Sunday, May 31, 2009
I had read and listened to lots of parents talk about trying to find “their cadet” among the masses when attending formal functions at a service academy. I didn’t think I’d be the same, I thought I’d be content to know he was out there somewhere, but just as those parents said, each time we attended a function I searched for Abe (or Ty depending on the academy). Among thousands of young men with the same haircut, uniforms and similar stature, it’s nigh-near impossible to spot your own. Many times I’ve snatched a picture only to be told later by the boys that it wasn’t them. But Grace could find Abe anywhere. She said, “Watch for the way he walks.” Sure enough, that was the clue and she could spot him every. single. time. when the cadets were on the move.
Abe had wondered while attending West Point how he would ever meet someone to marry—free time away from the post was minimal to non-existent and the branch (church congregation) he attended was small and filled with military families on assignment and male cadets. Last summer he again wondered how or where he would ever meet someone, knowing that after graduation he would be transferred from post to post and then assigned to Iraq or Afghanistan. I kept telling him, “It only takes one girl. If the Lord can find a Rebecka for Isaac (biblical story in Genesis), He can find a girl for you.”
Three weeks later, he met Grace who had moved to the East coast to nanny for a family and consequently attended the West Point Branch. The timing couldn’t have been better. Abe got to be a part of an exciting year for Grace and Grace got to be a part of an exciting year for Abe. She’s the best cheerleader for Abe and we love and admire her; she's a great blessing.
Friday, May 29, 2009
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Trips to the East are somewhat more affordable for us in that most of the attractions we go to are free and the cost of food and gas is comparable to the West. One thing, however, that is much more expensive is lodging—especially at West Point. West Point is located on the Hudson River 50 miles north of New York City. The town that borders the post, Highland Falls, has about 1,200 people and the three or four mom/pop motels located there are booked FOUR YEARS in advance for graduation. The next nearest motels available are about 20 miles away and cost $300 a night (we’re talking Motel 8 type lodging). Not knowing exactly who was coming to graduation until the last minute, but knowing that we would need four to eight rooms per night and have to prepay four months in advance (nonrefundable) . . . well, you can add . . . it was going to be really expensive and risky, so we looked for other alternatives. That’s when we got a flyer in the mail from J.J. He advertised a home to rent. Though it was 40 miles away from West Point, it would sleep nearly 20 people, provide a kitchen, fireplace, four bathrooms, big backyard, pool/dart room, big screen TV, washer/dryer and bbq grill—for $400 night. In short, it was perfect for what we needed so we reserved it.
It was an eclectic home with décor from several eras and locations. And, according to J.J., it may or may not have been haunted.
- An early morning game of Taboo and hot chocolate. I was in the kitchen making waffles, but I could hear them in the background.
- Everyone slowly but surely migrating to Ray and Cali’s bed where gifts were opened. Ande flew into West Point via a study abroad trip in Europe. Early one morning she went into Ray and Cali’s room to give them their gifts. Calvin and I followed her then came Grace who quickly left to get Abe, next came Abe, Rachel, Justin, Bert, Cache . . . and darned if that bed didn’t hold almost all of us.
- Ande brought lots and lots of German chocolate and left it on the coffee table for everyone to sample and not one ant got on it. There was strawberry chocolate, lime chocolate with pop rocks (the favorite), hazelnut chocolate and white chocolate.
- Fitting all sixteen of us around the kitchen table to eat pizza . . . even though Rachel and I caught a little flak for requesting it, I’m glad we did.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
I admired Laurie the first day I saw her at a West Point parent’s meeting over six years ago. Laurie radiates and has such a comfortable, confident air that I love to be near her and have enjoyed close contact with her through the years. Abe and Nathaniel (Laurie and Gary’s son) were roommates this last semester.
After the graduation I went over to give Laurie a hug. West Point has been both of our security blankets—buying us time before we send our sons to war. While at West Point the boys were out of harm’s way, but now that is behind them and it is time for them to fulfill the duties for which they were trained. I’m blue in this picture because of the stripping of security as well as knowing that Laurie’s body has been invaded by cancer in the last six months and her future is uncertain. She is such a good friend to me. Laurie, on the other hand, is joyful and grateful her health allowed her to attend the graduation, for just last week she was so ill they didn’t think she’d be able to make the trip.
