A beautiful life

A beautiful life

My heart is singing. I have the love of a man who would move mountains to make me smile. A man who would do absolutely anything to make my life even more beautiful.

That feeling has consumed me since I returned home from my trip to Fort Myers. A trip that left us apart for almost a week, the longest time spent a part in more than five years.

They say it’s good to spend time apart . . .

I knew that week was going to be hard, but did not know to what extent. There were a couple of things I truly missed while we were apart. Jason kissing me goodbye in the morning before leaving while telling me to have a great day. Surprise visits during the day. Most of all, us not sleeping in the same bed at night, was by far the hardest thing. I sleep so much better knowing he is peacefully laying beside me, or even knowing he is in the same house.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved every second of my trip because I was surrounded by family and friends. It was a trip I needed to take, a trip that was long overdue. A trip that was filled with nonstop laughter as every single one of my siblings gathered together with their loved ones and children.

My parents watching a sunset on Fort Myers Beach. The love these two share is inspirational.

My parents watching a sunset on Fort Myers Beach. The love these two share is inspirational.

The Monday after Christmas, my family had its family Christmas. Mom had 19 people under one roof. All of her kids together for the first time in five years for Christmas. Sometimes it was so hard to hear someone talk because of the booming of laughter that filled a room. New memories were definitely made that day.

Towards the end of the day, we all gathered outside, so my Mom could have pictures with her family. This was specially hard on me. Mom and Dad stood waiting for each one of their children and significant others to surround them, as I snapped a shot. I, of course, took that picture without Jason that day. Although he was not standing beside me, I could still feel the love we share with the hundreds of miles that separated us. I could hear him saying, “I’m glad you are spending time with your family.”

Throughout the week, Jason and I would talk through text messages. Yes, I still received my good morning. Often times we had the opportunity to catch up at night before we both went to bed. I loved those moments because I had the chance to hear his voice.

Our week apart was definitely confirmation that I have truly found my soul mate. I found the love of my life.

Jason was a part of many conversations and in my thoughts as every day unfolded.

The night I met a great friend at the beach to watch a sunset, he was with me. Charlene and I watched the sunset in almost the exact spot that Jason and I have shared many times while enjoying dinner on the beach. I sent him a picture of the sunset. His reply, “Very nice. I can feel it.”

Fort Myers Beach sunset

Fort Myers Beach sunset

Those seven days a part showed me yet again that I have true love from a man who loves me to pieces. Although I know he missed me, he was always sending me messages sharing how happy he was that I was with family and friends.

My favorite text was sent the night before I returned home. He had a countdown going of when I was going to be “stuck” with him again. 12 hours and counting . . . that warmed my heart in ways I cannot explain. Jason missed having me home.

When I came around the bend at the airport and saw him standing there, a smile swept across my face in a speed I could not control. I was home. I was in the presence of my man once again. I could tell he was just as equally as excited to see me.

I feel a new kind of closeness to Jason. A new kind of appreciation for one another. The laughter I felt at my parents house, is the same kind of laughter that has filled our home the last couple of nights.

It’s an unexplainable feeling to have that kind of love. A feeling that is sometimes overwhelming. A love that has opened my eyes to all kinds of beautiful moments that were once clouded before.

Jason continues to show me how to appreciate every moment for what it is worth.

This man has helped in creating a beautiful life for the both of us. A beautiful life that continues to excite me as new days unfold.

I am beyond grateful I met this man 19 years ago. It was a true blessing to be reunited with him again more than five years ago. Jason has helped me become a better person. The support he shares often times leaves me speechless.

It’s truly a powerful thing . . . how much someone can impact your life. A positive impact on every aspect of my well-being.

This year has started off with a bang, as I continue to share my life with a man I know I will grow old with.

Fort Myers Beach sunset

Fort Myers Beach sunset

 

“Our Christmas comes from our heart”

“Our Christmas comes from our heart”

Organization makes holiday a little brighter for Cape family

Published in Cape Coral Daily Breeze Dec. 18, 2014 issue

A Cape Coral family received a little holiday cheer Wednesday night from the Wounded Warrior Anglers Act of Kindness Emergency Relief Fund to help them through some financial hardships.

“With all of our warriors that are members, board members, volunteers and everybody that donates and makes Wounded Warrior Anglers possible, I want them to know that they are part of helping somebody come through the month of December financially,” Wounded Warrior Anglers Vice President Judy Souders said. “I want them to know they are a part of that. All of us coming together over the last three years have made this possible. Everybody coming together and doing a little here and a little bit there has all added up.”

