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July 4th, 2018

Gosh, but is it really the 4th of July already?  It doesn’t seem like an entire year has gone by since the last one we celebrated.  I actually remember spending a few hours at the pool before hurrying home to spend time with my sweet Molly, who wasn’t feeling well.

How will you be spending the day?  Will you watch a parade?  Will you grill out with friends?  Will you stick your toes in the sand and listen to the sound of the surf as I’m planning on doing?  Will you spend the evening watching a gorgeous display of fireworks?

What will you be thinking about as you engage in your fun?

Will you relish the day off in the middle of the week?  If you’re a teacher like me, will it be just another day in your second month of vacation – a day to spend with family?

I don’t know that I gave the 4th an extraordinary amount of thought until two years ago when my Rooster enlisted in the Air Force.

Perspective is everything.

Now that I’m a military mama, I recognize the day for what it is:  a celebration of the freedom that selfless men and women gave their lives for in the early days of our country’s founding.

This freedom is still being fought for.

I count it an honor to count my Rooster among that special group of people.

Rooster, thank you for what you do.  Thank you for answering the call to serve your country.

You always said that you wanted to serve where you would make a difference.

You do.

Every day.

I am so proud to be a citizen of a country that was forged by incredibly brave individuals.

More than that, I consider it a great privilege to be the mama of a serviceman.

Happy 4th of July, sweet friends.  Let us never take for granted the freedom that is uniquely ours.

Why I Love Tuesdays

A Tuesday is good for a few reasons.

  1. It isn’t Monday.
  2. It is one more day closer to Friday.
  3. It’s the day that the JROTC kids at my school dress up in their blues.

Reason #3 is one of my favorites.

The kids come in all spiffed up, every hair in place (at least before P.E.).

They are more respectful when they wear their uniforms.

Their backs are straighter when they walk.

They are so proud.

Just today, two of my students were talking, and one was teasing the other.  When I inquired, my boy proudly pointed to a certain pin.

He’d just been promoted to A1C (Airman First Class).  He had taken the test and passed.

I didn’t know that they did this in high school.

My student went on to explain that he was now an E3.

My female student said that she’d be that rank as soon as she took the test.

Can I tell you how very much my heart soared?

My Rooster is in the Air Force, and he graduated from basic training as an A1C.

Oh y’all, the connections.

I used to dislike Tuesdays.

My Rooster left for basic training on a Tuesday, and I thought my heart would never recover.

Every Tuesday, I relieve a bit of that sadness when I read, on my Facebook support group, about sad see-you-laters that others are making.

And then today happened, when God showed me a way to be happy on a Tuesday (besides reasons #1 and 2).

Seeing my JROTC students reminds me of the pride I have, not only in this country, but in my son and others who choose to serve so selflessly.

Forever Catching Up

Y’all.  It’s been over a month since I last blogged.

This.  Must.  Stop.

For real!

I love to write.

I need to paint word pictures with something besides my voice, which gets old to listen to.

It’s a promise I keep making to myself and then failing.  All I can do is recommit and keep trying, so here goes!

What’s been happening these past few weeks?

Well, for starters, I had to get my classroom ready for a new crew of students.  It’s always extremely intimidating and overwhelming to walk into my room that first day.  The sheer amount of work that needs to be done makes me hyperventilate.

I went in a couple of weeks before I “had” to report back, just to arrange the furniture.

As the days drew nearer for school to start, I received the following email from a student I taught this past school year.

I had to chuckle.  This girl has a great sense of humor!

The whole getting ready for school thing made me crave comfort food, so I whipped up a batch of my Molly Weasley’s Magically Easy Fudge…veganized, of course.

All work and no play makes Auburnchick a very boring person indeed, so I treated myself to a new book…Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

It was written in a play format, which took a bit of getting used to, but oh my.  To be caught back up in the world of all things Harry Potter made my heart so happy.  I read this in just a few hours.  I simply could not put it down!

Of course, there was napping.  A day without a nap is like a day without sunshine.

There was more reading.  Kwame Alexander is the MAN.  This book is part prose; the subject is basketball and life.  I hope my boys will give it a chance.

