Friday, September 30, 2011

November's lil Reminder

What you focus on expands, and when you focus on the goodness in your life, you create more of it. Opportunities, relationships, even money flowed my way when I learned to be grateful no matter what happened in my life.
 - Oprah Winfrey

One of my first posts on this blog was 21 Habits of Healthy People. That post has been a big hit and I will occasionally pick one of the secrets to elaborate on.  I figured the month of November was the perfect time to go into more detail about number ten which was Gratitude. With Thanksgiving fast approaching, its hard not to think about all we have to be thankful for daily.

 Gratitude ~ Be grateful for every single thing. This goes hand in hand with finding your POSITIVES. As you learn to pinpoint the POSITIVES, you will find it easier to be thankful for even what appears to be the worst of situations. When you see the lessons you are learning through every one, you will be thankful for the knowledge gained by each of them. It takes time and can sometimes be a struggle but the reward in it is so great!

The ability to be grateful for the things that outsiders may view as the worst of circumstances, is a practice that has changed my life for the better. Its easy to see the blessings in the joyful times of your life. Real character building comes when you can see blessings in the darkest times. When you can look behind the pain to see the way in which you will be better because of it, your gratitude comes more naturally all of the time! I force gratefulness in all situations and find that my problems are blessings in no time!

The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts. No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving.
- H. U. Westermayer

Since this is the month that we celebrate Thanksgiving, I have decided to blog about what I am thankful for in November of 2011. Rather than make a list where the actual number may become the focus, I will just write them out, one after another. I will follow them up with a list of things that my dear friend, Dan, shared with me of what he is thankful for. I am happy to include Dan in every possible way during my blog writing, since he has been a major factor in promoting my blog on a daily basis. That would bring me to my list.

~I am grateful for friendships that I have developed over the last year. Some have come about in the craziest of ways and this only adds to their value. The roundabout way in which I met Dan, paired with the relationship we share now, proves what I had already been aware of for many years. Some people are meant to play a role in our lives and will regardless of the obstacles placed between you! ~I am grateful for a friendship that I share with my brother that rivals that of any I have ever had with anyone else. It makes me happy that when I have news to tell, he is the first person that I want to share it with and he never disappoints me with his reaction. ~I am grateful for my daughter who is becoming so much like me that it is scary. This kid takes no crap and calls people on theirs. What I wouldn't have given to have that same ability when I was her age! ~I am grateful for the home I live in and the family that I have found behind the walls of 39RP. Feeling truly valued and loved in my own home is priceless. ~I am grateful for the ways in which I have grown since moving to this area. My life has changed so much over the course of the past five and a half years. I have learned so much about myself and those around me. When I chose here to live there was really no rhyme or reason to it but it is clear to me now that I belonged here for any number of reasons! ~I am grateful for jobs that afford me the time I need to concentrate on my schooling. I admit that my money is way tighter than I would like but I chose this route in order to be able to get to where I want to be in the long run. My choice to struggle was, above all, MY choice and that makes it okay. ~I am grateful for the nudge from a friend to go back to school and pursue my degree. Assignments and discussion questions and participation and Algebra get overwhelming sometimes, but I am ultimately excited about where it is all leading me to. ~I am grateful for my many gifts that all add to my life in so many ways. I have discovered that things such as my writing ability and my ability to talk to anyone about anything, have opened a great deal of doors for me and enabled me to reach out to so many people. ~I am grateful that my love of the Phillies for 25+ years has become such an exciting ride in recent years. Seeing my future husband pitch every few days is a joy that is beyond words. Cliff Lee....marry me pleaseeeeee!!! ~I am grateful that I had the opportunity to take not one, but two vacations this year. I never thought that I would ever be that chick that fell in love with the West Coast, but it surely happened in the past year and it has opened my mind to the possibilities of a future in another place somewhere down the road. ~I am grateful for my current relationship in which I am learning to be as comfortable sharing things with someone again as I have learned to be comfortable on my own. ~I am grateful for this blog which has become as much of an encouragement to others as it has become an outlet for me. To be able to share with others and encourage them through stories of what I have endured, has become a major victory in my healing process. ~I am grateful for notifications that tell me that I have comments to moderate. The input of my readers is valuable so please, if your taking the time to read this, take the time to leave a comment letting me know what it means to you.

