HONOR FLIGHT FOR VETS – THE UNDER APPRECIATED


Would it be possible for a daughter to be more proud of her father?  I think not.  I am proud to tell you that my father, TSgt. Bill Thoms Sr. (USAF ret.) was among 40 war veterans chosen to make an Honor Flight.  Veterans of WWII, the Korean conflict, and Vietnam war boarded a flight out of Austin, Texas on September 7, 2018, destination Washington DC.  The goal:  giving these under appreciated vets a chance to view, touch, and acknowledge the war memorials erected to serve as a reminder of hard-fought freedom, a service they provided with their blood, sweat, and tears.  Oh, I know that’s a cliche, but do you see the truth in it? Can you imagine what these men and women went through, what they saw, how they felt?  I can’t.  Although I was raised an Air Force brat, all I knew as a child was that Daddy was always gone somewhere across the world.  I was too young to understand the whys and wherefores but I do remember the fear that plagued the hearts of my older brother and I while he was at war.

Dad is a veteran of Korea and Vietnam wars. He offered 22 years of his life to the United States Air Force.  He served his country with an uncommon pride. He was a good leader and teacher who had a heart for the young airman he ‘sarged’ who were away from their families and were decidedly homesick.  He would bring them home on weekends and holidays to ease their angst.

Another thing about Dad, he loves his family.  His grandson Will accompanied him as his required guardian – as if he needed one!  (Even at 87, Dad is amazingly with it.)  It was just as important and moving for the grandson as it was for the grandfather.  How lucky was Will and what an awesome opportunity!  I’d be willing to bet these two share memories that will have a lasting impact on the rest of their lives.  No doubt, no doubt at all.

Please enjoy the following pictures of this dream-come-true trip made possible by Honor Flight Austin.  It is a privilege for me to share them.

 

 

 

 

 

Dad and Will getting ready to leave.  And no, that’s not a hat on Dad’s head.  Honored to accompany the Vets was Brian Manley, Austin Chief of Police.

dad escort Honor Flight Escort

 

 

 

 

 

dad in the middleLook at these wonderful Vets!  Dad is the 4th one in the second row.

 

 

 

 

 

Dad getting chummy with the President.  The Air Force Monument, and the boys in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

IMG-1367 Air Force Memorial with the Pentagon in the background.  He served them and he served them well.

 thumbnail_IMG-1363              Dad proudly sitting in front of the WWII memorial, Texas pillar.  Too young to serve in that war, but proud nevertheless.

viet nam mem  The Vietnam Memorial Wall.   His opportunity to see it is long past due.  Bless his heart.

thumbnail_IMG-1373 Air Force Monument.  I can imagine Dad just about burst at the seams when he saw this one.  For many years the Air Force was his life.

tomb of the unk solAt the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  Dad is the 3rd from the left.

Please note the link I have included.  It is from the Fox 7 news in Austin, Texas.    Really good viewing that shows the Vet’s parade, etc.

http://www.fox7austin.com/news/local-news/honor-flight-brings-40-veterans-to-washington-dc

AND THEN THERE WAS THE WELCOME HOME!

 

 

 

 

 

On the flight back to Austin, our vets received letters from loved ones and friends thanking them for their service.  Lots of love and tears were aboard that flight.  Once they landed in Austin, look out!  Please enjoy the following, it’s well worth the view.

 

 

I understand that all veterans deserve to be recognized.  Each and every one deserves to be saluted for their contribution, their sacrifices.  They deserve to be honored.  And by the way, I do include our men and women in the Middle East even as we speak.  I thank them all for their service.

Bill, Scott,and I, with our spouses, as well as all your grandchildren, want to thank you, Dad, for your service.  I do believe that serving your country was the most extraordinary and accomplished thing you have ever done.

Please pray for peace.  This blog post should convince you that we should pray and pray hard for peace in the world.  We’ve lost too many soldiers and loved ones.  It’s a sad, sad thing.

