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A little over a week ago, I got a message that my longest childhood friend had a seizure and went into cardiac arrest. Last Saturday morning I got the news that he was not going to recover and he passed away.  I was devastated.  I still am. I am struggling so hard with the grief.

Over the years we’d find each other and stay in touch then we’d drift apart.  It only took a quick catch up for us to pick up where we left off and keep right on rolling with life.  The last text I got from him read, “thinking about you.” He didn’t have children, but I shared our adoption story about Olivia and he was excited about exploring that option to build their family.  That will never happen.   I haven’t seen him since we were in our early 20s and he showed me all over Texas.  We found a bar just across the border that took travelers checks and we drank Corona out of faded bottles and terra cotta glasses.  That was definitely one of the best trips of my life and the memories are as vivid as if it happened yesterday.  I’ve never met his wife, but she has been kind enough to keep me up to date with what was going on and she was gracious enough to accept our special friendship.  I’ll meet her for the first time when I travel to Houston for the celebration of his life instead of the plans he and I started making for next year.

He touched my heart and my soul so deeply.  He was heavy metal and I’m more of a country and 80s girly-girl.  He was a drummer at heart and I can’t keep a beat.  I believe we were soul mates (of the best friend type; not the marrying type) and, no matter what direction our lives carried us, we always found our way back to each other when we needed it.

This week was one of “those” weeks that I would normally lay my trials and struggles on his shoulders and he would encourage me and talk me through them until I was calm again.  So many times I picked up my phone to call him, but I couldn’t.  I long to hear, “Hey, girl… It’s JT” one more time. I only hope he knew just how important he was to me and that I cared for him so deeply.

It’s not fair that he lost his life at the young age of 38.  It’s not fair his wife of a few years is a widow.  It’s not fair his mother lost her son just a few short weeks after losing her mother.  I know God has a plan for his short time on this Earth, but I’m struggling with it.  He had so much love and kindness to offer and was never less than kind, loving and caring to me.  It’s just not fair.

I haven’t had to shoulder this alone.  My friends have rallied around me with kind words and support this past week and I’m so grateful.  One of them told me, “big grieving is an indication of big love.”  It was a huge love and a huge loss.

This picture is from the bar in Mexic0… JT and I are in the middle.  We had no idea who the others were… we met them there and had a blast.

To all our veterans: Thank you for your service.  We’re forever grateful for your service.  That includes my husband.  Despite what problems surround us, he has fought the good fight and has always been willing to answer the call of duty.  I’m proud of him.  Olivia told him last night, “Thank you for being a Soldier boy, Daddy.  Because of you and all the other ‘Vetrins’ I don’t have to go to school tomorrow.  That’s nice of you and I’m proud of you.”  I reminded him that is probably the nicest thing anyone will ever say to him.  Especially in the 5 y.o. age group.

Yesterday, the Marine Corps celebrated its 235th birthday.  When I got married, I married a Marine.  Our groomsmen were Marines.  My girlfriends dated Marines.  It’s what we did.  The Marines were my first real “taste,” if you will, of the military.  Except for one Coastie.  Anyway, I went to UNC-W and Camp Lejeune wasn’t that far away, so the Marines would come into town to mack on the college girls and we would score free beer.  It was then that I realized the old saying was true:  A uniform is the one thing that can make most anyone look good.   It wasn’t until Will left the military, joined the reserves and got ready to deploy to Iraq did I fully understand what it was to be a military spouse.  Remember, we were no longer active duty, and had not been for many, many years; we were a reserve family.  Since that time, my appreciation has grown from ogling cute boys in uniform to appreciating what the uniform stands for.  I didn’t grow up in a military household and, in my opinion, it’s hard to grasp what the call of duty is during peacetime when you’re 20 years old.   At least it was for us.

There are tons of jokes using the branches of the military as acronyms and we’ve heard them all.  After all, we’ve been in three branches: Marines, Navy and Army National Guard.

From our Navy friends: Marine stands for My Ass Rides In Navy Equipment

From old Navy friends: Navy stands for Never Again Volunteer Yourself

From Marines: Army stands for Air Force Rejected Me Yesterday and Ain’t Ready to be a Marine Yet.  Others say US Army is: Uncle Sam Ain’t Released Me Yet!    Backwards: Yes My Retarded Ass Signed Up.

