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Adult Children Toddlers Work at Home

Living with a Toddler Is Hard; It’s Even Harder When They’re Your Grandkids

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

Living with toddlers is hard. I freely admit I am a control freak. So is my husband. We like everything just. so. We have our reasons – it’s partly in our personalities, and it’s partly because we run a fast-paced, high-end digital marketing firm and need to be organized and productive. Inefficiency and distraction cost us money. And money is what it takes to travel. And travel is what it takes to be happy. So you can see why we run a tight ship.

Our oldest daughter, her husband, and their two kids live with us. They are their own family, but there’s only one kitchen and two bathrooms for 8 people, so we still try to keep to a schedule. Meal times are at a specific time. Showers are at a specific time. Quiet time happens at a specific time.

But living with toddlers is so hard. I’d forgotten how hard it is to have a toddler and an infant.

Toddlers Don’t Respect Schedules

My grandaughter is awesome. She is brilliant and precocious and adorable and saw her first concert (U2) when she was only 1 year old. She is a great traveler and has accompanied us to Montreal and Niagara Falls. But she doesn’t get that we have a company to run, or that our office is now her parents bedroom. She just knows that Nana and Papa are here, that her stories take priority, and that work is only something we’re supposed to do in between spending time with her.

Toddlers Have Tantrums

I did not like toddler tantrums when they were my kids; I really don’t like them when they are my grandkids. It’s not appropriate for me to judge how my daughter is raising her kids. She is an awesome mom, and just because we do some things differently doesn’t mean her way is wrong. It’s also not appropriate for me to undermine her authority and give in to the tantrum because it’s my granddaughter and I want her to be happy.  I want to “help.” I don’t…unless it’s to hold one while the other screams – but I really, really want to give a Hallie what she wants – partially to shush her and partially because I’m Nana.

Toddlers Are Messy

Whether it’s cold season and there are germs all over my laptop because my granddaughter sneezed while she was hugging me or she decides to touch my laptop with peanut butter fingers, everything is so much messier now. Everywhere I turn there are toys and puzzle pieces (you know, the kind with the handles that you find with your feet). It’s always chaotic. It’s hard to find quiet.

But mostly, I’m just older. And I’m tireder. So toddlers are harder.

But I’m also getting this huge, amazing glimpse into the people my grandkids are and the people their parents are becoming by raising them. I’ve seen my son-in-law really step up into his role as a dad and provider. I’ve seen my daughter ache over every decision she makes for her kids, her unbridled love for them, her tireless sacrifice for them.

So it takes me a little longer to get my work done each week, and I sometimes have to explain when I’m on the phone with a client that the screaming or giggling they hear in the background is just my sweet granddaughter.

I wouldn’t trade a day of it.

Categories
Adult Children Everything Baby Toddlers

This Mom Is Very Glad to Be Grandma

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

I’m well beyond the toddler/newborn stage – and I have teenagers, so I am already perpetually exhausted. And that’s why I’m glad to be grandma. Having our grandkids and their parents live with us is delightful, for the most part. Sure, having 8 people under one roof (Dave and I, our teenage kids, our daughter Kira, her husband, and their two kids) can be stressful at times – especially when a holiday is coming and the fridge simply isn’t big enough. But I am glad to be grandma.

Kira and Louis have a 2-year old and a newborn. It’s not easy, and it’s not always fun. I remember – Hallie and Leo are the same age gap as Parker and Anika. When you have a newborn screaming to be fed, changed, and rocked to sleep every two hours and a toddler who is adjusting to a new baby, cooped up at home, and in the tantrum stage, it’s a wonder you get 3 minutes a day of peace.

But when the baby is crying and fussing late into the night, I might hear it – but I can also be grateful it’s not me having to get up and walk around the room and soothe the baby back to sleep 20 times. When the toddler refuses to nap and is out of sorts by dinnertime and a handful to deal with all evening, I can retreat to my room and reminisce about being in that stage while feeling pretty good about being out of it. I can walk away. I can travel. I can go to movies.

Louis and Kira will survive this stage, even though it may not feel like it to them right now. They benefit from our help, but they also are being forced to figure out this whole parenting thing with an audience, something I couldn’t have done. We try to strike the perfect balance between offering a helping hand and welcome advice and staying out of the way to let them have their family.

