Memorial Day Twenty Thirteen

Memorial Day 2013 encompassed so much I'm not really sure where to even begin.  I spent the weekend in Washington DC, obviously the nation's capital, doing "American" things. (lol). The first thing, that I mentioned before, was the TAPS National Seminar and Good Grief Camp. TAPS is a really cool organization for surviving families. It was so amazing spending time with some awesome people in this community that no one wants to be a part of but luckily is so welcoming and loving. I got to see some gorgeous widdas that I haven't seen in quite some time but that I just adore, as well as meet new widdas and families. There were some different breakout sessions offered. My favorite one was the "Whispers of Love" session, where we learned about and discussed signs from our loved one. It was so awesome talking about and hearing about different signs. At the end of the session, I showed the instructor some of Jonny's photos from Afghanistan with tons of orbs in them. I believe these photos show the guys really do go back to watch over their own. If you don't believe that, that's fine, but I do. He was pretty astounded by the photos. He presented some things that definitely gave me chills.

one of Jonny's pics from Afghanistan filled with orbs

Of course, I enjoyed a night on the town with my gals. It is just so refreshing to be with people who get you. I also enjoyed some good cry sessions. I know it might be weird hearing that I "enjoyed" crying, but sometimes it just feels good to let go. During day-to-day life you don't really have time to cry. I know that sounds awful, but it's the truth. You get going with the everyday life, in and out, busy busy that life can get away from you. Sitting down with a good friend and really talking, and really getting to the heart of the matter, and letting the tears and the sobs out, it's freeing and I truly believe it's healthy. I don't think you should bottle it all in until then, of course, let it out when you need, but there is just something about sitting with someone who knows exactly where you're coming from and just gets it.
Some of the girls. I don't know where I'd be without these ladies to remind me I'm "normal"

We also attended the concert at the capitol and I've got to say this is where my grievance with Memorial Day played a big part. A couple people took this the wrong way, so please hear me out. I love the military. Both of my parents served. My grandfather served, my uncle served. Countless friends serve. I love the military and I love veterans. I think they should be thanked every day. Of course I love our guys who have given all and I think they should also be thanked every day. But here's the deal. They are not. There are, however, certain days set aside for acknowledging these groups of people. Memorial Day is the day to honor, remember, and thank those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, who have given their lives. While I think it's cool to thank the vets and all those serving every day, I think the focus of Memorial Day should be those who have died. Plain and simple. The focus should be the fallen. It doesn't mean I don't want everyone to ignore everyone serving, it doesn't mean I think the rest of the military should be quiet, it just means the focus, the presentations and the like, should be geared mostly toward the deceased. And when it comes to that, if they want to talk about families, it should be about the families left behind. I love military families, they are the support system to the military. They have a tough job. Hell, I am part of a military family, but on this day, it should be about the Gold Star families. At the concert, it felt like a Veteran's Day concert. Not that that's exactly a bad thing, it was just a little bit hurtful on the one day that is supposed to acknowledge the deceased. And that is my little rant, the little piece I have to say. Back to the weekend.

The concert was fun, even if a little irritating, and I enjoyed again spending time with fellow widows. Today we explored around DC. We visited the Vietnam Memorial, the Korean Memorial, and the World War II Memorial, yes in that order. I thought of all the guys that fell long before Jonathan and of all the families that have walked in such similar shoes to my own. I think of their survival and I remember that I am not alone, that so many have come before me and that we will be okay. It sucks, it hurts, but we will be okay. Vietnam was especially moving for me. My father is a Vietnam veteran and I know only a tiny portion of his life at that time and his experience. Minuscule, really. When I visit The Wall, I think of the friends my own father lost and what he has faced and lived with since he has come home. I think of the poor treatment of the service members in that day and I am thankful that my own husband, if he had to die, died in a time where he is honored. I think often of the families of those killed in Vietnam and I wonder what they had to go through and I hope they know that while it might have been a different world  then, their heroes are indeed heroes and they are indeed remembered. I got to find the name of the father of a friend of mine. Her dad was killed in Vietnam and she just reminds me of my own daughter. Ariana will live that life. It comforts me to know that she is a normal adult and all that good stuff (lol) and I was beyond honored to find her dad's name and get a rubbing.

We spent some time at Arlington. I visited a few of my friends' husbands, the guys that died during Jonny's deployment, and one more friend. It was nice to spend a little time with them. Arlington is such a peaceful place, and if I had chosen to bury Jonny I think I'd want him there. It's just a nice place. Strange to say about a graveyard but it's how I feel. 

I took the train home that afternoon and after  spending some much needed time with my little one (she isn't old enough for TAPS Good Grief Camp yet, so she'll most likely be going next year or soon thereafter) and got her in bed, I spent some time with my favorite fallen hero, my own. Many people post photos of the headstones when they visit their hero, so here is mine. We had a couple beers together and a nice chat. I miss this man more than I can even put into words. I so wish I could hear his answers when I speak to him. I will, however, settle with the fact that I felt his presence with me this weekend, as I often do. I know he's with me, and I'm even more certain he is with Ariana. So to my own hero, my beautiful Jonny, my Stink, Happy Memorial Day babe. You are not forgotten and as long as I breathe, you will not be forgotten.