There was time with the pups.  They’d been so spoiled having me home all summer.

Six-day-a-week Hammer and Chisel workouts continued to occupy my time.

Wine, knitting, and Big Brother always hit the spot as well…my non-guilty pleasures.

Then, there was the day that I sat at Rooster and his girl’s apartment while the movers came and packed them up.

Did I mention that they are now married?

Oh yeah.  I didn’t.

See, here’s what happened.  Back when Rooster was getting ready to leave for Basic Training, he approached us and said that they wanted to go ahead and get married before he left.  It would be easier for her to get on his orders…something that takes forever.  All the way around, it made sense.

So, and hold on to your hats, they got engaged on a Friday, which I shared before.

That Saturday we started trying to find a judge to marry them.  We have a couple of friends who are judges, so we reached out to them.  They needed to be married by Monday so Rooster could get the paperwork back to his recruiter in time for it to be submitted.

Rooster’s girl’s parents drove down from Alabama that Saturday while she and I got pedicures.

That Sunday, we skipped church, ate lunch together, and then met the judge at a scenic location in town.

I took a LOT of pictures since it was just the seven of us…no photographer.

It was very sweet.

Rooster left two weeks later for Basic.

Which brings us to early August.  He got to come home for a few days when he transitioned from one phase of tech school to another.  He’d gotten his orders; he was going to a base out West.  She was on his orders, so she would be going with him.  The timing, much like their marriage, was harried.  They didn’t have time to drive to the base, so they flew out, six bags in tow, and left everything else here.

I cried the entire way home from the airport and the entire day.  Sending your baby across the country isn’t the easiest thing.

Life moved on, and two weeks later, I found myself sitting at their apartment.

The movers did a quick job of packing.  The timing was perfect…two or three days before I had to report for my first “official” day of pre-planning.

It was bittersweet.

And life moved on.

I did some retail therapy.  This necklace has quickly become a favorite…hand stamped by a friend’s daughter who has her own Etsy store.

I took moments to enjoy unexpected wildlife appearances.

And I napped.

With school drawing nearer, I reacquainted myself with the art of multi-tasking.  Lysa TerKeurst spoke somewhere, and I enjoyed watching the broadcast from my First5 app.

Her interview with Tim Tebow was amazing!  I’ve never listened to him speak before.  His story is a powerful one!

We had a pretty intense storm during our pre-planning days.  Thank heavens for sandbags!  Podunk, USA offered them for free, and I snagged six.  My porch routinely gets water on it when it rains heavily.  The sandbags worked like a charm!

The week of pre-planning, I gave a Smartboard presentation at the school I taught at my first year.  I went from working out to dressing up…all within an hour and a half.

Weekends continued to be mine, though.  Days at the pool and beach are respites from the stress of work.

I also ordered and received DVDs for my next two Beachbody programs…

Ever the planner.

Meanwhile, as the beginning of school got closer and closer, I got closer and closer to finishing my Hammer and Chisel program.  Balancing classroom prep, exercise, and errands for home became the name of the game.

I made some decisions for my classes.  I’m teaching two Honors English classes this year, and I wrestled about whether or not to include silent, sudent-selected reading.  I love this poster, which echoes my feelings exactly…

For the record, my Honors students are reading silently…and loving it.  That’s a story for another day.

Classroom prep had me making numerous reminders.  The beginning of the school year is absolutely exhausting.  For every sticky note I got rid of, I wrote three more to take its place.

My shirt echoed my sentiments…run, run, run.

One of my planning days was made a lot brighter when a former student, newly graduated, stopped by my room to visit.

This young man will forever be one of my favorite students ever.  I taught him when he was a ninth grader.  He has a joy for life.  I’ve rarely seen him without a smile.  He has the kindest heart, and I look forward to seeing what he accomplishes in his life.

By the end of that last planning day, my room was as ready as it was going to be.  I was pleased with the results.

I was ready for school.

I think I’ll end this post here.  I’ve let it go on far too long, and if you’ve read to this point, just WOW!  Thank you for sticking it out!  I’ll try to finish my catch-up post tomorrow and then stay on track.

