Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Happy Birthday Praveen!

I'm happy and proud to call Praveen my son-in-law. By traveling to (and around) India with him and Ruth, I got to know him so much better than I could have any other way... It takes time to get to know people and our time with Praveen has been limited to his short occasional visits to Fulton. BUT we made up for all that on the trip. I feel now like I've known him for years. He's a really FUNNY guy. I never knew that before. I always knew he was smart and good looking....(and had good taste in potential brides) but never that he had such a great sense of humor.

Another thing that I learned about Praveen is that he's thoughtful, considerate, caring, and conscious of the needs of others. Throughout the trip I watched him making sure that everyone's needs were being met...and not just needs, but desires too. With so many friends and family there, it was quite the juggling act, and he never once dropped the ball. (If he did, I didn't see it.)

I watched him be the diplomat. Balancing the needs and desires of those closest to him: his parents, his new bride, and tradition. And...he pulled it all off with grace.
Praveen knows how to have fun. . . . . . . . .

Not only do I like & love Praveen, I respect him. He's a great guy who I look forward to growning closer and closer to in the many years ahead.

Today is Praveen's Birthday. I have added him to my rather long mental list of (immediate) family birthdays, and unlike my other two son-in-laws', his will be easy to remember. It's the day after Esther's birthday. That makes FIVE in January. (Nathan, Esther, Praveen, Nathan, Seth, and Jay)

January only rivals September in the number of birthdays in our immediate family. In September we have six: (Rachel, Naomi, Amon, Rebekah, Kyle, and Ruth)

He knows how to fly a plane too!

We used to have a "September Birthdays Party" and sometimes, weather permitting, a "January Birthdays Party", but times are changing and the family is getting more spread out and harder to get together too often. Lately, with the factors of distance, jobs, and school, Thanksgiving is the main time that EVERYONE makes it to town at the same time. Now we have to factor in the two boys who are in the military and it even becomes harder to get everyone together.

So, the new plan starting this year is to have a mid-year "family reunion". This was Ruth's idea, and a good one. In June we'll all (try to) be here for Ruth and Praveen's Fulton reception on the 10th and then we'll spend the following weekend at a campground where we'll just relax, party, and float on the river. Mind you, this campground is not only tent camping, they have cabins too.... a pre-requisite for me in choosing a site. (I did the tenting thing when I was a kid and had enough of it. Now I insist on a "real bed" with four walls around it.) Hopefully this will become an annual event that everyone (including the boys) will plan ahead for.

I hope the rest of my family can catch up with me on "knowing Praveen". The June camping trip-family reunion will be a good time to get a start on it.

My three son-in-laws with Jay ... It seems that none of them are looking at the camera.

Thanksgiving 2004

Part of the family including Amon's girlfriend, Megan, Rachel's husband, Dan, Naomi's boyfriend, Dane....and of course, Praveen!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Happy Birthday Esther

Esther is my "baby". Today is her seventeenth birthday. She changes the color and style of her hair fairly often, but one thing never changes and that's her big smile.

Happy Birthday, Esther, I love you.

Here's Esther with all 5 of her older sisters, taken at Beks during the Thanksgiving weekend of 2005. Rebekah is the one in pink, obviously pregnant. Rinnah and Rachel are behind Rebekah and Naomi and Ruth, behind them. Taking "girl pictures" is one of our family traditions but it's hard to get all 6 of them together at the same time!

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Saluting Nathan

Nathan is my sixth child. Today is his 23rd birthday. I’m very proud of him.

Nathan joined the Army last spring and it was the best thing that could have happened. Many people think that is a strange thing for a mother to say in the dangerous days we live in. Let me explain.

Nathan had been living a scary and dangerous life for several years. He’d been involved in all sorts of risky (and BAD) behavior with “unsavory” people. (And, once you start running with a certain crowd in this small town, there seems little chance of getting out of it.) He was living here and there, often not in touch with us for long periods of time. Sometimes when he WAS in touch with us, we wished he wasn’t. That’s because there was little we could do to turn him in the right direction and we didn’t want the younger kids to be exposed to his behavior. It was an extremely hard thing to watch for all of us, but probably most horrible for me, as his mother. I felt totally helpless. Don’t get me wrong, he wasn’t “bad” all the time, he had his “ups and downs”. Our problem was that we couldn’t trust that the “ups” would last. Sometimes all was well and he was happily here for family events. He even worked a lot on Rebekah’s restaurant, Beks. But we just never knew when it would all fall apart and he’d slide back into his old behavior patterns. And he always did.

