Seasons: Everything Is Temporary


Wisdom is knowing that everything is temporary and life goes through seasons.

I believe that success and happiness should be immediately celebrated. After Tyler died I learned to really live in the moment and be grateful for just one moment of peace or in the joy of a good laugh with friends. Tragedy, loss, and challenges should not drive you to give up. Really, neither one will last. Things are always changing. When we learn to roll through all seasons knowing they are not going to last forever  it is a sign of true wisdom and our growing experience.

When you see people who are very successful that are humble and kind, you are seeing wisdom. Winning lasts only for a day. Quickly that is all forgotten by the world. It is temporary like the summer. It is so important to invest in what really matters and endures.  Which I think is kindness. I think the best use of success is to improve the world around us.

When facing loss, challenges and unwanted change, we could best use those times to learn. We should not let those times push us into complete despair, stopping us from moving forward. We know that winter will end and it won’t be cold forever. Slowly Spring sneaks in and before we know it the whole world is renewed. If we keep moving, we will eventually find ourselves in a totally different place. Good things are always on the horizon, we just have to stay open to them during the hard times. If we let ourselves be defeated and stay down, it is very likely we will be miss the very opportunities that could raise us up and out of that place. We don’t have to stay in difficult times longer than necessary.

Never Give Up!

Be blessed and keep going!



Loss Lessons: Success


Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. -Steve Jobs

I am a big believer in belief.

By that I mean, what you focus on and what you REALLY believe about yourself will manifest itself into reality. We are capable of much more than most of us realize. 

Taking a moment to look around, I see people constantly focused on being the “best”, achieving success and in constant competition with others. (thanks Facebook! 😉 ).

We all want to do well, but there are a lot of different interpretations of success….money, a job title, beating someone else…though these are superficial, temporary examples of success. Many are attracted to physically beautiful, but false characters in movies, tv shows while living in unstable and unhealthy relationships in their “real life”.

I get caught up in this stuff too, hey I’m human, but quickly I am reminded that these things are truly worthless in reality. I learned this lesson from my greatest loss. Death can be a great teacher if we let it. It can teach us to live. 

When we focus on these superficial human ideas and feel that we are successful when we achieve them what does that say about our beliefs? What does that say about what we value in life? What we value in ourselves?

Perhaps success is when you reach a place where you are living your truth, confident in who you are and your purpose in this world, and those temporary, earthly items are no longer needed to validate who you are. You no longer need to “beat” someone else or cut them down to feel superior for a moment. And you will no longer tolerate that behavior from others around you. 

Confident, kind and giving people become the most attractive people you know and become your role models. Instead of your eyes searching for beautiful appearances, they search for beautiful and awakened spirits.

Your eyes open to the journey and struggle of every soul on this planet and how we are all connected, created by the same hand.

Perhaps that realization alone is the real definition of success in this life. 

Never Give Up,


Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. -Steve Jobs


The Unknown


I have been thinking about life altering changes, mostly those that are unwanted and unexpected. There are a lot of challenges in life, but there are a few that can truly spin us around and leave us totally disoriented. They also take away our security and sense of our future. When your future becomes a black hole and you lose everything in a moment, what do you do next?

Death, divorce, and cancer…unexpected losses, life threatening challenges or tragedies are some of the life events that will test us to the max and kick us out of our every day comfort zone and rip our known future away. Of course these things happen all the time, we just don’t expect them to happen to us.

It is really bewildering to go from an everyday couple with a routine about to start a fun summer weekend to the 26 year old widow. At least it was for me. I know that other serious life events can have a similar feeling when it comes to where to go or what to do next after these experiences.


For me, I felt frozen. I wanted to go backwards, definitely not forward. I felt it would take me further away from my comfort zone, my life that I knew, the husband I loved with all my heart, my best friend and the life we had planned out together. Our future. When I looked forward it was just black.


It was like when you first enter a unfamiliar dark room from the light and you can’t see anything. You put your hands out in front of you and squint to try to see. But there is nothing. So you try to shuffle backwards out of the darkness…..but then you realize that the door you came through is now a solid wall and there is no turning back.


So here’s what I figured out, you better get used to the unknown. Just like in a dark room, your eyes will adjust. Let go of the need to live in routine. Let go of living only in the familiar. You will adapt, but you do have to open your eyes and face it to overcome it.

I now believe that as terrible as these life experiences are, they are also blessings. Perhaps there are some people who get by in life with only experiencing minor loss and challenges, but will they ever really know who they truly are? If you are never pushed and tested, you can never know what you are capable of. A few naturally test their limits, and some, are forced into it by life.

