Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A picture is worth a thousand words

I recently started taking a photography class at a local college. Last week Monday June 5th was the very first class. We were asked to bring a photo the following week that is important to us. Immediately I knew which photo I wanted to use. I've debated with myself this past week whether or not I should actually use the photo that first came to mind. I thought about taking an easier route, but then I thought sometimes the most meaningful things are said and done when we take the harder path. When it came down to it I decided to go with my first instincts, little did I know the impact it would have.

I sat there last night waiting my turn to show my photo and explain its meaning. Suddenly I became nervous, shaky even. I could feel my heart beating away as if it were trying to escape my body. I prayed for strength.

Finally it was my turn.

The professor walked up to me and took the photo from my trembling hands. I managed to say ''I'm going to try really hard not to cry'' because in that moment when I had to actually explain the photo in front of 20+ strangers I felt all of the emotions that I see and remember when I look at this particular photograph hit me like a ton of bricks.

He told me it was okay, I didn't have to say anything if I didn't want to. That's too easy, I've never taken the easy path for anything. He walked around with my photo in his hand, showing it to each face in the room one by one.

He looked at me and then he looked at everyone else. He said ''This is the power of a photograph''

Finally I managed to speak, it wasn't what I had wanted to say but it got the point across.

I talked about how my brother wanted to visit Montana his entire life, but never got to make it there. I told them of the promise I made the day he died, and how I went there for him. And that this is one of many photos I took like this. Photography is powerful, it captures moments, small fractions of our lives, and each photo tells a story. Not every story is filled with laughter, but that doesn't mean they can't have a powerful impact on someone.

He then thanked me, and I could tell he himself was a little emotional. Then he thanked me for sharing my photo again. He said he understands the special meaning of it because he recently lost someone important to him.

For me this photo reminds me of so many things. They always say a picture is worth a thousand words, and that quote rings so true for me especially in this particular photo. It reminds me of the hundreds of memories I have of my brother. It reminds me of all the hours I worked to save and plan on this trip to Montana. It reminds me of a promise kept, and a promise fulfilled. It reminds me of all the emotions that rushed over me when I finally made it to Montana. It also reminds me of all the heartache I experienced and still experience following his death.  
                                                                              


Photography is important to me, and always has been. The older I get the less it's about just having photos and more about preserving memories, even the heartbreaking ones. Take photos of the good days, but also take photos of the powerful, emotional and spiritual experience's in life because they too are important because they're part of what shapes us.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

We aren't truly living until we know HIM

Little did I know that when we moved here to Semmes I would become such great friends with our neighbor until the day we first met and had a conversation, realizing then we had similar interests. We have shared so many good times together, we have made such amazing memories. We have cried together, we've been there for each other during hard times, we have laughed together.  

I've always believed God places people in our lives for a reason. Sometimes the reason is obvious. Sometimes we don't truly grasp the reason until years down the road when we don't even have contact with that person anymore, or even remember their name and have an ''aha'' moment. Sometimes people are sent to hurt us, to make us cherish and appreciate those who love us maybe just a little more. Some come into our lives and make such a positive impact that they couldn't possibly be forgotten. God placed her in my life to lead me to the path he wanted me to take.

One day she invited us to her church. I didn't realize until today what an impact she would make in my life.  I was more than happy to attend church with her. I was excited! I cried throughout the service. It felt so good to worship HIM.


This weekend was all planned out, or so I thought. I was going camping with my children, and my sons Cub Scout pack. It was rained out. I had already said to myself earlier in the week that I really wanted to go to church Sunday morning, but knew that would be unlikely due to the camping trip. I had even thought about leaving camp early Sunday morning in order to go home and get ready for church. Then came the rain, and my sons Cub master cancelled the campout.  I had no idea in what a powerful way God was working in my life for this day to fall into place. He was calling  upon me, and my heart was listening.

Today I went to church, as I have so many  times before. I took my children upstairs and signed them in. Walking away to go downstairs I could hear my child carrying out a conversation most adults have never even had. There he is 9 years old, wanting to commit his life to the Lord, telling one of the youth directors he wants to be Baptized about a week after his tenth birthday. His tenth birthday is only days away.

