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What it holds….

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I’m not one for resolutions, but I am one for honesty and accountability…

And what better accountability than words I can go back to.


 

2015 was insane.

In all truthfulness, it was the year I questioned life more than ever (even more than after Michael was killed in Iraq….and boy….did I question a lot after that).

Seeing the things that I saw in the poverty ridden areas.

Seeing the things within my heart and mind that were tested, uprooted and resurfaced.

Seeing the lack of understanding and gratitude for life.

Seeing that the more that I learned the less that everything made sense….

 

It did a doozy on me (<—is it did? or played? or had? Is doozy even the right word?anyways…).

 

And with that doozy I spent the latter part of 2015 trying to realize what I wanted/felt called to do with the experiences, teachings and life that I have experienced thus far. I blowed it into the wind to be answered by those forces unseen.

 

Now there may be that question, “What about the AWP?!”

 

Slow your roll :) The AWP has been my heart and soul for nearly 9 years, but once I returned I saw the other beautiful hearts, love and sweat being put into it by my team…and saw that they had taken it to another level where my involvement up front was not where it any longer needed to be. And I think that’s the hope of any founder….to see that the mission and services can live on, expand, and flourish in your not always involved presence.

At the core of the AWP, my hope has always been to have a place of healing that was built and brought upon by those who knew the darkest depths of pain and loss. Even more so, I wanted others to see that we heal by helping, holding and honoring those around us. The AWP is me, my fellow widows, our heroes and supporters. The AWP is life, perseverance, survival and hope personified. The AWP is so much, but above all it is love.

I remembered….Michael was not only a soldier…. he was not just a man, a boy, a husband, a friend, a dreamer, a lover of math and learning. He was not just someone who wanted to become an ocean engineer, then maybe a nomad, then onto a father and who knows what else. He understood that life has many roles, and the biggest one he played after he died. He played the role of letting me know (and share with others) that LOVE heals everything…. A torn heart, a lost soul, a war-torn place.

And with that reminder I know that I am not only a widow, wife, Founder, daughter, girlfriend, hippie, learner, lover, lunatic, executive director, female, traveler, etc, etc. Those are labels that I do not hold onto or glue to stay in place.

I am at my core, someone that wants others to remember the power that they each hold when they can be vulnerable, compassionate, forgiving and loving……to themselves. Because that is the first place where any magic starts.

And with that simple (yet complex and kind of “free love” on many fronts) it happened….

The soul whispered. 

The calling happened.

The “Here’s what you’re going to do with the stories, life and learnings you’ve accumulated, struggled over, succeeded at and simply lived”

And so I venture out into it with my role at the AWP still here, but with this seed planted to what my heart is calling me to do, like it did with the AWP….

To do what I’ve always seemed to do.

To do what I’ve done on this blog for almost 9 years.

TO look within. To invite others to do it with me. And by doing so start the ripple effect our world so needs in seeing that there is light at the end, middle and beginning of any tunnel we are traveling through. 

To know that where we are is the perfect starting point.

To live wildly in the great unknown.

And I’m excited. And I feel alive.

And that’s al I could ask to feel in life.

So here goes 2016……

(you can learn about it all here).

 

10

The relationship you have with the world is just like any other relationship. Every now and again, even if it’s pissed you off for no good reason, you have to look it in the eyes and say: I love you.

10 years ago I married a man, who I met as a boy, who died as a hero.

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As I’ve stated before, the day Michael was killed in Iraq wasn’t the toughest. I don’t define his life by his death.

But our wedding anniversary, now that was a tough one. Although I didn’t define his life by his death, I did define it by the love he showed me and countless others…and struggled in the first few years on how to handle this day.

In the past, I’ve done random acts of kindness which changed the “sails” in observing such an occasion, but I awoke at 6 am this morning thinking about what else I could do that honors such a love from such a soul in a way authentic to us both.

Giving a random stranger a bouquet of flowers or a gift card or a hug had worked in the past, but I wanted to kick it up a notch.

I wanted people to be reminded of how great they are, the same way that Michael had reminded me (before and after death).

He saw the best in me when I couldn’t and has been the inspiration behind some of the biggest leaps I’ve taken in life.

He showed me that anything was possible and that life is too short to forget that fact.

Reminiscing on his encouragement and love, I created these notes:

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But not only that, I wanted to make sure that whoever I gave these notes too could give something to someone else to brighten their day….and if their is anything that I’ve learned it’s that a joy shared is a joy tripled….and I set the goal to know that their would be at least a 10 person trickle of happiness and love).

