Tuesday, August 31, 2010

So, I guess I'm a...Lobbyist?

I wear a lot of hats every day.  I'm a mom, a daughter, a sister, a wife, a friend and a lot of other things.  I'm a reef keeper (Saltwater Aquariums, not guarding someone's reefer stash), a hooker (I crochet...get your mind out of the gutter), and a mentor to young kids.

There are a lot of things that I do on a daily basis, and now I can add to the list.  I'm a lobbyist!  I know what you think of when you hear those words.  You're thinking of back room deals with politicians, bought votes and dirty little ethics violations.  A lot of people lobby on behalf of themselves, bills that will the improve the industry where they work or for bills that will benefit their specific interest group.  I want to say right now, that I had no interest in being a lobbyist for this reason.  I guess you could say I kind of fell into it.

One day the founder of The A21 Campaign was speaking at our church about human trafficking and just how big a problem it really is.  She showed a video and I was so completely overwhelmed that I felt like I couldn't breathe.  I just had to know everything there is to know about Human Trafficking and I had to do something about it.  I started looking for facts, and what I found was sickening.

There are 27 million human trafficking victims in the world right now.

Victims are expected to service between 40 and 110 customers each day.

According to UNICEF over 2 million children are are forced into prostitution.

The average age of a sex slave in the United States is 11, and there are (estimated) over 100,000 currently.

If you read the Government Trafficking in Persons Report, you will throw up.

In my mission to find more information, I found an organization called International Justice Mission.  One thing I really liked about this organization is that they are taking the fight to the perpetrators.  They are in the trenches to bring justice to victims and help them  recover and go on to lead productive lives.  I didn't do anything major, I signed up for their newsletter and asked for more information on being a volunteer.  One day this summer I got an e-mail asking if I wanted to meet with my Senators to talk about a new Senate bill, The Child Protective Compact Act (Senate Bill S3184).  I signed up and almost forgot about it.  Then I got this e-mail saying, "Your appointment with Blanche Lincoln's staff is scheduled for..."   I got some training, went, took the co-founder of Rush Hour [Traffic] with me and had a very intelligent conversation about Human Trafficking with Ms. Lincoln's staff.  A few weeks later, I got another e-mail asking when I could meet with my other Senator's staff.  I went yesterday, along with another amateur lobbyist and got a very positive response from Mark Pryor's legislative aid.

It felt so empowering, and fulfilling to sit in a Senator's office and speak about an issue that is very dear to my heart.  Not because I was doing anything special, but because I felt like I was really making a difference and possibly affecting some change in the world.

A year ago, I didn't even know what Human Trafficking was.  This month, I proposed to two Senators (via their staff) that they Co-Sponsor a bill to help fight it.  If that makes me a lobbyist, then so be it!

You can be a lobbyist too!  Contact your Senator here!

If you want to know more on Human Trafficking and just how real the problem is, I have some suggested readings:

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

When it's not just a stage...

Robert, my middle child, is an amazing little boy.  He's also always seemed to have been in a "stage" his entire life.

When he was a baby he wouldn't let me hold him, even to nurse.  I chalked it up to him being premature and us not bonding the way we would have if he had not been in an oxygen tent the first few days of his life.

When he was 2 and 3, he would throw screaming and kicking fits over the strangest things.  The fits were so bad that Michael had to leave work to calm him down at daycare.  I thought it was just the "terrible twos" and the "torrential threes."

When he was 4, he knew every kid in his class so well; what food they liked, what cartoon character was their favorite, and the order in which their parents came but not one of them would recognize him outside of school.  I figured he was just an observant child, preferring to participate by watching others.

When he was 5 and terrified of going to school, I assumed it was because he was born premature and in late July so I held him back a year to give him time to catch up.

