Sprechen Sie Awesome?

My lovely friend Rell and I have recently reconnected (what’s better than reconnecting with a dear friend? Seriously, nothing!) and out of the goodness of her amazing heart, she decided to send me an awesome German care pack!

Yes, Germany.  One of the fun and wacky aspects of good ole military life is living abroad, and right now Rell and her family live on an Army base in Germany.   Her kids are having an amazing time learning the language and traveling so much, she and her husband have also really liked the experience.  Hearing about the plans for jaunts they have in store, and seeing the pics of how they’ve spent their time there so far: I’m uber jealous.  She’s having the real fun, but there’s still some rollover awesome that affects those she knows.  Having a friend who is stationed abroad comes with fringe benefits – this care pack being a major one.

my friend rell. this pretty lady sent ME a care pack!

when i saw this had arrived, i was downright giddy

You see, I got new doctors here in Western New York.  And the process of doing so was a DOOZY.  It was pretty rough, actually.  All the red tape and paperwork, all the hassle, it was a logistical nightmare.  Then, once I finally got on board with a new doc to manage my porphyria – he did what all new docs on a case loooooove to do: change up all my meds and make my body freak out.  So yeah, there was a period of time that was pretty craptastic.  It was right around this time that my pal Rell and I reconnected, and knowing that I was feeling the stress and dealing with some stuff – she decided to send me a sweet box of pick-me-ups.

When a box from Europe comes for you, and you know there are treats inside: it’s a super exciting time!

And this box of treats did NOT disappoint, neither now.

all mah goodies

Why is it that the German flavor of gummy bears taste so amazing?  They’re ridiculous.  My actual theory is because of the food coloring.  In Europe they’re way more progressive and awesome, and actually aware that food dyes are basically poison – and thus, the foods and candies of European countries usually do not include Red40 or Blue Lake Whatever… they include this crazy stuff, natural flavoring and coloring.  (So weird!).  But seriously, I think it’s the lack of dyes and the clever use of real flavors that enhances the quality.

She also packed in this tea that I certainly can’t get enough of.  I’m actually drinking a nice warm mug right now, but after a looooong day of work I look haggard and am not using a snapshot from this minute.  (Instead I’m using one from yesterday in which I also look really weird and not so cute, but it’s sadly better than now).

the worst ever pic of me, drinking the best ever tea

this tea is to die for

Rell also has beautiful penmanship and the handwritten note she included is so lovely!  I wish I could do cursive that well.  She packed in all kind of thoughtful lovely items, even a blankie for JJ – just… what a SWEET friend she is!  Thank you so much Sherrill, you’re the best.   Here are some more bragging pics of my sweet care pack:

she even included a blanket for jj!

jayjers all snuggled in his soft lil doggie blankie

side one

the b-side

Have you ever gotten an awesome box of goodies?

If you were to get a care pack from Germany, what would you want in it?

And now… what American goodies should I make durn sure to include in a care pack I send over to her?

As always: thanks for reading!!  

XOXO, HHR

HNL to JFK, Road Trip, Reunions, and So On…

We don’t live in Hawaii anymore.  It’s so crazy to realize that, but in another way – it feels like it’s been forever since I was in Hawaii.  I know it’s hardly been a week since we left, but the sounds of luau music and the taste of pineapple with li hing feel like super distant memories.  It’s weird how time can mess with you like that!

We finally left Hawaii on the evening of May 1st.  Getting all of our luggage, the pooch and ourselves to the airport was comedic at best.

the shuttle from the hotel to the airport. yeah, we literally filled the whole thing

arriving at the honolulu airport – so much stuff, yikes!

It took so long to do all the checking in and inspections that we were literally the last ones to run aboard the plane just moments before take-off.  American Airlines was actually great, they only charged us $175 for JJ – and if you’ve been following all of the controversy and price changes for animals accompaniment fare, you know this is a screaming good deal!

checking the pooch into american airlines

I was so sad to say bye to JJ.  I was so worried about my pooch being on the plane, all by himself.  He’s meek and scared of everything as it is.  I knew the poor little guy was just going to be terrified the whole time.  I slept with a blanket for a week out, so it would really smell like me.  We had his favorite pals, Hippo and Bonky in there with him, along with a new doggie bed a couple pillows he likes.

saying good bye to the pooch before we boarded the plane in hawaii

Then it was go time!

self-port in the plane lavatory, hahah. i’m shameless.

duggs and me, on the plane – good bye hawaii and hello new adventure!

We made a quick stop in LAX (and hey! Cali friends, don’t worry, we hardly had more than a few minutes to sit at the gate and then we were off again – if I ever have enough time to hang out during a layover I make sure to let folks know, and this was NOT one of those time).  Then on to JFK in New York City it was!  Jayjers seems to have done well enough, because when we picked him up in the NY airport he was his happy, excited, adorable self!

i look so tired after flying all night – but i’m super happy to be reunited with my sweet boy!

rounding up all of our crap in the jfk baggage claim

We landed in the mid-afternoon of May 2nd.  Between the flight lengths and the time change it really takes about a full day to go from Hawaii to the East Coast.  Then the nest adventure was rounding up the luggage (all zillion pieces of it… seven checked, 3 carry ons and a pooch, to be exact) and get the rental car checked out and on the road.

The first stop was Miss Alices, or Mom’s – my Mother-in-Law’s place in Long Beach, Long Island.

miss alice, outside of her home in long beach, long island, ny.

We stayed at Miss Alice’s house for three nights!  We were able to catch up with her, Matthew got to see BOTH of his brothers and we just all had an awesome time.  We got to relax, shoot the breeze, and it was just lovely all around.  MIss Alice treated us to some amazing home-cooked meals and we just lived it up, relaxing and taking it all in!

stephen, matthew’s brother holds jj

Matthew and I did some shopping (we made some awesome use out of some leftover gift cards from Christmas).

duggs driving me to the mall for some shopping!

yo, i’m at the mall. so what about it?

oh hay duggs, how does it feel to be back home?

It’s been a little colder here than we expected – but the change of pace has felt AMAZING. I love it!  We packed for a slightly warmer season, so while at the mall we did grab a couple more sweaters.  And Miss Alice gifted me some layering stuff and sweaters too.  Surprisingly, I’ve done well with the climate change and haven’t felt “cold” at all.  I’ve just really liked it!   One thing I have had to get used to – having to wear real clothes.  In Hawaii, I dressed sooooo casually, flip flops (slippahs) and sundresses all the time!  Not to mention I work from home, so I hardly get all dolled up.  In the NYC-area, it’s a different story.  You can’t go running errands looking like a slouch.  So I’ve had a fun time wearing “real” clothes.  It feels good!

A few of Matthew’s pals hosted a really sweet gathering for us and we were able to catch up with a lot of friends.  It was so rad!

duggs and me, from the night we hung out with everyone

We had a great night hanging out with everyone.  I was too busy gabbing (go figure!) to take many pics… ugh.  I promise that once we go through the real camera and upload pics, I’ll include whatever ones we have from that night.  It was a blast seeing Christian and Lauren, their little baby Griffin, Lauren’s parents were such a delight!  And then so many friends came over to say hi!  We got to see Brian and Rachel, Nick and Liz, my friend Marissa met up with us too, Christian’s brother Shawn, and then we were there – it was such a cool night!  (I really really hope I didn’t forget anyone).

To everyone who came and hung out – thank you so much!  It was so rad to see everyone.

miss alice, during the road trip out to the east end of the island

the view driving near nanny and grandparent’s house out in amagansett, long island

me and the sweet pooch on the road, loving it!

