Founder’s Corner

So honored to be part of such an amazing organization! Please follow The Covering House to learn more about our anti-trafficking efforts.

businesswoman with a note-book

Me: Lindsey, what size shoe do you wear?

Lindsey: Well, it depends on how cute the shoe is?

Her quick wit won me over immediately.

This is a typical conversation for us around the office probably because 99% of us are women.

Meet Lindsey Ellis our Director of Operations at The Covering House. Two years ago this month, Lindsey became a part of The Covering House team.

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Here is what you need to know about her.

Don’t get between Lindsey and a shoe sale.

Don’t get between Lindsey and a good cup of coffee.

Don’t get between Lindsey and her desire to help kids.

When Lindsey joined TCH team, she came with 13 years of experience working with children both in the “system” and out. Her expertise of residential children’s homes and all of the policies that surround opening a home is just what we needed at The Covering…

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Honesty!

I’ve always been honest to a fault.  At times, it gets me in trouble.  For honesty is often misinterpreted as insensitive, or rude, or annoying in our society.  Granted I could probably work on my delivery, or simply keep my honest opinion to myself, but ________ (fill in the blank with whatever excuse you see fit, because I’ve used them all).

My honesty is a prime example of my greatest strength often becoming my greatest weakness.  It’s one of the traits I value most in myself and in others.

I think it’s one of the reasons I value working with teenagers.  They ARE honest!  They tell you if your shoes are ugly, if you’re not as cool as you think you are, or if your talk, style, and everything else about you is outdated.  The filter of adulthood passive-aggressiveness is yet to develop so they let it fly undeterred by how it might be received.  And, they are shocked by the looks of disgust, or the sensitivity of others.

But often hidden below this external bluntness, is the hidden truth.  The things they think we, as adults, can’t handle.  Their honesty actually masks the truth that they secretly don’t want to hold onto, but are too afraid to release into our safety; afraid of what we may do with it.

This dichotomy is often where I find myself with my girls, caught between complete honesty and complete hidden truth.  I secretly love and hate it, because I never know where it’s going to take us in a relationship.

Last week, I was discussing with a young lady about what our individual journey may look like and we began to draw it out.  On her masterpiece, I noticed she had included me.  She caught me looking, smiled, and brought out a pink color pencil and quickly colored in very rosy cheeks (how’s that for honesty).  As we continued thinking out our journey, she began to explain how the people on her picture makes her feel loved.

Of course, my heart melted just a little, but I kept it together.  We continued to talk about it.  Why did those people make it on her list?  Did she feel loved by other people or just the ones on the sheet?  What did I do to earn that honor?  And she said something unexpected.  She said she felt loved by other people but the people all the list showed her true love because they were always truthful with her!

My heart swelled a bit.  A trait that many people find offensive, or too much to deal with, was the very trait she needed and valued.

Honesty demonstrated love.

Truthfulness encouraged her to be open.

True relationships helped her to be herself.

Honesty, it can be weakness at times, but this week it was my greatest strength.

It’s all in Perspective: life lessons from Addie

race for refuge

4:45 am…who would get up at this hour.  I know I’m suppose to be a grown up.  I know I’m suppose to grow into appreciating the phrase “the early bird gets the worm.”  I’m suppose to wake up energized, do a devotion, watch the sunrise with a cup of coffee in hand.  But, the truth is, even though I am in theory an adult, the only part of the “suppose to’s” that actually happens on the regular is the cup of coffee. 

Here’s the real truth…I rarely go to bed at a decent hour, I drink caffeine like I’m still a teenager, and I usually set my alarm to just enough time to run out the door. 

So, when I hear the alarm and I see the glowing numbers 4:45am, my body rebels.  It screams no, no, no!  I attempt to hit snooze, but then I remember that today is unlike any other.  It’s the Race of Refuge.  Who cares if it’s a Saturday, on Labor Day Weekend?  Who cares if my body couldn’t adjust to the shift and decided to stay up the night before?  Who cares that my eyes still burn with the uncertainty of waking up and my throat was still scratchy?  It doesn’t matter because today is a big day.  A day for small sacrifices like waking up early, running errands, and for some, running in the heat. 

About 500 runners showed up in the park to run for The Race for Refuge.  Among them several of my friends who traveled across the state to be there to support me and our cause.  Each runner was given a survivor story, so they would know who they were running in honor of.   For some it was simply a 10K and their focus was their best time, but for most it was about attempting to combat trafficking by coming together and offering awareness.