Whatever has happened to you may be the absolute worst, terrifyingly devastating experience that you barely survive, but at the same time, it also can be the best one, that leads you to finally truly live for the first time.

What do I mean by that? You will learn to value every second, be grateful for every small blessing, feeling happy or one carefree minute in the light, once you get back to it. Laughing will become a cherished past time, as well as those that partake in it with you…because you have died while living, you now have the knowledge to know what it is to truly live.

The truth is, your future has always been unknown. You and others just convinced yourself otherwise. That is why these events are such a shock. People die? Marriages end? People are not perfect? I am mortal and not guaranteed a 100 years free of tragedy or suffering? What a revelation, right?

So, embrace the unknown. Then kick it’s ass. Learn to try, learn to take a risk, learn to make mistakes. Avoiding mistakes will lead you to living to only a fraction of your potential. You’ve already been locked into the darkness, open your eyes and step forward. It’s the only way to find the way out.

And as always, NEVER GIVE UP.




Take Pride In How Far You Have Come And Have Faith In How Far You Will Go…Blog Entry From June 1, 2011

“Things turn out best for people who make the best out of the way things turn out”
John Wooden

My blog/journal Entry from June 1, 2011

So I have been absent from the online world for a couple weeks. It was kind of nice to rest my eyes a bit. For the first time I can say I was so busy that I really didn’t have much time to obsessively be on the computer.

It has been a roller coaster (as per usual I guess) the last month. I am still in that outgoing tide motion I guess. I am feeling okay and optimistic, then find myself stalling and being slowly pulled back out to feeling overwhelmed and helpless. There are new challenges as time goes on. It has almost been a year and life seems to be waiting on the other side, which I know many have discovered that on day 366 there is no miracle recovery….but I also feel that after 12 months of being in limbo and feeling that I have a good excuse for not having my life together, will run out. This is mostly a self-imposed feeling of course, but really I wonder….

What I am going to do with the rest of my life?

There it is.


I imagine it like a cat in the dark waiting to pounce, and all I can see are it’s expecting eyes as I am forced towards it by time. I know it is inevitable and that I am crashing head-long into it, sometimes with fervor and sometimes being drug behind Father Time on a black horse. I wish I could say I am 100% in at this point, but a lot of the time I am half-hearted about it. My motivation has not fully returned.

I try to focus on the potential life that I would like to have if I still have to be here, but sometimes it just seems impossible to attain and then I hit a wall of sadness and helplessness. My motivation comes from hope for the future, and it is hard to maintain that hope. I am constantly battling the winds of doubt, fear and the past from snuffing out my flame of optimism.

I am also laughing, joking, accomplishing small goals, taking risks, and feeling a bit of my old self from years ago that has a bit of mischief and adventure in her eyes….thinking of possibilities, dreaming, and taking steps towards making some of them happen.

I want to make something out of this life I have left. I don’t want to go on unsatisfied, disillusioned and settle for less than what I started out for years ago. I don’t want to hear that it may never happen, that this is the way things are now, that life is unfair, or that wanting or doing any of these things is wrong or unrealistic. I want to try, I am going to take risks, I am going to take life by the scruff and have it follow me instead of being mauled and defeated.

Isn’t amazing to look back to when we couldn’t even imagine where we are today? I know the day I wrote this I couldn’t have imagined my life as it is today! Horses, love, confidence, and an opportunity to help and encourage others. Yes, there has still been challenges, loss, and tears since then, but I have come far from the darkness of the early days.
Journaling is such a great tool to help us express ourselves and heal in the moment, but also to encourage and heal us in the future when we look back and see how far we’ve come. Widowhood can bring a particularly vague vision of the future. Hang in there and believe that great things are just around the corner and God has amazing plans for you. Take action, be open to opportunities, take risks and have faith in God. Great things are coming your way. Never give up. *Chelsey

American Widow Project Weekend Retreat


So I am back after my first Weekend Retreat with the American Widow Project. It took me 3.5 years but I am so glad I finally signed up for an event.  After Tyler died I started searching online for some kind of help and information on being a widow. AWP was one of the most unique and helpful resources that I came across in my search. I then requested their AWP Pack that they offer free to military widows, that included the documentary that Taryn Davis, the founder of AWP, had made early in her experience.

AWP has been on my radar since the very beginning and they helped me immensely, though it was from afar, they gave me one of the most important things that I needed, to see other military widows LIVING again. They were going beyond just existing. They were smiling, they were traveling, they were going out and sharing their story and hero with others. They were trying new things, pushing past fear and building a new life…..and they were doing it proudly. They were not hiding that they could smile and that they wanted to still live an incredible life after their loss. That meant a lot to me, especially in the early days of my journey. The women I saw became my role models and I was inspired to not hold myself back, but to go do more with my life than I ever had before….and most importantly that I could do all of that and honor Tyler at the same time.