The Act of Kindness Emergency Relief Fund became a part of the organization on Oct. 14. The fund was created to provide appropriate relief to eligible veterans or disabled veterans who experience a qualifying event or emergency.

Melissa and Eddie Breese were the first to benefit from the newly established fund on Wednesday, Oct. 22, because of hardship they were experiencing. After the donation was made, a community member reached out to Wounded Warrior Anglers and donated gas gift cards and food gift cards to further assist the family with their needs.

Since that donation, Eddie’s condition has become worse. Now with only one income, a part-time income, trying to make ends meet to pay the bills and put food on the table, has become extremely difficult.

To help alleviate some of that financial burden the family is experiencing, the Wounded Warrior Anglers Act of Kindness Emergency Relief Fund donated $1,200 to the Breese family again on Wednesday.

Wounded Warrior Anglers Act of Kindness Emergency Relief Fund Committee Member Kevin Purdy, Melissa Breese, Eddie Breese, Gracie, the Breese’s granddaughter, and Wounded Warrior Anglers Vice President Judy Souders.

Wounded Warrior Anglers Act of Kindness Emergency Relief Fund Committee Member Kevin Purdy, Melissa Breese, Eddie Breese, Gracie, the Breese’s granddaughter, and Wounded Warrior Anglers Vice President Judy Souders.

“It shocked me,” Melissa said of the donation amount. “We have good people around us like Judy and all the Anglers.”

The donation will help the Breese family pay for their December monthly bills, as well as put food on the table.

“Without a question, there is an absolute blessing to be in a situation to help people like that,” Wounded Warrior Anglers Act of Kindness Emergency Relief Fund Committee Member Kevin Purdy said. “It touches you so deeply. You can’t put it into words.”

Eddie, a Fort Myers High School graduate, enlisted in the Marine Corps and served in Desert Storm from 1988 to 1992. After returning from the service he started working on roofs, while owning his own business at one time.

Unfortunately on Sept. 11, Eddie took a bad fall, falling 25 feet through a skylight to the concrete. That fall broke his back, mangled his right arm, broke his ribs and gave him severe head trauma.

After Lee Memorial Health System released him after the accident, Melissa took her husband to the VA clinic in Cape Coral. He then was taken to Bay Pines VA Healthcare System.

While he was at Bay Pines he spent time going to a speech pathologist, physical therapist and occupational therapist.

Eddie returned home on Friday, Oct. 17, after spending two months in the hospital.

Melissa said since October he has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and began having focal seizures because of the head trauma.

“Some days he may have one or two,” she said Wednesday night. “The day before yesterday he had six.”

Melissa said when he has a seizure it is as if Eddie is staring right through her with no response.

“He looks dead,” she said.

Limited funds have made it hard for Melissa to drive Eddie to Tampa to see the doctor.

With working part-time and being a full-time caregiver, Melissa said they had to send their 1-year-old son, Keygan, to West Virginia to stay with family.

Although the family is struggling, Melissa remains positive.

“At least I have him at the end of the day and God saved him,” she said. “We have him and that’s what is important.”

Melissa said Eddie has always been her best friend.

“It’s always been Eddie and I,” she said, adding that they used to play co-ed softball and volleyball together. “That is what saved his life. If his body was not in the shape he was in, he would have never survived that. He is fighting every day.”

Souders said being able to help the Breese family is what Christmas is all about.

“That is a big part of our Christmas because our Christmas comes from our heart,” she said.

Community members, who would like to continue the spirit of Christmas and help the Breese family, can contact Souders at (423) 620-9104. Any gift donated to the Wounded Warrior Anglers Act of Kindness Emergency Relief Fund is tax deductible.

The cats struck

After I returned home from my solo run Saturday afternoon, Jason and I went to Lowe’s and picked out our Christmas tree.

This year we chose a Douglas Fir that is absolutely perfect. Since we have a bigger living room, the tree is taller than last year!

I love that we have purchased a real tree almost the entire time we have been together. Growing up, my parents always had a live tree decorated every year, something I wanted to carry on as a tradition for Jason and I.

The smell of a Christmas tree is among one of my favorite parts about this holiday. I love that aroma.

Our first Christmas together, Jason surprised me with an invitation to spend it with his family. Since that invitation was a trip to Illinois and we were not living together at the time, we did not buy a tree.

The second year, Jason surprised me with a little table top Christmas tree that was absolutely adorable.

The third year he took parts of my parents Christmas tree and made us a wreath. Jason even strung some lights on it, which of course touched me beyond belief.

