Monday, November 9, 2009

Been Thinking...


Wanted to pass along a link to my brother's website, Been Thinking. My brother, Tommy, is a pastor and a wonderful, writer. The blog section of the website that I am linking to has some Biblically-based words for inspiration and reflection on a variety of topics, if you are interested. He is fun to read because he tells stories and he always gives something practical to help you put those thoughts to good use and to help you remember what you read. His words often seem especially apropos considering the situations, feelings and concerns we face.

If you read the one that comes up for today and want to read more, he just got the site up last month so there are about 20 more previous posts you can read right away as well. There are also some other sections on the site. I think he writes a new post each day except Sunday (not sure). Just go to the bottom of the page and click on older entries and you will find the one for the previous day.

Enjoy!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Love and Support From Santa's Elves is in the News again...

Thank you to all who have been supporting our Marines and Sailors through our Love and Support From Santa's Elves project! But, hey, it's not over yet; there is still time to help out and we still need many items. Just be sure to send your donations to Roxanne by November 15th. Details are found on the left sidebar. An updated count of items received will be posted there as well again soon.


Enjoy these two stories from the Times News that show how from young to old, every one in Joan's community seem to be supporting the 2/2 Marines.


Students collect items for troops

CAROL ZICKLER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
CAROL ZICKLER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS

Students at Panther Valley Elementary School collected items to send overseas to our servicemen in time for Christmas. The items will be sent to the Marines and Sailors there. Joan and John Kennedy of Summit Hill have a son, John stationed there and it is their hope to bring comfort, smiles and a bit of home to all of them. Representing the school are a student from each grade. Left to right, front are Amber Schwaoyer (first grade), Lyndsey Larkin (kindergarten), Shawn Hoben ( second grade), Sarah Hood (third grade). Behind are Abigail Hoben (fourth grade) and Aaron Rohlfing (fifth grade). The items are ready for delivery to the Kennedy home for shipment.


From The Times News, Inc.

http://www.tnonline.com/node/42134


Knitters busy making helmet liners

AMY ZUBEK/TIMES NEWS The women of the Lehighton Hi-Rise Craft Club recently presented Joan Kennedy, left, with a monetary donation to help cover the expenses of the Christmas package campaign for 1,000 U.S. Marines and Sailors in the 2nd Battalion/2nd Marines, serving in Afghanistan. Presenting the donation to Kennedy is, front from left, Elsie Cales, Doris Beyer, and Georgene Binder. Back, Laura Bailey and Marian Jones.
AMY ZUBEK/TIMES NEWS The women of the Lehighton Hi-Rise Craft Club recently presented Joan Kennedy, left, with a monetary donation to help cover the expenses of the Christmas package campaign for 1,000 U.S. Marines and Sailors in the 2nd Battalion/2nd Marines, serving in Afghanistan. Presenting the donation to Kennedy is, front from left, Elsie Cales, Doris Beyer, and Georgene Binder. Back, Laura Bailey and Marian Jones.

Residents united in a mission to help the troops

By AMY ZUBEK azubek@tnonline.com

It's amazing what a small community can accomplish.

Over the last few months, Joan and John Kennedy of Summit Hill, have been asking residents of Carbon County and the surrounding areas for their help in gathering enough supplies to fill 1,000 care packages that will be sent to 800 U.S. Marines, and 200 Navy Sailors of the 2nd Battalion/2nd Marines, stationed in Afghanistan. They are the parents of Lance Cpl. John Kennedy Jr., a local Marine who is currently serving his second deployment in Afghanistan.

The group the Kennedys belong to, which is made up of the military men and women's family members from across the country, asked for items such as hand-knitted helmet liners, chap-stick, disposable razors, baby wipes in soft containers, Colgate Wisp disposable toothbrushes, and monetary donations to cover the cost of shipping the packages.

The reason for the campaign is to bring holiday cheer to the Marines and Sailors during their time away from home.

"They will be a world away from home and far from everyday necessities during the holidays," Joan said previously. "It is our hope to bring comfort, smiles and a bit of home to them."

To date, Joan said there has been overwhelming support for the Christmas package campaign in the area.

They have collected 80 helmet liners through the help of kind-hearted area knitters and expect to receive another 20 by the time their deadline of Nov. 4 rolls around. These will be added to the liners other group members have been collecting.

If the group does not get the 1,000 liners it needs, the Citizen Support for America's Military program, a volunteer-based program out of Illinois that supports the U.S. Military year-round, has offered to donate the rest.

Joan added that one knitter alone made 24 liners and is still working on more. Another knitter decided to help because she learned how to knit through the Red Cross when she was in high school because they were knitting items for the troops serving in World War II.

The Kennedys have also collected over $1,000 from area organizations to help cover the postage costs, which is expected to be over $1,200; and purchase the remaining items that are needed to fill the packages.

On Monday afternoon, Joan traveled to the Lehighton Hi Rise to meet with the area craft club, which donated some of the proceeds of the craft items they make and sell.

During the presentation, the women explained how this campaign touched their hearts, and they felt they wanted to contribute in some way.

At first, the club wanted to try to knit the helmet liners, but time constraints didn't allow them to start the project. So in its place, they gave a donation to help cover some expenses.

Most of the women in the group all have a military background, whether it be that their husbands or sons served in the military or they served as nurses during war time.

Other area organizations that also contributed monetary donations include area churches, Pencor, and the Black Diamond Parrot Head Club; as well as many individuals.

On Thursday and Friday, Joan, who is a teacher at the Panther Valley High School, also picked up items that the Panther Valley Elementary and Middle schools collected as a schoolwide project. The students also made Christmas cards to send to the troops.

