Monday, December 28, 2009

The All Academies Holiday Banquet

This is Me and My Favorite Cadet!

Clayton and Jeff Joking with Santa Mugs from My Growing Collection (50 So Far)

Clayton and His Beautiful Date

Clayton and Meagan Parade Down the Capital Hotel Steps.

Last night was the annual All Academies Banquet which is an event where all the cadets and midshipmen from across Arkansas come together for a beautiful holiday party. The cadets and midshipmen are gracious to indulge their parents by putting on the one thing they don't want to wear while on leave...the uniform. But, they do it for their parents, and it is a very lovely time to celebrate their accomplishments!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Electric Socks

My morning was beginning favorite kind of beginning. The weather outside was cold and rainy. The coffee was good. Mac the Labradoodle was working on the a.m. nap quite aggressively, complete with snoring. She and I both knew it was an "inside" kind of day at Hillcrest Cottage.

A quick email check and I was "fixin'" to begin making chicken and dumplings. After that, it was on to pimento cheese and brownies for Davis' school bake sale. A very organized day...on track...until....

Glancing through the West Point Parents' online forum, there were, understandably, lots of posts regarding the Army-Navy game on Saturday. Tips on how to navigate traffic, how to connect with your cadet, weather reports (whoah....gonna be cold), and tales of the cold Army-Navy games past. More tips on how to dress, keep warm, layering...and...

electric socks.

Electric socks. Battery-operated electric socks. All at once my mind could think of nothing else but my cadet's poor frozen feet. Electric socks. Nothing would do but my cadet have the electric socks.

Chicken and dumpling pot was put aside. The pimento cheese never was made. The brownies had to wait until that night. I ran to throw on a pair of jeans. I was soon out the door to purchase the electric socks and to make it to the post office in order for the package to be over- nighted to West Point.

Options. He must have options. What if security won't let him use the electric socks? So, I bought air-activated toe warmers, insole warmers, 10-pack hand warmers (he has friends), and even an air-activated t-shirt body warmer. And, of course, the electric socks..with extra batteries.How was all this going to fit in his pockets? I didn't care. The more I thought of him in 20 degree temps for 9 hours, the more frozen he became.

I raced to the post office, chopped off my arm to pay for the overnight postage (yikes!) and returned home at 1:30 to "begin" my day.

My cadet had no idea how urgently had been my mission, that I had altered my whole day's plans, ventured into the very cold and rainy day to spend money I didn't need to spend...all because...

the concern for a child is the most powerful force on earth.

I could not help but think of this:
Just as a father has compassion on his children, so does the Lord have compassion on those who fear Him.

God, I'm asking You for some pretty big stuff right now, and I know you know how to give good gifts to Your children. I am thinking that...

The electric socks are in the mail...

even before I ask...

before I even feel the need to ask.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Hillcrest Cottage's Changing Seasons

Fall is a true celebration in Arkansas...a welcome change from our very hot summers.

Snow in Arkansas is a rare treat...always a holiday for all...complete with Rotel Dip!

Black-Eyed Susans are strong enough to survive our Arkansas summers with minimal care.

The Seasons are Changing
(Originally Written Fall 2006)

Life is fluid like a mountain stream. We desperately try to make it more like the river stones over which the water flows - smooth and stable, but our attempts are feeble.

Life continues... unstoppable.

The seasons change...

and I feel the change coming now.

It's now cool in the mornings, cool enough for a sweatshirt. I see some yellow leaves popping up on a nearby tree. My summer zinnias are looking weary of blooming.

A change is coming.

My dad is walking quite a bit slower these days. My youngest son is dreaming of the deep voice we expect will arrive any week now. My oldest has his eyes set toward college, and he spent last weekend out-of-town hunting with a buddy - no adults.


What a far place from watching him ride away on his training wheeled bike - out of my reach where if he fell I wouldn't be able to catch him. I remember being afraid that day because I could see him, but I couldn't touch him. Kinda like a mama bird watching from a distance as her baby bird flies. I know training wheels aren't like flying, but it seemed so extreme and risky at the time. Would he remember to look for cars as he had been taught?

The season is changing.

In a blink there will be one, maybe two less plates at the Thanksgiving table. Just a few turns of the calendar pages and my hunter won't be leaving his stinky socks in the bathroom, in the hallway, on his bedroom floor.

Life is flowing swiftly.

Time truly waits for no man.

Today I won't be who I was yesterday. Every glance in the morning mirror reflects a wrinkle that wasn't quite there the day before.

The season is changing...

and, like a mountain stream, the season's change can not be stopped.

(Added January 2009)
P.S. Thanksgiving 2008, in fact, did bring two empty plates to the family table. One, was my Cadet's and the other my dad's. My dad suffered a stroke September 2008 and died from complications December 12,2008.

The season has changed.

Carpe Diem.

(Added November 2009)
P.P.S. Here I am 3 years later, once again, observing life's changing rhythms. Piles of leaves, fire pit and chiminea, football play-offs, thanksgiving break. Two in college, a 16 year old with wheels and a new-found interest in females.
I'm looking forward to my middle son's visit from college... the laziness of firepit evenings... the great conversations that emerge when our family takes the time to do nothing...together.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Davis got his Jeep a little bit muddy and...

He couldn't have been more proud!

I learned early in my Momhood that boys rarely play with their toys the way in which they were designed. When my boys were small, I would often find toys broken...split open...because a boy had been more curious about what was on the inside than what his toy looked like on the outside.

Later on, I learned that boys don't jump on trampolines...they wrestle on them. I am learning that boys don't like clean Jeeps...they like them muddy.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Fall Weekend in Upstate New York

Hello...West Point!

Just a collection of photos from this past weekend. I tagged along with Jeff as he was the speaker for the West Point OCF Fall Retreat. Happily, my favorite Cadet was one of the awesome people with whom we got to spend time. I am very glad I went. It was an experience I will never forget. There were some divine appointments for me, and I learned a lot.

Better yet...Hello, Clayton!!!

Clayton and Jeff at the Camp with fall color in the background...great for Clayton just to ditch the uniform and be in his favorite jeans, coat, and beanie.

