Festina Lente

I want to explain a little more about how this company came to be, and what I feel the purpose is that God has given it. Also, I know most of you have never met Harold or know much, if anything, about his background or the person he is.  Harold is a Mechanical Engineer by trade and a long-timeentrepreneur.  He has had multiple patents and owned several successful businesses – which include a crematorium and large industrial factory that produced popcorn poppers and snow cone machines.

This company was started as a friend helping a friend. I have known Harold for roughly 20+ years. He is the father of a friend, and he became a person whom I wholeheartedly love and respect. Harold is truly one of the most caring, heartfelt, and intelligent people I have ever met. I call October 16th “Genesis 50:20 Day”.

Eight years ago today Harold and his wife Sandy were in a motorcycle crash. While in the hospital, it was found that he had a rare form of cancer. He was treated with chemotherapy, but the treatments made him terribly sick. Harold became a beekeeper also by helping a friend. Because of the back injury from his accident, he needed a vehicle that sat lower to the ground. A friend had such a vehicle and they decided to trade – but Harold’s vehicle was more expensive, and the friend would owe the difference. Harold knew the friend couldn’t afford the difference and offered to take some hives of bees in lieu of payment. Harold was stung one day, and he noticed it made him feel better. Harold continued to intentionally sting himself with his bees as a treatment. In order to try to make this process easier for him and less painful, we worked to create a cream that could take the place of the actual stings. After some trial and error, we eventually came up with a product that allowed him to stop intentionally stinging himself. Knowing how the cream changed his life, he shared it with friends who had various aches, pains, nausea, etc. to see if it would help them. Fast forward, and here we are.

My purpose for all of this is twofold. One, to help you all to become a little more familiar with who Harold actually is, and the kind of person he is. Another, is to explain what I feel this company is truly about. We have never set out to simply just make a product, sell a product, and make money off a product. Sure,making money is good, but that has never been the ultimate goal for us, as odd as that may sound. We have had several opportunities in the past to do just that but held to our beliefs and chose the harder path. Our real purpose is actually much simpler. Our main goal has always been to simply help others – that’s why this product was created. Every step of the way has always just been a friend helping a friend. This purpose actually extends much further than just customers, for us. We personally know how hard life can be sometimes. We all have struggles. Once we finished our contract with the last sales/marketing group, it gave us the opportunity to sit back and re-evaluate where we wanted this company to go, and how we would like it to grow. What we decided to do was actually what we had been doing all along – simply help others. What better way to grow our business and sell our products than allowing people we know, trust, and love be the representatives of our company out in the field; and at the same time allowing them the opportunity to see success as well. A friend helping a friend. We, as a company, not only have a chance to help the customers who buy our products, we also have the opportunity to help each other. This motivates me more than anything else!

I couldn’t have chosen better people to take this adventure with. You all understand what family is and what it truly means to help people. I consider and love you all like family. I want you all to approach your potential customers with this mindset. I want you to seek to help others.

Genesis 50:20:

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position, so I could save the lives of many people.”

Everything happens for a reason, even something that is supposed to be used to harm us can be turned around for our benefit. If Harold had not been in an accident, they may not have found his cancer in time. If it wasn’t for the back injury, he wouldn’t have had a need for a lower sitting vehicle. If it wasn’t for a friend helping a friend, he never would have taken up beekeeping. If it wasn’t for beekeeping, he never would have known the life altering benefits of a bee sting. If it wasn’t for friend helping a friend, we wouldn’t have Harold’s Famous Bee Cream.

-Amanda

 

 

I wanted to start this blog with a portion of the email I received a few weeks back from Amanda, the creator of Harold’s Famous Bee cream.  Partly to ease the readers into why I’m writing today, and the other is to introduce myself as one of her crew of friends!  I’ll be writing for you from time to time, some of the others may also.  We will always tag at the end so that you know who your author is.  Today you have me…. Crystal, or as some refer to me Honey!  How fitting right?  I’m part of this bee-basedcompany and my nickname is Honey.  Sometimes when things come full circle all we can do is sit back and smile.  17 years or so ago when Amanda’s son gave me the nickname, we never imagined where we would be now.  Here’s our first of hopefully many blogs to come!  We hope you enjoy reading about our journey!

 

 

 

 

Make VERB: form (something) by putting parts together or combining substances; construct;

haste NOUN: excessive speed or urgency of movement or action; hurry

slowly ADVERB: at a slow speed; not quickly.

 

These words have been moving through my mind for a few weeks now.  Jeff and I were sitting at lunch with Amanda, one of the Harold’s Famous Creators, excitedly discussing all the options for the future.  We were throwing out ideas, and she stopped us with a quote from Harold.  

One product at a time guys, Harold always says to make haste slowly,” she rattled off.  Immediately I disagreed with this statement, although I’m not quite sure why.  Perhaps I’m a rebel.  I would say mainly because I have a bit of a patience problem.  As in, I have none. As we finished our lunch, the conversation continued on like usual, but for weeks I kept coming back to those words.  Running them through my head, thinking how it was a phrase that just didn’t make sense to me.  It’s like saying, hurry up and slow down, what does that even mean?  