"It's been an amazing outpouring from individuals collecting items and monetary donations," Joan said of the support everyone has given the group. "Several times a week we have received checks in the mail from people we know and perfect strangers. Thank you to everyone who helped us."

Joan said that Roxanne Robertson, the project coordinator, who lives in the Midwest, was amazed by the support of the residents of the community.

"They (the group) continually comment on how we live in such an awesome community with so many caring and giving people," she said. "I certainly agree and am very honored to live among such awesome people."

The deadline for collection of donations is Nov. 4 because the Kennedys need to mail everything to Robertson, who will then assemble all care packages and mail them to Afghanistan.

Anyone who wishes to give a monetary donation before the deadline can do so by contacting the Kennedys at (570) 645-5709 or drop it off at their home at 12 E. Walter St., Summit Hill. Checks should be made payable to Roxanne Robertson.

This is the second time the Kennedys have partnered with families from across the United States to support their son's battalion.

Last year, the group sent hundreds of care packages to the Marines serving in Iraq.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

It Is Well


Here is a story told on video (click the link to play video). This song never ceases to encourage and inspire me when I am overwhelmed by what at first glance seems to be an unbearable situation. This video tells the story behind the song describing the circumstances under which it was written. It is the underlying story told in this video that makes the lyrics that follow so powerful. (The lyrics, written by Horatio Spafford and a video of Wintley Phipps singing the song are posted below.)

Many of you are quite familiar with this song and have heard this story before. I thought now might be a good time to be reminded that it is possible for it to be well with our souls even under the circumstances we are facing as our Marines and Sailors deploy to Afghanistan.

If you have the time, watch both videos consecutively. Total time for videos combined is 8 minutes 50 seconds. The second video below has a bit of a lead-in as the singer introduces how he came to work for Billy Graham. I had no way to remove it and I found it interesting anyway. Unfortunately he doesn't sing all the verses, but I'm letting that slide...this guy has the smoothest voice I think I've ever heard, and can he ever hold a note! I hope you find this a comforting reminder of God's power which overrides all else with His eternal love and compassion.



It Is Well With My Soul

Lyrics by Horatio Spafford & Music by Phillip Bliss

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Refrain

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

Refrain

My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought—
My sin—not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

Refrain

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

Refrain

But, Lord, ‘tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh trump of the angel! Oh voice of the Lord!
Blessèd hope, blessèd rest of my soul!

Refrain

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
“Even so”—it is well with my soul.

Refrain

May it be well with your soul as your Marine or Sailor deploys.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Santa's Elves have been very busy...

Well, it has happened... and sooner than we anticipated. The great Knitted Helmet Liner goal has been met! Woo hoo!

I know... amazing isn't it? Well, not when you consider the remarkable people we have connected with the 2/2 family. Their reach is far and wide and incredibly productive as well. Roxy has an explanation below of what has transpired to bring us to this point. A heartfelt "thank you" to each and every knitter experienced and novice, who heard our cry for help and took up their needles (and knitting lessons in many cases) on behalf of the Marines and Sailors of the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines. We are so grateful. It's especially exciting because now we can focus all that excitement and fabulous determination on collecting the other items on our list for our "boys" Christmas packages. It's great to see the plan coming together.

And now a word from Roxanne:

Great News: There is this company that I found called Citizen Sam. They have agreed to supply us with the rest of the helmet liners that we are short of. The founder of this company has been sending helmet liners to the troops for about 4 years now. She is the mother of two Marines herself. She has very strict guidelines for the liners. They must be 100% wool, and must be knitted. So we no longer have to worry about whether or not we will have all of the helmet liners needed. We will meet goal for this. We can now maybe shift our focus on other items such as socks, wisps and wipes. So whether we need 100 helmet liners or 500 helmet liners, she will provide these to our guys for us.

The HugsProjectKC gave me 200 of helmet liners.......HOWEVER, THEY WERE NOT THE SAMES ONES WE ARE SENDING. They were just skull caps basically, so I gave them back and told them we would not be able to use them. I did sincerely thank them for their efforts however. Laila is still committing to the 500 hugs and 500 kisses. Our guys will be able to use these as a way to keep cool, or they can be used as hand warmers also. She is still doing the care package drive for our items. I should know more about what she has collected come the Oct 17 meeting.

So there you have it. Mission accomplished. Now that we are shifting our focus to the other items on the list, please take a minute to refresh your memory regarding what we are collecting. Items are listed on the left sidebar (as well as a list of how many we have collected so far of each). There is a donation letter and list available there to print and hand out or to send by email to get the word out. There is also a thank you letter there you can send from the 2/2 family to those you know who have responded to your request to donate items.

Thanks again to all who have knitted and encouraged others to do so. You have been an inspiration to me and so many others as well. Please go ahead and send your completed liners to Roxanne Robertson at the address in the left-hand sidebar (also on the donation letter).

Our deadline is a little over a month away. I hope all of Santa's little Elves won't mind changing focus and staying busy collecting the rest of the items on the list. I look forward to seeing what you all will do for our Marines and Sailors in the days to come!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

To Everything There is a Season...

Vibrant Leaves on Campus


There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:



a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,

P8231175


a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,


a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,


a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,


a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,


a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,



a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.


What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-14 NIV

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Knitting Helmet Liners - Plan B


I asked Joan if she would give a little run down of what she has been doing in regard to collecting helmet liners for our project. She has taken up the cause with an enthusiasm you just wouldn't believe, and she is producing phenomenal results. I hope what she shares will give you some ideas and motivation as to ways you too can help us meet our Knitted Helmet Liner goal for our Marines and Sailors!