As they printed out, I stepped outside to see a dense fog and smiled….I knew that like my life since his passing, the fog would lift and today would be magical (and it did not disappoint).

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I should have prefaced this with the fact that I also woke up with the nastiest cold known to man….I’m talking bad bad….so it took me a while to get out the door (and lots of Afrin and DayQuil), but I typed up a gameplay of locations and goals and set out

 

Locale # 1 Ross…

unnamed-9I love Ross. It’s super affordable, everyone that works there is so nice, and I never get weird glances for buying that $1 item that may or may not have a hole/be expired/explode ;)

I was warming up, had this shirt on…and was ready to remind people of their awesomeness!unnamed-3

I went up and asked to buy two gift cards. The girl, who looked like she may have the same cold, told me about how busy it was and pointed out the Christmas Decorated gift cards she thought I may like. When she handed them over with the receipt I pulled out my handy folder of notes, paperclipped the gift cards, asked her to give them to two families who she thought may need a little brightening, then presented her with a monetary donation for her good deeds :)

She didn’t know what to do! But said “Thank you!” and later went on to post this on Instagram under the hashtag (#swwr (someone who was reminded)). I read it when I got home and did a happy dance.

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Next stop, Salvation Army. But in between the drive the good tunes were a flowing, like Michael had become the DJ….case in point:

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#2- Now I love Ross….but do I LOVE Salvation Army. My whole wardrobe is from there and they basically know me by name!

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They don’t do Gift Cards, so I just put 3 money cards together, found a great sweater for $3 and headed to checkout. I handed the lady one for herself and two others to give to the next two customers.

She was stunned. Like really, stunned….She called her manager over to see if it was ok and he said he’d never had it happen (which needs to change) and told her it was ok. She got the biggest smile on her face and just kept saying “bless you.”…..she was the one that blessed me!

Next stop (#3), another favorite, Alamo Drafthouse cinema.

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I nice pink-haired dude who worked at the counter started chatting with me about “Star Wars” which led to me talking about “Creed” (which everyone should see) and then on to the disappointment that was “Mockingjay”. Finally I got to the part of asking to buy 3 gift cards, which I then asked if I could put him on a mission to distribute them out to those needed some extra cheer. Mission accepted and I gave him a little gift too for his work.

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At this point the cold medicine is waring off, my eyes are getting glazed over, but love conquers all…..even evil colds!

What it didn’t conquer was my full bladder…..so the plans changed and I ended up in a nearby Marshall’s (Ross’ Big Brother). I’m fading fast but use my restroom break to spread some love (sorry, should have dried the counters but I was in a hurry to get out before anyone saw me).

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Afterwards, I headed up to see a young girl asking if she could take a break (her shift ended at 1am) after she rung me up….score!

I asked how she was feeling, chit chatted, paid the amount then handed her this note with a little treat. Her reaction:

“What!!!???? What!!???” really loud and I just strolled out, kind of like this (minus Antonio), but with joy exploding in the background.3ffd9ae95e40650d79eaed6889dee844.gif

On the way through the parking lot I placed the notes on random cars and finally headed home to write this update before the anniversary ends.

 

The day ended with me knowing that I brightened a couple of people’s day, but from those few people that I interacted with, they brightened twice if not quadruple the amount of people….and that is what Michael’s life and love did.

Michael’s love is a light in my world, but from that love he has touched so many more others…and that is what I choose to remember today, and everyday.

Eviction

“Most people think happiness is about gaining something, but it’s not. It’s all about getting rid of the darkness you’ve accumulated.”

Darkness comes in many forms.

In the form of grief, depression, loss, regret…

but we forget about the other kind.

The kind of darkness that squats in our soul because our fear, insecurity, doubt and ego has invited it in.

So if happiness is that Sheriff that serves the eviction notice to darkness, it is our awareness of this happiness, that sees it out the door.

The issue so many face though, is recognizing the joy and love that “knocks” daily on the “doors” of these unnecessary guests that have over-stayed their welcome.

So listen….

Listen in that morning kiss from your lover.

Listen in the patter of dog paws on the hardwood floor.

Listen in the exchanged smiles with a stranger.

Listen in that sip of wine and bite of chocolate cake.

And in listening….bid farewell to the darkness within.

Back

5 months around the world.

Tears.

Bliss.

Shedding.

Finding.

Searching.

So much that I don’t feel I will ever be able to put into words.

So much I’m still absorbing….embracing.

