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It was the second to last full week of summer break, and my pace was slowing, but we still had some fun times!

On Tuesday we had breakfast at Nick and J’s, a former Waffle House now locally owned and serving breakfast and lunch, with the most enormous pancakes I have ever seen.  William ate two entire orders of French Toast.

We followed up breakfast with our very first visit to Plumb Creek Park, which is a five minute walk from our house, that is if there were any safe way to walk there.  Y’all, I’ve known they were building this park eventually since we moved in, which was seven years ago, so I was super excited to finally get to walk around there.  The walking trails are not quite finished but I foresee this as a great exercise spot when it gets cooler.

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On Thursday I kept a promise made two weeks ago when we stumbled across Bull Run Park, and took the kids swimming there.  I highly recommend it.  It’s not crowded. it’s shady, and the water temperature is comfortable.  I found it soothing and peaceful.  But we are buying water shoes before we return because Lorelei cut her foot on something.  It’s not a swimming pool, y’all.

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Friday we left town for a long-planned trip to Nashville, which is about three hours west of us.  The trip had a dual purpose.  First, to visit my sister and her family, and for the kids to see her house; and second, to go the Nashville Zoo.  Both parts of the trip were successful.

We visited on Friday and went to the zoo Saturday morning.  Someday I will write a whole post about the zoo and share more pictures, but the short version is that we were there for about five hours, and it was delightful, with lots of shade, happy animals in lovely habitats, and more opportunities for interacting with the animals than is typical in our experience.  William declared it one of his favorite zoos.

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Summer break is almost over and I’m sad because we’ve had so much fun that I don’t want it to end.  If you want to read more of our adventures, click on any of the links below.

Why We Can’t Have a 70s Summer and What We Are Doing Instead

The Summer Fun Continues . . .

More Summer Fun

Summer Fun Update

Summer Fun:  Vacation

That 70s Summer

In Which I Grow Lazy

Exploring History

Adventuring

 

 

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Growing up Catholic, if I thought about the word “vocation” at all, it was in the context of a call to the priesthood.  We were encouraged to pray for more vocations because of the looming shortage of priests.

And this sense of vocation as a specifically religious phenomenon was in fact its original sense–not necessarily as a call (the word comes from the Latin for “to call”) to the priesthood exclusively but nevertheless a call from God.

More recently the term has been diluted to refer to one’s way of earning a living, which may in fact be a calling from God for some, to use the gifts and talents with which He has blessed them to serve a particular purpose, but which for others may be nothing more than a preference or an accident of fate.

But in the Catholic sense vocation means primarily your call to the married life, the single life, or the religious life.  Starting from the the basic premise that “all men are called to the same end: God himself” (CCC 1878), it is up to us to discern with God’s help to which of these states He is calling us.

CCC 1603 states that ” . . . the vocation to marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they came from the hand of the Creator.”  Marriage and motherhood is my vocation and I’ve never really doubted that even though at times I think somewhat longingly of how much easier I would find it to be holy if I were a cloistered nun.  From the time I was about 17 I fell in love with babies and I remember wondering how I could possibly stand having to wait years until I could have one of my own.  I loved shocking people with my declaration that my aim in attending a prestigious university was to find a husband.  I was only partly kidding, and I did it too.  I was married the summer after graduation and had a baby 18 months later.

I am a well-educated, extremely competent, intelligent woman, and my oldest son told me the other day that he had no doubt that I would have been a millionaire by now if I had chosen to pursue a career.  (I am NOT a millionaire, and we have struggled financially thanks to my remaining mostly unemployed.) But even though I’ve worked part-time outside the home and work at home now running my husband’s law practice, all I’ve ever really wanted was to have lots of children and be at home with them.  Even now with my youngest entering her teenage years I have no plans to embark on a career outside the home–after all, I’m expecting (and hoping) I will eventually need to be available to help care for grandchildren!

Yes, I am a writer and I LOVE to write more than just about anything, but writing (and any hobby) is an AVOCATION.  It’s our challenge to use our avocations, whatever they are, in service to our vocations.  It was instructive to me to discover that the derivation of avocation is from the Latin to call AWAY.  So if our avocations become a distraction from our vocation then it’s time to reevaluate.

If you believe God speaks to our hearts, even if not from openings in the clouds or burning bushes, then maybe you’ll believe He spoke to me the other day.    Everyone in the Catholic blogosphere is talking about their Saint of the Year, which you can randomly generate here.  I clicked and prayed, as I was advised to do, then clicked again . . . and got MARY.  Yes, that Mary.  I hope she will (of course I know she will) forgive me for being disappointed.  I mean, I know all about her already!  I wanted some obscure, interesting saint I could learn about, who would somehow mystically illuminate my path for the year.

