Monday, June 4, 2012

Sorting and savoring

Aaron taking a final bow during his
last drama performance. Yes, I cried.
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.
The Class Crest of 2012
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.

Nate and I after the graduation parade.
I really loved that shining brass buckle. Very shiny. ;)
It sure seems like these cadets don't
realize what a huge day this is for me
and all the rest of the 2012 USMA parents!
After a graduation celebration with some of Nate's friends and their families, the Hubs and I were driving on Bear Mountain Bridge. 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. Nate was ready. I guess I was not. 
The Hubs and I during Ring Weekend
standing in front of Nate's barracks.

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. 
Majestic - Washington Hall 
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. 

My boy, that uniform, what memories
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? 

I'd love to hear from you if you can relate. West Point mom or not, you might empathize. Thanks for listening...

Monday, May 28, 2012

West Point graduation touchstone moments

This is not a glamour shot. 
Pictured here are the freckle face, orange hair ginger, the Hubs,
the Officer just after we pinned the bars on his uniform,
the weepy proud mama, the grandpa and the ministry-bound middle brother.
We are an imperfect bunch.
But we love each other.
And when not focusing on our own personal comforts which is often difficult for most people including myself and those in my clan.
We reach deep down inside and demonstrate support and care.

And this is what my oldest OS deserved on HIS day.
Not telling Nate how exhausted and hot we were (because I do not believe there are sufficient words and he was surely more tired and sweaty!) 
But rather standing next to our Soldier physically, emotionally and spiritually.
As he graduated from the United States Military Academy.
It was a privilege and an honor.
And if someone would have handed me a mirror,
And lipstick,
And some haircare products,
Or offered me a shower to freshen up,
You know, because an important picture was going to be taken,

I would have said no

And continued to hold my son's hand.
It was only after looking at this picture the following day
that I realized that we were all touching. I love that. 
Unconcerned about appearance,
Shedding tears of pride. 
No other place could I have been
Then next to Nate and surrounded by those who love him most. 
Making memories for a lifetime,
This perspiring, imperfect collection of people
Honored a man of integrity
Whom the Lord gave me for such a time as this
And I am richly, profoundly blessed to call him (and all those in this picture) my own. 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Senior table

Creating unconditional love on cardboard

Making Aaron's senior table was truly an act of love. 
Wednesday night, on the eve of high school graduation, moms and dads filled the gymnasium for a shining gesture. With Herculean effort, we decorated senior tables for our offspring. I know because I was among those parents attempting, in some impossible way to contain love on a 30"x30" plot of space. Talk about pressure!

For weeks I had been staging Aaron's table at home. With two children graduating nine days apart in two different states, I had to start early to make sure it was good. In 2008, Nate had a senior table and Aaron deserved for me to put in the same painstaking effort. In my practice sessions, sometimes I'd tape a picture in one place on the cardboard and then move it elsewhere. A few of my table prototypes were created actually in Aaron's room so he would see them when he came home from school. I'd anticipate the moment when Aaron would enter. Yes, I said to myself, hopefully he will not collapse upon seeing its beauty. Truly, I speculated, he will notice how I angled the ukelele JUST so, put the candle HERE, the coffee cup THERE and the tiny bell from Ukraine on THIS spot.
Middle OS senior pic taken by Aunt Lorri

And when Aaron would walk into his room, my ear would keen for the slightest gasp of wonder. If a second passed without a response, I couldn't stand it any longer. "Aaron, what do you think?" I'd beckon so desperate for his approval. Without exception Aaron showed his gratefulness. Whew.

Other times, you know, just in case a friend stopped by and you never know when that just might happen, I would do the whole set-up in the dining room and dare I admit, I'd walk down the stairs several times just to get a glimpse afresh. As the mama of three OS, for me with no other girl in my household, it was the equivalent of seeing a daughter in a wedding gown or a prom dress. Don't laugh. I felt joy.

The Hubs found other versions of the table in his office or in the hallway. Some family members were even blessed with text messages and pictures from me marking a new table development concept. A few were kind enough to acknowledge receipt of those pictures. Oh thank you if you indulged me!
I had been crying throughout the day
but vanity aside, I had to get a picture of me by Aaron's table. 
I sewed a swatch of remnant material from his books pants fabric. Aaron approved. Then I stitched a coordinating rectangle of some extra fabric a friend had given me. Aaron liked the manly colors. He assisted my efforts by writing in gold a poem from his favorite author William Cowper and I trimmed the sides of the cardboard with pages from an old family Bible. It wasn't perfect but the time had come for the official unveiling. Insecure feelings never replaced the warm and wonderful sentiment I felt inside.
A sample of one of the many other tables on display.

But I bet I wasn't the only one who spent copious amounts of time on the child's senior table project; based on what I saw, our collective souls were poured onto those hallowed folding tables. We did not create altars for our children, I guess we just wanted our son or daughter and all who passed by to smile and either say, "Wow, I am loved" or "Awesome, someone thinks very highly of that kid."

