Mom post

I need to talk about my daughter for a second. Not only is she the most gorgeous creature on the planet (I might be a little biased) but she is sooo smart, and funny, and just all around awesome.

Right now, she is using her bike helmet as a cradle for her "baby." Even though she has a thousand baby dolls (give or take), her baby at this moment is a strand of garland and a scrapbooking heart shaped hole punch. She is rocking her baby and feeding her baby. Just now she told me her baby was hot and needed to cool down. How does she do this? She grabs oven mits off the counter and puts them over the helmet. You know, because we use oven mits for things that are hot. How clever is that?

Tonight at dinner I was talking to my sister and I said how I didn't even really want to make cookies not thinking A was really paying attention. She cocks her little head at me and says, "I DO!" It's not as funny written out. The way she enunciated and just looked at me. I couldn't help but laugh.

The things this girl comes up with. Mom asked her to do something the other day, she put her hand up in a little salute and said "Ay, ay Captain Grandma!" Then she comes up to me another day, bows and waves her hand majestically and says, "Hellooooo Princess Mommy!" Where does she get this stuff?

She is so neat and never ceases to make me giggle. Even on days when she is in a mood, I will laugh at least once. These are the moments I want to remember. Mommy hood is the most awesome thing in life. Period.

The Big Black Hole

I've been missing. Not from blogger only, but from life in general. I've had friends checking in on me because they haven't heard from me. People are wondering where I've been, if I'm ok. Luckily facebook lets everyone know I'm alive because I still manage to post statuses and photos, but I've just been kind of absent.

It's this time of year. Frankly, it kicks my ass. And I haven't really wanted to share with anyone. So I've just dug this nice big black hole and crawled into it. It's not anything against any of my friends, it's nothing personal, I've just wanted to disappear. I mean, is it spring yet? Geesh.

I have been so sad I physically hurt. The other night my throat, neck, chest... it was just in pain. You'd think almost three years later and a lifetime of craziness within those three years would lead to it being a bit easier, a bit less. Nope. Still ass-kicking. Lately, looking at photos of Jonny makes me feel ill. It's a terrible, terrible feeling but ya can't help what you feel. I just look at him and want to wretch knowing I'll never hold him on Earth again. It's hitting hard this year. Ugh it's so tough.

On top of that crushing sadness, I've just had a lot going on. I've been under quite a bit of stress. So I just kind of hide away. Sometimes I feel like I'm pestering people with my sadness and my stress. So I just keep it in and deal with it, but in so doing neglect some of the people who really do care. Much to my chagrin, the world kept going after Jonny's death. I think part of me really expected it to come to a screaching halt. There was no way the world could still spin after his sudden and violent removable from earth. But it did. And people still have lives. Hell, I still have a life (sorta). And life has kept going and moved on. But part of me is stuck. And it's hard to express that to people who are still living normally that I'm still stuck and struggling. Sometimes I think people genuinely don't understand how I can "still" be in so much pain. How certain songs can still make me completely break down. Certain flowers, certain smells, certain memories, television shows and movies, certain anythings can just make me lose it. So I hide and I wait it out and I make impossible wishes and I await the spring.

So, I guess I just wanted to let everyone know that I am still here. And yes, things are tough for me right now and my heart aches and I'm stressed. But I'm okay and I will be okay.

Side note, as I'm writing this and Michael Buble's "Hold On" comes on Pandora. What's up God-wink from my sweetie. Haha, never heard this song but the minute I actually started paying attention the lyrics, "There's a thousand ways for things to fall apart, but it's no one's fault, no it's not my fault. And maybe all the plans we made may not work out but I have no doubt even though it's hard to see, I've got faith in us, I believe in you and me. So Hold on to me tight, hold on, I promise it'll be alright."

And with this, I leave you with another song I heard today that I often think of when I'm sad.

Smile though your heart is aching Smile even though it's breaking When there are clouds in the sky, you'll get by If you smile through your fear and sorrow Smile and maybe tomorrow You'll see the sun come shining through for you 
Light up your face with gladness Hide every trace of sadness Although a tear may be ever so near That's the time you must keep on trying Smile, what's the use of crying? You'll find that life is still worthwhile If you just smile 
That's the time you must keep on trying Smile, what's the use of crying? You'll find that life is still worthwhile If you just smile 

End of a Quarter Century

My twenty-fifth year has come to a close. Happy birthday to me, happy birthday Mrs. P. Happy birthday you old bag... happy birthday to me!

Twenty Five has been a pretty good year. Certainly an eventful year, mostly with good events. Some not great events. Fortunately nothing too disastrous.

In year 25, I bought my first home. I left North Carolina where I'd been calling home for 3 years and returned to Maryland, which had been home for many year prior. After purchasing my home, I started the task of farming. Making a garden and growing my own food. Well our food. Had lots of help with that endeavor. I broke up with my first serious boyfriend since Jonathan's death. I survived the second angelversary. We celebrated many firsts in our home, including our first set of holidays - Easter, Thanksgiving, and soon Christmas. I purchased two rescued thoroughbreds and embarked on making a great home for them. The boyfriend returned and I gave him a second chance. I started riding again. I brainstormed many projects. I started giving light to the thousands of ideas swimming around in my brain (maybe one day they will get to appear here). I rescued a pup. I had my first fall in years and the second set of bone fractures in my life. I broke up with the boyfriend again. I made some new friends. I reconnected with old friends. I had to choose to cut ties with other friends. I went to nine million weddings. And enjoyed myself. I lost and found my book of letters from Jonny. I got closer with my best friend and survived our first disagreement. I went on a couple dates. I did crafts with my daughter. I got closer to my daughter. I grew closer with my parents. I survived another year of toddlerhood. I actually did Christmas cards. I began a healthy eating lifestyle and have been really good at it. I started going back to therapy. I was a crappy blogger. I enrolled my daughter in a mommy and me class. I took chances. I got hurt. I lived another year.

It really wasn't that bad, looking back. I've had ups and downs, but each day brings it's own ups and downs, let alone each year. I'm pretty proud of how far I've come. I feel that age really is making me wiser and I certainly see things differently than I did last year. I'm learning what is important in life and what deserves to be let go. I am finally cherishing life again. Somedays, it's really hard, but I'm doing it.

While I'm really excited to see what 26 will bring me, I'm also struggling with it a bit. Jonathan was 26 when he died. He was 26 and 16 days. Now of course I don't know if I will live another 16 days, but it appears I will outlive him. And for some reason this is really bothering me. I don't want to die in the next 16 days, either, and I don't want the world to end for those thinking about that... it's just... weird. I guess it goes back to if I do age and get old... I don't know... I'll be old and gray and he'll still be 26. And it will have been so long since I'd seen him and he, me... Oi, this is harder to put into words than I thought. I know I'm not guaranteed this and hopefully I'm not writing this prematurely (I'm always afraid of jinxing things too soon, so as a note to the Man upstairs I do realize I'm not guaranteed anything so please don't feel the need to teach me a lesson about speaking too soon...) but it's just something on my mind as I hit 26. I don't know. So, I guess what I'll do is live this year even more to the fullest. And the one after that. And each one I am given. Because life certainly is a gift not to be taken for granted. I'm lucky I've gotten these first 26 years and I hope I get another and another after that. And maybe even one or 2 more sets. I'm not good at math. Did I just put myself at 200? I don't know. You get my drift though? It's late. And I'm officially old and senility has set in. Can't use that as an excuse yet? Damn. Okay... I'll just go with it's late.

Anyway, that's my birthday post. I didn't mean to drag it down so much. This time of year is rough. So dumb. I'm going to bed now.

Semper Fi,
Mrs. P

My Most Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!! Hope you are all having a lovely time with your family and friends today. Enjoying some delicious food and great time with your loved ones.

I bet some of you are a little taken aback by my thanks. There's one important thing I didn't even really mention and that's because I saved the one thing I am most thankful for for Thanksgiving Day.

Ariana Ralyn, I am most thankful for you, my baby girl!

My daughter is the one thing in life I am the most thankful for and the most proud of. She  is the most beautiful, smartest, funniest little girl with the most personality. I don't know where I would be today if  I didn't have to be her mama back in those difficult days, and I think it's safe to say she most likely saved my life. She provides me with so much joy every day and I don't think she even realizes it. Her laughter and giggles light up my world. When I'm sad, a hug from her can turn the whole day around. She tries to help me out when I'm hurt, she does whatever she can to help around the house. She is my little side kick. She is a constant reminder to me of her dad's love and that yup, he was real! (Sometimes he feels like only a dream). She has his eyes which I can't even describe how amazing it is to me.