Eternal Father, we praise you for helping us get through these man-made conflicts that break hearts and destroy humanity.  Thank you, Lord, for these Vets who serve their country.  We ask, Lord, for your compassion and mercy for the days ahead.  We pray for peace!  Amen

GOD BLESS AMERICA

Please note:  Photo cred goes to Tina Lea of HONOR FLIGHT AUSTIN.

 

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Verla Mae


I find that having a blog is something like having a diary and making it public on purpose.  Sometimes it is hard to stay in the boundaries of what is ok to share with the world and what is not.  There is a fine line.   I get confused.

Today’s post is ok to share with the world.  Some might find it surprising but I want to share with you about my former mother-in-law.  She recently passed away and was laid to rest yesterday.  My hubs and I went to the wake the night before and I, at last, was able to introduce him to many of my former family, something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.  My ex-husband’s family is large.  I was nothing more than an immature kid of 18 when I married into it.  The marriage didn’t last long but the relationships did, at least, I think so.  To this day I still feel a sense of family when I am around them.

verla white

Verla Mae White.  1926-2018.  Her funeral Mass was beautiful, a real testament to the lives she touched and blessed.  Her pall bearers were her grandsons, my two sons included.  They were all so handsome and grown up.  And they were proud to lay their ‘Granny’ to rest.

She was a wonderful woman, married for a lifetime to Artis White, bore him five girls and one boy, and was a very faithful Catholic woman with a special devotion to the Blessed Mother.  She was kind, laughed a lot, loved to dance, and adored her family with all her might.  Verla Mae made the neatest biscuits.  They were about 5 inches across and flat.  We called them flying saucers.  Man, they were good!  I loved to watch her make them.  Her small hands making a well in a mound of flour, baking soda and powder, add milk, pull out a handful, shape and pat, pop on the pan and into the oven.  I loved them with jelly smeared on the top.  You couldn’t split them for buttering, they were too flat but they were delightfully crispy on the bottom.  Makes my mouth water to think about them.  There was only one thing she cooked that I couldn’t eat – baked chicken and dressing.  She would bury the chicken under mounds of cornbread dressing and bake it that way.  The cornbread dressing was delicious but the chicken had no color at all.  It came out as white as it went in and looked like – well, dead chicken.  My then-husband said it tasted fine but I couldn’t put it in my mouth to see if it was good.  I understand that she did change her way of baking chicken and dressing years later.  She didn’t have to.  No matter what she cooked everyone knew the finest ingredient she cooked with was love.  And many people loved her.  In fact, her family, meaning brothers, sisters, cousins, and their off-spring, often  visited her home knowing a good time was inevitable.  She had a way of making everyone feel like they belonged.  I remember in the ‘old days’ many weekends and every holiday was spent in the ‘middle room’ of her home playing music, dancing, and cutting up.  She strongly believed in family.

I can honestly say if it wasn’t for her, I probably wouldn’t be Catholic.  It’s true.  When her son told her he wanted to marry me, Mama said “she’s not Catholic”.  That sealed the deal and led to my baptism and confirmation.  Bless her heart, she stayed on her knees for her children and their spouses.  I could have learned a lot from her if I wouldn’t have been so stupid when I was young.  A few years ago, I was blessed to see her when I visited her church on a Sunday morning.  She told me then that she always has loved me and always will.  She said she never stopped which is amazing when you consider I left the family way back in 1981.  That was the way she was, the way she is.  Love doesn’t die, it doesn’t pass away.  It is the only thing you can take with you to the afterlife.   Maybe I can learn from her after all.

Wow, those were some good days.  Too bad I didn’t appreciate it then as much as I do now.  Of course, I believe that now is the best time of my life, but there is no harm in looking back and selectively enjoying what was.  Granny’s funeral gave me that, especially with all of my kid’s first cousins, the pall bearers.  It was so good to see them all together.  They still call me Aunt Nancy.  One of them even told me he had good memories of spending time at our house as a child.  He said I was his second Mom back then.  My heart melted, flipped, and rejoiced when he said that.  It was a wonderful revelation.

