Pediatric Cancer: Take a Stand

Our children deserve better than 4%

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One child… One moment… One word…

A powerful ‘word’ that will break hearts and send thousands of children to heaven

“CANCER”

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I met Nolan Scully only once at a fundraising benefit held in his honor. I had been following his Facebook page (NolanStrong) and I knew he had a rare cancer, Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS). Like a superhero, he flew across the huge room (or shall I say ‘ran’ with a cape on), headed toward my direction. With his black satin cape flowing in the breeze behind him, he suddenly stopped to say ‘hi’ and pose for a few pictures. It was a quick greeting, muffled through the protective mask he was wearing to keep bad germs away. But that mask couldn’t hide the huge smile Nolan had upon his face. His crescent-moon shaped eyes squinted with joy as he paused to admire all of the attention. By that time, a mini-paparazzi crew, with myself included, were all on bended knee wanting to snap a picture of this courageous, fun-loving little guy.

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I instantly fell in love with Nolan. I looked forward to every post his mother, Ruth, put on Facebook. “Oh, look. There’s a new post about Nolan. Let me go read that before I do anything else,” was my typical feeling toward my Facebook newsfeed. That’s a powerful punch considering I had only met Nolan once for a few minutes. I was amazed by his fighter mentality, his charm, and his bubbly, positive attitude. It was clear to me that he loved to laugh.

Like many, I wanted to do everything I could to help Nolan fight this fight. Most of us could never imagine, or possibly understand, the devastation a child with cancer and their family will go through. Pediatric cancer is so much more than a St. Jude’s commercial we all look away from because “we’d rather not cry today.” Let’s stop looking away and start trying to make a difference.

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Although Ruth highlighted many treasured, beautiful moments shared with Nolan, darkness always lurked behind the scenes. Ruth braved sharing the ugly truth about pediatric cancer:

  • Doctors take an educated guess at how much chemo to administer
  • Parents lose their own identities because healing their sick child is #1 until the fight is over
  • Countless surgeries
  • Fevers, Diapers, Weight loss, Diarrhea, Vomiting
  • Tubes, needles, tests, procedures, transfusions
  • Spending several months of their life in a hospital
  • Emergency room visits; doctor visits
  • Panic, fear, frustration, anxiety, anxiousness, tears, loneliness, sadness, depression, anger, devastation, helplessness
  • Salespeople trying to profit off your child’s illness: “This product could save your child’s life!”
  • Siblings suffer emotionally as they watch their brother or sister suffer and possibly die

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And the ugly truth of pediatric cancer goes on….

Nolan has spent more than half of his ENTIRE life fighting just to stay alive. Now he’s living out his final days under Hospice care with his loving family at his side. It’s heart shattering and I’m praying to God for a miracle.

Life can be so cruel and I cannot make sense of any child suffering. “Why?” I’ve asked myself this over and over again. As I watched this tragedy unfold from afar through social media, futility became overwhelming. I felt so useless. Then, I realized there are some things we CAN do:

Here’s why that’s so important: The vast majority of cancer research dollars go toward fighting adult diseases. Of the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) annual $5 billion budget, only about 4% on average is spent on projects specifically targeted at combating childhood cancers, though another quarter is devoted to basic research that could theoretically help both pediatric and adult cancer patients.

In 20 years the FDA has initially approved only two drugs for any childhood cancer – ½ of all chemotherapies used for children’s cancers are over 25 years old. Research and development for new drugs from pharmaceutical companies comprises 60% of funding for adult cancer drugs and close to ZERO for childhood cancers. Pharmaceutical companies don’t commit resources to childhood cancer research because the adult cancer drug industry is viewed as more profitable and less risky to them.

Does this piss you off? Because it definitely pisses me off.  There’s clearly a disproportionate focus on adult over pediatric cancer research.

NCI’s funding for pediatric clinical trials is $26.4 million while funding for AIDS research is $254 million, and breast cancer is $584 million.

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According to CureSearch, each year, the parents of approximately 15,700 kids will hear the words “your child has cancer.” Across all ages, ethnic groups and socio-economics, this disease remains the number one cause of death by disease in children.

  • Every day, 46 children are diagnosed with cancer
  • 12% of children diagnosed with cancer do not survive
  • 1 in 5 children diagnosed with cancer will die within 5-years
  • More than 40,000 children undergo treatment for cancer each year
  • 60% of children who survive cancer suffer late-effects, such as infertility, heart failure and secondary cancers.

Let’s take a stand for Nolan and all of the other children battling this demon called cancer. Bombard Congress with your emails and letters. Support pediatric cancer research so that kids fighting cancer have a better survival rate.  Pray for the children suffering from pediatric cancer, and pray for their families.

❤  Nolan  ❤

A brave little superhero who wanted to dedicate his adult life to helping others.

A boy who loves emergency and first response vehicles.

A kid who loves life, people, and animals.

A kind, loving child who died from pediatric cancer on February 4, 2017.
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 ** TAKE A STAND AND DO SOMETHING **

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A video of Nolan’s journey:

 

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:

 

A Mother’s Love Is Forever

A story for my son, the true joy of my heart

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Dear Matthew,

Because of you, I have been blessed with the greatest gift of all – to be your mother.

I’m so proud of you, and the man you’ve become. You’re exactly how I envisioned you’d be: tall, handsome, funny, and talented. I had no idea you’d be into cars like you are, but it’s no surprise. As a kid you always enjoyed mastering a complicated transformer or fixing things.

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Society makes people feel like we shouldn’t talk about previous relationships, but I’m going to break that rule. Everyone has a past. If a person’s wed before (regardless of divorcing), he/she obviously loved their spouse once upon a time.

I think it’s sentimental for kids to know how their life’s story began.

I graduated from high school in May 1992. On July 4th, I returned home from a Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) Shorthand II US-wide competition held in Chicago, IL. My parents convinced me to join them at an Independence Day celebration in Hollywood. I noticed your dad and his youngest brother, Brian, hanging out at the party and thought they were cute. So I asked my step-father if I could ‘hold a beer’ so I’d look older. I didn’t plan on drinking the beer (I hate beer), but I wanted to ‘appear’ mature.   Reluctantly my step-father said okay. I walked to the cooler and grabbed an ice cold can of Bud Light. I paraded around holding my beer, talking to family, trying to act wise beyond my years. It seemed to be working.

About an hour into the event, I sat on the porch steps petting the owner’s dog. Your dad came over and started petting the dog with me and began a light conversation. As he went to sit down next to me he politely moved my beer to the lowest step. “WOW, your beer is REALLY WARM, and it’s full. What’s up with that,” he said. Uhhhh…I felt so stupid. The gig was up and I was busted. I played it off saying I didn’t prefer that kind of beer… as if I was a beer-drinking professional. I also neglected to mention I wouldn’t be 18 years old for another month, knowing your dad looked to be at least in his early-20’s.

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He ended up introducing me to his yorkie, Maxwell. He was the cutest little guy ever. After dating for a few months your dad told me he used to screen all of his dates on how they treated his little dog. Hilarious.  I passed!

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In April 1994, I found out I was pregnant with you. I kept the secret to myself for a few days.  I had a miscarriage before you and I was afraid I might lose you too.  When I told your dad he was overjoyed and we couldn’t wait to meet you!

During the first sonogram my heart burst with so much emotion! There you were, my little peanut. The technician zoomed in and I could clearly see your tiny hands and feet wiggling around. Your dad just stood there in ‘awe.’ It was the neatest thing I had ever seen. Then we got to hear your heartbeat for the very first time. Your heart sounded vibrant and strong.

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May 18, 1994: My first sonogram of you.