When he was 6, he was constantly getting in trouble at school and at home for not controlling his body.  He would break out into a dance when he was stressed, throw his arms around not paying attention to what or who he was about to hit.  When he kicked the back of my car seat repeatedly no matter how many times I told him he hurt me and when he hit a stranger in the face in the grocery store just a few days later, I decided that this wasn't just a stage and called his doctor.

He has an appointment with a neurologist in October and the wait is killing me.  I of course am running through all of his developmental stages in my head and am wondering if I missed something along the way.  Were they all really just stages or does the behavior add up to a sum greater than its parts?  Am I seeing something that isn't there or has he been battling with something his whole life.  Time will tell, I suppose!  Until then, I deal with the Mommy Guilt...maybe that's just a stage!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Nobody does it better...

I've had several people step up in the last week to help out, and for that I am forever grateful. My brother stayed an extra week to help take care of the kids and Michael. My friend Sam let Mac stay the night so he wouldn't be bored and driving us crazy with Bailey and Robert at school. My mother-in-law is here until I don't need her and she's CLEANING MY HOUSE, tending the kids, and cooking!

But there is something that's not being done and I just can't figure out how to ask for it without feeling selfish. Michael, afterall, is laid up with a shattered ankle and my kids are a parent down. The parent who is laid up, just happens to be the one that takes care of them every day! He also happens to be the one that takes care of me, and does a darn good job. I don't have to ask for what I need, he just seems to know. Even if I did say, "Take care of me already!" I have a feeling that no one would be able to do it as good as he does. No one else knows exactly what I need when I need it...whether its a Mountain Dew when I'm tired or a hug when I'm stressed.

Hurry up and get better baby...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Best Laid Plans

My dear, sweet and clumsy husband was attempting to do a very good thing this week.  He had signed up to be a counselor for our church's children's ministry summer camp.  Five days in Oklahoma, keeping 6 fourth grade boys in line and helping them become closer to the Lord.  Sounds like a good plan, right?

I had prepared in advance too for that whole "daddy being gone" thing.  I got a plane ticket for my younger brother to stay with us for a week.  He just got out of the Navy I've seen him only a handful of times since he left for Recruit Training in 2003.  I get to see my little brother (he may be 26 years old, but he weighs 114 lbs, I can still call him my little brother), my kids get to see their Uncle John and I have help for things like dinners on nights when I work late.  That sounds like a good plan too, right?

Bailey went to camp too, only she would be leaving a day after her daddy.  When she first asked to go, I was totally against it.  Not that I don't think she'll have fun, or that I think she's not ready, it's that I can't wrap my head around my only baby girl being in another state where I can't kiss her on the head right after she dozes off at night.  When the opportunity came for Michael to go to camp as a counselor, the attractive part of that (for me) was that he would be across the parking lot from her and could help her when she's all emotional from missing her mommy.  Honestly, she's probably having a blast and forgetting all about how much she's missing me, but in my mind she's curled into a corner crying that she needs me and that's how it's going to stay; my rules!  While she is gone, I was going to slap a coat of paint or two on her bedroom walls and update her room to look like a tween lives in it.  I had a plan, and a good one too!

You know what "they say" about the best laid plans? 

The counselors went to camp on Tuesday, so I got my brother a flight out for Monday.  He was supposed to leave Jacksonville, FL at 6AM, stop in Chicago for a short layover and then arrive in Little Rock at 10AM.  We would have the day to grocery shop for foods that he likes and that he can prepare for the kids, and he would get to spend some time with Michael before he had to leave.  Storms in Chicago on Monday morning prevented all flights from landing but they didn't stop flights from taking off.  Maybe some of them were delayed, but his connecting flight took off right on time.  When you're connecting flight leaves before your initial flight lands you do not make it to your intended destination on time, no matter how much your sister needs you!  John got on four planes leaving Chicago before one left the ground with him on it.  That flight didn't bring him to Little Rock either, it took him to Fayetteville, AR which is about a 3.5 hour drive from my house and a 1.5 hour flight from Chicago.  It's also very close to my in-laws, Michael's sister lives in Fayetteville and his parents live in the next town over.  My sister-in-law picked him up at the airport and we drove to meet her to pick him up at Michael's parents' house.  After a long and stressful day, things were coming together and I was feeling good!

