A letter to my sister and brother in law on their wedding day

For those of you who weren’t in attendance of my sisters wedding (or couldn’t hear me because I was trying not to cry), here’s the speech I gave for them both; 

First I just want to say congratulations to Taylor and Steven. Today is a huge accomplishment for the both of you, both personally and as a couple, and I want to thank you for allowing me to be apart of such a special day.
I feel like a lot of people begin their speeches by saying that they never thought this day would come, but I think everyone in this room can attest to the fact that I truly never thought I would be standing on this stage, giving a speech at your wedding. 

There was a painful time for a lot of us, and me especially, where the only speech I imagined giving on your behalf would be at your funeral. I prayed everyday for things to turn around, and they did more than that. Although I never pictured this day, I can honestly say that this is one of the proudest days of my life so far

Taylor, you know that I’ve always been your biggest critic. Although there have been times when the roles have been reversed, you will always be my big sister. Whether that be screaming out the window at kids that bullied me in middle school, or being the one to shave my head when I was losing all my hair and still making me feel beautiful, you never hold back, and that’s something I admire about you. You taught me how to be strong at times where I couldn’t, because you are by far one of the toughest people I’ve ever met. You taught me forgiveness, and that we don’t always do things perfectly but that’s okay. I can’t even begin to explain to you what it means to me to look at you and see you where you are today. I never imagined you being two years sober, making me an aunt to your child, or just seeing you truly, genuinely happy, but here you are– so beautiful and literally glowing, and I am so so proud to call you my big sister.

Steven, I’m not going to lie and say that I was your biggest fan when I first met you. In fact, I’m pretty sure I didn’t speak to you at all for a good amount of time so thanks for putting up with that — However in all reality, if it wasn’t for you I don’t think that Taylor would be here today, and we all are forever indebted to you for that. You’ve had to fight against so many things that you didn’t deserve your entire life, but you’ve still managed to prove yourself to be one of the most resilient, hardworking, and thoughtful people I’ve ever met. Most importantly, you are someone with one of the biggest hearts that I’ve ever encountered, which is why you’ve became a part of our family so quickly and easily, and I’m so excited to finally be able to officially call you my brother. 

Although Taylor and Steven’s story didn’t begin like the usual fairytale, the fact that they are still together today is the perfect representation of a miracle, and not just because they fight everyday about Steven not being able to read taylor’s mind. You two managed to turn a relationship that originated around something toxic into something healthy and beautiful. Most couples don’t go through all that you two have together and come out of it with a beautiful relationship and family, and I honestly think that’s what makes today so special. Love isn’t perfect. It’s not a fairytale. It’s facing challenges, fighting to be together, and never letting go, and not for one second did either of you do that through all of your phases. Today isn’t just a celebration of your marriage, it’s a celebration of your strength and resiliency amidst the challenges you’ve faced — together.

I’m not going to say that things will be easy from here on out. As the years unfold, you’ll have many more arguments about steven taking out the trash, financial problems, when Amina is allowed to date, and everything inbetween, however during those times, remember what brought you to this moment. Remember where you started, because that’s enough to make any problem seem like nothing. No matter what life throws your way, let the love that has bound you both together keep you strong and there will be no obstacle you can’t overcome. 

The other day I came across a quote that exemplified your relationship so well so I’d like to share it, 

“The couples that are meant to be, are the ones that go through everything that is meant to tear them apart, and not only come out of it together, but come out of it even stronger”

Taylor and Steven, I am so proud of you both and I’m so thankful to be standing on this stage right now. You guys did it, and if that’s not something to celebrate I’m not sure what is. So, if everyone could join me in raising a glass to you both- I just want to say, no one deserves a happily ever after more than you two, congratulations xx. 

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Resilience

As human beings, we are naturally resilient to an extent. We all share a common instinct to overcome, achieve, resist, to fight back. It’s innate in us to push back when the world shoves us around. Have you ever heard the saying; “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it”? How you react to it, how you bounce back (or not)– that’s resiliency. The amazing thing about going through some of the worst things you can imagine is that your level of resiliency becomes so much higher. When you do bounce back, life is that much more awesome.
When we become the most resilient person we can be, new positive realities and perspectives arise and flourish in the most surprising ways. What would normally be considered a huge disappointment or a bad day is essentially nothing, because you’ve been through worse. You’ve seen worse, felt worse, and you’ll forever expect worse. In cases like this, being able to just not care comes in handy because you’re filled with hope for better and appreciation for every other little thing you have in your life.

This is definitely not the way I’ve always handled things. I spent my fair share of days and nights questioning God and being angry at why things happened to me the way that they did. And whose to say they won’t happen again? Life’s problems are inevitable– everybody’s fight is different. We’re always told that somebody out there has it worse than we are, but it is not to say that someone else’s “worse” problems create a lesser effect on my own. And somebody’s lesser happiness definitely does not build up my own. Your problems are your problems, they’re unique to you and the life you have lived thus far. Nobody’s problems make yours any better or worse. But we should appreciate our problems because as I said, they’re unique to us and our lives, which means we are given them because we can handle them. We are dealt the hand we are in life because each of us has the ability to bend and mold ourselves around our problems, to give them the adequate attention they need but also the distance we need. Your problems do not define your life; your life is not contingent or revolving around them, and the sooner you accept this, the happier you will be. The more resilient you’ll be.

What’s special about being resilient is that you still care immensely about the world and the people in it. Your soul is still filled with love, hope, and fun because it’s filled with appreciation for life. But at the same time, there’s no room for any of the small petty mishaps that life with inevitably bring. And you’ll start to realize that all of that energy you let succumb to frustration, anger, annoyance, and disappointment that used to take pieces of you every day is still there, but you’re using it to adventure more, love harder, and care more about all the right things. That’s the most amazing feeling I’ve ever felt.

I’ve dealt with waking up in the morning with 50% of my hair sprawled out on my pillow, to needles in every part of my body, being banned from driving or traveling, missing so many important moments of my college career that i’ll never be able to get back, to so much in between some people will never know or understand. But I got passed it. It’s over, and I won that fight. I didn’t win the fight because medically I’m doing better, I won the fight because I didn’t let it crush my spirit.
Im not saying i’ll never have a hard fight like I did before, but i’ll be damned if I ever let a cancelled plan, a stomach bug, an argument with a friend, a flat tire, a stupid boy, or anything of such little significance try take away one of my good days like so many other things unfortunately have. Even if I have bad luck for the rest of my life, I feel as though there’s nothing more empowering than feeling like you can be handed anything when you wake up in the morning, and still manage to have a good day. To not care as much about the little things.