Make Haste Slowly

Make Haste

But do it slowly

 

 

What a moron!  Well, actually an oxymoron.  This phrase comes from the Latin translation Festina Lente.  My favorite translation of the words is make haste with toughness, with suppleness.  As I sit here typing tonight, I find myself thinking about my career, my life, the things I am passionate about.  I’ve come to realize that the things I’ve been spending much of my time on, aren’t feeding my soul.  Some of them put food on the table and help pay the bills but take more of my time and energy than they deserve.  We spend our days working to support someone else’s dream and our evenings running to soccer, softball, dinner and chasing whatever the day requires of us….   but personally, my soul is starving for more.  

As young adults, often we get so caught up in stress and just trying to get by, that we take a step away from our dreams.  The dream is still there we are just standing beside it now.  More time passes, we find ourselves weighted down by the pressures of everyday life.  We look up one day, and “oh hey” there’s our dream on the other side of the street.  Wait a minute how did it get over there?  Before you know it the dream has long been forgotten.

 

 

 

If I were to ask you today, what is your dream, or purpose so to speak, in life?  What would that answer look like?  I can very specifically tell you the purpose for my life, and what my dreams are.  I’ve known for quite some time that I am meant to spend my time lifting up those around me.  Throughout the course of my life thus far, many people whom I thought would stay forever have left, and vice versa.  I’ve learned to take each day and accept with a grain of salt the people that are placed within my life just as they are.  My job here isn’t to “fix” them, it’s to love them through whatever they are facing.  My dream?  Well now… that’s a completely different story!  My passion for writing has never wavered.  Being a published author, is top on my goals list.  I have absolutely no idea how to get from here to there!  One thing I can do is “Make haste slowly.”    

 

 

Honestly, my dreams were so far off in the distance I’d almost lost sight of them.  Then those three little words showed up in the middle of my day.  At first, they didn’t make sense, but the more I thought about it the more clearly, I could see the vision.  I had to make a plan, get it moving even if it were at a snail’space.  Work hard and keep chipping away at that dream.  Make Haste! Just do it slowly.  Work hard, and trust God’s timing.  I’ve never been one to force my spiritual beliefs on anyone else, but I also can’t hide the reason that I smile in the midst of heartache.  I can’t bathe the reason I’m led by kindness in shadows.  It’s ok if you have different beliefs from my own.  It doesn’t mean we can’t encourage and lift each other up despite our differences.  For years now, I have looked at life a little differently.  I believe that every single person placed in our lives are there for a reason.  Either there’s something they need to learn from us or the other way around.  The lessons aren’t always fun or happy, but they are for our benefit just the same.  

 

In the midst of the hardest parts of life is usually where we find out just what we are made of.  Imagine waking up one morning and losing everything that you hold dear.  If this ever happens, I hope that there is someone there to show you how to fight for yourself.  Someone to remind you of your dreams, to make you want to keep moving forward, to tell you that sometimes you have to do what’s best for yourself even if everyone thinks you are wrong.  You may hear a 1000 NO’s before you hear a single yes.  Keep moving!  Festina Lente! Keep making haste with toughness!  

Harold’s three little words repeated by his protégé have inspired me to race slowly towards my dream.  Honestly, I believe the statement is encouraging us to work as long and hard as it takes to reach the thing that makes our soul burn brighter!  It may take years but then all of a sudden you may see your dream explode.  Throughout the past few weeks, anytime I’ve sat down to write I’ve heard Festina Lente.  As I’ve typed away on a book that has been 3 years in the making, I’ve worried about the what ifs.  What if I never finish?  What if it’s horrible?  What if it takes longer than I am prepared to wait? Every single time I hear a scripture running through my mind.

Isaiah 60:22

“When the time is right, I, the Lord, will make it happen.”

 

Wondering and worrying about the current place I am in life, has been getting me no closer to where I am heading.  I didn’t know 20 years or so ago, that Amanda was going to be an amazing, inspiring entrepreneur. Watching her reach out and grab her dreams is one of the most inspiring things I have ever been a part of.   It was never suspected that I would be going along on this adventure with her, but here I am.  I hope you’ll stick around and get to know us through this new Blogventure!  When I told her my vision for my part in her company, she wasn’t even surprised.  She just said, “I LOVE it!”  

“Wisdom is as a flower from which the bee its honey makes and the spider poison, each according to its own nature.”

This is just the first of hopefully many probably random ramblings from myself, and maybe some of the others at Harold’s Famous.  These are written for nothing other than to encourage and inspire anyone reading.  Personally, I try to take every chance that I’m given to share a little piece of my encouraging heart through written words.  Opportunity presents itself and we are given a choice of which direction to take.  We are constantly presented with choices.  I guess the question is do you want to be like honey to the people around you today, or like the spider who spews poison?  This day is yours!  Choose wisely.

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If it costs you your peace, it’s too expensive!

Do you ever have one of those days, or weeks, where you feel like it’s possible that everyone around you has lost their ever loving minds?

This was exactly me in the middle of Monday last week! I found myself baffled and not knowing what to say, so… anxiety took hold. Without going into too much detail, I found myself in the middle of a “he said she said” situation. Guess who hadn’t said anything, you guessed it… me! Somehow my feelings were the ones hurt. Mainly because, people who I really thought knew and understood me, possibly thought I would purposely play with another persons feelings. Honestly, it still hurts my heart a little to think about the situation.

