As you all knew, I was kinda bummed out about Christmas this year. I had an awful time getting into any kind of holiday spirit and was pretty Scroogey. I was questioning whether I'd make it through the week without snapping or losing it and guess what - I did it! Woot. It's little successes that make me feel a little bit more proud and think maybe I can do this widow thing... as much as I'd rather not most days.
I made it through some pretty heavy stuff the past few, well, few months really. I survived the anniversary of when we first met, of our first date, of our engagement, my birthday, the last day I saw him (that one was pretty tough) and Christmas. I've kept my head up and marched on even though some days I want to dig in a whole and lay in it. Some days my head (and my heart) feel much too heavy to lift and continue on but I somehow find a way to push through. I know that "somehow" is by the love of my husband. I really feel it's days like those that he specially beams down a little extra love for me to hold on to and push forward.
Now, warm and touchy feelings out of the way, let's recap a little, shall we. And if you're brave and make it to the end I'll reward you with a couple pics, how's that sound? ;)
Christmas Eve was basically just "another day." Lounged around in PJs all day until evening. Mom made Christmas Eve dinner as usual, ham, home made mac n cheese (drooool), veggies and potatoes. So delicious. Miss Thing absolutely adored the meal. That kid is such a good eater, definitely has her daddy's appetite! Then we got ready and went to church. Usually our tradition is to go to the 10 o'clock mass but we went to the 7 o'clock one so stinky pants could come with this year. We got to see the bells which we always miss at the later mass so that was cool. Ari was good in church and during children's time with pastor she hammed it up and waved and said "hi" to all the kids around and pointed at their noses. She's such a stinker. Then came prayer time. And the last prayer was of course for all those fighting overseas and what not. And that's when the tears came, without any apology or shame they came and they came hard. I remembered sitting in that very spot last year, praying so so hard and crying about being alone on Christmas, missing my husband so bad and just praying so hard that he'd come home to me and that the deployment would fly by. And so I cried even harder this year, another Christmas without him but no homecoming to look forward to. It was hard, it hurt. Then they sang O Holy Night which is my favorite Christmas song and always brings tears to my eyes so I bawled the rest of the way through church. Luckily I have a good church family and got lots of hugs and prayers.
Flash ahead to Christmas Day. Christmas Day really was pretty easy and my little baby girl made that possible. We came downstairs in our matching PJs to open gifts and the baby was just so excited and happy. She liked helping me rip the paper (to an extent) and actually liked her toys (and not just the boxes) it was so cute. She got this baby doll that laughs and every time it would laugh she would laugh. She really seemed intrigued by all her neat stuff. She (with the help of grandma and daddy - I'll explain) got me this beautiful ring for Christmas. Apparently, my mom was laying in bed shortly before Christmas and had this "vision" of this ring. So she headed to a jewelry store and had it specially made. It's absolutely beautiful, a big heart shaped February birthstone (Jonathan) and then a December and a January (me and baby) below it, and all three are touching. My husband used to always enlist my mom's help for getting my gifts. He'd tell her exactly what he wanted and she would do the ordering since he didn't have internet and then he'd just give her the money. It's like he was still working his magic even though he no longer stands on this earth. She said it was very much like how it was when he was here - exactly what he wanted was described to her. It will be engraved with "Forever Our Family" but they didn't have time to get it done before Christmas. It's gorgeous and I am so very loved. I also got a few other things from Ari and the parents but there's no need to go into detail about everything Ariana and I got, this entry is already long enough haha. The parents seemed to really like their gifts and so did my younger sister, every one seemed happy and it was a good feeling.
After present time we kept up with a tradition that Jonny had started - Christmas morning mimosas. He did it with fresh squeezed orange juice - he'd use the juicer and spend time getting the juice out. We cheated and used minute maid (sorry babe) haha. It was pretty neat tho because we toasted to Jonny and wished him a Merry Christmas then drank our mimosas and a few minutes later it started to snow a little bit. It was like he was saying hello and Merry Christmas to us. Beautiful. The whole day I felt his presence. Some people get weirded out when I talk about it but it's always so wonderful to me. I felt him with me from Christmas Eve night and all through the next day. And I'm pretty sure the baby caught site of him once or twice too. It was amazing.
So not only did I survive Christmas, I actually took time to enjoy it. Hopefully next year I'll enjoy more of the season, especially since Miss Thing will understand more.
Now I will let you all know that I'll probably be a little MIA for the next couple weeks. I've got my move to get underway and then a new house to get set up and a birthday party to prepare for (What was I thinking planning a party 15 days after the move - YIKES!)
I hope everyone had a great holiday and felt full of love.
And of course, some photos to hold ya over until next time you hear from me
Ari checkin out grandpa's new fishing pole
Matching PJs, Ari cracking up at her silly grandpa
Our family Christmas photo
And a flashback to 2009 Christmas parade in Jacksonville, right before deployment
Why is it that when tragedy strikes, friends think it gives them the entitlement to act like total and complete douchebags? I know I've talked about this before, but it still gets to me and it continues and I am just... I'm angry now. Just about every widow I've talked to... well actually, I don't think there's one who hasn't gone through this... has similar stories. People walking out on them, people being down right mean. What gives?! Is this human nature? To see someone suffering and just be assholes?
