Refusing to Be a Victim

“It’ll get easier.”

“Eventually you’ll get accustomed to it.”

“There will come a time when you look back and realize you finally moved on.”

And the list could go on.  All sayings people told me after Jason was killed.  And, to each one of them, I smiled, agreed, and went on.  But the one I heard most often, the one that cut through me, and caused me to shiver, was “It’ll get easier.” As if time will erase the hurt, the absence, the void, the feelings of guilt.  Time heals all wounds – right?

How in the world would things get easier was all I could think? And, before we go further in this, please do not think I’m offended by people saying phrases such as this to me.  In reality, I know they are trying to help, and they are saying the best advice they know how.  Few people I know are in my position, and those who try to help are VERY appreciated, and honestly, I don’t want people to know first-hand what my life is like.

I don’t want them to ever feel in the depths of their soul, the reality that things would never get easier, only different.  I don’t want them to experience the heart-wrenching moments where the smell of his cologne catches you off guard, and you fight back tears in the middle of a department store.  I don’t want them to understand the days when all you can do is exist.

Things haven’t become easier, and they never will. Each moment, day, month, year would bring with it new challenges, thoughts, and events.  None would be easier, perhaps I will be more prepared for them.  Really, all the preparedness does is camouflage the hurt, “guilt,” and pain associated with whatever I’m accomplishing.  Being prepared doesn’t make things easier. Living a life after you lose your husband isn’t something one can ever really claim is easy.  It’s not something you train yourself for, practice the skills needed until you reach your max capacity.  What happens is: I will learn to adjust, to alter, and to compensate whenever possible, but an air of easiness will never accompany these changes within myself.  With each change, alteration, and compensation comes guilt, loneliness, and worry. And lately, with each change of my life or C’s, comes a sense of overwhelming unfairness.  Unfair that my life seems to be made enormously more difficult because of one small choice.

I’m a firm believer in seeing the positive- not ignoring the negative in your life, but looking around it to see the positive.  But lately my viewpoint of how unfair my life seems to be has caused me to fall into the deep despair of negativity.  A pit I haven’t found myself for any length of time since Jason’s death.  Yet, in the last 3 weeks, I’ve wallowed in this pit.  In fact, while in the pit, I’ve thrown myself quite a few pity parties, and I’ve been the guest of honor! Each day in the past 3 weeks, it has felt like various people stand over my pit and toss more dirt upon me.

Meetings planned where I will view the evidence (a necessary and requested event on my behalf) – dirt!

“I miss my daddy.” “ I wish daddy were here to play football with me.”  “ Why did MY daddy have to die?”-   dirt, piled upon more dirt, and a few huge boulders that seem to be lodged permanently upon my chest!

People who make decisions that demonstrate their lack of respect or gratitude for our family’s sacrifice – dirt ground into the innermost parts of my heart and my soul.  The places that influenced my choice to be an officer’s wife to begin with, and now some are rubbing dirt into those sacred places, and disrespecting our sacrifice.

In the beginning, being positive smiling Stephanie, I had my handy shovel, and I tossed dirt right back.  And while tossing, I always tried to spin it, trying to somehow see the positive.  And then, one day, I just couldn’t shovel anymore.  In fact, I couldn’t even flick dirt.  Positive seemed to be erased from my vocabulary, and in its place, I seemed to be substituting the word “unfair.”  And each day I spent with my newfound use of the word “unfair,”  I despised myself for being this way.  I tried to embrace the bad days, and to turn them into good, but it just never seemed to happen.  And, with each small pile of dirt, I truly felt for the first time:

“ this is my life, and I guess I’ll just have to accept it.”

While in my pit and throwing myself yet another pity party, I was explaining this feeling of being defeated. I discussed how scared I was for the trial to happen, and how at the same time I needed for it to happen.

Did I really have the ability to watch the videos of evidence?

Would I ever be able to vocalize exactly how my life has changed as a result of Jason’s death?

Could I sit in the courtroom and hear officer after officer recount the moments right after Jason’s death, and somehow resist the urge to go and hug them, to thank them once again for all they have done and continue to do for Jason and for our family?

