Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Finding Purpose.




Have you ever felt like you were lost? Everything seemed to be just be passing you by. Life has a strange way of moving on even when we do not want it to. Life can really suck some days.

When Weston was first diagnosed, it was all a blur. Things moved fast, I was just along for the ride. Then, we get the news that we need to go to Philadelphia. O.K. I said to myself. Weston beat the odds time and time again. He was a rock star. Although we spent the next three years in Philadelphia. Even on the hard days I always thought we got this. But, life goes on.

Weston was not to come home from Philadelphia. He lost his battle and I lost my way. The family all moved back to Tennessee and proceeded to learn to live together again. It was hard. I was broken. I felt as though I was in the middle of an ocean on a small raft. Everywhere I looked was water. Which way should I go? I had no idea, and really I did not care at the time.

This was a hard time for Julie and I. A man without purpose is not very fun to be around. I was grumpy and lost. I did not realize it at the time but I was. I needed a direction, but I could not bring myself to move. I just wanted to sit in my sorrow. Life marched forward whether I moved with it or not. Julie and the kids were the only reason I done anything back then.

The thing about life is you can only sit for so long. One day Julie said "hey why not finish your degree". I said "sure" with about that much gusto. I did not know it but Julie had just planted a seed. The more I thought about it the more it ate at me. I should finish my degree, why not I was so close. So, off I went in a direction and what do you I started to move. My little boat was finial moving. I was no longer stuck.

Finishing my degree will not happen until this August but, boy I can see the end of the tunnel. Our life has always had ups and downs, but for once I can see land. I can see one of the many destinations I want to visit. I am starting to learn to live again. Life is starting to take shape again. I have made many changes in our course as I sail toward graduation, but with Julie and the kids helping me I will make it. I now have a goal. Hope is there again.

The loss of Weston will leave a mark on my life forever. I think I am starting to turn a corner. The pain is starting to become more manageable. I will never forget him or stop hurting, but I must captain my ship. If I do not, then life will still march on. So, if you find yourself drifting one day, remember it is O.K. for a little while but life goes on. Grab the rudder and pick a direction and see what life has in store for you just over the horizon. As always Hang on, Hang In, and Don't Quit.


AK

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Basketball Is Fun!

Julie and I have been letting the kids play basketball over the last few months. We just played our last games Saturday and what a blessing it was to be involved in this league. It is amazing to see what kids can learn in just a few short months. It was such a great thing for our family as Julie and I laughed, cheered, yelled, smiled, worried, and watched the kids grow in there basketball skills.

Ellie played and was one of the taller kids so she liked to run around with the ball and play keep away. I found this to be the funniest thing, some of the other parents may not have enjoyed it as much. Avery was able to score a point and was learning how to dribble. Emery and Abby played on the same team and where a fierce defensive combo. They both played with true determination and even won the championship for their age. Sutton from the start was just a ball of energy and you never truly knew what he was going to do. In his last game, Sutton was also playing good defense and making an impact on the court.

The coaches each took our kids and found what they could do and expanded on it. Every coach was a true blessing and taught each kid. Charlie the guy that ran the league was great at helping the kids learn what they did wrong and help them to do better. I only heard one word spoken out of place and Charlie was quick to call the person out and remind everyone why we where there. This was one of the best things we have every done as a family.

One of the things that I could not help but think was that Weston would have loved it. The way the crowed cheered for both team, especially for the kids that do not always get the ball. In some games a player would be "helped" a little so they could shine, Weston would have eaten this up. He may not have been able to play for very long, but he would have loved every minute of it. This is what tells me we made the right choice. I know if Weston would have loved it, then we made the right choice.

This experience has help me heal a little. I feel that our family is finally starting to do normal things. I  felt like we belong. We still stick out a little with our big group, but everyone was very nice and understanding that this was our kids first year. Although most will probably never know it they have helped this dad heal a little from a broken heart. Thank you to all that have put in the time to make my kids feel welcome. As always Hang on, Hang In, and Don't Quit.


AK

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Being Thankful Is Hard!


Today is Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday. I love that we get together with family, eat food, and just enjoy each other. Today is a day for looking back at the year and seeing all the good things. And, you know what, this is hard.

It is not always easy to be thankful. Looking back at this year, I have many things to be thankful for, but my heart is not in it this year. Sure, every holiday has been hard since Weston died. I do not believe is what is going on this time. I can see something new this year in myself.