So this tattoo makes number 3 for me, and I can’t be happier to look down everyday and be reminded of this amazing gift I’ve been given. My previous 2 tattoo’s I got after a major life event (my baptism, etc.), and even if I go the rest of my life not being sick anymore, I still want to remember what i’ve been through. This has been a hell of a year, and not because I suffered, but because I prospered and it’s forever changed me in the process. This was my fight, and even if it’s still not over yet- I can at least say that I’m resilient. And being resilient means much more to me than being able to “bounce back”. I feel like I’m virtually untouchable sometimes, simply because of this struggle God handed me, the power He gave me to overcome it, and the spirit he left me with afterwards.

If you’ve been through something similar, just know that that fight- whatever it was- is over. That fight is over. You may have more, but as of now, it’s time to reconcile, begin again, appreciate and accept life and its inevitable events. Wake up each morning and appreciate the small things. I appreciate waking up in morning with the sun peeking through my blinds. I appreciate hearing someones voice on the phone as opposed to reading a message. I appreciate last minute adventures. I appreciate nights where I laugh until my stomach hurts. I appreciate skipping through old throwback songs because I’m too excited to wait for the next one. I appreciate the way my body can move, bend, run, and dance now compared to a few months ago. I appreciate random beautiful connections with people. I appreciate taking the long way home everyday to see the skyline of my small town. I appreciate these things because if I don’t, my life will surely pass me by.

Biggest Blessings

Most of you may think that this title is a little ironic in that this year seems to have dealt me the worst hand of cards I’ve ever had. Some people may even call it the worst year out of my almost 21 years now on earth, but after a lot of reflection I’ve realized that while this year has brought me so many unexpected twists and turns, so many blessings have unraveled in the process. All of the debilitating days, heart wrenching nights, illness, disappointment, depression, anxiety, and much more- have all been blessings in disguise. Blessings that go far beyond just being more appreciative of the better days. Blessings that have made a permanent mark on my heart.


First and foremost, I was blessed with acceptance. Accepting the things that I simply cannot change. Accepting unfortunate circumstances, pain, disappointment, and situations that just plain sucked. This wasn’t something that came easily at first. There were a lot of things that I didn’t want to accept, but when I did it became a lot easier. Keep in mind, that doesn’t just mean I accepted these unfortunate things and smacked a smile on my face and forgot about it, I was also blessed with the ability to accept all of my feelings that were sometimes negative. I accepted that I wasn’t weak or wrong to feel frustrated, exasperated, or fed up. I accept the days where I let my burdens weigh on me, and therefore they were off of my shoulders for the next day. You’d be surprised how much easier things become when you just learn to accept that you don’t feel good today, that someone you love isn’t going to be here for you, that you received unfortunate news, you’re going to have a painful procedure, or that sometimes things just suck. When you accept them, surprisingly most of the time all of these things go from being the end of the world- to being okay.

On the note of acceptance, one of my hardest things to accept was losing all of my hair and then finally going public with it. I know there are way worse things that could be happening aside from losing all of your hair, and they were even happening to me. But that doesn’t change the heartache that comes with losing all of your hair at 20 years old. I didn’t just lose my hair, I was robbed of my confidence and self-esteem. I’ve never been a vain person, but when I first lost my hair and I looked in the mirror, I didn’t feel beautiful, I felt ugly. I saw someone that not only didn’t look like me anymore, but was a victim of this ugly disease my body was fighting. If you would’ve asked me a year ago if losing all of my hair would actually turn into a blessing, my vain, junior-in-college-just-wanting-to-love-life self would say hell no and probably have a breakdown just thinking about it. But thinking about it today, I feel blessed to have gone through that experience. I’m sure it sounds cliché, but I truly feel that I finally gained the right kind of self confidence because I lost something so significant of my “outer beauty”. I stopped focusing on how I looked before I went out into the world and what kind of impression that would leave on those I encountered that day, and more on how my soul would affect those I encountered that day. My kindness, my heart, my appreciation for things that looks simply cannot give you. Before losing my hair I never saw things that way.


Sure, there are still days where I wish I could run my fingers through MY hair, not a smooth bald scalp. Days where I could go to the store without being stared at, or not have to mess with a wig for an hour to feel a little more normal. And don’t even get me started on boys. However, the satisfying feeling of inner beauty has made what others see as “a loss” far from it. A lot of people say that they “don’t care” how they look, but I think it takes losing something so significant and being left with no choice to truly “not care” anymore. I feel blessed to be capable of feeling absolutely beautiful despite how I look, and really meaning it.

There’s no way I can reflect on the blessings this illness has brought me without mentioning the arrival of a service pup in training into my life.. This was a pretty obvious blessing, but a blessing none the less. This dog has already stolen my heart and created a bond with me that’s going to help me get through anything and everything the future may throw at me. He’s going to be able to do so much to help me, both physically and mentally. And in the meantime, training him has been such a good distraction for me. He was so much more than getting a dog to just train to help me.. He is security, he is unconditional love, he is hope. He manages to make what would be my worst days.. undeniable good days.


The support I’ve received from those around me is something I’ve mentioned multiple times now, but that’s just because of how great of a blessing it’s ended up being. Not only am I so incredibly blessed to have the people that I do, but I realized how blessed I am to have the people I never even expected to offer up their support in any way they can. I’ve had people come out of the woodworks that I haven’t spoken to in years, or even strangers, that have helped me in so many little and big ways. I’ve hugged and cried with strangers, reunited with old friends and connected more with my current loved ones in ways that I couldn’t even explain. I know deep down that God truly supplied me with everyone I could ever need to uplift me and support me, and each and every person was a blessing from Him to give me the strength I need to power through. I’ve been blessed with way more people than I could count- and then some.

Something i’d never even think would happen also came from this past year of experiences. Out of all of the people that have reached out to me, so many of them have been people thanking me for inspiring them, making them more appreciative, or benefiting them in some way. Aside from the “how are you” “i’ll always be here for you if you need anything” messages, i’ve gotten more messages than I can count from people telling me that they have a loved one that’s going through something similar and it’s helped them understand them better, or that the strength i’ve shown has encouraged them to power through their own obstacles. One difficulty i’ve had going through what I have is going from studying and working to help others every single day, to being alone with nothing to focus on but my sickness. Ever since I was a little girl there’s nothing I enjoy more than helping people, and when people started to reach out to me to let me know that I am still doing something for them.. really made me feel blessed. The satisfaction of knowing that not only am I getting by in my unfortunate situation, but I’m somehow inspiring others and improving their life in some way is a blessing I could never ever have expected but couldn’t make my heart happier.

