Night Time is the Hardest

Since my young Marine deployed to the Middle East a few months ago, I’ve worked especially hard to stay busy. I fill my days with activity, most of it worthy, or at least pleasurable to me. A typical week is filled with meetings, political events, dance lessons, committee meetings, dance classes, doctor’s appointments, political rallies, and dance parties.

When I get home, I work. I write a lot of stuff that I won’t show anyone yet. I set up or plan more meetings. I practice dancing. I do a huge amount of research every day. And I’m in the process of figuring out a way to get paid for some of this. I spend hours researching and writing.

But then it gets late. And my eyes get tired of staring at the computer screen. And the only stuff on TV is stupid or boring. And my back hurts from sitting too long. That’s when I realize how tired I am.

So I shut down the computer after finding some place to end where I can pick it up easily tomorrow. I turn off the television, and stand up to stretch.

That’s when it happens.

I start to think.

No one said that being a MoM* was easy. I knew when my son joined the Marine Corps that there would be difficult days ahead. Having been born and raised in a military family, I knew the days would be long and hard. It’s just different when it is your dad who is gone and when it is your son who is gone. The years between the two experiences make a difference, too. I didn’t know as much when dad was in Southeast Asia. Sadly, I know way too much now about the Middle East.

So I think.

Some nights I go outside and pace my long driveway. I’ve learned that, if you look carefully enough, and long enough, you can see the occasional meteorite. You notice that stars actually come in a variety of colors – red, blue, white, orange. I look at the moon and watch it pass through each phase of the month. Because I live at approximately the same latitude as that in which my Marine is located, I imagine that the night sky looked the same that evening in both places, just several hours apart from each other. I wonder if he looked up at the moon and thought about home.

And when my sadness starts seeping from my eyes, I go back inside my quiet house. There is a difference between quiet and peaceful. This is the former; it’s just quiet. I wonder if I was right to turn off my computer – maybe I should work a while longer. But my tired eyes say no, so I head to my bedroom.

Lying in my bed is no different. I turn on the diffuser and fill my room with lavender in hopes of relaxing enough to sleep. I read something that will keep my focus, but not important enough to matter the next day if I don’t remember it. In desperation, I reach for my cell phone to play solitaire, or watch music videos – anything to make me stop thinking.

Night time is the hardest.

 

~Temerity Dowell

 

 

*Mom of a Marine

Spider Webs and Memories

There is a large spider in the window beside my front door. She has constructed a greatly intricate web across the window pane just to the left of the door. Needless to say, when I’ve had to go outside, I’ve either used the back door, or stepped well to the right side of the front door, giving the spider a large berth.

I have a very rational fear of spiders. Ever since I was told that “the average human swallows three spiders in their sleep every year,” I’ve been afraid of them.* The meme’s you see on social media outlets regarding a fear of spiders were written about me. I actually HAVE done 30 minutes of aerobic exercise in two minutes after stepping into a spider’s web, and the thought of using a flame thrower to destroy a spider on the living room floor originated with me.

In the interest of avoiding an insurance claim, an exterminator visits my home every month. Every month! He sprays every crevice and cranny on every floor. The first time he stopped by, he saw a large spider, similar to the one I have this year, on the back porch and assured me that he would get rid of it, too. I stopped him! That spider would remain there until the cold winter would end his life naturally.

When my children were young, I read aloud to them the delightful children’s book “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White. It was the first of many that we would read together. While we only read it once, it would affect many things in our lives, including how we deal with spiders that create such detailed webs where we can safely enjoy their beauty.

Through many years, my sons and I have admired the handiwork of these creatures. We’ve watched moths, flies, and gnats land perilously in the webs, only to be surrounded quickly with more webbing so that the spider could end their life painlessly and gain nourishment from the insects. We’ve watched them spinning the web with perfectly straight lines, magically spaced with the exact same distance between each row. We’ve stood for hours in the doorway, safely inside, watching these mysterious arachnids work to create a web. It was a joy to get up in the morning and see it dripping with dew drops in the sunlight. Beautiful!

No, the spiders outside of my home live completely free from human harm. Unlike their indoor neighbors, they have no reason to fear my wrath, or even a heavy shoe, machete, gun, flame thrower, or exterminator. They live in peace.

My sons no longer live at my home. Both are serving our nation in faraway places. I wonder if, somehow, they might find a spider, at a safe distance, and watch her skillfully work to construct a web just as I watched the one here.

Sometimes it’s the little things that can evoke such memories. Little things – like spiders.