Camp Pinnacle near Albany was established in the late 1800's and is still going strong. We spent a good amount of time with the Cadets. I listened to Cadets from Alaska, California, and Miami. I learned that it is therapeutic for them to have someone listen to the stories they tell about their families and home... because they miss their families as much as their families miss them!

In our free time, Clayton, Jeff, and I hiked around the camp just talking, enjoying the trees, and, most importantly...just being together.

Spending time with Clayton was such a gift. Thanks, God!

Back at the "institution" as Clayton calls it and time to return to reality, for Clayton it was the history paper that awaited him, for us, the drive to Newark Airport and regular life at Hillcrest Cottage.

I was fine with the 'good-bye' thing until he said, "Bye, Mama...see you at Christmas." Then, I had to hold back the tears because
Christmas seems like such a long time away....

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"You are My Reward"

A wise son makes a father glad,
But a foolish son is a grief to his mother.
Proverbs 10:1

Since our family switched to an unlimited texting plan, a whole new realm in my relationship with Stuart the College Freshman has emerged. He texts things like: "I love you" without me having to first say it. He fills me in on life's details, and, any mother of a son knows moms of sons are never privy to any details.

I have to also say that texting has revolutionized my shopping- with- sons experience. Last night Stuart and I spent 30 minutes shopping via texting and internet browsing. We were looking for a winter coat... the one he "didn't need" but I was patiently keeping my mouth shut and waiting until Fayetteville's mountain chill and walking to class would be his teacher. He still doesn't need gloves, muffler, or hat...I'll also wait for an Ozark Mountain arctic blast to whisper that in his frozen ear. We were able to breeze through five different stores in a short amount of time. Even though he has yet to find a coat to which he is attracted, he did order a hoodie to carry him through until something better comes along. Success!

We were eating dinner Sunday night when a Stuart text appeared:
"I am studying a parenting section in guys did an awesome job."

What mom of an 18 year old wouldn't want to read a text like that! (Although, a part of me wonders what he was reading in his Psych book, we could be being compared to hatchet murdering parents...ha...who knows.)

On Clayton's 18th birthday, he also spent time telling person (this is the difference between Clayton and Stuart)... what a great job we had done being his parents.

There is no greater reward in this life than to hear two sons tell me these words.

I'm not at all saying that our family is perfect or that my kids will never make poor choices. I am more amazed by the results than anyone else. We worked very hard and diligently with our children in the early when the teenage years rolled in...and I have one still was/is a joy, not a grief, to experience.

I know he probably read the text sent back to him with a quizzical look on his face. Only a parent could understand the significance of seeing years of very difficult work coming to fruition. Sadly, many parents will never hear these words, so I receive them gratefully with humility.

My text back to Stuart:
"You are my reward...I love you so much."

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Never Quit

I have only quit one time in my life...

one time.

It was the first beautiful Saturday in the spring of my 8th grade existence. Our neighborhood, being blessed with way over 50 kids living on several small streets, was being its usual active self. The sun was shining and the temperature was mild. Lots of bike riding, roller skating, and kick ball was happening on Pleasant Place that afternoon.

A celebration after a winter of watching Gilligan's Island re-runs.

It was the kind of day when kids coming out of hibernation want to show off the strength and growth of the past season. Somehow, I found myself challenged to a foot race around the block with the very athletic-played-college-basketball boy next door who, btw, hated my girl guts for having beaten him previously the year before.

"It's because he wasn't wearing his Red Ball Jets!" his younger sister had angrily lamented last year after her brother's defeat.

I was the reigning Queen of Speed both of my neighborhood and grade school playground. FYI: There was only one boy who I could never dominate, and he later became the State Decathalon Champion. Ironically, he, too, lived on my block, but I knew better than to engage him in a race; our contests were strictly limited to verbal sparring.

If you understand the dynamics of neighborhood contests of this magnitude, then you will know that these spur-of-the-moment challenges were highly significant because they usually occured only annually, usually in the spring. It was definitely a King- of -the- Hill mentality with the winner holding the title for at least a year or until some kid experienced enough of a growth spurt to challenge the title holder.

I remember not being happy about the length of the course, for I was a sprinter of the much shorter variety (50 to 100 yards), but the neighborhood pressure was great and around the block didn't sound very long (It was the equivalent of slightly over 400 metres).

I remember sucking wind while making the first turn (about 1/2 way) and the momentum of running down the very steep Hall Drive hill carried me only a tiny bit further.

I remember the switch in my brain that said...

"I quit".

My 13 year- old body collapsed at the 3/4ths mark, and the boy-next-door cruised his way to victory with the entire neighborhood waiting at the finish line.

My days of challenging boys to athletic contests came crashing to an end. A girl can't expect to be faster than the most athletic boys in her city forever, so I don't lament my defeat. What I lament is that I quit and did not finish strong. I could have gotten up and pushed myself across the finishline, but...

I laid on the ground feeling humiliation and defeat for a very long time.

When I finally had the strength to make my way home, the crowd had long dispersed, going back to their bike riding and kick ball games.

I wish I had finished the race. I wish I had looked my opponent in the eyes and said, "Good race."

I wish I had not quit.

I have only quit one time in my time.

It will never happen again.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Football, Hummingbirds & Jeep

This postcard is a design I call "Football Mom". It is one of many items I will be selling at my upcoming Hillcrest Cottage Open House Art & Gift Show. Sadly, all three of my teams (Davis' LRCA Warriors, Arkansas Razorbacks, And Army) lost this weekend. It wasn't a happy football weekend.
This past week the hummingbirds packed their bags for Mexico and left my feeder half-full. Hummingbirds are like that...they just leave one day with no fair warning or good-byes. I will miss them greatly. Maybe that's what my hummingbird was trying to tell me recently when I found him buzzing around Jeff's study...inside my house.
And, finally, Thursday, the new Jeep top arrived. Been praying for this top for 3 years . No more having to wear a raincoat while driving in the rain! No more towels stuffed in the corners! No more wet seats! It was an exercise in perseverance waiting for this top...but it's here at last!

So... my week in three words: Football, Hummingbirds, and Jeep.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Football Football Football

Little Rock Christian Warrior #9 Prepared for Battle

Pre-Game Warm-Ups and #9 is Ready for Action...Awesome Calf Muscle!
More Pre-Game Warm-Ups...ESPN Voted Our #5 the Top Running Back Recruit!

