Saturday, December 22, 2007

Pretty Christmas-y Things

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100 Days To Go...

"How are y'all doing?" You may ask...

We're losing our freakin' minds.

(Post clarification: Andrew blogged this a couple days ago, but I must explain that he doesn't mean "losing our minds" from happiness. He's concisely expressing how difficult it has continued to be...still!...even on the downhill side and so near the end. We thought it would get easier. But even in the happiness of seeing time pass, we just find ourselves so sick and tired of the same old separation, the same old pain, the same old constraints, the same old struggles, the same old limited forms of communication, the same old helpless feeling. Patience wears thin and then thinner. Grace eludes us. It's about to make us crazy... Even now, almost a year after he first deployed and with a mere 3 or so months left. We truly feel as though we may be losing our minds.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Christmas 2007

Dear All,

“Merry Christmas!” from a very frigid land and “Saeed Ayid Al Milad” from a particularly arid one! We hope this letter finds you well and drawing ever closer to the Savior.

Looking back on 2007, we see God's faithfulness and love at every turn. Each month, our Father has drawn us closer to Himself and each other despite our physical separation. We can confidently say that were it not for this year with its trials and turbulence, our relationship would not be as deep with each other and with our God.

Cassidy has been tough as nails, encouraging as a snappy tune, and sweet as chocolate (fudge, not special dark or semi-sweet). Seriously, without her love and support Andrew doesn't know what he would have done!

Trying to sanely fill the time between "now" and "when we see each other again" has been uppermost in both our minds this year. Cassidy loved performing with her brother, Seth, in a local production of Disney's Beauty and The Beast* (*not a reference to Andrew). First the auditions, then practices for months before-hand, and the two weeks of performances helped us mark time as the beginning of this year melted away.

In the midst of play rehearsals, the arrival of a very special person provided another excellent distraction and a favorite pastime. Chandler Thomas Brock graced this world with his presence in early June and, using a special combination of phone texting and Gmail, Aunt Cassidy kept Uncle Andrew informed of developments as the entire family (including the deployed uncle) stayed up through the night and waited to greet Weston (Cassidy's brother) and Jenny's beautiful little bundle.

At the time of the play and Chandler's arrival, Andrew was living in an outer post on the Eastern side of the city of Ramadi. His basic duties were to safeguard sensitive intelligence equipment. Since the schedule was pretty open, Andrew took advantage of the extra time to workout a ton and to study for and renew his certification as a paralegal. He also made the best use of his wireless internet connection to catch up on important things like Season 3 of LOST and to watch some American Idol with Cassidy via webcam.

Andrew moved back to Camp Ramadi (on the West side of the city) at the end of July and resumed regular shift work at a signals intelligence facility. Andrew has worked the night shift most of the deployment, and it has been such a blessing to be on almost the same sleep/awake schedule. Even though internet is somewhat less than predictable, Andrew has still been able to keep up with nearly everything happening at home on a daily basis.

In August, Cassidy traveled to Arkansas for a superb vacation with Andrew's parents, enjoying a relaxed pace while packing in several football games, fun gatherings with church friends, and lots and lots of good talks and great food! (Mammaw even taught Cassidy the secrets of fried okra!) Being where he grew up helped Cassidy feel closer to Andrew and she loved getting to know friends and family who love him.

The beginning of September brought two of Cassidy's best friends for a great "girl-time" visit. All the laughing, talking and building each other up in the Lord helped get her through the last long days before Andrew's leave time, thanks Abby and Alyssa!

For 18 days at the end of September through the beginning of October, Andrew was home on R&R! Our meeting at the Portland airport for the first time in 8 months was THE highlight of the year. It was hard to know whether to cry, laugh, or just hold on for dear life. The first week of leave seemed to move slowly and we had time to do and catch up on everything we’d planned.

We were so grateful that Mom and Dad Harper could fly out to Oregon to visit with us and Cassidy’s side of the family during that time. One of the Sunday afternoons during leave, Mom and Dad Brock hosted a fun open house for Andrew's return. We are so thankful for both of our marvelous families! The absolute best memories of 2007 happened in that 18 day window for us and we couldn’t have been happier.

Thanksgiving in Arkansas with Andrew's side of the family was fun as Cassidy got to visit again with Mom and Dad Harper, uncles, aunts, cousins, church friends, and make more fun memories. Dad Harper provided lessons on driving a stick shift and Cassidy had fun maneuvering the jeep around the farm and neighborhood. Andrew was proud. Dad was brave.

And Cassidy lived to return to Oregon in time for Chandler's first six-day trip to Disneyland! It was wonderful to watch the little guy's face as he reacted to the bright colors, Christmas-y sounds, and happy faces of the Disney characters. He’ll remember nothing, but his parents, grandparents, aunt, and uncles will remember for him!

Cassidy has moved four times in the last 18 months and is hopeful that someday all of her household items WILL be in one region.

Andrew & Cassidy are both in awe and wonder that normal life can mean two married people living and loving together…and they are blissfully anticipating that life by April of 2008, Lord willing!

We are celebrating this Christmas Season with a beautiful mixture of faith, hope, and love. Faith that we are right where God has us, hope for the days to come, and a love that has supernaturally grown across a distance that boggles the mind. We truly serve a God of miracles!

We love you, and we thank you for your loving thoughts and prayers. God bless you and yours and have a Merry Christmas!

Andrew & Cassidy
Christmas 2007

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Irony & Truth

As seen on t-shirts for Army wives. Some funny, some ironic, and all true.

~ She who waits also serves.

~ Army Wife...and you think your life is stressed?

~ I'd rather be kissing my Soldier.

~ You might be a military wife if...

  • the postal clerk knows you.
  • you've seriously contemplated flying around the world to yell at his superiors to let him come home.
  • you use an entire bottle of his cologne just so you can smell him around you.
  • you don't see your man for 99% of the year, but still stay commited to him.
  • you have enough flat rate boxes, packing tape, and customs forms for his entire unit.
  • you begin to hyperventilate when your cell phone battery gets low.
  • you've started putting together the perfect outfit for when you see him and it's still months away.

