"Language, as well as the faculty of speech, was the immediate gift of God." ~ Noah Webster

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Thank You For Your Service...

This past Sunday, Matt had to wear his Civil Air Patrol dress blues to church. He had a CAP activity directly after church and there was no time to go home and change.

Civil Air Patrol is the civilian auxiliary of the U. S. Air Force, so though it is connected to the military and utilizes military teaching and regulations, it is, of course not, active service.

Regardless, whenever Matt is in uniform in public - which he must be from time to time - he has people come up to him and want to shake his hand and thank him “for his service”. It is very cool, and warms my heart to see people that are so willing to take the time to thank a serviceman. In our case, however, it has always been a little awkward, in knowing how to handle this. Though Matt is not really military, especially not active service, he has always understood the real reason why people are thanking him. He used to try to explain, that no, he wasn’t military; he was Civil Air Patrol which is the civilian auxiliary of the USAF. He did not want to mislead them, or accept undeserved thanks or praise. Invariably, though, people wouldn’t understand and it would embarrass them that they had been wrong….or there were times they would understand and that would embarrass them. It was really very awkward, so Matt came to realize it was simply better to shake their hand and accept their thanks by saying, “Thank you, Sir.”; "Thank you, Ma’am".

I asked him about it one time and he told me, “Mom it embarrasses them otherwise. I have learned it is just better to acknowledge their thanks and move on. It makes them feel good, and it makes me feel good. It embarrasses them otherwise and makes me look like I am standing down from the uniform.” Sometimes he will say, “No, I’m not active service. I’m just serving my community through search and rescue; and volunteer service.” CAP teaches their members to accept the thanks, and just know that they are serving the community, but in a different way than what is thought.

I came to understand that Matthew had it right. What maturity he had shown in reasoning that out and coming to his own decision on how to handle it.

Still, I think it is awesome that people are so willing to thank some one in service. Our military is so important and they totally deserve our thanks, respect, and support.

I will never forget a few years ago, when Matt was just little and my husband was still driving long-haul. As Matt is home-schooled, he and I were able to travel with his dad from time to time. Talk about a way to educate your child. Wow! …Ok, that’s obviously for another blog. But on one particular trip, we had taken a load to Seattle and had some time to kill after we had delivered it. In my opinion, waiting to find our next load was the worst part of trucking. One doesn’t drive those semis “empty” any further than is absolutely necessary. Anyway, Matt’s dad always tried to make things fun and special for us while we were waiting for those loads. This time we had delivered close to downtown Seattle, so we were able to leave the truck and walk to some shops nearby to make our time of waiting more enjoyable. There was an Army/Navy Surplus store up the road that my husband knew about, so we decided to walk over there, first. We looked around for awhile and my husband ended up buying a ball cap with “Viet Nam Veteran” on the front of it. Ok, well that gives away how old we are…you might figure, we had Matthew quite late in life. Yep, we did, but I'm not quite as old as Dad!  ;-)

My husband didn’t talk much about Nam, but I knew he was proud of his service, and had some emotion there that went too deep for words. The big, well-known Sears building was across the street from this little surplus store, so that would be our next stop. My husband put on his new hat and we worked our way over to Sears. As we were climbing the stairs to the entry of the big department store, a gentleman was coming out. He saw the hat, stopped my husband with an out stretched hand and said, “Let me thank you for your service.” Matt and I just kept going, letting them talk a minute. When Daddy rejoined us, I could see he was extremely moved. “That is the first time anyone has ever thanked me for my service,” he explained. My husband was discharged from Service in 1970 and this probably occurred around the year 2000. Matthew was about 7 years old at the time, and my husband had been out of the service for 30 years. I’d say that was a bit long to wait for his first thanks. Still, that is what happened to those Viet Nam Vets.

I believe our nation has grown-up in this area a bit since then. Or maybe we have finally returned to the way things used to be. I know when the soldiers came back from World War II; they came back to a grateful nation. Yeah, Viet Nam was a little different. It became a political war, and one we didn’t “win”. Those guys that served were spit on, made fun of, and blatantly disrespected when they came home. Yes, there were some things that didn’t go real well over there, some soldiers ruined the military’s reputation, but to lump all into the same group and show the kind of disdain that was shown, was uncalled for and a bit of a tragedy in our Nation’s history. The Viet Nam Vets had served their country; some died, some lost limbs, some lost a capacity to function normally in society. They deserved our thanks. Personally, part of it I believe, was a bigger agenda to destroy our military in the public eye. There were some that didn’t want there to be any public support from our citizens for our military. I believe that is still the case today for some. But as Ronald Reagan later so eloquently stated, “We maintain the peace through our strength; weakness only invites aggression.” It is important that as a nation we understand that. But I guess that is for a different blog as well.

