Sorting and savoring, two graduations, 10 days apart


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

The Clinton Co-inky Dink


Wayyyyyy back in 1997, I went to a country style restaurant in downtown Raleigh to support a presidential candidate whose wife was going to make an appearance. To my delight, I somehow managed to not only see but talk briefly and shake the hand of none other than Hillary Rodham Clinton. It was a thrilling moment for me and I remember joking to my friend that I would never wash my hand again.

Well, a lot has changed since that day. I have washed my hand many times and have changed my political affiliation. My faith and my priorities have been completely transformed since that time as well. Still, I will admit I think that was a pretty cool thing especially in light of my OS’s recent encounter. 

Nate is a member of the Domestic Affairs Forum (DAF) at West Point and he too, has had a brush with some pretty famous people. The DAF focuses on politics from a national, local and state level and the club took a trip to New York City. According to Nate, joining a group at West Point is “money” and this trip to NYC is one he will not soon forget and here’s why. 

The cadets toured ABC News and met with Bob Woodruff. You may recall that he was the reporter who was seriously injured when hit by an IED while embedded with the Army in Iraq. They visited New York Times newspaper and nearly 20 cadets met with the very loquacious Ted Sorenson, speech writer for President John F. Kennedy. 

They saw President Theodore Roosevelt’s home in New York. TR is one of Nate’s heroes. 

Those things are certifiably “legit” but the trip got even better one evening when the cadets attended the David Letterman Show

Not officially on the itinerary, nearly 20 cadets arrived at the show around 4:30 pm, pulled a few strings and landed some tickets. I thought the David Letterman Show was done live at 11:30 pm, untrue, it’s actually filmed in the late afternoon. 

We received a call from Nate who told us to look for him on the show. Although I don’t like DL nor do I find him particularly amusing, Dave did gain two new temporary viewers as the Hubs and I actually tuned in to watch. Tom Hanks was a guest and he made mention of the cadets in the audience and how much his dad hated the Navy. Far more importantly; however, we saw our OS seven times! I do believe he should be getting several movie or modeling contracts as my cadet looked so handsome! And he was smiling. Ask any WP mom and we all agree, it is wonderful to see a smiling cadet.

But you want to hear the ironic connection? Remember my brief encounter with Hillary Clinton? Well, my OS got to meet her husband! That’s right, Nate met President Clinton! They met him in a swanky hotel while Clinton was in town raising money for Haiti. Initially “Bill” as we like to call him (HA!) was only going to pose for a photo op but he actually met with the cadets for about 10 minutes. While there Nate approached the former President, introduced himself and shook his hand. Like mother, like son.

Personally, between you and me, I think they probably wanted to bring Nate up and interview him but didn’t want to hurt the other cadets’ feelings. He would have been a very engaging “celebrity” if I do say so myself. 

Check out this clip and you will see my OS for yourself. How cool is that? In a mere nine seconds, Nate appears on the screen for the world to enjoy! Gaa!

September 3rd was a very good day!

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All week long I have been anticipating writing a post about going to the hospital. I awoke Thursday morning excited to think that I was going to the hospital. I knew something good was going to happen on September 3, 2009. Normally I don’t look forward to going to the hospital but on September 3, 2009, I wasn’t going to see just a regular, ordinary person…

Oh no, my friends. You see on September 3, 2009 I was going to meet my niece for the very first time. I babysat my two nephews while their mama, (my sister) went into labor. We played, I wiped a butt, fed them lunch, read stories, watched train videos on YouTube and had a very silly time. It doesn’t get better than that! Here is video proof that we had fun in case there was any ever doubt! (I’m trying to load this onto my post, I apologize in advance if you don’t see it!)