~ My husband is kicking tail in Iraq...what does yours do?

~ My Husband. My Soldier. My Hero.

~ Whoever said long distance relationships could never work never met an Army wife.

~ DANGER: Wife going through deployment. Proceed with extreme caution.

~ Imagine 12 months without a hug. Now imagine 15. See why I'm crabby?

~ You can't scare me. I'm an Army wife!

~ Land of the free, courtesy of the brave.

~ Warning: The man that keeps me sane is currently out of the country.

~ All I want for Christmas is my Soldier.

~ He swore to protect our country. I swore to protect his heart.

~ Proud Military Intelligence Wife (my personal favorite)

~ Welcome home, Baby! I missed you more than words can say.

Some days, sayings like these make me sad. Some days, they make me nearly burst with pride. Some days I wish I could hide behind one of these 100% cotton shields of excuses for my stressed attitude.

But all days, I need to remember that my life is not my own. Jesus Christ bought me with a price and I belong to Him. My life is His to do with whatever would best serve His Kingdom. I live a life of surrender to my God and faithfulness and love to my husband.

God didn't promise that it would go easy for me as I choose to follow Him. I am told to pick up my cross daily. As in every day! Some days I just let it lie there while I try to control my life with both hands. But His yoke is easy and His burden is light. He knows what I need before I do. And He knows how to take care of my deployed Soldier.

Lord, if you can be more glorified in me through life's trials, then please give me the grace to endure them and the strength to thrive joyfully in the midst of them!

I just can't find a t-shirt that says all that...

The Birth of Elisa Marie Brock

My cousin, Greg, and his wife, Carolyn, had their precious baby girl late last night. We are so thrilled for them and completely concur that she is sooooo beautiful!

Congratulations and lots of love to Mommy and Daddy and their brand new reason to smile!

(Greg's Blog & Carolyn's Blog)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Disneyland Fun For the Family

Here are a few of the favorites from our Disneyland trip the week after Thanksgiving! (Yeah, Chandler's in all of them...he was pretty much the star of the show. Pretty much? What am I saying??)

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Thank Our Troops!

Hey, I just found out about this site. Seems that Xerox is printing Christmas postcards to send to individual soldiers. You can't choose the soldier, but it only takes a minute to choose a greeting and click "submit" to brighten a hero's day!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas!

Looks like Santa's tech-savvy Elves have already visited this blog and sprinkled their Pixie Dust...

Wait. I'm confusing two very different stories.

Well, I've got Disney on my mind. That's my excuse. See, we (the Brocks - including new and former, and totaling 9) are flying down to Disneyland tomorrow morning for our very belated summer vacation!

I can't tell if we're all more excited to go or to watch Chandler see it all for the first time! (& Jenny, too, incidentally.) Not that Chandler will remember a thing...But Aunt Cassidy already took care of that today by purchasing a 4G Compact Flash card for her camera. He'll "remember" it all in pictures! Mickey Mouse ears and all.

And I've been thinking...Someday my prince will come.

(Bad pun, but excusable under the circumstances, right? Right?)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Redcast's New EP

One track has just been pre-released. It's called "Hopeless?" and it's amazing.
Go listen! Hurry! (click on the Redcast EP banner here...)

(and yeah, it has been a busy blogging day for me!)

The Book And The Rose

"Tell me who you love and I will tell you who you are."

My Mom and I just watched this 30-minute film based on a short story by Max Lucado. I'm a sucker for O.Henry-esque stories! Besides that, it's about a soldier and his girl... and we know I love that theme! It's worth the watch.

On feeling unsettled...

It's been wearing on me lately.

The whole checking to see if the door's locked at night, making sure I don't fall asleep with the ceramic heater running, shutting down the house for the night and trying to get all cozy and warm... Now, it's not the getting cozy and warm that's wearing on me. It's having to do it all by myself and for myself. It's the lack of closure at the end of the day that I so crave. And it's the unsettled feeling of knowing that Andrew's not here to take care of me.

Not only that...

It's changing the oil, rotating the tires, paying the bills, juggling the credit cards, washing the car, killing the bugs, moving the furniture, taking out the garbage, replacing the porch light bulbs, and always driving home alone.

It's stopping at Starbucks, sleeping in on Saturday, driving through drive-thrus, attending parties, watching a favorite TV show, signing birthday cards, buying new Fall clothes, going to church, cooking up something to eat, watching movies at home...alone.

It's the alone that's wearing on me. Cause I may be surrounded by people, but nothing's as fun - or feels quite right - without Andrew.

I miss you today, Baby.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

General Lameness

Nope. Not a real person. (Should be, though, maybe...?)

It has recently been brought to my attention that I have, indeed, been deplorabley LAME in the blogging sector. Does that even make sense?

Well, whatever it means, it sure sounds foreboding. To rescue us all from whatever terrible fate may befall us (or me) for being lame in the blogging sector, I shall write a quick update. We can all breathe easier now, I know.

Andrew has been back in Iraq for almost a month, and everything's going well. That is, if "well" can be defined as utter boredom punctuated by occasional excitement. But the reality is, if it's boring for him, then it's safe for the rest of the world. : ) And we're so thankful for that!

I have been keeping myself busy with redecorating the offices up at Dad's factory. This has included (but is not limited to) countless trips to the new Portland Disneyland that is called IKEA (yay!!), endless screws, pegs, and hinges to contend with upon assembly, and hours spent organizing like items which have heretofore been neatly (or otherwise) "stored" in haystack-like piles...and piles...and piles.

Now, so as not to demolish the reputations of Dad or my brothers ... there is a somewhat valid excuse in place. That being that the business recently moved. It seems that this alone is good reason for some of the less-used papers and files and supplies to be in a rather disorderly state.


