Well Done

Before I was ever an author or a lawyer or a wife or a mama, I was a musician. Being a musician is pretty rad most of the time. Unlike algebra or organization or finance charges, music is one of the few things in this world that I get. It’s a language I speak. It’s so much a part of me that I don’t remember not being able to speak it.

There are times where being a musician is difficult though. Times when only music will do to soothe someone’s pain. As a sensitive musician-type, I already feel the feelings but playing music in this grief scenario is heart-wrenching. Not only do you feel the music but you feel all of the emotion wrapped up in the music, the emotions felt by others, those felt by yourself.

I played at a funeral today for a man taken too soon. He was by all accounts a wonderful husband, father, son, brother, uncle. I’ve known this family for several years and was always impressed with the open love he had for his family, especially for his wife. Truly it’s been a beautiful thing to behold-even after 19 years together they still had that spark.

They are a military family and part of my former church family and this is the week that marks a special birthday of sorts for my own family-both Mr. Wonderful’s sobriety birthday and anniversary of when the bottom fell out of our world. So there was a lot going on in my head and my heart during this service.

From my vantage point at the front, all I could see was the family that was left behind. Trying to celebrate his life well-lived while really just barely hanging on. They were alternating between bewilderment and just raw heartbreak. That is a painful thing to stand in the sidelines of, not being able to do anything to help them or ease their pain.

Two years ago this was almost me. I was moments away from having to plan the funeral with military honors for my Mr. Wonderful, from having to raise four kids on my own, from feeling the absolute devastation that one must feel when their partner is just all of the sudden gone.

That terrible day when I nearly lost my partner and best friend was a rebirth of sorts. It gave me two extra years of memories and time that I am so grateful for. Since tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone, I suggest we all go and tell our loved ones how much we love them. Squeeze them tight and store away as many good times as we can. Take a note from a man who’s family is feeling a tremendous loss but who will be able to lean on memories of his life well lived: live full of love, laughter and celebration. Have faith. Take each sweet moment as it comes, work through the hard times, and love your family with everything you’ve got.

In memory of Casey Joe Bussett (1975-2015).

(Photo credit Meredith Shafer 2015) ©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015

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National Suicide Awareness Month

National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK

You’ve probably guessed that today’s post isn’t going to be a light-hearted romp with my traveling circus. I’ve been avoiding this topic all of September because September is a rough month around this Casa.

There are a lot of triggers: 9/11, anniversary of Mr. Wonderful’s start date in the military, the anniversary of the day I almost lost him. 

The older I get, the more I realize that if people share their realness and their pain, it can often shine light into someone else’s pain. Help them know they aren’t alone. Guide them to a sliver of hope that this circumstance or season is temporary and it too shall pass.

2013 is a year that I wish had never happened. The short version is that my sweet Mr. Wonderful was on about year twelve of undiagnosed PTSD–way past the time where things begin to unravel. First the undoing was unnoticeable. Then it became unmanageable. Then it became untenable. To the point I knew in my heart that if I didn’t do something, the unthinkable was coming.

The details are still too hard to write about so I’m not going to yet. I’m actually trying to work up the courage to put this full story in my next book but it’s slow going, reliving certain minutes.

What I’m going to tell you today is that you, yes, you who somehow stumbled onto the blog of a woman with a bunch of kids who’s married to a retired military dude that you have nothing in common with, you were meant to be here today reading these words.

You were meant to know that someone else has been exactly where you are: in a dark so black and thick that you can’t breathe, much less see. You were meant to read these words and realize that this darkness that you can’t seem to find your way out of has enveloped others before you. You need to know that there is a way out of that darkness that doesn’t involve removing yourself from this world.

You are necessary here. 

Without you to finish your work, there will be a you-sized hole in the universe that can never be filled by anyone else. I know you can’t see this right now. I know you can’t imagine anything but pain and heartache so deep that you just need it to stop. But if you’ll give the world a chance I promise you things can get better. They may not be better all at once-this may take some patience on your part and I know you probably don’t have any.