So yes, I'd have to say the one thing I am the most thankful for is Ariana. My beautiful baby girl, full of life and joy and hope and youth and awesomeness.

Thanksgiving Eve

Yup, I kind of failed at doing my daily Thanksgiving posts. I'm sorry. Things got a little crazy and then there was the fact that my internet was down for a bit and I am just not fond of blogging from my phone. I sure have been thinking each day of things I am thankful for, though, and remembered often to post on facebook, too.

Today, I would like to talk about how thankful I am for all of the people who were there to support us after Jonathan passed. So many people took the time to send us cards, emails, thoughts, and contribute to Ariana's trust fund. When we arranged the funeral, we decided to say in lieu of flowers our friends and family could donate to a trust account set up for Ariana. We expected nothing from it, we just preferred people not waste their money on flowers. It was a beautiful surprise the donations that poured in to show support to my baby girl. Family, friends, people I haven't talked to in years, and  complete strangers took the time to send notes to the bank for Ariana. I have kept every deposit slip and every note or card and had them compiled into a book for Ariana. I don't want her to ever forget how gracious our nation really is for her daddy and how much people were thinking of her. So to all the people who sent a card, a note, a deposit, an email, a facebook message - anything - Thank you.

I never got to writing thank you cards. That's actually something I've been kicking myself for for a very long time. I don't want any person to think that I am ungrateful for these acts of kindness. Especially from complete strangers or people who  I haven't really spoken to in a so long. To know that we were thought of by those outside of our close circle of family and friends is incredibly touching and heart warming. You guys are amazing, and I hope that all families of the fallen feel as loved and appreciated as you all made me feel.

Speaking of support, these people were going to get there very own post but since I was slacking I'm putting them in here. I am beyond thankful for my mother and father. I know I talked about family already, but my parents are much more to me than family. They are my main support network, my biggest fans, my confidantes, the ones who help me with everything. They are the best parents a girl could ask for and that a grand daughter could be blessed with. My dad is one of the funniest guys I know and I don't know if he even realizes it. He has fought for our country and faced is own fair share of battles. He is a disabled veteran but he doesn't let that deter his spirit. He is the best guy I know and we have such fun together. My mom is my best friend. She, too, once served in the military and did her part. She is outspoken and honest but will be the first to help anyone who needs it. She never gives up and has willpower of steel. She is the strongest woman I've ever met in my life. I couldn't have asked for better role models growing up. They taught me the importance of family, hard work, love, and laughter. They never let me go a day in my life without knowing I am loved. To my mom and dad, I don't tell you often enough how amazing you two are, how important you are in mine and Ariana's life, and how much you guys mean to me. I love you and I hope I make you proud. Mom, don't cry when you read this, you know it's  the truth ;)

Thankful November Days 7 & 8: Care Takers and Comfy Spot

Last Monday, I took a hard fall off one of the horses, Joey. I landed on my back on the left side. The wind got knocked out of me and it hurt like crazy. I got back on Joey for just a short walk to show him who's boss and to help myself not be afraid of riding next time. By Tuesday, the pain was still searing. Zach had to had to stand behind me so I could lean behind him to ease the pain in the election line (but hey - I still voted!) and of course that still wasn't enough to get me to go in to the doctor. But Wednesday the pain had grown and it was hard to stand, walk, sit, cough, poop... well everything. So I finally made the appointment. After some extremely painful x-rays, it was suspected I had fractured my L4 pedicle. Basically, the little arm that comes off your vertabrae, on the left. After not hearing a definite answer yesterday, I popped in today to see what was up. It turns out the L4 fracture is definitely there as well as a second suspected fracture in the L2 pedicle. I am going on Sunday for an MRI to double check that as well as make sure there's nothing funny going on inside that they can't see with the x-rays. Luckily my urine came back okay to show there is no dammage to my kidney, which was the reason I made the appointment in the first place. Mom and I thought I might have bruised my kidney, I didn't even think about breaking my stinkin' back!

The reason I tell this whole story is because this injury made me realize some things I'm thankful for that I might not have said before.

The 7th: I am so thankful for the people who have been taking care of me during this. Mom and dad and Zach and Ari have been awesome. My mom came over and cleaned for me, she's helped me a lot with the baby. Zach's been taking care of the horses and doting on me, making sure I keep my hiney in bed (even though I hate to!). Ariana has been an angel. She tells me, "It's ok, it's alright you're fine," in her soothing little voice, she tries to help me walk, and she tucks me in when I need to lay down. She's been right by my side and just such a good girl. So many of my friends and family have called/texted/facebooked to check in on me and offer prayers and thoughts and volunteered to help out during my days of bed-boundess. The doctors and nurses I saw have been nothing but kind and helpful to find out what's wrong and provide me the best care they can. I know it's going to be a tough road to recovery and I am thankful I am surrounded by people willing to help me so that I can recover properly and not strain myself and make it worse. I am going to talk about support from people in another essence later, so please don't feel like I'm repeating myself (even though I could if I wanted to because I am very thankful for support), however this is support for one incident and then there will be another for something else. Just a heads up ;)

The 8th: I was simply happy for a comfy spot. Often times I think we take our homes and our spots for granted, at least I do. I am thankful that I have a nice warm bed with cozy sheets and my favorite comforter to curl up in. I am very thankful for this home, it's a gorgeous home and I'm blessed to live here. There are many people who unfortunately do not have a home, let alone a comfy spot, and I know I am blessed to be where I am, safe and warm in the country. I'm glad we have such an awesome space for Ariana to grow up, where she can learn the value of land and space, how important nature is; where she can get dirty and run free; hopefully a home and a space that she is proud of and becomes her own in!

Thankful November Day 6: A Voice and a Choice

It is election day 2012! Have you voted yet? There is still time in a lot of places, so if you haven't yet, I certainly hope you find the time to. I generally try not to talk politics too much. So many arguments ensue and these days people really take this stuff personally. So, I'm not going to talk about who I voted or why I chose that person, I'm just going to be thankful that I CAN vote. I do have a choice, and my vote does count. Sure, my candidate may or may not win, but at least I got to be a part of that process that gets to choose. There are so many nations that don't get this opportunity, that have no choice at all, and their voices are not heard. We should be thankful that here in America we do get to make choices and we can make silly facebook memes in favor of our chosen candidate and if we don't like something we can stand up and voice that. Living in a free nation is often taken for granted, and it's time we are thankful for what kind of country we live in. Is it flawless? Nope. Are there still things that can be improved? Of course. But we are pretty far ahead of the game in comparison to many, many other places out there. And with this we can continue to move farther and become better. I really hoped everyone got out and used their right to vote today. I know I did much more research this year than I had any other year and I'm pretty proud of myself for that. I am thankful for the resources to research so I can make what I believe to be the best decision and I am thankful to all those who do that. Even if our opinions may differ, an educated vote is what matters most. Well, that and getting the sweet "I Voted" stickers! (kidding).

To this country we live in, the opportunity to make a choice and have a voice, and to the brave men and women who make it this way, I thank you!

Thankful November Days 4&5: Write and Wrong

I'm a little late for days four and five but I am still going to post about them. On the 4th, my mom in law and sister in law and family headed back to Florida, so I spent the day enjoying their company one last day and yesterday was lawn care day, then I rode and fell off so I wasn't in much mood to look at a computer screen as my back has been pretty sore. Even so, didn't want to skimp out on two days of being thankful and I've definitely thought about which things for the 4th and 5th.

4: I am thankful for the ability to write. Whether or not I am good at it is up for debate. It's not being good that I'm thankful for, just merely the ability. Writing has been one of my biggest comforts all my life. Being able to put what I think into words and to document life. It has not only helped me figure out my feelings and put words to some pretty inexplainable times, it's helped me keep memories and have a way to look back through the years of my life's journey. I have also met some pretty amazing people through the blogging world and different writers' conferences that I will be forever thankful for, one big one is my best friend Mandy, who, without this blog I don't know if our paths would have crossed. More on Mandy and my friends later though. I thank each person who takes the time to read what I've written and who gives me feedback and encourages me to write more. To the audience I have gathered here at A Little Pink, you guys are amazing and you make this blog much more fun and worthwhile. Maybe one day I will fulfill my goal and write a book or maybe more! Stay on the lookout for that one ;)

5: I am thankful for the mistakes I have made throughout life. I know that might sound a little silly, being thankful for mistakes, but mistakes really do help us to learn and grow. Without making mistakes, we would never know which things work and which do not. Of course I have regrets, I wish I would have done things differently, but when it all comes down to it in the grand scheme of things, every mistake, every choice, has lead me to where I am today and that I am thankful for. I am also thankful that I do take the opportunity to learn from mistakes I've made. Sure, sometimes I make them more than once, but being able to look back and inside myself and learn is a big step and sometimes it takes a little more reminding to not do the same things. I am a little hard headed, ya know.

