So many conditions. So little brain space.

Living with multiple chemical sensitivities overfills my brain. It’s enough to push an average Joe completely over the edge. Put into my brain my current life situation with my muscle disease, family, daughter’s illness, and there just isn’t much more room. The tiny spot that is left keeps being invaded by having chemical sensitivities.

What is it? Basically it is a body reacting to everything! Chemicals, gas, perfume, lotions, fabric softeners, nail polish, cleaners, smoke, et. I was diagnosed by an immunologist. I went to see her after I noticed certain things were affecting me. It started simply with someone hugging me and if they had perfume on I would get a small rash on my neck. I used to hug everyone. I started having to ask if they had perfume on before they hugged me. If I got a rash it stayed for days, itchy. I had enough reasons keeping me up at night. I didn’t need a rash. But then after I went out to dinner I would notice I got rashes on my legs from the chair I sat in. I finally realized I was having a reaction to detergents and fabric softeners from other people who sat there before me. That added new complications. How on earth could I go anywhere without sitting where someone else sat? I couldn’t. So I just took a shower when I got home and hoped I didn’t get a reaction. We picked my daughter up from school one day and she brought some art work in the car. I felt my throat was tight but had no idea why. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I started choking and gagging. It was very scary. My husband pulled the car over and I stepped out gagging on the ground. We thought it may be the art so we put it in the trunk. I went to an immunology/ allergist a few weeks later and she gave me the diagnosis of chemical sensitivities and gave me an inhaler and an ipen just incase I had an anaphylactic reaction. She thought the paint or lacquer that was used in my daughter’s art work is what made me so sick that day.

My legs are constantly covered in hives, rashes, sores, spots. It is extremely frustrating. Knowing the reaction I could get I have had to become hyper vigilant. I will give you an example: My car had to go into the shop. This is what happened in my mind. These are the thoughts that consumed me with just the idea of the car going into the shop…..The last time the car went into the shop the car smelled of grease and the seatbelt smelled of men’s cologne. Then my husband got that on his clothing. Then that smell I could not get out. It took a few days of soaking his shirt, sitting it out in the sun to get the cologne out. Then the seatbelt had to be cleaned and that tires out my arms due to the muscle disease. Everything tires out my arms. Then my husband has to get a ride to the car. Everyone now has air freshners in their cars and those make me throw up. One more thing to have to get out of the laundry. Then if the car does smell like a chemical they use, then I cannot get into it until it airs out. How long will that take. If I can’t get in the car then I can’t go anywhere and I need to get out of the house…..These are all the things that happened in a few minute period just THINKING about the car going to the shop. This is what happens in my mind when thinking about being picked up for dinner…..Is the person driving going to remember how to drive me without hurting me? Is the person going to remember to take the air freshners out? will they remember not to wear perfume? when I get out to eat will they be able to help me with the bathroom door? will the actual place I am eating make me sick due to anyone near me with strong cologne or the cleaner they cleaned the table with or the person who sat in my seat before me? Do I need a back up plan for a ride home if they ignore any one of these things ?….

Can you imagine living like that? This kind of hyper vigilance has given my mind utter exhaustion. It causes great anxiety. Because I have no idea whether someone will care or respect this condition that I have. Most people don’t. They forget. Oops I forgot and put perfume on. So if they come to my home and sit on my furniture then I can never get away from it. I’m trapped in this house unable to drive, unable to do most of the cleaning, and stuck with someone else’s perfume and possible throwing up and rashes because of it. I wish I could turn off my mind. But I can’t afford to. Because If I don’t think about it then no one else will. Who else will think about the seatbelt and clean it? How long can my arms even go on doing what they are?

Really it is too much.

But there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. I have this. I live in a world full of fabric softeners and lotions and plug ins. They are everywhere. Not to mention cleaners and everyday things most people use around there homes that I cannot. Fertilizers, pesticides, bleach, are all on the make me vomit list.

So here I am. With all these conditions. Conditions I can do nothing about. One just makes the other harder to deal with. My brain is full. It has no space for anything else.