I get it. Being friends with a widowed person is not always easy. Did I completely lose my mind? Yes. Did I lose part of myself? Yes. Was I not always the best person? Yes. But I can guarentee that I am trying my fucking best to deal with what I've been given. Having bad days, making what some may think are bad decisions, completely losing your mind - it's all part of this. I didn't just lose my husband, the love of my life, my soul mate. I lost part of myself with him. And with that, I lost the future we'd planned, everything we had hoped for and looked forward to. It's not just a person who isn't there anymore, it's my entire life that is different now, without any say from me. I didn't ask for this.When you lose the love of your life and the future you'd intended to have your entire world changes and nothing makes sense. You struggle to keep your head above water and you don't think straight. And that's why you need good friends there to guide you, to listen, to not pass judgement, to just be there even if it's in silence. Even if you can't think straight enough to remember to call them regularly, just fucking be there. Walking out, disappearing, being mean and perpetuating rumors are not the ways to be a good friend to a widowed person or a person going through any tragedy for that matter. The sad part is, it's the people who say things like "I will always be there for you" or "whatever you need" that are the first to close the door in your face. Maybe some people can't handle it, they can't take the sadness, they're afraid of what they would do in the same situation or they don't think they would handle it the way you did and don't like the way you choose to live. News flash - you have NO IDEA how you will handle it until you're walking in those shoes. And then how you do handle it, how you continue to live because it is the only choice you have will surprise even yourself.
I just don't get it, I could never imagine walking out on a friend in so much pain. Or saying that I'd always be there but not keeping my word. I guess that's the part that gets me the most - haven't I had enough promises broken? I suppose this whole thing has started to leave me jaded. I have little trust in people anymore. I don't put my whole heart into many people anymore because so many have just walked out when I needed them there the most. It's like they think I should be better. I'm not going to be better, or the same. Ever. I will always be "different." I will always miss him and I will always grieve. The grief will get lighter but it doesn't change that I am now a new person. A widowed person. And until you are a widowed person you will never, ever understand what that means. So what you really should do is be nice to everyone because you never know if and/or when you may end up in their shoes and if and/or when you do end up in their shoes (and I'm not just talking about my shoes I'm talking about anyone's, any undesirable situation) you'll have to understand and you'll wish you weren't such a dick to that person.
To the people who have stuck around, who have seen the best and worst of this journey and who have chosen to stay in my life and help me find my new person even if I've fallen down a few (or more) times, you mean the world to me. I hope you never have to learn how important friendship is when tragedy hits. I am forever grateful to those who said they'd be there no matter what and actually meant it. For the ones who, even if they had to give me a nice dose of tough love, stood by my side. And for the new friends I've made along this path who met me even through my crazy and still thought I was neat enough to get to know me now. Even though I'm a widow wanted to be my friend because of the person that I am. Thank you too.
Here is to the dawn of a new year. Leaving some of the shit storm of 2010 behind and the shitty people with it. The people who are meant to be in your life will remain and everyone else...? Learn from 'em and then... fuck 'em. Less angry post to come later. Promise.
Wanted to address a comment:
It sucks that you feel abandoned and disregarded. I often "hear" in your posts, me, me, me, me. YOU should take care of yourself, but you can't expect to be everyone's priority. You should have people around you who will support you, but you can't expect anyone to drop what they are doing because you are having a difficult time.
I have been through my own set of tragedies, and I have often been very hurt by the reaction of those around me because I felt like I needed more. The bottom line is, however, I wanted their lives to stop because mine did. Looking back, I should not have expected that. As time moves forward, you are going to get less and less support because people get tired of hearing about it. It is the reality of the situation.
Let me just say, I never, ever asked anyone to drop anything for me. Ever. I told my friends who couldn't make it to my husband's funeral that it was ok, that I understood. I was appreciative towards the ones who were with me but I held nothing against the ones who couldn't physically be there. I said from the beginning that I knew their guys were going to come home and their lives would return to normal and yet they assured me they'd be here, if even just by phone, when I needed them. I know damn well that friends can't drop everything and I would never, ever expect anyone too, but to completely walk out - that's a different story. I knew no one else's life would stop, me just living is proof of that - if my own life didn't stop, why would anyone else's? And if they're not there for me because "they're tired of hearing about it," then they weren't ever really my friend, because whether or not they want to hear about it, it's my life and even though such and such time as passed and I'm supposed to be "better" I still hurt. True friends can see and feel that and still have the compassion to listen every now and then. You don't know the exact situation that sparked this so I'd rather you not judge what I'm upset over. I keep things vague in order to not make a bigger deal than I need to to get my point across. The reason you might hear about me, me, me, me on my blog is, well let's see... maybe because it's my blog?? My space for talking about what's bothering me, how I'm handling things, what I wish for, what I want. And I think I do a good deal thinking about others and trying to take care of everything and everyone else, hence my need to always make everyone happy leading to out of control stress levels, but you don't see that, do you? Thanks for judging and making assumptions, and then not even having the balls to leave your name. Makes my point that much more clear.
Mad, mad thanks to Wife of a Sailor for organizing such a special gift exchange. I hope my Santee is at least half as excited as I am haha.
But anyway, here is my lovely gift box from my fantastic Secret Santa.
She spoiled me sooo bad. There were two other gifts she sent that I forgot to take pics of, an ornament making kit (to put the baby's hand or feet prints on, enough for me and her grandmas) and some fuzzy socks. She rocked and I'm the luckiest Santee (santa recipient haha) in the world!
Ok, now to play catch up with the photo game...
DAY 6: A photo of someone you'd like to change places with for a day
Well, one day, I'd like to change places with a lazy, super spoiled dog who gets to sleep when he wants all day and worry about nothing. He's also super cute and his name is Oscar.
And another day, I'd like to trade places with the president. I'm not saying I could do his job better than him, I'm just very curious what it would be like to run the greatest nation in the world for a day and if I could make any changes for the better to help people, that'd be pretty sweet.
