Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thursday Thinking – He’s in the D.e.t.a.i.l.s.

Ask any of the kids and they’ll tell you that I frequently remind them: “Don't forget the D.E.T.A.I.L.S!”  When they recount their experiences, I want to hear about the little things as well as the big things.  The details are where so many big things take place.

I believe that God is in the details of our lives.  I really believe it.  But just because I believe He is in the details does not mean that I believe that God causes everything to happen.  I believe He allows us the opportunity to make choices and that He allows things to happen, even ugly things, so as to preserve the agency of man – that ability to act for ourselves and not be acted upon.*   Because I believe He is in the details of our lives while allowing us to make choices, He will always be a just and merciful God to me, not whimsical or a player of favorites.

Neal A. Maxwell said it well:  “I have found that the Lord gives more instructions than explanations . . . So it is, amid the vastness of His creations, God’s personal shaping influence is felt in the details of our lives—not only in the details of the galaxies and molecules but, much more importantly, in the details of our own lives. Somehow God is providing these individual tutorials for us while at the same time He is overseeing cosmic funerals and births, for as one earth passes away so another is born (see Moses 1:38). It is marvelous that He would attend to us so personally in the midst of those cosmic duties.”

I tend to think of it like this:  When our kids are born, we do everything for them.  We rock them and feed them and then tip them up and burp them.  Then we tip them upside down and change their diapers and their clothes.  We wipe their mouths and bathe their bodies.  And, we love them.  We even roll them over when they need it and carry them wherever they need to go.  After they are more independent, we still help them though we don’t control everything.  We provide food, clothing, shelter, transportation, learning opportunities, and security.  We correct them, help them discover their talents and encourage them to build them.  We prepare them for the future as best we can.  And, we love them.  Even when they are grown and completely autonomous, we still give rides to and from airports, send frequent e-mails of news, concern, and support, call on the phone, mail packages, visit them, give advice, and plan reunions and opportunities to celebrate.  And, we love them.  I imagine our Father in Heaven perfects that model of parenting – giving us a place to grow and learn and have opportunities, while giving love, care, instructions, correction, and guidance.

Because I believe that our Father in Heaven is in the details of our lives, I believe He speaks to us with the intent to show his love for us,  and remind us of what we need most to do and learn while we’re on Earth.  Some of those ways that He speaks to us include the quiet peace, comfort, and whisperings of the Holy Ghost **.  Other ways include the noisier earth sounds like thunders, earthquakes, storms, tempests, and fires. *** Still another way He speaks to us are through prophets.****  I know that God communicates with mankind today just as He did with Adam, or Noah, or Methuselah, or John the Baptist, for the worth of all souls is great to Him.  Yes, I believe that God is acutely aware of us and gives us opportunities to see, and feel, and hear that love and concern that He has for us. 

Not only is it evident the Lord is in the details of Moses life, the thing that
makes this drawing great is such minute detail

And that’s what I’ve been thinking about this week, how God is in the details of my life and how He has let me know that.  This weekend is our LDS General Conference where prophets and apostles speak to anyone willing to listen.  I remember last April’s conference very clearly.  Grace had just moved in with us and Abe was in Iraq.  In the days before General Conference, I prayed that I would learn from it what I most needed to understand.  It was a wonderful conference and I felt spiritually lifted when it was finished, but I didn’t necessarily feel like I had learned one specific thing above another.  I did, however, think it interesting that so many talks seemed to address death – especially untimely deaths.  Because the topic was repeated so often, I thought more than once, “Wow.  There must be a lot of people dealing with death.  I wonder if they’re able to hear this and find comfort.  I wonder who died.”  Little did I know then that those talks were strengthening and preparing us for the news we would receive a month later about Clara, our first grandchild - Abe and Grace’s first child, and her early death.  I don’t know that anyone else listening to the conference heard so many references to death, for them the repeated topic might have been hope, faith, charity, or whatever the details in their life needed.  All I know is that the Lord helped my ears to hear about death and the beauty of life everlasting and once you see the Lord's hand in the details, His fingerprints are everywhere.  I’m so grateful that God is in the details of our lives.  