Last year, our first Christmas in Tennessee, we went out and bought a 5 foot Christmas tree. It completely made my holiday. We bought ornaments, a tree skirt and tree topper. It was all incredibly special to me because we began collecting memories that were going to be added to in years to come.

Jason is so good to me. I know he enjoys picking out a tree too. Even if it involves picking out one tree after another, hitting the stump to the ground, so I can see the branches, while making up my mind.

The best thing about Christmas this year, since we are renting a house, we even strung lights outside. Jason absolutely loved adding some holiday cheer outside. I’m sure we will be buying more lights before Christmas to add to the collection of lights outside.

So, after we got home on Saturday, we put the tree in its stand, put the skirt around it and put our adorable reindeer tree topper on. Due to hanging the lights outside, we ran out of Christmas lights for the tree, so it remained half strung before heading to bed.

Night one a success . . . the Christmas tree was still standing the next morning.

I ran up to the store yesterday morning and picked up another box of lights, so we could finish decorating the tree. The ornaments, which are mostly various colored balls, made its way on the tree.

Night two . . . epic fail.

IMG_2681The cats struck while we were asleep. We had one shattered ornament and two more of the balls scattered around the living room. Now the bottom of our tree is bare.

I knew it was going to be a challenge with the cats, but really the first night?

I’m going to have to buy some soft ornaments to put on the bottom that the cats can swat around and play with. Ornaments that I don’t care if they are ruined.

IMG_2679I’m so thankful we put our nice ornaments towards the top of the tree. I would be really upset if they got a hold of those.

Oh the life with so many animals.

IMG_2676

Lucy and our beautiful Douglas Fir.

Best surprise!

I received an amazing surprise from my mom Saturday afternoon. One that I am truly grateful for, one that completely shocked me, one that of course has me smiling still.

I’m going to be with my family for the holidays AND my birthday!!

My mom asked if I wanted to fly home (Fort Myers) for the holidays, her treat. My answer of course came without hesitation, other than let me talk to Jason first.

I cannot fully put into words how excited I became after hearing that offer. I will be in the same state with my family as we all come together to celebrate Christmas!! That right there is the best Christmas present I could receive.

Jason’s response when I told him Mom wanted to fly me home for Christmas left my heart singing. His response too was without hesitation. “Go, go spend Christmas with your family.” This will be the longest we have been a part since we started dating. One full week. That week will include my birthday, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, our first time of being a part on those specific days. I wish Jason could make the trip with me, but I am beyond thankful he is so understanding. He knows I need to spend time with my family.

This will also be the first time I will be a part from Lucy, our puppy. Mom told me I could bring her along, but after looking into a plane ticket for her, I had to rule out that decision. I have a hard time spending $100 one way on a ticket for an animal. I will miss her.

I left Fort Myers April 30, 2013 and haven’t returned since our move to Northeast Tennessee. Although I have seen the majority of my family in either Illinois, Maryland or here in Kingsport since then, I haven’t seen my little sister Maureen and older brother Bill since leaving.

This trip also means I get to see my friends who I miss terribly!

With my excitement fully overtaking me, I sent a text to my great friend Dorene telling her when I will be in town. Her response “Yay! Yay! Yay!” I cannot wait to see her.

I also sent a text to Charlene and Judy, who I also miss like crazy!

Then the texts continued to all of my brothers and sisters.

I loved what response I received from my little brother Tom when I told him I will see him in Fort Myers next month. Tom too moved away from Florida . . .  he lives in Maryland with his wife and two boys.

Within a few minutes my phone rang . . . it was my nephews on the other end. After catching up for a few minutes and sharing our excitement of seeing each other again, Caleb, my 3-year-old nephew got on the phone. What he said melted my heart. “I’ll see you soon.” I can never get enough of spending time with my nephews!

Although I talked with Erin about her recent trip to Florida’s east coast through text messages, we didn’t talk about me traveling to Fort Myers. I was laughing to hard at the description she gave me of the time her and Alex had! I’m excited to see her and her family, including my two nephews!

Later in the afternoon, my brother Bill called. With his hectic schedule we don’t have a chance to talk as much as I know we both would like. It felt great to tell him I will see him soon.

If a phone call with both of my brothers was not enough,  I also talked to my younger sister Maureen for more than an hour last night. That conversation was a perfect ending to my day.

Wait . . . I also talked with Emily, my younger sister through a few text messages before finally going to bed. I could hear and feel her excitment of the news as well.