DAY 7: A Photo of your most treasured item
The one thing that is the most important treasured thing in my life isn't really a thing. It's my little precious baby. Definitely the one thing that is the most treasured to me though, regardless of whether she's a thing or not :-P
And for a more thingish thing, my Jonny stuff. As you know by reading, I'm real anal about all my Jonny stuff but these are some of the most important. The dog tags are usually ALWAYS with me, even if I am not wearing them. He gave me these dog tags when we were dating and had a new copy made for himself, mine are his originals from boot camp. On the tags are the short chain that was my original engagement ring, the blue ring "my heart" that I was searching for - back where it belongs, and his wedding band - the original, not the "I want a cheap one to take to A-Stan" one. Then we have Ducky. Ducky was the first "present" Jonny ever bought me. We were in the inner harbor for a weekend away staying at the Sheraton and Ducky was in the window of the gift shop. I thought he looked so sad and he just needed someone to love him and he would be the happiest Ducky in the world. Jonny thought he looked creepy. I whined about it: He is not creepy he is just sad and he needs me. I was surprised with Ducky hours later. And The Notebook. Jonny's book he used for all his work stuff. It also contains the only letters he hand wrote to me in A-Stan as well as little notes I left him and work related stuff.
DAY 8: A photo that makes you laugh
Ok, I'm probably going to hell for laughing but I can't help it whenever I see this I double over. This is one of my bestest friend Ria's son, my lil nephew Connor, and a very creepy Santa. Connor is clearly not feelin Santa.
And here is my own kid with a very displeased look on her face as we put her in the little cut out. It was so cute and so hilarious.
Oh the joys of being an adult/a parent and laughing at children. Haha.
Ok, there all caught up on my photo challenge, hope I made up for it with the extra photos ;)
I've been seriously missing the Christmas spirit this year. It's sad and unfortunate, but true. I wish I could skip this entire season and get to mid-May. All this stuff, back to back... it's just too much. I've been in more pain the last 2 months than I was this whole journey I think. The reality of everything is just slamming in. The anniversaries, the holidays, the birthdays... all at once, we don't really get a break. Back to back to back. I'm doing my best, I partook in some secret Santas and really tried to get my holiday enthusiasm up but I'm just having a hard time. I'm so thankful that my daughter is too young to really realize. I still do my best for her, I get excited and we went to see Santa, but an older child would probably be able to detect the disdain I'm carrying for the entire thing. Oh, Lord, give me strength to pull through this time of year as happy as possible and stop being so Scrooge-like. I used to love Christmas and everything about the holidays... sigh.
I am, however, excited about moving into our new house. I found a new house close to where the old one is that is bigger with more space for Ariana and I, and all of our stuff. It's gorgeous and in our price range so I jumped on it and we get our keys on January 1st and will be working on moving the 1st through the 10th. I don't think we'll live in the CL area permanently, but that's where we are for now. I'm starting school again in January. This time, I'm going to Cosmetology school. I know, complete 180 from what I've done/talked about doing but it's something I've always wanted to do that I think I'll have fun doing and hopefully be good at. I just want to make people feel pretty, when you look good you feel good - that's why I usually do myself because it helps me to feel a little better. I also want to continue writing, hopefully one day I'll get paid for it but until that day comes I'll be here, blogging away and on DStripped, well as long as they'll have me! Haha. So that's what I'll be doing come the new year, so even though I've been feeling poopy about my favorite holidays, at least I'm excited about something right?
New year, new house, new school, new start? Not that a new start means leaving the past behind (I'll never ever leave my love behind or forget him) but hopefully taking a couple steps forward in this journey...
And Oh yeah, I forgot to do my photo for yesterday
Day 4: A Photo of your night
Ariana pulled this box off the chair over to the right, pushed it against the gate, then climbed on top of it trying to get in the kitchen where grandpa was heating up her dinner.
Pentel of America is having a contest for National Handwriting Day. The name of the contest is “Heroes Worth Writing For”.
On December 1 Pentel launched the promotion "Heroes Worth Writing For" where we are asking children and adults to write a letter to our troops. Our troops sacrifice a lot for our country and we know they would like to hear from folks in their own handwriting how appreciated they are. The contest runs through Jan. 31.
Those who enter the contest will send their handwritten letter to Pentel and we will ensure that they are given to our troops overseas through Operation Gratitude. Before we send them, however, we’ll pick out five winners, a Grand Prize winner and four second-prize winners.
You can view the website for rules and contest info here and check their blog out here
Ok guys getting writing and Good luck!!
SPICEing Up Early Childhood Education
If you are fortunate to be a stay-at-home parent in America today, you are among the few. With thirty years of economic policies that have decimated the middle class, the majority of American households today require two incomes, meaning that young children must usually be relegated to child care facilities or preschools.
Those who can stay at home to raise their children of course wish to take full advantage of this
opportunity by attempting to give their children a head start on learning; reading to them, engaging in educational play activities, encouraging them to read, and more. Unfortunately, very few parents can do it all.
This is where young children can greatly benefit from attendance a certified preschool, operated by trained, certified early childhood educators. While a teacher cannot take the place of a parent, the experience of learning in a school setting during the early years can be a valuable supplement to a child's experience at a time when the brain is being shaped and developed.
Trained, certified early childhood educators can "fill the gaps" when it comes to a young child's
development. For example, were you as a parent aware that there are five equally important areas of a young child's development? Also known as "SPICE" – Social, Physical, Intellectual, Creative and Emotional.
Social development involves the way a child relates to others and functions in a group setting. If you are among the increasing number of parents choosing to limit their family size to one child, the importance of socialization in a structured environment becomes even more necessary.
Physical development refers to building motor skills, from the gross (basic movements such as walking) to the fine (such as holding a pencil).
Intellectual development is achieved through structured play, and of course means development
of language and math skills as well as the child's innate sense of curiosity and wonder; Intellectual development is central to success in school later on.
Creative development addresses artistic talents in visual arts, music, storytelling and even theatrics. Creativity is the foundation self-expression and problem solving. It is arguable that without creativity, there would be no innovation nor entrepreneurship.