And that is what I’ve been thinking about. 

 2 Nephi 2:26:  And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.  

** John 14:27:  Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you:  not as the world giveth, give I unto you.  Let you’re your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.  

*** Isaiah 29:6:  Thou shalt be visited of the Lord of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire.  

**** Amos 3:7:  Surely the Lord God will do nothing (until) he revealeth his secrets unto his servants the prophets.  

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Homemaking Tip – Toffee Bits

Michelle, Cali, and Cousin Haley

Ande wanted to have the cake with many names served at her Moses Lake reception.  It would have been a disaster to try and serve it as individual squares, so we crumbled chocolate cake into the bottom of a cup, poured two or three tablespoons of caramel over the crumbles, sprinkled a few tablespoons of toffee bits over the caramel, and topped it with whipped cream. 

Toffee bits cost nearly $3 a cup, so I made the toffee instead for nearly one-fourth the price.  After the toffee cooled, I put it in a sturdy bag, gave Michelle a rolling pin, and she crushed it into bits.  (I made plain toffee with no chocolate or nuts added.)  Toffee is easy to make and takes less time than a run to the grocery store.  Here are our recipes:  we used Teresa’s recipe when we lived at a high altitude and we use Janice’s recipe now that we live at a low altitude.  We've discovered it makes a difference which one you use where.

Teresa’s Toffee
1 pound butter (no substitutes)
2 ½ cups sugar
4 Tbsp corn syrup
1 cup water
            Boil ingredients until it reaches a hard crack stage (290-300 degrees).  Add chopped nuts if desired.  Pour into a buttered cookie sheet.  Frost with melted chocolate and sprinkle with nuts if desired.  Let cool.

Janice’s Toffee
1 pound butter (no substitutes)
2 ¼ cups sugar
¼ cup corn syrup
            Boil ingredients until it reaches 290 degrees.  Stirring constantly.  Add chopped nuts if desired.  Pour into a buttered cookie sheet.  Frost with melted chocolate and sprinkle with nuts if desired.  Let cool.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tuesday’s Top Choice

I hardly think my opinion on fashion, entertainment, travel, or dining is of great consequence.  So when I suggest a top choice, you should think of it as if we’ve bumped into each other at the grocery store and I tell you that there is a good sale on flour over on aisle three that you might want to see.  (By the way, not long ago I got 10 pounds of Gold Medal flour for $1.  It was a fluke or it most certainly would have been a top choice topic.)
With that introduction, I have a top choice suggestion for you this week:  Temple Grandin, the movie.

thank you google images

Last night Calvin and I watched the movie for family home evening.  (We also ate little cups of ice cream with hot fudge sauce and I recommend that, too.)  We enjoyed the movie greatly.  In fact, as it neared the end, Calvin said, “This is one of the best movies I’ve seen in I don’t know how long.”  It is a great movie.  

thank you google images

It’s the story of Temple Grandin, an author, animal science professor, and leading expert on handling cattle and . . . autism.  The movie portrays Dr. Grandin’s struggle to overcome the difficulties of autism while developing her extraordinary abilities.  The story is inspiring, informative, and it's a movie worth owning. 

I’d love to hear what your top choice of the week is – be it laundry soap, book, bowling ball, shoe, song, recipe, fingernail polish, flower bulb, or dog food.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday Memories – How Does Your Garden Grow?

last year's leftovers

this year's preparation

Mary Mary’s garden grew with silver bells and cockleshells and pretty maids all in a row.  If you do a search on those three items you’ll find she had a pretty dark and gruesome gardening experience.  But we aren’t Mary and our garden grows with seeds and weeds.

