Friday, April 25, 2014

24 April 2014

It has been an incredible couple of months. Thank you for patiently waiting for an update and allowing us our privacy. I am not sure I can think of another day when I have been so happy as I was on Nate's release date. Maybe when he was born?! I was very proud of myself for only tearing up a couple of times. One of those times was when Nate played an Ozzy Osbourne song for me ("Mama I'm Coming Home"). Those of you who know me will know that this is not a song I was ever likely to hear on my own, but for this occasion I loved it! It was perfect!

We were finally able to host a Welcome Home party for Nate with about 75 of our friends and family in attendance, and many others sending their love and regrets that they could not be here in person. Nate has missed many birthdays and Christmases, and he is very grateful for the gifts he received at the party that enabled him to purchase a new laptop. This will be a huge help to him with his college classes. We appreciate each one who contributed toward that goal. We were also able to get him a new phone. It is so nice to be able to pick up the phone just to say "hi" whenever we want. 

We enjoyed a visit from one of Nate's cousins from Maine, and my cousin's husband took him fishing right after he got home. I love this picture. It is so good just to see him happy.

The euphoria of the homecoming has started to give way to the new normal for our family. Nothing has been easy.  We knew that Nate was missing a math class for full acceptance to CSU next fall, but he had problems getting started on the statistics class we found that would meet his requirement, and the course has been harder than he expected. Then he was told that two of the other courses he took through the community college do not meet CSU admission standards. (The community college paperwork clearly states that it does). When his status with the VA was changed so that they would consider him as Honorably Discharged, I asked specifically if that would allow him to access his GI Bill, and I was told yes. But now that he wants to use it, he is being told that he does not qualify. We are in the waiting period for re-consideration of his compensation and benefits approval from the VA. Nate's computer had a ton of malware on it and his email picked up a virus. The parole approval he needed did not come until the day before his release (stressful for all of us), and he got a bit of run-around from their office on his first visit. All of this was quite a letdown from the emotional "high" we were on.

One by one we have been working through the issues. Friends helped fix the computer problems and the new laptop should help alleviate future problems. Another friend has provided a great deal of help with the statistics class.  I realized that his Marine Corps transcript would cover one of the courses he needed for CSU. (Oops - while I was working on this we got another call from the college. The transcript evaluator says the English requirement has NOT been met after all). The college has been very good about helping Nate work through the issues because of his status as a veteran. The assigned parole agent has been very accommodating. Nate has been able to make a few appointments with the VA to check on his muscle and back injuries and his hearing issues. He has signed up for two additional classes this summer. Slowly but surely we are making progress. 

I am keeping the Donate button on the blog if anyone would like to help with any of the book or tuition expenses that we are currently paying out of pocket. We are hopeful that even if the GI Bill cannot be accessed yet that Nate will be able to use a CalGrant for his Fall expenses, but that is not guaranteed. 

As always, thank you for your continued support and friendship!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

2 March 2014


Didn't you absolutely love that countdown calendar?!

And no, my smile doesn't get any bigger!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

26 February 2014

The next post you see here will include pictures of 
Nate's homecoming!

How do you describe the emotions we are feeling as we wait? How is it possible that the next 4 days seem to be going slower than the last 4 years? 

We continue to covet your prayer support. As we have stated before, nothing about this journey has been easy. There has been a paperwork problem with the parole office, so we are still waiting for the approval to go through as requested. We have VA paperwork and scheduling to work through. We learned yesterday that it's too late for Nate to enroll in the math class he wanted (and needs to complete by May). Yes, there are work-arounds for each situation, but we need patience, wisdom, endurance, peace, name it!........for the days ahead. My daughter reminded me today of John 14:1, which states, "Don't let your heart be troubled...." I realize that in context, Jesus was addressing the disciples' fear that He was leaving them physically, but how many times throughout His ministry did He tell them not to fear, to be still, to not be afraid? Max Lucado states that we should "Fear Less." What an important concept to continue to grasp!

We have other concerns as we face the future with Nate, but we have tried to think them through, plan ahead, and we will trust God for the rest. 

One of my former students drew my attention to this piece of art from Danny Quirk yesterday. I leave you with the poignancy of it -- how many of our Defenders are wearing a mask to hide their hurts? If this is you, can I implore you to talk to someone? There is healing to be found. You do not have to carry your burdens alone.