__________________________________

Having been involved with the package project for the Warlords during their deployment to Iraq last year, I was very excited to be informed of this year’s Love and Support from Santa’s Elves project. Last year’s experience was a wonderful adventure of acquiring items (socks being my specialty) and monetary donations. We had a great sense of accomplishment by meeting our goals last year.

I personally received gifts of friendship and lots of fun along the way. Delving full force into the cause was a very healthy diversion in dealing with the concept of our son’s deployment. It made me feel like I was helping in some small way while our Marines were giving of themselves so fully for freedom’s cause.

Now, this year comes the daunting task of acquiring 1,000 hand-knit helmet liners.

Plan A:

Get out the knitting needles, buy some wool and start knitting. The only problem is…I don’t know how to knit!

I have great admiration for those of you out there right now with needles in hand as beginners producing helmet liners. Your confidence and courage is awesome, but I needed to think of another way to help get the job done. This brings me to:

Plan B:

Be Bold, Be Creative and Be Persistent.

Here is a summary of things we have done to reach out and find people to help us with this project. It is my hope that some of these ideas will work for you.

· The obvious - ask friends family, neighbors and coworkers to help. Enlist their help to seek out knitters. Spread the word to everyone you know, send e-mails and hand out the information.

· The not so obvious - I have found ways to work the question “Do you knit or know anyone who knits?” into many conversations, even with people I hardly know. I have found a knitting club at a college campus, one at a local library and volunteers in some unusual places. It never hurts to ask! You may be surprised.

· A broad audience - have an article placed in your local newspaper. After our article appeared (click for link to article), we received phone calls virtually daily for two weeks with offers from individuals and groups to knit. Post the information on public bulletin boards. Ask craft shops if you can leave information at their stores.

· Target audience - groups already established for the purpose of helping others can be wonderful resources. Have announcements placed in church bulletins (very successful recruiting). Contact your local military service organizations such as the American Legion, their Auxiliary, VFW and Marine Corps League.

These groups already have a mission to help the military and are usually very supportive of such projects. One woman from an Auxiliary offered to take our information to her state conference later this week. A Legion member has a friend who is teaching a knitting class. She took the information and is making the helmet liners one of the required lessons in the class.

· Supply resources - I have found that offering wool to knitters encourages them to knit and hopefully knit greater numbers of liners. Early on, I realized that purchasing the wool could be a financial burden or an inconvenience for volunteers.

We started collecting money to purchase wool (over $400 at this point). Also from a tip given by a volunteer knitter, my daughter contacted the Plymouth Yarn Co. in Bristol, PA and received a donation of 40 balls of wool. At this point in the project, I get frequent phone calls from volunteers requesting wool to make more.

· The Domino Effect - one person or contact leads to another. Example: in order to receive the donated wool, the company required us to find one of their customers willing to be a host shop where they could ship the donated wool. The shop owner that I found was very willing to be our host. When I went to pick up the wool, she took the instructions and offered to make copies to hand out to her customers, as well as knitting them herself. She also plans to pass the information onto students that she teaches knitting to at a local art school. There turned out to be a good reason that the yarn company didn’t ship the wool directly to our home.

· Be organized - always carry the information with you (the cards printed from the blog site are great). Keep wool in the trunk of your car. Have a few convenient satellite locations, such as friends and families, where you can leave supplies and arrange drop off points. Network knitters together to help each other (ask someone that finished a liner to help someone having trouble with the instructions). I have found that keeping a notebook with all your contacts, their information and notes on project activity helps to keep track of everything-like having an external memory when mine seems limited. At this time my notebook includes information on 21 contacts, 6 of which are groups.

Think of any possible way to get the word out. There are knitters out there; we just need to find them. You will find that many are excited and willing to help with this project. You will hear many interesting stories from volunteers about their knitting and their life (like the woman who learned how to knit from the Red Cross when she was in high school in order to send items to the troops during World War II). You will have fun and feel good about helping. You will feel the warmth and support of others as you deal with the emotions involved with the deployment of your loved one.

Get involved, spread the word, spread enthusiasm and think positive. Remember, there is always Plan B.

We can do this!

Proud Warlord Mom,

Joan

Friday, September 11, 2009

Free Chocolate... SWEET!


Heaven knows we could use a little chocolate right about now, and FREE CHOCOLATE (click for link) sounds even better. I've signed up to get my free coupon. You can do the same.


I just thought we could all use a little chocolate encouragement to keep us going.


So sign up to get your free chocolate and then get back to work on Love and Support From Santa's Elves... and of course, preparing to see your "boys". Woo!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

We Will Not Forget!


They attacked America on September 11, 2001
(Click for video by oldbluewebdesigns.com. 
It's a little long but a great reminder 
of the past and how it affects us today. 
More importantly, 
how it affects our Marines and Sailors.)

Our sons and brothers, husbands and fathers 
and the kid down the block now serve 
to protect our nation against the enemies of Liberty.



Pray that America does not forget the forces that seek 
to destroy us, and that we do not forget those 
who give themselves to fight against those forces. 



Pray for God's guidance and wisdom 
for those who have offered their very lives 
in service to us as a nation. 
We owe them a huge debt.

Freedom comes at great cost, 
and that fact is hitting close to home.


Each of us knows someone who carries that torch.
We will not forget.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Drum Roll, Please!


We Have A Winner!


Our congratulations go out to PAT (Grandmother of Chris) who was the first to email me a photo of herself with ten helmet liners which she knit. This makes her the winner of our Helmet Liner Knitting Contest, earning her the Not-So-Big-Grand Prize shown further below! Way to go, Pat! It's been a joy to watch the numbers climb as you got the hang of knitting the liners. 


