THE GIFT

I wrote this back in July. I think it’s message for our new Commander-and-Chief, is an important one.

I have been trying to write this “Independence Day” message for a couple of weeks. And frankly, I have been struggling. Then, a new connection on LinkedIn sent me a message and through our exchange, I was inspired. If not me, who? I wrote at the end of my message, a reference to the firework displays. The veterans who have seen war, who have fought battles, our warriors, struggle during those fifteen minutes of, “Bombs Bursting in Air.” For many it is terrifying. The noise can throw them back in time when there were real bombs exploding, real danger, real loss of life, real friends dead. We are a young country with many wounds to heal. But, we are strong and need compassionate leaders.

Out history of the emphasis we put on this day of the year, to celebrate our nations freedom, to honor all veterans from that first day when we declared ourselves an independent nation in 1776, is phenomenal! We are a young nation at 240 years. But, we are a strong nation who needs strong leaders.

There will be family reunions, picnics, barbecues, parades, concerts, and baseball games in every backyard, small town, city, and state where people can gather. Th months of preparations for this single day, to show our patriotism is nothing short of monumental. We are a young country. But, we are strong and need righteous leaders.

This one day of the year has been stretched into a week, or more, of honoring our veterans in various ways. All the ball parks have a veteran throwing out that first pitch. There are charitable organizations honoring veterans with special events. And some families are gathering to remember the one that won’t be with them this year…We are a young nation, but, we are strong and the price has been high. We need honorable leaders.

All this attention to the veterans walking among us today, warms my heart deeper than any of you will ever know. Some of you have similar feelings from your own circumstances, and some of you stand proud that one of yours has given their livesvso we can keep this day of freedom sacred. We honor you too… This is a day about remembering the price as well as the gift. Yes, the gift. The gift of freedom all veterans fought for, and are still fighting for today. This gift of freedom…all gave some, and some gave all.

Remember this Mr. President.

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Walmart & Sam’s Clubs – Way Back When

Announcing my eBook,  Walmart & Sam’s Clubs – Way Back When, The only regional chain that became a national powerhouse, is now available! It’s a 30 minute read about the chapter in my life with Mr. Sam.

History was made!

I began with Walmart in 1975 during the set up of store #125 in Fort Smith, Arkansas. When I moved to the offices in Bentonville, I was the first associate assigned to start up the Sam’s Club division under the direction of Mr. Sam.

The easiest way to find it is to search my name, Diana Mankin Phelps, on the Amazon Kindle site. It’s free through their Kindle Unlimited program – 30 day free trial.

The Kindle app can be downloaded on any computer, laptop, tablet or cell phone.

Its a 30 minute read about the chapter of my life with Mr. Sam, and the beginning of the Clubs.

Enjoy the read! And don’t forget to leave me your feedback!

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You Are What You Are, Until Your Not

We are all born with unique talents and specific desires. Some of us are outgoing while others are quite, shy and withdrawn. Those who are comfortable talking to strangers and enjoy being in the middle of whatever is going on, are envied by those who would never want to be in the position of having to engage in conversation with people they don’t know. They don’t “mingle.” 

You know who I am talking about. You remember them from childhood. They were the ones who tried to hide behind the student sitting in front of them in the classroom, for fear of being called upon by the teacher. Do others even notice these timid, low-self-esteemed individuals? I’ve often wondered if those raising their hands every chance they get, even notice those who hide.

I was one of these introverted individuals. I can hear some of you doubting this. But, if you knew me when I had someone to hide behind, then you know this to be true. I didn’t have to talk or explain anything because there was always someone else to do that for me. I was told once that I seemed to disappear when more outgoing people would enter a room. And I did. I couldn’t imagine that anyone would want to hear what I thought, or had to say about anything. I was not important. I was of no value as a person. So, I stayed in the shadows of life. I was who I was.

Three things happened to change who I believed myself to be. The first thing was that I felt valued as an employee. I was good at what I did. I began to like myself. Secondly, the people I would “hide” behind were removed from my life. Again, I liked the person I was without them. Then the most significant, and most tragic, event changed who I was in an instant.

I was no longer anyone except who I needed to be at that time. I was a mother of a wounded warrior. He hurt. I hurt. He struggled. I struggled. He cried, I cried. He needed support. I gave support. He needed help. I looked for help. He needed to talk. I listened or found someone he could talk with. If I didn’t have the answers, then I went looking for them. I wasn’t anything close to being all that my son needed. But, I tried. I wasn’t who I had been. I was more.

I believe that no matter how you see yourself, no matter how important or insignificant you saw yourself in the past, who you are begins today. I’m not saying it’s easy to jump out from behind those doors you’ve been hiding behind. I know it is not. I was good at hiding. And I did not want to turn that door knob.