On days like the one above I wish my blue personality had more of Laurie’s yellow personality sprinkled in it.
Monday, May 25, 2009
In turn, Abe has been protective of Ande. As three-year-old-cowboy-boots-wearing Abe held a newborn Ande on the couch one morning, I heard him whisper to her, “If anybody hurts you, I’ll kick ‘em with my boots.” Boots and guns were Abe’s weapons then (however, he did lose one of his bb guns to Calvin’s knee when he pointed it at Ty) and, due to the Army, still are today. Ande has always been a beneficiary of Abe’s loyalty and she in turn has been a great support to him.
And finally, though Ty isn’t in the picture we heard from him this week, too, and he expressed his admiration and appreciation for Abe and his accomplishment. It reminded Calvin and me of the boys when they were in high school. Abe has always loved football, but Ty not so much and only played for two years. After Abe graduated from high school, Ty asked us if we thought he’d be a quitter if he no longer played football and explained he’d only done it so that he could be on the sidelines for Abe when he came out of the game. So, in Ty fashion, he is on the sidelines in this picture offering Abe his congratulations from Taiwan.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
I had assumed Gettysburg was a big hill with a large plaque at the bottom. How wrong I was. Abe had been to Gettysburg to study history and military tactics so he was familiar with the layout and new we’d want to take several hours there. We went to the visitor’s center and bought an auto tour tape. It made me want to start making travel tapes for places all over the U.S. It was a great way to learn and experience.
Another soldier fought in a battalion that was nearly wiped out, yet he survived. He had survivor’s guilt for years, wondering why so many of his comrades had been killed while he was allowed to live. When he was an old man he had a dream, reliving the battle. There was a haze between him and the enemy that moved along the line wherever he went. Try as hard as he could, he couldn’t escape it. At the end of the dream the haze was revealed to be a protecting presence that followed him, and though he never learned why he was protected he found peace in his survival.
After learning these stories I wondered why I had never heard them before, but soon realized with a battle that claimed 55,000 lives and employed over 175,000 in battle there are literally thousands of stories to be told. One more plug for recording a personal history, I suppose these people felt they were ordinary with no story to share while they lived, too.
Poignant. There’s that word again. It’s the best one I know for the day.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
I thanked these two men for serving and asked if I could take their picture. When I asked them for their e-mail address so that I could send it to them, the one on the right smiled and said, “We’d fight for you any day.”
The one thing I remembered clearly from a school trip taken to Washington, D.C. back in 1976 was the Arlington Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I thought the idea that gave thousands and thousands of people hope that “their” missing soldier might be the one in the tomb was brilliant and compassionate. I also remember the exactness with which the soldier guarded the tomb—21 seconds at attention, 21 steps back and forth across the tomb.
I remembered how alone I felt looking at the tomb as a teenager. This time I didn’t feel alone but rather very blessed to have family around me as a new memory was made.
What I didn’t remember was that Arlington was built as a result of the Civil War and the need for a place to bury so many thousands of soldiers. It was a perfect place where both the North and the South would feel some ownership. The land was George Washington’s and was passed down to his granddaughter who was married to General Robert E. Lee. When the land was taken by the North, a general who, though he had been a close friend to General Lee before the war, was angry that Lee had betrayed the Union by leading the Confederate Army and refused to let him reclaim it after the war. Being situated just across the Potomac River from Washington D.C., it was convenient to the North.
(By the way, I have learned a travel tip on this trip. To make my clothes stretch for the eleven days we’ll be gone, I decided to wear my ugliest and most ill-fitting clothes in Washington, D.C. and save the best for West Point. Argh. I’ll be taking more pictures of myself in Washington, D.C. than any other place. I’d have been better off picture-wise to bring three outfits I really like and wash them over and over. Hmmm. I’ll think things through better next time.)
