Life Was ‘Rich’ When I Was Poor

Growing up as an 80’s kid

The most interesting thing about growing up poor is that I didn’t realize I was poor. As long as I had food in my belly and a place to sleep, life was good.

I loved my childhood. My mother was a waitress and my father was a car mechanic. I don’t have many childhood memories of my father because my parents separated when I was five years old. We moved from a trailer in the hood (although I had many tricycles as you can see), to another trailer located in Hollywood, Maryland with my to-be step-dad.

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My step-dad worked in Washington, DC, near the Capitol so he was a bit of a celebrity in my eyes. I had only visited DC once on a school fieldtrip. My friends used to ask me: “Hey, where does your step-dad work?” I’d respond: “He works in Capitol Hill with very important people.” I felt good about my standard response but I’m sure it confused many kids considering we lived in an unflattering trailer. I laugh when I think about that now. My step-dad looked more like a Bounty Hunter than a Capitol Hill employee. Imagine: A trailer in a lonesome field, a big guy living in it who could kick your ass, a German shepherd named “Axel,” and a few beaten down vehicles. Oh yeah, baby.

The trailer was tiny – brown and off-white in color. It wasn’t pretty, certainly nothing to brag about but it was “home.” My bedroom was like a human sweat locker, just big enough to squeeze in a single sized bed and a tiny dresser. Dark brown paneling surrounded me. Didn’t everyone have paneling in the early 80’s? It was hideous yet nothing made me happier than being with my family. I especially adored my little brother, Michael. We didn’t have much but we had love and togetherness. Today, lots of families live in huge homes even though most only use a handful of the rooms. Why do people need all this space?

No one complained there wasn’t central air conditioning or a dishwasher. Nobody whined that there was only one TV console with no remote control. Funny thing is I don’t know how I’d survive today without a remote control. If my remote died in the middle of the day, I’d rather run out to Walmart for new batteries than get up and change the channels.

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Who remembers the TV Guide? It was awesome. I used to sit down and circle every show or movie I wanted to watch. If I missed the opportunity to see a good movie, I might not see it again for another year. That ain’t no joke.

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The Wizard of Oz always left me in “awe.” I didn’t believe dwarves (or little people) were individuals I’d ever see in real life. After all, I did live in a small town. As a kid I felt amazed that TV producers found so many of them for one movie. Am I the only person who thought this way?  🙂 Now, there’s several reality shows starring little people and I love it.  I’m a fan of Little Women LA and The Little Couple.

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Another thing I find thought-provoking is that I didn’t hear sexual or foul language on regular TV channels back then. Today, children can turn on the TV and learn more about life’s vulgarities than I knew of at 25 years old. Actors and reality stars can say “ass,” “dick,” “bitch,” and insult others because it’s considered funny to so many people. I don’t get that? Why? I guess saying “Take a step back, jerk!” isn’t as cool as saying “Take a step back, motherf**ker!” Haha.

I remember the enthusiasm I felt when the fat Sears catalog was delivered around Thanksgiving time. I put my marker to work circling a thousand items I wanted, knowing I’d only get a few of them. But that was okay because just the book alone made me feel happy inside. I loved looking at the many colorful pictures. Who feels that way anymore? There are no catalogs for kids any longer. Now children are on Amazon asking their parents to order them things all year long.

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School days taught me a lot about different cultures. My most influential educator was my 5th Grade Teacher, Ms. Betty Brady. She went above and beyond the typical 5th grade education. She actually cultivated us about life. We wrote poetry and talked about our feelings. We took picnic lunches in the woods, sat in a circle and named positive things we liked about each other. Another cool thing we did was write down our name/address on a piece of paper of which we attached to a balloon. All at once, we released our balloons into the sky hoping someone far away would receive it and become a “pen pal.” A few kids were lucky and it worked! Can anyone imagine doing this now? That’d be like giving a possible child molester your full name and location.