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My intuition immediately told me I was having a boy, and then I realized something… If I had a boy, he’d be the first child in that generation on your dad’s side to carry on the family name.

Four and a half months into the pregnancy, I felt you kick for the first time. It was incredible! After that you kicked me nonstop until the day you were born. Then it was like, “Ok, dude, you can chill out now.” I had conversations with you all the time. I wanted you to know how much I loved you even before you were born.

During the second sonogram you were a total circus act. You put on a show for the entire staff. You flipped around, kicked, and moved your head and neck around as if you had just drunk a Red Bull. Your dad and I laughed nonstop. Technology wasn’t that great back then, so the doctors couldn’t tell me the gender of the baby. But in my heart I still knew I was having a boy.

Whatever I ate or drank, you reacted accordingly. One time your dad made tacos for dinner. He was on the phone with his mom while I was eating when we observed you doing somersaults. Your dad burst out laughing as he told his mom, “WOW! The baby’s moving around like an alien creature right now!” I used to sit my plate of food on top of my belly as if it were a little shelf.

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YOU STARVED ME TO DEATH! Every day felt as if I hadn’t eaten for a month. I had a schedule: peanut butter and jelly sandwich at 10 a.m., followed by a Food Lion meal of fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, and green beans at noon. You had me eating myself into a food coma. No joke.

At six months pregnant, many people thought I was already due because I was HUGE… and I waddled.

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Fashion for pregnant women of the 90’s was horrendous as you can see.  Everything was drapey, too colorful, and ugly.  This is a picture of me at my baby shower. I rocked my ‘Baby Love’ shirt.  Don’t you agree?

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When I was seven months pregnant, Maxwell was diagnosed with terminal cancer and we had to put him to sleep. It broke my heart, and it was the first time I ever saw your dad cry. The family was afraid I’d go into premature labor.  Your dad and I just couldn’t handle it so Mommom and Poppop stepped in. Mommom held Max in her arms at the animal hospital until the very end. She has always been a kind, loving and nurturing soul as you know.  Thank God for her.

I wanted to name you Brett. Your dad refused, saying he’d never name his child after something that sounded like a hair-clip. Haha. One night Nana was reading biblical names out loud to us to see if we liked any of them. We liked plenty but none of them felt ‘perfect’ until she said, “How about Matthew?” We looked at each other and in that moment your name had been chosen. Your name means “Gift from God.”  We said we’d never nickname you “Matt.”  Ummm…. I’m not sure what happened with that. LOL!

I remember the day you were born as if it were yesterday. It was dinnertime, around 7 p.m., and I had just sat down on the couch to eat a cheeseburger and fries. Halfway through the meal you let me know you had enough. You were running out of ‘womb’… LMAO. I looked at your dad and said, “It’s time!” At 20 years old, I was absolutely petrified. TWELVE HOURS later, you made your entrance as you pissed on everyone in the labor room, literally. Doctors and nurses were too busy ducking, trying to dodge the urine stream flying across the room to answer my cry of, “IS IT A BOY or GIRL?!” It was hilarious and your dad was cracking up!  I had no idea what was going on at the time. But then the humor paused. Your dad came to my bedside holding you in his arms and said, “Missy, {pause}… it’s a boy,” as a tear rolled down his cheek. I began to cry too because I felt so blessed to have you.

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A few weeks after we took you home

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Your Godmother, Aunt Laura, babysat you for the first nine months of your life, and she was wonderful. Your dad drove you to daycare, and I picked you up.  Aunt Laura’s house was 30 minutes one way, but she was worth it.  You loved spending time with her and her family on the farm.

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You’ve been blessed to have a big extended family that adores you, especially your grandparents. You are loved by many!

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Your dad and I took you to Virginia Beach when you were two years old to see the Atlantic ocean for the first time.

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You were a little junk collector. I’d take you into Walmart and you’d come out with a small handful of nuts, bolts, paper clips, and any other trinkets you found on the floor. You made little robots or gadgets out of the mess.

Not all moments of motherhood are beautiful, and there were several times I panicked when a crisis occurred. However, the scariest time as a mother had been when you were two years old. It was a Saturday and your dad was working at a construction site that day. We were invited to a pool party down the street at Bill and Madeline’s house. We arrived then walked to the poolside and stood there waving to everyone. For a second I let go of your hand. Within a flash I looked down to my right and suddenly you were gone. It’s a paranoid feeling that only a parent can understand. My heart pounded out of my chest as if I could hear it beating inside my head. No one was swimming yet so the water’s surface looked clear. I frantically glanced around and that’s when I noticed a small figure at the bottom of the 8 ft. pool. My heart sunk and there was no time to think! I jumped in feet first with full force. As soon as my feet hit the bottom of the pool’s floor, I wrapped both of my hands tightly around your waist then firmly sprung up to the surface. By that time everyone knew what was going on. Someone grabbed you out of the water. A million thoughts ran through my mind within a few seconds. “Is he going to die?!” “Will he be brain dead if he does survive?” I can’t even remember who did CPR, or anyone who surrounded me. It was like I had tunnel vision. It didn’t feel real. After you coughed up all the water, you cried in my arms. I sobbed uncontrollably. We went back home and I called your dad.  Mentally, I was a mess and I watched you like a hawk to ensure you didn’t fall asleep anytime soon. If you had left my life that day my world would have been shattered.

Okay, back to happy thoughts…. You were never a picky eater, and your favorite meal was fried hot dogs and eggs, and burgers/fries from McDonald’s. You were infatuated with happy meal toys and Nana made sure you owned a toy box filled with them.  She took you out to eat all the time and you adored her.  Every Saturday, Nana and I took you to yard sales.  We found great toys, and of course we always ate lunch out.

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Mommom and Poppop A. always showed you a good time.  Mommom cooked for you, and took you on mini adventures — like the pumpkin patch in the fall to pick out your favorite pumpkin.  Poppop used to push you in the swing in their backyard.  You loved, and still love, the country life and spending time with them.

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Prep N Play Preschool was your happy place. Your best friend was Jeremy, and you two were always together – like peas and carrots.  That’s my old Ford Taurus… Yuck.

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You weren’t athletic by choice. You showed zero interest when your dad signed you up for little league baseball. I watched and chuckled as you sat on the ground in the outfield playing with the grass. You didn’t care about catching the ball whatsoever.

When you were three years old your dad and I separated. Although we didn’t work out, YOU will always be the greatest treasure between us. Your dad was my first adult relationship, and we were together for seven years. He taught me a lot about life, and for that I am incredibly thankful. Your dad, Bitsy (step-mom), and I successfully co-parented throughout your school years, I’m proud to say.

After Prep N Play, we moved you to Ms. Debbie’s daycare. She was like a second mom to you. You loved going to her house and she treated you like gold.  Also, her cooking was phenomenal.  You loved her fried chicken and sweet treats.

As an elementary child you loved The Land Before Time. You used to call leaves ‘tree stars’ because of this movie (below).  You’d say to me, “Mommy, look!  It’s a bunch of tree stars!”  So adorable.  Here is that scene:

We both loved The Lion King. The video below was our favorite scene.  We impersonated these crazy creatures over and over again, and then we’d laugh hysterically at each other.  HAHA

Your favorite movie of all time was Toy Story. You loved Buzz Lightyear and Woody. You owned every Toy Story figurine, even the green aliens in the claw machine.

You have always had a pure, kind heart. As a child you used to bring over your neighborhood friends whose families struggled with poverty. You whispered in my ear, “Mommy, my friends said they haven’t eaten yet today and they’re thirsty.” We fed them. Your kindheartedness almost led us to feeding an entire village. LOL. We did the best we could.