I sat there in my row, next to my friend, and her in-laws and her parents sitting on the other side of the room. All people I am blessed to know. I listened to the lyrics of the songs, I took notes during the service, like I have done for a long time. Something felt different. God was calling on me today!


How can I be the mother God wants me to be? How can I become the woman God wants me to be? How can I become the woman I desired to be for so many years? I've always believed and had faith but still I'm not perfect, we all sin and I'm no exception to that. The older I get the closer to God I want to become. I've been to church and been rejected by people who don't know my heart.
When the service was coming to an end they asked if there was anyone who wanted to accept Jesus into their heart to come forward. I have heard those words so many times before and wanted to go up and accept Jesus into my heart, and never did. Why? I'm not really sure.

Today was different.

God knows my heart, he knows all of the things I praise him for. He knows my every flaw and my every mistake, and my sins. Still he was calling on me. HIS love for each one of us is unconditional. With my friend by my side I walked to the front of the sanctuary I was so overwhelmed in the best way possible and tears of joy flowed down my face. I was overwhelmed with God's love. I sobbed tears of joy. Words can't describe the love I felt today. So many people wrapped their arms around me and told me they loved me and were happy for me. Some of them I didn't even know. The amount of love  and support I received was overwhelming. That type of love is how we were intended to live, rejoice in each others triumphs, support each other when we are down. Just love each other. This is the beginning of a new chapter in my life, and I can't wait to see where it leads me.         
                                                                                       


Today May 21st, 2017 is a day I'll always remember.
We aren't truly living until we know HIM.
                                                                          





Saturday, July 16, 2016

My ''Montana Moment''

My brother spoke of Montana all of his life, Whitefish in particular. The day he died I made the promise to go for him. There's probably not a lot of people who know me that don't already know that.  I had no idea how much that promise would weigh on me. When you love someone, your love doesn't end when that person takes their last breath. If anything I think that when a person dies, that's when we finally wake up and realize exactly how much that person meant to us.  It makes us appreciate life and not take a single day for granted. There's a constant pain that won't go away no matter how hard we try. Does it get easier? No. I think as humans we just learn to cope with it. Even in death we can still show how much we love someone.

Over the past year I have worked and worked and worked. I picked up shifts, had yard sales. I wasn't doing this for myself, I was doing it for him. I deprived myself of going to the beach or doing anything fun in the sake of saving money. So much to the point I finally just broke down crying one night when my husband was at work and reached out to my best friend KA. I felt guilty, because if I did something that required me to spend money, I would always feel horrible afterwards because its money I could have saved for Montana. She quickly reminded me that it was okay, she made me realize I needed to get out and do something other than work, and I did. It felt so good! It gave me the strength to keep going, and working towards this goal. Sometimes we just need a little reminder.

Jason has been on my mind every SINGLE day since his death. The pain I feel when I think of him is real, and its deep. This promise was by no means a burden, but it weighed me down at times. I felt like no matter how hard I worked and saved it would never be enough. I wanted this trip to be special, one that Jason would have enjoyed. I wanted it to be a trip my children could remember for years to come. I even researched local photographer until I found the most amazing and talented, kind hearted photographer in the whole state of Montana! Photography has always been very important to me. I knew I would want photos to remember this special trip for all the years to come.

I can remember counting down the year, the months, the weeks, and then days, and then down to the very hour we departed for Montana. My husband, kids and I were all packed on Sunday morning, July 3rd and we were on the road and it still just didn't seem real. I was about to keep a promise to my brother. I felt so many emotions. This trip was way bigger than I had imagined, and definitely more rewarding than I could have dreamed of.

My kiddos got to experience seeing parts of their great country in person, which is why we made the decision to drive.   

I was so excited about the fact that they were EXCITED!




Texas sunset 7/3



Rainy  day in Oklahoma 7/4



We stopped to stretch and grab a Colorado geocache! 7/4



Beautiful sunset over the Colorado Rockies! 7/4 



A quick lesson on Wyoming's Wildlife 7/5

My son in particular was especially excited about all the new states we would see. He kept telling me to make sure I told him each time we were about to enter a new state. So I tried to always keep a close eye on the Garmin. There are certain songs that remind me of Jason, and one I particular that I absolutely haven't been able to listen to without crying since his passing, yet on this trip we heard it on the radio numerous times and I managed not to cry.

