Sorting and savoring, two graduations, 10 days apart

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Stand up and take a bow. Curtain closes on another chapter.

It’s that let-down feeling you have after everything is said and done.

Your busy plans are complete,

bags are emptied,

things are sort of back in place

and despite a moment of rest,

you are still utterly exhausted and drained.

Your company has left and life is back to normal – that is until your husband has meniscus surgery this Wednesday.

And looking at you and your sassy pink-haired self, no one would know all that’s been going on because you appear to be coping.

But the fact is you are struggling and you (in this case me) wrestle with conflicting emotions.

Clear as mud, huh?

Without getting too personal because blogs like that make me uncomfortable, this is how I’m feeling.

In some strange way, it seems as if nothing happened because so much happened and it’s just too hard to process. It’s postpartum depression minus the baby. I scarce can take it all in.

Two graduations in nine days in two different states is not for the faint of heart.

Of all the stressful things I have done in my life, having those two events so close to each other is wayyyy high up there on the things I wouldn’t choose to repeat.

Both moments were so significant and emotional, there wasn’t time to absorb one without quickly being distracted by the other.

As a result, I’m stunned.

What did we just do?

Where did we just go and come back from (and I don’t even care about the questionable grammar)?

How much money did we spend?

Why am I both full of emotion yet in empty despair?

The denouement of Aaron’s high school graduation and Nate’s graduation from the United States Military Academy needed their own proper time. Kind of like my arthritic right knee, there wasn’t and isn’t any cushion.

After a graduation celebration with some of Nate’s friends and their families, the Hubs and I were driving on Bear Mountain Bridge.

Nate and I after the graduation parade. I really loved that shining brass buckle. Very shiny.

Our tummies were full of delicious food from Foodies and it was early evening.

The United States Military Academy, an outline of the stately concrete structures were off in the distance.

The view called out to my mama’s heart.

Amber lights sparkled from the windows, the Hudson River sat tranquil and tears streamed from my eyes.

Tears are currently streaming from my eyes as I type this, thank you very much.

Cadets are still in these rooms, I thought to myself.

They are busy doing things, I mused, but strangely, my boy is no longer there.

How could that be???  His (and thusly my) 47 month journey had ended just hours before and everyone had seemingly moved on.

Ring Weekend was such a beautiful night! Now it’s all done!

Nate was ready.

I guess I was not.

As the Hubs kept his eyes on the road, I couldn’t help but reach out and grab that little West Point with my fingers.

Between my thumb and my pointer finger, I held West Point there as long as I could before we passed it by.

I can never grasp what this place has meant to my OS or to me.

I can find reasons to return to West Point but none will be for my boy as a plebe, yuk, cow or firstie.

The pangs of this reality sting and confuse.

He loved that place.

He hated it.

It was so far away.

I loved coming there.

What tumult of spirit!

No sooner had Nate graduated from USMA, then he bolted from Michie Stadium along with nearly 1000 other newly commissioned officers and finished turning in all their stuff.

There wasn’t any sentiment in the departure and it reminded me of the 90 second goodbye we had been issued on R-Day, that never to be forgotten day.

No built-in cushion there that’s for sure.

Pride, humility, loss, gain, and so much more jumble inside.

I expect to be working through these experiences and emotions for quite some time because that’s what a mama does, right?

My boy, that uniform, what memories

I’d love to hear from you if you can relate. West Point mom or not, you might empathize. Thanks for listening…

My boy, that uniform, what memories

25 out of 50 things I’m thankful for

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I’ve always known how to have fun on my birthday! 

Tomorrow is a big day for me. I used to think 50 year old people were old. Now I think they are, well, they are…me as of January 27. 


Here is half of the 50 things I’m thankful for. 

Class of 2016 = woot

1. My middle OS has been accepted to Moody Bible Institute!
2. This means I will have a semi-regular pizza delivery boy! 
3. I had a wonderful experience speaking to a local MOPS group and I want to do it again! 
4. My topic was “Raising Mighty Oliveshoots” and I’m sensing the Lord is creating something. 
5. My oldest OS has done so well as West Point that he will be getting his first choice for his post and unit. This means that Nate will probably be going to Fort Carson in Colorado. I suggested “Fort” Cary (we live in Cary!) but he seemed disinterested. No worries though!
6. My orange hair, freckle face OS’s basketball team is currently in first place and his back pain is subsiding.

