A name, an identity, a mom and a son…

12 Comments

fam303When my oldest olive shoot leapt in my womb, I loved thinking about his potential name. I very much like my first name and realized the great responsibility given a parent to pick just the right one. After all, it’s going to stick with them all his/her life, right?

The Hubs and I kicked around a lot of first names before finding the right one for him.

The one thing I knew for sure was that Nathan would have a distinctive last name.

A last name that was hyphenated.

This idea was not met with thunderous applause. In our extended family, my mother-in-law, (may she rest in peace) said some regrettable things about our decision. That only made the woodworm of pride dig deeper in me. Nothing and no one could thwart my resolve.

So on that treasured spring day, my baby entered the world. We signed the birth certificate, sent out birth announcements and we all settled into family life. Two brothers later, 4/5 of our family are known by our special last name. It rarely presented an issue.2013-07-04 07.36.20

But when Nate decided to go to West Point, he began to mention that people were perplexed about what to call him. His first last name? His second last name? The first year, (plebe year) at West Point, NO ONE calls you anything but your last name! This only compounded the issue. The last day of plebe year, there is even a special ceremony where the other cadets actually acknowledge that you even have a first name if you can imagine!

Throughout his time at West Point, Nate noticed that his name was longer on his uniform than others. Eventually he shortened it unofficially because according to him, even the clever-minded cadets just couldn’t figure it out and he was tired of the confusion.

So it wasn’t a surprise to me the day Nate mentioned he wanted to just have one last name. I gulped but understood when he announced that he was going to use only my husband’s/his dad’s last name from now on. Honestly it made sense and I could appreciate the reasons behind his decision.

2013-05-10 13.33.10My maturity about the whole thing has impressed me. As vehement as I was in insisting that he have both of his parents’ last names, I have remained compassionate and impartial. I completely respect his decision. He is a man of honor, integrity and character. He will be married in November. I cannot hold him down nor do I want to impede his life whatsoever.

But here comes the raw part – I’m going to admit something…a new emotion that has risen to the surface a little bit…

2013-05-10 17.14.52When I learned that my OS would be getting a new birth certificate, one with just one last name, it felt like a rope burn to my heart.

Ok, so now I’m crying while typing. There is NOTHING that will ever change my affection for my olive shoots.  Our connection extends far beyond a dumb hyphen. My boy’s decision wasn’t an offense to me as a mom. Still, when the Hubs called me upon returning from the court-house to facilitate Nate’s name change, wow, I suddenly had a hard time. I was fine with Nate changing his name from 2014 and onward but gosh, going backward in time and doing it??? OUCHY!

Thinking of him having a new birth certificate brought sadness. I harkened back to that day in the hospital when we declared his name.

There are lessons to learn through all this. Besides encouraging them to walk with the Lord, my boys deserve respect and support of their decisions. I can do even if it stings a little. Since he is an officer in the Army, Nate has endured endless background checks, mountains of paperwork, and clearances to make this happen. True to Nate’s personality, he has been diligent. It’s the least I can do even if it stings a little. Furthermore, my sweet boy has spoken with tenderness about wrestling with the decision. Maybe he felt like he was betraying the family and what we have stood for. Nate, if you’re reading this, I know you love me and I understand!

299311_10150412030338018_3766445_nHis name is Nathaniel – it means gift of God and though the last name is changing, I am blessed to always be able to call him my son. I can do even if it stings a little. Perhaps I even will get some monogrammed towels for him after deployment to celebrate his decision!

Advertisements

Sorting and savoring, two graduations, 10 days apart

8 Comments

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

A West Point weekend – ring!

Leave a comment

The journey wading through grief while learning to swim continues. In future posts, I’ll document more about this but I have determined that swimming is an homage to my grandma. Not that she was a great swimmer, in fact, how crazy is this, I’m not even sure she swam though I do have pictures of her in the pool and in the ocean! Nonetheless, swimming has become an emblem, my emblem of moving forward despite the current of sadness which I now possess in my heart.   

West Point firsties during the Ring Ceremony

But over the weekend, I set despair aside and experienced the unmitigated joy and pride of being the mama of a West Point firstie. How sweet and kind of the Lord to perfectly situate a celebration in the midst of a loss. My oldest OS is now a firstie at West Point. In civilian terms, he is a “senior” in college. And when you are a firstie, the plebeian life is wayyyyy behind you. Sure, you have some very big decisions to make regarding your future but for a precious weekend in August, you leave those worries behind. It’s all about one thing…getting your ring. Yeah, it’s a pretty big deal. 