Until Sunday.....

Saturday, February 1, 2014

1 February 2014

Only 1 month until Nate's release! We don't even know how to describe the feeling now that we're so close to the end. Today we got all of his things down out of the attic. In the next few days we will need to send him clothes to wear home. I don't know whether this month will be the longest month of the ordeal or the shortest!

We are cognizant of the fact that Nate will need some time to adjust. Our family will meet him privately and spend a quiet week together, but we know that our friends and supporters will also want to see him. With his permission we have set aside a day for this on March 8. If you are in Northern California  (Central Valley area) and would like to join us, please send a private message and I will send you the directions.

Nate has asked to parole to Stanislaus County.  We were recently told that someone who knows Nate is friends with one of the parole officers in that area, and we are hopeful that this will be the officer who is assigned, as he has an understanding of our veterans and the things they have faced while serving.

Nate is planning to live with his grandparents and to continue pursuing his 4-year college degree, perhaps followed by post-graduate work. If you would like to help with the cost of purchasing a new laptop for him, donations will be accepted on the day of the welcome home party, or you can make a donation via the PayPal link here on the blog. All funds received will go directly to the cost of the laptop, or if extra funds are received, toward other school expenses that might not be covered by his GI Bill. (We still have to start that process). 

 In the last few weeks we became aware of a song that was new to us. My youngest son sang it in church while he was home for Christmas, and I thought you might enjoy its message as well. God has given us an overwhelming amount of strength through all that we have been through, and we know that His grace and strength will be available for the days ahead, even through trials we have not yet faced.

"He Who Holds Us in His Hands"
When God says no to you, it’s such a blow to you, 
when all your dreams unravel at the seam, 
When God says wait to you, and God seems late to you, 
it’s hard to rest within His will, it’s hard to trust and just be still, 
it’s hard to simply wait until it’s all made plain.

He who holds us in His hands, has no problems only plans, 
He who has control of all, sees the smallest sparrow fall, 
He who works where no one knows, does not sleep as we suppose, 
but works in all things, in great and small things, for His own glory, and our best good.

When God works silently, in ways we cannot see, 
and troubles multiply so that we ache and sigh, 
and God does not seem kind, When hope is hard to find, 
it’s hard to rest within His will, it’s hard to trust and just be still, 
it’s hard to simply wait until it’s all made plain. 

He who holds us in His hands, has no problems only plans, 
He who has control of all, sees the smallest sparrow fall, 
He who works where no one knows, does not sleep as we suppose, 
but works in all things, in great and small things, for His own glory, and our best good.
~Leech (c)1988

I will be sure to post pictures of the homecoming -- and I'm sure you will hear us screaming with joy!


Saturday, December 7, 2013

7 December 2013

On this Pearl Harbor remembrance day I am struck that the resolve to remember that infamous day is faltering. I hope that the sacrifices made both then and now are never taken for granted. 

Nathan's sentence is now another month closer. In fact, I had to reset the countdown calendar, because he got another release date - another day sooner! We are under the 3 month mark, friends!

We have been able to visit Nate at the fire camp a couple of times now, and his older brother was able to spend part of the morning with him on Thanksgiving. Although it's farther for us to travel, it's not as bad as when he was out of state! It really is a more relaxing setting, in a work camp that was built in the 1940's. It's a beautiful location in the mountains near Kings Canyon National Park, although I'm sure it was quite cold this weekend with snow in the forecast. He says the beds are more comfortable, the food is better, and there is more of it. When we have visited there has been a level of common sense among the correctional officers that has been noticeably missing in other facilities. Because it's a minimum security facility, there are no bars or wires.  That alone has been a huge relief and made our visits much easier. We are allowed to bring in our own food (actually, we have to!) so we have brought Nate KFC, McDonald's breakfast, and Thanksgiving leftovers. He enjoyed his grandma's pumpkin pie even though he wasn't very happy about the diet soda I brought.

Nate is assigned to work in the warehouse, but he says he has plenty of time to study for his classes. He is taking 2 additional classes that he was interested in this semester, even though he doesn't need them for his degree. He is also doing a lot of reading, and we have also completed his application to two CSU campuses (his first choice and a backup choice, although the backup campus choice would require a parole change).  

Once again we thank you for your support. We hope that you have a beautiful Christmas and that you may know the Christ of Christmas and His love.