All I’m trying to say is be brave enough to “shine.” Wherever you are, whatever is going on in your family, however you are perceived to be in the workplace, it all comes down to you. You must begin to like the person you are, where you are. Step out from behind the wall you find comfort behind and “shine.” Just one little sparkle at a time. I know you can.

If I could stand back up and fight every time I’ve been knocked down, then you can too. Oh, it’s not easy. You are allowed to shout, cry, be angry and feel so low that the grass will grow over you. But, then it’s time to get up. It is time to stand, to stand tall, to shake it off and take that first step, over and over again. No matter how many times you are knocked down, get back up and stand taller. You can do it, one step at a time and as time goes by you will feel stronger, better, taller. Just concentrate on your “one step at a time.” No more hiding. that part of who you were is gone.

It is a process that repeats itself. You stand up and you are knocked down again. But, each time you grow. You never lose, you grow, you learn. Your steps will change and your choices will be wiser.

You are who you are, until you’re not, until you choose to be more.

 

 

 

The Family

On September 29th your daughter passed on, she is gone. You were holding her only a couple of hours ago. Your heart doesn’t want to accept what you know to be true… But, she will always live in your heart. Your memories keep her alive. Now,  you are the ones who must make the decisions, you must make the choices, the arrangements. It’s so hard to comprehend…so many things must be finalized…

My daughter passed over on September 27, 1978. I thought about my Amanda as I drove to Kansas. There is nothing worse than the waiting. I will never forget the feeling of being led from one place to another to make arrangements for her funeral. I felt like I was in a bad dream watching events unfold that hurt to much to be true.

When I looked at my phone, after spending a couple of hours painting yesterday morning, I saw the text with bad news from my cousin in Wichita, KS.. My Aunt Dody was spending the week with her son, Jerry. I called him back and my aunt Dody was still with him. They were still waiting on word about the funeral. I got in my car and arrived just in time for lunch. I stayed for several hours. Mainly, I wanted to keep my sweet aunt from worrying while we waited for the phone to ring. I really enjoyed all of us sitting around the table talking…remembering.

My aunt was the girls step-great grandmother, my cousins, Lew Ann and Lonnie were her grandparents, she was our family and she was loved. We felt her loss deeply, when she passed as a result of disabilities that she could no longer overcome. A couple of hours later the call came with all the information about the funeral arrangements. The unknowing was over. Plans could be made.

This child, who is whole and healthy now in a way she never knew in this life, was born with her disability. She lived with it for 18 (maybe 19) years, which was remarkable in it’s self. She didn’t have the use of her legs and she had a trach, which made it difficult for her to speak. But, that didn’t stop her from talking in short sentences, She would say hello and thank you when you told her how pretty she looked.

She was a blessing! She was always happy and she enjoyed being with family all around, especially at Christmas time. My aunt Dody sat with her for a couple of hours just two weeks ago. She was glad that she had that time with her, just the two of them. She was teaching her to  embroidery and they played some games. It is a good memory for my aunt to have.

All of this adds up to a Young Lady who brought joy into everyone else’s life in spite of her disability. I was a very lucky person to have spent some time with this special Young Lady. If you were lucky enough to have known her and seen her sweet smile. Or have been touched by her life story, you would know what a special person she truly was. We will miss her…

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My Amanda

July 30, 1978-September 27, 1978

 

My daughter would have been 38 years old today. I held her for nearly two months before she drifted away… I have been asked many times about the loss of a child so young; a child of any age. Maybe even more so since Aaron was so gravely injured. And I opened that door when I wrote about Amanda in my book. Questions like; How did you survive the loss of a child? Do you think they remain infants in Heaven? Or, do you think they age as the years go by? Surviving any loss is a personal journey that isn’t like anyone elses. There is no right way or wrong way to “get on with life.” And it can take years before we even want to begin to pull ourselves up again. On some days, I think of Amanda as an infant in my arms-rocking her in the nursery that was always shaded by the fullness of the flowering Mimosa trees outside the window. On other days, I imagine her as an adult. But, always she is my baby child…always I miss her…

I have no answers, no understanding, one day I will…

When a child is born, and stays but a short time in this life, angles wings seem to surround them, protect them, comfort them. It is as tho for those first few weeks, they exist between where they came from and this world where they have been born. We hold them tenderly, watching quietly as their sleeping faces slowly smile, grin broadly, cooing-speaking in the language of the heavens. Then, with a rich assurance of familiarity, reveal to us the Devine presence that fills their dreams. That glimpse from where they came, is what we hold onto. Somewhere deep within our own soul-no words to describe-we come to understand…they could not stay…they were not meant to stay…it hurts…it always hurts…it gets a little  easier as time passes…but, it still hurts…it will always hurt…

Baby blue, were the color of her eyes. Like a breath of Spring she came and left, and I still don’t know why…

My Amanda…

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Daddy On My Mind

My daddy is always with me. He was always the one who I could count on to be in my corner, to be there with an encouraging word and to show me his forgiving heart no matter what I had done. He was the example of unconditional love throughout my life.