Categories
Adult Children

Your Funk Sucks

Getting Real with Tammy Torres

Do you realize your kids probably don’t even know you as a person? When I was helping my son Scott with a school project when he was 16, he asked me why I was good as drawing. I said I have a bachelor’s degree in art. He said, “No you don’t, dad does….” I chuckled, raising my mom brow, and said “Yes I do.” I had to show him the plaque on my wall. He thought since his dad was in the military, he had the degree. Wow…It must have been all the etch-a-sketch drawings and finger paintings I did with them.

Being an only child, I found it difficult to raise children. I didn’t know how to be a mom as there is no manual. A lot of self help books but no right or wrong way for raising kids – and back then, no mom blogs, either. It’s a blank slate. You Make, Bake and Grow children based on your experiences… I laugh as I didn’t have experiences with brothers and sisters. I didn’t want kids till I was a grown up at 30. I graduated college – career-minded, not kids-minded!  I never thought I was a good mom, but I did everything in my power to keep my kids safe, healthy and happy knowing that didn’t always happen. Momma, mother, mom, momma as my kids called me based on their moods…My Mitchell, Scotty and Shanola aka Snuggle Bug became strong unique individuals as Mitch, Scott and Shannon.

Moms easily get pulled into their children’s lives with millions of emotions. Caring, empathy, and love for our sweet angels fulfills us. As our angels grow and mature, a state of funk starts to settle in like a dark mysterious alien, showing up in their pre-teens, sucking and dragging moms from around the world into a deep hole of hopelessness that they fear they may never come out of. I clawed my way out from the depths of teenage drama hell into adult child dysfunction about nine months ago.

I told them when they were 18, they were in the real world – my world, not theirs. They were missing the coddling, give-me-everything mom. They didn’t seem to understand the difference between privilege vs entitlement. They were missing the blindly empathetic mom that would say everything is going to be okay and put a Bandaid on it.

I created the term called “Mom Bomb” as I didn’t like my feelings towards my children or how I communicated with them. They left the nest and my mom role felt very alone, sad, and empty. Selfish, I know, but I raised these little monsters and I still wanted to be part of their lives.

After my first divorce, Mitch moved to his dads in Washington at the age of 14 and would come to visit on holidays. He joined me for a few years after from high school in Idaho as he was going through a rough patch. Scott lived with my parents while attending online school, as he felt safe and my stepdad was able to help by being a great male role model for him growing up. Shannon and I lived in an apartment about a block away. Shannon and my mom had very similar personalities, which brought a lot of conflict into the family. Shannon had dropped out in ninth grade to deal with some horrendous physical and emotional abuse by my real father and an abusive boyfriend I was unaware of. I stayed close to all and accepted the living conditions to ease situations and provide stability of my family. It helped in some ways but caused personal disconnect with my children in another.

I starting to send them text messages with the header “Mom Bombs” in the subject, explaining wanting to get to know them outside of being my children but as grown adults and vice versa. Asking them random questions about life, hope, dreams, goals, anything. Some like it and some didn’t. I also used it to make statements, teach lessons and solicit reactions. Sometimes my Mom Bomb just said I love you and have a good day!

They knew when I sent out a “Mom Bomb” I was serious. Tired of being blown off because I had the title “mom,” I wanted to be acknowledged as a human being. Tammy mattered also.

In the process I admit, one or two times I’ve lost my mom card, was told to fuck off and had heated discussions. I was okay though as I could deal with the truth they spoke, wanting to hear it, good, bad or indifferent. We were communicating. “Mom Bombs” actually helped me become a better person and Mom. This process not only helped me grow but because it was in a group text. It helped them get to know each other better.

Now the aliens – kids – each own a bottle of “Mom Bomb Frebreeze” for their funkiness.

Categories
Adult Children Self-Improvement

Are You Mom Bomb Strong?

Getting Real with Tammy Torres

Do you feel like you start seeing the light at the end of your tunnel only to be ran over by the train?

The conductor saw you along with all the other people on the train, but they didn’t care and drove right over you! WAM BAM, no thank you ma’am!

Middle age came into the station and said, It’s time for you to get off the fast track lady, you don’t live here anymore!  You need to be on the slow boat!