So there's my list. And this has taken me four days to complete because while living a life full of gratefulness, it's difficult to decide where to end such a list. What it comes down to is that all of the little things that I am grateful for daily, fall nicely under one of these main reasons why I am thankful. Now moving onto Dan's list. When I commented on one of Dan's posts that referenced my blog and told him I was writing this piece on gratefulness, I asked if he may want to share a list of things that he is grateful for so that I may include that with my own. Within minutes I received his response.

"I am grateful for so many things Ali and was going to formulate a list but I have to say off the top of my head that although this past year has been filled with many trials and tribulations along with loss, it has been such a year of learning and lessons for me...I have learned and am grateful for my lesson in the resilency of the life has been touched by those around me in many beautiful ways...i am grateful that I have been thru each expereince and learned to find a way past the obvious pain and new outlook has encouraged me to look deeper into myself with each happening and to understand why He has presented me with each challenge and has presented those around me with everything they have gone thru..I truly believe, as taught by Siloam, it is so that the glory of God could be revealed thru each of us! We are able to to put away all the negatives that society wants to put on us and to realize that we are truly gifts to the world, flaws and all! I am grateful for beautiful freinds such as yourself for sharing the good/bad/and ugly along with the beauty of your lives...for each inspires me to be a better person and to realize that I am loved and likewise...I am also grateful for all the blessings in my life..I have amazing family who have granted me another chance. For friends who have become family....I have two beautiful little chickens who have taught me that a broken heart can truly mend after losing my beloved Metro and for Steven who stands behind me no matter what and encourages me to do the work I love so much despite the fact that my fatigue often leaves me with very little to give to him at times. Beth Dougherty also has lifted me up when the rest of the world would have buried diagnosis continues to be the biggest blessing in my life for it has fueled a great passion inside me, brought me back to home to myself and the realization of my gifts and has lead me on a journey where I see all my dreams becoming reality in the next year! Hows that???"

To be able to so quickly formulate such deep response to such a question, should be the goal of each and every one of us. To sit down and write this type of list is a great way to focus, for at least as long as it takes to write it, on all of the things that we have to be grateful for daily. I then suggest reading over your list at any time when you begin to feel like things are not going your way. Whenever you feel as though you want to feel sorry for yourself, concentrate on how much you have to be thankful for. Anyone who would like to take the challenge of formulating their own list of things they are grateful for after reading this, I would love if you shared them.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity.... It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.
- Melodie Beattie


Thursday, September 29, 2011

A challenge for my readers:

Okay, here it is.

I saw a blog the other day called 30 Letters in 30 Days. It has taken me a few days to decide how to make it my own. When I write, it has to be important to me. It has to have a purpose. The first thing I did was read the letters the blogger had already written. The fact that I had read the twenty that had been completed in a matter of  ten minutes, was my first sign of what a challenge this would be for me. I decided that I had better go through the list and make sure that I amended it until I had 30 letters to be written that would be valuable in some way. It is my hope that my letters will be valuable to not only myself and the recipient, but to you all as readers. I have gone back and forth on whether to limit myself on this as far as the length of my letters and decided against it. I did so for this reason: I do not limit myself when I am writing any other time, so why start now? I want to be able to get all of my points across without having to exclude some due to length restrictions. Lastly, I considered whether or not to do this on my own before sharing it. My decision on that was that although I know I am commiting to a very time consuming challenge, it is your expectations of each new letter that will hold me to making sure it is done. I am including you all and want as many of you as possible to accept this challenge.

I was really nervous about the commitment that comes with this project. I spoke to Dan on Saturday and was reassured that I could do it. He also had a great idea to expand on this project. Why not write these letters on some nice stationary and send them out to people this holiday season? I cannot think of a single person who would rather receive a tie or slippers this Christmas than a letter written from the heart. Listed here are the list of 30 that I originally stumbled upon:

