Thursday, December 02, 2010

Not Ready to Say Goodbye

My grandmother unexpectedly passed away on Saturday.  My heart is broken.  She filled my life with so much love and joy and she will be forever missed.

There are people in this world who can say the words "I Love You" and mean it from the bottom of their hearts.  Oneida Carnes, my grandmother, my Mawmaw... she could say them louder and more heartfelt than anyone, using only her two arms and hands... every time I saw her, she would reach out to me and wrap me up in the tightest hug, pressing her forehead against mine as if to have her thoughts and unconditional love come straight out of her heart and into my heart.  The love radiated from her arms.  She'd squeeze me tight and smile back at me so close - as if she'd just eat me right up if she could. She'd hold me there for a long moment, then utter the very loving words I'd already felt spilling over into me through her embrace.  She'd put her hands on either side of my face and speak straight into my eyes telling me how much she loved me.  My sweet Casey, she'd say, I think of you every day. I love you so much.  I hope you know how special you are to me. 

I will cherish those moments and they will be the things I'll remember most.  Hugs that can only come from Mawmaw.

I've seen her give these same hugs to everyone in our family.  Her brothers, her children, her grandchildren, her sons and daughters-in-law.  Her grandchildren's husbands and wives.  And I remember her always smoothing Pawpaw's hair, pressing her cheek against his and holding his hands.  Love and adoration emanated from her.  She made each of us feel like we were the center of her world.  And we were.  You could plainly see her greatest joy in life was to have all of her family together under one roof, laughing and enjoying the time together.  With cornbread of course.  Always some cornbread fresh from the cast-iron skillet.

Every time I think of her, my heart melts from the thought of those warm embraces and the scent of her familiar perfume.  A beautiful lady that will always see me as a little girl in a blue coat and black mary janes. 

So many times as a little girl I followed behind her through the garden at the yellow house, checking the corn and the tomatoes and hoping that maybe we'd be able to eat the strawberries straight off the vine.  The warm breeze would float by us,  she would be on the swing near the giant apple tree as I beckoned her to watch me climb onto its lowest, thickest branch. The only one I could reach.  And then we'd search for the best of the sour green apples that had fallen off the tree.

She didn't mind when I played with all her best handbags as I searched for all the extra sticks of cinnamon gum that were left in the bottom.  I liked to think she left them there just for me.  She'd spend hours beside me at the piano or organ, playing my every request over and over, her smile never fading.  I swayed beside her, listening to her sing Silent Night or Amazing Grace and watching her hands move across the keys. 

I always loved it when we'd get Mawmaw laughing really hard sitting at the table after we finished a holiday meal.  She'd start with a belly laugh and then put her hand up over her mouth until the tears would come and then her hand would move down over her heart as if she just couldn't take it anymore.  But then she'd continue laughing until it was just silent shaking and tears.

The way she loved Pawpaw is something that is always on my mind and in my heart.  An inspiration to me.  In the years after he died, she missed him so much and longed to hear his voice or hold his hand just once more.  It gives me peace to know that she is reunited with him.  And with her Savior. 

Words can't say how much we loved Mawmaw and how much God blessed us by having known her.  And I just want to thank her for loving all of us in such a wonderful way. She will be forever in my heart.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Oops, Forgot Halloween!

Princess Jasmine and a Pink Bunny... still trying to get rid of all the candy they were given that weekend!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Slowly But Surely

A little over two months has passed, but it seems like so much longer.  I know I've said this many times! We are still doing as well as can be expected. We have down days every once in awhile, but for the most part, we are just fine. Mike has been receiving the care packages I've (and some of you have) sent filled with snacks and magazines and AK's artwork, DVDs and cards. I sent him a Kindle for Christmas which I told him he could open early so he could get some use out of it.  He said it was just what he would've asked for! 

Thanks to everyone who has sent him mail or emails. He really appreciates it!

We will be busy traveling this month and next month for the holidays, so the time will surely fly by.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

There He Is!

There's my long lost husband! Finally, he sent me a picture! I've just been staring at him since he showed up in my inbox. I miss him so much. So much. Can't even say...

Two months down now. Seven [cringe] to go.


AK Turns FOUR!

We celebrated Abby Kate's fourth birthday at a bouncy house party place in Louisville, KY.  She had a ton of fun and is still talking about it!  Perhaps the best part of her birthday was when she received a special phone call from Daddy.  I can't believe my baby girl is four years old. 