The football stadium is where you'll find us on Friday nights. I love high school football. Some of my fondest high school memories include football and all the action surrounding the game. It's just soooo American. It's so the heart of who we are as a people.

I love it!

It is especially exciting when I get to see my son suit up. Even if he doesn't get playing time, it's still fun to watch him be a part of the action.

So, here's for the Warriors and high hopes for the game tonight. So far we are 2-0. And, if the rain holds off tonight and we are winning by a couple of touchdowns and the coach is in a good mood and the stars all align properly and God hears the prayers of a mom wanting her son to experience some success... maybe #9 will get in the game and catch a pass and score a touchdown and be proclaimed a hometown hero in a parade just for his honor and all the colleges will begin calling us for that full-football scholarship all parents hope for, etc, etc, etc.


maybe we'll just have a fun night enjoying the moments of having an awesome high school son still at home!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Other Things I Do

Just for the record... I have been AWOL from Hillcrest Cottage Life here on my blog, but present with my Hillcrest Cottage Art. I am putting together a gift sale at my house. Hopefully, I will have a house full of artists, fashion designers, photographers, and other craftspeople displaying their creations...and, hopefully, we will all come away with some cash for our efforts! the book that I have been working on for several years. It takes a long time to put together a proper book proposal, but, finally, I have accomplished this...even though it took me practically all summer to do so. Fingers crossed and lots of prayers for that project.

Let's see...the student ministry that we have every Wednesday night here at Hillcrest Cottage begins again tonight, and having my house 'invaded' by high school students always brings life to Hillcrest Cottage's brick and mortar! So...I should be vacuuming, cleaning, and baking chocolate chip cookies very soon.

Just wanted folks to know that I haven't been sitting down with my feet propped up eating bon bons and watching CSI reruns...being absent means working hard at the other 'parts' of me.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


The Little Black Volvo Returns to the University

Davis Celebrates His First Solo Drive to School

Before cell phones, (There was life before cell phones???) when I wore a watch, I always had the watch set for 5 minutes faster than the actual time. I suppose it was my vain attempt to not measure time, but control it. I could always be 5 minutes late...yet still on time.

All of creation is set up to measure time - the sun and moon, the tides, women's bodies, seasons. All of creation responds to the prompts. Birds fly north and south. Animals give birth in season. Very soon my jousting hummingbirds will no longer squeak at my veranda's end.

All measures of time.

This morning my newly crowned 16 year old backed out of Hillcrest Cottage's driveway in the manual transmission Jeep he 'stole' from Dad. He was so proud to be finally emancipated...cleared to drive solo. He had done what no other Kinley brother had been willing to do - learn how to manage a manual transmission in our very hilly town.

Yesterday, on his Labor day 'holiday', Davis had spent 3 hours at football practice, mowed and weed-eated our entire property, then, had meticulously washed the Jeep. All this work doesn't even include the half day he had earlier spent vacuuming, spot cleaning the carpet, and discovering at least 4 ant colonies thriving beneath the Jeep's carpet.

Let's just say Dad hadn't paid much attention to the asthetics of his Jeep. "It's a Jeep" had been his standard mantra for 10 years.

Soon a new top will be arriving. Davis has 'plans' to lift the Jeep, put on huge wheels, a light kit, new speakers, and the list goes on. ( most of that...btw, but don't tell him I said that.). He has even more plans to take the car mudding and has already permanently moved the radio station from NPR to the local country station.

"Mom, we live in Arkansas. We have to be rednecks," he now informs me with a wide grin on his face.

This morning I listened to the Jeep's familiar rattle as it drove down Lee Avenue away from Hillcrest Cottage and...

I cried.

It was only yesterday when the little black Volvo had returned to the University. All this change is overwhelming. Suddenly, I find myself looking in the mirror.

Hmmmmm. It's you...again. It's been about 20 years since I have paid you any attention.

All the whirlwind of activity is winding down like my great grandmother's mantle clock...which could never keep proper time but kept on being passed down to someone anyway.

I'm left looking at soon to not be 'the mom' me. These boys of mine are phasing me out. I'm an intuitive 'bird', and I'm reading the seasons. The time has come for me to ask and to answer...
who am I?

Do you ever wonder who you are ...beyond all the labels that life gives you?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Too Much Fun for the First Night of College

We took Stuart to college on Tuesday. When we left him, his room was filled with so much love, friendship, familiarity, and laughter that I couldn't be sad. Later Tuesday night, he sent us this pic from his I-Phone.

Going to college is supposed to be lonely and scary at first. The college freshman is supposed to sit on his quiet bunk missing all the thing he left behind.

For my middle son who chose Prom Not to Be, God was so faithful to go before him and make his way to college very smooth. I'm not saying there won't be plenty of adjustments ahead, I'm just rejoicing in what's happening now.

The food report so far is: Great!
My first son said the same thing... could be a commentary on Mom's cooking.

The people report so far: Everyone is so friendly here!
He ate dinner with the javelin thrower for the track team and said he was cool.

Oh...and...he texted last night...

(BTW, "texting' was invented specifically for me and Stuart. Since we finally got unlimited texting, we have the best conversations, and I get "I love you" a lot!) tell me that he would be eating his words regarding a piece of furniture I had unsuccessfully tried to sell him on putting in his dorm room.

My reply was, "Stuart, you have been at college less than a week, and you have learned so much already!"

One small victory for Mom... but he has still not requested the medical mask...oh, well.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Week of Change

My West Point Cadet's 24 day leave was over, and he flew back to New York not to return home until Christmas. When his plane landed, we received this text:

Arrived safely in New York stop. On my way back to prison stop.

Jeff replied to him:

Enjoy your transition to the number one prison in the free world. Let us know when you get back to the Grey Rock.

It was a great time of family togetherness. Most days were spent trying to grab ten minutes here and there with my very active son. It was good to have his smelly socks and to hear his laugh.

Jeff and Davis took Pepper the Blind Cocker Spaniel on her final drive to the vet. I'm still thinking she will walk out onto the porch this beautiful summer morning, or I think she must be quietly napping under my chair right now.