Pat and her labor of love...

For those who don't know, the liners will be a part of our Love and Support From Santa's Elves packages that we'll be sending to our guys this Christmas while they are deployed (please see left sidebar for details).

Pat has worked so hard to craft these liners with love and a heartfelt concern for the guys. Here is the way she recently described the experience of knitting liners for our Marines and Sailors:

I haven't knit in years and have never used circular needles and I've surprised myself. I usually quilt and didn't think I would enjoy knitting - but I am. I also pray over every liner - asking for God's protection for the Marine who is wearing it, etc. It just makes me feel that I'm doing something for our Marines who I love so much.

Thank you, Pat for leading the way! And thanks to everyone else who is doing so much to make a difference, one liner at a time!

Don't forget to check out Pat's Military Prayer Group Blog. She always has something there to comfort, encourage or help us get our thoughts in line. If you find the need to challenge your perspective as the countdown toward deployment begins, do yourself a favor and check out her blog!

Pat's not-so-big-grand prize 
(a clutch wallet-type thingamajig)
Actually, there is another design that 
she will now be able to choose from as well. 

Meanwhile, I'll have to see if I can think up a new contest...

Get ready for some new competition!


Monday, August 31, 2009

The Marine Corps Code of Conduct

From Beufortonline.com

Click photo to enlarge.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Choose Your Weapon

Even though our guys' departure date is still a ways away, one thing is getting hard to ignore, OUR struggle has already begun.

Ours looks a little different of course...

and from the outside looking in, the people we pass in the aisles of the grocery store or who pump gas along side us or who sit behind us in traffic going about their daily lives would never know the silent and invisible battle that's waging just the other side of "normal".

It has made its way through desert and over wide-open ocean, and it does a number on our thoughts. Daily rituals aren't immune to its attack, and it hits with an emotion capable of freezing us in place despite the place or time.



It can render us immobile, like one of those nightmares where something bad is upon us but our entire body might as well be superglued to the bed.

Some of us don't think of ourselves as the fighting kind, so a sentimental onslought easily washes over us like a tidal wave. We are more inclined to see ourselves as the relational glue that holds the family together. We're comfy as the nurturers, providers, encouragers and givers. We hug and kiss and hand-hold, feed and clothe, smooth things over and we've been known to give the occasional lecture.



We are the spark that starts the engine of the day, hitting the gas and making the wheels turn. We are the keepers of the memories and masters of the budget, planners of parties and shoppers extraordinnaire. We are designers, chauffeurs, stylists and flag wavers, and many of us are generous beyond reason, even with the remote or a set of beaters covered with chocolate icing.

However, we have those other qualities. We don't advertise 'em, but heck, we've been known to take on fire and put up our fists on all sorts of occasions. After all, we can crack the whip, lay down the law and draw a line in the sand. We wrestle schedules, wipe out stains, and we can kill a cold with a pot of chicken soup. We are the fixers of stopped sinks and tamers of the lawn, and we take on teenage tyranny with unfaltering determination. We'll tackle just about anything that dares to try and kick our butts, hold us down and make us cry "uncle". We aren't big on letting anything get the best of us, especially where our families are concerned.



Even during that split second when wrenching emotion blind-sides us, we are stronger than we think. Just remember who it is that saves everyone else's day and comes through in a pinch. Who stays up til all hours on Christmas Eve pulling off that Christmas morning miracle, and who stands watch as the guardian of the home, protecting our families from forces bent on doing our loved ones harm?

We have plenty more fighting experience than we give ourselves credit for, and yet we feel frightfully unprepared for the particular clash we are encountering already. A sneak-attack can do that, and we HAVE been ambushed. We've been caught off-guard, unarmed and we feel ill-prepared. So we need to regroup, because, if ever there was a task we must face with resolute determination...this would be that mission.

I know... we didn't expect it would be OUR job to face the enemy. We thought that was our Marine's job. They offered themselves to defend our nation and secure freedom, but when they chose those yellow footprints, our feet found a set of their own.



Our "boys" have sworn to support and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; they've trained to maneuver, endure, aim, fire and even fight hand-to-hand when needed. They've studied logistics and pushed their minds and bodies. They've trained for survival and as much as possible are ready to confront the enemies of freedom.

So what about us? What are we supposed to do? Where's our training and what are our weapons? We've been tossed out into the fray and there's not so much as a kevlar helmet in sight.

I'd say it's time to take stock of our skills and take the offensive in the same way we would deal with anything that tries to get between us and our families' well-being. And it just so happens we can pick up the ordinary resources at our fingertips and allow them to stock our arsenal... MacGyver style.



With them we will be able to save the day and our sanity. They will provide the strength we need so we can support the men we lend to our nation for this daunting task.

Here are a few I thought of, but I don't doubt that each of you have a wide array of everyday superpowers you can put to good use as well.

• Knowledge - Get to know exactly who and what your enemy is. Turn on it, open your eyes and stare it down. An invisible adversary is formidable, but if you look it in the eye, you will see what you are and aren't up against. Once you size it up, then you can form a means of defense... or better yet, you can go on the attack.

• Prayer - God's strength to overcome is incredible. Sharing your heart with Him and knowing He is there with you every moment is powerful and sustaining. His words in Scripture are bathed in eternal perspective. Keeping company with His truth gives hope, comfort and wisdom, no matter the circumstances or setbacks.