Saturday, October 13, 2007

A Few Pictures of Togetherness

Our first picture together. In the car right after I picked him up at PDX. Couldn't be happier! Isn't he handsome??

And our next self-portrait and last one of him in uniform. We got to "play civilian" for 18 glorious days...

One of Andrew's first days back, just moseying around in the Pearl District, grabbing coffee at Sip & Kranz, and sitting on a fountain rock to just "be."

This is at a *little* get-together we had at my parents' to celebrate Andrew's R&R. Thanks to everyone who came to show their love and support. We cherish it!

Handing our camera off to a passer-by so we could get a quick shot of us in front of our new favorite get-away spot!

(More pictures of family and fun coming soon...)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Last Goodbye

In the wee small hours of this morning, Andrew and I drove to the airport and said our goodbyes for what we are hopeful will be the last time for such a parting. With a last wave, I started my drive home alone and he hopped on a Dallas-bound plane.

At this moment, he is somewhere between Atlanta and Shannon. He'll now be able to say he's been to Ireland! Even if he won't get to see much... Someday we'll go back.

His R&R time was so wonderful. We really packed in the fun and the family and the memories and the photos! (I'll post some soon.) I am so in love with my husband - more today than ever before. He has been my rock and my encourager. His parting words so full of hope and anticipation.

"Only a few more months and we'll be together forever, Cass."

It may be 5 1/2 months before we lay eyes on each other again, but we are confident that this portion of the deployment will fly by. Those who know say that the last part always moves more quickly than the first, and we're choosing to believe that.

Our current mindset is just that he had to go back to work and I have lots to do while he's gone...and then it'll be done and we can face the rest of our lives side-by-side.

And we've already said our last goodbyes.

Friday, September 21, 2007

American Airlines, flight 677

Yep, we finally have an itinerary! Whew. And I'm pretty darn excited to pick him up at the airport tomorrow night, Lord willing.

Thanks to all for your prayers and for being so happy and excited with us!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Around the World

Well, Andrew did it. He actually left Ramadi by chopper and made it to his next stop in the trip around the world! He talked to me late last night from another place in Iraq and they were hoping to leave for Kuwait within the day. Once he gets to Kuwait, the travel will be much faster because they'll be on commercial flights.

I might just have an airport run tomorrow!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Forecast Facts & Countdown Conundrums

Andrew's leave has finally made its way into the real, live 10-day forecast! I can actually see the close reality of sharing a day in the same place. Andrew and I should be together on the 22nd. Partly cloudy with a high of 71. Gorgeous! For *both* of us. Together. In the same time zone. The same state. Same city. Weather.

We still don't know the exact date/time of his arrival at PDX, but we do know that he's leaving Ramadi on what will be the 19th for him, the 18th for me.

As the time nears, we are left in wonderment and slight confusion as to how to count that down. My countdowns all say 5 days and so many hours...and yet that's counting to the first minute of September 19, Pacific Standard Time. Yes, he leaves the 19th. But *his* 19th. And we don't know the hour. He's almost at 4 days til he leaves on a chopper, my countdowns still report 5+. Then he'll have a couple or few days of travel - depending on conditions - before he makes it all the way to Portland. My best guess is that I'll see him on my 21st of September. And that's just not on any countdown. (whew!)

Reminds me a bit of the second coming of Jesus... "You won't know the day or the hour. But be ready, cause I'm coming!"

I'm ready!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

On Working Out, Looking Up, and Pushing Through

"...I've got soul, but I'm not a soldier..."

That fact is reaffirmed to me each time I hear the word "magazine" and immediately think of the closest media rag with engaging headlines on the cover. This confusion sometimes runs so deep that when a buddy says he spent the day, "loading magazines" I immediately think of some shelf-like structure with rows of printed material as opposed to rows of bullets and the paraphernalia of war.

It's quiet here. Oh, there are incidents, but overall things are very quiet and almost amiable. Ramadan is just around the corner and most experts expect things to pick up for us during that period. Why not? Ramadan is the month when Muslims fast during the day. Fast from both food and water... Stands to reason that even people who don't mean us harm would be more on edge on a dehydrated and hungry stomach. Heck, I'd be ticked too.

"...I've got soul, but I'm not a soldier..."

I go to the gym just about every day... It's a good stress relief... I'm not gonna lie, I am going on leave soon and I want to look good. Vain much? You could call it that, I guess. However, when you are married to the most beautiful woman in the world, you have to be able to intimidate. Basically, I just like being big and since getting taller isn't an option, I might as well work on another angle.

According to the Army, a soldier my height should weigh 179 lbs tops. That's a great goal... if you're an Abercrombie model. I'm a little more "tankish" than that. Not to worry, the Army has a stellar program for finding out, reminding you, and correcting you if you are "overweight". First step, weigh each soldier every time he takes a PT test.

I took a PT test about a week ago.

I do not weigh 179.

The second step in the "program" is take an innocent seamstress tape and measure the soldier's mid-section and neck three times. These measurements are then averaged by a computer and the soldier's "body-fat content" is determined. Is it just me or does this process resemble "witching" for water?

I have not yet been "taped". There should be no problem with me passing, because my neck is getting bigger by the day. But then, so are my shoulders, chest and arms... hmm, maybe I will be MORE than 20 lbs over next time. ;) Bring it on.

This picture was taken as my convoy sped through the streets of the city on my return trip to the main camp... I think it says a lot about the diversity of the people here. It also speaks to how comfortable people are with the current stability... they are all there and they are all feeling safe enough to move about.

There are very good things happening in this city.

Inside the camp, however, there's a special breed of crazy running loose...

It appears that the most important thing in the world right now, at least as far as my unit is concerned, is that there be two human eyes glued to my weapon at all times. Not just my weapon, but every weapon. Therefore if someone fails to leave their weapon with a human, or they fail to take said weapon with them everywhere they go... it's BAD juju.