Abby Kate, you are ever full of love and laughter and kindness.  You bring us endless joy and we love you so, so much!  Happy birthday, sweet girl!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Past Few Weeks in Pictures

Fun at the Oldham Co. park!
At a pumpkin patch in Shelby Co. KY
We went to watch William's last football game. Way to go!
Picture by BJ Brown.
William took a time out to say hello to his baby cousin.
Picture by Cristy Sheppard.
At the game with Austin and Aunt Carrie
Picture by Cristy Sheppard.
Aquarium with Uncle Bill
Sommer and I just before running 13.1 miles.
Sorry, phone camera doesn't do well without light... it was 7 a.m.!

Half Marathon Down!! Wore ribbon for Mike.
MumFest in New Bern

Thursday, October 14, 2010

She's Off!

Avery took off walking about a week ago!  She still prefers crawling because she's lightning fast at it, but she's getting better and better on her feet.  And she's oh so proud of herself!  Mommy (and Daddy) are too!! I'm hoping Mike will be able to watch this from the blog, but he's been having trouble viewing videos online.  If not, I guess he'll have to wait for a DVD through the mail. :(

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Special Delivery!

One Wednesday night a few weeks ago, Abby Kate brought home a blue balloon from church.  (She LOVES balloons like most kids do and was super excited to bring it home.)  We pulled into the garage, and I asked her if she'd like to get the mail for me.  She skipped out to the mailbox, balloon in hand.  I went around to get Avery out of her car seat and then heard AK start shrieking and crying.  I ran out into the driveway to see her running toward me, dropping mail as she came and then looked behind her to see the blue balloon rising upward higher and faster into the distant sky.  She was heartbroken! She told me through sobs that she was trying to get the mail and couldn't hold onto everything and it slipped out of her hand. :(

The only way I could think to console her was to tell her that her balloon was flying off in the direction of the ocean where Daddy is, and that maybe her balloon would fly all the way over to the other side of the world where Daddy can stand on the very top of his boat and reach up and catch it!  ...and bring it right back home to her when he comes.  Well that made her smile instantly.  And she has not stopped talking about it since.

I told Mike the story soon after.  To my surprise, a woman showed up on our doorstep yesterday with a bright and sunny arrangement of flowers and a big balloon tied to it that reads, "I Love You!"  It was from Mike.  AK was beside herself with joy... and then she asked me if Daddy was still going to bring home her BLUE balloon?


Sunday, October 03, 2010

One Month Down

Over a month has passed since Mike left.  Thirty-eight days to be exact.  I'm sure most of you are thinking, wow, a month already?! ... but I'm not.  The days seem to go by fast, but I feel like he's been gone for three months already. Maybe it's because I've heard his voice only once since the boat sailed away from the U.S. shore.  Or maybe because Abby Kate keeps asking for her daddy nearly every day. Or because Avery is growing and changing so much and so fast that I can't believe he doesn't even know her this way.

I try not to dwell on missing him all the time.  There's nothing I can do about it - I'm just glad every day that passes is a day closer to his homecoming.  It's very conflicting to wish the days away, yet not want the girls to grow up so fast at the same time.

Lately I've heard from Mike about once, sometimes twice daily via email. I'm so thankful for at least the email communication.  Having nothing is really terrible and I hope they never restrict the communication again. Mike says they work every single day and are staying really busy with briefs and flights.  He can't tell me where they are or what they're doing. He can't even say what time zone they're in anymore.  He asked me to take down my little map here on the blog that tracked his progress.  I'm sad for AK because she was really enjoying putting up the stickers on her own gigantic map in her room. I've asked Mike to send me some pictures, so hopefully I'll have some to post here soon.  For now, I'll settle for this one of Mike with the girls as we hiked some trails near our house the weekend before he left.

Mike is receiving the packages we've sent full of home video DVDs, pictures, AK's artwork, snacks, candy, sports drink mixes, books, magazines and all sorts of other stuff.  I think mail is a big morale booster on the ship, so I've tried to send something every couple of weeks.  He said he taped up the girls' pictures above his bed. I can't imagine how it would feel to only be able to look at their sweet smiles in pictures and video and not be able to hold them and laugh with them and kiss them goodnight. 

But one month is gone.  And that feels good to say.  I've been told the first and last months are the hardest. The first as you try to settle into a routine without them and the last because of the anticipation and not knowing exactly when they'll come home.  I think they give a two-week window or something like that.

Eight more to go! I REALLY hope less!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Rain, Rain, STOP ALREADY!!!

