The Sullivan Brothers

A Tribute to those who died in active military service are remembered

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Famous WWII Shipwreck Found After 75 Years

World War II captured the highpoint of the pinup culture. Pinups were meant to improve soldiers’ morale by bestowing an all-American vision of the darling waiting for him — the women worth fighting for. Sexy pinup beauties were painted at the nose end of bomber planes, hung inside barracks and submarines, and tucked into combatants’ pockets.

No matter how much allure and admiration surrounded the pinup girls nothing could stop the devastation of the Second World War. Although the exact number is unknown it is estimated that approximately 418,500 Americans lost their lives while serving their country during World War II.

The five Iowa-born Sullivan brothers – George, 27, Frank, 25, Joe, 23, Madison, 22, and Albert, 19, are the epitome of family sacrifice and military service during that time period. After the massive attack on Pearl Harbor the Sullivan brothers knew they wanted to defend their country but only if they could serve together. The brothers challenged the Navy’s policy of separating siblings, insisting that they serve together aboard the same ship.

The Navy eventually agreed to their terms. While serving together in the United States Navy aboard the USS Juneau (CL-52), the warship received a Japanese torpedo hit that blew the Juneau in half and killed almost all of the crew in November 1942. When the Atlanta-class light cruiser sank, 687 people died with it including all five Sullivan brothers. It was reported by survivors that Frank, Joe, and Madison died instantly in the initial blast, Albert drowned the next day, and George died after drifting four or five days in a raft. Because of the continually-present threat of further Japanese attacks, American rescue labors would not get underway until eight days later. By then only 10 Americans had survived.

The tragic death of the Sullivan brothers was unconceivable and it personalized the heartbreak the war had inflicted on so many people. The Sullivan brothers embody just one chapter in a lengthy story of combat and dying alongside family members and friends in times of war.

The Sullivan brothers went from being sailors to celebrated national heroes. The news spread fast across the country of the brothers’ sacrifice and extensive media coverage surrounded their story. Two years after their deaths, a motion picture called The Sullivan’s was made about them. Their journey was also part of the inspiration for the 1998 film Saving Private Ryan.

Two Navy warships were named after the Sullivan brothers: The Sullivans (DDG-68) and The Sullivans (DD-537). The titles made history as the first American navy vessels ever to be named after more than one person. The slogan for both ships was the very slogan of the Sullivan brothers, “We stick together.”

The Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center is located in the brothers’ hometown of Waterloo, Iowa. There is also a public park named after them and it’s situated where their childhood home once existed.

The USS Juneau was never found; that is until St. Patrick’s Day of this year. An expedition headed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, using his ship Research Vessel Petrel, discovered wreckage from the USS Juneau lying on the ocean floor in the South Pacific. Just off the coast of the Solomon Islands’ area, more than 13,000 feet below the sea, lies the demolished remains of the warship.

Underwater film taken of the wreckage shows the vast ruins. The metal is overgrown by barnacles and other sea life.

Finding the shipwreck’s remains after all these years has given some closure to many people, especially those who held the Sullivan brothers’ story close to their heart.

 

The Fire Inside Our Veins

Meet four inspiration children suffering with a rare disease

Imagine being told by a doctor that your child has a horrific syndrome – one that you have never heard of and one that will leave your child feeling  like they have been set on fire and  then left with second-degree burns. Where do you, the parent, begin? Can you even try to envision this intensity of pain?   The dreadful news leaves you reeling as you start to experience feelings of overwhelming confusion, despair, unfamiliarity and anxiety.

While not all rare diseases are fatal, the suffering that accompanies a condition called Erythromelalgia (EM) is life changing and can cause severe impairment. Many sufferers are left disabled, some commit suicide as a result.

EM causes severe burning pain, visible redness (erythema) of the skin, swelling, and increased skin temperature, particularly of the hands and feet. However, the face, ears, and limbs can also be affected. Some people burn continuously, whilst others have intermittent episodes of “flaring” throughout the day.  The excruciating flares can last from hours to days at a time. The disease does not discriminate by age, ethnicity or gender.

The exact underlying cause of EM remains unknown. However, one theory maintains the condition results from vasomotor abnormalities. These abnormalities affect the normal narrowing (constriction) and widening (dilation) of the diameter (caliber) of certain blood vessels, which leads to impaired blood flow to the extremities or other body parts.

In this article, we are going to introduce you to four inspirational children who suffer from EM and give you a glimpse of their everyday lives.

Meet Sebastian Soares, 12 years old, Massachusetts

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Sebastian is the oldest of three brothers and has the inherited form of EM, meaning he was born with a mutation in the sodium channel gene (SCN9A).  He has the genetic form of erythromelalgia together with small fiber polyneuropathy.

It was in 2009 that Sebastian experienced what seemed to be a jolt of neurological pain in his leg. Although the pain only lasted a few seconds, it caused him to fall to the ground screaming. He suffered from episodes like this intermittently over the next five years.  Sebastian was bounced around from doctor to doctor but, despite numerous tests and examinations, no explanations were provided.

In January 2015, Sebastian started experiencing severe burning in his hands and feet along with shooting pains, which limited his ability to walk. His hands and feet were bright red and burned 24 hours a day. Even the touch of clothing on his skin would trigger pain in his body.  Sebastian’s mother, Sarah, 35, also has EM. Her symptoms developed when she was 8 years old.  Being an EM sufferer herself, she recognized her son’s newest symptoms. It was then that Sarah contacted Mass General Hospital in Boston to get Sebastian in with a neurologist. While waiting for his scheduled appointment, Sebastian continued to live in torment. He typically left school halfway through the day crying in pain. Eventually, he ended up confined to a chair with a bucket of cold water and fans blowing on him all day. Sleeping was nearly impossible.