Now, I was never one to randomly leave my weapon lying around, but at this point, I can not even lock it in my room. I guess someone found out that weapons like human company and suffer emotional issues when locked behind plywood walls alone... unless it's at the company office. That plywood is holy enough that no human contact is required.

I guess I can understand.

I mean, if a very high-ranking enlisted soldier loses his weapon, those under him really should be treated as if they are just as stupid right?

Such is the plight of two soldiers in my company whose punishment is to stand outside and question others who are trying to get to the bathroom. Question them on the whereabouts of their rifle and who is babysitting.

Exiting my room and heading toward the shower building, I saw my first sergeant, another sergeant and the two soldiers who are responsible for the thankless task.

"Dang it Harper," my first sergeant said, "you were supposed to come out without your rifle so we could write your name down!"

"My mama didn't raise no fool, First Sergeant!" Was indignantly out of my mouth almost before I knew what I had said.


As dumb as things may seem INSIDE the wire, there are good things happening outside.

As for me, I am going home in three weeks for 18 glorious days of leave and love with my wife and family! I can NOT wait to get home for a good time of fun and resting. We are over halfway done with this deployment and there will not be a reason to return because we only have 13 months left in the Army!

I must confess that the Army has provided the context for much of my growing up. It's true. I thought I was grown up when I left home, but it's been a gradual process that has taken longer than I'd like to admit... I mean, I'd count this year as a HUGE growing experience. I have definitely learned more about being a man and being true to myself, my God and my family here than I would have in a normal year of life in the States. Who am I kidding, I would imagine that when I do get home for good, I'll find that growing up is a life-long task. :)

The thing is, God has used the Army in my life... chipping off rough edges and toughening me up so that I can see more clearly and have a strong backbone. Steel that is fired is stronger... I am steel, the Army has been my fire.

There are good things happening at work too. The Marine unit we were working with went home and their replacements see us as people and are much kinder in their treatment. It's been so refreshing to have someone on our side and to have concessions made for our benefit. Yes, things are really going well.

I guess that's about all for now... hopefully it won't be so long before I write again - one of our concessions has been an eight hour workday instead of twelve (which was an 84 hour work week). Yeah, I should be able to write now. ;)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Into the Wild Blue Yonder...

I'm headed off tomorrow for a visit with Mom & Dad Harper in Warren, Arkansas! What fun it will be to spend time with my husband's family--MY family--in his old hometown. I'm taking my camera, so pics will be forthcoming either here or in my Picasa Albums.

4 weeks til my own little V-Day!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Lame Template Designs?

I'm kinda disappointed in Blogger. I really want someone to design more and cooler page templates and design options. Sorry, not me. I don't have the time! I just want it done. I should find their "suggestion box"... : ) I mean, look at this! I'm test-driving "harbor" just cause it's the only one I haven't tried. I guess I can do lighthouses for a while...

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Earlier Leave Dates

Now, I'm not always sure what to believe about the Army and what "it" says... But the travel manifest (or whatever acronym means the same thing...) now has Andrew leaving Ramadi on September 19th instead of the 23rd. I get to see him a few days earlier than we thought! And that changes our countdowns considerably, as well. : ) Instead of 42 days, we're now at 38. What a jump!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Prayer Request Update

That title kinda makes it sound serious. It's really not. It's merely that Andrew's company was not able to keep the phone after all. But God knows best and He already has planned out ways for us to stay in communication. His ways just may not be at the great price of "free" any longer.

Andrew stayed up way too long when he shoulda been sleeping last night to hook up to the community router and get his own internet connection for his laptop in the barracks. We have to pay a monthly fee, of course, but it's all worth it. We hope to get the webcam back up and working soon! I haven't "seen" him for so long, now. Yeah, weeks seem long.

On the sunny side... I found the perfect place for our belated anniversary get-away when Andrew comes to Portland! And I'm not telling where. But the lady is just handing me great discounted rates AND free upgrades! She must be an angel.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Now That Andrew's Moved...

He convoyed his way back to Camp Ramadi this last week. It seems as though Corregidor's usefulness to "the mission" had expired. And so it's back to the big FOB. It was sure a nice break to be able to stay in Corregidor so much longer than we'd first thought! Now he's back to the 12-hour shifts with headphones on his ears. But really, change is welcome. It makes days go by. Even if we just spend them complaining about it! : )

Andrew's looking at getting internet into his room, but for now he just uses the computers at the computer bank when he has a minute. And since he's on a more supervised work shift than he was in Corregidor, there's no skipping out to make a quick phone call home. At least not like it was. So I talk to him before work, now...and then he can usually call me quick right before I go to sleep to pray with me and close out the day. It is much more limited than it was in Corregidor. But we're doing fine and adjusting to the new schedule. And we know that this is only a short season! Just under 8 weeks, in fact! And then Andrew gets to come home for a little visit. I feel like I've been holding my breath all year long.

Prayer Request:

This may sound cryptic, but...Please pray that Andrew is able to keep the phone. Thank you for keeping us in your prayers!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

One Month Later...

Well, it's been far too long since we've updated, I know. But we've been busy!

Andrew's status is pretty much the same. He's still at Corregidor even though we've been on a "yes he is, no he's not" rollercoaster concerning if and when he heads back to the big camp. The Navy guys who were providing the free wifi have now moved out permanently, which means no more internet. Andrew and his roommate have tried every possible angle and idea to get internet to their room again... I mean, really. Guys with that many satellite dishes on their roof should have access to some sort of connectivity! But no. This is the Army, so it doesn't make a lick of sense.

Instead, he's had to find his way to the internet cafe of sorts and get online after his shift to check email real quick and usually update his Facebook. No webcam. I've missed seeing his face! It's been about a week since we've been able to hang out online together. We're learning to just set phone times and work with what we have.

He's had a few adventures that required him to leave the boring normalcy of his "cave," which he considers fun! Practicing his translating skills and working on his Iraqi dialect are both challenges that he loves to tackle.