It's the third day straight of constant downpours in our area.  I just heard the reporter on the nightly news say we've had 20 inches since Sunday. Wow!  AK's school was canceled for two days, as well as her dance class and church Wednesday night.  I guess there is a lot of flooding and several road closings.  Conditions are supposed to get worse as all the rain continues to flow into the sewage drains and into the streams and lakes.  It's truly unbelievable how much it has rained.  My friend and I were supposed to do an 8-mile run this morning to prepare for the half marathon we're running in a couple weeks.  We kept putting it off hour by hour waiting for the rain to stop.  And it never. ever. stopped.  Walls of rain were pouring off our house all day.  It's 8:15 p.m. now and I still hear rain hitting our windows.  Crazy.  Anyway... here's hoping for a little sunshine tomorrow...  and for all this rain to move to Kentucky, where my dad says it is badly needed!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Feeling Better!

I was sitting at my computer diligently making progress on my design work today when Mike's name popped up in my email inbox!  Oh thank God! That's what I said out loud.  I hadn't heard from him in almost a week and the rumors were that I wasn't going to hear from him for 45 days.  I am SO happy that wasn't the case.  My mood has improved 100 percent!

Here's a recent shot of the girls before heading to drop AK at school.  She is loving her class and teachers this year!  Avery is loving being along for the ride. :) No, she's not walking yet, but I know she's going to take off any day now!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Feeling Sad

There has been a stop to the daily emails from Mike now.  I haven't heard from him in two or three days.  The email was the one saving grace to this whole thing.  We found out we may not hear from them for possibly a few weeks because we can't know where they are/what they're doing.  It's such a downer not to hear from him.  Of course I worry, too.  I have no idea when he's flying or if he's on a mission...

I can only find comfort in words that our good friend, Colin, wrote to me shortly after Mike left:

"[Mike's] awesome at what he does and he's an outstanding pilot.  He wouldn't tell you that but it's true.  Watching him take off in that video, I know that somewhere there will be Marines on the ground that will be lucky he's the one up there.  Having trained with Mike over the years, I know he's a dedicated professional, a true patriot...  He's in good hands...his own."

Mike is highly trained in the jet.  He knows what to do in all possible situations.  I feel comfort in that.  And of course comfort that ultimately he is in God's hands.  

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Weekend Away

View from the back of the house. Beautiful!
Time flies when you're having fun, and this weekend was a flash!  My friend, Lexie invited us up to the Annapolis area for a long weekend of relaxing by the bay.  We stayed at a beautiful house on the water and enjoyed catching up, touring downtown Annapolis and watching Bailey, AK and Avery play and swim. Lexie's mom and dad were so sweet to come over and watch the girls while we went out one night to enjoy a DELICIOUS dinner at her uncle's restaurant.  We had a fantastic time and I was so thankful to see my friend and just hang out with her again. (Lexie's husband - also named Mike - is in the same squadron, but deployed to Japan right now. While he's gone she has moved back home to get one more semester of law school under her belt while she had the opportunity.)  Thanks so much, Lex. Miss you already!

Deployment Update
Mike is now in the Mediterranean. The package I sent him finally arrived! He really enjoyed the DVD I sent him with video of the girls. They have pulled into a port for the first time and are allowing some of the Marines to get off the ship for a bit.  I'm hoping Mike will be able to call or Skype while on land.  That would be SO great. Just to hear his voice would be so nice.

Monday, September 06, 2010

One Week Down

Nine days have passed since Mike left.  While the days seem to fly by, it still feels like he has been gone for weeks.  In his emails, he says he feels the same.  There is not much to do on the boat but work, so they worked in spite of Labor Day today.  He had to get a small pox vaccine a few days ago.  He says it's starting to sting.  Apparently the site of the shot is supposed to swell up and he may get flu symptoms. He's supposed to avoid touching the area and then touching another part of his body because it's highly contagious.  He also can't get it wet for a week.  So life is good for him right now.  Haha.  He says it isn't so bad.  He says they're still cruising across the Atlantic, but they should see land again in the next couple of days.

Mom came down for Labor Day weekend and we were soooo happy to see her!  We had such a great time going to the beach, walking, shopping, church on Sunday and just strolling around the quaint little town of New Bern.  I hated seeing her go today because I wasn't ready to say another sad goodbye so soon.

While we were walking around downtown on Sunday, we passed a beautiful, three-tiered water fountain.  AK asked for a coin to throw in.  Mom gave her five pennies.  We watched as she tossed them in one by one, closing her eyes tight each time.  Without a word, she turned and walked back over to us and we started walking down the sidewalk again.  I said, "So what did you wish for?"  She replied, "I wished for Daddy to come back home and stay the whole night and to never go back to work again."  I almost started crying right there.  I told Mike it was the sweetest and saddest thing at the same time.  Sweet because no matter where we are or what we're doing, she is always thinking of and missing her daddy.  And sad because as she threw in those coins, I know in her heart she really thought if she wished it, it would come true.  Mike is really missing the girls.  He is hating to miss all the little moments. Many of Avery's firsts.  I am trying to take video of everything I can so he feels like he is seeing them grow along with me.  I can't imagine how hard this must be on him.