You can watch a video of Luke Bryan singing the song here.




When I knew we were approaching the Montana state line, I felt myself becoming more emotional and the very second I laid eyes onto that Montana sign, I began crying.


 
Montana will forever hold a special place in my heart. 7/5
 
 
 
We made it big bro! Thanks for being my guardian angel and watching over us! 7/5
 
 
This moment hit me harder than I had ever imagined. I cried more than I thought I would. My husband held me in his arms and reminded me that everything was going to be okay. I knew this was a big deal, I just never fathomed exactly how big of a deal it was. This was one of those moments that almost didn't seem real, it was almost like I was living inside a dream and I didn't want to wake up. I wanted to soak it all up. I wanted to enjoy it and make memories to last the rest of my life.

I felt different. It's hard to explain but I felt like I could finally breathe again, like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. This was my ''Montana Moment'' I felt like I was slowly beginning to heal, but that's still a long road to walk. I felt like he was there with us, and he was, I know without a doubt he was. So many times on the way there we would see a Camaro, and we would just smile and think about him. So many memories of him, and reflecting back onto so many amazing memories he left with us.


We had dinner at an adorable little establishment called Piggy Back BBQ. I tried buffalo for the first time, and it was the best meat I had tried in my entire life! My husband understands me more than I understand myself at times. So he stayed at the hotel at the end of the day, with the kiddos in the pool so that I could venture out on my own. He more than anyone understood that I needed that time alone in Whitefish to reflect and be alone in my thoughts. While I was out I just kinda drove around for  a little while, I managed to grab two geocaches. While I was signing the log at the second geocache I looked up and saw a double rainbow. I couldn't help but smile through all the tears, because I knew he was there with me for every single step of the way.

 
Double rainbow in Whitefish, MT 7/5
 
This was the view from our hotel window at 10:00 pm! We were so thrown off by it still being daylight! 7/5
 
On Thursday 7/6 we spent most of the day at Glacier National Park. It's by far one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. Well worth the $30 we had to pay to enter the park!
 
 
I never knew the mountains could be so beautiful.
 
 
Heavens Peak 8,987ft
 
 
The clearest, most beautiful water I've ever seen.
 
 
 
During our drive the closer we got to Whitefish the more and more yellow fields we would see. We had no idea what it was. It was during our photoshoot that our photographer told us they were canola fields. They were absolutely stunning!
 
He was with me every step of the way.
 
 
After a long day at GNP and having our family photos made for the first time in over seven years we took the kiddos back to the hotel. Again my husband stayed with them while I spent some time alone. I saw a female deer as I approached Whitefish Beach, several of the locals referred to them as being like cockroaches because they are everywhere. I cant imagine being so use to such beautiful creatures that we would begin to think of them that way.
 
 
We had met a local police officer earlier in the day. He was extremely nice as he chatted with my husband about police work. They exchanged patches and business cards. I asked him if he knew where a pier was that I could easily access. He recommended the one at the public beach.
 
 
 ''Can't believe you're really gone don't feel like going home so I'm gonna sit right here on the edge of this pier watch the sunset disappear and drink a beer''
 
I walked out onto the edge of the pier, I sat there talking to his photo and telling him how much I wish he could be there with me. Even though I know he was there with me as much as he could be. I turned my iTunes on and listened to the song I couldn't stand to hear for more than a year. I sobbed. I sipped on a beer despite the fact the nearby no alcohol sign and my disliking beer. I never bend the rules like that, and this was the one time in my life that I didn't care about it. Anyone who knew Jason knew that Budweiser was his beer, what I didn't drink I poured into the lake.  {which was almost the whole can} Almost as if I was pouring a beer for him.
 
I took a drive around Whitefish Lake and visited downtown. I listened to songs that made me think of him, I laughed and I cried and a very small part of me healed that day.
 
 
 
#Montana4Jason 7/7
 
Our time in Montana may have been short lived, but one thing is for sure is the fact that I'll be back again someday.


On the way home we visited the Crazy Horse Monument in South Dakota. I hope that they are able to complete it someday.
 
