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My first trip to India with the most amazing, gracious souls I’ve ever encountered.   -Kaveri Vanita Seveshrama Orphanage

Every year on our anniversary I have tried to spread the love of a wonderful man by doing acts of  intentional love/kindness for strangers and family alike.

It has turned a day that for so many years was unbearable, into a day full of shared joy and excitement.

This year I’d like to ask your help in spreading the love! For the 12th Anniversary, having just 12 of you to help my mission of giving, would be the most amazing gift you can give to a day that personifies love.

Are you in????! Do you accept the mission? I know….what the heck is the mission, Taryn!?

Slow you roll, Tom Cruise….Here’s what I’m planning……..

It is no secret that my heart is deeply in love with India and the people who inhabit it.

It is in India that I have found the true meaning of surrender/letting go and trusting the unknown.

In India I learned the true meaning of happiness.

I learned how freaking lucky I am to have the things that so many of us take for granted each second (true story…I am kind of a master at not taking showers after not taking one for 20 something days there…I know…but really, it’s all about the baby wipes and Teen Spirit deodorant).

It is in India that I realized that Mother Theresa knew her shit(though I never doubted this saint)…because “I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like, but I know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, he will not ask, ‘How many good things have you done in your life?’ rather he will ask, ‘How much love did you put into what you did?”

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So this leads me to the goal I have to make this day that encompasses so much love, into one that spreads love…to India 😉

I have stayed in touch with folks in India and was recently contacted by Gokulananda (go ahead…..say it 5 times fast…) who heads the Widow Initiatives in the Keonjhar District…..but first, let me digress…

I’m not sure if you know what it’s like to be a widow in India…I didn’t know until I was in Vrindavan where the “Widow Home” was…and never have I ever been more grateful to be a widow in the United States….to have the rights to pursue life after loss…to have created the AWP….to have the choice to rebuild after the ruins of tragedy.

Take a quick second to watch this clip….it sums it up pretty well (or google “Widow in India”…it’s pretty much the same across the board) what these women face.

 

Digression done and back to my buddy Gokulananda….who for typing purposes and because I think we’re cool with each other, I’m going to now call Goku on this post 🙂

So Goku’s been keeping me updated on all the amazing things they’re doing to educate all in the district on the importance of supporting widows and their children, while also giving the widows in the region opportunities to have a purpose and a plan to thrive after loss (which is basically my favorite thing in the world). Here are some pics of the ladies, their education initiatives, the children of the widowed they’re serving and some more eye goodies of good deeds:

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Goku rocking it….and rocking that plaid!

So Goku and I have been going back and forth, and having run a non-profit for 10 years myself, I know that donations are great, but I love when physical items/services can be given instead of money. So I emailed Goku to send me a list of what I ( or WE….if you’re in 😉 ) could physically send for them to use now….even more so, I want to go beyond that and if you decide to answer this call, you’ll send it directly to them in India (straight to the source!).

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So my dude Goku wrote me this:

….Thank you so much for your mail and your concern for the Widows and their Orphan Children.
The materials you have mentioned are very useful and is a dire need for the stakeholders.As per your mail we need the following materials:
White Polo Shirts(For Kids Only)
School Supplies(Note Books,Pencil,Pen,Markers,ABC Books for Kids Only)
Sandals(For both Widows and their Kids )
Water Filter is a dire need for every Widow family.
For Sarees,if it is not possible to arrange it in US,we are trying to arrange it from India.
Thank you once again in advance for your concern for the helpless Widows and their Orphan
Children living in India and supporting IDP Team’s effort in Widow Welfare,Empowerment and
Development.
With Kindest Regards.
In Solidarity,

GOKULANANDA OJHA


So there you have it! Everything that may seem small that could make a huge difference (cue Mother Theresa…).

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

These are items that you (or you and your kids/family) can go grab anywhere for very little moola (but make a huge impact with). I would also urge you to write letters of support to them, and as they learn english I have no doubt that those letters will be their aim to one day read. As you can see in the email, I had mentioned the difficulty in finding white sarees (mandatory widow garb in India…and maybe why I like to wear rainbows….we’re lucky!). If for some reason you know how to get some, that would be amazing!

Having spent time there I know that water filters are indispensable, and something as small as this $15 life straw will make a huge impact if that is an item you have the means to donate.