Emotional development is also frequently overlooked, even by the most devoted parents. But it's still a crucial part of a child's development, without a sense of self, including self confidence and the discipline to deal with one's own emotional responses, a child will have difficulty functioning in society later in life.
The Professional Advantage
It is likely that most parents are aware of these developmental domains on an instinctive level.
However, certified preschool educators are trained in the scientific theory and methodology that can make the difference between a child succeeding – and succeeding brilliantly.
Co-written by Emily Patterson and Kathleen Thomas
Emily and Kathleen are Communications Coordinators for the Atlanta child care facility,
a member of the AdvancED® accredited family of Primrose Schools (located in 16 states
throughout the U.S.) and part of the network of child care preschools delivering progressive,
early childhood, Balanced Learning® curriculum.
"“Operation Family Connect” (www.operationfamilyconnect.
These touching videos will run throughout the month of December and viewers can follow each family’s compelling story through their home videos and blogs, as they anticipate the return of their loved ones. On December 21st, the long-awaited reunion videos will go live on the Operation Family Connect website and all can share in this exciting moment.
The Binkley Family
Aside from a brief visit, Marshall has not seen his wife Dawn in over a year. Being a tattoo artist, he carries a tough-guy presence, but deep down, he is a sensitive guy who’ll shed a tear at a photo of his wife. He is Mr. Mom to his three step-daughters and loves every second of it, even when it means playing both the homework police and the cook. He has an o
The Perry Family
With her husband Rick finishing his fourth deployment, Gabi Perry understands the realities of a family separated by duty. For eight years she has lived near Fort Stewart as an army wife, raising her three children and building a community of support for other military families. Gabi knows their struggle better than anyone, but as she comforts them, she must also contend with her own sense of longing for her husband’s return.
The Rathburn Family
Ariana's husband David deployed to Iraq in December of 2009 — the week after their first child was born. Being a new mom with an unplanned child, Ariana must now raise their son, Ian, by herself in a new town. A year is a long time to be away and many changes have occurred in Ariana's life, including new friends, newly found self-reliance, and her well-earned confidence in motherhood. She worries about how David will adjust when he returns to a hard-working mom and a child walking to hug him hello.
For those who want to help connect deployed soldiers with their family members during the holiday season, there is also an opportunity to donate to “Operation Family Connect” at www.operationfamilyconnect.com
Hope that is something you all can find useful or a worthy cause to donate to this holiday season!
Day 2: A photo of you and the person you've been close with the longest
My mommy and daddy. Call it cheesy if you want but I am super close with my parents and very thankful for that. This photo is circa 1988 I believe.
Day 3: A photo of the cast from your favorite TV show
This is like, my guilty pleasure show. I absolutely love Make It or Break It. Jonny used to make fun of me for watching it, however he'd sit there and watch it with me and would try to walk away but I would catch him watching from the hall. Ha.
Also, for the good news:
I FOUND MY RING!
Thanks for all the prayers that I would, it was in the back of my truck. I finally took the shopping bags out of the back and there it sat in Ariana's car seat. Found it the day after my birthday, thanks to my husband for a great bday present because I thought sure I'd lost it for good!
PS My newest article is up at DStripped. I really like writing for this online magazine, I get to speak with people and learn about things that aren't part of my typical daily occurances. For the November issue, I spoke with Jessica Cameron, an independent film actress, about her struggles and successes in life. For this issue, I got to speak with Heidi Kole, author of the Subway Diaries about her adventures in the underground music scene. By underground music scene, I mean UNDERGROUND literally, she plays/sings in the subways of NYC. I didn't even know people did that, so interviewing her and finding all about it was really awesome! So head over and check out this month's article, as well as the rest of the mag!
Day 1: A Picture of Yourself with 10 Facts
Since this is my blog and you guys all know so much about me, I'm going to try to come up with the most random things I can.
1. In contrast to the photo I used for the facebook version of this where I put an au natural photo, I am all dolled up in this photo, although you might not tell by the face I am making. I love making stupid faces. This face was invented by my friend Shan, it is the "Shmown" half smile, half frown. One of my favorite things to do is keep people laughing. If you can't laugh at life you'll probably cry 90% of it away.
2. One of my guilty pleasures is trashy pop music. From Gaga (you know, my obsession) to Ke$ha, even the Beiber... I love it all. I LOVE top 40s. I also love "cooler" underground stuff, I'm a huge reggae fan and like all genres... but when it comes to goin out, I want hits and I wanna shake my booty.
3. I have a bucket list. I've actually accomplished some of the stuff on it. One of the biggest things I want to accomplish? Amazing Race. Man I would LOVE to do that game/show. Ooohh, dreams...
4. My comfort food is mac n cheese. I am a mac n cheese connoisseur. My mom's is the best, hands down. I also like Golden Corral's. My mom also makes amazing turkey soup. I could probably live off just her mac n cheese and turkey soup, but then I'd be really, really fat.
5. I absolutely love to write. I don't know if you can tell from my blog or not, but it's one of my biggest passions.
6. I hate wearing pants. I think they're just uncomfortable. I also love undies dancing. One of my biggest hobbies. Can ya tell I live alone? Oh wait, I even did that when I had roommates in college... I guess you could say I don't have a lot of modesty (we all have the same parts, right gals?)
7. I love the Patriots but I also love the Ravens since I am a Maryland girl. The Patriots because, well, my whole family is from New England so I was raised a Pats fan but I've still got the hometown Baltimore pride!
8. I have a few very, very close friends (like, BFF status) that I've never met. It's mostly thanks to blogger. One of my very bestests I met through blogger and tell her everything but we have yet to meet. Some of my real life friends think this kind of relationship is strange but, to me, it makes perfect sense, I'm sure many of you can relate.
