Category: Adventures

Birthday Birth

Just two days short of 39, I have yet again had an adventure for the ages.

It was a hair past 4 am today when my bladder became impatient and decided it was time to be awake.  In a blurred state of consciousness, I stumbled to the bathroom.  Along the way, the right side of my stomach complained a bit, and I thought to myself that maybe I had slept on it wrong.

I finished my duty and worked my way back to the bedroom, when to my surprise I suddenly felt the urge to bow to the porcelin god.  Hurriedly I dashed back to the bathroom.  Along the way my right side decided it needed to join the party.  Like a sci-fi horror film where the hero gets slashed in the side by a knife, the pain came.

I quickly fell to the floor and rolled up in a fetal position writhing in utter dispair.  The torment of torture lurked on for what seemed like hours but turned out to be only a mear few minutes as I slowly crawled back to the bedroom to alert my wife of the doom that was before me.

In slumber my loving wife along with my kind mother escourted my wounded soul to the car for transport to the emergency care unit.  As we pulled out I could feel every bump and tiny pebble that could possibly be in our pathway.  My kidney was screaming at me like an overweight gym teacher blowing a whistle at the kids in gym class and coaching them to move faster and quit being lazy.

We arrived at the ER and the medical team went through the motions of detecting and confirming what was going on.  They eventually found within themselves some reasoning to end the suffering and pumped me full of feel goods.

The results came back that I had thankfully been through the worst part of passing a kidney stone.  The rest will come ans this will all be over soon, but with a lot less drama…hopefully.


What is Mercy?

I remember a time many years ago when my family was introduced to a kids show that had a lot of silly vegetables talking to one another. Before long it became one of my favorite and most clever shows.  I’m sure most folks have seen it in one form or another…VeggieTales.  

Here on the ranch, we have been in the role of alternate house parent.  In short, that means we relieve the primary house parents during their days off.  We spend generally 3 days at a time in a home and move to another.  Sometimes covering homes could mean a different house everyday.  

There are lots of success stories we could tell along the way where we have had breakthroughs ans happy moments.  However, along with that comes the trials and growth that lead to the success.  A large majority of the homes we have served have been teenager homes with either all guys or all girls…up to 12 per home.  

We defintely love what we do, but we can honestly say that we have become pretty tired.  It has been a difficult ride, especially for our immediate family in the last few months.

That being said, we needed some sort of adjustment to help with the stress level.  So what was the adjustment?  The little girls home. Pig tails, Barbie, and VeggieTales.

This morning we had difficulty with our normal music player at the girls home.  This was frustrating since turning on music is a huge part of their routine.  So we improvised.  I had an cd player and still have a lot of old discs still around.  Among the mix were two VeggieTales cds.  

One of the ladies reminded me of myself as a child.  She quickly sorted through all of the music and scooped up the silly sing a long.  The player began blaring the theme song to the show.  She happily sung along.  I thought at first this bliss would end after a few moments, but as I watched and observed, she melted into her own world and soaked up every word.  One of the songs is called “Stop!  And Go With Mercy”.  As she was bebopping along to the song, she suddenly paused…tilted her head to the side with a puzzled face.  She turned to me and asked “Mr. O.  What is mercy?”  These are golden moments that God lays before us and exclaims “Go get ’em!  Teach what I have taught you.”  As the song says, I explained to her that mercy was getting a second chance even when maybe we or others don’t necessarily deserve it.

She smiled with a learned understanding and went back to her world of music, dancing with water buffaloes and searching for her hairbrush.

Its a bit early, but the holiday season has come back to Cookson. There is a turkey dinner next week provided by one of our great church partners in the area. Churches and groups far and wide have offered goodies that will brighten hearts during the Christmas holiday to kids that may have never experienced it in a good way. Life is busy and very fun during the next few months.

Today, I was checking the water wells and making sure the refrigerators and freezers were operational while the dining hall and food store were closed. The food store is where we shop from week to week and pickup meal and snack items for breakfast and weekend food. Our donors do a great job of ensuring we are taken care of. I’m not sure how we get them, but we get a lot of Little Debbie snacks…and this time of year it becomes quite a temptation. That lady can bake a treat! And she brought Christmas tree cakes…and cherry creme filled morsels of magical goodness! And to top that off, she brought Santa sleigh brownies! How could she be so mean? And to line them up all nice and neat right where I would have to pass by to check the freezer? She is very smart, that lady.

Well, my goal is to lose the Cookson 5 and 10 that has found its way to my belly…so I victoriously passed it by…but this is not the end of the story!

