To Those Who Don’t Remember…

Today marks the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Those of us who lived through it know full well what happened that day. We remember the crystal clear blue sky that morning, with all of us going about our normal day, when in a split second, life in the United States and the world changed forever.

But as I learned over the years, much to my dismay, the majority of children who did not experience that day have no emotional connection to it. They see it as the day some planes were taken over by bad people who crashed them into buildings causing the twin towers to fall.  And while we cannot expect them to truly ever feel what we did on that Tuesday morning, we must try and preserve the impact. The horror. The heroism. The confusion. The disbelief. The anger.

I know not everyone agrees with me about remembering this day and that is fine.  I know there are parents who do not even tell their children about it because it is so disturbing but you cannot hide history.  I know there are schools who sugarcoat what happened because they do not want to scare students or make them feel unsafe.  I think this is wrong. We MUST remember.  We MUST acknowledge what happened that day and how we came together as a nation and how we helped each other and how we we rebuilt the greatest city in the world.  Students today should know about the amazing heroism and sacrifice of those aboard Flight 93.  They should know about the rescues that occurred at the Pentagon.  They should know. They must know.

To those of you who don’t remember – September 11, 2001 was one of the worst days in American history.  You have heard that before. It was so much more than just two buildings getting knocked down. People were in those buildings. People were in their offices.  People were riding in elevators.  People were in restaurants and at the front desks greeting visitors and employees as they arrived for work. There were firemen, policemen and first-responders who went into the buildings to assess the damage and see if they could save others. I often wonder how many of those firemen knew the extent of the damage and yet, went into harm’s way anyway knowing their own lives would very possibly end.

It was more than just planes crashing into buildings and into a field in Pennsylvania. Innocent passengers were on those flights. Pilots and stewardesses with families and friends were in those seats. The heroism on the passengers on Flight 93 is something that should be celebrated, as they likely saved the lives of hundreds of others. What did it feel like for them to willingly give their lives to save others? What about those at the Pentagon? The hub of our military operations.  One of the “safest” places in Washington.  When I heard the Pentagon also got hit, my legs felt weak and  a feeling of despair and terror washed over me as I realized our country was under attack, not just New York.

More importantly, I hope that each person reading this never has to experience what we did on that day, but for those who don’t remember…

Look at the pictures and video footage  of that day- our eyes were wide with horror, confusion, helplessness and disbelief.  As we closed our eyes to try and sleep that night, our minds replayed images of people running away from the buildings, of heroes running into the buildings, of people crying, of dust and debris all over New York, of papers from offices flying in the air, of the hole in the ground left by the plane in PA, of the fires at the Pentagon.

Listen to the stories of those who were in New York and Washington, of the cell phone calls made to loved ones from the towers or from Flight 93 – our ears were filled with the sounds of our countrymen in distress, of those who knew they were doing to die, of buildings collapsing with people still in them, of sirens, of voices yelling directions.  And the most poignant for me – the wails and cries of despair. They hurt my heart to this day.

Touch a friend or person you love – strangers were grabbing and hugging each other as they went through the worst experience of their lives. They helped each other to safety. We hugged our friends, families and coworkers, yearning for some type of comfort.

We must remember.

Americans rebounded, as we always do, from that devastating and cowardly attack on the innocent and on our country. But we are Americans. We are resilient. We are compassionate. We are determined. We are strong.

But on that day, we did not feel strong. We felt despair, we felt horror, we felt helpless, we felt confusion, we felt shock, we felt anger. We felt vengeful. So for those who don’t remember, I beg you to try. We cannot forget.

The songs below are three great summations of how many of us felt that day. I encourage everyone to listen to them.  I chose the live versions of all three songs so that you can see and feel the emotion these men put into them.  May God bless all of those who perished that day, all those who lost loved ones, and all of our troops past and present defending our freedom.  We will never forget.

 

 

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Be Nice

Years ago, I worked with an incredible special education teacher and friend, Nick Stelmak.  He was my in-class support teacher in my fifth grade classroom and we got along really well.  He and I played off each other’s strengths and I think our different personalities were great for the kids.

