Life.

One year ago, we were celebrating the news that we would be adding life to our family. Valentine’s Day we found out we were pregnant.

This year we celebrated life in a different way. We celebrated a life lost.

Such a big life.

Friday night my sweet sweet grandma passed away.

216744_718662942111_4319287_n

This is such a hard loss because of the huge place Grandma held in our lives. While we knew this was something that was going to happen, her passing is still very much a shock because of how she has always been there for us.

She was one of the sweetest and most selfless women I knew. It’s hard to sum up everything that she was and meant to us.

She is colored popcorn balls.

She is lunch dates to Andres.

She is our first trip to Silver Dollar City.

She is the blue suede jacket that was forever a staple in her closet.

She was a trip to the movies to see the latest kid blockbuster.

She is her insistence that she was always 5.8 and a size 8 shoe.

She is watching Curly Sue, Heidi, and Big Business with me on repeat.

She is the shrimp holiday meal.

She is the immaculate manicure and updo. (Come to think of it, I don’t think I ever did see her nails not done.)

She is trips to Japanese Steak House.

She is the Hallmark movies she would save.

She is the angel Christmas decorations that would flood her house in the winter.

She is the call to make sure I was ok on campus, and that I was carrying a flashlight.

She is the family she embraced (blood and not). She adopted anyone as hers.

She is the laugh that fills you up.

She is the way she talked about each of her grandchildren and great grandchildren with great pride and love.

She is the support she showed us at every band concert, play, sports event, etc.

She is the way her eyes lit up when you walked in the door to visit.

She is a role model as a wife and mother.

She is the sparkle you saw when she talked about the love of her life (Grandpa).

She is the way she said I love you.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Grandma was so much to all of us that there is definitely a void that is felt by all.

We spent so much time at her house growing up. It was a safe haven for us, and we knew a good time would be had with her. All of these moments, I will cherish.

She was a mom to three, grandma to eight, and great-grandma to thirteen. And she loved as all so fully. Goodness it is hard to explain the emotion and all that she gave to us.

281264_718846080101_2906831_n

She was one of those people who gave everything that she was and then just a little more. She was seriously the best.

This was just a start to remember all of it. There will never be anyone quite like her. She was one special lady. This is my attempt to put it into words, but it’s still tough to process this loss. I just can’t imagine going home to Kansas City without seeing her face or hearing her voice. So much beauty wrapped up in one person.

1909997_514126325131_2889_n

It is going to be tough, but she will live on through all that knew her.

10989118_10100718635146771_8756307475418530060_n

I will forever cherish this moment where she held George for the first time. This is the only picture of the two of them together.

Grandma

I never realized how much I looked like her until my cousin posted this picture. Hopefully I can follow in her footsteps in more than just looks.

Grandma, here’s to you and your size 8 shoe, which I am sure you are wearing now to see Jesus.

Whitener Wednesday-Marriage Year 2

Welcome back for another part of our love saga!

I left you off last week with celebrating our first anniversary apart while Tom was in basic training. You can read more about our first year here.

This was a long year full of ups and downs. (I am emotional before I even start writing this…)

Before I went to meet Tom at his graduation, I received a phone call that would change everything.

My mom called me on a Sunday evening the week I was to head down to Georgia to pick Tom up.

My grandma had suffered from a massive stroke.

These grandparents lived in South Carolina, so after a lot of schedule changes, I made the decision to travel to SC with my mom for the next week and then drive from there to GA for Tom’s graduation. What would happen after that was up in the air since we didn’t know the severity of the situation until we arrived at the hospital.

My grandpa was already having health issues at the time of the stroke and was receiving in home care as well as routine hospital visits for his ailments. That week we were able to get them both in hospice care (in the same room) because the prognosis did not look good for Grandma. It was the most heartbreaking and most uplifting experience to watch these two love birds.

It was hard because we all knew both of their days were numbered. It was hard because there was so much pain in the room that could not be taken away. It was hard because this was also a time that I couldn’t freely talk to Tom, so I had to just wait for him to call to update him briefly on my dying grandparents and my emotional state.

But in a sense it was a wonderful way to spend with them. Even though my grandma could not speak and was immobilized in many ways and my grandpa couldn’t go to the bathroom on his own, seeing their love and devotion to one another in their darkest hours was so touching. Watching Grandma react to Grandpa’s singing and handholding are moments I will never forget. The vulnerability I saw from them was better than any romantic movie.