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As you grew older, I saw a ‘mini-me’ emerging. It made me smile.  You’re so much like me in your computer/corky/funny ways.  I see my own blue eyes when I look at yours. But you look a lot like your dad too. Mommom always said, “There’s no question that’s David’s boy!” …. then she’d laugh.

You and I blasted songs in the car and screamed out the lyrics together.

“ALL STAR” by Smashmouth was your favorite song- You chanted every single word out, and you loved Shrek.

You also loved “I’m Blue” by Eiffel 65 – da ba dee da ba daa / Da ba dee da ba daa, da ba dee da ba daa, da ba dee da ba daa  (Shoot me now! How annoying, right?)  I’m betting you’ll scroll right past this whacked out music video because you don’t want to hear these horrendous ‘repeating’ lyrics.  It’s the type of song that stays in your brain for eternity. Go ahead. I dare you to listen to it. 🙂

Our taste in music has definitely changed over the years (thank gosh) but we still enjoy a wide variety of music together. We liked listening to Coldplay.  Remember ‘Clocks?’  Youuuuu….. Areeeeee…….

We both want to be the ‘deejay’ in the car.  I convince you to listen to new songs that I like, and then you’d do the same.  I pity the fools who ride in a car with us together.

I’ve always been protective over you. I think I’ve proven that. The saying is true: “You can pick on me but don’t you DARE pick on my kid.” I will turn into an ugly Satan creature if you mistreat my child. Haha.

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I took you to the Poconos for a vacation once.  We went because I heard nearby “Dinosaur Land” was a neat place to visit, and I thought you’d love that.  Hah! What a joke that place was.  Just a bunch of fake dinosaurs in a stupid park, and that was it.  Well, of course the dinosaurs were ‘fake.’  LOL!

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We went to Orlando when you were seven years old.  I don’t know how I did it on the salary I was earning at that time but I somehow pulled it off.  I bargain-shopped every theme park ticket price, hotel, and I wore a backpack with a built-in cooler filled with our many snacks and drinks.  We went to Disney World, MGM Studios, Sea World, and Medieval Times dinner theater. The full version of this video is at the end of this blog (you petting the dolphins, Shamu, etc.)

Yup. I just went there.  I included a photo of you eagerly awaiting Mickey Mouse’s signature.  You look pretty pumped up about it too.  I’m just sayin’

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Christmastime in our townhouse. You were so excited!  This was the first home I purchased on my own and I was very proud of myself.  We had a wonderful Christmas and I loved having you wake up with me to open Santa’s many presents. (Full video of Christmas morning is available at the end of this blog)

PETS: Oh my goodness, the pets we’ve gone through. LOL.

We had two hamsters when we lived in the condo. They ended up having about 15 babies together. What a disaster that was. I separated the father from his babies because he kept trying to eat them. Gross!  We were mortified. Then the father hamster escaped from his cage and we couldn’t find him anywhere in the apartment. The next morning we spotted him jumping off the third floor balcony as if he were trying to commit suicide. We ran downstairs attempting to rescue him. Nope. He ran. He was “The one that got away.” God only knows what happened to that little guy. We gave the mommy and babies to the pet store, and I think we both felt good about that decision.

The gecko from HELL – What was his name? I think it was ‘Little Dude.’ He was a mean, violent little creature. You tried to have fun with him but he’d always bite you and hurt your feelings. One time he bit you so hard that it drew blood and you cried, so I sold him to a nice lady. Buh-bye little monster!

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The Chihuahua named Marshmellow. Thank gosh for Ms. Debbie. That dog tried to die from the moment we brought him home. I don’t know why he had so many health issues – one seizure after another. If not for Ms. Debbie nurturing him around the clock he would not have survived. Luckily he grew to be an old, happy little fellow (renamed Cuppy) with her and her other doggies.

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How about the dog you convinced me to buy for $25 at the Farmer’s Market… Ummm…. Yea….. Confession time: I’m sorry I lied when I told you he ran away.  I actually gave him to a really nice lady during the week you were with your dad and Bitsy.  I couldn’t help it.  That dog was cray-cray.

The goldfish – I saved a voicemail from you in 2011 because I thought it was hilarious. You and Leo went to the county fair when a huge thunderstorm struck.  You were determined to get that goldfish home safely even if it involved you and Leo drowning in a thunderstorm. LMAO.  You succeeded.  The goldfish died a few weeks later.

We finally lucked out with the yorkies – Daisey-Mae & Rudy. They’ve had a total of 12 puppies together. They’re 13 years old now, and we’ve been blessed to have them a part of our family.

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I’d also like to mention the dogs you grew up with at your dad and Bitsy’s house.  Jackie-girl and Jake. You loved them a lot and you took it very hard when they died.

I feel guilt ridden for some of the challenges you went through as a child.  I wish I could take those few years back and redo them but I can’t.  Just know that I love you with all my heart.

We went rollerskating several times and you were naturally good at it… And your mom was a pro.  I won a speed skating competition that night and you loved bragging about it.  “Yep! That’s my mom that just kicked your 14-year-old ass!”  Haha! By the way, that flaming shirt was your favorite. You wore it often.

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We used to sit next to each other on the couch all the time with our laptops sharing funny YouTube clips with each other. We thought Dane Cook was soooo funny.  Remember when I took you to see him in concert in DC?  🙂  Good times!

The shopping plaza played a big part of your tween/teen years. You loved hanging out with your friends, skateboarding to the store for snacks/drinks.

Do you remember that time you and your friends came home with those mannequins you pulled out of the dumpsters? We had a “mannequin’s ass” in our living room for months. That was so funny!!!  I believe you nicknamed the torso “Shelby.” LMAO.  I can barely type this out without laughing.  Yep!  That’s My Boy Right There!

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One time you came home laughing because you and friends noticed a to-go bag hanging outside the door of the Chinese restaurant after they had closed for the night. No one came for the bag so you and your friends decided to eat whatever was in the bag. HAHA. Those egg-rolls were delicious, you said!

I remember our many trips to the mall and our time spent in Hot Topic (our favorite store back then). We laughed so much in that store.  We bought funny t-shirts and always had a fun time. You were into the ‘skater’ era by then, and you were absolutely adorable.

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Here we are dancing on the Ocean City boardwalk as a violinist played My Heart Will Go On. The original sound in this video wasn’t very clear so I changed the music up.

I had no clue what a sand crab was until this moment (below).  You and Ricky had such a fun time in Ocean City that week.

I taught you all about the 80s through music and old movies so when it came time to watch Kickin’ It Old Skool, you understood all the humor. We laughed our butts off watching that movie with Lori and Sam!

I surprised you with concert tickets to see your favorite band back then, My Chemical Romance. You, Zach, and Jeremy were thrilled! You guys stood on top of the chairs screaming out every word to every song.  It was great!

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I have to admit, I like this song too!  Welcome to the Black Parade:

Heck, we took, and still take, selfies together all over the place.  Below I see we’re in the movie theater, at a relative’s house, on the porch, and in the kitchen modeling our new winter hats for our New York City trip.

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I took you out of school early when any of the Twilight Series movies premiered at the theater to avoid the huge crowds. Now THAT’S great parenting!

Remember our 1 a.m. McDonald’s run in New York Times Square?!  Yea…. We were totally freaked out by all the weirdos on the street. We hung out in the restaurant until that creepy guy stopped stalking us, then we RAN LIKE HELL back to our hotel.

The next day we ice skated together at Rockefeller Plaza.