Ha!

A Box of Goodies

Empty nesting is an active verb around here.

Namely adjusting to empty nest is the ongoing action.

It’s still hard to walk through the grocery store, see things that Rooster likes to eat, and then be slammed with the knowledge that he’s not home eating these things.

We no longer keep cereal, ice cream, or Cheez Its in the house.

It’s strange.

Unlike Basic Training, where care packages are strict no-no’s, tech school attendees are allowed to receive them.

I still had one box of Krave cereal from a Buy 1 Get 1 Free deal I’d taken advantage right after Rooster went to tech school.

To this cereal, I added the other items you see below…

I got out the pad of paper I’d purchased right before Rooster left for Basic Training and discovered that I had one sheet left.

That’s a lot of letter writing, y’all.

I added my words of love to the box.

He’s probably the only Airman who’s received a box that claims it has knitting notions inside.  You’ve gotta love recycling!

This box was h-e-a-v-y.

It cost me a pretty penny to mail this thing off, but it was worth it when I talked to him a week later.

He seemed happy to receive it, although he wasn’t sure if he’d be able to finish the snacks before moving on to the next phase of tech school.

I told him to make a friend and share.

🙂

I’m eking out every last chance I get to spoil him.  His girl will be the one doing that soon enough.

4th of July – A Fresh Perspective

Today, we celebrate the 4th of July.

As a new Air Force mom, I am looking at this holiday from a different perspective.

Today, when I think of the founding of this country, I am beyond thankful.

Thousands of people made the brave decision in the early days of the founding of this country by going against the tide to secure this nation’s freedom.

Over the years, countless citizens have sacrificed their time and, ultimately for many, their lives, to ensure that we continue to enjoy our freedom.

Several times during Rooster’s graduation weekend, we had the privilege of hearing new Airmen recite the Airman’s Creed.

It matters not the color of the uniform or the creed spoken.  Each branch of the military consists of self-giving individuals.

I think I used to take this for granted.

I no longer do so.

As you celebrate, take a moment to lift our country’s servicemen and women in your prayers.  It is because of those who blazed the trail all of those many years ago and those who presently serve that we continue to live in the Land of the Free and the Brave.

Five Weeks Ago – Going Home

Five weeks ago, today, I had to return home after spending the most amazing four days with my new Airman son, Rooster.

We had to wake up at o’dark’thirty to catch our early flight.

We were a quiet bunch as we left our hotel room…the Mr., Rooster’s girl, and myself.  Each of us was lost in our own thoughts.

When we got to the lobby, my heart lurched.  It was at that moment that I felt a great sense of loss, and tears started rolling down my face.

It was the realization that I was leaving my boy behind.

To make things worse, it was his birthday.  Although I’d given him a card the evening before, shortly before our last hug goodbye, it just wasn’t the same as getting to tell him on his day.  He wouldn’t have any way to communicate with us; he wouldn’t be getting his phone back until the following Monday, and I had no idea when he would be able to call during this eighth week of training, called Airman’s Week.

The pain is still as fresh right now as I’m typing this as it was that morning.

Rooster’s girl sensed the change in my demeanor and said, “I’m not looking at you.”  She was trying to hold herself together too.

She then said, “Gus pooping, Gus pooping.”

Gus is her dog.  She kept saying the above phrase to distract us from our sad feelings.

We did chuckle together as we made our way to the car, but my tears returned as I struggled to pull up the directions to the car rental place and, ultimately, the airport.

It’s a good thing it was dark.

The weather matched my mood.  The much-touted rain had finally arrived.

Ugh.

We got through security without having to wait long (that’s what happens when you leave at 4:30am), and we sat down to wait.

We grabbed something to eat to pass the time, and I began uploading pictures from my trip.

We finally boarded.  You can see how spent, emotionally and physically, we were just by looking at our faces.

I saw other Air Force families on the plane.  Most of us were easily recognizable with our flight shirts on or other Air Force attire.

I looked outside and saw that the rain had slowed but not stopped completely.