You see to be thankful, truly thankful, a person needs to look at their whole life. You must look back and see all of the good and the bad. Looking back at the bad makes me sad. I try to keep myself seeing the best in everything, being positive is very important. 

So, today as I look back and become a little sad, I will refocus myself on what I am thankful for. I will look toward the good. I will remember the hard times, but only dwell in the good. Thanksgiving will always be a time for remembrance.

Now, I am going to change how I see Thanksgiving. I will always see it as a day to be thankful, but starting this year I am going to see it as a day of hope. Thanksgiving is a day of hope, after looking back, and seeing the good of another year. I challenge you to find new hope this Thanksgiving. Always give thanks and remember the past but move forward toward the hope of tomorrow. Happy Thanksgiving to all!!



AK

Monday, November 14, 2016

It Will Be Here Soon, Feed the Fire 2017

This year has flown by, 2016 seems like a distant memory. It is funny how your memories change with time. I can remember somethings from my youth as clear as can be, but things yesterday are not always so clear. As I sit and reflect on my year, I am surprised at all that has happened. All of the kids seem to have had an explosion of growth this year. We are almost out of diapers, this is a great thing but a little sad. Time marches on ready or not.
November and December always seem to fly by, January and February are a little better for resting. March will mark the third year since Weston passed. March is hard. It is a time to remember him. It is a time to reflect. With March also comes the start of something good, Feed the Fire. Feed the Fire is my favorite thing we do all year. It provide me with a way to channel my grief into something good. It is a way for me to give back, in a small way, to the ones who give so much. 
When Weston was in the hospital, some of my favorite memories involve the firemen. They came and saw him in the hospital, invited us to visit with them, they adopted our family for Christmas, and sent packages from around the world, to help Weston feel the love. On one visit the firemen even set up the ladder truck and visited Weston in his 6th floor room. Talk about seeing a boy light up. When the hospital security guards told them they could not park there, you know what they said, we are here to see Weston. Still brings tears to my eyes.
Feed the Fire is on March 23rd and is our way of saying thank you. Thank you to all the first responders, all the heroes who make a difference everyday, even when they do not know it. Feed the Fire is about doing something nice for someone else. The first year we feed over 100 different places, last year it was over 200 and we went world wide. This year I am going to challenge you, I want to see this grow, 500 is my goal. I know we can do it. We received pictures both years and it is great to see the happiness in everyones eyes on that day.
How can you help?  It is easy on March 23rd, go feed a hero. Feed the Fire is a great chance to visit with your local first responders, tell them thank you. You can bring a hot meal for the day, or supplies to be used as needed. The important thing is that you spread the love that was shown to a little boy in the hospital. Contact your local departments and see what they need. Remember Feed the Fire is coming start planning today!


For more information go to  Feed the Fire on westonswarriors.com or check it out on Facebook look for more to come out between now and 2017! 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

It Has Been A While.



The thing with life is that it keeps on going. Everyday we move further along in life. It is crazy. I have been thinking lately (scary thought right). Lots of things have been pulling at my heart lately. Why do people do the things they do? Why must me throw stones? Why do we forget, we are all just people? Why? Why? Why?

My heart was broken, when the heart community was rocked by a tragic event. Why people do the things they do, we may never know?  It is always a shame when the blood of the innocent is spilled. If you are having bad thoughts or you know someone who is, you must seek help. Life is short enough as it is. Violence is never the answer. People love you, get the help you need.

As always, Weston is heavy on my heart, as I struggle to make sense of his life. I miss him everyday. I stop in my tracks, when I think of how old and what he would be doing now. In many ways, he has taught me how to live life, in the now. As I learn to live my new life, I find some days are just hard.  I find I am more alone now, than every in my life. It is not that I want to be alone, it is more of I want to be with my family more. I love my family and will live my life to make things better for them.

We spent three years torn apart, and now, we find that living together is hard. We are all trying to find the new normal. What is normal? Who is normal? Do I even want to be normal? When life smacks you in the face, it is hard not to shift your priorities. I find many things less important as I focus my attention more on family than on the outside world. The greatest gift I have received is my wife and kids. Never take them for granted.
Keeton family 2015

I am not trying to complain, it is my hope that by sharing others will see that they are  not alone. Life is hard, life is tough, life is a challenge. I find that when I step back and slow down I see how lucky we are. Life stops being so hard. The struggle for me is to slow down and enjoy the moment I am in.

