While You’re Gone

I’ll take care of things while you’re gone.

I’ll take out the trash on Thursday mornings. I’ll fill up the gas tank. I’ll call maintenance when the water heater breaks. I’ll cook dinner for one (and a half).

I’ll match and fold her too-tight pajamas. I’ll be her audience at bath time. I’ll chase her down and wipe her nose. I’ll go down the biggest, steepest slide at the park with her.

I’ll take care of things while you’re gone, the things you take care of.

Because while you’re gone, the seasons will change. While you’re gone, the pink blossoms on our tree out front will come and go. I’ll chase the mother robin away from building a nest in the front porch light. The grass will fill in green in the bald spots in the backyard. You’ll miss the allergy season while you’re gone (lucky).

But other things will change too. While you’re gone, her feet will get bigger. While you’re gone, she’ll learn a hundred new words. She’ll feed herself with a spoon. Her hair will get longer. She’ll outgrow the clothes she’s in now. Her face will look more and more girlish.

While you’re gone, she’ll steal my phone and lock me out of it at least four dozen times. She’ll throw 100 tantrums. She’ll bonk her head on the coffee table at least once a day. She’ll pull on the doggie’s tail and play in her water bowl like it’s a kiddie pool.

And while you’re gone, she’ll only get to see you on a phone screen. She’ll hear you calling her name through a speaker. She won’t understand why you’re gone until she’s much older.

While you’re gone, you’re gonna miss her like crazy. You’ll miss the tickles and the tantrums, the teething and the toy-throwing, the walks to the park and the dirty diapers.

People don’t take those things into account when they think about deployments.

So honey, I’ll take care of her while you’re gone.

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How the Hakuna Matata Generation Totally Misread ‘The Lion King’

Hakuna Matata,
What a wonderful phrase,
Hakuna Matata,
Ain’t no passing craze,

It means no worries, for the rest of your days!

…Right?

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Bear with me here. Because I’m about to take your childhood and point out a blemish in it that you won’t be able to unsee.

The Lion King is my #1 favorite film of all time. I have Rafiki’s painting of Simba tattooed on my foot. I know the entire script by heart. Yes, I’m completely, unashamedly in love with a children’s animated film. I think there are worse things to be a fan of. So, I’ve sat quietly with a realization, assuming I must either be crazy or wrong. But I can sit quietly no longer.

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You guys, Hakuna Matata is not what The Lion King is about.

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Take a deep breath. In. And out.

I know what you’re doing. You’re thinking about that neon orange and turquoise Hakuna Matata poster hanging in your room when you were a kid. You glance over at the vintage style Hakuna Matata tank top hanging in your closet that you wear when you’re feeling particularly playful. And you remember back to when you had a Hakuna Matata icon on your Myspace page back in 2006 and you thought you were so cool.

But here’s the thing. If you think the real message of Simba’s bildungsroman tale is to learn to let all of his worries go and live a life free of responsibility, you are wrong.

Let’s flesh this out, cause I can feel your rage building.

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Spoiler alert: Simba’s dad dies.

I actually fast forward through this scene because it gets harder every time I watch it. Parenthood has ruined me. Simba is so young and naïve he doesn’t understand Mufasa is really gone. Tears galore. Anyway, in walks Uncle Scar and he’s all, “Simba, what have you done?” “If it weren’t for you he’d still be alive.” Real traumatizing stuff. Simba asks what he should do at this point, and Scar tells him to run away.

Here’s the first lesson Simba learns in response to crisis: Run away. Run away from the issue, run away from your responsibilities, run away from your fears and your grief.

So out of the Pride Lands he runs. Little lion cub doesn’t know how to cope with losing everything he’s ever known. In charges a comic relief duo Timon & Pumbaa, who can sense his depression.

“Look kid, bad things happen. And you can’t do anything about it, right?”
“Right.”
“WRONG. When the world turns its back on you, you turn your back on the world.”
“Well that’s not what I was taught…”

This is important. Simba knows he was raised better than these hippies.

“Then maybe you need a new lesson. Repeat after me. Ahem. HAKUNA MATATA.”

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It means no worries for the rest of your days.
It’s our problem-free philosophy.
These two words’ll solve all your problems!

Here’s the second lesson Simba learns about dealing with grief: let it go. Turn your back on your problems and your past, and just let it go. While this philosophy may have helped him to get over that initial pain of losing his father, this isn’t a healthy long-term solution.

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So then we get a super fun growing-up montage, watching Simba grow from cub to awkward teen and full-maned young adult, shedding away the endearing Jonathan Taylor Thomas character and embracing a whole new Matthew Broderick persona. He has gone full Hakuna Matata – eating paleo, growing out the beard, swinging on vines without a worry in the world. Man, that looks fun! What a cool, hip, carefree lifestyle!