Pepper, you were the sweetest, most loyal and faithful dog I have ever had. I have happy memories of your younger bird chasing days and your bouncy trot.

This has been the summer of driving lessons as I have been the "appointed one" to instruct our 15 year old in driving the Expedition plus the standard shift Jeep...which he is plotting to take over soon. On Monday, I was stressed and cussed out loud when we had a near collision. But, on Tuesday we experienced victory when he PASSSED his road test!!!!

I turned 50...enough said.

Five more days, five more nights and Stuart leaves for college. It's overwhelmingly sad for me.This day was filled with final shopping for him. A coffeepot and shampoo, and I'm done.

Stuart said while surveying my very neat, organized piles, "Mom, no," and began pulling items out of my piles. "You have done it again. Too much stuff. I wouldn't use this many logenzes in four years!"

"They were deeply discounted," I replied sheepishly.

Maybe I should not have put the medical mask (in case of swine flu outbreak) in there.

"I'm a detail-person, Stuart...and the thought of you being hungry in your dorm room without snacks makes me sad."

"Save a lot of this stuff at home for me. I may use it next semester," he sweetly conceded as he continued to pull out more carefully purchased items.

But his pile was growing....

So, it's the end of a crazy week at Hillcrest Cottage. My outlook is hopeful, and I am wondering what cool things life will offer in the road up ahead.

And...there's still Saturday to come.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Blogger on Vacation

Dear Friends,

My Clayton is home for one more week (out of three) so I'm on vacation from Blogville. Even though he is constantly on the move, I want to be available to catch him whenever I can!

Don't want to miss sitting across from him at the kitchen counter while he grabs a bite or any other such 'boring' event. Every minute is precious when I may not see him again for 4 more months!!!

Be back soon. Continnue to have an awesome summer!

Bev at Hillcrest Cottage

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sunday Morning at Hillcrest Cottage

It's a very-unusual-for-an-Arkansas-July 72 degrees this morning. Nearby Sunday bells are calling churchgoers inside. The breeze is refreshing. The neighborhood is quiet. Occasionally, a hummingbird will zip past or the tiny red house wren will shyly drink from my birdbath. Mac the Labradoodle naps contentedly on the cool porch floor.

It's another Sunday in Hillcrest. I enjoy hearing the happy, small children squeals which float down Holly Street toward my porch. On a mornings like this, seems like everyone's drinking coffee on their porches, too. Sometimes a neighbor might lazily play their guitar.

Lots of joggers and walkers and all types of dogs have passed in front of my garden's brown picket fence. On this cool morning it was good to cut away the dead branches from my Black-Eyed Susans and Purple Coneflowers.

The day is young, and hope is high. Hope that I will accomplish something significant, love someone well, laugh at a funny story, speak a kind word, have discipline in what I eat, and be a healthy branch attached to the vine.

As I cleaned away the dead flowers in my own garden, I was encouraged to stay connected so I, too, can bloom. It is a beautiful Sunday morning at Hillcrest Cottage, and these words whispered to me:

I am the vine, you are the branches: he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

About Almost Being 50 and Stuff

I love pink and green and bunnies and secret garden places and old photographs and thinking about simple pleasures like family, updating my 1923 cottage house, and hammocks placed under shady oak trees. I love 76 degree temps when the sun is shining and naps at night on my porch when the crickets are out. I love when a new bird stops by my bird bath or when a flower pops up in an unexpected place or when I see a hummingbird up close.

I love telling new friends the story of how I met my husband when we were only 19 and were beach bums for a summer and about all the phone bills that followed.

I love when my 18 year old sends me a text saying, “ I love you, Mom.” (I can’t frame that message, but I can remember it.); equally love when my 15 year old hugs me and says, “I’m sorry I was so grumpy earlier today.” I love when my faraway son’s picture lights up on my phone, and he is calling...
just to talk.

I love that lots of my friends are nearly half of half my age kinda like the hoodie Jeff got yesterday for 75% off.

I love a new haircut and a t-shirt that fits well and doesn’t make me look fat. I love the sound of flip flops. I love it when my grass is weed-free, thick, and green. I love it that my front fence is finally finished, so Mac the Labradoodle can no longer escape to bark and scare the walkers strolling past on the sidewalk.

I love when I can sit on my front porch...

hearing only the soft sound of the fan jiggle...

as it slowly stirs the warm air.

I love to take a hot bath at day’s end, and I almost always thank God for running water because of one cold afternoon in Hawaii when I got soaked from an unexpected rain storm and returned too late to the retreat center where everyone else had used up all the hot water. I had to take the coldest shower... ever... and I have never forgotten that feeling even though I was 20, and it was over 30 years ago.

I love it that when I had lunch with a high school friend who I haven’t seen for 20 years, time seemed to have never left 1977 and there was no hint of awkwardness, even though I had to ask the names of her children and have no idea what color her kitchen walls are.

I love long bike rides on overcast summer days when there are no hills, and the sun is almost setting.

I love anything chocolate but can say “no” to most everything else.

Some of my most favorite moments are spent on porches, and I wish mine was ten times bigger than it is now.

I love to daydream, plan, and create. I love it when I give someone a really good idea, and they do it, and it is successful, and I don’t care much about getting the credit or recognition...
although an occasional “thanks” is appreciated.

I enjoy getting into a very hot car after being inside where the air conditioning is too cold. I also still like to bury my face in towels fresh out of the dryer.

My favorite smells are honeysuckle and cape jasmine.

Did I say I love bright pink, bright green, bright clear red?

I think orange goes with hot pink because it reminds me of a striped shirt I picked out in 5th grade. I can still remember my grandmother saying that pink and orange don’t go together, but I liked the shirt, and she let me have it anyway.

Thanks, Maw Maw because I think of you every time I see orange and pink together.

When I was in high school I had wanted to be a wrapping paper designer, and I am wondering what that career choice says about me.

Yesterday I flew a kite, and I am glad I did it.

I love the smell of puppy breath and the feeling of the little sharp teeth when they bite my fingers.

I love little boys and the very long stories they tell. I love holding a new baby and forgetting how little babies can be. Then, I look at my grown guys and wonder how they got so big.