My wife asked me to bring back some eggs for the house. Upon entering the freezer…they were there! The devil of deliciousness, the gladiator of goodies had increased her ammunition against fellow human kind! She had brought in another set of villains into her flock of sugary slavery! None other than the Krispy Creme minions themselves! All 600 of them right there in the walk-in freezer!

Thankfully, I was able to muster up the strength to grab the eggs and get out of there alive!

So yet another episode ends on a good note. I pray now that she does not bring in the Kryptonite of Cookson…at least for me…Braum’s egg nog.

So updating more often would be a better idea because so much happens around here. We’ll do our best to give a few highlights of the past month.

When we last wrote, we had gained our first family member, Kilee. Since then we have grown considerably…3 additions to be exact, doubling our family of 4 to a family of 8. Please join me in welcoming T’Era, Landan, and Caitlyn to the family! T’Era and Caitlyn are the teenagers of the house with Landan in elementary. Just to paint the picture, that is two teens and four 10 and under (with room for more youngers). Never a dull moment.

Summers are different here since we operate as a year- round school. School ended at the beginning of June with graduation of our Seniors and ended the middle of last week. We have enjoyed horsemanship classes, crafting, swimming, caving, trips to the river, softball, volleyball, a large waterfall at a local state park, and a trip into Tulsa. We are sad that summer is over but excited for the school year being under way…that means some short and needed breaks for us parents!

One final thought of great importance. Nearly a decade ago we added a member to our family. He completed our bio-family and has brought years of smiles and a book full of insightful commentary. We have enjoyed attempts at baseball and soccer, and enjoyed monster truck events. He’s a compassionate giver, and a selfless friend to those around him. As a dad he makes me proud and I love him very much! If you don’t already know who I’m talking about, please help me say happy birthday to the grandest son in all the land…Michael.

With that I will bid you farewell, until the next adventure.

So Amber loves to cook and bake. She has been blessed with the outstanding ability to combine ingredients, sometimes without measuring tools, and create masterpieces worth eating over and over again. I, on the other hand, am not so great at making food. Don’t get me wrong. I could follow instructions and make something. The trouble is, I don’t have the skill set at this time to modify and correct on the fly to make a food item that is good become great. But never fear! Where there is a cook/baker, there is a taste tester. That’s where I do extremely well.

Which brings me to my first ADD moment of this post.

There is another famous baker that we are all familiar with. Little Debbie. She makes little cakes of magical goodness that melt in your mouth. They come all packaged in different shapes and sizes depending on the season. And on top of that, she loves to donate her goodies to Cookson Hills…a lot of them. She is such a tremendous blessing!…but I have a problem. I love taste testing! When it’s a different shape, I try it. When it’s a different color, I try it. And you know what drives me crazy? (Prepare for ADD moment number 2)…The packaging. Little Debbie, to be a great baker, has to try out all of her food. If that is true, then how does she keep that figure? You know, the one on all the boxes of treats? C’mon now. I thought maybe she would have the great appearance of Aunt Jemima, like she enjoys testing her goodies. I guess that means Little Debbie must have a husband who tests everything.

Anyway, prepare for ADD moment number 3.

I say all this to say thank you to the donors who give us Little Debbie snacks. (I sincerely mean that, by the way) As of this week, I finally got back into a cycle of workouts, starting with hiking up a few hillsides to crawl through caves. One of the tunnels should be renamed Ozzie Squeeze because well, because of my consumption of Little Debbie snacks, I barely fit through it. I’ll be looking forward to going back to that cave and to make it through that passage much easier when I’ve dropped some weight.

Prayer for the day…help Brian to consume food in moderation and to stay motivated to exercise. But on a more serious note…Most of all, pray for the kids that are very soon to a part of our family. That they will meet the Savior of the Universe and receive the healing they need directly from Him…if a Little Debbie is what it takes, so be it.

Well, we won’t have kids until May 2, but that doesn’t stop us from having adventures. The next door neighbors have the opportunity to take their “kids” on a family vacation. They leave tomorrow. Some of the kids have approved pets that they are fully responsible for…including finding pet sitters while they are away. Well, as new houseparents we have bonded well with the house next door, and who would the kids ask to help with their pet? Us. We now have a blue beta fish and a turtle named Pinkerton hanging out in their tanks at the end of our long dining room table. I learned an interesting fact today about turtles. They can be overweight. Who knew? Apparently, they fed this guy a bit too much at first and the jelly rolls piled on his body. He has been on a diet and seems to be in good shape now though. We might take him on a walk in a few days just to make sure his cholesterol stays in check.