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Notice Sebastian’s red, burning lower legs and feet yet he’s still holding a smile

The neurologist who officially diagnosed Sebastian with EM was reluctant to prescribe medication. Therefore, Sebastian was referred to children’s hospital where he was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit and put on a lidocaine infusion to help stabilize his pain. It is quite difficult to treat a child with EM because strong medications are rarely, if ever, administered to pediatrics. He was slowly transitioned to oral mexiletine. Mexiletine is a non-selective voltage-gated sodium channel blocker, which belongs to the Class IB anti-arrhythmic group of medicines. It is used to treat arrhythmias within the heart or seriously irregular heartbeats. This is a rarely given off-label treatment.

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The burning in Sebastian’s legs and feet was so intense that it would take a few more stays in the hospital before his pain could be stabilized.

Sebastian felt incredibly isolated and alone. Play dates did not exist anymore and he lost friendships. He was a prisoner in his own house. His mother felt helpless so she decided to do something about it. She opened a post office box. Then she wrote about her son’s situation on social media and asked for letters or cards with words of encouragement.  Before she knew it, Sebastian was receiving cards, drawings, toys, letters, and care packages from all over the world.  It put a smile on his face over the next few months.

About six months later, in early 2016, Sebastian finally had a treatment dosage that helped the burning subside. He was able to return to a somewhat normal life but with limitations, of course. He must take his medications (mexiletine and gabapentin) every four hours around the clock. Although his parents are worried about the long-term effects of the medication, they are more concerned with giving him a good quality of life. He still experiences daily pain daily but not nearly as bad as in the years prior to treatment.

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He is most affected now by heat and fluctuations in temperatures and, because of this, he is being homeschooled. Sarah and Sebastian experience worse flares in the winter (as do many EM sufferers).

Sebastian is part of a local youth center, which has been an amazing experience for him. He has made new friends who are there for him through the good times and bad. He has a close friend, Dahlia, who he is incredibly thankful for. Since 2015, she has stood by his side.

Overall, he is now a happy kid who has adapted as best he can to this condition. The family is thankful for the incredible team of doctors at Mass General.

Sarah’s youngest son, Oliver, 5, also has the same genetic mutation, but no EM symptoms have appeared yet. 

Meet James Dennee, 7 years old, Maryland

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James was diagnosed with EM in 2015. Since then his life has been a rollercoaster of agony and emotions. During his first year with EM, he missed so many days of school due to pain that his mother, Shanna, who also has EM, decided to devote her time to homeschooling her son. Although homeschooling has benefitted his education, it has its downfalls. A once cheerful and socially active little boy, James is now withdrawn from fun events that would allow him to interact with other children. He has anxiety about leaving the house and dealing with his pain while out in public. Although he is comforted by many who love and care for him, he sometimes says he hates his life. His mother is grief-stricken because there is not much she can do other than comfort him and try to relieve the burning as best she can.

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Vacations are no longer enjoyable because James fears the burning pain he may experience from walking, sunlight, and various other triggers that cause flares for him.

James has big dreams of being a storm chaser or marine biologist someday. He loves learning about sharks.

Meet Ascanio Guerriero, 9 years old, Italy

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Ascanio was diagnosed by chance with EM in 2012. No other family members have EM. It was extremely difficult to get Ascanio officially diagnosed because there are only five reported cases of EM in Italy and no specialized doctor. Life was absolute hell for four straight years. Ascanio could not wear shoes or enter the kitchen when his mother was cooking. He stayed indoors with the air conditioning running during the hotter months. He spent many nights awake and crying with ice packs resting on his hands and feet.

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Ascanio is fortunate in that mexiletine has put and kept his EM in remission. He started taking the medication in late 2016. The only real problem has been the side effects from the medication, particularly headaches. His headaches cause him a few sleeping difficulties and concentration problems.

These days Ascanio feels good and he loves high adrenaline activities, especially motocross.

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Meet Chandler Keller, 17 years old, California

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Chandler was originally diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) when she was 12 years old. However, her diagnosis was questioned after a nurse witnessed one of Chandler’s flares while she was recovering from surgery in the hospital. Chandler had undergone an extremely painful spinal surgery due to scoliosis where she had two rods and 26 screws put in to help straighten her spine. It was during her flare when the nurse mentioned that it resembled EM more than CRPS. The EM diagnosis was later confirmed and Chandler also tested positive for the mutated sodium channel gene.

Some days the pain is unbearable for Chandler. Her EM has progressed from her lower legs and feet to her hands and face. She cannot relieve the burning without the assistance of a cold bath or soaking her feet in a bucket of ice water. Because of the agony, sleep is always a challenge.

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She is a junior in high school and is therefore permitted to be on the early-release program. She departs the school daily around 12:30 p.m. When she arrives home the first thing she does is soak her feet in cold water for 20 minutes then takes a lengthy nap. It is mentally draining to fight this kind of pain day in, day out. After her nap, she does her homework, eats then tries to sleep. Every day is like Groundhog Day as she repeats the same cycle.

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Chandler’s physician put her on gabapentin and she slowly worked her way up to 2,700 mg a day. She has tried almost anything and everything to relieve her pain such as CBD oil, hemp root salve, and several other natural remedies.  Her next plan is to try an all-natural whole foods diet.

Not a single day has gone by since Chandler was 12 years old where her feet have not been bright red. Her ankles are always swollen. Sadly, her family has learned more about EM from Facebook group forums than from her doctors.

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So what can you do to help?

Share this blog: Awareness begins by spreading the word.

Help us raise awareness: The Erythromelalgia (EM) Warriors is a non-profit organization providing patient support and information to those suffering with this dreadful disease. https://www.facebook.com/ErythromelalgiaWarriors/

EM Warriors is sponsoring a campaign called the Red Hand Challenge.