But please, stay

As an Army wife, I’ve been through scenarios other families may not be able to fathom. I haven’t even been through all of the typical Army wife life because I came on the scene later. But one thing about all military spouses is that we do what needs to be done. We’ll take care of it so our spouse can do his or her job of protecting this country. 

You hear all kinds of phrases and jargon in this military life. One of my faves is “I’ve got your six.” That means basically, I’ve got your back; I’ll help you and watch out for you and do my best to protect you.

My spouse had this country’s six. He helped keep us safe after 9/11 and our family’s still footing the bill for that freedom. And now I have his six. It’s the least I can do for a man who has made some sacrifices for us all.

Let someone have your six. If you are not okay today, it’s okay. But you can’t do this alone. Reach out your hand and grab onto the lifeline: make a call to the national suicide hotline (1-800-273-TALK) or a friend. Or a pastor or trusted confidant. Or your mom. Whoever you think will listen.

There are approximately 22 veterans who take their lives every day because there is an absence of hope. But for the grace of God, that was nearly us. For those of you who worry about or notice something is off or different about your veteran or family member or friend, don’t wait to speak up! 

Ask: are you ok?

Maybe you won’t know what to do. That’s ok too. Some things need to be handled by professional people who are trained for this sort of thing. But you can ask the most important question–are you ok?–giving them a lifeline of hope. And then together you can seek help.

Just do something.

Having someone’s six sometimes means doing something for someone who just can’t do it right now. Having someone’s six may mean getting out of your comfort zone even if you don’t know what to do. Having someone’s six can save someone’s life.

Babe, I got your six.

National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK

(Photo credit Meredith Shafer 2015) ©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015

PTSD Awareness

  

You never know what battles people are fighting within. 

Be kind. 

Have patience. 

Show love. 

You can make a difference!

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(Photo credit Pinterest.com) ©Copyright Meredith Shafer

PTSD Info You Need to Know

PTSD is real. It isn’t in their heads. They can’t just shake it off. Just because you can’t see their invisible wounds doesn’t mean they aren’t wounded. If you know or think you know someone suffering from PTSD, take time to ask, “Are you ok?”

Then listen.  

We are victorious in our PTSD fight every day that we keep going! Every day that we wake up and start the fight again. Every time we get back up after falling flat on our faces.

You will not beat us PTSD!

(Photo credit from heartsmovingmountains.com) ©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015

I would love to connect with you on Facebook or Instagram at My Pink Champagne Life or Twitter @MyPinkChampLife. Swing by and say hello!

PTSD Awareness Month

June is PTSD Awareness Month and though we live it 365 days a year, I realize that unless you know someone with this “disorder” you may not know very much about it.

I’m going to try my best to explain in bits and pieces throughout the month what my family goes through on a daily basis; I can only tell our story though. PTSD (I loathe the D for “disorder”-it’s actually a very normal response to trauma and we need to stop making people feel bad about this) is different for each person. 

In our case, Mr. Wonderful came back with his souvenir from fighting in the OEF wartime theater. That’s Operation Enduring Freedom. This means he saw bad things he doesn’t like to talk about, has a certain amount of survivor’s guilt for coming back when some of his buddies didn’t, and had to flail about on his own with no treatment for nearly thirteen years.

PTSD has taken on different forms at various times in our family:

-disconnection and lack of empathy

-rage and misplaced anger

-agoraphobia

-extreme depression 

-isolation

-suicidal thoughts and tendencies

This is just the tip of the PTSD iceberg. There is no cure, no one medicine, nothing that will permanently end Mr. Wonderful’s suffering. 

But we press on. And we press in. To our faith and each other. We work on managing the symptoms as best we can. We attend doctors appointments, do therapy, and try to instill healthy coping mechanisms and lifestyle choices in ourselves and our kids.