Another blessing i’ve received through the ups and downs of my situation was my true and raw recognition of the depths of mental illness. I’ve always had anxiety since I was a little kid. Sure i’ve been through my own stages of teenage angst and “depression”, but like I mentioned in my last blog post, chronic illness often accompanies mental illness and I never saw how serious mental illnesses can be until the past 6 or so months. I had never dealt with something so seriously mentally debilitating before, and it really made me realize how vital your mental health is to your ability to make it through things. It was probably the hardest thing of all to deal with, but it’s led me to appreciate how influential your mental health is and how you should cherish it.

Ironically, being let down by a few people who I believed would always be there for everything ended up being another blessing is disguise. If you think you know who your real people are.. wait until things get unbelievably tough and see who is still standing by your side. Wait until it’s midnight on a friday night and see which friend will run across town to hop into an ambulance to you. It’s disappointing losing people during basically the worst period of your life, but i’ve come to realize that I didn’t lose those people, God removed those people from my life because things were about to get real and they weren’t up for the challenge. There were times where I wanted to say so many negative things to those few people, but now all I can think to say is thank you.. Thank you for showing me what it’s like when someone you once cared so much about is no longer part of your life. Thank you for not valuing me or our relationship as much as you should have; it taught me to value myself and my relationships with others even more. Thank you for showing me your true colors; even though they weren’t the ones I needed. Thank you for being a part of my journey, no matter how long or short of a time, no matter if  it was just for you. In some way, you allowed me to get where I am. Not everyone you lose is a loss. Sometimes seeing what a conditional love is can be a blessing too.

I think the overall, i’ve taken all of these things as blessings because my situation has also caused my faith to grow immensely. Don’t get me wrong, there have been plenty of times that i’ve cried out to God questioning him and why this was in his plans for me. I’ve doubted Him and i’ve doubted my faith. But after having such a supportive Pastor and church community, i’ve been surrounded by nothing but comfort from them all and it’s gotten me through literally everything (Yes, this is my church facetiming me for the service & saying a prayer for me all because I was too sick to come in).


Truly, I don’t know if I’d be so appreciative of the blessings God has given me if I wasn’t blessed with the series of events that have unfolded over the past year.

Most importantly, my biggest blessing was surviving. While my situation could always have been much worse, there were days where I truly questioned if I could do it anymore. There still are. But reminding myself of all of the blessings i’ve been given has also blessed me with the purse will to survive. Sure I still have my bad days, days where I ask myself why me? But out of such an inconsistent situation, the only consistency i’ve been able to find is that some way or another everything ends up being a blessing to me even if it takes me a little while to realize it.

When chronic illness meets mental illness

I try every single day to wake up and remain positive. I wake up and I say my prayer every morning as I did the night before. I force feed myself something to give my body energy. I shove pills down my throat I dread taking. I set goals for my day. But it’s easier said than done sometimes. It’s extremely difficult when you’re simply not in control of your own mind or body.

It seems as though every medication’s purpose is to help you in some way, but 50% of these medications also brings along almost unbearable side effects. For example, one of my medications makes me nauseous so I have another medication to treat nausea, but then the side effects of the nausea medicine is headaches, dizziness, fatigue. Meanwhile i’m on another medication to prevent me from seizing (vital to take it), yet it turns you into a completely different person mentally that you can’t stand to be. It’s like i’m constantly just swapping out one symptom for another negative attribute. Ive never been one to hate pharmaceuticals until lately. What’s the point of attempting to be healthy if it strips you of everything that makes you- you?

And that’s just the biological piece of it. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve never imagined i’d be feeling some of the ways i’ve felt the past few months. It’s hard to explain to someone why you don’t feel like yourself anymore, but maybe more people would be able to understand you if they just took a moment to truly step into your shoes.

A lot of people also think that not being in control of your body just means physically, but it doesn’t. You can shove positive thoughts into your ears all day long, but that doesn’t mean that your brain chemistry can just flip a switch and change. Especially when you’re forced to take drugs that are causing you to think and feel entirely different. I know that i’m not always a happy and endlessly positive person, but I can truly say that I’ve tried with every ounce of my being to become one amidst everything i’m going through. But it just doesn’t work like that all the time.

Imagine being unable to drive yourself anywhere, whether it be 5 minutes down the road for a candy bar or 5 hours to see friends. When you used to be the kind of person that would get in the car and drive 8+ hours to South Carolina just because.

Imagine no longer looking like everyone around you. Whether it be the lack of hair or dark circles under your eyes, the heaviest of makeup can’t rescue your confidence anymore.

Imagine knowing it’ll be 2 years until you’ll be able to have naturally beautiful hair without a wig, and having your friends complain about their split ends.

Imagine waking up with a list of plans and goals, but your body telling you that today it wants to give you a hard time and you’ll have to just stay in bed and deal with it.

Imagine being stared at by kids and adults alike, not in the way you’d hope. You’re no longer a beautiful youthful college student, you’re someone who everyone asks “what’s wrong with her?”. 

Imagine the anxiety of feeling absolutely miserable most days, and being told by board certified doctors that they just don’t know yet. 

Imagine watching your friends enjoy themselves and make memories without you in them. 

Imagine having to give away every goal that you’ve made for yourself. You can’t work, you can’t be on your own, you can barely go to school. You’re back to being 5 years old.

Imagine having your life be completely flipped upside down every other week, and you’re just expected to deal with it and stay tough.

Being ill takes things away from you every day. Things you’re unable to do or people you’re unable to see. It is devastating to lose something you love, pieces of you, especially when it happens over and over again. This is the sad truth of being chronically ill though; you will lose major pieces of your life and identity along the way. Losing my dream job was not the first passion I lost, and I am sure it will not be the last. Neither was losing my hair, my friends, or my confidence. It does not mean that it did not hurt any less though. You don’t “get used to” feeling sick every day of your life. You don’t “get used to” losing things you once thrived on, passion after passion. You never “get used to” the loss that chronic illness overwhelms you with.

Of course I know that it could always be worse. There are so many things that I can imagine being without that I fortunately still have and am so thankful for. Don’t think that I don’t realize that I could always be sicker. I could always have no friends or support to begin with. Hell, they could find a cure tomorrow so I should just be thankful right? I could always feel worse. But I don’t. This is what I feel. This is just a glimpse into what I feel. Its anxiety. It’s depression. It’s anger.  It’s strong and debilitating and that deserves some merit.

My ability to combat times where my chronic physical illnesses acts up is extremely reliant on confidence, motivation, and other strengths of my mind and way of thinking. But, evidently, I cannot often apply this same method to overcoming mental illnesses – as they are a dysfunction of the same mind that exhibits the perseverance I need to overcome.