 

~Temerity Dowell

 

*For the record, the average human does NOT swallow three spiders while sleeping. Not every year, not ever! This is a lie! A myth!!

Peace AND Quiet

“What do I have to do to get some peace and quiet around here?” my mother would often ask when I was growing up. There were four children in my family; I was the oldest. From top to bottom, we were seven years apart, and I really don’t recall a time when there was ever both peace and quiet. I could be wrong. There may have been, and I just don’t remember it.

Instead, I remember my youngest siblings, a sister and brother, running through the house when they were still quite young. They loved to run through “naked as jay birds” after they had their evening bath. I remember the four of us having other kids in the neighborhood over to our large front yard and playing softball for hours. When we got thirsty, we really did drink water from the garden hose, and none of us died from lead poisoning. I remember Christmas mornings running through the house, waking one another, and screaming of Santa Claus and exciting gifts. I don’t know that there was ever peace and quiet.

When my own sons were young, at a time of which I have better recollection than my own childhood, there were many peaceful times that were quiet. But perhaps, there were just as many that were quiet, but not peaceful. Every mother knows that when the children are “too quiet,” there is not peace. They are up to something. The “something” was not always bad, and it was often funny, at least in retrospect.

My sons are grown now. This weekend the elder is at drill with his unit in the Army National Guard. The younger is serving in a desert far away as a young Marine. My house is completely quiet, except for the television and the occasional movement from the dogs. It’s not very peaceful though.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that real peace is much more than just “a state of tranquility or quiet.”1 No, there is a second definition. Peace also means “freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions.”2 When you have a loved one serving in a war zone, as is the Middle East, it’s really difficult to maintain a “freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions.” Instead, emotions come in like a flood.

Quiet is not all it’s cracked up to be. My house is located off the beaten path, and I don’t hear people in my own driveway most times. What I hear are noises that are insignificant – the cat scratching the back door, or the screen door shifting in the wind. I hear the tree limbs on the siding when the wind picks up strength. I hear mama cows bellowing when we are weaning their calves. Then, I also hear a million sounds that are equally insignificant, but surely seem very important. I hear a group of home invaders in the basement some nights. I hear them knocking things over and moving stuff around. I hear banging noises that sound like the house is caving in on itself, even though it’s really the water pressure tank. With all the noises, or lack thereof, it’s not really peaceful here, even though it is quiet.

Peace.

I need peace far more than I need quiet. There was another missile strike in the Middle East this week. You probably didn’t hear anything about it unless you were looking at every news article. This one was directed at dissidents aligned with Bashar Assad. Because I homeschooled my sons, I have maps all over my house. I’m very familiar with the national borders in the Middle East, but I don’t know exactly which borders surround my Marine. And even though I know that the area he is probably in is as big as the Louisiana Purchase, when you look at it on a map, it all seems so close together, as if a missile in one place could affect the entire geographic area. No amount of quiet in my house can give me peace about that.

For the last two months of his deployment, I’ve tried to stay remarkably active. I’ve walked 3 miles a day 3-4 times a week. I’ve spent 12-14 hours every week at a dance studio. I’ve been to more political meetings than I cared to attend. And I had classes to prepare to teach every week. But summer is here, and school is out. An injury is preventing me from all active walking and 95% of dancing. And the state legislature has recessed. In other words, you’re getting to read this because I have nothing to do tonight and decided to write. Misery loves company, huh?

“Go placidly amid the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in silence.” 3 Tonight, this MoM is just not buying it.

 

~Temerity Dowell

 

  1. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/peace
  2. From the poem “Desiderata” by Max Ehrmann http://www.davidpbrown.co.uk/poetry/max-ehrmann.html

Just Breathe!

I first heard about it when I pulled into the driveway tonight. I’d been at a class that I take each week. We’d had fun and learned quite a bit. As I pulled into the driveway and heard the initial reports, that the United States had launched a military airstrike on Syria, I stopped my car. After several seconds, I realized I had stopped breathing.

I’m still a relatively new MoM. My Marine only deployed last month. I wouldn’t expect anything less from this son– he had the mindset of a Marine years before he became one. He loves this country, and has a servant’s heart. And I knew this day would come eventually. You know, eventually – that day that is never actually supposed to get here. Well, it arrived. It blindsided me, and I’ve forgotten how to breathe.