Calvin rototilled the garden this evening.  We’ve had a garden every year but 1988, and that was the year we moved in June.  I’ve learned plenty in the garden.    

1.  I’d gone out to the garden to do a little bit of weeding while Abe, a newborn, was sleeping in his crib and Cali, who was two, was playing quietly with her toys.  The garden was off to the side of the house and was visible from the front door.  I hadn’t been outside for more than ten or fifteen minutes when I saw Cali standing on the front steps with her arms wrapped around Abe’s neck.  Her little back was arched trying to support his weight.  She called out to me, “Mom, Ape, cryin.’ Ape, cryin,’ Mom.”  I panicked when I saw her with Abe dangling out the bottom of her arms.  Ape was no longer crying.  It takes air to cry.  The steps were cement and there were four or five of them leading down to the grass.  Dropping Ape would not have been a pretty sight for any of us.  I told Cali what a good sister she was for taking care of the baby and talked calmly to her until I could get Abe from her arms.  She was obviously pleased with her mothering instinct.  It’s still a mystery how she crawled into his crib, dragged him up and out of it, and got the front door opened with him in her arms without leaving a bruise or scratch on him.  Never underestimate Cali or, for that matter, Abe.

2.  Planting.  Picking.  Weeding.  It doesn’t matter which one we were doing, we played games – usually a spelling, memory, or add-to-the-story game.  It’s not like the kids liked working in the garden, but game playing made it bearable.  A few years ago I sent the kids out to pick strawberries.  (I use the “kids” loosely here since they were all teenagers and some of them were even in college.)  Abe played Uncle Remus and sat on the grass and told jokes and quoted stories like The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear.  The thing that surprised me most was that even though the other three kids kept harping on Abe to help pick, they laughed at his jokes and stories and let him get by as if his words were contribution enough.  Never underestimate a story or a game.

3.  One year we really needed our garden to produce – really needed it to produce.  It was about an acre or so and we shared it with my sister’s family.  We worked in that garden.  We prayed for that garden.  All the seeds came up and then, pow, the beans quit growing.  The plants got a big nodule on the stem under the leaves and they just quit.  They were sickly.  I was discouraged.  One day as I walked by those beans on the way to my sister’s house, I murmured a prayer, “I don’t get it.  We’ve done everything we can to have a good garden.  We’ve worked, we’ve even prayed for it.  Why hasn’t Thou blessed it?”  The answer I got? “You should have seen it if I hadn’t have blessed it.”  Ha.  We'd just moved there and we'd planted in ground that had been sterilized some years before.  However, those beans (though they stayed ugly clear until they froze) went on to produce more than enough for three families – all we could eat, all we could bottle, all we could give away.  Looks aren’t everything; never underestimate the Lord’s hand. 

4.  Most people have lots of pictures of Christmas morning.  We have scads of poor quality prints of us planting the garden:

       Ty as a little boy planting onion bulbs in a blue night shirt
       Ande with a yellow scarf wrapped around her head cutting potatoes, or following along behind Calvin dropping potatoes in the holes
       Ande in her pajamas picking strawberries
       Ty as a teenager with a sparkly girl’s hat on (it still makes him mad every time he sees it)
       Cali with her pants half way down her bottom
       Abe planting bean seeds

One picture we don’t have but I wish we did was one of the years when we had a big, big patch of corn.  Cali loves animals and bugs and when she discovered that some of the corn had caterpillars down inside the corn silk, she walked up and down those rows peeling back hundreds of husks looking for caterpillars.  We were left with a nice collection of caterpillars in a jar, but lots and lots of exposed and under-developed ears of corn that were ruined (except to give to the chickens, pigs, or cows to eat -- animals are great garden recyclers).  Later, after all the stalks had died, the kids built forts in the corn with their cousins.  Smashing down the cornstalks and building those forts kept the kids entertained for days and days, and year after year.  Never underestimate the garden as a playground or science lab. 