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You and I have rolled all over the place together: Poconos, PA; Orlando, FL; Ocean City, MD many times; Washington, DC; Baltimore, MD; Rehoboth, DE; Winchester, VA; Myrtle Beach, SC; New York, NY; Key West, FL; The Bahamas; … and another trip soon to come.

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Remember your first time parasailing in Key West?  We were like free birds soaring in the sky… not a care in the world….

To see you graduate high school with Straight A’s made me so proud. I knew you could do it. Your dad and I always had faith in you.  You had the highest class average in your residential wiring program too. Yep!  That’s my boy! You look like your dad in your graduation photos.

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Look at you now… a kind and caring  adult who treats others with respect. You’re enjoying your life and having fun.  That’s all I’ve ever wanted for you — to be happy.

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I love how goofy we are together.  Here we are at Panera Bread in 2016, on Snap Chat, laughing hysterically with no regard for how loud we were being in the restaurant.  TOTAL CLASS ACT.  The funny part is that strangers were laughing at us because we were cracking up so bad in our booth.  What can I say?  We’re just f’ing hilarious even when we’re not trying to be.  I make one hell of a beautiful George Washington.  That’s all I have to say about that.

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I’m proud of how smart you are, and your willingness to learn new things about cars/engines all the time.  You never cease to amaze me.

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Through every stage in your life you’ve never made me feel like I didn’t matter to you as a mom. I know some parents go through hard times, and I’ve been fortunate in that you’ve always made me feel valued and loved.

You’re a blessing from God and I treasure every moment I spend with you.

I love you with all my heart! ❤

Your Biggest Fan,

Mom

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Full Length Video of Sea World Orlando….  Apparently I was obsessed with Sea World’s map.  I’m betting we NEVER got lost in that theme park.  HAHA.

Full Length Video of Christmas Morning, 2002:

Cheers to 20 Years of Friendship!

The Story of Michele & Missey

Intro:

If you’ve ever seen two women friends together and wondered, “How on earth can they be best friends?  They’re nothing alike,” then you’ve met a version of “Michele and Missey.”  She’s organized, glamorous, athletic, and a planner… and I’m none of those things.  Yet when I first saw her high school graduation photo, I laughed and knew we had at least one big thing in common! Haha.

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Michele has always called me “Missey.”  I spelled it uniquely because I’m corny. Eventually I started going by Melissa because I grew tired of hearing about poodles named “Missy” and seeing “Missy” clothing sections in stores.  Now, I don’t give a hoot.  Call me “Hey you” for all I care.

When you’ve had a friendship as long as ours, it can get lengthy writing about every memory, so I’ll narrow it down to the ones that stand out to me the most.

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I first met Michele in early 1997 when she took a job in the finance department at Public Works.  I was an administrative assistant; married with a 2-year-old son, Matthew.

When Michele had been hired, it wasn’t long thereafter her two buddies were brought onboard:  Marc and Amy.  Marc was, and still is, a cool, funny black guy.  People naturally wanted to be this dude’s friend. He was charming, popular, and always had a funny story to share.  Amy was Michele’s best friend, and I liked her.  She was easy going and kind.

The four of us quickly became a “posse” and nicknamed ourselves “Winnie and Friends”: Pooh Bear (Shell – an obvious choice because he’s called ‘Edward Bear’), Tigger (me), Piglet (Amy), and Eeyore (Marc).  Lunch outings during the work week were our thing.  We usually hit up all the cheapest places in town like McDonald’s, Popeye’s, and Burger King.  Keep in mind, in 1997 we didn’t have many restaurant options in St. Mary’s County.

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Marc liked to crack jokes, and often bragged about his chicken-eating skills.  We girls just sat there in amazement.  He could literally put a chicken leg in his mouth, and it would come back out completely meatless in about 15 seconds flat.  It was like magic.  POOF!  Chicken meat, be gone!

I was often tasked with driving because I was the only person in the posse who had a suitable car for passengers.  Michele had a Honda Prelude, and no way was anyone getting in the back of that sucker. Marc and Amy also had small cars. Everyone laughed at my poor driving abilities.  I hit the wall of the bank one time as I exited the drive-thru.  Ummm….

“I totally paused!”  Haha.

Back at the office, Michele and I enjoyed bribing Marc for chocolate.  He had a bunch of stuffed animals at his desk… one of his favorites had been a stuffed monkey (that sounded totally weird, didn’t it?)  We often stole his monkey and left behind ransom notes. “Pay up with chocolate or the monkey gets the ax!”  Either Marc was truly scared of losing his pet monkey, or he just enjoyed feeding us chocolate because our tactic ALWAYS worked.

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On several occasions just the girls went out to lunch.  We often went to McDonald’s.  It was dirt cheap, filling, and why not?  Michele and I always ordered the quarter pounder meal, super-sized with a coke.  Amy usually ordered a chicken nugget happy meal.  One might think that would have been discouraging to Michele and I… leaving us vulnerable to feel like pigs, but it was quite the opposite.  We’d wait for Amy to squirm in her seat and declare she was full, then we’d make our move:  “Are you gonna eat those leftover fries?”  Amy:  “Oh, no.. I’m sooooo full.”  Us:  “Ok, well pass em’ on over. Thanks!”

Photographs have been a big part of my friendship with Shell since the beginning of time. “The only truly everlasting memory of our lives are photographs,” I always say.

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We went to the mall when this beloved photo was taken (below).  I originally sat on Bart’s face until I was told, “Hey, look down.  Are you sure you want to sit “there?”  I moved, laughed hysterically, and SNAP!  The picture was taken.

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When Matthew was about three years old, his father and I separated.  Seven years gone just like that… It was tough but life goes on.  I had never lived on my own so thankfully my brother moved out with me.  Michele visited often.

Here we are modeling in my big bath tub, and taking pictures of the moment like dorks!

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I took pictures of Michele all around my house that day… And I laughed when I found the below pic of her standing in front of my old ‘ballroom dancing’ painting.  Hah!  It goes to show that I’ve always been into that era.  Nothing has changed! (gotta love the decor in the 90s… yuck)

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We used to frost each other’s hair, and we took pictures of that too!  We were photo-crazy and it was ridiculous. Michele, “The Nun”… I’m glad we took cheesy pictures like we did…. Because now we can look back and laugh even more.

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Michele and I used to hit the tanning beds at Toby’s regularly.  I was amazed that a pale Irish gal like me could get so tan and I loved it. ~Ask us if we dig it now considering we’ve had a combined 20+ pre-cancerous skin lesions removed since our mid-30’s.  HELLS NO. At least our dermatologist back then was a hottie. It made the trips a little less dreadful.

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Shell’s then-husband, Tim, used to gather his work buddies for beach outings.  It was expected that the chicks would join the fun.  The female group consisted of Michele, Amy, and I.  Tim brought his jet ski and it was a great time had by all.

By then I had been seeing a Navy officer named Jeff.  I really liked him but nobody in the beach clique did.  I was told: “That douchebag isn’t invited to our beach outings.”  Then Michele would chime in, “Yea, him and his curly hair and coochie shorts.  Gross.”  She was pretty hard on him. Haha. Based on Michele’s description of Jeff, a person would probably envision him to look like this:

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LMAO. The beach clique also made fun of Jeff’s van that he used to haul trash to the dump. Apparently the van had been previously owned by a “Rainbow” vacuum company.  The white van had a hideous wavy rainbow that ran down the entire side.  Jeff used to get really annoyed with me for going to the beach anyway without him but I felt at least one of us should still have fun, right?  So I left him behind… a lot… and it seriously bruised his ego.