Friday, May 15, 2009
Landing at 10:30 am (Thursday) in Albany, New York, we met Abe and Grace a couple of hours later then drove to Washington, D.C. via a Subway and Baskin Robbins stop. Grace caught me up on wedding plans while Calvin and Abe sat in the front seat wondering how we could talk about wedding plans at such length. Finally we set aside the plans and just visited—one of my favorite parts of family vacations—until we got to my nephew, Golden’s, apartment. I love the tall, skinny homes and the brick sidewalks lined with trees. The town smells incredible. Though there are no cherry blossoms on the trees, the air is sweet and fresh and smells like cherry blossoms.
I wore my walking sandals today (Friday) for good reason—fashion not being one of them. We grabbed the subway down to the mall. The DC subway system reminds me of a Disneyland ride—it’s clean, the voices sound automated, no food or drinks are allowed and the terminal ceiling looks like it belongs in Tomorrowland. Walking downtown DC, the first stop was a vender stand where we grabbed a hot dog and banana for breakfast. A mystery of the city is why vender food tastes so good—even the bananas tasted better than normal and a banana is a banana.
Our first stop was the Museum of American History. While Calvin and Abe figured out cross-country moving logistics and made u-haul reservations on the curb, Grace and I went inside and saw the enormous flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to pen “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Suddenly swarmed by hundreds of school kids on field trips, we moved to the next Smithsonian. We could have spent a couple of days at the Museum of Natural History, but whizzed through it in a couple of hours. My nephew, Golden, was finished with work early in the afternoon and joined us where we grabbed a second hot dog for lunch, which was as good as the first, and kept walking. The Capitol closed earlier than we expected, so we missed it but went to the Native American museum instead. I don’t know quite what to say about that museum. If the Native Americans like it, then I think it’s great, but if they are disappointed in it then I’m mad for them that very little was displayed in their behalf.
Poignant. That’s the best word I can think of to describe the memorials. If it is as someone once said, “You can tell the greatness of a country by the way they honor their fallen heroes,” we’re a great country.
(The faces of the three Viet Nam soldiers say much as they come out of the jungle and look to the memorial wall with the names of their dead and missing comrades.)
We went to the Viet Nam memorial first. When Calvin graduated from high school, the Viet Nam war was fully engaged. Nineteen-year-old male members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are asked to serve missions. During the Viet Nam war there was a quota from the government on how many missionaries each church congregation could send out at any given time—two. Calvin had 48 young men his age and he knew his chances were slim to go on a mission, so he went down to enlist in the army. Failing the physical examination because of a heart murmur, he enrolled in college. By filling quotas in other wards, his ward was able to send out 24 missionaries and Calvin was one of them. Two years later, having successfully completing his mission, he received a draft notice from the army. This time the murmur didn’t seem to bother the medical board and he was drafted. President Nixon ended our participation in the war before Calvin finished training, so he didn’t serve in Viet Nam, but did have to finish the required three years of service.
Calvin wanted to find the names of two of his friends on the Viet Nam memorial so we went to the registry which would lead us to the panel with their names. Tears quietly ran down his face as he thumbed through the pages of the missing and fallen.
I can’t soak in all of this experience. I’m trying hard, but watching Abe and Grace together, reuniting with Golden, walking hand in hand with Calvin to see places that are iso mportant to us—I just can’t hang on tight enough to all of it and I'm afraid I'll spill some of it.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
So many variegations of green on the drive to Seattle were invigorating after a longish winter. And, it only took 27 years but I finally figured out how to calm Calvin in traffic—play Marty Robbins ballads on the iPod. Like rubbing the belly and patting the head, he can’t seem to curse and sing simultaneously . . . yet.
We spent a fun evening with Cali and Ray. They had a freshly picked bunch of lilacs and a Happy Mother’s Day place card at my plate, along with four tickets to the House of Representatives and the promise of two hours weeding the garden this summer. What a perfect and anticipated gift. Cali fixed a supper of pulled pork, steamed cabbage and brown rice topped with blue cheese dressing. Fresh pineapple and cherries were served on the side and strawberry shortcake was dessert. It was wonderful and so beautiful on the plate. She definitely has the knack for color and texture in cooking. After supper we played a few rounds of dominoes where Cali and I brought up the rear.