I tried to explain that my feelings were hurt, which didn’t work. I spent a day at work fighting through tears, I’m sure looking like I’d lost one of my best friends. At some point I realized(thanks to my sister Heather) that I don’t have to defend myself in situations that are completely out of my control! She reminded me that anyone who knows me, like really knows me, would not question who I am. If they don’t, then maybe they aren’t my tribe. Actually we had a whole conversation about inspirational memes. They’re kind of her “thing”.

She pointed out that as women a lot of us are quick to tear each other down. Her exact words were, “I hate that!”

I’ve spent the past week observing the people around me a little more closely. I heard one of my best friends saying how she “used” to be skinny and beautiful. I was told some things that people thought about my personality that had the potential to break me. I watched someone I love struggle with feeling not good enough. I watched a friend cry over a man that didn’t treat her the way she deserved.

At some point during this past week I’ve seen or heard each person I’ve come into contact with, focusing on their flaws. I’m guilty of this too! I can make a list if you like….

The truth of the matter is this, almost everyone has problem areas in their lives. If I saw you bleeding, I wouldn’t stick my fingers in your wound and make it larger. I’d find something to stitch you up with. If you said to me(or tried) that something was hurting you, I’d try to help. So please understand when I feel like you are not “seeing me” and instead looking at everything you think is wrong with me, I have to find the way to stitch my own self up.

Question: If you knew something was going to cut you, would you continue to touch it after the initial slice?

I really understand that everyone has bad days from time to time. I’ve yet to meet a perfect person. I fully believe in second and sometimes third chances. I believe when you do something wrong, you swallow your pride and apologize! Sometimes though, I catch myself apologizing for things that aren’t my place to apologize for. One of the worst feelings in the world is when someone who is supposed to love you completely doubts your character. The good news here is that I have a firm knowledge of… me!

I’ve spent most of my life trying to make everyone around me happy. Lately I’ve come to realize that is an unattainable goal. Do you know what is completely within my control though? Are you sure you’re ready for this?

Making myself happy! Making sure my soul is getting what it needs from day to day… that is one thing I can control! So I won’t change the good things about me that I love, just because another person doesn’t understand them. I don’t think you should either. I will do as I’ve always felt led to do. Which is, to spend my days lifting others up. On the days where it feels like I’m all alone in this, I hope to find a soul like mine that will take a moment to remind me of my reason why! I had someone say this to me when I called her all worked up over another’s opinion of me:

“First of all, why do these people have so much say over your life. Don’t let them have that power! You know what is right for you, do that and don’t let anyone steer you away!”

For those of you that I’ve observed this past week, let me speak some life into your situations.

My friend, you are beautiful just the way you are. If you aren’t happy and want to change your body, get moving. It’s never too late to make positive changes!

My sister, you have an amazing heart, I love that we have common ground in the fact that our hearts kind reach for the same things in life. Stop letting negative, gossipy people get you down. If you can remind me of this, then remember this truth for yourself in those times of anxiety!

My young friend who’s man doesn’t see your worth… I know it’s hard to finally choose what’s best for you. If you don’t stand up for yourself, who will? Only you truly know what your hearts desire is, chase that!

To the one in my life who struggles with being good enough…

I wish you could see yourself through my eyes. You are amazing, you are perfectly imperfect, you are enough! Please stop beating yourself up over situations that you can’t control.

Sometimes life brings around heartache and disappointment, but sometimes we bring it upon ourselves. Everywhere I look here lately I see pain. I’m over it… so if you’re a person in my life that considers me to be important in yours, please don’t tear me down. Talk to me openly and honestly, as I pride myself on being both of those things. I’m as real as they come. Take a look around yourself, maybe make a list of today’s blessings to help get you through tomorrow. Make steps to be ok right where you are.

I’m not really sure how to end this rambling, or whether it was worth sharing. I’ve spent a lot of time in my life crying of the actions of other people. I’m here to tell you it is no longer worth the tears. I spent a lot of time this past week with people that I consider to be “mine”. They make me laugh harder than I’ve ever laughed. I smiled until my face hurt! I know that I can call them at midnight if need be, and they will be there! I’m lucky to have quite a few of you like that. So if you’re for me, thank you! If you’re not a fan, I’ll no longer be apologetic for being me.

If my random, goofy, weirdness offends you… look the other way. If you need some sunshine in your life then I’ll be right here, being me!

Just take a deep breath, dust off your courage and find your fire!

I’ve had a couple of people ask me lately if I’m ok. Exactly how am I supposed to answer that question. Like, am I ok with what? The economy? The weather? The team roster for the 1964 Dodgers?

I guess the answer is yes and no… I can tell you that I’ve learned to be 100% ok with who I am. I’m happy with me! I’m talented, smart, funny, and I have a kind heart. I may not have supermodel looks, but honestly most people don’t. As the years have progressed, I’ve grown to kind of like the line of freckles that pop up across the bridge of my nose when I get a little sun. I can laugh at the way, that when I move my face just right, my chins make me look like Chris Farley. When I cry my eyes turn the brightest shade of blue. I’m loyal to a fault. I’m really great at sensing the needs of those around me, and then meeting said needs. Don’t laugh, but one of my most favorite things about myself is that I’m super weird y’all. I tend to make every situation awkward… ALL. DAY. LONG.

