Tuesday, April 26, 2016

This is me. I will not apologize for it.

I haven't written in this blog for 3 years. I have been busy with graduate school, my family, and personal obstacles which have gotten in the way. I've always had a passion for writing however, and I am thrilled to be back in this venue.

Writing is therapeutic for me.  I use it to share my voice because I haven't always been able to do so.  I also use it to share topics that concern or interest me, and perhaps educate others in the process (or persuade others to educate themselves on issues they may not fully understand).

I do not expect others to agree with everything I have to say.  I do not expect others to compromise their own belief system just because we gave different viewpoints.  The beauty of being an adult, is that we all have the opportunity to express our beliefs and values in a respectful, productive, and non-threatening manner.  We don't always show such respect, but we should.

This is not what I've been seeing lately, however.  All throughout social media and in our conversations with one another, I've been seeing how people are treating one another with hate and discrimination...putting one another down for our beliefs and casting one another out because a person (or group of persons) don't fit in our little mold of how people should be.

We are living in a world of xenophobia = the fear of that which is perceived to be foreign or strange.

We should strive for individualism where each person acts upon their own belief system and merit, rather than collectivism, where a group is the primary entity, and the individual is lost within that entity.

Rather than asking questions and listening to others, we we talking at each other and ignoring how others may feel.  We are ignoring people's core beliefs and values just because we don't agree.  We are listening to others spew hate based on fear and we aren't stopping to find out what that fear is based on.

If adults cannot get along with one another and conduct themselves with class and dignity, then what makes us think our children will behave any differently?  Why so we get mad at them when they are defiant and destructive?  Children learn from their environment...and quite frankly, we are not being very positive role models.

We should be careful in how we approach things. Due to the 1st amendment, we have the right to express our thoughts and feelings, but don't we also have a responsibility in how we express those thoughts?  I don't believe we should be expressing opinions which are discriminatory and hateful toward others.  I think there are times when we can express ourselves, and times when we should learn when to be more tactful.

We are all human and we all have feelings which can be broken the minute someone rejects us. Rejection for who we are and what we stand for is indubitably the most deplorable act there is...and we are doing it every single day.

As I've said in my advocacy against bullying, we need to be proactive rather than reactive.  Reacting ex post facto (after it has happened) does not work. All we are doing is adding fuel to the burning embers while we sit back and watch everything crumble around us, and then we incredulously wonder what the hell just happened.

It's time to put an end to all of this negativity and passive/aggressive behaviors.  It's time to communicate more effectively and learn how to be more accepting and tolerant of one another.  Until we can do that, we are doomed to repeat our mistakes and live in a world of exclusion.

I, for one, am extremely disheartened by it all.

In support of Target

I am so over the Target bathroom debate...but I AM going to make a statement about it.

I am going to literally drive 45 miles to the nearest Target just so I can use the restroom.  I'm going to take a picture of myself heading into that bathroom, and post it on social media telling them how proud I am to still be a patron of their business.  I'm going to point out that I am not an LGBT person, but I'm a huge supporter.

If others can be so hateful and discriminatory to post pics of themselves stating how they will never enter the store again, then I can do the exact opposite.

I've always said that if you are passionate about something, then don't just sit there and do nothing. Be a part of the solution.  Stand up for what you believe in.

That's exactly what I'm doing.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Cory Monteith


A life taken too soon...and for reasons that didn't need to be. So here's my rant for tonight because I love each and every one of you, and I never want to lose that opportunity to tell you.

Don't do drugs - if you do, please get help. There's no shame in admitting something is wrong. There's no shame in admitting your weakness. There's no shame in asking for help.

For those of us who don't do drugs but know people who do...please don't ever give up on them. They may not know how to ask for help. They may not realize they have a problem. They may be in denial. They may be angry and full of negativity, but realize it isn't THEM that is talking to you in that manner. It's the drugs. Look past all of that, and let them know you're there, whether they want you to be or not. Eventually they will need you. Eventually they will ask for your help...and when they do, I hope you will be there for them.

Don't drink and drive. Don't text and drive. Don't do ANYTHING that will cost you your life, or the life of someone else.

Be safe. Be healthy. Be humble.

Do not judge or hold grudges.

Love your friends and family and do not ever give up on them or on yourself.

ALWAYS tell the ones who are in your life that you love them....even if you haven't told them in awhile.

Forgive and let go of the past. Forgiveness doesn't mean forgetting whatever it was which hurt you. Forgiveness is letting go so that the past does not hold you prisoner.

