3 Reminders from 4th of July past

July 4, 1998–tiny town in southern Bolivia

Only three people in town were celebrating the 4th of July as a significant date–the three young American girls living in Colon Sur for our summer/their winter.  By day, we visited the adobe homes of some of the most hospitable and resilient people I have ever met, helping out with household projects and practicing our Spanish.  By night, we gazed at the Milky Way, and then settled down in our cots surrounded by mosquito netting at the town’s medical station.  The mosquito netting wasn’t to keep out mosquitoes, though.  It was keeping us safe from the nocturnal “vinchuca,” a nasty insect that carries the disease Chagas.  It was a weird feeling to leave the homes of beautiful, healthy Bolivian children each night, knowing they could be exposed to vinchucas while they slept, and head to the safety of my mosquito net.

One of those beautiful children was a girl named “Ana.”  Due to an accident when she was a toddler, she could not hear.  Since there was no government or private service to help Ana and her family, she could not communicate with others….well, I shouldn’t say she couldn’t communicate.  She could not sign, but she did smile all the time, sit dutifully in a desk each school day and mimic the other students’ behaviors, and play soccer!  We were told there was a surgery that could most likely restore some of her hearing, but that it would cost thousands of dollars that her family could never earn in a lifetime as farmers in rural southern Bolivia.

On that 4th of July, the three American girls sipped our water treated with purification tablets and enjoyed our weekly shower since it was Saturday.  While we loved the town and its people, we also spent the holiday being very thankful that we would soon return to bug-free homes, parasite-free tap water, and to a country where a child like Ana would probably have already had that surgery and individualized education years ago.

On this Independence Day, I am reminded to be thankful for all of the luxuries that I enjoy each day in the United States.  Clean tap water, air conditioning, a wide variety of foods to chose from…these are all part of the “freedom from want” that I enjoy.  Just last week, we rushed our one-year-old Liam to a hospital just fifteen minutes away, with the reassurance that we had access to a wide range of medical resources, for even the worst-case scenario.  In Colon Sur, the nurse at the medical station was the only medical resource available… at all.  Mommies in Bolivia love their babies as much as I love mine, but my country of birth gifts me with so many more resources with which to take care of my babies.  I am humbled and grateful.

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making adobe bricks in Bolivia–July 1998

July 4, 1999–big city of New York

Everyone gathered by the Hudson River was looking up, as the Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks had begun.  I was in New York City for the summer, working as an intern with an organization serving the city’s homeless population.  My parents had flown up to spend the holiday with me, as well as my birthday two days later.  As I watched the lights in the sky, I also saw the faces of some of the homeless individuals I had met.  One lady in particular “stayed with me,” in my memory, and still does to this day.  She was an African-American lady who had served as a nurse during the Vietnam War.  When I met her on a street in the Times Square area, she seemed so strong in spirit and was very well-spoken in telling me about her daughter.  After this United States Veteran had walked away, the social worker I was accompanying informed me that the lady was homeless and that her daughter had been deceased for some time, although she spoke of her as if she were alive.

I wondered if that lady was watching the fireworks too.  Was she celebrating our country’s freedom?  Had our country taken care of her physically and mentally, after she had given of herself for her country, and personally paid a very high price in doing so?  Don’t get me wrong… I am not a “USA-basher,” as I call them… the citizens who always and only point out every fault of our nation, every questionable political decision of past governments… the ones that I would like to send to Bolivia for a summer (see above) just for a little perspective on all that they enjoy in the USA, to perhaps encourage more balance in their assessment of our shared country.  If I am to conduct a balanced assessment as well, however, I must declare that this great country has work to do.

On this Independence Day, I am reminded that my country is not properly and entirely caring for its veterans, its youth, its Native Americans… there is work to do.  So many Americans give of themselves on a weekly or even daily basis to do this important work, but they need more support.  How many politicians are talking to veterans, to teachers, to tribal councils?  Am I doing my part in my own community?  I am motivated to action.