I’m almost always sad at the end of each day because I don’t want it to end, but I’m usually so tired I know it must.

I love it when I am home alone...which is rarely...and I can play whatever music makes me happy endlessly... over and over... without anyone commenting or complaining.
When I am in my art studio doing something creative, I love it when my heart beats faster, and I think... just for a few moments... that I might have stumbled upon the idea that will make me a million dollars.

I’m glad that I adopted Mac the Labradoodle, and I know it makes people ‘sick’ to see how much we love her, but I don’t care. I let her lick me in the face. I love to put my nose to hers and whisper to her about how much she is loved. I know she understands what I am saying.

I love that I still live in the town where I was born. Sometimes I will walk through my neighborhood just to be amazed at the beauty of the trees, the gardens, and the architecture. The familiarity never bores me, instead makes me feel like I truly belong somewhere special in this great, huge world. I like big cities like NYC and London only for a few days because crowded places make me feel small...

and insignificant...
and who wants to feel that way?

My mom has a contagious laugh. I love to tell her stories about my boys. When she laughs, I do, too.

I can’t control that I am almost 50...but not quite yet...and I am determined to act my age, grow old gracefully without botox... but to never act old.
I look into the mirror these days only when necessary. Not very often, but sometimes, I think, Hey, you don’t look so bad today. I can’t control the effects of time, but I can make my dental visits a constant priority and I don’t have to be fat, so I’m working on that.

I’m turning 50 soon. I still dream a lot about the future. One day my book will become a reality. I’ve given up on the wrapping paper design company, but, not quite,

on raising chickens.

One day I’m going to be organized enough to plant a vegetable garden on time. I am going to faithfully visit the farmers market every Saturday. I will take a cycling trip through France...

probably after my house gets a new roof and windows that open.

And...I still want a tree house.

I’m never going to like brussel sprouts or drink beer or give up eating M & Ms.

I am never going to jump out of an airplane or go white water rafting, or learn how to knit.

My mom told me that I would learn how to play bridge in college, but it didn’t happen. I hope I will keep up with technology, but I still don’t want an I-Phone...

even if everybody else does.

And, lastly, I am still planning to buy that 3-wheeled cycle with a large basket. I dream of a day when someone can have my car keys because...
I'm tired of driving anyway.

But I wouldn't mind a convertible in a funky color.

So...what I think I am saying is that I am almost 50...but not quite yet... I think I am ready...

Bring it.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

R-Day Eve

Our West Point Bound Son at His Going Away Party
One Year Later at Cadet Field Training

Today is R-Day Eve for the West Point New Cadets Class 2013, and many emotions are flooding my mind. It's been a full year since the family delivered our New Cadet to the land of all things gray, and the adrenaline of that 24 hours has become a part of our family history.

An entire auditorium of people gave my son a standing 'O' as he received the certificate stating he had received a West Point appointment. There were several going away parties with cakes, speeches , tributes, toasts, and flag waving. He was a regular hometown hero...
but all that would quickly change.

On R-Day, my son morphed from Hometown Hero to New Cadet and it is was made crystal-clear that New Cadet is the lowest form of life in the strange new world he had entered.

It was a tearful, emotional good-bye, as delivering any child to college would be..
multiplied by a thousand.

And we morphed quickly as well. We changed from tearful parents to...
New Cadet stalkers.

They (the New Cadets) were everywhere, being herded in small groups from one station to the next. We planted ourselves at a strategic crossroad and, with binoculars and video camera in hand...
the stalking began.

Our New Cadet loaded with gear and sporting his new BCGs (BCG = Birth Control Glasses) was
herded by our vantage point into the barber shop and out again. The transformation was...

Mom's voice can be heard on the family video saying,
Moms everywhere could be seen crying...
especially after seeing the haircuts and glasses.

Soon we were lined along the street waiting for a glimpse of our New Cadet at the R-Day Parade and Oath Ceremony.
Dad spotted him as he was marching away and was so overcome with pride that he gave a "Go, Kinley!" shout-out.
I saw Clayton's trademark 'smirk' as he continued to stare straight ahead. It was the last time I would see him for a long time, and I lived off that smirk for the rest of the summer.

Next, they herded the Class of 2012 into the Mess Hall. The doors were closed with a ceremonial bang....
West Point's way of saying, "Show's over folks. Nothing more to see. They are 'our' New Cadets now."

The summer was full of silence. I wrote him every day, but received little back. Only the fill-in-the blank letters I had composed were returned. Meanwhile, he spent the summer chewing 5 times a bite, doing push-ups for every conceivable offense, and trying to be as invisible as possible. We lived for the three 10 minute phone calls.
And, in the end, purchased two plane tickets to New York in August for his Acceptance Day weekend to witness firsthand his upgrade from New Cadet to Cadet and Plebe.

Once he got settled into the barracks with his own landline, and we could talk to him, a lot of the anxiety began to fade. He didn't fly home for Thanksgiving, so Christmas leave was a joyous homecoming full of friends and non-stop activity.

We flew up again in March for Plebe Parent Weekend, he spent Spring Leave in Colorado skiing with a friend, we prayed all spring for him to pass Calculus, and, the next time we see him...
Dad is pinning his Airborne Wings on his uniform!

This has been a year full of growth both for our Cadet and for us as parents letting go of our first child. He has grown from a boy to a man, independent from us and thriving in an incredible environment.

Tomorrow when a thousand families will be living their R-Day, my Cadet will be shooting from tanks at Fort Knox, Kentucky. He has already had a summer full of jumping out of airplanes, being in the field for days at a time, blowing open buildings, shooting all kinds of guns, and
preparing to be an Army Officer.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Family Vacation

These are some crazy times for Hillcrest Cottage. We seem to be flying past new mileposts every day at an alarmingly fast pace. Two weeks ago, on a single day I had one son jumping out of airplanes, another was driving the little black Volvo solo on a six hour road trip, and the last seems to grow an inch daily.

Airborne School
Last week we were road tripping toward Georgia to attend Clayton's Airborne School Graduation. Airborne was a three week opportunity for Clayton to experience military life with the regular enlisted 'Joes' outside the West Point bubble. We were able to add him to the Expedition and head north toward Atlanta. The Varsity was our initial destination... a Kinley family tradition which Clayton enjoyed immensely.