One time, I decided to take the girls on a jet ski joyride.  Michele was in the middle and Amy was on the back.  I managed to catch the waves from the boats at just the right angle.  I felt like a race car driver!  I hit one wave so hard that it threw it us high into the air and off the jet ski.  We landed hard in the water.  A group of jet skiing guys came over to help us, but we were bad-ass bitches who didn’t need anyone’s help. The guys lingered around us on their jet skis for a bit, and that’s when I realized Michele had lost her bikini top in the crash!  O-M-G!  There she was, half naked, accidentally giving those boys a free peep show.  We finally found her bikini top floating on the water’s surface.  OH! SNAP!  We laughed hysterically.  Ummm… Is this where you say, “Hey, you’re welcome?”

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After Jeff left for his next duty station in Washington State, I dated GQ for a while.  After him, I dated a guy named Dennis.  I was really confused.  LOL.  I hadn’t dated before, plus I was young… It was all so new to me.  The only thing I DID know was that I did not want to remarry anytime soon.

Over the years, Michele and I got very close. Marc, Amy and I were into socializing at the bars while Michele was not.  I valued the fact that she didn’t enjoy bar hopping, and I was fascinated at how introverted she was.  At 90% introverted (according to Myers Briggs), that girl could have fun in a cardboard box by herself.  I was envious because I hated being alone… and it kept landing me into trouble.

Michele came up with the idea to do a BFF photo shoot.  It took place in Wildewood and Dennis (another 90% introvert) played the photographer.  I’m not sure how I communicated with him or Michele considering I was 90% extroverted.  Dennis barely ever spoke.  It was kind of hilarious.  The photo at the tree won second place in a Best Friend Photo Contest.  We were ecstatic!

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We had so much fun taking pictures that we decided to do it again, only that time we went to Solomons Island for the shoot.  We had changes of outfits.  Yes, we were super-nerdy and looking back… It was hysterical. The cowboy hats.  OMG.  What were we thinking?   I kept trying to make a “sexy face” in some of the shots.  As you can see, that didn’t work out too well for me. I was really weird back then, I guess.

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The below pictures are by far the worst, and most comical, photos we have ever taken.  I laugh every time I look at these photos.

“Call The Lawyers at 1-800-BITE-ME”   ~ AND ~   our “Gay Hallmark Card” ….. CHEESY!

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“SWINGERS: Because it’s Sexy”   ~ AND ~   “Twilight: The One Less Man Version”

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“Hey, Little Girls!  Come to my secret barn! We have cookies!”  ~ AND ~  “Special Ed Camp is looking for more volunteers!”

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What were we thinking?  Those pictures were so dumb!

We always took our rolls of film to Walmart for one-hour processing.  We’d walk around the store until the prints were ready, then instantly go through them. If either of us looked like a ‘Shrek-face,’ we threw the pic out… then laughed at how ugly we looked.

I dressed like a hoochie on most weekends.  During every shopping trip Michele tried to steer me away from stores like Wet Seal, Rainbow, 5-7-9, etc. but it never worked… until one day she convinced me to go into NY & Co and Express with her.  That day changed my life.  LOL!  I had never seen myself in figure flattering attire that actually looked classy. I spent hundreds of dollars in the store that day with no regrets.

We bought these matching dresses from Express that day for our work Christmas parties

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One weekend we took a trip to VA to help Amy buy a car.  Shell and I had been walking down a sidewalk when a car filled with guys beeped their horn at us and cat-whistled.  Being the sexy divas Shell and I were, we waved to them….. then both of us tripped on the same crack in the sidewalk.  We nearly tumbled onto our faces.  Composing ourselves, we burst out laughing.  Okay, maybe we’re not divas.

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As my poor luck would have it, relationships never seemed to work out for me.  I won’t claim to always have been the victim, but I did endure more than my share of cheaters unfortunately.

We took a trip to Dave N’ Busters and of course, we had this pencil point made in a photo booth.

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Michele and I did a couples’ weekend in Philly once, and it was so much fun.  We coordinated color schemes… or shall I say, “Michele coordinated our color schemes.” LOL. That had been the first time I had ever saw Michele really drunk and she was hilarious. Shell was into “foo foo” drinks, meaning girlie and fruity.  I remember recommending my favorite drink of Captain Morgan and coke to her.  She took one sip and gave me the gagging face.  “Ewww, that’s disgusting.  How do you drink that,” she said.  I was like, “Well, I open my mouth, insert straw and suck it down.”  LMBO!

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A “new wave” was about to hit our friendship and it would bring out the worst case of obsession with me to date: SCRAPBOOKING.  Shell asked me to attend one of her scrapbooking parties and I remember thinking, “Oh, this ought to be fun.  NOT.”  It was like pulling teeth to get me to attend but she was convinced I would love it because I’m creative in nature.

It was like ‘crack’ to an addict.  I was hooked beyond control and spending hundreds to build my scrapbooking empire.  I asked Shell if she wanted to do a night of scrapbooking at my condo and my then-boyfriend, Ronnie, volunteered to cook dinner for us.  It was imperative that we had dinner secured without any effort on our part because once we got rolling we could not be interrupted with ridiculous things such as “cooking.”

The event was on, and our pages were rapidly coming together.  I ran out of some essential supplies so we decided to replenish at Walmart.  Ronnie, Michele and I entered the store and I quick-stepped it down the aisle, headed to the crafts section.  Ahead of me I could see a mother, her daughter beside her, and a baby wearing nothing but a diaper in their shopping cart.  They were ‘slowly’ passing by the snack aisle. I accidentally stepped on the back of the mother’s foot.  I apologized but it didn’t matter.  She ghetto-chewed me out: “MAYBE if you weren’t walking right on the back on my HEELS, I would have politely let you PASS!!”  She had a valid point, but it was too late. I was about to ‘show’ her my special ‘Walmart’ side.  I had been saving it for just the right victim… I just didn’t know it yet. I yelled out, “Oh yea, well it looks to me like you couldn’t get out of your own way even if you tried!  Why don’t you wipe the snot off your grandchild’s nose and put some clothes on him while you’re at it?!”

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I felt like a bull in a china cabinet. I don’t know what came over me but I was not about to let that woman interfere with my scrapbooking joy.  As the yelling progressed from each side, Michele just watched in silence. Ronnie broke up the “event” ….for lack of better words.  I realized in that moment, “I’m super-ghetto today,” but I didn’t care.  Scrapbooking successfully continued at my place until 1 AM.  Yea, we were hardcore, and I’m fabulous.

Michele called me one morning and asked me to meet her at our favorite Chinese restaurant.  I could tell in her voice something was terribly wrong but I knew her well enough to know she’d rather wait and talk in person. When I arrived she was already seated at a table in the back corner.  It’s that sentence you usually hear on a soap opera: “I think my husband is having an affair.”  My first thought had been “Who would cheat on this lovely woman?”  She didn’t say anything else; only handed me their cell phone bill and within a glance I felt my heart pounding out of my chest.  Amy?  I was speechless.  I know a phone bill doesn’t confirm an affair but why would Amy be talking and texting with him during all hours…. while Michele had been away attending her father’s funeral?  I never asked for further details.  I supported whatever decision she made.

Ultimately, the marriage ended as did her close friendship with Amy.  Michele never asked me to pick a side, but I felt ‘loyalty’ was the greatest gift I could offer her at the time. I knew she needed me.

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Another new era had begun, and Michele was about to experience the fun side of being single with me.  I took her along with me everywhere. We were like peas n’ carrots.

We went to Cancun Cantina and danced until we sweat our makeup off our faces:

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She dated on-and-off but nothing panned out.  We had ‘that’ in common… and we joked a lot about much people sucked.  Haha.

