Celebrating Life, Love, and Sisterhood

Woo, what a week! It has been busy but well worth it! One of my very, very good friends and widda sista, Mandy, came to visit last Wednesday. We had a celebratory "RPYP" or yard party to welcome to her to North Carolina Porto and friends style. We had a great time, and I've got to say Mandy is one hell of a beer pong partner! Thursday... hm what did we do Thursday? Maybe we just hung out? Mandy, help me out here! Friday we packed up and headed for DISNEY WORLD!

We got in around 4pm and my sister in law picked us up and dropped us off at the cabin, where my mom and dad were waiting. They were super excited to see their grandbaby and sent Mandy and I, as well as my sister and her friends into the parks for the big kid rides. Magic Kingdom was open until 2am, so we did Hollywood Studios first and then Magic Kingdom. We got in pretty late (we didn't stay til 2 though!) and went to bed for an early start. Ariana woke up really early on Saturday, much earlier than normal, but grandma was more than happy to spend time with her. We got ready a little later and headed into Magic Kingdom, the whole gang along with my sister in law, her husband, and her son who is a couple months older than Ari. Ariana wasn't too keen on the rides. Granted, she'd gotten up much earlier than normal and it was very hot so I think that might have played a big factor on her discontent. We did Snow White, and as soon as it got dark she got scared. We did the Dumbo ride and she seemed to be okay once it was going. Both of those she chose to do with grandma (I'm telling you, she always goes to grandma or grandpa when they're around over mommy!) We did Pooh and she actually did that one with me. She held on tight and I could tell she was exhausted. Headed back to the cabin for some lunch and naps for the kiddos. I ended up napping too! We went back out into Hollywood Studios and rode the Toy Story ride, of course Ari wanted to ride with gram again and she didn't do too bad during that one.

On Sunday, we went into Animal Kingdom. I think that was Ariana's most favorite time. We did the safari there and she was so cute. She was laughing and pointing at all the animals. She waved and blew kisses to the elephants. Of course I forgot my camera but luckily my mom had hers. We walked around Animal Kingdom a bit, then everyone else headed back to the cabin but Mandy and I stayed to do the 2 big kid rides there before heading back. We had a cookout for lunch at the cabin and my mother in law, 2 sisters in law and their kids, and one's husband, and some friends of the family came up. We ate delicious food and just enjoyed being in each other's company. After a break, Mandy and I went back out again to get the most of the last day in the parks, mom wanted to keep Ariana with her. We did Epcot and attempted to do Disney Quest but it closed too early so we ended up going to downtown Disney for pretzels and heading back to the cabin.

On Sunday, it was Mandy's 4 year anniversary of her husband's angelversary. Many of the nights we stayed up talking late. I feel like I really got to know Dan during this vacation and it was great hearing so many of her stories. I love how she lights up when she talks about him. We shared stories, some sad, many happy, and I just enjoyed being with a good friend who really gets me. On Sunday night, we got on a bus and it was full of guys named Dan. It definitely felt like a sign from Dan, letting her know he was near. The driver was a cool guy named Jimmy who gave everyone stickers and the kids little presents. Of course I can't speak for Mandy, but I think it was a nice end to a not-nice anniversary.

Ariana headed back with grandma to Maryland because I will also be headed that way tomorrow, so we are only apart a couple days. Mandy and I flew back to NC to have two more days of adventure for this week of widow time. On Tuesday, we went ziplining in Fayeteville. We had SUCH a blast. I can't wait until I find my camera cord (or get a new one) so I can post photos. We did 8 ziplines, 3 aerial bridges, and 2 (or was it 4) tree staircases. It was exhilarating, and fun and even peaceful being up in the tree tops. I know we both had a great time.

Today we went on a trail ride at a farm down the road from my house. One nice hour with horses in the woods. It was so peaceful. We did a lot of nature connecting this week (even in Disney we stayed in cabins in Fort Wilderness!) and had lots of other little things that seemed like signs from Dan, just little hellos to his wife. After relaxing from the ride, we went and saw One Day, which was pretty good but definitely sad. We enjoyed a lunch/dinner (linner?) at O'Charley's, one of my favorite restaurants here in Jacksonville. And then, a few hours later, sadly and against my wishes, it was time for Mandy to head out. Back to Chicago and reality. BOOO!

I really hope that Mandy had a good week and found some joy in sharing her stories of Dan and being with someone who understands. I know I enjoyed time being with her, she is always a breath of fresh air and an inspiration to me. I feel like I know Dan much better now and I love getting to know my friends' husbands even if they aren't here on earth for me to meet them. It's amazing what representation the widows I've met give their husbands, and how much you can learn about a person through stories and photos, and just seeing the love in their loved one's eyes when they're telling the stories.

Well after a long, fun, and busy week, I should probably get some zzz's and get ready for my long drive to Maryland tomorrow to be with my baby girl and my mommy and daddy and sis! Hope you all had a great week as well!


  1. I was at Disney & Hollywood Studios last Friday too. Crazy to think I could have stood behind you in a ride line... I think I would have recognized you though. :)

    Sounds like you and Mandy had a nice trip. Girl time is special.

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  4. Sounds like a great time was had- even given the angelversary. You girls both deserved it.

  5. Sounds like you all had an amazing time together. I miss Disney! We did Fort Wilderness when I was 15 and stayed in a cabin and it was terrific. I guess it is part of the reason I was pulled in years later to work there. Glad you had such a good trip with Mandy and your family.

  6. I always love reading your posts - there is so much life and enjoyment to them. Even in down days you have an ability to make them not so down.


  7. Sounds like a whirlwind of a trip!! Glad to hear that you were able to relax and have a good time!


  8. Ahhhhh!!!! Maryland welcomes you!!!!!

    I'm glad you had a nice week with Mandy and some fun time with family. I'm really glad you were able to see Jonny's family as well.

    I'm so glad Ari has such a great bond with your parents. It's really a wonderful thing.

    Sooooo... whatcha doin in MD??

  9. It looks like you had a wonderful time with your friend! It's always great to have a friend who can really understand you and the things you have experienced. When we go to Disney we were thinking of staying in the Cabins at Fort Wilderness too! I love that hotel. Glad you enjoyed yourself! :)

  10. Rachel-- i cant believe you were in fayetteville, and i missed it!


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