A Moment of Thought

first of all let me apologize for any grammatical or punctuation errors that may be in this blog, I am attempting to used voice to text and it isn’t exactly precise. I do want to take a moment to address something that has been weighing heavily on my mind for about a week. In order to fully express my feelings in this moment I must give you a little bit of background.

For those of you that do not know I am 28 years old. I am the proud mother of three beautiful children, my 5 year old Areonna and my 3 year old twins Aidan and Katie. my family has been through a lot of struggles lately and we have thought many times that we have overcome our last obstacle. But our world was shaking again last week when I went to the doctor to address some sudden vision changes. As it turns out I have a condition known as ocular histoplasmosis which is a fungal disease that attacks the eyes. It is something that is common throughout the Ohio Valley area especially around the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. Usually the victims of this disease are employed and professions where they come in contact with chickens, pigeons, or bats. I do not work or live around any of this.

all I know is that one day at work I realized that my vision on the right side was strange. In fact straight lines look bent and my outside peripheral vision was shadowy. at the time I really didn’t think anything of it and just assumed I have got something in my eye. When a couple days past I realized that the issue is not resolving and since I had a headache I chalked it up to being a migraine because sometimes my migraines affecting my vision. I wish that I had not waited so long to be seen by the doctor.

when I finally did visit the optometrist she examined me through several different test. One of the test was a form of photography that photographed a cross section of my eye, in this test they were able to see that I had abnormal blood vessel growth and bleeding close to my retina. She immediately had me seen by a doctor who specializes in retinas and he indicated that I had ocular histoplasmosis. He explained to me that I needed immediate treatment and got me in to see him the very next day.

despite the fact that I live in Ohio and this is a common problem in the Ohio area I had never heard of histoplasmosis. In fact I didn’t even get to research it until after my appointment for treatment. There really is nothing they can do about the disease basically all they can do is treat the symptoms, in my case that is the abnormal vessel growth and bleeding.the treatment involved injections of a medicine called Avastin directly into my eyeball, which is much more uncomfortable then you can imagine. Initially I was quite proud of myself because when I left the doctors office I felt fine, what about 30 minutes after leaving it felt like I had been pepper sprayed. In all my life I have never felt pain in my eye like I felt then.

so when I got home and I could finally see you again, I began to research histoplasmosis. Apparently it is a fungus that grows abundantly in soil which is contaminated by bird droppings or bat guano. It is most commonly found around chicken coops. Because of where it flourishes the people who are most affected by histoplasmosis are farmers, landscapers, and construction workers. This is because they have direct contact with the soil that is contaminated and while working with the soil they stir up the fungal spores. Unfortunately, these spores are lightweight and are easily made airborne by wind.

now since I do not have chickens, I am NOT a landscaper, and I definitely am not a construction worker I am very confused about when and how I contracted this disease. What I do know is that this is something that doesn’t just affect your eyes but it can affect your whole body. In fact, I will be beginning the process of determining if this disease is elsewhere in my body. histoplasmosis can affect your body in various ways and often mimics other disorders.

for people who have histoplasmosis in their lungs they are often misdiagnosed as having pneumonia, COPD, and in more severe cases tuberculosis. This disease can progress to the point that people with lung activity are coughing up blood. it can also affect your heart creating hypertension, hypotension, rapid heartbeat, and in more severe cases heart attack. It can affect the liver mimicking cancer, it can affect joints mimicking arthritis, it can even affect the brain by attacking pituitary and adrenal glands.

the symptoms of histoplasmosis are very widespread and can affect a patient in many different degrees. In my case what causes the doctors to be concerned is that many of the symptoms are common problems which are misdiagnosed. For me this is headaches, body pain which is unexplained, mood swings, emotional instability, the inability to concentrate and often the inability to sleep. These are all symptoms that people suffer with on a day to day basis. They often attribute these symptoms with stress. But the complicated thing about histoplasmosis is that stress exacerbates the disease and makes the symptoms more prevalent.

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Hindsight: The Rearview Mirror of Life

I just completed my first semester of college (yay, me!) and it was definitely one of the hardest and most gratifying things that I have done in awhile. Today is my last day of my Composition class and it is a bittersweet victory. I really think that I have changed a lot, I am more organized and I try to perfect my submission as much as possible. If you look back to my first blog post to now, I am sure that the improvement is very noticeable. I find that I have improved but I still maintain my writing voice, which is most evident in my writing My Way Of Life, because it is something that I personally connect with and had free reign on style.