So there’s also a word generator, where you can get a Word of the Year if you don’t want to pick one yourself.  So I clicked again and my word was . . . MOTHER.  OK, Holy Spirit, I see what you did there.  My mouth more or less dropped open.

So it looks like I’m supposed to be doubling down on that wife and mother vocation this year, and seeing how Mary can help me with that.  And who better, of course, than the young woman who accepted God’s extraordinary call and lived that vocation so fully and perfectly?

This post is part of the Catholic Women’s Blogger Network Blog Hop.  For more posts on the topic of Vocation, click the image below!

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Do you like board games?  Do you like silly physical challenges?  Do you like laughing hysterically?  If so, you are probably going to like this game, which I received free as a U.S. Family Guide blogger in exchange for my honest review.

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So Watch Ya’ Mouth, Throwdown Edition, is a game that makes use of mouthpieces, which judging from a recent trip to Walgreens, is apparently a thing.  Who knew?  I don’t watch t.v., y’all, and my kids ask for things like statues of Egyptian gods and rare stuffed animals from eBay, so I’m not exactly up on the trends. 🙂

You can get more information about the game, and even see a video of it being played, on my original post.  I’m going to share a more detailed explanation of how it works in this post.

So first of all, I’m kind of misspeaking when I call it a board game because there isn’t a board.  There are cards, and balls, and mouthpieces, and straws, and party horns, and a timer.  Plus you may need some common household items like spoons or tissues.  But don’t worry–if a particular challenge calls for something that isn’t handy, you can improvise.  In fact, improvising and having house rules are encouraged in this game, which doesn’t take itself too seriously.  This isn’t Trivial Pursuit, y’all.

Without going into too much detail, when it’s your turn, you roll the die to determine who you are challenging, then both of you insert mouthpieces and perform the challenge on the Throwdown card.  Whoever succeeds first wins the card. There are several possible categories of challenges.  In the “Picture Perfect” challenges, players must draw objects by holding pencils in their mouths.  The “Ping Pong Pop” challenges involve passing balls around on spoons held in mouths.  “Suck It Up” challenges use straws to–yes, guessed it–suck things up.  This is only a very small sampling of the challenges provided.

In addition to the Throwdown cards, there are Phrase cards which are used in some challenges.  For example, in the “So Much Drama” challenge, players must recite a phrase from a Phrase card in a particular emotion.  Other challenges simply involve guessing the phrase, not super easy to do when considering both the mouthpiece and the obscurity of the phrases, for example: “Bar Soap Bubbles Up” and “Fairy Flower House.”

In case you were wondering, a game lasts four rounds, a round being complete when every player has had one turn.  Whoever has the most cards at the end wins.  You can see the game in action below:

So now what you’ve all been waiting for:  my honest opinion.  The game has lots and lots of cards with many creative options and a wide variety of challenges.  You won’t do them all in one sitting and then get bored.  If your family likes this kind of game, then you will enjoy Watch Ya Mouth Throwdown Edition.

Me, I don’t like this game.  But it’s not the game’s fault, it’s mine.  It’s just not the kind of thing I enjoy and if I’d been paying more attention on the front end I would not have asked to review it.

Many people do like this game very much, including Toy Insider and Amazon.  Throwdown Edition was already been awarded Top Holiday Toy of 2017 by Toy Insider and was selected for the 2017 Amazon Holiday Toy List.

So if you are like those people and not a boring party pooper like me, and you want a hilarious family game to play during the holidays, your search is over. Just click here and use code 15WYM for 15% off!

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We’ve just returned from an epic weekend of graduation festivities as Teddy’s Notre Dame adventure has come to a close.  Four years flew by, as they are wont to do when you have kids, and it won’t be long before I’ll be writing a melancholy post about having a child leave the nest for good to start adult life very far away.

But I won’t go there today! This weekend was fun and I didn’t feel melancholy, or too stressed, or anxious, or any other way I expected to feel.  And I took lots of pictures!

We (and by “we” I mean me, John, Emily, William, and Lorelei) left Knoxville Thursday night and drove about halfway, stopping in Florence, Kentucky just outside Cincinnati.  This enabled us to get a (relatively) early start the next morning and make it to Notre Dame by around three, because Teddy had plans for John and me.