Uncle Danny's Farm
We were able to spend Clayton's 5 day leave on Uncle Danny's farm. There was a lot of good food cooked by Granny Kinley (Granny's deluxe family meal includes macaroni and cheese cooked in a crock pot, the saltiest green beans on the planet, creamed corn that melts in your mouth, sweet tea that keeps you up all night because you drink too much, and banana pudding which is the recipe straight off the Nilla Wafers box, but doesn't taste the same if it's made by anyone other than her. Once they took that recipe off the Nilla Wafer box. Granny promptly wrote them a letter of complaint. The recipe soon appeared back... and to this day she claims it was because of her!)

Good Times on the Veranda
There was also lots of cigar smokin' under the veranda... an awesome spot with a cool concrete floor, fans blowing, an outdoor fireplace for chilly nights (just not this trip), a huge dining table for family gatherings and a kitchen. Uncle Danny's farm is our boys' favorite destination. It was Mac the Labradoodle's first vacation, and she had a fun time running around with no restrictions.

A New Hat
Clayton was able to shoot his new rifle, which we had brought with us. He picked out an awesome new 'Clayton' hat at the Mast Country Store in Greenville.
We told stories, reflected on the past year, and laughed... a lot.
It was a great five day vacation for Clayton and an unexpected surprise for our family to have been able to take him to South Carolina. Last year when the family gave Clayton his farewell party, we didn't know when he would be able to be back...if ever.
We will never be able to predict where his military travels will take him.

Three Brothers Together
One of my favorite parts of this family time was seeing all three guys in Danny's attic bedroom on blow-up mattresses laughing, talking, and just being brothers

The Varsity is one of our favorite family road trip traditions, what's yours?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Road Trip!

Mac the Labradoodle and family left Hillcrest Cottage on a road trip to Georgia and South Carolina. In Georgia we saw Clayton graduate from Airborne School.

A very proud moment for all.

Soon the whole family, Mac included, was packed into the Expedition heading toward South Carolina for a visit with extended family and much needed R and R for Clayton.
These are some of the Kinley guys. The MIAs are a brother, two nephews, and two great nephews. There are relatives of the female persuasion, too, but I think it is fun to see pictures of all the guys together.

Grandad comes from a family that included 9 boys...

so guys are kinda a family tradition.

Here is Clayton in a rare 'silly' pose while enjoying some cigar time with the guys. I think he thought,

If I give Mom some good pictures, maybe she will quit with the camera...

but that was not to be.

Not when the whole family has not been together since Christmas.

The trek back to West Point begins at 5:30 a.m. (5:30 comes twice a day?) tomorrow when we point the Expedition toward Atlanta. Clayton will fly back to New York, and we will drive home to Hillcrest Cottage.

We will anticipate seeing Clayton again mid-July for his 23 day leave.

Here's to a really great day!!!

What's the last bittersweet time you had that you wished you could hold onto longer?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009



What a great pic, even though he had already taken off his robe...

(Me, Mom, Bev) I am in the picture!!!

Refer to 'Film' to understand the significance of this momentous occasion...


and graduation was great,too.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

On A Day Like Today

On a day like today I can't imagine having more than 3 children, husband, Mac the Labradoodle, and a blind cocker spaniel who follows irritatingly behind every step I take.

This morning I added 'travel agent' to my long and continually growing job description. The entire morning had been spent making several plane and bus travel arrangements for my West Point cadet's summer schedule.

Turns out his new debit card was declined, so that added a few steps to the process including wondering why it had been declined and juggling money from one bank account to another.

We just got unlimited texting so my usually short-and-to-the-point boys have all become quite chatty...I love it...usually. But, on a day like today when I haven't washed my hair in 3 days...not so much.

"Mom..." texted son who was at a final exam study session at school ,which is 20 minutes away, "Can you come to pick me up now?'

I knew that if I hurried, I would be able to squeeze in a hair washing before having to rush out the door to pick up studying son.

Slightly detouring, I stopped by the bank...where everyone knows my name...not because I have a lot of money, just because they are resolve the debit card issue.
Turns out West Point guy had forgotten to activate his new card.

"I'm pretty sure it is working now, but we can't have our West Point boy traveling without his debit card. Have him buy a candy bar or something to see if that new card is working right."

"Mom," calls my son from after graduation practice, "if I buy lunch at Wendy's, will you pay me back?"

"Bev, what is your social security number?" calls husband.

So, I get to the school and retrieve final exam study boy plus neighbor girl. I'm wondering how many days it has been since I have eaten lunch before 3:00.

"Mom," says West Point guy, "I need to know my PIN number."

"I'll call you with the number when I get home."

"Mom," an urgent-sounding graduation practice son begins,"I just pulled onto a road that is bumper- to- bumper traffic, and I am almost out of gas. I'm exiting now, come quickly with a gas can!"

I think I will refer this call to Dad who, hopefully by now, will have finished with his appointment and might be driving in graduation practice boy's vicinity. "I'll handle it," husband assures me.

I'm dialing West Point guy to give him the PIN when I am interrupted by "Is 6:45 good for dinner ," the person with whom we are to meet tonight calls to ask.

"Mom," says West Point guy, "I bought a stamp, and the card worked fine." (A stamp? My cheapskate son bought a stamp with his debit card...not a candy bar...a stamp.)

On a day like today...

Monday, May 18, 2009

Thankful Days

A Good Day to be Thankful
Morning on the Porch

Clayton Baby Pic

Today is the best weather Arkansas has to offer. Knowing how brutal the summers can be around here, we know when it's essential to capture the fleeting moments...and today is one.

Fresh Air
I will throw open the doors (because Hillcrest Cottage's 86 year old windows are mostly painted shut) and I'll not be concerned about the flies that may enter. I'll let the outside come in, and I will take the inside out.

Porch Time
I have a very long extension cord for my laptop, so I am on my porch listening to the birds celebrate the day.
Dining today will most definitely be alfresco.

Mac Knows
Mac the Labradoodle knows what an awesome day it is. Her snoot is held high taking in all the smells of spring.

