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Flying The Flag. Making the Choices.

Before you read this blog, read this great article about Ernie Napper and the flag retreat at Disneyland.

You’re going to probably wonder what this post has to do with Veteran’s Day, one of the holidays our family celebrates in our own quiet way. Stick with me for a few minutes.

Wanted to make it to the Petaluma parade today, but have other blogging and writing obligations. I’m a big fan of parades, though. I remember my grandpa riding his horse, Bobbie Rex, in the DAV unit in Fresno. 
I also love to look at the cemetery when it’s filled with flags. The sounds of them rustling in the wind makes me cry every time I see/hear it. I heard the rush of acres of flags at a WWII cemetery in Tunisia a few years ago and I had the same reaction then as now. At local celebrations I love watching the older men and women who’ve served this great country get up out of their wheelchairs sometimes to salute. And the motorcycle riders who block the demonstrators with their hateful banners aimed at the families of the fallen, a right of free speech others paid for with blood.

I’m reading a great book, oddly recommended by our Romance Writers of America magazine this month (I know), called Getting More, by Stuart Diamond. It isn’t what you think. It isn’t about winning at all costs, or carving out your piece of the pie. It’s about understanding where you fit in, where you can collaborate, where and why you should connect and give back, sometimes with the ultimate sacrifice. Here’s a great example:
“Too often people think they can meet their goals only at the expense of others…If you meet your goals today at the expense of the long term, you have served yourself poorly. Getting More means meeting your goals for all relevant people and periods…”
He goes on to say, “Once you have identified your goals, it is important to keep asking, ‘Are my actions meeting my goals?’ The world is full of people who fail to do this. They get emotional or distracted or are just not thinking this way. It goes for you and it goes for others you care about.”

The getting emotional part I just cannot contain. Guilty as charged. My grandmother and I used to sit together on her overstuffed couch in the parsonage in Napa and cry during Lassie. That was back in the day when my brother and I would spend part of our summer vacation with them. Sometimes we’d get moved to that couch in the middle of the night if a woman and her children needed a home for the night to get away from an abusive relationship. I thought every family fed homeless people, sent cookies to shut-ins at hospitals, and took in badly battered women and their scared-to death-children. That was what I grew up with.

So why would I focus on goals today when we are celebrating veterans this weekend? Because they blazed the path, paid the sacrifice so we could live lives of meaning and purpose, so we could give back where we can and not worry about what we can’t. So we can say thank you to those that make it their mission in life to serve, with only the minimal recognition we give them. Because that’s not their goal. They don’t need the parades. We do. So we never forget to be grateful.
Sacrifice is never fair. Trust me, having raised 4 children, I’m not always fair, and I used to tell them all the time I would screw up, and did often. But the goal in our family has always been to celebrate life, all forms of life, to treat people with respect, and to work for things worthwhile.
Earl Nightingale used to define success as, “The achievement of a worthwhile goal.” He used to say that, “Successful negotiation is the result of a good presentation.” I think Stuart Diamond would agree with this principle. You have to know what you want to get the things you want out of life. You have to know what people around you want to create, that “clan” of supporters that help you along the way, as you help them. It is in the helping others that you become a better person, which in turns brings more success, and certainly a lot of satisfaction into our lives. And helps us give more. 

And there is one other person I check with on a regular basis. The great man upstairs. He’s never given me bad instructions and when I listen, he is patient and wise. I may not be one who is called on to fight on a battlefield, like my imaginary SEALs do, like the men I love so dearly do in the real SEAL community. But my mission in life is to stay aligned with a plan and purpose bigger than I am. 

And to thank those who died or suffer ongoing so that I can live the life of my dreams. My goal is not to waste, but use fully what I have been so generously given, to live with the full-on intensity of my being.

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. How wonderful to have such precious memories with your grandmother. Sounds to me like the emotional involvement was well worth it. I wish I could say I shared such emotional attachments. Not going there. I'm relatively new to my appreciation for those who serve, but it started because of romance stories. 🙂 May God bless those who accept the responsibility and their families who support them. Thanks, Sharon, for sharing your experiences.

    1. Miss seeing you, Julia. You just came up on my mind and I had to reach out again. We'll have to do a writing sprint. Need to get me a trip to Napa, drive by my grandfather's old parsonage and remember what it was like to visit there. And of course see old friends. Take care.

  2. im very lucky to have a very close knit family. We all try our best to help and encourage each other. We moan, laugh and cry at what goes on. I too remember my grandmothers, two of the hardest working women who had a great values in life and allowed their children to do they own thing, mistakes and all but was always there for them no matter what. Thats why im so grateful to have had such wonderful parents

  3. Thanks for sharing such important memories and feelings with us! Life is never easy but its how you go about it that counts. If it wasn't for the men and women who sacrificed their lives for us, we might not even have a life to worry about! I have tried to teach my kids to thing about others and always show respect!

  4. Well said, Sharon. It certainly makes one wonder why civilization has not, in the process, become more civilized. We thank those who sacrificed themselves for us, but somehow-and curiously- collectively-we, as a civilization, have not learned to insist that our world leaders make universal peace sustainable. We could genuinely honor our fallen by doing so. Our November 11th Veterans Day /Remembrance Day is a time for sober thought.

    1. Indeed. I wish for the same Raymond. I really do. I wear red on Fridays and will do so until everyone comes home. We were made for greater things.
      But the world also is a dangerous place and there are things that have to be protected. I agree, armed conflict is never a long term answer. But in the book, GETTING MORE even Mr. Diamond says that if someone comes across your path, and attempts to change your trajectory, intentionally messing with your way of life, then it isn't a "win-win", or negotiate yourself out of it. You treat them like the enemy.

      I in a perfect world leaders would stop picking fights they can't win and stop sacrificing the young for their folly. And in a perfect world people wouldn't take by force something that isn't theirs and treat their fellow man with dignity and respect.

      And just because it isn't a perfect world, doesn't mean we can't have that as the goal. In the meantime, we honor those that allow us the freedom to work for peace, to live our lives and never forget who's blood it was that helped to make us safe.

      Always love having these thoughtful discussions with you and hope that you come back. Been too long, my friend.

  5. So well said, again, Sharon. You have such a thoughtful approach to everything. I could not agree more. We need peace but as they say, 'there are times when it seems there is no viable alternative'. At those times the civilized world must act, as sad as it may be, 'volunteering' our young to sacrifice. It is indeed more than sad.

    -and – Yes Sharon, it has been too long, I've been up to my neck in everything, blogging on site now, (my blog /pf ) and of course published The Fires of Waterland (historical fiction). My Christmas classic 'Morgidoo's Christmas Carol' is coming out in print this December too–so lots going on, including working on a couple new novels and other writing projects…":) Best to you too, my friend! ":)

    1. Thanks again. I'll look everything up. Thanks for getting me caught up. You can see I've been busy too! I think we just made NYT/USA Today with our anthology release yesterday. Won't know for awhile, but it will be nice to be able to say that. I'm sure I'll love your work!

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