Among those who showed up to support me was Addie.  Most of you know Addie, after all she provides me with my best material and life lessons.  And this day was no exception.  She showed up decked out in black and pink ready to run with her family.  Her little three year old mind knew little about what the race represented but when questioned, she’d say, “I’m running for girls that were hurt.”  Simple but true. 

It was such a proud moment for an auntie, because not only was she there, but her new baby sister Lydia was also there to stroll through her first 5k. 

I smiled as Addie began telling me about the race.  Here’s how the conversation went:

Me:  Addie, what was your favorite part of the race?

Addie:  The finish line!

Me:  Why is that?

Addie:  It’s always great when I win!

Now, let me clear one thing up.  Addie was nowhere close to the best time.  It’s hard to compete when you’re pushing a stroller and keeping up with a three year old.  But, her perspective was she won.  Crossing the finish line was success for her. 

As I thought about it, I realized Addie had done it again.  Somehow, in her simplistic way she taught me what was truly important.  Too often I cross the finish line without even noticing, because it didn’t happen the way I thought it should or someone beat me to it, or it wasn’t my best time.  I measure my success in comparison with others or with wrong expectations.  I forget that the finish line is the GOAL! 

So, as I think about the race in front of me, I’ll try to remember to keep the finish line, true success in front of me, and just like Addie, I’ll run it with joy.

The Shackle Shuffle

 

handcuffs

Working in residential, you’re supposed to get use to the “shackle shuffle.”  As kids are brought from the detention center, dressed in scrubs or a similar jumpsuit, their legs and hands are shackled causing them to shuffle their feet in order to move.  Like I said, you’re supposed to get use to it, seeing it often, but I never have.  My mind can reason that it is a consequence of their crime and choices; it’s to keep them and others safe.  But, there is still a minor hiccup in my spirit every time I see it.

Maybe I cringe because this person in front of me is no longer a case on a page, but a living, breathing, and usually extremely likeable kid with their own story to tell.  Although I may not agree with their choices, I now understand them, or can at least follow the irrational thought process that led to them.

This week, I found myself in the court room waiting area, not just waiting for our name to come up on the docket, but also waiting to see her shuffling toward us.  This one was going to be especially hard, because…well…I especially liked her.  I distracted myself by noticing the drooping pipes hanging from the ceiling, the drab carpet worn from the many years of youth shuffling their feet across it, and the chairs wedged in uncomfortable positions to make the necessary space for the case workers and families that would also be waiting for their name to be called.

And the hiccup came, and it was stronger than I anticipated.  Her face was sad, but she mustered a small smile just big enough to show her child-like dimple for a second.  I’m not sure why these moments continue to affect me, after all I’ve seen it enough.  Maybe, this one was hard because she’s a mini version of my best friend complete with crazy hair, a feisty attitude that thinks she’s about a foot taller than what she actually is, and a chattiness that can jump from one conversation to the next without a breath in between them.  Or, maybe it’s as simple as I genuinely just like her.

Regardless of why, the sadness was still there.

We waited patiently listening to the clinking of the heavy metal doors open and close and made small talk.  We laughed as she would give a description of each passerby, at one point saying, “Mm-m-m, the things you see in the juvenile justice court system.”

The light-heartedness changed as soon as the court was ready for us.

Walking into the court room is always a free for all, with each party having to attempt to find the proper seating.  The DJO points one direction, the bailiff another and all you’re secretly praying for is that the judge won’t ask you a question.  Anxiety completely engulfs the room.

She is quickly directed to remember to stand up when the judge enters the room, even if it’s awkward with the shackles.  Once the judge enters the room, the formalities begin.  A list of all her wrongs are systematically read and the judge begins to question her for her plea and her understanding.  She pleasantly and politely responds with, “yes, your honor,” after each question.  Her anticipation and anxiety shows when her “yes, your honors” start coming at a quicker pace and at unnecessary times.  We hold our breath for the judge’s response, and that’s when it happens.  A small smile creeps onto his face and that’s when I know, he sees it too:  that undeniable likability of this young girl sitting in front of us.

She must have seen it too, because she relaxed, and then we all relaxed. Encouragement replaced anxiety and plans began to take place.

We left the court and I no longer noticed the drab carpet or bland walls.  I no longer cared that the chairs were placed just a little too close together.  Instead, I saw this girl in front of me with a glimmer of hope.

As we sat in the waiting room, talking about her safety plan and what she will do when she feels like running, she looked at me with a serious look on her face and said, “You don’t have to worry about that (holding up her handcuffed hands).  I’m going to learn to just read a book.”