Before we went to the actual house, we stopped by the beach in Amagansett and I was able to lay eyes on the Atlantic Ocean once again.  After living in and around the Pacific the past couple years, and getting used to its warm waters and bright blue electric colors – it was nice to see my tried and true gray Atlantic.  Something about the murky and cold water just feels comforting to me, out of familiarity, out of the hours and hours I’ve spent in it and on it… as gorgeous as the Pacific is, the Atlantic will always be home to me!

the ocean!

the house in amagansett – it’s a beautiful beach home that duggs and his fam have all gathered at for years.

We spent a night with Matthew’s grandparents, his mom, his brother Johnny and his Uncle Joe all out at the beach house in Amagansett.  Uncle Joe had his lovely doggie Kola with him, and seeing Jay and Kola interact was fun and cute.  The time out at the beach house was very relaxing.  It’s so quiet out there, it was really nice.

I woke up the morning we were to head out that way with a dreadful sore throat.  I was so worried about getting everyone sick, but it’s been way too long since we’ve seen everyone.  So long as they were okay with me and my germs, I was more than happy to suck it up and make the trip anyways!

Here’s where I’m a heel: the vast majority of the picks we took were on the good camera and I haven’t even started to upload and sort through those.  The only ones I have are my random iPhone snap shots.  So I’ll have to go back and post much better pics from this trip when I have some real time to do a nice job.  On my phone, I hardly got any family pics – just some weird snaps here and there.

 

johnny is the biker of the fam, he looks like jax from sons of anarchy!

duggs and i got to sleep lucy and dezi style in twin beds, hehe! it was so nice and quiet there, we were able to get some great sleep.

check out this old school image of super duper hottie hubby back in the day!

Grandpa cooked us a lovely meal of salmon and rice, Nanny served a light and a delicious   key lime pie.  The whole family was able to catch up, chit chat and relax.  I know Matthew was just so happy to get to see his family – for him it had been about two years since he’d seen anyone!

The single night spent out there came and went too soon, and before I knew it we were on the road again… time to head back to Long Beach and drop off Miss Alice (my mother-in-law) and then pack up and head out to Pottersville.

Next up: a blog about our time at Camp Curtis on Valentine Pond, in Pottersville, NY.   Our road trip will continue and we’ll keep going and visiting more fam and friends.

the road trip route: JFK to long island, going all across the whole island and then back to the city, up toward and past albany and then on to buffalo! pretty sweet way to criss cross the state, huh?

As always, thanks for reading!! xoxo, hhr

Aloha to Hawaii, I’ll Miss You So… Saying GoodBye In Photos

Aloha Beautiful Hawaii! 

aloha rainbow state!

good ole wackiness from my first ever trip to hawaii, back in 2009

Saying goodbye to paradise was harder than I thought it was going to be.  This next step of life is so exciting and wonderful, and trust me: I’m blessed, happy to be where I am physically, emotionally, and everything – this point in life is good.

honeymoon at turtle bay, an amazing time

Our life in Hawaii was extreme, we saw great times and faced challenges.  We reunited there after deployments, but it’s also the place from which we had to say good bye.  We spent sun kissed afternoons out on the water, luxurious days at Turtle Bay, fun evenings out and about… it’s where we said “I do,” and it’s where we found the apple of our eye – our sweet pooch JJ Duggan!

our wedding day

exchanging vows on kailua beach, we did our wedding our way and it was so perfect for us

me and the sweet lil’ pooch, oh i’m so glad we found him in hawaii

It’s also where I’ve battled some health issues, it’s where we suffered a great loss when we experienced our miscarriage, coping through a lonely and hard deployment that was tossed at us without much warning.  But through it all, we came out on top, our marriage was bonded tighter and stronger – so we’ll take with us the happy sunny sweet tropical memories and get ready for a clean slate as we wipe away and move past some of life’s tougher trials.

saying goodbye before a deployment

saying hello when he comes back home again! ahhh, the reunion kiss is always the best.

I’m excited to be in New York and starting this next phase of our lives.  We’re literally writing the first page of a new chapter.  Matthew is out of the Marine Corps and he’s now a civilian, we’ve left Hawaii and moved to New York.  We’re setting out on our own, together.  Duggs was already established in the USMC and living in Hawaii when I came out and joined him – this is a step we’re taking together, going through it all hand in hand.

So yes, I’m stoked to be here in New York…

But I’m going to genuinely miss Hawaii.  I just wanted to take a little post to reflect on the gorgeous aina paradise and really say Aloha.

aloha to paradise, i’ll miss the warm pacific oh so much

we had so much fun boating and out in the hawaiian sun – too much fun to be had every hawaiian day

Hawaii is the kind of place where everywhere you go, there’s an epic view and a breath-taking scene to just suck in and fill yourself with.  The lush mountains, rainbows, flowers, the amazing bright blue oceans and the warm buttery sun bathing all of us.  Hawaii really is this vibrant, happy, relaxed paradise and I am so incredibly blessed to have lived there and spent the time there I was able to.

horseback riding on the north shore, romantic and something i’ll never forget. a truly one of a kind experience.

this island is incredible, i could take a million pics and still wish i had more

When family and old friends came out to visit, we were able to have an awesome time with them in Hawaii – showing off our island home.  I made some amazing friends and connections in Hawaii, Hope Chapel Kaneohe Bay refreshed and renewed my faith and my love of Christ.

sky diving day in the fall of 2010 – duggs, me, anna (my sister), and brian (duggs’ all time bff)

hope chapel women’s retreat 2011 – arise and shine!

L.O.V.E. HCKB Women’s Retreat 2012

me and ashtan and her navy day ball!

haunted lagoon 2011 at the polynesian cultural center, with ashtan + me

girl’s hiking morning at makapuu lighthouse, while all of our hubbies were deployed we made the best of it!

hope chapel k-bay is where i so found my heart for God – this past christmas was so awesome, here i am in between mel and tami!

The military experience is one that we’ll always remember.  Me as a spouse and Duggs as a dutiful member of the United States Marine Corps.  His service is the whole reason we were ever in Hawaii.  Even though the USMC liked to throw wrenches in our plans all the time, I have the utmost respect for the branch and the military in general. I’m grateful for the hard and brave work those dedicated men and women do, and I’m so proud to be married to a man as nobel as a Marine.

our first usmc ball together, in 2010

I tried to pick a couple photos to sum up my amazing Hawaiian experience, the wonderful times I’ve spent in paradise.  And yeah, it was impossible.  So thus… here’s a crazy montage of pics as a way for me to say Aloha!

I’ll miss Hawaii so very much.  I hope that we’ll be able to visit again one day, and hopefully it won’t be too far in the future that we get to go back.  Until then, I’ll take my mainland life one day at a time and find new beautiful sights to oooh and aaah over, I’ll discover new favorite places and I’m sure Duggs and I will forge tons of new memories and create lots of new adventures, all with stories to tell.  But as we do, I take some little pieces of Hawaii with me always – the sea turtle tattoo I got on my first trip to the island, the wedding ring on my hand that will always make me think of Kailua’s soft sandy beach, and the thousands of memories forever etched into my heart.

Aloha Hawaii – I’ll love you always! 

pretty islands (photo credit here)

And to my readers, I thank you (as always) for reading! xoxo, hhr

Moto Friendship Bracelet Making How-To

Dommie, one of my most bestest friendests and I looooove to make friendship bracelets.  It’s a rad craft that I’ve mentioned here a time or two before.  Back in ’09, Dommie and I invented these cute moto bracelets, we posted pics and then all of our forum pals wanted to know how we did them.  The how-to portion isn’t incredible, but it’s enough to get the idea.

I copy and pasted both of my own posts from 2009.  The original content was all mine, so why not re-use?  Go green.  I had to re-vamp the formatting and I used new links, otherwise the content is unchanged (hence the weird punctuation and grammar).

It’s easy-peasy to Google bracelet making instructions, there are even a few links in the second post.  While Dommie and I were missing our deployed boys, we made ourselves “moto bracelets” – some were desert colored, others patriotic (we’re all about the YRN: Yellow Ribbon Nation!) to wear while they were in Afghan.