My intentions for the weekend originally were to get more involved and see what it was all about, but I needed it more than I knew. I have been in Nevada a while now and while there are so many great things that have come out of it, I have missed my circle of friends back in Virginia. I had not been to an event with just military widows in a long time and I had never been to one like this. What makes the American Widow Project ( so awesome in my opinion, is that it is for military widows, BY military widows. While there are so many scholarship programs out there and some foundations help with the immediate needs after loss (usually financially if you are in a bind), there isn’t much in the way of support like the AWP offers. Really, I don’t think there is anything like the AWP. They fill a very specific niche and I think it is because Taryn, the founder of AWP and a military widow, obviously is aware of where there are gaps.

The Weekend Retreats offer military widows a chance to meet and spend a weekend together in an intimate setting (the group size is limited to ensure this). You get to know everyone, their story and their hero. You have a roommate, which encourages building a relationship and sharing even more. There are activities to help everyone bond and to open up. It is a weekend that encourages healing, true understanding and camaraderie. All these things are SO important. Some widows don’t know any other military widows until they participate in this event. Some finally feel comfortable after having to pretend everything is fine because no one in their life understands. And we all learn from each other’s journey.

I was just amazed that in such a short amount of time I felt completely comfortable and willing to share with all of these amazing women. We all now have a connection and I am sure that we will continue to be in each other’s lives from here on out. I needed this weekend more than I knew. I learned a lot, but overall what was really highlighted was the importance of these kinds of friendships, having the right people in your life, and how necessary it is to give and receive empathy. Experiencing that with other military widows is on a whole different level.

On another note, it is impossible not to be inspired by these women and their heros. To see these women walking the same path as me and identifying with their stories, challenges and victories so much, was incredibly validating and encouraging. It was an amazing experience to receive support and advice from those further out than me and to encourage those that are a little newer in their journey, and to see yourself in both.

I hope you will look into the American Widow Project if you are a military widow looking for support or if you are looking to support a great organization that helps our military. American Widow Project is different to me because they are doing real and tangible things to help our military widows. (

I am so grateful to have had this opportunity this weekend and I am more energized than ever.

Never Give Up,



The Beginning and The End


I wanted to share some of my writing with you as I work on my book. Mostly I am just writing my experience. I also journaled after Tyler passed away to help deal with my grief, both on paper and online. I am very glad that I did, as sometimes it is hard to remember some things and I can see exactly where as was at specific time intervals.

Every book has a beginning and mine starts with an incredibly painful ending. It is easy to overlook how much pain and darkness someone has had to wade through when you see them smiling and happy. It may look deceptively easy and maybe even result in  people thinking “so what’s the big deal?” (sadly). So, I feel it is important to share the darkness and pain, so that it is understood what it takes to get back to a place of happiness and hope. It sometimes takes a very dark walk to appreciate the light. I would love to hear feedback, please don’t be shy!


Much of the first months after Tyler passed were a blur of emotion. Though we had his memorial within days of his death, he could not be buried in Arlington until much later. Any progress I may have made by the day of his funeral at Arlington National Cemetery was lost and I had to start all over.

Receiving the flag from his casket was extremely surreal, yet the pain was searing and heavy. I almost felt as if I couldn’t move. I didn’t want to leave after the ceremony; I didn’t know what to do. I could have stayed there all day if they would have let me. But instead, I was swept up in the forward motion of the people around me and the schedule of Arlington.

The days and nights in those months were incredibly difficult and painful. One night in particular, after everyone had left and I was at our home alone for the first time after he had passed away reality sunk in even deeper as I became acutely aware of my solitude. I had been waiting for him after he died, just as I had waited for him for over the years to return home from training trips and deployments. I started to realize that night when I kept thinking I should call him and then realize that he wasn’t going to answer ever again. Then the thoughts started flying through my mind, finally breaking through the fog, each one slamming into my heart and shattering it further.  He was never coming home again, I’d never see him again, never hear his voice again, all our plans meant nothing, they would never happen….our life and everything in it seemed to lose all meaning and just be floating in suspension.

That night I felt as if my chest was caving in and my heart was being ripped out of my chest. I screamed and cried. I didn’t know that kind of pain existed until then and it was terrifying. I felt completely alone, lost and wished that I could have died right along with him. Nothing made sense or held meaning. The only thing that would give me a trickle of guilt and purpose at first were my dogs, which still relied on me. They would lay on the bed next to me and I imagined they knew what happened and were sad too. Perhaps they were, or maybe they just sensed my sadness and stayed close to comfort me.