We fall down. We get back up. We try to use gratitude a lot: it’s hard for negativity to exist when you’re being glad about something. And we know what works (mostly) and what doesn’t. 

Our journey over the last three years, especially before we got the PTSD diagnosis, has not been easy.

But we have been learning how to celebrate in the midst of the storm, to throw up our hands and dance in the rain and wait for the promised rainbow.

(Photo credit Heathershelpers.org) ©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015

I would love to connect with you on Facebook and Instagram at My Pink Champagne Life or Twitter @MyPinkChampLife. Swing by and say hello!

Curve in the Road

Sometimes in life there are curves we can’t see around-that’s when we step out in faith.

Faith is a hard thing, a big thing. We like to see what’s coming around the bend so we can make our plans. Figure out what’s next. Get prepared.

But sometimes, we just have to be.

Are you in a hard place facing hard things today? You are not alone. 

I’ll say it again: You. Are not. Alone.

What is requiring a little more faith than you have today? 


(Photo credit Meredith Shafer 2015) ©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015

To All the Waiting Mamas

I hesitated to write anything around Mother’s Day, but after reading some lovely ladies’ blogs at My Perfect Breakdown and Waiting for Baby Bird (y’all should go check out their very poignant posts), I really felt it pressed in my heart to add to the discussion.

There are many roads to motherhood. I’m convinced there’s no one right way. I’m also certain that the path to and through motherhood is often full of pain and waiting.

And it’s the Mamas who are in the midst of the pain and waiting that I wanted to talk to.

You are important.

I know a lot of Mamas who are currently waiting. Waiting to hear from the adoption agency. Waiting to see if their fourth round of IVF has worked. Waiting to see if the vasectomy reversal is an option. Waiting to hear when their son in another country will get to come home.

I know Mamas waiting for test results, waiting for a phase to pass, waiting to hear from their kids’ fathers, waiting to hear from the adoptive parents, waiting to hear from their kids.

We Mamas, in all our forms, have the really tough job of standing in the gap for our children, often before they’re children: when our bodies fail us, when the adoption falls through, when the baby is born sick or isn’t born at all.

When the child isn’t home yet or we can’t be with them. When life happens and we just want to know why but probably never will.

This waiting we do as Mamas isn’t a wait the rest of the world understands because it is a waiting of the heart.

This is the hardest kind of waiting because you have to go all in.

100%.

Which pretty much guarantees that we will get our hearts broken somehow. At some point. In some way, probably unforeseeable to us at the time.

And yet we do it anyway.

This takes bravery on our parts. And faith that something good will eventually come out of the situation somehow. We wait even when we don’t know what else to do.

Mother’s Day has been a source of pain for me at various times throughout my grownup years. Even when I wanted to celebrate my own Mama sometimes it was difficult when I was in a place of waiting. 

Motherhood has not come to me easily.

And I wondered if I even counted as a Mama before I had a baby in my arms. Did it matter that I had a Mama’s heart with no baby yet? Could my waiting and my pain make any difference?

I believe it does.

Many become Mamas in their hearts long before their child is present. And on a day such as Mother’s Day when we’re all celebrating Mamas everywhere, this might cause pain for those Mamas whose hearts are full but arms are empty.

So to all the Mamas who are waiting-waiting for a phonecall or paperwork or their fertile days or a letter or email or hug or travel plans or to see their own Mamas again someday-you’re not alone.

I’m praying for all the Mamas in my life who are waiting for something. I’m praying for strength for you, for courage, expediency, protection and hope, and for all you need at this point in your journey.

Blessings to you, Waiting Mama, and Happy Mother’s Day-

  
(Photo credit brightboldbeautiful.com) ©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015

Saucy

 I love this picture.

This is a four generation span of family, my children with my Grandma Ginger, making her their great grandma.

She’s been one of my Sheroes long before I knew what a Shero was. She and my Grandpa were married for over 60 years. She was a Depression era kid. She found her inner artist at sixty and became a prolific painter, reminding me it’s never too late.

