We’ve got spirit, yes we do…

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This is a slightphoto 15 exaggeration

But I live for five days out of the year

More than Christmas, my birthday, Thanksgiving and the first and last days of school combined

My jam is

Spirit Week

That magical time in February when kids who attend a private Christian school with a strict uniform policy let their hair down

Five marvelous days filled with a daily theme, friendly competition, prizes and fun

Since my oldest olive shoot was in middle school, Spirit Week has been like my Super Bowl, my World Cup, my time to shine as a mom…

Or not

Because you see, as my three sons have oft reminded me,

Technically, it’s not MY Spirit Week

It’s theirs

Hrmph!photo 23

It’s an annual battle royal as we compete for control and preparation.

It’s private conversations between my friends as we ruminate about possible ideas all the while acting cool, calm and collected around our kids.

It’s when I google and Pinterest and imagine secretly wishing there was a Spirit Week for moms because we need it more than they do.

It’s me being the person who wants to plan ahead versus my olive shoots not wanting to think about any of it until maybe the night before, I’ll spare you the details since they are usually too painful to discuss.

But last week was Spirit Week and Monday was Pajama Day. In previous years I have sewn pajama pants for my boys. Heck, I even purchased grapefruit fabric about a year ago in anticipation of making Ike some citrus inspired sleeping pants because he loves him some grapefruit. To my chagrin, however, now as a junior in high school, Ike rebuffed my offer. This year he was boring but our borrowed Brazilian olive shoot wore this onesie which surely made the ladies swoon!photo 22

Perhaps the low-key Pajama Day was God’s way of giving me a slight Sabbath before the preparation for Tuesday-Thursday of Spirit Week.

I can’t wait to tell you about what we they I did!

Does anyone else know the joy and agony of Spirit Week???

Five minute Friday – visit

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photo 17It was a Sunday night

Another Sunday night where my mobility is limited

And I am challenged to fight off another unwelcome visit from Depression

Too often these days as I sit on my bed and count the hours until I am FREE, Depression is my companion.

Nothing made this Sunday night any different until my son walked in with two of his buddies

And instantly the doldrums were lifted

Without any extra food, no advance planning

A spontaneous dinner party with four teenage boys ensued

Cheerfulness and hospitality visited

Friendship and fellowship stopped by

photo 18We supped on homemade pao de quiejo, (a dish that was visited upon us thanks to our borrowed Brazilian olive shoot), fresh green salad with homemade dressing, fried zucchini rounds and some leftover chicken. We all made the food together, no complaints, just fun and teamwork.

Those boys do not realize their arrival brought sunshine to this tired foot and soul

And in a way, we entertained angels unaware

How about you? What memories come to mind for you about the word “visit?” Any recent “visit” that especially encouraged you?photo 19

5minutefridayCheck out what other people are saying about this word on Five Minute Friday! It’s so interesting to read different perspectives!

A name, an identity, a mom and a son…

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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!

Five minute Friday – see

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photo 9For over 20 years, I’ve been collecting Christmas ornaments for my three sons.

I would see them on my trees and anticipate the day when they would no longer hang on my branches and proudly announce that I was gathering these ornaments for a very special moment.

photo 8All over the world – El Salvador, Peru, Germany, in Maine, Florida and beyond, I saw ornaments and brought them home and remembered to tell my olive shoots that one day when they got married, those gifts would go to live in their homes to be enjoyed by their own families.

It was joyful seeing all the lovely tokens and memories on my trees. There is a sushi ornament, a snowman mowing a lawn, a giant “X” because that’s my middle son’s middle initial, the homemade Christmas bell Nate made when he was a wee little boy, so many I want to tell you about each one!

Oh and the enormous sparkly ball that Aaron faithfully prominently puts on our largest tree (a family tradition)…

photo 7This year after the holidays, I saw my hands doing the thing I had promised long ago.

Something that caused my heart to tug.