9. I'm a picker. Scabs, zits, and the like. There's a gross random fact for ya.
10. Picking out 10 completely random facts just about me was hard. And the funny thing is, I'll be driving or doing something and think "Oh, that's a random fact about me if I ever need one!" However, I can never think of them when I do this.
Here is the list of the challenges, for anyone else who might want to play along:
Day 01 - A picture of yourself with ten facts
Day 02 - A picture of you and the person you have been closest with the longest
Day 03 - A picture of the cast from your favorite show
Day 04 - A picture of your night
Day 05 - A picture of your favorite memory
Day 06 - A picture of a person you'd love to trade places with for a day
Day 07 - A picture of your most treasured item
Day 08 - A picture that makes you laugh
Day 09 - A picture of the person who has gotten you through the most
Day 10 - A picture of the person you do the craziest things with
Day 11 - A picture of something you hate
Day 12 - A picture of something you love
Day 13 - A picture of your favorite band or artist
Day 14 - A picture of someone you could never imagine your life without
Day 15 - A picture of something you want to do before you die
Day 16 - A picture of someone who inspires you
Day 17 - A picture of something that has made a huge impact on your life recently
Day 18 - A picture of your biggest insecurity
Day 19 - A picture and a letter
Day 20 - A picture of somewhere you'd love to travel
Day 21 - A picture of something you wish you could forget
Day 22 - A picture of something you wish you were better at
Day 23 - A picture of your favorite book
Day 24 - A picture of something you wish you could change
Day 25 - A picture of your day
Day 26 - A picture of something that means a lot to you
Day 27 - A picture of yourself and a family member
Day 28 - A picture of something you're afraid of
Day 29 - A picture that can always make you smile
Day 30 - A picture of someone you miss
Day 31 - A picture of yourself
Also, I've got a few emails from different organizations asking for me to put contests, promotions, etc. out to my readers, so I'll be working on getting them typed up in the next few days here. This is a service announcement to let those who have emailed me know I have received your email but I am AWFUL at replying and that I have been super busy but of course I find all these things important and want to share with my readers so I am doing my best to get on the ball, and to let all of you guys out there know there will be some interesting stuff unlike what I normally post coming up here soon. So, stick around for the rest of the challenge and some neat email info I've got. Hope to see some of your challenges!
Kenmore’s Baking for the Troops campaign aims to make the holidays a little sweeter for thousands of deployed men and women serving in the U.S. armed forces. In partnership with The Food Network’s Sunny Anderson, the goal of the campaign is to send 250,000 cookies to deployed troops with messages of support from Americans.
How can you get involved? Simply go to the COOKIES4TROOPS tab on the Kenmore Facebook page and ask Kenmore to bake and ship a dozen cookies on your behalf – at no cost to you. You select your own personalized message that we’ll pair with the cookies for individual troops, letting them know YOU care. Even sweeter – when a quarter million cookies are shipped to the troops, Kenmore will donate $50,000 to Heroes at Home Wish Registry assisting military families stateside.
She also included this fun little recipe for all of your holiday cookie making times:
Sunny's Candy Bar Thumbprints
Recipe courtesy Sunny Anderson, 2010
1 stick unsalted butter (1/2 cup), room temperature
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
For the coating
1 cup turbinado or raw cane sugar (recommended: Sugar in the Raw)
1 cup chopped nuts (peanuts, hazelnuts, pecans)
For the topping
various candy bars, broken into 1-inch pieces (Skor, Twix, Snickers, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Kit Kat, etc)
In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment blend butter and brown sugar on medium high until creamy. Turn off the mixer and use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl, pushing everything back towards the center. Blend again, then add the vanilla, egg, salt and blend until combined. Lower the speed of the mixer and add flour in 1/2 cup intervals.
Between each addition be sure to completely blend in all the flour and scrape the sides again as before. Once completely combined scrape the dough out of the mixer and add to a container with a lid and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Meanwhile make gather the coating ingredients. In separate bowls add turbinado sugar and various chopped nuts.
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Remove cookie dough from the refrigerator and using a tablespoon measure scoop out dough and roll into a ball between your hands. Continue to finish them all. Then divide the balls evenly and roll each group in one of the coatings, leaving a few un-coated. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, separating them on the sheet by about 1 inch. Bake each batch for 12 minutes. Remove and immediately press one chunk of candy bar in the center of each ball. Remove to a wire rack. Let cool before serving.
Yield: 36 thumbprints
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 12 minutes
Inactive time: 2 hours
* November through January is the best time to send these cookies to soldiers overseas because any other month the cargo is too warm. Also perfect because many countries have restrictions on sending candy bars, but this alleviates the problem. Soldiers can get their favorite candy bars in the form of a cookie.
*Perfect for assembly line cookie party, multiple batches can be made with endless combinations of coatings and toppings.
1. First, the cook's golden rule: Read all recipes before you begin.
2. Invest in an oven thermometer. It's every baker's best friend. Baking is a science and a proper oven temperature can be the difference between good and great cookies.
3. Softened butter keeps its shape but allows you to make a dent with your finger. It also softens faster when placed on metal or aluminum.
4. Cookie dough can survive in the freezer for up to 3 weeks if properly wrapped and sealed in freezer safe storage.
5. To store cookies, allow to completely cool, then contain. Any time before that will make the cookies either too soft or brittle depending on the recipe.
6. Ice cream scoops and melon ballers are great for measuring cookies so they are identical in size.
7. To stack sticky or soft cookies, think about using parchment paper or muffin tin or cupcake liners.
365 Days since I last saw my husband alive. Since I last held him, kissed him, touched him, hugged him, talked to him in person, laughed with him, made love to him. 365 since his lips grazed mine, since he gently kissed my forehead. Since he promised he'd see us soon, in a few months. An entire year has passed since we said what we thought to be a few months of see ya later.