So…last spring he seemed to “hit bottom” and realized that he’d have to make a drastic change and that he couldn’t just do it all on his own. (He’d tried that many times.) He decided to join the Army. It was the best thing he ever did for himself. My son is a man now, finally.

I wasn’t thrilled that he signed up for the Infantry (that is the part of the army that does most of the fighting). I’d hoped he’d be in electronics or some other field that would provide him training for the future. But he was determined to be in the infantry. It might have been one of the factors that saved him, as most of us were sure he’d never make it through boot camp and either be kicked out or end up in the brig (military jail). BUT he liked shooting and learning about weapons. He actually turned out to be quite good at it. Not to say that this is a good thing (that he was fascinated with weapons) but someone has to do it, I guess it may as well be someone who relates to it….even if it’s my son. And, in the Army, at least it’s in the right arena, not out on the streets. (AND, for now, at least, it’s all practice. We all hope he never has to see real combat.)

Shortly after he arrived at boot camp, through his letters and occasional calls, we began to see an unbelievable change in his attitude. We didn’t even recognize him. He began re-thinking his entire life in all aspects. He began realizing and (amazingly) admitting his mistakes. I guess some people just need the kind of structure that the military provides. Army boot camp even provided training in the practical aspects of life like personal finance and goal planning.

After 14 weeks, he graduated from Infantry boot camp on Aug. 5, last year, Then he came home for a couple weeks before heading to Ft. Hood, Texas where he is now stationed. He’s learning to be a Bradley driver. A Bradley is an armed tank type vehicle that moves fairly quickly and also carries up to about 10 other soldiers. He not only is learning to drive it, but to totally maintain and repair it. A Bradley is computerized; it’s not like just driving a truck. Through satellite, he can even access the internet from it.

Esther, Nathan, and Naomi, taken when he was home on leave before he left for Ft. Hood, Texas where he's now stationed.

I’ve had a little concern about Nathan that the change in him “won’t stick”, especially now that he’s got much more free time on his hands than he had in boot camp. I WANT to believe in him, but the past ups and downs makes it a little hard to be completely confident. However, so far everything is going well with him.

Now he lives in housing that is much like apartments. He shares a two bedroom unit with one other guy. He simply reports to work every day and has most weekends and evenings off. Well, I guess you have to add in the early morning jogging and PT before work too. But basically he manages his own time except for regular working hours.

I just talked to him yesterday for a long time (he loves to talk on the phone) and was encouraged to hear him talking about choices he is considering for his future. Just the fact that he is thinking “down the road” is different and good. He is realizing that when he gets out of the Army in a little over two years, he still doesn’t have training in anything that could get him a good job and he is trying to decide what to do about that. He realizes that our small town has nothing to offer him except trouble from his past and he doesn’t plan to come back here to live. That is the right decision. He’s wondering about re-enlisting and considering it. (There are promotions and bonuses involved and the choice will come up in April.) Oh, and he’ll be promoted to Private First Class, (E-3) next month. That’s not a big deal really, but any sort of promotion is always encouraging (and adds a little to the pay check too.)

You may be wondering if he’ll be sent over to Iraq or somewhere like that, which was his and our assumption when he signed up. They even told him in boot camp that he’d heading there. But, surprisingly to all of us (including him) it looks like he may not be going any time soon, and perhaps not at all. He’s in the 1st Calvary (mechanized) and they have been to Iraq recently and are probably not going back, so he might just be hanging around Texas indefinitely. Maybe not though, you never know with the military.

Anyhow, I just wanted to introduce you to Nathan, especially since he was on my mind. He’s doing well and continuing to mature and understand life a little more. And…today is his 23rd birthday. Happy Birthday, Nathan… I’m proud of you and I love you more than you’ll ever know.

Jay, Nathan and me, taken at Nathan's graduation, August 5, 2005.

This was taken at Nathan's boot camp graduation. Jay and I are sitting in the back of a Bradley. That is the vehicle that Nathan is learning to drive, repair, and maintain. Those of you who attended the Mehndi party will recognize that skirt I'm wearing... haha...it's was a little more well behaved here.


In case you are interested, I'm posting a couple "before" photos taken at Rebekah's house in June, 2003. No, he wasn't a "cowboy", he just aquired the hat and liked it. Giving up that long blond hair wasn't easy for him, but he did it with relative grace a couple days before reporting for boot camp. I still have his pony tail hanging from the rear view mirror in my van; a constant reminder of how far he's come.