There’s a lot of fun that goes into those.  Everyone’s dog is bigger than the next person’s in their eyes.  And that’s fine. It’s the pride in the uniform and the dedication to do the job that makes it work.  It takes all the branches to protect us.

Over the past few years, I’ve had the pleasure, and privilege, of meeting some of the most wonderful people.  People who have touched my life in ways they will never know.  I have hugged wives whose husbands were deployed.  I have cried over videos of homecomings.  I have stood on the tarmac in tropical storm weather holding hands with other wives and families waiting for it to finally be my turn.  I have been to funerals, arranged for food to be brought in for families and ordered Gold Star banners.  I have felt inadequate in wishing I could do more.  I always will.

Over the years, my appreciation has grown up a lot.  I appreciate our Nation and the jobs that it takes to keep us safe, a man in uniform still makes my heart skip a beat and I still firmly believe a uniform is the one thing that can make most anyone look good.

Hooah!

And here’s the design for our Mud Run t-shirts!  We’re so excited.  Well, I’m speaking on behalf of my entire team, but I’m sure they would agree.  Loqi came up with the name and I threw a little of this, little of that and next thing you know, voila, we done got us a team shirt!

You should be able to click on the piccie and it enlarge enough to read, but, if not, it reads: “Ladies and Grunts  When high heels and combat boots take to the trails…”

Hooah!

This weekend I have four days off, which is very unusual for me. While I am enjoying four days of not working and am headed to the coast to spend time with my family, I know Memorial Day is more than days off, picnics and potato salad. We remember those who serve, have served in the past and those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. We continue to stand tall for, and honor, those who protect us.

As you enjoy whatever it is you will do this weekend, please take time to remember those who have answered our country’s call.

Chase Community of Giving is donating $5 million to charities.  One of the Charities is Half The Sky.  They sponsor orphanages in China providing education, training and resources.  Why is Half The Sky important to me?  Because Olivia spent 365 days prior to us becoming a family in an HTS sponsored orphanage.     I’ll forever be grateful for their program and hope you’ll take just a minute to vote for it on Facebook.

Vote HERE.

The Issue

Every year in China, thousands of young children – some only hours old – lose the love of family. Given up by parents too poor to care for them or parents who wanted a boy, they live in orphanages where untrained caregivers provide food and shelter, but not the loving care and attention that every child needs to develop normally. They are children who soon learn that they are unwanted. And like all children – they deserve more.

Nearly 100,000 children wait inside the walls of 1,100 government welfare institutions. There they languish, their lives empty.

Except where there is Half the Sky.

Since 1998, Half the Sky has given 35,000 orphaned children the benefits of family love, nurturing care and guidance essential to normal development. The programs are so transformative that the Chinese government officially licensed Half the Sky and invited it to become its only partner – to create a model children’s center and training facility in every one of the country’s 31 provinces.

The Plan

Our Big Idea: Transform orphan care forever in China. Take $1 million and turn it into 100,000 lives saved tomorrow – a million lives over time. No other organization is so perfectly poised to do just that.

Half the Sky has a dream to train every caregiver in China so that no child need ever languish without love again. The Chase prize can make the dream real.

Today there are 12,000 untrained, unskilled caregivers tending China’s orphans. We can train them all! It can cost as little as $88 to provide initial training to a caregiver to become a nurturing nanny, preschool teacher, foster mom or youth mentor in Half the Sky’s innovative approach to orphan care. With your vote, we can win the prize and hold 24 large-scale (500 trainees each) regional trainings across China for 12,000 orphanage workers – a first round of training for every single caregiver in the country. The impact will be huge and immediate.

Only Half the Sky has won the trust to make such a massive project happen.

The Outcome

Half the Sky exists only in order to ensure that every orphaned child will have a caring adult in her life and a chance at a bright future. After years of effort, we now have the opportunity to dramatically improve the child welfare system in China. It’s an extraordinary opportunity, but it will take time. Many children must wait. Some will not survive.

But if we win – By the summer of 2010, we will hold the first of 24 regional caregiver trainings – then again every other month for 4 years. We already know that the training is a revelation to caregivers. It will forever change the way they look at the children in their care. And while there will be follow-up costs over the years to help maintain program quality, $1 million can provide a first round of training for all.

If we win the prize, we will jumpstart this groundbreaking effort. Your vote will impact thousands of children’s lives.

A vote for Half the Sky is a vote for every forgotten child.

