I think of you

Dear military families,

I think of you a lot, especially this time of year. That sounds kind of creepy, but let me explain. I grew up with you all around me. I lived next to you, went to school and church with you. I spent the first eighteen years of my life in a military town, seeing the many sacrifices of brave souls.

You are those brave souls. I know your service member tends to get a lot of well-deserved attention and praise, but I see you. I see how, in many ways, you sacrifice just as much. If you’re a military spouse, you’re the one left to deal with everyday life when your loved one is deployed. You have to live with the worry and fear. And if you have kids, you get to play the part of both parents, making sure no extracurricular activity or school project gets lost in the shuffle.

Even when your spouse is stateside, you know work takes priority. I mean, who can compete with the safety and security of a nation? And so that promise of helping Josh with his math homework ends up being one you get to fulfill. And while of course you’re proud of your spouse’s choices, I’m betting you sometimes wish you could just be like any other family for one night.

If your parent is the one in the military, you’re probably pretty good at packing boxes. Every few years, you have to start over. Say goodbye to old friends, move to an area you probably know nothing about. I’ve said goodbye to many of you, writing letters until you’ve adjusted to your new lives and are ready to focus on your new friends. In many ways, we’ve both had to start over, finding new friends to replace ones we’ve lost, but you have the pressure of doing it in a new place with entirely new people. You’re the perpetual new kid. That’s a tough role. You know why your parent does what he/she does, and you’re probably even super proud, but that doesn’t make you miss him/her any less.

And if you have a child in the military, you know the dangers of both deployment and stateside training, either because you’ve lived that life or you started extensive research the moment your child told you they were joining up. No doubt you’re wonderfully proud of the person you raised but you also live with an edge of fear lingering around you.

I think of all of you, the million tiny sacrifices you make and the greater ones. And I find you’re particularly heavy on my heart during the holidays, especially if your loved one is deployed. You adapt in so many ways, and I know you have to work extra hard to fill in the gap. You may not wear the uniform, but I know you’re just as much a part of the military as the one who does.

This season, I’m thinking of you, praying for you, and offering my gratitude for your work, your service. You are my heroes.

With all my thanks and admiration,

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I learn their names

Whenever something tragic happens, the focus is usually on the perpetrator—who he is and why he did what he did. And while those are important questions to answer, what I keep coming back to are the people who lost their lives. The victims.

I’ll be honest, I hate the word victims. I mean, I get it, it’s not inaccurate and headlines only have so much space. But I hate how it reduces vibrant humans, defining them by how their lives ended.

Something everyone in the medical or psychology world (including my undergrad program in speech-language pathology) learns is to put personhood first. Instead of a “stutterer,” it’s “a person who stutters.” Instead of centering on the person’s condition or disorder, you center on their humanity.

And so in every tragedy, I try to center on the people who were victimized. I read their names. I learn who they were, that this person liked to hike and that one had two kids. It doesn’t change anything, of course. They’re still gone, and their families will remain irreparably broken. But it’s one small thing I can do to honor them, to refuse to let them be a number, a statistic of tragedy.

The people who were recently killed in church were people who thought they’d have a tomorrow, as we all do. They were thinking about Sunday dinner and worrying about work or school the next day. They didn’t know they wouldn’t have a next day.

So I don’t look away. I can’t. I look at their pictures and I read about them. It’s painful. Of course it is. But they deserve that small respect I can give them, a moment to acknowledge their humanity and mourn their loss.

If you want to join me in honoring those killed in Sutherland Springs by learning their names, you can read about them here.

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It’s a fall of premieres

If you’ve been anywhere near a tv or the internet lately, you know there have been a ton of new shows premiering this fall. But how’s a person to figure out which ones to watch? Well, you could quit your job and watch one after another until you run out of money to pay your rent/mortgage and have no food to eat.

Or you could just let me make suggestions. Cause I’m helpful like that. For me, a few new shows stand out from the rest. Let me break down my top three for you. (All air times are in EDT. Cause, East Coast girl here.)

Kevin (Probably) Saves the World – charming, heartfelt dramedy (think Brothers and Sisters meets Eureka or Parenthood meets Good Witch)

Tuesdays at 10 pm on ABC; Hulu

Premise: guy who can’t get his life together ends up with the power to save the world. It’s a common enough premise but that’s because it’s a good one. Add the fact that the lead is Jason Ritter (who legit proved his acting capabilities to me in Parenthood) and I was willing to give it a shot.