The Hubs came with me so as soon as my brother-in-law called, I could hustle on over to the hospital. And at 2:22 pm, my darling niece, Rachel Shiloh entered our world. I was honored to meet her before she was even an hour old. I never cried at the birth of my own OS (of course I was overjoyed!) but when I saw this little bundle of girl, tears filled my eyes. Rachel is probably my only niece that will know me well because she lives nearby. It will be wonderful to see her grow and develop into her own little person. I am now AuntDeeeees to Rachel Shiloh, praise the Lord!

So that was suppose to be my blog post – as my nephew Josiah would say, “the-end!” Happy, happy, joy, joy, right???

But then my intended blog post became altered. That’s because on September 7, 2009, I returned back to the same hospital. This time it wasn’t to see my niece, it was to visit my mom. She has pneumonia and had a slight heart attack on Sunday. My mom was going to help my sister and in the wee hours of the night, she became disoriented and shaky. She was admitted to the hospital and there she remains until things get better.

It’s times like these that I am ever thankful for my faith. I am not leaning on my own understanding (Proverbs 3:5) and I’m trying not to borrow trouble (Matthew 6:34). If I get too caught up on all the “what if’s” I will be miserable (Philippians 4:6).

All I know is that today I got to see my mom and although she is sick, she is a blessing and still laughs at my jokes. And before I saw my mom, I went to my sister’s and got to hold Rachel and rub her little back. She was sleeping so soundly, her pink lips making a sucking motion and her tiny legs tucked snugly almost as if she was still in the womb. One of her arms rested on my side and yes, I melted.

This week I hope to be going to New York to see my oldest OS, my baby!. May it be so dear Lord!

Stinky Boy


It is safe to go outside and bre- athe. Wher- ever you live in the con-tiguous United States, I imagine you have noticed how suddenly the air quality has improved. I know why, my friends. I know why.

My oldest OS took a shower. That putrid smell you have been inhaling is gone! After three days of extensive field training at Camp Buckner, my odious oliveshoot received a much-needed and merited blessed encounter with hot water, soap and shampoo. All is well! The fog has been lifted!

If Nate smelled anything like he did when we picked him up for Christmas break, that child certainly was ripe without a shower for three days. During Christmas break, Nate’s flight had been delayed and he came home a day late. He had to return to West Point and since it is fairly shut down during Christmas, he returned to WP unable to wash up. When we picked him up, I felt like I was hugging Pigpen…remember stinky Pigpen from the Snoopy cartoons? My boy was a handsome yet acrid mix of perspiration, bad cologne and an onion-like smell, ew.

This time at Camp Buckner, affectionately known as Camp Fun-Fun, my Soldier has not enjoyed slumber on a soft cot with a Green Girl each night. To the contrary. This week Nate had his first experience sleeping on a rock. I never thought about having a child who has slept (should I say, passed out!) on a rock. Hmmmm… He pulled security for two nights and maybe got only six hours of sleep in two days. He chomped on David’s Sunflower Seeds (it’s better than chew!) and kept vigil all night taking only small naps while his buddy kept watch. I have seen my OS grumpy from sleep deprivation so I pity anyone who had to endure his wrath. On the other hand, that might be something special Nate just saves for his mama… 😉

At one point, covered in muck and sweat, his Company did a six mile ruck (hike/march) up a mountain. Nate likened it to climbing up a very steep gravel road. Then his foot began to ache and he feared that somehow it was broken. He hobbled 15 minutes on his lame foot in order to get transported for medical attention. A smelly, overtired 19 year old with sharp foot pains must have been quite a sight. My own experience with a broken foot left me rejoicing when he told us that he just had tendonitis and merely needs to tape his foot and take some anti-inflammatory medicine.

I don’t know what to think when my son relays this information. Am I worried? Yes. Am I proud? Absolutely. Am I scared? Sometimes. I love hearing his stories and at once find it all terribly exciting tinged with some maternal anxiety, after all this is MY boy.

Before I became the mama of a Soldier, I was immune and ignorant to the sacrifice of our service people. The scales from my eyes have been lifted, as the Bible says, because I am learning firsthand all that we require and expect from our military. And how many of us don’t truly appreciate all that’s done for freedom.

