Potterhead and Other Happy Things

Jonny used to call me a "Potterhead." I love Harry Potter. Total nerd about it. My husband was so gracious in my little obsession that when Part 1 of Deathly Hallows hit theatres, he went to the midnight showing with me. Even though he had to be at work at 430 or 5 the next morning.  I don't remember what time he had gotten home from work, but I do remember we ate dinner, hung out a little bit, and then he went to take a nap so he could stay up for the movie and have a tiny bit of sleep time before work. While he was sleeping, I decided that, like me, he needed a Harry Potter shirt. Mine was a Gryffindor tank top. I figured he'd feel most cool with Slytherin so I passed the time making him a tee while he slept. I used one of his white t shirts (gasp) I pencil-drew the Slytherin house logo on the shirt and then painted it with acrylic paint. Painting was one thing I used to do often in the nights he was sleeping and I was unable to (always been a raging insomniac). When he woke he wasn't too upset that I'd stolen his tee and he did think it was pretty cool. He also reminded me that he is not a Potterhead like I am and said he'd wear the shirt but wanted to wear another over it, in fear of looking like a total dork in Marine-land Jacksonville. I actually wasn't offended and was cool with it, but I assured him his hand-painted shirt would be far less dorky than some people we would see. Of course when we got there, there were handfulls of kids decked out in full-on HP gear. Some with cloaks and wands and different house emblems... if you've been to a midnight HP showing, you've seen it. He was surprised and finally he took off his "regular" shirt and let his inner Potterhead free. When he went to get us snacks and came back he was so excited about how many compliments he'd gotten on his shirt and proudly told me that he let each of them know "My wife made it!" I loved when he was proud of me. We enjoyed the movie, he actually stayed awake and liked it (not sure if he'd admit that to you...) and when it was over we got home around 330am and he caught a tiny bit of sleep before heading out for work. It's one of a handful of my favorite memories of our short time together. The things he did for me, to make me smile... and how proud he would get of me... Sigh. How I miss him.

Anyway, I begin this post with an HP story because I found two quotes that are pretty related to my life right now. I was going to blog separately but figured I might be a super weirdo if I did two back-to-back HP entries, so I'm going to roll it into one. Hang tight, folks, it might be a long one but I think it'll be worth it ;)

"Numbing the pain for a while will make it worse when you finally feel it."
-Albus Dumbledore

I might have touched on this. Honestly I don't remember the last time I really blogged and got down deep and dirty. I probably did though. This year has been pretty tough. January, February, and March basically kicked my butt. I realized, with the help of some widda friends and my therapist, that I was finally feeling again. Yes, typing this I'm thinking I went here already but whatever it's worth discussing. So... the first few years - of course I felt. But let's face it, the first year, I was in some sort of mind-numbing fog. I was in pain, agony even, but I think my brain was in total self-preservation mode and really only letting me feel a portion of what I was really feeling. If that makes any sense. I learned about it once in psych class and it's true - our brains really do have our backs and they try to override sometimes and watch out for us. The instance of me forgetting everything that happened to Jonny the week of his funeral is a prime example. I still feel very sad for my friend that had to fill in the details that day in the dressing room as I looked at her and asked her, "What happened to Jonny?" I knew he was gone but couldn't grasp the details. She even had to explain acronyms to me that I'd been very familiar with for a long time. Survival mode, I believe. Then, I continued with survival mode by running. In physical sense (traveling), in an emotional sense (dating), in a stupid sense (drinking); basically anything to keep my mind off what was really happening. I was able bodied enough to take care of myself and my daughter but I was also damaging myself by trying to tuck away the pain I was feeling by distracting. This went on for quite some time. Even when I wasn't trying to, I was distracting myself. This year, when the rough time came around, there were no distractions. And boom I was blind-sided with pain and loss. I found myself barely treading water in this spot that was neither rock bottom nor where I wanted to be in life. Trying to stay afloat but not quite sure how I got there or how to get to some place out. Not quite drowning but certainly not walking ashore. The distractions were gone and I was facing reality and to be honest, I wasn't quite pleased with it. The pain was almost unbearable and I couldn't understand why after so much time had passed why it was hurting so badly. I chatted with fellow widdas who'd walked similar paths. It turns out, many of us distract ourselves (some of us in such similar ways it's scary), run from our pain and then we find that no matter how hard or fast we try to run from it, it's there waiting for us. Grief doesn't just go away. You can try to escape it but as soon as you think you've outrun it, it's waiting for you and reminding you it's time you feel and face it. So I did. I mean, what other choice did I have? Running/distracting obviously hadn't worked. So I felt. And I cried. And I got angry. And I basically recycled the whole grief process again. I hid from my friends, I was irritable. The whole nine. And then I realized it's time to make some changes. That if I'm not happy where I am, I obviously need to change it. I talked about the changes in an earlier post, and I'm sorry to be repetitive. But oh well, such is life. Soooo, back on track - I decided to make changes.