Few moments are as epic as when you
and your OS get to meet Mary Jo!

7. I’m going to MaryJo’s Cloth Store in Gastonia on Saturday with friends. Ignite endorphin levels!
8. I soaked some almonds overnight in water and evaporated cane juice. I drained the water and just before putting them into the dehydrator, I sprinkled cinnamon on them. They taste GOOD! 

I’m having a bibimbap birthday! 

9. We are having a Korean exchange student stay with us for the weekend and she is going to teach me how to make bibimbap
10. We’re also going to be serving squash pancakes and green onion pancakes. This should be interesting!
11. My six year old nephew Jon aka Goo, told me he has drawn me a picture for my birthday. I can’t wait to see it!
12. My aunt and uncle from Chicago sent me two birthday pizzas. I have them safely hidden in the freezer, only the Hubs seems to know. I do not want to share. Does that make me a bad person??? Do not tell a soul. 
13. I’m reading my seventh book since Christmas. Shablam! Current read – Saving Leonardo. Here’s a great quote “One of the greatest injustice we do our young people is to ask them to be conservative. Christianity is not conservative, but revolutionary…We must teach them to be revolutionaries, revolutionaries against the status quo.” Click to read this review that compelled me to buy this for my Kindle Fire. 
14. It struck me last night as I was sitting with my monthly writing friends, how immensely blessed I am with a diversity of friendships culled from many parts of my life. 
15. My house is neither immaculate nor filthy, right now as I type this, it’s right in the middle. 
16. I love my weekly Bible Study and the women I share life with. As I look around the table, I admire their strength, beauty and stories about leading redeemed lives. 

Bible Study just before the Army/Navy game!
Had to bring Nate!

17. My stepfather said he would go with me for my colonoscopy! I don’t have one scheduled but since I took him to his, he said he would accompany me on mine! 

18. I just finished reading a book about a vacuum cleaner and it made me cry. I thought about the stories my family’s appliances could tell.
19. When I told my mom that sometimes her birthday cards to me are so sappy, I could become diabetic, she didn’t get offended. She laughed and scoffed. We had fun! 
20. Loves it when the pastor speaks a sermon custom made for our family! 
21. And REALLY loves it when we apply the sermon to daily life!
22. So blessed to have a praying family. We rallied around one of our OS this weekend and prayed with and for him one night. I want to leave this kind of legacy.
23. Realized that I along with the Hubs are raising a first generation Christian family. I didn’t see that modeled in my own family and we’re super imperfect but still, we’re doing it!

A recent creation I made

24. My sewing machines and I are getting along. We are enjoying our time together.
25. I made a dinner this week for a teacher who has cancer. I wasn’t sure what to make and brought sesame seed crusted salmon, wilted spinach with a white wine sauce and quinoa pepper salad. She said her favorite thing to eat was fish! I didn’t know that! 


On the eve of a big day, it makes sense to have some jollity. Life is a gift. I’d love to hear from you, any of these 25 jump out at you?

Army strong – day one post surgery

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img_20111007_125642We’re sitting in a darkened room at Keller Army Hospital on a crisp autumn day at West Point.

Though my family often chides me for asking a lot of questions, today I think Nate at least would agree, that trait does have its merits.

I had myriad questions of the surgeon but didn’t barrage him. A mama wants to effectively advocate for her son.

If you’ve ever been to the doctor or had surgery, you understand how important it can be to have another voice speaking on your behalf.

In the short time he has been a patient at the hospital, I have run interference for my OS. When Nate was thirsty, I requested water, when he drank Sprite, I asked if he could have more.

Watching Rick Springfield in the waiting room. Pretty sure he's had a little surgery himself!
Watching Rick Springfield in the waiting room. Pretty sure he’s had a little surgery himself!