If you make any of your own, share some pics, will ya?

Moto Wrists (post one):

so dominique and i have gotten a BIT carried away with the friendship bracelets …. we look like 12 year old girls who have been at summer camp for WEEKS.

but, its so awesome! we can’t stop… the ankles are next. what’s rad is we’ve learned and figured out all kinds of wacky stitches and ways to mess around with them. we’re getting pretty good at this.

dommie:

rosie (me):

what started as one deployment bracelet has turned into my MOTO WRIST. i got some USA patriotic action, some yellow ribbon stuff, desert digi, 550cord in woodland camo, and some random regular camo-ish in there too. dommie is trying to catch up on her moto wrist… we’ll see how far she gets.

The How-To (post two):

okay… so lotsa ppl keep asking “how” we (me and dommie) make the camo friendship bracelets. here’s a super detailed how-to thread just on this.

we just make regular kind of friendship bracelets… i found some sites to show you how to tie if you don’t already know. we get the string from crafts stores, and its a REALLY cheap hobby!

links:

http://www.how-to-make-jewelry.com/how-to-make-friendship-bracelets.html

http://friendship-bracelets.net/

http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Friendship-Bracelet

i used REALLY simple knots/stitches. i use variations of flat or twisting chinese stair cases (the stitch where you make a “4” and tie it around the other strings in your bracelet):

step one: choose a string you want to show. make a “four” on top of the remaining strings (these will get tied in the middle):

feed the end through the loop:

pull it TIGHT. holding tight the strings in the middle:

the only string that will be visible for that stitch is the one you made the four with. if you make the four in the same direction (point to the right for example) the subsequent knots will twist. if you alternate directions (right, tie. left, tie. etc.) the subsequent knots will be flat.

you can also do a double version of this stitch:

the green and the brownish strings on the side will BOTH show on this stitch.

the green is the first “four” on top. then make a four with the brown going under and feeding into the green’s loop:

pull tight and you have a double chinese staircase.

to twist, keep the same SIDE on top (the top string will alternate bw the two you are using, ex: one with green on top, one with brown on top – the result will look like green and brown stripes, one stripe is each stitch, the middle is twisty and harder to see) … to make it flat, use the same STRING on top each time (it will switch sides with every stitch, green on top every time – green will be on the outside of the finished stitch, brown in the middle, its flat so the middle is easy to see).

….

an idea i made up that i am in love with is braiding the string before i make a bracelet. instead of using just individual strings, i make braids and then use them as if a braid was one string.

to make desert digi i made several braids first.

1. tan, tan, brown
2. tan, tan, black
3. tan, tan, creamy beige

bc of the way a braid looks, just little specs of the black, brown and cream show, and the majority of the bracelet looks tan. it seriously looks EXACTLY like desert digi.

i’m pointing to the finished desert digi:

next to that is my red,white, blue and yellow.

for my red, white and blue… i also made a blue and white braid first, 2 blue, 1 white – so the white would be small specs like stars in the flag. then i used solid red and solid white for the stripes of the flag. the yellow is just a single string wrapped around after each “flag.”

for the woodland camo i made four braids first:

1. black, black, cream
2. brown, brown, green
3. green, green, cream
4. black, brown, cream

then i did a mix of flat and double chinese staircase stitches, mixing up the two visible strings all randomly.

finished:

my pic quality is kinda crappy bc its just my webcam that i’m using, but IRL the “camo” effect is pretty awesome.

As always, thanks for reading, and happy crafting!  xoxo, hhr

PS, they original posts were on good ole msos – the mil spouse craziness that i totes owe my life to!  (i should so blog about that someday).

New Wrist Candy

Being at retreat earlier this month totally got me into a bracelet making mode and now I just can’t stop!  At women’s retreat I brought a big bag of embroidery floss with me and a bunch of us had fun tying new bracelets, yay!

Now, every night before bed I find myself working a little on one, it’s so relaxing.  And with all the crazy weather we’ve been having, I keep telling myself it’ll be a fun hobby to have on deck for when the power goes out again.

our backyard getting crazy in the high winds

the first hail i've seen in hawaii - it woke me up at five in the morning last week, pelting the house with a ton of fury!

Speaking of retreat, I am so aware that I’ve been a slacker in writing some more post-retreat blog posts.  I’m working on it – life these days is busy!  We’ve had terrible weather, work has been busy, I haven’t been feeling great, and we’re moving soon – lots and lots of excuses, I know, but legit all the same.

So back to bracelet talk – 

A few weeks ago I finally took off my usual friendship bracelets and went bare.  It had been a good long while since I’d made any new ones and the ones I’ve been rocking were old and well on their way to yucky.

Within like ten days, I’ve totally made myself a whole new arm of stringed fun!  Check it out:

my recent wrist

Isn’t that thick oranges and yellows number on the end awesome?  It took forevs but I’m so glad I went for it.  It’s 12 strings across, and since it’s the kind that goes string by string tying the knots, it was time-consuming!  I love it though, it’s super rad (despite that obvious one mess up in the middle, grr).

a fun, albeit time consuming, new bracelet to make!

The new threads look so great with my other newest piece of arm candy, the L.O.V.E. metal bracelet everyone at retreat was gifted:

this makes me so happy!

Whew. What An Amazing Weekend – Women Of Hope Retreat 2012

I spent this past weekend on the North Shore with 140 of God’s LOVEliest women at my church’s 2012 women’s retreat!

the women of hope

I’m fired up, filled to overflowing, loved, happy, encouraged, humbled, grateful, and … exhausted!  Hence, this post isn’t the actual rundown post.  No, this weekend was so full of post-able pieces of wisdom, insights, joy, fun, photos, and good ideas it’s going to take me a hot minute to compile it all together.  I think I’ll actually make a few posts.

I was so honored to be on the ministry team, working at the event.  I was in charge of the tie dye event and I came up with/led some ice breakers.  I want to post about the group bonding games we did in hopes that others could take the ideas and use them for their own events (Annmarie and I co-led the ice breakers and we are oh so clever, we invented our own games for the ladies to play!!).

The ministry was amazing.  We had devotionals, testimonies, teachings, praise and worship, prayer, prayer and more prayer.  Eight women were baptized in the ocean! EIGHT! Countless women had their faith renewed, re-ignited; sins were purged, the enemy was attacked, others were forgiven.

ocean baptism - amen!

The theme of retreat was LOVE.  We are Lovely, Overcoming, Victorious, and Eternal.

I learned so much, I just feel so pumped up.  I’ve been falling off in my obedience and commitment to God, and this weekend really gave me a chance to dig in and reconnect.  I was able to lay a lot of my own junk down and serve my God, happily.

So, there is MUCH to share, much to say and much to show.  Just give me a few days to collect my thoughts (and notes – I used like seven different notebooks, so everything is all scattered and out of order)… and a series of posts will ensue!

camp mokule'ia is amazing.

If you have any requests of stuff you’d like me to talk about, lemme know.

Oh, and the location!  The location was epic.  Camp Mokule’ia is peaceful and amazing.  The new direction of the facility is to live and run the operations of the camp in a way that is most kind to the land it’s on.  Sustainable living is totally promoted with a new gray water system, aquaponics, composting, gardening, and beefed up recycling.  A hippie like me couldn’t be more excited, especially because Camp management bases all of their green-inspired efforts in Scripture!  I’ll be interviewing the owner of the Camp and giving a full explanation of all their new eco-friendly installations, what the impact has been like, the theological inspiration for the efforts, and how camped have been responding.  So rad, right!?!?

I’m excited to get cracking.  Love to all of my sisters – thank you for a wonderful weekend.