Though we have lost some of our loved ones lately, life DOES go on. LIVE.

The dash between years...the dash between the moment you're born and your death. What does that dash mean?

"In that small space of ink is all your dreams, your achievements, your gratitude, your forgiveness, your successes, your dreams, your goals, your passion, your fulfillment, your joy, your peace, and your balance. It links you to the friends you have made, the children you have nurtured, and the people you have touched. It holds the mark you leave behind in this world."

How full is your dash? If you can't answer that, then you better get out there and make that dash momentous and leave your mark in this world...

Don't wait. Do it now.

I love you.  <3

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder - My Story

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a type of anxiety disorder. It can occur after you have gone through an extreme emotional trauma that involved the threat of injury or death.

Brief Explanation Of What PTSD Is:

When in danger, it’s natural to feel afraid. This fear triggers many split-second changes in the body to prepare to defend against the danger or to avoid it. This “fight-or-flight” response is a healthy reaction meant to protect a person from harm. But in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), this reaction is changed or damaged. People who have PTSD may feel stressed or frightened even when they’re no longer in danger. PTSD develops after a terrifying ordeal that involved physical harm or the threat of physical harm. The person who develops PTSD may have been the one who was harmed, the harm may have happened to a loved one, or the person may have witnessed a harmful event that happened to loved ones or strangers.

PTSD was first brought to public attention in relation to war veterans, but it can result from a variety of traumatic incidents, such as mugging, rape, torture, being kidnapped or held captive, child abuse, car accidents, train wrecks, plane crashes, bombings, or natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes.

The National Institute of Mental Health has a lot of good information on PTSD  =  Information on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

This is not about what PTSD is for the general population, but it’s how I have PTSD and how it affects me.

My PTSD was not caused due to something horrific like abuse or personal trauma.  Mine was caused by a natural disaster.  My PTSD is formed around thunderstorms and the potential for tornadoes.  My friends make fun of me all of the time for going into a panic mode, but there is a reason for my madness.
I was living in Houston, Texas when Hurricane Alicia hit land in 1983.  I was 14 years old at the time.  “Alicia” struck Galveston and Houston directly, causing $2.6 billion in damages, and killed 21 people.  It was such a massive storm, that they “retired” Alicia’s name as the name of a hurricane.  It will never be used again when referring to an Atlantic Hurricane. 

My Story:

I was in the 9th grade and it was the week of finals before the end of school.  My mother and sister were out of town, so it was just me and my father at home.  I was awakened at 2am by loud noises hitting the windows and by the lightening that illuminated my bedroom.  It was raining, and the wind was blowing.  The thunder was loud.  I was beginning to get really nervous, so I put my robe on, took my teddy bear (yes, I still slept with a teddy bear at 14 years old), and went downstairs.  I sat on the living room couch, trying to decide if I should wake my father up, who amazingly enough, was sleeping during storm.  The entire inside of the house was bright with the lightening which seemed endless.  The wind was getting stronger and the noises I heard (most likely hail) was coming down faster and harder. 

I finally decided to wake my father.  I walked into his room and woke him up, explaining what was going on.  It didn’t take much for me to explain.  Once he was awake, he could hear and see what was happening.  The minute we walked out of his bedroom, an enormous oak tree fell through the ceiling of the house and landed in the exact place on the couch I had been sitting 10 minutes before.  If I had still been sitting there, that tree would have killed me.  Not only did we have a tree in our living room, it was now raining heavily, and all of the debris was flying around the house (sheet-rock, limbs, dirt, rocks, etc.).  My father literally pushed me out of the way to avoid getting hit by the debris. 

My father had just been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and was told by his doctor to avoid any unnecessary stress.  Right.  While I was freaking out, he calmly walked to the kitchen and made a phone call to our next door neighbor.  This is what I heard. 

“Hello, Richard?  Hi, this is Chuck.  Did you hear that loud noise?  Well, that was a tree that just fell into our living room.  It’s raining in the house now.  Can Amy and I come over?” – Calm as a cucumber.  Unbelievable.

So now we walk to the front hall closet, where he thinks we need to get our raincoats on.  He slowly goes through all of the coats, pushing them aside and he was mumbling under his breath.. “No, this isn’t yours.  This isn’t yours either.”

