Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day Memoirs

When I was a young child, old enough to know that there were soldiers and wars and such, I thought they were very brave people. Even though I didn’t know why people would want to fight a war. I was a very girly girl, and didn’t understand what there could possibly be to fight that hard for.

As I entered my teen years, going into the military became something you did if you weren’t going to college. Since I knew I was going to college one day, I didn’t pay the military much attention. I knew we were supposed to respect them, etc, but I didn’t really think about them much one way or another. The only close relative I had involved in the military was a cousin, who was older than I, and that was about all I knew about him at the time.

I got older, went to college, and saw the ROTC men and women. I had respect for them, mostly based on their discipline. I was so very undisciplined at that age, and theirs was most impressive.
At that time, I can remember Desert Storm. It was the first time I remember being scared that war might come into my life. Before it was only stories and memories from older uncles. It wasn’t our life. We lived in peaceful times (or so I thought…so young…so na├»ve). This was the first time I thought of my brothers, and my other relatives and friends. Of course, I keep showing my lack of knowledge of military here, because I was later told there was no longer a draft. I stopped worrying. War went back to the background of my life, with a little more respect for those who actually volunteered.

Growing up in a peaceful generation made the idea of wars and military seem a mere precaution. They were there, just in case. In case of what, I could hardly imagine. Who would have the nerve to mess with the United States?

Three months after the birth of our second child, our first son, my thoughts on all of the above were changed forever. I watched 9/11 unfold live on television after I received a phone call from my dad, telling me to put the news on. (I had blissfully been watching Nickelodeon with my 4 year old daughter, like we did every morning.) I tuned in shortly after the first tower was hit, and watched as the second one was. I thought it was some sort of huge prank. I thought I had just entered the Twilight Zone. I thought it all had to be some sort of nightmare. We all know it wasn’t.
To watch events unfold afterward were more than amazing to me. Faith in humanity was strengthened to a degree that hasn’t lost its luster yet with me. Watching the military response put these people at the top of that list of humanity. I watched as the ones already listed fulfilled their duties with a bravery I could never hope to possess. I watched as many others volunteered to defend our great country. I watched the numbers of dead soldiers rise every single day. Crazy, mad respect doesn’t even cover how I felt. I said a prayer every day for the fallen soldiers. Men and women I never knew, fought for me, for my family, for my children.

How do you possibly express thanks enough to these people? How do you tell them that because of them, because of their willingness and sacrifice, you go to bed at night feeling safer? I haven’t quite figured that out, but I silently have the utmost, crazy, mad respect for every single one of them. I add the soldiers of the past to the list too. All the stories from great uncles and other families, suddenly become important and found a bigger place in my heart.

So, this great, long weekend, and unofficial start to summer marks a time when we can all take a moment to remember. Social media is over-flowing with memes, posts, expressions of thanks (this blog included). It is one of the ways that most of us choose to thank every single soldier past and present for what they do. It makes us feel good to be able to express our thanks world-wide.
The question that lingers in the back of my head is; do they know? Do they truly understand how truly thankful we are? Are the families of fallen soldiers comforted in the knowledge that they have my crazy, mad respect? The fact that they live with loss every day, makes my thanks seem terribly, terribly small.

Do the soldiers that come home with injuries both physical and mental feel like the glorious beings we see them as? Because they are the true heroes of this world. People who put themselves right into the thick of it, where man is most hostile, and fight to defend a country of people that they don’t even know (well, aside from their families and friends). The ones who make it home, but can’t cope with what they’ve gone through, and decide they can’t make it here, and take their own lives. Didn’t they know that they are heroes of the utmost kind?
All of these people, men, women; soldiers. They are heroes. They are our Avengers. They are our protectors. Crazy, mad respect is only the tip of my feelings for each and every one of them. I am sorry that it took a major attack on our country for me to come to this understanding. (It may have come eventually with age and maturity, but coming to this understanding sooner was better.) This little blog is only a tiny way I could possibly begin to express how I feel for them. Thank you is hardly enough, but believe me when I say, it is with my whole being that I say it to you today.

T H A N K  Y O U

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Teen Book Festival As a Hopeful Author

This past weekend I went to our local Teen Book Festival. It was their 10th year at one of our local colleges (one I attended for a semester back in my college days). I had been there before, because of my bookworm daughter. She introduced me to the world of Young Adult books years ago, and this time I was attending as not only a young adult book fan, but also a hopeful, new author. I had spent the week before preparing bookish swag to hand out to every eager teen I came across. My daughter and youngest son volunteered to help me, and we were all set!

I thought I would share the top 10 things I learned while there in a different capacity than just an attendee. So, here we go!

1)    It wasn't as crowded as I thought it would be. I don’t know why I thought there would be more people, there were already plenty.

2)    It was confusing how to tell the volunteers from the festival goers. There were groups of people in the same colored shirts, but there were so many of them. It was hard to tell whether they were volunteers, or just there with a group. I wasn't sure whether to hand them some swag, or ask them directions.

3)    There are so very many Young Adult Authors! It really amazes me every time I see/meet more!

4)    I am better at meeting people online than in real life. I am really quite awful at trying to strike up a conversation with…well…anyone. I should really write questions down ahead of time or something. I gave it thought for weeks before, but I couldn't come up with anything. Quite awful.

5)    It’s always really great to see how many types of “booky” teens there are. They are their own, very unique species, and they should be well cared for.

6)    Always wear my hair up when in a crowd. Dang it was hot! Even if it’s not hot, my stress level rises in crowds, which then makes me hot. I should have remembered this and dressed accordingly.

7)    I definitely over prepared. Not that it’s a bad thing, but I came home with more of my swag than I intended. So, it felt disappointing, even though it went fairly well. I keep telling myself it was better to have too much than run out too early.

8)    Seeing the range of reactions to me walking up and asking someone if they wanted something free was, and is always interesting. We had the full range of reactions. From, “Sure, thanks!” all the way to, “Mmm, no thanks.” I can’t imagine refusing a bookmark at a book festival, but to each their own.

9)    Next festival I really have to find out how to get a table set up. We met a lovely young author with a table set up at the area where you buy the other authors’ books. I wanted to do that, but I wasn't sure how. I really have to get more aggressive when it comes to finding out information.

10)    I was very grateful to my daughter and youngest son for coming with me. Not only did they help, but they kept me company, which was invaluable throughout the day. My oldest son decided he couldn't handle talking to strangers in any capacity, which I thoroughly understood. Apparently it’s a gene.

All in all it was a very good day. My children were so helpful and fun, and even found books to enjoy. My son had his signed by the author, and it made his day, he was so excited! Thank you, Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival! Perhaps one year I will be asked to be a participating author there!