It seems to people on the outside that everything can be fixed with a positive atittutude, but I can tell you first hand that it can’t. And that’s okay. No one is allowed to tell you that you’re not trying hard enough to feel better if they aren’t you. All that you can do is the best that you can, and sometimes that’s still not enough. That’s okay. 

The results of this coexistence between mindset dependency and mindset difficulty is tedious. It requires me to both hold onto my ways, as well as forget certain aspects of my daily life, and develop others to get through it. The time in which there was one, a simple solution is now history. That’s something I used to take for granted. But, my recognition and need to remind myself carries the weight of fear, confusion, and hesitancy to trek unknown territory. It is one thing to think and process and understand. Most times, when we do these things incorrectly, we fall short and start again. But in times of illness, pain, and fear, the severity of failure magnifies. I come from depths where the handling of my predicaments is the difference between sinking and swimming. So, naturally, having to re-develop mindset and thought processes is not one I take and do easily. I am scared. I am hesitant. But fortunately, I am not alone. Whether I feel his presence or not, I know that God is doing this for a reason. He’s putting me through what I am for a reason and I need to just follow his path.

Thankful

Easter has always been a special holiday for me, ever since making the decision to get baptized on Easter Sunday two years ago. It reminds me how thankful I am for the new beginnings God has brought into my life, and all that my faith has helped carry me through- especially now.

As unfortunate as my situation has been, I can’t deny the good that it’s brought me. It’s strengthened my relationships with those around me, I’ve grown closer to people I’ve lost touch with over the years, and I’ve seen the lengths those who love you will go to just to ensure your comfort- even if it’s just temporary. For that I’m forever grateful.
I’ve had a lot of time on my hands lately, as I’m unable to do basically anything I want to do. However I got the idea from my roommate (whose kind soul writes thank-you cards to just about everyone for anything) to start to write my own, and it’s been one of the most therapeutic and relaxing things to take up my time. As I’ve gone through boxes and boxes of thank-you cards, I realized that I have way too many thank-you’s to write, so hopefully a blog post will suffice for now. It may be a long read, but if you’re reading this you’re probably in here somewhere, and you deserve it.

It’s probably most appropriate to begin with my parents, who are there day in and day out for me. I think a lot of people feel like they just happened to be blessed with the best parents in the entire world, but I have undoubtable proof.

To my mom, thank you for all of your positivity, as annoying as it may get sometimes. Thank you for all of your homeopathic oils, pillows, baths, and jewelry that may or may not be working its magic. Thank you for always advocating for me. Thank you for doing everything in your power to try to cheer me up on some days. Thank you for just taking it when I lose my temper. Thank you for sitting in Baltimore traffic for me to get me to Hopkins even though driving in cities makes you anxious. Thank you for your creativity. Thank you for taking off of work to help me do things I can’t do by myself anymore. Thank you for respecting my privacy when it comes to my situation. Thank you for doing anything and anything to brighten my day. Thank you for pulling the strings you did to give me the opportunity to see the best doctors there are. Thank you for all of your hugs. Thank you for sleeping in bed with me at night because I was too scared to fall asleep by myself. Thank you for holding my hand through all of the needles. Thank you for listening to me cry and ramble. Thank you for always reminding me that things will get better. 

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To my dad, thank you for your realism. Thank you for dropping anything and everything if I needed you. Thank you for shutting down my irrational thoughts. Thank you for stopping whatever you’re doing for me. Thank you for forcing me to eat or drink something from my hospital bed when I couldn’t even open my eyes. Thank you for always checking on me. Thank you for still putting me first even though you have more responsibilities than anyone I’ve ever met. Thank you for talking me through things. Thank you for always picking up the phone. Thank you for the constant encouragement. Thank you for losing sleep over me. Thank you for supporting just about any decision that would lead me to feeling better. Thank you for knowing how to keep me calm in any and all situations. Thank you for the immense comfort that you bring me. Thank you for the empathy- I know that’s not something you give often. Thank you for always making me feel safe.

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To the both of you, thank you for everything. You’re always there, as any parent would be. However, you go above and beyond in ways I can’t put into words to thank you for. Thank you for supporting me financially because i’m unable to work. Thank you for supporting me emotionally when I have those nights where I’ve lost it. Thank you for checking on me as if I were a newborn again.
I wish it wasn’t until I began to go through what I have, that I realized how incredibly lucky I am to have the parents that I do.. although I’ve always been grateful. It just seems that the more I go through, the more I realize how God personalized you guys just for me- strengths & weaknesses. Mom, God led you to be a nurse to have the insight to take care of us. Dad, God led you to be a police officer to give you the skills to always make us feel safe. You both are such different people with different approaches to the way you support me- both with your skills and personalities- but it always ends up being exactly what I need at that time in one way or another. The word thank you doesn’t even begin to express the gratitude I feel for you.

To my sisters, thank you for letting mom and dad focus on me for a while. Thank you for offering me your support regardless of me being unable to fully open up to you. Thank you for always reminding me you’re there. Thank you for picking up the slack that I’m unable to carry in our family. Thank you for dealing with my rollercoaster of emotions, some of which I’ve taken out on you. Thank you for reminding me that at the end of the day, your sisters will never leave you, despite the circumstance.

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To the rest of my family, thank you for showing me how truly important family is.
To my aunt denta, thank you for being one of my best friends, always letting me rant to you, offering me a place to stay, and encouraging mental health days with you- you get me more than a lot of people.
To my grandma, thank you for always showering me with love and prayers- I wish everyday I could come and spend time with you on your farm and get away from all of this.
To my cousin amber, thank you for setting aside our differences to make sure I know you’re there for me like you always have been, just like a third sister. I know you’ll always get me.
To my grammy and grampy, thank you for always reminding me the importance of staying strong, for sending me care packages of hats for my bald head, for going out of your way to do anything for me to make me feel better, and for listening to me rant and ramble and show up at your house unannounced anytime to cheer myself up.
To my aunt robin, thank you for all the little pick me ups, and for always making me feel like you’re right there rooting for me- you truly were like a little angel that God dropped down to uplift out entire family.
To my aunt sandy, thank you for sending me homeopathic remedies and books to help heal me, and for offering me a place to escape to if I ever need it- you’re one of a kind.
To my cousin brandon, thank you for always checking on me and making me laugh whether it be about my bald head or my paranoia of pharmaceuticals- you’re a kick-ass pharmacist.
To my dog Jay (that may sound silly), thank you for sleeping with me every night and calming me down from my panic attacks. Thank you for following me around incase I fall or have another seizure. Thank you for watching after me.
And to everyone else, from my uncles and cousins and relatives from all over-  just know how much I appreciate you and the parts you’ve played in my life during this time, even if it was just to check up on me. While some of you are closer than others, there’s not a single person in my family that I don’t feel I could turn to for anything.

