Sunday, June 10, 2012

Brothers Of The Sun Tour

Last year I was driving home from work and heard on the radio that Kenny Chesney was getting ready to announce a summer tour and it was rumored that he would be in Dallas on June 6. That night I jokingly said to my mom and sister that it's rumored Kenny Chesney is coming to visit for my birthday next year so I think it only fitting that I take the day off to see him, since he's making the special trip and all. I was totally joking and didn't really think much more of it. When the tour dates were announced it was Tim McGraw AND Kenny Chesney and it was scheduled for June 9... Holy Cannoli that's awesome, but I have NO money to go. Much to my surprise my sister and brother in law got me 2 tickets for Christmas AWESOME. I put the tickets in a safe place without even looking at them (I didn't want to misplace them). Well 2 nights ago I took them out to see where the seats were and where we were supposed to park and that's where it all began, Club Level Seats Section 312 Heck Yeah, parking in Lot 10 VIP, Suites parking... Double Heck Yeah.

And so it begins, We got there at 2:15 (doors were at 3:30) and walked up to an already forming line of people. Being the "Disney" people that we are we noticed that there were 3 poles to line up at by our door and people were only lined up at 2 of them, OK you all want to wait in the Sun fine, so George and I started the 3rd line, Really people this isn't rocket science but thank you. We were the first ones in to our section and had AMAZING seats. The view was awesome, the seats were larger than typical stadium seating and leather. We had access to the clubs so there were several concessions locations just waiting for us. As we headed up to get some food this couple walking ahead of us stopped to take a photo and an usher asked if she could take it for them to which the gentleman replied "I use to work at Disney I am so used to being the one to take the picture"... I stopped and said "SO did we", well that turned into a conversation in "Small World"Land. He worked there at the same time George and I did and we have mutual acquaintances, of course we do!

The Brothers of the Sun Tour was AMAZING. It was almost 7 hours long, by far the longest concert (short of Livestock), I can not even begin to tell you that this concert was worth every penny (yes I know "I" didn't pay for it but). Jake Owen went on stage around 4:30pm and much to my surprise, I knew who he was. LOL The name didn't ring a bell but I definitely knew his songs. He put on a really good show and had one SUPER hot guitarist :-) He was fun, playing with the crowd, signing autographs, and taking peoples cameras laying on the floor in front of them and taking pictures with them. The set changes were amazingly quick with Grace Potter taking over around 5:45pm. I must admit I didn't really like Grace Potter, for her style music she put on a great show... just not my style. Then it was time for TIM... Oh Tim, I love Tim McGraw! I have such a special place in my life for Tim McGraw. Kenny Chesney says Music brings people together and there is always certain songs that bring back memories... Well Tim McGraw has a lot of them for me, the most significant being "When The Stars Go Blue" (which he did not sing), as that was the song that was on in the operating room at the time Bryce was born. I also have a very special memory of Tim from my Disney Days that always makes me smile. I was working Parade and was on the bridge by the VIP section. Tim and Faith were on the bridge with their girls. At the time the Day Parade made Parade stops so the kids could come out and play with the characters. When the float stopped they came and took the girls to come and dance and Tim jumped up with them and became the cutest dad I have ever seen... he was laying on the ground, rolling in the grass, everything he needed to do to get the perfect photos of the girls being a part of the parade. It was so sweet! Sorry side tracked. Tim put on an excellent show and Looked AWESOME (somebody has been working out). He was so interactive with the crowd, signing autographs as he passed by taking pictures etc... The funniest part was he had his microphone stand at the very end of the stage and he had wondered back to the band during a solo. As the song was ending the roadie was going to get the stand and he raced him all the way to the end of the stage to grab his microphone before they took the stand and then raced him all the way back. I must admit that George knows me well, he was in charge of the camera and almost ALL of the pictures are of Tim :-) Kenny Chesney was awesome too. He is very energetic, smiles ALL the time and just really seemed to LOVE what he was doing. I can't even imagine having the amount of energy that Both Tim and Kenny have. They were ALL over the place, it is so awesome to see people that really truly enjoy what they do for a living. I hate to say that we left early but, we did. We knew that the encore was going to be Kenny and Tim jamming together and I really wanted to see them together, but I just couldn't do it. After working 6.5 hours and then 7 hours of concert I was TIRED so we left just before the encore. But just before we left Kenny sang "The Boys of Fall" and brought Jason Witten on stage (Dallas Cowboys Tight End) which was SUPER funny. Kenny (5'6" became a Munchkin straight out of Munchkin land next to Jason (6'6")... LOL he really didn't seem short until Jason came out, but I guess next to him everyone is probably short.

