Tuesday, June 30, 2009

June 29th is a curious day

What is up with these kids of mine? They are all gone as of Monday. And what is up with June 29th? This is the second year in the row that I have bid farewell to one of my OS on that blemished day. When I told my boys that I wanted them to be confident, independent people, I wasn't thinking they were going to take me seriously! When I told them to go where the Lord wanted them, I still hadn't finished praying specifically that it was just going to be up the street not far away as in West Point or Guatemala! Zheesh!

How come they listen to me about developing into their own person and following the Lord's leading but these guys can't seem to remember to pick their clothes up off the floor?? Kids these days...

The house is now empty. Nate has been gone for two weeks at Camp Buckner until 15 July (I wrote it the Army way ~ huah.) He is doing fun things like shooting stuff, sleeping on rocks and other assorted merriment. Ike, my not so little orange-haired, freckle-faced 12 year old left for Crossroads, a Christian summer camp complete with a tummy ache just prior to leaving. Miss me!

And then there's my middle OS whose journey-bound to Guatemala. Wasn't I the one who prodded this kid in the fall? "Aaron, you really should go. Aaron, this trip is made for you ~ you're gonna love it and it will mess with you (in a good way.) Aaron, I'm tellin' ya, you really should pray about doing this..." He listened and now look at me. Waa.

This will be Aaron's first trip overseas and it's without us! What was I thinking? I truly believe this is where the Lord wants my boy and I am excited to hear about all that he experiences along the way. I know my OS will have a blast as he uses the talents the Lord has given him to minister to the people he encounters but I am admittedly human and already miss him.

We took the OS to the airport yesterday and I think if it had been possible he could have flapped his wings and flown to Miami all by himself. "I'm pumped!" was the frequently heard sentence for the last two days. I hung onto my OS's neck and once outside my grasp, Aaron strode confidently to the security gates.

Just like his brother on R-Day, Aaron never turned around and ran back into my arms - my open arms that desperately wanted to hold him back but didn't because it would have been way wrong.

Here is Aaron - June 29th, 2009

This is Nate - June 29th, 2008 ~ This is a picture I can barely look at, oh the anguish and the pride of that day!

Instead, just like his brother last June 29th on R-Day, Aaron moved forward to his destination and never looked back. I guess those are indications that just like his brother, Aaron was ready to leave. Not because he hates his parents or his life but because it is time. That is a good thing, right??? Somebody tell me "Cindy, this is a good thing!"

Three girls going on the same mission trip were flying out on the same flight. It was delayed by four hours and I distinctly recall talking to Aaron and he said he was having fun with his "friends." They even all sat together on the plane! We spoke to him later that night and he was giggling and having trouble finishing our conversation. Why? He was having fun with his "buddies" already cracking jokes with the fellas on the trip.

The fourth of July is this week but I think June 29th is fast becoming our family's Independence Day.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

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...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A boy, a summer and two sweet potatoes

Take one mom, a 12 year old son and two sweet po- tatoes and whad- dya get? These strange and awkward pictures...

It was Sunday and we made our usual trek to the farmer's market. I'm going to the local farmer's market so often, I recently was shocked to notice how chilly it is in regular grocery stores! But at the farmer's market, virtually all the food I purchase is room temperature (at least until things really heat up around here.)

And in addition to buying this amazing goat cheese, green lettuce and other treasures, (I have a good supply of beets, thank goodness!) we bought a trusty stash of Beauregard sweet potatoes. As usual, our family likes to pick out the funny shaped tubers because well, we like to laugh while preparing and eating our food. There are some very hilarious shapes, let me tell you ~ especially if you are the mom of three OS!

We purchased these big fellas complete with our standard sweet potato chuckles. When we got home and it was time to get dinner ready, I asked my trusty sidekick, my little orange-haired OS, Isaac to help me. We stoked up the grill but before we put those suckers on the hot coals, I used my creative genius, (yes I said genius) and took these pictures.

I am the proud mama of a Soldier, a fella heading out to Guatemala to serve Jesus for two weeks and now, at long last, I am the mama of a...

spud muffin

So next time you have your pre- teen child nearby and some healthy food around, don't forget the camera! Duh!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Reader's Choice

Reading allows us to steal away to a different time and place. I find reading so peaceful and transportative (is that a word? If it isn't, it should be!) I go to places in the pages that I will never visit and some that don't even exist. I usually prefer non-fiction but depending on the first few pages catch me, I can easily enjoy fiction.

And I tend to think of reading as a gift because it sym- bolizes time where I am not busy. We are blessed beyond measure to live in a country where books are bountiful and many of us are literate. I am disheartened to have encountered many teenagers who cannot read at a grade appropriate level. Reading, in my opinion, unlocks your mind and gives you opportunity.