I wasn’t sure I was ready to “go there.”   And, the more I sat and thought about all this trial would expect of me: the physical, mental, and emotional moments I would have to prepare myself for, the more I began to feel defeated.  I had waited for 8 months to be able to lay this chapter of Jason’s death to rest, and now, when it’s approaching, all I can feel is apprehension and fear.  And again, the feelings of how “unfair,” this was crept into my mind.  When the following message appeared on my phone, “If going there scares you, can you cope with your how your life will be by not going there?” And I thought:

Could I live with myself if I never sat through the trial?

Could I respect the woman I was if I never gave a victim’s impact statement?

And the answer was overwhelming….Nope!

And, just like always, when I’m throwing too many pity parties, God ever so “gently” taps me on the shoulder, and reminds me “His scales, not mine.”   He reminds me of His bigger picture, and that my human mind will always view the changes, alterations, and problems that stem from Jason’s death as unfair. That even though my life may seem more “difficult,” than others, in the end, it’s all part of a bigger plan.

Today, for the first time in 3 weeks, I realized that the way to balance the scales is by being the person I was created to be in this situation.  The person God has been preparing me to be for quite awhile now.  I can’t cope with how my life would be if I didn’t attend the trial, hear the evidence, or even testify to how our lives have been changed, because the person God has created me to be isn’t the victim.  She isn’t the girl who lays in a pile of dirt and allows others to generously pile more on top of her.  She’s the one who gracefully throws the dirt right back out, but while doing so she makes it into positive.  The dirt I’m created to throw back is the way to balance the scales.

Community service, forgiveness, friendship, supporting other police officer’s wives, raising a boy into a generous man, giving back, and being positive is how God intends for me to balance the scales.

c in the leaves with txt

Of course life seems unfair when I’m at the bottom of my pit throwing myself hourly pity parties!!!  My view of the world is obstructed in my pit, and the only thing I can see is DIRT.  Being the victim is easier when you allow yourself to remain in the pit. When you allow yourself to see your situation how the secular world wants you to see it.

Balancing the scales, well yes, it’s hard.  It requires continual sacrifice, changes, alterations, and events that I don’t always feel I’m cut out to do. It requires me to relive the evidence a few more times, to think about exactly what happened that night, to verbalize the best I can the pain, fear, void, and emotional turmoil we have endured since Jason’s death, but even though all of these make my life more difficult, they are what I’m called to do.  These actions make me the victor, not the victim.

I know I’m not alone.  All of us can be a victim to some circumstance or event in our lives.  We can allow the world to dig us a pit, and lay down in it while dirt is continually thrown upon us.  What are you allowing yourself to be a victim to today?  Who are you allowing to throw dirt upon you, to darken your perception of the world and humanity?

Identifying what put you in the pit, and who is throwing dirt upon you is vital to eradicating your status as a victim.  But most importantly, what are you going to do to change it?

People will throw dirt at you as long as you allow them, so how will YOU change it?  I can promise you that it isn’t through negative Facebook posts, whiny messages to your friends, or giving up.  Nope, I’m not judging you for doing any of those because I did them all!  And, they didn’t work.  What works is refusing to allow the devil to continue to demote your mindset to victim, and instead, fighting his attempts to demote you, with positive thinking and giving back to others.  Want to balance your own scales?  Want to no longer be a victim?  Then be the person God created you to be – a being created in His image.  And, I can assure you that’s a far cry from a victim. His image is generous, graceful, forgiving, loving and the list goes on and on.  Join with me today, and fight to no longer be a victim to whatever pulls you down.  Instead, be a part of the good in the world, and watch as your status rises out of the pit and into the victor’s ring.  And not because you did it alone, but because that’s the type of person God created us all to be!

As I prepare for the trial, and all of the emotions that I will experience, I ask that you continue to pray for our family.  Pray for my strength to be the victor, no matter the outcome in the judicial system.  Pray that whatever is decided at the end of the trial, that I will have the peace of mind to know that I have do everything possible to seek justice.  And that afterwards, even though my life won’t be any easier, that I’ll continue to remember it’s “His scales, not mine.”

Erasing The Guilt…

Isaiah 57 1-2

Guilt implies that a person has committed a sin or an act of transgression. But, we also tend to use the word to imply a state in which we wish we could have done more.  It’s a word I’ve heard frequently since Jason’s death, and one that I never really can provide a solution for.  Each person I spoke with after Jason’s death seemed to have some form of guilt: “if only I would have talked to him one more time,” “maybe I should have forgave him,” “what if I had been here instead.”  In living through 8 months of grieving and watching others grieve around me, one thing I am familiar with is guilt.

And the people around me aren’t the only ones wrestling with their own guilt.  The night Jason was hit, my cell phone wasn’t working properly, and I was anxious to get to the store to have it fixed before too much of Jason’s shift had passed.  As an officer’s wife, I hated being without a form of communication, especially on the nights he worked.  And, in my rush, I decided to leave for the store before Jason left for work.  In my mind, I would have the phone fixed before he started his shift, and all would be well in the world of an officer and his wife. I hugged him, kissed him, told him to come back to me. Instead of his normal “always,” I heard, “I’ll try.”  I hated that answer, but I didn’t really press it. Instead I left for the store to get my phone fixed.

The last message I remember sending Jason was something to the extent of,” yay, my phone is finally fixed. Hope to ACTUALLY get to hear from you at some point tonight. Love you and stay safe.”  Of course, no reply – I didn’t really expect one.  It was the first week of summer vacation, and they were already busy.  That night, I laid down to bed and forgot to turn my phone on loud, and because of that, I slept through 22 straight phone calls, and was awoken by a knock on the door.

And while logically, I know there is no reason to feel any guilt associated with my early departure, or my decision to let the, “I’ll try,” comment go, it didn’t matter.  The guilt was still present, and it ate away at me in the hours when I attempted to sleep at night.  I know that staying longer, never leaving, forcing him to reply with, “always,” wouldn’t have changed the outcome, but as humans when tragedy results in the loss of life, we always associate the feeling of wishing we could have done more with guilt.

In reality, I guess it’s the closest word we can find to describe how we truly feel.  The feeling that had we known the events of the night, we would have done everything possible to change them, to alter them, and to never have to live through a sleepless night of “what ifs.”  Yet, we know all of the impossibilities associated with that wish, and so, we describe how we feel as guilt.

And with guilt comes confession: the need for someone else to “forgive you.”  However, in Jason’s situation there isn’t anything to forgive.  We feel this “guilt” because we struggle with outcomes outside of our own control.  The events of June 14th and 15th were outside of our control the moment Jason checked in route to the call.  Even so, I spent a considerable time replaying the last conversation we had, wishing I wouldn’t have left so early, and begging for forgiveness, although in reality none was actually needed.

In one of my 3 am wide awake moments, I was debating in my mind of starting this blog, following what I felt was my calling, and I was providing God with many reasons I was undeserving of this calling, and why all of these thoughts and feelings should remain in my own mind.  I admitted how scared I was to share them, and how vulnerable I felt I would be.  I’ve written before about the dreams I had concerning starting the blog and the organization.  And, I struggled because I allowed my guilt to cause me to feel unworthy of my calling.   Actually, I still do that.  I still struggle with the unworthy feeling, and the admission that Jason’s death caused me to be a better person.

And, so when people admit their “guilt” to me, I often times clam up.  I provide generic answers, and I  don’t really know how to tell them to erase their “guilt.” I tell them it’s not merited; I remind them I’m not angry; I tell them I understand nothing I say will erase it, because I do understand that.  I understand it on a level few actually can.  I understand that no human can take away that guilt, and they can’t provide you a feeling of peace.  And every time I walk away from one of those conversations I’m secretly grateful that I’m not alone, but I’m upset with myself for my inability to say more.  I want to scream my feelings of guilt to them, and I want my feelings to erase their feelings; yet, it never happens that way.

Nothing anyone says to me erases mine; it’s still here, although it’s smaller and a little easier to manage.  It has less of a hold on my daily life, but it still haunts me each time I blog.  Blogging is therapy, but it’s also my reminder that my calling in life changed when my husband died…and then there’s that guilt again.  Yet, it’s lessened, and here’s why:

“Good people pass away;
the godly often die before their time.

No one seems to understand that

God is protecting them from the evil to come.

For those who follow godly paths

Will rest in peace when they die.”

Isaiah 57:1-2

Jason’s death had nothing to do with anything any of us could have done or actually did that night.  It wasn’t because of our actions; it was because of God’s.  And while at first that might make a person angry at God – it did me.  In the end, I have to trust that Jason’s death was part of God’s bigger picture for my life and all those who were present at the scene, the hospital, the funeral home, and even now in our lives.

Jason’s death has brought with it so many supportive, understanding, and caring brothers and sisters in my life.  And experiencing his death is part of God’s plan for their lives as well.  As difficult as that is to accept, just as accepting Jason’s death has allowed for me to finally get the chance to follow my own calling, I firmly believe we all have a choice after Jason’s.  A choice of how it is going to impact the remainder of our lives.  For some, maybe that means their calling changed – just like mine.  For others maybe it means they change for the better.  And still others, maybe it means they start actually living life.  But the point remains, Jason’s death was part of the plan in our lives, and how will we use that to change our lives for the better? Or better yet, how will we use it to change another’s life for the better?

And while I would love to erase that “self- imposed guilt” from your mind, the reality is, I can’t.  But, God can.  Jason’s death caused many to evaluate their lives, and I pray it is causing many to somehow better their own.  And, maybe the guilt will still be a battle we all fight in our own ways, but you can’t allow it to rob you of your happiness, your calling, and your contribution to other’s lives.  Allowing it to win, means we are yet another victim.

So, while I may not be able to tell you these things in person. While I can’t look you in the eye and admit my own guilt, or tell you how to erase yours.  I can use my calling, my talent, and my words here to hopefully reach into your heart, and remind you that you aren’t alone in your “guilt,” and that together, we need to make sure we use Jason’s death to somehow better our own lives and those around us.

As I continue to follow my calling, create a support group for officer’s wives, and hopefully find the courage to fulfill a few more portions of my calling, I pray that my words resonate in the hearts of my brothers and sisters who have stood by me from day one.  I pray that they too pray for me – that they pray I won’t allow my guilt to win, and that I will continue to follow my calling.  Please know, that whichever way you chose to allow Jason’s death to change your life, I’ll support, but I pray that you find the courage to follow whatever calling it has set in motion in your life.

And in the end, please know:

“The heart of the man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9.

While your path towards your calling my cause you to wander, I think it is safe to say that “all who wonder are not lost.”  Don’t allow your guilt to cause you to lose your way.  Fight it, and instead as you wander, make sure you impact the lives of others around you.  I assure you, that you’ve already impacted mine.

6 Months of Walking Through a Storm

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On Sunday December 15th, it will be exactly six months since J passed away as a result of injuries sustained during a hit and run accident.  In those six months I have changed more than I did in the 6 almost 7 years I spent married to him.  6 months- it’s difficult to imagine that I’ve lived 6 months without a touch, without a simple “Good morning beautiful”,  without validation that I am doing anything correctly, without seeing him play with C, without another 3 am call discussing the horrors of his job or reporting on something amazing that happened to him that night.  6 months without washing a bullet proof vest and meticulously spreading it out so that it stays put together correctly and dries completely, without washing, ironing, and re-ironing creases into pants.  6 months without reminding him, “do you have your gun, badge, veria-card (spelling), insulin, needles, cell phone, charger, ticket book, pens, etc.” 6 months without hearing, “This is J, I can’t answer the phone right now, please leave me a message, and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.” because I was calling for verification on a problem, but he was on another call. So, I’d leave a voicemail, wait, and then ultimately make an “executive decision” on my own, only to receive a call 5 hours later, “hey, what’s wrong I missed your call.”

In 6 months every single role, identity, security in my life has been completely turned upside down, and reinvented from scratch. I’ve had no “guidebook,” no “instructions for how to put your life back together.”  The person I am today while writing this post is a far cry from the person who got in her car on June 13th, 2013, and drove away while watching J stand in the doorway waving at us.  The woman who was driving away from her waving officer was “busy, preoccupied, insecure, worried, and distracted.” This isn’t me downing myself, often times most people are that way, it’s just part of our busy lives.  The woman driving away thought being an officer’s wife meant, washing, ironing, reminding, scheduling birthday parties and holidays around his rotating shifts. She thought it meant lying in bed praying that he would come home, but always believing in her heart he would.  She thought being a teacher, a mother, and a wife were her identities, where her only true strengths and talents lay. She would have never thought she could handle and survive 6 months of rapid changes, never feeling her husband’s hand again, being a mommy and a daddy, or looking into the eyes of her almost 5 year old son and telling him that his daddy wasn’t coming home anymore.  Never, even if the Lord himself would have come down and pre-warned me that this was my fate, I wouldn’t have believed I was capable of even mere survival, much less day-to-day functioning after the death of J.   There was absolutely nothing wrong with the woman I was 6 months ago.  I was happy, content, and knew how to make an officer’s and teacher’s budget stretch.  I was in my comfort zone, and I would be perfectly content going right back to that zone.  I’d trade every bit of blessings we’ve received for the “square, content, and naïve teacher, mother, and wife” I was 6 months ago.

 

The woman I am today, almost 6 months ago, is a polar opposite of the woman who answered that
“knock on the door,” at 12:40 am on June 14, 2013.  In opening that door, and seeing the look in J’s brother’s eyes, I was changed forever.  Mind you, a change I never asked for, prayed for, or even believe could happen to me.  In that 5 minutes it took me to get dressed, get C dressed, and fly to the hospital, I became a new woman.  One who was confident, who could make decisions, speak to mass crowds, and control her emotions.  One who was beyond fearful on the inside but portrayed optimism and gratefulness on the outside.  I can describe the woman I became then because you have told me.  To be honest, I can chronologically put the events in order now, but you all have fill in the gaps. You’ve helped me to preserve these memories.  In the week after J’s death, I learned what true brotherhood looked and felt like.  I watched as J’s brothers and sisters in blue surrounded me, lifted me up, and most importantly cried with me.  I watched a support system form like no other I have ever seen.  It was in that first week, that my definition of an officer’s wife changed.  Before J died, I could have stopped being an officer’s wife any time I wanted.  I could walked away from our marriage, or he could have walked away from his calling.  Now, 6 months after his line of duty death, I can never walk away from being an officer’s wife, and I never would want to.  Now, instead of ironing his uniforms, I hold his class A shirt next to me, and I think about how handsome he always looked in it.  I look at it and reflect on the honor, courage, and morality it took to wear that shirt.  Many people refer to me as an officer’s widow, I’ll let you continue to do that because it is the proper and legal name for my status, but my heart says otherwise.  My heart says that I’m not an officer’s widow, that I’m still his wife. In 6 months, I’ve learned that being a “police wife isn’t a status; it’s my lifelong promise to him.” MY life LONG promise that doesn’t end with his death.  So much of the Pink Behind The Thin Blue Line is about me continuing to be an officer’s WIFE and by walking that line daily.  Being an officer’s wife is how I continue to honor my fallen hero.  And choosing to stay an officer’s wife after his death has also helped me learn how to become a mommy to a little boy who lost his daddy.  Because the mommy I was before isn’t sufficient for his needs now…

If you would have asked me how I felt I was doing as a mommy on June 13, 2013, I would have told you that I finally felt like I was figuring this parenting thing out.  And just as I was figuring out and feeling comfortable in my mommy skin, my world gets turned upside down, and now I have to figure out how to compensate for a missing daddy.  You see, J was an AMAZING daddy to C.  There is no replacing him.  On June 15th, I not only lost my husband, but I lost my son’s daddy.  And that alone hurts more than I could ever even describe to you.  I can make decisions; I can fight for justice; I can run a household without J because I am grown. NOT BECAUSE I WANT TO. But my baby, he shouldn’t have to do any of that.  He should still be sitting in the floor planning out “strategic tank battles” with his “daddio.” And so, not only do I have to change every part of who I am…I have now compensate for the loss of his daddy as well.  And while most days C doesn’t seem to feel upset, there are weeks like this past one where daily he feels the absence of J.  Just 2 nights ago, I turned my house upside down looking for J’s childhood stuffed animal, “Ozzy,” while C sat in the middle of his bedroom floor screaming at me, the walls, the guinea pig in his room, and anyone else who would listen because he was angry that I lost Ozzy.  There was no calming him down, rectifying his behavior, or explaining why we shouldn’t scream at mommy.  He wasn’t really angry at me; he was angry because his daddy wasn’t there. And nothing in my “mommy bag of tricks” will EVER fix that. Losing J is a part of C’s life that as a mommy I can never fix, and some days the sheer knowledge of that is almost defeating.

  I spent hours searching to no avail.  Finally, we begrudgingly substituted J’s baby blanket, and he eventually fell asleep still angry at his mommy.  The next morning, I rushed him to school, and came home to search for another whole hour before finally locating Ozzy.  At that point, I was so emotionally drained that I sat in the floor and cried.  When C got home, Ozzy never left his arms. He clung to him in every task he did last night, and before going to sleep, I hear him whisper, “thank you God for letting my mommy find Ozzy.  He was my daddy’s and he’s beyond special.” Those moments change you forever.  They require you to possess strength you never prayed for, and level-headiness to be able to  comfort your child while you are falling apart inside.  And I comfort him because he deserves to have a normal world.  His life has changed enough, and he deserves to just be a kid.

Every characteristic of the woman I am today is because of two choices.  One of those choices occurred between the hours of 12:00 am and 12:40 am on June 14th, 2013.  That’s the choice that I find the hardest to accept.  It’s the one I had absolutely no control over, yet the waves of its repercussions continually rock my boat.  Sometimes they are so strong, as when I’m looking for a stuffed animal while my son screams angrily at me in his room, that I simply don’t think I can push forward.  I simply think just letting it be would be enough.  That it would suffice…but those moments are when the other choice comes into play.  The choice I have complete control over.  The choice to push forward and to try to be a part of the good in the world.  And that choice, is mine.  It is where my control lies in this situation.  I have no control over the justice that hopefully will be served, over the future events of my life, over other people’s reactions to my decisions, over the people who hurt me unintentionally, but I have control over being a part of the good in the world. And so today 6 months from the anniversary of the last normal day I spent with J, I am writing this not to make you cry, although, I’m unsure how it couldn’t have. I’m writing you this because C and I are a testament of how our choices affect our lives and others as well.  Both of these choices that occurred on June 14th, I can never change.  I can’t change the choice to be in a park that night nor can I change my choice I made when opening the door after the “dreaded knock in the middle of the night.”  One I wish with all my might I could change, and the other I thank God daily that I made it. 

My strength comes in waves, just as yours does.  I try to share the ebbs and the flows with you.  I try to be honest with you because in my honesty I am affirming to you how important our choices are in our lives.  The choice to be in that park that night, no matter who it was that hit J, is a choice that forever changed mine and C’s lives.  At first I thought, how unfair of God to allow another’s choice to so substantially alter my life, and then as the days went on, I began to think, no, I’m the one who chooses how this alters my life.  I don’t always choose correctly, and I have far more moments of weakness than I could ever write about…but at the end of the day, my fulfillment comes from giving back to the world. 

 

As I write this, I still stand in awe that exactly 6 months ago today, I spent the last normal day with my husband.  I stand in awe at the ways in which our lives have changed, and how God continues to bless us daily.  I look back at the storm I have walked through, and I realize it’s not always about how brave or confident you are while walking through your storm, it’s just important that you simply keep walking. Some days walking means dragging one foot behind me while carrying a hundred pound weight on my shoulders, and sometimes I simply just walk.  The storm C and I are in has no end.  It can’t have an end because when we signed up to be an officer’s family, we signed up for life.  Our choice to continue that calling, doesn’t end today, and it is what carries us through to tomorrow. 

 

Today, I encourage you, whatever storm you find yourself walking through to simply keep walking.  Some days the wind is blowing the rain sideways and pulling me in a thousand different directions, and some days there is only a mist and a gentle breeze  Who cares what you look like while walking.  Remember sometimes I have on leopard print rain boots and a purple and yellow polka dotted rain jacket.  Some days I wear my Wonder Woman outfit…and other days I’m walking with clothes I had on days ago…but we just keep walking. 
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The Final Results of Our 31 Acts Of Kindness Journey

First, let me apologize for taking FOREVER to update you on the remaining acts of kindness before J’s birthday.  There are a lot of them, so for the majority of them, I’ll just list them, and possibly post a picture, IF I remembered to take one.  My memory, what’s left of it, seems to be slowly returning to me.  And, to be honest, most of the time, C and I were caught up in the act we were doing, and really weren’t thinking about pictures.  After all, I think that’s how it’s really supposed to be.

Recap of the first 8 can be viewed on a previous blog entitled: Raising a Boy into a Generous Man

9. Sent gift card and well wishes card to a personal friend in Arkansas who is suffering from a rare and aggressive form of cancer. I pray for this sweet lady and her family daily.

10. Donated to our police department’s “Shop With a Cop” program.  Selected children get the chance to shop for their holiday wishes with a uniformed officer.  I have always felt that officers needed more positive interactions with little ones in order to prevent possible negative interactions later in life.

