Thursday, January 26, 2012

Uncle James ~ January 17, 1921 - January 20, 2012

At the young age of 5, I was introduced to the reality of what life brings...death. I lost my Great-Grandmother who to this day, I can remember so much about. From her voice, to the way she walked, and even to the scent of her being in the room. We lost her at 83 to Leukemia.

Following her death and her funeral, it seemed that a little too often I was faced with another funeral...always one right after another. One would have thought that as a child, I would become "numb" to death and to losing loved ones. Yet, I turned out quite opposite and at a very early age I learned that life is a gift and it can be taken at any moment regardless of age and that we as people must always cherish the moments that we have with one another.

Over the years, I have lost all but one of my grandparents, and at the age of almost 29 I am incredibly blessed to still have the most amazing woman ever still in my life, my Grandmother. This is the woman I would be horribly lost without and one that has always stood beside me and led me the right way in life. I have lost aunts and uncles, friends, teachers, cousins, and so many more. This past week (January 20 - three days after his 91st birthday), I lost my Great Uncle...

James Walker, my Great Uncle, lived an amazingly wonderful life, one that kept him surrounded by loved ones all the while teaching each of us the true meaning of family and holidays. He has been the backbone of our family (the Walker side) and has been one that we can each only strive to be like. He was the one that each of us learned so much from and one that has left us all with some of the most amazing memories. There is not a single reunion, holiday, or trip to Alabama that I cannot recall having Uncle James play a huge role in and leaving me feeling full of love and comfort in just being around him.

When I was younger, Uncle James and Aunt Mae (who passed away two years ago) lived in my Great Grandparents house (they passed before I was born, my dads grandparents) in Abernat, AL, where we spent many years at Christmas time celebrating surrounded by family. I have so many memories of this house and all the joy that it brought. I remember spending the night there during the summer months and waking up to Aunt Mae in the kitchen with her apron tied around her, making breakfast for everyone. Uncle James owned a store, James M Walker Grocery, that was literally in walking distance of his house, one that could be seen while standing on his property. I remember being young and full of excitement when he would walk us across the street and let us pick out a piece of candy. I can vaguely remember the smile that he would carry just to see the kids all happy.

This past Christmas I made the decision to tag along with my Aunt Jeanette and Grandmother as they made their annual Christmas. It was the first Christmas in eight years that I have been able to spend with my family, one that I will forever be grateful that I was able to spend. On the Monday after we arrived, I was able to spend awhile with Uncle James, Aunt Jeanette, and Grandmama.I was warned in the beginning that Uncle James may not remember me...yet he did. When I walked in, he looked at me for a moment, as though he was trying to place me. Like I said, it had been years. Aunt Jeanette told him my name and he said, "I know who she is. Brittney use to come to my house when she was a kid..." and he carried on from there. He remembered me. He kept me close to him while we were there, which of course I loved. It was nice to see him and spend some time with him.Yet, it also hurt because I could tell then he wasn't doing too well. I just never imagined that a month later he would be gone. While we were there spending time with him, we were able to take a picture of all of us, which I did happen to crop the photo to have one of just the two of us. I do still have the one of all four and it looks amazing!

Following a week in Atlanta, we headed back to Alabama for the Christmas reunion. There we ate dinner, played Dirty Santa and just enjoyed each others company the way a family should. Uncle James made his rounds, walking with his walker and he rested in his chair, often falling asleep. As Uncle James was getting ready to leave, I felt as though I would not be able to get in enough hugs and I feared that it would be the last time I would see him... Little did I know or even think that I would be back in Alabama the following month for his funeral. It all happened so quickly.

There is a place in me that will always feel empty with the passing of Uncle James. On January 23, 2012 we laid this amazing man to rest next to his beloved wife, Mae Walker, who passed a little over two years ago. Two days ago we smiled and we cried in reminiscence as we shared stories from the past and as we bid our farewells. I was once again reminded of how one family can hold on to one another in times of sorrow, all the while smiling in the celebration of ones long and amazing life.

My great Uncle James will always be one of the most amazing and admirable men that I've been blessed to know for all of these years. 

Thank you so much to the wonderful people that I have in my life that have stood beside me through this time! 

This photo was taken a little over one month ago, Dec 12, 2011 while I was in AL. He was one of the main reasons I made sure to go to the reunion. I had to see I'm even more glad I went and thrilled I have this photo that I can forever hold on to and cherish.

Uncle James' favorite song... one of my absolute favorite:

♪♫ Just a Closer Walk With Thee ♫♪

I am weak, but Thou art strong 
Jesus keep me from all wrong
I'll be satisfied as long
As I walk, just let me walk close to thee.