Day 01 - Your best friend
Day 02 - Your crush
Day 03 - Your parents
Day 04 - Your sibling
Day 05 - Your dreams
Day 06 - A stranger
Day 07 - Your ex boyfriend/girlfriend/love/crush
Day 08 - Your favorite internet friend
Day 09 - Someone you wish you could meet
Day 10 - Someone you don’t talk to as often as you’d like
Day 11 - A deceased person you wish you could talk to
Day 12 - The person you hate the most/caused you a lot of pain
Day 13 - Someone you wish could forgive you
Day 14 - Someone you’ve drifted away from
Day 15 - The person you miss the most
Day 16 - Someone that’s not in your state/country
Day 17 - Someone from your childhood
Day 18 - The person you wish you could be
Day 19 - Someone that pesters your mind - good or bad
Day 20 - Someone that broke your heart the hardest
Day 21 - Someone you judged by their first impression
Day 22 - Someone you want to give a second chance
Day 23 - The last person you kissed
Day 24 - The person who gave you your favorite memory
Day 25 - The person you know is going through the worst of times
Day 26 - The last person you made a pinky promise to
Day 27 - The friendliest person you knew for only a day
Day 28 - Someone that changed your life
Day 29 - The person that you want to tell everything to, but are too afraid
Day 30 - Your reflection in the mirror

I want you to compile a list of 30 people to whom you have something meaningful to say. Use this as a guideline to write your own. There are really no rules. I will announce my list tomorrow and begin my letters on Saturday to avoid  interfering with anyone's hectic Thanksgiving schedule. This means you have until Saturday to complete your list. Take your time and make it count. 


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Day 1 ~ God

Dear God,

Since I was a toddler, I was involved in church and Sunday school and youth group and paying attention while a pastor gave a sermon telling me what exactly my relationship with You should be. It was only at a time in my life where I was forbidden to attend such activities that I realized exactly what my relationship with You meant. When I was kept from fellowship with others, my personal relationship with You became strengthened beyond belief. I learned that while fellowship was a wonderful addition, it really did not make or break the relationship that I was able to have with You on my own. The point where I am now is something that I am truly grateful for on a daily basis. What it took to get here is nothing short of amazing and could never have been accomplished on my own.

I was faced with a situation where every single aspect of my life was a secret. I had to cover up one lie after another as people began to question the situation that I was involved in. I played a big game of pretend with everyone I had ever known or loved. Everyone except You. I knew that there was no hiding from you. To attempt to lie and cheat the One who had so carefully placed me here would be a joke. You knew it all and also knew that I would find my way out. I would be lying if I said I came to You in trust right away. That was my bad and most definitely cost me some valuable time. I was, after all, human. It is human nature to attempt to fix things on your own. To believe that you have all the answers you may need. I thought this way for years. It took me reading a book called The Power of The Praying Woman by Stormie Omaritan for me to remember what I had known all along. You are every single thing I could ever need. There was an entire page that listed all the roles that You play in my life daily but at the time of my reading this book, Protector, was the one I needed most. I began praying every chance I got. The more I prayed, the more I heard Your answers. I knew what needed to be done and I knew that I was going to do it. Most of all, I knew that if I continued to keep the line of communication open with You, I knew that I would know when and how to do it. I stopped lying about what was going on and began to tell others exactly what my situation entailed. I asked that they pray for me as well. Each and every person I told asked why I hadn't left yet. Every one received the same answer. I said that I was praying about it and that I was confident that when the time was right, You would make sure that I knew exactly what to do. I trusted You fully to show me the way. I was right! The day I left was exactly like I expected. The details are not needed. You know each and every one. And I know that I could never have had the strength and courage that day took on my own. Thank You!!

Since that day, I have grown so much. I have surely gone through some things that others do not agree with. Being open to Your voice has allowed me to follow along different paths and see the lessons that I am supposed to be learning in each and every one. I look at the sudden loss of my own mother as not only the catalyst which brought me to the point where I knew I needed to leave, but also as an experience which has led me to a point where I can speak to others and comfort them in times of loss in their own lives. You know the names of those who's lives have been forever changed by my personal experience with abuse, Lord. Because of my knowledge in that area, combined with the ability I have to share my thoughts and feelings with others openly, lives have been saved from years of hardship. Just one would have made it worth it to me but I can see that You are not done leading me to those I am supposed to share with. Please know that it is my pleasure to be able to help in any way that I can. My relationships, and You know what I mean by that,  have led me to many people that I otherwise would never have met. These relationships that I have built over the past few years have become so valuable in so many ways. Seeing how I have been able to use my own experiences to help others makes me grateful for each and every hardship that You have placed before me. Thank You!!

