Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Too much text to read.

This is a couple days late for Veterans day, but I've been thinking about it for a couple weeks now and not known quite what to write.

A few weeks ago I read a fictional account of Iraq war veterans called Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk.  It was one of the most thought provoking books on war I have ever read.  I'm not sure I could glowingly recommend it to a wider audience as it was also the most profane book I've ever read.  But, I guess that's to be expected when it's told from the point of view of a young soldier.

Billy and his colleagues are back in the US on a victory tour after their heroism at "the battle of Al-Ansakar Canal."  They are paraded around the country and hailed as heroes at various events, including a halftime show at an NFL game where they're brought up on stage with Destiny's Child dancing around them.  

What struck me most was Billy's reaction to folks who would come up and talk to him and express gratitude or want to discuss the war.  The writing was superb.  Billy would zone out during these conversations and only hear key words that seemed to be repeated by everyone he met "thankful, honor, nine-eleven, terrorist, grateful, Osama...."  The thank yous seemed so empty coming from people who could never dream of understanding what he'd just been through, or how it felt to lose a close friend right in front of your eyes, or how it felt to destroy a person. 

They'd thank him, then move right on to their beer or huddle back in their expensive coats against the cold, while Billy was lost in thought, re-living his terrible experiences.  

All this time, Billy and his colleagues are also trying to negotiate a movie deal.  The money their agent has promised them is going to solve all of Billy's problems (or help solve his parents' problems).  He's got nothing, and his parents will lose their house if the money doesn't come through.  

[Side note: I'm revealing so much of the plot because I feel like if you read it, you'll get lost in the writing and the emotion of it all and not care as much about the spoilers.]

It all really got to me.  How do we sufficiently thank these young kids who are dying for us?  How do we we let them know how important we think they are?  How do you convey your gratitude and patriotic emotion without being so empty?  

How is it that these injured (mentally and physically) boys are not taken care of when they return home? We can't erase their experiences, but can we ease the transition back into "normal" life?

All these questions had been whirling around in my head for weeks, when Adrienne invited me to an anniversary party at Urban Country in Bethesda.  We arrived without knowing that the evening was also a benefit for the Wounded Warrior project.  

I had such trouble keeping my emotions (and water works) in check that night.

I'm grateful to live in a city where I can see so many active military members on a regular basis.  I'm glad that when I do it makes the war seem closer to home.  It's so easy otherwise to just push it out of my mind.

We met and talked with soldiers who are currently recovering at Walter Reed.  Some in wheel chairs, some without legs, some without a jaw, some with pins sticking out of their feet.  All under the age of 30.  

They were so kind and so impressive.  It made the war come so close to home.  My heart just ached for them.  

I felt like I was living my very own Billy Lynn.

How could I express gratitude in a way fitting what they'd done?  How would it sound to them for me to be saying I felt "so patriotic"?  Would it sound to them as empty as it felt to me?  I don't know the words to do justice to my gratitude.

I love words, but sometimes they can be so confining.  When it comes to emotion, there are never enough to so finely describe how you feel.

What I know is this. Although I don't have the words (or the capability to be eloquent with the ones I do have) to thank the men and women fighting for our country, I am so grateful for their sacrifices.  I am grateful for their optimism and faith in the greater good.  I am grateful for their bravery.  I am grateful for their tradition and honor.  I am grateful to the families that support their sons and daughters when they're so far away.

The night was to benefit the Combat Soldiers Recovery Fund.  It is a Maryland-based non-profit that provides funds to soldiers recovering at Walter Reed.  The woman who runs it does it for free so that 100% of donations make it to the soldiers.  The soldier is given a check and is able to do with it whatever he wants (fly his family out to visit him, buy Christmas presents for his children, take his wife out for dinner, buy a new prosthetic leg...).  As one of the soldiers I met said, "it is a check, yes, but it is also respect.  To be trusted to do with the money what we want shows more respect than most charities."  If you'd like to donate to the fund, you can do so here.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

So Succulent

More Good Garbage today.

Folks in our neighborhood will post "curb alerts" on the listserv whenever they're getting rid of something.  A lot of times it's not useful to us, but sometimes we're intrigued and will walk (or drive depending on the size of the item) on over with Bear in tow to check it out.

One of our latest finds was a pile of succulents.  They looked measly laying there on the side of the road, but we liked the texture and color of a few of them, so we were glad to give them a home.

Blake planted them in one of our recent garage sale finds.  We got a plethora of pots for 25 cents each from a home in our neighborhood that we've always wanted to explore.  The house is on a triple lot and has its own greenhouse, so we were simply unable to stay away when the Estate Sale signs went up.  It did not disappoint. We found some other great things there, but I'll save those for another day.

25 cents for a new plant for the kitchen.  Now I won't feel as bad when I end up killing it.  Succulents are fickle in our household - I will neither accept nor reject the blame for this.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Mr. Bear goes to Washington

Someone told Bear that the current president is named BEARack Obama.  So, naturally he had to go downtown and check out the situation.  

Oh I love a good play on words.

The weather was perfect on Saturday (70 degrees in November!), so we brought Bear down with us to Eastern Market and the Mall.  Bear was an instant celebrity at the flea market.  We couldn't get three feet without getting stopped and without Bear getting some sort of snuggles.  As the world's friendliest dog, he was extremely pleased and hammed it up for everyone.  

We're trying to get him used to large crowds, so that was the perfect place - lots of people, lots of dogs, and lots of kids.  Oh the kids! He loves the kids most of all.

After perusing the market and gorging ourselves on street food (Chicken tikka at Indigo and blackout and maple-bacon donuts at DC Donuts - be still my heart!), we walked around the Mall to enjoy the fall colors.  It's a rare occurrence that we remember to take any pictures, but the scenery was so beautiful and we happened to have Blake's camera on hand, so we took advantage.

Bear has trouble looking at the camera when there are squirrels in the near vicinity, but I think he's pretty photogenic nonetheless.  

Why can't we have more perfect fall days like this?