• Support - Don't go it alone. Keep company with those of us who share the same thoughts and concerns. We're in this together and knowing that others understand and are embedded behind enemy lines with us can be the hand that will pull us through the vulnerable days to come.

• Keep Moving - Love and Support From Santa's Elves is a great opportunity to keep our heads out of the sand and our hands busy doing something besides wiping away those pesky tears. Busy hands and feet engage the mind in productive thoughts and actions that will do good, not only for our sons and husbands and brothers, but also for us.

• Pick Up a Pen - This can be one of your greatest weapons as deployment gets underway. I've discovered that even when my fingers cramp up from the time they spend clutched around my pen, my mind unwinds and my heart relaxes at the same time. Left on their own, my thoughts loiter with other good-for-nothing thoughts that seem to start an awful lot of trouble. They rarely become anything useful and hardly ever formulate a plan or produce anything but a messy tangle of wasted time and energy. They mull around and mingle with the chatter of the other ne're-do-wells, and they become nothing more than meaningless, chaotic noise. At times like that I wish I could call the Thought Police on myself, but I have found a pen makes a good billy club.

It's not until I pick up a pen and scratch it across the paper that the thoughts fall in line, tone down and flow past my arm and my fingers through the ink, onto the page. Waiting their turn to speak until the ink grants them permission somehow capitalizes on their insight. They mature a bit and start to speak coherently, and they begin to sound more like rational thought and less like random ramblings echoing through empty halls.

Some thoughts get a little unruly as they wait their turn. They push and shove, trying to get out in a hurry, but the outcome is resolution. Through the pen, they express their feelings, even if they are still bubbling and churning as they arrive scrawled upon the page. They sound less shrill this way, less frantic, and if they are tearful, the tears begin to make sense and tell me what they need so I can grasp what it is I should do with them. With a pen, some ink and paper, emotion and uncertainty find their voice and we are introduced properly. We meet eye to eye and I am able to sum them up, and I begin to realize maybe they are not so powerful after all.

Even if writing isn't your usual pastime, I challenge you to pick up a journal and a pen and bring it along as we follow the footsteps of our Marines. Set your thoughts down in a comfy spot each day or once a week and let them out into the light of day (or the dark of night if that's when they start to get out of hand) and onto the page, and give them something constructive to do.



These moments are our history. Each of us has a perspective unlike any other; a vantage point unique in all the world. One day, someone (maybe even our Marine or Sailor's children) will want to know what it was like when their hero was serving during Operation Enduring Freedom. Take it upon yourself to chronicle the moments that you think you will never forget, but which, believe me, you will, as other thoughts come pushing and shoving for attention along the way. Tell them what was happening in the world at large, our country, your home and in your heart.

What will you remember of these days as this young man you love leaves the safety of home to go to war? Will you look back and remember the part you played in defeating an enemy or will you remember cowering in fear and uncertainty? Will you sit idle, marking the days off the calendar with your tears, directed by spinning emotion, wondering each night how you made it through? Chronicle that emotion, be it fear, anger, frustration, confusion or whatever it is that wants to shut you down, but don't forget to document God's goodness and your victories, even the small ones through it all.

Remember to highlight the moments that will one day become a treasure to someone looking to what you wrote for insight into this place and time. When you look back you will be amazed at all you have endured and many things that you have mastered, as well as much that you will have forgotten. Write from your heart about the man who belongs now not only to you but to our nation and the people of Afghanistan. Good and bad, get it on paper, out of your head and off your heavy heart.

And remember... you carry other weapons you may not have identified as such.



Although I like to carry a pen, some of you carry a larger-than-life personality, capable of spreading contagious enthusiasm. You have no trouble speaking up and asking others to get involved. Some are influencers, and many of you have lots of connections. Others are blessed to have time on your hands. Some are hesitant, but once you try, you'll soon be amazed at how people come through to support our boys. You will be inspired, and a new confidence will come along in the process.

Your secret weapon may be that you wield knitting needles like your great grandma or you have an uncanny ability to talk on the phone or write emails. Maybe you have a caring shoulder or a high tolerance for those who need to vent. Some of you can spot a deal a mile away, haggle with the best of them and you never take no for an answer. Your gift may be financial means with which you can give and provide, and if you don't have a dime you might, however, have a cool head that sees through the hype of the moment to the practical direction that needs to be given when someone is floundering. Maybe you just have lots of great ideas.

No matter what you reach for, as long as you employ your personal resources, you can't be defeated by this sneaky enemy. Just remember... you are never defenseless.

Whatever you do, don't give up... because like it or not, you HAVE been enlisted. Going AWOL or UA is not an option. Your enemy would like nothing better than to isolate you and pick you off... and we'll have none of that.

Ladies and gentlemen, I think it's time we choose our weapons!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Enthusiasm!

The following is some correspondence to Diane (our Parent Network Coordinator) and I from a woman who was an incredible driving force behind a successful effort to meet our goal to get packages to the 2/2 Marines while they were in Iraq last year.

I wanted to post her perspective to give you all an idea of what can come with a bit of enthusiasm for our project. Last year, this amazing woman secured the donations mentioned in the summary below during our second collection when the 2/2 was in Iraq. She took on sock collection with a passion and what a result! Her full summary included a long list of individuals who donated, but the paragraph below says a lot about what she was able to accomplish by combining those gifts bit by bit. Following that is a recent message she sent Diane regarding her progress on this years Santa's Elves project. (Her messages are printed with permission.)

Please know that whether you secure a few letters from kids, get donations from a some friends and family, donate some postage, purchase a few items or go all out and make this your mission... whatever you do will be extremely valuable toward meeting the goal. We need EVERYONE! The donations provided through Joan were the result of many individuals giving what they could, and it really added up. However, it was she who got the word out and made the project known whenever and wherever she could.