Friday, November 8, 2013

8 November 2013

Well, forget everything I posted last week!

I drove up to my parents' house late Tuesday night so that I wouldn't have to deal with the morning commute traffic on the way to Nate's graduation ceremony on Wednesday. But late that night he managed to get a call to me and told me not to come. (Too late!) He got moved to a fire camp on Wednesday and didn't get to participate in the ceremony after all. 

This was really unexpected. Nate had been led to believe that he would probably be staying where he was. Even if he got moved, there's a fire camp 3 miles away from where he was at Jamestown that to which it seemed likely for him to be sent, especially since he has family in the area. My dad called the administrative lieutenant Wednesday morning to see if he could find out anything more, but other than apologizing there wasn't much she could tell him. She said there was no reason she could see that this move couldn't have waited until next week.  

The Marine Corps slogan Semper Fi  (Always Faithful) has sometimes been distorted to Semper Gumby (Always Flexible). That was one of my first thoughts Tuesday night, and I managed to make Nate laugh when I reminded him about it. He was frustrated, and I didn't even know how to feel. Angry? Annoyed? Frustrated?  I drove 4 hours round trip and took a day off work without pay  for nothing. (Although my mom and I did spend a lovely time together for a couple of hours wandering through antique stores).

I've had to remind myself quite often this week of God's promises. His ways are not our ways. He has a purpose. He uses all things to work together for my good. "Rejoice in the Lord Always" is not a suggestion. I sang that little chorus often this week to remind myself.

I'm also reminding myself to remember the positives. Nate's still in California. Fire camp should be a better for him for the next few months. He called the night he arrived and he was  watching TV with a cat on his lap. He sounded happy. And let's not forget that there's only 4 months left.  THERE ARE ONLY 4 MONTHS LEFT!!!

The new location is further away, so we won't be able to visit as often, but that was actually our intention when Nate first came back to California - that we would visit as often as possible while he was close because he might get moved further away. I guess we got spoiled over the last 6 months. We're going to see him tomorrow and we'll know more about this placement after that. I'm actually really glad we get to go this weekend, as this is the 7th anniversary of this particular adventure of ours.

Today we also remember the sacrifice made by Nate's friend LCpl. Jeremy Tamburello (KIA Iraq 11/8/2005). We can never forget.

Thank you for accompanying us on this journey. It's nearly over. We are getting excited now that the end is in sight.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

27 October 2013

We have continued to visit Nate almost weekly since he returned to California in May. When he first came back to California we thought he was going to be moved to a fire camp, perhaps in Southern California. We'd gone so long without seeing him that we were starved for time with him, so we started visiting as often as we could. At first he told us that we didn't need to keep coming every week, but we told him that we might as well take advantage of his being only a couple of hours away while we could. Now it doesn't look like he's going to be moved before his release, and we are loving all the time we've been able to spend with him.

Nate has had 2 parole meetings, and we are now making plans for his release. His grandparents have moved to Stanislaus County, and we are making plans to move that direction sometime in the future as well. I think Nate will do well there. He enjoys working with his grandfather, and he is also applying to CSU Stanislaus. I was very impressed with my initial conversation with the Veterans Services coordinator. I haven't seen the campus yet, but everyone assures me that it's a great place.

As his release date gets closer, it feels like waiting for Christmas. It seems like time is moving quickly for a while, and then the last few days seem to go so s-l-o-w-l-y!  But he is keeping busy. He took 2 more classes this semester. He appealed his grade in one of last semester's classes and was given grade for an assignment that was initially skipped, which raised his grade for the class from a "C" to a "B."  He sends me lists of books to order for him on a variety of sociological topics and spends his free time reading. When he got called to pick up the last quarterly package I sent him, both of the people working in the shipping room remarked, "Oh, you're the book guy!" (Who is THIS kid?!)

Something really great happened this week. One of the things that I was somewhat disappointed about when Nate got moved back to California is that he missed out on a graduation ceremony that the OK prison was going to hold for him. I was even trying to figure out if there was any way for me to make a quick trip back there and get approval for a special visit to surprise him by being there. When it didn't happen I was disappointed for both of us. Of course, having him back so close to us was so exciting that I quickly let it go. But then this week we got a letter from him and found out that the current facility is holding a graduation ceremony for those who have earned their GED and vocational tech certificates, and he will be included. He is allowed to have 2 visitors, so I will be able to attend! I love that God cares about even the smallest details of our lives. I am so proud of Nate and I am so glad that I will be able to be there for him on that day.

