Friday, May 30, 2014

Friday Favorites

TGIF! I love short work weeks! I have another one next week too since I'll be taking off early Friday morning for Michigan!  I call this my "summer schedule!"  If only I could work four days every week!  I'm linking up with Amanda today for my Friday Favorites!

Peyton and Ella had their dance recital last Saturday.  They did such a great job and it is so cute to watch the little ones dance!

They were so happy and proud of themselves! There were numerous family members there to watch which meant lots of flowers and gifts for the girls.  My mom gave them the stuffed animals pictured above.  I brought them back Venetian masks (pictured below) and they looked so cute when they tried them on.  They even matched their dance costumes!

I love this time of year because there are flowers in bloom everywhere.  I went for a 7 mile training walk and it was so nice to see colorful flowers along the way.

For Memorial Day the Boston Common puts out a flag for every person from Massachusetts that has died in service to our country.  I went last year too.  You can see more photos of the flags in my post from last year.  While sad to see how many people have died it is quite beautiful to see all those flags and know all those people fought for my freedom.

I got my "Prints for a Cause" the other day and I love them (sorry for the crappy iPhone photos).  I put the Do Good one on my desk at work and haven't figured out a place for Be The Example yet.  I love the colors I chose.

Eva is so talented and even the envelop looked adorable!  I brought that into work too and tacked it up in my cube!

There is still time for you to get your own print.  Not only will you end up with an adorable print to hang somewhere but a portion of your purchase will be donated to Kate's fundraising for the MS Challenge Walk!
The day before I left for Italy I had the opportunity to meet Carlyn from the blog Strangers To Friends. She lives in Denver but has family in Boston so was visiting for a few days.  Last year when I was at Blissdom I met Dawn who is friends with Carlyn and told me I should follow her online b/c she has MS too.  I started following Carlyn but we didn't interact much at all.  Then more recently we chatted online and made this meeting happen.  Carlyn is all about meeting new people and writes about how strangers become friends.  We actually have more in common than MS including a love for travel.  I don't think this meeting will be our last and I look forward to her next trip to Boston!

I'm the featured blogger this Monday for Leeann and Kimberlee's Monday Morning Gossip linkup.  You should link up on Monday too.  You can blog about anything!  I'll be finally blogging about Italy starting with Florence so you don't want to miss that!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

World MS Day 2014

Today is World MS Day.  Each year there is a theme and this year is the theme is "One day. . ."  You can enter your One Day Wish and use #onedayms if you post to twitter!  You don't have to have MS to participate so feel free to make a wish.

I know what I'm wishing for. . .

. . . a world free of MS. . . duh!!! :)

I do hope that someday there is a cure for MS but at the same time I can't imagine my life without MS.  I have had so many amazing opportunities due to MS.  I have met SO many amazing people due to MS.  I can't imagine my life without those people in it.  I started this blog because of MS and I certainly cannot imagine my life without my blog!  Seriously though, for all the bad there is good.  MS is a part of me and I wouldn't have it any other way. . . but a cure in the future would still be nice!

In honor of World MS Day and to help my wish come true would you consider making a donation?  I'll be walking 50 miles in 3 days at the MS Challenge Walk in September.  I'm required to raise $1,500 to participate but I'm trying to raise $3,000 to help my teammates.  Every dollar counts so whatever you can give is happily accepted.  Research is the only way we will find a cure and money is needed to continue the research. 

Someday we won't have to have a "World MS Day."  Someday children will read about MS in their history books.  Someday you can say you helped find a cure for MS because you donated. Thank you.

"Sometimes the bad things that happen in our lives put us directly on the path to the best things that will ever happen to us." -Unknown

Honoring A Hero

My grandfather is buried at the Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly, MI.  It is the National Cemetery for Veterans.  This land was bought in 2002, a ground breaking ceremony was held in 2005 and the first burial in 2005.  There are 544.3 acres which will be developed in phases over the next several decades.  When there you can see acres of green space since it is a fairly new cemetery.  It really is a beautiful place. 