I was trying to correlate my illnesses earlier. The first things I was ever diagnosed with was  vulvadynia. That is a less than lovely diagnosis that involves inflammation of the opening of the vagina. I went to a special clinic that did a study on me. They used cancer treatment on the area to try and create fresh skin. That was one of the most excruciating things I have ever experience. Other than my wide awake muscle biopsy. The idea of that treatment is to blister the skin so much that it peals off and you get new fresh skin. For me the entire area swelled closed so I couldn’t urinate. I had to be rushed in and have the area torn apart and catheterized then. So that treatment didn’t work. So they cut the whole area out. My whole vagina was full of stitches. Both side were completely removed and sewn back up. The skin grew back just the same. All of that pain in the pursuit of health just ended in return of pain. That doctor was the most compassionate I have ever had. I got studied until I just couldn’t be studied anymore. I asked him if it was because of the molestation or rape that caused this. He said he did not know. He didn’t know if it was the nerve endings that were damaged or not. Either way just imagine having a burn on the opening of your vagina. Imagine sitting, riding a bike, wearing jeans. It is a freaking nightmare!

No one talks about it. Millions of women have this and no one talks about it. NO one talks about the hard things. They are ashamed, embarrassed, and why? I can’t help that I have this! Why be ashamed of something I cannot help? I can’t help the fact that chemicals make me feel like I could die. That is no exaggeration. It worries me the things that could happen if I am exposed to certain things. Women don’t talk about chemical sensitivities either. Because they aren’t believed. Told they are exaggerating. Told it is all in their head. Shoot I was told  my muscle condition was all in my head until I had the muscle biopsy and diagnosed with Central Core Disease.

After vulvadynia diagnosis was the muscle disease. I then was studied. I’ve been in many case studies for the muscle disease. No answers were found. No treatment. No cure. Then the bone disease, then Lyme disease., and finally chemical sensitivities. I tried to correlate them all and see how they were all connected but I find nothing. Neither do any doctors that I’ve seen. I just HAPPEN to have a LOT of conditions and diseases that are incredibly hard to live with. And YET I still find myself fortunate. It could be so much worse.

You’d think with all this to worry about I would never leave my house. But I do. At any point someone could hit our car and my bones would all break and my muscles would all tear. Just the gas fumes alone make me sick everytime I got out. But I still try. I try to live.

Some days are bad. Some days are overwhelming. I don’t have many people who I can talk to that will understand. Most have no idea what I am going through in my life because they are either too focused on themself or they just don’t want to engage in a discussion about my life. I rarely complain. I just sent a very long message to my friend about how overwhelmed I was today. That is rare. I mostly keep it all inside.

I try to live and not just go day to day and survive. I did that before. When I was being abused I just made it through each day and survived it. I sometimes slip back there again. It is an easy place to go. Survive. But not live. I make myself go out so I am making a choice to still live in spite of everything that makes me not want to.

I’ve made it through so much already.

What does it take to live and not just survive?

For me it is making sure I am not so overwhelmed in my brain that I’ve become numb. That the little space left in my brain that is not full of everything it takes to overcome life, is filled with tiny good things. It may only be me sitting outside for ten minutes watching the birds.

It is still a choice. To live. I don’t want to just survive. Some days are harder than others.

 

I can’t remember.

I remember these three days. The picture with just me was taken when I returned from a job at seaworld. I almost ripped this picture up. The  tear at the top with the tape is where I decided I couldn’t destroy a picture that I seemed to sacrifice my entire childhood for. The angry face…That is the man’s house who molested me. See…I never could get away from him even in a picture. I remember the day of the picture on the top left. A newspaper was there that day in Indiana Beach and took that picture of me and the partner I was skiing with for the afternoon ski show. I blocked out the men’s faces for their privacy. I loved this costume for some reason. I kept the picture because I loved the costume. I remember everything from that day. I was 17 years old. I remember looking at this picture years later thinking I looked so much older than 17. The picture on the top right I remember as well. He was my favorite partner. Even with that choppy water I knew he’d never drop me.

I can remember a thousand more days, conversations word for word, beautiful moments and tragic ones. I remember things I wish I didn’t. I remember things I hope to never forget.

Some things I don’t remember.