Please click on the link below to learn more:

Red Hand Challenge Event

Donate: No amount is too small. Erythromelalgia desperately needs funding for research and awareness. A contribution of any amount is greatly appreciated. If you would like to contribute, please click on the link below:

Donate here

Sociopaths: A Lost Conscience

The Road to Hell was paved with their Ugly Intentions

You know these people. They look just like we do. They eat the same foods we eat, wear the same apparels we wear, and sleep under the same sky we sleep under—you could even be sleeping next to one of these hell-raisers and not even know it. You’ve seen these individuals in action, working their wicked, magnetic brand of charm and humor. They function mainly unobserved —until they don’t, at which point it’s probably too late because they’ve already claimed your trust and livelihood. We’re talking about sociopaths, those human beings who move through life controlling you through their manipulation and deceitfulness.

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Perhaps you’re wondering how to prevent yourself from falling prey to the dangerous games sociopaths play. Not all sociopaths are serial killers roaming the streets in search of their next victim. They’re actually more common than you may think. It’s been suggested that one in 25 people are sociopaths. A high-functioning sociopath could be spreading mayhem and misery in your life disguised as a parent, child, partner, family, friend, or coworker. I have some crazy personal stories to share but we’ll get to that a little later in this blog.

Sociopaths fear two things: (1) Losing control. (2) Being Exposed.

First, let’s talk about when it usually all begins – Childhood. If the sociopath is a child or teenager the signs are more difficult to recognize because it’s not ‘all or none’ when it comes to them. Most young people who demonstrate sociopathy tendencies can at times be considerate, caring, and sensible. However, many display a lack of concern for the rights and feelings of others and are inconsistent in their behavioral patterns. It’s confusing for parents because often times their children will display a mix of strengths and weaknesses like every other child.

SOCIOPATHY SIGNS IN CHILDREN:

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  1. Indifference to consequences

One of the revealing signs of sociopathy, Psychology Today says, is an indifference to looming consequences. Sociopaths do not fully grasp the potential consequences of their risk-taking. A sociopath doesn’t register consequences as a negative effect, which could lead to poor choices with potentially grim results.

  1. Lack of empathy

Children with sociopath tendencies have an Inability to feel empathy for others or to understand the emotional consequences of their actions. There’s little compassion or sense of loyalty to others, particularly their siblings or friends.

  1. Frequent Lying without guilt

It’s not the lying itself that may raise early suspicion of sociopathy; it’s the fact a child can do so without considering ramifications. Most kids will look guilty when caught in an ugly lie, because they know it’s something they shouldn’t be doing and their parents won’t be happy with them. Kids with sociopathic tendencies, though, are unremorseful.

SOCIOPATHY IN TEENS:

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According to Psychology Today, the hallmark of teen (male and female) sociopathy is the inability to maintain close and consistently harmonious relationships and to feel accountable and remorseful when he/she does something that hurts another’s feelings.  This chronic disorder can be a result of interactions between genetics and environment, according to Mayo Clinic. Sociopathy cannot be officially diagnosed until a teenager has reached the age of 18, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, but the indications are typically present before the age of 15.

The biggest sign of sociopathy in teens is a lack of empathy. Other symptoms include persistent lying, manipulating others with charm for personal gain or desire, irritability, impulsiveness, promiscuity, and possibly aggression. A sociopath typically shows no remorse for hurting other people, even those they claim to love. They may suffer from periods of depression and anxiety and problems in school. Sociopath teens often have relationship difficulties, both within their families and with friends.

According to Psych Central, lying behaviors in teens may include lying about others (even their parents), or changing bits and pieces of a story to make part of it true and the other part a lie. Also, teens who calculate and manipulate in order to harm others are often the most frightening. Why? Because they are cloaked with the innocence of their youth and are often given the benefit of the doubt by adults. Who would want to see their own child or adolescent as one with evil intent?

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SOCIOPATHY IN ADULTS:

THE MOTHERSHIP HAS LANDED. Don’t walk. RUN! Nothing good can come from having a seasoned sociopath in your life, and especially not a romantic relationship. They con their victims into believing they’re kindhearted and have their loved one’s best interest at heart but they are only exemplifying a front. Whoever they are trying to portray doesn’t actually exist.

Deep down, these people are cold-hearted, and they completely lack the full range of human emotion. The only person they care about is themselves. People in their lives are seen as possible targets for their own self-centered, deviant needs.

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I married a sociopath but I didn’t recognize the signs until it was too late. He won me over with his good looks, witty charm and sense of humor. Little did I know I was being swept under the influence of a charismatic nut-job. He had mastered the “mind-f**k” game and enjoyed every minute of it. He tried making ME believe I was the insane one. I remember thinking, “Am I crazy? And how would I know if I’m crazy because do crazy people actually KNOW they’re crazy?” As wacky as that statement may sound, that is how a sociopath manipulates their partner’s mind. My ex was verbally, emotionally, and physically abusive, and he put on a total façade to the public. We went away for a long weekend once and upon arriving at the hotel the clerk greeted us a “Dr. and Mrs. _____.” Baffled but humored, I chuckled about it with my husband as we entered the elevator assuming she had mixed us up with another couple. After all, he was an engineer and nowhere involved in the medical profession. Ummm, no. My ex had actually booked our hotel stay as “Dr. and Mrs. _____.” He thought it’d be funny. Who does that??

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No matter how deteriorated my life had become with my ex, I always hid my pain well by keeping a smile on my face.  I was too humiliated to let others know the pain I was feeling, and too afraid to walk away.  Few people knew the horrifying details of my relationship, and the ‘secrets’ of the dark soul I had married.

He lied about his debt, career history, and why previous relationships had ended. He claimed to have a Bachelor’s degree but he didn’t. No employer asked for proof so he just never got caught. One company fired him yet he pretended to still be employed by getting up and ready for work every morning. He left our home before me and returned after I got home from work, still dressed in his business attire. It was all an act. He had actually been unemployed for three weeks before I found out. I had called his office phone vice his cell and a coworker answered.