We left the “little people” (which is surely a ridiculous thing to call them at this point) with Emily, who took them out to eat at a conveniently located (actually in the parking lot of the hotel!) Asian restaurant and then to the hotel pool, and headed for campus, where one of Teddy’s favorite political science professors had invited him and other students to attend a Mass and reception.  This event was really for kids who were in a program that Teddy was not a part of, but it was lovely to start off the weekend with Mass in one of Notre Dame’s many beautiful residence hall chapels and then to meet some of his professors.

We didn’t get to stay long, though, because we had another event to attend.  This one was a party hosted by Scott Malpass, Notre Dame’s CIO, for students in a program he sponsors at the university.  These students were allowed to invite some of their friends, which was how we ended up at this utterly amazing party held downtown at Cafe Navarre.

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Alcohol of all kinds flowed freely, along with canapes, caviar, a raw bar, a full buffet dinner . . . y’all, it was insane.  Many people were having a VERY good time, and I enjoyed the people-watching and the music as well as the food.

Predictably, John and I tired of this before Teddy did, so we left him there and went back to the hotel, to get some sleep before the next full day of activities.

The next morning we were all invited to brunch at someone’s lake house, but I bowed out of that and Teddy took John, Jake, and Jessica (that’s Jake’s girlfriend–they had arrived late the night before and were crashing with Teddy at the house where he lived off campus with several friends).  The rest of us drove over to campus because Lorelei and William had never seen the place and I wanted to show them a couple of things.

We started at the Grotto, then walked up to the Basilica, made sure we saw the Golden Dome, and stopped by Teddy’s residence hall, Saint Edward’s (called Steds by the boys, and the oldest one on campus).  Then we took a short walk by one of the lakes.  Notre Dame’s campus is huge, so if you are ever up that way and have limited time to spend, those are the sights I recommend you see.  Of course, I took some pictures:

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Then it was back to the hotel to change clothes and meet up with the rest of our people and time for the serious stuff to begin.

First up was the Political Science Senior Recognition Ceremony.  Teddy is a Business School grad, but he double-majored in Finance and Poli Sci.  We enjoyed this relatively short and low-key ceremony, where we were encouraged to clap and walk down as close as we could get to take pictures.

From here we walked straight across the parking lot to the Joyce Center, where so many of the events that have made up our Notre Dame experiences have taken place.  We were attending the Baccalaureate Mass in the Purcell Pavilion, and we wanted to get there early enough to find a seat and avoid being placed in the overflow room.

We sat very high in the arena and had an hour to wait for Mass to begin. (There was a LOT of sitting and a LOT of waiting over this weekend, y’all!)  There was music to make it more bearable–throughout the weekend the musicians were amazing and added so much to the experience.

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There’s something special about attending Mass with thousands of other people.  And, as always, we ended by singing the Alma Mater.  I’ve said this before, but anyone you’ve ever heard complaining about Notre Dame’s lack of Catholic identity can’t have ever been there.

Next we attended a much-anticipated event:  a catered dinner in the vacant lot across from the row of house where Teddy and 15 of his friends spent their Senior year.  This event was planned by one of the mothers and many other families pitched in to help with the arrangements.  I’ve met some of the mothers before, and it was great to get to see them again.

All the family joined us for this celebration, as well as my friend Mary Jo, who was in town visiting family.  It was certainly a highlight of the weekend to catch up with her, and she came back to the hotel with us when the kids grew weary and wanted to leave (we left John and Jake and Jessica there with Teddy and they continued to have a great time!).

The threat of bad weather hung over the entire weekend, and it was raining pretty hard when we left the party (thankfully we had sprung for tents!).  The administration decided to delay the start time of the commencement ceremony the next morning, for which we were very grateful!

Because of tight security, we needed to arrive around 8 a.m. and wait in a VERY long line (it moved pretty quickly, though).  There were many items we were not allowed to bring inside, including umbrellas–but rain ponchos were provided! (It sprinkled at one point for maybe five minutes.)  Once inside and seated we had a long wait ahead but it wasn’t so bad as there was music and several screens with pictures of the graduates lining up outside the stadium.

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As is customary, the ceremony began with the academic procession, which took awhile as there were 2,081 graduates plus the faculty who had to get to their seats.  Here is a picture showing the Business School candidates starting to come in.

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The ceremony followed the usual predictable format for such events.  If you’ve ever been to one you don’t need a description.  I came expecting to be bored, to be honest.  But I was wrong–very wrong–and this turned out to be a highlight of the weekend for all of us.