What I love: I seriously underestimated this show. Fifteen minutes in and I was already telling my husband he needed to watch it. It surprised me with nuance and warmth. The humor is honest, the characters relatable. As others have pointed out, the mystical black woman as spirit guide can be a cliché, but the creators have promised they have given the character more depth and plot that will ensure they avoid cliché land, and Kimberly Hébert Gregory absolutely sparkles in the role. Add Joanna Garcia Swisher (who has that Sandra Bullock-esque quality of being likable in every role she tackles) and I’m so invested already.

The Brave – military drama with a strong, complex ensemble (think NCIS meets Chicago Fire or Quantico meets The Closer)

Mondays at 9 pm on NBC; Hulu

Premise: a Special Ops squad and a team of analysts work together to protect and defend American citizens. Unlike a lot of military action dramas, this one shows both sides of the spectrum, giving the analysts their own recognition. And each character has complexity and a backstory that unfolds throughout.

What I love: you mean besides the fact that there’s a female sniper? While there are certainly some cowboy moments, this show stands out from other cop or military shows in the way it focuses on tactics and intel. Both sides of the team have to be adaptable, making quick decisions to achieve the best outcomes, instead of just bursting in with guns blazing. The head of the ops team isn’t your usual over-the-top alpha male (thank goodness), but a perceptive leader who values his team, and the director of the analysts is an intelligent, decisive woman with her own tragedies to process. There’s a lot to explore, so I’m interested to see where this show goes.

The Good Doctor – emotionally complex medical drama (think House meets Switched at Birth or The Night Shift meets Monk)

Mondays at 10 pm on ABC; Hulu

Premise: as he begins a new job, a surgical resident’s autism and savant syndrome provide both advantages and disadvantages, helping him see the world in a unique way while also making it difficult for him to communicate and understand human behavior.

What I love: I was entirely unprepared for the way this show would casually reach in and rip my heart out. In my experience knowing people with autism, this show is one of the few to express it accurately (although, I have to point out, autism is a broad spectrum that varies widely in characteristics). This protagonist, played brilliantly by Freddie Highmore, is no emotionless, robotic character, but a young man who clearly feels deeply while having difficulty processing or expressing those emotions. The struggles of his past, revealed through flashbacks, provide context and show more of his humanity, while the present day storyline shows him adapting to life in the medical world. He’s underestimated, misunderstood, wholehearted, and brilliant, exactly the kind of character I want to root for.

There you have it, folks. Three solid options that range across genres and styles. What do you think? What new shows are you watching this fall?

 

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Dear You: Raise your voice. Or don’t.

I’ll be honest: motivational/inspirational quotes make my eyes roll back so far I can practically see my brain. But I do appreciate authentic encouragement. And in this world, in this current atmosphere, there’s a lot of negativity and frustration. If you’re craving a moment of honest encouragement, this is to you, from me.

Dear You,

Holy potatoes, there’s a lot of yelling these days, isn’t there? People are angry—some understandably frustrated, some just filled with hate. They’re yelling at people for what they do and what they don’t do, for speaking up and for staying silent. And in the midst of all that noise and chaos, it can be difficult to figure out your place in a world of a thousand loud opinions, all of them drowning out your own thoughts.

But you do have a place, a purpose. There’s a space in this intense, noisy world only you can fill, a contribution only you, with your unique mix of skills, can offer. Maybe you don’t know yet what that contribution could be or even what those skills are. Whether you’re fifteen or fifty, there’s no shame in still trying to figure things out.

It’s okay if you don’t wage wars on Twitter. And there’s great beauty in not sharing long Facebook posts about your opinions. But if you feel compelled to address an issue close to you, that’s awesome too. It’s your choice. It belongs to you and no one else.

Your worth is not measured by how much you engage or disengage. The strength of your voice is not dependent on how loudly you can yell but by the ideas you express and the methods you choose for sharing. Sometimes a whisper at the right moment can be more powerful than a hundred people screaming. Sometimes the greatest impact you can make is not by influencing crowds but by investing in one person.

But you can’t know your purpose without knowing who you are. And you can’t know who you are until you believe that you matter.

You. Matter.

Your life, the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, is an incredible opportunity that was handed to you. You didn’t ask for or earn your existence, but here you are. You have changed the world simply by existing. How you make an impact beyond that, well, it’s up to you.

And that is a wonderful thing.

 

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