He used to log into online chat rooms just to cause turmoil with random people. He’d ‘private message’ total strangers telling them lies about their partners because he thought it was funny. A con-artist, he thrived on the chaos and the gloom of others.

I had no idea how he was able to get under my skin like a flesh eating bacteria and stir up so much damage in my life in such a short amount of time. Fear prevented me from leaving sooner but finally after four years of pure hell, I left him. Rock bottom literally became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life. It’s better to have loved and lost than to spend the rest of your life with a sociopath, believe me.

To read my blog about my abusive marriage to a high-functioning sociopath, click here:

I Married A Complete Stranger

FEMALES OF ALL AGES CAN BE SOCIOPATHS.

Females fall under the same warning signs as males but with an added twist.

(As described on website softpanorama.org) Dr. Martha Stout, in her book ‘The Sociopath Next Door’, discusses the techniques of the sociopath — what she refers to as ‘the tools of the trade’. Among the most typical we can mention the following:

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  • Charming the victim. Dr. Stout believes it is a primary characteristic of a woman sociopath. Truly talented ones have polished their ability to charm people into an art, priding themselves on their ability to present a fictional self to others that is convincing, taken at face value, and difficult to penetrate. One must always keep in mind that the charm, like manipulation in general, can be very subtle.
    • Provocative (or seductive) behavior; early and repeated attempts to breach the personal distance while not being acquainted for a long time.
    • Attention-seeking behavior, especially efficient when it comes along with physical beauty. Physical beauty is the trait that makes female sociopaths so dangerous, as it disarms people.
    • Influence others and adapts to them seamlessly.
    • Make-up, hair style, clothing, perfume, the whole physical appearance are well thought out.
    • Exaggerated emotions; theatrical behaviors.

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  • Gaslighting. A common practice of abusers who attempt to convince their victims they are defective for any reason such as making the victim more emotional, more needy or dependent. For example, if an abusive person says hurtful things to you to cause your distress and then tries to convince you that you are mentally unstable and starts recommending that you get professional help, you might be in the presence of a gaslighter. 
  • Projection. Sociopaths refuse to be held accountable for their behavior.
  • The pity play. It’s okay to pity someone who has gone through difficult times, but if you find yourself feeling sorry for someone’s sad story, make sure the story is true. The pity play should be a warning sign to all of us as this is a very typical tool for female sociopaths.

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  • The entrapment of the victim. Often the entrapment of the victim goes in several, overlapping phases:
    • Assessment. During the assessment phase, the sociopath is able to determine a potential victim’s weak points
    • Manipulation. Once the sociopath has identified weaknesses of the victim, the manipulation phase begins. During this phase, a sociopath may create a persona or mask. A sociopath’s lack of empathy and guilt allows them to lie with ease. They are usually compulsive liars, actors who all their life are wearing some kind of fake personality.
    • Seduction. They use the same techniques as male sexual predators trying to condition the victim by shaking their moral norms and convictions.
    • Blaming the victim. They never accept responsibility for anything bad that happened. It is always somebody else’s fault.
    • Constant lying and perfect mimicry to the expectation of the victim.  Female sociopaths lie and wear a fake persona to gain the trust of their victim.  They are usually compulsive liars and perfect cheaters.

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QUICK CHECKLIST: Know Some of the Big Signs

  1. Superficial Charm

Sociopaths often appear to be very charming on the surface in order to create a facade. They are very aware of the effect their charm or wit may have on others, as their pretense of likability allows them easily gain people’s trust.

  1. Narcissistic

Sociopaths are extremely egocentric, believing that they’re always right and that everyone should agree with their actions and opinions.

  1. Pathological Lying

Sociopaths have no problem lying easily and it is almost impossible for them to be truthful on a steady basis. They’ll lie, and lie, and lie some more in order to create a false façade. Lying comes naturally to them, because they aim to hide their true motives.

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  1. Manipulative and Cunning

Sociopaths never recognize the rights of others and see their self-serving behaviors as acceptable. They appear to be charming. Don’t be fooled.

  1. Shallow Emotions

Sociopaths do not genuinely feel emotions. When they show what seems to be warmth, joy, love and compassion it is artificial and serves an ulterior motive. They’re unmoved and cold by what would upset a normal person.

  1. Lack of Remorse, Shame, or Guilt

Sociopaths are infamous for being devoid of these three emotions. They do not feel bad about their actions, even if these actions hurt others.

  1. Incapable Of Human Attachment

Sociopaths are unable to form genuine relationships with others. They will usually struggle to make friends or maintain romantic relationships.

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  1. Constant Need for Stimulation

Sociopaths suffer from boredom easily, and they need constant stimulation in their lives. This desire is related to their natural need for self-gratification. Their need for stimulation can cause to them to take needless risks that put themselves and others in unsafe situations. Promiscuity and gambling are common.

  1. Lack of Empathy

They are incapable of empathizing with others. For example, if someone told you a depressing story about a family member dying, you would feel sympathetic to their grief and pain. A sociopath, on the other hand, would feel nothing. In fact, lack of empathy shown by children could be an indicator of their later onset of sociopathy.

  1. Poor Self Control / Impulsive Nature

Sociopaths will exhibit very short tempers, as well as hostility, irritability, and aggression. They’ll act on their impulses without thinking or caring about any potential consequences. They may behave violently or impulsively, and also may have problems with drug and alcohol use. These characteristics typically make people with antisocial personality disorder unable to fulfill responsibilities related to family, work or school.

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  1. Promiscuous Sexual Behavior / Disloyalty

Sociopaths are likely to be unfaithful and promiscuous, which is connected to their tendency to get bored easily. As mentioned earlier, they need continuous stimulation.