Over the last semester I have had quite a few people who have helped make it an enjoyable experience for me. Each and every one of my Instructors and Professors have contributed to teaching me valuable lessons and fostering my creativity, but never being harsh or making me feel like I was not doing well. Their support has kept me focused and they have all been very understanding when I have had a bump in the road. My family has also been so supportive, my husband and children tell me every day that they are proud of me. My mother is always reminding me to do my schoolwork, which makes me feel like I am back in High School but in a good way. Without my family, I do not think that I would have had the determination to continue with so much on my plate. Finally, my fellow classmates have been an inspiration and have encouraged me along the way. Chase Derrer showed interest in my project and made me feel like it was worth something, Arik Wright always gave great feedback and suggestions to improve my work, Sabreena Monday was someone who thinks a lot like me and has inspired me with her stories and posts, I cannot name everyone but there were so many who have helped me.

When I began this semester I thought that taking classes from the comfort of my home would be more comfortable and easier for me to handle. I am borderline Agoraphobic so it is often difficult for me to interact with people face-to-face, so online schooling seemed to be a great route for me to take. Boy, I was in for a surprise. Classes from home are sometimes harder to handle than campus classes, simply because there are so many distractions. There is always the television, the husband, the chores, the kids, the phone calls, the door bell ringing to pull you away from your work. It took a lot of support (and sometimes bossiness on their part) from my family to keep me focused on what I had to do. In the end I was able to complete all four classes this semester with the lowest grade being a B. My family is proud of me and I am proud of me too.

Despite all of the support that I have had, it hasn’t been a smooth ride. Being a full-time student, working full-time, and being a mother of three small children is no small task. Often, I felt like I was not able to juggle all of my responsibilities and I lost hope. Luckily, my support group wouldn’t let me quit and I persevered. Since I work at a factory, my time is often at their mercy. I can work anywhere between 40-60 per week with no more than 24 hour notice. My job did that to me quite a bit and it put a lot of strain on my schoolwork, but I did my best even if it meant staying up until the wee hours of the morning and working with only two hours of sleep. My children have been the biggest struggle for me, since I feel like I am not spending enough time with them. It is hard when my children tip toe past my chair as I sit doing essays or research. In the end, I am doing this for them and our future as a family so I keep on trucking. My husband lost his job awhile back, so I am the sole income for my family. To say we are poor is putting it lightly and there have been times when I haven’t been able to financially do school and something else. For example, my daughter wasn’t able to join Girl Scouts this year because I had to pay the internet bill and I couldn’t swing both. Just today my oldest told me that I didn’t have to buy Christmas presents as long as I stayed in school, that broke my heart. I really want to give them a better life, and not have to struggle like we have been. My health hasn’t been too great either, and recently I was diagnosed with Ocular Histoplasmosis which is a fungal disease that has attacked the inside of my eye. Three weeks ago I realized I had significant vision loss in my right eye and four days ago I began a series of injections (in my freaking eye no less) to treat this problem. It is something that I will fight the rest of my life, but the doctors are confident they can save my eyesight. The schoolwork itself was never a problem for me, but life seems to kick me and then keep kicking me when I am down.

In spite of the bad things that have happened over this past semester, I wouldn’t change my decision to go back to school for anything. I know that anything worth doing is going to be difficult, and I was never one to take the easy road anyway. I am very lucky to have an amazing family, great friends and an awesome school to attend. I know that I will achieve success on the path I am traveling and do something great. My dreams are big and my inspiration is limitless. For anyone considering going back to school, I would strongly suggest they do it. Oh, and never give up no matter how rough things get!