Another mom breathing
words of kindness upon my oliveshoot.
If you think this post is stupid, then we probably couldn't be friends. If you've read this far, you understand. Let's have lunch. 

Thursday arrived and tears flowed as we all beamed. I gazed and cried stopping by many of Aaron's friend's tables. I noted with appreciation that none of these tables felt ostentatious as if they were trying to steal attention from someone else. 
Oh how I adored seeing a classmate write
encouraging words to my boy, such loving
messages filled these pages.

The body of Christ enveloped the mood. With our individual 7 1/2 square feet carefully crafted, the seniors marked the passage of time. I paused with gratitude over the families represented and prayed for their children's future. 
After graduation, Aaron spent a
long time reading the messages.
What a thankful moment for all of us. 

Have you ever done something like for a loved one? What special things would hallmark your "table"? I'd so enjoy hearing about it. May you all have opportunity for such a celebration of life. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A boy who loved Barney

When Nate was a wee lad, he loved Barney and guns. That is an odd combination if you ask me. Barney is creepy and I am not a gun person. Things that explode or shoot scare me more than a huge purple dinosaurs.  

I love the skinned knee, he was so proud of himself
for being on top of a mountain. Holding a plastic airplane
feeling like a tough guy, Nate is truly a gift from God. 
As a young mom, I remember saying, "Nate, you can't have a gun and I don't want you playing guns or anything like that." I tried desperately to cull his firearm fascination but to no avail. One day, Nate, being a obedient and resourceful boy, found a way to satisfy both his mama's request and his personal interest. Astonished, I watched him take a bite off the corner of his peanut butter sandwich (with NO jelly!) and turn the sandwich to the side. He then placed his finger in the sandwich trigger and pulled the "switch" directly in the air. 

Should I then be surprised that this child would decide to become a cadet at the United States Military Academy? What's a mama to do?

Nate is a man's man there's no denying it!
I'm learning albeit sometimes begrudgingly to mean what I say when I tell my boys that I want them to live THEIR lives. Even if it means they do things that are dangerous or far away, they are entitled to go where they want to go, do what they feel called to do as long as it's pleasing to the Lord. As my OSs get older, this proves challenging because their decisions are significant. My middle OS feels called to the ministry, he's going to school far away to Chicago; the orange hair freckle face OS is only 15 and not sure of his destiny. Alas the oldest is a Soldier and I'm discovering truly putting personal interests aside is much harder.    

Watching my son march by me on R-Day
was far more intense than I could
have anticipated and trust me,
I anticipated it being very difficult. 
Next Saturday, the journey to and through West Point will be complete.  (Insert deep breath) My oldest OS will graduate from USMA. The sweet spot I have enjoyed, being part of the Long Grey Line but not having to think about him actually going in harm's way will be over. The next journey as a military mom starts. Things feel surreal and overwhelming. With that in mind, it's no surprise that when the Hubs said he wanted to buy a shotgun for our OS as a graduation gift, I did not react favorably. Frankly, it's not anywhere near the top of my list of things to get my kid. But the boy who fashioned a gun out of a sandwich would love this and I need to measure my response. Chalk it up to another new moment as the mama of a Soldier.

My boy and his bonita in El Salvador. Nate is becoming his own man 
and I rejoice over him being a person of honor, faith and integrity. 
A few weeks ago the Hubs got an email from our cadet informing him of Nate's potential deployment location. When he told me, I cried. This is where my faith in Jesus must prevail. I have prayed over, for and with my child. I do not come naturally to being the mama of a Soldier but this day has been in the works for nearly two decades. I am as prepared as I can be and should have seen this coming Let's do this. 
 Matthew 6:34
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."

To have an inchworm as a friend...

Reading is a most cherished relaxing activity. While my brain can't retain all the amazing things I learn when reading, my black leather bound book (courtesy of my writer friend Kristi, click here for her blog) serves as fertile ground for me to deposit interesting words and quotations from books I've read, sermons I've heard, etc.

Before I met Inchy, these words from Charles Kingsley in Nancy Pearcey's book Saving Leonardo caught my attention. 
"The simplest forms of nature are strangely animated 
by the sense of Divine presence, 
the trees and flowers seem all, 
in a sort, children of God."

Then my mom had surgery and complications resulting in my encounter with Inchy. Maybe I read Kingsley's quote because Inchy and I would soon be friends. Yes, I realize that Inchy is/was an insect and human beings are God's only children though He is the Creator of all things.

But still, Inchy was a good distraction. Laughing is my favorite and Inchy provided some needed jocularity. One afternoon, while on the way to my mom's hospital room, I stopped to greet my chenille buddy. Just in case inchworms have ears, you know I wanted to offer a word of encouragement. My little looper friend, wherever you were, I hope you were having a good day! Don't listen to Hubs in the background, he was just jealous of our unusual friendship!