 SAMSUNG

The time came for me to head to GA to pick up my own love, but also to say goodbye to the love of my grandparents. It was the longest and loneliest drive of my life knowing that I may never see my grandparents again, but knowing that I was about to see Tom for the first time in a few months.

The anxiety and anticipation was at an all-time high.

Tom’s family was able to meet me in GA for the graduation, and we waited in the heat (inferno) for the chance to see Tom again.

I was able to pin his infantry cord on him, which is a great honor (even though the buttons where stubborn and would NOT cooperate).

531283_10151091391206005_1356621952_n

You can see Tom’s sweat…I blame the heat on the tricky buttons. Okay maybe it was also my clumsy nerves getting the best of me since this moment right here was the first time seeing him in months!

422229_10151091397076005_1214263097_n

Tom’s parents and sister after the ceremony

We had a good time celebrating his big achievement of getting through. And I was so glad to have him back!

There was something nagging at me though. Since we were still in the eastern timezone, I knew I needed to drive back to SC on our way home to see my grandparents one more time. I just knew that it would be the last time. Fortunately, my husband was used to sleep deprivation (upside of Basic right?) and gave in to my pleading, and we tacked on several hours to detour up to SC one more time.

After a very brief Sonic dinner with them and final goodbye hugs, we headed back to Missouri to celebrate the 4th of July.

479914_914539758401_1993745772_n

We then headed back to Iowa for a brief week before he had to report to Ft. Campbell, his first duty station.

He was able to reunite with our baby girl. She was so happy to see him again!

561344_914540012891_1555454969_n

During this time we caught up with friends, and he bought his beloved Jeep.

It was also during this week that my Grandma passed away. I was so glad that Tom was there to help me through this because I was kind of lost, especially since I couldn’t make it to the funeral.

And then our week was over. Tom had to go to Ft. Campbell, while Grace and I stayed back in Iowa. We had decided that I would stay back just a little longer while he scoped the land there and saw what his orders were like. I had started the job search for the Ft. Campbell area, but I was also starting to get ready for year three at Iowa State. My head and heart where in two different places.

So after 3 months of basic training and only a week back together, Tom and I said goodbye again.

526513_927483703631_1246899632_n

Once Tom got to Ft. Campbell, we learned that he would be deploying in a couple months.

Hold up.

I just got him back, and you want him to go where?

I was really upset about this at the time, but obviously there was no choice in this. We were getting baptized by the Army from the get go. Ready or not we had to go through this.

So as Tom underwent training for deployment, I began the long couple months of training for a new year with my job. I needed to focus on my job and not worry about Tom’s situation. But I also knew that it was going to be my last year at Iowa State-ugh holy emotions. So I was determined to make it my best year yet and end on a high note. We decided that I would stick it out for that school year since it lined up with Tom’s deployment. It did not make sense for me to hurry to get a job in KY in the land of the unknown while I had a great job and a support network in Iowa, knowing that we were about to undergo one of the biggest tests of our relationship.

It was around this time that I decided to start a blog documenting my side of the deployment since I didn’t really see myself as an Army wife at the time. I needed an outlet somewhere. (Holy moly, my have my blogging skills grown since that first entry…)

Right after I successfully led my staff through move-in and the start of classes, I came down to say my farewell to Tom before he headed out for his first tour for 9 months. Long distance was here to stay. Will we ever be together?

DSCF3753

The day before he left for Afghanistan.

Tom left and made it safely overseas.

While Tom was becoming a world traveler, I received another phone call.

My grandpa had passed away. He had survived his wife by only a few months.

This was another hard time for me to lose so much so quickly. It was also hard because I didn’t want to be a basket-case every time Tom and I got a few minutes to chat. Those moments are so precious, and I didn’t want to spend it all in tears.

I went to my grandpa’s funeral, which is also the last time I was in Clemson. I wrote more about my grandparents’ influence here and how I was feeling at the time.

I continued my job search to no avail, but I was having the time of my life with my current job in Iowa. I was working with some awesome students and was gaining some invaluable experiences.

The holidays were hard that year. I traveled with Grace alone for the first time, and had to endure the never ending questions of “how is Tom” and trying to be happy about the holidays. We spent Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and Tom’s 28th birthday apart.