An Arm and a Leg, The Whole Shebang: The Cost of Social Media

COMPOSITION I

The Price Of Social Media

An Inside look at Social Media Influence
Ashley Bush

11/12/2014
Social Media has opened a whole new world of possibilities for users, but like all good things it comes with a cost. In today’s society being social means being on social media, in fact Facebook now claims 845 million users while Twitter has 127 million. Of the users of social media, 92% are between the ages of 18-29. With so many people available on the Web, the potential of reaching them is limitless. Companies market their products; politicians express their opinions while teens and young adults express their personalities all on social media.
Society has become a web of likes, retweets and YouTube favorites. For example, take Michelle Phan who began uploading YouTube “vlogs” in college as a hobby and eventually reached a million subscribers. In 2007, Michelle posted her first video and within weeks over 40,000 people had viewed it. Michelle is now a successful vlogger, makeup artist, and has appeared in television and print ads (http://michellephan.com/aboutme/). Then there is Tila Tequila, who tweeted to Playboy non-stop until they finally offered her an opportunity to be in their magazine. These two women were able to use their social media and make themselves a household name.
Since there are so many people on social media, it stands to reason that it can be used to influence the public. Companies pay to run ads along the sidebar or at the beginning of videos. Some companies have also utilized the “like and share” idea to get the users to market for them. Cora Daniasa, who wrote The Mechanisms of Viral Marketing In Social Media, refers to this type of marketing as non-intrusive and is the new form of peer-to-peer advertising. She states that this method is especially effective for companies since it is believed that the opinion of a friend or family member is more trustworthy and reliable. Specifically, Oreo cookies released a rainbow cookie to support Gay and Lesbian Rights, they encouraged users to like and share their ad if they supported as well (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/generation-like/). This marketing tactic is used all of the time in social media forums to change the way we look at their products.
Politics are another area in which users are “marketed to” or influenced by social media. No matter which platform you choose to explore, politicians have established themselves in order to express their opinions and ideas. David Hatch wrote an article detailing how bloggers influence social issues, he wrote “top lobbyists and executives such as AT&T’s Jim Cicconi, Comcast’s David Cohen, and Verizon’s Tom Tauke are among the powerful industry figures who have morphed, by necessity, into avid bloggers.” (http://search.proquest.com/docview/751427712?accountid=38189). Through Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube they have found a means to bridge the divide between themselves and their audience, making them more accessible to the people they rely on for votes. This is much like Roosevelt’s “Fireside Chats” which were radio broadcasts where he would address issues directly to the public (www.history.com/topics/fireside-chats). So while using media is not a new way to influence public opinion, the availability of contact through social media has brought it to new heights.
With the free expression of opinion, and the anonymity of the internet, many young adults and teens have looked to social media to validate their self-worth and establish their individuality. Douglas Rushkoff and Frontline did an investigative report on the social media phenomenon called Generation Like. In this video, Douglas speaks to a group of teens whom are helping a friend improve his Facebook profile and he poses the question, “Are the likes because you look the way you do or who you are as a person?” The teens all chuckle and one girl responds, “That’s what you spend hours wondering,” This expression of self can be both uplifting and devastating. One girl interviewed had gained online notoriety because of her love of the movie, Hunger Games. She made contact with an actor from the movie and got a lot of recognition for being a fan. But statistically this isn’t the norm. Dr. Luxton wrote an article for The American Journal of Public Health in which they figure that social media relates to suicide due to cyber bullying, or the act of victimizing someone over a digital medium such as the internet or cell phones. According to Luxton, “cyberbullying victimization rates ranged from 20.8% to 40.6% and offending rates ranged from 11.5% to 20.1%.” Those statistics are staggering. Social media has bridged the gap between people, and without moderation they have been allowed the freedom to make their opinions known, for better or worse.
Social media is an amazing tool which has made the entire world accessible from any computer. With so many people in one place, with so many different opinions and lifestyles, social media has created a melting pot like no other. In the words of Uncle Ben from Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility.” It also comes with an even higher cost. In the end, social media has taken from us our individuality and ability to think for ourselves. Our own opinions do not matter unless they are accompanied by a million likes, shares, or retweets. The real cost of social media is us.

References
Phan, Michelle 2014 (http://michellephan.com/aboutme/)
Wikipedia: Tila Tequila (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tila_Tequila)
Daniasa, C. I., Tomita, V., Stuparu, D., & Stanciu, M. (2010). THE MECHANISMS OF THE INFLUENCE OF VIRAL MARKETING IN SOCIAL MEDIA. Economics, Management and Financial Markets, 5(3), 278-282. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/815240043?accountid=38189
Rushkoff, Douglas (2014 February 18th) Generation Like
[ http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/generation-like/ ]
Hatch, D. (2010, Sep 17). Bloggers controlling the message. National Journal, Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/751427712?accountid=38189
(www.history.com/topics/fireside-chats)
Luxton, D. D., PhD. June, J. D., B.A., & Fairall, J. M., B.S. (2012). Social media and suicide: A public health perspective. American Journal of Public Health, 102, S195-S200. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1017604812?accountid=38189

The Code is in the Content!

halloween  Today is October 31st, Halloween. So I thought I would examine the hidden message behind the movie of the same name, Halloween. I love this film, all about a psychotic little brother who stalks his older sister while slowly murdering all of the people around her. Although this film could be said to send the message of “beware the little brother”, it is clear to me that it speaks volumes about the sexual and social behaviors of teens. In the movie, Michael Myers was released from a mental hospital where he had spent most of his life. He hides his face behind a Halloween mask and returns to find his long, lost sister. As he follows her around town, creeping her out in the process, he murders her friends and neighbors with no provocation. This horror movie has become a cult classic and has set a standard for many other horror films.

