A More Perfect Union

September 11, 2010

Why We Need to Remember 9/11

Filed under: Revolutionary Thought — David Bruce @ 16:16


I remember exactly where I was when the planes hit the twin towers. Dave was at work. I was home, sitting in the living room of our apartment, surrounded by boxes, with moving day only a month away. Our family was getting ready to move to New York. At the time I was a stay at home mom, taking pleasure in a one-year old Parker’s attention being on his toys long enough for me to escape Barney and watch The Today Show.

I was watching the live broadcast of the report of a plane hitting the first tower and saw the second plane hit. In the confusion, I still didn’t understand that it was a terrorist attack. I called my mom to see if she was watching. We stayed on the phone and watched together as the horror unfolded and the true nature of what was occurring began to dawn on us.

The world changed that day; American soil had, up to that point, been fairly isolated from the terrorism that other countries had been so used to living with. Like most Americans, I have never forgotten where I was or what I was doing the moment the attacks occurred. The events of September 11, 2001 were forever seared into my memory.

The days that followed had many of my friends and family asking if we were still sure we wanted to move to New York. Living in Idaho, none of them had been there and could not picture that the quaint village we planned to move to – Dave’s hometown – was far from the city.

Copyright 2010 Photographer David Bruce

In the past nine years, the memories have faded for everyone. Our anger at the attacks has been diluted by our anger at a war that lasted too long and has killed and injured far too many of our loved ones serving in the military. Our patriotism has been tested by the deep divide our country has faced politically. One thing is certain: whether you’re an Obama Mama or a Tea Party Queen, our country has stopped remembering what happened. We have stopped remembering the strength and resolve our country showed at that time, pulling together with more patriotism than had been seen in a long time.

When 9/11 happened, Parker was a year old and Anika was not yet born. As a parent, how do we go about helping our kids understand what happened and what an impact it had on the country? Is it even important to tell them about it? I may not have been able to answer that question had it not been for a family vacation our family took to New York City last spring.

We’re only a four hour drive from the city, and it is somewhere we enjoy going. We live in a small town and find it exhilarating getting to the “big city.” When we go, we stay in Jersey City and go across on the subway. The first stop on the New York side of the train is the WTC station, which drops you right at Ground Zero. For the first time, we got off at the stop. We wandered the area around ground zero, peeking through the fenced off area full of cranes and construction equipment. Across the street, there is a small memorial center.

Copyright 2010 Photographer David Bruce

Without knowing what to expect, we walked into the memorial center last spring and to tell you the truth, there is no way I can even attempt to describe the emotion of that moment. I was not the only one in the crowded room reduced to tears. Along the wall was a photographic timeline of the events of 9/11. At the back of the small room a film was playing about the events of that day. Anyone who visited was invited to go into a small recording area and share their memories of where they were and what they were doing that day.

All around us, there were other families and other people walking through the memorial center. Many were gathered around a glass covered display in the center of the room that shows what the WTC memorial will look like when it’s completed. Dave and I held hands and supported each other as we took in the experience. We talked to the kids about 9/11 and tried to help them understand what had happened, how it had changed our world. We experienced the same frustration, I imagine, that generations before us had experienced in trying to get people to understand the impact and aftermath of Pearl Harbor.

Yet our kids did gain understanding. They did learn. They do have a sense of their place in the world. As they grow up, they will understand why their parents are so enamored with the idea of world peace and fostering understanding among all cultures. They even seem a little more tolerant when their mom rants on about the Muslims not being the only ones waging a holy war.

Visiting the memorial put it into perspective for me. We may never be able to make our children understand the impact that day had on us, but we can raise our kids to be more tolerant and understanding, to reach out without judging, to seek peace and understanding rather than violent solutions to problems. We can honor the victims of 9/11 as well as all of the brave men and women who have served in our military since that time by fostering peace and understanding in our homes, communities and world.


May 13, 2009

A Guy Named Ryan

Parker, our 9-year-old son, looked carefully at a picture frame on the wall, a frame filled with pictures memorializing the wedding of Shadra and me. He had noticed this frame many times before, but this time he had studied it carefully. The pictures were of the bride, the groom, the maid of honor, the best man, Parker’s older brothers and sister . . . wait . . . older brothers and sister? How could they be at Mommy and Daddy’s wedding?

 Although Parker does not have all of the details, he has grown old enough and wise enough to understand the typical order of things when two people decide to have a relationship. The siblings present at a wedding of their parents did not fit the marriage schema as he understood it. Parker began asking obvious questions.

 Shadra and I believe that when our children are capable of asking particular questions, they deserve honest answers (within reason). Fortunately, we have not had to field questions regarding Santa Claus and where babies come from, although we suspect they will be soon in coming. We expected Parker to begin wondering about our past, how we met, and how he and his older younger siblings fit together as a family.

