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

 

Pediatric Cancer: Take a Stand

Our children deserve better than 4%

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:

 

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:

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

The Erythromelalgia (EM) Awareness Video:

 

Time Waits for Nothing

time-management

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?

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.

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.

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.

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!”

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.”