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Give the Bugle a Break

Why are we still fighting each other publicly for the world, including our enemies, to see? In my vision, the momentum carries us all to a gradual implosion. The unsolicited comments and chest pounding aimed at each other within our own land is quite embarrassing. Democrats and Republicans are violently defending their beliefs before they are challenged, and the assumptions are creating asses left and right. I wish to see more compassion and concern for humanity, and a little reverence.

Patriotism to me happened after September 11, 2001. We loved each other, and our differences were muted and tamed. Social media was not the prominent armored platform as it is now, so we didn’t sit in our torn armchairs and use our thumbs to attack those with different beliefs.

Loving one’s country does not mean there has to be a quest to kill and hate. I love the USA, but the last thing I want is another war. That’s what we all should want. We need to defend and take all measures necessary to end this conflict and pray it doesn’t grow. Am I wrong? There are people there who have nothing to do with any of this. There are children, gentle communities, and even family dogs who all want peace.

Roger came back from Iraq in 2005 and told me stories about the civilians there, especially the children, and even a scrawny stray dog he befriended. He was unable to communicate with the children using words but they connected through his gentle nature and love for sport. They played soccer and laughed with each other. He was not there to blow up the country. He was there to make it better for the citizens. To him, aggression was the last resort, and a united America was his dream.

Sometimes I place myself in the living room of a modest home in England. I’ll sit in a chair that is older than my name and try not to spill the Earl Grey on my wool skirt. When I peak at my social media or even the news, I wonder about the United States and the words that come directly from the people. I see them argue and point, and the anger saturates their aim at the wrong target; each other. Our allies are watching us bicker.

How cool would it be if the rest of the world sees us Americans as a united bunch of folks?! I recall the love that drenched Roger’s funeral services and how it was wrapped around me and the boys. That is my hope for America. If we do to go to war, knowing we are each other’s allies will strengthen our cause and create a more welcoming environment for others to join.

One thing I have yet to read in the constant banter and judgement, is the concern for those close to the hot areas on the map. I wonder about the civilians of Iran and the surrounding countries, and of course our military will never leave my broken heart.

No, I am not taking a stance on the war, retaliations, or our leadership, and won’t publicly considering my obvious bias and knowledge of loss; I am simply sad for them, us, and all. I have my own beliefs which are complicated and personal. I simply don’t fit into one pod of political definition, and that’s how it should be.

I hate that if I type a “w” in my Google search “World War III” pops up. I fantasize about that twenty-third letter generating words like weed or winter. Wine works as well, or maybe warmth. Some news sources are eating this all up and engendering fear and hate. I’m afraid to go to a movie or put my child on a plane. The violent tension is thick as it hovers over Earth. I want peace and grace, and a little more effort to understand each other.

The United States Marine Corps Silent Drill Team gifts us with an example of how we could unify. The only sound you hear from them is the united taps of heels from their black liquid coriforms, and their twirling white rifles uniformly clicking. The audience should be silent as well, and nobody types daggers at each other. That is called grace, and it is united. We should all take a moment once in awhile to be silent, and simply listen.

#ichoosegrace #grace

https://www.barracks.marines.mil/Units/Silent-Drill-Platoon/

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Southampton Town Meeting

I am Teresa Adams. My husband, Roger, was killed in Iraq in 2009. Roger and I both grew up in Massachusetts. He was born in Montague in 1972. He went to elementary school in Gill, Massachusetts, and graduated from Franklin Technical Vocational School in 1990. He loved the Boston Red Sox, a good ham grinder, and snow, yes, snow. After graduation, he moved to Kentucky to spend time with his mother.

He wasn’t there long when he decided to join the Marine Corps. The closest recruiting station was in Tennessee, so he signed his name and became a United States Marine, and was stationed in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He was an 0352; a grunt.

On leave he would come to Massachusetts to visit with his family. He spent the holidays, long weekends, and special occasions in Massachusetts.

Roger and I fell in love on Memorial Day weekend of 1995 and decided to get married. We obtained our marriage license here in Southampton when the town hall was on East Street. Our ceremony was at the gazebo in Easthampton, Massachusetts on a snowy night. We were surrounded by Christmas lights, family and friends, and a brand-new blanket of fresh snow. We spent Christmas with our families, said our gut-wrenching goodbyes, then I moved to North Carolina, where he was stationed.