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Hollywood, Maryland was so small that we only had one African American in our class. His name was Jermaine and he was super cool and friendly. I didn’t understand until I was older that racism is something that’s taught by adults to children. It doesn’t naturally exist on its own. We also had one disabled boy in our class. His name was William. I don’t know what condition he had but he wore a sturdy back-brace daily and struggled to walk sometimes. My classmates were helpful and kind to everyone. No one was cruel or obnoxious acting.

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I didn’t have a miraculous wardrobe, and I owned just a few pairs of shoes yet I felt okay with that. None of my buddies made me feel inadequate over it. I’m not sure the same applies in today’s world.

Our elementary school had a special program called “Grand Pals.” It was an incredible experience. Each 5th grader “adopted” two elderly persons living in our local nursing home. Our grand-pals were chosen by drawing names out of a jar. Although I don’t recall their names, I vividly remember who my grand-pals were. One was a blind black man and the other was a disabled veteran (both legs amputated at the knee) who carved wooden ducks as a hobby. I was fascinated by both of these gentlemen. They were so welcoming and kind to me. They shared stories about their lives with me and my letters were posted on their bedroom walls. Those two men will never know how much their wisdom and friendship meant to me. How many elementary kids in this generation can say they’ve had this type of experience?

When I had a school assignment I turned to the Britannica Encyclopedia set in our home. Those books were amazing, filled with color portraits and easy to understand. My parents took out a small loan to buy them. Now, schools basically require you have a computer/Internet at home to research projects and essays. Oh, and a printer.

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In middle and high school, a fight was just that… a fight. A kid worked off his or her aggression, spoke to the assistant principle, then went home for a few days. Today, most schools have cops permanently located within the school “for your safety.” Now a child could be smeared with a criminal record if he/she gets into a fight. Did bullying become worse or was it there yet ignored because social media didn’t exist?

I wrote letters to friends and boyfriends in school. In class or in the hallway, I passed my note to my recipient with a big smile upon my face. Also, back then people wrote addresses down in an actual address book. What have we gained since social media and email began? Swiftness of communication. And for this generation, speed is everything. What have we lost? Closeness, voice contact, the intimate communication of actually knowing what a person is feeling, and that can only come from presence. I don’t know any families that are actually closer as a result of email or social media.

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I remember the enjoyment I felt when my favorite song played on the radio. I owned a stack of 45-records and a few albums.  Then cassette tapes came out.  Major improvement! I discovered new music at a local record store called “Can’t Stop the Music.” I eagerly awaited the release of new albums. There were no piracy issues because people were allowed to record songs straight from the radio.  Imagine that!  Who else thought it was incredibly annoying to play their favorite song on their cassette tape? Fast forward. Stop. Play. Rewind. Fast forward. Stop. Play. God forbid you tried this out with your “Walkman.” It was ridiculous. Now a person can just turn on their iPod and hear their favorite tunes whenever they want. The “thrill” is over.

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House phones: I’m reminded of when “call waiting” first emerged. My friends and I were so excited! I told my girlfriend, Sheri: “Okay, call me at exactly 6 p.m.” Then, I’d have my boyfriend call me at 6:05 p.m. just so I could hear the BEEP and try it out. Mission achieved.

If I met someone I wanted to talk to, we exchanged home phone numbers on a piece of paper. If paper wasn’t available I wrote their number down on the back of my hand. If I wanted to ask a guy out, I didn’t start communicating via texting or IM’ing. I called his house. ‘Ring-ring…riiing-riiing…riiinnngggg-riiiinnnngggg’ (Please don’t let it be his mom or dad who picks up the phone… please don’t let it be his mom or dad who picks up the phone…) Then I’d talk to that boy for HOURS on the phone. Time just flew by. What the hell did we actually talk about? Who knows…

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I kept my sanity after breakups because back then there was no way to keep tab on your exes. Then the Internet came. Yikes! “Oh no, girllll… He was tagged in a picture where he’s hanging all over some chick. You gotta see this.”

A 35mm camera was the happening thing but if you were poor, Fujifilm invented the modern disposable camera. When I wanted my film developed, I had to take it to a store, drop it off and wait a few days. There were no do-overs. I photographed what I photographed. If I didn’t like the picture and wanted to redo it, too bad. The moment was gone. It’s printed now. If my eyes were closed, my hair was a mess, I had red-eye… oh well. Now, a smartphone takes better pictures than some digital cameras on the market. Constant do-overs make people appear flawless and it takes away the humor of an ugly photograph.

