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

Fish fear me

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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

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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!

O Happy Day!

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Today is a glorious day, a fantabulous day. A day when the sun is shining brighter, the birds are chirping louder, even the dark lines around my eyes seem to be fading away without the use of my trusty Bobbi Brown concealer. Why you ask am I such a cheerful soul? I’m glad you asked…



This afternoon when the younger OS got home, we fluttered around the house.  I wanted everything spic and span, no excuses. It was as if the King of England (is there a King of England??) or of some other foreign country was coming to visit. It struck me as funny because it’s not like Nathan has never seen our house messy before. I mean, the guy was an active contributor to the clutter in our home for 19 years but I wanted him to walk in and think that things looked nice, not as if he was a guest but just a treasured member of our family. He’s the kind of guy who notices that sort of thing.  I knew it would bless him. 

My oldest OS is home until Sunday and is just days away from becoming a yuk (second year student). A year ago, on this day, I was clutching Kleenex and struggling to breathe out of my mouth because the tears were overwhelming and pretty much non-stop. Our oldest OS was graduating on this day last year and I was wrought with emotion. Sadness, joy, pride, fear, love, excitement…I remember one night my mother visiting and all my feelings bubbling to the surface. I confessed to her, “Mom, I’m not sure I can do this” and I utterly broke down. My precious mom pushed aside her own feelings regarding her first grandchild finishing a chapter of his life and starting a bold new journey and she simply ministered to me and my aching mama’s heart. 

Somehow by the grace of God and I say that with all seriousness, I got through the graduation ceremony. And somehow by the grace of God, our family survived R-Day six weeks later including the long 10 hour ride back to our house without our cherished son.

And here I sit in my tidy house and tonight feels peaceful. Like that feeling you get when there’s a bad thunderstorm outside and all your babies are safe and at home. Or like when you wake up on Christmas morning and there’s presents to open and your kids are all getting along (at least until all the gifts are open). Everything is in its place, all is right with the world. 

I vividly recall those moments when Nate was a baby and I longed for the days when he would be grown and I’d finally have some peace and quiet. When he was on a crying jag or going full throttle on a temper tantrum, I wished he would just hurry up and get older. It annoyed me when older folks would chide me about how fast time passes. Inwardly I rolled my eyes at their comments. And now look at me! Those days are here and I find myself happy and sad. My DH calls me a “complex organism” when I get in one of these moods. Do I smack him or just humbly agree?

Nate’s friends will be over at the house soon and the sounds of young men will fill my house. I will live in this moment and find the tranquil beauty of it all. O happy day!