The Power of Our Words!

addie fountain3

According to about a million websites and self-help books, it’s not uncommon for a lady to use up to 20,000 words a day. I’m not sure where the research comes from, or who decided to start counting, but I do know that I use every single one of my words daily. I love to chat. I love to debate. I love conversations in the backyard and conversations on the front porch. I love going for coffee so we can talk. I love to verbally process. I love talking so much that sometimes I go somewhere public to engage a complete stranger in telling me their entire life story and in return sharing mine, just to get all my words in.

20,000 words daily and I get them all in!!

That is 140,000 words weekly and, if my math is correct, 7,280,000 yearly! That’s a lot of words!

But, how many of those words do I actually think about and process before they go straight past my lips? How often do I think about the expressions I use, the sound bites I share, or the piece of advice I offer?

I wish I could tell you these thoughts came from my profound maturity and wisdom. But, the truth is it came from a simple conversation with Addie, my adorable 4 year old inspiration.

I’m trying to be a more intentional auntie, checking in on my kiddos and letting them know I love them. This week while texting Addie through her mommy, I replied, “tell her I love her bunches.” Simple, right. I think it’s a pretty common phrase which usually leads to a simple response of “love you too.”

But, not with Addie. Her response was, “she loves me as much as bunches! What does that mean?” It took me a minute, because I knew she wanted a real answer. A simple catch phrase we throw out randomly would not suffice with Addie. She needed to be able to see it; to understand it.

So, I thought before I responded. I wanted to find a way to help her understand how much I loved her. After much contemplation, I responded with, “it would be like if you took all the stuff that is important to you and put it in a bunch or a pile, that’s how much I love you.”

It apparently appeased her because she simple responded with, “oh, ok. I love her too.”

A simple, un-thoughtful comment led to a great life lesson… Think about what we say and communicate to one another. Does the other person truly understand what we are trying to tell them? Can their mind grasp the feelings we are trying to express? Are our comments intentional and effective, or are we just trying to get in our 20,000 words?

I set in a booth at Bread, Co., of course (trying not to engage the women next to me), thinking about my words today.  Not all of them were encouraging or edifying.  A few were harsh and unnecessary.  Several were impulsive. 

But, these thoughts of Addie, made me a little more intentional; a little more thoughtful.  I caught and stopped myself a little quicker.  I paused before sharing opinions and checked motives. 

So, I may have only got in 19,000 words today, but they were a little more meaningful.

***the picture above has very little to do with our words, but I think it definitely captures Addie’s spirit & why she’s so inspiring!***

Bonding on a Plastic Chair

red plastic chair
I slowly placed my bags through the x-ray machine, hoping I had removed anything that could be perceived as a weapon. I then hold my breath and walk through the metal detector, a habit from the many times I unintentionally set it off in the past. The DJO is paged over the intercom and I’m then escorted through the waiting room. I wait for the click to signal I can walk through. I adjust my strategically placed scarf (I was a little cocky thinking I could eat in the car) and shift from foot to foot, while I patiently wait for the click.

I’m not sure what waits for me on the other side, but I anxiously wait.

Once I’m ushered through the door, I see her sitting, waiting for me in a box-like, cinder block room on a flimsy, plastic, red chair. She’s hunched over the table. We’re both apprehensive and we recognize it in one another.

The introductions are made and door closes behind me. We’re two strangers, yet the expectation is that she’ll share intimate details with me of her life as a run away.

She looks up at me and I instantly like her. She’s tough but with a baby face. And, her hair sticks up in all directions held out of her face with a small headband. We attempt small talk, but quickly realize we both prefer to just be straight with one another.

Within minutes, we were laughing.

And then she would disclose something.

Then we’d laugh again. The cycle went on and on, she’d disclose, then joke, and then back again.

I was struck by the dichotomy in front of me. I was suddenly aware that the young woman setting across the table from me was caught between being a completely, innocent kid one moment and that innocence being completely stolen the next. I listened to stories that were hard to hear, but recognized the importance of her getting to tell it. I watched as bit by bit she was getting her voice back, and although it was hard to hear it was beautiful to watch.

Our time was up, but as I as I was waiting to hear the click of the door, I left knowing I would get to see her again; and knowing that I was going to grow as much she does.