And what would a social outing be without "People watching" so here are some of the fun stories that make me laugh. First I must say, if you have never been to a Country Music concert in Texas you just have no clue how funny it is. We saw Rascal Flatts in Tampa and while I saw "some" cowboy boots nothing compares to a Texas concert. People literally dig into the back of the closet to pull out their "OMG we are going out" outfits. Not a lot of Cowboy hats but the boots and the ridiculous hoochiemomma outfits find their way into society, it is an awesome time for the "people watcher". Then there were "The Twins". This party of 3 sat in front of us, I would say early 20's (they were drinking but didn't look too old). At first it seemed like the Girl and one of the boys were together but it soon was determined, by profile view, that they were actually twins (or at least brother and sister) and their friend, who was perhaps the designated driver. Well the twins were SO funny, they were dancing like they were the only ones in the stadium, they were singing every single word to every single song.. TO EACH OTHER, not watching the concert, they were drinking and getting sillier as the night went on, while their "friend" sat calmly and watched the show, almost as if he was not with them. They were really cute but SO funny. Even funnier (and yes we video taped her) was "grandma" rocking it out 2 rows behind us. TOO funny! I love people that don't care who's watching, just enjoying themselves. AWESOME.

This was an amazing evening. It was full of laughs, memories, and good times. I really enjoyed every moment of the evening and am SO thankful that my sister listened to my craziness and took me seriously. I am so glad that George came with me, even though it's not really his kind of music. I am so thankful for an evening to "Escape Reality"

"Reality, yeah, Sometimes life
Ain't all it's cracked up to be
So let's take a chance and live this fantasy
'Cause everybody needs a break from Reality"
~Kenny Chesney "Reality"

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Celebration of Life

It is amazing how prevalent the little Purple monkey has become in our lives. This past weekend we went to Florida to host a 6th birthday party for Wade. We ended up having 16 kids at the party which was really awesome. I love watching kids, some of which have never met, run off together and start playing, not a care in the world. I love that even though we had no toys available at all they found creative games to play and had a BLAST.

So, Purple Monkey, you ask... well yes, the Purple Monkey came to the party unexpectedly as well. You see my life long friend Amy has a 5 year old and 3 year old triplets. On the way to the party they stopped at McDonald's for Happy Meals (something I am told they never do). The triplets all got the same little Dalmatian Dog in their Happy Meal but not Madison... NO Madison got a Purple Monkey :-) As they arrived to the party it was obvious they were all toting their new toys, but I don't think anyone really realized what Maddy had. About an hour into the party I was running around taking pictures when it hit me ... it's a Purple Monkey...and the eyes welled up with Tears... Thank you Bryce for making your presence known at Wade's Birthday! It meant a lot to everyone <3

We are quickly approaching Bryce's 3rd Birthday (March 2) and I would like to ask everyone to consider donating $3 (or however much you would like) to my friends at Cirque Du Soleil. The touring show "Ovo" will be holding their 2nd Cirque Du SoBald Shave for St Baldrick's (the same foundation the 46 Mommas supports) in April. I thought this would be an excellent way to honor Bryce's life... by helping raise money to find a cure!

The sparkle of light, the whisper of wings
the fleeting touch that an Angel can bring,
will bring you guidance and surround you with love,
with the comforting presence that comes from above.
A feather, a coin or a butterfly in view,
can also be signs you have Angels with you.
Acknowledge their presence, trust in their care,
and thank them for showing you that they are there."

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Random Acts of Bryceness

There was a time in my life where I sat and watched John Edward talk about the after life and people watching over their loved ones while he was doing "readings" on a talk show and thought... Hmmmm that's interesting, but there's got to be more to it, he couldn't possibly be "talking to spirits"... I'm starting to believe that he might just be on to something.

