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A Visit from Chicky

This weekend, the Mr. and I were treated to a visit from our sweet Chicky.

When I found out that she had President’s Day off, I asked if she would consider coming home for the weekend.  The Mr. has been very ill, so I thought he’d cheer up if he could spend time with her.

Now, let me tell you that I have amazing children.  You’ve heard me wax poetic about them in the past.

Chicky has been especially attentive ever since I broke my ankle.  She stayed with us for two weeks during Christmas vacation.  We loved having her home.

She drove up on Saturday and completely surprised the Mr. when she walked in the door.

After she visited awhile, we decided to run some errands.  She was considering upgrading her phone, so off we went to the Sprint store.  She got her phone, and we drove out to the beach to do a bit of shopping.  First, though, she wanted to go to the actual beach to take some pictures with her new phone.  She wanted to try out the new camera on it.

I was a little nervous about walking on the sand but desperately needed to be in my happy place.

Y’all…the weather was perfect…the sand cool to the touch but not uncomfortably so…the water frigid.

Slipping my toes into the sand felt so very right.  I carefully walked to the shore, avoiding as many holes as I could.  My physical therapist told me it was good for me to walk on it (he said this after the fact, so at least I wasn’t in trouble!).

I snapped a few photos of her, and she even agreed to a selfie (forgive my face…I didn’t fix my hair or put on much makeup)…

Yes, I am posting her face for the FIRST TIME EVER!  I asked, and she agreed.

Isn’t she just the cutest thing ever? ❤ ❤ ❤

Because traffic was a bear, it took us forever to do just a couple of things, so we headed home to cook a late dinner.  The Mr. has been going to bed pretty early each night, so it was all he could do to hang on while we made up his fish and mashed potatoes.

She went to bed early because, heck, she’s a teacher and sleeps all the days when she’s not teaching.

We got up and went to church the next morning, and I got a good picture of her and the Mr.  I won’t post that because the Mr. is blog-o-phobic.  Ha!

Then, after lunch, Chicky and I headed out for an hour and a half drive.  I was on the hunt for new sneakers (see yesterday’s post), and we needed to return something the Mr. had bought his mom for Christmas.

I sang and car danced on the way, much to her chagrin.  It would seem that some things (or people) don’t change no matter how much time passes.  😀

Chicky couldn’t resist a little treat.  She’s a healthy eater, so the splurge was a rare one.

Yes, she is adorable, is she not?

I heart her much.

I appreciated having her feedback on the shoes, although she made me chuckle when she told me not to limp while I was trying them on.  I think she forgot that I’m recovering from a broken ankle.  Actually, she hasn’t forgotten because it permeates all of my conversations.

Ahem.

We had a grand time shopping and found a couple of good deals.  Overall, we didn’t spend much, though, despite the temptations we faced at World Market and Fresh Market.

Dinner was fish again for Chicky and the Mr. and a Tomato Basil Pasta recipe I’d made the day before (Oh She Glows has wonderful recipes) for me.

After dinner, she and I settled in for a movie…London Has Fallen…and then she headed to bed.

She and the Mr. left early yesterday morning.  She needed to go back home, and she was dropping the Mr. off at his parents’ house.  They are going to be taking him to his next doctor appointment so I can stay home and work.

Although I’m used to my life as an empty nester, it’s so easy to slip into the new-yet-familiar routine that having your children home brings.  I sure do miss my kiddos when they aren’t here, which is why Chicky’s visit meant so much.

Don’t be a stranger, sweet girl.  You are a blessing.  ❤

Blast from the Past

Last Friday, the Mr. took my car and traveled a few hours to eat lunch and spend time with his parents.

When he returned, I got ready to take the car out to my school’s football game.

“There’s a tent in the back,” he said.  “I’ll get it out this weekend.”

Well, Sunday came, and the tent was still in there, so after grocery shopping, I went to get it out.

I had to stop and collect myself for a moment or two.

Y’all…the sight of this tent brought back so many memories.

We bought it eons ago when the kids were playing travel soccer.

It was the thing that parents did.  They bought tents, bought big SUVs to hold such tents, and they traveled from one tournament to another with said tents.

Then, each dad loaded his tent on his shoulders and walked the forever distance from the parking lot to the field the team was playing on.