But on Christmas day, Tom called with a present that could not be wrapped and mailed. They were coming home! They received word that the deployment would be cut short by a couple months. Best present ever!

So I tried getting through the next few months anxiously waiting for the day he would return safely.

Every day came with it’s own battles. I had to believe and have faith that we would get through this. We only were able to video chat one time during his deployment because of the poor connection at his post. (He was on a tiny outpost in the middle of no-where quite literally.) We were able to talk almost every day, which was an absolutely Godsend. It is the only  months of my life that I became attached to my phone and would leave meetings to talk to him in bathrooms or hallways for the 5 or 10 minutes that we were allotted. I cried in a lot of bathrooms that year out of joy of hearing his voice and knowing he was ok and despair of not knowing when the next time we would talk would be. There were moments that I had no idea what he was doing, and there was panic like I described here and here.

But there were many lessons learned during this time apart. Mostly that I loved him more than I ever thought possible, and wanted to tell him any chance I got.

Right before Tom was to return, I ran the Disney Princess Half with a couple of my grad friends. So much fun and such great timing.

540847_699766221275_295311955_n

And then the day came for Grace and I to see the main man of our lives again that February. Our 6ish months separated by sea where finally over.

IMG_4057

We had made it through the deployment long distance. Amen. My soldier was safe and sound on American soil.

We had about a week together before I had to face reality and return to Iowa to finish out the year. I was able to come and visit a couple times before we would move all of our things to Kentucky for the time being.

I was really fortunate for the community I had while in Iowa. They were my family while Tom was gone, and I couldn’t have asked for a better year to end on. Fortunately the timing worked out with Tom’s deployment to make it so I could stay that whole year and take the job search slow. I needed to be there with that support network.

I had the best time with my students, and they kept me sane most of that year. I think our last staff meeting was evident on how I felt about them. (If you guessed that I cried, you would be right. Buckets of tears were shed that night.)

76025_621631754529369_1725467284_n

That May I said my goodbyes to Iowa, and Tom and I moved to our current home here in KY/TN.

About a week after settling in, I started a new job here working part-time in the Disability Services office. I was excited and nervous to do something other than housing. I was very hopefully about the prospects of my career and just hoped that this either turned full-time or that the job search I was still in was fruitful in another area.

FINALLY, TOM AND I WERE IN THE SAME PLACE!

This meant the world to us. After 5 years of being together, it looked like we would be able to be settled together for awhile before the next thing pulled us apart. We knew that another deployment could happen before he got out, but we were just looking at the present of finally being married in the same zipcode/country/timezone for once.

We began the full transition to living together which had it’s ups and downs. And I finally was experiencing Army life in the flesh.

June of 2013, Tom had to under go surgery to fix a hernia he had gotten while in Afghanistan. He literally had a hole in his stomach where he had to push his guts back in. Gross and cool all at the same time…

This is where we conclude our 2nd year with our anniversary which also coincided with our first (and most likely only) military ball.

DSCF0819

Year two was a rough year for us with death, distance, deployments and moving and everything else that normal day living brings. We learned a lot about love and life during this time and how to be happy with the little things. Every moment counts. You never know when the last time you will speak to someone will be (as was evident with my grandparents and Tom’s deployment). So it became even more clear that we needed to voice how we felt and live in the moment to soak up all that you can.

Come back next week as we celebrate our 3rd anniversary and hear a recap of our first year without long distance!

In Remembrance.