Just a Closer Walk with thee
Granted Jesus is my plea
Daily walking close to thee
Let it be, Dear Lord, let it be

When my feeble life is o'er
Time for me will be no more
Guide me gently, safely o'er
To they kingdom shore, to Thy shore

Repeat Chorus


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Painting with an Artist

My Aunt Beverly and Uncle Mike came into town for a few weeks right before Christmas and left just this past weekend. They stayed with Aunt Jeanette, who lives not even a full mile from us! We all had such a wonderful time with her and Uncle Mike and each one of us were sad to see them leave.

The week after Christmas her and the girls had an afternoon of painting, which turned out wonderfully! She taught the girls a lot of neat things with many tips when it comes to painting and each one chose something different to paint. Caitlin decided on Tiker Bell and Breanna on a Carebear.

 What many do not realize is that Breanna LOVES to paint and talks nonstop about wanting to do this as a living, so for her to have the opportunity to paint with Aunt Bev, who does this for a living, was amazing! Aunt Bev has been commissioned to paint not only all over the US, but places throughout the world! She has just recently released her first book, "Come Walk with Me, a Poetic Journal" which is fabulous and a MUST have! There are a few more books in the works that I will announce once they are ready for release. In her poetic journal, she shares 36 of her paintings as well as the poetry that she has written that flows so freely along side the art work. There is a sense of serenity when reading or simply flipping through this book. You can view her art work and blog, as well as order cards, a copy of her poetic journal, art, and more on her website at To stay better up to date, don't forget to "like" her facebook page as well as sign up to receive her newsletters! Her work is absolutely astonishing!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Taping the Pieces

It is now after midnight on 13 January 2012... This date holds one meaning to us, Kevin is officially retired from the army. Wow...I never thought I would say those words in less than ten years since I watched my husband sign the papers that led him into the army.

I wrote the above literally seconds after the clock turned to 12:00am. Today is now Monday, January 16 and it is the first moment I have been able to sit down and actually focus a bit. I was at a loss for words over the weekend as to what emotions and thoughts were running through me. And, to be honest, I am still at a loss over it all. Being medically retired from the army isn't like retiring on ones own. It isn't like just quitting a job. It isn't no longer being qualified because you have become lazy or addicted to drugs and wasted your time away. No, being medically retired from the army is honestly not an easy thing to do, yet after months and even more than a year of doctor appointments and briefings, the army decided that Kevin was no longer attainable because of the injuries he had sustained. Eight short years ago I watched him board a bus and head out to MEPS in Atlanta as everything I knew back them changed right before my naive eyes. Here it is, eight years and almost three months from the date he enlisted and within those years we have been through more than most will be of witness to in a lifetime. We have taken on more than one or a couple should, we have overcome more than anyone thought imaginable. My husband has literally lived in hell as he survived months in a war zone, on two separate occasions. He has not only lived in hell, he has been a witness to things that are worse than movies, he has had to do things and has seen things that still haunt him to this day, and will sadly always haunt him.

On many occasions I have stood there and listened to the horror stories that seem so surreal because as Americans we have a hard time imagining the truths of living in a hell such as Iraq. We struggle to see the outside world that exists away from the United States. We forget that even in our darkest of hours, we are still pretty blessed with just the sole fact of where we have been born. I have listened to my husband as he spoke of the reality of war and as he has told me numerous stories of the things he has had to do. Then I find myself consoling him because, no matter what he has had to do, he managed to bring his guys home. They my struggle with PTSD, TBI's, or some physical injuries, but they are home. I am not saying that every person he deployed with these two times made it back home, because they didn't and those men will ALWAYS hold a place in our hearts, just as their families will. They have never been forgotten and never will be. What I am saying is, the ones he led everyday into a fire fight, IED's, VBED's and much, more more, made it home to their families at the end.

As I write this I think of the question I have been asked too often... "Was it worth it". I struggle with an answer to this. How can I even begin to answer it? If I said "no" I would be lying, yet if I said "yes" I sound so heartless and bitter. Was it worth my husband being injured? Was it worth my family almost being torn apart? Was it worth all of the issues that are battled on a daily basis? Was it worth the fact that Kevin is permanently damaged or the fact that our children are growing up so much differently than most? Was it worth it for me to live life everyday watching the man that use to be so full of life battle demons every day and sadly, every night in his sleep? Was it worth all of this hell we have come to know and I suppose one could say "accept"? As crazy as this may sound, yes it was. What Kevin has done is something that selflessly less than 1% of our population can do and will do. It is people like him that keep the draft from tearing families apart. It is men (and women) such as my husband that should make every American stand tall and be proud to live in a country such as ours. It is the ones such as my husband that have earned the right to be titled as heroes... I look at my husband from the eyes of the woman I am today and could not be more proud of the man I married that has remained so full of strength and bravery. I could not be more proud of the man he is and all that he has sacrificed for not only me and our children, but for ones that don't even know him.