4.  I never plant a garden but what I don’t think of LaGrande Richards saying, “A seed is a dime’s profit to one, and a miracle to another.”  I marvel that such a tiny thing as a seed has the power to give like it does.  In our rush-rush world, gardening puts time in perspective.  With cell phones, computers, faxes, and jets, gardening reminds me there are simply some things that can’t be hurried or demanded – like a seed.
              Here are a few old proverbs that I’ve learned are absolutely true in life and gardening:

       It’s okay to be a late bloomer. 
       It’s important to branch out.
       We’ve all got our own rows to hoe.
       Bloom where you are planted.
       You reap what you sow.
       Don’t plant perennial problems. 
       Don’t let your weeds go to seed.
       It takes a pruning to make a good crop.
       Watch out for the little white butterflies (those little white butterflies may look cute flitting from plant to plant, but the minute you see them in your garden you know the broccoli has worms and they aren’t so cute after that.  Same thing in life, some things look pretty darn cute at first but they’re a precursor to trouble ahead.)
              Calvin and I are just run-of-the-mill gardeners, we're just good enough to know that there are definite benefits to gardening.  Besides producing food and giving families a project to work together on, gardening is therapeutic.  Whether it comes from working outside and soaking in the sun or watching a miracle, gardening not only saves on a grocery bill, it is plumb curative to the body and soul.  Never underestimate the power of a garden. 

a couple of gardens ago

remembering what you have to look forward to makes planting much easier

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thursday Thinking – Electricity

Thank you Google images

Funny how sometimes a word will just keep resurfacing.  Electricity.  That’s the word that has come to mind several times this week.

I first saw it in the temple.  Cali and Ray were seated next to me.  Cali scooted clear over in her seat so that she was leaning into Ray.  Their hands were intertwined and resting on Ray’s leg.  The next seat over was Abe and Grace.  More than once I saw winks pass between them, and like Cali and Ray they really only needed one chair.  Behind Abe and Grace sat Ty and Michelle.  They kept looking at each other; you couldn’t have pried their eyes or hands apart.  Electrons were bouncing everywhere and Joe and Ande hadn’t even entered the room yet.  I looked over at Calvin sitting in one of the witness chairs.  He winked and I grinned in return (I'm a weak winker).  Conductivity.  Later when Ande and Joe joined us, I saw them silently gaze at each other.  Ande’s eyes filled with tears (and you know how water and electricity go together . . .  zing, what a feeling).  I kept thinking, "There is a lot of electricity in the air."


Then just a few days later Calvin had to go check fields and invited Dan, Ty, Michelle, and me to go along for the drive.

Ty was trying to stand us in a straight line.  I learned all about lines in 1st grade and didn't really need his help.  

We drove up to the Coulee Dam.  It’s a very impressive structure.  It produces the most electric power of any dam in the United States, and is one of the largest concrete structures in the world.  Enough concrete is in that dam to make two 4’ sidewalks around the world.  (I read the factoids.  Can you tell?)  It was a pretty day and fun to be outside.  I'm amazed at some people's genius -- like how to build a dam and harness electricity and make things work.  We talked and listened to a book on tape, Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, as we drove.  Calvin and I've already read and discussed the book, so it's fun sharing it with the kids.  Every now and then we'd turn the book off and discuss it.  I love family discussions.  Drives have always been great visiting avenues in our family.  More than once I've been grateful our vehicles haven't ever had dvd players, especially now looking back and seeing what we've learned from each other, and how those conversations have helped us to bond more tightly as a family.

We stopped at a little diner for supper.  I asked the elderly couple coming out the diner door if their supper was good.  They said it was okay and I said, “Do you eat here often?”  The gentleman responded, “Second time in fifty years.”  That didn’t bolster our confidence, but it was still fun to eat in an old diner even if the food wasn’t the very, very best.  Calvin had chicken fried pork steak, I had chicken fried beef steak, Ty had real fried chicken, and Michelle had a hamburger made into a French dip.  The waitress brought our water in these stacking cups.  Michelle and I thought they were very cool, but right after I took the picture Ty spilled them all over the table causing me to think they weren't quite so cool.

