Friday, December 19, 2003

Inspired by Snow 

Falling from the pale gray sky
Fluffy and white
Covering brown grass and fallen leaves
Children’s delight

Driving home in the new fallen snow
Winter adventure
Sledding down neighborhood hill
Face full for sure

Paying December’s electric bill
Hardly enough money
Going out in below zero temps
Mighty cold but sunny

Playing in the winter wonderland
Too cold for perspiring
Watching the flakes drifting down
Is anything as inspiring?

The Best Christmas Card 

Yesterday I got a Christmas card from my dad. This is the most special card I have received in a long time. You'll need some background in order to know why this is so significant to me.

My parents divorced when I was five. Dad didn't want custody of my sister and brother and me, but he did set up scheduled time with us. At first, he was diligent about picking us up for spending time with him. Then things got ugly. He didn't pick us up or was late on several occasions, and my mom got more and more angry with him. Finally she confronted him. I don't know exactly what happened in the exchange because she met him away from where we were living, but I do know that Dad didn't come back after that.

He also stopped paying child support. My mom couldn't locate him to try to collect the child support. Mom was a short order cook and didn't have enough money to raise three children by herself, so she applied for aid from the state. After I left home for college, the state helped my mom track down my dad. The state was eager to get some of the money back. My dad ended up spending a short time in jail because of the whole situation.

Needless to say, there has been a lot of tension between us and my dad and his family. My grandmother, his mother, tried desperately to keep in contact with us. We visited her and exchanged letters on a pretty regular basis. She had us over to her house around Christmas more than ten years ago now, and my dad was there. We watched football together. He didn't even know I liked football. It felt odd to just sit there with my dad watching TV and not having much to say, not knowing what to talk about.

Grandma died four years ago. It was such a good thing that she kept in touch with us. It was sad to see her pass away because it would be easy to drift away from that part of my family.

Dad was there at the wake and funeral. He was so overjoyed to see us. He got to meet his granchildren for the first time. He looked so proud holding my son. My husband took a picture of him holding our son. It is one of my most treasured pictures.

I hadn't seen or heard from my dad since the funeral. I had visited his sister and heard of him through her, but I didn't even have an address for him. I wouldn't have imagined his sending me a Christmas card. To see it in the stack of mail yesterday made my heart jump for joy. It turns out he's living in the town where I went to high school.

Besides joy, I feel confusion about the card. It included a paper with his address and was simply signed "Love, Dad". It's like sitting there next to him watching TV and not knowing what to say to him. I'm eager to write to him. I'm apprehensive about seeing him in person again, but I will make the effort to see him.

Thank you God for sending me my dad for Christmas this year. God, please help me to become acquainted with him and to make him a part of our family. Amen.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

What a Soldier Might Say 

Here I am, in a set of desert camouflage khakis carrying a heavy load including a weapon, ammunition, and a canteen. I have become accustomed to the constant dripping sweat. My fellow soldiers and I are in great shape but still we move slowly in this oppressive heat. It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve made a phone call home. I can still hear the strain of worried sadness through the smiling tone of my mother’s voice.

I participate in this mission because I am a part of something larger. I am here to do what I can—part of a team fighting one battle at a time of a long, arduous war. Keeping our focus on the goal is important to maintaining good morale. Yet there are times when I get distracted.

I see news clips on CNN or read articles in the New York Times about the war I am here fighting. There are some people at home that would speak ill of our Commander-in-Chief during a time of war. Can you imagine how that makes us feel? They would even suggest that we “staged” the capture of Saddam Hussein because of political motives. How does it make those fellows who were involved in the capture feel? They put their lives on the line, moving in on their target with hearts pounding and adrenaline pumping. In a few “harmless” words those folks reporting on, writing, or making the news have discounted the accomplishments of those fellows, my colleagues.

It would be just as well if I didn’t watch the news or read the paper. It makes the heat feel more oppressive.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Philippines 1999--Entry #3 

We arrived in Cagayan in time for the funeral and memorial service of an aunt of my husband. The memorial services for the departed in the Philippines are quite lengthy, including many days of opening the home of the departed to friends and family and sharing meals with them. There was so much food—roast pig, goat, vegetable dishes, and a variety of fruits. The services themselves were elaborate with many prayers and singing.