One more thought afforded to me from seeing this family in reunion was brought about by the sense that my boy’s first cousins, second cousins, etc, seemed to look at me with a different than normal intensity.  At least it seemed so to me.  I figured it out later.  Yes, I did and it was a shock.  Just as I had looked upon Granny, her husband, and her remaining siblings as being ‘old’, now too were the younger ones looking at me and my peer in-laws as old.  Let me say ‘older’ instead.  But nevertheless, we are next in line.  Oh heavens.  How did this happen!?

Oh well.  It is the way of life.  God’s design is quite complex with the end result intended to meet us where we are.  He knows how we need to see the past through older, more mature eyes.  He knows that age and experience tend to put down strong roots and bear fruit beneficial to many.  It’s kind of like “I am the Vine, and you are the branches”, right?

What a good God we serve!  Rest in peace, sweet Verla.  Thank you for everything and please give Him a hug for me.

vision Mary

Please pray for peace, y’all.  The world is a dangerous place.  Storm heaven with your prayers!

 

LESSONS ON LOVE – is there really such a thing?


angel of mine

Full disclosure: the following post may be boring to you. The reason I say that is because, well, it just takes me a while to figure things out. I’ve always been a late bloomer, perhaps a bit slow on the scale of “aha! I get it!” That’s not news to anyone I went to school with, worked with, or fell in love with. You, on the other hand, probably figured things out like a normal person. I have never ever professed to be normal. Sometimes that sucks but most of the time it rocks.  My husband says I wake up in a new world every day and he is right, but maybe not the way he thinks.  It works for me.

I want to talk about love. I’ve learned a lot about it over the years. And because I’m slow, I’ve made a ton of love mistakes. After all, I was single for 20 years between husbands. I’m afraid I spent my young adult years with a screwed up thought process about love. I simply didn’t know the reality of it, just the romantic fantasy of it. I hate that because I sure wasted a lot of time, time that I should have been using to lay a strong, solid, informative foundation for my own off-spring. Unfortunately, I have to take responsibility that my children didn’t really have a good example to follow.  Thankfully, my precious (almost middle aged) kids don’t hold it against me.  I think.  I hope.  Does that ring a bell with anyone?
It wasn’t all bad. You know what they say about mistakes – what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I hate that cliché but it is true. I’m strong. Very strong. That isn’t an acquired skill, it has to be learned and earned. I’m a survivor.

There is a huge difference between love and infatuation. Everybody knows that but not everybody acts like they believe it. These days most people fall in and out of love like they change their clothes. And the funny thing is it really feels like love. So they go full on with all the trappings they think love entails. Then it’s over. Hurt feelings. Move on. Repeat.

People, that’s not the way it’s supposed to be. Of course, I’m not saying this is the way it is for everybody in the whole world, especially not the young couple I have in my mind and prayers today, but people in general from what I’ve observed and experienced. It’s like our society has morphed into something else. You decide if this pertains to you or someone you know.

My point is something like this; love shouldn’t be all about feelings. That won’t last. You’ve heard that before, haven’t you? Feelings are important, don’t get me wrong. There has to be an attraction factor first. That is a feeling, but one based on all kinds of biology and psychology stuff, believe it or not. Which leads me to this – for heaven’s sake, don’t mistake lust for love! Lust is definitely based on feeling. Lust equals sex. Sex does not equal love. Sex can be a wonderful magical part of love, in fact it can be an amazing by-product of love. But you don’t have to have love to have sex. Lust is not all there is to love.

Loneliness is another love risk factor. We have all been there. Dare I say we have all fallen in love a time or two because of loneliness. Trust me, being alone is much better, in fact, much easier than fooling yourself into thinking you’re in love based on feelings (read lust). There is nothing worse than making yourself be in love with someone after the reality of truth sets in, and it will.

