“Only You Mom!”

“Only you Mom!” is what our daughter, Allison, said with a laugh when I called her while standing on a sidewalk in Little Havana.  You know, Little Havana that’s a part the beautiful city of Miami, Florida. I will get to the story in just a minute! Hang on …..(Little sidebar inserted here: We have found that having an empty nest means that Briant and I get to travel together..just the two of us as a couple!  Not as parents : ) We did’nt really have a “regular dating” experience because we were dated with 4 children in tow !!  Seriously, for real. I know it sounds really old-fashioned.  We had a relatively short engagement because we had to get married to have time together! Just kidding, not really.  No, It’s true, the children were mostly always with us. We did go on a honeymoon to Jamaica alone, and I felt like a virgin bride I was so nervous.  We do know that could not be true because I had given birth to two children in my earlier marriage!

OK, so here goes the story… back to Little Havana.  Hubby and I took a little vacation to South Beach Miami just after Easter this year.   Just the two of us and it was great!  We stayed in a little Art Deco style hotel right on the beach that was probably built during the 1940’s.  It was awesome, and the weather was perfect. One of the things we like to do when we visit a new city is to take “an organized tour”. HaHa.  That seems so much like old people!!  We are old people!!  We particularly enjoy the double decker bus types.  The “Hop-On” “Hop-Off” kind which I highly recommend !  You really learn so much more about where you’re visiting.  We had a really good day touring around Miami Beach enjoying the gorgeous views of the water, the fabulous homes of “the beautiful people”, and a delicious lunch somewhere along the way!  Our tour ended in Little Havana (the Cuban area of Miami) and Briant and I decided to check out some of the little cafes along the street.  As we were walking along the sidewalk we heard some really good live latin music coming from somewhere close…  I absolutely love to watch good dancers, so I was thrilled when I spied a couple salsa dancing inside of this really small bar where a band was playing.  I told hubby we needed to hurry over to where we could see the dancers, and we did!  As we were standing outside of this popular bar “Ball and Chain” (btw it is a famous place) watching the obviously professional dancers in traditional Cuban dance costume, we noticed a second couple in the back dancing at a “slower pace”.  They looked fairly young, and they were wearing regular street clothes. Well….they were not just dancing, they were “pecking”at each other every now and then AND hugging quite a bit.  I found the scene kind of amusing myself so I took out my iphone and started “videoing” the whole scene. The first couple dancing were just amazingly talented so I took quite a bit of footage of them, and then I moved to the “other two” …. After a couple of minutes with my iphone held high in the air, a rather official looking person with a HUGE camera on her shoulder stopped me. She walked over and said, “Excuse me, you are not allowed to take videos here.”  I said, “Oh, why not?” She answered me with, “Because we are filming a tourism video.”  This of course just made me want to video them even more for some reason : )  By personality I am quite curious….SOO, I moved to a different spot in the crowd where I continued to video the second couple in the back.  They were just funny to me for whatever reason ? I guess I just could not figure out what they were up to…dancing by these incredibly talented professionals, and doing more “smooching” than dancing…. in the middle of the afternoon!  I figured there must be a really good story here and I certainly did’nt want to miss out ; ) I kept on videoing until Briant was obviously ready to move on down the street. As we were about to cross the street in Little Havana,  I heard a woman saying, “You know that was Rachel from “The Bachelorette” filming for next season!” I stopped in my tracks!  Well, I don’t watch television much at all, so I had no idea who Rachel was!  I called one of our daughters, and she immediately knew Rachel was the “Bachelorette.” Allison  laughed and said, “Only you Mom!” She asked me to send her the video.  I was so excited when Allison confirmed that I did indeed have “unseen footage of Rachel from “The Bachelorette”! HA! I was excited to have “a story” so I posted it on YouTube that very day. This was Rachel’s “Hometown date” with Bryan!   As of yesterday, my two videos posted from that scene have over 40K views so far!  What a fun memory from one of our first vacations as “just us”.  I knew then we certainly did’nt have to have 4 kids in tow to have a great time in Miami Beach ; )

Stay tuned …

The Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me

Yep, that’s what Gladys Knight said.  And it’s true, this family is the best thing that ever happened to me for certain.   Briant and I celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary last month which means the WilderNest is 17 as well!  How time has flown…I told someone the other day (I don’t remember who) that when you’re in the throes of raising children “the days go by slowly, but the years go by quickly.”  I remember those early years when  I was sooo busy, especially during the school years when all four kids had extracurricular activities.  I rolled around town in my minivan (later in my big SUV:) dropping off and picking up our kids until night many days. In addition, they visited their other parents regularly so the schedule was pretty tight around our home.  Believe it or not,  I loved every minute of our organized chaos..especially the carpool.  I’m sure our 4 will never forget the times when we were running late for school, and as Will recently said, “Time just seemed to stand still” for us.  And that was even if we stopped by the Burger King drive thru for breakfast !!  Of course time really did’nt stand still, but obviously those days were magical for our family… I treasure those magical moments, even that really bad day when we ran over our neighbor’s mailbox with our “then new” SUV…well, that’s definitely a story for another post : )

This summer has been good.  It has been a time of reflection for me, even though our schedule as a married couple has been extremely active.  My annoying chronic illness has reared it’s ugly head since about April which means a great deal of fatigue and tiredness.  Translation:  I have felt pretty rotten and had more down time than I would like.  My family has been amazing…I have felt the love and support from each of my loved ones even on my worst days.  We are closer than ever; and we still have so much fun when we get together…it seems like we never stop laughing.  Humor has always gotten our family through many times that really were not that funny!!  I believe every second of time invested in building “our nest” has paid us back with more love than I ever expected.  So really,  they are the best thing that ever happened to me.