The whole country seems to be on edge. I think we all need to slow down and enjoy our families. The  amount of hate in this country right now is a shame. How did our country turn to so much hate. Why is it one way or the other. Last time I looked there are many different ways to do something. I believe we all need to fix our lives, before we look at others.

We all go through changes in life. Follow your heart.

Change is going to happen even if you do not like it. I deal with change best when I stop trying to fight it and embrace it. I do not have to like it, but I do have to change. If you find yourself struggling it is OK to find help. We all need help sometimes. Please remember Hang on, Hang in, and Don't Quit!!!


AK

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

My Best Keep Secret




Weston's story has been told many times. Around the world, many people have heard of the long, heart breaking, and powerful story, that is his life's story. Knowing the number of lives, he touched will probably never be known, but I would say generations have been changed due to him.

Knowing that, it is still a wonderful thing to hear about someone doing something nice, just to pay it forward. "Feed the Fire" was such a shot of joy to my heart. March is always the hardest part of the year for us. Hearing how Weston's story is still making an impact helps ease the hurt. The best is when someone does not know who I am, and they tell a story about how they heard, or did something because of Weston.

As time goes on, the pain of his passing still haunts me. The anger, frustration, and sadness try to take hold of my life. Let me tell you, sorrow is not an easy thing to shake. Have you heard it takes a village to raise a child? Well, it takes the whole world, to recover from the loss of one.

Many people have asked, how do you guys do what you do? Or something very similar. Well, I will tell you, lean in close and raise your right hand. Now, do you promise to keep this a secret for as long as it takes you to read the rest of this post. Alright, I will tell you....

But, first I must tell you about Julie. If you have not met her she is the best. I could not have gotten any luckier, than to marry someone like her. I could not have made it this far in life without her. She truly is my better half. If I have a weakness, it will be something she is strong in. Julie completes me. On days when I am struggling to adjust to life without Weston, she is there to help pick me up.

Oh what is that? you want the secret. Well now hold on I have just a few more....... Ok Ok I will tell you. The secret to my life, well besides family, my wife, and of course hope in the future, is.........well....YOU. You my extended family, the ones I know and the ones I may never know. You are what help get me through the darkest of days. Without you there would be no paying it forward, Feed the Fire could not go one, and our hope in the future would not be so real. So, my dear reader, supporter, and friend how do I say thank you? The only way I know how. Thank YOU!

You are the reason I can Hang on, Hang in, and Don't quit.


AK


Saturday, April 2, 2016

Words Of Wisdom






Have you ever been talking to someone and then BAM! they lay out something big. I am not talking about normal big, I mean life changing big. I can thing of at least two times in my life. It was a paradigm shift for me both times. As a matter of fact it is one of those things that stick with you. Gently nudging you in the back recesses of your mind. Ever so slightly you start to see the whole picture, because at the time you are to wrapped up in life to notice what was just said to you.

Now on to the good stuff, the first time was during one of our trips to Johnson City Medical Center for Weston. Julie and I where taking in what the Doctors had just told us. If I remember correctly the Doctors wanted to do something new to Weston and we where unsure of what to do. The Doctors had left us to make up our minds on what to do. Now my whole life up until this point had been to always trust that the Doctor knew best. This time we where unsure and not wanting to do what the Doctors wanted to do. Then like a wise old monk, our nurse came to us with the best advice ever. (at least for where we where at the time) She said "You know you can say No to the Doctor". I was blown away. I had always done whatever the Doctor wanted to do. This has lead to many a Doctor's discomfort, as Julie and I have advocated for our kids.

The other day wisdom was bestowed upon me again. I was making a comment about how "I hate that I do not like something but I do not like it". Out of the blue, my friend, like the Dahlia Lama, himself, looked over at me and says "You do know, it is OK, not to like something". This may not sound like much but I had never considered that it was Ok not to like something that everyone else liked. I have always tried to "be nice" and apologize for not liking something. The thing is, this has been a life long problem for me. As I thought of this little nugget of wisdom, I keep coming back to "man he is right". How many times have I apologized for having my own opinion or not liking something that others like. You know what, it is OK, not to like something (unless it is Julie's cooking, then thats a whole other can of worms) and have my own opinions.

My challenge for myself and you if you choose, is to take these two pieces of gold and run with them. I am going to continue to tell Doctors no when I believe they are wrong. I am going to stop apologizing for my opinions and know that it is Ok not to like stuff everyone else likes. If you have some pearls of wisdom to pass my way please comment below. Remember Hang on, Hang in, and Don't quit.



AK