Like in other films of this genre, like Friday the 13th, all have a similar theme. A child is damaged in some way, Micheal Myers had a dysfunctional family and Jason Vorhees was mercilessly bullied, and develop psychotic tendencies. A tragic even occurs, death in both cases, which triggers violence and a need to seek revenge/purification. Both of these stories also hold a common theme among them that teenagers whom act irresponsibly are victimized. Usually the murdered teens were engaging in some sexual behavior and thus placing themselves in a vulnerable position. Halloween basically sends the message that being promiscuous as a teenager comes with severe consequences.

Movies like Halloween actually mimic the same message that had been played out in Urban Legends as far back as the 1950s. The scene where the first victim is murdered in her car on the way to get her boyfriend is actually a nod to the tale about the couple at lovers lane. Although the movie doesn’t have the boyfriend luring the young lady from the car by his sneakers rubbing on the roof as he hangs from a tree, the fact that there are so many striking similarities makes it undeniable.

Many people have speculated on the fact that all of the victims in the Halloween series were engaging in irresponsible behavior. Whether it was drugs, drinking, sex or just breaking the rules the victims all were acting in ways that would harm them in some sense. The question that needs to be asked now, many years after the movie was released, is did it work? Have the Halloween, or any other horror movie, ever made someone second guess their actions? With the rise in teen pregnancy, bullying, juvenile disobedience and teen crime I can honestly say I don’t think it did. Perhaps if the message was a little less subtle, it would actually sink in.

Video Games and Parenthood, Roundup

Video games have been a controversial subject with parents since the days of Arcades tinging with the sound of another quarter dropped in the slot. As the years have passed, the content and context of the games available have progressed and the need to continue the discussion on game safety is crucial. As a mother of three and an avid gamer, the type of games I expose my children to are important. Although I disagree that shooting games breed serial killers and casual games create mindless, over-weight zombies I do believe that – as with all media – regulation of game play is necessary. I have gathered some articles that I feel are useful in arguing both sides of the debate to better educate parents on the affect game play has on their children.

http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2010/12/parenting-and-video-games/ This article gives valuable information on ways to be involved in the games your children play and the pros and cons of those games.

http://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/protecting_your_family/parents-guide-to-video-games.aspx This article series educates parents on what games are by breaking down genre, content, signs of game addiction and the ways to prevent it.

http://www.empoweringparents.com/video-games-violence.php#  This article is written from a medical standpoint, and though I don’t agree with the opinions represented here, I believe educating on both sides of the issue is the responsible thing to do.

http://www.parentingscience.com/beneficial-effects-of-video-games.html This article details the positive aspects of Video Games and how they can benefit your child.

http://www.parentingscience.com/video-games-and-attention.html Finally, this article was written to express the good AND the bad, because everything in life can be harmful in excess.

 

No one has all of the answers and the no one knows your child, or your family, better than you. As a parent you want to protect your children from harm in all forms, but how do we determine what is harmful? Hopefully, I have provided direction to the information needed for parents to form their own educated opinions. I, myself, allow my children to play video games with me for small amounts of time. I regulate how graphic the games are and do my best to provide as many educational games as possible.

 

 

 

My Way Of Life

Fredericktown_Ohio_Main_St

My neighborhood is small, the town it’s in is small too. From an outsider’s perspective, our little corner of the world has nothing to boast of. There is one stoplight, a grocery store, a drug store, an ice cream shoppe, and a gas station. The biggest event of the year is the Tomato Show, which is a street fair that showcases tomatoes and anything you can make with tomatoes. But living here is as exciting as the big city, you just have to know where to look.

There is a lady who lives on the corner of my street. She never speaks but is always in her garden. Old and crooked, she tirelessly toils in the little patch of ground where her plants thrive. Her floppy straw hat bounces as she tills the soil by hand and whenever you see her it covers her arms like elegant ballroom gloves. Neither her hat nor her flowered mu-mu makes her a remarkable sight to behold, it’s the twinkle in her eyes as she gazes across the span of grass she calls her own.

Often, I wonder what she sees when her looks become distant and soft. Most times she stares through the narrow gap between her house and her neighbor where in the distance you can barely make out rooftops from Main Street. Does she remember all those years ago when the liquor store caught fire and burned half the town? Can she hear the horses and smell the mill whose building still stands vigil at the end of Main? What things she could tell me, if only I asked.