I've been busy with Beauty and the Beast dress rehearsals and performances. The four shows this weekend really went off without a hitch! Four more this next weekend...

Today is Jenny's birthday and we're having a big outdoor bbq party at Mom and Dad's tonight. Today also brings us to the 6-month mark since Andrew left. Tomorrow is Andrew's and my FIRST ANNIVERSARY. It truly is amazing that it's been one year since we said "I do."

He's coming home in just 10 weeks!

Friday, June 15, 2007

A Huge Milestone...

Well, today marks an event we thought would never come. We've officially crossed the 100 day barrier! Such a happy thought. It has taken so long to get to and - at times - seemed desperately elusive. But we're here. Into the double-digits.

And time is just gonna fly. It has to.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

He's Finally Here!

The first of the two guys I've been waiting for months to see made his appearance at last today, June 6th, 2007. Chandler Thomas Brock came into the world at 6:04am weighing 11.3 pounds and measuring 22.5 inches.

Click to see Chandler's first photo album.

Weston took Jenny to the hospital to be induced on the morning of the 5th. After 16 hours of what they're calling "serious labor" (it was all serious to the untrained eye!) it was decided that Chandler was just too big for Jenny and he needed to come out via cesarean section. And so he did.

After waiting all night long, and napping in various strange pieces of hospital furniture and random spots of carpet, we opted to wait some more so we could see the darling boy and his superhero parents on the day of his birth. Mommy and Baby (& Daddy!) are recovering perfectly after the day's excitement. And so is Grammy, Nana, Grandpa, Aunt Cassidy, Uncle Jarrod, Uncle Seth, and Uncle Darren! ; )

For those who've asked, here is their contact information. They'll probably be in the hospital for a few days. They'll be sleeping their time away in peace, but may be ready for visitors by Thursday afternoon or possibly Friday. Please call first!

Address to send flowers:
Providence St. Vincent
9205 SW Barnes Road

Portland, OR

Room 406

Email them @

Call Weston to plan a visit:

Monday, June 04, 2007

We're Still Waiting...

...for Baby Chandler to make his debut! Maybe he just doesn't know how anticipated and LOVED he already is! : )

Or maybe he does know and is a little skiddish about being kissed all over and passed from loving hands to loving hands and generally smothered for the rest of his life...

According to all forms of prediction, he was due last Monday. So here it is a week later and it looks like if nothing happens today, Jenny will be induced tomorrow morning. So either way, he's coming! One doctor wisely said, "Well, I've never seen one not come!"

You can bet there'll be pictures and posts and much rejoicing when he finally arrives! Be sure and watch Chandler's Blog for news, too!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Leave Dates Have Changed

And will most likely change again -- maybe several times -- before Andrew actually gets to come home for his two weeks! It's now looking like end of September rather than middle. Which doesn't seem like a big deal, but you try counting every hour of every day, and being almost to your 100 day mark, and then finding that you have to go backwards??!! But I can't bring myself to stop counting.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day Thought...

"Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty."
John F. Kennedy

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Inflation...I guess.

Why do they keep raising stamp prices? From $.39 to $.41 just like that!

Even worse is the price hike on our beloved flat rate boxes. No longer will I hear "That'll be $8.10. Unless you'd like insurance on that?"

It was sad day in the Post Office line. Today, for the first time, the sweet lady behind the counter had to say, "Your total is $8.95. Would you like a book of 41-cent stamps with that?"

And I said, "Yes."

On a lighter note, she told me about a local chapter of the Red Hat Society who are making it their business to send boxes to Soldiers that they know of so that those Soldiers can share with others who may not receive care packages. She asked if she could give them my husband's name. "Sure thing!"

Then, as I sat in my car outside the Post Office, glancing through my mail, I looked up when I heard the tap on my window. I opened my door to the nicest lady who only said, "God bless you and your husband."

Angels do come in all shapes and sizes... and - apparently - hat colors!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Toothbrush Story

So there I was, walking down the dirt street toward the Dining Facility. My dusty way was hemmed in on both sides by large concrete barriers that serve as protection from mortars and very convincing guides for traffic to stay in the street.

I stepped through a break in the barrier and got on the sidewalk that runs beside a very low-slung, white-washed building of dubious origin. The sidewalk runs the length of the building, is covered by a stoop, and is walled off from the street by the backside of the concrete barriers. Yes, it's very much like a chute... and it's funny because most men are used to walking through this chute to get to the chow hall - it's the preferred route. Like cattle to a feeding trough, we don't normally notice that we are being hemmed in on all sides because of the rumble in our bellies.

I got to the end of the chute and went around the end of the low slung building. On the other side, about two doors down is a mid-sized room which has been set up as a kind of store. It's run by a foreigner and it doesn't have the same kinds of things that a regular Post Exchange would have, but it does have bootleg movies and some essentials, so there's always someone buying something. The fact that the shop is run by a foreigner and the fact that you can get somewhat local items from the store, leads most soldiers to dub the place a "Haji Shop".

"Haj" or "Haji" means "pilgrim" and is a term of respect that Arabic speaking peoples use to refer to: 1) someone who has made the pilgrimage to Mecca, or 2) someone who is advanced in years. In the last couple of decades however, American soldiers have adopted the term "Haji" as the American monniker for any Middle Easterner - particularly Iraqis. It's today's "Kraut", "Nip", "Gook", or "Frog".

I walked through the doorway of the little shop and the man who runs it immediately recognized me. We greeted each other in Arabic. I've been here a couple times before and ever since the man found out I speak Arabic he doesn't use English with me. It's just as well, I need the practice. "How are you?" He said.

"Well," I responded, "hot!"

"Yes, hot," he said.

"The sixth month, the seventh, and the eighth month are the hottest," he said, "with the eighth comes a lot of humidity."

"Humidity?" I said, "I thought this country was dry, I didn't think there would be humidity!"

"Oh yes," He replied, "There's so much humidity here. The eighth month is when the dates get ripe too, but it's just very hot and there's all this humidity. It's like in Kuwait."