By this time, I was completely freaking out.  I actually yelled at my father (and if you knew anything about him and how strict and conservative he was, this was not something I did often).  “I don’t care whose coat you get!  Just please get me one and let’s get out of here!”   My father just looked at me, noticed how stressed out I was, and remained extremely calm.  His voice was soothing and he did everything he could to protect me and keep me safe (Meanwhile, the stress he was actually feeling, was causing physical problems to his body, due to his MS).

We were the talk of the neighborhood the following day.  Schools were cancelled because the roads were blocked with trees and there was a lot of damage to clean up.  People would come over and take pictures of the oak tree sitting in the middle of the living room.  They would come over and bring us food, and offered their help in any way that they could.  It was a time where people worked together to help others.  We had to move out of our house for the entire summer so we could have the house rebuilt.  The water had gotten into the walls of the house and they were falling apart.  We don’t know if there was a tornado involved with the hurricane or not, but something was strong enough to uproot an oak tree and throw it into our living room. 

I lived in Texas for another 16 years, but I lived in areas that were not close to the water (The Texas Panhandle).  I never witnessed another major storm like that while living there. 

Now I live in Iowa – I live in an area known as Tornado Alley.  For some reason in the last 14 years, I have developed an absolute terror of thunderstorms and tornadoes.  When storms are approaching and it looks like it could be a strong one, my entire body goes into panic mode.  My face gets hot and turns red, my heart races like it’s going to come out of my chest, I sweat profusely, and I can literally become physically sick.  I think about the time I could have died in Texas, and I start packing and getting prepared to head to the basement to be safe. 

This is going to sound silly and irrational, but I start packing up pictures and school documents, my laptop and anything I would miss if we were to lose the house.  I get my children prepared to head downstairs, and I hunt down the animals to take them to the basement as well.  There might be a tornado in the state of Iowa, and it might not be anywhere close to us, but the news stations get me worked up by their constant warnings and updates. 

I try to stay calm for my children, but physically I am a mess.  You can literally see the panic and stress on my face and everywhere on my body.  It’s not until there is absolutely no danger at all that I can finally calm down.  This causes me to not sleep, either.  There could be lightening in the distance and the sound of rumbling thunder which could be peaceful to other people, but I will not be able to sleep until the skies are calm again. 

My friends make fun of how irrational I am, and tell me there is nothing to worry about…to calm down.  I know that is probably true, but I cannot seem to get that registered into my brain.  I don’t like feeling the way that I do.  I want to be able to stay calm for my children and not panic and haul everything down to the basement (I have to haul everything back upstairs after the threat is over, and that’s just as strenuous sometimes). 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is not something to make fun of or take lightly.  I cannot imagine what others go through when they have to relive a personal situation or traumatic experience.  However, I can relate to the feelings associated with it, and it is absolutely debilitating.  You may know deep in your soul that your reactions could be over-exaggerated, but your body just doesn’t let you be rational.  We truly do feel the “fight or flight” response. 

When you run across someone who suffers from PTSD, please do not make fun of them.  Please be patient and understanding, and offer them the help that they deserve.  I haven’t received help for my issues, but mine are more isolated.  My PTSD is triggered by storms, which don’t happen all of the time (just during tornado season, which is during the spring and summer with the highest activity spanning in April through July).  Other people have triggers which can happen frequently, where there’s a loss of complete control.  There is hope and there is help.  Please do not hesitate to ask for help

Thank you.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Being a Victim - My Personal Commentary

This is my personal commentary on being a victim. These are my thoughts, with some evidence from research. I am a person who tries to see both sides of an issue. I stand up for victims of bullies, and I help raise awareness about mental health disorders, but I also have a different viewpoint on being a victim and how to get out of that mentality. I can say these things because I have been a victim and I have experienced all of the feelings and trauma that is associated with it. However, I have chosen not to be a victim anymore, and I have chosen to live my life in a healthy and productive way. It all comes down to the choices we make.

The one thing I want to make clear throughout this post, is that I do understand what people feel and I can completely empathize. Please do not think I am a callous cold hearted woman with the things I am about to say. I am the complete opposite. I just think there comes a time when we stop thinking that the world is against us, and we choose to stand up for ourselves.

We know what being a victim is. It’s about feeling hopeless and helpless in situations that have occurred in our lives. Whether it be because we have faced a trauma in our lives, or because someone has hurt us (emotional abuse, physical abuse, bullying, etc), we tend to feel depressed and we whine about how life in general sucks.