Both the girls got a seat upgrade! Avery loves facing forward.
I'm happy to report that we are not moping around here.  We haven't given ourselves time to cry and be sad.  And God is giving me so much strength.  I know it's from your prayers and my own.  I try not to think of how long he'll be gone.  Just thinking about getting through one week at a time has helped.  Not to mention the many packages and friends that have shown up on my doorstep.  We've gotten amazing care packages, special turtle cookies with lightning bolts on their backs (wishing me a speedy deployment! haha) and two friends that showed up on my doorstep one night with a Bloomin' Onion (yum), a bottle of wine and time to enjoy it all with me.  Thank you all so much for your thoughtfulness.  We are blessed.

This week will get even busier with AK starting back to Preschool, dance classes and church on Wednesday nights.  We are driving up to Annapolis to visit my friend Lexie this coming weekend.  I've signed up to run the half marathon mid-Oct. And then we'll be traveling again at the end of Oct.  So we have a lot to look forward to and I'm so happy about that!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

When it Rains, It Pours (Pun Intended)

So it wasn't enough that Mike left three days ago.  Now there's a category 4 hurricane headed straight toward us!  I'm laughing at the irony...

Mike leaves.
Hurricane comes.
We are near the coast, almost in its direct path.
And Mike is in the friggin' ocean.

We'll be fine, of course.  Well I think, anyway... unless Earl decides to turn further West.  Then we might be headed further West!  Mike says they'll be in the clear thankfully.

So far we're doing well and hanging in there better than I expected.  Thanks to everyone for the emails, texts and phone calls checking in on us.  Makes me feel far from alone in this.  I've been emailing back and forth with Mike almost every day so far!  He's doing fine, already flying some.  Hopefully he'll send me some pictures so I can post them here.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


He's gone. There were countless tears and countless hugs and kisses.  The hardest part was watching him say goodbye to our precious girls.  Such a hard day, but we got through it and now we start counting down the days until his return.

I wish I could've gotten more video of Mike, but they wouldn't let us get close to film them or take pictures of them getting into the jets.  We were told it makes it harder on them if their family is standing right there and making it harder to concentrate on getting the jet in the air.  I understood, but I wish so much I could've gotten those pictures of him in his gear and helmet and all.

We are so proud of you, Mike!  We love you so much and miss you every minute.  Every second.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Leaving Tomorrow

Mike leaves tomorrow, but it's almost 3 p.m. and he's still at work doing simulator flights and preparing for their departure.  Having to wait to spend our last few hours with Mike before he leaves seems really unfair.  Yes, I'm pouting, and I'll admit it. :) I know he'll be here as soon as he's allowed to be, so I've tried not to call and bug him too much.

I was wrong about the deployment time frame.  Turns out he'll be gone eight to nine months instead of the standard six to seven.  They were called to leave early to aid in the humanitarian relief for the Pakistan flood victims. There's not much a Harrier can do for them, but they'll be going early anyhow to stay with their squadron and get on with their originally planned deployment after Pakistan.

USS Kearsarge
On Sunday, we drove to Norfolk, where USS Kearsarge is docked right now waiting for all of the Sailors and Marines to board.  Since Mike will be flying a jet on, he wanted to take a few things up there to set up his room like sheets/blanket/pillow/foam mattress.  He took some of his heavy gear and a TV as well.  I was kind of excited to see the boat in person. (Even though it's the very thing that's going to take him away!)  From the outside, it is beautiful. And ENORMOUS.  However, Mike's room is like a shoebox with four bunks and a sink.  I teared up at the thought of him staying there for so long.  There are no windows.  Just tiny rooms with loooooong, narrow corridors with pipes running all throughout.  The only way they are able to see out is if they go to the top deck of the ship, which is just a giant runway.

We spent some time helping him tidy up his bed and arrange a few things before going up to the top deck.  Up there, Mike showed me where the Harriers take off and where/how they land. 

Runway. Scary to think of flying off that!

I had a bit of a breakdown about the added months Mike will be gone, but I know we'll get through it fine and come out stronger as a result.  I really appreciate all of your comments here on the blog as well as your emails and phone calls.  It helps to know that you are praying for Mike and for the girls and me.  Tomorrow will be a very, very sad and hard day, but after that I hope we will get moving and cheer up and start the countdown!  I bought a giant map and put it up in AK's room so she can see Daddy's progress by using pinpoints as he travels across the world.  We plan to stay super busy to help pass the time. And each night, we'll listen to Daddy read a bedtime story! (He recorded an hour's worth of reading their books. I think it will be huge in helping Avery remember him... or at least recognize his voice/face when he gets back.)

