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The first shots have been fired and, for all intents and purposes, the war has begun.

I sit here mired in memories now, thinking of two specific days that today's events bring to mind.

There's the day the first Gulf War started. Natalie was barely one, DJ, not even a thought in my mind yet.

Natalie was crawling around on the living room floor. CNN was on the tv. While I was glued to the greenish glow of a war being waged, Natalie had crawled over to the coffee table, gripped the edge and pulled herself up. She stood there a moment, let go of the table and suprised herself by not falling down. Her arms went out toward the television. "Oohhh," she said. "Ohhhh!" And then she walked, one unsteady step after another until she tried to go too fast and landed on her butt. She stayed there on the floor, eyes fixed on the television. We watched the war unfold together, Natalie transfixed by the greenish hue of wartime night vision.

Today, twelve years later, the second phase of that war begins and Natalie is a teenager, oblivious to the war waging while she giggles and gossips with her friends. I see Wolf Blitzer on the tv and I get a sense of deja vu. Wolf - in that fantasy world of television - hasn't aged a bit. My life and my daughter have. Yet it feels like the same day.

And then there's September 11. The day was just like this. Sort of warm, a bit of a breeze. Bright sunshine. Endless blue skies. And I don't have to say what the rest of the day was like.

I sit here and avoid work and play around with my memories until the two days combine as one and the dread and fear run into today.

I feel sick and I want a cigarette.


You don't need the cig. Trust me.

It may feel the same, but it's not. This is new territory. That may not make you any more comfortable, but it's not the same war nonetheless.

Take comfort in the fact that Natalie is oblivious to what's going on. Thank the men and women over there right now and those who served before for creating an America where it's perfectly ok to enjoy your life.

The fact that she is happy right now makes me glad that I served. I never fired a shot, all I did was fix planes. But now that I have my little girl, I feel better knowing one day she will be oblivious to the danger because I did my part to keep her safe and that there are numerous others who will do the same.

I just wish I was oblivious!

Natalie and DJ will always be glad for your quitting smoking, Michele.

I'm 22, and when I was around DJ and Natalie's age, I used to hide my mom's cigarettes (I tried all sorts of things) in order to keep her from smoking. It never worked, all she would do is get rather pissed off at me.

She used to retort to me that "well, you've gotta die sometime", when I would argue with her over the effects of her smoking.

She's dying right now of small-cell lung cancer (she's 53). She might have a week or two to live (give or take); it's not pretty.

I've never preached to people about their smoking (I did try to get my mom to quit), it doesn't bother me if someone chooses to smoke (they usually know the risks). I'm not about to lecture and tell you not to smoke, but just based on my experience, I can tell you it isn't worth it (you know that of course).

DJ should never have to see his mom in the condition my mom is in (she smoked for 36 years). I hope you always fight that urge to light up.

The price of intelligence is a keen awareness of one's environment and surroundings. It's one of them there double-edged swords.

That might be the price, but sometimes I feel I got screwed on the interest rates!

Buck up, Missy, there's a war on, and our troops don't need your pathos!

Just keep in mind that there are Natalies in Baghdad who in a few hours time will be trapped under rubble, gasping their last few breaths in a panic that if they're lucky will only last a few minutes.

And by golly we don't like it any one bit, but we will not lose our resolve.