I do not pretend to know where my life will go from here. Not for one second do I believe that my learning is done. I do know that no matter what is placed before me, it has been placed there with purpose. It is part of my story that You were fully aware of before I was conceived. Knowing that and the fact that You are by my side through each and every single second, allows me to look beyond the struggle to see how I can use it to better myself and others. You are as much a part of this blog as I am. My fingers type the words that You place in my mind and on my heart. My passion for this project comes from You. For that, I thank You!!


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Day 2 ~ Dreams

Dear Dreams, 

The easy way out would be to simply ask you why I never remember any of you unless you take place after I wake up and go back to sleep. Perhaps I could question why only twice in six years you have contained any image of my mother. Maybe I could use the time to convince you to reveal the powerball numbers the night before the next drawing. If we really got on a roll, maybe you would give me a glimpse into the future or allow me to revisit the past. Maybe we could discuss some guidelines on what I want to dream about and what is off limits. Then I would let you know that you are not really that big of a deal. My memories of you are so rare that its like you barely even exist. I would then tell you how happy it makes me that you are not the only kind of dreams I have. Its the other dreams that shape my daily life. It is those dreams that I have plenty of feelings and thoughts about. So let's start over.....

Dear Dreams,

As a young child, calling you "dreams" was more appropriate. You were the things that I always wanted to do. You were the things that seemed so unreachable. You were the things born in a child's mind that seemed possible for others. A mind so young could never conceive being able to achieve such things of greatness. As the years have passed by one by one, the dreams that once seemed so far out of reach have become more like goals. As an adult, you begin to see that these childhood dreams are your hopes and goals for the future. They are the things that you want to accomplish and experience in your lifetime. You begin to look at them differently. What once was something that only happened in storybooks, has now become an end result that can be achieved through focus and hard work. Step by step as we navigate through our daily lives, we learn that we are travelling the path that leads straight to our dreams. 


Monday, September 26, 2011

Day 3 ~ A Stranger

I have chosen to write my letter to a stranger who is currently staying in the shelter that I stayed in because they have made a choice to walk away from an abusive relationship. I will contact the counselor at the shelter and ask that she pick who to share my letter with.

Hello Beautiful,
We have not met but I know you. Five and a half years ago, I WAS you. After ten years of harsh words, accusations, and strong arms I walked out the door never to return. I would love to say that was the scariest day of my life but the ten years prior to that had contained so much worse. I went to the exact place where you are staying now and stayed the entire month. There are so many things that I learned during that time. Ten years is a long time to let someone else control your every move. It's a long time to give up every feeling or opinion you could possibly have in order to please someone else. I did it and so have you. It may not have been ten years in your case but the time is not relevant to the things I want to share with you in this letter.

I can remember when I first left. It was such a major change that I felt lost. I went from having every single move I made being determined by someone else to making a decision to walk to the "green store" by myself. There were times that I thought it would be easier to just go back home. I knew how to handle being beaten better than I knew how to make choices on my own. I walked into that shelter at 27 years old but I may as well have been 12. Years of doing as I was told had left me with the feeling that I couldn't possibly know how to make the right decisions on my own. It was all of the people who doubted me and were so sure that I would go back to him that kept me from doing so. For so long I had gone back on my word to people and let them down for reasons that were out of my control. I could finally prove that I was not that person. I could finally prove to everyone that I was stronger than they could possibly ever imagine. I urge you to stand strong and not waver on your decision to leave. Take your life back and make it your own.

I remember those group sessions that you have to go to in the office downstairs. At first I hated them because I was so fragile. I hated that every single meeting would result in me breaking down in tears. Then I started realizing that this was the first that I had cried in a long time. I learned to see the healing in my tears and I began to look forward to the meetings. I don't think I realized how bad my situation was until I would share in the meetings and see the other girl's faces as I told my stories. During the course of ten years, I had gotten used to living with the things that took place in my house. To watch the hurt in the eyes of people who had also left abusive homes made me realize that the things I endured were horrific. I learned to use those group sessions to talk about everything. I talked and shared and felt every single word that was shared in that meeting room. They started me on my way to where I am today. Allow them to do the same for you.