I have shared several stories about what I have come to call "Random acts of Bryceness". First there were the text messages at 2am which allowed me one more goodbye before he passed away (at 3:45am). Followed by Shannon and "The Purple Monkey", there was the Book of Hope falling off the top of the boxes when I was having a really hard day, My onion in my salad making the perfect "cancer ribbon" on my fork at Chili's and the song "He's My Son" playing on the radio while I was having a meltdown at the Dr's office. Well... I have another story to share from yesterday as well as one that happened a little bit ago that I never shared.

In December we did the same vacation that we did with Bryce as a family in 2010. We went to Disney World and on the Disney Cruise. Castaway Cay (Disney's Private Island) is kind of our "solace" as Bryce truly loved it there. We don't have a grave site to visit so the hammock that he laid in on Castaway Cay is our "special place" and we were looking forward to going there to be in our little piece of paradise. When we arrived to Castaway Cay Betsy (George's sister) found a cat... totally random right. A Cat on an island in the middle of the Bahamas that is visited only by Disney Cruise Ships. Betsy and Wade sat and played with the Cat for awhile as we wondered where this random cat came from. We continued on with the day and spent some time laying in Bryce's hammock, looking at the sky and just being "in the moment" before we headed back to the ship. A few days later, talking to friends of ours, we mentioned the cat and they said "Oh yes, that's Casey" My heart stopped and I said to myself OF COURSE it is... See, in the book "Heaven Is For Real" (if you haven't read it I highly suggest it) there is a part of Colton's journey where he tells his mom that he met his sister when he was in heaven, a sister he didn't even know about as she was a miscarriage. When his mom says "What was her name" Colton replies, "She doesn't have one, you never named her". That really hit my heart and stuck with me. A couple months ago George and I had a miscarriage and I said we HAVE to name the baby, remembering this part of the story it was not an option the baby HAD to have a name. The name we choose...KC. So here we are on Castaway Cay, our place of solace to relax and remember Bryce and the Island Cat's name is Casey... Of course it is, why wouldn't it be :-)

On to yesterday. George has been having problems with his shoulder. It's been bothering him lately so he went to the Dr to have it checked out. His blood work came back normal and the X-Ray showed nothing so they set up an MRI for it. It could be anything but of course everything runs through your head. As we arrived at the MRI yesterday George was like, I shouldn't be worried it's probably nothing but.... so I could tell it was getting to him. Not 2 minutes after he was called back the front door opens and in walks a husband and wife. As they approach the counter I can not help but think "I know this guy". As soon as the women said her name to check in it hits me it's Sonny Burgess.... OMG really Bryce, Really!!! Sonny Burgess is a Nashville Recording Artist that just so happens to live locally and frequents Cook Children's Hospital. When Bryce was in the hospital Randy Travis, Charlie Pride, Gloria Barron, Jolie Holiday and SONNY BURGESS performed a Christmas Show for the kids. It was a great day for us as Bryce was able to come down from his room and enjoy the event. It is a memory that George and I hold very dear to us... and here at the very moment when we are trying to figure out what is wrong with George's shoulder and a little "on edge" about the MRI, in walks Sonny Burgess... I have to admit, I cried! I sat there trying to be calm and not make a scene, but tears started rolling down past the giant smile that was on my face as I said to myself "thank you Bryce, thank you".

George asked me the other day if I think maybe we are reading too much into these "Random acts of Bryceness" if maybe we want them to be signs from heaven when really they are just coincidental... I said NO. If ever I doubted before... I truly believe now!

"It's not your imagination - sometimes a "coincidence" comes with a lot of Angelic effort."

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

An Angel Reaches Down to Comfort

As we grow closer to Bryce's 1 year "angel"versary I have been having a really hard time functioning. Friday he will be celebrating one year in Heaven. While I know he is surrounded by greatness, it still hurts to think he has been gone from us for a whole year... ALREADY! Another mom said it perfectly today " Somehow over the last 12 months, time has continued to move on at its usual high speed with no regard for the fact that I haven’t kept up with it." ... exactly, who said that time could pass so quickly? The past few days I have felt a huge weight, a sadness so heavy that I can't do anything to shake it. Yesterday I was scheduled to work a double shift. I was at such a low I was not able to focus... I could barely function and decided it would be best if I went home, so I left at 3pm unexcused absence... but it was the best decision for my personal/emotional well being.