I am proud of myself because in a matter of about pages, I will soon finish one book, purpose to finish other and complete a book I've been reading with Isaac for oh, say, the last 18 months.

Here are the books that I will soon have read in their entirety. Drum roll, bugles, fireworks, balloons, please...

Three Cups of Tea - the author came to West Point for a book signing and my OS got me an autographed copy! Amazing story!

The 2 Degree Difference - a book I bought at a marriage conference that's been quite inspiring

and finally

Pistol - The Life of Pete Maravich - a book I NEVER would have read by myself and when Ike announced that there was an F-bomb in the first page, I promptly grabbed the book out of my 12 (then 11 year old's hands!), thank you very much! Surprisingly, we have thoroughly enjoyed this biography for the last, oh say, 18 months with my OS Ike.

I can't wait to tell you about them because each, in their own right, has been a changing transformative experience. Please note the ever-so-subtle word-smithing I used - transportative/transformative. Wow.

But I thought I'd enlist your help and see what YOU think I should read. In an attempt to be resourceful with the things I have at home that do not require an additional purchase, I have the following books on my list.

Which one do you think I should read next?
Here are your/my choices:

Off the Deep End - The probably insane idea that I could swim my way through a midlife crisis-and qualify for the Olympics by W. Hodding Carter

Come Back to Afghanistan - A California Teenager's Story by Said Hyder Akbar

Around the World in 80 Dinners - 50,000 Miles, 10 Countries, 800 Dishes and 1 Rogue Monkey by Cheryl and Bill Jamison

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger - a book that is on my mom's and husband's lists of best books of their lives

I would appreciate your suggestions. Now back to reading! I look forward to the results!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Marinated Pork Tenderloin Recipe

Hi again!

I received a request for the marinated pork tenderloin recipe and am happy to oblige! If you have men in your house, they will love it! It creates a direct pathway to their heart and stomach!

One of the guys who came last night, called one of the BOBS and said, "Dude, you gotta get over here. They have MEAT! It's amazing!" Shortly thereafter Tucker pulled up and got a plateful. I actually had to make him a plate or there wouldn't have been any left for him!

Marinade Recipe

16 oz. pineapple juice
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon ground ginger (I also use the squirty kind of ginger found in the produce aisle)
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/3 cup Italian dressing

Combine all marinade ingredients. Place meat in a bowl or in a Ziploc bag. Refrigerate and occasionally stir the contents. Discard marinade and place tenderloin on a hot grill. Cook until meat is done.

It's that easy! Let me know if you try it and how it goes!

I fed 11 teenage boys and lived to tell the tale!

I hope you have all recovered from my love letter to beets. Something just came over me and all I can say is that I am feeling a mushy letter for lettuce coming up in the future, just warning you. The lettuce at the farmer's market been absolutely delicious but I'll wait for another time to lavish its praises. However, lettuce was in some small measure, one of the reasons I offered to make dinner for a group of teenage boys last night.

For the past several months, my middle OS Aaron has been involved in an accountability group of about a dozen young men. They are Christian guys who pray for each other, talk about struggles and encourage each other. Where was a group like this for me back in the day??? I could have used a female version of this!

They call themselves BOB which stands for Band of Brothers. Isn't that cool? Dutifully Aaron goes to BOB meetings once a week at a nearby place and the guys just talk about Scripture, share and hang out.

When I have asked Aaron what they talk about, he holds their conversations so sacred, he refuses to tell me. I respect that and see that they are forming a trusting bond, something so many teenagers (and adults) need. I admire his sincere desire to live as Scripture says, "as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."

This week they were figuring out BOBish plans. My middle OS asked if he could go out to dinner with the guys and that's when we suggested hosting a gathering at our house. I looked forward to it all week long because, well, I love to entertain. In my "formative" years, I tried to quell my domesticity but now I've got to say, it's on. I'm full tilt and up in the housewifey hizzy, apron and all.

And it is a joy to have company, especially to have a house full of boys feasting on my food. One day I will have to share my kitchen with their girlfriends, then wives and then hopefully grand-daughters so I savor each moment now as if it were a juicy red, locally grown, in-season beet (sorry, I had to do it.)

For the meal, I made marinated pork tenderloin, brown rice, baked beans, fresh green salad with my own dressing, grilled white corn still in the husk and watermelon. I determined to feed these boys a healthy meal. No hydrogenated potato chips or CheezBalls would enter their lips on my premises, no sirree! We even had homemade soda = fruit juice and Club Soda. My OS love it and it's better than all that other icky stuff.