This was taken at the same time and includes (next to Nathan) Garry, Rebekah's husband, Dan, Rachel's husband, and of course, Praveen. I think this was the first time we met Praveen and even then, he fit right in with the other son-in-laws.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

New Links

I have just added links to three websites that I made awhile back. (You can find the links on the right side of the page.)

One site shows Naomi and Amon's senior pictures. These pictures were taken in the late summer of 2004. There are a few extra pages on the site that have some other things.... baby pictures of them, a couple of family photos, a "graduation" letter that Ruth wrote to them, and a story that Naomi wrote in highschool about her childhood. When you have time, check it out, I think you'll enjoy it, especially the story. In case you don't know (or remember) the twins (Naomi and Amon) are 19 now. Naomi is attending college in St. Louis and Amon is in the Navy, stationed currently in San Diego.

The Beks Reconstruction Site shows the progress as Rebekah and Garry restored a historical building and turned it into a restaurant which is located here in my hometown, Fulton. There's lots of pictures on the site. Be sure to look at "opening night". If you look closely enough at the other pages on the site, you will find photos of the family all working on different aspects of the project. You will easily notice Rebekah and Garry, but see if you can find me, Jay, Esther, Naomi, Amon, and Nathan. I think Rachel and Dan may even be on there somewhere. By the way, Nathan has a long blond pony tail in these photos. That's now history since he joined the Army last spring.

The other site, just called "Beks" is their current site for the business. I'm sorry to say I've been lax in keeping it updated so some of the information is old. Maybe posting the link here will motivate me to get it updated...

More Travel Blog

I just finished adding two more entries to my travel blog which include some photos. The first one is called "Home Wedding Decoration" and shows how Santhana and Prasanna decorated their yard with the banana trees and canopy. The second one is called "Around the Neighborhood" and has some miscellaneous photos taken close to their home. You can see these by clicking on the link to my travel blog on the right side of the page.

I regret not taking more photos even though it seems we have thousands. Most of them are of the wedding and reception or of our site seeing trips, not just of normal everyday life around the city. Actually, I felt a little strange taking photos of people that I didn't know, not knowing for sure if they would appreciate it. It took me some time to work up the nerve to walk up and ask people if I could take their picture even though they always said yes. Doing it that way though, lost a lot of the candidness so most of the photos turned out to be posed and unnatural. Oh well.

Shortly before the trip Ruth bought a camera with a really powerful zoom just for the purpose of being able to take pictures from a distance and not be intrusive. My camera isn't that great.

I have other photos that I took from inside a (moving) car which are not too great but I will post some of them sometime. I wanted to show my friends and family what it's like in the streets and the huge variety of "traffic". It was constantly frustrating though, that when we saw something or someone we wanted to photograph, the moment was past even before we had our cameras out and ready to go.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


This morning I got ready to go to the gym while Esther got ready to go to school. She needed to leave a few minutes before I did. I heard her shout, "Bye, Mom, see you later..." then I heard the door shut. A few seconds later, she's back....."You're not going to believe this mom, but there's snow and ice out there... You better start getting the van warmed up." I said..."oh yuck".... and then, "be careful!" (she drives herself to school).

Shortly after she left I went out to sweep the snow off and turn the heat on inside the van to hopefully defrost the rest so I wouldn't have to scrape it. (It was while I was doing that that I decided to snap a couple pictures to send your way.)

Before I finished I heard the phone ring and rushed inside to answer it. It was Esther..."Mom, the roads are horrible! I can't believe they are having school today, I saw 5 cars off the road on the way to school..... and almost went off the road myself!"... I asked her..."are you there yet? Are you driving right now?" (hoping she wasn't talking on the phone and driving at the same time). "Yeah, I'm almost there....I'm in the parking lot."

I told her to get off the phone until the car was parked. How can smart kids be so stupid? She called back to say she'd arrived safely with no mishaps and I thanked her for letting me know.

I went back outside to finish de-icing my van and heard sirens (ambulances?) in the distance. I decided that my visit to the gym can wait until later this afternoon or maybe even until tomorrow. It's supposed to warm up into the 50's today and stay that way for a few days so that will melt this stuff off quickly, but for now, I'll just stay out of it.

I do NOT like snow...or especially ice...

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Jet Lag?