So for the fourth and fifth, two things that have helped shape me, my writing and the mistakes I have made, I am thankful for. To more writing, more learning, but maybe a little less mistakes (lol), cheers!

Thankful November Day 3: Pups

The world would be a much sadder place without doggies. I am thankful today for puppy dogs!!! We recently got a new addition to our family. His name is King and he is a 3 year old some kind of mixed dog. Parts of him appear to be pit but we aren't really sure. He is rumored to be American Bull/Lab, but I think that was just a guess. A friend from high school was looking for a home for him and I just had to go meet him. Luckily he fit in well with our family and that night he came home with us. So far, it's been a great time with King (or Kinger as we typically call him). He is super sweet and such a lovable boy. Ariana adores him. He spends much of his time sleeping and he likes to be close to us always. He doesn't really like to be left alone and he is very curious about his horse brother and sister. He is a serious cuddle monster.  Doggies are the only members of the family who are always happy to see you no matter what, you can lock them in the trunk of your car and when you let them out they aren't mad but instead EXCITED to see you!

Kinger and A

We also had a boxer named Molly. When Zach moved back to Wisconsin, Molly went with him because she was really his girl. I miss her much and hopefully one day we'll have her back with us. I have been blessed to have some great doggies in my life. Precious, Sheba, Keesh, Beau, Angel, Oscar, George. Oscar and George are at my parents and Oscar recently had surgery, so we keep little man Oscar in our prayers for a speedy recovery.

Kinger and A at nap  time

Molly the boxer

Oscar Man


So to my sweet sweet pup babies, you've made my life much more enjoyable, thank you Lord, for blessing us with such wonderful dogs throughout the years!

Thankful November Day 2: Family

Family above all else. 
In a general statement, I am thankful for my family. Ariana and I were blessed with 2 wonderful families to love and support us and I am so very happy for that simple fact. 
Family was fitting today, as my mother in law, sister in law, her husband and their kids just arrived from Florida to spend the weekend with us. I'm so excited to have them at our new home in Maryland for the first time. Ariana seems to be very excited to be spending time with her cousins, especially Mikey who is only a few months older than her. It is awesome for her having a cousin close in age, as I have many a good memories from my cousins that were close in age to me and our visits. 
I'm thankful that I am back in Maryland and close to my own family. I am thankful that there are many places in the United States I can go and have family to visit! It's pretty awesome reconnecting with family in a new place. 
I am also thankful that family sometimes extends beyond those related by blood or marriage and my family has grown to include some very special friends that I refer to as my brothers and sisters, as if we were born of the same parents. 

Cheers to family, and thank you Lord for the wonderful family Ari and I have been blessed with!

Thankful November: Day 1, Chosen

With November upon us and Thanksgiving looming in the not-so-distant future, it is that time to take a moment and be thankful. My goal this November is to write one thing I am thankful for each day of November. I'm very grateful for the timing, because lately all I want to do is whine and complain and be sad, and I know you guys expect more from me than that, so the timing just couldn't be more perfect.

I know you might be tired of hearing this, but November 1st being the day Jonathan asked me to be his wife (the first time), is the day I will recognize how thankful I am that he chose me. Of all the women in the world, he picked me, he asked me to be his wife. I could not be more thankful to have met this man and to have been able to call him my fiance on this day 4 years ago (four years - wow has it been that long?!). I could not have found a better man to be my husband and the father of our daughter. While our engagement was pretty random, it was perfect for us and perfectly us. We knew that we wanted to be together forever it was just a moment of making it "official." I still have the small chain that he put on my finger that day 4 years ago on the dog tags I keep with me. Man, was I proud of that chain. Sure, the first proposal wasn't exactly planned and it certainly wasn't anything big and fancy (the second time with the diamond was planned and it was low key and perfect for us, as well) but it was just right. And there was no question in my mind when I said yes, I would make him the happiest man in the world. His words, not mine. If they were mine I probably would have said Stink, I'll probably make you the craziest man in the world, and maybe sometimes a miserable one... but to him, he was the happiest (and he did know just what he was getting himself into - wild, right?!). And I was certainly the happiest gal in all the land.

He chose me and I can not thank the Lord enough for that.

Stink, I Love You. To the moon and back, forever and ever, babe. Thanks for choosing me, of all people, to be your wife.

Dream World

Dreams can do crazy things. Especially when a deceased loved one is involved.

I have had a multitude of dreams about Jonathan since his passing. Most of them, unfortunately, are horrible. I've probably touched on this before but for lack of memory skills and motivation to look through all my blogs, I'm going there again.

I've had dreams where Jonny comes home but doesn't want to be with us. In fact, wants nothing to do with us. In one particular one, he did everything he could to be deployed again. I've had others where I've had to explain my life to him and he hated me. I remember "They told me you were dead" being a quote from many a dream where I'm trying to explain why I'm with Zach or why I've dated. I couldn't get through to him that the Marine Corps insisted he had died in combat and I'd even seen his body at the funeral. Some dreams I have he never died but he also never even deployed. He wanted to get away from us. In one, he moved back down to Florida. Completely changed his identity so we couldn't find him, even though we did. I was crushed that he would just bail out on us like that. In another, he was a secret spy for Afghanistan. He told me his whole life was me was nothing but a lie, a mere coverup for his mission, and that we meant nothing to him. Talk about pain to the heart.

I have the dreams where I know I'm dreaming and they just seem so dumb to be having in the first place. I wake up wondering why I can't just let myself go and feel his presence. I have ones where he's alive but I have to keep telling him (telling myself, more like it  I believe) that's he's gone.
I have good dreams too, occasionally. Those more often than not are the ones where I know I'm dreaming, though, so they're not as authentic.

Last night, I actually had a good one. The sad thing about the good ones is that they still leave you feeling kind of crappy upon waking up. Having to realize it was just a dream. It was still worth it though. Last night, he came home. I did end up telling him that they had told me he had died, but it wasn't because I was explaining my life and it wasn't because he was mean. He was so happy. He knew they'd told me but he was just so happy to be back with us. We hugged. And today, I can still feel his arms around me. He kissed me, and for the first time in years I am reminded exactly of what his lips feel like against mine. Oh, how I've missed that feeling and now it is fresh in my mind. I ran my hand through his hair and my hands tingle knowing the slightly scratchy feeling I felt just last night.
He played with Ariana. She knew exactly who he was (as she always does) and she called him daddy. She was so happy to see her daddy and to have her mommy and daddy together. That is a feeling that I can't shake today. I don't want to. It was absolutely amazing. I'll never know that feeling but that dream gave me just the insight that I needed. He loved her so much. He held her tight, he threw her in the air. It was all so natural. And none of it felt like a dream. I can't emphasize how real it felt. Even his warmth. His weight around me. We were hanging out at a friend's house, one that I actually met after Jonny died. It was really random to be there, but she was very excited to meet him. We all just hung out. He played with his daughter and I watched and smiled. And cried. And laughed. It was perfect. It was everything I'd been missing the last two and a half years. Then of course wake up came. And I was here in my house in MD, not in NC. There was no Jonny. Just me and my broken heart,  a gloomy day to match the sudden loneliness that sunk in as I opened my eyes.  What I wouldn't give to actually have that moment...

It's hard having a dream that gives me what I desire most then waking up to have it all gone again. I am grateful though, because for however long it lasted last night, I had it. It was so so amazing. Maybe I'll be able to close my eyes and relive that dream for a while. Not without some tears of course, but they're worth it.

Oh how I miss him so much. Almost three years later and it still aches to my bones and deeper. Maybe my life has changed, maybe it appears that I've "moved on" but I still miss him. The same, if not more, than the day I found out. Hell, since the day he left for deployment. I'd still give nearly anything in the world to have him (the only exception being my baby girl). Some people might find it ridiculous. Many don't understand. But there is a hole in my heart. It will never be filled. No matter how much time passes, no matter who walks in or out of my lift, there will always be this hole and this ache.

Oh my Stinky, I miss you so much. And I will always, always love you. To the moon and back, forever and ever babe.

