Cadence & Stryker

CADENCE

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527088_10151099683549410_1958231426_nThis is Mommy’s girl, Cadence. I found her listed at a rescue about an hour from here. She’s a Great Pyrenees who was born on Fort Leonard Wood where my cousin SGT Amanda Pinson took basic. It’s also where the training facility, named in her honor, stands: The SGT Amanda N Pinson Training Support Center

I have a picture of Cadence, her mom, and her siblings all together. She was born on April 3, 2010 which just so happens to be my Uncle’s Birthday. 

When we arrived at the rescue, they brought her out to me and we instantly bonded. I felt like she was meant for us because of her story and where she was born. Cadence is “my girl”, she rarely leaves my side and is quick to protect me (it’s a Great Pyrenees personality trait) should she feel there is any type of threat.

Don’t let the sweet looks fool you. While she is a mild-mannered furkid, she is also the family protector. It’s her breed instinct to protect our lives with her own, should she need to. 

She’s also very quick to pick-up on things such as knowing that my daughter should be protected at all costs. If my daughter goes outside to play, Cadence follows and won’t take her eyes off of her. If someone walks by she is quick to “stand guard” and let me know. 

She loves her Daddy and he’s her buddy. She saves the overly rugged playing for the two of them. I get all the cuddles and hugs. Yes, hugs…she actually hugs you back 🙂

STRYKER

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This is going to be our new addition to the family. We pick him up in 6 days. He’s already very special to us because of how he came to be our newest family member. 

When a soldier gives their lives during war, thus making the ultimate sacrifice, their family members are known as Gold Star family members. Stryker comes from a litter of 4 Husky’s of a Gold Star Mom. I met this Gold Star Mom through our foundation, the Missouri Military Memorial Foundation and she’s an absolute sweetheart. 

10806467_10152923695323055_9134835494594360396_nShe had posted on her Facebook that her Husky’s had puppies. When she told me the date of birth I had to smile. It was the birthday of my best friend who died years ago (December 7th). We began speaking about the puppies and she offered one to me. So, I talked it over with my husband who agreed that if we did take one, we would no doubt name it after our Gold Star Mom’s son, in his honor. 

Meet SPC Bradley Melton. Bradley was in the 1st Stryker Brigade 25th Infantry Division. So now you see how the name Stryker came to be. What’s even more interesting is it’s the 25th Infantry Division who caught the person responsible for killing my cousin SGT Amanda Pinson in Iraq. While Bradley wasn’t on that mission, he was still part of the Brigade. The more we figured out the more we know…Stryker was the one for our family. 

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As an added bonus, we also found out that the Stryker Brigade are known as the “Arctic Wolves”…the decision had been made. How much more fitting could it all be?

 

 

 

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I Adopted…a Soldier

I’ve been working social media before social media was given a name…or even an idea. I even designed websites via a WebTv. Yes, you read that correctly.

However, once you realize that you have a platform, you use it.  I use my social media accounts (I have plenty with all that I’m involved in) to spread the word about things that are important to me or simply things I like to share; relevant content is everything.

downloadMost of that turns into offline situations which keep me impeccably busy, but there are no complaints. Due to social media, I read a post made by www.SoldiersAngels.org on Facebook that grabbed me. They said they were looking for more people to “adopt a soldier”.

I was familiar with them already due to the fact that a few of their members presented my aunt and I with a poem and Army keepsake box when my cousin was killed in Iraq back in 2006.

mmmflogosmallHowever, my life quickly changed and next thing you know, I was working social media to spread the word not only about my cousin (to keep her memory alive), but to start spreading the word about the non-profit that my aunt started called the Missouri Military Memorial Foundation. We’re a grassroots non-profit and simply through various fundraisers that we hold each year we’ve raised a large chunk of money.

Four years later and I’m so proud of what my social media skills have been able to help accomplish (see: http://news.stlpublicradio.org/post/local-group-continues-efforts-honor-missourians-killed-iraq-and-afghanistan)

Yet, I needed something…more.

So then I became a Girl Scout Leader. Rewarding to say the LEAST. I was honored with the Girl Scout Leader of the Year award last year and will be completing my 5 year volunteer status this year.

Yet, I was still searching…what else could I do? Something for me, something rewarding and something that contributes to spreading good will. Then that ad popped up in my newsfeed and it was if some bright light popped up above my head, in all it’s cartoon fashion, and I literally said out loud, “That’s it!”