I convinced her to create a MySpace page. I’m not sure why because MySpace certainly hadn’t provided me with the man of my dreams, that was for sure…… and time marched on.

As luck would have it, Shell and I ended up working in the same building again.  Although we weren’t a part of the same office, we saw each other often in the hallways, etc.   Since we usually shopped together, it wasn’t uncommon to find us wearing identical outfits on the same day.  We’d laugh and people mixed us up with each other all the time.

I borrowed an extension cord from her office one morning, and an attractive man handed it to me as I walked in.  Why had she not told me about this single, good looking guy?  I had no idea, but we hit it off instantly.

Within three months, I ended up marrying him.  (I know this sounds incredibly blissful, but don’t be fooled!  It was the dumbest move I ever made in my life) 

No one knew of the spousal abuse I had been enduring.  Michele understood I was having marital problems but she didn’t know the extent of how horrible it had been.  I was too ashamed to get into details. I found comfort in being with my son, step-daughters, and our two yorkies, Daisey and Rudy.  And of course I enjoyed my time with my two closest girlfriends, Michele and Lori.

One Saturday, Shell and I took my convertible to the Annapolis mall.  We had the top down, music blasting, and our hair blowing out of control.  Life was great!  As we approached the main intersection, I could see the left turning lane was bumper-to-bumper.  I needed to merge in so I approached a car with like-aged women inside thinking they’d be accommodating.  Uhhh, no.  Michele said, “Girl! You need to go up two cars ahead where those guys are in that jeep!  I bet they’ll let us in!”  She was right!  They gladly let us in, and then we cut those other chicks off.  Meanies. Whatever happened to “Ya Ya Sisterhood,” bitches!

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On the way home that night, we were chatting in the car like we always did.  The top was up, music down low, and the mood was ‘chill.’  Out of nowhere, a big-ass spider slid down from his web right in front of my face!  I swerved the car off the road and totally freaked out!  I mean, I’d rather us both die than have a spider land in my lap. *Just kiddin!  I pulled over to compose myself and catch my breath.  Within seconds the laughter rolled.  We were nearly in tears, cracking up!

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Going home was such a sad feeling for me.  The happiness I always felt hanging out with Michele was diminished by my then-husband, who found new reasons to hate me more on a daily basis. My health deteriorated and as a result I ended up with a life-threatening case of pancreatitis.  I was hospitalized for two weeks. After recovering, I knew once I built up my strength I was going to leave him.

~Enough of that sad talk!

We loved going to concerts.  Here we are at a Nelly Furtado concert!

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After four horrendous years, I left my marriage but the stalking, verbal abuse, and drama continued for another decade.  I carried on with life; no other choice.

MySpace became my go-to tool to meet new guys.  I started dating a guy named George, and Michele briefly dated his friend, Chris.  Neither relationship lasted too long.Let’s take a moment to admire Michele’s t-shirt in the below photo.  Awesomeness.  Mine said “My Dog is SMARTER than your Dog.”  Pretty neat, huh?  NOT.  My t-shirt was stupid.

P.S.- This is what happened to my face when ‘George’ tried to take my picture.  Shoot me now, Mr. “Okay”…. “Are you ready?”…. “3-2-1″…. “Hold on”…. “Ok, ready?”… “One second”… “Okay, smile!”  … By that time, I was ready to scream “F-YOU, DWEEB!!! FORGET THE DANG PHOTOGRAPH!!!”

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Mary was, and still is, fun and we all went out together on several occasions. Michele is obviously attracted to wild women for best friends.  *smile*  We saw a band called Vs. the Earth in Solomons.

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Here we are out clubbing in Northeast DC

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I had a house party, and asked all the ladies to do the “Carmen Electra Lap Dance Workout” with me.  We didn’t want any of the guys to watch us so we made them go downstairs to the basement.  It was a beautiful scene of lovely ladies gettin’ down!

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By then, Michele was dating Tim #2.  Sometimes we literally called him “Tim #2” to make matters worse (Not featured: Ex-boyfriends that none of us want to see pictures of again)

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VA Beach Couples’ Trip. I love these genuinely happy pictures of us.  We could almost pass for a cheerful lesbian couple if a person didn’t know any better.  Haha.  (Not featured: Ex-boyfriends that none of us want to see pictures of again)

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Tim #2 and Michele were the epitome of oil and water.  No matter how much oil, or water, the two never mixed.  I wasn’t a fan, and I’m pretty sure he felt the same way about me. At that point, I basically stopped including our men in many of our photographs ‘knowing’ they wouldn’t be around forever. #HosB4Bros

When Michele got diagnosed with thyroid cancer, he wasn’t there for her when she needed him the most. It was devastating. After having her thyroid removed, she underwent radiation. Shell confided in me that Tim hadn’t been treating her well, and I knew once she recovered, she’d leave him soon thereafter. Life was too short.

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We hung out more to fill the empty space.  We went roller-skating!  I entered a speed-skating race and won… at my age. Wow. “I still got it,” I thought to myself. So much fun!

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Michele bared witness to every bizarre era I went through in life, particularly my growing obsession with vampires. I rented or purchased nearly every vamp movie on the market. It started with Queen of the Damned. I even bought the soundtrack after seeing the movie. Michele loved the soundtrack too. I made her listen to it in my car the day I bought it. LOL.

Then my girlfriend, Lori, suggested I read the Twilight series that had come out recently.  I became a crazed cougar, hot on the trail of Edward Cullen. “Rob-sessed” was the gang title for the creepy moms (like myself) who couldn’t get enough of Rob Pattinson.  I loved it because it allowed me to switch from Gothic to Sparkly vampires whenever I wanted.  It was magnificent.  Michele joined me at the theater for most premieres of the movies. She was Team Jacob.  Booooooo….

The below pictures in VA Beach would be the last time I’d hang out with Tim #2but it felt like he wasn’t even there anyway  ~ Ummmm….. “Buh-bye now!” ……. P.S.- Michele debated going back to her maiden name because of the annoying process of changing her license, credit cards, etc. I had to get a little bossy over that one.  I gave her a million and one reasons to take her maiden name back.  *wink wink* (Not featured: Exes that none of us want to see pictures of again)

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Michele always looks more ‘put together’ than me, and never a hair out of place.  I found some of our scenarios to be so amusing. Shell held a Cabi clothing party at her house one evening.  It took place on the same day as my office’s Oktoberfest; needless to mention it was “Football Jersey” day to top things off.  I walked in late, wearing a Redskins jersey, jeans and sneakers.  It was hilarious.  The women all looked at me; not in a cruel way, but in a way that signified “Why the hell is she dressed this way for a classy clothing party?”  Haha.  I just chuckled to myself.

Watch out, world! The M&M’s were out on the town!  Michele, Melissa, Mary, and Melissa.

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Leonardtown Pub and Dew Drop. Three Blondes walked into a pub together.  Three blondes decided to leave and go to Drew Drop.  One blonde, Kimberly, wasn’t permitted inside Dew Drop because her name was on the bouncer’s ‘DO NOT ENTER’ list.  We sweet-talked our way right in and got pics of her pointing to her name on the naughty list!

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Don’t even think about busting out a hip hop song from the late 80’s – early 90’s unless you want to see Michele do ‘The Running Man’ on the dance floor.  She has it PERFECTED, and everybody watches her in action once she gets rolling.

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Mary’s Bachelorette Party!  The M&Ms are backkkkkk.  We actually got up on stage and sang with the band!  There’s Mary and I standing in front of the huge fan! LOL

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St. Patrick’s Day at the Pub!  ***Cougar Alert*** We got Marc to play all of our favorite 80’s music!  We didn’t even have to threaten him with stealing his stuffed monkey.