Thanks for reading! xoxo, hhr

“GrΣΣk” Spurs Memories, Good and Bad: A Personal Post On My Experienced Sorority Life

Are y’all enjoying my silly and weird “Screen Week?”  I am!  I watch way too much TV, Netflix, etc., and every time I get sucked into a new show or really connect with a movie, it inspires me to relate to my own experiences and post.

Warning – this post is long and it gets really personal.  Intense stuff up ahead!!   

Sometimes a TV show can get into your head and just really affect you.  Maybe the content is too close to home, or an experience portrayed resonates within you.  I like to use TV and movies to zone out.  But sometimes, it’s more than that – it can be catharsis.  And that’s what’s been happening to me recently.  A show has shaken me up and helped me to work through some old old issues.

The show “GrΣΣk” from ABC Fam, now available on Netflix (well, like six seasons are on Netflix now) is the latest series we’ve been sucked into.  Netflix kept suggesting it for us, and so finally, we gave the first ep a whirl.

It’s corny, cheesy, a lot of the acting is terrible, yes.  But it’s funny, light, and it’s just something I so easily connect to.

Yeah, I was in a sorority in college.  Alpha Chi Omega, Theta Sigma chapter at University of North Florida.

Hard to believe, maybe, for those of y’all who know me in my mid/late 20’s, my post-collegiate days.  For people who went to high school with me, it’s also probably hard to swallow.  I was quite the rebel rebel back then, so seeing me jump in and conform to an entity like the greek system may seem far-fetched… But not only was I a sister, but I loved it.

And why discussing that part of my life is so hard – it didn’t end very well for me at all. 

Ready for story time?

When i first came to UNF in the fall of 2001, I was a swimmer.  I walked on to the D1 team, and it was great.  The upside is that I was swimming faster than I had in a while, and I liked the swimmers.  The downside was that I couldn’t balance it all – I was falling asleep in class.  I ultimately had to drop a class (it was a night math class, and I couldn’t keep my eyes open, those 5am practices had taken their toll on me).  When I dropped the class, I ruined my swimming eligibility by not having a “full time” course load.

So, I wasn’t eligible for rush my freshman year – and I think even if I could have been, I was NOT interested in that.  I was the one who was anti-greek.  I didn’t want to “buy my friends” or “conform.”  I found the greek system to be elitist, stupid, expensive, and just a way for lame people to pump each other up.

me and my friend maxy, in our freshman dorm, being awesome!

there she is: rowdy rose is all her obscene glory! how could this gal be contained by a sorority?!?!

So even once I was able to rush my sophomore year, I didn’t because it “wasn’t me.”

crayon night with my pre-greek besties (the gals) - and stu! who was greek already.

The wacky thing is that I was dating a greek man!  My then-boyfriend, Eddie, was a Sigma Chi.  I had so much fun hanging out with him and his brothers.  And a lot of the gals that hung out with that crew were greek too.

The greeks I was meeting and becoming pals with were fun, awesome, they were more down to earth and fun to be around than I’d ever have imagined.

fourth of july, way back in the day, me hanging out with a bunch of my sigma chi pals before i was greek

I started just conforming anyways.  Next thing I knew, I was dressing like them, I was going to the scrapbook store and wearing pearls.  I was into it!  I loved going to Sigma Chi parties and events.

Then, there would be greek-only stuff, and I HATED it.  I hated how many secrets Eddie could keep from me.  Looking back, it seems so silly – it was just his own chapter’s business and ritual.  But for some reason, not knowing what went on every Sunday night really really got to me.

Then a friend consoled me, saying that when greeks and non-greeks try to date it never works out.  The non-greek (the GDI) gets left out of too much and gets resentful.  It’s hard when your boyfriend has to go to a social that his fraternity has arranged with a sorority, and I cannot go.  Oh man, that would make me so jeals back then.

My BFF at that time was a greek gal, Kendall.  I wanted to be a part of what she was a part of.  I wanted to rush to get to do all the greek stuff with her.

me and kendall

So, I decided to rush my junior year.  (Sadly, things with Eddie didn’t last – but I do owe him so much, as it was that formative time that really encouraged me to become greek myself and get to go to socials and have my own secrets).

I rushed in the fall of my junior year.

Going into it, I had all of these AXO friends.  I rushed solely so I could join them.  The thought of joining another sorority didn’t even cross my mind.  The greek system at UNF was really small back then – there were only 3 main sororities, and a 4th was colonizing that year.  KD was too new for me.  Zeta hated me because of some beef I’d had freshman year (boy drama, but of course – my boyfriend cheated on me with a ZTA, I flipped out at a country bar one night and near bout got in a fight, then I ended up hanging out with a dude who unbeknownst to me, had a ZTA girlfriend. oopsies!  So ZTA immediately didn’t invite me back.  Which is sad, I think at heart, I would have made a damn good Zeta!).

Now it was down to AXO and DG.

A funny thing happened in rush.  AXO knew I was a shoe-in, and so they spent like zero effort to recruit me.  Looking back, that should have told me something.  I didn’t feel wanted at all, it was like they knew they didn’t have to bother convincing me.

DG on the other hand – they wanted me. They made me feel so welcomed.

I couldn’t even tell you what happened at Alpha Chi on Pref Night (the last, most important night of rush).  I don’t remember any details from AXO.

But in the DG room, oh man.  I still remember Katie singing and me crying at her immaculate rendetion of “Home” (that song: it feels like home, to me… it feels like home. zomg, her voice is amazing).   Katie preffed me, and I had such a genuine, awesome, time with her.

When I had to rank my choices I was so torn. So torn, I was up there for a while.

Of course, I chose AXO.

Things were okay at first.  I felt shafted by some of the sisters I’d considered friends for a while.  I wasn’t an exciting shiny new member to them.  No one really ooh’ed and aww’ed over me.  During big sis/little sis stuff – my big was kind of a derelict, and I didn’t really feel special at all.

There was some fun hazing-ish stuff that went on.  Harmless, silly stuff that was really cool.

here's a group of us at some western themed something-er-other when i was first in as a "pledge"

I LOVED my pledge class.  The girls that came in at the same time as me were awesome.

AXOs at a toga party - i'm the tall one on the far right

Eventually, I found my place in AXO.  When I got sick with cancer, my sisters rallied around me and they literally saved my life.  They did fundraisers to help me pay for treatment, they totally kept my morale up.  It was an awesome showing of love and support – at least to me, I felt very very loved.

sasha still loves me!!

I should mention that my best friends during this period were my sisters.  I was living off-campus with sisters, those were the people I chose to hang out with.  And my very best friends from college, who I’m still close with to this day, were all sisters of mine at some point.

The arguments for joining a sorority about the real friendship and the longevity of those friendship – that is real.  I’ll agree to that.

I became the Chaplain of my sorority.  It was an honor, and it was a job I loved doing.  During rush, my first time on the other side – I had a blast.  I worked my tail off to do my best.  I was going through chemo at the time, and I was able to get up and give this tear-jerking speech about having cancer and how my sisters were saving my life.

my football jersey from the powderpuff team i played two seasons on - rowdy rose, #17

the plaque from KA for being one of their roses, a hat with letters on it that i used to wear all the time, and the paddle my big sis made for me

It was a Pref night killer!  I mean, who wouldn’t want to be a part of a group like this?  My cancer was totally exploited for rush, but not against my will.  It was an important thing that had affected the whole chapter, so it made sense to tell the potential new members about what kind of ladies my sisters were.

To this day, I still have people comment about how they heard me talk during rush and they found it inspiring.  It was nice.

I found my way in the greek world.  My then-boyfriend was the President of his fraternity, Kappa Alpha.  I became their sweetheart, it was really fun hanging out with the KA boys all the time.   I love those rednecks!

a few of the KA boys - these guys were real good to me, always

I was Chaplain, and I was running our concession stand that we worked at the Jags games.  Being in Jacksonville, FL – we had access to work a stand at the NFL home games for the Jags.  It was REALLY hard work, but an awesome way to generate revenue for the chapter.  I did a great job as manager, a job that no one wanted to do.  I made it FUN!  I came up with fun incentives to motivate people to go.  I was great with that.