We spent years through multiple deployments to Okinawa, Mediterranean Floats on Navy ships, his first tour in Iraq, and more. We had four sons and lived as a traditional military family. We missed him quite often, and worried constantly. On summers, holidays, and times when Roger was deployed, we would come to Mass to be with family, because it was home. Towards the end of our travels on 91 in Connecticut, we always tried to be the first one in the car to see the small blue sign “Welcome to Massachusetts.”

I was in Southampton when I found out Roger died. We just got to my parents’ hours earlier. Roger had been in Iraq for the second time. The National Guard came to my parents’ house near the Ponds accompanied by a police officer from Southampton. They told me Roger was driving a Humvee and ran over an IED. They also told me he died instantly, and I chose to believe them.

After a few years of trying to regain some sanity and figure out what to do, the boys and I decided to move back home to Massachusetts. I did the math and figured that with the tax break, we would be able to afford it, so I bought a house in Southampton on Wolcott Rd; one I used to drive by each morning on my way to Hampshire Regional High School (a very long time ago).

After we moved in and settled, I filled out the application for the tax break and was surprised when it was denied. The reason it was rejected was because Roger did not enlist in Massachusetts, but in Tennessee.

I have appealed that decision through Boston, and we went to court in Northampton. I have yet to receive an answer from them. This is not about my case, but it brought light to this issue. I speak now for the future homeowners in Southampton, Massachusetts who are disabled veterans or surviving families.

Veterans and surviving families should be able to come to Southampton and not worry about being denied their benefits. Reducing the two-year waiting period to one year for non-residents would greatly alleviate any financial hardships put on the military members. More than that, it would make them feel welcomed by this warm, loving town. It would make them feel like they’re home. It would make them feel safe and give them a better chance to have as normal of a life as they can.

Each situation is different. The fact remains, however, that no matter where a service member enlisted, they took an oath to serve the United States. They did not take an oath to serve solely Massachusetts, North Carolina, or Tennessee. There are pages of generous benefits that Massachusetts offers our veterans because there is appreciation and caring for their sacrifice and service. I cannot allow myself to think of a disabled veteran, or another surviving family, feeling a little less than, or not having that sense of belonging, because they are denied. We, as a town, should help them the same way they helped us. We should open our arms and welcome them home.

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They Said “No”

Read this first… https://teresaforesteradams.com/2019/07/30/hometown-love/

I finally have a decision from the Appellate Tax Board in Boston. They believe that the boys and I do not qualify for immediate tax benefits for Massachusetts, and that we should wait until we reach resident status. I received the letter today instead of yesterday, probably because it was Veterans Day and mail didn’t run, and that would have extra sucked. Either way, I peeled apart the five pages to find a decision within the thick paragraphs.

I was nervous. I didn’t realize how much I still had hope the decision would be in our favor. As I searched, I imagined the floors I would have fixed, a new back door for the basement, and the cards I would send to people who have worked hard on this to thank them. I feel silly about that now, but it was fun for a few seconds. After some serious dissection of fancy words, I found this:

“The Board conveys nothing but respect for Mr. Adams, his service for this country, and his death in the line of duty, and it acknowledges the profound loss suffered by Mrs. Adams and their four children.” (I wonder if you can guess the next word.)

Ding ding ding! “But…” In a nutshell, we simply don’t qualify as true Southampton townspeople. It’s the law, and the town spotted it. I don’t hate living in a town that has my back like that, I suppose. It still made me sad, but I need to get over it.

I’m not mad (Except the part where they say we came here to go to school. Um, no). People were doing what they really thought was right, and the way it’s worded, they are absolutely correct. Even though our heart is here, Roger didn’t enlist in Massachusetts, and we lingered too long in North Carolina after he died. I didn’t know what the fuck to do. I was so confused, and still am, ten years later. And that is why nobody should have to deal with this ever again. We’ll start with Southampton and continue infinitely.