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To my doctors, thank you for always listening. Thank you for running every test imaginable for me. Thank you for squeezing me into your schedules last minute and making me a priority. Thank you for taking the time to go over every inch of my medical records until a new thought popped into your brain. Thank you for staying after hours and picking each other’s brains to solve my medical mysteries. Thank you for the tips and tricks to help me feel not-so-miserable some days. Thank you for doing all that you can everyday to try to control something that’s just not in your control. Thank you for seeing me as a person, not a patient.

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To all of my closest friends, thank you for being you. Thank you for the random messages and gifts. Thank you for understanding when I can’t make it to some of the most important celebrations. Thank you for all of the hugs and cuddles. Thank you for literally running across town to hop into the ambulance with me before they took me away just so I wasn’t alone, and sitting in the waiting room for hours before you were allowed to see me rather than leaving. Thank you for always including me no matter where I am, even if that means via FaceTime. Thank you for sitting beside me in the hospital time after time, even when I was too sick to open my eyes. Thank you for the endless laughs. Thank you for the random snacks and favors. Thank you for staying in with me rather than going out just because I can’t. Thank you for the endless love, encouragement, and empathy. Thank you for never treating me any differently- in sickness or in health-, God really blessed me with all of you.

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To my long distance best friends, thank you for loving me and supporting me from Alabama, Rhode Island and everywhere in between. Thank you for continuing to put effort into a friendship that may only see each other a few times a year. Thank you for coming all the way to be with me the night I shaved all my hair. Thank you for the random texts and calls. Thank you for planning trips to come see me because I can’t come to you. Thank you for always picking up the phone. Thank you for the encouragement and constant faith in me. Thank you for understanding when I’m hard to reach. Thank you for face timing me when I’m ugly and crying. Thank you for always finding a way to squeeze me into your schedule. Thank you for showing me that distance doesn’t equal boundaries, if anything it’s brought us closer.

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And to everyone in between..
To my teachers and advisors, thank you for going out of your way to still make my academic dreams possible amidst my illness. To my nurses, thank you for being an example of what I hope to be in the future. To my church, thank you for continuously praying for me every Sunday even though I haven’t been healthy enough to come in way longer than I’d like to admit. To my moms coworkers, thank you for always managing to make me smile at every doctors visit. To my ex boyfriends mom, than you for checking up on me almost everyday as if you were family. To old friends from high school- even middle school that I never would’ve thought even remembered me, thank you for reaching out to me just to let me know you’re thinking of me. To all of the strangers for the random “I know that I don’t know you but..” messages, thank you.. you’ll never know that in those random moments I really did need that pick me up.
There are so many other people that I owe a thank you to, but we’d simply be here all day.

And although I owe them nothing, thank you to the very few people who I always had expected to be there, but let me down. You showed me the selflessness, compassion, and understanding that everyone around me is so full of, but you unfortunately lack. As crappy of a chapter in my life this is, you proved that you weren’t worthy of being a part of it. For that, thank you.

I’ve experienced more periods of doubt within the past 6 months than I ever have in my life, but one thing that I’ve never doubted is that I’m one unbelievably lucky girl for all of you people. It makes every good day even better and every bad day a little more bearable. Love you guys. 

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Sick

** warning: very personal post.. but here goes it**

Just recently I noticed that its been a little over a year since i’ve blogged at all. It wasn’t until I put two and two together that I realized I stopped blogging right around the time I started to noticeably feel sick. I’m not sure why that is, but my mom would probably say its because I internalize a lot. From the very beginning i’ve preferred to be very private about what I’ve been going through, but it’s pretty obvious at this point that i’m not okay. I’ve been sick for a while.. but you can only hide a bald head for so long, lol.

Days like today – no matter the amount of support I have behind me – i’m not okay. I think that i’ve been pretty positive throughout this process, as well as very open about the love that I’ve received because I’ve felt that the people in my life deserve that acknowledgement, because I’m just so so thankful. On the same note though, I think it’s only healthy to acknowledge everything that goes on behind the scenes. There’s nothing about what I deal with on a daily basis that’s okay. And sometimes when you’re told over and over that -“it’s okay”, “you’re going to be okay”, “it’s all going to be okay”- all you want to do is scream back that nothing about this is okay. 

It’s not okay. It’s feeling like your not in control of your own body. It’s being afraid to go to sleep at night because you don’t know what kind of morning you’re going to wake up to. It’s constantly fighting with your own body to stop attacking itself. It’s having to leave the job of your dreams because you’re just “too sick”. It’s seeing tears roll down the face of those closest to you. It’s keeping a daily log of every food or medication I put into my body. It’s hesitating before you go anywhere or do anything because you’re terrified of when your body will decide to shut down. It’s throwing up multiple times a week, with nothing even coming up most of the time. It’s being covered head to toe in bruises. It’s asking God “why”. It’s looking in the mirror and not even recognizing yourself anymore. It’s having to have someone with you almost wherever you go. It’s getting 8+ hours of sleep, then feeling so fatigued you can’t stand before 2pm. It’s the stares. It’s medication after medication, and then more medications for the side effects of those medications. It’s getting your blood taken so much you know where just about every good vein in your arms are. It’s a “you okay? how are you feeling?” instead of “hello?” when someone picks up the phone. It’s not being able to hold down even your favorite meals. It’s trading in your flat irons for hats, hats, and more hats. It’s aching in places you never thought you could ache. It’s going from being a gymnast- to walking up a flight of stairs and having your head spin and heart beat out of your chest. It’s having to sleep with a thermometer and pulse-ox by your side every night. It’s not sleeping. It’s fearing for your future. It’s saying “I’m sorry I can’t”, more times than you can count. It’s being unable to go out with your friends, whether that be to a bar or just to lunch. It’s looking up how close a hospital is to you if you go anywhere out of town just in case. It’s trying to make sense of something that will never make sense. It’s praying, and praying, and praying.

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But it’s also okay. It’s the rare but monumental good days. It’s the random phone calls, texts, and face-times. It’s the heartfelt and sentimental gifts. It’s the bald-head massages. It’s finding humor in what you lack. It’s saving money on hair products. It’s the long warm hugs. It’s connecting more with God than ever before. It’s the deep and meaningful conversations. It’s a new perspective on the world. It’s having 20 boys you don’t even know sing to you and bring you flowers and gifts, just to make you feel beautiful for a moment. It’s getting to meet amazing and inspirational doctors and nurses. It’s messages from complete strangers with genuinely big hearts. It’s being able to spend more time with your family. It’s learning more and more about the medical field (hopefully that gives me a leg up when I become a nurse). It’s the feeling of writing thank you letters. It’s being more than grateful for a healthy day. It’s being pleasantly surprised to see who’s really there. It’s seeing who didn’t end up being there after all, and knowing that it’s their loss. It’s thanking God for your past. It’s being loved unconditionally. 