My husband didn’t say much else about the thanks he received that day. As is the case with all his military experience, he was pretty quiet about it, other than to tell me that was the first thanks he had ever received. God bless the gentleman that offered it. God bless those that want to correct the wrong to which our nation subjected those young men and women who had served in Viet Nam. Thank God, it is a different era now, a different understanding. Now, we find it is extremely unusual if my husband doesn’t receive a very special thank you when he wears his “Viet Nam Veteran” hat.

God bless our military; past, present and future!

Viet Nam Memorial Moving Wall
Spokane, WA - 1998

"The Wall That Heals"

Saturday, September 25, 2010

God Winks

It has been so long ago, now, I am not exactly sure who it was that was speaking; but his message I have remembered for a life time.

He was talking about when he was a kid; and he was remembering his family, holiday meals.  He mentioned how much he hated those meals when extended family was visiting. He had to dress up in a suit, with a tie that choked him.  He wasn't allowed to speak, as at that time "Children should be seen and not heard" was the standard. He shared with his audience how uncomfortable he was crammed into a crowded table, and the temperature in the room was growing higher by the moment.  He just wanted out and away from that table.  He said he must have had a pretty mournful look on his face, when he looked up at his aunt who had been watching him.  You know; you have that feeling that someone is watching you, so you look to see and catch the eye of someone who has an interest in you. When he looked at his aunt, she gave him the biggest smile and wink of the eye that seemed to make all his misery melt away in that moment.  The wink told him that someone was watching and someone understood, and more than that someone empathized with him.  The wink from someone that loved him, got him through the discomfort and misery he was feeling.

When the speaker was done sharing his experience he related it to his (our) relationship with God.  Our Father is always watching us.  He loves us and is waiting to give us that wink we need, to encourage and strengthen us.

Ever since I heard this gentleman's talk, I have always referred to those little unexpected moments of encouragement in life as God Winks.  I have taught Matthew since he was a little boy to watch for those special moments, so that he might recognize from Whom they come and why.  I've had many such moments throughout my life, but do you think I could think of one right now to share in this blog.  No. But when one does occur, I know immediately it is a gift from God.  I guess I can't think of one right now, because that was not my intent for sharing this story.  My intent was to share a God Wink with my sissie.....

Monday, September 20, 2010

Hard Evidence

Every once in a while, something happens in life that you know you will remember for a long time. As a line from an old song implies, maybe it’s something so special you know it will become a place in your memory that you will visit over and over as time passes .

Well, we had one of those occasions happen to our family just recently. We had attended the Cowboy Mounted Shooting (CMSA) event on their final shoot of the season. Matt was not able to ride and shoot this year as he lost his horse this spring. But he attended with the Civil Air Patrol running balloons. CAP has done this for the mounted shooters for several years now. It is a good money making project for the Cadets as the mounted shooters offer a generous gift for their services, and it is also good PR for the Cadet Program giving them exposure for what the Civil Air Patrol does. Anyway, Matt has loved the cowboy mounted shooter events, no matter which part of it he is participating.

My husband was there this year to camp and help with the cadets. I just came to watch, as I absolutely love the sport. There is always an award ceremony on the last day when the shooters have finished up with their 3 day competition. Matt attended the award ceremony this year with two of the other Cadets from Civil Air Patrol. His Dad and I usually like to attend this ceremony as well, but this year we were tearing down his camp, so we were unable to attend.

I didn’t think it a bit odd when someone from the shooter’s group came over looking for Matt to tell him to be sure to be there. Matt had already headed over for the ceremony, as he knew this is usually when the shooters thank the Civil Air Patrol for their help and since Matt participates in both groups, he has always been the one to be there to represent CAP.

My husband and I went about tearing down camp, but I kept feeling like I really wanted to just wander over to the ceremony and forget about tearing down until later. However, I didn’t want to leave my husband working there alone; he was well into getting things put away and I didn’t think I could talk him into putting it off.

It wasn't long before Matt and the other two cadets returned to our camp and I could see right away Matt was pretty emotional. He didn’t say anything; but simply held out to me a framed, 8 x 10 photograph as he fought back tears. It wouldn’t do to let other cadets see the Cadet Commander in tears, I’m sure; but when I looked down at the picture, my heart leaped in raw, unexpected emotion all my own and I knew what had taken place. It was a beautiful photo of Matt on his horse at last year’s CMSA event. A local photographer* had taken the photo, and when Matt lost his horse this spring, the shooters decided to present him with this framed photo, along with some pretty nice words that I know he will remember for a lifetime.

Matt and Lady - CMSA 2009
Tom Davenport - Prairie Photography
He couldn’t help it he said.... When they called him up there to thank the cadets for their help, it was as he expected, and very much appreciated. But when they told the other cadets to take a seat, but Matthew was to remain standing, he didn’t know what to expect. When they handed him the picture and he looked to see what it was, ...he simply couldn’t help it; tears broke forth like a geyser unleashed. Yes of course, because of the beautiful reminder of his treasured animal, but it was more than that. The photo is evidence presented which shows there are people that cared and understood Matt's loss.  They cared enough that they offered him something they knew he would love. It was amazing.  I hope they know the greater gift that Matt saw behind it.