Allen and I made a sign for our bedroom door for our kids saying “If you think We Can, We Can’t but Always Do! We will be in our room viewing our vacation from google earth sculpting Devils Tower out of mashed potatoes!” Kids take all your vacation money, pride, hope, trust, and energy; plans and dreams get deferred because of someone else’s emergencies.

Night after night, sleep was interrupted when one of the a sweet angels snuck up in the middle of my 8 hours of beauty rest, to tap me on the shoulder and say, “Mom, Mom, MOM” – literally scaring the pee right out of me. Like Bill Engvall says, children should wear a cow bell around their neck.

I don’t remember the last time I followed through with my own dreams or plans and most mothers know this feeling – we give until we are as shriveled as a raisin. Then, they all grow up in a blink of an eye and what’s left? A middle-aged body, mind, and soul needing four eyes to see it draggin’, saggin’ or laggin’!

With the kids grown, I should pop out of bed in the morning like a toaster strudel, but instead, it’s more like Darth Vader’s Mother rising like a raccoon has laid on my face from a CPAP mask. My body sounds like Snap, Crackle and Pop.

And you know why?

My mind, once crystal clear, is now medicated to make it through the day. I have let the world in so much, I feel like a mom zombie in a 47-year coma. My body ferments itself, taking any pleasure of eating, which was always my comfort. Having a colonoscopy to confirm, now my low carb, IBS-C, metabolic syndrome lifestyle has added the FODMap diet and taking 20-40 pills of fiber with laxatives, so my gremlins don’t turn into a painful, smelly farting fermented mess in the grocery store or waking my fiancé from a dead sleep into a hazed green fog!

My relationship of two years was unraveling, tearing down walls of fear, pain and loneliness as I learned what being truly loved is again. So many people let me believe I was doing great in life as long as I was pleasing them and living their realities, because I was so afraid to be left alone one more time. Once confident and standing strong, now quietly hanging on by a thread like everyone else in the rat race. I have seen glimpses of hope and faith throughout my life but my shoulders got heavier, mind murkier and I gave in to survive.

BUT NO MORE!

I quit being a care giver three weeks ago. I stopped taking my depression meds (don’t do this without talking to your doctor).  I want to cry about being happy, sad, or excited to whatever I want. I am strong, independent and living my way because I have a good support system to become me again and not just my roles.  I’m okay with eating my salad of olives, sunflower seeds, ham, and ranch dressing, living in our tiny apartment with our tiny trailer to come and go when we please.

It’s time someone helps take care of me – so that I don’t leave my glasses in the Mammoth Hot Springs bathroom in Yellowstone on vacation like I did last week…or when I put my daily meds in the same pocket I gather rocks in, so that I ended up swallowing a quartz crystal! How nice would it be to laugh without wetting my pants or having goat hairs growing from my second chin and not know!

I have decided to love living in TammyLand. Nice, peaceful, kind, caring, taking pre-retirement vacations before I retire and die, not being on the Amtrak but a land cruising bicycle breathing crisp air and seeing the change of the seasons.

Find your love, life, and passions and live again to derail that next train off its tracks!

I am MOM BOMB Strong!

Categories
Adult Children Parenting Raising Healthy Kids Teens and Tweens

Don’t Expect Your Kids to Have all the Answers at 18

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

Do you have all the answers? If you don’t, why should your kids?

The career I chose at 18 is not anything close to the career and business I have built today. But I grew up with a dad who got a job when he was 18 and stayed in the same industry his whole life until he retired. He was with the same company my entire life, so I tried to do the same. A dozen jobs later, I finally realized there was no corporate fit for me, especially not with all the atrocious (read: misogynist) bosses out there.

So why should I expect my own kids to choose a path at 18 years old? Between 18 and now, my path has changed a more times than I can count, and I would have never predicted that I would be where I am today (in motherhood, in my career, in my location, in my future goals). But it’s easy to forget that as our children graduate high school and are expected to launch their own lives.

The second our children step foot into middle school, the interest inventories begin. When Kira first took these tests, she wanted to be a professional cheerleader. Parker wanted to be a musician, then a filmmaker. Anika wanted to be a dancer, then an actress. Those career choices don’t fit neatly into the school counselor’s box. My interests happen to include painting, something I didn’t even take up until I was 40.