It turns out that this aunt had converted from Catholic, the religion of the majority in the Philippines, to some sort of Christian denomination. The church met in her home. Of course the language spoken was the local dialect. I was trying desperately to eek out a minimal understanding based on my understanding of some Spanish, but it was no use. Add to the language barrier a severe case of jetlag and a sleeping baby in my arms, and I could barely keep my eyes open. I may have nodded off and awoke a dozen times before the service was over.

The following day, when this aunt was finally laid to rest, I got to see the family cemetery plots. It turns out that there is a place for my husband to be buried there. I had not really given it much thought, but it disturbed me to think of burying my husband over in the Philippines. While their cemetery is a really beautiful place, my husband has only visited there and has never lived there. It is not really important where one is buried, I suppose, but I had always thought I would be buried with my husband. I guess we will cross that hurdle when we get there.

After the funeral was over, it was time to be about the business of enjoying our trip. We met with one of my husband’s cousins, and he went about setting up activities for us. The other cousins had more activities planned for us. We went to a couple of nice resorts with pools on different days to cool off and relax. We had dinner with friends my husband had made on previous visits. We rode in a truck to a lake for a picnic and visited another aunt’s rice fields.

From our arrival in Cagayan, my husband had not been feeling well. As the time went on, he started feeling worse and worse. He was running a fever and had chills and cold symptoms. His fever lasted for a couple of days. My mother-in-law decided it was time to take him to see a doctor.

We went to the local hospital. There were armed guards at the doors. The floor was dirty at the entry, but didn’t look too bad by the doctor’s office and examining rooms. As much as we were unsure of what type of care he would receive, we were happy to be able to get to see someone and get a potential treatment. As it turns out, he was diagnosed as having an upper respiratory infection. The doctor prescribed an antibiotic as the treatment and recommended my husband not fly until his fever was gone, which meant at least two days of staying put.

Our plans for the rest of our trip needed to be rearranged to allow for my husband’s recovery. Our tight schedule didn’t really allow for any delays. It was going to mean cutting out a day or two somewhere else. I was content to stay longer with my mother-in-law’s relatives in Cagayan. They had shown us some fantastic hospitality. It would be hard to say good bye to them.

More of the story another day…

Monday, December 15, 2003

Hussein Captured 

Let us rejoice and give glory to God that the ruthless dictator Suddam Hussein has been captured. It is an appropriate reaction for a country who has young men and women risking their lives to accomplish this task, among other important tasks in Iraq. What will this mean for the course of our continuing presence in Iraq?

Will this mean the opposition to our troops' presence will diminish? Unfortunately, I happen to believe some or most of the opposition to our troops is being led by forces outside of Iraq. It is fortunate that Saddam was captured with a large sum of money that will no longer be able to be used to fund an opposition led by him.

Our own media's reaction to the capture is stunning to say the least. The media's reaction is a demonstration of how far removed they are from the real world. For instance, take Lesley Stahl's interview with Donald Rumsfeld last night on "60 Minutes". Were you struck, like I was, that she portrayed the United States as the "bad guy" in this scenario, leaving it to Secretary Rumsfeld to prove otherwise? Her constant return to the already answered questions about the treatment of Hussein while in cusotdy showed her intent to get Rumsfeld to somehow slip up and say "Hey, yeah, we're going to torture the b------ until he gives us the goods!" How many of us really care about what type of treatment Saddam Hussein is getting wherever he is being detained? It is certainly a life of luxury compared to how any prisoners he kept while he was in power were treated. Are we going to operate outside of the Geneva Convention in terms of prisoner treatment? Would we jeopardize our foreign relations with many other nations by ignoring the Convention? Certainly not.

The trial of Saddam Hussein will be an event like no other in human history. The United States and Iraqi military will certainly do everything in their power to see that this trial allows for sentencing with the death penalty. This will mean not being tried before the International Tribunal in The Hague. How will the rest of the world react? The United States has gone out on a limb already with this war, I don't foresee any backpedaling on the issue of the trial.

This war is not over by a long shot. This capture is good progress and speaks volumes to the commitment and bravery of our and the coalition's troops over in Iraq. Keep up the good work. We are so proud.

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