Here is another defining factoid of love; don’t think you are in love because you need him/her. It doesn’t work. We all need someone. That’s the way God made us. We were created to couple. But being needy is a different thing altogether. Being a needy person entails looking to a partner to meet all of your emotional needs and that just never works. It’s not fair to saddle another person with that much responsibility. You cannot depend on someone else to make you happy.  Loev doesn’t make you do that.  Part of being a mature person is learning to be in charge of your own emotional stability. Coincidentally, you can’t constantly keep rescuing your partner from whatever. There is nothing wrong with being partners with your partner as in supporting and helping each other. That’s what you are supposed to do. On the other hand, if you feel like you have to fix everything in your partner’s life, if you are in a frenzy to make sure he/she has everything you think they need, that’s not love. That’s co-dependence. And co-dependence is a much, much harder problem to work out than being infatuated rather than in love.

After you sift through the difference between infatuation, lust and love, loneliness and neediness, the learning curve goes way up. Oh my gosh, learning to compromise is a big deal. There is, in fact, an art to it. You simply can’t get your way all the time and expect a relationship to work. It won’t. People develop resentments, then maybe a little pay-back enters the situation, finally living without that selfish ass begins to look more and more attractive. Don’t go there. Give a little. You know you have reached a higher level of true love when you wake up in the morning and your heart asks “what can I do today for him/her?” Don’t tell me that’s based on feelings. That is based on action, loving, considerate action. Here’s another thing; don’t go getting all hurt when he/she says something you don’t agree with. Or, for that matter, does something you don’t agree with (Cheating and all illegal activity are the exception! J ) I’m not saying that you should put up with everything. I’m saying please keep in mind that just because you are a couple doesn’t mean that your partner should think and do everything the same way you do. There is a huge difference between men and women, if you didn’t already know that. There is the learning-to-be-compatible part. Compatibility is another art form, much like compromise. You have to work at it. Of course, the bonus would be that a couple doesn’t have to work too hard at it, that compatibility is what draws them together. That would be a wonderful thing but don’t assume it is going to pop out at you automatically.

There is another dimension of love – Holy Love. Because we are all made in God’s image, every one of us is capable of holy love which is the absolute best, loveliest, safest, most comfortable, happiest kind of love imaginable. It is the kind of love in God’s eyes when He set in motion the plan for man and woman. Of course, human beings have continued to screw that up since Adam and Eve, but that’s another story, another blog post. The point is holy love is what we should all strive for. It is love that goes beyond the norm, love that endures the good and the not so good. It stares down anything that causes pain and discomfort, loss and difficulties. Holy love happens when two people commit to feeding their relationship with good, not selfish desires. Holy love works through the nastiness that sometimes accompanies life. It joins two people as one (even if one or both of them snore, fart, and kick in their sleep). It perseveres through every cold, flu, or illness known to man. It holds together during calamity, heartbreak and hardship. It never gives up. Holy love unites a couple in ways that are difficult to comprehend these days. A couple can share a holy love even if they are as different as cats and dogs.  Ask me how I know.

Holy love doesn’t just happen. It takes a lot of work to achieve. It would seem that holy love is rarely sought after. How sad. Holy love is truly a reward for hanging in there when times get tough.

 

I invite you to interact with me. Leave a comment, like and share my blog, agree or disagree. It’s all good. Now that I’m finished with brain tumors, pacemakers and other life interruptions I’m going to get back to my blogging and writing. I can’t wait and I’m so looking forward to getting better at it! I hope I never ever stop learning.

 

Peace of the Lord be with you! And please don’t forget to pray for world peace. So many lives depend on it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LETTING GO: an exercise in faith, a gift of grace


Nobody, and I mean nobody, likes change, that is, the change that interrupts our lives and makes the world we know uncomfortably different. I’m tired of the old cliché that states change is good, necessary, and a catalyst for growth. *foot stomping* I don’t like change!