Here’s the deal…It’ll be on the ballot next election. The people of Southampton decided to put it on. I am thrilled! It means that any veteran from ANYWHERE can receive their town benefits, and instead of waiting two years, they will only wait one. Huge!!!! It was cool to be present for that meeting, and even the boys were able to vote (Max’s first time). It was just special. Please, talk to your friends about this at voting time. Here’s what I said at the town meeting. It may explain what’s going on with the law: https://teresaforesteradams.com/2019/11/12/southampton-town-meeting/

I wish there were more ways to thank people. I’m usually good with words, but people have been the best support, even shaking me when I want to quit this quest for the next military connected families who may have to deal with this. There’s love and patriotism that feels warm. It’s like a soft blanket. Anyway, thank you. The boys and I feel welcome here anyway, because it’s home, and you all have made us feel safe and loved.

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Short Short

He had no teeth until they took turns erupting through his fresh gums, and it hurt so he bit his mom’s cracked breast. Then he walked a little with his chubby legs and turned-in toes, stopped shitting his pants, and went to school. After that, he went to more school and married the girl with yellow hair, made a resume, and was away nine to five. He retired, and they gave him a party at the local VFW with balloons and potluck meatballs mixed with ketchup and ginger ale. His parents died of cancer and heart break, and his wife loved another, so he learned how to warm canned meats and TV dinners. Then his grandkids drove him to the doctor and they started being really nice to him. They didn’t want to change his diapers and blend his milkshakes, so they put him at that place that smelled like rotting meat. He met friends that died, and he watched the fish in the tank as he drank out of Styrofoam. The watery coffee was chilly and transparent. He took out his teeth and closed his vanishing eyes.

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The Love is Wow

In my previous blog, “Hometown Love,” I wrote about my court experience against Southampton, Massachusetts, and voiced some frustrations and hurt feelings that came from it. (I need to say again that the people I’ve spoken with at the town have always been kind and respectful to me.) I figured maybe twenty people or so would read the post, but it grew like one of those little foam capsules that turns into a dinosaur. The views increased by the minute and people shared the post on social media all over the place!

At first, I didn’t think it was a big deal, then people started to contact me in many different ways wanting to help. I told them that we should redirect the anger towards a positive future for survivors and veterans. I think we should fight to let the people vote to waive the two-year waiting period for those who aren’t from Massachusetts. Anyone should feel welcome here, and the voters are the ones who should decide it. Right now, if we keep this alive, that’s the best help.

“What if we can get the town to pass this change because of Dad?” I said to Tyler a few days ago.

“What if it goes federal?” he answered. Anyone who knows Tye won’t be surprised by his ambition, and he’s right. We need to at least try.

I love the energy this is getting. In many comments, people reminded me to look around and see the beauty and peace this town keeps. I also saw, once again, the kindness and love in the people of this town. It’s incredible fuel for us, and I’ve slept so well the past few nights. There’s an intense appreciation for his sacrifice as well as warmth and a sense of true community.

I especially love that thousands of new people are seeing Roger’s name. They saw his picture and there are many new readers of my memoir pages. They’re learning stories about him and seeing what a Gold Star family was before they were known for his sacrifice. Along with the energy, as long as it doesn’t fizzle, a little information about the benefit itself will help in our quest.

Here is an example of how the benefit works: (The link is listed at the end of this page showing the breaks and qualifications.) Let’s say Jane was born and raised in Massachusetts. Jane meets Bob in North Carolina when she is visiting her friend. Bob is from Wisconsin. They fall in love, marry, and live together on base. Bob goes to war and is killed in action. Jane wants to go home to Massachusetts to be with her family but does not qualify for the benefits to assist her financially. This is because Bob was not from Massachusetts. There are other scenarios, and they’re all confusing. My point is; Jane should be able to go home to her family for the support she needs. She should qualify for the tax break. Every state is different, and the towns and cities also have some say. The benefit is so generous, and completely needed.

I spoke with someone who told me that states want to take care of their own. I also talked to someone who said the people in the cities and towns would never vote to approve waiving the two years. There was also concern voiced about survivors and disabled veterans coming here in droves holding flags and needing care. According to Zillow.com, the median house price is $407,000 in Massachusetts, and one of the reasons that disabled veterans and survivors won’t flock to the commonwealth simply for the tax benefit. People come here because they have a reason to, not because the benefits will outweigh the cost of living. In order to live here, some need those benefits. When a family member is killed in action, the country is generous to the families as far as I know personally, but the income they receive is the same no matter what state they live in. I can tell you firsthand, it doesn’t go as far up here. Massachusetts is a little pricey, so I’m sure the offset takes the edge off.