 
Our 9 year old son is the reason we visited Mount Rushmore. We went home a different route just so he could see it. He's a special kid, not many 9 year olds would ask to go see it in person.
 
 
World's only Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota


 
7/10 Missouri God blessed us with another beautiful sunset.
 
Psalm 65:8
They who dwell in the ends of the earth stand in awe of Your signs; You make the dawn and the sunset shout for joy.



 
 In the end we traveled 5,375 miles and then we were home. It seemed as though this trip went by far too fast.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A letter for Jason

 
When I went home for my brothers funeral, I stayed with our older brother John and his family. I knew I had to write something to read at Jason's funeral. I knew exactly where I wanted to go to do that. I went to Wal-Mart with my husband to purchase a notebook. I ended up picking out one that had a bright yellow Camaro on the cover, Jason would have approved of that.
 
We went back to John's house, but it didn't feel right. I wanted to be alone with my thoughts. I got into my Tahoe and drove out into the woods. The same woods where my two brothers and I grew up hunting in, cutting fire wood, and playing army. I sat there in my truck with the heat turned on, and the music turned off. It was just me and my thoughts on that cold night, and a sky filled with millions of beautiful stars. They seemed to shine so much brighter with tears in my eyes. Looking back now, there are things I wish I had said, or things I would have worded differently, but in retrospect I believe I did the best I could at the time.
 
Saturday February 14th; the day of his funeral, was also our nieces birthday. It still breaks my heart that we had to bury him on her birthday.
 
I was a total train wreck. I walked up to his casket, and I held his hand.
 
I didn't want to let go.
 
I didn't want to say goodbye.
 
I don't even remember how long I stood there talking to him, holding his hand but I know it wasn't near long enough. I could have stood there holding onto his hand for a hundred years and I still wouldn't have wanted to let go. I never wanted to let go, but I knew I had to. Watching my brother being lowered into the ground was by far the hardest day of my life.
 
 
So many times I had been to that church, so many important lessons learned there. So many joyous occasions that have left me with great memories.
 
I've tried to go back inside that church since his funeral, but I just can't.
 
During his service, they got to the part where I was supposed to stand up and read the letter I had written to my brother. In that moment there was no possible way I could find enough composure to stand in that church, with everyone and even be able to read one sentence. So my brave husband offered to go up and read it for me.
 
He stood up there in his uniform, and when he spoke it made it so much harder for me. His strong, brave, confident voice was so shaky, he had tears. My husband and my brother thought the world of each other, and that was always so important to me. Words cannot describe how extermly proud I am of my husband. He was strong when I was weak. He started by saying ''You may want to get your tissues ready''
 
The following was written by me on Friday  February 13th 2015
 
 
#Montana4Jason
 
 
 
 
 
 
''I'm not sure where to begin or what to say. How does a little sister compress three decades into a few words?

When I was born I instantly had two brothers who would forever be my best friends.

Over the years we have had our highs, and we have had our lows. We made incredible memories, and we had epic fights. Still we grew stronger and closer. ...

Jason taught me how to fight, and how to forgive. I'm going to miss his blonde jokes. I'll miss him calling me Sasquatch. I'll miss him towering over me, looking down with that smile as he made fun of my height. I will miss his voice, his laughter and his amazing hugs.

I will never wonder if he loved me because he told me all the time.

You brought joy and laughter to everyone who had the privilege of knowing you. You were the best friend anyone could ask for. You were everything a father should be. You worked so hard to provide for your little family. You were an amazing husband to Joanna.

Joanna, please always remember the good times, and never forget that he was madly in love with you.

Cameron, please know your Daddy worshiped you. You were his little buddy. Aunt Jen loves you more than you can ever imagine. I'll always be there for you, no matter what.

Right now my heart is shattered into a billion pieces. I know that someday in the unforeseeable future God will give me peace with this.

From this day forward I will thrive to be a better person because of you.

One day I'll be able to look at a sunset and see you there.

I'll walk on the beach. I'll feel the sand and the waves. I'll think of our beach days together.

I'll take a breath of fresh air and feel you there.

I will laugh for you, and I'll cry for you.

I will live each day as if I'm living it for you.