They do burials Monday through Friday from 9:30 AM to 2:30 PM and they average ten burials per day.  That is mind blowing to me.  Ten veterans every day just in Michigan. . .

Due to all of the coordination that comes into play with a burial at the National Cemetery my grandfather's burial was on a separate day from his funeral.  The day of his burial was actually quite cold.  I took a photo of my weather app that day and it was 46 degrees in Holly, MI.  Pretty crazy for May!  Fortunately the rain held off until after the service was over and we were back in the limo on our way back when it started pouring!

When you enter the cemetery you drive down a long driveway know as The Avenue of Flags which has 100 flags lining the driveway.  It is really beautiful and my photo doesn't do it justice.  Gray days don't make for beautiful photos but the weather did seem appropriate for the mood.

The actual ceremony takes place in a designated area with a gazebo.  When we arrived everyone was ready and in place.  Since my grandfather served in both the Army and Air Force they had members from both branches there to be a part of the ceremony.

The folding of the flag has always fascinated me.  The ceremonial part of it is so special.  They fold it with such precision and accuracy.  It really is incredible.

Once the flag is folded the other members retreated to behind us and stood in formal positions for the remainder of the ceremony.  The man holding the flag (I apologize for not knowing his official title) stood at the food of the casket for the entire ceremony holding the flag.  The priest (who is a friend of Paul and Lee's) did a reading and lead us in a prayer.  He also say at the end of the prayer and when he did a song bird started singing along. It was such a special moment or what some might call a sign.

After the prayers were over the flag was brought to Lee's great-nephew, Ryan who is active Air Force.  He had the honor of presenting the flag to Lee.  I honestly don't know how he did it but he was so composed.  Just typing this makes me teary eyed.  It was such a special moment.

After that three guns were fired and then Taps was played on the trumpet.  Again super emotional.

Right before the priest finished he sprinkled holy water on the casket and laid his hand on it.  The funeral director told us that the hand print would remain on the casket and invited us all up to put our own hand print on it.  That way my grandfather could take us all with him. . .

Lee's hand (bottom of photo) and my brothers' hands (top of photo)

My hand (left) and my mom and dad's hands (right). 

Following the ceremony we got back into the limo and drove a short distance to his plot. We were allowed to get out of the limo and stand across the street to watch but they don't let you get closer since there is heavy machinery being used.  I don't know about any of you but I have never been to a burial where you actually see them put the casket into the ground. . . this was a first for my family.

Lee purchased a beautiful vault with a flag going across the top of it.  It also has my grandfather's name, date of birth and date of death on it.  I have more photos but I think I'll keep those private.  Like I said this was a first for us but there was something comforting in watching him be placed in his final resting place.  Additionally, I cannot say enough about the professionalism of the men doing the work.  Lee and I were able to walk over to view the vault (she hadn't seen it yet and she wanted me to take photos) and the men were so nice to us and handled the whole situation with such grace.

Again this may seem weird. . . taking family photos standing in the cemetery right after the burial but we wanted to get some and it was the last time we were all going to be together since two of my brothers were literally getting in their car to drive back home (yes they are crazy and drove instead of flying)!  So we stood in the grass and took photos.  And do you know what. . . I'm so glad we did.  It was freezing and we were sad and squinting but we were together.  It is so nice to have these and I'm sure my grandfather was smiling down on us. . .

I thought since a few weeks had passed I would be able to write these blog posts a bit easier than right after it all happen but I was wrong.  It is still hard to write and relive all the moments.  I'm so glad we have these photos and I know I will appreciate them even more as time goes on but right now they are hard to look at.

I'm sad that he is gone.  I'm sad that Lee lives so far from us and that we can't support her more as she grieves.  I'm sad he didn't make it until D-Day.

My mom and I will head back to MI for D-Day next week and we will honor him on that special day.  We will visit the cemetery again and hope that his headstone will be in. . . and then we will go see the Red Sox play the Tigers and enjoy ourselves just as he would want us to!