I packed those ornaments I had long saved in two separate boxes

Because two of my olive shoots are getting married. I see this as a good thing, a wonderful thing actually, but it also makes me a little sad.

This blog post was brought to you by the word “see” and the 5minutefridayenjoyable gang at Five minute Friday!

Mother-in-law things, something I can do!

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DSC_0538I can’t sew

I can’t drive

My ability to walk is severely hampered

As a result I’m spending an astounding amount of time in bed

Waiting for my foot to heal and for my life to resume back to normal

There are many things I can’t do right now

But I can write

And I can pray

So I take out the prayer journals I began for my future daughters-in-law

And place them on the bed

Along with my bag of colorful markers

My Bible opened to the book of Philippians

I take a verse or two each day

And yes, some days I am remiss

But I begin to pray for these women

photo 6Jotting down things that the Lord brings to my heart

Because I can

I mean prayed for them before I even knew they existed

And now here they are

1543770_10152111217080409_243254914_nOne day I’m praying that my son’s future wife is protected from volcanic eruptions in her country

And then I’m asking the Lord to keep the other safe in the frozen tundra of a big city – WOW!

1459210_10151710511790778_2097815045_nBoth face many adventures being members of this family

And brides to awesome, yet imperfect men

And I love them truly

So while I have time

(O Father, may I always find moments and desire)

Even when I’m back on my feet

To spend productively in prayer

Special thanks to Pray4Lilly and StilettoMom for their encouraging words and inspiration to write a post about what I can do!

I’m having a FOOT fit

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Chico's parents prepared a delicious Brazilian meal for us. Oh how I wanted to be in the kitchen helping!

Chico’s parents prepared a delicious Brazilian meal for us. Oh how I wanted to be in the kitchen helping!

The doctor told me that it would take seven weeks to heal from the foot surgery. He didn’t pull any punches or sugarcoat the news but somehow I under estimated the recovery.

It’s interesting the things we hear and the things we ignore.

I heard SEVEN weeks, and thought, “Oh I can do that, no problem!”

But I failed to think that SEVEN weeks breaks down to

49 days and nights

about 1,176 hours

or 70,560 minutes (if my calculations are correct)

non-stop

of inactivity and/or pain.

A brief moment out of the foot boot enjoying flowers given to me by Ike and Caleb

A brief moment out of the foot boot enjoying flowers given to me by Ike and Caleb

Often it’s like I’m just counting down the time, longing to put both feet on the ground and move forward – physically and mentally.

Since it’s my right foot, I am truly sidelined.

I'd rather be sewing...

I’d rather be sewing…

I can’t drive and almost even worse, I can’t sew. I made a Christmas quilt and walked four miles in one day just traipsing back and forth ironing the piece and putting it together. Now I’m adrift in inertia. As someone who doesn’t spend a lot of time inactive, I’m very challenged right now. In many ways, I feel completely worthless.

And to add further misery, while wearing the orthopedic boot, I developed a shin splint which has resulted in even more time in bed or stuck on a couch. I feel like I’m not progressing at all but instead going backward.

It’s not an entirely blob-like existence. I’m reading Don Quixote, doing my Bible study, praying for others, maintaining prayer journals for my future daughters-in-love, these are useful good things. I’m also folding clothes, doing an occasional chore but nonetheless I don’t feel like me. I guess I didn’t expect a cheilectomy and removal of some screws in my foot to result in such a season of purposelessness. My friends are visiting, in fact people from two different countries have graciously made dinners for us, it’s lovely but I’m accustomed to doing stuff, being an active participant in life.

What are ways that you feel productive when you’re unable to do the things you love? I know I’m not the only one that’s faced this challenge!

My family phoenix

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34I am proud of us.

This five-piece puzzle that we have called ourselves has shown strength and faith in the face of great sadness and loss. Last year, my father-in-law was a significant member of our family, this year, that all changed.

But instead of falling apart, our family persevered. We nearly curled inward, it would have been understandable. But we all have done the opposite. We chose hope. Not always, not perfectly. Yet we risked rejection and kept our hearts open. I am proud of us.