So there you have it! The mission! If you do decide to partake (THANK YOU in advance!) please take a picture of it about to be sent off or of y’all working on putting it together and attach it to the FB post or in the comments below! I’d love to meet the goal of 12 folks sending packages of love (and I promise, you’ll get soooo much out of giving it)… and the posts will let Goku know our little corner of the world is helping in a big love/small gesture kind of way (and maybe I’ll send him rad plaid or non-plaid pics of us coming together for them…I’m thinking plaid…yep).

I’ve included the address to the foundation/Goku below. Print it out and bring it to the post office in case of any confusion.

I am a widow because of December 23rd, 2005…the day I chose to follow my heart and marry Michael….

There is no better way for me to pay gratitude to him for choosing me to be his wife then to help those who are suffering because of their “I Do” ending too soon.

Thank you for taking this journey with me (Cue Mother Theresa…)….

“At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done.
We will be judged by “I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.”

 

 

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Some of my favorite souls during my time of teaching in Baljeet Nagar.

MR.GOKULANANDA OJHA

MEMBER-SECRETARY

INDIA DEVELOPMENT PROJECT

AT:-AKHUPAL,POST:-BADAJAMUPASI

VIA:-GHATGAON,DIST:-KEONJHAR

STATE:-ODISHA,PIN CODE:-758027,INDIA

Tel:- +91 7377720394

<3

 

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The Big 1-0

That Smile

May 21st, 2017 marks 10 years.

10 years since the bomb went off. 10 years since the phone rang. 10 years since the drive home. 10 years since the two men walked up to me. 10 years since Michael was pronounced dead at 22.

To say that a lot has taken place since his death may be an understatement…a lot has happened…and today I want to acknowledge some personal truths that I have learned and, most importantly, celebrate Michael’s journey.

It’s easy when you lose someone you love (in whatever manner) to use that loss as a reason to stop living…and for much time I used his death as an excuse to drown in my grief, to not tell the people I love the most that I loved them, to not pursue the dreams I held in the deepest parts of my being…but I needed to….

I needed to nearly drown myself emotionally to see that a bigger part of me wanted to “come up for air”…a bigger part of me wanted to believe that this catastrophe could be survived….I needed to simply acknowledge that I was still breathing, and that that meant something….something so many amazing beings have had cut too short….and I wasn’t going to waste it.

10 years later, I know with all my heart and being that I am not wasting this oxygen and carbon dioxide. Not one ounce of me (because admittedly, for 9 years a few ounces leaked out and I wanted to punch the universe for taking away something so special) wastes that inhale and exhale.

10 years later, I feel Michael in all that is good in the world and in my life.

I’ve known him longer dead then I have alive…yeah…that’s crazy shit right there….but I can tell you that memory lasts longer that any everlasting battery…and in his 22 years I had the “essential oil” of an extraordinary man…not diluted by so much of the pains and angst our world bears. And that “essential oil” of love for me and his family, for life, for the Army…has been an essence I’ve strived to diffuse in the world around me….and I see its beautiful effects every moment.

I can say that I am happier than I ever have been….and I know that I never thought I would be able to say this, but..I would go through this journey a million times over if it meant that I would live/experience/have the life I have now…and I don’t say that lightly.

In my 6 years of life with Michael he taught me many things….with the most important being that love conquers all….but even more so….that it can be fuel to live the most extraordinary life…no matter what circumstances you face.

He didn’t just teach me that…..but I chose/choose to live it….and it has made all the difference in my 31 years on this planet.

May 21st is a day that I celebrate the life of the man that chose a path that I stand behind and a man that showed all a love that all that knew him can ever lose.

I hope this Sunday you smile. I hope that you feel alive. I hope that you laugh. I hope that you feel love. I hope you feel these gifts….for that is to feel the legacy of Michael.

-per tenebras lucem quaero- through darkness I seek the light-

 

 

 

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“It is such a simple thing to say yet it carries so much weight, whether it is with a spouse while you both read your books or it’s with a friend who has been with you through thick and thin or it is to a family member who has loved you from the start.
Those words, that thought, the action of saying it to them with purpose and truth can mean the world to them. Because after all, they mean enough for you to say “Thank you for loving me.”- T.B. LaBerge

 

Today marks 11 years since I said “I do.” to a man that would change the whole trajectory of my life, heart and soul. A man that in his 22 years of life has inspired me to try and do a small fraction of the good he spread.