During the last five years, I have gone through many changes. I would be lying if I said that I have not struggled. Learning to use the struggles to better myself was when the positive changes began to take place. I made many decisions for this new life that I intended to lead. I made a conscious decision that I was not going to allow anyone to ever have control over my life or my decisions ever again. I made a decision to love myself. I made a decision to show my daughter how to never fall prey to the things that I had. I made a decision to make sure that she thinks so much of herself that no one could ever possibly find a way to make her question herself. I made a choice to share as much of my experiences as possible in order to help others see that they do not have to endure the same. I made a decision to forgive which took any lingering power away from anyone who had ever hurt me. I made a decision to see the positive in every single moment of every day. Please consider what you want your life to be like from here on out. Make decisions that will make that life a reality.

Most importantly, I am sending you this letter to tell you that I am proud of you. I do not need to meet you to know that you have taken a step that so many others are afraid to take. You found the strength inside of you to walk away from the possibility of winding up being a statistic. I wish this same strength for every woman who is victimized, yet many never find it in themselves to make a change. Many more make the choice to walk away and wind up returning. I hope that you do not choose to take steps backwards. Put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward. I promise you that there are people out there who will become a part of your life and will treat you in the way that you deserve to be treated. There are people who will love you in the way that you deserve to be loved. Redefine love for your own life. Let it be all that it should be. There is no love in abuse. Do not settle for anything less than what you deserve.

I have started a blog. My writings all pertain to using the bad things that have happened to better yourself. They are about seeing the positive in every single moment. I would love if you took a few moments to read some of what I have written. I am currently working on a 30 day challenge and sharing it with my readers. Many of us are writing 30 letters in 30 days to people with which we have important things to discuss. A stranger (day 3) could have been anyone but I chose you. I want you to know that you are strong and special and you deserve nothing but the best. I also want you to know that if you choose to, you can contact me if you ever feel that you need to speak to someone who knows exactly what you are going through. This is a major way in which I have been able to make my ten years less hurtful.

Good luck on your journey. You have taken the first step  to becoming a better you.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Day 4 ~ My favorite internet friend

It has always been my belief that certain people are just plain meant to be a part of our lives. Sometimes I will run into the same person repeatedly in random spots until the day that an actual conversation is started and then the conversations just continue. Sometimes there is someone that no matter how much we disagree, I always find that I there is still a need for them in the world of Ali Eb. And then there's you. Someone I have never actually "met" yet I love as if I have known you forever. I don't know when it happened exactly, when I fell in love with you and your family, but I know that I will never forget being at pool that night and getting the text from you. The text telling me that they were going to give Gabby to her aunt. I cried before I was even finished reading. My heart was breaking for you. I remember trying to figure out how my heart could literally hurt for someone who I have never spent a single moment in their presence. And then it was completely clear. No moments in a room with you could ever make me love you any more or less. You (and Gabby) stole a piece of my heart long ago and that will never change :)  I knew that night that all we needed was to remember who was really in control. I continued to remind you of all those things that you already knew but are so hard to focus on in the heat of the moment. I just somehow thought it was a stretch to think that the Big Guy somehow bumped his head and lost sight of where she belonged. I mean, surely a cloud wouldn't knock the sense out of Him, right? I never stopped believing that she was YOUR daughter and I wasn't going to let you stop believing either! I am so glad that He proved me right! I don't take to kindly to being wrong, ya know! So now we are here and I am writing my Day 4 letter to my favorite internet friend. That's gonna need to be handled!! Let's do lunch :)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Day 5 ~ My hero


I began my first letter to you on Day 2 of my challenge. That was Sunday. It quickly became evident that it was not possible for a letter to my hero to be just one letter. There are three letters required here. As I tried to write this letter, I received many updates about your health and became distracted to the point where I was unable to continue writing it. I wrote a letter that day which I am sure did not get the attention it deserved. I am fine with that. I was too busy talking to God about you to fully focus on a letter to my dreams. But now here we are. Day five is to my hero and that is most definitely you, lil man!

I am amazed by you on a daily basis. You have strength that someone like me could only hope that I would possess in the same situation. I have followed along as you have beaten the odds time and time again. The amount of people who have been reached and who's lives have been changed because of your story and your example of courage and strength is an accomplishment that most people go through their entire lives without accomplishing. You have brought people to a closer connection with each other and surely brought people to a closer connection with God. You show us all what courage and strength look like on a daily basis. You teach us the value of the little things that we so frequently take for granted. You teach us how to love and fight and most of all how to live.