It started with the introduction of Vice-President Pence, who was the Commencement speaker.  Around 100 kids stood up and quietly left the stadium as part of a previously planned protest.  This wasn’t a surprise to many people, including the administration, who had already indicated there would be no repercussions for those who chose to participate, but it was a surprise to me!

Before you ask, no, Teddy did not walk out.  And while I don’t have any issue with peaceful protests, I have a feeling Mr. Pence (who graciously took no notice of the protest and gave a largely unobjectionable, if unremarkable, speech) was more impacted by the other two speeches we heard than by the walkout.

The valedictory address was amazing.  What kind of bravery must it take for a 22-year-old to stand on the same stage with the man who may well be President one day and say, “Our generation must stand against the scapegoating of Muslims. Our concern for freedom of religion must mean freedom for all religions, not just our own, otherwise none of us is free. . . . If we are going to build walls between American students and international students, then I am skewered on the fence . . . Our mission calls us to act on behalf of justice. It is precisely in response to the suffering of Syrian refugees, fleeing war, that the arms of Jesus outstretched on God Quad call for a courageous response.”

And then there were the words of Laetare medal winner Father Greg Boyle (who is a Jesuit so I already had a soft spot in my heart for him): “You go from here to dismantle the barriers that exclude.  And there’s only one way to do that: and that is to go where the joy is, which is at the margins, for if you stand at the margins, that’s the only way they’ll get erased, and you stand with the poor, and the powerless and the voiceless. You stand with those whose dignity has been denied, and you stand with those whose burdens are more than they can bear, and you will go from here and have this exquisite privilege once in a while to be able to stand with the easily despised and the readily left out, with the demonized so that the demonizing will stop, and with the disposable, so the day will come when we stop throwing people away.”

We all felt blessed to have had the opportunity to hear such wisdom, and that’s what I am still thinking about days later.

One unfortunate consequence of the rain delay is that there was no time for lunch before the next and thankfully last event:  the Mendoza College of Business Diploma Ceremony, otherwise known as the ceremony that wouldn’t end.

Y’all, this is the one where they call out the names.  I don’t know how many names there were but it was a lot.  We were there for an hour waiting for it to begin on extremely uncomfortable bleachers, and then I think it was at least 2.5 hours before Teddy’s name was called and there were about an hour’s worth left to go.

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I felt rude but I couldn’t stand it.  I took Lorelei and William out and went to the student center and got them snacks and drinks.  Then I went back inside to watch Teddy walk out and then thank God in Heaven it was over and time to take pictures!

Teddy (and I) would have appreciated a more scenic background but we were pressed for time and there were members of our party for whom walking long distances is an issue.  Jake was like, “Here’s a nice tree.  Stand in front of it,” and we got the whole thing done in maybe five minutes.

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And now, AT LAST, it was dinner time!

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Y’all have heard of Studebakers, right?  My Uncle Charlie had one MANY years ago, as I recall.  Well, they were once manufactured in South Bend, and the guy who founded the company lived in this 40 room mansion.

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Only now it’s a restaurant–Tippecanoe Place–and I hope y’all will indulge me because I just couldn’t stop taking pictures:

I didn’t get any interior pictures except for the group shot below because it just seemed kind of awkward but it was as beautiful as you might imagine–grand staircases, marble fireplaces, fancy woodwork everywhere.  And the food largely lived up to the surroundings, as did the service.  It was the perfect special spot to end our celebration.

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Teddy (who I should tell you goes by Theo everywhere other than with family and old friends) graduated summa cum laude.  He received the Raymond P. Kent award for outstanding work in Finance courses.  He’s had a job lined up for months and will be heading to San Francisco in July to start work as an investment banking analyst.  As this chapter closes, a new adventure is just beginning for him.

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Mima–my maternal grandmother–loved working in her yard.  In my mind’s eye I see her kneeling in front of her porch, setting out marigolds and impatiens in the rich black dirt she’d bought at Kmart.  Later she’d move to the bed by the street, where the peonies and iris grew.  She’d water them with the garden hose, and if a car sped by too quickly, it might get a wetting as well, along with a hollered, “Slow down!”

We had flowering shrubs at our house, but no garden.  So on early damp May mornings, we would leave home a bit early, and drive to Mima’s house.  She’d meet us in the front yard in her housecoat, scissors in hand, to cut irises which she wrapped in wet paper towels for freshness.  These were our “flowers of the fairest” for the May Procession at Saint Joseph School.