Today the meter maid came to read our energy consumption.  Compared nationally, we have cheap power.  I like cheap power because I like a warm home.  This month they gave us new light bulbs if we paid our power bill in person.  The man's bill in front of me was $9,800+ dollars.  That's a really warm home . . . and barn.  I wondered how much it would be when he turned his irrigating wells and sprinklers on.

Tonight we drove Michelle and Ty half-way to SeattleCali met us to take Ty and Michelle home with her for a day or two.  She took us out to supper at a little Italian restaurant in CleElum.  We got wet from the pouring rain as we ran for the door, so we sat by the fire.  We ordered two pizzas, each half different.  One half had sausage, pepperoni, and tomato.  Another had Canadian bacon and pineapple.  Another had bbq’ed chicken.  And the last half had bbq’ed pulled-pork.  Each kind was very good, and each one of us liked a different one best.  It worked out perfect.  Pulled pork won my vote.  There are several wind farms between here and Seattle.  I’m always surprised at how many new windmills are added each time we make the drive.  Tonight there seemed to be a dozen or two new ones.  I know environmentalists think they are the answer to everything, but they clutter the hills and I think they're uglier than dams.

And finally:  “And God said, 'Let there be light' and there was light, but the Electricity Board said He would have to wait until Thursday to be connected.”   –  Spike Milligan

Monday, March 21, 2011

Monday Memories – Wedding Days

Calvin and I got married on May 28th.  It snowed.  Our brother-in-law was the assigned photographer and he forgot to put film in the camera.  No worries.  It’s picture-perfect in my head.  It was a beautiful day in every sense of the word.  The temple has the power to do that.

Joe and Ande got married on March 18th.  It rained.  It was still picture perfect.  There were plenty of photographers and will be lots of pictures.  It was a beautiful day in every sense of the word.  The temple has the power to do that.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Life in Our World - A Day I Hardly Have Words to Describe

(Guest Post written by Ande in March 2011)

"The day was beautiful and the way was beautiful."
(Lucy M. Montgomery--Anne of the Island)

"Happiness is excitement that has found a settling down place."
(E.L. Konigsburg--From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler)

"And the English language dwindled to a single word, repeated over and over: "Congratulations!"
(Jerry Spinelli--Stargirl)

"The very essence of romance is uncertainty."
(Oscar Wilde--The Importance of Being Earnest)

"The power of a glance has been so much abused in love stories, that it has come to be disbelieved in. Yet it is in this way that love begins, and in this way only."
(Victor Hugo--Les Miserables)

"To love would be an awfully big adventure."
(J.M. Barrie--Peter Pan)

"Lovers alone wear sunlight"
(ee cummings)

It really was a wonderful day. I had no idea it could be so wonderful. But it was. And it is.

It's Here!

Joe and Ande at a Viet Namese dinner with the families meeting each other (last night)
Getting ready for the wedding this morning -- Grace, Abe, Ande, Ty, Cali
Ande has been so funny.  She's calm, happy, and so excited to be the boss in the family for one morning.  

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tuesday – The Bride of March

Joe and Ande's engagement picture

Happy Ides of March to you.  (Joe, that title pun was for you.)  Did you know that General George Washington quelled a mutiny of his officers on this day in 1783?  Well, you do now.

It’s also three days before Ande and Joe get married.  I have had several people ask me why the kids’ receptions are like they are, so I thought I’d answer that today:

Their weddings take place in a Mormon temple.  Each one has chosen a different one:  Cali and Ray – Columbia River Washington, Abe and Grace – Salt Lake City Utah, Ande and Joe – Seattle Washington, Ty and Michelle – Denver ColoradoTemple sealings, as we call them, are private affairs with less than 30 or 40 close family and friends in attendance.  After the temple sealing, the kids host a reception and/or open house for all friends and family.