But I don’t want to be stagnant either. And because I am a believer, I live by the assertion that I must change to live up to the potential assigned to me by God. What? Am I so full of myself that I actually think the almighty God of heaven and earth knows me personally and even takes the time to direct my path if I ask Him to? Yes. Period. Therefore, I must accept change as it comes and then discern how I choose to react to it. I must exercise my faith to allow whatever change is at hand to make me a better person, one more worthy to live up to God’s expectations of me. In the meantime, I don’t want to miss any of the graces He wishes to bestow upon me as a direct result of my decision to accept the direction of His hand over the changes of my life. And in the bigger picture, the change that effects me will have an affect on those around me. It’s a domino effect, you see. The changes in other’s lives influence me, the change in my life influences others.

Simple truths, right? Yeah, it’s easy as long as it is happening to someone else. “Therein lies the rub.” In case you didn’t hear me the first time, I don’t like change. But change is a lesson we all have to learn and grow from, hopefully. It’s a lesson that creeps up on us every day and demands we pay attention. It is stubbornly present and won’t let go, much like a dog and his favorite bone.

We liken change to either good or bad and, face it, the bad changes are the ones that really get our attention. Unfortunately, the good changes are the ones we accept, perhaps joyfully, but more often than not, without a second thought that they may, in fact, be blessings and graces sent from you-know-Who. Both good and bad are golden depending on our reaction to them. Uh huh. It’s true. Let me illustrate why I feel this way.

I haven’t blogged much since I had a brain tumor removed in August 2015. Even though it was a simple (! Did I just say that??), nearly painless surgery, it has not been without it’s effects and that has taken some adjustment to get used to. For example, I have written the previous sentence three times. Moving on… My memory is affected. I don’t remember a lot of the more recent past, things I have done, places I’ve gone, most notably, people I’ve met. Not too many weeks ago I was in a grocery store and a couple passed by me. They greeted me by name as if they knew me well. I had no idea who they were. I nodded to them, smiled, and proceeded on out the door. But it bothered me a so much that I didn’t recognize them that I had to go back into the store and find them. That lovely couple was gracious enough to understand my explanation that I had no idea who they were. I apologized to them and told them about the effects of my surgery. I felt like a fool. But they were kind and actually seemed happy to fill in the missing blanks. What a relief!

All of that just to say this: I’ve been through a lot of changes lately. Trust me. And I suppose there will be more to come. God, please grant me the grace to go through them the way You would have me to.

So, some of these changes I’ve been through recently have been pretty hard. They get the most attention, of course. The biggest and hardest change has been the death of our former daughter-in-law. Erica was not without her issues. If you are a human being, you too have issues. But Erica’s issues were a bit out of the ordinary. The first time I met her (she answered the door at my son’s house and promptly closed it in my face) I thought she was incredibly rude. Little did I know she was afraid of what my reaction to her being in my son’s house would be. Poor thing. I often wonder what on earth my son told her about me to cause that fear! No matter. I learned to love her. In fact, the day she married my son I fell in love with the brilliant loving smile she gave my son after they were pronounced husband and wife. Aside from that, she bore my first grandchild. When he was born I felt a love like I had never felt before in my life. She was responsible for that. Had it not been for her, who knows if I ever would have discovered what unconditional love was all about? Erica and my son divorced after their difficult marriage refused to survive. They were forced to continue their contact with each other in order to raise their son. And by the way, that boy is awesome which speaks to the success of their efforts. Even so, they went their separate ways. Not too many years passed before Erica became seriously ill. The choices she made hindered any healing that we all prayed for. Over time she lost function of her kidneys and liver and had to go on dialysis. Eventually, her circumstances dictated she live in a nursing home until she could get on her feet. The rehab was good, she was successful and was ready to be discharged to home. The last time I saw her at the nursing home she was so happy and full of life and ready for a new beginning! We rejoiced and she ascertained that her healing was certainly due to Divine Intervention. Then she had an accident and smacked her head on the concrete. It was the last assault her body could tolerate. Within two weeks she was gone. She died at the age of thirty seven just when she was getting her life in order. Now, I’ll be the first to tell you that our God has a purpose and a plan for everyone. But I had a hard time accepting it, even now, a hard time believing it. My head says no way. My heart says it has to be. That, my friend, is the definition of faith; believing in what you cannot see, like it or not.

