The glass is half empty...
- I got a late start driving there (and went the wrong way for a while), so I didn't get to the hotel 'til about 2:30 in the morning. Yes, I drove from Ohio to Myrtle Beach, SC. I've always told myself that if I had to drive home (to Minnesota) from Ohio, I could do it. At least I now know that to be true. Hey, the glass isn't completely empty.
- That weekend the North Carolina National Guard Association was also having their convention in the hotel. This means that for all of Friday and part of Saturday, in the same hallway we had to traverse to go from the lobby to the session rooms, there were tables set up, selling military hardware. I found it all very triggering (no pun intended!). I mean here we are, widows, parading past weaponry--you do the math. I did talk to two military widows about this. One said she herself has worked in the Army for a long time and it didn't phase her; the other pointed out that that stuff saves a lot of lives too. Good point--and I'm glad it didn't affect everyone the way it did me. I know that the Camp Widow organizers can't control what else is going on in the hotel. I just wish more physical separation of the two groups could have been achieved.
- On Friday night I learned that a fellow unwedded widow, who I've become online friends with and who was set to come and room with me, wasn't coming. I'd been counting on her coming not only for part of the room fee (which she's paying after all) but also to pal around with her...and just to meet her! From the limited interaction we've had so far, I can tell we are kindred spirits. Anyway, honestly, for the first few hours after I learned she wasn't coming, all I could focus on was how it affected me. :( Because even when I'm in a large group of very supportive people, I suck at creating a smaller community for myself. (This subject is definitely big enough for its own post.) It wasn't until I told someone else she wasn't coming and they said "bummer for her" that I realized...oh, right. :sigh:
- The weekend was almost a complete technological fail. I forgot to bring the USB-to-electric converter for my cell phone's charger cord. And since my phone eats battery life like it's goin' out of proverbial style, I had no cell phone capability most of the time I wasn't in my room (I could still charge it through my laptop). But besides not having the time on me, this meant, essentially, that I couldn't live-tweet Camp Widow. (Such a first-world problem, I know.) Not a big deal.
And it really was nothing next to the fact that my laptop, which had been (I thought!) safely ensconced in my suitcase in the trunk, decided to use this occasion to break the battery. It's not that it won't hold a charge, I believe; it appears the battery won't all-the-way connect to the body of the laptop and also won't come back out. Therefore, whenever the electric cord falls out (which, since this is a PC and not a Mac, it is wont to do), the puter shuts off. So annoying. This too would've proven to be no big deal, if it hadn't been for one session, the Widowed Blog Slam, where I intended to read a couple of posts from my other blog. Fortunately, Robin (AKA Fresh Widow) had her laptop there and Internet-connected...and let me borrow it. Blessings to her!
And the glass is also half full...
- The hotel and location were sublime. I mean, it's the Myrtle Beach Marriott Resort & Spa at Grand Dunes.
source: marriott.com The hotel was to my left and behind me when I took this.
- On Saturday morning I had one of the best breakfasts of my life, certainly the best pancakes of my life, in one of the hotel's restaurants. The number of blueberries you see on top was majorly eclipsed by the number inside. This breakfast was worth the $13 I paid for it.
- The Welcome Reception was fun. We did a new icebreaker this year called "15 Seconds." It was set up sorta like speed dating, only it was just widows and widowers introducing themselves and answering questions that had been written on cards placed on the tables. Everyone who participated got a ticket and afterwards they raffled off prizes (Amazon.com gift cards and such).
- On Saturday there was a block where none of the sessions appealed to me, so I took a walk on the beach and got a manicure. I don't get to be at the ocean often, and it's been over 20 years since I saw the Atlantic. And in any case, it was just beautiful. I got a lot of great pictures, I collected shells.... The manicure, which you'll see evidence of in the next paragraph, was one of the best I've ever had. No visible chips (with regular polish) for over a week.
- I (finally) decided to get a widow's ring. Since I've started wearing it--while there is a slight trigger (I never "had" to get used to always wearing a ring before), it has helped strengthen my identity as a widow. And it's a tangible, visible symbol that's always with me--like Ron is always with me.
"Always in my heart & soul" - ring by Expressions of Grief
- Among all the other amazing widows I met, I met and became friends with Taryn Davis, founder of the American Widow Project. If she's reading this, I'm sure she's shaking her head at me for this paragraph, but whatever. She rocks. I'm a huge supporter of our military and as a widow, my heart is with all other widow/ers, including my military-widowed sisters and brothers.
- The banquet on Saturday night was really fun. A chance to dress up--and dance, a DJ who totally "gets it" (I mean, he played "Sexy Back!"), and amazing company.
- There were sessions for those Widowed and Not Legally Married and those Widowed With No Children. As one who fits into both categories, I'm glad to see these situations receive specific attention.
- There were some other really great sessions. (And this time, I'll write one or more posts about them, I promise. Update: You can find those posts here and here.)
- Most of all, it's Camp Widow! The benefits far outweigh the annoying stuff. This time, the benefits I felt the most, the best benefits by far, are:
- Further strengthening of my identity as a widow. Regardless of whether others "agree" or not or understand or not, I am a widow. While I was robbed of the chance to say "yes [I will marry you]" and "I do" to Ron and have never owned his ring, the one I intended to spend the rest of my life with died, so I qualify for this club that none of us wanted to join.
- Experiencing again the bond that is like no other.
- Affirmation: "Your 'voice' is so important [that may be a paraphrase]...You're such a great addition to this community" -Robin. "You're so real...I love you already" -Kris (with me in the photo below). "The honor was all mine and seeing your passion for your love and wanting to help others was inspiring ♥ I have no doubt you...are going to do so much..." -Taryn.
- Instant life-long friendships.
|Michele Neff Hernandez is the Founding President and Executive Director of the Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation, which puts on Camp Widow.|