"For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace." John 1:16

A place for us to document and share the grace upon grace we have received.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Top 10 – Places to Go

I have listed below the top 10 places I tend to visit at Bagram. Before reviewing them, the most important are what we refer to as the “triangle of life”. This is 1) where you sleep, 2) where you work, and 3) where you eat. We call it the triangle of life because these are places you have to go to on a daily basis at a minimum. Everything else is mostly optional. If you get outside of the “triangle of life” and go to other places, which you’re certainly free to do, you’re unnecessarily increasing the risk of getting hit by indirect fire. Generally speaking, you are fine if you’re in a hardened building as most of the rockets are not sophisticated enough to penetrate concrete. The bottom line is that you have to think seriously about whether it’s worth it to go outside the “triangle of life”. In some instances, it certainly is, some examples of which are listed below.

1.     Chapel – I have been going to a contemporary service that starts at 10:30. Fellowship with other believers each week is a major highlight. The chapel is actually very close to our main offices and on the way to the DFAC so not too far outside the “triangle of life”.
2.     Aviation DFAC – A group of us go to brunch on Sunday morning after chapel.
3.     USO near the PAX terminal (AKA passenger terminal or airport) – They make coffee the same way every time…nice and strong. It has a western, rustic feel to it so I feel like I am in a rustic cabin in the middle of nowhere Texas….relaxing place. I tend to only go here when I have to go to the Passenger Termnial (PAX) to pick someone up or when I am headed out on a theater trip.
4.     PX/BX – Calling it shopping would be an overstatement because they are frequently out of things, but it’s a worthwhile diversion a couple of times a week to grab a cup of coffee at the Green Bean or eat at Pizza Hut or Popeye’s to break up the DFAC routine. This is also where I get my haircut.
5.     Gym – I spend at least an hour a day here. This is outside the triangle of life, but it’s a core essential for my mental health. It’s also very close to our main office (less than a 30 second walk) so not far outside the “triangle of life”.
6.     Pink Palace – If I’ve blogged about it once, I’ve blogged about it a hundred times, but this is one of my favorites because it’s where my favorite restroom is located. Hey, when the basics of life are well attended to, life works better. This is definitely a necessary deviation from the “triangle of life”.
7.     Shower at the hospital – Once I took my first shower here, I have not taken a shower in the “Cadillac” since. I almost feel like at home. We also have an office at the hospital so this is within my “triangle of life”.
8.     Nutritional medicine department at the hospital – This is where the best wifi signal is located on the entire base I think. This particular wifi is exclusive to the Air Force because of a past squabble with the Army where they wouldn’t agree to foot their portion of the tab. So, the Air Force paid for all of it and then subsequently cut off the Army’s access. Your access is actually linked to your computer id so even sharing passwords doesn’t work. They seriously don’t want Army folks on it! A friend of mine who is a dietician has an office in this hotspot area. She is extremely kind to loan it to me late in the evening after she’s gone. I typically work from this office until the wee hours of the morning for what I call my “U.S. day” because it’s daytime in the U.S. and when I am able to engage the ongoing research agenda back in the States, do conference calls, etc. Everyone who graciously tells me I should be more separated doesn’t know me well enough…staying engaged at home is rest and relaxation for me. In fact, I feel most at home here more than anywhere else on Bagram I think…a nice office, good wifi, coffee around the corner, and a quality conference phone that I can use to reach out to anyone in the world. This is probably my favorite spot here.
9.      “Motel 8” – This is where our main offices are located. We are fortunate to have a nice “conference room” that is actually a couple of sofas and a big screen TV (shhh, it’s a conference room to everyone else). We even have our own washer and dryer, which is a perk. I tend to work at our Motel 8 offices in the morning and hospital office in the afternoon. Those who know me know I can’t sit in the same spot for too long. I like to move around and change up the scenery.
10.  Dragon sandwich shop – On my way back to my B-Hut from the hospital in the early am just prior to going to bed, I stop here around 2:00 am and grab a cup of soup. I usually then head back to the “Motel 8” and wind down with a cup of soup and some U.S. news on television before going to bed.

