I drive your truck

While running some errands this morning I was eagerly waiting for an update from FOX News on Hurricane Matthew.  Instead, I learned that Taliban insurgents had recently attacked cities in the Helmand Province of Southern Afghanistan. During those  moments when thoughts of Hurricane Matthew destroying the people of Haiti, my mind drifted back to about this time 5 years ago.  For most of 2011, I was constantly waiting for updates on the war in Afghanistan.  I was glued to FOX News on television more than I like to admit. I would study the news people looking for clues on their faces. (I’m not sure what clues, but I certainly thought I might see one!).  Every time I would hear about heavy fighting in a certain location I would run to my globe and find the place…then if I really became anxious I would start making phone calls…first to my husband, then to our brother in law, and any other friends who were military.  I was a mess because our younger son, Will, was in Afghanistan with United States Marine Corps.  I was scared to pieces and I did not handle myself the best.   My heart and mind were so heavy with worry and anxiety while he was in the war. There were days when I literally felt like I was going to explode. The Bible specifically tells us in Matthew 6:27 “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”.  I knew this is in my head, but my heart was having a hard time internalizing it if that makes sense. All I could really do was pray !  Not to make light of that time at all but a large Diet Coke with extra ice was helpful sometimes.

As a mother I had not wanted Will to join the Marine Corps.  My husband was an Infantry Officer during the first Gulf War and was in Iraq when Will’s (biological) mother gave birth to him.  I am certain it was bittersweet for Briant when our son wanted to more or less “follow in his footsteps”.  Yes, my worst nightmare came true when Will said he too wanted to join the infantry.  I tried everything to discourage him. I know that was a very unpatriotic attitude, but I was being selfish. I wanted our son to be OK, and I knew that if Will joined the Marines he would select Infantry and  go directly to Afghanistan.  My mind could not comprehend why he would want to do something that could kill him at the age of 19.  My girl friends were all upset for me at the news that Will might be going in the Corps….in fact, one of my closest friends asked her grandfather , a World War II veteran why “Briant would let Will go in the USMC during a war”.  Her grandfather simply said, “well, who else is going to go, if not young men like Will?”  My own husband gave the most unselfish answer I had ever heard to that question. Briant said, “why not my son?”  Wow! I was amazed at his strength.

I eventually settled down for a time anyway…however, each time a strange “government looking”car came around the curve into our neighborhood I held my breath waiting to see where it was going…hoping it wasn’t coming to our home.  When the phone rang late at night I was actually happy because the Marines were able – via sat phone – to make phone calls to home occasionally.  Will called us a few times, and I looked forward to and hoped for those calls all the time.  One of the best calls we received was on Thanksgiving Day.  Our son called and described what a nice day they were having.  They had cooked a chicken that had been running around the forward operating base (FOB) that was home to a dozen Marines. It was a good addition  to their delicious menu of MRE’s…ha ha.  Those of you who have tried MRE’s know they are not too appetizing! The young Marines all sounded upbeat on that Thanksgiving Day, and then again on Christmas Day.  The Lord was there with them even though we cannot understand the whole concept of war and especially sending our sons there to possibly make the ultimate sacrifice.

I can say that while he was gone I prayed constantly for his protection, as did so many others who know Will, and I believe the Lord has a definite purpose for Will.  Later we learned just how “close” it could have been .  Will is a man of few words.  He does not talk about the war much at all.  I know he has shared some experiences with his Dad, and also with his brother in law (another former Marine). Maybe someday he will talk more about his experiences, maybe not. They are his, and not ours to share.

While our son was in Afghanistan he left his squeaky clean white truck in our garage.  Sometimes when I wanted to feel close to Will I would go out there and sit in his truck and listen to the radio.  It had his sweatshirt neatly folded on the backseat, and everything looked as if he could walk up any minute and jump in the driver’s seat.  You see, Will and I had taken many “rides in the truck” during his earlier years when he needed/wanted to talk “about something”….like maybe a girl : )  We usually started out by stopping by our local McDonald’s and getting a large Diet Coke.  We would then ride for a while , just listening to the radio.  Eventually, Will would start talking ūüôā I would listen and then share my motherly wisdom : ) until he was ready to drive back home.  Oh I missed those truck rides while he was in the war!  I prayed so much that we would have many more in the future, and sometimes the fear of him not coming back from Afghanistan would nearly overpower me.  Going back to an earlier post about bonding…this showed me clearly that you definitely do not have to give birth to someone to bond with them as “mother and child.”  I truly love Will the same as Robb, the son I gave birth to : )