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BUT WAIT. Timon and Pumbaa crack up when Simba recalls a tender memory from his childhood, about how the stars in the sky are the great kings of the past. He brushes it off, no worries, right? But it does bother him. He awkwardly walks off and we know his past is still haunting him. As much as he’s tried to embrace this carefree lifestyle, he knows this isn’t who he is. Clearly those two words haven’t solved all his problems.

Nala. Romance. Hammocks. Arguing. Squash Banana. Jungle running.

Cloud Dad!

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This is the most important scene of the movie. Gets me every time. Here’s what Cloudfasa’s got to say to his son from the stars:

Simba. You have forgotten me. You have forgotten who you are, and so, forgotten me. Look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become. You must take your place in the Circle of Life. Remember who you are. You are my son, and the one true King. Remember who you are.

If there’s a theme in the movie, it’s in James Earl Jones’ immortal voice. Don’t walk away from your past. You have responsibilities to your family, to your home, to who you really are. You have to stop running, and get back to real life. NOT HAKUNA MATATA.

“Ah yes, the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it!”

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So what does Simba do? He runs back to the Pride lands. He goes home, defeats Scar, climbs Pride Rock (fun fact: I walked down the aisle at my wedding to the music that plays here) and takes his place as King. He shed away his hippie years, and embraced maturity and the true message of the film: Remember who you are.

As much as I have wanted to buy Lion King merchandise, I can’t bring myself to if it has Hakuna Matata written on it. It’s just not what the movie is about. It’s a song in the movie. It’s a side track in the main story line. In fact, its a speed bump that holds the protagonist back from solving his problems and defeating his crazy uncle. It’s a broken philosophy that is practically an enemy in itself.

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I apologize if you feel that your past has been shattered. You can sing the song. I’ll still join you. But this is a point that needed to be made. Disney, please don’t get mad at me.

If anything, I hope this made you want to take 1 hour and 29 minutes out of your day to watch the movie for yourself in this new light. I promise it will actually make you love it more, if that is even possible.

Now, I was determined to keep this post pure escapism and not add any political undertones. But here’s the thing guys, America is going through a similar adolescent grief to Simba right now. We’re confused, misguided, losing sight of who we really are. Some of us want to run away from it, some of us want to ignore the problem. But the right thing to do is continue fighting, and remember what we really believe in. Don’t get dragged down into the negativity. Don’t let yourself become ignorant to reality. You have a kingdom to protect.

Remember to look at the stars. And always, always, remember who you are.
(a baboon … and I’m not)

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When You Hate Where You Live

So here’s the thing. When my husband found out which plane he would be working with in the Air Force, there were a handful of bases we could have been stationed to. Some decent, some close to home, some meh. Nebraska was the bottom of our list. It was our last choice. And that’s where we’ve been planted.

Maybe it’s because I grew to really love the South. Maybe it’s because my family is there. Maybe it’s because I fell in love there, started my adult life there, became me there. But here just just not home to me.

I don’t like the weather, or the layout of the city, or the people. I don’t like that it’s not trendy, it’s not fun, it’s different. For goodness’ sake, we don’t have a Moe’s here…

And I could sit here for days… months… years… and continue to complain about where we’ve been stationed because I’ve decided it isn’t my home.

But that’s not what God wants from me.

He wants me to grow where I’m planted. Even if I don’t want to.

Maybe, especially if I don’t want to.

So this is my new prayer.

God I don’t like where I live. I don’t like where you have placed me. I don’t want to grow where I am planted. I confess all of these things. But my prayer is that you change my heart to love this place. My prayer is that you will make this place beautiful for me and be a place where I want to have my family. God, make this place where I want to live, make me never want to leave. Help me grow, give me water and sun, give me the nutrients and determination it takes to grow, flourish and thrive here in Omaha. Amen.


“If This Text Goes Through, I Love You” & Other Hard Things to Hear

Today I’ve been weak. It’s been the definition of “one of those days.” I’ve had ups, downs, side blinders and zig zaggies. Things that have probably bothered me for months have finally caught up to me, and I was ill prepared for their inevitable collision.

This afternoon I spent several hours at my in-laws’ house wiping up dog vomit from my weak stomached Goldendoodle and scrubbing the walls free of my brindle lab’s blood splatters from a tail wound she won’t let heal. They’re both exhausted and anxious, tired of staying in a home that isn’t theirs and missing their daddy something fierce. I want to get them home so badly, staying in Knoxville during this deployment has been so hard on them. They need their routine, their yard, their life back.