I’ve been taught all the Marine Mom stuff. We’re the mothers of Devil Dogs! We’re proud and brave. We’re stronger than our sons – after all, we raised them! Semper Gumby is our motto – Always flexible. We know that nothing is a fact until it is released by the US Marine Corp and Department of Defense. We know that by the time we hear the news reports, the information is already hours, even days, old. We have been told that no news is good news. We’ve also been taught that if you hear it on the news, not to worry about it. The media excels at blowing a story out of proportion. Instead, we worry about what we don’t hear.  And there’s a lot of stuff we will never hear.

I forgot how much we should respect the family members of military men and women, probably because I grew up in a family of military men and women. I was quite young when my father was in Southeast Asia and am thankful that I’ve forgotten so much. It’s difficult to imagine all the details, and to consider how hard things are on your family when nothing seems out of the normal realm of family life for you. Until I was in high school, I never knew of a time when my dad wasn’t gone, just returning, or preparing to be gone again soon. This was our version of normal. I forgot about the days when we had trouble just remembering to breathe.

As I watch the various news channels tonight, I’m noticing how the discussion is on the geopolitical ramifications of the attack. Many comments have been made regarding President Trump’s first military strike. Social media outlets are already thick and deep with negative comments regarding the President’s prior comments (as in three years ago) regarding US response to Syria’s misbehavior. After watching reports for over three hours, I can now recite all the pertinent details regarding the strike. I know from where the missiles were launched, what they hit, casualties, potential follow up strike suggestions, the opinions of a few retired military leaders, and even which floor of the Pentagon still has people working tonight.

I know all of this, but somehow, I’ve forgotten how to breathe.

Three hours later, I’m still watching the news, trying to remember that until I hear from, or news about, my Marine, I don’t need to worry. I keep looking at the world map I have across the room, trying desperately to remember that the Middle East is much bigger than my living room wall – my Marine is surely far away from any danger. I’m trying to remember that he is just as safe wherever he is as he would be upstairs in his own bed. Where ever he is, God has him in the palm of his hand.

And I’m trying to remember how to breathe.

 

~Temerity Dowell

#TanktheTax

It’s hard to find a major city any more in which there is not something being protested. It’s been argued that President Trump was able to create jobs even before he took office – George Soros was only too happy to pay for protesters. Protesting might not be a long term career goal, but at least it’s something.

The modus operandi of these protest groups is fodder for textbooks. They often show up wearing matching t-shirts. Their plans include completely disrupting any of the government’s business proceedings taking place through whatever means necessary. They begin by “occupying” space. Paid protesters will line the halls of the legislature, fill the seats in committee meetings, and stage sit-ins in the offices of public officials. They also make noise – shouting, singing, chanting, and banging on drums or doors are all common tactics.

Seasoned legislators at every level have learned to accept that there will, from time to time, be somebody protesting something. They most often develop thick skin and walk past the shouts, signs, and threats in order to carry out the business of the government.1 Newer lawmakers, struggling with their new environment to begin with, may have a more difficult time of adjusting. Regardless, supportive constituents can be very helpful when the aforementioned protesters go too far. A simple call or email relaying that you support your representative or senator and are praying for him/her can go a long way.

But what happens when the conservative right wants to protest?

In Tennessee, this matter will come up this week. It is expected that hundreds of residents who are outraged over the impending gas tax submitted by Governor Haslam will converge on the state capitol this Wednesday morning in protest. Exactly how that protest will be carried out remains to be seen. Conservatives actually have a pretty good track record of peaceful protests, though. After the 9/12 Rally on the National Mall almost a decade ago, participants collected their trash and cleaned up the area. This behavior was completely unexpected by the custodial workers prepared to clean up after them. They came, they protested, they cleaned up after themselves. Nice.

I have no doubt that the Plaza will be completely spotless after Wednesday’s protest. My concern is how protesters will conduct themselves. Emotions are flying high as we face the highest tax hike in Tennessee history. It would be so easy for these emotions to overwhelm our better angels and take up the tactics of other protest groups, such as Indivisible.2  The temptation will be greater if members of that, or similar, organizations show up to protest and employ such behavior. This writer encourages you to resist such temptation. Frankly, the staff and legislators at the state capitol are unimpressed and quite tired of their rudeness. Such misbehavior is not gaining them any ground, and it won’t work for our side either.