As it would happen, on the day before Erica’s wake, my grandson and I went out to lunch. He is very nearly fourteen years old now and such a man already. I had heard from one of my former neighbors that my old house, the one I poured blood, sweat, and tears into, was being demolished. This I had to see for myself. So on the way back from lunch, the boy and I drove past my old address. The neighbor was telling the truth. There wasn’t a house standing, there was instead rubble strewn about, piles of bricks, pipes reaching out of the ground as if looking to connect to something, anything. Lumber, solid, hard heart-pine and oak, was stacked along the perimeter of the old house’s stead. Ghost-like, lonely. There was a man sitting on a pillar of bricks and one standing close by, obviously the workers employed to take the house apart. He approached me as I pulled up and greeted me like a long lost friend. He didn’t know me but somehow he recognized the attachment I had to this place, this ground on which a lifetime was lived and children were raised. He let me tell him how I loved this place when I lived there, how I raised two boys there, how I remodeled the kitchen and built that deck laying in pieces over in the far corner. He smiled knowingly as I told him that was MY home, the one I bought and paid for myself. As if to comfort me, that darling man proudly assured me that he had already removed the kitchen cabinets and, in fact, had recycled them into another project he was working on. And the doors. And the beautiful parquet floor that I put down piece by piece on the floor. (My knees have not been the same since!) His eyes lit up and he told me he figured I was the one who stained the glass on the back door and bathroom windows. Yes! It was me! He proudly led me around the back of the property to show me he saved them somehow knowing a person would come around asking about them. Yes, me again.

For the next few days after Erica’s funeral, I mulled over these big changes set before me. Big big changes. You know, I came to understand something. I spent more time living and loving, and trying to live life in that old house than I have anywhere since, at least so far. I learned about myself and others. Life lessons. Heartache. Joy. Self-discovery. I had hard lessons about growing up. Sacrifice. Selfishness. Forgiveness. From 1987 to 2001 I lived there. I sold it in I think 2002 or 2003. I poured heart and soul into that old house. I gardened to my heart’s content, coaxing flowers from the earth, fashioning sidewalks and secret flowerbeds. I labored and was constantly surprised at the results. Working on that old house gave me the confidence I lacked previously to accomplish many things, personally and professionally. I think there was not one inch of that house and the ground beneath it that I didn’t touch. My identity was tied up in that house for a time but I wasn’t sorry to let it go. It was, after all, just a building. I was grateful to have had it. It sheltered us and gave us a sense of security. It had a foundation when I didn’t. Then the boys left home and I got married and moved away. Change happened.

I can in no way compare loosing Erica to the tearing down of my old house. That would be ridiculous. I can share my reaction to the changes. Loosing Erica hurts. Her presence leaves a hole in the life of her precious son and all who love her. The demolition of the old house merely evokes sentimental musings. Both soul and building are now memories, albeit one more poignant than the other. One leaves behind a legacy, a life, and now love eternal. The other, just memories.

I am a better person for having loved both. They represent different planes in the plan of life. I have learned lessons from each; patience, perseverance, love, frustration, epic failure, joy, happiness, satisfaction, hope, forgiveness. Yes, big changes indeed.

Eternal Father, You Who loves us in ways we can’t imagine, thank you for the gifts You have given. Thank You that Your daughter Erica touched my life, gave me my first grandchild, and taught me lessons no other could. Thank You for that old house and the lessons I learned there; the strength and stamina I needed. Please let me keep these blessings in my heart always and never be afraid to think of them and grow from them. Father, I’m asking that my faith be strengthened to accept Your will and not question it. Thank You again, my Lord, that You love us.

Amen

 

Please don’t forget to pray for peace.