At the other end of the street is a man, young and vibrant. He is always moving and never rests, mowing and weeding and washing. His lawn is neat and tidy, yet his children can be heard calling for him and always the same response, “In a minute!” From the middle of the street I cannot see their faces, but I know their disappointment. He works, all the time, and does chores when he isn’t working. If only he knew that his biggest job lay with the kids who only want a little of the attention he gives everything else. Where the Garden Lady is the past, this man is the future. With his nice cars and expensive possessions, he pays no attention to the little things in life that matter.

My neighborhood is Purgatory, not past and not future. Somehow the little clapboard homes have grown modern appendages, new structures that are ungainly and unnatural. Woodsmoke blends with the smell of exhaust fumes, corn fields meet gas stations and faded bomb shelter signs rust beneath new neon signs mounted to old brick storefronts. I love this place, with its confused and disjointed image. Here everything new was once old and everything old is made new again.

At night I sit on my porch and can see the glow of the furnace at the factory across town. It’s warm light is a reminder that even though the shops all close at six, the whole world is not asleep. The train tracks are gone now, ripped from their place in the ground last year, but if you are quiet and use your imagination you can almost hear the hiss of the steam engine stopping at the grain elevator. In this place where doctors offices are old houses, the Amish sell their wares by the shiny new park, and you sometimes the only restaurant is a pizza shop, I have found home.

Maybe tomorrow I will finally go talk to Garden Lady and ask her what she sees. Maybe I will go tell Busy Man that time runs through our fingers like sand in an hourglass. Or maybe I will just look around and see all the things I see, smiling because it may be different tomorrow but it will be the same. It’s dark now and the burning eye of the furnace is peeking above the trees outside my kitchen window. Tonight I fall asleep with a promise of tomorrow and a message from the past, and that is what makes this place special. Not everyone may see what I see, but the ones that do love this neighborhood just like me.

My version of I Am From

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I am from mason jars

from cabbage patch dolls and Vicks Vapo-Rub

I am from the that little place in the eaves in the attic

It smelled of old books and scratched like wool

I am from the lilac bushes

the moonflowers

their fragrance subtle and cloying

I’m from the hanging Christmas ornaments and tired, achy joints

from Laura and Vesta

I’m from the loud talkers

and tight huggers

from “Spare the rod, spoil the child”

and “Do unto others…”

I’m from Methodist,

And the Bible holds all of the answers.

I’m from Marion and Gallipolis Ferry,

Pinto beans and fresh baked buiscuts,

From the secrets of my Grandfather’s time in Korea

And my Great-Grandmother’s time as a “flapper”.

In a flowered box high up on a shelf in little sleeves of plastic,

Yellowed pictures sit in rows like soldiers waiting for their call.

People without names or stories,

But faces I know as well as my own.

I am from the silver lining in the storm clouds

Each little moment a ray of sunshine breaking through the darkness.

 

 

A new beginning for us all!

Other than Facebook posts and (major throw back here) Myspace, I have not had any experience with blogging. I tinkered with the idea in the beginning, before being a blogger somehow became a career path. Given how much I love to write, and talk, I am not sure why I chose not to. But now that I am older, and daresay wiser, I am going to give it a shot.

Since this is my first post and you all don’t know me from Adam, I figured I should tell you about who I am and how I came to be where I am at. Some say that your past defines who you are. I agree but disagree with that statement all at once. Though my past has made me who I am, and who I am shapes my future, I believe the the constant quest for more is what defines who a person is. Whether it is more money, more possessions, more love, more children, or more time, there is always a quest for more. This is mine:

August 29th 1986 I was born in a Catholic Hospital to my very non-Catholic parents, almost a month early and looking much like an alien being. After weeks of being hooked up to wires and tubes, I was allowed to come home. There I met my sister, who at four years old was sage and wise, and promptly declared to be “the wrong baby”.

After much convincing, I was finally welcomed into the fold and I grew up quick. I was sweet and open, constantly wanting to learn, and convinced that I was going to be something great. Then everything crashed and burned. At the tender age of six I was lured in by a juvenile sexual predator. I make that distinction because he was only five years older than I, still a child himself, but what he did was anything but childlike.

For a long time, life was a blur. I don’t remember much and other than a few snips of images or sounds, I think this is when my battle with depression began. I cannot be sure, but I am positive that my whole outlook on life changed. I was no longer as open and social, I withdrew into a world of books and movies and games. These were places where I didn’t have to think about me, I didn’t catch my reflection in a mirror or window and stand staring trying to see what made me different and wrong.