Only takes a minute and it’s a way to help a wonderful charity without giving any of your own money.

Four years ago today,Will and I were promoted from being a couple to being parents.  China had chosen US to be the parents of Yu Si Jia…soon to be Olivia.  We loved her little face the first time we saw it and our love continues to grow.

Here is the first picture we saw of our new daughter:

Here is Olivia last night as an angel for her school’s Christmas program.

For non-adoptive parents, the day you get your referral is like finding out you’re pregnant.

Referral day always comes with many emotions for me.  For us, from very start to our referral day, referral was 14 months (we expedited homestudies, etc. for fear of a deployment and are glad we did, because he was indeed recalled to active duty).  Our actual wait for referral was 8 months after our dossier was submitted, which we know we are incredibly lucky to have only waited that short amount of time.  I have many e-pals and bloggy buddies who are in their 3rd year of waiting and I can only imagine their angst over the wait to become parents.

Believe it or not, there are some who have followed our journey since I left Will in Gulfport, MS for his deployment to Iraq.  For those who have been with us all along the way, thank you.  Your kind words, encouragement and new-found friendships are amazing.  For those who stumbled here by accident and have hung around, I’m grateful for you, too.   We still get questions about how and why we chose China.  Quite some time back, I posted about it and you can read it here.  For those who know us in real life, thank you for loving my child.  Friends are the family we get to choose and I think I made some pretty dang good decisions.   It’s not always blue skies and sunshine around Chateau L and we are overcoming some challenges, but one thing remains the same.  We are a family.  We are the family that I wasn’t sure I would ever have.  Being a parent is important to me.  I don’t know if it’s because we shoveled through mounds of paperwork with notaries, apostles, writing check after check, asking for letters of reference and having to prove ourselves worthy of being a parent or if it’s just in our nature or both, but we love being parents.  At the end of every day, no matter the struggles that faced us during the day, I always kiss my little girl good night, hug her tight and tell her I look forward to tomorrow.  Even though there are many times where I welcome some “me” time without hearing “mommy” a bajillion times and I love being able to go to the bathroom without an audience,  I miss her when she’s not with me.

I made a vow a long time ago and I still stick to it…as frustrated as I may get or irritated or whatever phase we’re crossing into that is less than pleasant, I will never take being a parent for granted.  Ever.  I will never regret our decision to become parents and you will certainly never hear me complain about having her.  The good outweighs the bad and, honestly, the bad isn’t that bad and we are extremely blessed to have a child who is as good as Olivia.  She will always know she’s loved and never will I make her feel like she’s an inconvenience for me.  And for those who try to tell me I’m not a “real” parent because our family tree was formed in a different fashion, you’re wrong.  For those who tell Olivia we’re not her parents because we’re white.  They are wrong.   We are raising our child the healthiest way we know how and she already knows that she may not have our eyes, but she certainly has our heart.  And she has before I saw her picture for the first time and even more so since then.

My Soldier hasn’t always been a Soldier.  No, siree.  He was a Devil Dog when we first got married.

engagementsmall

Man, that uniform still makes my heart skip a  beat.  However, seeing him in his ACUs can make my heart go pitter-patter, too.

acu

We give our most heartfelt and grateful thanks to those who are currently serving our great Nation and to those who have served in the past.  We are are proud to live in the land of the free because of the brave.   We proudly stand tall and support those who are serving from the four corners of the earth to keep us safe.

I am proud to be a military spouse and I’m proud of my Soldier.   A long time ago, I read on a blog something along these lines, “soldiering is an honest calling just like farming, plumbing, …”  I agree.

Our prayers are many and hearts are full.   So, again, I say thank you.  Thank you from the depths of my heart to those who serve our nation as a member of our Armed Forces and those who serve our nation on the home front.

Bon Jovi’s new CD, The Circle, is the Amazon.com MP3 Daily Deal for the bargain price of $3.99.  You’re welcome.

I will have my tickets for their concert soon.  Soon as in this week.  Thankyouverymuch.

Fabul-O had originally requested to be a Ninja for Halloween.  I said no.  Her backup was a Power Ranger, to which I, again, said no.  After some careful negotiations, she asked for a purple costume with wings and a wand.  Bless costume(dot)com because they had a purple plum fairy?  Plum purple fairy?  I can’t rember, but it was purple with wings and a wand.  And a headband with flowers that make it “da best ever” and put me at the top of her “bestest mommy ever list.” 