Moments away from getting their rings!



Lowly plebes refer to the ring as a mass of crass and brass and glass but for a firstie, it is an epic embellishment. Overlooking Trophy Point, the Hubs and I along with many equally exuberant parents, observed nearly a thousand firsties savor that moment. Once that ring is slipped over each firsties’ finger, all the muck and ruck and toil and moil they have endured at West Point, kinda sorta melts away. At least that’s what I noticed in my OS. 


My OS marching to the Ring Ceremony.
(That’s not me in the yellow shirt.) 😉

With literally hundreds of stones to choose from, it wasn’t easy picking the right one. Nate selected a striking sky blue topaz set in yellow gold. On one side of the ring are the words United States Military Academy and on the other is the class crest “For More Than Ourselves 2012.” Knowing my OS as I do, I can’t think of a more fitting motto. Two “diamonds” are set on either side and when coupled with the middle stone, a brilliant streak of blue catches the eye. 

Nate’s mass of crass and brass and glass. 

As impressive as the outside, the engraving on the inside of Nate’s ring was as significant. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” is the inscription he personally selected from Romans 8:31 in the Bible. I.love.that. I mean I really love that.

A mama, an oliveshoot, an impending storm 
and a gorgeous ring

This weekend our family will travel to Chicago for my grandma’s memorial service. My oldest OS will be in attendance and that means so much to me.  Grandma loved all my OS and told everyone about Nate attending West Point. Years ago, while out for lunch, she even got the address of a cute waitress for Nate because she was so proud of him and hoped they would correspond. (Um, they didn’t!) 


As an extended family, we will cry and laugh and profoundly feel the gaping loss together. We will eat pizza and Portillo’s then make more memories in honor of her. And that gorgeous sky blue topaz ring will be on Nate’s finger. Grandma would have had everyone gushing over this ring. She would have grinned from ear to ear as if she birthed him herself. 


Again, I sense the Lord’s blessing because my grandma would have beamed with pride seeing my OS united celebrating her life. A mixture of sadness and pride fill my mama/grand-daughter’s heart. Tomorrow I will share with you the reward I received for being a firstie mom…(hint, it’s shiny…)

Love is a many splendored thing!

4 Comments

The following post is published with permission by my oldest OS. When you have a son who is skilled in military stuff, you must be careful…

So my last post ended with my oldest OS journeying to El Salvador. He wanted an “epic” summer and by anyone’s estimations, he was successful. In the span of 10 days, Nate traveled to Lithuania, Slovenia, Latvia (his fave), Estonia and Finland. 


Then he returned to West Point and oversaw a squad of new cadets during Beast. Being a new cadet the social equivalent of being lower than a plebe or an amoeba at West Point and I’m sure it was sweet relief for Nate is now a cow (a third year student) to be large and in charge.


Upon completing his detail, Nate boarded a plane bound for El Salvador. This is when our OS showed another side of leadership many people prefer to overlook. Submission – the action or fact of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person and that is knowing when to submit to authority. Who were and are the superior forces to whom my OS submits, you might ask?


1. The Lord Jesus Christ
and
2. Lu’s dad…


(Enter dreamlike sequence…)

Nate eagerly passed through Customs and scanned the crowd in the airport. Suddenly his eyes fell upon the prettiest, smartest, most awesomest 😉 young woman a guy has ever seen. And it wasn’t just your everyday sultry Salvadoreña walking past him. 



No, this beautiful girl was looking eagerly for him too. She was there to see him in person, face to face for the very first time. Their eyes met, their arms hugged, apparently it was magic. It would have totally killed the moment, but I would have loved to have seen that!


They spent the day hanging out and if I know my boy, he was grinning from ear to ear. Who cares if he had barely any sleep the night before! Nate was feeling like the most blessed, luckiest guy in all of the Americas – North, South and Central! At last, he was near Lu.



My blonde-haired gringo gathered plenty of stares as he strutted around the streets of San Salvador with Lu. Yet if someone would have asked if she was his girlfriend, his answer at the time would have been “not yet.” That is because Nate still had something very important to do. He needed to first ask her father for permission to see his daughter.

And unlike most of us who faced with a similar situation would have bee-lined over to Lu’s house and hurriedly asked her dad just to get it over with, Nate chose the honorable and respectable option. He waited until the time was right.