Your personality and interests are then cross-matched with your career testing, which measures your skills. The test results tell you a list of fields you should consider, all of which require college for at least 4 years. The school counselors certainly aren’t going to encourage a non-traditional path like “move to Hollywood and try to break into the movie industry, or move to New York City and work as a waitress while you try out for plays.” But by the time you’re in your junior year of high school, you’re expected to know what your life plans are. You took all the tests, so it should be easy, right?

When has standardized testing ever offered a reliable answer?

Our children’s brains haven’t even finishing developing by the time they’ve graduated from high school. Most young adults are well into their college degrees by the time the frontal lobe has fully matured, and at that point, decisions have been made that make many kids feel obligated to keep going in the direction they started – and with loans that keep them bound to work to keep paying loans. These students feel locked into careers and choices that they made because they were forced to have all the answers when they were just kids who really just needed more recess time. Turning 18 somehow is supposed to mean that you know what you want to do with the rest of your life.

Whatever.

Having all the answers is an unrealistic expectation that places unnecessary pressure on our kids. What do you want to do with your life? What is your next step? At age 18, why is “I don’t know” such a horrible answer? I wish I had had the guts to say that when I was 18, because I truly didn’t know.

I’m not saying you should let your kids graduate from high school and then sit at home playing video games all day long. Your kids should still be designing their own lives and learning to care for themselves, but rushing off to college and loans and debt may not be the answer. Let them get a job, an internship, or take some free online courses to help them define what they want to do. Let them spend a year backpacking across Europe. As long as they are doing something to help them learn about who they are, they’re doing the right thing.

The biggest mistake a parent can make is to expect their kids to have all the answers at age 18. Your kid may legally be considered an adult, but they still need you for guidance.

I don’t have all the answers as an adult, so no, I don’t expect my 18 year old to know everything either.

 

Categories
Adult Children Parenting Teens and Tweens

Letting Your Kids Fail is Good Parenting

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

Letting your kids fail is good parenting. There are risks in every decision. As moms, we encourage our children to try and try again, but sometimes it’s easy to skim over what failing teaches us. Sometimes it’s not as simple as getting back on that bike until you can successfully ride it. There are life decisions, especially as children get older, that are much more complicated. Try and try again doesn’t pertain to every scenario and believing that success must come after failure can be really harmful.

Failure is not as negative as it’s portrayed.

We’re often taught to believe that failing is disastrous, but letting your kids fail teaches them so much. Our inability to accomplish something doesn’t mean that we’ve either made a mistake somewhere or that something is inherently wrong with who we are. Failing is a critical experience, and it’s a strong guiding force in future decisions. With support, our kids can realize that failing can be a positive experience.

There is a lesson in every failure.

Life is an experiment. Every time your kids fail they learn something. As parents, it’s our job to protect them from the most drastic consequences, but we should also encourage them to get up and brush themselves off. If plan A didn’t work, don’t push them right into plan B. It’s ok to let them know that sometimes it’s time to go back to the drawing board. It’s ok to change your mind, change directions, change your path – no matter how long you’ve been working toward something. Sometimes, you have to scrap the plan completely or change some of the strategy and try again. Your kids will discover what went wrong and they will have you right there with them to help figure it out.

It’s about the journey.

Failing is not the nightmare everyone thinks it is. Even successful corporations are discovering that when their employees feel safe to fail, creativity and innovation soars. People are happier and feel confident that they can try something new without being punished. Your kids deserve the same freedom, and if you are there to prevent every tragedy, they aren’t going to learn anything. Failing builds confidence in that they can succeed if they keep persisting. Failing teaches that it’s ok to regroup and start over.

This is especially important as our kids start to venture out on their own. Our kids know that if things don’t go right, there is always a place for them with us. There is no chastising for not succeeding. There is only celebration in the journey, the learning, and the experience. There is only encouragement to figure out the next step. You don’t want to miss letting your children know that it’s ok to decide that maybe bike riding isn’t their thing, and that it’s ok to never learn to ride at all. Simply because your child fails at one thing, doesn’t mean they can’t succeed at another. The only way to know is to try and fail, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

 

Categories
Adult Children Keeping Marriage Strong Love On Motherhood Parenting

Empty Nest, Here We Come – Like It or Not

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

I have been so blessed to have a full house from the time I met Dave. He already had three children, and they quickly became my own as our relationship developed. Once we were married, we added two more, with a total of five children occupying our time.