  1. Irresponsibility/Unreliability

Sociopaths aren’t bothered by wrecking others’ lives and dreams. They’re unaware or unconcerned to the devastation they cause. They don’t accept blame on themselves, but blames others, even for acts they’re obviously responsible for.

Differences between Sociopaths and Psychopaths

There is little agreed difference between sociopathy and psychopathy, but some psychologists agree that psychopaths are more calculating and measured in their actions. The psychopath will be more likely to construct a complex scheme or plan and to carry it out, whereas the sociopath is more driven by impulsivity. This makes the psychopath more likely to commit crimes and generally the term psychopath is used more generally to describe the criminally insane rather than just the lack of empathy.

Can A Sociopath be Cured?

It’s complicated due to the variety of ways in which the disorder exhibits in each person afflicted with it.

“Though antisocial personality disorder is difficult to treat, for some people, treatment and close follow-up over the long term may be beneficial,’’ according to the Mayo Clinic. “Look for medical and mental health professionals with experience in treating antisocial personality disorder.”

TAKE THE SOCIOPATH QUIZ! (Click link below)

Are You A Sociopath Quiz

 

Me? I Choose Life.

Am I supposed to feel ashamed and silenced because I’m a Pro-Life Christian?  I am not ashamed.  Social media and news outlets typically only broadcast the side of a woman’s right to choose.  Yet opposing views, such as mine, are portrayed as hostile, ignorant, bible-thumping jerks.

I’m not a Pro-Life American who stands outside an abortion clinic yelling, “That’s right! You’re going to burn in hell!”  I think that type of behavior is wrong and hypocritically judgmental.  I’m not shouting out profanities at anyone who’s had an abortion or plans to have the procedure.  And I’m not aggressively and verbally pushing “Jesus” into women’s brains as if I am holier than thou and without sin.

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For me, being Pro-Life doesn’t mean that I’m against abortion for victims of molestation, rape, or younger-aged minors who are far too immature to understand the real consequences of sexual intercourse.  Perhaps this makes me altered from the whole “definition” of “Pro-Life.”  But unless “your” daughter has endured one of these life-impacting traumas, I think it’s premature to assume you’d naturally encourage her to keep the pregnancy as a parent.

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I also don’t expect a woman to endanger her own life for the sake of carrying out a high-risk pregnancy.

Being Pro-Life doesn’t mean I hate or even dislike women who DO choose abortion because I don’t.

What I can say is that if an indecisive female friend or stranger confided in me about being pregnant and scared, I would encourage her to choose Life for many reasons. Giving the gift of life is a beautiful thing.

Why are we not promoting the concept of adoption and bringing awareness to the fact that in America today, there are over 2 million couples waiting to adopt-and that includes children of all races and those with special needs? (This information from the National Council for Adoption)

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Life has begun from the moment of conception, and at just 22 days after conception a beating heart is present. That’s a proven fact.

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Although I’m opposed to abortions (apart from the conditions I mentioned earlier), I have zero tolerance for late-term abortions. At 20 weeks of pregnancy, a woman is more than halfway through her pregnancy. Although late-term abortion is illegal in most of the U.S., seven states and the District of Columbia allow abortion AT ANY POINT during a pregnancy, according to reproductive-research org the Guttmacher Institute. In the other 43 states, abortion is banned—with limited exceptions, such as for the safety of the mother (after the second trimester).

My first pregnancy occurred when I was 19 years old.  As an unwed young woman, I was petrified and clueless as to how I was going to raise a child on a $5/hour salary.  But nonetheless I considered all my options before seeing the doctor.

I felt emotional as I watched and listened to the loud, gloriously thumping sound of my baby’s heartbeat.   Although I wasn’t at peace with my situation, it was still a beautiful moment in my life.  My doctor printed out my sonogram pictures and I stared at them nonstop all the way out to my car. Instantly I felt a vibe that I was having a girl and her name would be Alexandra. I planned on calling her Alex.

Times were stressful and a lot of arguing had transpired between me and my unborn baby’s father.  He mentioned the idea of me getting an abortion.  It broke my heart. A few months into the pregnancy, devastation struck. I awoke feeling nauseous with severe cramping. I can assure you that as a pregnant woman nothing is more horrifying than the sight of blood.

My mother picked me up and we raced over to the obstetrician’s office. I cried and begged him to help me as if there was something he could do to save my little one. The sonogram showed the baby was fine and my doctor insisted I stay on bed rest for the next several weeks.  Relieved, I got up and walked down the hall to the bathroom before departing the building.

BOOM! I began hemorrhaging out of nowhere. The pain was excruciating.  The doctor ran toward me and with one glance at his face I knew …. It was over.  A D&C was scheduled, performed, and I was sent home to mourn. This is the size of the baby I lost at just 11 weeks of pregnancy.  Does this look like a “blob of cells” as the media tells us?  I think not.

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While I can’t say that I’ve been through an abortion, I can say that I know what it’s like to be young, broke, pregnant, and petrified.  I know what it’s like to feel “loss.”

At 20 years old I became pregnant again.  By that time life wasn’t as stressful.  I was still unwed and earning $5/hour. However, the conflict my boyfriend and I had was long over.  The pregnancy was an AMAZING experience: hearing the heartbeat, the movements on the sonogram screen, and of course feeling the baby kick for the first time.  Every single moment felt like a gift.

Looking back at my beautiful son now, I can’t imagine having aborted him.  My life wouldn’t feel complete without him in it.

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But the bigger question in my mind is “Why do so many women get to the stage of Abortion?”   In 2014 (latest data avail), 926,200 abortions were performed in the United States.

Why aren’t we educating our daughters more on the many preventative options? While I understand no birth control method is a 100 percent guarantee, most are pretty good.  Between birth control pills, condoms, spermicide, IUDs, Depo-Provera shot, NuvaRing, the Patch, etc., the chances of getting pregnant should be pretty slim.