Years past, we would simply take Olivia to the local mall for some treats and she would pick where she wanted to eat.  Her choice: Pizza Hut.  Not this year.  We packed up and headed to the big city to see Shannon, Tony and Emily and went trick-or-treating in their neighborhood.  In the pouring down rain. 

Fabul-O loved it.  Loved it, I said.  And she was sure to let Emily have her turn at ringing the doorbell, but when she didn’t want to, Fab stepped up her big girl skills and accepted the responsibility.  Both of them were very aware of their loot.  Very aware.  They were some pretty dang cute fairies, if I may say so.

Huge thanks to the Shannon’s for hosting us.  We had a great time and can’t wait to see you again soon.

olivia 1

And Shannon totally made the night with some glitter spray. 

princess glitter

 

I’m.Totally.Stoked. about this.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Bon Jovi in concert.  Now if tickets would just go on sale so I can get them and relax.

I’m serious about the mud run.  Will might not think I am and most people I tell about it roll their eyes at me, but I am.   We will have to have a four-person team so I’m hoping he’ll get serious about it and we can get him through physical therapy to participate.  He is supposed to tell his therapist about it and let them decide what they think the likelihood is he will be able to participate.  If he can’t then I need 3 more.  Anyone?  Anyone? 

Dr. Huha listened to my plea to get me off the seizure medication and we’re working my way backwards to something much more mild.  He suggested, in front of my 4-1/2 year old, that I practice safe relations to avoid the three-headed baby I’m concerned about should my eggs do something asinine like fertilize.  A herd of wild buffalo led by Cindewella  and Pwince Chahming couldn’t have broken her trance off her mindless scribbling, but the word s.e.x. had her at full attention.  He did that scream-whisper when he repeated it like I didn’t understand it the first two times he said it.  Jayzus man…I get it!  That wasn’t an “I’m confused” look.  It was more of an “I’m terrified because now I have to avert a s.e.x. explanation when I leave here”  look.

Anyway, Dr. Huha has reconfigured my medication and I should be able to hit the gym soon.  I’m totally ready for this.  Giving up my indulgences is another story. I’m having a hard time sticking too that…as I have been for quite some time. 

I researched shoes.  And I found these.  I could have picked the boring blue, but I wanted the bright pink.  10% off be damned.  I was able to search out a 20% off coupon code on retailmen0t(dot)com.  With free shipping.  And they are a Upromise partner. And they have free returns should I not like my new kicks.  win-win-win-win. 

We are also in the wee beginnings of something new.  It’s pretty big and we aren’t sure what the outcome will be or if it will even work out for us.  We could use some prayers and some good wishes for the best possible outcome, whatever that may be.  I’ll update on it as soon as I can, but it may not be for several months, so keep us tucked in the recesses of your mind, wouldja?

Contractor called today.  They want to frame the room addition tomorrow and set the windows and doors.  They’ll have to come back another day to do siding and inside, but should be no more than a 2-day job.  We’ll install the lighting and whatnot. It’s not fayncee, but it’s something.  I got a lil nervous about not having a permit since most of the structure was already here (slab and roof), but applied anyway.  Neighbor did same project without permit.  Code enforcement will come inspect ours and I’m afraid he’ll get busted.  Conscience is in my way, but I did what I felt we needed to do. Fine is double the cost of permit.  We picked up the 2x4s, door, and insulation today.  Windows we’ve had for a couple of weeks.  Siding we couldn’t agree on because I didn’t see the exact thing he said to get, so I’ll let contractor pick it up.  Kudos to Lowe’s for giving military discount.   Need to pick out the lighting – think I’ve found what I like and it’s on clearance – blinds and floor covering.  Pieces of cake.

Guesties arrive next week.  So excited.  The boys are going to the race.  There’s gonna be a girl’s night out in the BIG city.  Shannon and Shanny will be joining us so it’s sure to be a blast.  Can’t wait.

Until next time….

Last month, we attended a gala for the North Carolina Heroes Fund.  As a “parting gift” we were given a bottle of Zinfandel from One Hope Winery

One Hope has five different wines and each supports a different cause.  If you click on the wine link below, it will take you to that wine’s page and you can read why they chose that particular wine for that particular cause and it will tell you what charity it is supporting.  I have only had the Zinfandel – and it’s not a white zinfandel – and I like it.  I took a couple of bottles of the Cabernet Sauvignon to Shannon’s for her Autism Awareness cookout. 
Zinfandel: Troops

Cabernet Sauvignon: Autism

Merlot: Aids Awareness

Chardonnay: Breast Cancer

Sauvignon Blanc: The Planet

One Hope is not a charity; they are a for-profit company making a difference and I think it’s worth a whirl around their website to check ’em out.