It shouldn’t have surprised us, I guess. I don’t think I have ever met a nicer group of people. I have watched on the side-lines as they have lent Matt chaps, pistols and rifles until he could get his own. They have offered tips and encouragement over the years as he learned; and they sent a beautiful card of sympathy when Matt lost his Lady. Some of them even helped Matt find another horse without his knowledge, until one day he received a phone call about Skeeter!! This group has literally taken Matt under their wing to help and encourage him. But I don’t think it is just Matthew they treat this way, this is simply the kind of people they are. The Cowboy Mounted Shooters dress in period costume and represent the way life used to be when cowboys ruled the range. I like to think that these people represent more than the cowboy lifestyle, they represent values and consideration for man and beast at its finest...kinda like it used to be. This group has shown me that some things never change. Deep in their core, they are the best of the best. And I stand simply amazed.  I know when Matt looks at that photo, far into his future, he will not only remember a precious and beloved horse, he will also remember a wonderful group of people that he came to count as friends.

Mounted shooting is a fantastic sport and it is something I could write about in a whole other blog, but you can find more about it at their website:  http://www.northwestmountedshooters.com/

*And to check out some awesome photographs of our local mounted shooting events, check out the amazing photography of Tom Davenport – Prairie Photography at: http://prairiephoto.biz/

PS...Lest you think me one mean mama, I have permission from Matt to post this. I guess he's man enough, strong enough to acknowledge tears over that which he loves.  :-)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Sara - In the Aftermath

She was beautiful; but more than outward beauty, she had inner beauty and I could see it from the moment she began to speak. She was polite, and reserved, yet quite articulate. She appeared comfortable, and sincere. She had a smile that obviously radiated from deep within her soul, outward to her audience. She was dressed in a bright, red shirt that accented her coal black hair. Adorned with jewelry of a Native American influence - most likely from her time in Montana - a love of that culture was apparent and it seemed so natural to her. What a beautiful, amazing woman she had become.

Sara Weaver Balter
I first learned about Sara in 1992. Ruby Ridge, Idaho was the setting. Her family’s story made National headlines and continued to do so from the beginning to end. I was captivated by it from the start. Of course because it was so tragic and startling that something like that could even happen, but also because it was so close at hand - in my beloved North Idaho. I don’t want to write about all the politics of it, or all the horrific details. I’m sure most have heard. I have strong, distinct, unchangeable feelings about all of it, but for now, I just want to write about Sara.

I had heard she was going to be on the Biography channel, so I made a point to mark my calendar so I would be sure to watch. There was an article in the local paper the day before and I was all the more captivated once I read part of her story there on the front page. William Shatner would be interviewing her about all that happened those many years ago on Ruby Ridge.

I had read the book that she and her father, Randy, had written some time ago; I picked it up and read it again just recently…last winter, I believe. So I knew their story well. I had followed headlines about all that had taken place before and after the dreadful events.

Sara was 16 when these events took place and I honestly don’t know anyone that has gone through anything more horrendous. Only her dad may have suffered more. As she would comment during the interview, that now being a parent herself, she understands how traumatic it was for her own parents to loose a child. And then her dad would also loose his wife.

She seemed so well-adjusted, incredibly strong, with no trace of bitterness as she told her story to Mr. Shatner and his national audience. I cried with her, as tears streamed down her face when she came to the parts that were still too difficult to bear even all these years later. Mr. Shatner, to his credit, was kind and patient as she told her story; listening well and asking the pertinent questions. I don’t think he was trying to get even one political comment out of her. Indeed, he just wanted to help her tell her story and I saw tears of his own well up in his eyes. At one time, I saw him wipe them away. And, no, I don’t believe that was contrived. How could any one not be affected by such a traumatic story!

This young woman had seen her younger brother and his dog killed for no reason she could understand. Her father wounded by gunfire, and then as Sara stood inches from her, her mother was shot, with the same bullet that would also wound a trusted family friend. She watched this loved one suffer, begging to die; she watched her grieving father; and her family mercilessly tormented by strange voices that surrounded them.

She was raised in a “religious home” with strict, Old Testament teachings, but these teachings and values had become her own and when this tragedy was all over, these values and life style were suddenly ripped from her, in much the same manner her family was taken from her. She spoke of the culture shock, she experienced when she and the rest of her siblings were moved from their family home in the mountains of North Idaho where she was homeschooled, to a public school setting in a suburb of Des Moines, Iowa. Yeah, I would say that was a radical change. But she endured it all, mostly alone. She endured it all, mostly without answers. She lived in darkness, depression and despair. She lived that way for 10 years, she told her audience.