Unfortunately, Nick died suddenly at the age of 44 and while I remember many great things about him, there is one thing that embodies who he was and what he modeled for adults and children alike – be nice.

Nice. It is a word that we would tell the students not to use in their writing.  It was too simplistic, too common and not nearly descriptive enough. But there truly is power in this tiny four-letter word.

On the first day of school, there are a million things to do and say to the kids to set the precedence for the year.  We had a rough group of students that year and I was going over the typical classroom rules – raise your hand to speak, always come prepared, do not interrupt others when they are talking, etc.  When I turned it over to Nick asking if he had any rules to add, he said, “Yeah. I have one rule. Be nice.”

Nick’s words have been in my head a lot lately, mainly because the anniversary of his death is approaching, but also because of being on social media and reading all of the cruel and heartless things that people say so freely to and about each other while they hide behind a keyboard.  From celebrities to sports figures to teachers to politicians to the president of the United States, no one is safe.  Why are people doing this? Why do they think it is okay to insult others? Why do people feel the need to comment on people’s looks, weight, clothing, hairstyle, boyfriends, girlfriends, political views, personal choices? And why is it done in such a mean way? When people attack others because they disagree with something, things get out of control. Why the attack? It has happened to me by some of my own family members and I am sure it has happened to many of you reading this.

What has happened to us? Why have we become so cruel and bold and mean and disrespectful? Why aren’t we nice anymore? Who do we think we are that we can publicly insult others? Why is it so difficult to be nice to others especially when you do not know them? The fact that there is a segment on a late-night show called “Celebrity Mean Tweets” where celebrities read aloud the cruel things people have said about them, says a lot.  I guess they have a sense of humor, but it still has to hurt to see how mean people can be.

Be nice. That’s it. That’s all we have to remember. Be a role model for others, especially for the children in your life. Just be nice.

A few other phrases we can all live by…

In the words of Frank Reagan from Blue Bloods, “Just because you can say something, doesn’t mean you should.”

In the words of so many mothers, grandmothers, teachers and pastors, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then do not say anything,”

And most importantly, Proverbs 4:23-24 NASB) tells us: “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you a deceitful mouth and put devious speech far from you.”

If we could all just be nice, the world would be such a better place. 🙂

 

 

 

“Other” Families

Family means different things to different people. For me, family is everything. I grew up in a traditional family of four in the small town of Clinton, New Jersey.  My dad worked and my mom stayed home until my brother and I were in school full-time. She then worked only during school hours, so I had the luxury of seeing my mom before I went to school and when I got home.  We went on one or two family vacations each year, (usually to Wildwood Crest) and spent a lot of quality time together playing all kinds of games – both board games and imaginary ones. It was an amazing time in my life.

Continue reading ““Other” Families”

Always Loved

The older I get, the more I realize how fortunate I am to have always felt loved, not just on Valentine’s Day, but every day of my life.  I have been blessed with many things in my life, but by far, the greatest blessings I have received are the people God has put in my life.

My first valentine was my dad.  He always made the day special by getting me a box of Russel Stover candy – the one with the deep red cellophane on top. I remember it having dark chocolate, milk chocolate and one piece each of a pink and yellow chocolate. I loved each and every one and loved my dad for making the day special!  My brother later played a role and would give me stickers for my sticker collection or a small box of chocolates. I remember one year when I was in my 20s, I had just broken up with someone and my dad and brother sent me flowers at work.  I broke down in tears and still have the card they sent.  It meant so much and cheered me up right away!

In elementary school, my classmates were my valentines. We gave each other valentines to put in our decorated paper lunch bags. I fondly remember giving and receiving Scooby Doo valentines along with the The Flinstones, Barbie, Transformers and Strawberry Shortcake! Yes, I am dating myself!  I don’t have many memories of Valentine’s Day in middle school, other than one boy giving me a flower, but he was not my boyfriend. In high school, I only had a boyfriend my junior and senior years and remember getting pink and red carnations at lunch in the cafeteria. Such a romantic place to get a gift! HA!!

My mom was my valentine a few years as well. I remember one year, I was dating some yahoo who did not get me a gift for Valentine’s Day. She felt badly for me so she bought me a beautiful silver locket with a rose engraved on it. It meant so much to me and still does to this day.

For a few years, my students and niece and nephew were my valentines.  They would give me valentines and little boxes of chocolate. It was so sweet for the kids to think of me.  Even if I was feeling lonely, their heartfelt cards and gifts always warmed my heart and made me smile.

For over a decade, my girlfriends were my valentines since we were all single! There were a few years where one or two of us had dates, but for many years, it was just “the girls.” And that never stopped us from having a great time! We would go dinner or to our favorite martini bar or wherever we wanted.  I remember one year, we all met at one of our favorite bars and every single one of us wore red.  The bartender referred to us as “the girls in red” all night. Hey, it helped us get free drinks! One of the best times was the year we went to Atlantic City to celebrate.  Our usual night of drinking, dancing, and gambling made it one of the best times! So. Much. Fun!!

When I was 34, I met my ultimate valentine, my husband! Though I didn’t know it at the time, the day we met was the day my life would change forever. Since that date, almost 10 years ago, I met the man with whom I would spend the rest of my days.  I could not have imagined that one person could bring so much joy, happiness and love into my life. He is an amazing husband and person and  I love him with all my heart and soul!

Today is a day about love. But really, every day should be!  There is love all around us but sometimes, I think we forget how much we are loved by our parents, siblings, children, friends, and significant others. I hope each of you feels love today and every day and have a wonderful year filled with happiness, laughter and smiles!

 

American Hero, American Sniper

Tomorrow is a sad day for America.  Yes,  February 2nd is Groundhog’s Day.  But more importantly, it is the anniversary of the death of a true American hero, Chris Kyle.

I remember the day I heard about his killing on television.  I had just finished reading his book a few days earlier and asked my husband, “Did they just say Chris Kyle was killed? I just finished reading his book!”  I was in complete disbelief.  How could this highly skilled sniper, who survived four tours in Iraq be dead? And how the heck could he have been killed on American soil?

We later learned that Kyle’s death, along with his friend, Chad Littlefield, was a result of a mentally disturbed veteran Kyle was trying to help.

Chris Kyle was an amazing and extraordinary human being.  First, he was a US Navy SEAL. The best of the best. The most elite force we have in our military. He survived four tours in Iraq.  He was highly effective at his job as a sniper.  While he struggled between devoting his life to his country and his family, Chris Kyle was able to keep his marriage in tact.  He was able to form strong bonds with his children. He overcame PTSD after his return and he was able to pull himself and his family out of bankruptcy.  He was constantly helping fellow veterans and knew the healing power of the outdoors. These are all major accomplishments and are an inspiration to veterans and non-veterans.

In his book and in the movie based on the book, American Sniper, we are reminded that there is a war going on and that civilians must help and support our veterans. He asks us in his book to give back to our soldiers who give, and give up, so much to preserve our way of life. He only lost two men during his tours and wanted all of the proceeds from his book to go to their families.  While he saved thousands of men, the two he lost constantly tugged at his heart.

From what I have read and heard, Chris Kyle was an amazing human being.  While I never had the pleasure of meeting him personally, I have read and reread his book several times. I have seen how humble he was during interviews and how passionate he was about supporting his fellow veterans.  I read his Facebook posts, many of which are quite humorous! This was a man who devoted his entire life to helping and protecting others.  He was a true hero.

So, tomorrow, I am asking that you take a little time to say a prayer for Chris, his family and all of our veterans. They are still out there. They are still fighting and we cannot ever forget them.

Want to help honor Chris Kyle and all of our veterans?  Here are some ideas.

  1. Go sign up at a local United Services Organization (USO).
  2. Find out of there is a local veterans hospital in your area and see if you can visit.
  3.  Have your children or students make cards thanking soldiers for their service. Look for events honoring veterans and attend and participate in them.
  4. Fly your American flag high each and every day.
  5. Get a green light for your porch and shine it all the time.  A green light signals your support for our troops.     www.greenlightavet.com
  6. Write to your state senators and demand better treatment for our veterans at VA hospitals.