 Parker learned that his parents were united after each had divorced from a previous spouse. He wanted to know more about this woman named Darci and a guy named Ryan.  Parker learned that his older brothers and sisters had a different mom, and that sometimes they would spend time with her that he did not get to share or that they would receive gifts when he would not. He reacted surprisingly well to this new information. He seemed to understand that some bonds are far stronger than those fashioned around a piece of paper, and although some of our family came from broken homes, the bond we now share as a new family is stronger and different than what we experienced before. He seems to have very few concerns that our family will suffer the same fate as our previous families.

 With this new information come new definitions. We explained to Parker that our world insists that all things are defined. With that in mind, blended families are places where you learn about stepparents, half-brothers, half-sisters and the like. Those ideas have no room in any family, as far as we are concerned. Blood relationships do not define family exclusively. We are a family because we choose to be. Our hearts and actions hold more weight than any vows. This is our creed for building a more perfect union.

April 18, 2009

Inspired Obsession

Filed under: Parenting — David Bruce @ 12:20
Tags: , , , , , ,

At age 1 he started beating on a toy canvas drum – the kind you might find in a state park or amusement park gift shop. “How cute,” we thought. At about the same age, he became adamant about learning letters and numbers. We attributed these actions to the natural evolution of a child who was discovering and wondering. Parker is 9 years old now, and he still beats on drums, and he still obsesses over facts and information. What we thought were cute fads have become a part of Parker’s personality, seemingly his reason for being.


Parker has literally beaten the skins off of several of the canvas drums he played with years ago. Over the past few years, he has become the owner of a set of beginner bongos, a djembe, and a set of used drums. While he does not have an understanding and the skills necessary to be the back beat of his own rock group, he does have a sense of rhythm and an ear for music.


When Parker is not drumming, he is pouring over books and the Internet (surfing to approved sites only, of course). He is fascinated with information about other countries and cultures. He reads reference books, atlases and encyclopedias for pleasure. He would choose non-fiction over fiction, given the choice. Subsequently, he absorbs volumes (literally) of information. 


Parker’s toddler-age obsessions have blossomed into genuine interests that will likely be his focus for years to come. We are excited that he derives so much joy out of music and learning. As resources allow, we try to provide Parker with opportunities to improve and concentrate his talents. We do not push.


We have been accused of pushing him by various educators. Their bias and preconceptions blind them to our reality. They do not understand that we have to remind our son that when the day draws to a close and we have become weary, it is okay to put books away and share his latest discovery on the coming day. We force ourselves not to hold Parker back regardless of his aspirations. So it should be with any child.  Challenging our son does not equate to pushing, and encouraging a child to read 2nd-grade-level books when his or her reading level is that of 4th grade can be as unfair as “pushing.”


As always, we try to balance our children’s desires as so their passions do not dominate their lives. Chores, play, and a varied curriculum are important. Sometimes just doing nothing is okay, too. We hope that we are effective guides for Parker and all of our children in respect to teaching them values, whether they like to drum or not, read or not.

April 6, 2009


We both work from our home now, more or less. Having opted for a career in teaching, I am continuing my education as well as functioning as a full-time househusband and father. Shadra, having recently left the corporate world (kind of) contracts her services as an administrator, an editor and a French translator. While this arrangement has obvious advantages and disadvantages, we are enjoying our new lifestyle and the advantages, while trying to minimize (or at least adapt to) the disadvantages. In particular, we are enjoying being closer as a family during the summer months. I suspect our oldest daughter, Kira, however, may not have the same warm, fuzzy feeling as the rest of us, as she has obtained a summer job that keeps her busy and she is anxious to leave the house many evenings.


The two of us wake up as early as we did when commuting to work, and we start our day with coffee and the morning paper, as usual. Afterwards, Shadra begins work, as our bedroom becomes an office. I begin kicking the kids out of bed (if they are not up already), caring for their needs, planning meals, and caring for the house and yard. As time allows and circumstances demand, I help Shadra with her extra workload. This is our new routine.


With our new routine as it is, the typical work structure is abandoned. This works to our advantage when we need to make appointments or take a break from the computer screen. We govern and budget our own time. However, stealing time away from the children during the summer months is a challenge unto itself. We live in a decent size house, but there is really no place to hide from the sounds of children playing, screaming, or fighting. Part of the advantage of the new arrangement to them is having Mom and Dad around when they need them. I can run interference, but both of us need a break from time to time, in order to recharge and re-center ourselves. We have stumbled upon an interesting solution that has the support of the children.