After unwinding, I then head back to my B-hut to around 3:00 am and go to bed. I wake up around 9:00 am and then the routine starts all over again. For me, the routine keeps the time moving along.


Monday, February 27, 2012

Top 10 Things You Hear in Afghanistan

1.     “Incoming, incoming, incoming” – What we hear over the loudspeakers on base when there is indirect fire (IDF) inbound. Although frequent, I am still not used to this…scary to me.
2.     “All clear” – What hopefully follows the above soon after.
3.     Are you ok? – Hopefully the answer is “yes” when you do accountability checks after IDF.
4.     “Panther 777 (this is a typical call sign for a flight in theater), your flight to Kandahar has been cancelled. You will be re-manifested on another flight that leaves in 6 hours. Please do not leave the holding area in the interim.” – Travel in theater is generally sketchy and takes at least 1-2 days on each end to get to where you are going. A week trip in calendar days is perhaps 3 days of business and 4 days of hurry up and wait. I will never again complain about travel stateside.
5.     “Afgarristan” – We’ve been here so long that Bagram feels more like a base back home other than the IDF. However, only “real” Soldiers who go outside the wire actually use this term. This is still a major austere war zone from my perspective!:)
6.     “Do you want to go to Dragon, North, Meat Shack, Colie, or Aviation?” – We go through this routine at least twice, sometimes 3 times a day in deciding where to eat.
7.     “I’ll be at the Pink Palace” – Perhaps TMI but the closest “real” restroom to our office, about a 5 minute walk. I visit there whenever I can.:)
8.     “Is your internet working?” – The internet is constantly going in and out so there’s this ongoing debate as to whether it’s your computer or a service outage. I don’t know why we ask because it’s never your computer acting up….
9.     “That’s hodgie” – This term probably has some derogatory etymology that is lost on me, but this is the term to describe things when they break (ie toilets, TVs, etc.)….most things, in other words at Bagram are “hodgie” because they often don’t work right. To use the previous example, the internet is “hodgie”.
10.  “How many more days do you have left?” – It’s like you walk around with a countdown clock on your chest. Everyone knows their number of days left like they do their social security number and birthday. Mine is 127.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Park Day!

Some days we just need to go to the park!  We were waiting for Emma during her music lesson and so she is not in the pictures.

I love these ones! (and Emma!)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Let Them Be Little!

I sent John a copy of a photo montage set to music of our children.  It was supposed to bring joy to him, but I think right now it is a little hard for him to watch. One of the main songs on the video is "Let Them Be Little" by Billy Dean.  It is a sweet song and I listed the words below.  A few days ago, I was having a rough day with all the children and then I walked into the bedroom to see this.  It is when I miss John the most...when I need a little break from parenting (just like 30 minutes).  I see why God designed parenting for 2 people.  And so I called him frustrated and he said, "It is ok...just let them be little!"  Of course, I did not appreciate the response immediately but it has been a good reminder to me that I cannot let these little things get to me.  And by the way, Kaylah (our friend from SA) reshelved every single one of those books!  God does provide...

 I can remember when you fit in the palm of my hand.
You felt so good in it; no bigger than a minute.
How it amazes me you're changin' with every blink.
Faster than a flower blooms, they grow up all too soon. 

So let them be little,
'Cause they're only that way for a while.
Give 'em hope, give them praise,
Give them love every day.
Let 'em cry, let 'em giggle,
Let 'em sleep in the middle,
Oh, but let them be little. 

I never felt so much in one little tender touch.
I live for those kisses, your prayers an' your wishes.
An' now you're teachin' me how only a child can see.
Tonight, while we're on our knees, all I ask is: 

Please, let them be little,
'Cause they're only that way for a while.
Give them hope, give them praise,
Give them love every day.
Let 'em cry, let 'em giggle,
Let 'em sleep in the middle,
Oh, but let them be little. 

The so innocent, precious soul:
You turn around, an' it's time to let them go. 

So let them be little,
'Cause they're only that way for a while.
Give them hope, give 'em praise,
Give them love every day.
Let 'em cry, let 'em giggle,
Let them sleep in the middle,
Oh, but let them be little. 