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Renting a movie was an adventure! I strutted around the movie store looking at all of the boxes of beta/VHS tapes available. I read the covers from front-to-back and glanced at the actors’ fashion statements. I dreamt of becoming a beautiful woman like the many featured on the movie covers. Who remembers “Be Kind. Rewind.”? Haha. A person had to rewind their tape or else the rental store charged a fee. I was sneaky too because I used to wander into the X-Rated room in the back to check out the naughty porn collection. That is how I learned about porn as a kid since there was no internet at our disposal. It scares me that a kid can easily access a porn site without their parents knowing.

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If I wanted to play a video game I went to the arcade armed with pockets full of quarters. I stood at a big boxy thing squeezed in next to a lot of other big boxy things, put in quarters and played the hell out of the games. And then I went home happier and poorer. Now there’s X-Box, PlayStation, games on our phones… you name it… endless entertainment available right at your fingertips.

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I spent my free time outdoors. Nature was my life. As kids, my aunt, Kristi, and I loved playing on the old railroad tracks behind her house. We caught tadpoles and held them in our hands without thinking “ewww….. gross.” I’ll admit I was afraid to hold a frog in my hand because I was told it would give me warts. I must have some kind of wart-fighting-power because I never did get any warts.

We rode in the back of my step-dad’s pick-up truck. There were endless bicycle journeys; Kickball; Tag; Candy cigarettes; Mello Yellow; Starburst; Scraping change from the couch cushions; fruit flavored Chapstick. We used make forts in hollowed bushes and re-hammer rusty nails into makeshift signs or we made mini sailing vessels with old pieces of wood. We flooded the narrow hillside of my yard using a garden hose and like magic, a “flowing river” appeared for my sailing vessel. Speaking of garden hose, I used to drink water straight from it without hesitation. Now, I’d probably need an immunization shot before pulling such a stunt. I was easily amused with a dirt driveway and a few small rocks to carve out Hopscotch blocks.

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On pretty days, we’d try to catch butterflies. This is totally unrelated, but I have a confession. I’m 42 years old yet I’m still haunted by an act of violence I committed once on a butterfly. I saw a wounded butterfly on the ground and instead of putting it out of its misery I took one wing and ripped it off. I have never forgotten that horrible act, as if it were some Jeffrey Dahmer shit or something. I have no idea why I did it. “I’m sorry, Mr. Butterfly. Please forgive me.”  😦

In the evenings, my grandmother gave us old mason jars and we’d run out in the front yard trapping lightning bugs. We poked holes in the metal lids and kept them overnight. I loved how they lit up the room at night. Some of the breathing holes weren’t big enough so many of my lightning bugs suffocated and died as a result.

Come to think of it, I’m starting to feel like a bug murderer… WTH.

Honeysuckle bushes lined the right side of my grandparent’s yard and we picked many of them for a taste of sweetness. Raspberry bushes were located in the woods right beside my house. Kristi and I picked huge bowls of them. It took hours and the chiggers we were totally worth it because the berries were free and delicious in exchange for the labor.

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I roamed the back streets throughout my neighborhood until sunset without concern from my parents. I wore a watch, the only way to tell time – A Swatch Watch.  Now, if a person doesn’t know where their kid is at all times, there is possible cause for panic — and a call to 911 may be in order.

We used yarn for ‘string art’ – ‘Witch’s Broom’ or ‘Cat’s Whiskers’.  Endlessly, we tried to come up with new string tricks.

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I had multiple bundles of colored string of which was used to make friendship bracelets. I pinned the knotted end to a pillow and then braided until it was long enough to fit my wrist.  I loved seeing the final outcome.

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Kristi and I choreographed dance acts to our favorite songs and performed our synced moves in front of our family in the living room. We looked ridiculous but it was fun and it killed time.