And all I could think about was that day last year. What I was doing last year compared to what I am doing this year and what I've been doing since things have changed. So much has changed. Everything has changed. And now, from this day forward, our "last year we..."s are gone. Sure, "last year we talked on the phone or emailed about...", for another couple months still exists. But anything in person, there is no more "Last year we went..." or "Last year when Jonny and I...". It's painful.
I wrote a detailed post about deployment day a few months ago. I still remember that day so easily and I honestly hope I never forget it. Although it was filled with crazy emotion - sadness, severe anxiety, fear... it was the last day we ever had together. We didn't know it then, but that was it. The end of our physical time together. Looking back, I wished I'd taken more photos. I remember I hadn't worn makeup or done my hair because I knew I was going to cry and would rather have a no-make up face than a tear stained, black-streaked one. I wish I had taken the time to look pretty the last day he saw me. I wish we had more photos of those last moments. But there are some and I will always cherish them. I will always cherish our last moments at the house, even when it felt like he was dragging me out because we had to leave to get ready for deployment and I just didn't want to. I will cherish Bad Romance coming on in the car to cheer up a very sad day (maybe my obsession with that song and Gaga herself stems partly from this). I will always cherish every one of our moments together, the good and the bad, because I know how precious they really were.
So to spend this day, I kept busy. I did a lot of running around. I went and got my oil changed in the truck. And after realizing a strange light had turned on on my dashboard, I took the truck to the Toyota dealer to have them check it out. Then I spent time crying in the dealership because it was a stupid problem (it was the tire pressure gauge just letting me know the air pressure in the tires was off) that I should have been able to figure out myself, that Jonny would have been able to figure out. I was upset that he's not here to help with the "man tasks" anymore. That I'm left to take care of not only myself, but also our daughter and every other little thing in our lives, even the things that would be better left to him to take care of. I went and had lunch with friends at a mexican restaurant which was quite enjoyable and then did a little Christmas shopping for the couple of secret santas I'm involved in as well as for family. I'm just not into the holiday spirit this year, but I'm doing my best to get into it and be a jolly gift giver at the very least. When I got home, I was getting ready to jump in the shower when I noticed it...
my ring was gone.
MY RING WAS GONE!!!!!
This ring means almost as much to me as my wedding set. It was given to me by my parents for my 18th birthday, it's my birthstone cut into the shape of a heart with two diamonds on the side. When Jonny and I started getting serious, I gave him the ring and, while you make think it completely cheesy, I said, "Here, have my heart, keep it safe." And that's what he did. He put it on his dog tags and it went where he went the entirety of our relationship. That ring came back with his personal affects from Afghanistan. It's the very first thing I got back after he was killed. That ring had been between us throughout our relationship, to Afghanistan and back and now... now... it's gone. For good? I don't know. I've had a couple scares over the last 9 months where it would fall off. But stupid me never got it sized or put it up I just remembered to double check my ring multiple times thoughout the day. Except today. I couldn't tell you the last time I saw it on my finger, I just know it wasn't there this evening. I've looked but it was dark out, I'm going through my truck tomorrow. I have been torn up about this since I noticed it. And on all days... THIS ONE?! REALLY?? Like I needed more to be upset about. My mom has a theory though. Maybe it's a message from Jonny. When I had said to her about how it's one of the only things between us that's made it to 'Stan and back she said "Especially since it happened on this day of all days, Maybe it's him trying to tell you to let go a little bit. Let go of Afghanistan and everything that happened there." I believe in signs and I'm trying to see that things happen for a reason but I have a hard time reading what the signs mean. Maybe it's him telling me I'm a shithead and he doesn't like something I did. Maybe it's him telling me to let my heart go. Maybe it's him telling me to get more organized and pay more attention so I don't lose shit. Maybe it's just the fact that I lost weight and it was too big for my finger and I didn't take the time to get it sized (mostly because I didn't want to let go of it long enough to do that). It'd be much easier to know what (if) he meant if he would just tell me, everyone knows I'm really bad at taking hints!
I freak out because I put so much emphasis on stuff. All this stuff is really all I've got - or at least I feel that way - of what we had together. I keep thinking if I lose/break/get rid of any of this stuff or change anything, what we had and the time we spent together will disappear too. I talked to a fellow widster tonight and she reminded me that we do not need the material things, that we do have that time and we do have those memories, and our beautiful children! regardless of what things we have. And maybe there is some message in my ring being lost and maybe, just maybe it will turn up again. All I know is losing it has totally brought down the "ok" feeling I'd had after being with friends and brought me right back to how I felt this morning - that this suck is really really hard!
So I spent a little more time with friends and calmed down and I, ironically, ended the evening the same way I had a year ago on this day. I came back to an empty house.
Only this time, there was no box waiting on the doorstep reminding me I'd have to figure out how to put a rocker for a nursery together by myself (mom helped with that one what feels like forever ago) and there were feelings missing. There was no fear of the unknown, of what will happen next, no anxiety about when he will call, no waiting by the phone/computer for any kind of contact. Just the one feeling that hasn't left since that day - complete and utter loneliness.
So, this day 365 days since the last time I saw you in the flesh, I have this to say to you my Stinky, if you can somehow read the waves of the interwebs. I love you more than I can imagine to possibly convey on a blog. I am eternally grateful for the life I had with you and the love we shared in the flesh and continue to share since your passing. I am so thankful you gave me our precious daughter. And not only do I miss you, but I miss you painfully every single day, and I continue to wish that it would be possible for you to be here with us. But knowing that that will never be possible, I wish that I can somehow find some light in this dark tunnel and start to figure things out in this lonely life without you. Thank you babe, for loving me even though I made it hard sometimes, for always thinking I was beautiful even on days like D-Day when I wasn't wearing makeup, for always being on my side and for believing in me. Forever and ever, my love.
