Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Visitors to our home in TN

When I lived on Eglin AFB, I kept track of the visitors we had to our home.  There really wasn't great need to keep track of visitors to Turkey or the Azores. They were very few as we were VERY far away.

But now that we are back in the States and life is starting to slip into more of a routine, we have begun to be open to having visitors. We are still trying to keep the bites small -- small stays and a laid back adventure while they are here -- in order to not overwhelm ourselves. But we have not seen many of the friends and family we love dearly in over four years. Lots of catching up to do.

So I will continue to update this blog post each time we have someone from our past stop in and see us -- if only for a few hours. Here's what we got so far:

JULY 2014
In July of 2014 our friends Nick and Kristy and their three boys stopped in to see us on their way to a musical festival. They only spent a quick lunch with us, but it was still so wonderful to get to see them. Nick and Kristy were one year ahead of us in residency and we were therefore together in Eglin, Turkey AND the Azores! Nick isn't pictured here but he'd probably prefer it that way.

Just yesterday, JB's childhood friend Craig and his beautiful wife and children stopped in to see us for a night. They are an Air Force family as well and were going on TDY (basically a short assignment) and were passing through. It had been YEARS since we saw them. Erin and I have never actually been friends -- we've only just seen each other on periodic visits, but we both agree that we would be VERY good friends if life crossed our paths. She is one awesome lady!

How awesome to have my mom's sister: Janet, come and visit us for a few days. It was so wonderful to catch up with her. Her son has a home not far from where we are looking at moving with our new farm. So I'm hopeful I can see her and my Uncle Ed more.

So technically they didn't visit us at our home. Instead, they met us about 4 hours away for a little visit while we were farm shopping. But oh to see Michelle after so long! Can't believe there are seven kids between us now. And what sweet kids they are. Hershal and Michelle will always hold a very dear place in my heart, and it was wonderful to share our hopeful new farm home with them FIRST!

Our friend from medical school -- Tara -- along with her husband Kelvin (not pictured) came to TN to spend a few days with us. I haven't seen Tara since before we went overseas and it was wonderful to catch up and meet Kelvin. The next time I see them, there will be a baby included in their life!

Our backyard neighbors when in Turkey -- the Ellis family -- was driving through on the way to a new job for Tommie, who recently retired from the military. They decided to stop a night and hang with us. How wonderful to reconnect with Christina and her awesome boys!

Our friends Craig and Erin (and their two cutie pies) stopped back through our house for two nights on the way back to their home in Montana. Love helping out fellow military families. Scrubs and the girls LOVED Craig!

My friend from the island, Claire, drove up from Montgomery (about 4 hours) to visit with us for two days. Here are pics of all of our kids (except Abigail). In the top picture are, from left, Jacob (9), Sidge (5), Gavin (4), and Isaac (6). In the bottom pic are Hannah (1), and Bria (2). We had the ages 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 represented in our home!

The Race to Nowhere in Youth Sports

I was a college athlete.

I was a very good high school volleyball and basketball player and could have played either sport (or both) in college.

I chose basketball and was a Division I Basketball player for Western Kentucky University.

I played my first sport at age 9. And it wasn't basketball or volleyball. It was softball.

I didn't play basketball until I was around 12. I first played volleyball at 13.

It wasn't until I was in the 10th grade that my father, who was also my coach, suggested I eliminate softball from my arsenal of athletic activities. Basketball and volleyball were dominating my schedule, and it was suggested that cutting one out that I wasn't all that good at might be a good idea.

In addition, in the middle of an intense recruiting process, I began to burn out. I told my Dad that maybe I didn't want to play big time basketball. Maybe I just wanted to go to some little school somewhere.

My father's response: "If that is what you want, I support you 100%."

I have written about my opinion of coaches and parents and young athletes in previous blog posts. You can read those here:

And today, I stumbled upon another article that really backed up my very strong feelings about youth sports. You can read the article by clicking here: The Race to Nowhere in Youth Sports.