We see and hear about people committing suicide, because they are so depressed that they see no other way out of a situation. This breaks my heart. It DOES get better, but only YOU can make it better. We need to stop putting the blame on other people, on how we feel. Eleanor Roosevelt was right, when she said “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

It’s a given in our society that some people are just plain mean. It’s been researched as to why people are mean, and really there is nothing WE can do to MAKE someone stop being mean to us. We can talk until we are blue in the face, but it’s the choices THEY are making about how THEY act, and all WE can do, is control how WE handle it.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t feel the way that we do sometimes, because in reality, life can just be hard. What I am saying, is that after a while, it’s time to say, “You know what? I don’t deserve this. I deserve to be happy, and I’m going to BE happy.”

I realize it all comes down to a person’s self esteem, and their determination and drive. A person has to like themselves first, in order for others to like them. I also realize that this can be a difficult path to take. I am 44 years old, and I have had many negative experiences and trauma in my life. I have depression and anxiety and there were two times in my early life, that I tried to commit suicide. I was brought up in a controlling home, I was physically and mentally abused by past boyfriends, and I was raped in college. All of these things, plus being adopted (at the age of 5), living in foster care for the early years of my life and not knowing my biological family has caused me to have depression for most of my life.

I’m not saying these things to make you feel sorry for me. I’m saying these things so you will know that I DO understand what you are facing, or what you have faced in the past. However, I do not consider myself a victim anymore. I consider myself to be a survivor. It has taken me until NOW to realize that it’s up to me to be happy. No one else can make me happy. I can finally let go of my past, and look forward to my future.

How does one decide to do this? Through therapy, talking things out, journaling, sharing your stories with others, making positive decisions, knowing what coping skills to use, and being an active participant in your own life. Help others with their situations (which is what I am doing with this community, because in all honesty, it is completely therapeutic for me). Ignore the bullies who make fun of you and throw them away as people you do not need in your life. Stop giving them ammunition to bully you more, because the more you react, the more they will do it. (This is all about mental abuse, and not physical abuse…reacting to that is completely different, and I am well aware of that).

I have seen the acronym on face book “FML” too many times to count. It frustrates me, because I do not believe someone’s ENTIRE life should be summed up that way. Unless you are a tornado victim (as we have seen the horrific pictures on the news), you live in a third world country, or you have no home (no shelter, no family, no income, no friends), then you really shouldn’t be posting about how incredibly horrible your life is. It could be worse.

** (I’m NOT talking about the ones who are currently being bullied and are for asking for help, or have suicidal thoughts.  I totally want to help them, because they are actively asking and are wanting to do something different. I’m talking about the other people, who just sit around and complain) **

DO SOMETHING, rather than to sit there and complain about it. You CAN make changes, and you CAN feel better about your life and your circumstances. I am proof of that.

With everything I have been through, I am a happily married woman with two beautiful children. I have an education (which I am pursuing further) and I have friends and family who love me. What could be better than that? What do I really have to complain about?

Think about it. There ARE ways to change your life. Take an active part in your own life.

Be happy. You can do it. I have faith in you.

Thank you.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

My personal commentary about communicating with our children

I believe that as parents and caregivers, we need to be more pro-active and communicate more effectively with our children. We need to have the heavy discussions with them, no matter if it makes us feel uncomfortable. Not only do we need to discuss the issues of bullying and suicide, but there are many other topics that we need to take responsibility in teaching our children. Topics such as puberty, body development, hormone changes, stress in school, peer pressure, drugs, sex, abstinence, birth control, sexually transmitted diseases, relationships, death and grief, etc.

I say this, because too many times children learn about these things the wrong way. They learn by experimenting, or by someone in school. They don't always get the correct information. When your child asks an important question on these topics, don't just blow them off. Don't assume that they should know these things, or that someone else will tell them and will provide the correct information. WE are their parent. WE need to communicate with them.

We do not always need to be friends with our children. We need to be parents first. Children need to be taught discipline (I'm not talking about consequences in discipline. I mean behaving in an appropriate way and doing what is right), structure and guidance. We should guide them to be the people we would like for them to be. Sure, they will make mistakes and make the wrong choices in life sometimes, but that is also a learning experience. We are here to guide them and make sure that if they fall, we are there to pick them up. If my child tells me that he/she hates me, then I am doing my job. Hearing those things may hurt me, but quite frankly, it means that I'm doing the parent thing the way I'm supposed to, rather than letting my child do whatever he/she wants. Being friends with our children should come later, when they are old enough and mature enough to handle the difference.