As you remember Nate in your thoughts and prayers, please remember that this is the time of year that is very difficult for him. Seven years ago he lost 3 of his Marine brothers in Iraq. Six years ago, one of those KIA dates was the trigger for his depression, survivor's guilt, PTS, flashbacks, arrest, and imprisonment. Please continue your support of all our Defenders and their families. It is especially hard for civilians to understand the battles they are fighting, not only physically, but spiritually and emotionally as well.

We appreciate your love and support, today and always.



Thursday, October 3, 2013

3 October 2013

Did you see the Countdown Calendar? Only 5 months left!  Only 150 days! Nate's doing great and we're getting so close to the end, and we're getting so excited. 

What else can I say today?

Thank you all for your faithful friendship and support - 

Friday, August 2, 2013

3 August 2013

I have a great picture to show you all! It actually came in the mail about 2 weeks ago, but I wanted to make sure Nate saw it before I posted it for the world to see. I sent him a copy of it right away, but a week later he still hadn't gotten it. I could have walked it to him faster than the mail gets to him. Well, he knows about it now at least, so even if he hasn't seen it yet, you can all still congratulate him if you want to!  Isn't it pretty?

Still no word on when (or if) he'll be moved to another facility, so in the meantime we're visiting as often as we can. I think we've only missed a week or two here or there since he came back to California. We're loving it!

A proud mama,

Monday, June 24, 2013

24 June 2013

We have some amazing news to share! Keep reading!

First, let me tell you about our month. Nate arrived back in California on the first weekend in May. My dad tried to get information about visiting him, but after a l-o-n-g phone wait with no answer he decided he could get the information in person on his way home from out of town. He arrived about 2 minutes too late to visit. If he hadn't tried to get through on the phone first he would have gotten the visit. But we geared up for a visit the next weekend - and all of us were able to spend time on both Saturday and Sunday of Mother's Day weekend with Nate. Mother's Day just happened to be Nate's birthday, so we were glad to be able to spend it with him! (While this is wonderful, this is not our amazing news yet! Keep reading!)

It took some time and effort, but he was finally able to take his last two final exams. We're still waiting for official confirmation - but that was all he needed to finish his Associate's Degree! (This is not the amazing news yet either).

The next step for Nate will be his final placement at one of the fire camps. He's still hoping for one as close to home as possible so that we can continue to visit him often. I think that at least one of us has been able to visit with him for at least an hour or so every weekend. There's a new computerized visit system in place. It worked great the first time, but a couple of weekends ago my husband and I tried to visit and the confirmation had not gone through. We drove for 2 hours and arrived just in time for our noon appointment , only to find out that we weren't on the list. We had to start over at the walk-up visits desk, waited 2 1/2 hours, and finally got a one-hour visit. I had several things I needed to ask Nate about, so the entire visit was packed with conversation. The phone system here is terrible. There are not enough phones to meet the needs of the overcrowded facility, the facility is short-staffed, and there's some kind of lottery system for the phone use. Nate tried all week last week to get to the phone, and the one day his turn got called, they were on lockdown because of the staffing issues. Nate told us that we don't have to visit every weekend, but since we don't know where he will be sent next, we want to take advantage of having him so close (only about 2 1/2 hours away). We were able to include Nate's younger brother in one of the visits, too; it was the first time they had seen each other in at least 3 years. It might be the last time they get to see each other for a while, since "baby brother" just turned 18 and has to be approved for visits as an adult. The backlog will probably keep him from being able to visit before he leaves for college.  (This is definitely not amazing news).

Nate is trying to get a position as a clerk at one of the fire camp locations. (His back injury - chronic muscle spasms from his time in Iraq - has finally been documented by the prison doctor, which will also help his VA claim. This injury will keep him from being able to do the heavy physical labor required in fighting fire). The typing test that he needs to pass for the clerk's position is only given on Tuesdays. The first few times he tried to take it there were riots at the prison, so everyone was on lockdown. We suggested that maybe he should quit causing riots. He did finally take and pass the first (lower) level of the test, but he will have a better chance of getting moved sooner if he can pass the higher level test. He missed it by 2 words last week; if there isn't a riot, he is going to try it again tomorrow. The conditions at fire camp would be much more favorable for him, so we are praying he is able to be moved soon, and hopefully to one fairly near us. (This would be amazing news).