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While I still like to be pretty private about things in my life for numerous reasons, I now know that fearing I wouldn’t get the support that I needed was never something I had to worry about. The amount of support that I’ve received from friends, family, and even strangers is enough to make my head spin. Those screenshots I posted above are only a glimpse into the kind words I’ve had sent to me. To everyone that’s contributed to making me feel better in any way, THANK YOU. I’m reminded every day that what I’m going through could always be immensely worse, to stay positive, to trust God, and to be strong. Although that positivity can be hard to follow sometimes, most of the time it comes easily thanks to the people in my life. More than anything, it’s okay that my normal isn’t like everyone else’s normal. All I can say is that despite it all, I’m still very truly blessed.

Goals: read more

When was the last time you read a book, or even a substantial magazine article? Most daily reading habits now a days center around tweets, Facebook updates, or the directions on the back of your easy-mac.
Growing up, reading was my THING. Everything you read fills your head with new bits of information that you never know when you’ll need. It may sound silly, but I just felt smarter with a book in my hand. Whether it be fiction or non-fiction, there are endless stories that can both broaden your understanding of the world or help you get through a sticking point in your life. Those who read have been known to have more finely-tuned brains than those who prefer more passive activities, so anyone hoping to improve their mind both psychologically and cognitively might want to think about taking up the habit of regular reading. There’s something about spending time with a book whether it be outside on a nice day or in your bed on a rainy one, that’s so therapeutic.

Here’s a list of some of my current favorite books i’ve finished, not in any order.

  • A Stolen Life: A Memoir by Jaycee Lee Dugard
    Honestly this book hit me hard. I had heard about the Jaycee Dugard kidnapping case but never really followed any of the details, and then I stumbled upon this book in the bookstore and just decided to pick it up and read the cover. I decided to get it, and ended up finishing it within like 24 hours. It’s a memoir written by Jaycee Dugard herself about the details of her kidnapping and what she’s learned from it. It has it’s cringe-worthy moments, but once you get through them it’s such an intriguing and inspiring story.
  • When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
    This book I also half-heartedly picked up in the bookstore and decided to read, but it ended up being an AMAZING book. For someone who loves (or is obsessed) with Greys Anatomy, medical stories have always intrigued me. This is about a neurosurgeon that gets diagnosed with stage 4 terminal lung cancer, “who attempts to answer the question: what makes life worth living”. If you’re looking for a book that’ll make you more appreciative of life, this is definitely the one.
  • Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
    Gotta love him. But seriously, this book revolved around a very complex subject but it was written in such a perfect simplistic way. This book explores the existence of God, and was perfect for someone like me that never got the childhood bible study experience. After reading several books on a similar topic that did nothing but confuse me, I was glad that I came upon C.S. Lewis’s work. All of the other books about the existence of God are way off in their own world, and discourage anyone who feels lost in their ideas about God. This book really explained the reasons that God must exist, and then moved on to easily describe the major beliefs of Christians, without leaving anyone out in the cold on what the key issues actually are. This book is perfect for the agnostic, the atheist, and even the Christian that wants to know the logical and simple reasons that C.S. Lewis came to be a Christian. Over and over, his words made me see even the simplest concepts of religion in a completely new light. I was honestly impressed and have already read this book multiple times already.
  • Room by Emma Donoghue
    Because for some reason I have a weird thing for kidnapping stories. This book (and movie) were amazing. It’s very different from your typical novel because its written from the point of view of a five year old who has lived in the constraints of an 11′ by 11′ room his entire life, so it restricts you from knowing everything all at once. He has nicknames and phrases for everything in his life and you get to try and puzzle them all together while embarking on him and his mothers story. The tiny attention to detail paid to their room and Jack’s description of it, makes it an all too real and terrible place. It’s not really a plot-driven book, although I found my heart racing on several occasions, desperate to find out what happens which is why I could barely put it down. It is definitely a book that is difficult to write about with revealing spoiling for those who are yet to enjoy it (so i’ll stop here).

 

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I once read (hehe) that we should read to increase our wit and imagination, our sense of intimacy–in short, our entire consciousness–and also to heal our pain. “Until you become yourself, what benefit can you be to others.” With the endless amount of perspectives and lives we can read about, books can give us an opportunity to have experiences that we haven’t had the opportunity to, and still allow us to learn the life skills they entail. I’ve read so many books that have completely changed me, and still to this day I’ll re-read them when I need a pick me up. Books are a fast rack to creating yourself.

Here’s a bit of food for thought: should you ever find yourself in dire circumstances, remember that although you might lose everything else—your job, your possessions, your money, even your health—knowledge and inspiration can never be taken from you.

Post- appy 

This may not be my most insightful blog post so far, but I’m post surgery bored out of my mind with limited ideas on what to write about, so this will have to do.

So, anyone that is friends with me on Facebook has seen that I’ve been through the ringer the past few months when it comes to my health. Not sure why, but WVU must have some foreign germs that my body just can’t get used to. I’ve been hospitalized more times in the past six months than I have in my entire life (about 6 times), for numerous reasons ranging from pneumonia to allergic reactions to appendicitis. Although WVU’s Ruby Memorial Hospital is super fancy and I feel like I’m staying in a five star hotel half the time, I’ve been spending more time than I’d like bedridden.

A few days ago I was sent to the hospital after being suddenly struck with intense stomach pain. Assuming my stomach was just acting up like it frequently does, I tried everything from tums to chugging aloe water from my roommate to avoid going to the hospital again, but it all failed. By the time I got to the hospital around 10pm, I was doubled over in pain crying on the phone with my parents. From then until 6am, they gave me every test known to man (blood, X Ray, contrast CT, pelvic exam, ultrasound, etc). After seeing my white blood cell count was up and noticing my inflamed appendix on my CT, I woke up (after finally falling asleep at 7 am) to a team of greys anatomy like surgeons standing over me talking about my case (like I wasn’t laying right in front of them), and how they were gonna remove my appendix in two hours. Two hours?!

giphy.gif Mentally, I was freaking. If it wasn’t for the pain meds, Benadryl, and benzo’s they were pumping me with, I probably would’ve had a full fledged panic attack. Neither my parents nor my friends were awake, and I sent my roommate home to get some sleep a few hours before.  Not having to been able to update my parents all night because I wanted to let them sleep, I called my mom as she was walking out the door for work to let her know I’d be having major surgery in two hours. Her and my dad got in the car and drove to WVU within 4 hours and were standing at my bedside as they rolled me from post-op to my room. Friends waited for me as I got out, but I don’t remember much more about that day besides answering texts (very drunkenly) and sleeping.