"Yeah," I said, moving away from the counter to locate the item I needed: a toothbrush.

"You've spent a Summer in Kuwait?" He directed the question at me as I stood next to the upright drink cooler beside the door.

"No," I said.

"Oh," he said getting up out of his chair and walking over to the cooler's glass door, "the humidity in the Summer is so bad the cars have to use their windshield wipers!" Using the glass as an illustration, he waved his hand back and forth showing me just exactly how the cars in Kuwait dealt with humidity.

My face registered my true amazement as I listened, observed and half-way wondered if next he would tell me about Kuwait's great fishing lakes and the monster trout he'd gotten there Summer before last, "Big as your head!"

I found the container on the shelf that held toothbrushes and selected one that had the least amount of pink on it. Walking back to the counter, I laid the brush down, but he made no announcement of price and made no move toward the cash register. We were still in visit mode and continued talking.

"So are you from here?" I asked.

"No, I am from Sudan."

"Really?!" I am surprised that this very-arab-looking man is from a region I thought was predominately black - indeed "Sudan" literally means, "place of the blacks" in Arabic.

"Yes," he said.

I then inquired whether the rest of the men who work around the post are from the Sudan as well. He responded that they are.

"I was here for six months last year," he said, "this shop actually belongs to a friend of mine that I have known for a very long time. He was here, but he is gone now... it's a very good situation for me."

I was going to ask if he had a family but never got it out. An arab interpreter came in and started talking to the shop man. They spoke in Arabic, but the interpreter kept saying bits in English for my benefit. He obviously did not pick up on the fact that I greeted him in Arabic when he walked in the door. The interpreter left and came back in just a second and then he was gone for good. By this time another soldier had walked in the door and was shopping. I needed to check out.

"I am in need of a tooth brush," I said to the shop man, holding up my choice.

"This is not a problem between you and me," he said, "it is my gift to you."

"Really?!" I exclaimed, "A thousand thank you's my friend!" I shook his hand, "A thousand thank you's." I walked out the door with a big grin on my face.

Now I am trying to think of what I can take back as a gift for the shop man... in this culture it doesn't pay to be out-given.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Musical Impressions of a Six-Year-Old

"Oh magnify the Lord... "

I sat in the front seat of the little, red car beside my mom. My little gut was churning, or it would have been if I had known what a gut was. At the time all I knew was that things were really tight inside and I nearly felt sick. The Christian radio station happened to be playing the Maranatha Singers at that moment and it was at once beautiful and terrible.

"For He is worthy to be... For He is worthy to be praised..."

An outside observer would have thought from the expression on my face that I was being hauled away to my death. It very nearly felt like it... I was on my way to kindergarten... and I wasn't ready for the shake-up.

My school had a drive that ran between the preschool building and the main school/church building (it was a Christian school). A chorus of elderly ladies opened doors for good little kids who got out with bookbags and ran up the stairs to their classrooms.

We pulled alongside the elderly lady who was supposed to open my door for me.

"In your presence Lord, the mountains melt like wax..."

and I did the only thing any self-preserving six-year-old would do...

"I lift my hands, and worship you oh, Lord! I lift my hands, and worship you oh Lord!"

I locked my car door.

K, so Kindergarten was just a little traumatic... and I loved/hated the music playing on the radio as I went to school each morning... I thought that nothing that happened between home (safe) and school (scary) could be good. Therefore, as beautiful as it might be, the music on the radio between 8 and 9 am was of the devil.

Glad I grew out of that stage, cause I found this song today and I still love the song, the message, and the presentation.

~ Andrew

Monday, April 23, 2007

Reflections On A Merely Starlit Night

"Weird dream," he thought as he rubbed his eyes and sat up in bed. A cammo-print, nylon blanket hung from the bunk above him providing a wall of normally scarce privacy. Staring into space for a few seconds the soldier allowed his mind to wander and awaken.

He picked up his laptop, which always slept beside him on the bunk, and opened it. That Mac sound would let his room-mate and work partner know he was awake... if the guy were around. Lately he'd been out when midnight rolled up. The schedule was weird and after a couple of months it was still hard to sleep through the afternoon and wake up in the middle of the night. Afternoon workouts were good, but getting to sleep after was sometimes a trick.

Hitting enter, the soldier sent off two text messages to get in touch with his reality. This Instant Message mobile thing on his wife's phone was so awesome. He got up and changed into uniform. "Whew! Dang, I wish the laundry was back."

He sat down at the desk and began to take stock of the situation. His partner was gone, probably to pick up their midnight meal. That was the system since they couldn't leave at the same time; at noon the soldier got chow and brought it back, midnight the other guy did the same. It worked.

Just as he was getting settled behind the desk, his partner brought in the food and sat down. A couple minutes later the soldier's wife answered his texts and got online for a little bit. It was Sunday at home, a good Sunday for an old movie and a long nap. It sounded really good.

After his wife got off, the soldier's dad popped up: "Hey, it's Dad, just doing some bookwork, how are ya?" It was good to hear from him.

Things settled down into the normal monotony of a regular work day... er, night... er, shift.

Because the soldier had been drinking coffee since coming on shift, it was only a little while before he needed to visit the restroom. An annoying task in a place where the facilities were unlit porta-johns that lay down two flights of stairs and about forty feet from the building in which the soldier lived. This was a daily adventure which he was glad most people were spared.

In fact, he was walking back to the building and thinking about how strange this daily... er, shiftly experience was when he decided to write about it. Looking up at a sky with no moon and just a few stars he hit upon a title... "Reflections On a Merely Starlit Night".

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Our Hope

Who taught the Sun where to stand in the mornin'?
And Who told the Ocean, "You can only come this far"?
And Who showed the moon where to hide till evening?
Whose words alone can catch a falling star?

Well, I know my Redeemer lives,
I know my Redeemer lives,
All of Creation testitfies,
This Life within me cries:
"I know my Redeemer lives."

