Sunday, April 14, 2013

Oh the treats of a retreat!

About two weeks ago (or maybe more) I had the extreme privilege of being invited to the annual Operation Home front’s Hearts of Valor retreat, this time held in sunny San Diego at the San Diego Resort and Spa. I traveled with my fellow warrior wife, and good friend Jane M, which pretty much started this incredible weekend with laughs and much needed stress relief.  For all that are new to my blog, I rarely refer to my friends by their actual name here. Instead- since I call our brood the anything but plain Jane’s- you’ll see me reference them as Jane [+ the initial of their first name].

The resort was phenomenal; great catered food, impressive suites, to-die-for spa and Jacuzzi, and ultra-plush amenities, made our weekend trip, the ultimate weekend getaway!

Photos courtesy 
Not only were the amenities amazing, the activities and speakers on the agenda planned by the miracle workers of H.O.V, were incredible and so uplifting. Our keynote speakers on night one were a CSM with PTSD and his lovely wife. They definitely didn’t hold back as they recalled the rocky trails their relationship experienced while navigating this ever so twisty road of marriage and PTSD. I tell you, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house after they were done speaking. I know for me, hearing out-loud the very same emotions that I have felt for now 7 years, spilling out of the mouth of another woman in my very same shoes, gave me such a feeling of emotional support. It was great- knowing that I wasn’t crazy for feeling angry, distant, and protective of myself and my kiddo- and helped me to not just hear but truly know that I’m not alone. So moving and powerful!

The rest of the weekend wasn’t as intense, but was still just as powerful. We had classes each day that covered everything from VA benefits, intimacy, journaling, money management and then some. We also had lots of downtime, which included free facials and massages courtesy of the remarkable resort and H.O.V, a bon fire on the beach, relaxing poolside (either in the private cabanas or overlooking the beach), and Jacuzzi time. I can tell you from my experience, that this retreat was a life saver. I had reached my ‘burn-out’ phase, and having a moment to myself, some much needed r&r, and building connections with an amazing group of women, who are turning out to be really incredible new friends, was just what I needed to get me back to being me, and providing me with the tools to help me get through the challenges that life with PTSD and TBI afford . 

To all of you Combat Veteran Wives, I definitely recommend you join Hearts of ValorFor me the retreat was much needed indeed, but more than that, what I got out of this amazing weekend was much more than I ever expected. It allowed me the greatest gift I’ve ever been given…peace. At a time where my entire life seemed to be rooted deeply in chaos and stress, the bonds and friendships, resources and information, and time to decompress that this retreat gave me, I know I will be forever grateful for.  For all of you out there struggling on your own- don’t! Join, talk, get it out ladies. Just know that you’re not alone.

Strongest women I know!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

March Rewind

I’m trying out a new monthly re-cap, which I will post at the end of each month just to summarize any good resources, events, daily happenings, or funsies I was able to uncover. I’ll try to keep it from becoming too convoluted to read the entire port; but if it does, please excuse my rambling, and next time will be better.

Here goes!
March in photos
Me and my beautiful ladies at the Hearts of Valor San Diego Retreat

March in one word

Quote you lived by in March
“Take ownership of the energy that you bring into a room, as well as the energy that you allow others to take from you.”- Oprah

Song(s) in heavy rotation on your iPod in March
Hold On by Alabama Shakes
Radioactive by Imagine Dragon

3 personal accomplishments in March
Increased exercise by 60%
Officially knocked out ¾ of my debt (100% debt free by 30 here I come!)
Soda/sugar free for entire month

Most popular blog post in March
This is kind of pathetic since I hardly blogged in March, so….
3 important WW resources found in March
National Caregiver Support Line (TBA in upcoming post)
Wounded Warrior Family Support (Ditto)
VA Benefits for 100% disabled combat veterans (ditto-o)

3 awesome things you did in March
Hearts of Valor Retreat San Diego!
Magic Mountain with the kiddo
Day trip to Ojai with the hubby!

*Shout Out!* Favorite WW resource blog for March

Top 5 March Obsessions
Benefit “Bad Gal Lash” mascara (but really, Benefit cosmetics in general)
Gin Wigmore’s album, Gravel and Wine
Mindy Kaling- The Mindy Project. Seriously, how are we not BFF’s by now???
Trips to my local Farmers Market
Alabama Shakes

March Reads
Here I Go by Jen Lancaster
Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

Things I’m looking forward to in April
Temecula Wine Country trip with my girls!
LA Times Festival of Books

March Pearls of Wisdom

March came and went with quite a few unexpected problems. The usual exhaustion, issues getting appointments at the VA for the hubby, and wearing multiple hats of wife, mom, cook, nurse, and fulltime employee were all to be expected. Becoming an overnight foster parent (for reason that I won’t go into) on the other hand, quite literally threw the hubby and I into a tailspin of frustration and chaos. Somehow with each issue that was thrown at us, and each issue that we safely dodged, one of my Grandma’s most recognizable quotes kept coming to mind, and pretty much became the theme of March.

My Grandma (Grammy as we call her), would always tell me that strength -true strength- doesn’t evolve from struggles you face, it evolves from the way you handle yourself through the struggle.

Smart one that woman is I tell you.

I remember being 10 years old, and running to her house one day after school, tearing through her front door to immediately fall into her arms sobbing hysterically. My face, completely saturated in my own tears, and distorted from what Oprah calls “The ugly cry” due to an entire afternoon of hard core teasing, when my always affordable payless brand shoes quite literally fell apart during a strenuous game of flag football. You see, my mom was on a very tight single mom with two kids budget, so we couldn’t afford the stylish kicks that all the other kids had. Of course- having a flair for the dramatics at that age as I did- I was convinced that my life at school as I knew it was over, and swore to never return until all the Curella’s (a term that I use for mean girls) ceased to exist and proper balance was restored. Oh wishful thinking…

Well, Grammy wasn’t having any of that. She swiftly pulled me up by my chin, looked me in the eye, and said in her deep southern voice, “Child, there will be plenty more to life to be hurt over than some silly kids teasing about your shoes. There is nothing wrong with where you buy you shoes from, and if they don’t like them they need to buy shoes for you then. Either way, we don’t run from our problems in this house, we face them head on. If you get in the habit of running, you’ll be running for the rest of your life.”

Grammy believed that how we choose to handle our struggles is what makes the difference between truly overcoming them, and being stuck in them. Instead of sulking and wallowing in the things that I can’t change- the things that I feel have forever changed my life- I can choose to get up and keep moving forward to make my new path work for me. Instead of complaining about the things that I don’t have, I can choose to make the absolute best of what I do have (and pardon my French, rock the shit out of them). Instead of reciting like a broken record, how unfair these challenges that I face are, I can choose to embrace the fact that regardless of the struggle, I have the resources, fortitude, and capability to get through them. That’s what she meant by strength being determined by how you choose to handle what life throws at you.

It’s almost amusing that now- after hearing her say this all those years- I finally understand the depth behind her words. I can definitely say that being a wounded combat veteran wife, certainly comes with it’s fair share of struggles, but for the first time ever, I can also say that I am truly say my strength grows each day because of them.