This blog is in memory and honor of those who have given their lives for this country, who have paid the ultimate price for freedom. For the guys that served with my husband and were lost, for those who came before and after him, for the heroes of the widows and families I have met through this journey and those I have yet to meet. For every man and woman who were serving and can no longer be with us.
And to my own hero. My Stink. I love you. Forever and ever, babe. To the moon and back.

I also want to thank all the people who kept me, my family, and all the fallen and their families in their thoughts today. I received so many heartfelt messages on facebook, instagram, and text messages and I just want to thank you all for not forgetting Jonny and the fallen heroes and for not forgetting Ariana, me and the gold star families. Y'all are great :)

Happy Memorial Day
and Semper Fi,

Mrs. P

Roller Coaster Favorite Ride

I wonder sometimes, if roller coasters were built by some philosophical artist. And instead of being just purely for enjoyment, they were truly created to imitate life, and thus give us something to compare life's ups and downs to. I mean think about it, it's perfect. Roller coasters go up and down and make your stomach drop and sometimes make you pee a little. Sometimes, there are sharp unexpected turns. Sometimes they're awesome, sometimes they're scary, sometimes they're disappointing. If we didn't have roller coasters, to what would we compare this whirlwind crazy terrible beautiful thing we call life?

So, yeah, life's a roller coaster. There is, obviously, some rough and stressful schtuff going on. I updated you all on the most difficult of current events last week. Of course, there are every day life stressors occurring, decisions that have to be made, bills that have to be paid... all that. But in the midst, there are some good things, too. So I try to focus on the positive when I get overwhelmed with all the thinking and the have-to-doing.

Number one and something that I am super proud of is I have quit smoking. One week and two days ago, I decided I'd had enough. I started thinking about it and figured I would cut down and do things the "normal" way. Monday I had two cigarettes and was so proud. Tuesday I hung out with a friend and had somewhere around 6 or so cigarettes. Finished the last one of the pack I had around 630 or 7 o'clock that evening and haven't had another sense. I even went to Preakness and indulged in some libations and still didn't smoke. That is thanks to some kick ass friends who, when I just wanted "only one drag" the answer was a resounding no each and every time (thanks guys!). In addition to the quitting smoking I've been seriously hitting the gym and eating healthy. One of my "excuses" for not quitting was a fear of gaining weight. But, if I'm going to be working on losing weight anyway, why do all this work then quit and gain the weight back? Instead, do it at the same time and maybe keep from gaining in the first place. Healthier all around!

Preakness with my friends was so super fun. It was just a girl's day and I was really excited to see my friend Raechel who I haven't seen in months. She is going through some rough times right now as well so it was a much deserved break from real life, if only for a few hours. Funny thing is, we didn't even see the race or the headliner, Pitbull - the two things that were supposed to be the biggest things at Preakness! We did it our way and let me tell you, I had a friggin blast. It was nice to not really think or worry for a while and just laugh and be ridiculous and have fun.

This weekend is Memorial Day weekend. Should be a sad event, but I'm actually pretty excited. I'll be going down to DC for the TAPS National Seminar. It's a weekend full of remembering, honoring, and some fun! I really enjoy my time with fellow widstas and surviving families. Much of the time in every day life, I feel a little odd. I love my friends and my family, so so much, but there's just that general feeling of being different. I guess I just often feel like something is missing (because, duh, it is) which makes me feel a little different from all the other unwidowed folks (is this even making sense?) so it's always nice to be with other people like me. It's nice to be in a place where sadness isn't uncomfortable because we're all walking with it. A place where we're all kind of in-between - we're not "married" we're not "single." We're widowed and that's a combination of both (even for the remarried folks, they get it, too). We're all feeling that "something missing" feeling every day. And a place where we are "celebrating" memorial day for what it really is. It is a day of remembering. It is a day of honoring. It is not "the beginning of summer" (that's actually June 21 if you really wanted to know), it is not a conveniently placed three day weekend, it is not a fab time for weddings because "every one can make it," it is not just a great day for bbqs, it is not veteran's day. And ya know what? I'm cool with the bbq-ing and the celebrating as long as the real meaning of the day is not forgotten (heack I usually have my own Memorial Day bbq!) and I feel most of those attending TAPS feel the same. But I digress, it is not as personal for the majority of Americans as it is for us, and I am getting ahead of myself it is not even Memorial Day yet. Let me get off my soap box. So we'll leave it at this - I'm pretty excited about some TAPS time and getting to see my friends who live all over the country and being able to talk about our loved ones. And about riding the train. It's been a while.