I’ll tell you more in an upcoming post. I need to have them “approved” before posting! 🙂

Ephesians 3:20-21

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.


Fish fear me

Leave a comment

Life is good, very good when you’re no longer a plebe. My oldest OS is a second year student at West Point which means Nate is a yearling or a yuk which might sound worse than a plebe but trust me, it’s not. There is almost no lower life form than a plebe. We are now proud parents of a yuk which might sound weird but it’s not…


To that end, Nate is now enjoying being able to wear Army casual clothing. He likes being called by his first name. He enjoys the freedom of going to the bathroom in a t-shirt and boxers. You gotta love it!

As a mama, it is a joy to hear about the new things he is doing. During our telephone conversations, my boy sounds like the weight of the world has been lifted from his broad shoulders!

Although the demands at West Point are
considerable; my Soldier joined a new club. He’s now in the Fly Fishing Club! Fly fishing sounds like a great way for Nate to let down his hair, (that is, if he had hair! WP requires short hair!) Being a West Point has its advantages. As an internationally renown institution, it is not uncommon to see nationally known people walking around post. During his plebe year, he spotted Geraldo Rivera, marched by the President of El Salvador, caught a glimpse of Miss USA and lately the folks at Fox News are rumored to have been at WP.

Well, professional fly fishers from Orvis came to the Fly Fishing Club and showed my OS and other cadets how to cast. To hear the excitement in his voice lifts my mama’s heart. He has big dreams of getting some waders and going trout fishing, I love it!

One OS is an aspiring thespian and musician, another OS is a confident athlete, I enjoy seeing my boys blossom. Look out little fishies, Nate’s coming after you!

Nate and his shadow

1 Comment
When my orange-haired, freckle face son Isaac was in fourth grade, he got to be a Kinder-Buddy. This tradition is intended to help the little kids transition to the rules and structure of school. Most people get just one Kinder-Buddy in their lifetime. Ike got three. Two got kicked out of school and the other he only had for a week. I’m not sure how much mentoring took place in that short time!

Now I have a son at West Point and in a way he’s got his own Kinder-Buddy. That’s because every yearling (also known as a yuk also known as a second year college student) gets a new cadet (soon to be known as a plebe also known as a freshman college student) to take under his/her wing. We’re hoping he will have more success than Isaac!

When Nate returned to WP on Sunday, he got to meet his new cadet. Josh (not his real name) and Nate will be spending a fair amount of time together.

I really like this about West Point; that the importance of strong leadership and mentoring is stressed. This allows my son to hone his skills as a compassionate and knowledgeable leader. Judging from how Nate takes being the oldest son very seriously, I’m sure he will rise to the challenge with Josh.

It’s also given me a chance to do my part in the process. On Saturday night my friend Carol posted something on facebook about getting some treats for her yuk to give to his new cadet. It sounded like a great idea but I wasn’t sure if my son would want to do that. I have to tread lightly on certain things. It was about 8pm when I asked Nate if I could bake something for his new cadet and was surprised when he said sure. Sometimes my OS isn’t too keen on my suggestions and offers for help, but he actually seemed happy when I made the offer.

So after dinner I made my OS’s mystery cadet some homemade chocolate chip cookies. Thank goodness for the internet because I didn’t have brown sugar and found a recipe which contained all the ingredients I had on hand. They tasted good and I was happy.


When Nate met his new cadet on Sunday (they don’t become plebes until A-Day which is August 15), Nate

introduced himself and then gave the guy the cookies. Nate had also picked Josh up some candy and soda and those are treasured and coveted items when you’re a new cadet. In the days leading up to A-Day, it’s easy for new cadets to feel lower than pond scum.

Aside from going to the bathroom, basically Josh can’t go anywhere without Nate. Josh needs books, Nate’s got to go with him. Josh is hungry, Nate is with him at every meal. My OS says he feels like he has a child or a pet! HA!

Once you become a full-fledged plebe, it’s not a whole lot better. How nice that at the very least, Josh will have a person who treats him with respect and will help him become his best. According to Nate, the guy was gushing with thanks after receiving the snacks. “Corporal, that’s awesome! Thanks, Corporal!” (It makes me smile to think of someone calling my baby “Corporal.”)

When some people are in leadership positions, they use their authority to abuse and demean those below them. We’ve all had horrible bosses, terrible teachers; you know those people who were completely inept and woefully in charge. But I know personally that when people take interest in my life, I am definitely more apt to follow their direction and try my best. I’d like to think that I have unknowingly passed on some lessons on how to treat others and inspire. And if I have done that, NONE of the glory goes to me by the way, it’s only because of Jesus!