Even though I am proud of him, I do still find myself in a rage of emotions and anger because he has been so injured. I am 28 years old with a husband that is still in the first portion of 31. He should be enjoying life and living for the moments, not "scared" to sleep in fear of what the night terrors will bring or in panic while in unknown situations or constantly on the watch for threats or things that should not be present. I should not see him struggle to move around or be apart of things or even live life. So, does war make me angry? You bet your ass it does. It infuriates me that after acting so selflessly, so many are left broken into pieces that you may be able patch together briefly, yet you know they will always shatter within a matter of hours or if you're lucky days. I make every attempt to keep myself together during those bad days knowing that somewhere, there is a silver lining. And when I catch a glimpse of that lining, I run with it and enjoy every second I have because with the blink of an eye, that moment is over and I am left hoping for one more to shine through. Sometimes it takes weeks or more just to briefly catch that glimpse of "happiness" again.

People immediately assume that we should be thrilled that he has been medically retired. I mean, after all, there will be no more deployments or time away. I would take deployments all over again if it meant Kevin would return to me as the man he once was. Yet, we all know that is something that falls into a fairytale. One can dream, right? I am very relived that he will never deploy again. I am excited to look to the future knowing that holidays won't be spent alone and after eight years of not having my husband home for my birthday, in May I will finally have him home to celebrate it with me. So, yes, I am very thankful that he is home for good now, but it doesn't just make things better and it doesn't take away the pain. To those that may view me as anything except grateful from time to time, don't look at it that way. Instead, look at the smaller picture... Look at what war has left in my house. Look at the pieces that I am constantly battling to keep together. Look at the fact that things...everything... has changed in our house. Kevin is injured and there is nothing I can do. I can't wave a magic wand and make him better. There are things that time can't heal, there are things that are permanent.

With all the bad and all the struggles, we will get through it together. I can't put him back together as I so strongly try to do, but, I can tape up the pieces one by one and enjoy the moments that stay together while they do. When the tape dries out, I can slowly replace them with more and take life day by day, living for that moment we are in, holding on to every good one that we have, and live through any tough ones.

At the end of the day, this is our life and this is what we have been given. I am willing to take the bad to get the moments of good. As crazy as it may sound, those good moments can last me a lifetime. I hold on tight to the amazing glimpses of the old Kevin that like to shine through from time to time.

The past eight years has taught us more about life than many learn in 50. It has taught us the true definition of love, hurt, loneliness, bravery, and life. It has taught us what is worth fighting for and with, and what is just worth letting go. We have learned that it's the smaller things in life that can mean the most and that time is such a precious, precious thing to have. Tell the ones you love that you love them. There is no way to know when those words can never be uttered face to face again. Love the ones you are with and cherish the time you have.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Hotties in Hot Springs

On December 22, 2011 we graced Hot Springs, AR with our presence. When I speak of "we", I am referring to myself, Terri, Aunt Beverly and Aunt Jeanette. We left the husbands and children at home doing whatever it is that they enjoy doing!

We started the day off by eating at Fisherman's Wharf on Lake Hamilton. We had a gorgeous view, that started off as cloudy and rainy and turned into a nice sunshine kind of day. The food tasted wonderful and the conversations left the four of us in giggles and amazement.

Following our lunch on the lake, we parked in downtown Hot Springs, spending a few hours walking through the downtown strip area. For the first time, Terri and I were able to see the Bathhouses, whereas Aunt Jeanette and Aunt Bev have not only seen the bathhouses, but have also had the luxury of bathing in one! Aunt Beverly spent a few months in Hot Springs with her painting and has one of her pieces hanging in the Fordyce Bathhouse. I felt honored to be able to not only see the painting knowing that my amazing Aunt painted it, but to also see it while standing next to her was fabulous! I could not be more proud of her than I am. Not only is she an amazing artist, but she is a beautiful person inside and out!

We walked through the park area. Even with it being winter, it was still a beautiful walk! At many points I had to actually feel the water and how hot it was even though I could see the steam rising above it. I am sure to those that know me, it does not surprise any of you. After touring the bathhouse and art museums, we sat down at The Arlington Hotel for some yummy hot chocolate. We enjoyed the peaceful scenery inside the hotel and of course the conversations among ourselves.