I learned from my daddy what it was to be a parent, a friend, a companion, and most of all-how to love unconditionally. The memories I hold dear are the ones when my daddy had an arm around my shoulders. When I was half his size we would go for walks in the evening after dinner. Just him and me-slowly walking to the corner of our street in Fresno, California. That big hand resting on my shoulder made me proud. I felt his pride in me too.

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My dad was the oldest of three boys. A little James Dean look going on here.IMG_0429

On his side of the family I was the first girl, the first granddaughter on both sides of my family. And I was a prissy little girl.Scan 7

My daddy was always watching as I grew, teaching me to walk, holding my bike as he taught me to ride, sitting in the passenger seat as I learned to drive a car, and as I grew into an adult.

My daddy was not one to talk a lot about anything. He was a quite man, a strong man, a man of convictions when it came to family. When he did say something to someone about me, about my job with Walmart, about me working to start the Sam’s Clubs, there was pride in his voice. It made me proud to hear his pride in me. I guess that has always been the most important thing in my world-for my daddy to be proud of me.

I cherished the four mile walks that we took when I would go back home for a visit. We would get up before anyone in the house would stir. My three children would sleep another hour or so as daddy and I would head out the door. Those times were when we could talk about anything, and it never went any further.

When my baby girl passed, daddy held me even when I couldn’t sobbed anymore. He tried to pull the pain out of me and take it on himself, so I wouldn’t hurt. When my big brother passed, (he was two years older than me) daddy was the one who held me as we sobbed together. He tried to pull the pain out of me and take it on himself, again.

Then daddy passed…I could still feel his arms holding me…and I’m sure I always will…

 

 

THE MIRROR TEST

When the mail came one day about two weeks ago, my husband dropped  magazines, some ad papers, and two packages at my feet. I reached down to pick one of the packages up, thinking they were some quilting supplies I had ordered. But, as I lifted one of them off the floor it was obviously a book. The second package was addressed to Aaron.

I had been contacted several months earlier by a marine who had met Aaron in 2009. Reece Lodder was having trouble getting hold of Aaron, so, he reached out to me. He was trying to obtain permission for the use of some photos and quotes for a book that he was helping to edit and research. I sent a text to Aaron and he did not object. Over the next couple of months, Reece and I exchanged several emails as I continued to give permission on Aaron’s behalf. But, he never reveled the title or content of this book, which I found admix that pile of magazines and advertisements.

The book I held in my hands was THE MIRROR TEST, by J. Kael Weston. When I opened the cover I found a note on the title page:

Dear Diana,

Thank you for writing your book and for your help in support of this one. Families like yours make this nation great. 

Sincerely,

Kael Weston                                  (See page 438) OP Mend Ch.

I had no idea that he had been in touch with UCLA Operation Mend. I was flipping  through pages, wondering what was on page 438, and eager to read the chapter he had dedicated to the organization that had done so much for Aaron. I read through the pages where Kael had interviewed Ron and Dana Katz. Then, I was overwhelmed, speechless, I literally stopped breathing for a moment, when I came to the paragraph that started,  Diana Mankin Phelps, Aaron’s mother…My name in this book…what an honor. I’m humbled… On the designated page, he mentioned my book, A Mother’s Side of War, along with a couple of quotes from me. The last sentence in this paragraph told that I also maintain a blog, this blog, Writing To Heal

J. Kael Weston represented the United States for more than ten years as a State Department official. He received one of their highest awards, the Secretary of State’s Medal of Heroism, that acknowledged his multi-year work in Fallujah with Marines.

The first sentence in the Preface reads; ” I first met Marine Corporal Aaron Mankin in Fallujah in early 2005, just before he lost most of his face in the Iraq War.” You can see how this book grabbed my attention. He goes on to describe Aaron as, “professional in bearing, with cobalt eyes, square jaw, high-and-tight haircut, showed maturity and possessed an eloquence that belied his youthful age.” Aaron’s story of injury and healing is just one thread throughout this book about war and resilience. But it is so much more, as the author turns the mirror on our nation, on our policies and directives, how we look at our country, and how others see us.