When my daughter was 10 years old I had the puberty discussion with her, which included how her body was changing, hormones and the changing of her feelings. It wasn't something I really wanted to do, because in my eyes, she was still just a little girl. However, her body was telling us both something different, and I figured it was time for me to have that discussion with her, so that she was prepared when things start changing more drastically. She is now 12 and puberty has really hit her hard, but she was ready for it with the discussions we had when she was younger. She asks me questions and we talk as openly as she needs to. She is now interested in boys, so we've had deeper discussions about those topics. The door to communication is always open between us, and I hope this continues as she hits her teenage years.

My son was 6 when he asked me how babies come out. He thought it was weird that babies are in a mother's tummy and wanted to know how they came out specifically. I actually explained to him both about vaginal births, and C-sections. He thought it was gross, but he was also interested enough to stay and listen to me. He asked a lot of questions, and I answered the best that I could, in a language and tone he could understand. I didn't think it would be appropriate for me to shrug off his questions and tell him he would know those things when he got older. My son has OCD (Obessive/Compulsive Disorder) and ODD (oppositional defiant disorder) so telling him that would only make his curiosity stronger. I would much rather that I be the one to tell him those things, than for him to ask someone who would not give him the right information. He is now 8 years old and the questions seem to get a little bit harder to answer, but we do so because it's the right thing to do...in the language that he will understand.

But I digress....

What all of this boils down to, is the fact that we must communicate with our children and have those important discussions, because when the time comes when something more serious develops (such as bullying), they will know that that they can come to us. The suicide rate has increased because some of those individuals did not talk to anyone about their issues and their feelings. They just took their lives without any communication whatsoever. I want my children to be able to talk to me about anything, and in order for them to be able to do that, I need to make them feel that I will listen and hear everything they have to say without bias, and I will help to guide them in the right direction. This doesn't necessarily mean that I will like what they have to say, but I do need to listen.

We are our children's parent, teacher, and mentor. We need to grasp the teachable moments and be positive role models. It starts with us.


How I got to Iowa from Texas

Many of my Texan friends have asked me how I got to Iowa and why I moved away so far. It's an interesting story...one full of risk, adventure, and love.

And in most stories, there have been lessons learned.

I was married in March of 1997 in Waco, Texas and we moved to Arlington, Texas for his job. We were divorced 10 months later, after being together a total of 3 years. As I literally watched this man drive away from me and the house we bought together and begin a new life without me, I stood there wondering what the hell had just happened. I felt like a failure as a woman and as a wife, and I fell apart.

I was teaching special education in the Grand Prairie school district, and I just stopped going to work. I didn't call in, and I didn't show up. I couldn't get out of bed and I wanted to be left alone. I was going through a major depression that I have had for most of my life, but it was just never diagnosed. As a teenager when I would get into so much trouble, my parents just thought I was defiant and a trouble maker. Now we all realize that I had some mental health issues which probably could explain past behaviors and attitudes much more clearly.

I literally secluded myself. I was afraid to leave the house, and I didn't want to talk to anyone. My parents wanted me to move back home with them, but that was out of the question for me. Moving back home meant admitting something was wrong, and I didn't want to do that. I stopped talking with my friends, and I stopped hanging out with the neighbors. When we sold our house, I moved the furthest away that I could from where he and I lived together as man and wife. Everything reminded me of him, and it was just too painful.

I ended up resigning from my teaching position, before they fired me, and they gave me some names of counselors I could talk to. So, my life for almost a year, was filled with going to counseling and secluding myself in my apartment. I think that's when I turned 30, which was the most depressing birthday of my life.

The one thing that kept me from going insane, was the internet. This was a time when the internet was getting really popular, and chatting online seemed to be the perfect thing for me. I could go into a chat room and be anyone I wanted to be...I could say anything and feel my emotions without being judged or looked upon as a failure. I didn't have to be a divorced woman with depression...this was my escape. It was like reading a good book and being captivated in the story-line, except that I was the author and I had control of the outcomes. I was fascinated and it consumed my entire day and night.

I met a man who lived in Iowa Falls, and with whom I began to trust with my personal life. He was sweet and caring and seemed to get me. We talked online and we talked on the phone for hours. He was married and had two kids, and his family knew about me. He knew how miserable I was, and he knew I wanted a change. He offered to come and get me and move me back to Iowa to live with him and his family until I could get back up on my feet. I didn't have to think twice about this. I was ready for a change, and I knew I needed to get back in control of my life.