Day one: Consisted of sleeping, and more sleeping. I managed to catch the new episode of greys anatomy on my hospital tv, but unfortunately I don’t remember the episode at all now. I didn’t hesitate to eat as soon as I was semi conscious, and ordered a huge meal of chicken tenders, fries, Mac & cheese, brownies, ice cream, and root beer from the hospital room service.

Day two: They let me go home & my mom drove my car back to Maryland. The pain medicine was making me itch like crazy, so with almost every dose I took a Benadryl as well, which had my knocked out almost all day.

giphy-1.gif I also started noticing the gas pains from when they inflated my abdomen, and tried not to cry every twenty minutes from them. My mom wanted me to sleep in bed with her and my dad so they could check on me if I needed them, but instead decided to set up Kayleigh’s baby monitor which also serves as a walkie talkie, so I woke up every few hours from a “ARE YOU OKAY HUNNY?!” From Carmen- lol gotta love her.

Day three: I finally showered, which made me feel like a new woman. I also took my bandages off and saw that my stomach looked like I had been blindly stabbed three times, which was unsettling. I really hope I don’t have significant scars for the cruise I’m going on in two weeks. I haven’t had much of an appetite at all.

Day four: (Today) Things are getting better, but I’m still pretty sore. It’s hard to walk around but I was told it would help with the gas pains that have yet to go away, so I’m trying. I’m getting some more visitors today which I’m super excited about because I’m starting to get major cabin fever.

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You can only Pinterest and Netflix so much before you feel like you’re going completely crazy, which has led me to this rambling blog post on my current pathetic life. However, I’m glad my appendix is out because apparently it had been causing a lot of my abdomen issues the past few months. Hopefully now I can start preparing for my cruise & try not to focus on the FOMO I’ll be experiencing the next week. The amount of texts, calls, visits, and presents I’ve received since my surgery is honestly crazy, and I’m so thankful to have the people that I do. Love y’all! Also thanks mom and dad for stopping your life once again to make sure your favorite child doesn’t die, hehe.

10 things I regret from growing up

I usually don’t like to dwell on the past, especially things that I “regret”. It’s not a very positive way of thinking, but sometimes you just can’t help it.
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I’ve always had the comforting philosophy that everything happens for a reason, and there is no point in having regrets. But for so many of us, looking back on our lives can lead us to linger on one poignant moment or period when we wish we had done things differently, and that nagging question, “What if …?,” plays on repeat in our heads. I just need to tell myself that it’s healthy to reflect, and appreciate the way that Gods plan worked out.

  1. I wish i’d have laughed it off.
    A lot of things. You take yourself way too seriously. Heck, we all do. Things are bound to happen and I tended to be a very dramatic kid growing up, when I really didn’t have it all that bad.
  2.  Not spending so much time wanting to be an adult.
    Cause it kinda sucks. I was always told that I was “mature” for my age, and I took pride in it. I begged to hang with the adults and listen in on their intelligent conversations and pretend to understand it. Sometimes I wish that I spent more time being an ignorant carefree kid and not rushing to grow up.
  3. Red hair.
    For some reason my mom allowed me to die my hair red numerous times throughout middle and high school, and I can’t think of one time when it looked even semi-decent. Honestly 90% of the time it looked like I let someone menstruate on the top of my head, and It was time consuming to keep up with.
  4. Not appreciating how awesome my grandparents were- still are.
    In the past few years i’ve gotten exceptionally close with my grandparents, and I’ve seen how awesome they really are. They’ve always been awesome, but when I was younger I was very much stuck in my own little world and never thought to allow my relationship with my grandparents to go beyond the stereotypical one. But I can honestly say I underestimated how “hip” my grandparents are, and it makes me wish I would’ve spent as much time with them as I do now back then. They’re awesome.
  5. Supporting others dreams over my own.
    Especially in relationships. I always wanted to cheer other people on and be the person that was always the number one fan for other people, but I let it take away from me. Supporting others is a beautiful thing, but not when you never get to let yourself shine.
  6. Having more fun in high school.
    Towards the last year or two of high school I was very wrapped up in other things to just let loose and have fun my senior year. I thought my high-school relationship was literally the most important thing in the world, and I missed out on a lot of things because of it. Sometimes I wonder the memories I would’ve made if I would’ve taken my relationship a little less seriously.
  7. Gotten more A’s. 
    I’ve always done pretty well in school, but thinking about it now- that stuff was easy. I wish I would’ve understood that and how difficult college really is, and put in just a little more effort to do outstandingly well. I seriously used to believe that a two page fill-in-the-blank study guide was the end of my social life.. HA.
  8. Enjoying my family vacations more.
    Growing up, my grandparents would give my sisters, cousin, and I a “surprise vacation” for the upcoming summer as a christmas gift. They would also give one to my parents so they could get away from us for a little bit, and we would spend a week with my grandparents in places ranging from Disney world to cruises to Mexico. I was pretty damn lucky. As time went on and my grandparents got a little older, our vacations became whole family ones (which I didn’t mind), then more local ones. I’m not complaining at all because my grandparents blessed us with so many awesome trips that I made so many memories on. But I wish I would’ve taken advantage of them more and the beautiful places I traveled, and not have taken some for granted by staying inside and reading a book.
  9. Fighting with my sisters so much.
    One time I went through a phase where I was so personally offended at my sisters borrowing my clothes that I wrote my name inside of all of my shirts and if I caught them wearing them I would scream at them until they physically took my shirt off of my back and walked away half naked. It was very stupid, lol. I learned a lot from my sisters looking back on it now, and we all kind of went through the same phases and learned from each other.
  10. Holding grudges.
    I was the QUEEN of holding grudges growing up. Whether it be at the lunch lady for not going to the other line to get me french fries or my best friend for not writing me a note back, I would secretly curse and hate you for days at a time and it was incredibly silly. Now, it’s almost impossible to do so, and I’d like to think that’s maybe because I got all of my loathing out as a teen.

 

 

I don’t know if you guys can tell, but I totally rocked my childhood. In all seriousness, I really do appreciate the way that I grew up, because I take pride in who I am now and all the things that I went through. Even the cringe-worthy ones. Although I was “just a kid” and I “didn’t know better”, you can’t help but reflect on the past. Some things were out of my control and I regret the way that I handled them, and some things I honestly don’t know what the heck I was thinking. But it’s comforting to know that maybe, just maybe, i’m a little bit more wise today because of them.