Michael left Tuesday morning, around 10AM, ready to go spend a week serving the Lord and having fun at the same time.  He got to the camp with knots in his stomach, and almost laid down and took a nap.  Michael has pretty severe PTSD and unfamiliar territory is hard on him.  He said he started to feel sick, nervous, inadequate and unprepared and just wanted to escape those feelings.  When that happens Michael sleeps; at least he usually sleeps.  Tuesday afternoon, he decided to power through.  He acknowledged his fear and pressed on!  I have never been more proud of him than I was when he told me that, because for the last five years he's "not felt well" and slept it off when faced with a challenge instead of facing it.  This time, he faced it!  He went out and did some team building with his fellow counselors and was having a blast.  Then came The Blob!  There was someone on The Blob that needed to be launched!  Michael volunteered and took a running jump off the wooden pier, felt his ankle snap, left the pier, landed on The Blob, felt his ankle dislocate and got off The Blob and fell into the lake.  He wouldn't get out of the lake until everyone else had left the area because he didn't want anyone to get freaked out by his ankle.  I am told there are pictures of it, but I am not sure I want to see since the only description I've heard is that his foot/leg looked like a nine iron.

A nine iron looks like this: nine iron

Two of the counselors, one I've never met and one who is a VERY dear friend took him to the nearest VA Hospital and called me at work when they were en route.  I spoke with Michael and he told me to stay home so that Bailey could catch the van to go to camp on Wednesday.  He obviously forgot for a second who he married in 2003 because I was NOT letting my husband be in a hospital and me not be there.  I called John, who was having a glorious day with the kids, and told him to start packing bags that we were going to Fayetteville again.  Twenty-four hours exactly after we headed to Fayetteville to pick up John, we pulled out of the driveway headed to the Fayetteville VA Hospital!

Michael had to have his leg set twice, once at the VA Hospital with him awake and once at the hospital they sent him to when they couldn't set it.  The ER doc made it clear that he needed to see a surgeon as soon as possible, but he recommended we see a doctor in Little Rock so he could have surgery closer to home.  They discharged him once he could get around on crutches and we went to his parents' house and slept like logs for about 3 hours because he was determined that I was taking Bailey to camp and he was going with me.  We also had to go get our Mini-Van which was still at the camp in Oklahoma.  

Getting ready to get out the door was stressful.  Bailey isn't a morning person anyway, she was tired, disoriented and trying to get ready in a house that is not ours.  I am not a morning person, and not only was I emotional and tired but I felt like I was at the end of my very frazzled rope.  John is not a morning person, and it seems to take him about 45 minutes to get ready and he had to go with us to drive the van back.

I was trying to get Michael in to see a surgeon in Little Rock on Thursday so we could have a relaxing trip to take Bailey to camp and get back home.  The ankle surgeon isn't in Little Rock on Thursday, and they could see Michael at 4PM.  It was already pushing 9AM when the realization hit that we did not have enough minutes to get her to camp in Oklahoma and him to the doctor in Little Rock unless someone hit the gas pedal and quickly.  This was not a good time to find out that no one had checked Bailey's bag to make sure she had packed everything.  She had no soap, shampoo, brush, or underwear; one bra and her toothbrush but no toothpaste.  I'm pretty sure at this point I started screaming at everyone, including my Mother-In-Law, which was not good.  I could see how urgent it was that we leave IMMEDIATELY, but no one else seemed to be motivated to make it happen and I was playing phone tag with the doctor's office.  It was suggested that Bailey not get to go to camp because Michael's ankle was the priority, but Michael nor I would stand for that.  Kids come first around here most days, and that's just how it is.  I mean how else are they supposed to learn to put others first if we don't model that by putting their needs ahead of our own.  Besides, camp cost $225 and we could not get our money back if she didn't go.  She was getting there, and Michael was getting to his appointment and I needed the adults surrounding me to help that happen or get out of the way.  