This little montage of items is not to “toot my own horn”, it’s simply to show that I’m comfortable in my own skin. I know myself better than anyone else, and you know what? I think I’m kinda cool!

Let me be completely honest here for a minute, I’m the past few years I’ve learned some very hard lessons about life. One of the worst situations I’ve dealt with in recent years, is when someone who I let get really close, turned out to be nothing like I expected. For that reason, I feel sometimes like I hold people at arms distance. The truth of the matter is, at some point almost every person in your life will fall short of what you expect of them. You can’t control someone else’s bad attitude. You can’t stop people from gossiping. Most of all you can’t make people who don’t love or appreciate you, well, love and appreciate you.

I say this with great trepidation, but occasionally you may need to give yourself some space. Take a step(or three) back from toxic people. Do some soul searching, and figure out what makes you happy. Stop fighting to transform someone else into being what you need, and be there for yourself. If they think you are worth it you will see them fighting alongside you, lifting you towards your goals, building a life with you in the center.

A good friend once told me, “Do what you feel you need to do, to sleep well at night.” So every day, I wake up and I spend the day emptying myself for those I love. There are days where I feel like I’m done, like I will never have anything more to give. Amazingly, morning comes and my soul is replenished. Just like the Dodgers recovered and won the World Series in 1965, I know my season of winning will come. They have played in 19 World Series, and only won 6. I believe there is wisdom to be found in this.

Life can get really hard. Sometimes there’s a shortage everywhere you turn, well except for bills. It may seem at times like you give so much of yourself, and get nothing in return. Fact is, no matter how hard you try, sometimes you are going to lose. The Dodgers lost about 70% of the time that they spent playing in World Series games. I can just imagine the excitement they felt when they were the winners. The good outweighed the bad enough that it kept them in the game.

I think we should all take a moment to ask ourselves, what is keeping us in the game? Make a list if you need to… I can wait.

I personally am setting some goals for myself as we speak. I have no intentions of sharing them with anyone around me. I’m setting them for me. I encourage all of you to be the same. Create some victories for yourself. Celebrate YOU for once. Find a way to get more peace in your soul. Separate yourself from people or things that dim your light.

Hailey and I read a book together last week called Lemonade Wars. This particular quote from the book stood out from the rest.

“People tell you things, Evan had told her once, with their hands and their faces and the way they stand. You gotta pay attention. You gotta watch for the things their saying, not with their words.”

I’m begging all of you reading this to start paying attention to the way you treat the people that love you. Do you take forget to be kind because you think they’ll always be there? What if you woke up tomorrow and they were gone from your life forever? We could all benefit from learning how to pay attention to our friends, family, and partners in life. If we tune ourselves to their needs, instead of our problems, maybe some of our problems would vanish.

I’ve seen so many people struggling here lately. It was hard to realize that I cannot fix every situation, most days I can’t even fix the situations in my own life. Stop being so hard on yourself, and instead remember all the things you have going for you. Set goals, let go of harmful situations and people who aren’t meant for you. Grow where you are and if you aren’t happy… figure out how to cultivate happiness right where you are. Stop trying to change everyone else, and change yourself. Work on YOU! After all, you are so worth it!

The Warrior Project Round 2

I don’t want to fix you, and I can’t heal you, but maybe I can help you see just how beautiful your broken is. Each cracked piece fits into the masterpiece of who you are right now. And, right now, I see a beautiful soul. -LK Pilgrim

I don’t want to fix you, and I can’t heal you, but maybe I can help you see just how beautiful your broken is. Each cracked piece fits into the masterpiece of who you are right now. And, right now, I see a beautiful soul. -LK Pilgrim

Many of you have been anticipating the second edition of “The Warrior Project” for quite some time.  This year the blog will be a little different.  Bailey started writing, and well to say the least, life got in the way.  We discussed it and decided that I will add the final touches.  My hope is that as my words mingle with those of another, something in them will inspire some of you to BE PRESENT and BE REAL.  That’s been my motto as of lately.  I’ll not apologize for any of the words you are about to read, they are honest, and I have pulled them as kindly as I can from a hurting heart. Early last week as I sat at my desk, I found myself shaking and upset at the way this project had somehow become a source of anxiety and sadness for the two of us.  While my head wants me to defend and be angry, my heart calls for me to let it go and be kind.

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As I was struggling with how to react, I happened to glance down at my left wrist. I have the words, “Love Them Anyway” inscribed as a constant reminder that my fellow humans are just as imperfect as I am.  The whole point of The Warrior Project is to bring together a group of the strongest most beautiful individuals we can find, in an effort to promote love, healing, and kindness.  A Whole LOT of time, effort, and expense was put into this event.  There are also alot of kind people who volunteer and help.  From Edg-Clif winery who has donated the space for two years now, to the local Hubs Pub that donated food, Bailey and I are grateful for all of the help and support.  I absolutely love seeing the heart of people like my BFF Connie, who made up little gift bags for each of the women.  We also had hair and make-up done all free of charge, for the second year in a row!