I'll see a Camaro drive down the road, and I'll smile and think of you.

I'll hear a song and I'll think of you. I will sing along and dance so you can laugh at me in Heaven.

There's so much more I could say, but I'll leave you with two last promises.

The first being that I'll always be there for Cameron.

Second; I know your life long dream was to visit Montana. Someday I'll go there for you. I'll breathe in the fresh air, and stand on that Montana mountainside and just for you I'll yell out one heck of a ROLL TIDE!

Rest in peace my angel, my hero. You have your sisters heart forever.''
 
 
 
 
Little did I know at that time, but he really is with me still. I think of him when I'm at the beach. I still want to pick up the phone and call him just to hear his voice. I hear certain songs and I have to immediately change the radio otherwise I will uncontrollably cry. I see Camaro's as I drive and I think of him. I see him in my dreams, and for that I am so very thankful.
 
As much as my heart was broken and still is very much broken because of his death I still have such a deep love for him, I am so very grateful for the 30 years that God allowed him to be in my life.
 
 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The day my brother died....

The day my brother died was by far one of the darkest days I've ever experienced. Words simply cannot describe the gut wrenching emotional pain I felt. It's the kind of pain that hits not only your heart but your soul, your entire being.

I remember the exact moment and the exact location when I got the call, and to this day I still can't drive past it without getting a lump in my throat. 

It's the kind of phone call no one on earth should ever get. I was driving on Moffett Road, and I can remember screaming and I swerved in front of a semi truck into a parking lot. Somehow by a miracle I made it to that parking lot without being in an accident. Your brain simply cannot process things or properly function at that moment. It's like your whole entire body is consumed by the pain. 

I remember flinging off my seat belt, and swinging the door open. I immediately felt my knees hit the asphalt of that parking lot, I screamed and I begged God. I begged him to not take my brother, I begged him to let him stay with us here on Earth. I remember reaching across the edge of the asphalt and just grabbing my fingers into the grass as I screamed.  I was shaking uncontrollably, I began to throw up. 


Tears, filled  my eyes as I type this, because I'm reliving that moment.........

I don't know how long I was there crying, screaming, praying..... 

I remember hearing a soft voice saying "ma'am are you okay?" 

I couldn't speak, I couldn't breath, and I couldn't move. It was like I was paralyzed. 

All I could do was hand the woman my phone, and when she looked in my phone somehow she knew exactly who she needed to call.

Not long after that she got into my Tahoe,and moved it.

I was so glad to hear my husbands voice when he got there to pick me up.

It felt like I was there for a hundred years, living that moment in slow motion.

Suicide isn't a selfish act. It's an act carried out by someone who has been consumed by an illness. An illness that often goes unnoticed until its too late. Suicide is no different than any other death. Nobody wakes up and says they want to die in a car accident, nobody wakes up and says they want to die of cancer. I know my brother did not wake up that day and think he would die that day. I think it started off like any other normal work day. He got up, got ready and drove to work and started his normal work routine just like any other day. Not once did I ever think something was off with him, not for a single second. He was always joking, he was always making everyone around him laugh.

Taking his burial clothes to the funeral home.
In the car, on the way to my little hometown it seemed like the longest trip I had ever been on, but it wasn't. It dragged on and on and on. It was the longest four hours of my life. In the car on the way there, I told my husband I was going to fulfill Jason's lifelong dream and go to Whitefish, Montana for him. He said ''whatever you want, we will do''. He has held me at my weakest, loved me at my darkest and supported me every single step of the way.

As a little sister I always imagined growing old with my two older brothers, I never imagined one of us would be gone at such a young age. I never imagined I would be the one to choose his casket, I never dreamed I would be the one to decided the clothes he wore for his burial. NEVER.

I cried so much that my eyelids were swollen, I didn't even know that was possible.

These past several weeks and months have been purely exhausting for me. I've worked double shifts without a break. I've worked overtime. I've picked up extra shifts. I've worked on my off days. I've sacrifieced time with my husband, and our children. All so that I can keep my promise to him, and now we are less than 100 days away from beginning our trip and keeping my promise. This trip is mostly about keeping that promise, but I also feel that it will provide me with a small amout of closure. I know he will be with us every step of the way.