JB and I have continually gone back and forth about whether to put our children in sports. We feel pushed and encouraged to do so from various sides. I did, in fact, put the boys in tennis while we were in the Azores. It was a cheap opportunity, and I thought it would be a good opportunity to learn some hand-eye coordination. JB was not a fan of me doing it, but he allowed me to put them in. Neither of them particularly liked going, and while they did learn some things, generally, the activity just cluttered our schedule.

I don't have any problem with kids playing sports young. If the families are enjoying this and the kids are enjoying it and it is a healthy family experience, then I don't see anything wrong with it. I recently attended our friend William's Upwards soccer game, and it seemed like an incredibly positive environment and good opportunity for faith and fun to couple together in a family-centered environment.

However, what I hear from most of my friends when it comes to children and activities is instead a feeling of exhaustion, frustration, and lack of time as they race from activity to activity. I feel that children are being started way too young and being pushed way too hard. And because they are, I, as a parent, have FEAR.

I have FEAR that if I don't put my children into sports soon, they will be left behind forever, and they will never be able to catch up. I think in general, pushing this hard is a RACE TO NOWHERE. Most children do not play even intramural sports by the time they get to college. They are burned out and bitter. I think it is utterly ridiculous that:

  • children are being encouraged to narrow their focus before high school.
  • children must get private lessons or attend extra camps to be considered for a spot on a team.
  • families must give up vacations or that an athlete must choose between a holiday with their parents and an athletic event.
  • coaches must focus more on creating winning athletes instead of creating winning young men and women.
  • children are being pushed without ownership, enjoyment, and intrinsic motivation. 
  • sports dominate to such a degree that a childhood is eliminated in exchange for running from place to place.
  • parents and coaches are robbing a child of the opportunity to be a child, to play freely, to explore sports of interest, and to learn to love sports and become active for life.

I have often said the following words in my own voice, and I loved seeing someone else write what I feel:

"Chances are great that your children will be done with sports by high school, as only a select few play in college and beyond. Even the elite players are done at an age when they have over half their life ahead of them. It is not athletic ability, but the lessons learned from sport that need to last a lifetime."
I LOVED my athletic childhood. But I CHOSE that childhood. My parents did not push me to participate in things I did not want to. The decision was mine. And for all those years we spent pursuing my athletics, I received a fully paid college education.
However, at 21 years of age, that era was behind me, and it was time to move forward with the rest of my life. Had I been instilled with the qualities and character I needed to live my life away from the game?
And that is the most important thing.
Someday our kids will thank us.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Why I don't take more pictures

While I was managing this photo:

My one year old managed to commit the following page-ripping atrocities:

That's a book on the left and a spelling sheet on the right that she tore down off the wall.

Deidra's Story

The following piece was written by an amazing woman named Deidra. Deidra worked with my husband at Turkey and was truly one of his very favoritest people that he has ever had the honor of working with. (She was also one of the best at her job -- truly made my husband's life so much easier.) 
Deidra recently shared something on her own Facebook page that I asked her for permission to reprint because I thought it was that amazing. I encourage you to share it with others who may need to hear the words she wrote.
If you haven't ever met Deidra, let me paint her for you. She is truly one of the happiest, smiliest, kind, loving women you will ever meet. She makes you laugh so hard. She brightens up your day. And she is a single mother in the Air Force working hard for two boys.
May her story touch you ...


Alright Family. God gave me an "assignment". And I've been going back and forth in my spirit asking God if we could maybe do this on a much smaller level so that I wouldn't have to EXPOSE myself so much. But he quickly reminded me that it's not about me! My life and my struggles were not just designed to be my testimony, but they are to be used to TEACH and help others. My prayer is that what I'm about to say not only helps someone but I pray that it helps you to HEAL. Here goes….
Most know me as a silly, crazy, LOUD, love to eat, hard working individual. Some judge me without knowing me simply off my facial expressions. But there's a side that very few know. 

I lost my biological mother, My father fell to life's stressors and began to use drugs for most of my childhood.

I was molested for years by a family member, and when I finally got up the courage to tell someone, I wasn't believed by the person I loved and trusted the most. 

I was then raped by someone I trusted. 