This morning my mom and I went to the Dr, the real purpose of the visit was for my mom to get some prescriptions renewed but she made me go with her so that I could ask about getting some type of medical leave or FMLA set up. We wanted to see if there were any options available. We are very close to our family DR so she is very aware of what has been going on and all the stress our lives bring... Right as she handed me a tissue to wipe away my tears Bryce put his hand on my heart and said "mommy it's ok"... You see at that very moment, right when we were talking about his 1 year "angel"versary and how hard it has been for me... I heard, ever so faintly, over the conversation, the radio from the hallway, and stopped mid sentence... I said "shhhhhh"... my mom and the DR both thought I was nuts as I started to cry and then got a great BIG smile and said... Everything is OK, I am OK.... You see the song that was on was "He's My Son" by Mark Schultz. It is a song that we used at Bryce's funeral and a very powerful and emotional song.... One that I have NEVER EVER heard played on the radio... One that I never expected to hear on the radio... and here it was right then, right there, right as I was having a meltdown and trying to figure out how to make the heartache bearable... Like a Purple Monkey (for those that remember the Purple Monkey story) coming right out of Heaven and saying ... "Mommy it's ok, you're ok, I'm here with you" Yes Bryce... You are here with me Forever and Always!

For those of you that might not be "believers" or have a hard time finding "faith" What can I say... No matter how you look at it we have had so many "moments" since Bryce passed away, moments like this that can't be explained other than to say ... An Angel (our angel) reached down to comfort us... AGAIN!

God not only sends special angels into our lives, but sometimes He even sends them back again if we forget to take notes the first time! ~Quoted in The Angels' Little Instruction Book by Eileen Elias Freeman, 1994

"He's My Son" by Mark Schultz
(for those that have never heard it)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Oh Holidays... you plague me so... BUT at least Starbuck's will keep me smiling!

They say that the Holidays are the hardest time of year, I never really understood that before, I LOVE the holidays. You get extra family time, there is a chill in the weather (maybe even snow), people get very festive with decorations, You get holiday pay, Starbucks has the best coffee options ever... what more could you ask for? This year, short of the fabulous Starbuck's flavors I can't wait for the holidays to be over. My heartaches so much... We will start with Halloween...

I started getting anxiety over Halloween a few days prior. Wade was so excited about going Trick or Treating; he was going to be a Fireman...again... and could not wait to go get some candy. Thoughts of last year came rushing back, taking Bryce for the first time, watching him "help himself" to everyone's candy bowl and not being scolded because everyone thought he was so adorable. I started getting a little stressed over the whole event but Wade was so excited so... As we are getting ready to head out Wade asked for his pumpkin bucket instead of his bag, I grabbed the pumpkin and he turned to me and said "this is Bryce's pumpkin Momma, mine has the Mickey Ears". Deep Breath, yes indeed it was Bryce's Pumpkin. We had a great time Trick or Treating, the whole family and suddenly George stopped and said "which house is Shadow", Oh I had forgotten about Shadow... as we started to walk up the driveway I said "George this is it, are you ok". See last year when we went to this house the family’s dog "Shadow" came to the front door and ran right up to Bryce who proceeded to plop down on the ground to play with him. Shadow's owner was shocked, explaining to us that Shadow is a rescue dog and shy's away from everyone, he will come to the door but usually hides behind him he never "goes out to greet people" and here he was sitting with Bryce. As Shadow came running to the door this year, he followed suit... ran to the door wagging his tail got all excited until the door was opened and then shy'd back! Another Deep Breath!!!

Now as we head into the heart of the holidays my heart hurts! I am so thankful for the things that I have. I am thankful for George and Wade, for my family and my awesome friends. I am thankful that we have jobs, a house, cars and clothing. I am thankful that Bryce was able to make such a huge impact in so many lives and I am SO thankful that I was chosen to be his mother! But I am a very broken hearted Mommy. I miss my baby so much and I am not sure how I am going to get through this next couple of months.

Last year we took the kids to Disney World and on the Disney Cruise the first week of December, which would turn out to be our last family vacation. Upon return to Texas Bryce was admitted to the hospital where we spent the next 22 days praying for a miracle that never came. I don't know how I am going to be able to get through this... Most people have a single day, the day that their loved one passed away; most people don't have to live with the agony of knowing that it's coming but not knowing when. December 15-Jan 6 were the worst days of my life... the most agonizing and heartbreaking moments a parent could ever go through. Watching your child slowly slip away from you. Hoping for a miracle but knowing that even Hope had no "hope" here.