I don’t want to hear: “Birth control is expensive. I couldn’t afford it.” Condoms are dirt cheap and anyone of any age can buy them.  Condoms are 98% effective in preventing pregnancy.

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If a couple “slips up” and doesn’t use protection, why isn’t the Plan B pill the next step?  It’s a far cheaper option, and less mentally draining than an abortion.  Anyone 17 or older can buy Plan B One Step over the counter at a drug store or Planned Parenthood facility. If you’re under the age of 17, you can only get the morning-after pill with a prescription from a health care provider.

I’ve utilized the Plan B pill option twice in my life, and I don’t feel guilty for it.

I have a dear friend who got pregnant at 16 years of age.  She didn’t know that the Plan B pill had to be taken BEFORE the pregnancy actually happened.  Ultimately, she decided to keep the baby. Today she is the proud mother of a beautiful teenage daughter.  She couldn’t possibly imagine her life without her daughter, she said.

The 44th Annual March for Life is this Friday, 27 January 2017 in Washington, DC. Although I will not be attending, I support the cause. I know the turnout won’t be as widespread and popular as The Women’s March but that doesn’t make this cause less meaningful in my eyes.

If you’re a Pro-Choice person, I hold no judgment and I’m not going to debate you over it. Your journey with or without, believing or not believing, in God is for you to decide. All I ask is that you also respect my decision to be a Pro-Life Christian.

Please watch:

 

Courageous Boy with Rare Cancer Fights Back

The Story of Nolan Scully – A Superhero

There is no greater love than the love a parent feels for their child.  It’s almost indescribable – the great measures a parent would go through to protect their child from any harm or injustice. They’d give their last dying breath if it meant just one more day in the life of their child. There’s something particularly special about the bond between a mother and her son. It is the purest love, unconditional and true.

Jonathan and Ruth Scully of Leonardtown, Maryland, welcomed their beautiful baby boy, Nolan, into the world on September 7, 2012. His nine-year-old sister, Leila, couldn’t wait to meet her baby brother.  Life was good for the next few years. “Rollin’ Nolan” lit up a room with his contagious laughter and outgoing personality.

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Jonathan and Ruth were expecting again and the baby was due the end of December 2015.

In October 2015, three-year-old Nolan came down with a stuffy nose which a parent typically wouldn’t stress over; that is until Ruth noticed her son began snoring and having difficulty breathing. Doctors thought it was a severe sinus infection and prescribed Nolan some potent antibiotics, humidifier, and saline spray. The regime didn’t help.

After an emergency appointment with an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist, it was discovered that Nolan’s adenoids were extremely swollen and surgery was needed. In November 2015, Nolan had his adenoids and tonsils removed.

A few days after the operation, Nolan’s biopsies came back. Nothing could prepare a parent for what was about to happen next. The doctors told the Scully’s that Nolan had a rare and aggressive form of cancer called Rhabdomyosarcoma. This type of cancer is every bit of cruel in its silent relentlessness.

There are two types of muscle cells in the body: smooth muscle cells and skeletal muscle cells. Smooth muscles control involuntary activities; skeletal muscles control voluntary activities. Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) is a malignant tumor (cancer) that arises from a normal skeletal muscle cell.

About four children per million healthy kids under the age of 15 will develop RMS each year. It is slightly more common in boys than in girls and it is most common in young children under the age of five.  Nearly 40% of all RMS cases involve the head and neck region. 

In an instant, the Scully’s lives were turned upside down and life would never be the same. There’s an intense shock, confusion, anger, disbelief and overwhelming sadness that comes with such a diagnosis.  Paralyzing fear doesn’t begin to describe the panic his parents felt.  On top of all that, Ruth was pregnant. How can a mother enjoy her pregnancy when one life is growing while another is suddenly sick with life-threatening cancer?

The Georgetown University Hospital, Pediatric Cancer Clinic, immediately took over Nolan’s case. PET Scans, CTs, and bone scans were ordered. Because the doctors had discovered an obstruction (tumor) in Nolan’s nasal airway, sedation for his tests wasn’t recommended. Instead, Nolan was admitted to the Pediatric Oncology unit where he was put under general anesthesia for the procedures. The surgeons also put in a chemo port.

“That was one of the most hardest, most terrifying things we’ve ever had to experience… seeing our beautiful baby hooked up to a ventilator machine,” Ruth explained.

The family was heartbroken and beyond devastated to learn that Nolan’s tumor was considered “inoperable.”  However, his tumor appeared to be isolated to his nasal pharynx which is right through your nose and right above where your throat is.

Just like that, this brave little boy would begin the toughest journey of his life.

Nolan would have to complete 43 agonizing weeks of chemotherapy, and that didn’t include the shots, infusions, transfusions, scans, tests, and constant blood withdrawals. Imagine the sorrow his family felt in hearing that news, and the guilt in knowing they can’t save him from this nightmare.

The Georgetown Hospital Pediatric Oncology Department became Nolan’s second home over the next several months.  Obviously a hospital isn’t a preferred second home but having a wonderful staff made the stay a little more bearable. Nolan received his own team of care providers and they treated him with much love and kindness. The doctors analyzed every possible avenue to speed-heal Nolan from this cancer that had silently invaded his little body.

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Jonathan and Ruth turned to family, friends, and the community for much needed support.  The emotionally draining, uphill battle would be impossible to face alone, and they needed to maintain their household and care for Leila. Somehow Ruth found strength to begin chronicling her son’s journey on Facebook (NolanStrong).

The downward side effects of chemotherapy kicked in. Nolan started losing his hair and he was very upset over it.  His parents comforted him by taking him out to see the Christmas lights around town and it helped cheered him up. Sickness and exhaustion became a regular part of Nolan’s existence, but the amazing Georgetown staff kept Nolan occupied throughout the day with activities such as painting pictures and playing with construction trucks.  He had his invisible super hero cape on and he was ready to kick cancer’s butt!