The very same God that spins things in orbit,
Runs to the weary the worn, and the weak
And the same gentle hands that hold me when I'm broken
They conquered death to bring me victory.

Now I know my Redeemer lives,
I know my Redeemer lives,
Let all Creation testify,
Let this Life within me cry
I know that my Redeemer lives!

He lives to take away my shame,
He lives, forever I'll proclaim,
That the payment for my sin
Was the precious life He gave
But now He's alive and there's an empty grave,

And I know my Redeemer lives!
I know my Redeemer lives!
Let all Creation testify,
Let this Life within me cry
I know my Redeemer lives!

I know that I know that I know that I know that I know!

Because He lives I can face tomorrow!

I know, I know, I know!

He lives! He lives!

I spoke with Him this mornin'!


The Irony...

...of it all. How could I have known that just a few hours after posting the previous Bible study thoughts I would learn that Andrew's deployment is being extended an extra 3 months? I felt like I'd had the wind knocked out of me.

I spent most of yesterday running the gamut of emotions from anger, to sorrow, to unbelief, to disappointment, to confusion, to asking God "WHY?? I've give everything! Why do You keep requiring more? What do you want from me?"

Andrew and I got to hang out together last night online. I told him everything I was thinking and feeling and wondering. And this morning I woke up to an email from him. I've included an excerpt here. (Okay, so I can never be mad at God for long...He gave me such a wise and loving husband!)

"This too shall pass, and underneath are the everlasting arms. God is carrying us through this, Cass. We can't see Him, but we CAN know Him and that is what He desires through this. God generally wants us to accept, obey, then understand... okay, so we really have no choice but to obey... but He still wants us to accept this from Him. He only gives us things for our good. He only gives us good things. Gosh! That's what faith must be - agreeing with Him against all odds that what He says is good... is good. Those who would please God, must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him."

Andrew is my rock. And God is our strength.

And the words of the previous post still stand.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Notes from Mom's Bible Study

"Your Heavenly Father will never lead you anywhere that His grace will not sustain you. He will never place more upon you than He will give you grace to bear. When the path before you seems hopelessly long, take heart. Lift up your eyes. Look ahead to that day when all suffering will be over."

Lord, at times when I am hurting, my natural instinct is to cry out for relief. But I don't want to forfeit the blessings that You can bring to me and to others through my suffering. Thank You that You use suffering to make us more mature, more like Your Son, who suffered for us. Help me to embrace the pain and to allow You to fulfill all Your purposes in and through my life. Amen.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

My Audition Worked!

So, I auditioned for this play and just found out that I was chosen to be one of the 15 ladies in the ensemble! So that means I'm a townsperson, for one, who knows what else, yet, and I get to sing a lot!

My younger cousin who is headed off to acting school in a few months is going to make this her last local performance. It'll be so fun to share this with her!

More updates later!

On Dwelling In Caves

If ever I wanted to do a case study about what effects dwelling in caves had on the psychology of Ancient Man, I suppose this would be the opportune time. My current abode is indeed very cave-like. The walls are of grey concrete plaster, except where the plaster has come down to reveal the block that fills in the skeletal structure of poured concrete beams. Oh, it's an odd construction to be sure.

Aside from the greyness of the walls, a lack of light lends itself nicely to the overall sense that I have been flung into a different age. There are essentially two main sources of light in this room. While both lights are flourescent, their radiance seems to be quickly and nearly completely absorbed by the towering, grey ceiling of concrete. The ceiling itself is punctuated occasionally by pieces of rebar, some pointing straight down and others bent in some way.

There were windows here at one time, or at least space for windows... the sand bags filling those spaces between the concrete keep out light while protecting against bullets and mortars.

Yes, overall I think this would be the golden opportunity to do a case study in Cave Dwelling Psychology... Hey, if I can develop a thesis and give lectures after the army, I should be able make a mint at Berkeley or some place! I guess I'd have to leave out the part about having been in Iraq if I was going to lecture at Berkeley. Ah well.

My wife reminded me of this song today and, while I know we are not close to the end of this year, I feel like we've come far enough for me to dedicate this to her.

"Looks like we made it,
Look how far we've come my baby,
We mighta took the long way,
We knew we'd get there someday,
They said: "I bet they'll never make it"
But just look at us holdin' on,
We're still together,
Still goin' strong."

Cassidy, I love you with all my heart, in some ways our life together has taken the long way, but we know we'll get there in God's timing because He is leading us. I look back over just the last few months and I see how much we have grown together and individually and I am so proud of you, of us, and of who we are in Christ.

"Ain't nothin' better,
We beat the odds together
I'm glad we didn't listen,
Look at what we would be missin'
They said: "I bet, they'll never make it"
But just look at us holdin' on,
We're still together,
Still goin' strong."

Every day we are beating the odds together, because greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world. This time is passing and we are not listening to anything that does not agree with what our God has mapped out for us.

"You're still the one I run to,
The one that I belong to,
You're still the one I want for life
You're still the one that I love,
The only one I dream of,
You're still the one I kiss goodnight."

I can't wait to kiss you goodnight every night for the rest of our lives, Kid. I love you!

"I'm so glad we made it, look how far we've come my baby."

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Easter Song

Hear the bells ringing, they're singing
That you can be born again!

Hear the bells ringing, they're singing
Christ is risen from the dead!

The angel up on the tombstone
Said "He is risen, just as He said!"
Quickly now, go tell His disciples
That Jesus Christ is no longer dead!

Joy to the world!
He is risen! Hallelujah!
He is risen! Hallelujah!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Jenny's First Baby Shower

Nope. It's a diaper cake!

Cute decorations! A clothesline? Genius.

Jenny opening gifts as her sister, Rachel, assists.

Sisters and Mom ~ Rachel, Jenny, Joanna, Rebecca, and Jan.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Updates and Photos

Well, I'm back to home sweet home after a wonderful week in North Carolina with Jenny and her family and friends! And sunshine!