I was in an abusive relationship where I was beaten up which felt like for his entertainment, and pregnant all by the age of 17. 

Now, I tell you all this because this was designed to destroy me. And for many of my adult years, it almost did. Folks question my "smile", but most days it was hard enough to get outta bed let alone pretend to be happy. 

Let me explain something about my smile ... it's REAL! There is so much hurt, disappointment, and pain that I live with that my smile can only be just that ... REAL! My happiness is genuine and it comes from a real place! So when you see me smiling….. you can bet that it's for real. I have been through too much to pretend. I won't smile just because you think I should. But I will smile when I think of the goodness of GOD and what he's done for me. And when you don't see me smiling, please know that it doesn't mean that I'm sad. I may just be having a moment or being taught a lesson myself which requires not only my attention but my silence.

Understand that when you are raped or molested, that changes who you are, but when you are taken through that as a CHILD it stole who I wanted to be. It replaced my confidence with fear. It shook me to the core and remodeled my life without my permission. 

I tell you all this because I'm not ashamed of my past. God has kept me and blessed me in more ways then you know. But I want to speak to that young girl or women that's living with this same secret and it's eating you up on the inside. It's not your fault! Your experience is NOT who you are. Don't be bound and defined by your emotions. Let me tell you something, FORGIVENESS is a serious thing. And I won't even pretend to act like I don't struggle with it everyday. But I try. I put forth effort to be a better person and to be a good example. I know I had some prayer warriors on my team because I wasn't suppose to be here. But I'm here for a reason and so are you! 

I almost allowed what I went through to define me. And for many years I dated and wanted to be with the most emotionally damaged men I could find. Because I figured I was damaged, so let me get somebody else that's damaged and we can just be damaged together. If you didnt know, you attract what you are on the inside!! To me, Love = Hurt! If he didn't hurt you, cheat on you, beat you, use you ... chile' he doesn't love you! Yep! It sounds crazy ... but look what "love" had shown me as a child. I "loved" my family, and I was betrayed and hurt in the worst way. I "loved" this boyfriend of mine and he raped me. " I "loved" another boyfriend and he beat me. So I grew up thinking that pain was love.

See how deep it goes? How it can become a cycle if you don't allow God to come in and help you? Let Him help you. It took me YEARS and I still struggle with it today to realize my worth! To look in the mirror and be proud of who I see. This is going to shock many of you but that's a good thing because you know what? I'm human too. So when you go to judge, criticize, or belittle someone just remember they too have a story!! You have no clue what that person has been through so stay humble and kind no matter how they may come off to you. 

And ADULTS ... LISTEN and pay attention to your children. One thing I've learned as a mom is that the younger they are the more honest they are. They have NO REASON to lie about abuse. Take them seriously! They depend on you to protect them. It's our jobs to do just that. Talk to them. Ask the questions. 

I hope this helps someone today that may be going through something similar. I'm not perfect, and I'm still being worked on daily but I'm STILL STANDING! I'm here because I'm supposed to be. But I couldn't have done it alone. So now that I've put y'all ALL UP IN my business, I'll leave you with this ... 

No matter what you've been through or what you're going through God ALWAYS creates an exit plan! Your pain is not in vain. You just have to humble yourself to receive his word! I pray this helped someone today….Love y'all.

Monday, October 27, 2014


I just found out this evening that one of my favorite former students passed away last night. He was 30 years old -- which shows how young I was when I was his high school teacher at Franklin-Simpson High School in Kentucky, as I am 37.

He was one of those kids that just stuck with me. He was far from my best student. He honestly didn't care much about school. But he was my teacher's aide and in one of my English classes, and he was just one of those kids you couldn't help but like.

I'm sad because his death was lost to a battle with addiction. I'm sad for his family losing out on such a personable and kind guy. This is the third student (that I know of) that I have lost -- and all three were to senseless deaths.

Thinking and praying for his family this evening ... just feeling sad.