Clayton's Birthday
Another reason to celebrate is that my Clayton turns 20 today. When I held this child for the first time, I could never have predicted where he would be today.
Sadly, this is first of many birthdays he will spend away from home. We will see him in June and have already made plans to celebrate then.
This son of mine would not allow any cake or food to celebrate..."Mom, it can get crazy, people come in and leave crumbs all over the floor" (Hello, Me).

Graduation Week at West Point
For now, he is safe and secure behind the gray stone walls of West Point getting up at 4 a.m. to begin "Graduation Week". It's a week full of ceremony, parades, and, on Saturday, hats tossed in the air. (West Point began the tradition of tossing hats after the graduation ceremony. The cadets write notes inside their hats and attach money. Children run onto the field gathering them afterward.)

May 18, 1989
The morning of May 18, 1989 was a very different setting. I was a very different person, certainly not the 'mom-type'. People used to laugh at the thought of me holding a baby.

Child birth class was an interesting experience as I remember filling out a form which on the top read: Mother's Name.
Turning to my husband I said, "Why do they want my mother's name?"

Oh...I'm the mother now.

Loooooong Labor
My first labor pain began in a YWCA board meeting; others followed which kept me up through the night and continued into the next day. I was told in the class that, with my first, I could stay home as long as I could endure the pain.
I wonder if they knew how tough I was?
Twenty four hours later, we decided to check into the hospital. Proud to say he was delivered drug-free...not something I recommend, just something I had wanted to accomplish.

Meet Clayton
A large crowd gathered that evening and 30 hours later at 9:00 p.m. Jeffery Clayton Kinley appeared.

I laugh because we have waited on Clayton ever since.
It's the one quality I am hoping the military will change in him.

My Reward
Twenty years later, I am amazed at the quality of my son... the man. He is so much more than I had ever expected him to be...and we have always dreamed big for this guy we called 'Special Boy' throughout his childhood.
It is so amazing to reap the 'harvest' of many years of plowin', plantin', and waterin'. A child like Clayton is a true reward.

Clayton...if you read this...I love you, buddy. Happy 20th birthday!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Thankless Days

On a thankless day like today I would like to run away to a mountaintop cabin, raise hogs and chickens, milk my own cow, grow my own veggies, and sit for many hours on a porch overlooking the peaceful valley below.

Mac the Labradoodle would nap quietly at my feet.

The sound of wind blowing through the leaves and the cawing of crows would fill my ears.

I would ride into civilization only for coffee beans, dental floss, art supplies, M&Ms, and regularly scheduled dental visits.

I would forget about changing the world or being involved in any one's life but my own.

On thankless days, I wonder why I have to care about anyone beyond myself. I wonder why I have to shoulder all the stupid problems and tangled messes that everyone else creates for themselves. Why do I have to listen...

and even more...

why do I have to care?

Why is my son training to be an Army officer... to serve a people who live self-consumed lives... who would drive over the grave of his mangled body in their expensive cars drinking their lattes-to-go...and never... even... notice...

much less, care.

"I wonder who will be the next American Idol?" is the deepest pondering of their day.

Serving people is a crappy (oooo...I did use that word), thankless way to live.

I'm turning 50 soon, and the world-changing idealism of youth is no longer burning brightly.

There are days when it is dark...and lonely...and...


On these thankless days I wonder why I can't be lonely and thankless on my mountain cabin porch, instead of here in the middle of people making stupid choices, people knocking on my door late at night after a tiring day...

people driving their expensive cars over my grave.

"Is this the part of the movie where we die?"

I guess if you are reading this, and you have never had these thoughts...then you may be the one mindlessly riding and latte-drinking and consuming...

and forgetting to say "thanks" to those who mountain cabin-lessly serve you.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mother's Day Report

This is a Post-Mother's Day News Alert from the very testosterone-filled Hillcrest Cottage and is dedicated to all the moms who did not receive dinner served by candlelight, roses, or a promise by kids to clean their rooms.

My Gifts
From my West Point cadet deep in the trenches of Term End Exams with Chemistry covering two semesters greeting him early this morning, I received a Mother's Day greeting in my Facebook inbox complete with a promise to call tonight. From my high school senior, I got a combo text message which was part "I'm on my way home" (from a midnight movie), part sincere Mother's Day tribute. From my youngest (who's soccer team won the state championship on Saturday...go Warriors!), a huge bear hug was my gift.

I am Blessed
This is what living in a house filled with guys is like. However, a mother who has the love of her children every day of the year is blessed, and I have that.

Regular life may now resume.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Blank Journal and Strong Will

To Stuart, Who Encourages Me to Not Live in the Past...
This Post is For You

I have a new journal, and it makes me happy. A blank journal is full of hope, wishes, promise, and dreams for the future.

The blankness calls to me," Write your destiny. Make your life count."

Psalm 90
I echo what Moses prayed in Psalm 90:

Teach us to number our days,
that we may present to You a heart
of wisdom...
And let the favor of the Lord our God
be upon us:
And do confirm for us the work of our hands;
Yes, confirm the work of our hands.

My life is changing. During one year's course, I will have sent two sons to college and one father to heaven. I will have become 50 years young... which alone brings changes enough.

My Will
I am making a conscious choice to face the future with a "positive will powered by the Holy Spirit." I own my will. God allows me to make choices. I believe my will is the greatest thing God has given to me. I have a will of iron, and it can not be broken. When my will is bent, it only becomes stronger.

In the DNA
I get this from my dad.

Two of my sons have inherited "the will" and, maybe the third also, but, because of how #2 is wired, his will has yet to be fully tested.
Lots about son #2 is unknown. He is a mystery package slowly unwrapping, like a Christmas gift revealing new amazement and joy as each layer peels away. The unknown in Stuart is uniquely special. He keeps us tuned in: watching and waiting and wondering about the awesomeness that maturity will reveal.

All 3 are Different
Clayton has been on a clear, straight (many would say predictable) path since the 9th grade. People look at him and say,"You are exactly where and who you should be." His will focuses intently ahead, and he does not waver.

With Stuart, we will watch expectantly to see what he'll pull out of his hat. I know it's not gonna be a rabbit... rabbits are assumed. I know it will be incredible because he is incredible.