You've all waited patiently so here I present you, loyal blog followers, with some photos from the 1st Battalion 6th Marines Marine Corps Birthday Ball. Mind you, I didn't bring a camera so these are just ones people uploaded of me on facebook. I know, I need to find my camera!
Me, fellow widster Anne (who you may remember from my post about Zach Smith and the mud run), and Alana (who is also Ariana's godmother) - Oh and a great shot of my stunner dress that I got from renttherunway.com.
Me and Lindsey, who's fiancee Dave was one of Jonny's good friends
Bathroom shot! Annie, Leah, and myself
Alana, Annie, Me, and Breanna - not sure what face I am making but the pic makes me giggle
Caitlin, Me, and new friend Nicole. We tore the dance floor up!
Oh, and this one. Just because it's hilarious.
We visited San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. Thomas, Virgin Islands; Samana, Domincan Republic; and Labadee, Haiti. Ariana is officially a world traveler, having been OCONUS for the first time and to foreign countries for the first time. She was such a great traveler, as always, and had so much fun aboard the ship. And of course she stole the hearts of many. She is such a personable little girl.
Puerto Rico was a short stop in the evening. We went to the fort there and got caught in some serious rain which we all found quite funny. We did some shopping and then headed back to the ship. I wished it would have been a longer stop so we could have explored more.
At St. Thomas, my cousins, aunt, and I went snorkling in the blue waters. It was just SO pretty. I saw some fishies and a ship wreck. On the way back they served a rum punch. It tasted rather week and I was pretty thirsty. I accidentally ended up a little drunk - oops. We met up with the fam after the excursion and did some shopping in downtown St. Thomas. Like I said, it's gorgeous there.
Samana was definitely an interesting port of call. The Domincan Republic is a nation that is still in the depths of poverty, by the look of Samana. There were so many people out looking for money. Children were selling shells on the street and asking for a dollar. The people in the shops were incredible pushy. Many people on the cruise actually complained about this port of call, but I actually liked it. The island was absolutely gorgeous. It was just a tropical beauty. And having all of the natives there was a bit frightening for some but I really like to see others' cultures. My cousin and I did an ATV tour there while the rest of the family did a jeep excursion. Riding the ATVs through the jungle was exhilirating and you got to see some real picturesque scenery. Before we did the excursions we hit the shops and took a motorcycle with a cart attached as a taxi. Ariana seemed fascinated by all the people out, she just sat and stared. Like I said, a lot of people complained about this stop but I liked it.
Labadee was just phenomenal. It is Royal Carribean's private part of Haiti so it was just the cruisers, cruise staff, and a few locals working who were there. The beach was beautiful and it was another gorgeous tropical paradise. My cousins and I did the mountain rollercoaster, which was a quick ride and not as fun as I had hoped it would be but it wasn't awful. Then we did the longest zipline over water. That was a fun ride with spectacular views. What's better than flying over clear blue water, right in the open held up by nothing but a harness?! Then we got some serious beach time in. Ariana liked the water until she sat down and a small wave came making her rock a little bit, then she was done. And she was not having the sand. But we ended up taking a nice hour nap together under an umbrella which was pretty special. She's such a good baby on the beach. She loved watching the zipliners zoom by and she liked peaking outside of the umbrella at all the people on the beach.
The ship itself was definitely fun. I took Ariana to the Ice Show which was awesome. Ice skating on a ship - doing the turns and jumps and even back flips - I don't know how they do it! Ari was fascinated by the lights and music and flashy costumes. At night, I got my boogie on in the little dance club (or disco) that they had and was happy to make lots of friends aboard the ship. I also hit it up in karaoke a few times - I guess I was feeling brave. I participated in quite a few of the games they had and ended up being known as the "Ukranian Gymnast" towards the end for a split I pulled during one crazy game show.
Ariana enjoyed eating lots of delicious cruise foods and has now seriously cut down her interest in baby food - she is such a big girl. We enjoyed lots of family time during the day and Ari also enjoyed being with her great aunt and uncle and second cousins. We got some great photos so you'll have to stay tuned for when I finally get them uploaded I will do a photo post.
I definitely have had a lot of fun and wasn't so happy to be back in the cold. But I suppose every vacation must come to an end and apparently we're at that time... until next time ;)
So there ya have it, what I've been up to for the last couple weeks, no worries, I'll be around more now that we're not traveling all over for a while at least!
San Diego was a complete blast. I loved it. The weather, the atmosphere, everything. The western move is still just an idea and I haven't decided 100%. I wish I could give it a trial run and just be there for a few months to see if it's a good fit or not. Maybe. We'll see. I did the whole touristy thing and went to Ocean Beach and enjoyed lunch looking out on the water, hopping across beach rocks, and drank Margaritas in the middle of the day. There's really not much to tell except that it was fantastic, sunny, and I loved it. Oh and I went and saw Camp Pendleton... I thought Lejeune was big til I saw CP.... WOW.
The ball was... much, much harder than I'd anticipated. I didn't realize all the ceremonies and talk of the fallen would happen and it was just tough. I was with a fellow widster and we had a hard time keeping it together. We actually ended up walking out of the beginning part because we were falling apart a little bit and needed a breather. I felt extremely bad and apologized to the BC for it, I knew Jonny wouldn't have wanted me to walk out but it was just... so hard. Of course the BC had no problem with it and understood. He seems like a really nice man who genuinely cares about our Marines and families and it was great to meet him (he's a new BC, not the same as the deployment). I was a little self conscious about my dress because it was a bit on the flashy side (gold and sparkly) but it received great reviews so I think I pulled it off. It was a lot of dress to handle but I felt gorgeous and when I look at the pics I really think I rocked it ;) I enjoyed dancing with my friends and being with the Marine Corps family but there certainly was no shortage of tough spots. It was more reality. I think half of me expected Jonathan to walk in, if I just went he'd come... and it was more reality to sink in that he's not coming home. But I did it and I think he'd be proud that I went and represented our family.