When I was twelve my family moved from the dying town I had called home to a home way out in the country. I was a city girl cast into the wilds where everything, including the people, seemed alien and strange. The funniest part is, my parents moved my sister and I out of the city to avoid drugs and gangs, but the rural county we moved to was so much worse. Drug use, alcoholism and teen pregnancy ran rampant through my new school and I didn’t know what to do. I had culture shock to say the least.

Eventually I made friends and began to feel closeness with a select few people. My main friends were the geeks and goths, but I had friends in every social circle. I still held people away from me, never letting anyone get too close because they might see my disfunction, my flaw. I still hadn’t come to terms with my abuse so I still held the thought that there was something wrong with me. Everything seemed to be going okay and life started to hold a little promise for the future.

My 11th grade year I began classes at a Vocational school, utilizing a double enrollment to my high school and the vocational school. I took Cosmetology courses, which in hindsight was my search to be more feminine and be like all the other girls I knew. My first year at the Vocational school, I had two very important and traumatic events occur. I was molested again and I was diagnosed with cervical cancer, I was barely sixteen.

Understandably, I sank into depression so deep that I wasn’t sure I could survive. I tried to commit suicide a couple of times and, thank God, I was unsuccessful. I withdrew from my friends and became unruly, acting dangerously. My abuser this time was a family member, and so it became this dirty little secret. It was this elephant in the room that no one acknowledged and I sat there wanting to scream at everyone. Hello? How can you ignore the big freaking monster lurking in the corner? But I kept quiet, plastered on a smile and faked a laugh or two when needed. I survived.

During this time I became involved with my first serious boyfriend. That poor boy was doomed from the start, but he made me feel deserving for the first time in forever. So I dove in, completely and without reservation, and ignored the warning signs. The beginning was amazing and I learned a lot from him but it quickly dissolved into a cycle of physical and emotional abuse. There were a lot of breakups and makeups until one day I snapped and fought back. I ended up in cuffs and he was nice enough to not press charges so I was released and never formally arrested. I was nineteen and looking at my life and what I was headed for, it scared the crap out of me.

Life after that was strange, I became an exotic dancer (a job I held for almost nine years), did a lot of drugs (something I regret immensely) and travelled all over the United States. I got married fast and divorced just as quickly. I went through relationships like some people go through underwear. I got into fights and more than once had to run from the police over bar fights or disturbing the peace. In a nutshell, I was stupid and more than a little crazy. But my behavior led me to a situation where I met an amazing man, Kirk.

A friend of mine introduced me to Kirk in the early morning hours at Denny’s. I walked in, plopped into the seat next to him and began stealing his fries. We talked and got to know each other and over time he became my best friend. He became my rock and even though he had a wild side, he was raised strict Christian and was able to tame me a little. My wild streak continued until 2009, when we began dating.

I had just returned to Ohio after living in Arizona for almost a year. Kirk and I had lost contact but miraculously I met a girl who was friends with his brother. Through her we got back in contact and we started dating. He had a little girl from a previous relationship, Areonna was only 8 months old at the time, and after a couple weeks I was ready to meet her. At this time I was no longer partying and was ready to settle down and have a family. After my second bout of cervical cancer, the doctors told me that I would never have children, so I was fully prepared to be a step parent.

I fell in love with that little girl the moment I saw her. Big blue eyes and a dandelion puff of blonde hair, all topped off with a big toothless grin. I maintained my boundaries because I didn’t want to usurp anyone’s position, but I instantly knew that I would die to protect this beautiful baby. That love was put to test a week later when we found out that Areonna was in the hospital with eight broken ribs. After a very short investigation, it came to light that her biological mother had been abusing her and in an attempt to make her stop crying had squeezed her and broke her ribs.

Within a month we had an apartment, custody of Areonna and we were planning our wedding. Between court dates for custody, agency visits, learning to be a stay at home mother, and wedding plans we were very busy. We set a wedding date, July 18th 2010, and spent every day just dealing with making things work. Somehow it did.

In a bid to save money, we moved in with my parents in June of 2010. My husband and I shared a room with Areonna, a decent sized bedroom with an attached bath and walk-in closet was what we called home. Not long after we moved in, I was bit by a brown recluse spider. Scary and painful, it ended up being one of the most awesome things that happened to me.

We were married in a beautiful ceremony at a bed and breakfast surrounded by beautiful flowers and the people we love most. My father had to practically carry my to the alter, my leg was so swollen from the spider bite, but it was still one of the happiest days of my life. On that day I not only made a promise to my husband but a solemn vow to my daughter (step-daughter legally) that I would be there for the rest of my life and do anything and everything to ensure their happiness.