Sometimes, it took two or three dads to put up a tent.  They weren’t super easy back in the day.

The sight resembled what I imagine to be a barn raising of old.

We got to be pros at this by the time the kids had graduated.

If those tent flaps could talk, boy would they have stories to tell.

They would tell of screams of joy and tears of sadness, depending on how the games were going.

They would speak of many shouted “Ohhhhhhhhhs” at good plays and the covering of faces at missed opportunities.

They might contain strands of pulled hair from stressful games when all we could do was grip our tendrils in desperation.

The tent would certainly tell of frigid days when prayers were offered up for the cessation of rain and, during the heat of summer, a lessening of the hotter-than-hell temperatures that rendered hair straighteners useless and wet, cold towels a blessing.

They might tell of muttered, multi-colored words spoken against horrible refs who either needed glasses or retirement papers.

Oh yes, our tent would be able to speak volumes, let me tell you.

We passed our tent down to Super Sis and her husband.  Our youngest nephew had begun his baseball career, and they were living our lives all over again, with a different sport.

Nephew boy is now a senior.  They have no need for the tent, so the Mr.’s mom gave it back.

I’ll be looking to either sell or donate it.

The memories, however, will stay.

A Fall Wedding

Yesterday, I got all gussied up so that the Mr. and I could attend the wedding of a young lady we had known for fifteen years.

We first met her when we moved to Podunk, USA, and Chicky began playing on the same soccer team as her younger sister.

When you play travel soccer, you get to be very good friends with the families of the other players.  Strong bonds are forged…bonds that don’t go away when life leads you down different paths.

It was such a joy to watch people arrive…since we always seem to be the first to arrive at every single wedding we attend.

The location was a favorite for weddings.  We have a LOT of water around these here parts, and it provides a beautiful backdrop for fancy shindigs.

We saw a lot of the kids’ friends from high school.

Oh, it was a love fest, let me tell you.

Watching this beautiful young lady walk down the aisle to the man of her dreams brought tears to my eyes.

Photo cred to a gal I snagged this from on Facebook.  I know she wouldn’t mind.  😉

You should have seen the groom’s face as his precious bride made her way down that aisle on the arm of her father.

Both men had tears in their eyes…for very different reasons.

The ceremony was very traditional and so very sweet, and it wasn’t long before they got to do the kiss thing and walk off as husband and wife.

Meanwhile, we headed to the clubhouse for the reception.  I took a few pictures because this is the same place where Rooster and his girl will have their wedding in December (remember that they are already married, but this will be the big ceremony).

Everything was so shiny and oh so classy.  The decor took my breath away.

We sat at a table in front of the wedding party’s.

As we waited for the bride and groom to arrive, we chatted with friends.  The Mr. snagged some food to munch on.  There wasn’t anything that I could eat due to my food allergies and vegan lifestyle.  I knew I would be able to eat later when I got home, so it wasn’t a big deal.

Meanwhile, the conversation was really the most important thing.  Having the chance to catch up with the young people who had been such a big part of our lives for so many years was simply incredible.  Hearing about how they were renovating homes they’d purchased and making strides in their careers made me wish that time could slow down a bit.

How sweet, too, as we watched the bridal party arrive and then participate in the time-honored traditions that make weddings the sweet events that they are…first dance husband/wife…father/daughter dance…mother/son dance.

Oh, my heart.  Moved so very much it was.

We loved hearing the bride’s sister make her toast.  These girls…so special to us.

I’m not a huge socializer…introvert that I am…but I did seek out the bride’s parents.

Her mom is a classy lady.  She wore a long blue dress that was heavenly.  I love this woman to pieces, and seeing her smile was wonderful.  We don’t get to see each other very often.

I also spent time chatting with the bride’s father.  Oh boy, it was hard to see the tears in his eyes as he described his bittersweet feelings about having his oldest daughter leave.  Being a dad and letting go is so hard.

The DJs got cranked up after the cake had been cut, and I did dance to a few songs before the Mr. and I headed home to catch the last couple of college football games on TV.

Priorities, people.  Males.  Sigh.  I could have stayed all night just soaking up the love that made that large reception room so very, very small.

I look forward to the next soccer girl getting married so that we can all join once together in celebration.

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.