Fast forward a bit….Will did indeed arrive home safely, and oh was this family happy!! We all went to Camp Lejeune to welcome the Marines, and it was amazing watching those 1000+ march in on that cold winter day.  They were much thinner and paler than when we saw them leave the same base 7 months earlier.  Somehow, they also looked more mature.  I guess war “grows you up some”.  I will always remember how much joy our family felt that afternoon.  We actually drove his truck to Camp Lejeune to pick him up that day : )

It has been over four years since that cold day in March, and Will is now a student at a University a few hours from here.  He is much wiser than many young men his age, and definitely heavier from being well fed and working out at the gym.  Not much of a physical resemblance to that guy just coming from Afghanistan.  We see him pretty often, and we text and talk on the phone of course.

One night last week he called home and we were chatting about this and that…I could tell he had something on his mind, and eventually he let it out.  It had something to do with …you guessed it…”a girl”.  So, I listened with a mother’s ears and gave my opinion when asked.  After a bit, we both agreed that we just needed to “go for a ride in the truck”!

 

 

Is love color blind?

If you’ve been reading my blog posts you have probably figured out that I am much more a “feeler”than a ‚Äúthinker‚ÄĚby personality. I was born this way. ¬†The person crying during a sad movie, that’s me. ¬†The mom who cries when she spies a homeless person on the street in dirty clothes without shoes, that’s me too. ¬†I feel things very deeply. ¬†More deeply than I prefer many days. It’s really difficult for me to ‚ÄúFEEL‚ÄĚso much! ¬†Seriously, sometimes I exhaust myself coping with my strong emotional reactions to ordinary life! At times, I become completely exasperated and irrational about the behavior of other people. When I truly believe in my heart that a person is being hurt, or if I think they are on a path to self-destruction I hurt for them. ¬†My heart bleeds for the underdog. My husband is much more logical than I am in almost every way possible, and I am thankful. Two very emotional ‚Äúfeelers‚ÄĚ would probably be a disaster case in our household, especially when we were blending our nest years ago. Although Briant is very logical, there are some issues he is very sensitive to and for those, our family is blessed. ¬†When he has a concern about one of us‚Ķbecause he cares very deeply, this big strong man can become as sensitive and as emotional as can be. ¬†Relationships are very important to both of us, and this difference in our natures is probably the fundamental reason behind the ‚Äúsuccess‚ÄĚof the WilderNest. Things like sad movies about wars, and commercials showing abandoned puppies don’t make my thoughtful husband cry. ¬†He is amazingly rational and logical the majority of the time. ¬†Often times he must talk me “down from my tree”when I am overly emoting, if that makes any sense. I give a great deal of credit to Briant and his logical nature in keeping our relationship balanced and stable. ¬†This balance has created a peaceful atmosphere in our home (most of the time) where good communication happens. I believe good communication between every person in the WilderNest is fundamental to our love for each other, and our ‚Äústick to it ness‚ÄĚ over the years. Even though the nest is basically empty these days. I blogged about compromises recently, and there have been many in our home‚Ķ ¬†Actually one of the compromises Briant and I made early in our marriage (besides where the dog would sleep) is that we would try to meet somewhere in the middle when making decisions or in dealing with problems, translation… meeting someplace between “basketcase “(me:) and “logicalthinker”(him:). ¬†Usually we can do it, but not always. ¬†So, you’re wondering what all of this has to do with love being colorblind. ¬†I will have to admit one reason I chose that title was to get your attention so you would read my post. Seriously, I want to share the second kind of blending that’s been going on in our family most recently.¬†It is very exciting and really cool in my opinion. ¬†Two of our children married outside of our “cultural backgrounds” two years ago, so…. We are once again”blending”and it is awesome and amazing! We call this blending phase 2! ¬†We have grown from blending children from our previous marriages, to blending ‚Äú children in law” from other cultures with our culture, and us with theirs. ¬†It has been the biggest blessing so see three of our adult children find their mates! We are so pleased with their choices for marriage partners. Our biggest concern and our prayer was that they would marry Christians, and that they would continue our Christian heritage as they start their own families. We never discussed much about the “cultural heritage”of their mates at all. ¬†In my opinion, being exposed to different “ways of life”is interesting. Getting to know Maria and Edward has broadened my world view. I enjoy studying geneaology, and I am over the moon with the idea of “mixing it up a bit‚ÄĚ (if you know what I mean : ) Not all folks feel the same. ¬†Admittedly, there have been some emotionally intense situations when I have reacted to comments from people expressing their opinions on race, immigration, mixed marriages, etc… the ethnic jokes are not so funny lately. (not that they ever were to me personally). ¬†Once again, my sweet and logical hubby is usually able to help me see more objectively, and to not take offense when it’s just not necessary. I am overly sensitive at times, but my heart is in the right place. As a family we have truly relished in mixing our White Anglo-Saxon heritage with the Spanish-Mexican-American heritage of our lovely daughter in law, and our precious son in law. ¬†We have been able to try new foods prepared by my daughter in law, Maria. ¬†I’m talking about real “Mexican food”…not like the food you get at Taco Bell. ¬†We have experienced the plight of the Latina woman who disapproves of “their men”marrying “white women”. Sorry, but it’s true. It happens. ¬†Our extended family has also embraced and welcomed the new diversity. There is one very special person who has been supportive and unconditionally accepting of our 4 kids during our original blending, and now during blending phase 2! ¬†Disclaimer: All of the extended family members have been wonderfully loving. Today, I am just focusing on one of you:)