Ray and Cali took us to our red-eye flight which ended day one. Almost. There is a woman on our flight that Calvin doesn’t think I should chance meeting alone in the darkened airplane aisle. He said, “I can tell she’s a roller-derby queen and knows how to use her elbows. She’d whip you.” I’m sleeping with one eye on her.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Monday, May 11, 2009
Yesterday we got our biannual call from Ty. He sounded wonderful--his voice, laugh, quips, news and testimony. As his time limit neared an end, he asked if we could call Cali on the cell phone so that he could tell her Happy Birthday. Calvin called her and put both phones on speaker and held them close so Ty could talk to her. Amazing. Communication from Taipei to Moses Lake to Seattle all on the same dime.
It made me think about how far telephones have come since I was a kid. We had a party line with two families sharing it. Our phone number was 655-4266 and we had rotary-dial phones. We had to be careful when we picked up the phone and listen quietly before dialing to make sure the other family (100 yards away) wasn't using it. All we had to dial was the last four digits of any local number, and if I remember right it cost 33 cents a minute for a long distance call so pleasure calls were few and short. (I definitely remember when the price dropped to 25 cents--it was a bargain and the same price as a candy bar. I counted the minutes--one candy bar, two candy bars, three candy bars, etc). I wonder if Alexander Graham Bell had any idea what he started.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
(the kids teaching me to rock-climb a few years ago)
One of my greatest blessings is being a mother, consequently one great sub-blessing is the lessons I have learned from being a mother. One of the most important lessons our children have taught me is that there is always room for improvement. Kids have a way of helping you see that you need to do better.
Once when I told the kids I was going on a diet, Ty said, “It’s ok mom, you’re just a little over the average woman’s weight. You’re just closer to the average man’s weight is all.”
No one ever lets me forget that I swore at Abe. Not once, but two different times.
When I was disciplining a six-year-old Cali, she was trying to defend her actions. I explained she had broken a rule and that it was my job to be a good mom and help her follow the rules, to which she replied, “I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but you’re kinda like Satan. You always want to make me do the right things and I’m still a kid who needs to make mistakes once in awhile.”
Trying to warn Trevor and help him see things from my point a view, I described a girl in a less than charitable way. He went and told the girl. I was the girl’s leader.
And probably the one that most taught me I have much to overcome was when a four-year-old Ande gave me a big hug and said, “I know who you’re really married to. You’re Heavenly Father’s wife, aren’t you?”
What lesson have your children taught you?
Friday, May 8, 2009
2. Pulling my Columbia sandals off the shelf. When I need comfort for the distance these are my choice, my toes thrive on space not style.
3. Sun. I miserably fail the fair English maiden requirements. My face, arms and legs feel and look so much better with a little bit of color from the wind and sun.
4. Smells. It’s like the whole world gets a squirt of perfume in the spring.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
The past few weeks I've been immersed in U.S. History. I've been studying, reading, listening, watching, thinking and discussing it with Calvin. While Calvin's study has inspired him to memorize the Declaration of Independence, mine has mostly just made me think and wonder. I'm nearly convinced that even our heralded Presidents would have been vilified today by their spiritual convictions.
Today is the National Day of Prayer as instituted by President Truman over 50 years ago. I wonder if our political society today would even allow such a suggestion. Regardless of religion, prayer plays a vital role in many societies--including our family. Whenever I need a prayer story, I am reminded of this incident:
When Calvin and I began our family, it was like having two chiefs in one teepee, because we had two oldest children— Trevor, who was the oldest child from Calvin’s first marriage, and Cali. When Trevor came to live with us permanently there was some jostling for the oldest-child position.
Trevor had a dog named Badger; Cali had a cat named Tiger. One day, while Trevor was mad at Cali, he sic’ed Badger on Tiger. He didn’t mean true harm, he just wanted to get back at Cali, but Badger’s jaws clamped on Tiger’s head before he could be stopped.
I was peeling potatoes in the kitchen and had no idea what had happened until Cali came into the house crying and carrying Tiger—who had a very misshaped head and was gasping for each wheeze. Cali told me what had happened and said, “What do we do? Should we try to help him get better or do we have dad put him to sleep?”
I didn’t know what to do. At that point, putting him to sleep looked like the humane thing to do and yet what if he could recover? Since I didn’t have an answer and family peace was on the line, I suggested she go into her bedroom, kneel down and pray because God would know what to do.