Each of the kids has chosen to have a dinner and program in Moses Lake as part of their wedding celebration.  There are three reasons for this:

  1. Remember when Tzeitel and Motel got married in Fiddler on the Roof and all the Jews joined in for the celebration with food and song?  Well, that’s the premise for their reception dinner and program.  The kids have wanted a place and time to celebrate with family and friends.  As a new couple they mingle with the guests and walk from table to table to greet them rather than stand in a line while the guests file by. 
Reason number one why the kids host a dinner and program is to have a celebration with friends and family that lasts the evening, and where they can mingle among them.

  1. To thank the community.  Each of the people that come to the receptions/open house has somehow and in some way helped our kids on the road to adulthood.  Some provided employment, be it babysitting, waitressing, field work, yard work, house work, clerical work.  Some have been their school teachers; others have been their teachers at church.  Still others have been their mentors and friends.  Many have fed and clothed them, and invited them to game nights and parties.  By hosting a dinner and short program, the kids have a way to thank all of those people for investing in them.  They also have a chance (through the short program) to tell everyone where they are now and what their plans are for the near future. 
Reason number two is to thank those who have helped them.

  1. It’s less expensive.  I hate to include costs as one of the top three reasons, but it is.  Several years ago my friend Mary and I did re-sets in drug stores together – someone besides the store employees organize all of those foot products.  During one of our resets Mary and I were talking about her daughter’s upcoming wedding.  Mary had done her research and told me how much money to expect to spend when it was our turn.  By the time our kids began to marry, Mary’s advice was still accurate.  (Mary is very creative and parsimonious, so her advice was bound to carry through economic bounces.)  When the kids became engaged we told them how much we had for their weddings and then said they were free to allocate it any way they chose.  When it came to budgeting refreshments, we found that it was less expensive (by far) to cook and serve a meal than it was to serve a fancy drink, hor’dourves, or even a personalized wedding cake (excepting sheet cakes from Costco or the grocery bakery).  By cooking ourselves (or having friends help), a meal was the most affordable option.  Serving a meal was important enough to each of the kids that they have forgone other traditional wedding expenses (like lots of floral bouquets or large wedding cakes [though Grace and Michelle both have wedding cake connections and could do both!]).  
Reason number three is because it fits the budget.

If you didn't get an invitation and you feel overlooked, you probably were but it doesn't mean you aren’t wanted or welcome!  Tom and Gail E. didn't get an invitation to Cali and Ray’s wedding (we weren't in the same ward at church, their kids were older and younger than Cali, etc. so we didn't send them an invitation).  I was so glad that Tom announced a month later that they didn't get an invitation and they didn’t plan on missing another reception of ours!  Now that’s a friend – someone who doesn't take offense and lets you know they want to celebrate with you.  So, if we overlooked you, it wasn't intentional so please don’t feel slighted.  Just come.

I’m off to fill the cookie jar for guests coming into town, and make a pan of toffee for the wedding.  We need it for the dessert.  I’ll tell you about that later.

If you could redo something about your wedding reception, what would it be?  

Monday, March 14, 2011

Monday Memories - 11 pictures on the 11th day of March of 2011

Ty - me and Cory 

Grace -  furniture shopping

Abe - furniture shopping

Joe - Ande snags one side of the closet and starts to move in, one week early!

