Catching Up

The last few months spent offline have been super busy! There were the typical rogue waves of grief and other ups and downs of widowhood, toddler adventures keeping me on my toes, and I’ve had a lot of tasks to keep me occupied. Here’s a little recap to catch up since my last post in January.

The remainder of January and most of February were filled with a huge endeavor: moving! After nearly a year of renting a place while trying to decide what I should do with this new life, I was thoroughly disgruntled at dealing with landlords and paying the same amount in rent that I could be paying for a house I would own. So after a brief search, the perfect house presented itself to me (thank you, Hubs!) and I closed two days before Christmas. I’m now the insane owner of two houses, and thus two mortgages. Yikes! After several weeks of painting, cleaning, and other preparations fueled by the endless help of my amazing family, the Little Man and I moved in at the end of January. It took a while to get settled and there are still many projects I want to complete, but we are here and we are loving it. This house is perfect for us and immediately felt like home. We have a great yard for Little Man to play in and the neighborhood is quiet, safe, and full of prior-military families. The neighbors on both sides have children Little Man’s age. I feel like we are right where we are supposed to be. Of course, it goes without saying that I wish we weren’t here. But if we have to be, we are in the best place we could be.

February was also a month of visiting! A dear friend of mine, we’ll call him Montana, came to visit for a few weeks. Montana was one of The Hub’s best friends and he has been there since day one as a great support and an understanding soul in this grief journey. He loves The Hubs and we share so many great memories of him together. We had a wonderful time during his visit, albeit with a few rough patches but also a few amazing patches. Our friendship/relationship is something for another post, so I’ll save it for that! But it was so great to spend some time with him, and Little Man loved it.

At the end of February and leading into March, we were so happy to spend time with another visitor, Uncle! Uncle is The Hubs little brother. He is currently serving in the military, inspired by his brother. Uncle is such an amazing person. I’ve been lucky to call him my brother since he was 14 years old and I’ve watched him emerge as a fine young man; smart, talented, kind, and with an amazingly bright future ahead of him. He has been such a rock for this family since we lost The Hubs, and I am so glad to see him with some happiness in his life and achieving his dreams. After more than 6 months away, he came home for a visit and we were all so glad to see him. I know Mama B and Dad B were ecstatic to have their boy home for a while! The highlight of the visit was a trip to the Zoo. Uncle got to teach Little Man all about the animals and instilled his newest love: dinosaurs! By the end of the day, Little Man could identify and name his favorite three dinosaurs: t-rex, stegosaurus, and brontosaurus. To this day he still wants to the sleep with the stuffed versions of those dinos Uncle bought him!

March was the month everyone around here dreads. March marks several key dates: The Hubs birthday, the anniversary of the last day I saw him (the day he deployed), and the half-year mark (one and a half years, this year). March is a month I would love to skip each year… it’s full of reminders of what we’ve lost, who has been stolen from us, what should have been. Thankfully, this year we had something productive and happy to focus on in March: Hike for Our Heroes.

A few months back, I discovered an amazing person on Facebook, Troy Yocum. Intrigued by what I read, I looked up his website and was immediately motivated by his cause. Troy is an Iraq war veteran who, upon returning home from deployment and witnessing the struggles a fellow service member was experiencing, was inspired to make a difference and raise funds to help support military families. In April 2010, Troy began the Drum Hike, a 7000 mile walk across the United States to raise awareness and funds. After learning more about his cause and seeing that there weren’t any Florida stops on his current route, I emailed Troy and told him our story and asked how our family could get involved. Imagine my surprise when I received a reply that Troy had altered his route and added a stop in our city, naming that day in honor of The Hubs! I was ecstatic to be able to raise awareness for his cause, be involved in something so influential, and be able to honor The Hubs at the same time.