Pinkerton and the un-named blue fish pet sitting job day 1 is in the books. Over and out.

Oreo: A Tribute

We’ve had a rough few weeks with our dogs…a REALLY rough few weeks. I chronicled recently the saga of Rockstar, our mighty mutt saved from the animal shelter, who decided to go on a journey. Thankfully, he was brought home safely…which brings us to the older dog. My dog, Oreo.

Oreo was a birthday gift a little over 8 years ago. She was super smart and always full of energy. A full blood blue heeler, she was always working on some sort of job to make sure that our family was either entertained or safe. Every time I entered the yard, two things were on her mind…”I must clear the yard of any birds!” and “Where is the tennis ball? It’s time to play!” Without a doubt, there were no birds allowed to perch on any of our trees…and without fail, the tennis ball would be found and it would always find its way directly on my foot. Fetch is one thing…but this dog lived every day looking forward to it. She would play ball as long as you were willing to throw the ball. And I don’t mean 30 minutes either. I spent one entire day painting the house in the backyard a few years back. She brought the ball back to the ladder over and over. She patiently waited for me to come down and methodically pick up and put down the ball at my feet. I threw it for her every time and knew she would be waiting when I came back down for more paint.

She was also a lover of water. During the heat of the summer she would jump playfully in the pool we put in the shade next to the dog house. But that wasn’t her favorite part of water. She liked moving water! Anytime the hose was out or the sprinkler was on, she was in the middle of it. Crazy dog.

That energetic dog has never skipped a beat until it got really cold around January. She slowed way down and acted as though she had developed arthritis. She still played. She still chased birds. But it was a lot slower and more careful. We could tell she was in some sort of pain, but didn’t really know what was going on. She ate well. She drank well. We even checked on her droppings to make sure that was okay.

Then came this past Saturday. I went out to feed them as usual and the normal greeting and bird scattering did not happen. Rockstar greeted me. Oreo didn’t. It was cold and rainy so I checked her dog house. There she was laying quietly in the back. She was in pain. Again, I thought it was maybe arthritis so I let her hang there. We went out around town and took care of some business. When we returned late afternoon, I went to check on her. Still in the dog house. She hadn’t eaten. I called my mom, who I am thankful for with her experience and wisdom. We decided it was a good idea to see if I could get her out of the dog house and help her eat and drink.

I hung up the phone, put on my coat and went outside. She hadn’t moved at all from the same position all day long. Something was definitely wrong. A dog so full of life doesn’t do that. I carefully reached in to move her. She didn’t help me. Her breathing was labored…and then I smelled it. The end was very near. She tried to get up to greet me, but couldn’t. I knew these would be the last few moments with my beloved dog.

Within minutes, it was over. My Oreo had moved on from this life.

I will remember all of the great times we spent together. The thousands of tennis ball throws I tossed. The many splashes in the hose and in the sprinkler. I will mostly remember her loyal bark and her loyal companionship. She was always there for me when I was sad, happy, or glad. She was a great dog. May she rest in peace.

Lost and Found Rockstar

It was a hot July afternoon two years ago, right before Independence Day. Our family ventured out to the animal shelter to see if we could add to our family. After all, Michael’s birthday was only a few weeks away and a dog was going to be the gift of choice. We searched each cage observing the behavior, color, height, and age….too old, too fat, not kid friendly…then finally…the one. He was a puppy. Barely old enough to be away from mom. He was a strange sort of lab mix. Short and stocky, yet with the face of a labrador, he had either been left by his mom or dumped. Poor puppy. That was all about to change.

He was all black except for a white speck on top of his head. Michael noted his spot looked like a star. The imagination of a nearly 6 year old immediately tied together the special feature of the puppy with his name. Rockstar. Only he knows where that came from. Maybe a tv show or a passing conversation. Nonetheless, his name…Rockstar.

Fast forward a few years…Rockstar has been a blessing. He is extremely loyal and very gentle. He can growl like a huge dog when somebody comes by that doesn’t belong (which we have had happen)…but I’m certain he’d only lick them to death. He has been a great companion for Oreo, our female blue heeler. He has been silly, fun, and foot-sitting lover. A keeper.

This past Saturday morning, I went out to feed the dogs like any normal day…but something was wrong. Only one dog met me. Very unusual. I glanced at the gate. Open. My heart sank. Rockstar was missing.