Let them be little.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Top 10 – Foods to Eat

In no particular order, here they go:

1.     Friday night “surf and turf” – The DFACs serve some form of beef and fish/seafood every Friday night. It’s not quite like home, but it’s a valiant attempt and appreciated by all.
2.     Sunday morning brunch – A group of us who go to church together eat at the Aviation DFAC afterwards for Sunday morning brunch. Again, it’s not exactly the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs but not shabby for a war zone…actually quite good.
3.     Wednesday night Italian – I try to stay away from this one because I can over eat Italian with the best of them, but it is good.
4.     “Meat shack” – This is a DFAC where you can always get pork, ribs, BBQ chicken, and brisket. Whenever I need a “Taste of Texas”, this does the trick.
5.     Drink mixes for bottled water and Gatorade (not food but goes with it) – I could have this at home but typically just go for straight water because it’s easier. Drink mixes and Gatorade is everywhere here so a nice change for working out.
6.     Beef jerky – It’s also everywhere. I rarely buy it at home because it’s expensive, but it’s an easy between meal snack here.
7.     Green Bean Coffee – It’not the same as my beloved Starbucks, but if you want a decent imitation, it’s worth the 10 minute walk for a legit cup of Joe.
8.     Sunflower seeds – I usually keep a bag in my pocket. They are good for my ADD habit while I am standing around and waiting. We do lots of “hurry up and wait” here (long lines, weather’s bad, not ready yet, plane broken, come back later we’re closed, etc.). No worries, hun, I have no desire to chew tobacco!
9.     Popeye’s Chicken – They actually have it at Bagram, and the chicken is very good. You have to pass on the sides though, especially the biscuits.
10.  Pizza Hut – It actually tastes like home. The only problem is that the definition of “Supreme” means whatever assortment of toppings they have in stock depending on how well the Pakistani border conflict is going, which is where most of our food comes from. The variety of our food selection depends heavily on the border situation and can change on a daily basis. Although you never get Pizza Hut “supreme”, it’s hard to complain when the drivers who bring the ingredients across Afghanistan risk their lives doing so! As a result, you pay about a $10 “I could get killed bringing this to you” surcharge, so the pizza is not cheap. However, it’s certainly worth it on special occasions.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras is big around here.  Maybe not as big as in New Orleans, but the kids have 3 days off of school to celebrate.  In New Orleans, they have a week off!  It is amazing to see the free market enterprise system in full swing!  The town is decorated like it is Christmas, but in the purple, gold and green colors.  I think there are 21 parades in about 3 weeks specifically for this holiday.  King Cakes are big too!  It is really like a giant cinnamon roll that is decorated with the Mardi Gras colors.  There is a tiny trinket sized baby in the middle and the person who gets the "baby" gets to be king for the day.  It is interesting that this holiday was originally a religious festival celebrating the Three Wise Men bringing gifts to baby Jesus (hence the baby in the cake).  We are learning a little more about culture and history everyday.  We are not sure yet how the tradition evolved into throwing beads from the floats.  

In order to get our full experience here, we attended a "family friendly" Mardi Gras parade in downtown Ocean Springs.  It was interesting, kind of sad, but we also had fun.  We went with some of the PTs from John's clinic and they were a tremendous help keeping the children close by. It was a good opportunity to talk about some real life issues as well as pray for some of the people that we met on the way home.  

Our crew (Krewe is how it is spelled for Mardi Gras)

Lauren and Luke with their loot!

Lots of beads, toys, flowers and candy!

Logan had a front row seat on Jacob's shoulders.

Luke got to sit on a police motorcycle. It is good to hang out with the police at things like this!

A King Cake Latte as Starbucks!  (Sorry I cannot get the picture to rotate!)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

How am I to serve?

“If you ask, ‘Why is this or that happening?’ no light may come, for ‘the secret things belong to the Lord our God’ (Deuteronomy 29:29); but if you ask, ‘How am I to serve and glorify God here and now, where I am?’ there will always be an answer.”

Our Father in heaven will show us how to glorify Him, if we simply ask, ready to obey. So instead of asking why?  I try to ask, "How am I to serve and glorify God here and now, where I am?"  I look for that answer daily.

Kaylah came to visit from San Antonio!