When I discovered that I was a gardener too, Mima was right there encouraging me, giving me bags of dirt or mulch out of the trunk of her car, bringing me flats of pansies to set out in the fall, watching my little kids so I could plant daffodil bulbs.

So even though my gardening style is very different from hers, wild rather than manicured and centered on perennials instead of annuals, I often think of Mima (who died nine years ago) when I am in my garden.  I feel close to her then because it is a passion that we shared, and if such things are genetic, then my love of gardening is an inheritance from her.

It was around 20 years ago that Mima decided to move to a retirement community.  Eventually my mother moved into her house.  She kept the flowerbeds weeded and the yard mowed, but gardening is not her passion, and irises have to be dug up and divided every three to five years.  Mima’s irises haven’t bloomed in 15 years or more.

When my mother decided to move, it was Mima’s flowers I thought of most.  What would happen to her flowerbeds? Too many times I’ve seen new owners dig up and destroy treasured plantings without a second thought, intent on making the yard their own.  So when the house was sold, I went by with my trowel and dug up several irises, some peonies, and a small nandina sprout for good measure.  I put them in my own garden and hoped for the best.

The first spring came and went without a bloom.  I didn’t expect anything out of the peonies–which normally take a few years to establish–but I was disappointed in the irises.  Someone told me I had likely planted them too deeply.  I resigned myself to having to transplant them at a later time, and this year I was pleased to see that they had multiplied by a factor of three or more.  At least they were healthy, even if they didn’t bloom.

Then, the miracle.  I saw flower stalks and buds, almost overnight!  And yesterday morning when I went outside this was the first thing I saw:

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It would pretty much be impossible for me to exaggerate the extent of my excitement at this discovery.  Besides making it immediately Facebook official, I’ve made every member of the family come out to admire it and to share in my joy.   This morning a second one burst into bloom and there are many more to come, as you can see here:

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Perhaps next May there will be a sequel involving peonies.  For now I am thrilled that this bit of Mima’s garden lives on in mine.

 

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Everyone who’s old enough to remember has a 9/11 story.  Mine is probably fairly typical of those of us with no personal connection to the events, and I’ve never written about it because it feels too much like trying to hop on the tragedy train in order to capitalize on the pageview potential.  But on this 15th anniversary I have some reflections I feel compelled to share.

My memories of that day are fragmented.  I was standing in my sunny yellow kitchen, chunky six-month-old William on my hip, when the phone rang–my husband, telling me to turn on the television.  A couple of hours later I picked him up at his downtown office and we went to lunch–at the top of the tallest building in Knoxville, which I remember feeling nervous about.

In the lobby of the building they were selling extra editions of the Knoxville News Sentinel, something so out of the ordinary that it was frightening.  We were all so desperate for news and there was no Twitter or Facebook to provide the instantaneous updates we’ve come to expect when a crisis strikes today.

On the elevator ride up to the 27th floor two men in business suits were discussing a mutual acquaintance whose son was in one of the towers.  At the time everyone still hoped he would be found alive.

I was worried when it was time to pick up the kids from school.  What did they know? What would I tell them?  Emily was ten and already knew.  Jake and Teddy were six and seven.  I remember at first just telling them that some bad people had done a very bad thing.  Because of my kids, I did not obsessively watch the television coverage for days as so many did.  I did not want them to see the towers falling.

The house we lived in back then was in a flight path.  We were accustomed to hearing noisy airplanes on their descent approach.  For the next few days, it was eerily quiet.  Once we heard an airplane and we all ran outside, terrified, to see a military plane overhead.  We were all on edge.  For some time after 9/11, loud noises made me jump.

Flash forward to the 10th anniversary, September 11, 2011, five years ago.  Six days out from our own personal tragedy, we were homeless–John and I and the little kids living with my sister Betsy, Emily away at college, Jake and Teddy staying with school friends, even our dog being farmed out to my other sister.  We had lost just about every material possession.  I didn’t have the emotional energy to think about 9/11.  I remember writing on Facebook that I felt guilty posting about our circumstances with all the posts about the anniversary reminding me that our tragedy was small by comparison.

Since its launch in 2004, Facebook has become a fixture in our society, the way most of us keep in touch,  read news, express our feelings on matters both personal and political.  I can’t help but wonder how our experience of 9/11 would have been different if Facebook had existed back then.  I know that in the case of our September 2011 disaster Facebook was how we shared the news and received encouragement and help.  This year, on the 5th anniversary of the fire, I was looking forward to seeing those old posts in the “On This Day” feature that Facebook helpfully notifies me about first thing each morning.  I braced myself a little because those memories are painful, but recalling the support of friends, family, and acquaintances is uplifting.