Are you still reading? Did you happen to notice the countdown clock at the top of the blog? Did you happen to notice that it skipped a bunch of days in the last week? Nate had noticed a 5-day discrepancy on his paperwork so he wrote to the records office and asked them to look into it. Never mind the five days -- they found a bigger error and adjusted his early release date by about 2 1/2 months. His new parole eligibility is March 3, 2014, which means he only has about 8 months left!  Isn't that amazing?!

In the dark of the mid-night have I oft hid my face,
While the storm howls above me and there's no hiding place.
'Mid the crash of the thunder, precious Lord, hear my cry;
Keep me safe 'til the storm passes by. ~M. Lister

We serve an amazing God and He continues to prove Himself faithful. Our hearts are rejoicing this week as the end of this storm is in sight!

With love and thanks,


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

1 May 2013

We're beginning the countdown! Nate's release date (first eligibility for parole) is May, 2014. So as of today, we are under the one-year mark!!! We will be counting down excitedly as he comes back to California and we will be able to visit him more often and encourage him to look forward to the future instead of dwelling on the past.

We have heard through a friend of his (I haven't been home to check my own mail) that he is hoping to be at Jamestown this week. The trip from Oklahoma was terrible. He was awake for over 54 hours before they finally arrived in Arizona and he was able to sleep. He's been in lockdown the entire time without phone privileges, so we have not been able to talk to him, but he was finally able to access his college books this week so he could begin studying for his two final exams. We can't wait to see him again!

Thanks as always for all your support! 

Monday, April 15, 2013

15 April 2013

A few weeks ago Nathan received word that he is definitely on track to finish his AA degree this semester!

A few days later at his annual review he was told that he was going to be sent back to California. The timing he was quoted was 4-6 weeks. He explained how close he was to finishing his college courses, and we were really hoping they would at least hold off until he was able to finish his college courses. He started working ahead on his assignments and took his midterms early, but he still has a couple of assignments and his final exams left to take in order to finish his AA.  However, today we got word through a friend of his that he is on lockdown and all of his stuff has been packed. That most likely indicates that he will be moved tomorrow.  Did you catch that?

Nate will be sent through one of the facilities in Arizona first; we do not know how long that will be. We are speculating that he will be there for a couple of weeks. Then he will be transferred to one of the CDCR "fire camps" here in California. There are more than forty camps, so we do not know where he will be sent. However, the conditions should be good, as the fire camps are at minimum security. Regardless of where he ends up, we will be able to visit more often and under better conditions. 

Please continue to pray for the following needs:
1. Safe travel. Being chained to a bus seat for a drive from Oklahoma to Arizona, and then to California is not what I consider ideal travel conditions. His back is already problematic from his two tours in Iraq, and this type of travel will be painful for him.

2. Pray that he will easily be able to finish his college coursework when he gets where he's going without any hassle.

3. Pray that his back problems will be given the proper consideration when he arrives at the fire camp. He is unable to do physical labor at this time. He has been told that he can get a clerk's position or work in the kitchen, etc. 

4. Please continue to pray for Nate's emotional and spiritual well being.

I shared last night in church that each day can be so unpredictable! In the course of the last week I had minor surgery; my car broke down on a busy freeway; and my tax program tried to convince me that we owed over $21,000 in taxes. (Boy was I glad to figure out where the mistake was on that!!) But even though we do not know what each day holds in store for us, it is so wonderful to know that we have a Heavenly Father who does! 

Day by day, and with each passing moment, strength I find to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father's wise bestowment, I've no cause for worry or for fear.
He whose heart is kind beyond all measure gives unto each day what He deems best --
Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure, mingling toil with peace and rest.  -Berg/Skoog

When I sang that song last night I had no idea what today would hold. My heart aches for the people who were so severely injured today in Boston. We had a family member who was running the marathon, and we were relieved to hear that he was safe. But I am so excited tonight to know that Nate is headed back to California and I should be able to see him soon! I don't know what tomorrow will hold either, but I know the promises God has given me. I know that He will provide the strength I need for tomorrow's challenges.

Thank you all again for your love and support. We can almost see the finish line!