So I signed up to be…an angel. No giggles from the peanut gallery, please. A soldier’s angel, not the type with wings and a halo.

I read about different groups within this non-profit and found the one that suited my needs (i.e. what I wanted to contribute) and I registered for their “Ladies of Liberty” group. With this group I am able to pick a female in the United States Army, write her and send her random care packages about once a month.

And I’m doing so in honor of my cousin Sergeant Amanda Pinson.
Amanda
10451120_10153068808683055_1300672203022957453_nI was assigned my first sHERO today and already have the first package ready to go. While I can’t tell you anything about her (it’s the agreement you make when volunteering with them) I can tell you that she requested almonds, beef jerky and some good smelling bath soap.

Done. Done. And…done!

I’ve told her that I don’t need her to write back (they generally work LONG hours when deployed), but to let me know what she needs. I just know that I need to do this. It feels right. It’s the ‘good for your soul’ sort of therapy because I know my cousin would have done the same. Therefore, I still get to keep her memory alive and yet give to someone else in return.

It doesn’t get any better than that… or does it?

Since my post on Facebook (7 hours ago) about adopting a soldier, I’ve had over 20 people ask me how they can do the same. I sent them to the SoldiersAngels.org website. THAT is how you use social media. There is power behind actions of good and spreading the word about things that you believe in… you just have to be willing to put it out there.

 

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Missing our Angel in Fatigues

527088_10151099683549410_1958231426_nI watched a military movie on Netflix last night. I watch them from time to time, particularly the ones about our most recent wars. I’m just watching, enjoying relaxing and escaping out of my world…then, they show a scene that sent a shockwave through me. It reminded me of what happened to my cousin. Next thing you know, I’m crying. No, more like sobbing. It hit close to home.

No worries, I’m not sitting here all depressed, sad or gloomy – I just miss my cousin. I miss hearing her laugh. I miss her hugs. I miss hearing her say, “I love you, Jenny!”

It’s almost been 9 years. It’s not that I expect the grief to go away, but I find it peculiar how much it has become a part of me. I’ve lost others, but none stay as close to my thoughts as she does (NOT that they are forgotten, that’s never going to happen – I miss them all) – she’s just the one that’s always there.

I know I’m not the only one who feels this way, but I can only speak for myself. Others aren’t as open with how they feel as I am. Me? I just lay it alllllllllllll out on the proverbial table for the world to see tongue emoticon

All I know is this, I miss my cousin as much today as I did March 16, 2006. Truth be told, I missed her before that day. I missed her from the time she walked out my front door a few days prior to her deployment; we must have hugged 10 times and laughed how we got it honestly (from our family). But March 16, 2006 reminds me of the day we found out that she had been killed in action, of our loss and how life hasn’t been the same without her.

While I feel blessed that I am able to call SGT Amanda Pinson my cousin I wish that anyone that I’ve met since her passing would have known her because then, and only then, would they realize what the rest of us who did know her, lost that day.

She was special. She had a way of making everyone around her feel loved; truly loved. You never questioned her when she would say, “I love you!” – you felt it in your heart. You just knew she wasn’t lying, or throwing around those words at random…she truly loved you.

She had this amazingly huge heart and compassion for others. Her saying was, “It’s not about you”. It was never said to make you feel bad, but to make you realize that not everything was about you, your feelings about it, and how you would handle things. It was a simple reminder sans any judgement.

If someone did something wrong to her, she wouldn’t get mad. Where I would’ve handled it with PURE attitude — she would actually be sad – she didn’t like fighting with people she cared about. That’s why people adored her — they knew she truly cared, that she appreciated them. That’s hard to find these days.

I could talk about her for hours, but I’ll save you all the novella 😉 Just please remember her name, her face and her sacrifice; share her story. I know you hear/read people saying that all the time, but there’s a reason for it. We know what we all lost that day and we know if you knew her, you would feel the same.

She saved countless soldiers lives through her work in the United States Army. She deserves to be remembered for that… and for being who she was long before she enlisted. She was truly one in a million <3

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Communication is Fundamental

There’s a reason for this post…just keep reading: When I was younger I would instantly react to something with emotion. I wouldn’t take the time to “think it through”, at all. I just reacted with no concern for consequence.

