The Gratitude Project
The Band asked me what freedom means to me.
I'm an Air Force brat. My first step-father was in the service when he married my mother, and our family lived overseas with him for most of my elementary school years.
Though he retired shortly after we returned to the States, we still lived near an Air Force base. I grew up hearing the sounds of jets Monday through Friday and the occasional weekend. We went to the Air Shows, and I stood in reverence as we were given tours of the jets.
Most of my hometown is accustomed to the sounds of the jets. And though they're LOUD, most people don't complain, even in the summer when the base has their periods of "night flying" where the jets practice night-time maneuvering.
When my first husband and I moved back to my hometown, our son was just barely three years old and hated loud noises. Unfortunately, we lived near the base, and the jets bothered him.
My second step-father is also an Air Force service member. In fact, he works on those magnificent jets each day. So when my young son complained to Grandpa that the planes were too loud, Grandpa sat him down and shared words that still strike me to the core.
He told him that yes, those jets were loud. But those jets carried brave men and women (like himself and my sister, my son's favorite aunt) to fight for our freedom. As my son's eyes grew as wide as saucers, Grandpa explained that these brave soldiers would go far away from home to fight to keep our world safe.
He told my son that those loud jets were the sound of our freedom.
Since that day, I've heard the jets with a new love. And though I live in a new town, and it's an Army base with helicopters instead of jets, when I hear the sounds of freedom, I pause and give thanks.
I'm not brave and I'm not strong. I could not give the ultimate sacrifice that is asked of our soldiers. Though I grew up in a military family, it is not the life for me.
But I will always be thankful that there are people willing to give their lives so that I may live free. So that I may write these words in a safe place.
Freedom to me is the sounds of jets and a thankful heart.
Okay, maybe not.
The fact that I love my husband deeply might cause problems.
And I noticed you already had a wedding band (don't ask me why I noticed, I just did. I was single for a long time, sheesh). But there must be some way to show the world how deeply I esteem you. How deeply I appreciate you. You have made our family so happy. You are one great doctor.
Are you all wondering whether I've had liposuction? Or maybe if my colitis has been cured? Or that I've grown five inches? No. Dr. Adler is neither a plastic surgeon nor a gastroenterologist. Dr. Adler is a pediatric neurosurgeon.
Last month when we brought Lovebug in for his 12 month check up, his pediatrician was worried about his head shape. Specifically, that the plates might have fused too early. Unfortunately, we were moving less than a week after the appointment so we had to get it checked out in New Jersey.
The pediatrician here was also concerned. He wanted us to see a neurosurgeon - to skip the in-between step of the neurologist altogether. Naturally, our insurance is not accepted by most doctors in Bergen County. The ones that did accept our insurance could see us in October.
By that point, I had done some research. While Lovebug's head did not resemble any of the misshapen heads of babies with craniosynostosis, I was still worried. If they did not fix it soon, there could be pressure on his brain. The pediatricians had barely talked to me about anything else, like his behavior and whatnot, so worried were they about his head.
So between my mother talking to her doctor, a doctor he knew (and his kind appointment maker) and me talking to my insurance company, we found a pediatric neurologist. I made the regular pediatrician give us a referral to the pediatric neurologist.
Yesterday we went to our first appointment. Dr. Adler came out to the waiting room and brought us back to the exam room himself. He was warm, kind and clear.
He chatted with Lovebug and felt his head.
Dr. Adler explained everything in layman's terms and even offered to show us pictures of babies with real problems on his computer. We declined, having already seen them. The bottom line was that while the space between Lovebug's skull plates may have fused early, this had not affected his head size (which is very large, to tell the truth), his head shape, or his behavior (since he walks, talks a bit and does not have seizures).
Dr. Adler declared him perfectly fine.
After imagining MRIs and CT scans, rounds with specialists and surgery, yesterday's appointment could not have gone better. But if something had been wrong, you can bet for damn sure that I would want Dr. Adler to fix it.
I wrote this post nearly 6 years ago. It was the first time I shared something that really worried me publicly on the internet. I will always appreciate the kindness that my few readers showed me back then. Even though I can barely remember the worry and anxiety I felt back then, I still remember the kindness. I hope that anyone contributing their stories to Band Back Together gets to feel what I feel about this post: grateful for the kindness and barely able to remember the pain.
2012 - what a year.
For some of us, it was a year of dreams fulfilled, questions answered and our way, at long last, found.
For some of us, it was a year of loss, sadness and longing for what we once had.
For all of us, it was a year in which we learned, loved, and grew.
What did 2012 mean to you?
2012 has been good to me. I really cannot complain. I have everything I could possibly need and want - except for that winning lottery ticket.
My year has been filled with love, happiness, and good fortune.