But then, One came to save her - a Knight in Shining Armor, if you will. Though raised in a religious home with Old Testament teachings, she and her family were not Christians, she had said in the interview with the paper. It was much, much later she came to know the One that would set her free. I will try to stay away from doctrinal issues here too, but I believe her salvation was not born out of her adversity. I believe her salvation came by the heartfelt cry of a nation of believers that prayed for that family from the time their story hit the news. Her salvation came because of One that is not willing that any should perish. He wooed her, and loved her enough to bring her home. Evil can no longer destroy her. Evil did not destroy her and if there is anything this woman demonstrates it is this. The Holy Spirit lives within her to testify of a saving grace available to all who willingly accepts it.

She has forgiven her offenders she said, and I believe her. She prays that the man that shot her mother will come to understand the freedom that she has come to know. She is strong and she is whole. She loves her daddy and she loves her kids. She loves her Lord, and she has found life. I learned that all, well…maybe in the hour it took for her to tell her story; but in truth, I knew it from the moment I saw her speak her first words. She has an amazing, powerful story to tell. We watched as a nation, the beginnings of her story, and I pray we never forget it. It will happen again, if we forget. But more than anything I hope what is remembered most is the grace she has shown in the aftermath and the Grace that she has received.

Please read her story here:

The Interview with William Shatner, should be available here soon:  www.bio.com/aftermath 

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Summer's End

As Labor Day approaches, I have come to terms with the fact that summer is over. We will start school the day after Labor Day, and even if it wasn’t for that small fact, I would still begin to understand that Summer, 2010 is now nothing more than a memory….and a short memory at that.

The cooler weather came much earlier giving us an early fall, it seems. I am already covering vegetables in my garden, just to be safe. We had one really close call from Mr. Frost, and I am not about to take a chance on a surprise visit from him again. The evenings are cool and the mornings cooler, and I have even already added an extra blanket on the bed at night. Yes, summer is over.

But where did it go? What did I do? It seems I accomplished so little on my list of summer things to do. Matt and I only made it to the State Park to swim once. Any of the other surrounding lakes? Nope, not even once. We did take a few drives down to the State Park to look for wildlife and to simply enjoy evening drives. I love that; especially that my 17 year old son would do that kind of thing with me. Ah yes, we also enjoyed a boat ride one afternoon, with my mom and dad.

Didn’t make it huckleberryin’ this summer, (for the second summer in a row) but we did take a few letterboxing trips – wonderful times spent with my family. No picnics, no vacations. But there were trips north, to my beloved “North Country”, at least twice. And one evening, Matt and I took what has become our annual trip to one of our favorite tourist towns north of us for dinner.

Letterbox Event with Family
We baled hay and painted the outside of the house - almost done with that, now – and we tried to do some extra cleaning both outside and inside of our home and property. I gardened and did yard work, which I very much love. I spent what seemed like countless hours on my book business – organizing them in storage and adding them to the data base. I spent a few too many hours on this silly blog, but I also enjoyed coffee with my family once weekly. That was the most important thing for me to do, and I am glad I was able to do so.

We spent a little time with Skeeter, but not nearly as much as we should have or would have liked. No Cowboy Mounted Shooting this year; but we will attend, as spectators, the shoot next week-end.

Early this summer, I caught up on all of Matt’s report cards and transcripts. That was a huge relief all in itself. I finished writing In the Slipstream and began Miss POP. I wrote a couple letters to the editor of our paper, neither of which were published (maybe a bit too radical; or maybe just a bit too "right").  Most likely,  just wrong timing.  I contacted a few Congressmen through letters and decided to help someone with their campaign. I also did some research for someone I love, which was huge, but which was also very much in vain.

We attended a street dance, and a few very fun, local city parades and events. We also attended a square dancing event in the city park. I found out why people so easily get hooked on that. I had a blast and met some very nice people.  We also attended two county fairs.

Matt took quite a few trips away from home with his activities, so I think he would feel like he had a pretty good summer. I hope so. Making memories for our children is really what summer is all about, isn’t it?

It helps to look back, recount what we did, and make myself understand it really was a good summer, in spite of my long “didn’t do” list. I did in fact have a nice sense of accomplishment with the things we got done around our home.  There is more to do before winter sets in....that's when Summer, 2010 will look really good.  ;-)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

An Open Letter to the County Fair Board

After attending our county fair this summer, I decided I should write a letter to the Fair Board concerning a certain situation that occurred while my family attended.  With the controversy over allowing alcohol and other changes, the board was encouraging public response.  I emailed my letter to fair management on Monday evening.  Depending on what kind of response I get from them, will determine whether I continue pursuing my point through other venues such as "Letters to the Editor" of the local paper.  Below is the letter: