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Matt and I were together for 10 wonderful years - met in 1998, married in 2002, until his untimely death on November 15, 2008. We have two beautiful, healthy children - Jacob (born 5/04) and Sydney (born 5/07)... the most precious gifts he could have ever given me.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

West Coast Trip 2014, Part III

The next event on Friday evening was the Welcome Reception. I was able to spend some time with my very good friend Cara who I've been friends with for over twelve years. I've known Cara since about the time Matt and I started planning our wedding. In October of 2012, her husband and six year old son were killed in a car accident, and by a true miracle, their daughter Pearl survived. Cara wasn't in the vehicle... It's painful to think that my friend has to endure this journey, and in even more ways than I can understand. I'm thankful that I was able to introduce her to Soaring Spirits and Camp Widow where she could be among others who understand, and possibly connect with potential lifelong friends as I have.

At the time of Cara's loss, I had just moved to Delaware, which put me in a much better location where I was able to take a few road trips out to be with her and sweet little Pearly. The kids and I were a welcome distraction to them, and it made me feel good to have something to offer. Since then, I've moved back to Buffalo, and Cara and Pearl have found their place in Seattle where they are among more family, and are thriving. It was a wonderful opportunity to get to spend some long-overdue time with Cara at Camp, and even be her roomie!

My other roomie was my friend Abigail Carter, who is a very talented writer. She has written The Alchemy of Loss, and another new release called Remember the Moon. What's really cool is that Abby and Cara BOTH live in Seattle!

During the course of the evening, I heard from my friend Karin (who is also my neighbor - very awesome) that my next door neighbor had driven into the house across the street from ours. So much drama that I was happy to have missed, but holy crap! Everyone was okay, but it could have really been tragic.

Saturday morning was Michele's keynote speech, and as I was walking in there, I thought maybe this would be the year that she doesn't bring me to tears. Somehow, again, she managed to broach a topic that touched me so deeply that I before I even realized it, tears were streaming down my face. Fortunately there is always more laughter than tears, and always so much to learn. Love that lady!

Wonderful times with old and new friends, opportunities to help others, learning and teaching moments, gorgeous weather, and tons of fun. This is what it's all about, and why I keep coming back year after year.

I picked up the kids from Aunt Brandi's house, and then we drove up to LA. Our first stop, my friend and former next door neighbor's house. Probably THE best next door neighbor EVER. Living next door to her was wonderful. She had an awesome dinner prepared for us, and my brother met us there. It's always a little strange to look at the house next door and think we lived there for two whole years... Makes me a bit "homesick" for our time in California (and the killer view of the San Gabriel mountains from our front yard), but I'm still thankful to be living back in WNY.

The next day, we went to my brother's and spent the rest of our time with him and his beautiful kids. My very favorite thing to do there is after everyone goes to bed, I get to hang out with my big brother and talk each other's ears off, finally getting a chance to catch up in person. I've so missed our in-person visits that we were so lucky to have had when I was living there. He hosted a party for us that Sydney and I pretty much missed, due to her becoming violently ill from overdosing on the delicious elderberries that grow in his Garden of Eden of a back yard... Poor baby girl. She recovered, and we enjoyed the rest of our visit by having lots of beach time, and more delicious food.

It's hard to believe that after looking so forward to our west coast trip that it's already here and gone! Time seems to have been flying at an unprecedented rate, hasn't it? The year is more than half over! But we sure have been making some great memories, and I'm so very grateful. =)

Friday, July 25, 2014

West Coast Trip 2014, Part II

As promised, here is the continuation of the previous post... (and timely, I might add!)

At last year's Camp, I led a workshop that I so thoroughly enjoyed presenting, that right after, I proposed another workshop to Michele (the founder of SSLF) for 2014. She loved the idea of it, but with having moved just before Camp 2013, and all the work I've been doing on the house since, all the activities the kids have gotten involved in, etc., I didn't follow up with it.  I felt bad about that, but I did let Michele know that if she needed my help with anything - anything at all - for Camp 2014, I would be ready and willing.

About a month before Camp, Dana (one of her awesome volunteers and also my friend) texted me and asked if I would be willing to assist with the Segway Tour for the Alumni Track. The Alumni Track is the name for the series of events that have been set up for those of us who return time and time again to Camp, but don't exactly have the same needs as the others. We also really enjoy Camp almost as a reunion with the lifelong friends we've made through the organization. 

Segway Tour.... I wasn't quite sure what that was, but I was so happy that they thought of me that I eagerly agreed. About a week before, I decided to look up the keywords, "Segway Tour San Diego" to see exactly what I had gotten myself into.

So THAT'S what those things are called that I saw last year tooling around town that I vowed to never ride on.

Determined to not let my favorite organization down, I decided to suck it up. I mean, how bad could it be, anyway??? Lots of people think they're fun!

So Friday was the first official day of Camp, and as I mentioned before, Matt's birthday.  Assisting with that tour gave me some purpose for that day. My job was to basically get our group from the hotel to the Segway Tour office nearby (within walking distance), and keep track of everyone. We got from the hotel to the office without too much trouble. There were two tour guides that gave us all a tutorial on how to ride a Segway. They make it look so easy... It requires a fair amount of balance and coordination - two things I'm somewhat lacking in (I haven't blogged about how I broke my wrist and nearly my back while rollerblading with the kids this past March yet, did I).

We each took a turn on a Segway to get a feel for it and practice what we've learned. We were practicing on a nice, open, level space - perfect for this sort of thing. Once we felt confident enough, they would take us out onto the sidewalks for a tour of the beautiful gas lamp district of San Diego. I never felt very confident, but didn't want to hold us up any longer than I already had while trying to get comfortable on this thing.

The first thing we do when we head out is go down the sidewalk onto the road, then up the next sidewalk. All slanted, sloped areas that we did NOT practice on! I nearly lost it both times, but somehow managed to keep it together and make it down the block to the next crossing, but my nerves were getting increasingly frayed as we went on. Got down the one side, and by the time I got up to the other side, my nerves were completely shot, and I couldn't get a handle on the slope and ended up doing a 360 on the corner, nearly hitting a car at the stoplight. I'm yelping at this point and the guys in the car are laughing their asses off. The one guide was able to help me stop so I could get off, thank GOD, and told him (as I'm shaking and fighting back tears) that I am not getting back on that thing. The lady guide came over and I told her I can't get back on, but I'm willing to jog along with the group. She said, "No one has ever jogged and kept up with a Segway. You can go back to the office, and when we're done, we'll come back for you. Don't worry - we'll take good care of the girls for you."

I told her (rather emphatically), "Oh, don't worry - I'll keep up. I was put in charge of this group and I'm NOT leaving them."

She reluctantly agreed, and we continued on. Did I mention I was wearing flip flops?

I managed to keep up - for a total of SIX MILES. It was all adrenaline, people - I'm not a skilled runner.

At one point, though, we hit a long straight-a-way, and the Segways were picking up speed. At this point, I'm holding my flip flops and running barefoot to keep up, and was focused on my breathing so I didn't cramp up. I was in the zone. So much so, that I ended up losing two of the girls that were behind me- our hearing impaired widow (Donna), and her interpreter (Carrie).

So now, I've officially failed at the two main things I was supposed to do for this event in such an awful way.

Fortunately, the male guide went back and found them fairly quickly, but it took a while for them to catch up to us at the office. Thankfully, we ended up all together and accounted for.

Now, during the last nearly six years that I've been widowed, I have heard umpteen times someone say in various different circumstances, "In all my years of blah blah blah, I've never seen blah blah blah." Apparently, this was no exception.

The guides told me that in all the years they've been doing this tour, they've never had anyone keep up on foot - let alone in flip flops. They also have a policy that if you don't have a good time, you don't have to pay for the tour. This was the first time they ever let someone get the tour for free. One of the guys also mentioned that in order to keep up with a Segway, you need to run at a man's marathon rate. I highly doubt we were going at that rate of speed considering all the obstacles we encountered along the way, but it sure was a boost to my ego! Adrenaline, people.

Now that all that was over, it was time for our group to go to lunch before heading back to the hotel. One of the ladies knows the area well and suggested a place called Dick's Last Resort. I've never heard of the place, but apparently it's supposed to be very entertaining with an intentionally obnoxious (and politically incorrect staff). Totally fine by me, since I was too exhausted to have any political correctness left in me, anyway - and I just wanted beer. We were trying to tell Donna (who thankfully has a great sense of humor) where we were going. We said the name three times, and finally, I used a very politically incorrect gesture, and she immediately understood. =P

They had the biggest bottle of Corona I have ever seen in my life at that restaurant, and I was able to properly say cheers to the birthday boy with my widda peeps.

I'm sure Matt was watching as all this transpired, and was extremely entertained for his birthday!!

PS - Did you know the guy who invented the Segway apparently Segwayed off a cliff and died??? It didn't surprise me too much to hear this news.

One more entertaining tidbit - here's a fun video that my friend Matt sent to me after the "incident." Enjoy!

(PART III, to be continued...)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Catching Up (and West Coast Trip 2014, Part I).

In my usual slacker style, I haven't been updating like I always intend to.... SO much has been going on, and the more that goes on, the more I intend to write, and the longer I go without writing, the more overwhelmed I get at the thought of all I need to write in order to catch up! So without further ado, I'll just start from the present and work my way back. 

The kids and I recently returned from another glorious trip to the West Coast- my sixth Camp Widow in San Diego, and another visit with friends and family. We flew into San Diego on Wednesday and this time, I had the kids stay with me at the Camp Widow hotel (Marriott) so they could finally get to see where I go every year for Camp, and get to meet some of my good friends. They LOVED it. They loved being there to get to see where I go, and they loved swimming in the pool and hot tub! Uncle Greg and his girlfriend came out (they live right in San Diego) to hang with us at the pool for most of the day - and it was his birthday! 

Between traveling all day, the time difference, and then spending all that time in the sun and water, we were exhausted by dinner time. We went back to the room to freshen up for dinner, and Sydney crawled in the bed and said, "I'm too tired to care about dinner!" Poor girl! We decided to treat ourselves- put our PJ's on, and ordered room service. What a luxury! Right after we were done eating, we crashed for the night. 

I woke up in the middle of the night to hear some mysterious knocking on the wall... We were at a hotel, after all. =/

The next day, we went to Starbucks for breakfast (so cool to have the kids do the typical Camp Widow things with me!), and then walked around Seaport Village. I LOVE Seaport Village - it's so beautiful, the views are spectacular, and there are so many cool little shops to explore. We checked out the guy balancing rocks on top of each other, got some souvenirs, and so much more. Made our way back to the hotel, grabbed some lunch at the pool bar (that the kids barely ate - not their kind of food), and then spent more time in the pool and were able to meet some of my friends before Aunt Brandi came to pick them up. She kept them until early Sunday afternoon, and the kids had an absolute blast! They even spent time with their cousins. Aunt Brandi planned some really fun activities for them while they were there. 

The first official day of Camp Widow was on Friday, July 11, and it just so happened that it fell on Matt's 45th birthday. Aunt Brandi had the kids bake cakes, and then they did a beautiful balloon release in his honor. 

I felt that my way of honoring his birthday was by being at Camp Widow and volunteering to help with one of the alumni activities..... 

(This is an extremely entertaining story that I intend to continue in the next day or two. If I don't, feel free to harass me!)