While I’m deep in that elbow grease, I receive a text from my husband that they have had a power outage on his base and the wifi isn’t working well. We played phone tag for hours and then he texted me a text I hope no one ever has to receive from someone they love and miss: “Still not working. Phone’s going to die. If this goes through, I love you.”

In a moment when I needed to speak to my companion more than anything, I couldn’t. And it feels wrong. I collapsed onto the couch, my dogs laid each of their heads in my lap, and the impulse to cry hit me like a train… But no tears came. I couldn’t cry. Is it being a mom now, I have acquired this need to stay strong despite all things colliding at once? Some kind of strange strength that is tapped into when you have a child, to protect them and yourself from unnecessary emotional interruption? I don’t know. 

Sitting there, I just pet my babies and breathed in and out. The moment I felt like I got a handle of the moment, I received a second text from my mother, saying my daughter was awake from her nap and crying and I needed to come and nurse her. Responsibility is following me everywhere I go, I can’t escape it. I want to find some closet somewhere and just sit alone in the darkness, imagining myself void of all responsibilities and tasks. Just breathe and be. Just for a minute.

Because today just took me. I got lost in it. It’s not the hardest day I’ve ever had, by any means. But I’m stressing. I miss my husband. I miss his help. I miss his positivity and light. I miss being able to vent all these things to him. Because even though I do get to talk to him sometimes, there’s always a chance the wifi will go out, or he’ll get called off to work on something, or they’ll shift his flight hours and we won’t get to talk that day. 

We have less than two weeks left of this, and I can’t help but feel disappointed in myself for not keeping it together. I was so determined to stay “OK” while he was gone. Because logic tells me that I have to learn to be fine even if he’s not here, because reality is, he won’t be here all the time in the future. I have to learn to cope and thrive, regardless of whether he’s here to help me or not. But I’m not okay, I’m not thriving. I’m mad. I’m bitter. I’m lonely. I’m failing, in my eyes.

Saying all this, I know I need to give myself grace for today, and all my hard days. But for today, while I’m still feeling this, I have to acknowledge this feeling for what it is in this moment. It sucks. I don’t ever want to get a text like that from my husband ever again.

To My Deployed Airman

My Dear Husband,

You may consider this a pity party post. Well, if wanting to acknowledge my husband for what he does for a living makes me sound like I’m whining, then welcome to the party. BYOB, freeloaders.

Dearest darling husband of mine. You’ve been an airman for over 2 years now. We spent the first 7 months of our marriage separated while you were in training. We moved across the country together. We have raised two big puppies together. We’ve made one beautiful baby girl together. I couldn’t be more proud of us and how far we’ve come in just 8 years of knowing each other.

But I talk about us too much. What I mean is, I don’t talk about you enough. You, just you. What you’ve done. Who you’ve become. For me, for our family, for this country.

You’re cringing already, I know.

Because for some reason you don’t really believe what you’re doing is that big of a deal. You kind of scoff and shrug it off when people acknowledge your sacrifice. It’s a humble response, sure. To think, when the ultimate sacrifice to one’s country is to give one’s life for it, you may think that what you’ve given isn’t nearly as significant.

What have you given? 

The freedom to choose where to live, for one. The comfort of family close by. The pleasantries of living in the South. The closeness of friends. The familiarity of home. The ease of travel. 

You’ve given up your time. You’re at the beckon call of your job anywhere anytime. You have to spend nearly half the year overseas. Giving up time with your wife, time in your house, time you could be spending seeing your daughter grow, learn, develop, laugh, say her first words and cut her first teeth.

Dinners. Parties. Holidays. Birthdays. Graduations. Weddings. Funerals. 

And yet, all of this is an easy trade off for you, for the honor of serving something larger than all of this.

Husband, you’re amazing. And I need you to know your sacrifices mean everything to me. I’m humbled and amazed by what an honorable man you are. And no matter what you say, your job is a big deal. What you’re doing is important. Who you are and what you represent is so significant. And if it were possible for me to be speechless, I would be.

Don’t shrug it off when people thank you for your service, husband. Accept it with a full heart. Know that you can take their praise and multiply it out to the thousands who have served and sacrificed before you, so that you may serve our country today, for your family in your time.

Let all your works be made in thanks to those who have gone before you, bringing hope to the land of the brave and glory to our God Almighty.

Thank you, my airman, for being the best husband you can be and the best father our little girl could ever ask for. You honor us by sharing your name with us, and we are so proud to call you our airman. I love you.

Go get em, handsome.

Love Always & Forever, Your Mollybelle