This next week I'll be moving in to our apartment in town. Took a couple loads of stuff there yesterday, in fact. The nicest part about all this is that I can finally get organized! There's a bigger walk-in closet in the apartment than I have ever had! (Which isn't saying much...but it's nice!)

Andrew's doing really well, too. He's been working lots and also taking the time to brush up on his paralegal studies in order to keep his certification current. Definitely a route we could go after the Army...

It is now time for a photo montage!

This is on the way from one camp to another. Andrew was glad to see more of the city!

Iraqi children wave and ask for food from the nice American Soldiers in the convoy.

Just a little self-portrait for me...

A webcam shot as Andrew held up the Coca-Cola can for me to see.

He had a buddy of his take this of him outside at Camp Corregidor. What a good-lookin' Soldier!

This is me and my dad on my birthday! I look tired. I probably was. Dad's birthday is just 4 days after mine, so we've always been able to celebrate together. Fun!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Loving A Soldier...

Loving a Soldier is a high price to pay;
It's loving him dearly when he's away.

It's being alone with nothing to hold,
It's being young, but feeling old.

It's having him whisper his love for you,
It's whispering back that you love him too.

There comes a kiss and a promise for more,
As his plane slowly rises to soar.

Reluctantly, painfully, letting him go,
While your insides are dying from wanting him so.

Watching him leave, your eyes full of tears,
Standing alone with hopes, dreams and fears.

It's sending a letter with a stamp upside down,
To a far away love in a far away town.

It's going to church and kneeling to pray,
And really meaning the things that you say.

Being in love will foster your dreams,
Of that far away soldier - your mind fairly beams.

Days go by, no mail for a spell,
You wait for some word that all is well.

Then a letter arrives and you rush in,
To open his letter and read with a grin.

Yes he is well and misses you so,
It's filled with love and you wanted to know.

You wait for the day when you have no more fears,
Weeks are like months, and months like years.

Yes, loving a soldier brings sorrows and fears,
Loneliness, sadness, and despondent years.

Loving a Soldier isn't much fun,
But it's worth the price when the battle is won.

And remembering he is thinking of you everyday,
He's sad and he's lonely while so far away.

So love him and miss him and hold your head high,
Be strong and have faith, wipe that tear from your eye.

It's the high price you pay for loving a Soldier.

~Author Unknown~

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Portland To NC, Ramadi to... well, Ramadi

Wow, it's been a long time since I had time to even forward a piece for our blog! Now I am sitting at my desk with some down time and I just wanted to let everyone know that Cassidy made it safe and is enjoying herself with Jenny, her family, and friends. It looks like it's going to be a fun "girls" week.:) It's a little amazing to me that I can sit here in Ramadi, Iraq and my wife can give me progress reports on her trip via text message from her cell phone which then goes to my IM account and which I receive on a wireless connection so fast it makes one's head spin.:) I am so glad I live at this time and not when news had to come by telegram or pony express!

All of that to say Cass and the girls are kicking off a week of fun and laughter even as we speak, uh... talk, hmm... er, well I am typing and you are reading - or I WAS typing and NOW you are reading. Bout time you got here. ;)

As for my trip across the outskirts of Ramadi, it was uneventful. i did take my camera and snapped some pictures. I must admit I was goggly-eyed trying to see as much as possible through my humvee window. Yesterday was the first time I had ever been out and about in Iraq in a vehicle. Coming from Kuwait I flew everywhere and once I arrived at Camp Ramadi, I didn't go outside the wire for two months.

My general impression of the city is that it's very dirty, lots of trash. Most of the children we saw waved at us in a friendly way, but then i noticed a couple who were doing this weird thing where they nearly stuck their finger in their mouths. At first I wondered what kind of rude gesture this was, then it dawned on me that they were pointing to their mouths to ask for food.
That little confusion cleared up, I arrived safely at Corregidor.;)

Monday, March 19, 2007

Tuesday Travels

Andrew and I are both leaving on Tuesday. Him first because of the time difference, of course. Andrew got the word today that he would be leaving Camp Ramadi in the morning to his new station, Corregidor. It's a smaller base on the other side of the city. I don't know much about it, but I know Andrew's going there by way of convoy in just a few hours. He'll probably be there for about a month. He'll be replacing a Soldier from his company who's going home on leave in April and joining another MI buddy already out there.

From the sounds of it, this is really a blessing in disguise. At the outpost, Andrew will be so much more free than he is at Camp Ramadi. No more 12 hour shifts mixed in with ridiculous time-filling duties, for example! It sounds like he'll have easy access to the internet as well as satellite phones. Reports he's heard make it sound like a vacation compared to what he's been dealing with day to day. I'm just glad that he'll get a chance to catch up on some sleep!

The only thing is, he has to get there. And I can't help but be worried about the hummvee convoy. Please join me in praying for his safety and the safety of all in the traveling party. Pray that God would give His angels charge concerning their vehicles, and keep them safe on every road.

As for me, I'm flying to North Carolina in the morning with Jenny to spend a week with her family for fun and fellowship and Chandler's first Baby Shower. It'll be a fun vacation and a great escape from the Oregon rain!

Tomorrow night, Andrew's gonna try to call me as soon as he gets where he's going and we'll be able to compare travel notes!

Until next time...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

My Starbucks... Personalized!

CLICK HERE to visit Starbucks's MySpace and make a wallpaper or icon out of your favorite drink!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Pictures of the Day

Andrew sent me these today and I thought you'd all like to see a bit of where he's living.

See the cammo "wall" at the back of the room? That's the cover Andrew draped over his set of bunkbeds to give himself his own personal corner space. Yes, the wall art is in his space. No, it was there when he arrived.

And here's his private "castle" in the barracks. Storage up top and underneath, sleeping on the bottom bunk, black trunk for food, new computer on the bed, uniforms hanging on nails, rifle standing in the corner, all that normal stuff...

And the photographer... my hero!
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