We called the microchip company, several area shelters, and many of the nearby vet clinics. We also printed up some posters to put up around the neighborhood. We needed to find him fast because a winter storm was on schedule to hit that very night. We were worried about him and missed him dearly. We delayed telling the kids hoping he was maybe just around the corner. But eventually, we had to share the news. Tears led to resolve and we prayed that God would protect Rockstar, keep him warm, and bring him home.

3 days passed. No Rockstar. We wondered where all he had been. Was he inside a house? Was he out in the cold with the sleet? Did he have to endure the bitter cold or was he warm and waiting to come home?

Tuesday night came and I was gearing the garage up with totes to be moved over the coming days, when suddenly Amber bursts through the garage door. They had found him. The microchip company connected us with the lady who found him. We exchanged a little information and I went to rescue him.

3.5 miles later, I pulled in front of a house. There he was on a leash. The lady who had him noticed that when my vehicle pulled up, Rockstar was extremely excited and recognized my SUV. He knew he was going to go home.

Lots of happy tail wags and welcoming licks proceeded. I quickly said my thank yous to the nice lady and brought Rockstar back home to a joyous celebration of hugs and puppy dog kisses.

The lost had been found. Praise be to God for answering prayer.

I’ve always wanted to ride in a bobsled. 90 mph with a primitive braking system? Oh yeah. Then there is the skeleton. Suicide on a sled. Might give that a try. Go ahead and call the ambulance for me though. The last time I rode a sled on ice, I found out how secure the fence was in the ground.

The few weeks the Olympics are playing really do a lot, at least briefly, to unite our country and slow us down a bit. I think it is cool when we get to share the emotion and pride as the national anthem plays and medals are received. We are at the midpoint and it looks like our team will return with lots of accomplishments…personal bests…and no regrets.

On the home front our family has not been in any Olympic competition, but we certainly have been in a marathon of sorts. With one visit left we feel we are extremely close to confirming a decision as to where we will get the honor to serve kids in a houseparent capacity. This probability is hitting home as we mentally prepare for the tasks we must get done before any such move occurs. We will have no regrets and look forward to marking our progress and future adventures on this blog.

If you’re following along, please let us know. This medium will likely be the best source of “What’s going on with the Oswald’s?” that is available. Save the link. Follow the blog. And most of all, continue to pray for favor in our meetings and for clarity of direction in our decisions, especially in the next few weeks.

One last thing, where can I find a bobsled? I feel the need for speed.

I have a desk job. I work in finance. I’ve spent a long time to some degree in telecom. The pathway on how I arrived here is a long story…How in the world can a known creative individual end up crunching numbers and reading legal documents and survive? That’s a post for another time and another place.

Places. I like places. I enjoy going back to places I’ve been hundreds of times before. Hockey games. Silver Dollar City and the Branson area. My backyard with our dogs Oreo and Rockstar. Sitting in my green rocker/recliner.

I also like new adventures. Exploring new avenues. Turning an ordinary Knex toy wheel into an exciting game. Asking questions that may have never been asked. Taking ideas that have been around for a long time and spinning new fresh ways to teach or train them. Eating at a new restaurant. Traveling. Writing a blog. Riding in a fighter jet. Skydiving. (Okay, the last two I have not done but would LOVE to do it.)

Adventure. That is what I would call our family’s continuous pursuit of what we feel God has called us to do. To use our strengths to advance people in their journey.

Journey…not to the center of the earth, but to the heart of America. It’s youth. We have made a decision to actively look for a position serving children. We have spent countless hours researching, filling out applications, interviewing via Skype and phone, and even traveling to different places to visit. And that journey and adventure continues.

In the past month, we put out somewhere between 6-8 applications. 3 of them we have interviewed with from a distance and they have invited us to come check out their facilities. We came back from one a little over a week ago and have the other two scheduled over the next 2 weeks or so. The pursuit of serving children seems to have light at the end of the tunnel.

This is why I am fidgety. This is why sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day is driving me crazy. I can taste the mere possibility that we may be close to more adventures with our kids…and most importantly, we can pour into the future of our nation and help them know God and live life to it’s fullest potential.

We don’t know yet where the journey will take us. What we do know is that we need your support more than ever. Pray that we will find the right place at the right time where our God given talent can be used to it’s max. Pray for favor in our spiritual, physical, and financial health. Pray for the kids put in our care that we will have the great opportunity to grow and encourage.

And finally, pray that I can survive the office. Somehow I tend to find my way to the boss’ office when I can’t sit still. Not because I’m not doing my job, but because I bob my head to the music in my headphones while I work…or I doodle in meetings. But that is a story for another time.