As kids get older, it is expected that they’ll move on eventually. My youngest son, Parker, is headed off to college this fall. Our youngest child, Anika, will be graduating next year and doing the same. Although our second-oldest, Kira, came back and then stayed after leaving for college, this is a temporary situation. She and her husband have plans to settle in England, and their time in our household is limited.

This will leave Dave and I with an empty nest, finally. However, this does leave us thinking, “What now?”

I will miss my children. I will cry (and have cried) many tears at the idea of them moving out and starting their own adventures, and I will look forward to future gatherings of our family. I’ll acknowledge that our nest will feel a little empty, and the stillness and quiet will shock both of us a little bit.

At the same time, an empty nest is something to look forward to. Dave and I have prioritized our relationship during the busy lives of our five children, and he is still my best friend. We work together, travel together, have raised kids together, and delight in our grandchildren together. We will always be there when our children need us, but once they are all moved out, it will just be us.

We can cook whatever we want, watch whatever we want on TV, go where ever we want on vacation. We will get to enjoy our time together, without the constant interruption that is a natural consequence of children. I’m sure there will still be days that I cry and miss my children terribly, but there will also be days when I rejoice in having the quiet companionship of my husband.

Dave and I have loved every second of raising our children, but we are so excited to have uninterrupted time together. I will welcome visits from children and grandchildren every day, but I will also welcome the month-long jaunts through new countries. I will welcome the brand-new adventures that are much more affordable with two people than with seven. I will welcome the quiet, and yearn for the noise, all in the same breath.

Although our children will always be our pride and joy, I am grateful that Dave and I did not neglect our own relationship over the last 20+ years. Children do grow up and start their own lives. Invest in your relationship every day, because this is your life partner. To keep marriage strong, you must be able to survive with the kids and without them. The empty nest will sting a little as your children leave, but it doesn’t mean that your home and heart won’t still be full.

 

Categories
Adult Children Education

10 Things Your Kids Should Know Before College

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

I’ve already sent one of my children off to college, and now the two youngest are moving quickly in the same direction. Although Anika won’t be starting college until next fall, Parker is looking to move into his dorms in only a month’s time. Before I become too hysterical about my children abandoning me, I want to consider the life lessons that every kid should know before leaving for college that will help them be capable adults.

  1. How to budget

Although they’ve passed laws preventing credit card companies from preying on college students, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other financial traps. Some kids work in college, and some don’t, but every student should know the basics of how a credit card works and how to pay the bills on time. Also, encourage your kids to keep a bit of “fun money” each month, because no one was meant to only work and pay bills.

  1. Loans are not free money

The budgeting conversation should also spin off into a realistic talk about the difference between loans, grants, and scholarships. Too many students get excited about the money that’s being handed to them by the government, without any thought as to where it came from. Most of that money has to be returned at some point, so use loans wisely.

  1. Staying safe

Dorms are breeding grounds for all sorts of unsafe choices, which is to be expected. Do you assume your child will follow every rule set by the college? Not necessarily, but safety is always a top concern. Discuss with your children how drugs and alcohol, even in the college environment, pose a huge risk. At age 18 in the United States, it’s still illegal, and there are consequences to such actions. Teach your kids who they can contact in an emergency and how to get out of sticky situations.

  1. Responsibility

You won’t be there every morning to make sure that your child makes their 8am class or completes their homework on time. Instill responsibility before they leave for college to make sure that they can handle the independence college offers. Those loans will be there, whether your student goes to class or not.

  1. How to make a grilled cheese

Most campuses offer meal plans for incoming freshman, but your child can’t rely on someone else to provide meals forever. Teach some kitchen basics and encourage your child to make their own meals before leaving for college. Even if all they eat are fried eggs, ramen, and macaroni and cheese for a few years, they’ll be alright.

  1. The proper dose of Dayquil

Your kid is going to get sick. College campuses are a common place for germs and close quarters with other students is going to end in some colds. Teach your child how to medicate themselves with Tylenol, Dayquil or allergy medicines as necessary. It also won’t hurt for them to know how to brew some tea.

  1. Respect for themselves and others

This is a great life tip, but especially important in college. A college campus is a diverse mix of people, and it’s important to have respect for all walks of life. Don’t let your child accept abuse for their personal views and teach them to stand up for the unique views of others.