Offering Our Presence

***Portions of this post focus on trauma, self-harm, and suicidal ideation.

My mind is often crowded with the images I have seen through the years working with at-risk youth.  They are often hidden for years, but come to the front of the crowd at unexpected times to teach me a new lesson, or help me see it from a new perspective. 

Last week, I was reminded of a boy we had on our unit years ago.  It was long before trauma-informed care was an expectation or we had options for placing kids in specific demographics.  We had lots of kids with lots of needs all on one hallway and we were doing the best we could with what we had.  And B was one of those kids with lots of needs.  He was extremely violent with both staff and the other residents, he would destroy property, and yell incessantly.  But each aggressive behavior was partnered with tears.  Without fail, his behaviors were angry, but his face was sad, afraid, hurt.  His cycle happened daily with very little reprieve, for him or those of us working with him.

Several months into his treatment he finally divulged that he had been a rape victim.  The shame and self-blame he felt was obvious, but it seemed the only emotion he felt comfortable showing was rage.  With his new confession, came an increase in his violence, and eventually some self-harming.  Things escalated, but surprisingly enough so did our love and concern for him.   He started to trust us, but even that created new fears and concerns for him. 

One evening while assisting with showers, I heard something break.  I ran down the hall where a co-worker was and she quickly explained it was B.  Since there were no men working that night and I was the supervisor, I quickly went to his bathroom door.  I knocked but my only response was deep breathing loud enough to be heard over the shower.  I knocked again, told him who it was and said I was opening the door.  I was met with shards of “unbreakable” glass laying on the floor.  B was standing in his clothes in the corner of the shower, a large shard in one hand, tears streaming down his face, and blood flowing from both arms.  I reached up to turn off the shower and my arm instantly went red from the scalding hot water his body was being met with to create more pain.

There was not a good protocol to follow in this instance, there wasn’t a system to follow, or a training we went through.  This was pain and love in its truest form. 

We both looked at each other and without talking I started to clear a path for him out of the bathroom.  He looked at the shard of glass in his hand over and over and then slowly handed it to me.  I gently assisted him out of the shower and we walked to another room. 

The nurse started getting bandages to clean him up, the other staff collected him clean, dry clothes, but he and I, now both splattered with blood, sat looking at each other without words.  There were no words.  We were both heart broken and respected that moment in one another, if only for that brief instance. 

Once the nurse and clean clothes returned, I stepped out.  I found myself slumped against a wall and exhaling, attempting to hold in the tears.  When he was dry and bandaged, he asked if I would come back in.  We returned to our silence of setting on the cold, hard ground facing each other, both unsure of how to begin. 

After what felt like an eternity of silence, I heard a mumbled, “I heard your voice.” 

My profound response was, “what?”

Again, “I heard your voice…so I stopped.”  That was it.  No more explanation.  No warm and fuzzy hugging.  No tearful recounting of how much we cared for one another.  Just more silence.  But, now the silence was different, because B had just shown me the importance of presence.  That was all I had offered him and all I could offer him in that moment…presence.

If it would have been someone else’s voice would the reaction have been the same … I don’t know.

If I would have noticed something with his behavior would it have been different … I don’t know.

If I would have had trauma-informed care, could I have responded better … I don’t know. 

All I know is that in a moment of what I can only imagine is complete desperation, the one thing B needed was presence. 

A few weeks later, B was moved to a different facility his behaviors being “too acute to handle.”  The staff watched devastated knowing that in this incident, with this kid, the system was going to fail.  I watched knowing that this kid had changed something in me even if I didn’t know what it was. 

Now, years later, I often wonder about B.  I try to push the memory of that night out of my mind as often as it surfaces, but last week I found myself an observer in another man’s desperation.  His desperation leading to dangerous behavior and it made me think about this idea of presence once again. 

How often do I offer my presence to another person?  With the chaos of life and work, have I forgotten the importance of just sitting with people and being present in their life?  Do I engage enough that my voice being heard is enough to help pull someone out of desperation, if only for a moment?  Do I allow myself to feel deeply for others that sometimes the only thing needed between us is silence? 

I Had a Good Ride with Old Blue!

old car

Today, the inevitable happened!  It was time to get Old Blue cleaned out and ready to be sold/given away.  A few weeks ago, after a few near death experiences (one including a kiddie scooter), I decided it was time to get a new car.  Something more reliable.  Something more practical.  Something that had a driver’s seat that actually sat upright on consistent basis.