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Yeah….this is a funny story for another time 😉

On past anniversaries I’ve done a sea of random acts of kindness for a slew of strangers (you can check them our here and here ) as a way to spread the love he showed so many, but I awoke this morning struggling. Though I have enjoyed spending a whole day spreading joy to my fellow life journeyers, my heart felt as if there was something more important for me to fulfill this year…and after thinking back to something that a person I love so dearly shared (thank you, moochie), I knew what it was…

Instead of a day of random acts of kindness to strangers, I would spend a day of intentional acts of love and gratitude to those who have been there through it all….my family….specifically my 3 sisters and parents.

I tell my family I love them all the time….sometimes a little too much…because the truth is, after Michael was killed, I didn’t tell them “I love you” for nearly 3 years. Why? Because after experiencing the pain of losing someone I loved, I convinced myself that not saying it to them would save me from feeling that kind of pain again….it didn’t work and was a total #lifefail…don’t do it 😉

 

So what would I do to let them know how much they truly rock my heart?

 

Easy….think back to one of my lifetime wishes as a child, mix it with some wisdom learned along my life path, add in some extra sappiness and turn it into reality! Boom!

 

First, I typed up letters for each sister and my parents….not just telling them I loved them and appreciated them….but literally listing out every little thing from childhood and on that I maybe never told them but would want them to know in case today was my last day to live….Michael left no loose ends in his short life and everyone around him knew how much they meant….so yeah, my sisters were going to know how much I loved their love for “Ace of Base”, their drawing talents and intelligence, and that time we jumped off the stairs into a pile of pillows…..it meant my parents were going to know that every tuck into the bed and selfless sacrifice was noted and appreciated…….it meant I possibly cried my eyes out……it meant that they were probably going to hear more than they asked for and then some…. it meant it was perfect!

After the letters were typed I entered into the childhood dream part! Ok….this might sound weird but at the age of 9 I started opening up and sending in the Publisher’s Clearing House letters my parents received! (Hey….a kid can dream)

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I was so convinced that we were going to win that I would sit by the front window for hours and months on end…waiting for that darn  van to pull up and have someone jump out with the balloons, champagne, roses and a giant check! (See Photo…)

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I could get all the items for this day but the check…which I replaced with something I think is far better than money….love.

I picked up the goods and the sweet lady getting the balloons and roses asked me if I was doing employee appreciation gifts….I told her the whole plan and she shared with me that she had lost her daughter 11 years ago to leukemia and it made her happy to see good coming out of sad….i have a feeling we were supposed to meet. Thank you, Christina.

After checking out I recreated a scene from “Up” in the parking lot and maybe got a little excited….

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Then it was off to Lindsey’s house.

When I got there I hit my first snag….15 balloon ribbons all tangled up….sweet baby jesus…i just ripped them off….back to the surprise knock on the door! How did PCH do this so many years 🤔

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Lindsey is my second youngest sister and would be the first victim of love (that’s a good song title…just puttin’ it out there ;D ).

She thought I was dropping off some AWP stuff for her to work on….no sir-ee-bob!

The knock came and the love check/letter was handed over…

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She did not see it coming!

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…And her and her wonderful husband thought they were surprising me (and did), because when I came in they had champagne waiting too , to do a toast for today. They’re amazing.unnamed-4.jpg

Next up, my youngest sister, Sammi…the one whose life I missed out on so much while going through the darkest parts of my grief in the first few years after Michael’s death. The one I had a few more important things to share.

She thought I was dropping off cookies I baked (which should have been the first clue of a surprise to come since I’m not a baker).

As I drove over the perfect song came on…unnamed-6.jpg

When I got to Sam’s house she was out in the front yard….just like in the PCH commercials….

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Ok…maybe she didn’t faint, but I think it was a surprise and it was one of the letters I had the hardest time writing aka I cried a lot and hoped she felt the love.unnamed-7.jpg

Off to my last sister’s house. Kenzi was prepping the house for Christmas eve and answered the door in shock…being the oldest sister we always knocked heads….but I let her know just how amazing she truly is to me.

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Her smile and my other sister’s smiles made my year…I love them so much and am very lucky to have them love me back.

Last but not least were my parents, who were out at dinner but came home to this little setup:

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All in all….it was the perfect day.

I’m guilty of going through life supporting and helping and sharing love with people I barely know (if i know them at all)…and it has brought me so much happiness, healing and joy… but I did so just telling the people I love the most “I love you.” without ever really letting them know in all the ways, and without sharing the memories that have had the deepest imprint on my heart….

I’ve done it….and I never will fear that they didn’t know… nor will there be a second where I think “I wish I would have told them…..” and that is the greatest act of intentional kindness that I know how to give…and that is love…and that is family….and that is eternal.