It seems like today we are surrounded by death. With media, we hear about different deaths every day. It is on many TV shows, some of them my favorites. It seems that they are all trying to find a new spin on the murder mystery storyline. I will admit some of my favorite shows are Castle, Law and Order SVU and Pysch, which have a death in pretty much every episode as entertainment. I think at times we forget the seriousness that comes with such finality.
This month especially I have been reminded at every corner about the mortality that we all face. The 11 year anniversary of September 11th came and reminded us all of so many who gave their lives willingly and unwillingly. Such a tragic event reminds us that we are not untouchable.
Then there are the daily conversations that people have around me about the possibility that my husband may not come back. Yes this happens on a regular basis, and it is not the most comforting thing to face. I know that most people are trying to be comforting and become uneasy and the awkwardness just pops out. But it becomes exhausting hearing “I feel so sorry for you,” and “How do you do it?” or seeing “The you poor thing” face. I think about Tom and the danger he is in every day enough on my own without the help of these conversations. And, again, I know people do not mean to put this pressure on and are wanting to show care and concern.
Hint: Ask me how Tom is doing just like you would if he worked here in the States. Yes he is making a huge sacrifice, and yes it is dangerous, but we are trying to live as normal as possible. So say thank you for the service if you want to mention the topic of the Army, and then ask normal questions and treat us like normal people. You don’t have to walk on egg shells around us. We made this choice to do this adventure so you don’t have to be uncomfortable and act like we need saving. We’ll let you know if something happens, then the saving can occur. And I will need lots of saving if something were to happen. Otherwise, I can just tell you how his first mission was attacking a bee hive. Hard at work I tell you.
These things were all just reminders about death, but then I had to deal with real life ending stories when both of my grandparents passed away recently. My grandma passed after a stroke in July, and my grandpa gave into his fight with cancer earlier this month. I have been very fortunate to have all 6 of my grandparents up to this point, so lucky.
I have had people I know pass away in my life-time, but never anyone that I was super close to and depended on. So the concept of death being real is something very new to me. I did not have my first real experience with death until I was in grad school when one of my staff members, Sam Rankin, passed away from a disease she was struck with suddenly. She and I were extremely close after her time on staff. She became like a little sister to me, and I was devastated to learn of her passing at such a young age. Sudden events like this make you think how you can change your own life to make the best of the time you have on this earth. Sam is my inspiration in a lot that I do at work to always be mindful of helping students have an meaningful time while they are at college. You can always do more. She had a wonderful zest for life and was always positive, and I hope that I can live up to her spirit.
As for my grandparents, I still am trying to process their passing. It’s hard to believe they aren’t just a phone call away when I need advice. Or that when I head south they wont be there to go to a buffet for dinner. They lived in South Carolina my whole life so they weren’t always here in person. But they were grandparents who made you feel loved and special with the time that you did have with them and never forgotten when we were apart. They always made it a point to call whenever we did have big things going on in our lives, and did come to things when they were able.
They lived right outside of Clemson where I went to grad school. Having a different relationship with them was one big reason that I went to school down south. I wanted to know how they were on day to day. During those two years, I was able to get to know them differently and learn so much more from them. They were the most compassionate and generous people that I know. They opened their door to so many people even when they had nothing. And the love that they had for each other is something that we all should aspire to. So to remember them I thought I would tell some of my favorite memories or tidbits of their lives.
1. Anytime we went out to eat we always asked for a to-go box even if there was only 2 bites of mashed potatoes left. Grandma wasted nothing.
2. We called him “Grandpa Christmas” because he sounded like Santa over the phone and always came to visit at Christmas when we were a kid.
3. While I was in grad school, whenever I came over Grandma would have piles of newspaper clippings to help me solve an issue for a problem that I had had a month ago and had probably forgotten about.
4. Grandpa giving me transparencies of his lectures to help with my counseling classes.
5. Seeing my grandma play the piano and my grandpa sing along. They had a way with music.
6. Watching their faces when I told them I was doing an internship at SWU, their beloved school my Grandpa had worked at for years.
7. My grandpa’s sense of humor and his impeccable timing for his wise cracks.
8. Grandma giving you a back rub every time that you got a hug from her.
9. They always spoke so highly of the family and showed true dedication and love to us. And you could see the pride and joy they had for us when they talked about any of us.
10. Grandma fixing my soon to be dead flowers I had in Clemson and teaching me a thing or two about gardening.
11. When I went to visit them we always went to Ryan’s, and when they drove into Clemson we always went to Western Sizzler. Guaranteed.
12. When I broke my butt, they came and cleaned my apartment so I wouldn’t have to worry about it while I hobbled around.
13. Both of them had infectious laughs that shook their whole bodies, and is making me giggle right now to think about them.
14. The fact that I come by being a packrat honestly. When I came for the funeral I realized that the kitchen window was actually a door. They just had junk piled in front of it for years that I never had seen it open or that it had a door knob.
15. I don’t really remember this, but my parents say Grandma had a knack for potty training, and was able to train my brother and I on weekend visits. I wish she had spilled that secret before she went.
16. Taking us to the zoo when we were kids.
17. Grandma being terrified of bars. Her reactions/stories about “bar folk” were priceless. I am pretty sure she thought anyone who drank in a bar wore all leather and was in a vicious biker gang.
18. Whenever I had a break-up, I could expect a letter from Grandma soon after telling me about a story of her love life and how things will get better.
19. Grandpa asking me how we got Grace and if the same shelter would give him a dog to help Grandma through the stroke. (FYI: Grandma did not like dogs.) Adorable.
20. Not one of my fondest memories, but a good life lesson. They always had a way of putting me in my place when I was being selfish. It wasn’t that they would point it out, but they truly lived by example and taught me so much in the way they lead their life that it reminded me what was really important. They never meant to make me feel guilty, and I don’t think that they even knew that I did. But their life and their actions were constantly showing me that this world is bigger than myself.
21. They taught me to always serve others and always show kindness.
22. Their dedication to the Lord. Their faith was unlike any other. They had bible study every morning and every night with each other. When they were in hospice before Grandma passed, Grandpa insisted that we took his tithe to church for him. We told him that he had given enough and that he did not have to worry about it that week. He then proceeded to give us a lecture on the importance and wrote out the check for us to take. Always giving to the Lord, even in their last moments.
22. Lastly their marriage will always be something that I look upon with fondness. I have a memory of them doing dishes in the kitchen, and they are singing and being playful with each other. Just precious. They were so sweet to each other and would give and give. Their love was unwavering. They grew together over the last several decades, and were always there for each other. This is something that will always stick with me as Tom and I begin our marriage. One year strong!
They were wonderful people. Seeing the hundreds of people who came to their services shows they are going to be truly missed by so many people. Words cannot even begin to express what influences they had on people. They gave all they had in everything they did and everyone they met. And it showed in their celebration services. The best that we can do now is to take what we learned from them and continue living our lives the best that we know how.
Some days it is hard to accept death, others it may never even be on our radar. In thinking about Sam and my grandparents’ deaths, I am reminded to never forget that each moment is precious. It is a moment where we can be an example and show compassion to others. It is a moment to love life and be thankful for the gifts that we were given. We should be thankful for the moments that we have and just live.
And so with that, today I am thankful for a weekend of rest and the chance to make things!
Now the holiday season is upon us (sort of), so that means that some of my creations will be for “Homemade Christmas.” I have gone back and forth about whether I should post these on here or not, and I have decided that we are all grown-ups, and it’s the thought that counts not the surprise on Christmas day. And this way you can share in the story. Or maybe I don’t want to wait until after Christmas to talk about all these goodies and post all the pictures. You decide.
I have wanted to do a Chevron thing for a while, and this weekend I tried. Here is my story of how it went.
To do chevron patterns, it takes a lot of time and patience.
First I measured out and marked the squares on the canvas.