Joan's summary from last year's second Love and Support Package during the 2/2's 2008 Iraq deployment:

"We collected about 1600 pairs of socks many of which went to Diane for the packages, some went to Operation Quiet comfort and I still have almost 600 pairs to send to Marines and more to the organization for the wounded. Some money was used to pay for socks and the rest ($450) was sent to Diane for items in the packages.
It was a great pleasure on our part to contribute to this project. It was a good feeling to do a small part to support our Marines. I just never imagined the response from those on our end would be so wonderful. Working with Diane turned out to be a great deal of fun. We found a lot of humor in it all.
Glad to help,
Joan"


Here is a letter she sent to Diane this month, August 2009, in regard to the Santa's Elves project currently underway:

"Hi Diane,

We have been spreading the word in any way we can. I even work the question “do you knit or know anyone who knits?” into conversation with people I only know casually. We have found some knitters, I have supplied them with wool and they are working on it. However, I don’t have any numbers from anyone. There are some being made, but I have no idea how many we can get.

I have found church groups to be good contacts. Believe it or not, from picking people’s brains and boldly asking everyone I encounter if they knit, I was informed that a Library in a town at the lower end of our county has a knitting club! Who would have guessed to check a Library. I will be contacting them soon.

I start back to school next week and that is my direct lifeline to a broader world. I hope to find more knitters then.

John’s work put out the info on collecting things (I narrowed the requests to helmet liners, razors, Wisps and the baby wipes to simplify the process). They have committed to helping, but haven’t given us anything yet. I stayed away from the socks this time. I figured I would give others the joy of sock collecting! That turned out to be an easy task, something not that difficult to get donated or purchase with monetary donations.

So far, I have a box of 55 razors and a total of 16 units of the Colgate Wisps……it is a start. I didn’t pass any amounts on, since I was waiting until I had enough to make it worthwhile to send a package to Roxanne.

I think that one of the problems might be that people think Christmas is so far away and that there is lots of time. Last year we accomplished so much in such a short time, but it was so much easier to purchase items and get donations. Unfortunately we can’t buy a skill like knitting. Such talents are dying art.

I keep thinking we can do this! We just have to keep seeking out knitters. They are out there, we just need to keep trying to find them.

Our Marines and Sailors are working so hard to prepare for deployment. While deployed they will be sacrificing a great deal in order to fulfill their mission. Thinking of that makes me want to do whatever we can to pull off this package mission. You and those that are behind the package project are so driven and enthusiast. We can hope more family members in the parent network develop similar enthusiasm... They need to be crazy like us J.

All we can do is continue to spread the word AS LOUD AND FAR AS WE CAN! I am here for you……..whatever I can do.

I promise to share any numbers on things as soon as I have them. Even small amounts will get us closer to our goal bit by bit. Think positive!

Take care,

Joan"

Just goes to show how much one person can do when they have a heart for our guys.

Thank you, Joan. You are an inspiration!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Printable Helmet Liner Knitting Invitation

The following two images are the front and back to a knitting invitation for the Helmet Liners we are knitting as part of our Love and Support From Santa's Elves package to be sent when our Marines deploy. The invitations are available to print front to back, cut and keep on hand to give out. I have set them up four to a page so that when cut, they are small enough to carry with you without folding. You may want to post some on community billboards, at libraries, coffee shops, schools, churches, or even ask at your local knitting or fabric store if they would allow you to leave some with them to display on their counter. Local businesses that you frequent are another avenue of possibilty. You will find knitters wherever you go.

If you would like to email an invitation to friends and family or to knitting sites or groups you find online, please do not use these images. There is a copy on the left sidebar that shows both the front and back in one image for emailing. Or you can point people to this site to get the full-size version of the instructions (also on the sidebar) and so they can get a feel for what we are doing and why.

The only way I have found to print these so the front and back match up (when I put them online) is as follows:

Printing Instructions;
Double click the image below to make it large, drag it to your desktop.
Open.
Print
Please print in color and on card stock or a heavier paper. Unfortunately the outside margins of this image are going to print so that more than 1/4 inch of white shows around the edge. Please trim the outside edges to 1/4 inch like the inner edges of each so that the invitation ends up centered. The inner margins should be fine. Sorry about that. Couldn't get it to export correctly from the program I was using.

I am not sure if the dimensions will change on a PC. Every way I have tried doing this, the image has changed size and does not come out like the orignal. If this doesn't work on your computer, I will be happy to email the actual files to you. My email address is at the bottom of the left sidebar. Please include the words "knitting invitation" in the subject line of your email.







Thank you for getting the word out for our guys!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Moments continued...

I just saw this on a site I check every so often. It sort of goes along with the idea of my last story, although it has a few moments I would not have chosen to highlight, and there are so many I would choose that it doesn't show. Too bad my brand new video camera won't record or I'd go and make my own little moment video. Still, it gets across the idea, to me anyway, that there are moments just waiting out there for us to take notice of them, as often happens when we take that new way home.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Taking a New Way Home

I've been pacing. I've walked the floors of this home for 25 years, but lately it's turned to that back and forth that gets me no where, carrying my thoughts from one end of the house to the other like we're going to accomplish something. But then, I'm pretty good at repetition. After all, not only have I lived in this home for 25 years, I've lived within 4 miles of this house since I was two. Sameness abounds. The hairstyles and the furniture have changed, the faces have aged, but my heart beats much the same as it has since God breathed eternity into it.