Never Say Never When You’re Hodgepodging

The Hodgepodge…it’s the happening thing today.  Join in by linking up with Joyce!  Since I’m in a rush (it’s 2:30pm and I’m only now answering my questions), let’s get to it!

1.  Do you find yourself influencing your world, or is it more the other way around? 

I usually think of myself as a follower; however, the longer I teach, and the older I get, I’m discovering that I’m becoming more of a leader.  This could be due to maturity.  It’s probably confidence.  As such, I think I am influencing my world through my work in the classroom, my sharing (or oversharing, as the Mr. would say) on social media, and my blogging.  I’m not as quick to jump in on trends (hello, Pokemon Go…no thank you).

2.  July 14th is National Tape Measure Day…the device was patented on this date in 1868. When did you last use a tape measure? Do you always know where to find one in your house? Tell us one way in which you feel blessed ‘beyond measure’. 

I last used a tape measure two days ago when trying to determine how much fabric I would need to line two stockings I just finished knitting.

I keep this particular tape measure in my knitting bag.  I also have a tape measure by my workout DVDs so I can do before and after comparisons.

We have a couple of tape measures in the toolbox in the garage as well.

How am I blessed beyond measure?  I’d say with my husband and my children.  They are my world.  I am so grateful that God has allowed me the privilege of being a mom to two amazingly independent and successful children and having a husband who loves me the way he does.

3.  The Plaza Hotel (Eloise), The Land of Oz (The Wizard of Oz), Narnia (The Chronicles of Narnia), The Hundred Acre Wood (Winnie the Pooh), Wonderland (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland), or Never Never Land (Peter Pan)…which storybook land (on this list!) would you most like to visit and why? 

I think I’d visit Never Never Land because it’s a place where you can indulge your inner child.  That’s so important in this modern day of technology and rushed schedules.  Getting back to the simple pleasures in life sounds like paradise.

4.  Where and when do you get your best ideas? 

My best ideas ALWAYS come to me in the shower.  It’s the oddest thing, but I’ve noticed this trend for a few years now.  I suspect that I’m most relaxed in the shower, with the hot water working out the tension of my day.  I’ve had the BEST lesson plan ideas while I’m in the shower.  I kid you not.

5.  So what have you been watching on TV this summer? Anything good? 

I love my summertime, non-teaching schedule.  My go-to shows are Big Brother, Next Food Network Star, MasterChef, Wayward Pines, and the Olympic trials.  I watched the EUFA tournament (Euro Soccer)…so much fun!! I’ve also got Netflix, so I’ve been working my way though Agents of Shield.  Oh, and there’s been a lot of Chopped playing on the TV.

6.  ‘Don’t swim for an hour after you eat’, ‘Dog days of summer’, ‘Knee high by the Fourth of July’…choose a summer saying from the list or share one of your own, then tell us what image or memory comes to mind when you hear it spoken.

I’ll go with “dog days of summer.”  I’m spending a lot of time with my fur babies.  They are so funny and just plain old precious.

I took this video of Pele.  He loves bath time, so I thought he would like his own little pool.  You can see from his reaction that this wasn’t quite the case.

7.  In a single sentence, sum up one life lesson you’ve learned. 

My current motto is this:  “She believed she could, and so she did.”

It’s a motto I came across after I started “running” (more like walk/jogging) last fall.

It’s a motto that says so much to me.  I have always lacked self confidence.  I have NEVER lacked determination.  Because of that determination, when I set a goal, I usually obtain it.  It doesn’t matter if it’s getting back into shape, becoming a teacher, or learning a new skill.  I don’t let obstacles get in my way.

8.  My Random Thought

Yesterday, I had to move some things to get to my sewing machine (an epic fail, by the way).

One of the things I moved was this picture…

Oh y’all.  This picture took me back…wayyyyyyy back.  These two have my heart.  My Chicky is still every bit as spunky as you see hinted at in that mischievous smile of hers, and my Rooster is still just as cute as ever.  Both are grown and pursuing careers of their own.  I miss them so much and treasure the memories that flood in whenever I give myself a moment or two to gaze upon their faces in the framed photos that are sprinkled around my house.

Empty Nesting – A Visual Storybook

Now that I’m blogging again, I’m going through photos I’ve uploaded to Flickr to see what stuff I need to catch you up on.

I decided that pretty much all of my pictures are ones that depict the early stages of an empty nester.