Caution, when you are making the lines, try to be as light as possible. I had a hard time erasing some of the pencil marks at the end.

Then you can use tape to start marking off the stripes. I used painter’s tape, but I would suggest something else like Frog tape or masking tape. My paint bled through-not living up to it’s name.

You will do diagonal lines in each square alternating directions as you go across the canvas.

This takes FOREVER. You have to cut the tape as you go to make the precise lines. I think doing the markings took me about an hour alone. So if others have suggestion on how to make this a quicker process, feel free to chime in. I was not able to make it quick.

I wanted to make one for me and one for my mom, but I got sick of the tediousness by the second canvas that I just made up a design by making a whole bunch of diagonals with the tape. And I actually like the funkyness a little more.

Then comes painting.

I let it dry over night before I took off the tape. Like I said some of the paint bled underneath the tape. Bummer.

While I was waiting for this to dry, I took on the second part of the project. I wanted to personalize each one with our last names. So I had to spray paint wood letters.

I wish I could have found a little bigger blocks, but the next biggest size were about the size of my hand and would not all fit on the canvas I had already bought. Sometimes you just have to go with what you can find.

Once everything was dry, I hot-glued the letters on the canvases. And here is the final project.

I still don’t know how I feel about either of them, but here they are. I am hoping its like when you get your hair cut. At first you hate it, but then it starts to grow on you.

Mom, act surprised. I hope you like it!