The Super Bowl came to Jax that year, and we were able to work the stand at the Super Bowl!  We were serving food to celebs!  It was awesome.  Our booth was in the Touchdown Club, an elite level of  the stadium, and we got to see so many A-listers milling about.  Super rad!

My real sister became an Alpha Chi at Stetson – a few hours away.  I surprised her by showing up to initiate her, it was awesome!  We had so much fun with the Stetson chapter.  We’d meet up with other chapters at State Day and other AXO events.

That spring – the spring of 2005 – I was letting off steam.

with the pi kapps on spring break - bahamas, spring 2005 - the best trip ever!

I was declared cancer-free in December of 2004, and so well, it was time to celebrate.  I’d spent way too much of college being sick and if I wanted to let my hair down, so be it.  (I guess I didn’t have hair, haha, but you know what I mean).

In my opinion, I was still upholding the values of AXO.  I had done so much for the school – student gov’t, mock trial, spirit club.  I’d held a huge GPA.  I’d held offices and done them well.

out at a party

When the girls put choices for a big sis, I was the first choice of WAY more girls than I could take on.  As it was, I took “twins” and I took my role as their big to heart, trying to be the best I could.   I was voted onto the exec board, and I was to run our recruitment in the Fall – I was in charge of rush.

I was partying quite a bit – but still upholding my responsibilities and then some, still working, and getting good grades.

Here’s where it gets really ugly. And sad: 

The week before finals, well, the NIGHT before finals – a Sunday night – we had a chapter meeting.  Someone called me that day and asked if I could bring the keys to the chapter’s storage unit with me.

That was weird.  Why did they need my keys?

I got to chapter and I was told that I needed to stay afterwards for a CR meeting.

CR is the Chapter Relations and Standards Board (I think).  Anyways, there was one exec sister in charge of CR, and then a board with a member from each pledge class (or maybe it went by grade level).

The CR Board ran the sorority, kinda like HR.  That’s where complaints and discipline went down.  And everything that happened there was totally confidential.

So I stayed after, and I was so nervous.  I’d never been in trouble before.  Well, during homecoming the President and myself had both gotten caught peeing outside – first of all, at a school full of rednecks, that’s not really a shock – and we were up late working on homecoming stuff (building our epic parade float) and we had to pee.   I remember that going on, and both the Pres and I were equally as guilty.  And that happened back in February.  The fateful night that changed my life was at the end of the semester.

our prize-winning homecoming float, it was hollywood with famous stars all over the hills. building that float was so fun and crazy! we were partners with pi kappa phi, and it was such an epically fun time.

(By the way, we WON homecoming that year – it was awesome.  And I was in charge of our homecoming team, I was a captain or something, and I worked my ass off.  Literally, blood, sweat, tears (and pee), all went into that amazing victory).

homecoming - feb 2005 (basketball is the homecoming game at UNF)

So there I was, asked to stay after.

And they kicked me out. 

It was really simple.  “We need your keys.”  “We’re recommending that you step down from your exec position and disassociate from the chapter.”

The worst part is, I HAD NO IDEA WHY.

I STILL DON’T KNOW WHY. 

They told me that someone had come to them in a CR meeting and told them something about me.  And this piece of information was so damning, they wanted me out.  Because everything said in a CR meeting is confidential, they couldn’t tell me what was said.

I had NO way to defend myself.

I didn’t even know what was going on.

I was so stunned I couldn’t even speak.  I just cried.  It made no sense to me then, and for years it’s haunted my heart.  My very best friends in the world had a meeting about me, behind my back, and decided that I was such a bad person they didn’t even want to associate with me.

It was the hardest thing I’d ever experienced.

That night I offered to resign from exec, but to still stay in, and they said no.  That I had to leave.

I just kept asking why, and the president looked at me all steely-eyed and said,
“YOU KNOW WHAT YOU DID.”

That phrase haunts me.

At one point when I was begging to stay in, they had the CR board members pipe up.  Amber, this girl from my hometown who had never really liked me – she put the final nail in my coffin.

That was it, I was out.

(this is really harder to write about than I thought it would be).

You know what you did. 

That phrase terrified me.  It’s the phrase that took my life as I knew it, away from me.  And after fighting so hard for my life – my life that I had built and made, my life that was happy and I cherished – someone else was able to take it all away from me.  A group of them were.

The news was shocking.  No one could believe it.  People kept asking me what I did, and I just kept saying, I don’t know.  I didn’t know.  I still don’t know.

What if it wasn’t true?  What if someone misunderstood something?  My name was tarnished.  I had no legit way to defend myself.

It felt like getting sent to prison in a fascist regime – where you don’t even get a trial, and there is no evidence.  They just accuse you of treason or some ambiguous political crime and you’re out.  You’re done.

I was shunned.  I couldn’t go to any events, I couldn’t see my friends.  They did it to me the night before final exams started, and I was so mad at them for that.  That’s just low and unfair, I was so upset and I had to go take all of my exams and finish up my papers.

Half my wardrobe was inaccessible to me – all of my stuff had letters on it!  I lived with sisters, who were still active, and that hurt too.  I couldn’t very well ask everyone I knew to quit too, but it was really hard.  Every one of my good friends were still greek, and once again, I was the outsider who wasn’t allowed at the parties.  The clubhouse had a No Roses Allowed sign.

It hurt. So badly.

It was the deepest emotional cut I’ve ever experienced, actually.

There were friends who stood by me, for sure.  I was really close with the Pi Kapps at that time, and they totally had my back.  But the decision was done, there was nothing that those who believed in me, could do.

It was a dreadful shock to know that people I had trusted, or at least considered to be thoughtful, kind, or decent – were a part of it.  That was so weird.  It really messed with my willingness to trust for quite some time.

The helplessness of not knowing why made it a thousand times worse.  My parents helped me approach it from a legal point of view.  We contacted Nationals.  They just told me that they were standing by the chapter’s decision and that was it.  My sister’s chapter petitioned to have the decision overturned, they didn’t care.

The Dean of Students guy who was greek advisor or something – I had worked for him for a while, back when I had cancer I had a desk job within student affairs.  He hated me too, Tom.  He supported the Alpha Chis in their choice.  The Alum advisor, Amanda, I had always thought she liked me – well, she was in on it too.

All of these people knew about it before I did.  They knew why, and NO ONE talked.

The level of serecy they were able to uphold is amazing.  To this day, I still have no clue.  There were some nasty rumors about me going around.  I’d lost a lot of weight (being off of steroids and all the cancer meds can do that), and there were some kind of rumors about me doing copious amounts of cocaine.  The rumor seemed so ridic, I didn’t think that could really be what they used to boot me out over.  But who knows.

I think that there were jealousy issues.  I know that some people had missued the cancer funds – taking money out of that account and paying for other things with it, promising to pay it back after rush with collected dues.  There were certainly some dark and sketchy things going on.

But I never dreamed these girls who I had come to know and love would do this.  It was so weird and surreal to see someone I thought was my dear friend, tell me to beat it.  Can you imagine?  I was thinking, who are these people?

I didn’t do anything kick-out worthy.   I KNOW THAT.  I know what I did and where I was.

But what sucks super hard – other people don’t know that.  People saw me so differently.  I had volunteered, and worked so hard in good will to build the community that is UNF.  Today, that student community thrives off the hard work my peers and I put into it.  We built the entire spirit movement from the ground, up.