The medical staff have many patients, Aaron and I have one. It’s not being a diva or a prima donna, I’m not a Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton, just a mama, if I can do something quicker or easier, than I want to assist.

img_20111007_172711When Nate’s IV monitor was sounding “occlusion,” I fetched someone to investigate. When he thought he might throw up, I inquired of a barfing receptacle. I’m sure Nate would have managed but not very comfortably because he’s too weak to do much.

Aaron has faithfully stayed by Nate’s side even though there’s really nothing for him to do here. I am proud of my boy for his sacrifice and love.

Here’s an example of how Aaron and I have been a good team.

A short while ago, a male nurse came to help Nate with a basic biological function. Nate did not want my intervention (totally understood that!) so Aaron and I waited in the hallway.

Apple picking with my boy

Apple picking with my boy

The nurse gave Nate his privacy once he had transferred him to the toilet. He left the room and told Nate he would get him back to the bed. Nate used the restroom and Aaron and I stepped back in the room. Nate began to wobble and he looked white as a ghost. I yelled for Aaron’s help in case Nate fainted as I retrieved the nurse. Aaron stood by his brother’s side until the staff got him safely back to bed.

Now Nate is fast asleep, problem avoided, thank the Lord.

Seriously!

Thanks for your prayers, concern and support, it means so much to us. Army Strong!

Surgery – when the time is right, whenever that is!

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Unfortunately, the adage “expect the unexpected” and the expression “hurry up and wait” are true this morning as Nate’s surgery has been delayed.

He walked into the surgery room, mentally prepared to get his ACL fixed and walked right back out minutes later because of an equipment malfunction.

The night before, the three of us enjoyed dinner at Sushi King followed by ice cream just a few doors down the street. Nate was as ready as he could be for the surgery bright and early in the morning.

But at this point, my OS has been told that the equipment might not even be fixed today. The sterilizer is broken. I think that’s a good reason to postpone things however, my firstie is hungry, thirsty and frustrated, who can blame him?

Yesterday I found myself counting our blessings, taking stock of the goodness which has resulted through this trial. So instead of complaining which is unproductive, I’m going to concentrate on the positive. This is just a partial list and I hope to later include other blessings which have lifted our spirits.

Don”t be jealous, get your own ACL surgery 😉

My van is loaded with treats for Nathan. Cards and gifts from family as well as from people who don’t even know my boy! When Nate said he wanted me to bring him dehydrated apples, I obliged but a mother who doesn’t even know him also wanted to support a member of the military. She dehydrated a bunch of apples for Nate. They look delicious!

Bible Study friends holding a bag of dehydrated apples.
They donated 40 pounds of apples for my OS!
The women in my weekly Bible Study pitched in and bought a box of apples for me to dehydrate for my OS. We’re talking 40 POUNDS of apples! In addition, my Bible Study leader and another WP mom donated bags of apples for my healthy food project. Such bounty! When I popped open the back of the van to give Nate some of the things, his mouth was agape at the amount of apples he now has to enjoy! I felt so proud of my friends and the community of support.

The West Point networks for parents and mothers are extraordinary. Through a parent list-serve and a closed West Point Moms facebook group, I have been encouraged beyond measure. I learned about Mobilegs which is a lightweight crutch alternative. When I contacted the company and told them about Nate’s upcoming surgery, they eagerly offered me a military discount.

Nate trying on his Mobilegs before surgery.

The Mobilegs arrived at his barracks yesterday afternoon.

When we met Nate, he was grinning and carrying them. “I’m actually kinda excited to use them,” Nate remarked to me last night.

During dinner, when the owner of the restaurant learned that Nate was a West Point cadet having surgery the next day, he made him a free special mango sushi roll. Our spirits were high. Truly I’m learning that the little things we can all do for each other are very significant. THANK YOU SUSHI KING!!

Mango, cream cheese, crab sushi roll made
just for Nate – delicious kindness



Another great blessing was Aaron and I drove to West Point and enjoyed a scenic, pleasant trip. We got along 96% of the time and although the last 4% was pretty ugly (we were less than ten miles away from West Point!), our relationship quickly returned to its formerly happy state. 


And as if we hadn’t be given above and beyond what we even imagined, we had a surprise awaiting us. I opened the small closet in Nate’s hospital room and there, tucked in the far corner, I spotted the thing we never expected. A pair of bright red boxer briefs!!! Carefully I pinched the undies with my fingers and wiggled them at Nate! He was, um, speechless! I’m pretty sure an angel had left them there for my boy. It doesn’t get better than that, my friends!