I cannot begin to tell you how much you are a part of me. I go to sleep thinking about you and I wake up thinking about you. I adore you with every fiber of my being! Thank you for teaching me what the will to live really looks like! You are more of a hero than any of us has ever seen in any movie or book. You are more of a fighter than any of us has ever seen step into a ring. You are more of a gift than any of us could ever have received under any tree or for any birthday. Stay strong, Mr. C! I love you!!

Mark Jr., 
How could I possibly write a letter to my hero without including one to you as well? I want to tell you how proud I am of you. I know that it must be hard to focus on things like school and sports this past year but from the things I have seen, you do it well. I also have seen that you help to take care of  Christian every day. He is very lucky to have you as his big brother. Your support and courage serve as an example for him on how to be strong. Keep up the good work :) 

Joannie and Mark, 
Wow! Where do I begin? The two of you have raised these boys that teach all of us adults things that we thought we knew all about. I have learned more from your family about love, strength, courage and faith in the last few months than I had in 32 years. I cannot begin to imagine being in your position. I think you and I both know as well as I do that God gave you the unique job of being parents to a hero because He knew that you had what it took to prepare him for this role. Every single ounce of courage and strength he possesses was instilled in him long before last year. He is strong enough to fight as he does because of the support that he has in the both of you and his brother! Thank you for keeping all of us updated. I know that must be hard sometimes as well. I am sure I speak for all of the Crusaders when I say that if you ever need anything at all, just ask! 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Day 6 ~ My mother

Dear Mommy,

Six and a half years since the last time you hugged me, yet you wrap your arms around me every day. I can feel it. Six and a half years since our last face to face conversation, yet each and every time I ask you a question, you still answer. I can hear it. Six and a half years since the last time you sprayed your White Linen, yet from time to time it still lingers. I can smell it. Six and a half years since you reprimanded me for biting my nails, yet you smile at the length of them now. I can see it.

The bond that you and I had is something that so many girls are deprived of. The times we shared together and the conversations we had, created a connection. It was a connection so deep that it could not be broken by the things that life tried to throw in the way like my crappy home situation or the childish decisions I made as a result of it that caused that last year to be so stressful and hurtful to you. Turns out that he never stood a chance at ruining a relationship as strong as ours. How could he when even death couldn't diminish its effects? You are as much a part of me today as you always were and the values that you instilled in us as children are more evident today than ever.

For ten years I put you through unnecessary drama. My strong will and need to fix someone else is something that I undoubtedly inherited from you. It is exactly those traits that led me to a place where I was the one who needed fixing most of all. It pisses me off to no end that I allowed myself to become part of something that deposited me into such a deep hole of despair. It was a hole that it took me way too long to garner the courage to climb my way out of. I had turned my back on the ones who really loved me and wanted the best for me, to try and find happiness in a situation where none could ever possibly be found. It is here that I find my POSITIVE in your death. (Wow, my proof that there is positive hidden in absolutely everything) With the knowledge that I could never again lie to you since I knew that you would have already seen from high above, I made my decision known. I was clear about the fact that one more time would be the last. I was vocal about the fact that if you ever saw what I had denied for so long, that it would surely be the end. I will admit now that I actually wanted it. For the first time ever, I wished for it. I was more afraid that it wouldn't happen than I was of the pain that I would have to endure if it did. It was the line I had drawn and I wanted it to be crossed. That was what he knew. The thought that me saying I would leave could possibly prevent a "next time", was foolish of me to even consider as a possibility. And then the day I knew would come, did. I was so scared and in so much pain but at the same time relieved. I had given the last chance that I had offered. I had stuck by my word.  I am just sorry that you had to see that because thinking back, I know that the last time was by far the worst. It still took me months of prayer to get to where I had the courage and faith to walk away. All I remember of those months was that I stopped lying and I stopped trying. I spent every single chance I had begging God to make the way out clear to me. Then I sat back and waited, fully trusting that He would do just that. And then one morning, He did. I was not afraid. I did not doubt myself. I walked away and never went back. It saddens me that it took losing you in the most final of ways to get to that point, but God knows what He is doing. Never once have I ever questioned that fact.