I'll see you in Montana Jason. . . .

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Guilt



Yesterday I met up with one of my best friends in Mobile to see a movie.  After that I had to pick up some stuff to prepare dinner. I walked into Target and the amazing aroma lingering from Starbucks was so overwhelming that I thought '' I deserve it''. So I grabbed my favorite, and enjoyed it as I made my way through each aisle of Target. I paid for my items, and went to my truck. I made it to the first red light before I started crying. I had an overwhelming feeling of guilt.

Why? I had a great time with Katieanne, and I totally enjoyed every sip of my coffee. I didn't deserve to spend any money, I didn't deserve that coffee or that movie. That's money that I could have saved for our trip in July. A trip we are making so that I can keep my promise to my brother Jason. A promise I made to him just two hours after his death, and again at his funeral.

I snapchatted Katieanne and she told me I did deserve it, I work hard and I of all people deserve a little something for myself. She is by far one of the greatest friends I have ever had. She's been there for me through so much over the past year, and I am beyond grateful to call her my friend.

I came home and my husband was getting ready for his shift at work. I walked into our bedroom and told him and started crying again. He held me and told me how silly I was being. Truth is nobody will ever realize how much keeping this promise means to me. Yes, he's gone, but he will be with me every step, every mile of this trip. I absolutely cannot wait to stand on that Montana mountain side and take in the view that my brother had always wanted to see.

I've thought about blogging about his death for a while. I've typed it all out, read it and then hit the delete button. Truth is I've finally realized it may actually help me and get some of it off of my mind. People may read it, they may not. Either way I don't care because I'm doing this for me.

I have worked every shift possible, I have picked up extra shifts. I have gone almost two weeks without an off day.

Today I felt the love and support of my Husband and one of my best friends. This is going to be an amazing journey. A journey of love and hopefully healing.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

My chosen family

This blog post is for people who don't necessarily understand us car enthusiasts. When I was a teenager I quickly learned the distinct sound of the mustang, and hearing that sound never gets old. I dreamed of having my own mustang someday.  Little did I know that dream would become a reality not once but twice. I've owned a coupe and a convertible, it's the best of both worlds.


A short time later I learned about the Rocket City Mustang Club. I went for my very first car show at Sears on May 12, 2007 when I was 8.5 months pregnant with my son. I baked in the hot sun all day, and at the end of it all I was rewarded with a sunburn and a first place trophy. There were a few giggles as I waddled up to get my award. That was all it took I was hooked. I met so many good hearted people that day, people who remain to be some of the best friends I could ever ask for. People who have been there for me through thick and thin, just as I have done for them. The following year, my husband dropped my car off at the show, and returned to the hospital to be with me and our newborn daughter Shelby. She was named after Carroll Shelby, and I will own a Shelby mustang someday!


Sure the cars are nice to look at, and always fun to drive, and occasionally turn a few heads. Yes, we can get a bit unruly on the roads from time to time but it's an adrenaline rush most people just can't comprehend. I've driven my car in numerous parades, been to countless shows, and cruise-ins. I participated in the Mustang's 45th anniversary celebration at Barber Motorsports park. I've driven my car at 135mph on the turns of the Talladega Super Speedway. Nothing can compare to that.



BUT it's so much more than all of that!  Being a part of RCMC, MCA, AND MBMC has brought so many new people into my life. Many of which will remain lifelong friends, people who will always be there for me no matter what. People that I've laughed with, cried with, disagreed with, and always make fun of Camaro's with. {it's all in good fun though} Some of these friends I talk to daily, others just occasionally. Yet I still know that no matter how many miles to road puts between us they will never be more than a phone call away. These people have become more than my friends, they are my family and I am so blessed to have met each of them.

Lisa and I at her wedding. She's just as beautiful on the inside as she is out.

My friend Alex at Dauphin Island during his visit with us a few weeks ago.
He's like a brother to me, and I would do anything for him.





My goofy friend William and I at Hooters in Huntsville,AL

My sweet friend Sharon and I at Wintzell's during her visit last month.

So now you know, it's more than just a car: it's a piece of who I am. I've made so many memories with my RCMC family, and I'm looking forward to the new ones I will make with my new MBMC family.