Several years ago, when faced with an income tax, protesters made their point calmly, albeit loudly. For several days while such legislation was being considered, protesters drove in circles around Legislative Plaza where lawmakers were meeting and honked their car horns. While it was probably annoying to those with offices next to the street, committee meetings were not interrupted, and business continued normally. No one “stormed the castle.” No one staged a sit-in. No one banged on an office door. Yet legislators got the message, and the income tax died.  I wasn’t yet active in the political arena when this happened, but I did listen to radio reports regarding the honking and circling, and I saw that their tactics were completely effective. Tennesseans have since made it abundantly clear that we will NOT stand for a state income tax.

As a young child, my mother often admonished “You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.” While vinegar in the form of honking horns may be necessary on some occasions, it’s often helpful to start with some honey. Contact your legislators with a phone call or email, and politely let them know that you oppose a gas tax hike. Ask for an appointment to meet with them.  If you plan to go inside the plaza or capitol, dress for the occasion. It’s a business office, so dress in business attire instead of jeans and a t-shirt. If you meet with a legislator, be respectful. They are elected officials, so somebody somewhere likes them. Your threats of replacing them, or any other threat, will fall on deaf ears. Remember, you may need that legislator on a future matter. Don’t burn a bridge you may need to cross someday.

We can stop the gas tax if we work together wisely and strategically. Continue to remind legislators that they are supposed to be conservatives and oppose higher taxes. Resist the temptation to “light up their phones” or “flood their email account.” Don’t give the appearance of a bought-and-paid-for protester. You’re better than that, and you deserve more respect than that. As a citizen of Tennessee, you have a right for your voice to be heard, but don’t be the nagging sound of a constant bang on a door. Spread so much honey when you protest that legislators will want to listen to what you have to say. And let’s stop this gas tax!

 

~Temerity Dowell

 

  1. That’s not as easy as it sounds. One secretary told me that during the “Occupy” movement a few years ago, protesters set tents up outside her office window and, with the tent flaps wide open, proceeded to copulate below the steps of the state capitol.
  2. If you’ve not heard of this group of protesters, I encourage you to do some research. They have set up organizations nationwide, and plan to disrupt government meetings and spread their liberal agenda as they stand against anything in the Trump agenda. You can learn more about them here: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/feb/22/meet-indivisible-progressive-organization-behind-r/

For more information regarding the rally in Nashville, TN on Wednesday, March 1st, go here: https://www.facebook.com/events/630751920443807/?active_tab=discussion

 

Missing my Boys

This week my younger son left home to deploy on his first mission with the US Marine Corps. I’m proud beyond belief. I also miss him greatly.

Earlier today, my older son, who serves in the Army National Guard, headed off for an extended drill weekend. Due to storms last month they had to cancel their scheduled activities for safety reasons, so I assumed they would be making up those things this month. As my soldier headed to his car, I asked, “Will you be jumping out of planes or helicopters?” His reply made me smile. “If we do, I’ll remember to take a garbage bag, Mom.”

Back story: Somewhere between a hundred years ago and yesterday morning, my sons were young. And they were very typical boys. Because we homeschooled them, they had many hours each day to find things to do on our family farm. We never owned video games or had a lot of movie channels, so entertainment sometimes involved rocks, sticks, ropes, and imaginary characters. Games of cowboys and Indians were common. Their adventurous spirit led them up trees, to the woods, in the pond, and down the zip line into a tree. It is truly a miracle that they both made it through childhood with little more than a few stitches.

One time my future soldier decided he wanted to jump out of the barn loft with a parachute. Parachutes being difficult to find for the average 10 year old, he decided to use a plastic trash bag instead….more than once. Obviously it was completely ineffective, but he really didn’t care. For all I know, he listed it under “Experience” when asked by the Army if he had ever jumped from a high point. Today, he does have his jump wings, and loves every opportunity he gets to jump from perfectly good airplanes and helicopters. And today, he uses a real parachute instead of a garbage bag. Go, Army!

I knew from the time he was young that his mind was on the military. When he was only 12 years old, we went to a local Civil Air Patrol meeting. At the end of the evening, he looked at me awkwardly as he showed me the emblem that they had given him when he “joined.” I should have known. He loved every weekly meeting, wearing his uniform, doing the physical training, taking tests to advance in rank, and even saluting superior ranking students and leaders. He was made for the military.

My young Marine, however, never showed one minute of interest in Civil Air Patrol. He wasn’t interested in the military; he was interested in cows. Somehow I managed to get it in my mind that he would graduate from high school and work in the agricultural field, perhaps as a feed lot buyer, a 4-H agent, or artificially inseminating cows (he was trained to do this by the Agricultural Extension Agency in our state when he was only 16). He had become a Master Beef Producer when he was just 14. He was supposed to grow up, live nearby (if not at my home), raise cows on our property, and eventually get married and give me the granddaughters that I so richly deserve to spoil.