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with Lady Liberty–July 1999

July 4, 2004–coastal Carolina

I stepped out of the motel room with my one-year-old son Donovan, watching his face to see if he would like the fireworks or be frightened by them.  He wasn’t so sure about them, so we stepped back into the room after a few quick moments of looking at the lights in the night sky.  Earlier, I had taken pictures of Donovan sitting in the sand, underneath an old fisherman’s pier by the motel.  I wanted to preserve those precious moments in time, and also planned to take pictures of him under that pier each year as he grew up.  As goes with plans we make, I didn’t even get pictures the next year, and that pier was demolished to make way for a new hotel resort.

On this Independence Day, Donovan is fourteen and not even home with me tonight.  He is with extended family at a lake, doing teenager things like playing basketball at midnight.  I have twin one-year-old babies asleep in bed, and today I took pictures of them at the lake to again try to preserve these precious moments in time.  Like the old pier, I know that their youth will not be there forever as I want it to be.  As I looked into the faces of my babies on this holiday, I saw parts of Donovan (still my baby too!) in them, and was reminded that time will pass too quickly for my liking, so I need to use it wisely.  Are my priorities properly in place?  Do I view and make my choices on how to spend time with eternity in mind?  Am I making the most of my time with my babies and my teenager?  I am determined to make the time count!

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Mommy and Donovan at the beach–July 2003
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twins at the lake–July 4, 2017

Happy Fourth of July to you, my friend.  During this holiday week, may we all be thankful for our blessings, prayerful for those who are hurting, and mindful of what really matters.  #lovemycountry #freedom

 

3 Ways to Love a Single Mom this Valentine’s Day

Tell Her the Truth

I was a single mom for eleven years, and for me, that meant I had a collection of eleven years’ worth of negative messages in my head that I battled.  From friends who are single mothers, I found out that many of them had the same battle.  Here are a few common themes:   “My son is going to suffer because of my failures.”   “My daughter is doomed to failed relationships because of me.”  “No good man is going to want a woman with three kids.”  “No man will see my scarred body as beautiful.”

The single mom that you want to support may have some ugly lie, like the ones above, floating in her head, popping up from time to time.  She may not ever voice the fear, but what might help is for her to hear truth from you.  Tell her about the strength you see in her, and how you see her child flourishing as a result of the love she gives.  A spoken truth from you may be a balm to her doubting mind.  A spoken truth from you, the person she trusts and respects, may provide her with the arsenal she needs to battle “single-mom lies.”

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when it was just the two of us

Give Her a Break

913 nights…that’s the approximate number of nights that I spent caring for my son before he ever slept through the night.  Single moms may work hard to fulfill dual roles of mom and dad, while juggling work, quality time with children, financial woes, all the housework, family dynamics…the list can go on and on.  I know how tired and stressed I was, so often, WITH a great support system.

Support that single mom you love by asking how you can help.  A “break” is defined differently by different mothers, so it may be as simple as babysitting for two hours so she can get a pedicure, or gifting $5 for that Happy Meal her child wants.  A little break can go a long way in helping a single mom continue the marathon of motherhood.

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energetic boy using mom as his prop

 

Love Her Children

One of the best ways to show love to me is to show love to my children.  As a single mom, I saw how much my son benefited from having cousins, coaches, teachers, and friends in his life, people who took a real interest in him and spent time with him.  If we remember that many single moms worry about how their children might “miss out” on essential factors needed to feel loved and to be successful, then the value of having individuals to help provide those essentials becomes priceless.

So, be her son’s fan at his ball games.  Be a healthy role model to her daughter.  Show genuine interest in her children and their development, and you will show genuine love to her.

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getting our happily-ever-after

Dear Single Mom, My prayer is that you will see how valuable you are.  Be kind to yourself.  Remember that your children can be resilient and overcome any challenge, as long as they never doubt your unconditional love for them.  My Valentine’s wish for you is threefold:  I wish for you to replace a lie with a truth, I wish for you to get a quality mental and physical break, and I wish for you and your children to be surrounded by a loving support system.