Tis the season and we are trying to figure out how to make it a good Holiday full of new memories and lots of love. My friend told me yesterday that it may take a little time but at some point you will give yourself permission to be happy again. Right now it's still very fresh as you are hitting all the firsts... but you will find a way to make new memories and move forward in life without feeling like you can't because Bryce isn't with you. With that said we have decided to go on the Disney Cruise again this December. We know that Wade will LOVE it and it is the Disney Dream so it will be an all new ship for George and I. A start to new happy memories on the very day that our world was rocked to the core! Bryce... I promise to find your hammock on Castaway Cay and take a moment to be thankful for everything you taught me! I love you Monkey...

Everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn. ~Elizabeth Lawrence

Monday, October 17, 2011

Disney's Aulani Resort and Spa, sounds amazing right. Disney building a hotel in Hawaii the perfect match. I can not even begin to tell you all the beauty of this place. Disney has outdone themselves by far with this property. George and I had pretty high expectation, as we usually do, and Aulani exceeded every single one of them. It is amazing, beautiful, breathtaking, fun, way more than either of us could have ever imagined. I will start from the very beginning..

The drive over to Ko'Olina from the airport was very easy, the roads are marked well and the directions are very easy to follow. For my DVC friends there is a Target, Costco, Denny's,Outback Steakhouse, McDonalds along with some other stores that I don't recall at the exit just before Ko'Olina so you can stop and get your grocery shopping done before heading over to the hotel. As you come off the highway into Ko'Olina it is simply beautiful. They have a security guard at the entrance that will ask which resort you are checking into and then he will check the list and give you directions, this was really the "call ahead" that we were on the way in. As we pulled up the Valets opened the car doors with "Aloha Mr. and Mrs. Raub".... Ooooooo nice touch. You are then greeted by a Cast Member that gives you Leis and a small tour of the lobby area, with a little history as they walk you to the front desk (yea don't know how but George and I missed them and they came running up to the front desk to give us our Leis as we were checking in apologizing profusely that we managed to slip passed them).

The hotel itself is stunning. Much like everything else in Hawaii it is Open Air. They have huge glass doors that fold away as if they were never even there. When you are standing out front in the valet loop you can look straight through to the back of the hotel and the breeze that comes through is amazing. There are no words for the lobby, it is breathtaking, the breeze is amazing, there is a lot of history brought into it and lots of separate seating areas for lounging. Take some time to just relax and enjoy the lobby atmosphere it is really awesome.

We had a 1 bedroom Villa on the 14th (ok well 13th but...) floor 1458 and it was beyond words. We had gone to Disney's Saratoga Springs and seen the "rooms" so we knew what to expect but you just can't "know what to expect" when you add in the amazing views. The 1 bedrooms are set up to sleep 5 but the 5th bed is ingenious... You have the typical King in the bedroom; Pull out sleeper sofa in the living room BUT... the hidden bed, that was very well thought out. The Entertainment Unit in the living room has 2 handles on it and a single bed foldsout from it, Didn't see that coming! The rooms are set up slightly different than the 1 bedrooms at WDW and are a little larger, the kitchen cabinetry is beautiful and George and I liked that the dining table was a wrap around bench with 2 extra pull out seats rather than having a bar top. In keeping with the Hawaii open air theme, the sliding glass doors have screens on them, nice touch!!!! Our view was AMAZING. We looked out over the pool and the ocean and had a great view of sunset.

Oh the pool... Move over Yacht and Beach Club your baby sister Aulani is giving you a run for the money. The pool is unbelievable. There is a lazy river with a plethora of tubes, single or double that you can float around. They have 2 slides, one you ride on the tube (again double or single) and one that you don't. There are several spas through out but the coolest on is an infinity spa at the back of the resort that over looks the ocean. There is also an actual pool behind the lazy river and an adult pool completely separate from it all. As for the kids section, what can I's Disney... awesome!! It was so cool looking George kept saying we needed to bring Wade back with us cause he was his "ticket" into the kids section... LOL... Also in the pool area is the Sting Ray area where you can go and feed them as well as Rainbow Reef where you can snorkel with the tropical fish *Rainbow Reef is an additional fee but was a pretty good deal for the length of stay pass* My only complaint about the pool was, it is for Aulani guests only so you have to show your room ID and get a wristband everyday. I like this BUT the location to get the wristbands is not a central location and kind of a pain in the butt. You have to go through the pool area and around to the back where they give out the towels to get the wristband, it was just kind of annoying having to walk past the pool and back around to get them but hey, if that's my only complaint we are doing good. Also behind the pool is a shared lagoon which was really nice too if you like the swimming in the ocean.