We made a little bed in the corner of the kitchen out of old towels for Tiger and while I continued to peel potatoes and listen to the death rattle in the corner, Cali went off to her room. She came back ten minutes later and said, “We’re supposed to let him live.” We began to fix him a comfortable place in a box so the younger kids wouldn’t bump him.
Later, I asked Cali how she came to the answer to let him live. She said, “Well, at first I said, ‘Heavenly Father I think we should have dad put Tiger to sleep so he doesn’t suffer’ and as soon as I said it I felt squished inside and like I couldn’t breathe. And so I said, ‘I mean, I mean, I mean . . . I think we should let him live.’ And then, I could breathe. I didn’t know it would feel like that, I thought it would feel like Christmas or like my cousins were coming or something like that, but it doesn’t, (when you get an answer to a prayer) it just feels like you can breathe.”
The next morning Tiger was still alive. He lived a few more years, though his skull was never quite shaped the same after that day.
Prayer. It makes you feel like you can breathe. Regardless of whether or not it is officially recognized, I recognize its vital place in our history.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Monday, May 4, 2009
"The first year, not yet having learned that it is better to give than to receive, we returned to our house where I sat on the living room couch and waited and waited for someone to deliver a May basket to us. Whenever I heard the dogs bark I ran for the door. Whenever I heard the dog’s tail thump on the step I ran for the door. Sometimes I ran for the door even when I didn’t hear anything. A May basket never came. Ever. Not that year and never after that either. After a few years I came to the conclusion that we probably never got a May basket because we didn’t have any little girl neighbors that would thrive on making paper baskets and cookies or hiding in bushes."
Yesterday at Church in our Sacrament Meeting, Bishop Merrell mentioned what I’d written and then he pulled out this
today i was thinking about (i know you don't want to know what a 10 year old was thinking)memories. Aren't they the best? if you think really think about them you could almost cry because you want it to happen over and over again. I just love them there so fun I'm so glad god gave me a brain. I would rather be real dum then have no memories want you? What if you were blind your memories want be that great. Poor blind people. Well i know what I'm fasting for (it would be for blind people but its not) love Maddie p.s.. Hy loves nursery
Sunday, May 3, 2009
Freedom is like a pair of shoes. It takes me where I want and need to go in style.
Freedom is like love. It is easier to feel than describe.
Freedom is like infinity. It should never end.
How would you fill in the blanks?
"Freedom is like ______ because ______."
Friday, May 1, 2009
2. Calvin and I went to a movie the other night and it was a lot cheaper than normal. Later when Calvin looked at the ticket he said, “They gave us senior rates.” Hmmmm. I noticed I got some deeper creases this year, but I didn’t expect such a generous bonus from them so soon.
(I did not photoshop this, it's just one of the jets on the USAFA terrazzo. When I first saw it I said, "Hey look, Ty, they're expecting you!")
5. I delivered a couple of May Baskets today . . . artificial flowers and all.
6. We turned off our TV today. TV has never been very important in our home anyway and when all the kids were home we only kept it connected for two months of the year—April and October. One year Calvin and I wanted to keep it on longer, but the kids outvoted us. Once the kids left home we kept it connected (what with no one to outvote us and all), but we’re tired of it and would rather do other things with the $60 a month. I may never know whether Jack Bauer lives or dies.
7. When Ty was little he couldn’t say his “r’s” and had a stutter and a deep gruff voice. He would come up, hug my leg and say, “I think you’re the best mom in the whole wide world.” Everyone else in the family adopted that saying for a time. Ande wrote from Europe a couple days ago and said, “Hey Mom--I love you and think you are the best mom in the world. And now I can say that with reason...I've been traveling the world :) Love, Ande
(WP cadets getting into formation last fall)
8. My sister, Rachel, and her family just notified us that they are going to drive the 22 hours to attend Abe’s graduation. We are so excited they’re coming and to have family with which to share this exciting event. We happily rented a home (regular motel rooms go for $300 a night and are booked a year in advance) to stay in while we’re there and there will be three or four families staying with us. We’re really looking forward to this.