I also liked what I heard about Josh. According to my son, not only did Josh like my cookies but he shared them with his buddies.

Until school starts, Nate’s new cadet will tag along wherever Nate goes. This semester, Nate will serve as this young man’s encourager, motivator, mentor and if necessary, butt-kicker. My OS is well-suited for this position!

Milestones and recognition

3 Comments

pubertyWe usually think of milestones in our children when they are little.

They start to roll over and drink from a cup, say their first words.

Big whoop. (Said as a mom of kids that are over that!).

Those things are a big deal but our OS have experienced milestones of their own recently that I just have to share.

How ironic (that is, if I believed in irony) that each of my OS would cross a major threshold in their lives at practically the same time.

May I have your attention, please?

Ike became a seventh grader. Woo hoo!

Aaron became a sophomore.

Take that you annoying upper classmen!

And…cue the snare drums…

Nate became a recognized plebe. Crowd goes wild!

No longer are my boys at the bottom of their respective proverbial social heaps of life. (Was that an awkward sentence?) After all the travail and toil, when it seemed as if the day would never arrive, my OS are happy to be movin’ on up, just like the Jefferson’s, remember those guys???

This means that Ike is eager to try out for basketball and not have annoying eighth graders hogging up the good spots. As long as he keeps his grades up and his tongue in control, my orange-haired fella will be just fine.

For Aaron, being a sophomore means the leadership skills he has honed this past year that will serve him well and he is positioned to forge ahead in whatever way the Lord directs.

But neither of them went through the valley like Nate. Sure, it’s tough being a sixth grader. And no one would dispute that a 9th grader is pretty low on the high school totem pool.

But try being a plebe. Just a few days ago, Nate successfully completed his plebe year. To a large extent, I feel like I also completed my own plebe year as a mom. I need my own badge or pin for surviving! I was counting down the days when Nate would make this transition, he’s been more than ready!

As I reflect on this last year, oh, my soul, there were so many days when I just wanted to scoop my baby up and take him home.

R-Day+and+after+244How could he endure such treatment?
Why did they have to be so sassy and mean to MY child? He doesn’t have to put up with that! (insert the “that” of your choice, especially if you have a cadet at WP or are a USMA grad!)

And while I’m at it, why couldn’t the professors understand that my boy was overworked and needed a break? Or had a nasty cold?

Despite my numerous offers to contact the higher-ups and plead his case, Nate never budged. He could handle it.

(For the record, if any WP folks are reading this, I would honestly have never done that but I thought about it. Nate would have KILLED me! I would have been disowned as a mama!)

And my OS finished really well. Since I will get in trouble if I say too much, let me say Nate should be very proud of himself. Thanks be to God!

A Spirit Week Day we won't soon forget.

A Spirit Week Day we won’t soon forget.

P1070031On Thursday, Nate got recognized.

It was a day he has been talking about for weeks.

What does getting recognized mean?

Well, at West Point, when you have completed your plebe year, there is a special moment, almost divine in nature, when the upper class cadets, acknowledge your existence.

Instead of calling you “Cadet Last Name,” the cadets extend a hand of fellowship your way. They shake your hand and learn something very wonderful about you. They learn you have a FIRST name! That is a MAJOR event in the life of a plebe!

Imagine living in a confined place for nearly a year and not having someone call you by your first name. Or having to wear a uniform every.single.time.you.go.out.of.your.room.

And consider for a moment, not being able to talk once you leave the confines of your room.

But Nathan did and the transition from lowly plebe class to becoming a Private First Class is something so sweet. He strutted outside his room in cadet casual (khaki pants and shirt) and acknowledged people by their first name. He didn’t have to cup his hands or do any of those things that have been the bane of his existence for the last 11 months.

Plebes are people too!

Plebes are people too!

Liberation,

exhilaration,

jubilation sum up how he felt stepping out as a PFC.

Lest my awesome OS become too content, reality will come crashing down on him. Tomorrow he begins Air Assault School and rumor has it, it’s not a picnic.

If you are reading this, please pray for the cadets as they begin a grueling 11 day training school. Nate must pass this in order to come home June 6th.

If he doesn’t pass, (and apparently many will not), he will automatically be re-enrolled and spend another 11 days there until he passes.