THE MIRROR TEST is something that you may have heard Aaron talk about in his interviews and speeches. How he willingly ignored the mirror in his hospital room for weeks, not wanting to see the truth of his injuries. And after the tears, after the anger, after his realization that who he is on the inside had not been changed, and finally with acceptance as he embraced that figure in the mirror – Aaron passed THE MIRROR TEST.

Kael spent seven years on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. He landed in Baghdad in 2003 and was embedded with the marines by 2004 in Fallujah. This book is important, essential, for us to understand the other sides of war. The side of the civilians who lived in a country devastated by war, the side of Iraq’s political advisors to us, the side of Iraq’s military who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with our service men and women, the side of those who were given-assigned-the task of rebuilding a nation and her communities, and the side that describes the emotional toll on all, are just a few of the reasons why this book is one that had to be written. And must be read!

THE MIRROR TEST – J. KAEL WESTON 

Release Date-May 24, 2016

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My Big Brother

My brother, Keith Alan Lindsey, would have been 64 today. He passed very unexpectedly 15 years ago, leaving the love of his life and two daughters. I can’t tell you how heartbroken, confused and just plain angry I was when I got that call. We were all inconsolable… He had a military service as he was in the Air Force before he finished his Masters Degree.

My brother was two years older than me, and bigger than life in my eyes. For the first few years of my life he was my world. It broke my heart when he started school, leaving me without a companion, a playmate. I would stand, with my mother, at the end of our driveway and watch for him to come over the hill on his way back home. We were living in Cortez, Colorado on the outskirts of an Indian reservation. I spent a lot of my time while Keith was in school watching the women, with their babies tied on their backs, as they walked by our home.

Keith was on this earth for 49 years, and touched more lives than anyone I know. I’ll bet he even touched each of your lives. If you have ever gone to the post office and looked at the screen showing how much your package weighs, or how much you owe, my Keith did that. He brought the US Postal Service into the world of technology. (Granted there have been many upgrades since he first brought them online.)

My brother and his family spent approximately 14 months, maybe longer, in India. Keith had the task of teaching their technicians how to read and maintain their countries very first weather satellite. Predicting and warning India when the devastating monsoons would come, saved countless lives.

In the years before he passed, Keith was heavily involved with NASA and the International Space Station. He was working on the power systems. He traveled to other countries who were assigned to make pieces of the power systems to make sure they all fit together properly. As the space station evolved, Keith would teach the astronauts how to install each piece as it was sent up on the shuttle. To get that weightless effect, they would go down in a ninety foot deep pool. That is how Keith, a certified diver, would teach them.

Keith was one who sat in those arenas at NASA watching the astronauts as they worked. He would often call our mother to tell her about each mission and its success. I remember one call when he told her they only lost one wrench that floated away, lost in space.

All in all, I’m very proud to be the sister of this incredible man!

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Unlike Any Other Day

Mothers Day is such a spacial time of year.

We not only take the time to tell our mothers how much we appreciate and love them, but we think about our children and who they have grown to be.

We reminisce on our own childhoods, our brothers and sisters, our friends, and our relationships with our mothers growing up. We remember the stories our mothers told us about what it was like when they were growing up.

It’s really a day about family. The ones who are gone and those that we watch as they live their lives everyday. The mothers our daughters are, and the fathers our sons have become, are in our thoughts.

All those whom we hold deep within our own hearts, our family, our friends, and those who have become family to us, are thought of on this special day.

This Mothers Day, which is unlike any other day of the year.

Remember Our Women Service Members

It seems to be easy to think about this nations wounded as men who are on the front lines fighting, traveling through war zones, or trying to keep peace in counties trying to establish their own democracy. But, they are not alone.

The women who serve our country, our sisters, daughters, mothers, wives, or friends, are with them in those far away places. As of December 2013, there were 214,000 active duty and 118,781 reserve women serving in all branches of our military. They are often put in perilous danger. And many have died or been wounded too.

These are the most recent statistics I could find. In December of 2013 the VA stopped releasing the number of non-fatal casualties of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. All that can be said with any certainty is that as of that date more than 900,000 service men and women had been treated at VA hospitals and clinics since returning from these war zones, and the monthly rate of new patients as of the end of 2012 was around 10,000.

In the continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan more than 283,000 women have been deployed to these two countries. More than 800 female service members have been wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan. And 146 women have given their lives while serving against the war on terrorism. 110 of these women died as a result of serving in Iraq.

Although the prohibition against serving in combat was lifted in 1994 for women service members, it has been the policy to exclude women from ground combat units. However, in Iraq and Afghanistan, women have served as foot soldiers during door-to-door operations and they have been in convoy escort missions. About 20,000 women are still serving, mostly in Afghanistan.

So, remember our women service members. They too have given much, given some, or have given all, so we can continue to live our lives with our freedoms.

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