My childhood time line I cannot remember. I tried a few nights ago. What age was I when I went into the mental hospital? I don’t know. But I remember every detail that happened when I was there. Did I go into the mental hospital after the suicide attempt my parents knew about or was it because they worried I was going to attempt suicide? When did I switch schools? Which school was I at when I attempted suicide? I just can’t remember because I attempted suicide many times that no one knew except for one.  When did the date rape happen? Before I skied at seaworld when I was 18 or was it before? I don’t know but I remember everything from that day. When did the manager of the ski show have sex with me then discard me? Was I only 16 or was I 17? I don’t know but I remember feeling I must be special for him having sex with me after being picked up from the airport and then devastated when he didn’t speak to me after that. How old was I at the ski school when I was molested? I went twice so was it the first or the second? I don’t remember but I can tell you exactly how it felt to have a man laying on top of me and not knowing what I was supposed to do. When did I try to take the man to court who molested me when I was a child? It seems I got two attorneys at two seperate times but it is all jumbled up. I remember the first time but not the second. I just can’t remember.

I don’t remember the time line at all. From age 11-19, everything is just a mix of memories. I remember specific days. I have no idea which came first and what happened next.  The reason my time line cannot be exact is because my brain will not let me remember.

Why do I need to? The facts are still the facts. Which abuse happened before and which happened after doesn’t matter. Why should it?

Why would anyone question my time line, focus on it, and not focus on what happened to me? Because there are people who will undoubtedly try and tear you down. They will tear up your story and rip it apart because by doing so they believe they have discredited your story. By discrediting your story they can then disconnect themselves from it. If I am wrong on the dates, then my story must be wrong, which means they can ignore my entire story, right? Wrong.

I’ve thought about these people. We all have them in our lives. The questioners and the doubters. We feel we have to explain and justify and elaborate to make our stories heard. We must remember exactly when this or that happened or we just aren’t believable to them.

I thought if I could just remember the time line then everything would make sense to me. Them questioning my time line made me try even harder to figure it out. But nothing made sense. I realize that even if I could sit here and write out a straight series of events for 8 years, it would not change a things.

The time line does not matter. The things that happened to me are what matter.

I think about these people and wish I could say,  “Oh forgive me, I didn’t get that year correct because I was busy losing my virginity in the back room on someone’s floor, or being molested for the 50th time when I was only 14! You weren’t paying attention. Just like you aren’t paying attention now to what really matters.”  Words will never matter to those people who cannot face the truth of what has happened to you. There will be no epiphany for them because they are living in denial, something that we did not have the luxury to live in.

So, I cannot remember everything.

Why would anyone want me to…

 

 

“I’m here.”

 

My 16th year was incredibly hard. I was trying to move past terrible abuse. I had a guy friend that I was close to that year. One night he climbed in my bedroom window and slept on my floor.  He was just…there. I wasn’t alone. I would wake up like a scared little kid and reach down and there he would be.  He was my dearest friend. I honestly do not know what led him to my house but for whatever reason he saved me.  I’d wake up and say, ” Are you still here” and  he would reply, “I’m here. ” That has stuck with me my entire life. That sweet boy laying on my floor all night gave me this primitive feeling of security and I’m not sure I can put into words the gratitude I have towards him.  

The man who abused me was still right across the lake. 

My friend took the fear away.

It wasn’t until I met my husband that I felt that feeling of safety again. Ten years after we were married I had to get a muscle biopsy. The day I got the biopsy, I got home and was exhausted. I had been awake all night the night before because I was scared of the procedure. The biopsy was to be done under no anesthesia. I didnt realize I would be watching the incision, and looking into my open leg. No numbing medication was used on my muscle and I felt them cut it out of me. It was barbaric and horrifying. When I got home I just wanted to sleep. I didn’t want to sleep alone but I was worried my husband may bump my leg if he were next to me.  He did not want me to be alone. He grabbed my daughter’s trundle bed mattress and threw it on the floor and layed next to my bed. I was able to sleep. He said, ” I’ll be right here if you need me.” I felt safe. I knew he was there. I don’t think there are many men in this  world that would have done that. I cherish him.

It’s ironic that I realized the power of these words after my dog Jessy was diagnosed with cancer 5 months ago.  He was given 3 days to live based on his symptoms. He had a tumor that was thought to block his intestines in a matter of days. He had lung cancer and a mass in his abdomen.   Every night since, I have layed on the bench in the kitchen for hours at night with his bed right next to me on the floor. The picture where he is laying on the quilt, is him looking up at me on the bench.

