I feel like many have lost site of the basic tenets of being an American.  Despite personal politics, some things remain indisputable fact when considering the country we live in. 

Good people enter the United States, often illegally, in search a life without fear or persecution.  They are willing to risk arrest, jail and living with the constant fear of deportation just for the chance to have a little of what we have.

We are free to pledge our nation, our religion, our deity, anything we want without fear for our lives.

The Constitution guarantees our right to speak our minds on any of a plethora of topics without worry of persecution, legal ramifications some cases, death.

People- thousands of men, women, husbands, brothers, sisters, wives, sons, daughters- have bravely fought and given their lives for our freedom to live our lives as we so choose.  They did not die as Democrats or Republicans or Tea Party members or Catholics or Protestants or Muslims or gay or straight.  They freely gave their lives as Americans fighting for what they believed in and for that I will be eternally grateful.

Americans fighting for freedom goes back as far as the early settlers landing on the shores of the New World.  The concept of remembering the fallen and revering the American soldier became a national activity shortly after the Civil War with the Institution of Decoration Day to commemorate fallen Union and Confederate soldiers.  That is the day that we now know as Memorial Day.

 Beaches open, pools across the nation shed their covers and BBQ's in every state fire up.  Memorial Day means summer has freed us from the clutches of winter...and so much more.

It is my personal opinion that we should always thank our active duty military for their service.  I am so patriotic that the National Anthem brings tears to my eyes.  I don't need a national holiday to be grateful to our service members for the sacrifices they and their families make to ensure my freedoms. 

On Memorial Day, however, I will pay my respects to those that fought the good fight on my behalf and made the ultimate sacrifice.  I will bow my head in tribute and never, ever forget what they gave up for me and mine.  I will teach my children that freedom is not free and that they should never, ever take it for granted.

On this, the proud successor of Decoration Day,  I challenge each and every one of you to do the same.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Just Another Day

"Why do you have so many pairs of handcuffs hanging in your tree?"

An actual question a friend once asked me upon finding six pairs of  handcuffs hanging in a tree in our front yard.  (Notice she didn't ask why they were there, just why were there so many....)

Looking up and down the block I responded with feigned shock, "You mean other people don't do that?"

In case you are wondering, earlier in the day my husband had spray painted about six pairs of cuffs fire engine red.  He claimed cops had difficulty keeping track of their own gear and this way he would always get his back.  A tree was the most convenient means of a drying rack.

I should also mention that he turned down my offer to buy him the hot pink ones...

Last week my son was getting ready for his final baseball game of the season and asked me where his cup was (the athletic sort....not the coffee sort...)  It was in the dishwasher, of course.  According to the movie, Cheaper by the Dozen  that is the best way to clean an athletic cup.

He retrieved the cup, placed it appropriately and never once questioned it's location.  To be fair, with two baseball players in the house I must share that I have also found them in the cup holder in my car (the coffee sort...not the athletic sort...), the trunk, the laundry basket and once even in my purse...

One night as I talked on the phone with my mom, I heard something banging around in the dryer.  Assuming it was yet another match box car or lego creation that often made their way into someone's pocket, I pulled open the dryer and felt around for the offending toy.  It was a toy all right but didn't belong to the little boys.  The "big" one had gone to the shooting range and forgotten to clean out all of his pockets....FYI....45 caliber bullets sound an awful lot like matchbox cars in the dryer.  That same item now sits on my kitchen window sill as a reminder of how much I enjoy the little nuances that pepper my existence.

This is my life... and I love it. 

When I first decided to get back into blogging, I struggled with trying to find a name that would encapsulate all that I felt I wanted to write about.  I went through many ideas of my own, but as a writer I always struggle with the titles of everything.  A title says so much about a piece of work that I wanted something that would cover it all.

So, I did what anyone in the 21st century with any sort of problem would do...I turned to social networking for assistance....

Thank you, Anita for so many great ideas....I see many blog titles in my future and I will likely return to you for more!

The one I have decided to go with, the title of this blog, exemplifies the three things in this world that I am most proud.  My boys (all of them, even the "big" one!), being a police wife and the things that I write.  Now, I get to combine my three loves in one specific place.  It doesn't get any better than that.

So, thank you, Sheri for having the blast of inspiration that says it all about me. 

Last month I published a book with my good friend and co-author Carolyn Whiting about the uniqueness of living the law enforcement life.  (Here is the link if you would like to check it out .)  We had many fantastic women open their hearts, homes and experiences to us so that we could create something that we hope will benefit many over the years.  The number one thing that I learned during the writing process is that we all, every single one of us in this world, have things about our lives that are unique and we need to embrace them instead of fight them.

Handcuffs in the tree, an athletic cup in my purse...these are just some of things that make my life unique. Ten years of being a mom and a LEOW (law enforcement officer's wife) have taught me that constantly having to clean bathrooms and a bullet in the dryer are just another day...