Now I'm just sitting here in Mexico with some of my closest college friends and some new friends enjoying the time relaxing and to just be. I miss my daughter like crazy though and am definitely ready to be back in mommy mode. I'm only here for a few days and then I'll be back with my little babe so I will enjoy the time to just be and then I will definitely enjoy the time being back with her and the fam.
So here we are at 235 years. First and foremost, thank you to all of our Marines out there. (All our service members, of course, but hey, it's the USMC Birthday!) You guys are doing a wonderful thing for our nation and I am so proud of you and what you do.
Thank you to my babe for his service and sacrifice. You make me proud to say I am your wife. I am honored that you chose me to share your life with and to be the mother of our beautiful daughter. I don't think I can ever say how thankful I am to have you and how proud I really am of you.
Thank you to all those who have gone before and after him, you are true heroes.
I would like to share a few things with you in celebration of this.
First, I received an email about a new channel on Hulu.
The founder of GreatAmericans.com has informed me that Hulu now has a patriotic station! And if you're curious "www.greatamericans.com, is an online video portal dedicated to telling the inspiring stories of Americans in uniform" and you should definitely check it out. See some motivational videos and appreciate all that those in the service have done for you.
You also might wanna check out ArmyStrongStories.com (I know, this is my Marine Corps birthday post, but I'm gonna wrap Veteran's day into it a little bit as well considering it's right around the corner) Anyway, they have invited people to go on the site and not only read the stories but share their own stories of the veterans in their lives - all service branches. I've met the folks that work for Army Strong Stories, and they are some really cool people. Head here to share your story.
Ok, back to my Marines. This is a pretty awesome video of a gunny from 1/6 (Jonny's battalion!) getting his Marines pumped and ready for Marjah (language, remember, Marines... war...)
And the new Marine Corps recruitment commercial. Those recruitment commercials always get me feeling so motivated
And let's not forgot the Valor-IT contest is still going on, so get those donations pumping in honor of these fine men and what they do for this country!
Well, I am well on my way to San Diego where I have high hopes for a fun (and maybe even successful?) weekend. The first flight this morning was pretty interesting, though. I sat next to a very friendly grad student, who of course I didn't get his name but I am confident he will check this out, so "Big shout out, new friend!"
Now when I say "nice" flight, don't assume it was a calm flight. That was by no means the case. This was the smallest plane I've been on, and remember, I regularly fly out of Jacksonville, which I'm pretty sure is the nation's smallest airport with only "express planes." This too, was an express plane, but as my in flight accomplice (we'll get to that in a minute) pointed out, it was certainly very "cozy." Actually, the propellers were on the outside of the plane. Not inside, like a jet engine. Right... outside. Right near our row of the plane in fact. Hey there propeller, meet my face. They provided this sweet ambiance which set the mood for the whole trip - a nice steady hum (think swarms of very large bees on either side of your head) and a good steady vibration coming up through our shoes was definitely a great relaxation tool. This flight made us feel that we were under constant G Pressure, not unlike the spinny rides (centrifugal force rides, for those of us who have awesome vocab - flight accomplice, but not this girl) where you try to pick your leg up and it's so hard. I was afraid I'd been unknowingly signed up for astronaut training but it certainly provided discussion topic and something to laugh about. And then came the headphones.
You see, my row-sharer had bought a pair of headphones he wanted to open and did so by instead of following the how-to-open procedure, he ripped apart the case. Typical dude, right ladies? Well then, this girl decided I wanted MY headphones open. I, however, did not have the case that had some sort of open procedure, it was clearly a "cut me to get me open" kind. There was no way that this was stopping me though, those headphones were coming out. Let's just say I violently destroyed the plastic case bare-handed and came out with only one small wound where the plastic snuck up and bit my finger. The whole time my accomplice was cheering me on and it was evident we were basically the only people having a blast on the flight. He was pretty stoked when I got the final rip of the plastic and tore out my headphones and I must say I had an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment and general badassness.
The feeling of how badass I am, however, completely disappeared when I LOUDLY yelled WOAH during our rough landing. I mean LOUD. Neither me nor my new travel friend had been paying attention to how close we were to landing, as we were busy celebrating the opening of the headphones, and when we hit, we hit hard. And anyone who knows me, knows that sometimes I really can't control what comes out of my mouth or the volume with which it escapes. Ha. Definitely a memorable little flight and now to finish flight number two!
Thank you, fellow traveler, for making the flight a fun one and at least letting me think I'm hilarious for a few seconds. Just goes to show you, friends, like I said in a few posts back, always take time to meet new people! You never know when someone will be rooting on you and your headphones!
I am on the go again starting Friday and it will be non stop throughout the month. I'm pretty excited though, I think it will be a great time. I am going to San Diego on Friday to check things out, to really evaluate the moving situation. Then I've got the Marine Corps ball in NC, then Mexico with some friends for a couple days and then a cruise with the family. Go-go-go!! Definitely good for the "keeping busy" I am afraid I'm going to need an entire month of travel recovery though. Pray that I can keep up with this and not crash!
And lastly, but certainly not least, have you headed over the Valour IT fundraiser yet? Come on team Marines!! In honor of the Marine Corps Marathon (awesome article about one Marine making sure another's dream of running the marathon came true even though he was injured) this past weekend I think all you lovely people should head over and donate at least one dollar. ;) But hey, that's just what I think ;)