I know that in these years since then I haven't always done the smartest and purest of things. I have made some mistakes in the last five years that I am sure left you scratching your head and begging God for one last day here on Earth so that you could smack some sense into me, but I have worked through them. I have used what you taught me growing up to mold myself into this person that I am absolutely positive that you would be proud of. Knowing that has made this letter so much easier to write than I expected. I wish I could say the same for the next few on the list, but hey, some people need to hear some things. I know that no matter what needs to be said, I will say it with dignity and grace. How it is received is another story which is purely up to them. I have learned that the best use of my time is to focus on my own actions and responses. It is a losing battle trying to worry about the actions and opinions of those around me. It is my hope that they will not just read my letters once, but repeatedly, until they see that all these judgements they have pinned on me are completely baseless and unfair. Perhaps a little whisper from you in their ear as they read will speed the process up a bit. Or maybe not. Either way, I will say what needs to be said.

Mom, there are still times six and a half years later where I lose a day or two to my grief over losing you. While these times frustrate me, I have learned to embrace them and accept them for what they are. I have learned to see that they are my excuse to do absolutely nothing at all but be alone with my thoughts of you. I have learned that the pain of these times is well worth the undivided time that I get to spend with my memories and my feelings of loss where you are concerned. It is these times that keep me right where I need to be in order to be able to support others as they deal with grief of their own. I have been the rock for others countless times since then and I am thankful for the opportunity to help someone else. Too few people allow themselves ample time to grieve and in turn expect others to follow suit. Shame on anyone who finds it in themselves to put a time limit on another person's grief. I will not stop grieving over the sudden loss of you until the exact moment when I am able to be with you again and not a day sooner. Anyone who has a problem with that may find it in their best interest to keep it to themself.

Thank you, Mom, for all of your countless hours of hard work to support us. Having a child of my own leaves me unable to imagine how hard it must have been for you to raise three of us all on your own. Thank you for showing me how to truly love the unlovable, although I am sure you never imagined that it would be my own brother who would test this trait the most. Thank you for the lil one you gifted us with that Halloween in 86. I am sure you could have never dreamed of the beauty of the relationship that he and I would one day share. He has become my ally in this family that has become so good at judging others during time that could be much more productively spent judging themselves. Thank you for your display of faith and trust in that faith. Following that path has become my sanity in this crazy world. You showed me daily that loving God is the only way. You showed me that we could never begin to handle the things of this world on our own. You showed me that no matter how dire the situation seems, that He will always provide exactly what I need. Thank you finally, for showing me just how important it is to be supportive of your children no matter what. Even when you and I both knew that I had screwed up 100%, you still supported me and defended me. That lesson has come into play more than ever recently and following your example will surely bring us through it. I cannot tell you how happy it makes me looking back and knowing that there was never a time when we were at odds for more than a day or two. I cannot imagine the hurt that some are faced with due to the fact that they do not have that same relationship with their own mothers. I intend to make sure that an issue such as that never arises with Lex. She will have quite a losing battle to fight if she ever intends to try to find a way to navigate through life without having me be a part of it.

Lastly Mom, I watched you be a prayer warrior for Analise. Oh, how I wish you could see that beautiful young lady now! But there is another child now who needs that same amount of prayer and devotion and he is part of our family. I do not know the details of how it works up there but I know that if anyone can find a way to move Christian up to the top of the miracle list, it would be you. With you and God working together, its no wonder that I am so positive that it's only a matter of time until we are blessed with this miracle!

I love you and miss you!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Day 15 ~ Dear Friend

Dear "Friend",

I was once where you are. We have discussed it. I understand the comfort in doing the same thing day in and day out regardless of whether or not the "same thing" is actually the least bit COMFORTABLE. Its the familiarity and knowing what to expect, even if it's not good, compared to taking on something you are not used to. There is also the part of not knowing just how much of what you have been told is true or will be followed through with upon your big decision. It is my belief that most of it is BS based on my own dealings with the same claims.