After the wedding we were looking for a new home to start our new life in. During that time I was suffering from seasonal colds, or so I thought. On a whim, and half joking, I convinced my new husband to buy some pregnancy tests to see what it would say. In all honesty, I don’t even know why because I didn’t feel nauseous or anything. My symptoms were easily explained away as allergies, but something made me want to take the test. Well, five tests actually and each and every one showed two lines. One dark and one very faint, those little pink lines opened up a well of hope inside me I didn’t know was there.

The next morning I took another test, and sent a picture of it to my sister who works in a doctor’s office. Five minutes later I got a call, my sister yelling at me telling me that I needed to make an appointment immediately. She had shown the doctor who said no matter how faint the line the result was the same, I was pregnant. For the first time in my life, I cried tears of joy.

My first appointment went well, they confirmed that I was indeed pregnant and gave the usual instructions. My tears of joy turned to tears of fear when that night I began to bleed, a lot. My husband rushed me to the emergency room and after waiting for five hours in the lobby I was told that I was okay and that the exam earlier that day had caused the bleeding. To be safe they had me visit my OB for an ultrasound the next day.

An ultrasound was something that I had plenty of experience with from my battle with cancer. I wasn’t scared to have the procedure done, I was scared they wouldn’t find anything. But the day came and I crawled onto that frigid table for my first look at the life inside me. After a minute and a lot of blurry blotches streaking across the screen, there it was, this long black oval with a tiny white circle inside. The little white circle pulse and flashed, so quickly it was almost strobe-like. “That’s the baby’s heartbeat,” my doctor said, “good and strong, it’s okay!” Instantly I burst into tears. I will never forget what he said next, “Hold on, I have to check the other one!” My world stopped! No more tears, no more breathing, I just froze. I now know what the term “with bated breath” means. The second oval was smaller, but there it was and the heartbeat just as strong and fast as the first. I was having twins!!

The pregnancy was difficult and there were quite a few scares along the way. March 30th, five weeks before my due date, I began having contractions. This wasn’t unusual at this point because I had begun preterm labor at 23 weeks, but this time was different. I called the hospital and they assumed that it was just another false start, they gave me instructions and told me to call my doctor in the morning. I did as I was told and after a quick exam I was sent to the hospital for immediate care, I was going to have my babies soon.

After I got to the hospital I learned that all of my plans of natural, drug-free birth were flying right out the window. My little girl had flipped breech and I was taken for emergency c-section. I later found out that she wasn’t only breech, she had stopped moving and the hospital was prepared to deliver a stillborn. But my baby is a fighter and even though her entrance into the world was painfully quiet, after a few second she let out a scream that I felt deep in my soul and it was one of the most beautiful sounds in the world. My son, Aiden was born March 31st at 1:09 p.m. weighing 4 pounds and crying like a puppy. Katie was born at 1:10 p.m. and weighed a whopping 2 pounds 14 ounces, she scared everyone including the nurses and doctors attending her.

An hour after they were born, the twins were transferred to Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. I was given ten minutes to hold my son but Katie was surrounded by I.V.s and monitors and I wasn’t even allowed to touch her. She was covered in blood from a botched attempt to insert an I.V. into her umbilical cord and was so small that the premie diaper came to her armpits. In an attempt to lessen the shock of her appearance, the doctors kept her in her isolette at a distance where I couldn’t get a close look at her.

I broke the hospital’s protocols by making them release me 24 hours after the c-section. There was no way that I was going three days without being with my babies, especially since they were in the Neonatal ICU almost an hour and a half drive away. So I checked out and spent the next five weeks driving back and forth from home to hospital, doing everything I possibly could to give my babies every chance I could. I even refused pain medication because it was making them sleepy and unable to eat or even breathe on their own.

They were released from Nationwide on the day of their original due date, May 8th. They were now an impressive 6 pounds for Aiden and 5 pounds for Katie. We found a beautiful old Victorian home for rent and spent the next year juggling the demands of two babies, a toddler, custody court dates, agency visits and normal life for a family of five. It was exhausting and exillerating all at once. But it wouldn’t last, once again our lives were turned upside down.