And then along came the American Widow Project's newest program they were still test-driving "WidowU" comprised of four courses. The course I enrolled to attend - Overcoming Obstacles. I decided I was ready to conquer, I was ready to not only overcome the obstacles but first to face them. I enrolled and waited a few weeks before it was time for the "session" to start, a long weekend in Austin, Texas dedicated to overcoming the obstacles in my life and helping me restart my journey to a better me.

"Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light."
-Albus Dumbledore

Turns out, WidowU helped me more than I really had anticipated. We meditated. We worked hard to look inside ourselves. We had to ask ourselves the hard questions and then dig down deep to answer them. I realized I am holding on to so much fear. I'm scared of like... everything. I pretend not to be, but I'm welled up with fear. This fear has been holding me back immensely. I was challenged to overcome fear and look fear in the face. I overcame physical obstacles representing the limitations I'd put on my life. As I conquered each challenge, I felt a little bit of fear slip away. I felt my limiting beliefs lift. I felt myself ready to conquer my life and my own mind. The trip really couldn't have happened at a better time. I realized that I really do have the ability to feel happiness, not just distract-from-life "happiness" but true happiness - with myself. And it's not bad to feel the sadness and the anger and the grief. They're all part of this journey. But as I explored meditation with the group, I learned something else, too. When I meditate, I find it really hard to get my thoughts to stop. My mind wanders and the whole peaceful meditation thing is thrown to crap. I learned that it's not really that you have to shut your mind off (I'm sure eventually you want to get to that point but it doesn't just happen), you acknowledge that you're having a thought and then you just kind of push it away and continue on your peace quest (RJP term for meditation ha!) and I think the same goes with fear and with grief and other not-so-awesome feelings. You don't just turn them off or try to force them away. They need to be acknowledged or else they'll really build up and come hammering on your door and eventually bust it down and take you hostage. So instead, politely open your door. Hello grief/anger/fear/sadness, we meet again. I hear what you're saying but I'm ready to continue feeling happiness. You've been acknowledged, you may now move on.

I'm ready to turn on the light. I'm ready to find contentment within myself. I'm ready to push myself harder than I've pushed before to fulfill my dreams. I am ready to be the me I was born to be.

The Tax Situation

Hey y'all it's tax time. Are you looking forward to your refund checks? I know a lot of my friends are really excited and have big plans with what to do with their refund checks. Tax time can be almost exciting for some of you.

Let me tell you a little about tax time for Ariana and I. Yes, I have to include my 3 year old in this, you'll see why in a second.

First, I dread tax time because of an incident last year. I went on the closest post here, APG to have my taxes done by the military. It's free and you'd think they'd know what they were doing with military issues. Well... APG is not done by the military, it's done by volunteers and we ran into several snaffus. They couldn't really figure out what to do with Ariana or myself. So they send us up to the in charge guy. From the items in his office it appeared he was a retired Captain in the Army. Ok, maybe he can help. He asks me some questions. Now here's the thing. I don't talk about money. I don't talk about taxes. Most the time I don't understand this sort of stuff. I know, it's pitiful, it's terrible but it's me. So I tell him that I have to call my mom because I have a couple questions I can't answer. He proceeds to YELL at me about needing to know this stuff on my own because I'm old enough and my husband's been gone long enough. Thanks a lot jerk. I'm sorry that I don't understand my money, I'm sorry that I need help with that aspect of my life, I do realize that I should be better at it however how is it your place to yell at me and chastise me for a weakness that I'm actively trying to fix?! My mom ended up coming down and helping me and I walked out of the office crying because I couldn't take it anymore. Awesome.

SO that brings us to this year. This year, I have admittedly waited until the last minute to do my taxes. I knew I should probably bring them on post since they're the ones who did them last year, but I waited so long when I called it just had a message that all the appointments were full. Probably for the best, I don't think I could have handled that dude again. I waited so long out of shear dread for the same situation to occur. Anyway, I go and I get my taxes looked at by a couple people. And here is what we found (yes, this lengthy story is all leading up to this, sorry, I know I should have just cut to the chase but whatever)

Ariana. My THREE YEAR OLD daughter. Has to pay out for taxes.

Let me say this again, in case you're afraid you didn't read it right: MY 3 YEAR OLD OWES TAXES.

A quick WTF can be inserted here. And then let me follow up by saying it is NOT UNCOMMON FOR CHILDREN OF THE FALLEN TO PAY OUT IN TAXES.  Nearly every widow I know with children has to pay taxes in their children's name(s).

So. The government (as the money that gets taxed is Survivor Benefit Plan - SBP - issued by DFAS aka DoD) gives our kids this money for their parent having been killed and then they're like "Oh, hey, give it back." As if these children haven't given enough. As if their fathers haven't give the ultimate sacrifice for this country, and more needs to be paid from us?!

Yes, yes, I know taxes are important and there is a reason we have them. I also don't want to come across like I'm just "entitled" because I'm a military widow. BUT MY THREE YEAR OLD?!