The first half of the flight to Houston was not good.  At all.  The weather tossed us about, and we were required to wear our seat belts for a good portion of the trip.  I prayed like crazy.  I’m a big fan of the old show Lost.  Unfortunately, I’d watched too much of it.

The skies did clear up three quarters of the way there.  I was extremely relieved to see the light-dappled horizon peeking over the clouds.

Landing in Houston was a relief.  So much so that Rooster’s girl and I did a bit of browsing in the shops.  We found a candy store called Dylan’s Candy Bar.  I guess it must be famous.  When you live in Podunk, USA, you aren’t always in the know about such things.  The merchandise certainly wasn’t cheap, but if you’re a sugar addict, this is the place to be!  I bought a few goodies…vegan candy bars and this cute container that I filled with cherry candy.  Yum!

Our connecting flight was much smoother.  We were able to enjoy refreshments served by kind flight attendants.

We did have one hiccup when we were very close to home.  As we circled around the beach, I felt the plane begin to climb instead of descend.  I knew the airport was nearby, so I didn’t understand.  The pilot came on the PA system and announced that, “there was a little problem,” and we were going to gain some altitude to run some tests.

Say what?  At that point, I wanted to be home.  I mean, I would have gladly stayed in San Antonio to be close to my boy, but since the Air Force has a policy that mamas can’t stay on base forever (I’m kidding…sort of), home it had to be for me.  I didn’t want there to be a problem with the plane (remember my love of the show Lost?).  Ugh.

Fortunately, we weren’t up too much longer and made a smooth landing.

I might have kissed the ground if the Mr. wouldn’t have been embarrassed.

We made our way home…dropping of Rooster’s girl en route.  The dogs were beside themselves when we walked in the door.  They were happy to have their people back again.

My heart was in Texas, though.  Even the drive home from the airport had reminded me of what a different world my son had entered into…one that was faster paced.  If you’ve ever driven around San Antonio, you understand what I mean.  We had come home via back roads…it’s the country way of life for us.

It took me awhile to process all that we had been through from last July, when Rooster had told us he was enlisting, through BMT, and then finally during graduation.

We’d all become a part of something bigger.  Rooster’s decision has broadened our worldview.  I cannot hear the name of a base without thinking of the servicemen there…the jobs they may be doing…the families back home waiting and praying for them.

I never fully understood why people went quite so crazy over parades…or other patriotic events.  Yes, I have always loved America, but boy did I take things for granted.

I will be that crazy lady who has a lot of red, white, and blue in her wardrobe and has a lot of decorations (sorry, Rooster, but this mama is fully invested now).  I have already become the woman who tears up when I hear the National Anthem played.  When I see an Air Force sticker on a car, I want to find the owner and ask if they’ve served or have a loved one serving.  Seeing an Airman in uniform, whether it’s ABUs or formal dress, will forever make me want to reach out and hug that person in gratitude (I’ll try to hold back).

I am so proud to say that I am an Air Force mom.

Five Weeks Ago – Church!

Five weeks ago, today, we got up and prepared for what would be our last day with our boy during this very special graduation weekend.

The predicted rain had finally arrived; however, it stopped as we pulled up to the church (the picture below was actually taken later that afternoon).

We had arranged to meet Rooster at the church.  We were eager to see him again, as were other parents who had joined us as we waited.  One of the sets of parents was that of Rooster’s wingman.  What a sweet family!!

We finally saw our boys arrive.  Rooster was carrying a bag…his laundry.

Some things never change.  🙂

He got teased a bit by an Airman in tech school.  It was all in good fun.

We had to wait for the previous service to finish, so we used our time to take pictures in front of some of the foliage adjacent to the church.  Rooster was dressed in his long-sleeved shirt, tie, formal jacket, and ever-present hat.  Gosh, but he sure looked handsome. ❤ ❤ ❤

Then, Rooster and some of the guys from his flight stood around and shared stories.  We hung on their every word.  It did my heart good to see the friendships he had developed during the past two months.