We did get in the car before 10, stopped at Wal-Mart to get underwear and bras for Bailey and got to camp around 11.  Michael wanted to see his co-counselors so we visited for a few minutes with me internally struggling between needing to get on the road and not wanting to leave Bailey until I was sure she was settled.    We left a little bit before noon, which set off another panic because it was over 200 miles and we had just four hours to drive it.  One accident on the interstate, one traffic jam in rush hour, or one too many bathroom trips and we would miss Michael's appointment.

Once I got the car on the open road, I calmed and remembered what good therapy driving is for me.  As Michael drifted in and out of sleep, I spent some time reflecting on what an amazing husband the Lord sent me.  He usually puts others needs ahead of his own, even in severe injury.  It's what made him a good Soldier for 22 years and makes him a good Father, Servant*, and Husband today.  He got through a stressful time, without shutting down, with PTSD that was not only difficult but it was painful I am sure.  While I prayed, thanking the Lord for him, it literally felt like the car was being carried, we didn't have any problems on the trip and we didn't even hit traffic where they are working on the interstate.

We made it to his doctor's appointment with 45 minutes to spare, took a minute to collect ourselves and went straight to the waiting area.  They took Michael's splint off to do another x-ray and examine his leg.  The surgeon came in, looked at the x-rays, visibly gagged, and got straight to the point.  He should have had surgery Tuesday night before the swelling started.  Since he didn't and the ankle is really swollen, he has to come home and put his foot up for a week, for surgery next week.  He will have more titanium in his leg when they are finished than the nine iron his leg resembled the day before, and he will take a long time to heal properly.  They put a new splint on him and I brought him home.  

The ordeal isn't over, and the next few weeks is going to take some careful planning.  Luckily, I have learned to roll with the punches when needed, because we all know what happens when we make plans.  Basically, the new "plan" is to plan for things to not go as planned.  That should work, right?

*Although Michael is a Stay At Home Dad, when I refer to him as a Servant I do not mean he serves us.  Michael is a true Servant of the Lord and he does that by seeing a need and filling it and serving the people who God loves.  I love him for it!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Pensacola, Hometown and Birthplace of...

This last week, all the eyes in the world were on Emmitt Smith.  If you didn't catch the episode of Homecoming or the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony then either YouTube it or break into your neighbor's house* and watch it on their DVR, odds are one of your neighbors has recorded them both.  If you watched (or after you do) you learned something.  You learned that a big guy can be emotional.  You learned that Pensacola, FL was an awesome place to grow up.  You learned that Dwight Thomas was a great football coach, and you learned that Emmitt Smith came from an amazing family with a Mother and Father who loved him immensely and raised him to be a fine young man first and that being a football player was way down on the list of priorities (after chores and homework).

But see, I already knew all of that.  Anyone who went to Escambia High School did.  Anyone who watched Emmitt grow from a boy to a man in what we called the "Gator Bowl," with the band playing "When You're Hot You're Hot" every time he crossed the goal line, already learned more from Emmitt and the rest of the Smith family than you could ever learn watching two TV programs.

From his mother, we learned to show up.  She was there for almost every football game, from the days when her boys were playing for Steve Vick at the Salvation Army until each of them retired their helmet for good.   I can't imagine the frequent flyer miles she racked up being there for every little event.  Yes ma'am, Mary Smith was there for her kids and from her we learned that the most important thing you can do as a mother is to be there for everything.

From his father, we learned to sacrifice, work hard and put our family first.  He gave up a career in football to take care of his mom.  He still works as a bus driver in Pensacola and should retire this year.  He played semipro football at age 40, when his boys were playing ball at EHS.

From his brothers and sisters, we learned to rise out of the shadow cast by a successful sibling and be our own person.