I actually talked to all of my siblings in one day. I cannot tell you the last time that actually happened. Those conversations only made me miss them more. But, knowing that I get to see them in a little more than a month, priceless!

Thank you Mom. You always seem to know the perfect present to give! I cannot wait to spend time with you and our entire gang!

‘I felt like a princess’

Last week I had the opportunity to talk to Megan about her trip to New York, a trip she won through a contest. I enjoyed talking to her as her excitement grew as she explained her experiences while in New York with her family.

Local student rings in 2014 with dream trip

Published in Herald & Tribune Jan. 14, 2014 issue

A flyer, which was spotted in a “Seventeen” magazine, won one Jonesborough resident a trip to New York with her family.

“I can’t believe I actually won. It’s still crazy to think about,” said Megan Cottage, 19.

Megan Cottage, 19.  Photo Credit Charlie Mauk.

Megan Cottage, 19.
Photo Credit Charlie Mauk.

The flyer’s instructions were to text a certain number if you wanted to win a trip to New York for the “Best New Year’s Ever” contest through Aeropostale.So, not thinking anything of it, she sent that text and eventually received a call from New York.“But I didn’t answer it, because I don’t answer numbers I don’t know,” Cottage said.

Her phone continued to ring numerous times before a message was left instructing her to claim her prize before the next day.

Cottage called her dad and asked “Can this be true? Do you think they are scamming me?” Her father told her to call the woman who left the message.

Cottage provided her name, age, email address and the names of two people she would want to bring with her to New York when she returned the phone call.

“I waited a couple of days,” Cottage said. “Finally they emailed me, ‘You won.’ ”

Megan Cottage and chauffeur

Megan Cottage with the chauffeur that greeted her at the airport. She provided the photograph.

Cottage, along with her brother, mother and father, traveled to New York from Dec. 30 until Jan. 2. She said the contest paid for three airfare tickets, a hotel in Times Square, $150 for food every day and a $500 gift card to Aeropostle.“It was amazing,” Cottage said. “New York at Christmas is beautiful.”A highlight of the trip was when they arrived in New York.

“Probably one of the coolest things was a chauffeur holding up my name when we got to the airport,” she said. “I felt like a princess.”

Once they arrived at their hotel, there was an assortment of items in a goodie bag from Aeropostale waiting for her.

Since they were staying in Times Square, the family walked everywhere over the few days they were there.

They spent the first half of New Year’s Eve shopping and the latter half watching the ball drop in Times Square.

“New Year’s Eve is my dad’s birthday,” she said, adding that he was a real trooper and shopped with them before eating at a cafe.

With Christmas just passing, Cottage said she had received almost everything she needed, so she only spent $100 of her gift card at Aerpostale in Times Square.

With the cold temperatures, Cottage said they arrived for the New Years countdown in Times Square after 9 p.m., instead of noon like many others, to watch the ball drop.

“We stood there for two hours,” she said. “We got to see the ball drop and see the fireworks from Central Park.”

Cottage said the experience of being in New York on New Year’s Eve is much better than watching it on television. It’s an experience, she said, she will never forget.

“Millions of people are all counting down at the same time,” she recalled, adding that everyone was waiting for the countdown to begin because of the freezing temperatures. “The streets were covered in confetti; it was still dropping two days later.”

The family also went to the Statue of Liberty, the 911 memorial, Saks Fifth Avenue, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and they stood under the tree at Rockefeller Center.

“The tree is amazing; no picture does it justice,” Cottage said.

The trip also provided Cottage with the opportunity for quite a few firsts.

Megan Cottage saw the Statue of Liberty during her trip. She provided the photograph.

Megan Cottage saw the Statue of Liberty during her trip. She provided the photograph.

“We did take the subway to Liberty Island, and that was fun,” she said, adding that it provided a completely different atmosphere because they rode with residents of the city.Cottage said they also went to the Today Show.“Our signs made it on TV,” she said.

Cottage, a 2012 graduate of David Crockett High School, was born and raised in Jonesborough. Now a sophomore at East Tennessee State University, she is majoring in public relations and advertising with a minor in photography.

“I live on campus and have that freedom of getting out on my own,” Cottage said.

Although she visited many campuses, she fell in love with the beauty of ETSU and the close proximity to her parents.

She is also a sorority sister of Alpha Delta Phi.

“We do community service, and I meet some great people,” Cottage said.

Something that has stuck out for the college student is how everyone has supported and rallied behind her roommate from last year when she was diagnosed with leukemia.

“I’m in a sorority and I love it. It’s a perfect fit for me,” she said.