As long as I can remember, Consistency, Stability and Practicality have kept pace alongside that heartbeat. They've been my Triple-Threat of security. As I grew up, these characters lived on the block and followed me whereever I went, whatever I did. They seemed friendly, so I invited 'em in. We became inseparable. Our friendship grew and their presence gave me confidence. When unsettling highs and lows tried to bust into our clique, we stayed tight. Together we overcame plenty of real life villains and enough drama for a Hallmark Movie. They weren't exactly the life of the party, but they were companions I could count on.

Sure, now and again something came along to talk me into a daring move out of the ordinary. Sometimes I caved to the excitement of the unplanned and would make an uncharacteristic break from tradition. After all, I gave up hairspray, didn't I? For brief flashes of time, me and my buddies sometimes parted ways, but they knew I'd be back. Their ways had become my ways. We inevitably met up again and carried on in that same way good friends do over the years, melded together by history, memories and our common bond.

Despite being tethered to order and working hard to keep it tied tightly at my side, and hardly known as the type who'd advocate bungie jumping, skydiving or taking a trip without a blow dryer, a rabble-rousing thought has shown up on-the-scene to pitch some crazy notions. It's been stirring up a ruckus trying to coerce me to step away from these life-long friends and take some sort of unidentified road trip into uncertainty. On top of it, this intruder has been cleverly weaving its way into my routine and my reverie via the portal of my work life. Unfair advantage.

As I sit at my desk in front of that office computer, this mischievous and even daring thought taunts and tempts me to play hookey from the security of my daily obligations. It's not the first time this thought has come along prodding me to venture out and imagine doing what I love instead of just what pays the bills. It actually succeeded in calling me out for a time some years back. However, the safety of my personal status quo has been hammered into place through years of repetition and comfort, so ideas that require a tightrope, but offer no safety net, are usually a ridiculously hard sell. Besides, the Triple-Threat wouldn't approve.

Rogue thoughts are pesky little things though, and persuasive, especially if you entertain them for hours on end during lulls at work. I have to admit, the promise of something new is enticing... and this rebel voice is working overtime to gain a foothold in my ear and my heart. The overwhelming urge to crumple up unfulfilling obligations, shoot them like a wad of paper into the can and head out to a place that has been calling off and on for a very long time, is one that I have, so far, been able to squelch with practicality and reason. After all, I've been there. I made that cliff dive once before, and being as I'm back at my desk dreaming of a similar escape again speaks to the success of such a detour the first go round. Still, this instigator-of-a-thought has not been daunted.

So I imagine what it would be like to brandish my fledgling sense of adventure, latent though it's been, and I consider busting a move for the door...not to any extravagance or with any over-the-cliff drama, but dangerous to that measured degree that comes from being mired in the kind of sameness that numbs and blinds me to adventurous possibilities.

It's like this: When we drive the same roadway repeatedly for years, one day we notice that the peripheral has become oddly invisible. Ordinary wonder dissipates with time. The landscape (both ugly and beautiful alike), melds together with distraction, worry and must-dos that hit the road driving with us. As the engine roars, another work day impresses it's whims upon our schedule and upon our field of view. We're so busy rehearsing what just happened a moment ago and forging plans for the next, that vistas every bit as incredible as any go by in a blur unnoticed, and tangled up in thoughts, concerns and all that messy who-even-knows-what.

I know because my own footsteps and the road I travel have become automated as if a big brother brain has overtaken the controls. It forces me to conform to the practical, verifies the shortest route and keeps me on the path of least resistance and least expense. I stick to tattered old patterns and shush new hopes. Worries keep me in check and chastise me when I even think of straying from the tradition of daily chores and obligations that are so similar to those of every other day that I might as well be living like this:



Some of us use a jolt of espresso as the remedy for keeping our heads off the steering wheel when we are overwhelmed with the exhaustion of it all, but the trance brought on by a stale life-perspective can also use a similar jolt now and then. Back in the day, a counselor once gave a friend of mine this piece of advice when she was going through a tough time that was brought on in part by stale, repetitive living: "Take a new way home." he told her. Get out of your ruts. Change up those same old ways that keep producing the same dissatisfaction. Begin to notice things that used to matter, but to which you've turned a blind eye.

Taking a new way home can mean something entirely different to all of us and can vary wildly. To some, rising early to watch God re-draw the landscape with a brilliant sunrise would be like a trip to a South sea island paradise. It could mean a change of schedule, taking an interest in current events, starting a difficult project or a skill you've never tried. Maybe it means you paint a wall, rearrange the furniture or pick yourself up off the couch or from in front of the computer and get yourself moving. Henry David Thoreau said, "Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow." Thoreau had a point. Maybe the new way that calls is inviting you to create a mission statement and run with it, start a new business, work with your hands or even just try a new hairstyle (without hairspray if you're brave!).

Then again, you might just shut the car door, buckle in, roll up the windows, turn on the AC (lucky!) and watch the world roll by from behind the glass as the radio blares an overplayed, meaningless tune. Maybe you would rather trade the real life ahead for a canned imitation where the passing spectacle is a daily rerun of the same old show on the other side of the glass. There the textures are foggy, scents and sounds are muffled; and precious moments become a matter of endurance rather than your one and only life, worthy of an enthusiastic embrace.

It so happens that I live just blocks from the intracoastal, with the ocean just beyond,






but my hurried pace and that master of mine, the self-inflicted to-do list, gives me the evil eye if I try to deviate from it's hurried plan. The list drags me around to the busy side of town and the cluttered side of my heart as if it has me on a chain. On that side of the world, the stale thoughts, the have-tos and a whole cast of worries hold the stage. They prompt me to meet their demands and get the show on the road, ASAP. No questions, no backroads, no daydreaming. Not a lot of imagination either.