The older I became, the more I realized that over half my problems were based on my instantaneous reaction, alone. It’s “easy” to react in emotion as we tend to get wrapped up in them as human beings. What we seem to forget is the perception of us, by others, that will make or break just how seriously we’ll be taken…or the respect earned/lossed. You can claim you don’t care what others think, but there are SOME people whose perception of you is important.

I was afraid that if I let anyone walk on me that I would be perceived as weak and for someone with my caliber of stubbornness…my reputation was to be protected at all cost. So if someone did something “wrong” to me – I’d jump all over them. I wouldn’t ask, “Why did you do that?” – I just went full throttle. Grown man or woman (once a girl straight out of prison) — I’d let them have it, it didn’t matter.

What I didn’t realize is how much that same stubbornness was actually defining my character…and it wasn’t positive. I was notoriously known for being a (wait for it)…”b with an itch” Blunt, brutal and with a “I don’t give a _____!” what anyone thinks mentality.
Over the years, I learned that communication was fundamental to not only getting things accomplished effectively, but also…respectfully. If I wanted to be treated with respect then I needed to act with respect. There’s no in-between resolution here, it was really that simple. Nobody listens to a lunatic with an attitude. What they’ll listen to is calm, rational communication.

So I started thinking things through, using objectivity and learning to communicate – it was like learning to speak all over again lol. The irony is…where I was once perceived as weak, because of those instant emotional reactions, I was then being perceived as strong simply based on of how I communicated (respect) and my reaction (calm).
I’m still learning and I’ll continue to – we should, life is a “mental evolution”. In the learning process, I’ve also discovered that each person is different and how you communicate with them may have to be adjusted accordingly. I also realized that no matter how nicely you say things to someone there will ALWAYS be people who look to be offended; that’s on them. I don’t coddle anyone. I’m still blunt, but I pick and choose my battles more… selectively. Let’s be real, there are just some people/situations not worth ANY reaction.

With all this said, there’s a reason for this post. Something happened about 5 months ago (it was business related) that almost triggered my past means of communication; it was bad. Instead of instantly reacting, I waited…5 months. Why so long? Because I was afraid if I didn’t wait, I would have resorted back to “that attitude” I had years prior.
I confronted someone today, calmly and respectfully, and she explained why something happened the way it did and that it had already been dealt with it accordingly. She also thanked me for coming directly to her and giving her a chance to explain before never doing business with her again.

Sidenote: I don’t want to give the wrong impression, there are those RARE times I will bring “her”, that amazingly stubborn, take no crap, version of me out. However, I save her for those oh so very special occasions; unfortunately she’s needed sometimes. Albeit, for the most part…I don’t need “her” as much as I did 10 years ago and I’m grateful for that. I could regret “her”, but without that mental strength/attitude I wouldn’t have found a way to grow even stronger. Everyone needs a good foundation. My past is mine. <3

Communication? is the best gift you can teach yourself and do for others. Be the change you want to see.

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It’s Not About You

I have a love/hate relationship with my mind. It tends to wander off into some sort of playground where it toys with things going on in my life, or around me, and evolves into a “Deep Thoughts” by Jack Handy type scenario. Albeit, with a little less humor attached. Thus, here we are…

I admit that when I was younger, pre-Mom years, I was quick to judge and fast to react. Over time, I gained a new perspective because it was beginning to dawn on me that my judgements and reactions didn’t always end up being the right ones. Yes, there was humility involved. I wasn’t ashamed, per say, but I was definitely awakened.

I slowly began to take my time in thinking things through and look at it from every angle imaginable.  Not everything in life can be figured out by thinking it through, but it surely offers an insight that you can’t get by reading a book…or a blog. Life experience is everything; wisdom if you will.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I have acquired all the wisdom I’ll ever need. No, in fact, there is so much more that I have yet to learn. However, the difference in me now versus who I was ten years ago and who I am today…significant.

I opened my mind, I stopped being so judgemental, and I began to take the time to think things through. Maybe it was the near death experience, maybe it was becoming a Mom or maybe…it was just the infinite wisdom we are all suppose to garner over our lifetimes. Perhaps, it was all of the above.

There are people who learn this lesson early in life…and there are some who never do.

You’ll see people working to better themselves on a physical level, but they rarely take the time to work out their brains. For some reason, the physical body has become more important than the mind, heart and soul. There are those who don’t bother working on either. They just stay stagnant over time and never really work to improve either.

Life is always evolving. Things happen in our lives that change who were, forever. Sometimes we notice the change and then there are the times that it creeps up on us before we even know what hits us.