11. Wrote a letter and gave gift cards to the nurse who was with us the night J died.  I have said time and time again how God placed the right people in our lives, and still continues to do so.  Tiffany was a Godsend that night.  She is the epitome of grace and respect.  She explained each step, and what we should expect.  She informed us of decisions we had to make, and was present when we needed her, and a silent worker in the background when we needed that as well.  I can’t imagine anyone else being with us that night.  Each of the three nurses J had were perfect fits for what we and HE needed at that moment. I can’t imagine doing what Tiffany did that night, but I thank God nightly for sending me her on that night and in that exact moment.

12. Donated to Heroes at Home at our local Sears store.  J had a love and passion for the military, and would have joined if his health had permitted. He passed that love and passion on to my son, who at 3 years old declared he wanted to be a “Navy Rescue Swimmer.”  Helping veterans has always been a cause close to our hearts!

13.  Donated to the Diabetes Association in J’s name.  J was an insulin dependent diabetic since age 12, and his younger step brother is now insulin dependent as well.

14. C had a wonderful time poking his own saved money into the Salvation Army’s bell ringer bucket.

15. C picked an angel, a 5 year old little boy, from the Angel Tree.  He personally shopped for most of the items we picked out for him.

16. We mailed Christmas cards to wounded soldiers at Fort Sam Houston in Texas.

17. We showed love to our ORANGE family by providing a much needed sugar rush the INSANE day before Thanksgiving break.  Really, a holiday AND grades were due. I felt your pain ladies and gentlemen! I hope our candy helped give you the energy to push through!

18. We placed a wreath and thank you card on a veteran’s grave.  C and I said a prayer and thanked God for our freedoms and for the men and women who sacrifice to allow us to be continue to be free.
veteran wreath

19. Donated Starbucks coffee to the fire company who came and mowed our yard while I was away planning J’s funeral.  That day they took C and his friend for a ride in the firetruck, and allowed them to spray the hoses.  C was so happy that day, and for that brief moment of happiness in the worst of our storm, gentlemen, it was the least we could do. Thank you for you and your family’s sacrifice!

fire station 2

20. Donated to Wishing Tree.  A non-profit organization started by Texas High School senior Amy Tran. 

21. Paid off the layaway for a random family.

22. We are working on the plans to provide dinner for the ambulance crew who worked on and transported J the night of the hit and run.  If anyone can help me arrange this, please let me know.

23. Donated dog and cat food to our local animal shelter.

animal shelter

24. Donated clothes that C outgrew to a local charity.

25. When C and I were in line in a drive through, we would buy the meal for the person behind us.

26. Purchased a stuffed dog from www.target.com to help support St. Jude’s.

27. Left money on random vending machines with a note explaining J’s sacrifice, and our rationale for acts of kindness.

28. Bought dinner for random police officers when we saw them in public.

29. Decorated a “Blue” themed tree in the police patrol room.  These guys and gals are working hard and long overtime hours away from their families during the Christmas season.  I thought it would be nice to spread some needed cheer!

30. Donated to the Wounded Warrior Project.

31. Went to Texas Roadhouse, and had a conversation with a young waitress who was simply having a bad round in life at the moment.  Again, God places the people we need to meet in our lives when we need to meet them.  I had planned to leave a larger than normal tip, but I was grateful for meeting Sara, and I hope she knows I pray for her daily!
waitress tip 2

Each time we finished an act of kindness, I felt J close to me.  It just seemed like such a fitting way to honor his memory.  Each act that C helped with not only brought a smile to his face, but HE STILL talks about ways to fill other people’s buckets.  This makes my mommy heart happy!  Small steps to raising a grateful and selfless young man! The day before I came home to celebrate J’s birthday, I visited his grave. C had decided we would leave J funfetti blue cupcakes because he LOVED it when I made those. It seemed more than fitting to continue the tradition of baking for daddy and delivering him cupcakes.

cupcakes

On November 30th, we were surrounded by our closest friends and family as we celebrated J’s memory.  Thank you to all who came out to celebrate, and thank you for all of you who support the cause to give back to our communities, and to be a part of the good in the world.  I know each act helped take away some of the pain and bitterness that seems to have consumed my heart recently.  I pray that you too can find the joy and peace giving to others will give to YOU.  Please join me in my effort to make the world a little bit better.  Please help us continue to walk the line and be a part of the good in the world!  While our acts helped change people’s lives, they changed my heart even more!

We are beginning to schedule meetings for volunteers after Christmas.  Please be looking for updates on the meeting times and places.  I have lots of ideas in mind after things settle down in the new year.