So, last week with some help from the family, I drug myself to the car dealer.  I made it clear from the beginning that I’m somewhat of a cheapskate, I didn’t need bells and whistles, and I planned on driving it until it died, just like I did with Old Blue.  I think a small piece of me was secretly hoping it wouldn’t work out; they couldn’t meet all my demands.  The result, me walking off the parking lot and sticking with the familiar.  But, that didn’t happen.  Everything I asked for I received and then some.

That’s how I found myself cleaning out my treasured friend today.  And as surreal as it feels, it’s time.  As I began cleaning her out, I couldn’t help but think of the lessons she taught me. I know it sounds crazy, I mean after all she’s an object, a machine, nothing more than a necessity to most people.  But to me, she hold memories, lessons, and was with me half my driving life.

Here’s just a few things I learned through the years with Old Blue:

1.  Life is too short to not have some adventure!!

The first trip this car took was a impromptu weekend trip to Colorado.  We left in the middle of the night on a Thursday with the only rule being we could stop at any point of interest we wanted to along the way.  Bobby D was always up for anything, and Annie, well she was easily persuaded when we were road tripping.  This particular adventure led us to “see 7 states” from our tower tourist site.  As we pulled up, we realized something was not quite right.  First, there were rusted out cars with huge boulders setting on top of them.  As we got a little closer, we noticed there were taxidermy animals setting inside of it.  This was a small red flag, but we were young, on an adventure, and perhaps we thought ourselves a little invincible, so we kept driving.

As we pulled up to the building, it was the kind of place tourist go into and never come out, and as we looked up into the “tower” we were met with what I’m hoping were mannequins staring back at us.  I was something straight out of a House of Wax movie.  In that moment, we found out exactly how fast Old Blue was able to move.

This was the first of many trips she would make across the country.  When I couldn’t wait to see the Stanfield Clan,  Sherrita and I loaded up and headed to South Dakota.  She guided me to Louisville to visit great friends and a side trip to the Zappos Warehouse. She drove through what can only be described as a blizzard to get me to the airport hours away, so I could make it to my first professional conference.

Adventure, we’ve seen our share together.  But there were other lessons along the way, as well.

2.  Community is built by spending time together!

As I was cleaning out Old Blue, there were some things I just wasn’t going to be able to clean.  There are stains left in the floorboard from spills from my youth kids, or my many coffee trips with friends.  There were letters from friends tucked in the glove box, my handmade coffee cozy sitting under the radio, and a “few” pairs of my favorite shoes hidden in the trunk.

Every item I found, reminded me of an event.

The shoes, for example, reminded me of a time when some of my girls (junior highers at the time) and I were enjoying their summer off.  We stopped to get gas and it was a great opportunity to teach them how to pump it.  What I hadn’t expected was that they had all put on a pair of my high heels they had found in the floor board.  As K got out of the car to help me pump, I was met with a pair of bright yellow, green, and orange heels.  We laughed so hard we forgot to put the gas cap back on and I drove off with it setting on top of my car.  We suddenly became aware of it as we heard it clunk to the pavement as we pulled up to the stoplight.  It rolled back several feet and once again K agreed to help.  She dashed out of the car and ran as best she could in her bright high heels to come to the rescue.

It made several trips for coffee, or late night Steak ‘N’ Shake trips.  We drove on back roads, sometimes listening to music and sometimes talking until we were so tired we could barely make it home.

All my relationships, friendships, community, had memories in that car.

3. As time goes by, we must learn to be innovative!

Year by year, things started going wrong as they often do with cars. I wasn’t in a place where I could justify buying a new vehicle, so I had to improvise. I had to be innovative. I had to use duct tape! If you look at the seats, you’ll see tiny slivers of silver from where I put tape to keep the springs in the chair to keep it from ripping our pants.

But, just a few months ago I had to be really innovative. I sat down in the driver’s seat and I heard a pop and suddenly my driver’s seat reclined back, all the way back! It was great if I wanted to take a nap, or perhaps spy on someone, but it wasn’t so conducive for driving. I spent the day setting completely upright and realized right away that this wasn’t going to work. My mechanic was having neck surgery and was several towns over, so I had to do something. I slipped myself underneath the seat and used my legs to push it as far forward as I could manage. Then I took a small laundry basket and wedged it in between the back and front seat. I then filled with random items so the weight could hold it in place. I was pretty proud of my innovation, until I realized there were people watching the whole situation. I wasn’t sure if I should smile or take a bow, so I opted for running inside.

There are a million more stories I could share and want to. Maybe, it will become it’s own category someday.