20 Quotes From Children’s Books Every Adult Should Know

Below are 20 quotes from children's books that all adults should know and remember and share with the children in their lives. Do you know what book they were taken from? Click here to find out how many books you were able to connect the quotes to!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Grandma Gatewood's Walk

I just finished reading: Grandma Gatewood's Walk by Ben Montgomery. This book was a quick and easy read. It wasn't written incredibly well, but was inspiring and informative -- really shedding light on domestic abuse, our country before highways, and what you really need to accomplish a goal. 
In the spring of 1955, 67-year-old Emma Gatewood left her home in Ohio, telling her children she was going for a walk.
What she didn't tell them was she was going for a walk on the Appalachian Trail- all 2050 miles from Georgia to Maine.  
When she finished the following fall, she became the first woman ever to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, or "the AT," as hikers refer to it.
She did it with a homemade sort of backpack, wearing tennis shoes and with about 200 dollars in spending money.
She is forever known as "Grandma Gatewood," through appearances on the Today Show, the Groucho Marx Show, the Art Linkletter Show and in articles in dozens of local newspapers and Sports Illustrated.
And she is revered in hiking circles as the grandmother who helped save the AT by generating much needed publicity through her exploits on the trail.
But, in researching his new book, "Grandma Gatewood's Walk," Tampa Bay Times reporter Ben Montgomery learned that Emma Gatewood's life before her hiking adventure was far from a walk in the park.
Gatewood had spent 30 years in a physically abusive marriage before she tackled the Appalachian Trail.
"What I came to understand about her is that I don't necessarily think she was walked towards something, walking toward a goal," explained Montgomery. "I think just as much she was walking away from 30 years of abuse. And saying 'Look, I'm an independent woman and I have legs.'" Her children think that she wanted to be the first woman to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. I'm not sure there's evidence to suggest that's the case.  I think that she was just walkin' and she just happened to be 67 years old."
And Emma Gatewood just happened to be part of the last generation that walked - instead of drove - pretty much everywhere.
"She never drove a car. so it was nothing for her to walk 13, 14, 15 miles to visit a friend and she did that all the time," Montgomery said. "So it wasn't all that unusual for someone like her to always be on foot."
At the time Gatewood first set foot on the Appalachian Trail though, America's love affair with the automobile was coming into full bloom.
And "Grandma Gatewood's Walk" is a reminder of all the physical, mental and spiritual benefits we miss when we choose four wheels over two feet.
"It's our first nature to hop into a car and drive somewhere," Montgomery pointed out. "I think there's something missing in this lifestyle where we're so dependent on the automobile.  We're missing this slice of American where you test yourself against the earth, where you just get out - you and your own two feet - and take a walk."

Just finished reading ...

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
A little on the long side (I just skimmed the last few chapters) but an incredibly educational view of our country less than one hundred years ago. I think every American should be aware of how blacks were treated in our country, and the incredible lengths they had to go to make a different life for themselves. I was educated, aghast, and interested all in one, and definitely recommend this book. While there were some difficult things to read, generally, it was simply a grand education into life in the South for blacks and what it meant to leave your home for a better life in the North.


A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR: The New York Times, USA Today, The New Yorker, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, The Economist, Boston Globe, Newsday, Salon and many others
In a story of hope and longing, three young people set out from the American South during different decades of the 20th Century en route to the North and West in search of what the novelist Richard Wright called "the warmth of other suns."
Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, George Swanson Starling and Robert Joseph Pershing Foster are among the six million African-Americans who fled the South during what would become known as the Great Migration, a watershed in American history. This book interweaves their stories and those of others who made the journey with the larger forces and inner motivations that compelled them to flee, and with the challenges they confronted upon arrival in the New World.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

We have (almost) bought a farm!

We are supposed to close in about TWO weeks! Honestly, it does not feel real that next summer we may be living in the foothills of the Smokies in the middle of nowhere without a neighbor anywhere to be seen. 

Am I excited? Yep.

Scared? You betcha.

Overwhelmed? Just slightly.

Intimidated? Uh huh.

Immensely exuberant to follow my husband's dream and raise my children where the green grass grows while learning how to do all kinds of natural stuff with plants and animals and trees and stuff like that?