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Another failed relationship, and I was moving back into my ex-marital home again!  {Go figure} Michele organized my closet, and she did an amazing job. She consolidated my entire wardrobe based on style and color.  It was incredible, and I’ve kept up with it over the years.

By then, Michele had started dating Randy and she was very happy.  I was ecstatic for her because she deserved that kind of love from a man.

July 4th Holiday at the Hollywood Fire House (Kim made us look like albinos. Thanks, Kim!)

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NGJB @ Vera White Sands.  We had more fun getting drunk on their patio while taking stupid pictures than we did listening to the band. It was packed like sardines that night, so we sat outside.

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Tiki Opening.

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Ladies Night outings happened all the time but one night in particular stands out to me.  We went to Blue Wind for dinner and planned on seeing the new Karate Kid movie (2010).  After finishing off a bottle of wine together I looked at Michele and said, “Would you rather see Karate Kid, or head back to my house and do a sexy photo shoot?”  It had been ages since we both felt “beautiful” and I knew she’d say “yes” without hesitation.  We had so much fun that night ~ laughing, drinking wine, and taking pictures of each other… Below are a few of the selfies we took together.  The other pictures – Sorry.  Can’t share!  Haha.  And no, we’re not lesbians.  😉

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Janet Jackson concert!  I had just started ‘talking’ to John… That was a great concert!

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The below picture is the first night Michele, Teri, and Lori met John: the love my life ❤

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Michele’s Divorce Celebration at ABC Liquor. We’re classy people, yes.  SEE / HEAR / SPEAK NO EVIL.

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Michele, Teri, and I went on a girls’ trip to Miami Beach and Seminole Hard Rock Cafe.  We had a great time!  Promoters invited us to drink for free at the clubs.  Endless Vodka on the house!  ~  That’s what I’m talking about!

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Michele’s youngest sister, Jessi, was having a Wine & Design Birthday Party.  I had never been to one before. Michele convinced me to join her.  She was right once again. I LOVED it. I couldn’t get enough of painting.  I found it to be so relaxing.  I ended up inviting her to do one with me for my birthday.

My Bridal Shower at The Front Porch (Lori, Kristie, Madi, Me, Michele, Jenny)

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My Bachelorette Party, Amish Outlaws.  The bus was packed full and it was a great time!

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My Wedding Day, 2012 ~Pinterest, here we come!~

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Wine & Design Painting for my 40th Birthday with my girls ❤

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I surprised Michele for her birthday with concert tickets to see New Kids on the Block, Boyz II Men, and 98 Degrees in DC.  As if that wasn’t goofy enough, it had been titled ‘THE PACKAGE TOUR.’  Shell and I had a great time at the concert.  We sang along, danced in our seats and then decided it was too early for the night to end.  Our men had been waiting for us at the downtown Green Turtle. We all walked down to the street to the closest nightclub we could find.  The admission age was 18+ so we clearly did not blend in.  We were old enough to be those kid’s mothers but that didn’t stop us cougars!  We partied to rap music we had never heard of and cracked jokes all night long on the dance floor!  We busted dance moves like nobody’s business, even the Harlem Shake!  We didn’t mind that we were way too old for that hot spot. EPIC COUGAR NIGHT!

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Halloween 2015 (Randy & Michele as The Big Bad Wolf and Little Red Riding Hood with John & I as historical figures)

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Lunch Outing at Longhorn Steakhouse

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Michele’s 41st Birthday Party in Solomons (Jessi, Denise, Mary, Missey, Michele)

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Now here we are about to celebrate Michele marrying the love of her life, Randy.  I couldn’t be more happy for her.  They are the perfect match; meant to bee.

Of course, I’ve already told her “The Third Time’s A Charm.”  I’m living proof of that.

Michele’s Bridal Shower at The Front Porch (Mary, Michele, Mindy, Miss)

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Michele’s Bachelorette Party (Mindy, Michele, Mary, Miss)

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Cheers to 20 years of friendship, Michele!  WOW!  How cool is that?!  Looking forward to many more!

Love you, girlie. xoxo

 

 

 

 

A Letter to My Dad <3

Dear Dad,

Yesterday was a strange day filled with a rollercoaster of emotions. I was in a great mood, laughing and feeling a few moments of pure inner joy and cheerfulness. Mom, Michael, Kristie, Jenny and I had just had lunch together. It wasn’t a planned lunch. As a matter of fact, the “planning” happened over a period of about five minutes. Mom just happened to be nearby at Kohl’s. I’ll give you a moment to absorb that… as I know you’re shocked that Mom was out shopping. Haha. As everyone joked, told stories, and laughed, I thought to myself: I love my family so much. We’re mostly last-minute planners yet it turned out to be such a fun gathering.

I was in a productive meeting at work and once it ended, I walked back to my desk expecting to carry on with my day. It’s incredible how just one email from my brother could change my entire day from that point forward. Michael knows Jenny and I well enough that we’d rather read something and absorb it, than endure a devastating phone call. At first I thought to myself, “Did I read this correctly? Let me go back and read it again.” My heart sank. Did I just read that my dad has cancer? It felt like the air had just been sucked from my lungs. I called Jenny and I could tell she too had been crying. We met outside in our work parking lot, and we shared a sentimental moment together.  We talked, vented, hugged – and then we realized…. We are very ugly criers. We decided to go home for the day to pull ourselves together.

I suddenly had a flashback to when I was 10 years old. I had always been the little leader in the house, particularly in my relationship with Michael. I remember having a private conversation with Michael, asking him how he felt about us calling you “Dad.” Michael was only six years old at the time yet he had been so confident in his decision. He said, “I’m good with it.” It was as if Michael had been waiting for me to tell him it was okay. I felt very nervous about sharing my feelings with you. How exactly does a 10-year-old kid tell her step-father this? I didn’t talk to Mom about it because I wanted to be brave on my own. Michael and I walked out to the garage where you were working on one of your vehicles and I remember my sentence like it were yesterday, “Me and Michael were talking, and we’d like to start calling you dad if you’re okay with that.” Then, we just stood there… tick-tock…tick-tock… The uncomfortable, silent pause felt like an eternity but I think you were just gathering your composure. You said you’d be honored and that it meant the world to you.

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Remember the day of my wedding? All of the guests were inside the church waiting for me to walk down the aisle. The double doors were closed. No one stood behind those doors other then you, me, and Josh. Josh opened the doors and then there was a 5-second pause before the wedding march began. This would be the first (and only) time you’d ever walk me down the aisle. You looked at me and said, “Are you ready?” I gave you a huge smile and said, “Yep. I’m ready!” You looked so confident and proud as you said, “Okay, Let’s go.” Look at Jesus in the background.  It’s almost as if he was winking at me saying, “Go ahead, girl! Get on down that aisle!”  To my surprise, my friend Brenda caught our special moment on film.

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I’d love to share more amazing stories like the last few paragraphs, but let’s be realistic. I was a bratty teenager with little regard for anyone but myself. So there was a gap of time where things weren’t perfect. Thank God I found my way back to the person I once was before life’s circumstances took away most of my happiness.

Daughters use that quote “My Dad is my hero” all the time but I actually lived through that phrase. I wouldn’t be alive today if not for you. Typically you’d only see a father screaming his daughter’s name then aggressively removing her abuser’s hands off of her in a movie. But that was me, and you were my hero. You’re still my hero!

I wrote you this letter for a few reasons: (1) I want you to know that we love you, (2) I wanted to share my two most favorite memories with you to make you smile, and (3) I want you to know that you’re not alone in whatever journey you’re facing. We’re all here for you. Your faith and assurance in God is an inspiration to all of us; however, don’t expect your family to sit back and be nonchalant either. LOL. Not happening.