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We will start off with Bailey’s words and a little about each of our Warriors!

Another year, another amazing set of women.  I am always so humbled to hear these women’s stories, and find out what their passions are. What drives them? What scares them? What has changed them?  This round of warriors are made up of some women I have known for years, and some not at all.  Either way, I am proud to know them now and proud to call them friends.

DIANE MCKINLEY

My first warrior wasn’t able make it to our event, but that doesn’t make her any less deserving to be featured here.  The thing about Diane, is that she doesn’t realize how much of an impact she has on the people around her.  As a former teacher, she has touched so many lives.  I actually remember being jealous that I never had her as a teacher in school, because literally everyone talked about how much they loved her!  Diane became close with a warrior from last year, Kelly Griffin.  When Kelly passed away I know it was hard for her.  They would stay up late confiding in one another and sharing their doubts and fears.  I was just going back through mine and Diane’s older emails today, and I found some, where she was talking about Kelly.  Diane said, Kelly was a real warrior.  She wished she could trade places with her, so that Kelly would have more time with her family.  I instantly felt in my heart that she meant it.  I realized just how much we have in common, when I asked Diane what she loved about herself .

She said, “I love the way I love others. If that makes any sense. My heart is always open. I don’t judge. Everyone gets more than two chances with me. First time, I could have just been having a bad day. Second time, maybe you were having a bad day. As always, three times is a charm!”

Many times we shut people out because of the way they’ve hurt us.  We are unwilling, or unable to forgive.  This quote about the way Diane loves others will stick with me for the rest of my life.  The world really, really, really, needs more people like Diane.  I am so glad to know her.

LACI MCMINN

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Laci, Laci, Laci.  I don’t think I have ever met someone more likable!  On the day of our event she treated everyone like lifelong friends.  This is such an amazing character trait to have, and it speaks volumes for her business as well!  She runs an amazing boutique called The Mustard Seed Mercantile in Fredricktown, MO.  If you’ve never been, you are truly missing out!  Laci is inspired by everything around her, spoken like a true artist.  When I asked her what drives her, she had what is probably one of my most favorite answers.

“I drive myself.”  YAS QUEEN.  She says, “I hold on strong to the fact that God made me the way I am because he has a huge plan for my life.  I know my heart, I know my intentions. I won’t stop at life until what I feel on the inside, shows on the outside.”

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One of the big things I love about this project is learning more about someone I already adore.  Laci shared with me the struggles of being a teenage single mother.  I completely relate to that, but I could not imagine doing it at 15 and then again at 17.  THIS. GIRL.  She is the definition of BOSS LADY.  Not only is she a business owner, a wife, and mother of four…  but her large family sold their home and recently built and moved into a tiny house.  This girl is not slowing down, and I will constantly be cheering her on in everything she does!

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Bailey’s description of Laci could not be more spot on!  I can’t help but add a little take away of my own.  I didn’t know her before that day at the winery.  My first impression was FIRE!  I literally thought to myself, This girl is fire and light! Her love for CHEESE is what pushed me over the edge though.

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Man she reminds me of myself, or who I’m striving to be!  She is not afraid to be just who she is.  I heard a quote the other day, and I couldn’t help but think of her.

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“You are so very much yourself, you don’t even have to try.”

MEGAN PRUITT

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I have known Megan for too many years to count.  I’ve had sleepovers with her, We’ve snuck out to parties together, and  gotten grounded together.  I remember many nights falling asleep while listening to her talk on the phone to her boyfriend, even after her mom said to get off the phone.  (SORRY TINA!).  I recall fighting with her and making up, and fighting and making up.  I remember when she met her husband, I could tell it was forever. She had met her match!

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Sometime after that, life got too busy, and our friendship faded.  She got married and then pregnant, all the while I cheered her on from afar.  When Logan was born, I couldn’t stop myself from reaching out.  He was born at 24 weeks, and spent 108 days in the NICU.  For almost four months, Megan had to drive to see her baby in the hospital.  While most moms are posting their babies first laughs on Facebook, little Logan was fighting to survive.  Every photo I see of him brings a smile to my face, and I could not be more happy for their family.  I asked Megan what she was most proud her response was breathtaking.

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“I am most proud of how much my experience with my own child has changed me. The NICU has made me a more understanding person, a more positive person, a person that realizes anything is possible, and honestly probably a better mother.  It makes me realize that my kid is so strong.  He fought so hard to be where he is today, and I can fight just as hard to make the rest of his life the best it can possibly be no matter what obstacles we have to get through.”

Logan is doing great with no serious health issues, and he has an amazing momma behind him supporting him on every step he takes!

MADISON SMITH

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Let me paint a picture for you. It is year 2001.  I’m a fourth grader in Mrs French’s class.  I am on the verge of crying.  A boy in our class was teasing me about believing in Santa Claus.  I’m the type of person who cries when I’m mad.  Just before the first tear falls Madison spins around and tells him to “zip it” and he did.

Madison has a way of making everyone around her happy.  She is truly one of the best human beings I know.  I knew, even years ago, that she would do something really cool and meaningful with her life.  I wasn’t wrong.  She currently works at Marygrove (a children’s residential facility that works with kids that have behavioral and psychiatric issues).  I had no idea how tough the road was to get her there, though.

