Thursday, April 30, 2015

Retail Therapy

I've never been a very girly girl.  When I was a kid, I spent most of my time with boys picking up frogs and snakes and rarely washing my hair, which flowed in lovely mats halfway down my back.  There was way too much coolness going on outside for met to notice that my church dress was on backwards.  I did notice that I didn't quite fit in with the pretty girls, and that was okay with me.  (They didn't know how to bait their own hooks, anyway.) Now that I am a full grown woman with grandkids and a mortgage, I wash my hair much more.  I usually have my dress on right. (I think.) Yet I still don't feel I fit in with the pretty girls.   

Having been pregnant or nursing for over ten full years of my life, I have struggled with my body.  I have lost and gained well over 300 pounds, if you tally it all up, I have been at odds with my body for a long time, and my Sudden Cardiac Arrest brought on a full-blown body break up.  

We stopped speaking, this horrible lump of betraying, untrustworthy chunk of flesh and I.  It abandoned me in my hour of need, and I was angry!  It has taken  years to get back on speaking terms. For the first time in my life, I can honestly say I'm quite comfortable in the skin I'm in. Now I'm ready for RETAIL THERAPY, and I've found the perfect way to do it!  

Everyone who knows me, knows what it means to me when a business steps up and makes a difference.  Lord and Taylor is one of those retailers.  I realize there is not a Lord and Taylor in scenic Climax, Michigan.  (Actually, we're doing pretty well to have a Post Office and a hair salon.)
There isn't one within 100 miles.  There is one right at my fingertips.  On the Magic Interwebs I can go on there and see the really pretty stuff that the pretty girls are wearing in New York City (which I thought was one of the coolest places I've ever been.)  I can order it, and this weekend they'll make a donation to WomenHeart to help me and other WomenHeart Champions offer support to the others who have broken up with their bodies also.  

The information can be found at the end of this blog, and I hope you'll visit their store or website to get your "shop on!" I just can't help but spread the word and share the love when companies choose to support me and show me some love.  For me, it's very personal.  I hope you'll support Lord and Taylor, and shop this weekend!  

On May 2nd, Lord & Taylor is hosting a national Charity Day for women’s health. Customers can support organizations nationwide benefitting women’s health. Customers can specifically support WomenHeart in three ways:
1.     Starting today, visit, donate $5 to support WomenHeart, and in return get one 20% off storewide savings pass and two 30% off single item coupons, to use in any Lord & Taylor store on May 2, 2015.
2.     Shop at on May 2, and a percentage of net proceeds from purchases will benefit WomenHeart!
3.     If you are in the New York City area on May 2, visit the Lord & Taylor flagship store at 424 Fifth Ave., New York, NY, purchase a $5 savings pass, and receive the greatest discounts of the season on your Lord & Taylor purchases that day! Proceeds from the $5 savings passes sold at the Lord & Taylor flagship store on May 2 benefit WomenHeart! 

Learn more by visiting Shop at Lord & Taylor for that perfect Mother’s Day gift while supporting WomenHeart!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Dear Mrs. Little...

Lance Corporal Jason Little gave his life for his country in January of 2006, just as my own son was considering his post-high school choices and leaning heavily towards a military career. This letter has been 9 1/2 years in the making, and it's about time I told her what she and her son have meant to me.

Dear Mrs. Little,

I have thought to write you so many times, and I never know exactly where to start.  Being from Climax, I am certain our paths have crossed many times, but I can't really say we know each other. We probably have a lot in common, and I have prayed for you and your family many times.  I am so very sorry for the loss of your dear son.

I have tried not to imagine the pain and grief your family has endured, but it follows me.  It has been my greatest fear, ever since my oldest son joined the Army in 2006. With Jason's death having been in January, Jordan's induction in June stirred up thoughts of him and your family from the very beginning. Six years later, Jordan's younger brother Spencer would swear the same oath.  I was so proud of my sons as they swore an oath to protect this country to the point of death, and I wondered if you felt that same pride when Jason pledged the same thing. Surely, you were as afraid as I was.  I prayed for you on those days.  I prayed for all of our sons, and all the sons and daughters who take that oath, hoping they understand that it means exactly what it says.

When my Jordan deployed, I thought of Jason.  I'm sure they were both excited for an adventure, and a chance to see the world outside of the village limits. Jordan went to Germany, and my mother heart was worried. I knew his wife would be with him, so it wouldn't be as scary as being in a combat zone, but it's still awfully far away.