They don’t get to sleep on comfy beds every night or enjoy time with their family when they are out on a mission. Instead they protect us.

I think of my OS with leaves stuffed all over his helmet, camo paint covering his face and ears, exhausted and reeking to high heavens and I experience a mixture of humility and gratitude. Whoa. There are so many servicemen and women out on the real battlefield doing the same, risking their lives for you and me and countless others. I have a cousin who is an Army Chaplain serving overseas, what a brave and selfless man!

Soldiers gobbling up those MREs, (meal, ready to eat) hobbling around on a wobbly leg, finding a grit within themselves most of us can’t imagine and we take it for granted.

So today as you enjoy the fresh summer air or as you are soaking in a tub or relishing the hot water flowing out of your shower, take a moment to lift up those in the military who didn’t have that luxury. Pray for them, their families, thank them in some way.
We can all breathe a lot easier because of our service people even if they haven’t bathed in days…

I can’t wait!


The first concert I ever went to was to see Elton John. I wore a multi-colored striped t-shirt that I had made just to look extra hot and brought my camera with fresh flash bulbs because I had to capture the moment. 

When Elton John came on-stage with his fancy glasses and strutted up to the piano, I seriously thought I was going to cry. I couldn’t believe I was at an Elton John concert and well on my way to being a full-fledged, independent woman at around 14 years old.

I also thought I was going to cry at an MC Hammer concert and not because of the guy’s funny pants. I happened to like MC Hammer at that time, thank you very much and I was a mother of two kids at the time and needed a night out with my husband. Let’s just blame that one on hormones. 

Moments, events, concerts, parades move me. I get carried away and overwhelmed. There is an energy and excitement; it’s like something big is going to take place and I’m getting to be a part of it even if it’s as a dorky teenager or a mom. I can’t help myself. 

Next week something very major is going to take place. 
I’m going to see my son. 
My Soldier. 
My boy. 

Sure, I’m going on a scooter with a broken foot and that wasn’t exactly what I anticipated but I’m going to see my son. 
My Soldier. 
My boy.

I haven’t seen my oldest OS since June 30th at West Point. Oh what an emotional day that was for me and thousands of other parents and well-wishers. I even have trouble recalling that day because of its intensity. 
Even though I was completely ambulatory at that time, I confess it was nearly impossible to walk away from the place. I left part of my heart at the United States Military Academy. 

Since June 30th, we’ve only talked with our son for a total of one hour in 6 1/2 weeks. We have received precious letters like manna from heaven but only 60 minutes total of slightly normal conversation. Not complaining but just saying, we have missed him dearly. Just the thought of seeing my child, hugging him, hearing his voice face to face beats any concert or performance I shall ever attend. Just the thought of connecting with Nathan again makes me want to weep with joy. I have ever experienced separation from any of my children for this long. 

But in a week I get to see my son. 
My Soldier. 
My boy…

Like a very wonderful and talented singer once sang (and I was there so I should know), “can’t touch this!” Hammer time next Saturday! 

Leaving civilian life behind, becoming military parents

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We just ate our last lunch as a civilian family in our home. In about an hour, we will head out for West Point, first stopping at a special family’s house along the way which is sure to be a bloggable event.

We are becoming a military family, I guess. In true W-H fashion, we did not have a Norman Rockwell dinner or lunch where we were all sitting around the table, laughing and smiling with every bite, singing Kum-Bi-Yah.

I guess we are a really human family and my expectations might have been too high. I am disappointed but trying to not dwell on things not ending perfectly like I wanted. :/

At this point, I’m averaging about 6-8 crying jags a day and think waterproof mascara is the order of the day for about the next week at least.

If you are reading this, please pray for us as we make this important journey. It is becoming a reality and I need to keep my eyes on Jesus.

I am the mama of a soldier…I am the mama of a soldier.

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26