Something he started doing right after his diagnosis was to check that I was still there. He would fall asleep and a few minutes later lift his head to see me. Then I got in the habit of saying,  “It’s Okay, I’m here.” I can’t even count the amount of times he has lifted his head to look for me to hear the same words. As soon as I say,  “I’m here,” he puts his head back down and goes back to sleep. I’m up on the bench, he’s on the floor next to me, but he knows I’m there.

Such simple words, “I’m here.” I’ve rushed to the bed of a person in hospice in the middle of the night just to hold her hand and tell her those same words. My best friend Laura, before she died of cancer, actually as she was fighting cancer, drove to my house, sat on my couch, and said the same words to me.

I didn’t realize the power that those words symbolized until I heard myself say them to my dog! He is laying right next to me as I type this. Tonight, as I said it,  I remembered all the times in my life that someone has said or shown that, “It will be okay. I am here.” SO many beautiful people have crossed my path just when I needed them. It’s funny how saying something to my dog triggered so many positive memories.

I know that many reading this have fought and conquered many things in their lives. They have overcome tragedy, abuse, loss, and hurt. Many have gone through it alone. I have gone through many things alone too. I have had many moments where I have felt lonely and forgotten. I pray that you each had, at one point, someone hold your hand through the worst of it. I’ve had some miraculous moments where the right person was there at just the right time. I am thankful for those moments.

To that sweet 16 year old boy who showed what being “here” meant, thank you. You defined what “I’m here” meant. You were present in a time when I felt so abandoned by life. You saved my life by just being “here”. I couldn’t have made it through that year without you. 

To the teacher that same year who pulled me out of class to say, “I’m here. ” I thank you! I wouldn’t be here, and married with a daughter, had you not taken the time to notice the pain in my eyes.

I sit here looking at the pictures of Jessy and wishing life could always be so simple. I may be saying the words to him but he has been there for me for the last 13 years. He’s alerted me of a seizures,  opened the oven door for me since it hurts my arms, and stayed by my side. Dogs do it by nature. They are devoted. He knows no other way than to be here for me. For people it is not always so easy. 

So, to those people who choose to be present, who choose to be a light in the darkness, I thank you. You are a gift I have not forgotten. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Putting a face on abuse.

 

See this little girl? She was sexually abused. See that smile? See that innocence?

SEE HER.

I was on social media this morning and a picture of a man with the title of pedophile was glaring me in the face. Someone posted it with the caption “Keep a look out for this pedophile.” Under that caption I saw that it had been viewed 4 million times. There were thousands of comments under the picture. I looked through some of them. There were endless, “Just let me get my hands on him,” and ” Wait til I find him and there will be nothing left,” and ” They will put me away for a long time if he ever crosses my path.” As I read through all of these comments one thing kept popping into my head, one thought, “You aren’t going to do anything, because no one does.” It is so easy to share your rage in the community over a picture of a man with the details of him luring a 13 year old into his car , ONLY on Facebook. But how many of those people, if they ran into this man would actually do ANYTHING? I can only speculate, none.

How easy is it to jump on the bandwagon of hate over sexual abuse when you don’t actually have to do anything but type behind your computer screen. I will give you real statistics based on my real life. I wrote publically the details of the abuse that I endured as a child. No one did anything. There was no rage. My father and brother didn’t get together in their car and go confront this man. The hundreds of people who read my story in my little town didn’t  get together with their bats and go to his door. Now they may all send emails to each other and post on social media their outrage of sexual abuse but no one did anything. Why? Because words behind a computer screen are words of cowards. The real people fighting for justice don’t need to put idle threats on a Facebook picture. They actually DO something. There has yet to be ONE person who has done or said anything to the man who molested me my entire childhood.

Those who have suffered sexual abuse as children knew there was no one coming with their bat. We knew that the person whether man, woman, or teenager that  abusing us would most likely not suffer a day. We knew because as a society no one made it easy for us to come forward. We didn’t have a safe place to tell our secrets. We didn’t have a family, town, group of people, who we knew would rise up in the face of injustice to right this wrong. So we kept these secrets buried. Letting little bits slip out here and there in hopes someone would hear the whispers of our little souls begging to be saved. We wished someone would swoop in and scoop us up and whisk us away into the warm arms of what once was before it all started.  If that did not happen, then we were left to bear these scars while barely keeping our heads above water the whole while. Some of us nearly drowned. Then 20 or 30 years later we finally have the stability and love in the worlds we have created ourselves to finally speak our truths. Often these truths fall on deaf ears, or we end up being victimized all over again by their blame and doubt.