I am writing this because I want you to know that my "big decision" was the best move I have ever made. It was, by far, the best present I have ever given myself. I will not for one second lie and say that it was not scary.  I will tell you, though, that it was not half as scary as some of the days that preceded it. You have already made it through those. I now urge you to find it in yourself to move beyond them. Move on to where you can be happy. To where you can enjoy life and be you instead of who you're expected to be.

I have been clear with you from the beginning about my willingness to help. I hope that my words up until now have been enough that you know that I would do whatever it takes to get you to a place of comfort, security, and control of your own life. I have the ability to direct you to the resources you need to help you. I have the knowledge that it takes to really understand how you are feeling now and how you will be feeling when you finally take me up on my offer.

Make a choice for yourself. Make a choice to LIVE!!


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Day 16 ~ Dear Lauren and Char

Dear Lauren,

It's been a good five and a half years that we have known each other. You have, from a distance, been one of my greatest friends and biggest supporters. I have shared so much with you that I feel like I have known you my entire life. Every up and down that I have been through these past few years, you have talked me through. It is no wonder that when your visit finally happened, that there wasn't a single awkward moment. It is also no wonder that it was so hard to watch you leave. Can you blame a girl for wanting to keep someone as special as you as close as possible? I know that keeping you here is not necessary though. We are no less connected because of the states in between us. Through Facebook, I found a friend who will be a friend FOREVER! I cannot wait to come and visit :)

Dear Char,

We went to school together. I wasn't friendly with that many girls in school but from the moment you transferred in, I knew you were cool. Funny how as we have all gotten older, so many of us communicate more than we ever did when we used to see each other daily. Our re-connection came through Facebook and I am so grateful that it did. Your genuine concern for my well being is just perfect. Is it any wonder that I propose to you almost weekly? You have accepted and supported every single crazy aspect of my life. Every single time I let on that I am even a tad unpleased with something, I have come to expect your almost immediate words of encouragement whether by Facebook or text. I cannot express how happy it makes me to see you as happy as you are since you have met John. I could have never imagined how great the two of you would be together. Don't ever let him forget that he needs to share though! ;) Bottom line is that I chose to include you in my list of 30 letters in 30 days blog to thank you for your never ending friendship. Thank you also for the kind words and laughs that always seem to arrive just when I need them most. I love you more than words can say.......

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Day 22 ~ Dear Alison

Dear Alison,

Hey, girl, hey! This letter is more of a list than a letter. I will give you a list of truths. I will not tell you how I know what I know, since I think you need to experience each and every one of the trials you will face to become, ummmmmm, Me. Here is your list:

1. Nothing you can do or say is going to alter the plan that God has already made for you. You may steer off course but you will find your way back. Don't ever believe for a second that you can handle stuff on your own. It is with His help that you will make it through each and every trial.

2. With God by your side, you are strong enough to make it through anything. Don't ever lose hope that things will indeed get better.

3. Thinking POSITIVE brings about POSITIVE results. Search for the POSITIVE in each and every situation. Searching for the good in the midst of a tough situation leaves no time to dwell any negative that may be easier to see upon first glance. Reject the negative and replace it with POSITIVE.

4. Stick with college the first time around. Had you completed that, I could have been working on my doctorate by now.

5. Confidence is key! Believe in yourself and make sure the rest of the world knows you do!

6. The things you know can be useful to others and you have a way of sharing them that makes people listen. Take full advantage of that and use it to help as many people as possible daily.

7. Do not sacrifice your morals for anyone.  The things you will learn while doing so are things you could  know all along by seeing them from a different angle and you can avoid all the regrets and consequences that such sacrifices will bring.

8. In the blink of an eye your child will become a teenager. Cherish every single moment.

9. Your parents are right and you should listen to them until you hit your thirties. I suggest you then prepare yourself to display great patience in your dealings with them.

10. Your first love will definitely not be your last. There are multiple people who will be worthy of your love and others who will be completely unworthy. Give it freely anyway! I wish I could explain this one but you will understand one day. Follow your heart!!

11. Weigh every decision you make with the same question in mind. What is going to leave others with the most POSITIVE impression in the long run. This does not mean that the opinions of others should trump your own but I can assure you that it will certainly build a great deal of trust between you and others in the end.

12. You are beautiful!! Believe it and others will too!

Keep up the good work, Kid!! You are gonna be just fine! Go get 'em, Gorgeous!