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Nolan has a strong appreciation for any type of first responder. His dad is a deputy fire chief and Nolan hopes to follow in his father’s footsteps someday. He loves any type of emergency vehicle – fire trucks, police cars, ambulances, etc. So, the Hollywood Volunteer Fire Department paid Nolan a visit in their fire trucks.  Nolan glowed in excitement!

More of the community began showing their support.  Nolan received a visit from the Washington Capitals! Also, the NolanStrong 5K benefit was held.

On December 26, Ruth gave birth to healthy baby boy.  They named him Brayden. Nolan was unable to meet his little brother until a few days later because his immune system could have been compromised.

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Before the family could even blink an eye, Nolan began radiation treatments in Philadelphia (February 2016).

The NolanStrong page had been attracting a lot of attention and people wanted to do anything they could help. A creative fundraiser called “Buzz Off Cancer” was held at the Gatton Barbershop where customers donated dollars for a buzzed-off haircut.  It also marked a courageous day in Nolan’s journey as he bid farewell to his hair for the first time since his cancer diagnosis.  Although Nolan had been the favorite customer of the day, it was incredible to see the many long-haired men in line for a buzzed-off haircut. It was a great turnout!

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Ruth kept Nolan’s followers informed of his struggles. Fevers, headaches, vomiting, ear and eye pain became a part of his daily life.  At almost four years old, Nolan weighed only 13 pounds more than he did at six months of age.

Fire services continued to show their love and support for Nolan. The East Farmingdale Fire Department sent gifts. Then, the Philadelphia Police Commissioner inducted Nolan as an Honorary Philadelphia policeman. Nolan was so excited!

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Summertime came around and cancer and a weakened immune system had robbed Nolan of so many fun activities.  He couldn’t attend a planned Nationals baseball game, go swimming, or play in the sand.  But Nolan has a warrior mentality and he told his mom, “That’s okay, Mommy. Once I get my cancer out I’ll be able to do anything I want.”  So, Nolan’s parents scheduled fun activities whenever possible.  They visited Jurassic Quest and the National Harbor. He also got to shoot hoops with the Washington Mystics.

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More fundraisers were coordinated by family and friends – Softball and corn-hole tournaments, silent auctions, raffles, participating restaurants, sold-out dances and more. The outpouring was incredible.

By August 2016, Nolan’s health took a turn for the worst. Testing revealed Nolan’s cancer cells were still very much active.  August 29, 2016 was supposed to be his last day of scheduled chemo. Ironically, and with great sadness, it became his first of 50 more rounds of chemo, and this batch would be far more potent.  Additionally, a different kind of radiation would be considered and possibly surgery, his parents were told.

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Through all the chaos, heartache and disappointment, time would pause for just one day.  On September 7, Nolan celebrated his 4th birthday.  Family, friends, schools, and the community sent Nolan gifts, cards, and get-well letters.

Later that month, Ruth shared a sentimental moment with Nolan’s Facebook fans. While lying in bed one evening, she laid her head up against Nolan with her eyes closed. Nolan thought his mother was asleep. He kissed her on the forehead and whispered, “I’m so lucky to have you as my best girl.”  Ruth later blogged to say it was her that’s the lucky one. “Lord, please spare my child and let him win against this beast of a cancer,” she wrote.

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Nolan’s courageous fight has united thousands of people together in daily prayer. He’s a super hero who just wants to be a normal, healthy little boy enjoying his life.

A year has passed since the Scully’s learned of their son’s cancer yet the strength of Nolan and his family continues to persevere.  They won’t quit and they’ll never give up.  So, when the doctors told them their son’s tumor had considerable growth even though he’d been through two aggressive cycles of chemo, they knew their last hope was a risky, invasive, and terrifying surgery.

A prayer vigil was held on October 23, 2016. Although Nolan couldn’t attend, he passed along a few things he is thankful for: ham and pineapple pizza, watching movies and eating popcorn while lying on his mommy’s lap, sunny days where he can play outside, and he asked that everyone pray for fire fighters and policemen. That evening, a selfless Nolan warmed hearts around the world with a video to all of his Facebook fans. Yes, he is determined to beat this cancer.

The next morning, Nolan underwent a 12 1/2-hour surgery to remove the tumor, and bone-grafting to make repairs caused by the tumor. The approaching weeks are going to be incredibly difficult and painful.  Nolan has gone through more tragedy as a four year old than most adults go through in a lifetime. He is a real-life super hero – a conqueror.

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Today, he continues to fight for his life and he has thousands of followers from all around the world.

Consider joining Nolan in his fight!  He loves receiving letters, cards, words of encouragement, and of course, gifts.  Prayers are most appreciated! Contributions are welcome: ICO Nolan Scully, PO Box 2443, Leonardtown, MD 20650. Donations will help with incurred medical expenses, travel, lodging and additional expenses throughout Nolan’s battle.

To see this story on The Huffington Post:

Courageous Boy with Rare Cancer Fights Back

Brave Girl Battles Two Rare Diseases

Chloe’s Hope: Stop the Burning

What does a juvenile disability look like?  Some might envision a homeschooled child or perhaps a wheelchair user. What if a child outwardly appeared normal yet their insides were screaming in agony?  Try to imagine a child who’s never known a life without horrendous pain and suffering.

That is the case for 11-year-old Chloe Louise Kuschert of Corowa, a town in the New South Wales in Australia. She oftentimes cries to her mother, “Why me? Why can’t I have a normal life? I hate this so much.”  But all her mother can do is comfort her and wipe away the tears streaming down her face.