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After high school Madison went to a university to play golf, not yet realizing a four year college just wasn’t for her.  “Then at the beginning of my junior year, my grandpa passed away, and it was really hard being away from home. I was already struggling with what I wanted to do and had already switched my major. I took some education classes, because I knew I wanted to work with kids and that felt like the only way I could. But, it still just didn’t feel like the right fit for me. So… I decided to drop out. I stayed in Kansas City, got a job at Target and didn’t tell anyone for a long time. I was too embarrassed to even bring it up. That wasn’t supposed to be my plan, and I was so concerned with disappointing everyone that I just kept it hidden.  After lots of tears and conversations with my awesome parents I found my place at Marygrove.”

Seeing Madison doing something she loves and making a difference at the same time is truly remarkable.

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“I truly found my happy place working with these kids who are going through SO much at such a young age. I have met some of the very best people while working there and I wouldn’t trade my little hiccup in life for anything in the world. I learned so much about myself in that time and looking back it was just the crazy path that led me to where I am now.”

Honestly, Madison you deserve all the happiness in the world, and those kids are lucky to have you!

PAULA DOUGLASS

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A literal joy.  You cannot be around her and not feel happy.  In this world we live in, that is SO important!  Paula inspires me all the time.  She is kind, funny, and beautiful inside and out.  I cannot imagine the struggles a trans woman may face in life, especially in a town of this size.  Paula is a true warrior, going to battle for herself daily.  Some of the struggles Paula’s has dealt with in the last year include mental harassment at work which lead to an early retirement, being evicted from her home of 16 years due to her gender change, being robbed of family heirlooms and many other things, depression, and the list goes on.

All of this stuff Paula has been through and I had no idea.  Do you know why?  Because she lights up any room she is in!  Paula is a perfect example of why we should just be kind to one another, because you just never know what someone is going through.  She is incredibly kind, and I love talking to her.  She is also a killer musician.  Paula thought she would have to give up music when she transitioned.  The summer of 2016, she announced that she would be retiring from music at the end of the year.

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“In November of 2016, I notified my work of my plans to transition to full-time female after the first of the year, and on a December 19, I legally changed my name, a week later my gender was legally changed and my lifelong career as a musician was over — Or so I thought.”

Turns out Paula had a friend who wasn’t going to let her give up just yet.  On Christmas Eve that year, another local musician messaged her.  He was inviting her over to play music at his family’s house!  Once she got there she shocked to see the entire family was there!  Instead of walking out she simply picked up a guitar.

“But to my surprise instead of eye rolls and disdain, I got cheers and applause. Most importantly to me was that throughout the evening, they continued to address me using my new legal name and gender pronouns conforming to my new gender identity.  Apparently it didn’t matter that some of them knew me before, and it also apparently didn’t matter that I didn’t talk or sing in a typical female voice. They still respected me enough as a person, and as a musician to also respect me as the female that I am.  At the end of the wonderful night the ladies hugged me bye, but to my delight, so did the guys.  They hugged me bye just as they would any other woman and I was floored.”

She said she left in the wee hours of Christmas morning with a new light burning in her soul.

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“A light that made me realize that I don’t have to hide one part of who I am in order to unhide the other part of who I am.  That’s not progress at all.  That’s a compromise that still involves hiding, and I’m done hiding.”

APRIL BYRD

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The older sister I never knew I needed.  She taught me so much from a young age.  Although she is my aunt Crystal’s best friends, I think of her as one of mine too.  She and Crystal lived my family during their high school years.  We fought, we played Barbies, we even shared a bed.  Four girls in one room!  Crazy isn’t it?  I wouldn’t change a second of that part of my childhood.  She is a true role model, and I have admired her for years.  I have seen her overcome so many things. Last year it was the death of both of her brothers.

“My dad passed exactly a year before them. All drug addicts, but still took its toll. I had subconsciously pushed down thoughts of them and felt like I’d mourned their deaths long before they actually passed because I disconnected myself due to their poor choices. But when they died, and in such a short time frame, it was heart shattering. You share a bond with your siblings that’s unlike any other. To have that gone forever is devastating.”

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She also graduated in May with her second master’s degree!  She says she hopes to get her doctorate.

“Growing up I had a  lot of turmoil.”  She says.  “I had the support from great people (your mom and dad) and some wonderful teachers along the way. One day I realized that I wanted to be one of those teachers who shows kids it’s not your circumstances that define you…it’s the choice every day to work hard. From the shy little girl receiving free lunches to what I’ve accomplished today makes me proud!”

I have loved every second of watching her succeed.  I remember being a little girl and hearing her cry over a boy who broke her heart.  I was too young understand heartbreak, but I knew I hated seeing her upset.

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Since then I have watched her become a wife to the man of her dreams, and an amazing mother to two of the most beautiful little girls.  We were even pregnant together!  Our girls are exactly a month apart!  I have seen her crush her career and education goals, and this year I watched her accomplish her fitness goals as well by losing over 50 pounds!!!   I’m so, so grateful, to know her and call her family.  Even if we don’t share the same blood, we shared the same bed so that counts right?