We only had one week to raise awareness of Troy’s walk in our town and plan the entire event. Needless to say, I was BUSY. It was crazy, exhilarating, and oh-so-fulfilling. I felt like, for the first time in a long time, I was DOING something. I was right where I was supposed to be. After a long week of hard work, we welcomed Troy into our city March 15th, just three days after the 1.5 year anniversary of The Hubs passing. We had a wonderful greeting at the VFW Post where Troy met veterans and he and I both were interviewed by the local media. We then set off on a 2-mile ceremonial walk downtown, where the ceremony we had planned was waiting. On that walk, Troy reached his 5,000th mile and we were so happy to share in his victory. Troy, along with several key dignitaries from our city and myself, spoke to the crowd. Although it was a smaller group than we had hoped for (but what can you expect with only a week to plan and city elections/commissioners meetings happening on the same day, what luck!), we raised a considerable amount of money for Drum Hike. It was a successful event that awoke something in me…my desire to help others.

The rest of March and into April, there were social events nearly every weekend. I was excited to get to visit with one of my best girlfriends who was back in town for a while from Colorado, it was her little boy’s 2nd birthday. We got some much needed girl time and the kiddos had a blast together. I took my Mama and Little Man to the beach for Spring Break. We relaxed, spent time at the beach and pool, and went to the zoo. It was wonderful. I also attended the wedding of one of my other best girlfriends who I hadn’t seen in a while. She was a beautiful bride and I reconnected with another great friend as well. Oh, and my birthday. Yes, I am officially old. Last year, I refused to acknowledge my birthday. I figured, if my husband was never going to be older than 25, neither was I. He was a week older than me, and it wasn’t right that I should ever be older than him. This year, I felt the same way but to a lesser degree. I could hear him telling me how ridiculous that was, and I kind of felt like I was being a little dramatic in my thinking. So, I acknowledged the day begrudgingly, but didn’t hate it. I had a nice relaxing day at my mother’s house, going through all of the old boxes of childhood stuff crammed in my closet in her house, played with my boy, and eating ice cream. I guess I’ll have to face a birthday every year, knowing The Hubs won’t. And maybe one day that day will be good again.

Remember that little something I mentioned the Drum Hike awoke in me? Well, that has been the other thing keeping me busy in April. Organizing a charity event confirmed a thought that has been lingering in the back of my mind for a while. I’ve realized my purpose: to draw off the experiences I’ve been through and use them to help others while honoring The Hubs legacy. I’ve decided that one day, I will start a non-profit organization that benefits military members and their families, and it will be named for my husband. I haven’t decided the particulars of anything, I figure they will come to me in time. But this realization was something that smacked me right in the face and just feels RIGHT. THIS is what I’m mean to do with all of this pain. THIS is the good that is meant to come from all of this. And so, I’ve decided to arm myself appropriately and go back to school. I’ll be applying to Grad School for Non-Profit Organizations and Leadership. Of course, I can never do things the easy way — turns out the deadline for applications is the end of April, so I’ve been running around like crazy, taking my GRE and getting things in order to apply. Who knows if I will make it in this year, if not then definitely next year. The most important thing is that I’ve found it — my calling, my purpose, the thing that will tie together my past and my future. And I know The Hubs would love it.

So, that pretty much brings us current. I know I’m leaving some things out, but this post is already miles long. I’m so excited to be back here, to share my thoughts and feelings and experiences with you. I thank you all for your input on future content here at NYAW. Be on the lookout for more frequent posts, and s always I encourage your feedback and comments!

Much love <3

I khave told you this before but you are such an inspiration! I am so happy that you have found a wonderful calling in your life and you have so much to offer. I look forward to reading more about what is going on in your life>

love and peace,
Angela (Cox) Looney

Tara Stallings

So glad to hear it’s going (mostly!) good for you :D I’m sure you’ll do great at your new endeavors!

Erin, I moved shortly after TJ died and I really think it was the best thing for me to do. A new house to make new memories in. I love my new house, but like you, I wish I wasn’t there. I look forward to reading more and I am happy to have connected with you.

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