Imagine how the turn of the steering wheel could alter my outlook, ideas and inevitably my outcome. Going right instead of left as I head out of the driveway, would take me to glassy water, colorful sailboats, briny air, gulls swooping in and out of frame. It could spin my thoughts on end, spurring new ideas and plans, reminding me there are other avenues besides "Same Ole Blvd." with it's shopping plazas and traffic, punctuated by my temper.



Maybe all it would do is open my eyes to the wonders (and the calm) God has just a few streets away from predictability.

video

If that was it, that in and of itself would be incredible. Instead, I tow the line and stay the routine. Pretty much hypnotized by ritual and expectations, I sit in the same spot, go the same way, think overdone thoughts, live the motions set in place with the concrete of my habits.

So I experimented this morning - what might I see if I chose a new vantage point from which to start my weekend (which is chock full of obligations already, I might add)?

So as not to abandon my every comfort or habit, I remained clad in pj's, clinging to my coffee cup, and I ventured out of the norm by stepping out the door and sitting on the front porch step at this early hour. Sounds lame, but this is pretty risky stuff. My hair was half-wet, drying in that awkward way that says "deranged". With my pen and journal in hand, reading glasses perched with a librarian vibe halfway down my nose, wearing no make up (agh!), in my mind I was a brave adventurer heading out on an expedition. The bright pink moose print adorning my legs made a statement, but I'm not sure it was one I wanted to shout to the neighborhood at large.

After all, this is not the veneer I typically choose to present to the world, even the small town neighborhood just two steps from the inner sanctum on the other side the threshold. But I had made my move. Thick, damp summer heat greeted me like a wall to the face as I stepped out into my experiment. Wow, just great! And no sooner did I exit the safety of the house and face the upheaval of doing something different, than a cop drove by and waved an acknowledgment. I held to the (please, dear God) hope that cops see a lot of oddities every day and that perhaps I don't make the top of the list. I pressed boldly forward.

Settling into my new vantage point, normally on the other side of the window on the comfy couch, with AC on, where no one can drive by and mock (even in their mind) my choice of sleeping attire or the fact that I really shouldn't be outside without hair, makeup and wardrobe, I setttled into the scene. Lizards scurried from my intrusion into their territory. They were enjoying a morning routine too and I managed to ruin the fun. They ran off through the grass which I had just finished mowing last night as the sun set, and they took cover under the hibiscus. Clumps of grass that I didn't have time to rake were already wilting and gray, reminding me of another chore yet to be completed. And I could see the hose needed to be wound and the flag billowing overhead has been fading fast under the hearty summer sun. This little experiment was supposed to enlighten, but I felt the weight of a new list of reminders tapping me on the shoulder, urging me to get moving and do something. Move, move, move! Not the great inspiration I was yearning for, and so, like that, I was ready to label my experiment a failure. Obviously, my sense of adventure is a bit rusty.

Then, of course, it began to rain. Just dandy. Like I want to be outside in the muggy, rainy, great outdoors first thing in the morning while trying to prove a point to myself about how God shows up when I shake free of the cobwebs and peer at the vistas........

I got back up, but, before I could turn and run for the safety inside, the rain turned into a beautiful sun shower. I have to admit that I am completely fascinated by sun showers. So I stood in awe and enjoyed the show. Within moments, the shower ramped into a downpour. Even more incredible! A sun storm! Rain and sunshine flowed from the sky, as if my odd appearance into the real air of the morning had thrown it (along with the lizards) for a loop, getting things all out of whack and tipping its plans on end.

With that I was mesmerized. Gazillions of raindrops took turns reflecting the light of the quickly rising sun. Liquid crystals and jewels streaked mid-air. It was an all-out magic show....glitter was falling from the sky by the bucketful and chiming with a beautiful racket as it fell.

Like this!

My mouth may have been hanging open (not sure). I am, however, quite sure I looked even more the oddball, but what the heck, the cop might have already called it in by now and the neighbors, well, they've been on to me for years.

Just like that I was reminded again of how God can and will show up and turn a moment into magic. He is, after all, the Master of creation, and I am fascinated by his handiwork. So while there are to-do lists in perpetuity and thoughts of what is to come and how I'll deal with all that is about to play out in front of me, God reminded me, "This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it." He gladly offers simple moments as celebrations pretty much anytime I want, if I'll shake free of the lull, unplug my ears, pry my fingers from my eyes, ditch my orchestrated plans and join him. And this was just a little preview.

I would have missed the show had I not ventured even those two timid steps away from the usual and taken a new way into the day. What else am I missing as I whistle my predictable tune, eyes glazed over and the list in charge of my every move?

video
Scenery like this?





or a small wonder like this little beauty?

Okay, I admit, I still can't stave off realities that may be waiting around the corner. I'm going to have my share of days and nights spent pacing through tough times, and that can throw me for a loop. Adventure is going to request an audience with me, and that rogue thought will be waiting for me come Monday morning. The orders on my list and the worries on my heart will be written across my life in size 72 bold font, but I still have the choice. I can choose to participate in the ordinary magic God produces on a daily basis. It's here within the walls of my living room and along my daily route. I just have to set the list aside and participate in the wonder.

I think I'm gonna give it a try... and while you may not think it drastic, I may just crumple up the list, shoot it to the can, climb in and steer to the right, trying a new way home...and I might even open my eyes this time. The wonder I find may be all the adventure I need.

But first, I'll have to have a little talk with the Triple-Threat. I sure hope they understand.