I'm writing a book. I guess. And holy crap I can not believe I'm finally admitting that out loud to everyone! So, I'm working on it, and while I have my own internal deadline for a rough draft, it'll probably take me 20 years. But whatever, I'm trying, mmk?! It is fiction and I think it's a pretty great story, if only I can get it down on the page(s). But that is one more thing I have to look forward to. Sure, it may never be a best seller, may never even see the light of day, but when I'm done I'll be able to say I did it - I wrote a book. So now the truth is out and you all don't have to be so mad at me for my lack of blogging :)

And there ya have it, a few things that I try to focus my thoughts on to push away negativity, a few accomplishments, goals, and general fun things. How about you? What are the happy/exciting/noteworthy things going on in your lives? I miss you guys, talk to me!!

Semper Fi,
Mrs. P

Oh and please don't forget to check out the fundraising site for my uncle, share it with your friends/readers, and if you have anything to spare, please consider making a donation. Every dollar counts :)

Real Talk: Family Edition

So, the truth is, I'm really close with my family. My mom and dad, every one knows, are extremely important to me and have always been my biggest cheerleaders.  My sis, while we might not always agree, was the first little girl I ever wanted to take care of when I was just the ripe ol' age of 8. And of course you know my daughter is my whole world. But it goes beyond that. My extended family means the world to me. My aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, in-laws and friends that have become family. I have a lot of people that I love very much and I am a lucky, blessed girl. And of course, when one of this family is hurting, well that makes me hurt, too. This is really a terrible preface to where I'm going but I'm trying because this is something that's really hard for me to talk about so just hang in there, okay?

So, I went on a road trip with my parents and A and the dogs in April. I was excited to just get away and relax and I figured the time "unplugged" would do me some good and I would have plenty of time to work on my novel. A few days into the road trip, my aunt called with some news. As it turns out, her husband, my uncle, had a brain tumor. At that very instant the news was shared, there was no question we were going to go "up home" to New England to be with the family during this time. It was almost as if none of us in the RV had to even say anything, we all just knew that's what we were going to do. So we drove back to Maryland, hopped on a plane the next day and flew to Maine. We visited in the hospital before my uncle had surgery to get his brain tumor removed. The surgery seemed to go well, but of course a brain tumor is never a good sign of anything. After a couple week's time, my aunt and uncle shared more news. My uncle has been diagnosed with lung cancer that has spread creating tumors in the brain.

This news breaks my heart to think about. The whole situation. At first, I was pissed, to be honest. I just kept wondering why do bad things happen to good people? It just isn't fair. My uncle is an awesome dude. He served his time in the Army as well as served as a volunteer fireman in New Hampshire for 17 years. He's a really funny guy and I am always laughing around him - hell he's still even funny after this news! He put others before himself, not only as a dad and husband but as a firefighter. He was injured during a water rescue and of course ran into burning buildings, in the line of duty. He loves his kids and his wife, my aunt. My aunt works really hard and is also an amazing person. She is my dad's youngest sister and I get mistakenly called her name quite often. Which I find hilarious every time. She, too, is a funny lady (hey, my whole family is, what can I say?) and she is one of the most positive people I know, even through this whole situation. My cousins are 16 and 20 and I hate that they have to see their dad go through this. The son is going to the fire academy to also become a fireman. They're awesome kids (can I even call him a kid since he's 20? Probably not. SORRY!) and to me, it's just incredibly unfair that this is happening to them.

Even though they live in New Hampshire, they've always been a constant in my life. Sine I was little I've spent many summers in New England. They were there for my graduation from college - sporting shirts my mom made with my face and she did it! printed on them (I was late for graduation and my aunts and mom came running down to rescue me from traffic. One of my aunts drove my car to find a parking spot while my mom and aunt ran me to get to graduation on time!) They were there for my wedding. They were there in Florida for Jonny's funeral. We've gone on vacations together. We've had good talks. I just love them. And I hate that they have to face this scary time. But I will be damned if they face it alone. No way, no how.

I want to help at the very least. There's not much I can really do. I'm not a doctor, I'm not a therapist, I'm not a cancer professional, I'm not much except for one gal that really loves them. So the first thing I'm going to do is share their story, share how awesome they are and ask for help. Unfortunately, they do not have health insurance and I honestly don't even want to think about what the medical bills are going to be as well as every day bills on top of that. My mom worked with Lynn (from St Pete's H.O.T. who put together Ariana's trust fund fundraiser and works with our troops) to set up a fundraising page for my uncle and  his family. Our family. I'm just asking you to please check out the fundraising page and if there's anything you can spare, please make a donation. Every dollar will help. It will mean a lot to them, it will mean a lot to me.

Click here to help out!

Thank you guys. I will try my best to be less non existant, but as you can see, times are a little crazy right now. I'm asking also for prayers, well wishes, and happy vibes.

Semper Fi,
Mrs. P


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