So let's put numbers on this, shall we? She owes $329 federal tax and she owes $289 to the state. That is $618 my THREE YEAR OLD owes in taxes this year. I'm sorry, but, you've got to be shittin' me.
And get this, there is a Maryland state exemption for payments from a pension system to the surviving spouse or other beneficiary of a law enforcement office or firefighter whose death arises out of or in the course of their employment but NO EXEMPTION for beneficiaries of military KIA. 

Let me add in that these amounts are AFTER we've already selected to have a percentage of taxes withheld from her checks so that we would avoid this situation. So now this year, we've upped the amount in hopes we don't have to deal with it. However, there's no option to have money taken out for state tax, only federal. 

One of the things I don't understand is whenever her taxes have been done this year, it applies an Alternative Minimum Tax. I really want someone to explain this to me. One of the "tax professionals" told us it was basically "a tax for when they don't have anything else to tax you on," if this is true, it's just an excuse to add a tax to my baby girl?! Come. On.

So here's where I need y'all. Because I'm not into "money stuff" or "government stuff" and this crosses the line into both... WHAT CAN BE DONE. Like I said, this does not just pertain to just Ariana and I. This is nearly every military widow with children. Our amounts are different, of course, but just about every military widow with children that I have spoke to, has to pay out in taxes for the child. There has got to be some way to stop this. Why is their survivor money taxed in the first place, when it's given to CHILDREN??? Now, the survivor money can be given to adults, however, there is an OFFSET between the SBP (DoD) and the DIC (Dependent Indemnity Compensation - VA) that really screws with the adults so from what I understand not many widows without children receive SBP or if they do it's a very small amount. (This is also a HUGE problem, but I know there are widows working on this in Washington and we are doing some lobbying in Washington to stop that nonsense). So my question remains... what can be done? So that these KIDS who do not work, are not taxed?! So that these KIDS who are being "compensated" for their parents' deaths don't have to turn around and return that compensation. It's almost like a big fat slap in the face. "Hey, we appreciate what your father/mother did for us so we'll compensate you for your loss. But then, we'd really like you to give it back. We, the government, probably really don't care." That's how it frickin' feels and I am NOT OKAY WITH IT ANY LONGER!

Edited to include:
If there is something we (all us widow moms) can be doing to "over ride" the taxes our kids owe, (I.E. any credits or exemptions) please let us know. Of course, I would love it to be fixed at the root in the fact that the kids owe at all, however, if there is something we can be doing when we file to legally get around it we'd love to hear about it!


Imagine you met in high school. College. You randomly met, just a few months ago.

He is your heart and soul. He is it. No matter how hard you may try to deny it, he is it for you. Imagine you've found the missing fragment of your soul. Imagine you've found what everyone searches for. It just fits. You can't make sense of it. And you don't care if anyone else "gets it," it makes sense. You fit.

Imagine your wedding day. It's everything you've dreamed of. It's a princess dress, and all of your closest family and friends. It's all of the traditions, the bouquet toss, the garder, the cake. Everything. It's a quick and sweet ceremony. It's a religious T. It's only a few friends. It's just the pair. It's perfect. To the letter, It's what you have always dreamed of, and some how in such a short while, it's come a reality.

Imagine your honeymoon. You go to an exotic locale. You spend time in the sand and surf. You stay local with the foreboding warning that he might have to work. You squeeze in as many of your favorite activities as possible. You lounge luxuriously for hours. You explore a new location. You feel like it lasts forever. You feel like the clock is ticking.

Imagine you take a pregnancy test. You are expecting. You will bring another human being to this earth. You will be parents. It is negative. You wish upon wish you could create life. You stare at the faded lines.

Imagine life changing. You move your life for someone you love. You switch jobs. You make new friends. You give up old hobbies. You start anew. Everything changes.

Imagine loneliness. He is gone. He has a job to do. You have to uphold and remain strong. You are working. He is working. 

Imagine uncertainty. You don't know when stability will return. You don't know the last time you'll see him. You don't know if this is the day. You are tired of waiting, of all the heart jumps.

Imagine he leaves. He has to go. You can't stop him. You're running to his bus. You try to reach him in the bus window. You say goodbye before work. You tell him to come home safe. You warn him to drive carefully. You remind him you love him. You nod at others around him. 

Imagine He Is Gone. Imagine the men at your door. Imagine your life flipping upside down.

Imagine each and every dream. He was going to be a_
We were building a_
Our child was_
We were going to_
Our kids will_
I thought we_

Imagine each of those dreams. And then. Add weight. Add weight. Addweightaddweightaddweightaddweight.



Each and every


It wasn't only him. It was the life. The ideas. We were going to.

It. Doesn't. Stop.

The imaginations just keep going.
Even though he is gone. 
The mind, the heart, they don't stop.

They are real. They were here. They had families. They had aspirations. They had dreams.

This isn't statistics. 


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