All My Friends Are Getting Married...

and I'm just getting wasted...
and I'm just getting more awesome...
and I'm just staying the same!

These jokes always crack me up. Especially this year, man is 2012 the year for weddings in my circle of friends. And if one were to take advantage of the number of open bars at the weddings I've attended, one would certainly be wasted. I, however unfortunately, haven't really taken great advantage of that since I always have to drive home, but I could if I had a ride. Then it would be My friends are getting married and I"m getting wasted, literally...

Anyway, enough about open bars, this is about weddings (yeah, yeah they go hand-in-hand). A lot of my friends have or are getting married this year, and another handful have gotten engaged this year. 2012 is a year for LOVE! Or maybe that it's just I'm creeping up on being, ahem, 26 years old and so it's around that time that people to start settling down with their significant others. Hey, I know, I married pretty young, what can I say.

A friend of mine (forgive me I can't remember which) asked me if going to all these weddings, hearing about all these engagements, was upsetting. If it was hard for me with Jonny gone to see all these people around me happy and in love, basically.
The short answer to that is No.
But the question certainly got me thinking.

Should it? Should it be hard for me to be around other people so in love when my love can't be here with me? I don't think so. I am so happy for my friends who are getting/have gotten recently married. I am ecstatic that I get to see that joy and love on their faces, shared with their loves, that I once had. That I still carry in my heart.

Is it tough? Sometimes. I wish that Jonny were there to celebrate my friends' marriages with me. We did get to attend one couple of friends of ours wedding shortly after we were married. We had a blast. Jonny was so much fun and such an amazing wedding date. We would have had a blast this year at all these weddings, for sure.

Sometimes it's hard hearing certain songs. It still pangs my heart when I hear Canon in D, the song I walked down the aisle to. Ava Maria, Walking on Sunshine, those were big songs in our wedding. And of course OUR song, THE song, "Can't Help Falling in Love" by Elvis. That one is tough. So far, so good - it hasn't been anyone's song yet. Eventually it may and I'll cross that bridge when I come to it (probably with a few good tears, I rarely get through that song without tears since). But yes, there are some parts that are tough.

But I want it very clear - it is not tough because I am not happy for my friends, or because I can't stand seeing others happy or a "why do they get what was taken from me" sort of thing, as some may think. It's tough because it brings back memories. Happy memories, definitely, but difficult memories none the less because I miss them. There is no ill will from me toward any happy newlyweds. Heck, I was once a happy newly wed too - it's an AWESOME feeling. I hope that my friends feel just as awesome as I did back then. That they feel that love from their new spouse and the promise, hope, and excitement their vows and the embarking on a new life bring. That is the exciting part about weddings - the sparkle in the newly weds eyes, the promise of an exciting new future. It's beautiful and amazing and I love being there to share in it.

I am a sucker for weddings, I love them. I love love. Even without my love here on earth with me, I love it. I miss him, but it doesn't change the fact that I also love my friends and am happy for them finding their happiness.
So yeah, it's a little tough when I hear certain songs or have certain memories, but no I wouldn't say it's hard or upsetting, per se - it's fun and exciting!

So to all my 2012 Newly Weds and New Engagees (not a real word...) Congratulations! May your life be full of love, laughter, happiness, and just enough tears to keep you grateful!

Rachel Porto Had a Farm...


I have been very absent lately, yet again, but this time there is a pretty good reason behind it.
I've become something of a farmer. I use that term incredibly lightly, but it makes me feel special when I do!

If you recall, I moved back to my homestate of Maryland back in February. The house I chose to purchase also came with a nice chunk of land that I would hope to some day turn into my dream - a place to keep horses on my own property.

Around the age of 8 or so, I began riding. For some stupid reason (aka teenager-hood) I gave it up somewhere in the time between high school and college. I still missed it, ever since I gave it up, and have rode a few times in between. I always knew I wanted horses again some day, so when I purchased my home I did so with the notion that I would make it my own little slice of Heaven.

Let me tell you, having a slice of Heaven comes with hard work! My property had no fencing and a small barn when I moved in. There are still several worrisome trees and over half of it is pretty heavily wooded. This is all BEFORE even thinking of horses. Well, for a normal person that is. But of course in Mrs. P world things are done on strange schedules.

I went up to a rescue in Pennsylvania called After the Races, specializing in rehabbing and rehoming Thoroughbred race horses. I have a special space in my heart reserved for Thoroughbreds, as my first horse was a Thoroughbred. I also think they are just beautiful and the thought of rescuing them and giving them a new job and purpose in life is right up my alley. So, I went and visited and fell in love. I put the deposit down and realized I had a very short time to prepare for our new family members.

Thank God I have such a supportive family. We realized all too late that the barn already there was far too short to house horses and had to add on an addition, or run-in shelter. Then we had to put up temporary fence. Make sure everything was horse safe. It might sound easy and like nothing when put into words but we were working non-stop for a little over a week straight to prepare. In the middle of July. It was AWESOME. We then had to find a hay supplier (during an incredibly dry season - that was a fun task) and work on getting most our ducks in a row.

Of course, I couldn't settle on just one horse (they are herd animals and I felt horrible having just one living alone - and also, I couldn't choose between them...), our two newest babies of our family arrived on the 7th of August, just 9 days after my deciding they would be coming in the first place.

Since then, it's been a steady stream of insanity. All kinds of horsie business has strung upon us. Thrown shoes, necessary dental visits, vet visits, barn shopping (and ordering), tack, riding, bush hogging fields, mucking.... it's been interesting. And exhausting.

The weird thing is though, as draining as it's been, it's worth it. Horses bring me such a sense of peace. The smell, the way they move, the nicker of hello when I'm bringing grain out - it's all magical to me. And even better, what I feel it's doing for my daughter, well, that's indescribable really. She gets excited about barn chores, she loves to help with everything. She's learning to be quiet and patient and cautious around her new big friends. But she is brave and loves to pet them (and has even had a little "pony" ride on one). She is learning hard work and the payoffs of hard work - and ENJOYING it. I feel as if this is a major step in the Porto Girls' journey and it will only be for the positive. I keep praying that I can figure it all out and do what's best for everyone but as overwhelming as it gets I keep getting this sense that it's worth it in the end and we'll be better for it. Maybe even one day I will be able to help others using the peaceful qualities of my equine friends...

It feels to be amazing to be living one of my dreams. There are still a few more left to fulfill though, so standby ;)
I know this post was all over the place, but now that I'm kind of in the swing of things with a better routine set, I will definitely try to hop on here more and be a bit more regular!

Ariana and Joey, our sweet boy

Ariana and Glory, our temperamental red-headed lady (basically me in horse form)

Mare and Gelding, Glory and Joey

Mustang Sally

I graduated high school in 2004. It was a pretty good year, finishing high school and on to the new and more exciting life of college. My parents were super excited for me and so proud at how well I had done in high school. I was 17 years old and I drove a Chevrolet Cavalier that I'd gotten for my 16th birthday. I'd always been obsessed with Mustangs though, and I wanted one so bad. So, so bad. Specifically an older model - a 67 Convertible, red with a white or cream top. Ooooooooh baby.

So, my dad made me this little deal. He told me if I got a free ride to college, he'd buy me my car. He however did not want me to be driving an older one no matter how refurbished because he felt they were lacking in the safety features of newer vehicles. So, the agreement was a free ride to college would lead to a brand new Mustang. Who can argue with that?

I busted my butt on scholarship applications all of senior year. I didn't want student loans. No amount offered was too small and no essay requirement too long. If I met the criteria, I was applying.

I ended up with a full ride to college and so dad (and mom too, of course), holding up on his end of the bargain, took me to the Ford dealership and home we went with my new car.

I named her Dorothy (Dodo for short haha) because she was ruby red like the slippers. She had a tan top, leather interior. V8 engine and manual transmission. She was lovely. Of course I drove her everywhere, she was my car (and we'd traded the Cav in).

In 2008 upon graduating from college, I started working at the Army post near my parents' house. On and off post Dodo and I would go every day. We'd go to the PX on lunch, and one fateful weekend in August, we went to the bowling alley.

That weekend, we came across a gorgeous Marine. A group of silly Marines actually, but one in particular that would change my life. After the bowling alley closed, the Marines and I were headed to the rec center a few streets over to keep hanging out. One silly Marine walked me to my car and I offered him a ride. Two more silly Marines jumped in the back because the top was down. I had to tell them to get off the back and put their seatbelts on I was not getting a ticket on post! My Marine gave the other 2 a dirty look, he wanted to be with me by himself. I drove us over to the rec center. The other guys went ahead and me and mine hung back. As we started walking over, the other guys called up and said we couldn't go in, the Marines had to return to the barracks. My Marine asked if he could kiss me. We stood there next to Dorothy and the most magical kiss I've ever experienced happened. I drove her home that night. It wouldn't be the last time I drove on post to hang out with Jonny.