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You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water. -Rabindranath Tagore

 

Tomorrow I leave for a 12 day buddhist pilgrimage on the small Japanese island of Shikoku.

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I have no earthly idea how I was led to do this, how I’m going to get around on an island of non-english speakers (and my small knowledge of Japanese language…..other than that which I owe to 80s music ….case in point:

Thanks, guys….wait…I mean domo arigato 😉 )

Add to that a forest of pit vipers, wild boars, signs I may not be able to read to get to my next village and poisonous centipedes…and I’m kind of feeling like Indiana Jones, but the indiana jones that didn’t like snakes and found himself in interesting situations:

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But man…I am pumped!

Yes, maybe at times I’ve worried about trying to figure out how to use the japanese baths  (luckily I found this jewel): bath_small.jpg

 

And I was worried about what to pack ( but found out I’ll be sporting this amazing and symbolic ohenro-san apparel….where every item has a very deep and spiritual meaning. “It is said that white is worn because long ago some pilgrims would collapse from the physical exertion and die during the pilgrimage, and the white robes could serve as their burial clothes”….two birds, one stone…respect):衣装.jpg

 

I’ve had the great gift and capability of being able to travel to many places and this will be my second pilgrimage (with the first being the Camino de Santiago I did at the one year mark of Michael’s passing) and if there was anything that I learned that time around, it was that everything would be okay if I trusted the path. That was very difficult one year after Michael died, as it was hard to believe that anything happened for a reason, but nine years later, years into trusting my “path”, I look forward to challenging myself even more….mentally, spiritually and physically. As it’s been said about the Henro:

What is important is not the destination,
but the act of getting there.
The Path itself is the goal.

Buddhism has also played a role in my life after loss and I love the idea that On the way of the 88 Temples, anyone that you meet, anyone that you hear, anyone that you see; they are all manifestations of Buddha. Learn from their strengths and reform your own shortcomings.….so listen and learn and honor them…..I think that’s a goal to embody in everyday life.

 

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INSERT YOURSELF HERE…you look great in orange too!

There are many “seas” in this inner world we each hold within…and I have stood upon many shores looking out at what seemed like an endless abyss..

An abyss that your mind tells you you can not survive and that tries to freak you out (like these signs on the Henro Pilgrimage: )

 

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Not sure what’s going on here…but the snake looks pretty friendly…and has nice hair 😉

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Pumba does not look happy!

…but I have crossed them, because my heart always said it would be worth it…and it wasn’t lying.(What the heart forgot to mention is once you cross that first ocean, you open the door to looking through the binoculars to see there are many more seas out there waiting for you if you are willing to look deeper…not on the beach, but in the current, the unknown, life.)

 

So yes, I am a bit nervous and have no clue that will come my way,but THAT IS LIFE and  and  I’m ready to keep on living’ it!

 

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Lots of love- Taryn

Risking

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Taking a risk….

We have been taught that one of two things can occur from such an action:

Something bad, with  an unfavorable outcome..

Or….

Something magnificent, soul empowering and life-affirming.

So what happens when you take a risk and both occur?

Would it be a mutant? An “X-Men” of risks?

A grey area that few talk about or like to admit to?

Or is risking something of ourself….of our life, always going to have both outcomes?

You know what. That’s what I believe. Because at the end of the day, when we take a risk and our dreams come true, we forget to admit that even the magnificent is finite.

And when the “bad” occurs, we forget to see and honor the great wisdom that comes from the hardships.

And maybe, just maybe, by embracing that risk will not have one of the outcomes….but both….maybe that allows us to cherish, and be grateful, and honor the roses and thorns that occur from such a noble and courageous act.

Marrying Michael at 19 was one risky move….I can admit to that. Not only because of age but because he was Infantry in the Army in the middle of a war.

But you know what…. I refuse to look at that risk as one I shouldn’t have taken because he died and I was left a widow a 21 years old.

He was one of the greatest risks of my life.

And yes, a “non-favorable” outcome occurred that temporarily shattered me.

But if he had come back and lived another 70 years by my side, one of us would have eventually passed-on….and that wouldn’t be favorable either.

But the risk is always worth it.

I can’t decide the timing or the turmoil or the triumphs that happen as a result of such an action….but I want to keep risking.

I want to keep milking every ounce of beauty in the risks that turned out the way I planned, and keep honoring the teachings from the risks that didn’t (seem to at the time) end as hoped for.

And what is life if not one short or long and beautiful stretch of hoping, trying and loving and living…..but only if you risk to feel/experience it.

Risk on.

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).