But today, I’m just experiencing gratitude for life I’ve been able to live the past 10 years and the car that joined me on the journey

Have I ever told you the story of the lady chasing the parrot without any pants on?

Every once in awhile, I find myself saying and experiencing something that seems like it’s outside of reality. A few years ago, I was spending a vacation with some great friends in Washington. I rushed around that week marking as many things off of my bucket list as possible.

I hiked in Mount Rainier. I was fascinated as I stood on a pile of snow in shorts and t-shirts. I was even more amazed at a double rainbow that seemed to appear just for me and my moment.

The next day I was able to stand on the beach and listen to the waves crash onto shore.

But my plan from the beginning was to go to Pike’s Place, drink a Starbucks, and watch them throw a fish. And, it was everything I had hoped for. I stood outside of Starbucks with my coffee in hand and listened to a barbershop quartet serenade the pedestrians as they walked by. I walked through all the unique handmade booths and fell in love with the DIY candles and the fresh flowers. I took in all the unique people, art, and crafts.

And…of course…it rained a little!

After the rain let up, we began our stroll again. It was perfect. I was taken it all in, but the perfection was interrupted abruptly with, “Pauley come back.” It was repeated at a loud decibel, over and over. As I looked over, I did a double take. A woman was chasing a parrot. She would yell at “Pauley,” he would wait for her to get close, and as soon as she thought he was in reach he would take off again (and I’m pretty sure if he could smirk, he would have). This happened over and over again.

As I watched this happen, I realized this lady chasing the parrot didn’t have pants on! I was speechless. It was a moment I thought only happened on TV sitcoms; a pant-less woman chasing a parrot through the middle of a tourist packed park! And the scene kept going.

I watched the scene play out in front me, captivated by what was happening. And, that’s when I noticed it. Something even more surprising. The lady hadn’t had time to wear her pants out of the house, but she did have enough time to throw them over her shoulder in the shuffle. So, as she would chase the Pauley the pants would slide down her shoulder and she would push them back up and continue her pursuit.

I don’t think she ever caught Pauley. He just kept moving up the street with her following behind him.

I did learn a few lessons that day:

1. Traveling leads you to unexpected places.
2. Life is constantly surprising, breathtaking, and amazing, and often in ways you didn’t anticipate.
3. Probably the most important life lessons of all was never leave the house without your pants!

Have I ever told you the story of the lady chasing the parrot without any pants on?

C-SPAN, popsicles, and reflections on Memorial Day!

memorial day

Our staff piled into the multi-purpose room of our therapeutic home to witness a monumental day for anti-trafficking. This past week the House introduced 5 bills revolving around fighting trafficking. So, with popsicles in hand we all piled into one room to wait and see what would come about; would we be one step closer to change, would we simply see a new stage of awareness or would the topic be simply ignored. I sat there with my optimism and pessimism in battle with one another.

We watched for over two hours and I was encouraged. More than once, I witnessed my staff cheer. I watched as several turned around to smile as a congressman/woman “got it.” We watched as this issue became a bipartisan issue! Regardless of how you feel about the bills or the representatives presenting them, the attention and momentum it was(is) creating was exciting.

And, the bills passed. Just a few of the bills included:

— H.R. 4058: Requires states to identify and address sex trafficking of minors in foster care.

— H.R. 3530: Imposes additional financial penalties on sex traffickers and helps increase the amount of restitution victims could receive.

— H.R. 3610: Encourages states to put in place laws that treat minors who have been sex trafficked as victims rather than criminals.

— H.R. 4225: Makes it a federal crime to knowingly advertise for the commercial sexual exploitation of minors and trafficking victims.

As I experienced this monumental week, it made me appreciate the holiday I just observed. And, more importantly appreciate my dad and all the other men and women in my life who protected my freedom.

Freedom is a concept that has been plaguing my thoughts. What is it? How do we get it? How do we offer it to other people. More importantly, how often do I take it for granted?

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” -Nelson Mandela

When I was a little girl, my dad attempted to instill this value in me. Every year for Memorial Day, our family went camping and my dad would explain the importance of what the day meant. Every year for Veteran’s Day, dad would let Annie and I skip school and he shared his military stories, giving us all the details both good and bad. And, regardless of the event or who was around, when a patriotic song was played, he expected that we all stand up in respect.

Those moments often went unnoticed when I was younger. I lacked the understanding of how much my freedom cost and how much responsibility comes with that freedom.

So as I remember what my dad did for this country, for our liberties and freedom, I realize the best way to honor his legacy is to fight for freedom in my own way. dad military