UnknownAs a junior in college, I attended l’universite de Caen in Normandy, France. Founded in 1432, the university was destroyed in 1944. Most of the town was also decimated, in fact, the home where I lived still had bullet holes in the stone wall from a fire fight during the Invasion.

At the entrance to the school, a sculpture entitled “The Phoenix” welcomed all. Many days I strolled past this statue but never really appreciated its beauty or significance until now.

For some reason I remember that monument and connect it my present day life.35

The morning before Thanksgiving, my family gathered together. An impromptu gluten-free brunch of pupusas (a popular Salvadoran dish) and pão de queijo (a delicious Brazilian cheese bread) filled the kitchen with warmth and flavor.

Around the table, I saw people I never expected to be here. One person, in fact, I didn’t even know existed until about three months ago.

There sat~

– A handsome borrowed Brazilian son

– A Salvadorena future daughter-in-love

– A gluten-free future daughter-in-love

photo 4And beside them, all holding hands sat

a Soldier preparing to be deployed a few days later

– a ministry-minded middle and

– an orange hair, freckle face olive shoot.

We bowed our heads to pray and I tried not to cry. Happy tears filled my eyes.

How did I get so blessed?

Look at this food!

Behold these people!

I scarcely could take it in as the Hubs led us in prayer. The Lord gives and He takes away. There weren’t five of us. There now were EIGHT.

In a way, that breakfast was a symbol of our phoenix, our human sculpture of grace and resilience.

Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia, deception and greed have not defeated us. What Satan intended for evil, the Lord has used for good. Though we do not forget and still grieve, our family has created new connections and love.

Across the miles, continents and cultures, hearts still remain strong.

Five Minute Friday – tree

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photo 12I am less concerned with my sons’ happiness than with their holiness. Yes, I said it, I know it’s not a popular sentiment.

They know I adore them and want them to live contented, satisfied lives but being a righteous man is the most important desire I have for my three olive shoots.

Not a monk-like existence, depriving themselves of some of life’s greatest joys but for them to care less about human applause than pleasing the Lord.

When my oldest OS was about 14 years old, we had a ceremony welcoming him into manhood.

He was prayed over, offered words of wisdom, a godly collection of men who loved and cared about his life. I served snacks and watched from afar. It was sweet helping usher Nate into this stage of life. As a Christian, there are not many ceremonies we have to mark this passage into adulthood. Our family made its own tradition.

Have you ever seen anything more precious in your life? A little brother offers wisdom, "keep up the good work in school." What wonderful memories this evokes.

Have you ever seen anything more precious in your life? A little brother offers wisdom, “keep up the good work in school.” What wonderful memories this evokes.

Scan10053One of the Scriptures we used as a cornerstone was

Jeremiah 17: 7-8

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

My prayer is that my boys will experience true happiness by following Jesus. Lord may they experience much fruit on their spiritual tree.

This post is brought to you by Five Minute Friday and the word “tree.” 5minutefriday

When you’re a military family, Veterans’ Day takes on a whole different meaning

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2013-07-12 11.21.47Soon

very soon

my West Point grad, my Army Ranger, my handsome, beloved son will go to a faraway place

Not for vacation

Or to get married – though this will happen soon enough

But somewhere distant that brings a sense of fear over me if I’m having one of those days.

And so this whole Veterans’ Day thing is much more meaningful to me than it was, let’s say ten years ago.

(She types embarrassingly).

Last Friday, my orange hair, freckle face olive shoot sang in the school choir for a local Veterans’ Day celebration.

2013-11-08 18.18.25That in and of itself, is notable since Ike will not be dropping a CD anytime soon though he jokes that he is the songbird of his gen- eration. Hearing him sing, “God Bless America” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic” (my personal favorite) caused me to grab the bag of tissues I brought expressly for that purpose.