I drive your truck

While running some errands this morning I was eagerly waiting for an update from FOX News on Hurricane Matthew.  Instead, I learned that Taliban insurgents had recently attacked cities in the Helmand Province of Southern Afghanistan. During those  moments when thoughts of Hurricane Matthew destroying the people of Haiti, my mind drifted back to about this time 5 years ago.  For most of 2011, I was constantly waiting for updates on the war in Afghanistan.  I was glued to FOX News on television more than I like to admit. I would study the news people looking for clues on their faces. (I’m not sure what clues, but I certainly thought I might see one!).  Every time I would hear about heavy fighting in a certain location I would run to my globe and find the place…then if I really became anxious I would start making phone calls…first to my husband, then to our brother in law, and any other friends who were military.  I was a mess because our younger son, Will, was in Afghanistan with United States Marine Corps.  I was scared to pieces and I did not handle myself the best.   My heart and mind were so heavy with worry and anxiety while he was in the war. There were days when I literally felt like I was going to explode. The Bible specifically tells us in Matthew 6:27 “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”.  I knew this is in my head, but my heart was having a hard time internalizing it if that makes sense. All I could really do was pray !  Not to make light of that time at all but a large Diet Coke with extra ice was helpful sometimes.

As a mother I had not wanted Will to join the Marine Corps.  My husband was an Infantry Officer during the first Gulf War and was in Iraq when Will’s (biological) mother gave birth to him.  I am certain it was bittersweet for Briant when our son wanted to more or less “follow in his footsteps”.  Yes, my worst nightmare came true when Will said he too wanted to join the infantry.  I tried everything to discourage him. I know that was a very unpatriotic attitude, but I was being selfish. I wanted our son to be OK, and I knew that if Will joined the Marines he would select Infantry and  go directly to Afghanistan.  My mind could not comprehend why he would want to do something that could kill him at the age of 19.  My girl friends were all upset for me at the news that Will might be going in the Corps….in fact, one of my closest friends asked her grandfather , a World War II veteran why “Briant would let Will go in the USMC during a war”.  Her grandfather simply said, “well, who else is going to go, if not young men like Will?”  My own husband gave the most unselfish answer I had ever heard to that question. Briant said, “why not my son?”  Wow! I was amazed at his strength.

I eventually settled down for a time anyway…however, each time a strange “government looking”car came around the curve into our neighborhood I held my breath waiting to see where it was going…hoping it wasn’t coming to our home.  When the phone rang late at night I was actually happy because the Marines were able – via sat phone – to make phone calls to home occasionally.  Will called us a few times, and I looked forward to and hoped for those calls all the time.  One of the best calls we received was on Thanksgiving Day.  Our son called and described what a nice day they were having.  They had cooked a chicken that had been running around the forward operating base (FOB) that was home to a dozen Marines. It was a good addition  to their delicious menu of MRE’s…ha ha.  Those of you who have tried MRE’s know they are not too appetizing! The young Marines all sounded upbeat on that Thanksgiving Day, and then again on Christmas Day.  The Lord was there with them even though we cannot understand the whole concept of war and especially sending our sons there to possibly make the ultimate sacrifice.

I can say that while he was gone I prayed constantly for his protection, as did so many others who know Will, and I believe the Lord has a definite purpose for Will.  Later we learned just how “close” it could have been .  Will is a man of few words.  He does not talk about the war much at all.  I know he has shared some experiences with his Dad, and also with his brother in law (another former Marine). Maybe someday he will talk more about his experiences, maybe not. They are his, and not ours to share.

While our son was in Afghanistan he left his squeaky clean white truck in our garage.  Sometimes when I wanted to feel close to Will I would go out there and sit in his truck and listen to the radio.  It had his sweatshirt neatly folded on the backseat, and everything looked as if he could walk up any minute and jump in the driver’s seat.  You see, Will and I had taken many “rides in the truck” during his earlier years when he needed/wanted to talk “about something”….like maybe a girl : )  We usually started out by stopping by our local McDonald’s and getting a large Diet Coke.  We would then ride for a while , just listening to the radio.  Eventually, Will would start talking 🙂 I would listen and then share my motherly wisdom : ) until he was ready to drive back home.  Oh I missed those truck rides while he was in the war!  I prayed so much that we would have many more in the future, and sometimes the fear of him not coming back from Afghanistan would nearly overpower me.  Going back to an earlier post about bonding…this showed me clearly that you definitely do not have to give birth to someone to bond with them as “mother and child.”  I truly love Will the same as Robb, the son I gave birth to : )

Fast forward a bit….Will did indeed arrive home safely, and oh was this family happy!! We all went to Camp Lejeune to welcome the Marines, and it was amazing watching those 1000+ march in on that cold winter day.  They were much thinner and paler than when we saw them leave the same base 7 months earlier.  Somehow, they also looked more mature.  I guess war “grows you up some”.  I will always remember how much joy our family felt that afternoon.  We actually drove his truck to Camp Lejeune to pick him up that day : )

It has been over four years since that cold day in March, and Will is now a student at a University a few hours from here.  He is much wiser than many young men his age, and definitely heavier from being well fed and working out at the gym.  Not much of a physical resemblance to that guy just coming from Afghanistan.  We see him pretty often, and we text and talk on the phone of course.

One night last week he called home and we were chatting about this and that…I could tell he had something on his mind, and eventually he let it out.  It had something to do with …you guessed it…”a girl”.  So, I listened with a mother’s ears and gave my opinion when asked.  After a bit, we both agreed that we just needed to “go for a ride in the truck”!