With love, Bridgette Enloe Kiser 

 

 

 

 

 

Three things that December taught January

January is the time when many of us look to the past for lessons that will shape our resolutions for a new year.  December 2016 brought some unexpected and unwelcomed events for my family, but I do welcome the lessons learned that are now shaping how I view this new year before me.  With one month already gone from year 2017, I’m reviewing what December taught January.

Make the Moments Count

On Christmas Eve, my husband received a call from our neighbor to inform us that our German Shepherd/furry member of the family, Hans, had been hit by a car.  The next few hours were a blur of dropping off our twins with my parents, rushing Hans to an emergency clinic, and ultimately having to make the decision to have him put down while our 14-year-old watched (his decision to be with his dog).  On the car ride to the clinic, I rode with Hans in the back seat.  I knew the injury was bad, but during that car ride, I still never considered that NOT bringing Hans back home might be a possibility.  On the long and silent ride back home, without Hans, I once again sat in the back seat and looked to where Hans had sat just two hours before.  I thought, “If only I had known that those were the last moments I would have with him.”  Sure, I had watched him closely, talking to him and trying to comfort him on the ride to the clinic.  Still, I know that had I known it was the last time I would be with him, I would have tried to make the time more precious, more valuable somehow.

Lesson One?  I should be making my time with those I love as precious and as valuable as I can.  I am not guaranteed another phone call, car ride, or Christmas dinner.

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Hans trying to turn a game of Fetch into a game of Keep-Away

Plans (and Pictures) don’t have to be Perfect

December 2016 was our twins’ first Christmas season, so I wanted to mark the occasion with special mementos.  I entered the month of December ready with a Pinterest collection of Christmas photo ideas, Hallmark ornaments ready for baby handprint impressions, and visions of reading Christmas stories to two calm infants while sitting by a fire (laughing at myself as I type that part).  At the end of December, I had almost none of the pictures that I had planned to have, the Hallmark ornaments were still in the boxes, and I had baby teeth marks on Christmas books.  I did have, on the other hand, some really good pictures that I never planned on getting, as well as wonderful memories worth a bookshelf full of picture-perfect Shutterfly albums.

Lesson Two?  If things don’t go as planned, I can still enjoy what does happen, with all of life’s imperfections.  Maybe imperfection IS perfection, if I choose to look at it that way…and I can still get the twins’ handprint impressions for those Hallmark ornaments in January (no one will know, unless you’re reading this!).

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an imperfect picture (notice the droolsicle hanging from Owen’s mouth) that I chose to be a perfect picture of the twins enjoying snow for the first time in January

Don’t Put Off Anything of Critical Importance

I know I have high cholesterol.  I know it runs in the family (both sides).  I had unusually high cholesterol even in my early twenties, when I was otherwise completely healthy.  As of December 2016, however, as a thirty-seven year old woman, had I really done anything to monitor my cholesterol or try to lower it?  Nada.  That’s right, the former childbirth educator who encouraged new moms to be their own health advocates, and the former science teacher who encouraged students to be educated about the health history of their families, kept putting off getting my cholesterol checked.  Then, on December 28, I found myself sitting in an emergency room with my father as we waited to find out if he had suffered a heart attack.  Two days later, as my father awaited a serious procedure, a cardiac surgeon put in my place when it comes to the dangers of familial hypercholesterolemia.  I googled the statistics while my father underwent the procedure:  my risk of developing heart disease is twenty times greater than the general population!  That day, I made a call to schedule a doctor visit.

Lesson Three?  It is so important to face health issues head-on.  Putting off getting help and/or ignoring the issue is NOT the responsible way for me to take care of myself and my family.  (My dad is doing great, by the way!)

Are you like me, at risk for heart disease?  Visit http://www.heart.org for more information.  If you have been putting off investigating a possible health issue, or do not have a plan of action for a known health issue, please let 2017 be the year that you take care of yourself!