When Spencer told me he was being deployed to Afghanistan, I got panicky.  I wondered how you handled the news when Jason told you he was going to Iraq.  Were you in the same mixed bag of feelings I was?  Were you excited that your son would have the chance to be brave and valiant, and see the world and work to make it a better, safer place?  Were you, like me, terrified for them to be in a place where people wanted to do them harm? What a roller coaster of emotion! I took to the practice of hugging random uniformed service people, since my own son was unavailable.  (They didn't mind too much, and I asked first.)  I swear I held my breath for months, treasuring each letter and message, fearing each one would be our last. I feared that you and I would one day be standing side by side, mourning our sons together in Fort Custer. I prayed to have strength. I prayed for YOU to have strength.  I prayed that God would hold you in his arms, and you would find comfort there.

I've prayed for you so many times. I prayed for you and Jason, and the birthdays you will celebrate and remember the day he was born, without him.  Every Christmas, I think of you, and send up a prayer that somehow Jason will be present with you, smiling down on you and your husband and his siblings.  I pray that you will have so many wonderful memories of him, that his absence will not overshadow them.  I pray for his sister and brother, as I watch Jordan and Spencer's siblings rally around their brothers when they come home for a visit.

What I really want you to know is that Jason is not forgotten.  You raised a son who was brave, and willing to do all it took to protect our way of life.  He gave the ultimate sacrifice, and he gave a piece of you with it.  Your son is not forgotten. Neither are you. I wish I could carry away a piece of your pain.  In my heart, I see him when I see men in uniform.  He is honored every time the National Anthem plays and caps are removed. He is not forgotten, and neither are the others.

I saw in this week's Climax Crescent that you and your daughter are running a marathon in Washington DC in Jason's memory. It is a fundraiser for the Semper Fi Fund, which offers aid to wounded service people of all branches of the service. I will make a donation to support you and Stephanie financially at this donation website , and please know that I support you in prayer... still.

It's hard to believe it's been almost ten years.  He is still in my thoughts, and so are you.  Thank you, bless you, and stay strong.

With love and admiration from one Military Mom to another,

Amy Swager


Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Red Boots

As I scrambled madly, up to my elbows in shoes, trying not to be late for whatever really important meeting I needed to be at next, I realized the truth.  My shoes, as well as my life, are a disorganized mess.

This blog, like my shoe closet (and my life) is a random conglomeration of the stuff I care about, the things I need, and the "shoes" that have been given to me, and I hold onto, hoping they will fit one day. My style could be called "eclectic" since my shoe closet contains an array of styles, from the black platform boots that make me at least 5 inches taller, to the slip on casual beach shoes that I wear when I want to relax, to the sparkly princess shoes that go with the blue cocktail dress that is still waiting for the right occasion to be worn. Some of my shoes are incomplete pairs.  There's probably a match to it in there, I just haven't needed it badly enough to search for it. These lonely fellows remind me of the things I will get to "some day".  Like learning to speak fluent Spanish, and knitting.  Both are on my list, and I'm not willing to throw them out.  They're just waiting their turn.

I have to admit, one of my favorite pairs of shoes are my red boots. They make me feel like I can give heart disease a kick in the pants and a run for it's money. I feel so empowered when I wear them. They remind me of my friend Stephanie, and how she survived a heart attack on Pike's Peak, waiting for hours for the helicopter to rescue her.  They make me think of Sue walking into the ER as her heart was stopping, announcing to the nurse "I think I'm having a heart attack."  They make me think of my sister doing CPR to save my life in a beauty salon, and I want to take away how scary that was. These boots make me stand tall and proud like Wonder Woman. They make me turn my fear and anger and uncertainty into strength and resolve and drive.

I wish I could give every woman living with heart disease a pair of these red boots.

They say that 1 in 4 women will die of heart disease.  When I'm wearing my red boots, I feel like I can stand up and say, "Not me." (Although, technically, I've been without a pulse, so you could say I've already died.  I didn't "stay dead", so it doesn't count.)  In my red boots, I feel like I can stand in front of my Mom and say, "You can't have her".  I can stand in front of my sisters and friends and say, "Not her either.  Move along"

If we all had our red boots on, we would stand together as an Army of  Red-Booted Warriors!  We could stand in front of every 4th woman and say, "No, Heart Disease. You can't have ANY of us."

It's a great goal, but for now, my WomenHeart sisters and I will do the next best thing.  We will educate everyone who will listen.  We will wear the boots for each other when one is having a "grippy socks in the hospital" kind of day.  We will seek out the sisters who are suffering alone and trying to pretend to their family like this isn't the scariest thing they've ever faced, and support them.  We will teach people how to save lives with CPR.

We will help others find their own pair of "red boots".  We will hold each other up, and try to help each other live long enough to make it all the way to the bottom of our lists, so I can say something in Spanish beyond "eat your beans" and someday knit a really ugly sweater.