A year ago, at the end of March 2011 I went to a church event out here in Hawaii, and the theme was forgiveness (my post on that event is here).  That was the first time I honestly forgave the girls who did this to me.  It’s still hurts so much to talk about, the way they were so awful to me – it still makes me sad.  But I don’t carry any hate in my heart at this point.  I’ve tried my best to forgive them, between me and God, I have.

I don’t know if any of them feel remorse.  No one ever apologized to me.  No one ever shined any light on it for me.  I would love for someone to come forward at this point and tell me, it would bring me great peace of mind to just know what the heck they think I did.

So, now, today – years and years later – I still have all these loaded feelings when it comes to greek life.  I’m not sure if I could genuinely tell someone to go for it and get involved.  I’m still friends with sisters I had back then.  But I’m embarrassed when I think about what happened, and I would never want anyone to be hurt the way I was.  I just don’t know if I could ever recommend or trust an institute that allowed me to be treated the way I was.  The control and power dynamics are intense.  It’s really hard to combat the system – impossible, actually.

But if all goes well, it can be a great experience.

Watching this show, Greek, has brought up so many memories.  When they do fun greek life things, like socials and mixers, door piles, singing songs, showing ritual kinda stuff – I remember the good ole days, and I reflect fondly on my experiences.

It’s just that those happy memories only go so far… and ultimately, I end up back at sad.

It hurt my self worth a lot.  I was asking a lot of questions – am I not friend worthy?  Am I a bad person?  What did I do wrong?

It shook me to my core, and it took a while to re-build my own self understanding.

I felt used.  I felt like they used me for rush, to attract girls in with my cancer story.  I heard rumors that after they kicked me out, they still talked about me in the rush room as if I had left or quit and they still talked about how great and wonderful they were to me.  I was livid that they had cheapened and reduced what I had been through.

But even still, I find myself defending the greek system in some ways.

My husband was never greek, and he doesn’t really seem to be an advocate.  He thinks of it as elitist, snobby, rude.  And sometimes when he’ll base an idea on a generalization, I’ll defend the greek ways.

Watching the show had me go grab and dust off this book I remembered hating back when I was in a sorority.  “Pledged, the Secret Life of Sororities” is a book by investigative reporter Alexandra Robbins.  I was still active when this book came out and I read it – even though it boiled my blood.

read at your own risk - stolen pic from amazon

At the time I considered Robbins to be bitter, jealous, mean, and just looking for reasons to mock and pick apart the greek system.

I figured now, given my current point of view, I may have a new appreciation for her book.  So I cracked it open and started to read a little bit and a funny thing happened –

I still can’t stand her approach!

She still sounds bitter and hateful to me.  It’s had me reflecting a lot, honestly. Do I sound bitter like that?  I sure hope not.  I’m very bitter about my own experience, and how that was handled (I think I’m still bitter, even though I try not to be) – but I don’t ever want to sound how Robbins does.  She just sounds like someone who wanted to be in the cool club and since she wasn’t, she lashed out like woah.

There were a handful of reality shows about sororities that came out around the turn of this century, and they were really damning to the greek PR machine that tries to keep the image looking good and nice.  But the shows served a purpose in piquing American curiosity, and thus people wanted to know what did really go on in there.

I’ll say that my experience in a National Pan-hellenic women’s fraternity was very different than what went down in the local chapters who allowed themselves to go on reality TV.  The imaged and exaggerated stuff seemed more the fodder for juicy TV than the way to define the average collegiate greek experience.  That’s just my POV, though.

So there ya have it. 

It’s funny how a simple, cheesy, wacky TV show can dredge up so many feelings.  It’s funny that while we’ve been watching it on Netflix, I find my mind wandering all over the place – thinking about the fun times I had.  Thinking about how much it all meant to me at that time in my life.

What do you think?  

Do you know why I was kicked out?

Has a show ever done that to you? 

I often wonder what other experineces would be similar to what I went through?  

Has anyone else ever been shunned?  

My entire social structure was taken away from me, against my will.  I imagine when someone comes out and they’re rejected from their social group – it could feel similar. Maybe.  If you’ve come out – what do you think? Am I making little or light of your experience?

Well, sorry today got heavy and sad.  But for those of you who like me and my blog, this was really revealing.  Another big one that was hard to talk about and now I feel lighter for having done it.

Thanks for reading! xoxo, hhr

PS – and I hope I properly expressed this in the main article, but just in case, there were some great people and loyal friends who literally got me through that whole experience.  Afterwards, there were still greeks I could love, and trust.  And most of my college friends that I keep in touch with today were greek at the same time I was.

I will never forget how good that core group of friends was to me during that time.  My roomies and BFFS, the pi kapp guys who were like brothers to me (the blood kind, not the greek kind).  I love so many people from those days, still.  There were some who were good to me and never wavered in their loyalty.

 

SO – I’ve gotten a little bit of feedback, and the story that seems most consistent is about a rumor.  A rumor that I was doing cocaine off of a toilet seat, at a fraternity formal.  And that a group of my “sisters” had witnessed this. 

I’m not really sure how anyone could have witnessed this… as I’ve NEVER in my life done cocaine off a toilet seat.  (Who does that??  Was the hooker’s ass already taken?).  

It’s so infuriating, honestly.  They never even asked me about it.  No chance to ever defend myself.  On one hand, the absurdity of the rumor makes me feel vindicated – but on the other, it just makes me getting kicked out and going through so much pain feel even more futile than it already does.  

They really did boot me out over nothing.  Shame on them.  

time to crank out the jams…

…And By Jams, I Mean Tie Dye!

I’m so excited, I just gotta share this news with someone.  I’ve been asked, last minute, to host a craft booth at my Church’s Women’s group event this Monday.  As in, a few days from now!

Over 350 women have already signed up and paid, but even more are expected. For some people this may sound so small-timey.  But for me, this is my first time selling tie dye at an event, or really selling in person at all.

So between now and then, I need to crank out some tie dye!  

i need to make lotsa tie dyes, like this!

Now, I do have booth selling experience. Quick story:

My folks used to own a phone card business (trust me, I know that sounds so bizarre).  Back in the 90’s my dad and I went to France with my elementary school’s exchange program (he was the group translator, that’s a whole ‘nother story on it’s own; he learned french in eight months just so he could be the translator, hahaha, Viper is amazing!).

(i know i had a photo of us in france somewhere. i can’t find it… grrr… i’ll keep looking later on)

So we get to France – and all the pay phones required these prepaid cards you swipe, no coinage. Dad thinks it’ll be the next big thing, we become the biggest phone card dealer in the whole Southeast, and the only licensed dealer of Visa Cash Cards (a derivative of phone cards, it’s a prepaid card, like a credit card – but not based on credit, it’s just prepaid so you don’t have to carry cash around).

Next thing ya know… those pesky cell phones become all the rage, and payphones become all but obsolete.

But anyways, back in the heyday of the phone cards, we used to travel around to all kinds of conventions and sell them.  I’m talking Europe, Asia, everywhere.  So I know how to stand at a booth and sell… I just haven’t done so in a decade and a half, and never with my own tie dye.

I have a feeling it’ll be like riding a bike though.

My Dad (Viper) and Step-mom (Anna) still actually run the business… it’s just not as crazy booming as it once was.  You can check them out: Kars Unlimited. 

Okay, I have company coming in this afternoon.  Another guest for dinner will be coming over tonight.  And I have all this tie dye to crank out. (And maybe make some pricing signs, I have to sort and prep all the inventory I do have, and make some kind of poster for custom orders or something).

Not to forget- at the very same women’s event I’m hostessing a toiletry drive for the local women’s correctional facility.  They do gift bags at Christmas for the inmates, and we’re collecting donations for said gift bags.  Oh, busy busy!!  Lots of sheets to wash, laundry to fold, sweeping and fixing up to do. Oh my!