The guys didn't have cars since they were still in training, so I'd go pick them up when we wanted to do stuff off post. Usually in Dorothy, sometimes in one of my parents cars if there were too many hanging out that night. We would pile in and head to whatever we were up to. I'll tell you what, a Mustang full of Marines sure shows it's weight, poor Dorothy would seem to jump up in relief once everyone climbed out!

That car was with me when I met my sweetie and she was our main transportation in the early days of our relationship. Maybe TMI, but chances are high that our beautiful daughter was created on the smooth cream leather of that pretty Mustang...

Months came and went and Dorothy and I drove down to North Carolina. She had a new friend, a nameless Toyota truck, but she was still my baby and my main mode of transportation. The truck was Jonny's.

Then Ariana came. The carseat barely fit in the back and I just wasn't comfortable with my precious cargo in the back of a 2 door car with a cloth top. As much as I loved my beautiful convertible, I loved my baby's safety more. Jonny and I talked of trading in the Mustang for a more family friendly car like a small SUV or crossover. Jonny said a new Camaro would be a nice surprise for him when he came home (trade my baby for a Camaro?! HA)! I started looking at different options but it was just so hard to part with that car, the truck now became my number one transport and was super handy with all the extra room (I wouldn't even dare try to fit a stroller in the Mustang...). I figured we'd figure out the second car situation when a second car was necessary.

Then Jonny died. There were so many memories in that Mustang, so many with him, how could I let it go? I could look at that car and remember different times we went out, different things we did. He loved that car, I retaught him how to drive stick in that car (he'd learned once before but was rusty so he relearned). We did sooo much in that car. If I let her go, even though I had really stopped using her, would I lose those memories too? She just sat, she'd get taken out every so often when it was just me doing something. The tires always needed air and more often than not she'd need a jump, but at least I could see her, at least she was there with her memories.

I had her shipped up to Maryland when we moved and she's sat. I think I've driven her maybe twice since we got here. So today, I did it. I finally parted with my car (ah, finally we've reached the point of this long story personifying a car!)

I sold my Dorothy today. The dealership was happy to take her. And guess what? The memories are still there! Nothing left with her, except the insurance to keep tags on and the space being taken up in the garage and the idea that maybe I'll drive the Mustang today.

It was a big step. I know it sounds stupid. It's just a car, it's just a material object. But I've said before, I hold on to these material objects like they might bring me a piece of him. The truth is, I don't have to feel the leather or hold the steering wheel to remember.  All I have to do is close my eyes and think. I feel almost as if a small weight has been lifted. Moving forward doesn't mean letting your loved one go, sometimes you have to let go of some things, but it doesn't mean you'll let go of the memories or the feelings.

And maybe now, she will provide her new owner as much joy and as many awesome memories as she did for us. Maybe she'll belong to another headed-to-college kid, or maybe someone going through a midlife crisis. Maybe a Mustang aficionado or someone who goes to the track. Maybe a mom who wants a "me" car or a 20s something guy who wants to pick up chicks. Who knows, I just hope they treat her right, she sure is a great car (haha gosh I sound like I got rid of a pet or something).

So Dodo, it was a great eight years. Thank you for being such a sweet ride!

For Lauren (I Love Widows)

Well, my dear friend was very sad that when she checked in here, nothing new has been posted. So, here I am after yet another hiatus. I have so much I want to talk about. I really want to talk about Memorial Day, but I need to figure out how to post something first, so my Memorial Day post will be even more delayed. I'll just say it was a nice one and I hope and think my hubby was proud.

So instead, I'll talk about widows. I love widows. They're basically my favorite kinda people.
Sometimes, that's because they just get it. They understand my life because they are me. They are me and I am them. We can be so different yet so alike that sometimes it may be hard to remember if a grief experience is your own or a friends'. I can read blogs and be astonished by the words another widow writes that I swear I could have just written (had I not been on hiatus - haha) or the comments from widows who are sure they wrote my post themselves.

I love widows for the sense of humor many of us share. The way we can embrace crappy situations through laughter. Sure, some of us may be a little more dark, crass and inappropriate than others (*hides face*) but widow humor is just something that makes our situation a little bit easier, a little bit more bearable and I am so thankful for other ladies who can embrace that.

I love widows for how they embrace life. So many of my friends who have lost their significant other just really jump into life head first. We know how short life is. We are faced with that terrible reality every day - that life can end in an instant. A surprising and completely shitty instant. So what do we do? Well, maybe we go a little insane, but we live. We find ways to feel alive. We travel, we see things, we meet people, we do extreme things (like flying airplanes or jumping out of them), we start organizations (I'm just sticking with the "we," no, I have not started an organization), we reach out to people, we appreciate those special people in our lives sometimes leading to neurosis (many widows I know have anxiety when being separated from their loved ones, it's not just me - I just call it extreme love heh), we tell people how we feel even if they might not like it, we honor our spouses and keep their memory alive so they will remain with us always.  Are these qualities the same for every widow? No. That's not what I'm saying. What I'm saying is the widows I've met, especially those I've become close with do many of those things, they just grab on to life and let it take them because it could all be over when we least expect it.  We've seen that - we get it. I don't want to be a generalizer and say all widows are awesome, but the ones I've met are indeed awesome, each in her (or his, I know one widower) own way, if in only the fact that they are living through the tragedy they were handed, they are awesome (although it is usually much, much more than that).

I love widows because they make me feel less alone. Although this is the one time where I can also say I hate widows, too. I hate that so many awesome ladies I've met have been handed this life. I hate that there are so many young, beautiful people who know all too well what heartbreak feels like, how death changes your entire life. My heart breaks when I meet new people who are widows. It's strange because I get excited, a new friend - yay! But my heart just breaks that there is one more person who has lost so much and hurts in a way that will never heal. It might mend but it won't heal. It's frustrating and confusing. But above all that, I love them! They make me feel normal, they make me feel sane, and just simply not alone.

So, for my widstas out there, I love you guys. You inspire me every day and many times you have helped me through the hardest spots of my life and encouraged me to go on. I am grateful for all of the times we've had together, for those who stopped in this weekend and visited (Holla Karie, Kelly and Lauren!), for those I've traveled with, cried with, laughed with, facebooked with. You guys are all the bomb, don't stop doin' what you do - don't stop livin'!

"I have known true love.I have known defeat.I have conquered defeat.I have endured.I have persevered.I am more than a widow.I am anINSPIRATION."-AWP

Never forget, my widow loves, you are an inspiration. W<3

It Gets Harder?

Well before getting into the nitty gritty of the post, I will first apologize for my serious MIA status. I've been doing a little bit of vacationing and thoroughly enjoying it. Went on a cruise with mom, dad, and A and then came home for a few weeks before heading to Florida with A to see Jonny's side of the family. In between all that I'm still working on getting my home set up, and I'm pretty sure I'll be in "moving-in" status for the rest of my life, or at least five years. Yikes! Our travels were good, the cruise was a lot of fun and A loved seeing the water every where. Our trip to Florida was outstanding, and I think it was also much needed. It was great to be with his family which is also my family, reminisce, hang out, and really just keep getting to know each other. We had a blast and I am looking forward to our next trip there.

I say it was a needed trip because I just needed some more of him and his family is as him as it gets (thank God I have a little piece of him hanging out with me everyday). I haven't been doing well. Grief isn't just a nice and neat little agenda you can follow. The pathway of grief or whatever it's called? Yea, complete bullshit. It just doesn't work that way. The stages, sure they may be there. The anger, the depression, the bargaining, all of that. Yup, it's there. But it doesn't come as it's "expected" one neatly following the other and never returning when it's done. Each little "stage" springs up when it feels like and you have to deal with it when it presents itself, even if you've dealt with it before. And oftentimes, it's not alone, in fact 9 out of 10 times it's accompanying another little stage of grief, tag teaming on the ass kicking. Grief is just not fun. I'm saying grief a lot, because it finally actually feels like grieving.

For the last two years, well, let's face it. I've been running. Maybe if I ran fast enough, I occupied myself enough, I hid, well maybe then there would be no grief. If I moved fast enough, got away from it, maybe just maybe I would wake up from it. The problem is, however, there's nothing to wake up from. This is real life and well, frankly, it sucks. No life doesn't suck, just the circumstances, the grief. That sucks.  A lot.