Cali - one of my top three worst working days ever
(no one died and no mistakes, just a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day)

Jane - couldn't find a blow dryer so took Calvin's suggestion and used the air mattress pump

Ande and Joe - went to the temple and then to Cali and Ray's for spaghetti

The Neighbors

Ray and Calvin - watching the Japan earthquake and tsunami footage

Ande, Cali, Ray - long day, long week

Michelle - Ty and I have a countdown chain to the wedding that we take turns cutting each Friday.  Today, on the 11th, marks 11 weeks until the wedding.  As a side note, it also marks 7 months of being engaged.  7 and 11 on 11! 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

52 Blessings – Humanitarian Aid

AP Photo/The Yomiuri Shimbun, Yasushi Kanno
Fox News photo

You can’t help but wonder how you can help when you see the anguished faces of the people in Japan.  They look discouraged, scared, thirsty.  I wish I could offer them a bottle of water, or a warm and safe place to stay, or help them scoop up the mess, or help them find their friends and family.  I can’t.  But I can pray for them, and then put my money where my mouth is and donate to charities that can help them find warm places to stay and rebuild their lives.  I’m grateful to organizations that are prepared to help others in distress.  Even though my donation might be a small drop, it’s a blessing to feel like I can do something to help someone else.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Life in My World -- Just Cause

Abe told us there would be a welcome home celebration when he returned from Iraq.  He hoped we could be there and we hoped that his arrival wouldn't collide with Ande's wedding so that we could be there.  Calvin and I were so very glad we got to be there for the celebration.  So very,very glad.

near Abe and Grace's home

Grace and Abe live on post.  Their backyard is the golf course, and the Cheyenne Mountain is out the guest bedroom window.  It's a beautiful location and home, and, for a post that hosts four brigades, relatively private.  In fact, Grace called one day to tell Calvin she saw a coyote out her living room window and we saw it while we were there, too.  (Calvin hid behind the air conditioning unit in the backyard and tried to call it in by imitating a sick cat.  I suppose he'd have killed it with the broom.  It did need put out of its misery as it had the mange really bad and was hairless.)

Reveille plays across the post at 6:30 am and again at noon.  Taps is played at 10:00 pm. (Hearing them is worth making a new friend so that you can stay on post and wake up and go to sleep to them.) Warrior ethos signs are near the gates as well as other stats of how the post is doing.

It's very inspiring to see the soldiers' commitment to their work and our country posted everywhere.  Drive around the base and you see acres and acres of tanks and trucks and soldiers in rucksack marches. . .always in preparation to defend.

Because there are several military bases in Colorado Springs, the town is good at showing their appreciation. This is a mall wall.

Abe's group was set to arrive at Fort Carson at 6:30 am on Wednesday.  The doors to the event center opened at 4:30 am and families immediately began to gather.

There were activities planned to keep the little kids busy while they waited for their dads.  There was popcorn, bagels, and pop served on one end of the event center and a bouncing house at the other end.  One female soldier led the kids in a few line dances, the limbo, and Duck-Duck-Goose in the center of the floor for over an hour.  She was animated and fun and the kids were cute.  A chaplain walked the crowd handing out breath mints.  (I thought that was sweet . . . and smart.) It was very festive and fun to visit with the other families.  Ryan, a fellow West Point graduate, was in the same group as Abe.  His fiancĂ©e Emily and Grace are friends.  Emily and her parents as well as Ryan's family sat in front of us and we visited with them while we waited.  Ryan's dad and Calvin talked at great length, I love listening to men's conversations especially when it's about their families and country.

Grace and Emily
The soldiers landed at an air base several miles away and were bused over to Fort Carson.  When they showed (via broadcast) the soldiers disembarking the airplane the families cheered and cheered and then watched quietly for a glimpse of their soldier.  When the individual soldiers were spotted you'd hear a mini-cheer in the crowd.  It was exciting to see the men and two women carrying their gear down the steps of the airplane hurrying as fast as they could.  They were greeted at the bottom by a small band and somebodies important enough to shake their hands.