We watched as trainees, still in the midst of the BMT experience, walked up to the church.  You could tell which ones were the newest arrivals based on their footwear.  New arrivals wear sneakers until they are given their boots.  These were also the men and women who had looks of trepidation on their faces.  Poor things.  They were probably still adjusting to this life they’d just signed up for.

Airmen in tech school who had earned their white ropes (ropes indicate leadership roles…white stands for chaplain duties) organized us into lines.  There was assigned seating.  It was yet another reminder that we had entered into a new life ourselves…the military life…so organized in nature.

Trainees were divided into groups based on which week they were in, beginning with Week 0’s in the center front pew and working backward from there.

New Airmen were seated in the sections on either side of the center aisle.

To visit the restroom, we had to be accompanied by our Airmen.  They were our passes back to our pews.  It was interesting, let me tell you.

We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the church.  Taking pictures where trainees might be photographed was strictly forbidden.

As the service began, and we started signing songs so familiar to me, I got a little emotional.  As you know, I am a Christian, as is the rest of my family.  We raised our children in the church; both were active in youth group.  Rooster also worked for the gym that is run by my church.  Not having Rooster in church with me each Sunday has been a stark reminder that I am now an empty-nester.  It’s not always a feeling I like.  That’s why the singing made me so emotional.  I was back with my boy, worshiping my Lord.

I was reminded of how God had been with us each step of this journey in so many tangible ways.  He had answered every prayer we had offered up, most recently a prayer for a need that had cropped up that very week.

The service had a number of touching moments.  I don’t exactly remember the order of events.  I do remember that the pastor acknowledged the newly graduated Airmen, and every single trainee turned and applauded.  I’m pretty sure they stood.

Oh my gosh.  My heart.  Once again, I’m typing this with tears in my eyes as memories flood my mind.

The entire weekend had been filled with moments like this…other trainees applauding the graduates’ milestone.  They knew what these men and women had accomplished.  Wow.

Then, the pastor went through each week, starting with Week 7, and each section of trainees stood and said, “Praise the Lord.”  As each week was called out, the next row or two would stand and say the same thing.

The shouts grew more feeble as the weeks went from two to one to zero.  Bless their hearts!

There was even a moment for those in Med Hold to stand and shout out in praise.  These trainees are placed in a medical dorm because of various issues they might have…shin splints are the main culprit…but it can be for any medical reason.  Some are there for only a few days; others for weeks.  They stay until they have been cleared medically to return to training, oftentimes joining new flights that are in the same week in which they were pulled.

My heart went out to them.  I’d read many prayer requests for trainees in Med Hold.  The holding pattern they are in can be extremely frustrating.

After the shout-out and other things, the pastor preached his message.  It was all about sacrifice.

Oh goodness!  What a hard sermon to hear!  Just as I was beginning to get used to the idea of my boy being in the service, I was reminded of the sacrifice he was making.  Oh sure, I already knew that.  He had been away from us, his church, his fur baby, his girl (of course).  The word “sacrifice” takes a mama’s mind places it doesn’t want to go.

Ultimately, though, it boils down to Jesus’s sacrifice for all of mankind.  It was a choice he willingly made…His life gladly given for a world that rejected Him.

So poignant.

After the service, the pastor shook hands as we left.

Once again, we had our boy to ourselves for the day.

Because he was an Honor Grad, he’d earned the privilege of a Sunday town pass.  Most new Airmen have to stay on base the Sunday following graduation.  They can be with their families, but they can’t leave.

We headed out to lunch.  A quick Google search led us to this restaurant…

It was a locally owned restaurant.  I should have taken a picture of the inside.  It had a barn-like feel to it with the ceiling beams arranged in a vaulted manner (the kind that goes up to a point).  There was a large stone hearth at one end.  It was very homey feeling.

The food reminded me of good old country cooking.  The portions were large; everything tasted fresh and delicious.

How I wished I could stretch out our time.  Sitting across from Rooster is something I will never take for granted again.