This March, April, and May have just been wooping me. I just want him here. I don't want to be a widow anymore. I just want to be a regular wife, with my husband who I love, having regular married people dilemmas. I called my mom a few weeks ago after I'd walked through my office where Jonny's urn (the box) is proudly displayed. I had stopped and stared at that urn and was like "What is that?" in my head... "what is it doing here" I called my mom and said that I am ready to wake up from the nightmare now. But like I said, and she said, it's the crappy reality.

I know, I'm rambling. It's been a while, alright? I guess where I'm going is I didn't expect it to get harder. I didn't expect it to get easier, either, I just figured it would... I don't know... I didn't know what to expect. I miss him more than ever. It's been too long. I want to feel his warmth around me, talk to him, just have him here. I'm sad, I'm angry, and I'm not feeling like accepting it.

I know, you've all read this before. I'm certainly not looking for pity, it's just so good to get it out. The written words seem to help me make sense of it all. I've just been in so much pain. I'm not numb and I'm not running and I'm just here and hurting.

But. I will survive. I always do.
Pump up the Gloria Gaynor for a little motivation.

Grievances of Dating

I guess I'll start this post out by saying that Z and I decided to split. After a year together, it was time to take a break from one another to really evaluate what we each want out of life. I'm obviously not going too far into it because it's a personal matter but I will say we remain friends and he was a very important part of my life for a year and I will never forget the time we shared even though I've decided we should go our separate ways.

Our split happened about a month or so ago and I decided I really want to see what is out there in the world. Or better yet - who. I never really dated like an adult. You know, went on dates, that sort of thing. I had a long term boyfriend from high school to college, then Jonny and I met shortly after I graduated college and fell in love - it was so easy for us, I was and am so lucky - and then got married.  I tried dating for a while (a little known fact that I don't discuss because I don't really like hearing people's opinions on my personal life) and then I met Z and settled in with him for a year. I know I'm getting pretty personal and I know I'm going to get all kinds of comments on this and I'll just put it out right now mean/hurtful ones will not be tolerated, they will be deleted and you'll be wasting your time and energy typing it out.

So anyway, I've decided I want to try to date. Not to get serious, not to get the booty from every guy in town (I'm actually on a strictly no-booty-for-a-long-while program, if you need to know) but to date. If anything, make some new friends. Since I don't really have many single friends anymore, I did what more people than you think might do, and I joined Match.

Here's where the grievance sets in. So on match, you can put what you're looking for. You fill out an "ideal match" section so to speak. Then every day, you're sent profiles of people you might get along with. So I check them out, see if anyone sparks an interest and go from there. One of the first things I look at is what they're looking for. Specifically the part where it says about kids and relationship status.

The issue I'm having is these guys will check off "never married, divorced, separated" etc. etc. They'll check off every box but widowed. Basically saying, I'm willing to date any kind of person, even one not even all the way broken up, as long as they aren't widowed. Honestly, it kind of gets to me.

Being a widowed person is challenging, oh hell yes it is, and being friends with a widowed person, even more being in a relationship with one, I'm sure is beyond strenuous. You can ask Z, it ain't no walk in the park. But to be completely closed off to dating a widowed person? Well, you might just be missing the best thing you could ever get.

I get it. "Baggage" is a word that comes to mind. For me though, I'm not going to hide my widowed-ness. I won't change it to "divorced" because I'm not. I still love my husband with all my heart, but I'm open to loving someone new, as well. I'm not even looking to love someone new right now to be honest, just to see what is out there, but the idea of loving someone again is not something that I am opposed to (obviously, because I was in a just-shy-of-a-year long relationship). Do I have my "baggage"? Well, I suppose you could call it that. I've got a husband that I love dearly who is no longer with me and a daughter that he created with me who I love with all my heart. In my mind, that's not baggage - but I know to others it may be. But I also have a husband who wanted, above all things, to see me happy, and I know that even though he is not with me, that is still his wish for me. I won't settle for less than happiness.

There's a stigma that widows don't or shouldn't date. To me that's complete hogwash. Why do we deserve less than others? Why should we have to be alone? Why don't we deserve to share our lives with someone? It is perfectly possible and acceptable to love someone new while still loving and honoring your spouse in Heaven. Is it awkward? Yup, it's awkward for both the dating persons and the friends of them. I know that friends of my husband have felt weird about me dating, but it's not their life. That's the long and short of it. It's my life and I know I deserve happiness. I want someone to share my life with, to share joy and sorrow with, to share responsibilities with, the whole nine; and it is not fair for someone who has never walked in these shoes to tell me that looking for someone to love (or even just spend time with) is wrong. It's also not fair that anyone would be opposed to meeting me because I'm widowed. Do you have to love me and spend your life with me? Nope, if it turns into something you can't handle or you don't want to handle, that's fine. But to be completely opposed to the idea? Ouch. I'm still a woman. I'm still hilarious (or at least, I think so). I still like having fun. Do I have bad days? Oh definitely. Do I miss my husband every single stinkin' day? Yup. Do I still incorporate him in my daughter and my life? You betcha! But I'm still just a person! A person who's been through a lot, sure, but a person who is funny and life loving and moderately attractive, too!

So there. There are my grievances on dating. I'm going to repeat this because I know you little anonymous turds out there - mean/hurtful will not be tolerated. I deserve happiness, and if you think I don't, your words are meaningless. I hope this might help a fellow widowed person out there who may want to pursue dating or is dating and dealing with the obstacles of widowed dating. Besides everyone having some sort of input on what we're doing, dating as a widow is a challenge. It's really putting yourself out there. There are about 243180571 emotions involved in it and it is certainly not easy. To my widowed friends - do what makes you happy. To my non-widowed friends, please don't judge when you have no idea what it is like in these shoes. And to the singles out there and looking, don't write us off because we're widowed, I know so many awesome widows out there you are going to be sadly missing! Life is about taking chances. Take the chance to put yourself out there, take a chance on something new, take a chance to hear a person's story before making a judgement.

As an addendum: Being more focused on what I'm doing with my own life, I forgot to add this in until just now (scatterbrained, what can I say?). There are also widows who choose not to date. Young and old alike. That's cool, too. If you are in a position where you don't want to date, then don't date. There are people who have their opinions on that as well (You're young, you'll find love again. What haven't you started dating your husband's been gone xxx years, etc. etc.) If you're happy not dating then be happy. And if your widowed friend is happy not dating, leave her (or him) alone. I spoke about dating because that's where I am in my life and the issues I'm facing, but there are others who choose the opposite and still face issues of opinions and judgers. The choice to date or not date is a personal one that can only be decided by the person. In the end the only answer is to be true to yourself and do what brings you happiness.

Seven Hundred Twenty

Apparently I've got a thing with numbers lately. 720. That's how many days it's been since he left this earth. That's how many days I've survived widowhood. Well, I didn't know I was surviving it until the 15th, but ...

I miss him so much. I feel like I'm being ripped from both sides. It's crazy how the simple changing of the clock can make pain so much more intense. What the hell. I mean, the pain is there everyday but there's something about the marker, the anniversary. That's why we celebrate anniversaries, isn't it? Because they mean something. And that's why anniversaries are so painful, too. Reminders. Once a year reminders.

I can remember this time so vividly. It's funny because the days after  are a haze but the days right around - permanently engrained in my brain.

I can remember March 13th into 14th. I went to get a matching tattoo with a friend (I use that term lightly these days, unfortunately those who were friends then aren't so anymore, who knew death would also steal friendships?) Anyway, we got yellow ribbons. I semi-designed it with the assistance of the artist. Yellow ribbon tattered to show the hardships of the military spouse as well as the support of the military. Even though we may be tattered and withstand a lot, we're still there at the end of the day. Mine was finished sometime around midnight on the 14th because we went right after a battalion ladies night at the habachi grill in town. It was a fun day and night. We'd gone to the beach that day and had plans to the next day, as well.

The next day, March 14th, I spent feeling ill. I cancelled my beach plans (an unbelievable fact at the time - I never turned down the beach) because my stomach was in knots, I felt off, and just down. I called the friend I'd gotten the tattoo with thinking maybe I had an infection. Like the great friend she was at the time, she laughed at me (that's what I needed to stop from being paranoid) and told me I was fine. I still had no idea why I felt so off.