Felt like I was there

Tonight it felt like I was a part of the second family Christmas celebration, thanks to technology. It was definitely the highlight of the day.

This year’s holiday, although was good because I spent it with one of the most important people in my life, left me a little homesick. Tonight after seeing my older brother and sister-in-law, older sister, brother-in-law and nephews, as well as my little sister’s, mom, dad and grandma made me miss family, made me miss living close by.

Jason and I knew this would be my biggest challenge moving to Tennessee from Florida. I guess being one of six children, that feeling occurs every once in a while. I haven’t experienced this much of that overwhelming feeling until now. But I guess after living here for almost eight months it was bound to happen.

Don’t get me wrong, moving to Tennessee has been wonderful and rewarding. It is absolutely beautiful here! It has brought Jason and I even closer, as well as reminding me just how strong I am. I do not regret making that decision with Jason, I never will.

I just miss family . . .

I loved seeing everyone tonight. My nephews had my cheeks hurting I was laughing so hard – their dancing was hilarious. As Emily said they were being little “hams.” It made me smile watching Ian dance because their craziness usually happens with all the chocolate they consume, as well as the exhaustion and excitement that happens with Christmas. As they were dancing, everyone was laughing and talking, which was so typical of a family gathering. It felt great to be a part of that . . .

Ian, my oldest nephew is getting so big and Lucah, oh my gosh, he is not a little boy anymore. I absolutely loved seeing them even if it was through my computer screen. These cute little boys have grown tons since I left Florida at the end of April.

It makes me want to make a trip to Fort Myers and spend some time with everyone.

Family is such a huge part of my life, they are with me every day even though they are hundreds of miles away. Not a day goes by without thinking of at least one of them.

For example, the other night I made myself grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup – I instantly thought of my older brother Bill. Or the ducks I saw sitting on a log at the Greenbelt made me think of Mom – I felt her next to me.

I am so fortunate to have such a loving, close family. They all mean the world to me.

A few traditions of our own

Yesterday was a quite, relaxing, simple Christmas with Jason. We spent the day at home spending time with one another … enjoying each others company.

We made both of our family traditions a part of our holiday this year.

On Christmas Eve I made sauce from scratch for the Italian sausage that cooked in the crockpot for dinner sandwiches and Jason made chili for dinner on Christmas day.

My mom always makes an incredible Italian dinner every year for Christmas, so I wanted to incorporate that into our celebration. This year she made homemade lasagna, which I’m sure was incredible.

Throughout the day we enjoyed talking to our families. I Skyped with my family after Jason made us delicious pancakes with fruit and homemade whip cream.

It was nice seeing the family. One-by-one, new faces filled the screen, so we could all wish each other a Merry Christmas. First, I saw my Mom and then my Grandma who is visiting from Illinois. Dad came into view with a smile before my younger sister’s shared a Merry Christmas. It was also good to see their boyfriends as well.

We caught up for a while … it felt like I was a part of the celebration. I have to admit, I became a little homesick after all those conversations were done and we hung up.

With that said, Jason continued to make me smile, continued to bring some joy to the day. I am grateful for this man, he spoils me rotten and always has my best interest at heart. The glances, smiles, laughter, hugs and comments that were made are imbedded in my memory …

We also had the chance to Skype with Jason’s sister and family. Although it was a short conversation because of the connection it was great seeing the kids. They all became excited when my face appeared in the screen, which made me feel very loved. I love his sister and family!

Jason and my first Christmas together was spent in Illinois at his sister’s house with her three kiddos and husband. It was a great trip, one that instantly made me feel like part of his family.

After we finished eating his delicious chili, I received a phone call from my younger brother, sister-in-law and nephew. That call made my day complete.

Every year my family does a secret Santa gift. Instead of buying presents for all my siblings – there are six of us – my mom throws names into a hat – one per household per say – and we buy just one.

So this year, Jason and I had Tom and his family. We found a beautiful frame that said “My Boys.” The “My Boys” were openings for photos. So, I went through my collection of photos and found three of my favorites of Caleb and Colton. Tom and Lisa said they loved it, which made me smile. I love making gifts for someone, it means more because it’s a gift from your heart.

Then Caleb, my nephew, came on the line wishing me a Merry Christmas. I could tell he was preoccupied playing with one of his many gifts, so cute. He also said “I love you,” which completely melted my heart! Yep, my Christmas was complete.

Before the night ended Jason agreed to take pictures in front of the tree. This of course made me smile because he hates taking pictures.

We captured yet another Christmas together, our 4th one.