What else helps is the support the boys and I have been receiving. We feel the love and shared frustration. Because of the messages and well wishes, I feel more confident to move forward for the rest that will have to deal with disappointing denial letters. I’m trying to respond to everyone, but I feel like some are getting lost in space and I’ve never been known for my computer skills. I even welcome the messages and comments against my fight for the future veterans and survivors, because their information helps better my knowledge.

I believe that together we can try our hardest to peacefully change or clarify the laws to make our disabled veterans and Gold Star families feel a little more relaxed and wrapped up in the town’s arms. All I want is for the people in each municipality in Massachusetts to have the ability to vote to waive the two-year waiting period. Let the citizens decide.

More than anything right now, though, I thank you all.

References:

https://www.sec.state.ma.us/cis/cisvet/vetprptax.htm

https://www.zillow.com/ma/home-values/

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Hometown Love

I grew up in Southampton, Massachusetts near Hampton Ponds. The kids in my neighborhood were called “Pond Scum” by others, and eventually we decided that it was a term of endearment. I walked to Mahoney’s package store to buy candy with babysitting money, attended the Primary School before it was the town hall, and William E. Norris until sixth grade. After that, I went with all the other Southampton kids to Hampshire Regional High School, and graduated in 1992. After I turned twenty-one, I fell in love and married a marine, Roger Adams, and we moved to North Carolina. He was from Greenfield.

Continue reading “Hometown Love”
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Mr J.

I walked into the barn and looked at the new mouse traps. I got them a week earlier from Amazon. They were on sale.

The reason I waited to set the traps is because of something that happened a week prior. Baylee was walking and almost stepped on baby mouse that was scurrying under him. He was maybe the size of a nickel with a tail. We think he got lost or something and wasn’t ready to go solo in life, yet. I put a few drops of water on him and he reacted, so I figured he may have a chance.

I took an old Pop Tart box (WTF is wrong with me?) and tore off the top flaps. I turned it on its side and used a stick to gently push the baby mouse into the box. At this point, he wasn’t moving at all. I remembered I had a small bit of heavy cream for a ganache in the fridge that was turning. I ran into the house and got it.

I put a small amount of the almost rancid cream on his mouth and he started audibly smacking his lips. His fuzzy little hands finding his mouth to help push the liquid in. I put some chicken food in the small puddle of cream that I poured and let it sit in the box with him. I was fully prepared to find him dead in the morning, little fingers and toes all stiff. I would use the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Pop Tart box as a coffin.

The night wore on and I could not stop thinking about this stupid baby mouse. I woke up in the morning, and even before I let the chickens out, I checked the box. I bet you can guess, there was no mouse.

“Something probably got it,” Sammy said.

“Um, what could get the mouse in a locked-up barn, and nope, he lived,” I said.

Inside the Pop Tart box were tiny little baby mouse poops. He must have been a little dehydrated or injured. I felt a sense of euphoria at having saved his life. I tossed the box into the trash can with the bright yellow liner.

Later that day, I went into the porch and noticed some Amazon boxes and dog treats (My mail carrier is better than yours). My body exhibited the Amazon.com high, the one that makes you want to almost dance. I tore into the box.

Mouse traps. Four. The kind that hide their bloody faces so the murderess can drop them into the trash without feeling badly. I put them in the barn and ignored the blaring hypocrisy.

A week or so later, more evidence of mice appeared. I took four traps out of four yellow boxes. I squinted as I read the directions. Steps one, two, and three. I used frozen pizza cheese from one the kids didn’t like.

The next morning when I went into the barn, I looked at the first trap on the top step. The metal piece was still all the way back which means there’s no mouse in there. The next two were on the landing, and one was half-way back.

“Shit,” I said out loud. At six AM. I was alone.

I turned away from it and went to do my morning chicken chores.

After I was done, I left their room. As I entered the main barn area, I felt the presence of the animal I killed. I walked quickly out the front door not looking in its direction. I prayed it wasn’t my mouse.