My parents had a field day with this. If you know my parents at all, then you'd know that they were very old school and had very traditional values for their children (I say "were" because my father passed away two years ago, and my mother has changed into an amazing woman who still lives in Houston). All my mother kept asking was how did I know this man was not a serial killer and didn't I know how dangerous it would be to meet someone all alone for the first time? For some reason, I believed in this man, and my only response was how did HE know that ~I~ wasn't the serial killer. As much as they argued with me, I never caved in because of my extreme stubbornness.

So my mother decided to take what little control she had, and wanted to know my make/model/year of my car, the same for his car, his entire family's name, their address, and what roads we would be taking. I was to call her every time we stopped for anything and let her know how I was doing. She also told me that once he showed up at my doorstep, if I was scared or uncomfortable, I was to give him some money and send him on his way. Also...we would have a code to make sure that everything was ok. I had a cat named Casper, and my mother decided that when she would call me, she would ask how Casper was doing. If I was scared or something awful had happened, I would tell her that Casper was sick, and she would drop everything to come and get me. If I was fine, then Casper was fine. I thought it was weird, but she insisted. He showed up...and I about choked. He looked scary...He had a very long beard which covered most of his face, and he had no teeth. I didn't want to give in, so when he began speaking, I closed my eyes, and I could hear the same tone and same tenderness I had for so long on the phone. I knew everything would be ok. He showed up with a U-haul and a smile, and we were on our way.

16 hours later, we arrived in Iowa Falls, which also sort of scared me. This is a very small town, and it looked dirty to me. I had come from big cities in Texas, and never wanted for anything. Suddenly, I was in a dreamworld and I started to question this decision of mine. The family was nice..the wife a bit more obnoxious than I was used to, and they moved my bed and a few of my clothes into a huge back room which they used as a computer/living room. The rest of my furniture and things were put in storage. They were loud, and I had no privacy. I needed a job, and I needed it fast.

I found a job working at a gas station, which wasn't the greatest thing in the world, but it got me out of the house. I began to relax a bit however, because these people weren't the "backwards po-dunk country people" as I had put it, but they were NICE people who would give you the shirt off of their back without question. I got a second job working on the mental health floor at the local hospital and began to earn enough money that I rented the apartment below the house I was living in. It was much better...I had privacy, and I had space, yet I was still near the family who were being so kind to me. I learned to love the entire family...and I trusted them with my life.

I lived this way for a year. I was happy again, but I was lonely. Friends of mine decided to set me up with a guy who was living with them, and who also had a bad past with women.  We met, and the attraction was instant. Two people who were not looking for love, found it through being set up by mutual friends on a blind date.  How often does THAT happen?

Danny and I moved in together after we found out I was pregnant with our first child...only three months into dating each other. We found our own place, and we have been inseparable ever since. Danny was not the typical guy I would have gone out with in Texas. He had long hair, and didn't graduate from high school...but there was something about him that really made me want to get to know him better. I won't get into the entire story of how we connected, but it turns out that he is the most gentle and caring man I have ever met, and he is my best friend. He is the father of our children, and is totally amazing. He's smart in so many areas, and he supports me in everything.

I am still in constant contact with the friends who brought me into their home. I have been touched by their generosity and I owe them everything. If it weren't for this family, I truly do not know where I would be today.

Lessons learned...

I have learned to forgive myself of the past. I have learned that money and prestige are not everything, and that true friendships are something to hold onto. I have learned about farming and the country life, and I wouldn't go back to the big city life if I was paid to do it.  I also learned to let go of my ex-husband.  Everything happens for a reason.  He left me, so I could meet the love of my life.  I am grateful for that.

I have taken my own past, and I have used it for the good. I have worked with juvenile delinquents, and I have worked with many people who have mental health issues. I am working on a higher education to become a licensed professional counselor, and I give my expertise and knowledge to those who are willing to listen. Danny and I have also both taken in people into our home who need a stable environment.  We have opened up our home, in the same way that a home was opened up to me nearly 14 years ago. Pay it forward.

So...a huge risk that I took, ended up being the best decision I have ever made in my life and I couldn't be happier. Remember my cat, Casper? I swear, my mother called nearly everyday for a year asking me how Casper was doing, and I would always respond the same way...that he was happy and content and that everything was fine. Casper died four years ago, at the age of 16. He lived a happy and fulfilled life...as I am doing now.

I love and I am loved. After all, isn't that what makes the world go round?