But I'm not here to gloat. I am showing gratitude for the goodness of this year, at least to me.
2012 has been an asshat to many of the people I love. This year has spewed ugliness, unhappiness, loss, pain, and much more on so many of my lovelies.
I wish I could help. I wish I could take away the pain and sadness.
But each of them has displayed so much bravery and resilience. They have not broken. Their strength, whether they know it or not, is inspiring.
If I have learned anything from this year, it is that through love, community, and compassion, anything is possible.
Practicing an attitude of gratitude is often difficult at this time of year, what with all the road rage and more than unpleasant "Black Friday" shopping experiences; however, I find that it is important to take a little time each day to give thanks for the blessings and gifts in my life.
Today, I am thankful for...
...my parents for always loving and supporting me.
...my sister for being the best sister and friend a girl could hope for, even if she gangs up on me with our brother or my boyfriend.
...my brother for trusting me, talking to me, and leaning on me when he needs it, even if he does gang up on me with our sister.
...my boyfriend, whose love, unfailing support, trust, and intellectual stimulation (dude, he makes me think!) has grounded, uplifted, and challenged me.
...the beautiful and wonderful friends I get to call my family because if ever I need a shoulder, help picking shoes, or someone knocked upside the head they've got my back.
...a great chuckle and an even better cackle.
...the Oxford comma and its disambiguating (hush, it is so a word) skills.
...people who properly use colons and semicolons and understand that the two are NOT the same.
...the holiday season and giving gifts.
...happiness and hope, now and forever.
I don't know what I did to deserve such blessings in life, but I am thankful for everything every second of every day to have been given such gifts.
I doubt that the gentleman who said that to me knew what he was actually saying about my life.
It happened in Walmart a couple of days ago. I was standing in a line that wasn't moving because the cashier was too busy conversing (with her hands) with the customer she should have been checking out.
The next line over was moving, slowly but surely.
I've noticed that whichever line I am standing in just happens to be the slowest in the store; yet it never fails that if I move to another line, it instantly becomes the slowest moving line in the store. So, I stayed my happy ass right where it was, thinking murderous thoughts about this cashier who wasn't doing her job.
I stood there, trying to smile (or at least trying not to erupt in blind rage at this damned cashier) because I might be the only NA Basic Text that someone ever sees.
And what would it say about 12-step recovery if me and my NA tattoo were standing there acting like a fucking donkey in public, when in reality I am powerless over cashiers who aren't doing their jobs?
I'd gone in to pick up water hoses, because when you live in an RV and the water hose explodes, there is no flushing the toilet.
There I stood, holding my water hoses, for all this time; while the cashier talked with her hands instead of doing her job. I watched the people around me because people fascinate me.
In that next line over, I noticed a mature man and his wife. He was on oxygen; she was on the phone, asking the person on the other end, "Didn't you check Facebook?" The man was holding three items, waiting patiently and trying to smile, just as I was.
Some time later, my line still hadn't moved. The guy on oxygen had finally gotten to the register and placed his stuff on the conveyor. He looked over at me and told me to cut in front of him. He said to me: "You've carried that burden long enough."
Could he see into my soul? Could he read my thoughts?
Here I was, trying to at least act spiritual and appear to have all this patience, while in my mind I was dismembering the cashier and removing her hide.
I almost cried, y'all. And not because my arms were that tired from holding those water hoses.
Because this man had spoken such a great truth about my life before I found NA, and before I found The Band.
I had carried the burdens of: losing a parent as a teenager; being an addict; being a survivor of domestic abuse; a modern woman's struggle with body image; the list could go on indefinitely.
This man, with his act of kindness and his innocent words, had triggered an avalanche of emotions, mostly good ones.
Gratitude, for starters.
Gratitude for this man's act of kindness. Gratitude for the ways my life is different today. Gratitude that I don't carry those same burdens today.
This man, and his random act of kindness, changed my perspective and my attitude. The weird hours I'll be working this weekend, those annoying questions I'm answering about the eighth step of Narcotics Anonymous, that dumbass cashier who was using her hands for conversation instead of her job - all of these worries just fell away.
I am grateful to that man today. (We'll see how long this gratitude lasts. I'm only human, after all.)
He reminded me that today, I don't have good days or bad days. What I have are days; what makes a day "good" or "bad" is my attitude about it.
He reminded me of all the burdens I carried for so long, those burdens that I don't carry any more. He reminded me that when I do have a burden today I don't have to carry it alone.
He reminded me that "We are none of us alone. We are all connected."
I carried my burdens long enough. I don't have to carry them alone anymore.
If that man only knew how profound his words were, how profound their effect on me.
Thank you, sir, for your random act of kindness. Thank you for giving me an attitude adjustment. Thank you for helping me have a "good" day.
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