Everyone is going to die someday. You’re going to die someday. Perhaps the 5 most powerful words ever spoken to me. No matter how immortal we feel waltzing through life’s ups and downs, we all must someday stare death in its devious eyes as we reflect on our lives. Life is complex, sure. That’s a given. But if you really ponder for a moment, it can be boiled down to 2 feelings you’ll most likely be met with on your deathbed:

Triumph or regret.

Thankfully, every day is a great day to get better. Every day is a perfect day to change the track of your life, to reroute the potentially destructive path of a life wasted.

For my perfectly imperfect family

There is not one particular story that embodies who my family is. It’s more something you have to experience for yourself to understand. What it comes down to, is that my family is special. Since I have come to college, I have truly been able to recognize how blessed I am to have the family I have.

Let me start off by saying that I do not have a huge pool of relatives. Each of my parents only have one sibling, and neither of them came from large families either (aside from my mom having like 50 half brothers). I really don’t have the type of family where we see each other solely on holidays & they ask me uncomfortable personal questions and chat with my parents. My family, from my cousins to my grandparents, are all basically my best friends. I have the type of family that I can randomly show up at their house and talk to them all about my latest gossip even over some of my friends. I remember when I broke up with my high school boyfriend my grandparents were the ones that proofread my dramatic goodbye text, and my mom & dad helped me write it. My family is the type that hasn’t always been religious, but when I decided to get baptized they drove over an hour to sit in church and watch- for me. God blessed me with this type of family.

My family hasn’t always been the greatest. Maybe it’s because I’ve grown to appreciate them way more than I used to, or because we’ve finally overcame a lot of the obstacles we were faced with. We went through some terrible things as I went through high school. I watched it take a toll on every single member of my family. There are so many times that a family can be hit with a tragedy. Some of these can come out of nowhere, or they can be completely expected. In these trying times we cling to family the most and say most of our I love yous. As my family struggled with what we did, we learned that we should not just save our words for when we are in a time of need. We need to appreciate our family for what it is and who they are as people.

11751414_10204528784882883_7700411501232950286_n.jpgMy dad is probably one of the biggest teddy bears you will ever meet, in his own way. He’s the type of dad that I grew up idolizing, because no matter what question I asked he always knew the answer. He always knew how to do everything, and always wanted to. He gave me a lot of the leadership skills that I have, and taught me so much about life from changing my oil to how likely I am to get caught with my fake id. Something that makes my dad so special is that he doesn’t take crap from anyone. He’s a very strong person, and sometimes too strong. However, he has a side to him where he cares so much about everyone. He will go out of his way to help a complete stranger, or show the people that he loves them in his own special way. He is so so generous and thoughtful, but strong. That’s something I’ve always aspired to be. Lastly, I feel like my dad is the one person on earth that understands me more than anyone else. He used to be the last person I would come to with my problems because I never thought he would get it. But he ended up being the one person to relate to when I felt anxiety for no reason because we have the exact same personality. He always knows how I feel before I even know it myself, and what to say to ease my pain. There’s a lot of things I couldn’t have got through without my dad.

On the other hand, my mom is an example of the woman I’ve always wanted to be, and hope to be. My mom is one of the kindest, most generous people i’ve ever met. What makes her so special is that she grew up with a lot of obstacles and pain, but she lives her life now like it’s been perfect all along. We’re so similar in so many ways, and it makes me so happy to know that I remind her of herself. She thinks everything is a blessing, and that’s what inspires me. Ever since I was a little kid if I ever complained about anything, she would remind me that someone else had it worse. She has a way of comforting people and helping people that’s unlike anyone. She can empathize with anyone while still reminding you of what’s right, and has taught me to be kind and loving ever since I can remember. She showed me that community service is important. Patience is important. Being ladylike and modest is important. Trusting God is important. I like to think of my mom as the better side of me, because that’s where I get all of my good traits. She brings out the good in people, especially me and my dad. As time goes on I realize that I’m more and more like my mom, and I know i’m doing things right.

My sisters. I haven’t always had the best relationship with my older sister. In fact, I spent a lot of time resenting her for mistakes she had made that hurt my family. I had to go through high school with my big sister absent, and it was really hard for me. However, as time has gone on I’m so thankful that things happened the way that they did. Things I went through with my big sister taught me a lot about life. Her mistakes were ones that I would never make, and I thank her for that. Most importantly it made me realize the true value of her life, and place in my life. She taught me forgiveness, and that we don’t always do things perfectly. She taught me that a big sister is a big sister, and that could never change. She taught me what true personal strength was and what it looked like. No matter what happened, she was always the sister that would scream out the car window at a girl that was bullying me, or disclose things about growing up that my mom wouldn’t. She was always the “not-so-shy” version of myself and would do literally anything for me. Our relationship in the past year or so has progressed so much, and it’s really had a lot to do with the progress i’ve made in my life. I feel like God gave me my big sister back, finally, and I’m so thankful.
My little sister is a piece of work. I love her to death, don’t get me wrong.. But she’s going through the whole teenager — woe is me  — stage just like I did when I was her age. She’s in her own little world, and that’s okay to me. Camryn is incredibly special. And tough. Sometimes she’s too tough and is closed off, but I understand her even if she thinks that I don’t. She makes me feel silly for being emotional or dramatic, and I think that’s why I love her so much. I think she’s going to turn out to be a really amazing person.

My cousin Amber could basically be my sister. My sisters and I were raised alongside Amber just as if she was our fourth sister, and that’s how I’ll always see her. Her and I have a really special relationship. She stepped in for my big sister when she couldn’t be there, and has always been there for me through everything. She’s a very strong person, but also one of the few people that I really feel like I can relate to. Growing up it was always Amber and I that got along the best, because we were more shy and timid of the group. We would always be roomed together on vacations because my other sisters were wild and we were more ~intellectual~, whatever that means at age 9. As we’ve grown up we’ve both seen how similar we really are, and I can always count on her to answer my call at 1 am so I can spill all of my dirty secrets without her telling a soul. She doesn’t know it but she inspires me so much. She’s been through a lot in life, but you would never know looking at her. She’s made her mistakes like everyone else, but she handles herself in a way that she always wants to do better and be better, and I love that.

Life isn’t so bad when you know you’re surrounded by those who love you. As I start to grow up, I’m realizing that God personalized my family just for me. To better me as a person and get me through life’s challenges. Each one of them teaches me something new about myself and life every day, even when they make me want to pull my hair out.  After all, family is family.