The will of #3...oh my... "no" may be the same in many languages...but not his. He has taught me about persistence and goal setting. He lives by the motto: It never hurts to ask.
I can't believe what he gets because he is not afraid.

Never Hurts to Ask
Once, when walking past the mall food court, where Davis had always received a free slushy sample, he asked,
"Could I please have a slushy sample?"
"We don't give out samples any more, kid," was the curt reply.
We continued through the mall, but had to walk past the same food vendor upon leaving.
Davis approached the vendor again with a question possessing genius beyond his age,
"How much are your free samples?"
"Why nothing...they are free," the pretzel-making teen replied, not realizing he had been duped by a 10 year old.
"In that case, may I have one, please?"
With slushy in hand, my son left the mall.

I Embrace It
So...I have this will which can not be broken. When I am told "no", I usually ask, "Why not?" and my follow-up resolve is, "I will." When I am told it can not be done, I begin to count the ways that it can be done. This is just how God made me.
A few years back, I decided to rejoice in what some may label as 'stubbornness', and I asked the Holy Spirit to empower me as I embrace this strong will of mine.

Cluttering my path today are more potential obstacles than I have ever faced in all my life. Because our family has chosen Robert Frost's 'road less traveled by', the challenges are great.

Today I am inspired by Clayton who plods steadily toward his goals. I think of Davis who can not be stopped by "no". I remember my father who never quit in all his 84 years and would not allow me to even speak the words,"I can't." I rejoice in the mystery which Stuart has taught me to embrace as something which gives fun and excitement to every day like...

The Holy Spirit Will
I know the more a person tries to do, the more they are likely to fail. But, to never try is also to never win. As I face this day, I ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen my will to focus on one step at a time, not on mountains that seemingly block my way.
I will be encouraged by Paul's words in Philippians:
"I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."

Today is young and blank and full of hope.
I am wondering who might be encouraged or inspired by even just...
the reading of this post.

As I'm numbering my days, I'm wondering:
How will my life count this day?

What is Your Greatest Strength?
How Will You Overcome your Obstacles?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Time Turned Backward


I have learned that: Childhood happens but once; there is but one magical season. The rest of life is spent in attempts to recapture its essence or in ignorance of its memory. One time only. There is never a "do-over".

Italic My favorite childhood classics are A.A. Milne's "Winnie the Pooh" and "Peter Pan" by J.M. Barrie. One story celebrates the ordinary, every day life of a boy; the other book, one who refuses to grow up and the adults who have forgotten the beauty of the childhood experience.

With my second son's high school graduation upon me, I am reflecting upon my child's youth and my role in it. I have learned (Musings of a Housewife): there is no substitute for being there. By making such a bold, simple statement, I am not implying something negative about the situation of any other parent. At the same time I am not diminishing my experience by not saying it. When I say to one son "You are very smart, and I am so pleased at how hard you to work in school." I want to say something about that boy. It means what it means. It does not mean I am saying to the other two, " Y'all are stupid and a lazy bums that never do your homework." Comprende?

I have learned: A mom's life is a life without thanks. so sometimes I have to pat myself on the ole back.I have sacrificed lots in my life, including the putting of my own dreams on hold, the living of life on much less financially, and the literal giving of my entire being to the cause of being always available for my children. Now, as I am sending the second of three away to college soon, I can confidently say this: I have no regrets.

I have learned to put others before myself: I have changed every diaper. I have put the magical band-aid on every 'boo-boo'. I have been present through rollerblading, bicycle, and driving lessons. I've seen every tooth pulled and delivered every tooth fairy surprise. I have read stories, helped with reading and homework and projects, called out spelling words and listened to speeches. I have been on field trips, missions trips, and, now letting go as I send another one on a senior trip.
I have learned many roles: I've been a nanny, cook, housekeeper, laundry mistress, doctor, baker,teacher, cheerleader, coach, taxi driver, social director and party planner, inspirational speaker, drill sargent, Bible teacher and preacher and discipler, mentor, tutor, speed trainer, seamstress and costume -maker, videographer and photographer, exercise instructor, homework taskmaster, alarm clock, towne crier, pyscologist, Dr. Phil.

I've been a mom for almost 20 years, so I didn't learn all these things this week, but on the other hand, I re-learn them all the time.

What other roles have you 'played' as a mom?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Last School Lunch

Lots of 'lasts' will be appearing from now until August when Stuart packs his black Volvo to leave for college. I don't know why, but making the last school lunch is tons more sad than the graduation ceremony will be.

Maybe because it is a quiet, ordinary thing that could easily slip away unnoticed without fanfare. Graduation comes with music and speeches and diplomas. The last school lunch is packed quietly in its brown paper bag, gets quickly snatched from the counter, shoved into the back pack, and whisked out the door in the every day rush to school.

Every day.
Sadness comes when 'every day' becomes 'yesterday'.

Not being a fan of sentiment, Stuart would try to encourage me by saying, "Oh, Mom, quit living in the past."

My Stu
Stuart views the world from a very unique lens. He is not distracted by life's 'noise' and 'static', so he is free to see things the way they truly are. This is the quality that makes him really good at solving computer problems. It's also the quality that makes him the funniest person I know. Stuart is an avid people-watcher, and when every one else is distracted, Stuart notices the stuff no one else sees. His commentaries can make me laugh for days.

When he was in early grade school, Stuart wondered all Labor Day why Labor Day would be a holiday. The two ideas did not seem to match. I didn't know either, but I remember it was a fun day of being in our back yard. The boys climbed trees and caught a frog. That night, Stuart said, "I still don't know why they call it Labor Day, but it was a really good day."

This same guy is truly puzzled by people screaming for their sports teams while watching games on TV.
He wonders,"Why do you yell? They can't hear you."
He's right...but I still yell anyway.

After Stuart's first day of school, I inquired, "How was it?"
"It was okay. I think I liked it," was his little freckled face reply.

When I picked Stuart up from his second day of school, again I asked, "How was it?"
"Mom, it was okay," was his simple reply, " And you don't have to ask me that every day. It was okay. If anything changes, I'll let you know."

Things are changing. This morning I made my senior's last school lunch...

and it was not okay.

What 'lasts' have made you sad?