Often times, my grandparents took Kristi and I to the flea market and we loved it!  We frequently came home with multicolored rabbit foot key chains. I wouldn’t want one of those now – how depressing… “Let me cut off an innocent rabbit’s foot and color the fur. Children will love this.” Hell, I’d have PETA beating down my door today for owning such a trinket.

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Yard sales were fun. My mom and I used to hit up every yard sale in town. I’d always come home with a cute top or VHS movie. I wasn’t embarrassed to wear hand-me-downs. Before we left our house, we used to scrape up change from all around the house to treat ourselves to McDonald’s after yardsaling.

My parents used a map to go somewhere… Yes, it’s called a map. Crazy, isn’t it? I bet if I handed my adult son a map today he’d have no clue what to do with it. I recently watched an episode of 20/20 where a college student decided to spend her Spring Break on a solo road trip. She followed her Yahoo Maps app all the way to a dead end dirt road in the blistering desert. She was stuck there for nearly a week without gas or cell phone reception before someone finally found her.  She could have died.  Why aren’t we using maps as backup to GPS?

When I started working at my first job I had to either balance my checkbook or visit the bank to know how much money was left in my account. Pretty wild, isn’t it?

I had to teach my adult child how to write a personal check just last year:

Matt: “Mom, how do I write out a check for the security deposit on my apartment?”

Me: “You fill out who it’s going to, the dollar amount, and write the cash line out as (ex.) “One Thousand two hundred twenty-five dollars and xx/100. Date it. Sign it.”

Matt: “What? I don’t understand.”

Me: “Re-read what I last texted.”

Matt: “Can you just send me a picture of a voided check and pretend you’re writing this out so I can see?”

Me: {Laughing out loud} “Sure.”

If I left my house I didn’t care if someone couldn’t reach me. If I needed to reach out I used a pay phone booth. They were gross but it got the job done.

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Nearly everything I did in my childhood for entertainment was cheap or free. That’s the intriguing part. What kid can say that now?

Killing time never involved me texting, taking a selfie, scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, Snap Chat, or Twitter… seeing how many “likes” I had… Instead I took time to think… really “think.” Boredom made room for me to reconnect with myself.

Did technology take over? The Internet came with a lot of knowledge but it also filled our heads with plenty of junk and fluff like YouTube, endless porn, social media, and crimes. It gives people an excuse to stop speaking to others in person. It provides individuals with online bravery to insult or bully other people.

Life seemed simpler and healthier to live with less communication technology than we have today. Most would agree that it creates a sense of dependence that we did not used to have, not only in the form of separation anxiety from the people in our lives, but also from the separation anxiety we have developed for information and technology itself.

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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:

 

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:

 

Brave Girl Battles Two Rare Diseases

Chloe’s Hope: Stop the Burning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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EM flares on Chloe’s face and ears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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An emotional Chloe as she struggles with daily pain

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

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

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Chloe with her brothers, James and Caleb

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

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

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

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Chloe and her mother, Jacqui

To see this story on The Huffington Post:

Brave Girl Battles Two Rare Diseases

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

Burning for Hope

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

EM Warriors on Facebook

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

Please Join Our Campaign here

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EM Awareness Video:

The Wilted Sunflower 🌻

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Overlooking a field of sunflowers,

A few appeared out of place.

They tried to stand tall but couldn’t,

While others more lovely filled their space.

Gravitating toward the beautiful ones,

As the wilted were quickly passed by.

Few people desire to view the weak,

And this group of flowers is soon to die.

The wind blew the pedals to the ground,

Changing them from golden to brown.

A little more rain and sunshine is needed,

Especially when ‘living’ is bringing you down.

But aren’t they pretty too, these flowers…

Who looked stranded in a crowded field?

For not every blossom can be flawless,

And there are some that may never be healed.

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

But rather to ‘accept’  and mend the soul.

So love ALL the flowers to cross your path,

Even the sad blooms that don’t appear whole.

With a new season a fresh life will begin,

And a new journey will soon be told. 

‘Unique’ is still special and worth seeing,

Because eventually all living things grow old.

Written By: Melissa Curley

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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