And then . . . and then . . . after waiting for nearly three hours, we got to see them.  It reminded me of being a little kid at the ward Christmas party when the song leader told us if we could sing "Jingle Bells" loud enough Santa might come and bring us all a bag of candy.  But this time, the song that was playing was Lee Greenwood's, "I'm Proud to Be An American" and the same soldier that led the kids in dance and song told everyone that the soldiers were waiting just outside the door to come in and as soon as they could hear us singing and cheering they'd be coming through the door.  (Even typing this a few days later I still get that incredible feeling all over again.  It was such a humbling experience to be with a group of people who have given so much.)  We sang "I'm Proud to Be An American" loud enough to hail Santa and with enough tears to bring out the Kleenex --  mascara was running everywhere.  When "American Soldier" was played, the door opened and in marched the troops.  All 227 in this returning group.  (Several groups have returned in the last few weeks, two more were planned for later in the day, and more slated in the coming week.)

After a prayer, the singing of the national anthem, and a few words by one of the commanders, they were released to find their families.  It was wonderful.

As I saw teenagers, little children, and the little babies I couldn’t help but recognize the sacrifice that so many make when a soldier signs up.  There were lots of little babies in the crowd and I wondered how many dads had missed the births.  There were lots of little babies just learning to walk and I thought of how those babies were just newborns when their dads left and what he'd missed in that first year.  I saw teenagers in lettermen's jackets and thought of all the games missed and no dad in the stands to cheer them on.  Not to mention the sacrifices of the wives and husbands left behind.  I couldn't help but be reminded of all that had transpired in the last year between Abe and Grace and Clara.  It was very humbling to see first hand what so many give for something we’ve just come to expect. 

The only thing that made me sad was seeing a lone soldier – a soldier who had no one waiting for him.  He stood off by himself while his buddies were literally wrapped in the arms of love.  Because a solider cannot drive for 24 hours upon returning home, that lone soldier waited on the outskirts until he could catch a ride to the barracks with someone.  Because I was so caught up in the excitement of the return, I didn’t see him until the event center had nearly cleared.  We walked over shook his hand, patted his arm, welcomed him home, thanked him for his sacrifice and service, and wished that we could magically create a family for him.  If I lived near a post that frequently deployed soldiers I think I would show up, just ‘cause, and look for those lone men and women who stood off from the crowd with no one to hug them, and that’s what I’d do.  I’d hug them and let them know they were appreciated.

After the families had reunited, the men went out to collect their gear.  Remembering that Ande had challenged Sheridan to arm wrestle Abe back at Christmas when Grace had organized Christmas socks for each member of Abe's platoon (which included letters), I introduced myself to him and said, "I understand you can beat Lt. Payne in arm wrestling."  He laughed and said, "Yes ma'am," and then politely stood at attention so I could take a picture.

Abe loves the men in his platoon, but not enough to want to be the last man to leave.  He couldn't wait to see his new home, shower, and get into civilian clothes.

After he saw their new home we sat on the living room floor (they're very excited to buy furniture) and visited about his experience and things of home.  Ande called and Abe talked to her, then he called Cali and Ray and left messages on their phones.  Because Ty had responsibilities at the Air Force Academy, he missed Abe's homecoming, so after lunch at Olive Garden (Abe wanted Papa John's, but kindly acquiesced) we drove up to the Academy to see Ty.  Michelle met us there, too.

Michelle, Ty, leftover Olive Garden for Ty, Abe, and Grace

We had less than an hour together before Ty had to report to duties, but the boys talked non-stop during that time.  The rest of us just listened and watched from the sidelines.

Grace and Michelle in Arnold Hall

It reminded me of when the boys were little and one of them would crawl out of his bunk and join the other in his.  They would talk late into the night about whatever it is boys talk about -- conquering Mario's next level,  Lego's, Michael Jordan, Steve Young, and . . . maybe girls?  The subject matter was still about conquering (Ty flew a plane that morning for the first time and was telling Abe about it) and . . . girls.  They both really love their girls and like to talk about them.

What an incredible time. Calvin and I are so very blessed.  Our family is so very blessed.  Our land is so very blessed.  That night as we lay in bed listening to taps play, I thanked God again and again and again for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.