One by one they arrived until 11 boys ranging in age from 13-18 circled around our kitchen island, held hands and prayed before digging in to dinner. One of the sweetest sights of the evening was when a BOB who's actually named Scott arrived at my front door with his Bible. You gotta love it! My husband, Isaac and I ate indoors while the BOBs enjoyed fellowship outside.

In general, I find guys easy to please, at least in the food department. They gobbled up every bit of the food and even said "please," "thank you," and "this is awesome!" several times. I was blessed to have served them and was so proud of my youngest OS, Ike who willingly assisted me.

And then afterward, they stayed outside. It's blazing hot these days and the BOBs were welcome inside but they crowded around the deck instead. I have no idea what they discussed except to say that when Aaron walked in for a moment and I inquired oh so innocently, "Hey, Aar, are you guys talking about spiritual stuff?" My son said yes but that was the extent of the conversation. I sat in the kitchen by my faithful friend, my sewing machine, and secretly wished I was a fly or a mosquito buzzing about, able to listen. Not to be nosey but just to hear the sweet sound of young men earnestly seeking things of God.

As the night drew to a close, the Scripture found in 3 John 1:4 came wafting into my heart, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth."

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A creepy love letter to...beets

Dear Beets,

I love you! I'm not even sure where to begin. When we first met, I was just a kid. You were in a jar and Mom put you on my plate. You often sat next to the roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy which I swirled all together because
 tasted so good. Your bright purple color intrigued me and well, one thing led to another and soon, you were headed down my digestive tract.

Throughout my childhood, you were always there, beets. But then I entered adolescence and I'm sorry to say, we went our different ways. I found boys and fast food and I didn't have time for the healthy things in life. Please forgive me. 

The crazy college days had me experimenting with a lot of different stuff. It's there that I tried brussels sprouts and acorn squash. When I went away my junior year in college to France, I must admit, beets, you were far from my mind. I brazenly tried avocados and clams (but never together) and many other things, I'm too ashamed to mention.

It's been a long time but beets, I never forgot you. All these years, I was impetuously always looking for something to satisfy me...like chocolate, family and friends. Where was my head, oh you beloved biennial Eurasian plant with a swollen edible root?
And then I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and decided it was time to try and eat fresh, locally grown foods as often as possible.  I went to the Farmer's Market and I walked by you. You were just sitting there next to the nice lady who was working the booth, with her pack of cigarettes mere inches from your beautiful leaves. And one look is all it took and again, I was smitten. My fondness for you begin to rekindle and I was like a schoolgirl as I purchased my first bunch of baby beets. 

Now I'm a wife and a mom! Can you believe it! How time has passed! And I am more mature and stable, you'll be happy to know. Even so, I do get a little wild, sometimes and have tossed you raw into my salads and recently began roasting you. You're just as tangy and packed with nutrients as ever! Your vivid colors still make me smile! ;) ;) :) 

And what is this that I've been reading about you? The New York Times is calling you the "new spinach???" All I can say is "Congratulations, my friend! You
 deserve it!" I wish the whole world understood what you are and how much of a difference you can make in a person's life! Perhaps one of my missions in life is to tell the world about you! (jazz hands!) 

From now on, beets, I'm not going anywhere. You are in my life to stay. No more straying and acting like you aren't important. You are, beets! You are! 

So here I am, spilling the beans, letting the whole stinkin' world know this - I LOVE BEETS!

Forever  yours,


PS. This letter was creepily wayyyyyyy too easy to write...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Blogging friends meet at last

Woke up on Monday morning with nothing to do. Considering the Monday a week before was, shall we say, eventful?? I was happy but a little disappointed because I don't like feeling unproductive.

I was checking my facebook aka my lifeline ;) and I had a message from someone very special. It was from my friend Sharon and she and her family were coming to visit! I really love entertaining so naturally I was thrilled but what was even cooler is that this would be the first time I would be meeting this person I call my friend!

Sharon and I met through my blog. A year ago, the West Point Alumni Association placed a link to my blog of their online newsletter. My post was about the fateful day when Nathan began his journey at West Point. The day they posted my blog, I got 1,000 hits on my blog which blew my ever-lovin' mind, y'all!

So that's how we met. We have kept in touch since that time and it's been neat finding out we had a lot in common.

Mom, me too!
Wife, me too!
She blogs, I blog!
She loves Jesus, so do I!
I went to El Salvador and Peru on mission trips; she and her family are moving to Papua, New Guinea to serve the Lord!
I have an OS at West Point; her husband is a grad!
We both used to work with teenagers and teach them healthy life skills! Jazz hands!
And the list goes on and on...

This year I have met several new friends and it's kismet when I meet someone and there is this connection as if we have known each other for a long time.

Suddenly the day went from nothing to do, to having something very special to do! I rushed to the farmer's market and put the OS to work straightening up the house. 