We debated what to do next and ultimately decided to simply hang out at the hotel.  He was, not surprisingly, tired.  Another nap was in order.  While he snoozed on the couch, I sat and watched him while browsing the internet.  I ordered the t-shirt you see below (it arrived a couple of weeks after we returned home)…

Every word on that shirt is accurate.  I had already experienced so many of the emotions written.  I had run to my phone and yelled out in joy every time I saw either Rooster’s cell phone number or a San Antonio area code.  I had cried during the National Anthem, sighed with relief when I’d read his words, “I’m doing good” in his first letter and then later heard the words, “I’m okay” when we got a much-needed phone call the week of his graduation.

I had stalked the mailman every day since my boy had left waiting for, at first, the address post card, and later the letters I knew he was writing.

I had shown my students and my coworkers the picture of my boy in his blues when my button arrived.  I’d quit sleeping well when he left (this might have something to do with Gambit sleeping with me now, snuggled up against me all night long).

I also knew, sitting there watching my boy try to get caught up on rest, that I’d raised my hero…a young man who told me that he wanted to have a job where he made a real difference.

I think about the story of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and in more than one place, we read of her “treasuring these things in her heart.”

As mamas, we do treasure special moments.  As a mama of an Airman, those moments are magnified ten, twenty, even a hundred fold.  Every chuckle, every smile…everything is tucked away for later.  That’s what the entire weekend had been for me.

While Rooster napped, his girl was checking his laundry.  Oh yes, the laundry bag.  She got up several times to ensure that his clothes were drying properly.  He slept on.

About the time his clothes were finished, his nap time finished as well.  It was time to start heading back to the base.  The afternoon had slipped away from us so quickly.

He said his goodbyes to his grandparents.  They’d proudly looked on as he’d been minted one of the newest members of the Air Force.

Then, we drove back to the base.  We wanted to get there early so we could sit around and talk without being rushed.

First, though, we stopped at one more boot store to let Rooster try on different brands.  He found a pair he liked better than the first pair we’d purchased him, so we went ahead and got that pair for him.  He would later return the other pair to the BX where we bought it.

Then, we visited the larger BX on base, ate dinner, and drove back to the mini mall across from his dorm.

During this drive, he asked, “Mama, did you have a good weekend?”

Oh gosh.  What a loaded question.

As I looked back at him, I said, “Rooster, this was the third best experience of my life and only follows my wedding and giving birth to you and Chicky.  This was one of the best experiences of my life.”

I am a wordy kind of gal (in case you didn’t notice already).  My response really did sum up the weekend.

He smiled in his sweet way.  He knew how proud I was of him.  I’d told him in every single letter I’d written him.  I’d told him in rare, quiet moments throughout the weekend.  I could not have asked for a better son.

We had to return our Airmen to their dorms by 6pm.  You could see the BX start filling up with families.  I tried not to stare as others said their farewells.  They were so emotional and heart-wrenching.  I watched one young female Airman wipe tears from her face as she left her family.

And then it was our turn.

I’d worked so hard not to dread this moment beforehand.

I just did not want to say goodbye.

Watching Rooster’s girl say goodbye to him was so hard.  The Mr. was stoic, although I knew it was still hard for him.  I wanted to be brave for Rooster because he still had the harder burden to carry…going back to a life that was still new to him…away from his family.

Finally, it was my turn to hug him.  Did I have to let him go?  Yes, I did.  He didn’t belong to me anymore.  He belonged to his girl.  And the Air Force.

Reality check:  He never really belonged to me to begin with.  He is a child of the King.  God has always had him; Rooster was just on loan to me.

That’s what made leaving do-able.  I knew that God would continue to watch out for my boy.  His plans are perfect.

Still, it was hard to watch Rooster walk away, new pair of boots in one hand and clean laundry in the other.

Rooster’s girl and I stood together and watched until he had joined his friends and was no longer in sight.

Getting back in the car and driving away…one of the harder moments in my life.

No matter how hard it was to leave, I had a confidence I didn’t have before graduation.  I’d seen the way each Airman had each other’s back.  I’d seen how organized the Air Force was and how caring it was toward families.  I’d seen my boy more focused than I’d ever seen him…more proud…especially the day when he called this organization, “My Air Force.”

He would be alright.  I would be as well.

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