I thought I'd escaped the dreaded "jet lag" but I guess not. What other reason would I be falling asleep all day (or walking around like a zombie) and waking up every hour all night, unable to get back to sleep? I must still be on India time.

All my good intentions of writing more about the trip and posting more photos have temporarily gone down the drain. Only temporarily though. I usually can't stop myself from writing, but right now I can't hardly make myself.

Getting myself back to the gym (which I started again as of yesterday) has got to be a good first step to getting my routine back. So, that is where I'm off to right now...

Meanwhile memories of our trip (and of all of you) are always with me.

Love, Debra

Saturday, January 07, 2006

At Home in Fulton

I’m HOME…. All the way home in good ol’ Fulton, Missouri.

I got home a couple days ago in the evening but haven’t gotten online until just this morning. I spent yesterday doing laundry and beginning the process of sorting out and putting away all the things in my suitcases… also sorting (postal) mail (but not reading all of it, just weeding out the junk)….also catching up on my TV watching! Oh…and I did a good share of napping.

Today I need to empty the trash cans of all the junk mail (which I sorted yesterday) and finish putting away all the little items that unfortunately are still sitting around on the breakfast bar in my kitchen. I also still have a good deal of TV to catch up on, haha… and probably some more napping too!

Soon, I will take time to get a diet and exercise plan together. Jay (my husband) wants to join me in my quest to fit back into clothes from months ago before I gave up on diet and exercise this past summer. Wearing a bathing suit on our little trip to the Kerala coast was less than exciting for me, as I try to avoid doing that even when I am 20 pounds lighter, but this time it was not fun at all!

It’s cold here (32 F which is about 0 to you guys, right?) but there is no snow, which is fine by me. I had planned to appear at Beks, my daughter’s restaurant, wearing one of my new salwars, but it was way too cold to even think of going outside in such light clothing. Actually, I ended up not going anywhere….I just hid under the covers of my nice warm bed dreaming of the warm weather I’d left behind.

Last night I had a funny dream. I was dreaming that I was on some sort of web-camera which was recording my trip. I was hoping it was shutting off at times and not filming me while I was sleeping, as I was not looking my best…. I assured myself that surely I’d be able to edit it before it went online though. Haha… not a restful sleep trying to look good for the camera all night!

I am gradually collecting email addresses for all of my new family and friends in India so if I don’t have yours, please ask Prasanna, Jayanthi, Ashwini, or Jayashree to send it to me. (I don’t want to post my own openly on the blog because of spammers).

Love to all of you!


Thursday, January 05, 2006

Travel Blog Links

I have posted links to both Ruth's blog and my own Travel Blog. You can find them to the right side of the page under the profile. Both of them have photos of our trip as well as of the wedding and reception.

When you read mine, keep in mind that I have never left the North American continent before so much of what I was seeing and experiencing was very new and different for me. I am afraid I may have sounded a little ignorant at times, but really it was just inexperience. At any rate you will be able to see things as I did from a very outside of it all point of view.

I had a pretty hard time understanding most people when I first arrived, but by the time I left, it was much easier and I didn't have to work so hard at it. I got a little better at pronouncing names and words but I still have a long way to go on that. The hardest part of learning names and words has nothing to do with India, it's dealing with my horrible memory!

My blog is full of mis-spelled words, part of which is because I had no clue how to spell them and part of which is that I'm not even a great speller in English. Some of the mis-spellings are because I wasn't even sure of what the word (or name) was that I was trying to spell! Things I described were sometimes just as bad because I had no idea what some things were called... sorry about that. You may be able to get a few good laughs out of it if nothing else.

I'll be putting a little more on the travel blog, but anything not related to the actual trip, I'll be posting here. I hope you enjoy it.

Love, Debra

Frankfurt...Where Did the Color Go???

When we arrived at the Frankfurt airport I immediately noticed the lack of color. It was almost a black and white world. Where were all the colors that I'd gotten used to seeing during the past few weeks on the streets and in the homes of India? Suddenly I found myself surrounded with blue jeans and mostly "black"... Black shirts, black jackets, black pants and skirts... Black seemed to be the dominate color. Suddenly I missed all those Indian ladies in their brightly colored saris.

In another way it was somewhat comforting to see most people in clothing that is more familiar to me than it had been in India. Funny though, how I was in the small minority, wearing one of my new salvars.

I just never noticed the lack of color in my native attire before....or maybe it's missing more in Frankfurt than in Fulton, Missouri?