Monday, February 20, 2012


These gifts have helped to bring joy to our family during this deployment!  Thank you to all and for all who who have prayed!  One of the best gifts we have received is the news that our neighbor has accepted Christ as his Savior!  He has changed some habits in his life and most notably he is soaking in God's Word everyday! This brought great joy to our family!
Team "Childs"

Notes from John's colleagues for the kids.  One said "Your dad rocks!" We agree.

A box of Valentines from John's colleagues! 

Gifts from Grandma and Papa!

And lots of candy from Mim and Pop!

Daddy sent gifts from Afghanistan (and some other stuff that is he is ready to get rid of...I think one of his coping strategies is to send stuff home to pretend that he is about to leave)...kind of breaks my heart to think we have 5 more months! 

Emma helping Lily open her gift.

Lauren's birthstone

Emma's birthstone

Afghan bracelets.  I am sure there is some history with this stuff, but I think John actually had someone else shop for him as that is not his thing!

Knives for the boys.

A local weaving for a souvenir!  

Rob Wainner has mentored John since he was in grad school...he and his wife continue to minister and bless our family 20 years later!  That is a friendship.

A family that we have only met a time or two stopped by the house to bring us this "Seeds of Righteousness" devotional study.  It was created by their son as a boy scout project and they thought of us!

My mom...

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Top 10 – Personal Items/Gadgets

Now that I’ve been in the theater for a month (I’ve been gone since Jan 3, but the initial weeks of training unfortunately don’t count towards the 179 days), I thought I might post a few “top 10” lists over the next few weeks. For starters, I am posting the top 10 personal items/gadgets I have appreciated since arriving. These are in no certain order.

1) Bose noise cancelling headsets – Absolutely essential, especially in wifi areas where there are lots of people around you talking, Skype, etc. I can be listening to music and completely drown out the noise around me.

2) Laptops – Yes, laptops plural. I am using my MacBook Air for basic email and Skype. I use my PC laptop for getting stuff done (ie., writing papers, project-related work). I have both up and running at the same time so I can still multitask with the best of them.

3) Kindle – Given my plywood box room, space is at a premium. 20-30 books on my Kindle is priceless.

4) Ipod – Essential for music and listening to sermons while on the treadmill. Bruce, you will be glad to know that you are filling my ear for about 45 minutes a day. I am working through late 2010 at the moment and should be caught up to current by the end of my deployment unless you start preaching more than 2 sermons a week!

5) Sprint HTC Evo Design 4G – I had to upgrade from my previous EVO 4G because it didn’t have international capability. Other than my new phone being slightly thinner, the functionality is the same. Surprisingly, international data service here is actually working well (and only costing me $40 a month for unlimited data, which is not bad) so I can stay engaged in mostly real time (ie, my security blanket still works).

6) Portable hard drive – This is actually one I don’t appreciate yet because Amy is sending it (one item I forgot to pack). However, given the slower internet, it’s the best way to transfer large files from one computer to another, especially movies.

7) Laundry detergent sheets – We are fortunate to have our own washer and dryer in our office (shhh, don’t tell anyone). I didn’t realize they made “detergent sheets” for washing clothes until Amy packed some in my bag. They look and work similar to the dryer sheets I am used to using, at least in our home. However, they work great and are very convenient. This is one of those instances where it’s just like the slogan says, “No Mess, No Spills, No Heavy Bottles. Laundry Simplified.”

8) Cold weather parka and gloves – It’s cold here. I almost turned this item down in Manas because I thought the lighter jacket I had would be enough. I have worn the cold weather parka every day. My fingers say thank you every day.

9) Heated blanket for sleeping – We have a window heater in our room, but without insulation and mostly shoddy construction of these B-huts, it’s quite drafty so gets cold at night. My setting is 8.

10) M-9 hand gun – I just feel cool wearing it (not really but makes for a final top 10). I will never have a weapon on me once I get back home so I might as well enjoy feeling like a little boy again, “locked and loaded”. Actually, we don’t carry a round in the chamber, but the magazine is loaded. I pray I never need it. On a related note, Logan, our 5 year old, asks me frequently if I’ve killed any bad guys yet…ah, the mind of a child.