So I see these Facebook posts of these outraged random people swearing to kill pedophiles if they get the opportunity to cross their paths. And I laugh at the absurdity of these lies. Every little girl and every little boy who has had someone feel the hands of these pedophiles on them can’t even be HEARD yet somehow we are to believe  if our molester is found he will be crucified? NO. The molester gets to keep his family and his life. The child loses everything over and over and over again. Have you read in the paper lately a lynch mob who caught the man who raped one of their daughters and she was vindicated by her father’s rage? Yeah. No. If so it is very rare. Because we rarely speak. When we do, we don’t get what we need, not even broaching the subject of prosecution! Mind you, I am not advocating taking the law into your own hands or promoting violence. I am just pointing out some facts and getting to the point of steering you in the right direction of what you should be doing.

We are in a world now that has a lot of “fighters” behind their screen. We don’t need any more pretenders. No one came when we needed them to. So let’s start by just opening up the dialogue on what is really needed in these situations. Listen to the victim. Support the survivor. Spend energy away from the social media bandwagon and more on the side of those little children who are begging you to listen. While these people are planning a fake attack on Facebook of the pedophile, their own little girl is being molested and they have no idea.

The place they could be making a real difference is right in front of their faces.

Listen. Listen to the children. Let them be heard. Set them free. Give them justice by hearing them and saving them from the nightmare they are stuck in. Then maybe they will find the strength to prosecute the pedophile. They will find the strength to go on living and try to find peace in their hearts again.

Do you see the little girl in the pictures above.

Do you really see her?

Isn’t her life worth being heard? Isn’t her life, heart, childhood, worth EVERYTHING?

She deserved the world to stop for just a moment to hold her in an embrace that for even a moment gave her back the security she never thought she would find again. No child should ever have to endure sexual abuse. But IF they do, those little faces deserve to get those smiles back. They deserve to be loved unconditionally and feel that the world really WILL fight for them.

This is just one face of so many that got truly left behind. She deserved to be fought for. They all do.

See her.

She, is me. Only one face of one child who deserved to be fought for.

To validate.

You wouldn’t think that having a muscle disease and having a past of abuse would intertwine. But they do.

I had an appointment today. To leave the house with a muscle disease is complicated. I can’t drink too much because they I will have to pee. If I have to pee, then whoever is taking me to the appointment will then have to take me to the bathroom because I can’t open bathroom doors. I have to question the person driving me and make sure the aren’t a ….drive as fast to the stop sign then slam your breaks on driver….with the severity of my muscle disease and osteoporosis I break easily. Slamming on the breaks gives me days of agony. Once I get the driver situated and deprive myself of fluids then I need to make sure they can drop me off at the front door and open it, that is if they cannot bring my scooter. Most people either can’t or have a hard time with my scooter because it needs to be taken apart then reassembled. My husband lifts it with ease and I have become spoiled with that ease of help he gives me.

My friend drove me and did a great job. I had to get a mammogram because I found a lump which ended up being not related breast tissue but I had no idea so I got it checked. I got to the appointment and had to walk down a long hall. Then I had to have help. The technician had to help with my shirt. Help lift my arm, etc.  I knew I was exhausting my legs so that when I got home taking care of myself and my daughter would be difficult but I really didn’t have a choice.

After the scans the doctor came in. She asked all about my muscle disease. She had to lift my arm to do the ultrasound because I cannot lift it over my head. Then she said… And I don’t want to exact quote her but something to the affect of…It must be so frustrating to have this disease….It must be painful to wash your hair. It must be hard to do just about anything. Three sentences!

I went to get a mammogram and was validated in an enormous way by the Doctor for my muscle disease. No one asks me how hard things are. No one validates the frustration with simple tasks. But she did it so genuinely and kindly. She didn’t say she was sorry I had a disease. She didn’t say the common bless your heart statement. She didnt pity me. She validated the truth of my situation. The truth of my situation that is so often overlooked that it left me shocked to hear her words. She commented about my hand and fingers and how she could see the muscle disease there. She acknowledged that without my scooter it was really hard to tell I had a disease. She pointed out that this meant other people had no idea what I was going through. She was right. She is right. Friends and family do know I have a disease with our without my scooter. But rarely does anyone ever validate the strength it takes me to get through a day.