Emmitt learned all of those things too.  He rose from the shadows of the Pensacola projects,  he sacrificed and worked hard, and what I remember most about Emmitt, besides his ability to carry guys twice his size into the end-zone, is that he showed up.  When a 7 year old little boy crawled up into his lap at the Pizza Hut in Warrington after a Friday night football game and asked Emmitt if he would teach him to run the football when he started playing the following fall (Emmitt's Senior year), he said he would and a year later he showed up.  When the trainer from the EHS football team was in a hospital in Gainesville while Emmitt was playing for UF, all he wanted was for Emmitt to come see him and Emmitt showed up.  That little boy was my brother, and the trainer for the EHS football team was my cousin. When he was a Senior, and close to breaking some record (I don't know which one, there were so many and I was in the 7th grade, so my memory is fuzzy), I remember him sitting out while his brother, Erik, ran the ball.  Emmitt Smith put his family first, even when he was a kid.

I met Emmitt a few times at Pizza Hut after football games and once when he was sitting in the stands at EHS watching Emory play.  I might have had had three conversations with Erik in high school although he was a good friend to my cousin.  Emory was in my class but I only remember one encounter with him, at an EHS football game against Pine Forest High School when we were in Middle School (I was cold and he put Emmitt's letter jacket, which swallowed me, over my shoulders.  It barely fit him and he was in the EIGHTH GRADE).  I am sure that none of them could recall those encounters or the little bitty blonde girl with big hair that started cheering them on when she was in Elementary School, but as a proud Pensacola native, I will never forget what the Smith family taught us all.

They taught us to live greatly, to attempt great things and expect great results.  They taught us to take every opportunity that life has to offer and never let anyone tell you that you can't do something.  They taught us to sacrifice for family and to work hard.  We learned to show up, and be there for every event in our kids' lives no matter how small because small things add up to greatness.  Personally, I aim to follow their example and to live in such a way, that at the end of my life God will look down on the city where I grew up and He will say, "That's Pensacola, hometown and birthplace of Ginny Starkie Heisler...and Emmitt Smith."

*I, Ginny Heisler, wish to state publicly and for the record that I do not recommend breaking into your neighbor's house for any reason, even to watch the best Hall of Fame Speech EVER!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A little talk w/ Momma...

I have this song stuck in my head about three or four times a week.  It's "Have a Little Talk With Jesus," which is an old Gospel song that I remember singing in church when I was a child.  It went something like this:

                      "(Now let us) Have a little talk with Jesus.  (We will) Tell him all about our troubles.  (He will) hear our fainted cry (and he will) answer by and by.  (You will) Hear a little prayer wheel turning and know a little fire is burning.  (You will) find a little talk with Jesus makes it right!"

My nine year old Bailey, had a really rough day today.  First her daddy broke down her reef tank, which she worked really hard on and finally had a stable ecosystem after almost a year and a half of figuring out the chemistry.  The upside is that after we paint her room next week she'll be getting a bigger tank, but the downside is that she watched all the corals she has grown herself walk out the door today and go back to the fish store.  What she didn't know, was what waited for her when she got home was going to be far worse.

Bailey is an animal lover, and I mean that in the strongest sense possible.  She won't even eat animal flesh unless she doesn't have any choice, plus she personally has 5 pets that she cares for, not counting the reef tank, and she does a great job.  This spring we got her a second Parrotlet, which is a tiny little bird w/ a BIG personality, and she named her AJ.  AJ and Bailey were instantly best buds and Bailey would spend a lot of time playing with her and loving on her.  Today, when she got home from dropping her corals off at the fish store she got AJ out to play.  AJ didn't respond with as much energy as she usually would and Bailey knew something was wrong.  She called to her daddy, who tried to help but it was too late.  AJ died in Bailey's hands.  The hardest part, is we have no idea why and we may never know, but this playful and sweet little bird was certainly not with us long enough.