Mandy Blanks

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Mandy is one of the women, that I didn’t know until the day of the warrior project.  She is a great part of our community.  Her love for teaching our towns children to dance is inspiring to say the least.   Reading her story, she talks about finding her own inspiration from grandparents who were able to succeed in life without a high school or college education.

“They taught me so much about life, business, family, love, and most importantly God.”

Her story tells of being born out of wedlock, a biological father who was never there.  Her mom married twice and divorced, before finding a man who in Mandy’s words, “treated her mother and the girls like they were his own.”    At 29 years old, after a wonderful 4 years of courtship, Mandy finally had the privilege of marrying the love of her life Ray.  She talks about how he was her biggest encourager to chase her dreams.  He was there for her through the good and the bad.  Mandy says she was devastated when she found out her grandma’s cancer had returned.

“I remember crying so hard because my memom is a fighter, and she absolutely loved life.”

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While Ray held and comforted her through the hardest of situations, he reminded her that dying was a part of life.  While no one is eager to face us, someday each of us will stand on it’s precipice.  Mandy didn’t make it through the mourning of one of her most favorite people, before she was faced with another.  Ray passed away 7 days after her grandma.

“About 8:55 they came out and said there was nothing more they could do.  I remember thinking to myself, no, and really this can’t be real.”

Through unimaginable heartache, Mandy has risen above.  She has had an incredible weight loss journey, and truly glows with beauty and grace.  She told us how one of her best days was the day she gave her life to Jesus.

When Bailey asked her about herself, she described a person that all of us should strive to be.

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“I love people. I love giving. I love making people smile and happy, no matter children or adults.  It gives me great joy to brighten someone’s day.  Giving a gift means more to me than receiving one.  I am proud to be a daughter, sister, granddaughter, aunt, and once a wife.  I am proud of that some of my goals were reached.  I am proud that through my pain and suffering, heartache and grief, that I keep going.  I choose not to give up.  I know my memom and Ray would want me to keep pushing forward and enjoy life to the fullest.”

Not a single word written by my hands can take away her pain, or make the situations different.  The Warrior Project was meant to bring all of us together as fellow women, sisters if you will.  Hopefully, to encourage and lift each other up.  To be inspired by each others stories, as I am by Mandy’s.  YOU madam, are a true warrior!

BREE ALLEN

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Possibly the kindest person you could ever meet.  When I told one of my friends (who happened to work with Bree) that Bree was one of my warriors this year, she went on and on about what an amazing person Bree was.  She is loved by everyone who knows her.  So when Bree was diagnosed with Non Hodgkin Large Diffuse B Cell Lymphoma (fancy words for cancer) our community and her friends and family were shocked and scared.  Bree says she hated the thought of scaring her family or hurting them in any way.

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“We didn’t know what stage it was or what to expect so it was incredibly scary. The next day I went to my oncologist with my husband, my three kids, my mom, my dad, and my stepmom. He told us what kind of cancer I had and the kind of treatments and side effects I could expect. He said I would need chemo and radiation and I would for sure be losing my hair. The amount of each treatment depended on the stage. The next day I went for a bone marrow test and a pet scan to determine the stage. A couple of days later we got the news that it was stage 1. That was the best news we could have asked for.”

Even so, it can take a toll.  Luckily Bree had an amazing support system by her side including her husband Larry who she says is her biggest inspiration.

“The next week I had my first round of chemo. Two days after that I had my first battle of days of sickness from treatment. Then 13 days after that my hair started to fall out.  A couple of days after that I only had a few patches of hair left. That night my husband came home and helped me shave my head all the way as I cried. He told me how beautiful I was and hugged me forever and told me that it was ok. It would grow back. Everyday after that he made sure to make me feel loved and beautiful even though I was bald!”

Seeing her kick cancer’s ass was so inspirational.  She truly went about her fight with such humility and grace.

“Stage 1 was a hard battle. It was a big fight. It was so tough, and it breaks my heart knowing that so many people have to fight and battle this horrible disease for a lot longer than I did and some don’t ever get to close that chapter.  From the very first moment I found out I had cancer I had so many people reach out to me through Facebook, messenger, and text messages to show me support. I was blown away! From that day forward the support I received from our community and my friends and family was absolutely amazing. They inspired me to be strong even on my darkest days… and there are many dark days when battling cancer. Their support touched me deeply. I will strive to reach out and help others the way so many stepped up to help me.”

SARAH TROKEY

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My sweet friend.  Someone I can call anytime and she helps me in any way she can.  I will never not appreciate her friendship.  I admire her for so many reasons.  When I asked her about what inspires her I realized how alike we are…

“I look for inspiration in as much as possible. The innocence of a child, the wisdom of an elderly person, the beauty of nature and God’s creation, the positivity and drive of those around me.”

Her heart is so full of love and understanding.  Not many people could lose their mother and remain so open hearted and still have a smile to share.  After watching her mom battle cancer Sarah said, “Seeing the strongest woman I’ve ever met become so physically weak and helpless. It broke my heart but I knew God designed us to be able to withstand losing our parents so I kept that in my mind and heart and had to move forward.”

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I truly believe her mother’s spirit is with her all the time.  She is watching her grandson from up above smiling from ear to ear.  And I know she would be so insanely proud of her little girl.