¬†This incredibly accepting person is my Daddy. ¬†He is not just my father, he is truly one of my closest friends and confidantes. I have watched him grow into this fabulous father and grandpa who completely accepts and enjoys ALL of the grandchildren, biological,married into, blended in phase 1, and blended in phase 2! ¬† I point this out because he is a man who came from a very rural area in NC , and he was not raised with a very broad world view. ¬†No offense, my grandparents were wonderful country folks and I loved them dearly. ¬†He also grew up in a”white culture‚ÄĚ. ¬†It was the south during the 1950’s and 1960’s… the schools were not even integrated where he lived until 1965. There were no Mexican people working beside him on his grandpa’s farm each day during every summer. It has been heartwarming for me to watch him embrace all that he has learned from the “kids”especially the Spanish language. He actually knows only a few key words of Spanish: ). I think secretly… he wishes he wishes he was bi-lingual, but at 71 I doubt that’s going to happen! Personally, I enjoy the authentic Mexican food our daughter in law cooks more than I want to learn Spanish!¬†¬†I was visiting Daddy recently at his little shop where we often sit and solve the world’s problems. I don’t remember what we were actually talking about on that particular day, but I do remember this much. ¬†Daddy looked at me thoughtfully from his “perch”, and he said, “you know, those jokes they tell at the breakfast table where I eat…they just aren’t that funny anymore.” He was referring to a small diner where he’s been eating at the same table every morning with mostly the same folks for many years. ¬†I thought for a few seconds about what he said.
I looked up at him, and I responded…”Well, Daddy it’s interesting how when people you love are the object of those jokes it’s just a different story, isn’t it?”

Bonding is serious business

Webster defines “bonding”as 1. the formation of a close relationship(as between a mother and child or between a person and an animal) especially through frequent or constant association. 2. the attaching of a material (as porcelain) to a tooth surface especially for cosmetic purposes. Another source, the health of children.com defines bonding as the formation of a mutual and psychological closeness between parents (or primary caregivers) and their newborn child. Babies usually bond with their parents in the minutes, hours, or days following birth.

According to the Encyclopedia of Children’s Health, bonding is essential for survival. Obviously, bonding is serious business no matter how you look at it! The bonding between infants and their mother’s has been the subject of many research studies…so much that there have been many methods of childbirth developed to enhance and speed up the process of bonding. According to research, an insecure attachment between an infant and his/her parents is detrimental to the emotional health of an individual.

Naturally, when my husband and I were engaged to be married we were concerned about how our new family would blend, but also how we would bond with each other. ¬†I remember reading a book during that time that said it usually takes five years for a blended family to truly bond! ¬†I’m not certain exactly how long it was before you could say we were truly “bonded as a family”, but I do know we did it! ¬†We started out on a very positive note because during our dating and engagement, it was a “family affair”….The 4 kids liked one another from the start and we spent as much time together as we could before the wedding. ¬†We got to know each other’s children, and they got to know one another before we all just jumped into the new nest. When the time came for us to all live together as a family were comfortable and excited to say the least.

Briant and I are very family oriented, obviously. lol….we really enjoyed our children growing up, and we still do! ¬†It is not uncommon to have them all visit on the same weekend (grand-dogs in tow). ¬†Allison, our youngest, recently had some minor surgery. ¬†It was sooo heartwarming to me when Elise told me she would be staying overnight with Allison and her husband just to help out and be supportive. ¬†To watch how close the 4 of them are as young adults (spouses included) is amazing…definitely a blessing. ¬†And I will have to admit….. Briant and I do feel a bit proud : ) ¬†Maybe a better word would be “successful”!!