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I love you.

Love,  Missy

PS – Please, anyone who reads this letter, I would ask that you say a prayer for our dad and our family. Our family strongly believes in the power of prayer, and we know that God is the #1 Physician. Thank you.

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How Robin Williams Changed My View on Life

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As an extroverted, fun-loving person, I’m the type who can barely get through telling a joke without laughing before the punch line. I’ve always viewed myself as a comedian at heart. While I enjoy making others feel happy, Robin Williams’ death made me realize I hadn’t truly focused on my own inner happiness. Laughter had been the drug that distracted me from feelings of sadness. Although I’ve never been clinically depressed, I was surprised to learn that even the funniest people have struggled with depression.

Drew Carey released an autobiography which told of his bouts of depression and two failed suicide attempts. Jim Carrey, one of my all-time favorites, said he went through cases of depression during his career in an interview with 60 Minutes back in 2004. Even Ellen DeGeneres overcame depression.

After hearing of Robin Williams’ death, it’s not uncommon to think, “Wow. Why would he commit suicide? This is a guy who had it all.” But did he really? Just because someone is famous, wealthy, and/or a comedian, doesn’t mean they’re living a perfect life. I started looking into the events prior to Williams taking his own life. He had become gradually more ill with Parkinson’s Disease before ending his life. He was also suffering from Lewy Body Dementia (LBD), which was discovered during his autopsy. Protein deposits, called Lewy bodies, grow in nerve cells in the brain regions involved in thinking, memory and movement. It is believed he may have been encountering hallucinating thoughts during the days leading up to his suicide.

Williams wasn’t the only funny person who couldn’t find his way out of the darkness. Ray Combs, former stand-up comedian and host of Family Feud, committed suicide after his long battle with depression. Other comedians such as John Belushi, Chris Farley, and Richard Pryor all led troubled lives battling substance abuse behind their comedy acts. All of them died of involuntary drug overdose.

Chris Farley, cast member of Saturday Night Live, was a very unhappy man hiding behind his humor. Farley long carried a replica of a poem “A Clown’s Prayer” in his wallet. It read, “As I stumble through this life, help me create more laughter than tears, dispense more happiness than gloom, spread more cheer than despair.” Laughter and tears go hand and hand for many comedians.

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I realized the miracle of “happiness” doesn’t magically occur by laughing, or by making others laugh. Being funny isn’t the same as being happy.

I’ve been through short periods of expected depression when life threw curve balls my way – divorce, financial struggles, moderate health issues, and so on. But the real challenge came when I received my chronic illness diagnosis of Erythromelalgia. It’s not as if the doctor said, “Okay, you have a life-long chronic illness, but here’s a therapist to help you deal with the mental aspect of it.” I felt like a homeless cat trapped outside during a thunderstorm. I had no clue how to deal with my physical and mental anguish over it. Suddenly my prior stints with depressions felt like a cake-walk in comparison to this.

After the diagnosis, I spent about a year mourning the loss of someone very special to me – “myself.” It’s that moment when you realize “you” are never coming back again, and you must carry on with your new life. It may not be the life you dreamed of, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be an uplifting, and rewarding journey.

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Robin Williams’ death made me appreciate how precious life is, and how essential it is to find your inner happiness. Once I stopped feeling sorry for myself I realized there were others suffering with my same condition. I decided to turn my chronic illness into something positive: advocacy. I focused my energy on learning more about my illness, and spreading awareness in hopes of a cure or better treatments in the future. Now, I feel empowered to help others like I’ve never felt before. It’s been a blessing.

I found my laughter again, but mostly I’m glad I found my inner happiness. It’s kind of like comparing your disposition to a car’s transmission – You go from being an “automatic” before chronic illness, to a “manual” after chronic illness. Both engines work but one requires a little more effort.

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The Erythromelalgia (EM) Awareness Video:

 

Time Waits for Nothing

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It’s free yet it’s priceless. You can use it but you can’t borrow it. It can be your friend or your worst enemy.  You have no control over it, and you can’t move it forward or slow it down.   What is it?

It’s called TIME – a simple four-letter-word with such powerful meaning behind it.  “Time = Life.”  Time is the only unpredictable measurement that comes between the moment you’re born, and the moment you take your last breath.  But what is time to you?

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The word “time” creates an image in my mind of an Olympic athlete racing against a clock toward the finish line. Nothing matters more in that moment than time itself; every fraction of a second counts.  Another moment I envision is watching the countdown of the clock during a football game, and the opposing team is down by just a few points.  When you think about it, one could say there is no such thing as losing; they just simply ran out of time. Regardless, “time” is not only about winning or losing.  It goes far deeper than that.

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When the devastating 9/11 terrorist attacks occurred, it made the world question many things, including the meaning of time, and how invaluable it is. Typically, you wouldn’t foresee a national tragedy to have a theme song, but on how many occasions did you hear “Only Time” by Enya playing on the radio during that heartbreaking era?  Employees’ working in either trade tower that were running late that morning thought time wasn’t on their side. On the contrary, time is what saved their lives. Same goes for the passengers who missed their flights that day. Just think if only one person didn’t make it on time to their metro station stop; or if someone stopped to tie a shoelace on the sidewalk; or the coffee shop had an unusually long time that morning.  All of those examples of time could have meant the difference between life and death that day.

Time is everything when a loved one is dying. Imagine a Hospice nurse’s role in helping patients with their end-of-life care. “Time” is what they represent to grieving families. The nurse measures the patient’s pulse beat per minute.  When the time has come, the nurse peacefully says, “I’m so sorry for your loss.”  Just like that, their time on earth is done.  Life in human form is gone forever, and a permanent date and time is marked on a death certificate.

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Just as time can take away a life, it can also represent the spirit of bringing a new life into the world. Most mothers could tell you the exact time their child was born.  After nine months of anticipation, excitement, and curiosity, time is no small thing to a mother.  Many expectant mothers can’t wait for “time” to reveal their baby’s gender before it’s even born.

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The only time one person’s life and another person’s death play a role together, at the same time, is through organ donation. Organ donors make the ultimate sacrifice in saving another person’s life. Matching and compatibility are everything when it comes to saving a life.  Will the recipient receive the organ in time?  Only time will tell.

There are moments when “time” feels like an unattractive word:

  • To a coworker, “I’m sorry you didn’t get the promotion.  It just wasn’t your time.”
  • After a loved one dies, “I’m so sorry for your loss. Time makes things easier.”
  • Once a relationship ends it’s usually accompanied by, “Love takes time to heal.”
  • When a student hasn’t finished taking their exam before the teacher yells, “Time’s up!”
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Just like the old saying goes, “Time flies when you’re having fun,” it can also drag when life sucks. Prisoners and insomniacs probably know this better than anyone.  For insomniacs, it’s unbearable to watch minutes tick by while you’re lying there wide awake.  Waiting on medical results is a time-dragging experience as well.  Also, chronic pain sufferers know how slow time can move. Time may not fix anything but it does teach us how to live with the pain.

Regardless of whether you use it wisely or waste it away, time keeps on ticking.  And we shouldn’t question the days we’re stuck in traffic or got up late for work.  Perhaps there is bigger meaning behind those moments saving us from a misfortune?

No one would be able to recognize good times without having bad ones.  Time is a part of where you are, what you do, and who you’re waiting for.  Until the moment we die, “time” makes us all equal in that we each get twenty-four hour days.  How we choose to spend it is what determines our future.

As Michael Altshuler said, “The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.”

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