It’s not an easy transition…the house too quiet.  But I’m choosing not to wallow in my sadness…at least not too often…and embrace this new phase in my life.

The Mr. and I have had a lot of time to reconnect.  You can often find us out and about at local restaurants.  Some of our favorites are those that are on the water.

Eating dinner with the backdrop of the sun setting against the water is simply breathtaking.

These photos are unfiltered, y’all.

My days are spent loving on my fur babies.

Gambit is ours until Rooster takes him to his first duty station.

Being home means taking care of the house.  One of my sprinkler zones quit working, so I had to call in an expert.  This local husband and wife team did a great job diagnosing the problem and fixing what wound up being a broken valve for a minimal charge.

There is, of course, my daily workout time.  Sometimes, I run errands afterward (I think that’s my bathing suit peeking out underneath…maybe I went to the pool afterward?).

Empty nesting means cooking whatever I want without a whole lot of repercussions…except when a recipe fails in a major way…

Um…yeah.  Those were supposed to be vegan brownie muffins.  The batter tasted great.  Apparently either the baking soda or baking powder (whichever I used…can’t remember now) had an issue.

Ahem.

Now that I’m an empty nester, I get redo’s without anyone getting mad (I’d take the mad now any day just to have my babies home, though).

I can make such things as Red Lentil and Rice Loaf (and it actually tastes delicious)…something that nobody else will touch and that my children are probably pretty glad I waited to cook until they’d moved out…

There’s midday TV…War Eagle!

There’s homemade salad dressings with small tossed salads on the plastic plates that my boy left behind from his year at Auburn.

There’s uninterrupted reading…

And shopping trips to soothe my heart when I’m having a rough day and missing my children…

 

I can often be found staying up late at night watching Agents of Shield while knitting…

There are Saturday poolside dates with the hubby…

Or trips to the beach…

Where I engage in more uninterrupted reading (unless it’s to reminisce over years gone by when I see cute toddlers testing the water for the first time…sigh)…

And post-sun dinners out…

I am such a blessed gal.  By God’s grace, I’ve raised children who are self-sufficient citizens.  After pouring so much time and energy into making sure they arrived safely into adulthood (again by God’s grace) I’m at the point in my life where I can slow down a little…at least until school starts back up…recharge my batteries…and just be.

This empty nesting thing is bittersweet, indeed, but I take joy in my children’s accomplishments…in their independence…and I will continue to follow this latest turn in the road I call life.

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.

Four Weeks Ago – Town Liberty

Four weeks ago, we were spending the Saturday of BMT graduation weekend with our boy.

I put on a couple of pins I’d purchased the day before at the BX.

I’d purchased four of them, unable to make up my mind.

There were no ceremonies to attend that day, so we sat at the mini mall and waited for Rooster to arrive.  His dorm was right beside us.

We were eager.  So were other parents.  The place was packed!  You could hear the excitement as we began seeing Airmen arrive.  They were all decked out in their blues…the uniform of the day.  Most were wearing short sleeves because it was so hot.  Rooster was wearing his new Air Force jacket.  He looked so dapper!

We quickly headed out, not wanting to waste a minute!

The first order of business was taking pictures.  Rooster’s girl wanted to have some pictures taken at the parade grounds, so although it was overcast, that’s where we went.

There wasn’t anyone else around, so we didn’t feel self conscious.  I took a lot of pictures.

This is a panorama I took…

I saw this monument, a tribute to the four legged soldiers who help in the fight to secure our freedom.

We decided to drive back to the Riverwalk.  We weren’t exactly sure what our plans were, though.

On the way, I remembered that the USO has a branch there, and that they serve lunch on Saturdays.  After parking the car, we walked the rest of the way there.

I continued to be amazed by the people who thanked Rooster for his service as they passed by.  ❤

The USO was a welcome sight.  I’ve always heard good things about this organization.

The volunteers who greeted us were friendly, and their smiles were genuine.  We saw this sign by the front desk…

This place was so homey!  There were several rooms in it, all furnished with comfortable seating and other amenities such as gaming systems, televisions, and computers.

It’s hard to believe that this place is run through generous donations!!