That night I heard about an accident. Another friend's husband had been injured. Maybe I've told you guys about this before, maybe not. But either way, there was an accident and my friend's husband had been injured. I knew my husband had been with her husband, we'd just figured this out days before. A wife who's husband was non-deployable called another friend (it's hard to follow without names, I know, i'm doing my best) telling her there was a casualty. That friend called me worrying it was her husband. My stomach hit the floor. Jonny was with the injured guy... I knew that... there was a casualty... what if it was Jonny? I called my family and they did their job at reassuring me. We didn't even know anything, why worry? But something certainly felt wrong. I went to bed.

I went to bed praying. Praying so hard. Please don't let it be Jonny. Don't let it be *friend's husband's name* either, but please, please God don't let it be Jonny. Don't let my doorbell ring in the morning.
The next morning, well, let's say what I've been told by so many milspouses - my worst nightmare came true.

My doorbell rang. It was still dark. The baby was sleeping in my bed with me. She was 2 months old, it was March 15. I went to answer the door. I stumbled back to my room finding something to put on, I went to answer the door, back and forth. I flipped on the light of the porch. I peeked through the peephole. I saw the shiny chaplain's cover through the peephole. I knew my fears were about to be confirmed. I still hadn't put on clothes. I had to let them know I was there. I think I was yelling who is it, but I can't remember if that actually happened or it was just in my head. I put on sweats. I walked back through the house.

I walked, I walked. My two bedroom duplex hallway felt a mile long. I opened the door.
There they were. They stood there. This was not good. It was true. No, it couldn't be. Wrong house. Wrong house.

Are you Rachel Porto, wife of Cpl Jonathan Porto? blank stare maybe? head shake? Asked again. Asked again. No. No. No. No. I needed to confirm before I'd be told anything. Maybe a nod.

We're sorry to inform you....

It happened. He was gone. My love, my hero, my soulmate. He'd left the earth.
At some point I screamed. At some point I fell on the floor.
I had to get up, I had to get to Ariana.

Thank God for that little girl who made me survive through those early days. I had no choice, I had to take care of my little girl, his little girl, our little girl.

I had to survive. And so, I did.
I have.
Two years later, I'm still here.

That's the story. That's when I found out my life had been flipped. From that point on, everything would be different. Days would turn into struggles, pain would come from incomprehensible parts of my body for no reason, tears springing from nothing. I would lose friends, I would gain friends. I would join a family that no one wanted to be a part of but that was so supportive and would turn into my best friends and biggest cheerleaders for success. Friends who stuck by would become family and strength, more than I think they'll ever know, and more than I can thank them for.

Complete strangers would show their support. I found a bunch of cards and letters of support today. I never wrote thank you cards. Everything was just... insane... and I just never did it. I wish I had. I wish I could thank each and every one of the people who sent something, friends, family, and total strangers, who sent their condolences and their wishes for only the best for my daughter and I. The love and support from everyone, simply astounding. I hope at least some of those people read this. I'm sorry I never sent thank yous, I wish I could thank you each and I don't even know if I could find the words to accurately express how amazing you all are, but your love and support through these times has been beyond amazing.

To everyone who's been there, even those who are no longer, you made an impact. You helped me through.

Today, I stand. I cry, I remember. But, I stand. I am here, I am thriving.

I will never forget my love, I will try to honor him every day I live. I will remember him and I will nourish his life in our daughter.

Because our love was so strong, it has carried me through. On days like this, Jonny, I think of you. I think of the way you loved me, and I know it's not so bad. I had that love, I still have that love.
So, to my biggest support (even if you are the cause of all this, ya turd) thank you for your love. Thank you because I know you make sure I feel it from where you are. Thank you for loving me. And thank you, thank you for choosing me to be your wife, thank you for choosing me to be the mother of your beautiful child. I'd never change being with you, even if I couldn't change the ending, you showed me what true love is and I will always love you for the rest of my years on this earth and beyond. I know you hear me, I know you feel me. Know that I miss you, I love you, and you are my true love.

And with that, I am off to bed to be rested to spend a day at the zoo with our beautiful daughter tomorrow.

Remember to hug your loved ones. Tell them you love them and how much they mean to you. Life is short, appreciate it.

Twenty Eight

It would have been my Stinky's 28th birthday today, in Earth years. It's the second birthday he is celebrating in Heaven. We never celebrated his birthday together. The first year we were together, 2009, he was in Jacksonville and I hadn't moved down there yet because our wedding was still a few months away. I sent him a box of clothes I'd picked out for him, and I think some candy. I joked with him that he was a grandpa-old man because he was turning 25 - a quarter of a century (Yes, that's what I turned this year, I don't want to talk about it!). He loved the clothes, and laughed and joked back about being an oldman grandpa. It was a good birthday even though we weren't together.

When he turned 26, he was in Afghanistan. For his birthday, we sent him a DVD of us gals (me and A) telling him happy birthday. We sang to him, we blew him kisses. We also included the DVD of A from right after she was born; first bath, those kinds of things. We sent him tons of photos. We sent goodies, typical care package stuff. He loved it. He especially loved the video footage and getting to see his girls. He said he got teary-eyed watching A get her first bath because she was crying and so upset. Oh how he loved that baby girl and he hadn't even met her. It was so obvious. He thought she was the bees knees. He just couldn't wait to meet her.

He called the day of his birthday. I was so excited to talk to him, I think it was one of the first times I'd talked to him since he pushed forward into Marjah. I was so excited to talk to him that I just kind of started babbling on about all the new things A was doing and how we were. Then he said someone had let him use the sat phone because it was his birthday. Of course I hadn't forgotten his birthday but I just got so excited talking to him I didn't say it right away. I said something along the lines of "OH MY GOD HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I knew it was your birthday and I was so excited for your birthday I just forgot to say it, gosh I suck" I know it went something like that. He didn't mind. He was happy to talk to us for his birthday.

He died less than a month later.

On his 27th birthday, I got a call from a good friend who had been down in Wilmington telling me Ballyhoo! was playing. Jonny and I had gone to see Ballyhoo! so many times, and I was actually trying to create a fundraising benefit concert featuring Ballyhoo! (it completely fell through) so it was pretty crazy that they were in NC (they're a MD local band) on his birthday, even if it wasn't for my event that had fallen through. I had asked them to sing Happy Birthday to him but of course it got forgotten and I was so mad. I went out back waiting for my friends to be ready to go, when my dear friend who told us about it in the first place came down the stairs to tell me her husband was in a fight. We rushed up to see what was going on and there was no fight, just the guys of Ballyhoo! standing around. They apologized for missing "Happy Birthday" and of course I had talked to the only guy without a mic to do it - HA. So, they personally sang Happy Birthday to Jonny just for me and my friends. It was a pretty awesome evening celebrating his birthday, a way he would have loved.

Yesterday, I felt the need for a little date night with my now bf Z. I wasn't really tying it in to Jonny's birthday, since that's today, but we ended up going to see Act of Valor. It might not have been the best idea considering his birthday was the next day and it was extremely emotional (I was wailing in the theatre - more on my opinion of the movie later). I wasn't quite ready to go home after being shaken up, so Z and I went to a local bar for some food and drink. As the hours ticked away to Jonny's birthday I kept thinking of how we might have been spending it. It actually seemed like a fitting evening. A local country band was playing in the bar just by chance, and minutes before midnight they sang Toby Keith's "Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue," a song I used to YELL and Jonny would comment about how motarded I am and that he's surprised I don't have a high-and-tight - a song that definitely reminds me of Jonny and the laughter we shared. After midnight, Z went up and asked the band if they'd do a shoutout for Jonny, which they did. It was really nice of him to acknowledge it was my husband's birthday. And it was definitely a way I could see spending his birthday if he were here to spend it with. I certainly felt his presence with me!

Today was just a chill day. I went over to my mom and dads with the baby we just kind of hung out. Had some sweet buffet from Golden Corral for dinner. It's the 4th bday of his we've celebrated apart - o wait, that's all of them!! I always wonder what we'd do if we'd actually been together for any of them, so I just try to celebrate them in what seems most fitting.

I love celebrating his life. Does it get me down? Yup. He's not here and I'd give anything to celebrate with him. But if he can't be here, I'll celebrate for him. I will continue to be happy and grateful that he was in my life for the short time that he was. I will thank my lucky stars that I was blessed with that love, even if it was taken away what I believe to have been far, FAR too soon. I speak of him daily and that obviously doesn't change on his birthday. I miss him so much, but instead of being sad, I will just be happy that I had what I did with him. And that our love is eternal and nothing, not even death can change that. That I can still feel his love for me from Heaven, and I'm pretty sure he can still feel my love for him from here to Heaven.