 

John 15:13  Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

Focus on the Good

This is what I have had to tell myself for the past few months.  It has nothing to do with my family or marriage or career. They are all already good, thank God. I am talking about my beloved country and what is happening all around us.

It is very easy to get depressed and disheartened with what has happened in America over the past year or so. I will not go into specifics, for that will feed into all the misery, angst and disappointment I have been feeling.  Instead, I am going to start to focus on the good because we cannot let other people’s poor choices, despicable actions and vile words steal our personal joy!  Life is too short to get wrapped up in the anger and negativity that is all around us.

We must focus on the good.

These are a few good things I am focusing on right now. I hope you can too!

  1. Family and friends – God has blessed me with some of the most wonderful people in my own family and in my husband’s family. I am thankful for them each and every day.
  2. The American flag – As I proudly hang my flag outside my door each day, it makes me think of all the heroes that have fought and sacrificed for our country.  When I say the Pledge of Allegiance, I do not take it lightly and mean every word. I am proud to be the granddaughter of two World War II veterans and the daughter of a Navy veteran.
  3. Flowers – Who does not enjoy looking at the vibrant colors of roses, poinsettias, daisies and daffodils? They inspire me to see the beauty in all things and make me thankful that I have been blessed with the gift of sight.
  4. Dogs – Some of the greatest creatures given to man!  They are great companions, loyal family members and provide hours of entertainment!
  5. Laughter – I especially love hearing the unabated laughter of children.  They laugh from their bellies; something more adults should do! I especially love the contagious laughs of my Aunt Jill and Uncle Frank.  They are hysterical and unique and I cannot help but join in!
  6. Music – It is medicine for the soul. It can fire you up during a workout, make you cry or laugh and inspire you to do great things. It can even make you ponder life and all that we go through.  I love music and cannot imagine life without it!
  7. Books – To me, they are the best way to escape reality and be transported to another time, setting, and situation. When I get wrapped up in a book, there are not distractions.
  8. Animals – While dogs are my personal favorite, I love to watch and listen to the birds and other wildlife.  We can learn a lot from animals.  There is a quote from Elvis Presley who said, “Animals don’t hate and we are supposed to be smarter than they are.” So true.
  9. The beach – The soft sand, the rolling waves, the salt in the air… it is definitely a place that makes me smile and realize the incredible power of nature.  I have nothing but good memories at the beach from being there with my family or friends to walking on the beach by myself in the early mornings.  It is paradise to me.
  10. God – I saved the best for last. God is good! Always and everywhere and in all things.  I truly do believe that God is on our side and that means there are good things for all of us. We just have to notice all the good around us and focus on them.  If we do this, it will bring a happiness to our hearts and peace to our minds.

Make your own list and see how you feel afterwards. I hope you feel as good as I do now.  Focus on the good!!

 

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Every morning, I read a devotional to help inspire me and guide me to be a better person.  I do not think today’s devotion was a coincidence since today is the day Donald Trump will be inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States of America.

“Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.” 1 Peter 2:17

Today and for the past few months, we have not seen “respect for everyone” because of the hatred for OUR new president. There used to be a respect for elders, teachers, police officers, the military and the President of the United States. That is gone and we should all be very alarmed by this.

These pathetic celebrities who are STILL protesting are not promoting peace. They are demonstrating hatred, intolerance and defiance; the very things they accuse Trump of being/doing.

Let’s not forget one very important thing. The world is watching. A divided country will not stand. Terrorists love to see discord in America. And for those who are hoping for Trump’s assassination, SHAME ON YOU the most! The assassination of a president or other leader makes the country look weak and with all of terrorist groups out there, we cannot afford that.

Finally, and most importantly, our children are watching. Kids today are already a handful because of our warped, entitled society and now they are seeing people refuse to accept this new president because they wanted someone else. That is the equivalent of an adult temper tantrum! Stop, already! Show your children how to act if you do not get what you want. Show your children that we should give people a chance and please teach them to “respect everyone.”

May God bless America today and every day!