We decided not to eat lunch there.  Instead, we headed to the Saltgrass Steakhouse, which Rooster had heard a fellow Airman rave about.  Getting there was an interesting adventure.  Google Maps didn’t help a whole lot.  Eventually, we found our way back to the Riverwalk, where the restaurant was located.

All I can say about the place is WOW!  The service was incredible!  From the time we walked in, we were made to feel special.  Rooster, especially, got the star treatment, as he should have.  He wasn’t the only new Airman dining there.  It made my heart soar to see how kind everyone was toward him and how humbly he took the attention.

The food was delicious!  Yes, it was pricey, but it was worth every penny!  We left with full bellies and another precious memory to tuck away.

After lunch, we made our way back to our car and, ultimately, back to the hotel.  Rooster was exhausted, as were we.  Everyone needed a rest.

On the way back to the car, we saw this…

All was fun until we saw the poop the horse left behind.  Yuck!  What a stink!

Getting back to the hotel didn’t take long.  We’d gotten fairly comfortable navigating the roads by then.

We gave Rooster time to nap while I went on another mission…yarn store hunting!  I’d found one conveniently close to the hotel and got the Mr. and his mom to go with me.

This store was located in a strip mall.  What a hidden treasure!  I should have taken a picture of the inside, but I forgot.  When I walked in, there must have been a class going on because there were quite a few people sitting on couches knitting!!  All I wanted to do was look at the yarn, and what an assortment!  The store owner directed me to a section of locally dyed yarn, which I was all about since it was, after all, like a vacation, and buying something locally made would count as a souvenir.

I couldn’t make up my mind and bought three skeins…

The yarn was dyed according to themes.  I couldn’t pass up the Gambit…it was meant to be since Rooster’s dog’s name is Gambit.  I loved the Jedi.  I am a huge Star Wars ban.  I loved the skein you see below.  I’m all about Harry Potter!

By the time we got back to the hotel, Rooster was awake.  We decided to head to dinner.  We knew we would probably have to wait in line, and we wanted to make sure we got him back in time for his curfew.  The Air Force is very strict with curfews; Airmen, even recently graduated, can get recycled back if they break such rules.

We ate a little fancier that night…an early celebration of Rooster’s birthday.  He wouldn’t be turning 22 until that Monday, the 30th, but we wouldn’t be with him that day (sniff, sniff).

The place was PACKED.  I was nervous about getting served in ample time to get him back; however, a quick conversation with our server alleviated that concern.  She must have had a chat with someone in the kitchen because our food came out very quickly.

Rooster and his girl even got dessert…a luxury.  He was full when he finished.

Mission accomplished.

We got him back in plenty of time to meet curfew.  He was, once again, tired.  The poor guy.  BMT is a stressful and strenuous training process.  Not only are future Airmen away from loved ones, but they are performing overnight security details and physical training exercises that most are not used to.  It’s no wonder that they crave sleep.

Turning out the lights that night was bittersweet.  I knew that Sunday would be my last day with my boy.  For the time being, I tried just to enjoy the time I had.  I didn’t want sadness to creep in and steal away my joy.

Four Weeks Ago – Graduation Parade

Four weeks ago, we were still in San Antonio…headed into our second day of graduation festivities.

After a good night’s sleep, we headed back to the base.  I was praying that the rain that had been forecast would stay away again.

I love the sight of sun rays peeking through the clouds. I think of them as God’s fingers reaching down to earth.

This day, a Friday, was the day families would see their Airmen in their dress blues during the Graduation Parade.  By the time we got there, and we thought we were arriving early, the stands were already filling up.  We weren’t sure where to sit…always the dilemma when a mama wants to get the best pictures of her baby.

Everyone took turns making trips to the bathroom.  Rooster’s girl and I took time out for a quick selfie…

You can see that the sky behind us was starting to clear up.

As more people arrived, a woman announced that there would be a practice parade.  Whew!  I sure was glad she said that because after the near-fiasco from the day before during what we’d thought was the Honor Grad Ceremony, knowing ahead of time that this wasn’t the real thing was much appreciated!

Practice!!

Eventually, we saw Airmen marching to the parade grounds.  They were a longgggggggg way off.  That field was humongous…larger than a football field.

I’d watched videos on YouTube, so I knew that they were marching from the dorms, quite a distance away, over a bridge, and toward us, their loved ones.