Happy birthday, my angel. I love you forever and ever, babe. To the moon and back.

March for Babies

When I worked at the Child Development Center on Aberdeen, I had one student who stood above the rest. He was a very intelligent little boy, caring, compassionate, and funny! The child of dual military parents, he was only 4 but was wise beyond his years. He often spoke of his sister, Julia Lani. This may seem like a normal occurrence for a 4 year old boy, except that his sister lives in Heaven. Julia was born with severe complications and while she did not live long, she lived long enough to touch the hearts of those who love her. Julia's mom has shared the story of her birth and ascension to Heaven with me, and I would like to share it with you all.

The last few years have been quite difficult for our family. As a dual military couple stationed in Germany, we were thrilled by the news in 2006 that we would be adding a little girl to our small family. Everything was perfect until the day she was born in a small hospital in Bamberg. We found out post-partum that she suffered from Heterotaxy Syndrome which includes many serious birth defects. She only had three chambers in her heart, four spleens, and biliary atresia which forced her liver to shut down. These were just some of the more serious problems. We were medically evacuated to Walter Reed Army Hospital 6 weeks later only to learn that her prognosis was grim.

She made a final transfer to Children's National Medical Center in Washington DC for the first of her major operations. My husband, one-year old son and I had left all our belongings in military housing in Germany with the promise that someone would ship everything to us soon. Since we were on a medical TDY status, we had no duty station to call home. We were
homeless until the Ronald McDonald House of Washington DC took us in. They provided shelter that we could afford and food when we needed it. It was a blessing to have a place for our son to take a break from the hospital and just enjoy being a toddler. Julia received wonderful care from some of the world’s top surgeons. She was the miracle child that was supposed to come home. After her first major heart repair, she was given the clearance to receive a new liver. On Monday, October 9th we were informed by our social worker that Julia’s medical bills had just totaled over one million dollars. The following Thursday we were told that she was doing very well so they pulled all of her main lines, including her antibiotics. On Friday she got sick. Saturday, her kidneys shut down and the hospital priest administered last rites. Sadly, our Julia succumbed to a hospital-borne infection that took her life on Tuesday, October 17, 2006. She died in our arms and was carried to Heaven on the wings of a butterfly. 

She made a final transfer to Children's National Medical Center in Washington DC for the first of her major operations. My husband, one-year old son and I had left all our belongings in military housing in Germany with the promise that someone would ship everything to us soon. Since we were on a medical TDY status, we had no duty station to call home. We werehomeless until the Ronald McDonald House of Washington DC took us in. They provided shelter that we could afford and food when we needed it. It was a blessing to have a place for our son to take a break from the hospital and just enjoy being a toddler. Julia received wonderful care from some of the world’s top surgeons. She was the miracle child that was supposed to come home. After her first major heart repair, she was given the clearance to receive a new liver. On Monday, October 9th we were informed by our social worker that Julia’s medical bills had just totaled over one million dollars. The following Thursday we were told that she was doing very well so they pulled all of her main lines, including her antibiotics. On Friday she got sick. Saturday, her kidneys shut down and the hospital priest administered last rites. Sadly, our Julia succumbed to a hospital-borne infection that took her life on Tuesday, October 17, 2006. She died in our arms and was carried to Heaven on the wings of a butterfly. 

I always thought it was awesome how the little boy's parents remembered their daughter and spoke of her frequently and that the little boy did as well. It was not something kept hush hush but the little boy had been taught to be proud of his little angel sister. Now, as a widow, I get that so much more. Even then, I thought it was awesome but now I can just appreciate it in a whole new light. People we lose are not secrets, they should be remembered, spoke of often, and we should be proud to know them and tell others of our loved ones in Heaven. The little boy and Julia's mom participates in March for Babies each year, fundraising for the babies, the ones born too soon or born with birth defects, facing many more challenges right at birth. This year, I've joined their team and their quest to raise awareness and money for the babies. After watching my little niece Summer come a bit too soon, and her struggle for life and her earliest days in the NICU, and how she has beat the odds and become a strong little baby, I know it is incredibly important to raise the funds and awareness so other babies can be helped, other families helped.

I would love it if you took a moment to visit my March for Babies site, and if you have a bit of spare change laying around, it would be great if you donated to team Julia Lani in support of all the babies born too soon. Team Julia Lani

Maryland Resident

"It's so weird, we're staying. It's like, we're visiting, except, without the leaving part of the visit"

Some wisdom from my boyfriend about what it means to move to Maryland. Gosh, isn't he full of insight?! Oh that man keeps me laughing, that's for sure.

So, we've made it up to Maryland. I've been so very, very MIA from blog world because life has been pretty busy as far as the move and setting everything up, but I found a second today to pop in and say hi with a quick update in between move things and seeing friends and job/school hunting.

We have the official closing date for our house, this FRIDAY! I have been hoping we might be able to make it earlier (yes, I'm over excited) but it looks like we're set for Friday. Then the real fun begins - the moving in, the organizing, the painting, the setting up. Oi, I can not WAIT! Thanks to Pinterest, I have tons of awesome ideas for the house. I'll be posting photos after closing of my new abode that I will be the owner of (owner - AHHH) but I have refused to post photos until then because I'm terrified of jinxing it.

Besides that kind of stuff, I've just been kind of hanging out at mom's and catching up with friends in between losing my sanity buying a home haha. Of course, my emotions have been on a crazy rollercoaster. I have been trying to articulate it but it's been hard to even put into words the emotions that run through me. Excitement, fear, anxiety, happiness, sadness... emotion words never really seem to sum up true emotion, do they? So instead of trying to define it I've just been living it. Ok, today I'm feeling fsajflfhewr but yesterday I was feeling ahhhh and tomorrow I'll probably feel EEEEEE. See, that's much more like it! Ha.

I do, however, have a bunch of neat stuff coming up, including a virtual scrapbook giveaway (I know many of my readers could totally benefit from this) so stayed tuned, because when my sanity returns so will my blogging!

Hope everyone's well!

Sad, Stress, Accomplishment

How's everyone's 2012 going? Great, I hope!
Mine has been interesting. I feel like that is just the word for me - interesting. Had I chosen that for 2012, I'd be on a roll.
So far, the mission of peace hasn't been quite successful, but that's ok, I've still got some time.
Moving, well, it's just not peaceful. I do feel accomplished, however, as I've gotten so much done to get my butt up to Maryland and eventually, hopefully, into our new home. Just keep truckin' that's all I can do, and eventually I'll be there!

This past week has been pretty rough. I tried blogging but I just didn't like it, so it's saved somewhere in my drafts, maybe for edit and posting later, maybe just for myself. Part of 1/6 (Jonathan's unit) has come back. It's always great knowing more of his guys are back again. But man, it hurts so damn much. It's hard to keep away those feelings of "This would have been his deployment, too." and of course the ever present "I wonder what homecoming feels like. I bet it's the best feeling in the world." I sometimes sit and think about homecomings. What it must be like to miss and worry about your love for 7 (give or take) long months and then to finally be in their arms again. God, that must be fantastic. Sigh. Only in my dreams. And one day, in Heaven. But until then... keep truckin'.

With that, add Ariana's birthday around the corner. For some reason, Ariana's birthday sends me into another tail spin. Last year, late at night (her bday party was great, don't worry I won't let my grief ruin anything for her), I had a horrible break down after her birthday party. I just missed him so much and it kills me to think how much he's missing. His little girl is growing up without him and it breaks my heart. At least it comforts me to know that she still does have him and he is always with us, I just wish in a more physical way.

Maybe I have started down my road of peace by feeling my grief, letting it encompass me. And when I feel the need, letting the tears and the sobs come. Maybe that's all part of it, is being at peace that yes, I am sad. And no, I don't have to hide it or be the strong one 100% of the time.

But yes, the stress of moving, I do believe, is another factor in my craziness lately. Buying a house + moving is insane. Now I know why people say buying a house is the most stressful thing they've ever done - because it is super stressful! No Lie. At least TMO has been helpful and it looks like the move is all set (read about my experience with TMO Thursday at 12:15 on YouServed) so that is one stress factor off my back, but I don't think I'll be able to really woosah until we are in the house and done with all this packing, moving, cleaning, planning stuff. Oi. Then I want to sit and do nothing the entire month of February (we all know that's not going to happen).

So, yes. I'm sad, I'm stressed, but hey, I'm still here and I'm still truckin'!

How was your week? What have you over come this week? And of course, any tips on stress management are very welcome.

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