My tears were mixed though because this year, another veteran in the family was missing. My father-in-law. For reasons we will probably never understand this side of heaven, he has been taken from us. Not by death but by a person. Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia contributed to the cause but the cruelty of it all is too painful to even share.

Grey-haired military people filled the community center. These folks still beam with pride when their song is played. It was not a time of  preference over which branch served – Army, Marines, Coast Guard, National Guard, even Navy (inside Army joke), were honored equally. There was solidarity and appreciation. I was among the ranks of those who love the “Armed Forces Salute” although apparently many of Ike’s classmates noted that I spazzed out during the Army song. I tried to be as discreet as possible! I couldn’t help it!

Two proud chunksters

Two proud chunksters

But little did I know, I wasn’t the only one who got choked up during the per- formance.

A certain someone whose name I can’t mention also had to push back the tears. It’s hard to sing and cry. Thinking about his brother, re- membering his grandpa, watching the 93-year-old man sputtering out Taps on his trumpet maybe for the last time, it got to a certain little stoic olive shoot. For the record, he DID NOT cry, he just wanted to for a brief, oh so brief moment!

As an American, I find myself proud of how we honor our veterans. In Brazil, for example, they do not have such a holiday. They have Children’s Day, Dentist Day and Teacher Day but no Veterans’ Day. To serve in the military is a rarity and something not especially appreciated according to my reliable source, my borrowed Brazilian olive shoot. They are proud of their country but those in the armed forces do not receive any special recognition for their service. I thought all countries had their own Veterans’ Day.

Today I remember those in my family who are in the military, past and present. I remember our honored friend, Colonel Eric Kail who was my son’s mentor whether he knew it or not. We love and miss him. Thank you all, bless you all. Happy Veterans’ Day.

Here is Ike and others in the choir singing “God bless America.” It is the land that I love.

Five minute Friday – Truth

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photo 11What is your reaction when you see someone reading the Bible?

Do you feel disgust, embarrassment, judgement or anger?

Do you pity, resent or maybe even hate?

Do you feel joy, peace and love?

Do you feel envy, connection and thankfulness?

I have felt all of these at different times when I have seen someone reading the Bible.

Strange, that I can still recall going to a coffee shop many years ago with my grandma. We were listening to a vocalist. My grandma probably forgot her hearing aid and the sounds were too much for her. I looked around and there, at a nearby table, a group of young people had their Bibles open. They were engaged in a lively conversation.

The feeling in my heart was muddy. In one way, I was repulsed. How could they be sitting over there talking about the Bible in public? Who did they think they were?

But I also felt a measure of jealousy. What did they see in that book that was worthy of conversation? What did they know that I didn’t. I considered myself a Christian but had almost zero Biblical knowledge. I believed in God, that would suffice, right?

This is a place where we seek truth - around the dinner table

This is one of the places where we talk about truth – around the dinner table

Since giving my life to Christ about 15 years ago and by that I mean repenting of my sins and accepting Jesus as my Savior, my quest for Truth is nearly insatiable. I was a strident, abortion rights feminist, angry, confused blasphemer and that’s just for starters.

My idea about truth was to cherry-pick and make my own. Talk about muddy! But don’t think that I suddenly considered myself perfect. Far from it. I still goof up. I do, all the time. But where I find Truth isn’t from the world, it’s from The Word.

photo 10

Here’s what the boys found on the chalk board recently. It opened up great family conversation.

We have a Brazilian exchange student staying with us for the school year. The Lord has opened up many opportunities for conversation between the Hubs, my youngest olive shoot and Chico. Many nights during dinner time, we sit around the table and discuss Truth. The Bible is open and we find daily application to the Truth found within. We talk about real, honest and relevant things and connect it all with the source of all truth.

I’d love to hear what you think about the word truth. I’m also curious to know what you think when you see someone reading the Bible. It’s ok if you have a different opinion than mine, I’ve probably felt something similar along my spiritual path.

5minutefridayThis post is inspired by super cool people who all write about one specific word for just five minutes each Friday! Check it out here.