Each person has gone through something that defines who they become. Yet, we are so quick to judge and tell people how wrong they are for thinking a certain way without knowing what has happened to make them feel this way. Take politics, for example. I learn more liberal, but I have some conservative values about me as well. Yes, it’s possible. Allow me to elaborate…

Democrats go up in arms when I say I’m pro 2nd Amendment. Why am I? Because there are men and women who died fighting for that right. Why did they fight? Obviously they wanted the freedom to do so. It’s American. Does it mean that I think just anyone should have that right? No, I don’t…and that’s where the fine line comes into play. Unfortunately there are no easy answers.

Republicans freak out when I say I’m pro-health care. Why am I? Because there are men and women dying everyday because they can’t afford insurance. Insurance companies who used to put a lifetime cap on our policies. Get cancer? Hope & pray your chemo works in a allocated amount of time (or money) or you’ll end up losing your insurance and the property (home or land) you were able to purchase, as an American, just trying to cover the bills that insurance no longer will. How is that opportunity? That’s just one example of why I’m pro healthcare. Does it mean that I’m in agreement with the entire policy? No, I’m not (I would have preferred single payer, but this was originally a conservative bill so we compromised — now they’re mad about it — oh, the irony). Unfortunately there are no easy answers to this either.

But both were allowed to offer opportunity to be free, to live and to prosper. THAT is American.

Listen, life is not about me. I’m not here alone. I “have” (I use that word lightly) to share this world with people of different backgrounds, religions, races, cultures, beliefs, etc. I enjoy that about America. My ancestors (I study my family history) came from different countries so it offers me opportunity to learn more…right here in my home country.

Which brings me to immigration. All this upheaval about those kids who walked into America from Mexico is just mind boggling. To those who are screaming, “Send them back”, “Get them out of here” — seriously? This is your solution? They’re kids! Where are you going to send them back to? And why you would send them back into a country ridden with drug cartels and murder? Would you do that to your own children?

If so, stop reading this post right now. We’re not going to see eye-to-eye on any level.

Is there not a better solution? There are families who are wanting to adopt children, badly. Can’t we see if they’re interested in adopting them? As far as I’m concerned, their parents violated their parental rights and freedom to decide what happens to their children when they sent them over the border. So let’s offer the children opportunity. After all, isn’t that what America is all about?

Isn’t that the same opportunity that our ancestors were offered? What makes them so different?

Yes, I fully believe in legal immigration, but not everything is as black & white as everyone likes to make it appear. We’re in a conundrum right now on what to do. It’s understandable. We don’t want it to appear that they can keep doing this and making it OUR problem, but we also just can’t slap a “Return to Sender” on these children and hope for the best. It’s morally unjustified.

This world, this country is not solely about you. It’s about us – together, as a whole. Human compassion and logic go a long way.

No amount of fighting amongst ourselves is ever going to change anything – it’s just not. Compromise is a beautiful thing and yet, we seem to be severely lacking it. Everyone is worried about “being right” and nobody is worried about “making it right”. Stop trying to make everything about your beliefs, your wants, your desires, etc. — it’s not about you.

I admit it, I tire of the general lack of human compassion. I tire of the blatant ignorance that people have no problem displaying and using God or country as an excuse for their behavior. That’s all it is…an excuse.

You can’t call yourself Christian and treat people so harsh because they don’t live up to your American values or simply because they aren’t American (reminder: neither were your ancestors). You just can’t.

I have Native American Indian in my bloodline, but I am not 100% Native American Indian — you’d be hard-pressed to find someday today who is.  Further, God isn’t American. He’s God. He says to treat people with compassion, understanding and love. Yet everyday people use his name to do the polar opposite. So why are you using him as an excuse to do so?

Not to go off on some religious tangent, but seriously — just think about that. Stop using his name to fight your personal agenda(s). Stop claiming Christianity to inflict emotional pain on others. And, for all that is holy, stop wondering why Christianity gets a bad name. THIS is why.

Open your heart, open your mind, BE CHRISTIAN and let’s find compromise. It’s not about you and no matter how much you try and make it seem that way, it never was. That’s where humility comes into play. Humble yourselves.

If you’re going to claim Christianity, don’t utilize it to further your personal agenda. You’re either Christian or you’re not. You don’t just get to claim it where you see fit. Well, you can, but if you’re Christian you’re well aware that you’ll have to answer to him someday.

Good luck with that…

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