Food... hmmmmm... We were a little, ok a lot, disappointed with the Buffet. Not the food but the price. The food was REALLY good, but the cost per person was a little outrageous for a buffet. The restaurants were all really good and the quick service (while not so "quick") was exceptional. And don't forget to get Shave Ice... The station is by the pool by where you get the wristbands, they are huge and super Yummy! Across the street from the hotel is a new shopping area that has food too, Ko'Olina Station. It just opened so there were only a few shops open right now but here they are, "Just Tacos Mexican Grill" , "Hawaiian BBQ", "Island Country Market Deli" and "Two Scoops Ice Cream". We ate at the BBQ and I will say you can pretty much order one meal and share it they are HUGE. And we saw the menu at the Deli and it looks really good. Also the Island Country Market is just that a little Market. They have a nice little store with the basics, bread, milk, cold cuts, some meats, sodas, Cereal, etc. The prices were the same as Target so something to keep in mind if you don't feel like going to Target or you realize you need something and don't want to go out for "just that one little thing" you can run across the street and get it. this web page has all the restaurants in Ko'Olina in case you want to check out the other hotel options too!

Disney has done amazing things here in Hawaii. You know you have exceeded expectations when it is someone’s first trip to Hawaii and they never want to leave the hotel. Every day they have "the daily 'IWA" which is like a cruise ship navigator. It tells you everything that is going on at the hotel that day, along with sunrise and sunset times. There are Character Greetings (Mickey, Minnie, Stitch, Goofy), Pool parties (with Chip and Dale), Hawaiian Crafts, Nature and Wildlife Tours, Evening Star Gazing, Firepit Storytelling, they have a bus that will take you across the island to go shopping on Tues, Thurs and Sat (reservations are required). They do outdoor Movie night, while we were there they showed "Finding Nemo" and their signature evening event Aulani Starlit Hui (Monday and Thursday) it's hard to explain but it’s really fun. There really was SO much going on ALL day long. There was lots for the Kids too! Oh and be sure to do the Menehune Adventure Trail I thought George was being silly when he suggested it but we had a lot of fun and learned new things about the History and meaning behind some of the things in the hotel!

So what can I say, I think I used all the good adjectives... Amazing, Breathtaking, Stunning, Georgeous, Beyond words, exceeded our expectation... THE BEST PURCHASE WE HAVE EVER MADE! I can not say enough about Aulani. The Cast Members were top notch. Hawaiian culture is amazing and they are all very eager to share it with you. Rod at the Shave Ice told us the best place to go and check out "where the locals go" just in general conversation while getting a Shave Ice... Aina at the Concierge became a friend in 5 short days, he was so awesome, and Hi'Ilani what can I say she is AMAZING. Hi'Ilani is one of the greeters she stands out among the rest by far. She is very tall, has a great smile and is so very personable. We pretty much attacked her on the first day because she had a beautiful flower arrangement (it wasn't "just a flower") in her hair, which we found out later Aina made for her! She shared so much with us, about the Iwa Bird, the Taro Patches in front of the hotel, The Totem Poles... little stories about Hawaii and the culture! One thing she said was that "Sometimes we are put into people's lives for a reason" ... I could not agree more! I can not wait to go back to Aulani to see my new Friends... WELCOME HOME!

A vacation is having nothing to do and all day to do it in. ~Robert Orben

Monday, October 10, 2011

Hawaii~ An amazing adventure of LIFE, LOVE and Self Discovery

As we return to reality after an amazing trip to Hawaii, I have so many emotions. To say my life has been touched would be an understatement. This was not just a tropical get away, it was a heart opening life adventure.