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my 3 perfect reasons for making sure I become heart-healthy and cherish every moment

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three reasons why I’m glad I didn’t march in Washington

These remarks are being quickly but thoughtfully posted by a mother of 10-month old twins and a 14-year old.  The research behind my remarks occurs between diaper changes, washing dishes, and ball games.  With time, I hope that my remarks will become more polished, and that they will resonate with others.  For now, this is what I have to say, as I can no longer remain silent.  

Reason One:  Timing

Part of the mission of last Saturday’s Women’s March on Washington, according to http://www.womensmarch.com, was to “send a bold message to our new government.”  For many who participated, according to their social media posts and rally signs, it was simultaneously a pro-women and anti-Trump event.  I sincerely appreciate the freedom we have to outwardly speak against even the highest political position in our country (Thank you, Veterans!), but I would have thought it much more respectful of that position to wait even until the next weekend before holding such an event.  Regardless of how I personally felt about whoever was President at the time, through my adult years I have always tried to be respectful of the person in the position.  I had serious concerns about Obama as President (maybe another post later!), but when he was inaugurated, I chose to spend that time praying for his safety and for the safety of his family.  During that time, I chose to be respectful of the millions of my fellow Americans who chose him.  I would have considered it very disrespectful to him and his lovely family to go into attack mode on day two of his presidency.  I am sure that some of you who understand a lot more about grassroots movements, organizing for a movement, etc., might have a calculated explanation for the timing of this event.  For me personally, taking advantage of that freedom to speak out as already noted, I say that timing was wrong.

Reason Two:  Tone

I have listened to Madonna’s remarks.  I have read the full transcript of Ashley Judd’s speech.  I have looked at various pictures of the March, reading signs of marchers.  My response:  I say it’s okay to be angry about inequality, abuse, injustice, racism…don’t get me started!  (By the way, I say it’s NOT okay to suggest, in any way, bombing the White House!)  As I look back at the social change agents that I most respect, however, I can objectively state that the tone of Saturday’s march is NOT congruent with the tone that those great men and women used to unify people, serve as an example to children, and create positive change.  Since I mentioned unifying people, let me add that the March’s organizers made it very clear that their platform was pro-choice, even removing pro-life group New Wave Feminists from their list of partners, after previously having included them.  I take offense to the idea that I cannot be both pro-women and pro-life (again, another post!), and I believe there are thousands of other American women who are pro-life who also give of themselves on a weekly basis to support women’s causes.  I understand that some pro-life women marched alongside pro-choice women who welcomed them, in a beautiful display of showing kindness to others.  Still, the overarching tone of dictating to all women what can and cannot be considered “pr0-women” is not a tone that I wish to embody nor perpetuate.

Reason Three:  Ties

My babies are due for their first “awakening” of the night, so I’ll be brief here:  George Soros.  Linda Sarsour.  Planned Parenthood.  Please, do some wide-eyed, objective research about some of the organizations and sponsors of last Saturday’s march.  I cannot, in good conscience, align myself with some of those individuals and organizations.   I can pray for them and hope for all to remain safe, but I refuse to go along with them.  I realize that in our age of political correctness, that might mean that some accuse me of having one or more of various phobias.  If I have fear, it is not of individuals who differ from me in some way.  On the contrary, I hope my life is proving and will prove that I love all, and that I view literally every single person as a soul more valuable than this world.  No, my fear is that we as women end up getting exactly the opposite of what we probably can all agree we want:  safe, healthy, educated, happy families and communities.  Again, do the research!

*Writer’s note:  In my 37 years,  I have participated in marches, women’s forums and groups, and local grassroots efforts.  I appreciate how often positive results are born from these events and efforts.  Although I am glad I did not participate in last Saturday’s march, I still would have loved to meet and talk to ladies who were there, from various places and political positions.  I hope I get more chances to do so in the future!

Bridgette Enloe Kiser