 

 

 

Great Expectations

I had promised my next post would be about “bonding”; however, I have not been properly inspired to write on the subject yet!  This has been a busy week for us as our oldest son and his wife (and her younger brother, Christian:) moved into their very charming new home!!  It’s the cute yellow house I have posted…so excited for them!!

So, today my hubby was inspired to write “Great Expectations”, and I am thrilled with this post.  He is such a talented writer…such a renaissance man : )

Here goes…..Great Expectations by Briant Wilder (Self-Proclaimed Benevolent Dictator of the WilderNest)  lol.  Someone does have to lead you know and he is a great leader, and I am a great CEO ! : )  All joking aside, I am touched by “Great Expectations”.

The title “Great Expectations”is, of course, the novel by Charles Dickens and has little to do with what I’m writing except for those two words-with which most people enter into a marriage.  If you are trying to blend a family, your great expectations may need to be a bit different than they might have been the first time round. Blending a family is a difficult business and even the simplest things can cause problems.  These are the things that your one time married (or unmarried) friends and family never think about. So if there is someone in your life who is trying to blend a family I’ll suggest some ideas on how you might help…avoid referring to the children as “his children or her children”. “Step brothers or sisters”don’t exist…just brothers and sisters please.  The house is “their house” not “his house or her house”. Most people really don’t think about it, and certainly mean no harm, but they don’t refer to us in the same way that they refer to themselves or others in a first marriage. Our children grasped this concept much quicker than anyone else and I suppose that’s natural…they did’nt want to be anything other than a normal family. Now that they are grown and out on their own, I am so gratified to watch them with each other. They love each other and watch out for one another. They will-pointedly-inform anyone who uses the word “step”that isn’t them. They have the relationships with each other that any “one time married parents”would envy.  That brings me back to “great expectations”.  My greatest expectations were that I would be married to a woman who loved me and who loved my children as she loved her own.  I may have had lesser expectations but they were so far removed from those two that I’d have to think about it to recall what they were. I love Lisa now more than I ever have because with regard to my great expectations, she has been perfect.  When Will was in Afghanistan, there was never a mother-any mother-who cared more, prayed more, worried more, or loved her son more than she did. And…there was never a father happier to have him back home-to his mother.  The best thing you can do for your wife in a blended family is to love her children as much as you love your own.  She will know it and that will take you most of the way there.

 

 

 

 

 

Blended family, blended stuff !

Our garage in the new Wilder nest was filled with boxes of what I refer to as my “stuff”. What is stuff ?  For me and my children it was the handmade bed built for Robb by his grandfather.  It was our couch that the three of us and our beloved Murphy had snuggled on and watched National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation at least 100 times. For sentimental feelers like ourselves, we had a memory attached to almost everything we owned. On the other hand, Briant and his children were much more the practical thinker types ! They had stuff; however, most of it was in really good shape and serving a purpose. Not that Briant, Will, and Elise did’nt have their own treasures and memories. They certainly did. Theirs were just different than ours. I had saved many things just because they were associated with something we had enjoyed. For example, I still kept the first sweatshirt Robb wore with his preschool’s name written in puffy paint on the back of it!  As we built our nest and lovingly blended our family and our stuff, we liked to refer to our decorating style as “my favorite things”….Being surrounded by my familiar belongings from our former home helped me to feel comfortable and secure here, and naturally, I assumed the same was true for everyone else in our family ! One of my fondest memories is our first Christmas together.  We had the most amazing (real of course) Christmas tree !  It was tall to match our 9 ft ceilings, and it was sturdy enough to display a combined 68 years of Christmas ornaments. I’m sure you’re asking where did you come up with that number??  Well, Briant and I were 34 and we both had treasured ornaments from our childhood homes, trinkets from young adulthood, and our respective childrens’ handmade at preschool…. ” popsicle stick stars” and reindeer made of white paper plates with green and red glitter, and so much more…..too many to name here for certain.  We did a really good job that year sorting out whose furniture to use where, and how to store my large wardrobe and 15 boxes of snapshot photos going back to high school years !  Remember, we did get rid of lots of “stuff” before I sold my house. There was just so much that had to move with us so…. throughout the year, I would bring things from those boxes stored in the garage and just kind of integrate them into “my favorite things”.  It really did take that long to unload those boxes : ) My husband was and is such a patient man !  I loved him dearly then, and even more now.

Next Post….Studies say it takes 5 years to succesfully blend a family…