She’s funny-I mean tears rolling down your face funny. And smart. She and my Grandpa managed to put a couple of kids through college and retire, without fancy college degrees or investment brokers. And did I mention her love of shoes? It definitely runs in the family.

I dedicate a whole chapter of my book (which is on sale at Amazon for a limited time, just sayin’) to this lady. She’s one-of-a-kind, and even though my Grandpa passed on a few years ago and she’s lost a little of her spark without her other half, she’s still awesome.

And I’m so happy that she’s still going strong in her 90s. Yes, her 90s. (Doesn’t she look great?!) My kids are getting to know this treasure and getting to learn things from a woman who remembers when people still rode horses and when World War II took too many of our brave boys and when Civil Rights were introduced into law and when people landed on the moon. I could go on and on-she’s a walking history lesson.

But I’ll just say this lady is someone special to everyone who knows her. I wish that everyone could have a Grandma Ginger.

(Photo credit Meredith Shafer) ©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015

Betty

I’ve discovered I almost can’t have an emotion without writing about it and I’m feeling lots right now. We laid to rest one of the good ones today. The woman who was the matriarch of several generations, community leader and friend to many had a packed house at her funeral.

Stories were told, tears were shed, laughter was heard and music was sung. Everyone was so sad to see her go because she gave joy and food and mischievous smiles and help to everyone she met. But it still felt like a celebration.

That’s what happens when you live 89 years really well. People notice you and want to be around you because of that special thing you have that makes you shine from the inside out.

She was many things to many people. I connected with her because besides being related, she was one of my Grandma’s closest friends and she was an artist. She discovered her talent later in life, proving that late bloomers have their place too.

I had the privilege of painting with her and my Grandma at their little artist retreat. They called themselves the Pal-ettes and every Tuesday they fellowshipped together, shared a meal, talked, laughed and occasionally, painted. What they did for me was inspire: creativity, friendship, thirst for knowledge.

From the apples of her cheeks to her helping hands and giant heart, this lovely lady had a fine celebratory send off today. She is with my Jesus, the one I pray to, cry to, talk with. That blows my mind and makes me smile. She  has found her way home after a job very well done.

  

Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015

Something’s Gotta Give

We hit the ground running after our getaway this week. We’ve been back in our regular lives for 24 hours and I’m already tired. Lord love a duck, I’m tired!

Mr. Wonderful had a doctor’s appointment today, one of several that we have each week. More meds added. I wonder if there’s a limit to medication that the human body can handle. There must be, right?

And I worry. I’m not even the worrying type until I look at all of Mr. Wonderful’s meds and realize he’s only 35 and if we continue on this trajectory…well, I can’t even go there.

Today we decided now wasn’t the time for Mr. Wonderful to do school. That takes pressure off him but adds financial pressure to us since he won’t be receiving GI Bill help. It feels as if things are unraveling but I can’t find the thread to clip so the unraveling will stop.

I’m coming unraveled a bit myself. And right now my faith is worn. I had a moment-a tiny second-where I wanted to throw up my hands and cry Uncle! Enough! I have had enough!

The worry at all of our situations piled on the giant mounds of PTSD poo and kid demands and work overload-gah! I just feel like quitting.

Grrrrr.

I’m no quitter so this isn’t really a viable option. And there are a lot of things going right. I’m sure I’ll make a list of them soon. Right now I need to vent. Because I’m frustrated. Aggravated. Blusterphated. Ok I just made that last one up but I was on a roll there for a second.

I’ve resolved to tell the truth about my world, even when it’s not pretty. Even when there are ugly scars that still need healing. Wounds that need scabbing over. Bruises fading from black to that weird yellow because of the hits life takes at me.

The one thing that I have going for me is that even though I’m a hot mess right now, I’m Jesus’ hot mess. And I’m leaning on his promises that he’ll never leave me. And for today, that is enough. No answers, just promises.

So thanks for listening.



Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015