My breasts ended up being fine thankfully. My heart ended up being touched beyond belief.

Being validated is a powerful experience. One that I am not accustomed to feeling. It nurtured  all areas of me that had not been validated.

I came home and surprisingly felt sad. You’d think I would feel overjoyed at the relief of not having a bad lump and having a kind Doctor make me feel cared about. I am not turning a positive into a negative here. I cannot control where my emotions go at all times. Right now I sit here shaking my head really. Thinking about the ease that the Doctor gave her validating words and how much that is missing in my overall life and has been for so long.

It took me back to sexual abuse. How hard is it to say the right thing? How hard is it to validate the feelings someone has after experiencing abuse? How hard is it to be kind? It was not at all hard for this doctor to simply validate my struggle. I sure wish I had had her around a few years ago to say the same exact things just interject abuse as the topic instead. ” That must be so frustrating to have to endure. That must be so painful on so many levels. That must be hard.”

Having a muscle disease and past abuse is as intertwined as my left hand typing right now along with my right. Our life experiences  and our struggles will always leave a part of us that yearns for the simplest of kindness. It really is very simple to validate what someone is going through. It just takes a few sentences to make a difference.

If you are interested in learning about my disease and how it affects me I am attaching the links. I wanted to keep my abuse blog and my muscle disease seperate because I didn’t think the two had anything to do with each other. But I now see very clearly that they do.  It is just who I am.

 

A tribute to Randy. A truly good man.

imageI remember my first conversation with Randy.

I remember my last conversation with Randy.

Both were equally as loving and  emotional.

I started searching for my biological grandparents when I learned I had a rare muscle disease. I wanted to find if others in the family had the same diagnosis. I had documents that I faxed to Randy to prove I was who I said I was. He was my cousin and I was overjoyed in finding him. I sent a picture of myself. In our first conversation he said he knew right away when he saw my face that I was a Sternhill. In all of our conversations over the years he’d often say, ” You are definitely a Sternhill.”  We were both very emotional during that first converstation.  I was  a link and a connection to someone he loved very much, my biological grandmother, that he dearly loved. Through our conversations I learned all about my grandmother. He took me through every member of the family so detailed over the years that I felt like I knew them just as he did. I could picture my grandmother in her convertible car facing the world with her strong sense of self. I could picture them al.

AFter that first conversation, Randy called me about every other month or so. Then as the years passed he called me once a month. Then he started calling every week. Our conversations were something I looked forward to every time. The last few weeks we spoke almost every day. Due to the time difference in our locations, I often woke up to a message on my marchine. I would then call him back. His messages were the best part of my day. I’d play them for my daughter when she woke up. He left as long a message as my machine would allow. He’d always tell me that he loved me and my daughter and  everyone in my house! I used to keep his messages on the machine and listen to them when I was feeling down.

He always made me feel very loved.

I told him all of my secrets,  all of my worries,  all of my inner most thoughts, and  all of the details of my life. He always listened and responded with empathy and love. He ALWAYS made me feel better because he always made me feel loved.

We talked about everything. He listened. I’d tell him about the most minute detail of a caterpillar making a cocoon, or how the fox in the ditch was teaching her babies, and  the various questions I had about how things worked. He was a brilliant man. He could tell you how everything worked  from a satellite in space to a hot water heater. He knew how to reprogram and create from scratch just about anything. We could talk about camera lenses, politics, religion, friendships, family, and relationships. We never once argued or disagreed with each other. We set this time aside to completely devote to each other. During that time nothing else mattered. The world kind of stopped and we got wrapped up into 20 different topics that turned into 20 more in a matter of our two hour conversations.

When my dog Molly died, he cried with me. When my daughter was in the hospital he cried with me. He loved my daughter. He was there to support her when she was going through every aspect of her life. He was excited to see her jumping horses. He built her up. He recognized all of her wonderful qualities and he told her frequently how special she was. She felt like he was her grandfather. I recently sent him the latest pictures of her and I woke up the next morning to a 5 minute message to Riley about how she not only had brains but she had beauty and that she could be anything she wanted to be. He was encouraging in ways I’ve never experienced before. He believed that we were destined for great things and he knew that those things would come to us.