My uncle was a Marine veteran who had served in Vietnam, spending part of his time in a North Vietnamese prison camp as a POW. A brain tumor, possibly caused by Agent Orange, was what took his life when my son was 16. My sons grew up around veterans. Both of my parents served in the military. My husband served, his father served, and his brother served. Three of my uncles served. Even though he had never given any indication that he might be interested in the military, my younger son decided when he was a teen that every young man should serve his country. So he became a Marine.

Someday, all my dreams for my younger son may come true. I’m especially believing Jesus for that last part, since I think I possess great potential at being a grandmother. But for now, he is somewhere in the world on a ship for the US Marine Corps. Oorah!

Forgive the ramblings of a sentimental mother. I am really missing my sons tonight.

 

~Temerity Dowell

 

In a step toward becoming, once again, “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” Lady Gaga gave a thrilling performance last night during the Super Bowl LI Halftime Show. She opened by singing a patriotic verse and reciting part of the Pledge of Allegiance from the roof of the NRG Stadium in Houston.

Only conservatives who’ve lived under a rock for three days could have missed the warnings regarding  Gaga’s Super Bowl political messaging. The mainstream media did a great job of keeping the rumor mill turning – so great that they were able to convince many conservatives that Lady Gaga’s performance would be filled with statements regarding immigration and the evil President Trump, and that the famed commercials would be rife with political statements. Of course, this led to a boycott of the halftime show or even the whole game. The media did not fail in their mission to spread false information! At least they are collectively good at something.

When asked prior to the game if her performance would unify the country, Lady Gaga replied, “You’ll have to ask America when it’s over.” This writer says, “It could have, if some people would just allow us to be unified.” While watching the show, I had my hand on the remote control, ready to change at the first spew of vitriol. It never came. Instead I heard just the opposite when she spoke. Not one to be easily impressed by starlets, I was this time. Sadly, not everyone agrees.

I sat disappointed as friends on social media, who did not watch the halftime performance, posted one hateful response after another. Vomiting emojis were in no short supply. None of these conservative friends had bothered to watch the boycotted show, but they were free to express their opinions without having all the information available to them. It was the equivalent of someone writing a movie review of a show they didn’t bother to see.

One of my ultraconservative friends even posted a link to a video regarding Lady Gaga’s adherence to a satanic cult (I’ve not seen the video). This friend explained that because the artist was satanic she would not subject herself to the music or the person. Fair enough. One need not look far for evidence proving Lady Gaga’s explicit loyalty to Satanism. This friend wondered how anyone who called themselves a Christian could then watch Lady Gaga’s performance.

But this blog is not about Lady Gaga’s system of belief or theology. It’s about her performance. It would be easy to “throw the baby out with the bathwater.” One could rest firmly in the belief that, because Lady Gaga chooses to worship Satan, he or she should not listen or watch her performance. Again, fair enough.

This writer, however, is taking a different approach. While I’ve watched our nation crumble into a divide during the last eight years, culminating in a very contentious election, I am willing to go into places no conservative has gone before. Another old adage, “you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar,” comes to mind.  So I chose to watch the halftime show. Then I chose to assess the show based on its merits, rather than the performer’s beliefs.

While I’m certain Lady Gaga doesn’t give a flip what one conservative thought of her program, I offer my thanks to her for giving a great show free from any political agenda. I think she made a step toward reaching across the divide in our nation. The very least I can do is to take a step in that direction, too.

If we can remember that there is more that unites us than divides us, we might just be able to pull back from the abyss. This conservative chooses to unite.

 

~Temerity Dowell

 

PS – Like so many performers, Lady Gaga has had problems, abused drugs, fallen into pits of despair, and bounced out again to continue her career. For more information regarding Lady Gaga, including her relationship with the great Tony Bennett, read here. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/rockandpopfeatures/11075519/Lady-Gaga-on-Tony-Bennett-Ive-been-controlled-for-years.-He-liberates-me.html

While I understand that, as Christians, we are supposed to abstain from every form of evil, we can’t possibly reach those with the message of Christ who are entrenched in evil if we don’t bother to go where they are. I encourage my fellow believers to reach out to Lady Gaga, and those in her circle, with the love of Christ. Only when she sees that love will she be willing to learn more about it.