Here are some of the other categories I am thinking about generating top 10 lists for over the next few weeks:

Places to Go
Things To Do
Food to Eat

If anyone has ideas for other top 10 lists you’d like to see, feel free to add as a comment. If I can come up with 10 things in that category, I will add it. I hope everyone has a great week.


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Marriage Vows

I am thankful for the opportunity to understand the sacrifices that military families endure...I pray that I will use this experience to better meet the needs of others and minister to their loneliness.

(I think I probably need to work on the "without complaint" part a little more!)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Catching Up...

The last two weeks have been a good kind of busy.  Emma flew to San Antonio to attend Winter Camp with her Jr. High Youth Group.  This was something we had been planning for a while and I was going to fly her to San Antonio.  While she went to camp, I would get to visit with some of my friends and eat at some of my favorite places that I miss terribly in San Antonio.  Well, with John gone it was going to be harder for me to take Emma...so she flew by herself.  She has flown by herself before, but never had to change planes and terminals.  So I dropped her off in Gulfport and she made her way through the Houston airport and onto San Antonio.  It was a great time for her!  On the way home, she was accompanied by Kaylah Koch, our sweet family friend and precious nanny.  Kaylah came to our family when we were in desperate need of some help after we took in 2 foster girls (a 2 month old and a 3 year old).  Our youngest was 5 months at the time and it was shortly after the Haiti earthquake...and really it is another story for another post.  Anyway, Kaylah became a part of our family and it was so good to have her here in Mississippi.  If I didn't look around too much I could pretend that we were back in SA and life was as it used to be. 

While Emma was in SA, I took the other 4 children to Birmingham to visit my mother and father-in-law, John's sister and the cousins.  It is about 5 hours to drive there, but it is a good diversion for us.  The last time we were up there was when John had received the notice that we needed to get home ASAP since he would be deploying in 5 days.  I am glad I conquered those memories and will look forward to visiting his parents home with him!  We kept our schedule busy by going on a field trip to the McWane Center.  It was a fun time and the highlight was touching the sharks. 

Stephanie, Kaylah and Emma at camp.

Touching the stingrays and hammerhead sharks.

Lily loved the fish!

You had to catch them fast to touch them!

The boys goofing around.

Inside a bubble room!

Luke pretending to have his head in the dinosaur's jaws.

Fun stuff....an outline of Luke's face.

The butterfly wall.

Lily with her Aunt Julie on the iPad.  We went over to their church gym to let the boys and cousin Mary run around!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

John and I have almost never exchanged gifts on Valentine's Day.  We are too cheap, practical, etc. to spend money on this holiday.  We would go out to eat like a week before or after and call it a Valentine's celebration.  We also have rarely spent it together since for the past 10 years or so, the Combined Sections Meeting of the APTA has usually held their annual week long conference somewhere around or over this "couple's holiday". Now that we have children we have had to do more...because they want to go shopping for us!  So we found ourselves buying some gifts for each other from the kids.  It is a good thing for them to see their parents loving each other.  While we are apart, it is important for me to continue talking fondly and lovingly about their dad with them...since they do not see us together.  We have spent a lot of time remembering our times together as a family.  The kids love it when I tell them about when they were little, about a particularly hard move, or fun things they used to say when they were little.  With John gone, this seems extra special to them right now...and to me too! This is another lesson I have learned over the past few weeks. Our kids love to see us when we were younger...how bad we looked or our (my) funny hairstyles, pregnancies, etc.  So in the essence of being humble, I will share a collection of some of our special times together...because they mean so much to us! 

"I Still Do"

John made dinner for me in San Antonio when we still dating!

At a friend's wedding in Boston shortly after we married.

The Grand Canyon...stationed at D-M.

On Crystal Pier in San Diego.

Our first house in Tucson!  And the brick patio that John and my father put down in the summer heat!

Our first year at Pine Cove...this will be our 8th!
Another year at Pine Cove...one of the many that I was pregnant....

Our 10th Anniversary!

Another Pine Cove pregnant picture!

Taking our daughter to the Family Gala.  We have a 6th grader and a 6 month old in this picture!

Pine Cove last year...we were preparing to move to MS, but we had no idea what else the Lord had for us!

  I am thankful to go through life with this man!