I used my camera to hunt for my boy, but I didn’t find him until the flights, led by flag bearers, formed up on the field.

Once again, I was glad I’d purchased my telephoto lens.  I was able to quickly locate Rooster.  Look at how incredible those men and women look.  I’ve always been partial to a man in a uniform.  This sight made my heart swell with pride, both as a mama and as an American.

The band played (did you know that the band during graduation consists of trainees placed in this special flight during their BMT training?), and other special maneuvers/marching drills were performed.  Then, the Airmen began marching across the field and past the bleachers.

Oh, y’all.  Once again, the tears are flowing as I’m looking at these pictures and recalling that morning.

I am a naturalized citizen.  I grew up in this country and became naturalized in 1997.

I’ve always had a special affinity for American history, have read dozens of historical novels, and took many history courses in college including a military history class for my history minor.

Watching this parade…the presentation of our national and state flags…the salute of our newly minted Airmen…their straight backs and perfectly-timed cadence…these sights made me grateful that I live in a country where others are willing to sacrifice everything to protect our freedom.

I walked to the end of my row in the bleachers so I could stand up without bothering anyone, and when my boy passed, you better believe that my camera was clicking away.

Isn’t it funny how God prepares you for little things?  I’d spent years taking pictures during Chicky’s soccer games…learned how to use the sports mode on my camera.  This knowledge came in handy during all of the ceremonies we attended during Rooster’s graduation.

I got quite a few pictures of my sweet guy.  Oh man, but did he look handsome!  Yes, we’d seen him in the button photo, but that did not do him justice.  His cap…his carefully pressed pants…new shiny shoes.

❤ ❤ ❤

There was, of course, a speech after the parade.  Then, there was the reciting of the Airman’s Creed.

Happy sigh.

I think I may have teared up again at this point.

And then…the words we were longing to hear…it was time to tap out our boy.  The Mr. and I were going to do the honors this time.

Rooster’s girl followed us, recording our Tap Out with the Mr.’s phone.

Oh y’all…the crowd.  It was CRAZY!  Families were rushing to get to their Airmen.  The Mr. was way too polite.  I would have shoved my way through like the Mama Bear that I am, but then again, I was raised in the South…i.e. Redneck Central.

Ahem.

We finally got to our boy, and oh man…the hugs.  Sure, they were a little sweaty because San Antonio has a humidity index of like 99.9% even in May…but who cares when it comes to hugging your child.

Rooster is such a sweet young man.  Once again, relief flooded his face.  “I was about to pass out,” he said.  Yeah, it was hot.

Project Tap Out Your Airman was now complete, and we had the REST OF THE DAY with our boy!

But first, the Dorm Open House.

During the Dorm Open House, loved ones are given a tour of the facilities where Airmen had spent the previous eight weeks.

It reminded me a lot of school open houses.

This room housed half of my son’s flight.  This was where he learned to make a bed properly and keep his belongings in order.

The first thing that struck me was how precisely his shoes were lined up.  Trainees are assigned jobs when they arrive at BMT.  One of those jobs is making sure shoes are lined up properly.  Oh yeah.  The Air Force is all about precision.

Look at the corners on this bed!  Rooster said he will never make his bed again after he gets out of tech school.

Every single thing has a certain place to go, including towels, PT clothes, and laundry bags.

Each trainee has a locker.  Clothes must be hung a certain distance apart.

Even their t-shirts and socks must be neatly rolled (the size of a soda can) and arranged in neat fashion!

Rooster got quite good at rolling shirts and traded his expertise for extra protein bars.  🙂

Each trainee has a locked security drawer that must also be kept in proper order.  They will earn demerits if things are out of place.

There was another room called the day room where briefings were held.  I saw this on one wall…

Rooster took us by the patio.  It was the place where his dorm got to call home, a benefit to being in “Alcatraz” as his dorm was called because of its age.  The newer dorms on base (known as Disneyland) don’t have the patios with pay phones; the older dorms do.  Trainees in the newer dorms have to go to the BX to call home…while waiting in line for the two or three phones that are there.  As you can see, Rooster’s patio area had a lot of phones.  His flight was very good about dividing up their free time into equal slots so everyone could call home.  The quality of the phone service was not great, but at least we still got to hear from our boy.