One of my besties, Shannon, is raising money for Autism Awareness.  Last weekend she hosted a banging little get together at her place to raise some money and they are only $95 from their very modest goal.  If you have a few bucks to spare, http://www.trianglerunwalkforautism.com/.  As we all know, every little bit helps and it is tax deductible.  Colin is her nephew and a very, very sweet little boy.  And, yes,  Shannon is walking.

Eight years has passed since 9-11-01, but the ways our hearts, souls and lives were touched remains the same. We’re proud of our police, fire and rescue who protect and serve our communities on a daily basis and proud of our military who protect and serve our country – domestic and abroad – whenever and wherever there is a need. Thank those who serve our communities.  Trust me, they appreciate the kind words.

I’ll post an update about the event in a day or so, but here are a couple of pictures to show Will and I clean up pretty nicely, if I may say so.

gala1

gala2

gala4

gala5

The gala was a success.  I’ll write more about it and post a couple of pictures when I have my card reader and I’m not lazy.  My cookbook sold and we won an American Flag inspired afghan in the silent auction.  There were a few tears shed in remembrance of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms and many rounds of applause for those who continue to stand for our freedom.

In a nutshell….Awesome night.

xoxo

This weekend is the gala for the NC Heroes Fund.  I’m doubly excited because not only is it a fund raiser in support of North Carolina’s military, but my cookbook is supposed to be one of the silent auction items.  I know it’s not the cruise or fancy things others donated, but it’s mine and I’ll revel in my glory.  If they use it.   So, I needed a dress.  And I bought one.  It was a 70% off.  It’s the only dress that I have EVER bought that needed to be altered in the bubbies area ’cause it was too big.  argh.  I had an alterations appointment set, but, as I was getting ready to walk out the door, I simply could not bear to spend the savings on the dress in alterations, so I had a brilliant idea.  I broke out some safety pins and it worked like a charm.  I’ll need some double sided tape to complete it, but it will keep the front of my dress from lo0king like one of those things you toss change in at a toll booth.  Mind you, had someone had the urge to toss some coinage in the cleavage I would donated it to the cause.

Roots done. Hair highlighted last night.

Hotel room booked.

Hair appointment for an updo or semi-updo made.  Nothing like booking a hair appointment at an out of town salon.  How did I find it?  I googled “hair salon” and used google maps to judge its proximity to the hotel and it was 6 miles.  I told an out of town friend where I was going and she checked with her salon and she said it has a good reputation and, in her words, “you should be safe.”

Will’s tux should be better be ready to pick up tomorrow evening.

Just gotta throw a few duds in a bag and we’ll be set.  Didn’t pay to have my dress steamed either, so it’s hanging in the guest bath for a steamy shower this evening.  After that, I’ll iron it with a cool iron under a pillow case.  Hey, it worked with my wedding dress.

With safety pins, double sided tape and shower steaming my dress, I wonder why I even bothered to have my roots done.

Be well…

We have guesties coming in October.  I’m excited.

I’m a slacker so you can read about some of our vacation at her place.  For what it may be worth, I now own a card reader so I can pull pictures off the memory stick for the camera we used while out there.

Guess who had her first day of K4?

1st day

That’s right.  Fabul-O started K4.  Why aren’t there more pictures of my precious daughter on her first day of school?  In no particular order:

  • We were running late.
  • She was not in the mood to cooperate.  Apparently I shoved her out of the house before she had enough time to say good-bye to the dog.  500 times was not enough.
  • We were running late.
  • We were lucky we got this and four more that look just like it because when I stepped out of the house into a bucket of humidity, the tinsy lens on my camera fogged over.
  • We were running late.

K4 is at the same school she started day care at.  They go day care through 12th grade.  So really to her it’s just another day of dropping her off just like we do every other day.  Except today I “made” her wear a butterfly dress.  Apparently she doesn’t really like butterflies, but she “wored it because she knowed it means awot” to me.  “The things we do for love.”  Her words, not mine.

It’s What Day?!?

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