During most of our conversations , his wife Pat was there too. She patiently listened to me ramble on to Randy for hours and occassionally would add in a loving tidbit or some advice. Their relationship was one to be admired and a goal for any couple. They truly loved each other unconditionally. They were loyal, honest, and committed to loving each other through every single situation that came in life. I loved listening to how much he loved her.  They’d been together for so so many years and he still found her just as beautiful and kept loving her more every single day they were together.

Randy made me laugh. He listened. He never let time go past that he did not check on my family. He made me feel like we’d been together as a family my entire life even though it had only been 10 years we’d known each other. He made time for me. He opened his heart to me. I was shown unconditional love for 10 years of my life. He didn’t care that I wasn’t perfect. He didn’t care I’d made mistakes. He never judged me. He just loved me. He supported me.

Randy passed away yesterday. I cried like I have not cried in a very long time. I cried non stop all day long. I cried for purely selfish reasons. I can’t bear the thought of never hearing  his voice again. I can’t bear the thought of not being able to tell him everything going on in my life and in one converstation have him make me feel that everything would be okay. I can’t bear the thought of losing his unconditional love. I will surely miss him for the rest of my life.

Our last converstation was just as emotional as the first. When we hung up he told me to have my husband and daughter and me make a big sandwich hug and picture him there right in the middle hugging us and to make sure, as always to kiss my daughter on the head for him because he loved her.

Randy was a good man. One of the best. I cry today because I feel so blessed to have known such a good man. I cry today because I know how it feels to be unconditionally loved and I will never forget that gift he gave me. The gift of being loved is the most precious that we could ever hope to find in this lifetime. Cousin Randy, I will never forget you or the way you loved.

Let love restore your soul.

 

My daughter and I did wild life rehab for a number of years when she was around 8 years old. She has a special gift with animals. This horse pictured above had never had human contact but she INSISTED she go up to him and show him love. She took her time. Walked very slowly. Held out her hand. And the horse finally put his head to her. It was an amazing sight. I have hundreds of stories of her reaching these animals on such a deep and profound level.

She was always in for the long haul. One day she took a baby bunny out of a dog’s mouth. We took the bunny to the rehab place and were taught how to feed her and care for her. It was months of care. The day we released her back into the wild was nothing short of a joyous miracle. Watching that bunny hop off to freedom was a  beautiful sight. Her little fingers were small enough to put worms down baby birds mouths. She was gentle enough to feed the tiniest flying squirrel with an even tinier syringe.

I look at pictures of her and me with all the animals and I can see pure happiness in both of our faces. Giving something life that almost lost it is … There are no words. There is just a feeling you get that wells up in your heart. Every little space in your heart full. My daughter fills my heart this way. My husband fills my heart this way. Loving something can fill every void that exists in your heart. Have you ever loved so much that there was no room for sadness? Loved so fully that there was no room for nightmares? Loved so intensely that nothing else in the world mattered at that very moment? It is completely possible and  I feel it daily.

All the pain, all the loss, all the anger, all the abuse, may not be permanently be gone. But love has the ability to restore some of those little crevices that you thought nothing could ever reach.

That turkey in the picture, Tomas, was one of a kind. He ran to the car when I arrived. He layed in my lap just like a little puppy. He closed his little eyes when I stroked his head. Who would ever think that a turkey named Tomas could take away my pain! But he did. Maybe not forever, but everytime he layed his head in my lap I thought of nothing else but how my heart could be full due to a turkey!

Love is a powerful powerful emotion. Love in action has the ability to fill every hole that was left by a senseless act. Find something to love. Find a love so powerful that you can feel whole again. Loving animals, loving my family, loving…fills my heart.

In the moments my heart is full, there is not room for all the bad images I try so hard to get rid of.

We don’t do wild life rehab officially anymore but once that is part of you, you never really abandon it. My daughter has brought home dogs that were on the side of the road, we have saved squirrels fallen out of nests in hurricanes,  and chased off snakes trying to get to baby birds for hours at a time. We choose to love. Every life matters to us even if it is a little tree frog that gets in the house and we chase around for a ridiculous  amount of time  to set free.

Try, for just a moment, loving something so wholeheartedly that nothing else can even fit in. Fill your heart so much that there is no room for memories. It may not be animals for you. It may be your child resting her head on your shoulder, or your best friend sitting next to you, or necklace your grandma gave you. Give love the power to restore your soul…For just this moment.