As darkness rolled upon us, we drove to Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs to see the many Christmas lights and decorations they set up. The gardens hosted more than 18 million lights and was spread across 15 acres...that we had to walk through. It was a beautiful set up!

After walking the gardens, each of us were pretty worn out from a day of being nonstop. We stopped by Kroger for a Christmas turkey and then sat down to eat at Ruby Tuesday. Once our belly's were full and more amazing conversations were spoken, we headed home. On our almost two hour journey home, sleep would come and go for Aunt Jeanette and Terri, Aunt Bev and I would quietly talk, and at times I would have time to reflect on the day and all that I have been blessed with. I truly have two of the best aunts, who hold more of an aunt status to me, as well as the most amazing mother-in-law that I could ask for. 

Thank you for such a much needed and wonderful day, Terri, Aunt Jeanette, and Aunt Bev. The only thing we didn't do that day was have a photo taken of all four of us together! This means that there will have to be a next time!

Christmas in the Biddle House

This Christmas was by far, one of the best we have had in quite awhile! We were able to not only spend it away from the Army and the stresses of the Army, but also to be able to spend it with family for the first time in eight years was absolutely amazing! Since heading to Germany in early 2004, we have (sadly) spent every holiday away from family. This year, we were not only blessed to spend Christmas with Aunt Jeanette, Grandmama, Aunt Beverly, and Uncle Mike; we were also very fortunate to have Kevin's mom and dad spend the week before Christmas and Christmas day with us! We could not have asked for more, other than for my parents and both of our siblings (and now two nephews).

In the weeks before Christmas, the kids helped us to fill our house full of Christmas decorations. Nichols took it upon himself to decorate the tree one evening. Little did he know we had to redo it all because all the ornaments hung a tad bit too close to the ground.


Going into the second week of December, the five of us went to the college with Aunt Jeanette and helped her put up Scott's Christmas Tree and hang ornaments. The kids spent a lot of time running the sidewalk around the lake and admiring the other trees that had already been set up. For the past three years the college has allowed people to rent spaces for trees that are in memory of someone, or anything that the person chooses. For the past couple of years, Aunt Jeanette has placed Scott's tree from his apartment up in memory of the amazing life he lived. This Christmas marked three years and seven months since his death. If you have not followed our blog for long, I have written about his death on a few occasions. My cousin, Scott, lost his life May 25, 2008 (two days before his 26th birthday) when a drunk driver crossed the yellow line and killed my cousin on impact. In memory of him, his mom, my Aunt Jeanette, places his tree at the college for Christmas every year.

A couple weeks before Christmas, we celebrated Christmas at church with a "Hee-Haw" celebration. Fitting for out here, right? We weren't sure what to think at first, but all ended up having a wonderful time. Nic loved it because he was able to wear a "Cowboy" hat.

David and Terri arrived on Tuesday, real late, before Christmas with Kev's old John Deere riding lawnmower on a trailer, two leaf blowers, a weed eater, and a few other things as a surprise. Well, to say that we were surprised would be a full understatement. Kevin's eyes were filled with tears when he saw it all, just as mine were as I watched the expressions on his face.

Throughout the week, the kids found pure happiness and excitement in riding the lawnmower over our acre and a half property. While at the same time, it made all of realize how much they have all grown. In ways, it made me feel a bit sad as I realized the girls are far from babies now days. My how times have changed.

Throughout the week, Terri and ran all over Mena while she finished the Christmas shopping for her and David. It was much easier for Terri to finish things for the kids here versus in GA...especially since their truck was already loaded with goodies for the little Biddle's, as well as me and Kevin. Throughout the week, each one of the girls took a turn spending the night in the hotel with Grandpa and Grannie and having breakfast with them the following morning at Skyline Cafe in historic (downtown) Mena. Kevin and I have yet to eat there, but the four of them said it was fantastic and all enjoyed their meals!

On Christmas morning, David and Terri came over around seven in order to see the children wake up to Santa's gifts. The kids were enthusiastically surprised and overjoyed with their gifts. Each child received a bike, skateboard and small goodies placed around their bikes. We all spent a few hours taking turns opening gifts from everyone that was here, as well as family in Georgia and North Carolina. Thank to everyone that sent gifts!

Christmas afternoon, we ate Christmas Dinner at my Grandmother and Aunt's house. We opened gifts with everyone there and all enjoyed the family time we were blessed to have with one another.

To all that spent Christmas with our family, we thank you. Thank you for being here and for making our Christmas more than we could have imagined. We are immensely blessed to have each of you in our lives.

From our Family to Yours, we hope each and everyone had a wonderful Christmas!