When the two of us need to escape, we do not hide in a room. We go outside. Just outside the front door of the house, we have a leather green office sofa and two end tables. Here we can unwind for a moment, discuss business or share frivolous conversation, and enjoy coffee or what-have-you. We let the kids know that “we are going out front.” The kids understand that this means we need time away and should not be disturbed unless someone is bleeding out of their eyeballs.


Our “time out” never goes uninterrupted. That’s okay. We do get a moment of respite, and sometimes that is all we need. When the kids do interrupt, however, they knock.  They knock. They knock to come outside; we open the door to let them out (or not). Who would guess that the entrance to our house would work best as a firewall of sorts to the outside? The knocking started with the children. Apparently, they truly understand that their parents need a break from the chaos and knock as a courtesy. We did not demand that they extend this courtesy; it just happened. At first we were touched. Then we were amused. Knocking to exit? Don’t knock it ‘til you try it.


The war in Iraq or the war against terrorism or the war “by whatever name history will call if” rages on. Our 22-year-old son, Derek, has been a soldier in the United States Army for 4 years and was stationed in Iraq supporting his unit and serving his country. We have kept in touch, though not as often as we would like. We send letters regularly, while he prefers to send an occasional e-mail message or make a phone call. Regardless of how we communicate with each other, we let him know what transpires in our world, and he lets us know (as Uncle Sam allows) what transpires in his.


In spite of the controversy that exists in regards to the role of our military forces in the Middle East, Derek maintains a healthy attitude and perspective about his current lifestyle, acknowledging that the heat and the desert are not necessarily to his liking but still making time to talk about those activities he enjoys instead: movies and videogames.  Some things never change.


What has changed is Derek’s outlook on and desires for his future. Prior to his graduation, we often wondered if Derek wanted to leave his room, the house, or the village of Bath, New York, for that matter. He seemed content going with the flow. His communication to us provides a glimpse of a part of our oldest son that we had not seen before.


Derek is happy with his role in the Army. His 18-month tour in Iraq and subsequent change of station to Japan for three years does not discourage him. In fact, he agreed to reenlist early in order to spend time in Japan. Furthermore, he wrote that he wants “to see the world.” What? Wow. We were shocked. What happened to the young many who wanted to be a math teacher and never leave his small town?


Without trying to take any credit away from Derek, we didn’t think he was interested in seeing anything beyond a “virtual reality.” His world consisted of the latest action movie and video game tie-in. He showed minimal interest in the myriad of opportunities available to him. At first, this was a major concern for us. As parents, we wanted him to see the “real world” (No. Not the one broadcast on what used to be a music video station). Eventually, we came to accept that Derek was who he was, and no amount of nudging would change his priorities. The Army has seemingly accomplished what we could not.


In many ways, Derek is still the young boy we grew up with in Boise and Bath. Today we can see the person that Derek is becoming based on the choices he is making. As always, we are proud. At times now, we can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that while Derek (and the Army) has much to accomplish, our mission, as parents, is somewhat complete.

March 16, 2009


We met in 1997, and we married in 1999, hoping that the seventeen years of marital experience we had between us from our failed first marriages would help guide us to a more successful relationship. As individuals, we each dreamed that anything was possible—that no goal was unattainable. Together, we found the strength and conviction to make our dreams a reality. Dave retained sole physical custody of his three children (now ages 22, 18, and 18); together, we have been raising them for the past twelve years. Shadra gave birth to two children (now a nine-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl).


Regardless of the diverse backgrounds and age differences of the members of our family, we strive to blend together and maintain some semblance of a typical lifestyle. It has been quite a road we’ve traveled to get to that point, though. When born into a family, you tend to grow together perhaps overlooking personality traits that you ordinarily would not. When married into each other’s lives, a little more time and effort is sometimes needed. There have definitely been some growing pains along the way, but the effort pays off.


In the meantime, life happens. Dreams take a back seat to late nights waiting for a teen to come home or a soldier-son to call and reassure us he’s safe, struggles with an independent kindergartner’s newfound sense of identity, tutoring older children on any given school subject, housekeeping, and working day-to-day to make ends meet. The dreams and aspirations are still there; however, the daily experiences we share help us grow and gain insight to our world and ourselves. Without these experiences, our dreams may never come to pass.


We have come to realize just what an awesome family we have. Along the way, we have had our bumps and bruises; but as we look back over the last twelve years, we see that scars have healed. We have grown together, and we have fun together. We see that there has never really been a moment that hasn’t been the most rewarding of our lives.


As we share with each other, we gain strength and we believe we can be what we want to be without limitation. We hope to pass this strength to our five children, as they watch us struggle, grow, and have fun. We hope to pass this wonder to the reader as well. Our pasts do not have to limit us. Success can be wrought from a failed marriage. Burned bridges can be rebuilt. We believe our family can be a more perfect union.


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