A complimentary pair of undies left for Nate! What great fortune!

And there have been other blessings which I must acknowledge. Right now though I’m completely exhausted and trusting in the Lord’s perfect timing. Please know that your words and thoughtfulness are so meaningful. We’ll keep you posted…

Doing Hard Things – Nate needs a new knee in New York :(

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August 5, 2011 became a day our entire family will remember. For my oldest OS, it was not only a day that marked the passing of my grandma but Nate endured an additional painful moment that the rest of us didn’t.  

Nate in happier days!

It was an hour before completion of CLDT training at Fort Bliss. Overall it was a lackluster experience for my OS and I best leave it at that. Putting it mildly, Nate was ready for it to be over and to return to West Point for the beginning of his “firstie” aka senior year. Prior to leaving the base, Nate was relieving stress by joking around and wrestling with some of the other guys. The next thing he knew a much larger NCO (non-commissioned officer) pounced on Nate and threw him backwards. As he dropped to the ground, Nate heard the dreaded pop in his left knee.


In 2007, Nate first heard that “pop” during a soccer game. It marked the end of his soccer season for the year. My OS was 17 when he had knee surgery and began a long rehab for a torn meniscus and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). In time, he recovered well and was resolute in absolutely never having to relive that experience ever again. 

But the Lord had other plans on August 5th. Now on Wednesday, Nate returns to the operating room. Not in the comfortable environs of our hometown but this time at West Point. And on the same knee no less! Tomorrow my middle OS Aaron and I travel to New York to be with Nate before and after the surgery. According to the surgeon, my OS will have a different operation to fix the problem. Based on Nathan’s future job as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army, the surgeon advised him to have a patellar tendon graft. This is a harder surgery with a tougher rehab and an uglier scar but it insures better results for his long-term success. I guess you could say Nate will have a Soldier’s Knee.


My boy will have to summon a great deal of strength to heal from this surgery. With the help of his fellow cadets (let it be so!) and his faith in the Lord, I know he can do this but I hate that I will be so far away. Would it really be that awkward if I just stayed in the barracks and promised to not be a bother??? 😉 He will return back to class almost immediately whereas the last time, Nate recovered at home for nearly two weeks. Four years ago I could take care of him. I brought him food, as a family we helped him. Nate had plenty of visitors and attention, we all rallied around him. Now I will only be able to stay for a few days. His dorky brothers even had daily competitions on who could collect the most urine in the handy receptacle near his bedside, I doubt anyone is going to volunteer for that job! 

This is a leg brace; however when I had my ACL surgery
I called it the most horrible orthopedic device
ever created! How I loathed that thing!
Be of good courage, Nate! You can doey it!

Nate will be in a full leg immobilizer for six weeks. He’ll be hobbling all over the base and be expected to fully participate in West Point activities. Jesus knows my heart and hears my prayers. 


So to the extent I feel comfortable, I’m sharing part of my prayer with you, dear friends.

Suddenly plebe year is looking a lot easier
than recovering from ACL surgery AGAIN! 

Lord,

As you well know, I don’t understand the reason for this injury but I don’t have to comprehend all your ways. You don’t ask for my permission and I realize that. Forgive me as I acknowledge my weakness in this area for even questioning your sovereignty about why this happened again. Lord, in your perfect time, speak to me and give me ears to hear. Calm my anxious mama’s heart and allow me to trust You through this process. Reveal to my boy new things about who You are. Bless my child with Your presence when he is in pain and feeling discouraged. Surround him with the compassion and kindness of others and allow my boy to notice your manifold blessings. Though I will not always be near my son, you promise in your Word to never leave or forsake us. You never sleep, you are always present and that is a comfort to me. Lord, though his knees aren’t the greatest (!) you and I both know Nate is tough but so very tender hearted, thank you for fearfully and wonderfully making him this way. Because of You, he can do this hard thing! In Jesus’ name, amen.
One of my sweetest blessings = my boy

Thanks y’all for praying for Nate and caring enough to read this post…