Thanks for reading!  xoxo, hhr 

P.S. If you’re interested in helping with the toiletry drive, let me know anytime before midday on December 5th (Hawaii time), and we can figure something out!  You can comment here or email me: happyhippierose@gmail.com   -thanks!!

P.P.S. I really will make a siggy soon! I swears it!

one of the kids' shirts i'll be selling!

post-thanksgiving catch up

Hi everyone!!  I’m here, I’m doing okay.  Let me catch everyone up on the holidays, my health, and just my overall happyhippiness.

I’ve missed you dear bloggy-readers, (all seven of you, ha).  To those who’ve missed me and checked in on me, thank you.  And to those who just read, I’m thankful for you too!  (((hugs)))

Today’s post is a long one, but I think it’s a real gem.  Enjoy!

Post-Thanksgiving Catch Up

Thanksgiving!

We had a lovely Thanksgiving.

Duggs and I woke up, put on the parade and got to cooking, baking and smooching.  Yeah. We smooch a lot. I love watching the parade, just so I can get all annoyed at it’s cheesiness and weirdness, it’s so so so commercialized it’s just like a two mile long inflatable advertisement.  Bee tee dubs, when I just wrote advertisement, I totes pronounced it the Brirtish way in my head, so please do so while reading.  It’s much more sophisticated.  Ad-vert-is-ment.

Moving along…  So ole Duggs and I baked and cooked, and it was fun.  Christmas music was playing and I was just so happy.  I LOVE the holidays.  I miss my family, but to celebrate the entire holiday season with my husband: amazing!! what a gift!!

We spent the day with some great friends, here on base.  The Tanners (of course, we heart the Tanners so hard!), our friend Chiffon came and our friend Dana. So six people total.  Luckily, we cooked for about thirty, so the leftovers abounded! Score!

me and ole stinky duggs at thanksgiving dinner and he made a weird face to ruin my photo. thanks a lot duggs.

duggs and his man-friend, jed, at turkey day

the spread of amazing food. such a bountiful feast.

ashley was kind enough to purchase special doggie thanksgiving dinners for the pooches. they went totally nuts. it was great!

dana and chiffon were our other guests. this isn't a great photo bc chiffon isn't looking, but i didn't want to leave them out of my recap!

On Being Thankful

I have so much to be thankful for now. It would take up shifty-five blog posts to even list it all.  I try so hard to focus my daily prayer on thanksgiving year-round.  This season is a great opportunity to reflect on our blessings, to immerse in gratefulness for what we already have.

Also coming along with this season: the temptation to want want want, to shop, to desire things.  The temptation to become materialistic is immense.   In order to shop for others, we see many other things we want.  I’m going to write another blog about gift-giving and my process and etc.

But to summarize the concept of being thankful on Thanksgiving: I am.

  • Thank you God, for life, for your Grace, for everything.
  • Thank you family, thank you friends, for your love.  I need you all so much.
  • Thank you kind strangers, the little random angels that were at the right place at the right time to just get me through.
  • Thank you people who have allowed me to learn, facilitated the improvement of my health, offered me comfort.
  • Thank you United States Marine Corps for training my husband, bringing hom home safely, for putting a roof over our heads and food in our bellies, for taking care of our medical needs.
  • Thank you Hawaii for being beautiful.
  • Thank you church family for loving me, fostering my faith, giving me chances to love on my community and do good works, teach children, help those in need.
  • Thank you tie dye customers for your support and belief in me.
  • Thank you Cletus, for teaching me a special kind of love I never knew.  I miss you greatly  and severely.
  • Thank you JJ, how would I have ever survived this year without you?
  • Thank you Matthew Duggan, your relentless love, patience, care, charm, wit, strength, protection and devotion keep me alive in every literal and metaphorical way. I love you so much.
  • I am so thankful for TV, giggles, my warm and safe home, snacks, cold clean water, hot clean water, the Bible, Scentsy warmers, baked goods, art, music, I could go on and on and on…

Catching Up

So after Thanksgiving, we spent Saturday watching the MICHIGAN/ohiostateblah game at my pal Trish’s house.  Since the game came on at 7:00am here, we had a breakfast party!

trish and me on gameday

a rather sassy photo of me with like one third of duggs back there.

Thanksgiving weekend was a mix of awesomeness and awfulness.

Awesome, because Duggs got a 96 from work (four days off!).  I really wanted to hike one day, maybe snorkel. The weather wasn’t suited for it though, it was rainy and dreary most of the time.  I prefer exploring Hawaii on super sunny days!

It was awful because of how I was feeling.  My ear and thus my face/under-eye-area/cheekbone all started hurting.  All the plans we had for the long weekend were dumped and we spent the whole time, sans Thanksgiving Day and the Michigan game, planted in front of the TV.   We actually went on a huge movie streak and I did some Christmas-crafts, card designing, and present planning.

So… I just had to take it easy.  Rest.  Lay down.  All of which I really don’t care for.  I’m a mover and a shaker, a dancer and prancer.  I was in a lot of pain, and just really not doing well.

On Sunday night I got ambitious.  I know know know I’m not supposed to so much as touch a drop of alcohol.  And while I don’t really mind being dry, every now and then I just miss it.  That missing it has become harder around the holidays.  Spiced wine.  Eggnog. New Year’s champagne.  I cannot partake in any of it and it’s bumming me out.

Sunday night I told Duggs that I wanted to try some wine.

Sweet Duggs went out and picked up a bottle of red.  A nice pinot noir.  I had about half a glass, was enjoying it.  Then bam! All of a sudden it hit me and it was all over from there.  My throat was burning.  My tongue, swelling.  I was getting hot and clammy and I was so incredibly nauseous I couldn’t move.  We busted out the saltines and ginger ale, and I just held on.  We prayed. We prayed so hard.  And eventually, it came to pass.

Because of the porphyria, my liver just cannot metabolize ETOH like a normal liver could or would.   My doctor suggested it may have been the red wine, and that if I’d like, I can try something different.  However, that risk of feeling  acutely crappy is pretty impressive.  I felt MISERABLE.  Like, downright awful.

On Monday morning, I woke up feeling better.  I went on a decorating and cleaning rampage.  I gave this house the deepest cleaning I have since Homecoming!  I was on hand and knee scrubbing out every nook and cranny.  This place is sparkling. Seriously.

look at the shine off that floor! and this was taken a day later, even.

I cleaned so hard I was sore the next day and I chipped my nail polish, *gasp*, the horror, I know.  Don’t worry, I fixed them on Tuesday.  Monday night I started slowing down and the pain started creeping back.   I assume I pushed myself a bit too hard on Monday.

i stole this idea from my friend trish and i think it's so cute. i'll opine on gift wrap at a later time.

kitchen table, set for xmas

Tuesday.  I woke up feeling okay again.  My ear was hurting a bit, but I decided to push through and go for a run.  Post-workout I felt amazing!  Runner’s high, endorphines, it’s all good and they really do make me feel better.  It’s natural pain relief.

i fixed the nails i chipped on monday

After lunch my friend Lynnie called, and as we were chatting I decorated the Christmas Tree, lights, ornaments and all.  I’m so proud that I cranked it out in like two hours!  I had a lovely catch-up with my darling pal (thanks for calling, Lynn, I love you!).

this year's tree!

my fav ornament, courtesy of my friend krista! LOVE!

winnie-a-pooh (how i used to say it, so it's my family name for sweet ole winnie)

i like my own reflection in the ornaments. sigh. my vanity is an issue i need to work on.

Then… it hit me.  A wave of pain came over me that was so incredible all I could was just lay on the couch and text. I was texting Duggs explicatives.  We discussed going to the E.R.  I didn’t know what to do.

I realized my super tight sports bra was still on from my run.  The straps pull hard on my shoulder, which then trigger neck and ear pain.  It sounds weak, or maybe bizarre.  But this whole area of my body is so tender, inflamed, wacky, that even a simple touch like a shoulder squeeze can set me off into barrels of pain.  Hours of uber tight sports bra = crazy amounts of ouch.