Chloe was just two years old when her health began rapidly deteriorating. It started with a sensitive area that some people wouldn’t feel comfortable talking about. Debilitating symptoms of bleeding, swelling, redness and pain developed in her vulva (female external genitals) area. As her condition progressed, the burning became so excruciating that Chloe could no longer function. Her life became overshadowed by throbbing pain and discomfort. After visiting numerous doctors over a 4-year period in Australia, doctors were still unable to diagnose Chloe’s condition. The doctors decided to have Chloe’s medical chart reviewed by a pediatric group based out of the United States where a genetic specialist finally made the diagnosis.

Chloe had a rare disease called Erythromelalgia (EM) which not only affects her vulva area, but also her face, ears, and hands.  The condition affects 1.3 in 100,000 people, and there is no cure.

EM causes unbearable burning pain, noticeable redness of the skin, swelling, and increased skin temperature. The exact underlying cause of EM is unknown. It’s thought to result from vasomotor abnormalities or dysfunction in the normal constriction and dilation of the caliber of certain blood vessels, leading to abnormalities of blood flow to the extremities.

There isn’t a typical treatment for EM, and sometimes nothing helps. Chloe has tried many prescriptions and supplements, and dealt with dreadful side effects. She is on a strict ‘cooling’ regime to prevent overheating.

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EM flares on Chloe’s face and ears

“Managing her EM pain is incredibly difficult,” said her mother, Jacqui. She  went on to say that every day is a battle in which Chloe fights for her joy and freedom from pain. Since the condition also affects her private area there is no way of knowing the impact it will have on adulthood with sexual activity and childbirth.

Chloe’s health continued to worsen over the next several months after her EM diagnosis. She began experiencing vaginal bleeding, frequent toilet needs, urinary incontinence and burning along with bladder and stomach pain. After seeing several doctors, going through more examinations and cystoscopies, a gynecologist diagnosed Chloe with interstitial cystitis (IC), a condition that results in recurring discomfort or pain in the bladder and the surrounding pelvic region.

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“I felt helpless as I just sat there crying. I wanted to take all of her pain away,” Jacqui said.

Chloe has been repeatedly tested for everything you could possibly imagine and still no doctor can provide answers.

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Just a few months following the EM and IC diagnoses, Chloe developed more unbearable symptoms. Her joints began aching and swelling, and she bruised more easily. She had trouble walking due to the pain in her knees and ankles. Ultimately a rheumatologist diagnosed Chloe with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), a group of inherited disorders marked by extremely loose joints, very stretchy skin that bruises easily, and easily damaged blood vessels. EDS affects about 1 in 5,000 people globally.

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Most parents couldn’t fathom their child dealing with one rare disease let alone two.  The effects of having all three conditions has caused Chloe to have fainting spells, abdomen pain almost daily, dizziness, and low blood pressure.

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“To manage her many combined symptoms Chloe regularly sees a local general practitioner, pediatrician, gynecologist, neurologist, and a cardiologist. Currently she’s taking 11 pills a day plus a pain reliever in an effort to give her a somewhat normal life. Of all her conditions, EM is the most painful for Chloe,” her mother said.

Chloe is in the fifth grade. She battles through the pain most days because she loves attending school. Her teacher is very kind to her, and her classmates are supportive and understanding. She’s sad to miss school days when she’s overwhelmed by pain.

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An emotional Chloe as she struggles with daily pain

EM causes the body to quickly overheat during physical activity so Chloe is unable to participate in any outdoor sports. Although it’s disappointing, Chloe maintains a positive attitude. Instead she enjoys reading and doing arts and crafts.

Chloe enjoys spending time with her family — mother, Jacqui, father, David, and brothers, James, 18, and Caleb, 14.  She also loves hanging out with her dog, Molly, and her rabbit, Gizmo.

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Chloe with her brothers, James and Caleb

“The unknown is scary. I don’t know if my daughter will ever live a normal life, free from pain and misery. I want her to be happy, and not just have ‘happy moments.’  This is all very devastating.  I also have to accept that she may never experience the gift of pregnancy. I’m heartbroken inside,” her mother said.

Disabilities aren’t always recognizable to the public. So when you see a child who seems carefree and happy, please think of Chloe. There are children out there like her whose lives are a lot harder than they appear to the outside world.

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If you’d like to support Chloe Kuschert, you can do so by helping spread awareness.  Please Like and Share her Facebook page titled Chloe’s Hope: Stop the Burning

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Chloe and her mother, Jacqui

To see this story on The Huffington Post:

Brave Girl Battles Two Rare Diseases

To read more about Erythromelalgia, please see the following blog:

Burning for Hope

Jacqui and Chloe are active members of the “Parents of Little EM Warriors” program where they communicate and share their experiences with other families in need of support. Join “Erythromelalgia Warriors” on Facebook to learn more.

EM Warriors on Facebook

Chloe has also joined the “I Am The Face of Erythromelalgia” campaign.

Please Join Our Campaign here

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EM Awareness Video:

The Wilted Sunflower 🌻

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Overlooking a field of sunflowers,

A few appeared out of place.

They tried to stand tall but couldn’t,

While others more lovely filled their space.

Gravitating toward the beautiful ones,

As the wilted were quickly passed by.

Few people desire to view the weak,

And this group of flowers is soon to die.

The wind blew the pedals to the ground,

Changing them from golden to brown.

A little more rain and sunshine is needed,

Especially when ‘living’ is bringing you down.

But aren’t they pretty too, these flowers…

Who looked stranded in a crowded field?

For not every blossom can be flawless,

And there are some that may never be healed.

Healing isn’t the same as ‘fixing’ or a cure, 

But rather to ‘accept’  and mend the soul.

So love ALL the flowers to cross your path,

Even the sad blooms that don’t appear whole.

With a new season a fresh life will begin,

And a new journey will soon be told. 

‘Unique’ is still special and worth seeing,

Because eventually all living things grow old.

Written By: Melissa Curley

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