Blog/Journal Entry 11/15/10

I think all situations have their specific hardships, beyond the obvious one we all share (in widowhood). 
I remember staring out the window, wanting to go see him, so confused, my brain wouldn’t let me understand. Why couldn’t I go to the hospital? I needed to be there to make him feel better. But he was never in the hospital. He had already died, about 3 hours before I even knew about it and instantly. I didn’t see him for days. It drove me crazy the entire time, I remember just being in shock, staring and staring out the window, waiting for him to come home or for me to be able to go to him.

When we finally got to go to see him (at the funeral home) I had to sign paperwork, etc. first apparently. It was a lot of standing around, talking, and I was about to lose it and scream at everyone. He was just in the next room and obviously he was waiting for me. It was almost like as time was going on it was diminishing my chances of bringing him back. When I saw him and his casket I literally ran to it. And then instantly cried and cried. I couldn’t bring him back, I couldn’t help, but I did feel a little better that he wasn’t waiting anymore. I also thought that he didn’t look like himself and he would be irritated with how his hair looked. It made me smile for a nanosecond. I did feel much better to be with him, and if they would have let me I probably would have climbed right in and said “see ya, I am going wherever he is going”.

But I didn’t. I just left a note with everything I wanted him to know, in his hand.



Never Give Up,


What is Your Calling? Part Two


So after the contract was cancelled I figured I would wait for the government jobs to be listed and see what happened. In the meantime, I went back to pet dog training and decided to look at college again. The GI Bill had changed quite a bit and now I could afford to attend an actual University. I had experienced one dream coming true and it had emboldened me. I started to believe that I could work in a job I was passionate about and make a living. I was just doing that as a K9 handler and it was an amazing feeling.

I started looking for programs like animal behavior, but there was NOTHING in my area that even touched close to that. Except for Psychology. There was a lot about psychology that I was interested in. Remember Pavlov’s dog (classical conditioning)? I had learned attending Von Liche that many terms and research was from Psychology realm. Operant Conditioning, a conditioned reinforcer, positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, flooding and extinction, to list a few. I started to like the idea more and more.

I found a University in my area, Regent University, that had a great Psychology department. It was also a Christian University. I liked that, but I didn’t know what it would entail. I considered myself Christian, I had been baptized for the first time in 2005 on the USS Nimitz. But I was not a knowledgable Christian. I didn’t know the Bible. I had never heard of apologetics, and if I had, I would have certainly misinterpreted what it was! (Are you wondering what that is now? :))

I had never consistently attended Church. I did attend a lot while on deployment, but I was still very new and I couldn’t navigate the Bible well at all. I was insecure about that. So when I saw that Regent University required “religious” classes as part of their degree programs, prayer in class and an integration of faith in all classes I was intimidated.

Eventually, I applied and was accepted to Regent University. I remember that one of my first classes was a New Testament class. I was SO uncomfortable. Mostly because I was worried about being embarrassed because I didn’t have scripture memorized and couldn’t find things in the Bible like some of the other students who could open right to the page. I might have to flip through the Bible a few times to find the book and passage. But, as it usually goes, those fears were magnified in my mind and I learned I was not the only one feeling that way.

There was a diverse population of Christians attending Regent. From New believers who couldn’t find a bible verse in 60 seconds to save their life (me), to long-term devoted Christians aspiring to be pastors, and I was surprised to even learn that there were many who had been raised in the church and immersed in Christianity that had not yet really come to know God personally. They felt as though they had just been living a lifestyle and hadn’t begun to personally explore what it meant to them. I had a personal experience and a growing relationship with God, but I was was severely lacking in knowledge to grow that relationship.

Regent University has a great Veteran Affairs program also. It was just getting started when I first attended Regent but it made a huge  difference to be able to connect with Veterans and feel comfortable in a new environment. At first I felt like everyone was speaking this foreign Christian-ese language and I didn’t understand it! It was comforting to be able to go somewhere that was familiar. I learned a lot from that class and eventually felt as much a part of the campus as anyone else. I loved the prayer at beginning of class, although I didn’t quite master praying in front of everyone by the time I graduated. I had an amazing professor who was also a Pastor and I continued to try to get him for my religious classes. Spiritual Formations was a class that changed my life. I learned so much and my spiritual life grew immensely.

Little did I know how much all that would be tested in just a short time. Just when I thought I was figuring things out I would become totally lost. I would struggle with my faith, God, life, death and everything in between after Tyler died. Eventually it would all come together. It would just take a lot of endurance, work and holding on to what faith I had left to survive and then rebuild.

To be continued…..