After a few hours, I found the courage (Baylee) to go back to the barn and take care of the animal in a respectful way. With my child at my side, I put on a glove and grabbed some menacing looking wire snips in lieu of pliers. I looked at the trap and saw the mouse’s soft little body and pointy tale coming out of the back.

“Oh, man,” said Baylee.

“I know I feel bad. We can’t have mice here.”

“I know, Mom. It sucks.”

I picked up the trap with my gloved hand, and it was noticeably heavier than it was the previous day. I held it over the trash can while I pulled the lever all the way back. There was a crinkly sound as it fell on something plastic. It was larger than my Pop Tart mouse. Relief.

Baylee and I went back into the house quietly. I washed my hands a few times and turned on Little House on the Prairie. Did you know Charles Ingles is left-handed?

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Man Cave in My Mind

On June 29th it’ll be ten years since I lost my husband, Roger Adams, Jr. when he was killed in Iraq. During the last few months, I have been working on a memoir. It began as a project for a writing class but seems to be finding its way to more people each day.

“The way you write brings him back,” one said.

“I remember his crooked smile, too,” another commented.

“I love the way you describe his Dress Blues and how the cover compliments his full lips,” is another nice comment.

Writers observe details and share them. The reality is, my gift curses me with vivid pictures of his face, the feel of his coarse palms while we hold hands, and the smell of his uniform’s sleeve. I can close my eyes and softly rub my face on the chest pocket of his cammies and feel the soft thickness of the material. I smell the barracks room on his neck, Pine Sol and Camel cigarettes, and can hear him say, “hon” like it was this morning or last night.

I will write all day long, with breaks for lunch or a walk to the brook in the back of my property. I will then play corn hole or croquet with my sons, have some wine, then sleep. I try to aid my sleep with sitcoms such as “Friends” or “Golden Girls” to cloud my Roger-filled mind. I felt selfish when I began this ritual until I recently started having the dreams again and became tired of wiping my eyes.

The one I had the night before last was of Roger, me, and our four sons when they were little. He and the boys were swimming in our modest pool at our little house in Jacksonville, NC. We just cleaned up after dinner of something with gravy, and his favorite pineapple upside-down cake with extra red cherries. The sun was caressing my shoulders, and the grass was cool on my bare feet. I watched them play and listened to them laugh and splash around. Occasionally, the cool water would come my way and they would all giggle while I dodged it. Roger looked at me the way he always did, with a little smile and crinkled eyes, and I felt safe.

The great torture that comes with waking up from a dream like that can be debilitating. Mine lasted all day yesterday, and I awoke this morning with a cloudy vision of it. The clarity of his face, tanned worker hands, and the smell of his neck, is once again diminished, and I am thankful for that.

“How can you want his memory to diminish?” I have been asked.

“His memory will never be diminished,” I have said, not violently defensive, because once, I didn’t understand either. It will always be clear and rich, but in order for me to carry on with a full life without him, I must be allowed and able to put the images in a special room in my mind, so I made him one.

I made Roger’s room nice for him, and it’s filled with his favorite things; his dad who passed last year, and the many pets we have lost after him. I just know he and his pops are playing cards, and he is tossing the muddy tennis ball around to the dogs. The Boston Red Sox will be heard on his old shed radio and Big Papi is at bat once again. There will be cheeseburgers and chocolate chip cookies, still warm, and Dr. Pepper in a cold can. The walls, which are not inside or outside, are plastered with photos of people he loves, especially our four boys. And, this Patriots fan even gave him a small 49ers pennant to hang in a corner somewhere. It is a room, but has no boundaries, and it smells like the wool on clean dress blues and freshly cut grass. He can build furniture and splash in the pool while he waits for us, and he can visit whenever he likes.  

Roger is always in my mind, and him having his own space helps me to be OK with not focusing on him, and the guilt of moving on with life while he’s not here. He still comes to the front of my mind in my dreams, but as long as he has his own place to go to allow me to breathe, the more I am able to cope without the challenging blues that come after a good dream. Being a left-behind mortal can be torture, but with silly little coping tools like Roger’s room, living can be more than tolerated, it can be quite nice.