I am such a housewifey kind of girl, I set the table pretty which is seriously one of my fave things to do in life. My serotonin levels soar when I am decorating, especially when I am putting special touches around my dining room table, you have no idea. 

With my OS's help, (I am determined to raise three sons who know how to cook!), I prepared shepherd's pie, a fresh salad of ruffly, purple lettuce, ripe orange cherry tomatoes and fresh beets and then a bowl of freshly sliced peaches and blueberries. We enjoyed pleasant conversation throughout the night and Nate and Paul discussed WP things. I observed they used acronyms a lot more than non-Army people. ;) If they weren't moving to PNG, I'd want Sharon as a neighbor and close friend. Why, we could do girly things together, she could teach me about letter boxing and geo-caching. I have no idea what I could offer her except a few laughs, but it would have been fun.

After dinner, we treated the Bowers to Goodberry's which is home to the world's most delicious frozen custard

If you are ever in the area, come over to my house and we'll take you to Goodberry's as well!

In this great big world we live in, as vast and busy as it is, we carved out time to connect face to face with some wonderful people. We got to know each other via the internet but had some precious time together in person. Check out her blog and you'll see why I'm glad to have this new lady in my life and heart! 

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

When things change, sometimes it hurts

It can be a strange thing when verb tenses change. Often it has been my experience that verb tense changes signify a modification in a situation or a person. I'm sure I use them all the time without a wince or a struggle and only notice when verb tenses change if something or someone's situation is different and I wish it had not changed. Often when I do perceive this verb tense change thing, I find myself hurting because I want the verb tense to have remained the same. (Has any of this made sense???) 

Well, this week, I have experienced two significant verb changes. Something that is, isn't. Something that was, wasn't. Something you have, you don't anymore.

On Monday, I lost my job. 

On Sunday, my husband lost his much loved uncle. 

After 7 1/2 years, the job I loved and poured myself into with every fiber of my being, is now gone. In a split second, after an emotional phone call from my boss, I experienced that verb tense thing I hate. I work in non-profit ministry. Correction, I worked and I was blessed to be around people I treasured.  When donations went down to an all-time low, a difficult decision was made and I, along with several other co-workers were laid off. It happened that fast. I harbor no hard feelings (at least at this point) with the decision. It's just that I'm trying to get used to this new way of defining myself. Who am I now? 

There have been countless times when I have wanted to quit and I have dreamed of this day. When I have been overwhelmed by annoying students or heavily burdened by a teenager's story. When a high school girl is picking her nose and eating it! the entire time we are speaking, um, yeah, I want to quit! When a skinny, pale-skinned teenager is bent on interjecting a sarcastic answer every time I speak, you bet, I want to hand in my notice! But then, there are times when a student is crying and her tears have soaked through my shirt, that I praise the Lord because I am there to encourage and love. Or the kids who write to me afterward and say we have changed their lives. Nothing can beat those moments. My job, working with teens and meeting so many in the midst of regretful choices and pain, has been exhausting on every level. Y'all, I have seen and heard more things than I ever imagined and most of it wasn't pretty. But it was my mission field (in addition to my own OS and DH, that is).

But it's that verb thing that is haunting. I found myself trying to figure out what verb to use today. I was talking about my boss, was he now "my former boss?" It seriously stings just to type those words. 

This is coupled with the fact that we are driving out of state for a funeral. On Sunday, my husband called to see how Uncle Bill was doing. We all knew he was seriously ill and would not survive much longer. When Aunt Emmy answered the phone, she told us his grave condition would soon end. We talked about Uncle Bill as we drove to the farmer's market and then, about an hour later, when we were at home, Aunt Emmy called. Uncle Bill was gone. 

I began unloading the bounty from the farmer's market and realized, crud, here goes that stupid verb tense change thing again. 

Uncle Bill was a heck of a guy. He was into everything. An avid Boy Scout leader, a researcher, very active in his church, he was a microbiology professor at Bowling Green University, he was a husband of 56 years and a father of four. And he was quirky. Like you'll never meet another Uncle Bill. They broke the mold, as people would say. For example, he and Aunt Emmy were fascinated with Civil War medicine and attended conventions and seminars about it. Did you even know there were Civil War medicine conventions?? On their way to these conventions, they would stop by and visit. It's there that I got to meet and love good 'ole Uncle Bill. 

When Mark's mom (Uncle Bill's sister) died about 15 years ago, I gave the tearful eulogy. As I recall, he was the first person to come up to me afterward and give me a hug. I will never forget his kindness.

So in the span of 48 hours, I have reasons to weep over loss and verb tense change. We are on our way to Ohio for the services. I have Kleenex, family, memories and my Jesus to see my through.