The next picture is the laundry room.  Rooster was the Laundry Chief, in charge of his flight’s laundry crew.  I got a good laugh when he first told us what his job was.  He’d been doing his own laundry at home for a number of years…back when he was in middle school even.  He’d been well prepared for this task and spent many, many hours in the room you see.  It was a great job and provided him with opportunities to study and write letters home while he was waiting for clothes to cycle through.

After touring the dorm, we were free to take Rooster off base for his town liberty.

What joy!!  This was the first time he’d left the base since he had arrived.  It was lunchtime, so we let him pick the place.  Where did he want to eat?  Panda Express!!!  It was right outside the base.

It was quite the experience, walking in with him dressed in his blues, for that was the uniform of the day.  I walked with my back a little straighter, so proud to be in the presence of this fine young man I’d raised…proud to show him off.

After lunch, we headed to the Riverwalk.  I had taken Rooster and Chicky to visit my dad many, many years ago, and we had flown into San Antonio and done Riverwalk, so I was a little familiar with it.  Visiting it again with my grown son was even more special.

There was a very large mall along the Riverwalk.  It provided respite from the heat and humidity. I was struck by the people who thanked my son for his service as we passed by.  Quite a few of them offered their congratulations.  San Antonio is a place that appreciates the military, let me tell you.

We made our way to the Riverwalk below street level and signed up for a boat tour…a must-do activity if you’re in San Antonio.

Our tour guide was a hoot and kept us in stitches the entire time.  He provided a lot of historical information about the various hotels, restaurants, and other buildings along our route.

Look at the gargoyles on the next building!

I loved the flags that adorned the end of the boat…

The mural on the next building (I think it was a fine arts center) was incredible!

After the boat tour, we decided to visit the Alamo, which was right off of the Riverwalk.

There is no fee to enter, if you can believe that.

We found a lush green area outside of the Alamo and snapped a few photos after we had toured inside.  Those are some of my favorite pictures, my Airman son looked so handsome.

We were hot and tired after the Alamo, so we headed back to the hotel for a brief rest.  Rooster took a short nap on the couch.  One of the things that most Airmen want during graduation is sleep.  Watching him rest made me tear up, as I am right now just writing this (yes, I’ve become a blubbering fool, I fear).  Do you remember watching your babies sleep when they were little?  I have a secret to share with you.  When they are grown and wearing an Air Force uniform, you still get emotional watching them sleep.  Gosh, but I love my kids.

Anyhoo…

After he woke up, we left for our next adventure.  Graduating Airmen are granted one late night, upon prior approval, during a town liberty to attend one of two events that have been agreed upon beforehand.  Rooster had the choice of attending a WMBA game on Friday night or a minor league baseball game on Saturday night.  Because of the dire weather predictions, he’d selected the basketball game because it would be inside.  Although he was tired, he didn’t want to miss the chance to spend more time with us.

What a fun experience!!!  I’d never been to a professional basketball game before.  We saw several new Airmen at the game, and I was, again, moved to tears during the national anthem when I saw, for the first time, my boy saluting the flag.

I looked around and saw all of the uniform-clad men and women doing the same thing.

I’d never paid much attention to that before.  It will never go unnoticed again.  These men and women will forever salute the flag, even after they retire.  It’s become a part of who they are.

The game itself was so much fun!!  Everything about it, from the music to the crowd to the videos displayed on the large screen in the middle made this night a memorable one.

One little girl in the crowd went nuts when she saw herself on the big screen, and boy, did that girl dance for the camera.  It was hysterical!!!  Her mom sat behind her with her hands over her eyes.  Priceless.

I snapped a selfie of myself, Rooster, and his girl.  He raised one of his eyebrows in the picture…so classically my Rooster…every the comedian.  One of my fears when he left for BMT was that he would lose part of who he was.  I was afraid that the harsh training would scour away that part of his personality.  My fears were for nothing, for he was the same sarcastic yet loving son he’d been before he walked away from the car that April day.

He was exhausted when we took him back to the base.  The boy had been conditioned to going to bed by 9pm each night, and it was about 10:00.

Dropping him off was easy again, for I knew I’d get to see him the next day.  It’s funny how a mama’s heart rests much easier when she knows that her babies are in the same city.  I don’t remember dreaming about anything that night.  I just remember that I slept soundly for the second night in a row.

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