Imagine my surprise, then, that even though five years ago I was posting about nothing but the fire and its aftermath for probably two weeks, my Facebook memories are a cheery collection of memes and articles and comments from every year but 2011.  Facebook has apparently decided without any input from me that the events of September 2011 are too traumatic and I couldn’t possibly want to revisit them.  Presumably if 9/11 had occurred in the Facebook era, it would also be scrubbed from everyone’s “On This Day” feature as something too dark to recall.

And while I am in awe of Facebook’s algorithms and appreciate their intent (as I know people in particular who have been blindsided by unexpected and unwanted visceral reminders of such events as the death of a child), I don’t WANT to forget September 2011.

I don’t particularly want to remember the sight of my burned down house and the destruction of all my treasured possessions, but I do want to remember the offers of shelter, the months of meals, the clothes and toys and gift cards, the love and the prayers.  I won’t forget them, not ever, but I also like seeing them on Facebook.  It’s worth seeing the pictures to see them, and the pictures provide the context for appreciating them.

Today my newsfeed is flooded with “We Remember” and “Never Forget” memes.  Some show the Twin Towers in ruins, some show them intact, bathed in heavenly light.  I’m sure when some people say they won’t forget they mean they won’t forget the terrorists, the hated enemies who committed this vile and cowardly attack, the outrage of being attacked on our own soil.  Our country has changed since 9/11 and I don’t think it has changed for the better.  We have become an angrier country, a frightened country, a deeply divided country.  That’s not the America I love and that’s not what I want to remember about 9/11.

What I want to remember are those who gave their lives in service to others, the way foreign countries rallied around us, the incredible feeling of unity as Americans.  And what struck me most at the time and remains with me now and what I want to remember most of all is the same thing I want to remember about September 2011:  the love–that when people were afraid they were going to die, the last thing they did if they could was call their spouses and parents and children, to say I love you just one last time.

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When I was a little girl, Labor Day meant watching Jerry Lewis, waiting to hear our names called out on the telethon for our donation.  It meant fried chicken and deviled eggs and buttermilk ice cream at my cousins’ house.  Later it became the day that my cousin and I got to appear on the local telethon to turn in the money we’d made at our annual backyard carnival.  Always it was the last real day of summer before the first full day of school.

Well, Jerry Lewis and his telethon are a thing of the past.  School started almost a month ago.  Some years we get together and eat burgers with the family on Labor Day; more often than not we take advantage of a Monday off to engage in actual LABOR–John and I will probably conduct a file review today.

What Labor Day will always be for me now, I imagine, is an anniversary.  Because on a Labor Day evening, five years ago, while we were thankfully absent from home, this happened:

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Every year in advance of this day I think about it, and contemplate writing some kind of profound post.  This year was no different, especially since it’s five years–kind of a significant anniversary–and September 5 and Labor Day once again coincide.

But despite thinking about it a few days ago and starting to plan out in my head what I would say, it took looking at my Facebook memories this morning (at a post I penned on the one-year anniversary) to remind me to sit down and write this today.

I just mentioned the anniversary to William and asked him what he thought about it and he said it doesn’t really matter to him anymore, that it was a long time ago and he didn’t lose anything important.

The events do have a certain remoteness, and I find myself looking back on them as though I were watching a documentary about something that happened to someone else.  It still seems so incredible that it happened at all.

I find myself paraphrasing Ronald Reagan and asking myself, “Are you better off now than you were five years ago?” The answer is an unqualified YES, even after all the losses.  The fact is that we were miserable in that house, that it was an exceptionally difficult time in our lives for a variety of reasons.  I don’t know what would have happened if the house had NOT burned down–obviously, the passage of five years would have brought changes although they would not have been the same changes–but it’s fairly certain at least that we would not have been living here, and living here has shaped our lives in interesting ways.

I’ve written before about the love and community we experienced and what a gift that was (and I remain wracked with guilt over my failure to finish all the thank you notes).  Does all the above mean that the fire was a blessing and part of God’s plan for our family?

Well, I don’t believe that.  Nor do I expect I will ever really “get over” it.  But I am grateful that our passage through the fire landed us where we are.

-Smoke your PAIN but keep the ASHES forever.-

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