I just layed out on the couch.  I cried.  I packed myself with ice. And I just hoped and hoped it would go away.

here i am, tuesday late afternoon, icing and praying ... laying in the worst pain it's been in a long time.

It was bad.  We (Duggs and I) discussed going to the E.R.  My two main docs are both out on holiday leave though, and I so hate to go to the ER blind, without someone who knows the particulars of my case to be there to help out.  (And that’s not snotty… someone unfamiliar with porphyria could accidentally make me super ill, or even kill me; also, explaining my whole medical history takes an hour, the meds I’m on are staggering and I hate explaining them all, and I just get stressed out dealing with new hands in the mix – which I know is inevitable – but it is what it is).

Tuesday evening I felt the worst, strongest, most direct pain I’d felt in a long, long time.  I could have sworn an ice pick was being jabbed into my ear and going through to my cheekbone and under my eye. Just miserable.  I couldn’t concentrate, think, do anything.

I decided to stay home, to ride it out.   I posted this on FB the next day:

it’s been a really rough week/ten days. i was miserable on thanksgiving – but i was having such a nice time with my friends – i didn’t want to make a big deal out of it. the whole long weekend was ROUGH. it’s just been crappy lately.

i’m staying positive and optimistic, and my faith is really getting me through. my lovely amazing husband helps a lot too ♥

but, i’m being honest: it’s been rough. i’m not well, and i’m not sure what we’ll try next, what there is to try next. all my docs are on holiday leave till next week =(

….

[thank you miles!!] i know i’m known for being so cheerful and upbeat, but there comes a time when i have to just be honest and admit that’s it’s been harder than i make it seem.

something HAS to give, i just know it. God has brought me through many many challenges before, and i just know He’ll do it again. and through every struggle i’ve endured, amazing good has come from it. so my hubs and i just keep examining and seeking… looking for the good that will come out of this, the lessons we can learn, the path this is leading us down. and well, we have ideas, but we’re still in the weeds. hindsight is always 20/20, so once we’re out of this, i’m sure we’ll have gained much from it. it’s just no fun going through it!

…it’s tough. but when bad things happen, when times get rough, He pulls me out and dusts me off and shows me some good that has come of it. even cancer.

loss is hard to understand. death, pain, suffering…

but i trust Him. that was my prayer last night. i was literally ailing, just tears rolling down my face from the pain and the anguish and frustration of being in so much pain for so long. and i just prayed, “i trust You. now, get me through this, please.”

so we’ll see. cancer made me a better person, times a million. i was just rotten beforehand. mean, bitchy, bitter, jealous, etc. cancer slowed me down, gave me appreciation – made me NICE. i’m tellin ya… i wasn’t always sugary sweet.

Wednesday was much better.  Still in pain, but it was calming down.  I was starting to rope it in and get ahead of it.

hi, wednesday morning!

I worked on some crafts, took it easy, and just tried to focus on feeling good and calm, asking peace into my body.  Inviting Grace to just come in and soothe.  And it started working a little bit. Thank God.

a cup of tea is oh so nice.

Wednesday afternoon Duggs and I had doctor’s appointments and errands.  During and afterwards my ear was just aching.

my fun outfit for rainy cool wednesday

We came home and had a veg out night, and I just had to ice and take it easy.  It’s just been a rocky road lately.

Thursday. 

Today is Thursday.  I woke up feeling alright and I’m trying to be productive.  I’m doing lots of chores, working on a romantical surprise for Duggs, sprinkling some more Christmas flavor around the house.

this me and the pooch right now. hi!

I have a lot I want to talk about, but I don’t want to have this textual diarrhea and blurt it all out in an unthoughtful manner.  I need to write and edit before I post.  I’m thinking about opening up the floodgates to some feelings I’ve been plastering in for a while.

Losing my health is something worth grieving.  I’ve been really emotional lately whenever I think of past memories that highlight my vitality and strength, like my English Channel Expedition, for example.   On a related note, I actually went swimming recently and I was so slow.  It left me sad and longing for when I was quick, sure of my physical self, toned and in shape.

But, it’s not a total wash. Not by a long shot.  I’m still so very able-bodied and well in many many ways.  I must keep that in mind, be grateful for the many parts that do work, and the oddles of things I can do.

On the worst of days, this medical malady of mine is debilitating. Sure.  But I have okay days, good days and wonderful days on which I’m able to do quite a lot.

I have no idea how I could maintain a work schedule while I’m in this condition.  My docs don’t consider me stable enough to work, and it’s hard taking criticism from people for not having a job.  It’s been really hurting my feelings lately.  I WISH I was working right now, I WISH I was doing what a normal, healthy person of my age would be doing.

Similarly, we want to start a family soon.  But with my meds, it is out of the question.  And there’s no end in sight.  I have no idea, no clue, how long I’ll be on these meds or when something will work.  Family planning is 100% on hold now.  And after the miscarriage, it’s hard to have zero clue when we can try again.  It’s very painful, and I don’t think many people realize how that feels.

So yeah, I have more to say, but I want to say it carefully and tactfully.  In the meantime, at least I’ve come this far in opening up my vulnerability and being honest about what’s really going on.  I am happy, and positive, optimistic.  I do smile.  But I also cringe and cry, I worry and I get upset.  I feel loss and sadness, and most often: physical pain.  There’s two sides to this whole thing, and I think I can show both now.

As always – thank you for reading !! xoxo, hhr 

P.S.  I totally have so many blog posts I’m just dying to type out and put up! More fun stuff, less heavy stuff, too.  Like: Holiday craft and gift ideas, more cruelty-free product reviews! Christmas tie dye, Making your own giftwrap (a fave of mine for years now!), etc.  I want to post about giving, and what orgs Duggs and I are giving to this year.  So, I’ll try and get back on a more regular blogging schedule, I mean it.

operation christmas child part 2: seven new awesomely crafted care packs

I asked and y’all answered!

OCC Part 2 – Seven More Boxes Made With Love, Thanks To You!

My Church, Hope Chapel Kaneohe Bay, participated in this year’s Operation Christmas Child project, a drive to send shoes boxes stuffed with toys, gifts, candy and what-not to underprivileged kids world-wide.  The church’s goal was 3,000 boxes.  Matthew and I made two on our own.  When we turned them in, our church was well under it’s goal.  I solicited an offer – if anyone funded the cost of a box, I would do all the legwork to create, shop and fill a box.

I wrote this blog about OCC a couple weeks ago.

Seven more boxes were funded, packed with love and turned in – thanks to y’all!  My friends and family came together to help us with this amazing project. And ultimately… our church reached it’s goal!  3,002 total boxes are being sent to kids in need.

AMEN!

How awesome is that?!?!?

Thank you: Miss Alice (my wonderful mother-in-law), Viper and Anna (my Dad and step-mom), Claire and the Williams Family, Kayla and the Hayes Family, Staci and the Ostrowski Family, and my lovely friend Ariana!  With all of your love and funding we were able to make SEVEN boxes to go out and send some love to seven more children.  How amazing is that?

I’m so appreciative.  I love this project and just believe in it so much!

So, because I’m too lazy to sort through all these pics… here’s a big mishmash of the assembly and turn in process, including what the inside of each box looks like.  Check ’em out:

Just to mention, every box got a hand-written note from me… I finished them so late on Saturday night though, I was too tired to snap any pics.  I used some nice stationary I had, and I just kept the letters simple and sweet.  For those of you who OK’ed it, I included your name, photos and address!   I basically just said that God loves them (the kids) and that we’re thinking of them.  And for each of you, I gave a couple generic/simple sentences about what you like to do… “We like going to the beach” or “I live in New York!”  etc.

THANK YOU SO MUCH EVERYONE!