  1. Housekeeping 101

For those with kids heading to the dorms, it can be difficult to navigate the room situation. However, there’s not many things worse than a dirty roommate. Teach your child to clean up after themselves and maintain their own space. Regular showers are important, too.

  1. The right to change your mind

College is not a life sentence or promise. Whatever major your child dedicated themselves to as a freshman does not have to stay the same when they are a junior. Make sure your child knows that they can always change paths. College is about exploration and finding new interests, and there are no limits.

  1. Life is short

College is only a stepping stone into what will hopefully be an eventful life. Teach your child not to hesitate to launch into new opportunities, such as internships or even study abroad programs. Encourage your child to embrace college as a place where they can explore themselves.

I’m so excited for Parker to embark on this new adventure. Although I’ll be crying all the way home once I’ve dropped him off, I’ll trust that he has learned these lessons and is ready to learn more. You can’t teach your child everything, but you can offer these foundations to success.

Categories
Adult Children Parenting

When Raising Capable Adults, You Don’t Have to Follow All the “Rules”

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

I’m not immune to other mom blogs. Quite a few of us roam in the same circles, and I enjoy hearing different views. It’s how we all become better parents, but it’s also the perfect breeding ground for insecurities. Regardless of how old your children are, you will second guess things you did ten years ago, yesterday, and parenting choices you’ll make ten years from now. There are many different types of mothers, and there are times I’m reminded that my views are polar opposites of others.

Nothing like reading an article and convincing myself that I’ve failed, right?

With my two youngest children having eyes focused on college, I’ve come into more articles about raising capable adults. Guess how many of those awesome tips about raising kids into adults I’ve used? None. Que the panic, because Parker is heading to college this fall.

Except, once the panic died down, I realized that all five of my kids are capable. Three of the five are adults that either been to college, the military, had careers, and are living independent lives. Kira is building a life of her own (despite still being under my roof) with a husband and what will be two children. They’re all alive, so I can’t be doing that bad of a job.

There are no hard and fast rules for raising capable adults.

If you’re still doing your teenager’s laundry, they will eventually figure it out in college. Perhaps you cook all the meals just out of ease and habit. Does that mean the second your children move out that they’ll starve? Absolutely not. They’ll find a way to make a meal, even if dinner is peanut butter and jelly until they make desperate calls to you for instructions on how to cook chicken nuggets. The internet has a lot of information, and maybe they will open a recipe tab instead of a YouTube one.

I’m convinced that a lot of learning how to adult is by being an adult. I can teach basic skills like laundry and cooking, but honestly, my kids can always learn that later. I would rather teach my kids other important lessons while they’re under my roof, that are even more important when raising capable adults.

Kindness.

Compassion.

Loyalty.

Perseverance.

Inner strength.

A sense of adventure.

Their own voice.

The importance of family.

Am I still running forgotten homework and lunches to my last high school student? Guilty. But I’ll leave it to her college professor to handle the next forgotten homework assignment. Let someone else teach simple, but necessary, lessons. I’ll stick to teaching love and kindness to my very capable adults, because honestly, everything else will sort itself out.

Categories
Adult Children Parenting Raising Healthy Kids Teens and Tweens

Raising Independent Children, Part One

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

During our oldest son’s junior year in high school, he decided to look into military service as an option after graduation. Reports of young men and women dying in service were on the news regularly. However, we had always tried to teach our son to be independent and think for himself. He had strong convictions about serving his country as well as practical reasons like getting college funding.

We went with him to meet with the recruiter, and asked nearly as many questions as he did. We left the recruiter’s office and explained to our son that it was the recruiter’s job to “sell” him on joining, but that he was free to change his mind and go to college or work after graduation. Most importantly, we told him we would support his decision and then we let him decide what to do. (That doesn’t mean I didn’t go to bed many nights and fear for his safety).

Helping our child grow up into a happy adult meant allowing him control over his destiny, even when it was not what we pictured for his future. He had always wanted to be a math teacher, and now he wanted to become a soldier.

He ended up spending 10 years in the Army, including an 18-month tour in Iraq and three years in Japan before, during, and after the tsunami. We were proud of him even as we continued to lose sleep worrying about his safety.  Now, he is out of the Army and happily working in the private sector. He is happy—happy with his life and his choices.  That’s all we could ask for. Getting him to keep in touch is another story!!