You know it!

Yes I forgot he was in time-out

Whenever I send my kids to time-out (held in a little front office of our home), a conversation begins to brew in the depths of their little kid soul. Words just begging to come forth begin to tumble out of their lips.

How long? When can I come out? How many minutes is 4? Does 'I don't know' mean soon or long?

To ward those discussions off, I have told my children not to ask me. When they go to time-out, I will inform them of how long the punishment will be.

(A) Sometimes I tell them a minute for every year they are old.

(B) Other times I tell them that it will be longer.

Much longer.

Until "Mommy is calm and will not lose her temper" length of time.

(C) And other times I tell them that they can control the exit time. As soon as they are calmed down and not screaming like a banshee and feel like they can be a competent member of society, they can return to the real world.

Yesterday, I sent Sidge to time-out with Option (B) in effect.

Only thing was, shortly after I sent him, the world outside the time-out room begin to conspire against him.

Hannah pooped. (Bad.)

Abigail started crying. (Bump on her head.)

Isaac got wild. (He decided it was time to start running laps in the living room, and the dog thought that following him was a good idea.)

Here's my confession:

I have no earthly idea how long I left my little Sidge in time-out.

Many minutes later I began to take inventory of where we were in the day. Where's Hannah? What is Abigail doing? Is Isaac done with his school assignment?

When I got to Sidge, I couldn't find him.

I stopped everyone in their tracks and asked in my currently-scratchy-voice-almost-lost speech, "Where is Sidge?'

And suddenly I heard his little five-year-old boy voice call from the time-out room: "I"m in here."


Not good when the person in charge of when you come and go from punishment completely forgets you are in the punishment and basically confesses to that by losing track of you and going on a hunt for you.

When I walked into the little office room we use for time-outs, Sidge is sitting there, and I expect to get my own lecture about forgetting him.

But instead of questioning how I could have left him in there for so long, he went into a diatribe regarding all the things he was doing in the room that he probably wasn't supposed to have been doing.

"I sat on the iPad with my bottom. I mean, I think I did it but I maybe I did not. I think it was on accident, but it might have been on purpose. Or it might have been my back and not my bottom."

(He's currently very into making sure everything he says is 100% truthful and accurate.)

He scratched his chin, bit his bottom lip, and glanced up at the ceiling. "I went and read a kids book but only for five minutes. Or maybe seven. And then I think I did two other things I wasn't supposed to do too, but I can't remember what they are. So maybe I did them and maybe I did not."

I told him to go and play.

He seemed confused that he wouldn't be additionally lectured or punished for his time-out antics, but goodness, I felt too bad about the fact that I had forgotten he was in there altogether.

And to all those Mommies who did something similarly forgetful this past week, I'll tell you that this was not the only time I forgot where Sidge was in the last seven days. Another time, he left his school work assignment to use the bathroom. A few minutes later I started looking for him, telling him he was "in big trouble" for going to play before his school work assignment was done -- only to discover him perched on the toilet, swinging his legs, saying, "Mom, I told you I needed to poop."



That you did Sidgey.

That you did.

Joni’s Chicken Salad

I made Joni's chicken salad again this weekend -- and again got rave reviews. Truly, I don't make much, but this is one that I make and always seem to have people approving. You can serve it with lettuce "wraps" for those not eating bread. Or, you can serve it with croissants (my personal favorite.)

Here is the recipe:
  • 2 pkg Uncle Ben's Wild Rice (original) cook as directed using one cup less water per pkg.
  • 4 whole chicken breasts cooked and cubed [you can used canned chicken but of course it won't taste quite as good]
  • 1 cup mayo
Mix the above three ingredients and marinate overnight
  • 1 6 oz. jar marinated artichoke hearts with liquid
  • 1 1/2 C chopped celery
  • 1 C. chopped green pepper
  • 1 pkg. Good Seasons Italian dressing--mix according to directions
Mix the above 4 ingredients and marinate overnight

Directions: Just before serving mix above with 2-3 cans chunk pineapple (drained) and 1 can cashews.