September 21st, 2013 was the beginning of a horrible chain of events that to this day I cannot believe happened. My family had went to spend the night with my parents (Thank God) and my husband received a call at 4:30 a.m. informing us that our house was on fire. We had let a friend stay with us, and he negligently left a candle burning which caught the house on fire. It took an hour for everything we owned, all of the little things a person collects in their lifetime, to become nothing more than a pile of ash. I stood on the cold, wet street in the early morning hours watching the burning house light up the sky. I think I died a little inside when the firefighters had to throw the twins’ crib, still smoking, into the yard. That smouldering piece of furniture sat on the damp grass as a symbol of what COULD have happened.

My best friend, Katherine a.k.a. Kat, rushed to my side as soon as I called her. She sat with me and held my hand as I spoke to the news reporters. She made me laugh by joking about the cute firefighters who were still hanging around and keeping me from totally breaking apart. Those very same firefighters sat her two sons in the firetruck and even put on the lights and sirens to make them smile. Before she left, she hugged me very tightly and whispered in my ear how much she loved me and that she was there for me if I needed her. I thanked her for coming to sit with me and told her I love her. That was the last time I was able to hold her.

The house burnt down on Friday, and though it was a tragic event we didn’t lose anything other than material possessions. My loved ones were safe and somehow we had found the strength to get things done. I even had a follow up appointment because I had just had a medically necessary hysterectomy. Monday was my appointment and as we sat in the waiting room my phone rang, my sister was calling me from work. I answered the phone quickly because I didn’t want to disturb other patients and that was when I heard the news.

My best friend and the one person who was able to break down my walls, other than my husband, had been in a crash on Sunday September 23rd. Her two sons, Gavin and Blake, were in the car with her. It was an instance of circumstance, no one was at fault really, and yet the outcome was devastating. Kat had died on impact, she was only 27 years old. Her oldest, Gav, had a broken leg and a concussion. Her baby, Blake, died at the hospital from internal injuries at only 7 months old. Ironically, he died in the same hospital where the twins spent their first five weeks of life.

When my sister told me, I screamed. I couldn’t have stopped it if I tried! I opened my mouth to deny it, but I know my sister and I know she wouldn’t be so cruel. Plus, the doctor she works for is also the coroner, there was no denial possible. I opened my mouth to try and the sound that came out is one that I never want to utter ever again. It came from some deep place in my soul that even I didn’t know existed. I collapsed to my knees and sobbed. I was still in the waiting room and the nurse took care of me, rescheduled my appointment and sent me home. I spent the next days in a blur.

The day of Kat and Blake’s funeral was beautiful and sunny, unseasonably warm but with a cool nip to the air. In a daze I walked into the funeral home, my sister on one side and my mother on the other, to say goodbye to my sister soul mate. She laid there so still and quiet, the complete opposite of her bouncy and electric self, and cradled in her arms was little Blake. My sister held me upright as I touched her face and said goodbye, although deep inside I was still trying to deny that this was real. I hugged her family and we all cried together. It was the worst day of my life so far. The fire and the devastation it wrought paled in comparison to the pain that I felt losing those two amazing people.

A week later, my husband’s cousin committed suicide and the dance of grief began again. We were losing touch with what it felt like to be happy. But finally things began looking up. We found a new home and people were rallying around us to lend support in any way they could. I look back and I am still humbled by the prayers, donations and kind words that people sent us. We thought we were finally free of whatever had cursed us. Boy, how wrong we were.

February 2013, smiles were easier by then and the darkness seemed to be waning. Until the day my oldest, my 4 year old angel, nonchalantly told me she was being molested. Although those were not the words she used, she clearly told me what happened to her and the world stopped spinning again. A family member, someone we should have been able to trust completely, had hurt my little girl. The police were called, tests were done, arrests were made but it still took a year for justice to be served.

February of this year, 2014, my husband and I bought a house. Nothing fancy, an old mobile home in good condition, but it is ours. By now I was the only one working and though it wasn’t perfect, our life wasn’t a string of tragedies. But then the call came, 4:30 a.m. again, only this time we learned that my husband’s little brother had taken his own life. He was 24 and the father of two little girls. The news came on the same day that the man who molested my daughter was convicted of his crime. Although it breaks our hearts that my brother in law is gone, he has escaped the pain that made him feel that suicide was his only way out. The man who hurt my baby is serving 15 years to life in prison, and life has evened out.

Our life is far from perfect, and our history has left a indelible mark on our everyday life, but we have learned to make the best of each day. Because of all the bad things that have happened, I finally made the choice to do what I have to in order to improve our future. So I went back to school, I work my butt off, and I kiss my children every day and whisper promises of good things we have. I know that there will always be pain, and there will always be bad things happen, but I am looking to the future and working for a life that is better than what we ever imagined before…..