Mike's bunk is on top.
The Ready Room.  Where they plan missions, etc.
Please pray for Mike's safe departure and joyous return!  I'll post pics of his fly-off if they'll let us get close enough.  Thanks again for your prayers and support.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


It's Wednesday night.  About six years ago I'd be spending this (and every other night) with my husband, watching TV or sitting out on the deck or patio, just talking about the events of our day.  I'd know he would go off to work at the bank the next morning, call me at my office at Lexmark a few times during the day. Maybe we'd meet for lunch.  And then later I'd see him walk through the door not long after I did.  We'd then spend our Saturday and Sunday together.  Enjoying our town or maybe taking a spontaneous weekend trip somewhere fun.

On this Wednesday night, I'm here in another town, alone, while our girls sleep.  I'm not sure when Mike will be home.  He works all sorts of crazy hours.  Never the same.  He pretends to have a "schedule," but it's so fluid and changing that I'm not sure it's the right word for it.  I haven't heard from him since he left today, but I'm assuming he's flying right now because that's the last I was told.

The doorbell rang a few minutes ago (around 9 p.m.).  A loud knock followed.  Of course I got nervous because I'm paranoid and would normally not answer the door if I'm home alone.  Junah was barking and I was afraid my girls would wake up.  I waited for the person to give up and leave.  Instead I heard loud knocking again and an attempt to turn the knob.  That made me think it was Mike for a second, he must have lost his key... then I heard a faint, "ma'am?" I went completely numb then because I remembered that Mike was scheduled for a night flight and why were these people so persistent?!  The thought of two uniformed Marines standing outside my door to deliver the worst of bad news is almost paralyzing.  Again, paranoia here.  Ends up it was some guy looking for our neighbor who recently moved away.

I'm sitting back down on the couch now.  My heart is still racing.  I'm always fearful that something is going to happen to Mike in those Harriers, but that's not what this is. The truth tonight is that I'm extra anxious and nervous because we just found out a couple days ago that Mike is deploying in ONE week, and I haven't really let it sink in until now.  He'll be gone for seven months, flying off a ship in the Mediterranean.  There will be next to no phone calls, mostly emails.  No Skype either unless they're in port. Seven months. That is daunting and very scary to me... that he'll be at war and we'll be at home without him.  That he'll miss the girls and that they'll cry for him.  That I'll cry for him.

I'll be blogging throughout his deployment, but this is why I had to make the blog private. That's why, if you're reading this, I've sent you an invitation to keep up with us if you'd like. Please pray for our family as Mike literally sails way beyond the sand and begins a challenging chapter of our lives.  Pray for all those who serve and for their families.  You may not know of all the small, everyday sacrifices these individuals make to protect our freedom.  Even when they're not deployed, they don't come home every night. Plans have to change constantly. They don't often get to meet their husband or wife for lunch. A spontaneous vacation is usually not a possibility. They miss their kids' birthdays. Holidays. They miss their babies' births and milestones. 

Lord, be with Mike and all those who serve!  Protect them and bring them home safely.  Quickly.  Please watch over the families of those who are serving overseas and at home. And I pray for peace for the families of fallen and missing military men and women.

We'll be enjoying Daddy Time whenever possible for the next week.  After that we'll watch him fly off while we wave our hands and American flags in support of our Marine.  Then I'll be back to post some pictures and give you plenty of updates on his progress and ours as the weeks and months go by.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sailing Over to Private for a Stretch

I hate to do this. Mainly because I don't know how much of a pain it is yet, but I'm going to make Sailing Beyond the Sand private for a while due to Mike's upcoming endeavors and security and all...

I'll still be blogging. Probably a lot more, so if you want to follow along our journey and I don't have your email, please let me know by commenting here.

Thanks for reading!


Thursday, August 12, 2010


We had Avery's birthday party a week early so Mike would be here. (She turns 1 on the 13th.) The party was great, but Daddy got called into work. :( He made it back for the last 10 minutes, thankfully, and I was able to delay her cake smashing until then.

Avery enjoyed herself and had no issue digging her fingers into her gooey birthday cake!

At a year old, she is such a delight. She is a happy, happy girl and loves to laugh, dance and clap her hands. She hasn't walked yet, but she's getting stronger by the day and is standing on her own for a few seconds at a time. She says a few words, including peekaboo, ball and banana. She's sprouting fast. If I didn't put an end to mealtimes, I think she'd eat for hours!

Thanks to everyone who came to help us celebrate our sweet girl!