Our guest today is multi-talented Janie Reinart, a fellow with the National Writing Project, a teacher consultant, freelance writer, storyteller, and poet in residence at an inner city school. Janie's chapter, “Boots to Ground “ in Love You More Than You Know, won second place in the National Federation of Press Women's 2010 Communications Contest and first place in the Ohio Professional Writer's Communications Contest. The book contains 45 stories of love, faith, and courage from mothers of soldiers. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the book is donated to charities benefiting wounded veterans.
Janie's blog, Love You More Than You Know, is a finalist for the 2012 Milbloggies (6th Annual) Best U.S. Military Parent Blog Award. The blog is dedicated to bringing true stories of our heroes in uniform and sharing the bravery and sacrifices that our troops and their families make everyday for all of us. You are invited to share your story about your soldier at Love You More Than You Know as a guest blogger. Send stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Janie is offering a copy of Love You More Than You Know to one of our readers who posts a comment to the blog. Be sure to check back on Sunday to learn if you’re the lucky winner. -- AP
Anastasia, I’m delighted to be a guest on your blog. As the mother of sons, you know how your life is always full of surprises. When my son enlisted after 9/11, I didn’t know that I was going to write this story. So how do you keep connected to your soldier thousands of miles away when he’s deployed? You send your love in care packages from home. Guess what my son Joe always asked me to send in his care packages? He emailed:
|Janie's son, Sgt. Joe Reinart|
The snickers bars and homemade cookies are great. Send a lot of them. Stuff like that and snacks and food. I am hungry. It is such a hassle to go to the chow hall. It’s five miles away. Cereal would be good too—the little boxes. I love you mom and miss you. Will write soon. Love Joe
Joe asked for food because anytime they left their barracks, the soldiers had to be in full body armor and gear. For lunch everyday the soldiers had MREs (Meals Ready to Eat). After working a 12-14 hour day, it was just easier for them to eat what they had in the barracks and not go out in the heat again.
So every week, I would shop for groceries in Ohio to send halfway around the world—always buying enough so that my soldier could share with those who didn’t receive any packages. Joe made so many chocolate chip muffins from a mix that just needed water in a toaster oven, that he became know as the Muffin Man.
For Joe’s birthday, I sent a “Party in a Box”, including streamers, party plates, napkins, cups, candles, candy, party favors (squirt guns) and a banner that read HAPPY BIRTHDAY. I researched on the Internet what kind of cake had the best chance of surviving the extreme heat (temperatures 100-130 degrees) for the two weeks to twenty-one days it might take the package to arrive. The answer was an un-iced angel food cake. To solve the problem of frosting, I added a jar of Nutella, the chocolate hazelnut spread, so that Joe could frost the cake when the package arrived at his barracks. I was so happy when the package arrived the day of his birthday.
It is cold during the day in the winter season in Iraq. The temperature goes below freezing at night. I sent a snowman themed box for Christmas including: snowman flannel sheets, flannel pj bottoms, Christmas cookies, DVD’s of Christmas classics (Elf, The Christmas Carol, Frosty the Snowman) and CD’s of holiday songs, colored lights, and Snowman Soup! See the recipe below.
Joe sent his father and me a letter after he was in Iraq for six months and had six more months to go. His closing became the title for the book. He said:
I think a lot of nights, restless nights, of the days to come. I ponder and daydream of the good and the bad and the anxiety weighs on me like a ton of bricks. Will I make it back? Will I be so different from when I left? What will I do with my life? Will I be successful? Will I be happy? All I know that is certain is you, and I rely on that fact alone to get me through the sweltering reality I live in. I love you and cherish you for bringing me into the world, raising me, helping me along my journey through life. I look forward to brighter days of picnics, and card games, and golf and chess, and church and things that families do together. I love you deeply, more than you know. Your son, Joe
We made it through Joe’s deployment and celebrated with a big party when he came home. He was gone for 15 months during his active duty and deployment. We continue to share food and have many meals together as a family. The celebration continues as Joe is getting married at the end of this month!
Place ingredients in a zip lock bag, mug, or jar and attach the label:
When the weather outside is frightful
Snowman Soup can be delightful.
May it warm your spirit and your soul
Let is snow, let it snow, let it snow.
When you feel a chill or "burrrrr"
Use the peppermint stick to stir.
Add hot water and it slow.
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.
Thanks so much, Jamie. I'm sure our readers who have family in the service will be adding Snowman Soup to their winter packages. Readers, if you'd like a chance to win a copy of Love You More Than You Know, post a comment. And don't forget to check back on Sunday to see if you're the lucky winner. -- AP