I can say, that more than anything, this trip was not about the tropical locations or adventures (yes…they played a part)…but this trip was about a widow who lost her soul mate over 8 years ago, who had never wanted to date or love or feel connected in that way again…learning how to be a “we” again.

Learning:

How to trust.

How to rely.

How to let go.

How to have faith in the unknown.

And…

I was not disappointed.

I struggled and fought and sometimes climbed into my mental cave of a security blanket, but not before Luke pulled it over my head and made me face it. Face myself. Face the obstacles of learning how to live in love after the one I loved was taken suddenly and tragically.

When times got toughest I’d find a “Michael” or “Charlie” show up in the form of a grocery bagger, a bungee coordinator, or a dog on a trail. I’d be sent warmth and hope in the form of a swallow or a white butterfly or a child’s smile.

More than anything, I saw the parts of me that I so easily ignored in the comfort of my solitude.

The fearless widow now saw the fears that still crippled her.

The go-with-flow girl saw that she still wanted to control the uncontrollable.

The peaceful warrior saw that she still had battles within herself to hand an olive branch to.

And so, here I sit, not swarmed by the impermanence I had become so acclimated to, but on the chair in the office in the home we live in.

I’m changed and am changing, but am still playing catch up to figure out in just what and all the ways.

And with that, I am learning to love all the crooks, cracks, crannies, jewels, dust, glitter and glow of this further unveiled soul of mine.

And I’m alive….and now, very fully aware of what that truly means….fully aware of where life exists.

It’s Time

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Taking in the wonder that is the Grand Canyon- Oct. ’14

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste it, to experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”- Eleanor Roosevelt

 

It’s been well over 6 months since my last post.

Much has happened. I’ll highlight a few:

  • I’ve risen in love with an amazing human, best friend, spirit, lover and overall partner in (good) crime (not that that makes logical sense….but you get me ;) ).
  • I began studying and practicing Peruvian Shamanism (and became a reiki practitioner).
  • I’ve flown over 46,000 miles this year….and it’s nothing compared to what’s ahead!
  • The AWP is rockin’ and rollin’ with features on Wall Street Journal, CNN, NPR and TODAY…this year alone!

So now that you’re kind of caught up, it leads me to what is coming…what has already begun…I am leaving to travel around the world for the next 5 months (to start)…

Austin -> Norway -> India -> Nepal -> Thailand -> Cambodia/Laos -> Indonesia -> New Zealand -> Australia -> Austin

To be more specific!

Destiny has been knocking at my door for some time, and this year I made the decision to answer…and oh what a glorious welcome she has given me.

I’ve been lucky enough to do a “once-in-a-lifetime-once-a-year” trip every year since Michael’s death… but after the next 5 months, I think I’ll be set for a while, allowing me more time to grow and expand my horizons and future (for myself, my passions and with the man destiny hooked me up with out of nowhere….well played, destiny…well played…).

I’ve been blogging a bit on the site where we will be sharing our stories, photos and revelations.

You can find it here.

 

My eyes are ready to be opened a bit wider.

My feet are ready to walk a bit farther.

My hands are ready to reach a little bit further.

My heart is ready to grow a bit larger.

My horizon is ready to become a bit broader…

 

It’s time.

 

I’ll see you along the way….

Decide

Today marks 7 years since Michael was killed in Iraq.

It could be thought of as a day of sorrow, but for me, today is a celebration of decisions.

Decisions that dictated a life that I’m blessed to have been a part of for 6 years.

 

You see, it’s hard to mourn on a day that is a true reflection of how we should live our lives.

Michael decided many things….

Things that some fear to try, commit to, or experience.

 

He decided to lead.

To serve.

To love fiercely.

To always say what he felt.

To teach.

To care.

To live each day like it was his last.

To sacrifice.

 

He decided.

 

These decisions are not ones that I can look back on with sadness….these are decisions that 7 years ago put me on a path that led me to decisions that have dictated/will dictate the life I decided to take back….just when I thought all had been taken from me.

Through his example and remembering the core of one’s soul path, Michael has allowed me to fearlessly make decisions that I know I will never regret.

Whether those decisions will affect 22 (or 100) years of the life I may live.

 

So if there is anything I can ask of y’all on a day like today, it is to decide.

Decide to live life.

To learn.

To love.

To forgive.

To be challenged.

To embrace the unknown.

 

For me, my wardrobe choice for today is my decision:

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And I have a feeling that Michael couldn’t be happier.

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