A few weeks ago we were standing in Arlington National Cemetery and I became mesmerizer with the story of Lt Col Anne Weatherbee Tinges from World War II, it is surreal to be at Pearl Harbor just a few weeks later. We all know the story of Pearl Harbor, We have seen the movies, it is a part of our history, but I was NOT prepared for Pearl Harbor at all. It is a very emotional place, a very thought provoking experience and it touched me very deeply. They say that you can feel "for" someone but unless you have experienced what they have you can never truly know what they have/are going through. Standing there and seeing "Battleship Row" where the ships were moored, looking out and seeing the USS Missouri at her dock and the USS Arizona Memorial right in front of her... it was very touching. I am not going to go into a history lesson but if you don't know the story of the USS Arizona PLEASE read about it. When we stepped onto the memorial it was very quiet, everyone was in their own little world of "absorbing" the enormity of the history that we were now a part of. Staring at the little bit of the ship that is still above water, seeing a small leaf growing through it, knowing that the ship is beneath you, the forever resting place of so many men, seeing the oil still bleeding out of the ship 70 years later... seeing the wall ... It very quickly stopped being a story you have heard or a movie you have seen and became the reality of what took place. Looking at the memorial wall and seeing all 1,177 names listed on it knowing that those men are forever entombed with their ship, they never even knew what happened... It was heart-wrenching.

Some things that I learned while we were there that you don't hear about in History books amazed me too...

The USS Oklahoma lost 429 men in the attacks,the memorial was created to represent the returning of a ship back to port, (from the memorial web page) The memorial’s black granite walls suggest the once formidable hull of the Oklahoma while the white marble standards represent its lost Marines and Sailors. Eachperfectly aligned marble standard symbolizes an individual in pristine white dress uniform, inspired from the naval tradition of ‘manning the rails.’ In full dress whites the ship’s crew stand at attention along the rails or in the rigging of the ship to display respect and honor. The marble standards of this memorial stand perfectly straight, ‘manning the rails’ of the Oklahoma, forever.

But what touched me most was a little known secret that made me proud that they made the acknowledgement ... the USS Utah lost 54 men and 1 infant... It was very touching that they acknowledged that. Baby Nancy passed away when she was 3 days old, her father was a Chief Yeoman on board the Utah and had her urn in his locker to scatter her ashes on their next sea voyage... Her father survived the attack but her Urn remains in his locker, entombed within the ship.

We spent 5 hours at Pearl Harbor, to say that it was very touching is an understatement. On our journey we also visited "The Punch Bowl" , NationalCemetery of the Pacific. Much like Arlington National Cemetery this is rows and rows of stories, of heroes, of emotions and history. What got me the most was The Gardens, where they have wall after wall of names inscribed, 28.788 names to be exact, the dedication reads "In the gardens are recorded the names of Americans who gave their lives in the service of their country and whose earthly resting place is only known by God" ... walking past these names, being able to touch the inscriptions, taking a few moments to sit in the small chapel you can not help but realize the sacrifices that our Service Men and Women make to ensure that we... all of us... can obtain our Freedom. These moments were spent thinking of My grandfather, Felix Cotelli, whom I never met and my Mother has no memory of... A man that served in World War II but never got the chance to know his family. How would our lives be different, I wonder... My grandfather, the one that I knew, the Father that my mother knew and loved, my grandmothers 2nd husband was VERY influential on my life, how would that have changed who I am today? Looking at the names, realizing that My Dad served during the Vietnam War and George's dad was in Vietnam... the thoughts of what could have been... and how incredibly proud I am of them! I called my dad and said Thank you...

Hawaii is beautiful, the culture is amazing, the history is preserved, O'ahu is someplace that everyone needs to go at least once. The Pali Lookout, the North Shore, Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head, Shave Ice, Great Food and awesome Hospitality. I am back home now... humbled and changed, refreshed and yearning for more! Of course the next visit will not have the same affect as the first time, the emotions, the feelings, the moments of self reflection can not be duplicated.

My quote today is from the "Fire Pit Storyteller" at the hotel, it is so true!

"You take a piece of every person you meet with you on your journey"

It is so very true, whether they were in your life for a moment or several years people leave a little bit of them with you forever, some people make a bigger impression while others just slip away into the back of your memory but you will undoubtedly remember a person that said something thought provoking, or a story that told itself in the way of a memorial as well as the crazy girls you saw in the lobby of the hotel everyday and will forever chuckle about when you think of them... SO when you are out and about in the world try and make sure that the "piece of you" that people are taking with them is a good piece!

*I will post all about Disney's Aulani Resort later, I wanted this to be about the emotions and the moments, the history and reflection of what Hawaii meant to me.