 Cheers Paul!  Love always, Jodi

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Remembering A Hero

As most of you know my grandfather Paul died on April 27th.  He lived with his wife, Lee in Michigan.  He was 90 years old and lived an amazing life.  He was very healthy for most of his life and worked longer than most.  In the end he died at home, peacefully, just the way he wanted. 

He was a veteran of three wars - WWII, Korean and Vietnam.  He entered the US Army in 1943 and was honorably discharged in 1945.  He served with the 115 Regiment of the 29th Infantry Division as a combat medic.  He participated in the June 6, 1944 invasion on Omaha Beach, Normandy, France. On June 12, 1944, he was captured by the German Army and would become a prisoner of war for over eleven months until he heroically escaped in 1945. Paul was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for D-Day invasion and a second bronze star for his heroism in the battle on June 12, 1944, the day of his capture.  He was also the recipient of the Republic of France Legion of honor for outstanding military service (photo on right).

Paul re-entered the United States Air Force in November of 1951.  A proud member of the 474th Fighter Bomber Group in Korea.  He later served in Vietnam 1965 as a Military advisor to the Republic of South Vietnam.  In December of 1969 Paul retired from the Air Force as a Senior Master Sergeant.

Lee asked me to take photos at the services.  There were beautiful flowers at his wake from friends and family near and far. 

My mother made photo boards with photos from my grandfather's live.  People really enjoyed looking at them.  We have a lot of happy memories with him including a trip to MI for his surprise 80th birthday and a ND/MI football game, a vacation with him and Lee to Ireland, my brother's wedding, my mom's surprise birthday dinner, and many other dinners and get togethers when they would visit.  He loved being a grandfather and great-grandfather even though he never thought he was old!

My grandfather's medals were on display at his wake.  I met many people that day for the first time.  They knew my grandfather in many different ways including friends from his POW group that he had started attending at the VA in recent years.  I heard many times that day that my grandfather was a hero.  While he didn't talk much about his time as a POW with his family he did share many memories with his group

My grandfather was featured in the book PORTRAITS OF SERVICE Looking into the Faces of Veterans by Robert H. Miller and Andrew Wakeford which received the Independent Publisher 2012 Outstanding book of the Year, Freedom Fighter Award.  This book shares diverse stories of 60 veterans from WWII to recent wars, stories of the heroes to the homeless.  It is quite moving.

My grandfather's funeral was at this beautiful church, St. Matthew, in Detroit.  He laid in state at the church prior to the funeral mass.

My three brothers, as well as a few of Lee's relatives, including her great nephew who is active military, were the pallbearers.

Due to my grandfather being buried at the National Cemetery we had to wait until two days later for that (his funeral was on a Saturday and the burial Monday since they don't do them on Sundays).

So after the funeral we all went to one of my grandfather's favorite restaurants to eat, drink and share more memories.  The man on the left is a good friend of my grandfather's.  He lives in RI and worked with my grandfather for many years when my grandfather was working in RI.  He shared some great memories about him and had everyone smiling in agreement. 

The woman on the right is playing an Irish pipe whistle because my grandfather really liked the music they made.

It is somewhat hard to take "people pictures" at wakes and funerals since everyone is crying but we did manage to get a few.  My parents on the left and my brother Allan on the right who told us if it was a true Irish funeral we would all be drinking whiskey.  The restaurant we were at had a "whiskey sampler" so he drank some for all of us! 

My brothers who were not thrilled to be in a photo and will probably kill me for putting this on my blog (but since I don't think they read it they will never know right!?)

Wayne is the man who ran the POW group at the VA that my grandfather was involved in and he shared many stories with us about my grandfather.
My brother Tim and mom.

Lee and I (left) and my mom and I (right).

Afterwards we went back to the hotel to change and then over to the house with Lee to watch the Kentucky Derby.  We ate (again) and just hung out together.  It was an emotionally draining two days with many sad tears but also some happy tears and laughs.  We shared many great memories and truly celebrated his life.

I'll be sharing photos from his burial with full military honors at the National Cemetery tomorrow.  It was my first time to be at a military funeral.