I was out with my friend and her baby when I called Michael and he said I had better get here because AJ was dying, and I nearly broke my neck to get home.  I was too late to do anything for AJ, but I came in just in time to have some time with Bailey.  We had a talk about loss and death, I shared some personal stories that I believe she is old enough to hear about losing things that you really want only to find something better around the corner, and how some losses stay with us forever but the pain can heal with time and love.  She cheered up a little right away, and we headed out to the store.

When we got home she was moping again so I asked her if she wanted to help cook dinner.  We had a blast cooking for her daddy and she did such a good job.  She even made gravy by herself.  We talked, about why it was important for a girl to know how to cook a steak properly and other trivial things, we laughed, at why boys are so silly and we thoroughly enjoyed the look on her daddy's face when he tasted the steak she helped cook.  At that moment, I felt like the best mom in the whole world.  

The truth is, my daughter will face more pain and heartbreak as a teenager and a young woman than her little nine year old brain can ever imagine.  I would love to spare her that pain, but I know what she has to look forward to.  There are no certainties in this life but she will lose a best friend, watch her grandparents grow week and feeble, break up with the boy she wants to spend the rest of her life with, and God only knows what else.  I hope she knows that no matter what happens and no matter how old she is that she can always come "Have a Little Talk" with Momma.  It may not make things right, but I believe today we both learned that it can make things better.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Advice for a New Mom

I am not the perfect mother.  I'm not even an expert in the mothering department.  What I am, is a mother who survived three babies, toddlers, preschoolers and lived to tell about it.  I don't remember much of it, because it all flew by so freaking fast, but I have survived the first 9 years of motherhood with my sanity mostly intact.

Today, and every Friday until she finds a full-time nanny, I'm going to be helping my dear friend care for her baby.  I'm looking forward to getting my baby fix, and she's hoping to LEARN from me.  Since I'm the only person she knows locally who has survived the whole baby raising thing I feel a little pressure, internally, to not steer her in the wrong direction.  I did mention that the first 9 years of motherhood has flown by and I don't remember much, right?  I haven't changed a diaper in years, don't remember the last time I mixed formula (my babies preferred momma milk), and while she desperately wants to get him on a schedule, my kids still aren't on one.

I do remember a few things, now that I've retrieved my thinking cap from under the couch.

1) My kids forgot to read the baby books and did nothing babies were "supposed to do" when they were "supposed to do it."

2) I never slept at night even when they slept.

3) I didn't take enough pictures!

4) I didn't take enough naps!

5) I didn't have enough arms!

6) I never felt so much love!

7) I didn't pray enough!

8) I worried too much!

9) I always felt like I was doing everything wrong!

10) My babies loved me anyway!

Wow, that wasn't so hard!  Maybe I can get through the day without trying to convince her to leave him for the wolves to raise!

Introduction to the Heislers

We are the Heislers couldn't be prouder, if you can't hear us we'll say it a little louder!

That's my job, to be the family cheerleader!  To keep the people I love the most from giving up when odds are against them.  We have a lot to cheer about, but we also have our trials.  My cheerleader voice has gotten hoarse a time or two, but luckily God hears a whispered prayer when I just can't muster a cheer.

Michael and I have been married since 2003, we met in February and got married in December.  It was definitely a whirlwind romance!  While I don't believe in fate or love at first site, I do believe there is one person in the world that God designed perfectly with me in mind.  I also believe that Michael is that person.  He is currently in the Army National Guard, although he's trying to retire and has been since 2008.  He stays home with the kids and runs the house, is an amazing dad who graciously leaves the mothering to me.  He's a tough guy who does laundry, dishes and cleans floors (told you he was perfect for me).

Bailey, Robert and Maclain are the little apples of my eye and you'll get to know them, I promise.  They keep me in stitches, and on my toes.  The best way to describe how it feels to mother them, "I love them the most," and I tell them so every night when I tuck them in.