Reading Bailey’s blurb about Sarah, made me think of one of the first times I met her.  I was in the middle of what became a divorce.  I had spent months fighting anxiety and depression.  Finally I decided to go to the doctor.  I made an appointment with my nurse practitioner.  The Doctor came in and asked if she could bring in someone who was shadowing her.  I agreed and in walked Sarah.  I didn’t know her at the time, but she was a great friend of my sisters.  My sister who knew nothing about what I was going through, and I wasn’t ready to tell.  I think Sarah must’ve seen the look of utter disappointment on my face when I recognized her.  I remember whispering, “Please don’t tell my sister.”  She sat with me and promised that even if she wanted to she couldn’t and wouldn’t say a word to anyone.

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She spent several minutes assuring me that things would get better.  All I can say is she has a calming way about her.  Almost like you can feel the peace that flows from within her.  It might sound cheesy, but she just has this way about her, that makes you feel like you are surrounded by gentle loving kindness.

ANN DECLUE

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Bailey had already finished almost all of the bios when we decided that I was going to complete this years blog.     She said, “You can do Ann’s, you can really relate to her story.”  After reading the words that Ann sent in response to Bailey’s questions, I found myself thinking that my story and I stand no comparison to Ann and hers.

From the very first line of her very well crafted answer, she doesn’t speak of herself or what she’s been through.  She leads with pointing us in the direction of Jesus.

“Looking back, I see how much God was there in my life, even when I wasn’t searching, even when I didn’t feel it.”

She goes on to describe how God created each and every one of us right down to our distinct DNA.  Not one single person is exactly the same.  She tells of a God who gives us free will, instead of forcing us to serve him.  Ann reminds us that we are not perfect, and sometimes our own desires lead us down roads that He never intended for us to travel, He still loves us right in the middle of our imperfect choices.

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“Even though He designed us perfectly according to His will, He did not design us to save ourselves.  He sent us a Savior, His own Son, to bear the weight and punishment of our mistakes.  If we choose to ask God to forgive us, turn away from our sinful behaviors, and put our trust in Jesus, we will never perish but live in eternity with our merciful Creator and beautiful Savior.

The day we held the photo shoot for the warrior project was a wonderful day to celebrate, but 17 years back from that day, Ann was having a D&C for her first miscarriage.  She talks about how losing the baby was like a loss of innocence.  The decisions leading up to the pregnancy, led her to drop out of college and give up a basketball scholarship to be a mother.  The loss of the baby left her feeling crushed.  Ann stated that she let others “uneducated opinions” about her situation define her for too long.  As bitterness grew in her heart, she put on a façade to hide what she was really feeling.  Through it all she clung to a scripture she found in a bible she received as a gift from her Gram.

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“Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.  Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.  Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from old.  Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways, according to your love remember me, for you, Lord, are good.”

Ann’s story didn’t stop there.  God brought healing, and Chad.  I chuckle to myself because I know Chad.  He is one of the most soft-spoken, kind hearted people I’ve ever met.  I can just picture Ann trying to avoid a relationship with Chad, but God had other plans for them.  They eventually married, and had Peyton, about 11 months after.  She talks about how a few years later, they were expecting again.  A week before her first appointment with her doctor, she suffered her second miscarriage.  Reading what she wrote about that time exactly parallels a chapter in my life.

“The world tends to not see the heartache associated with pregnancy loss.  It is hard to justify that you actually lost a child, when the world wants you to believe it is just a clump of cells that you can choose to throw away.”

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A few years passed and the Declue’s found out Ann was expecting once again, but soon discovered it was what’s called a molar pregnancy.  After the loss of this third child, she had to have cancer screenings for a whole year to make sure her health was intact.  She gained strength during this time from many friends and family members, who reached out to her via social media.  It inspired her to be open and honest about her experiences.

When Peyton was 6 years old, news came that Ann was pregnant again.  She talks about how fear kept them quiet for the first 13 weeks.  When they went to the doctor to find out the baby’s gender, which was also their 8th wedding anniversary, they found that there was no heartbeat.  Being 15 weeks along, Ann was going to have to deliver the stillborn baby.

“We walked away from the hospital with empty arms and a broken heart.”

Having lived through the pain and disappointment of miscarriage myself, I still cannot begin to imagine facing this four times.  Still she has found beauty even within ashes.  Ann’s story is a song of love for her Creator.  Even after all of the pain she’s faced, she never once hesitated to point all of us directly to Jesus.

“This is apart of my story.  This is apart of our story.  If our story can help others, then praise God!  In the words of Big Daddy Weave, to tell you my story is to tell of Him.”

KATELYNN SCOTT
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Last year, Katelynn’s sister Kelly, was a warrior.  Literally.  Yes, she was one of the “warriors” for this project, but she was LITERALLY a warrior.  She fought cancer so hard, and although she is no longer here on earth, she will always be  one of the strongest women I have ever met.  Kate spent the whole last year running around like crazy!  Helping me, helping her sister.  Sweating her butt off, driving us around, rolling around on the ground releasing balloons so she wouldn’t be in the photos.  She even took my camera and got some amazing behind the scenes shots of me with the women.  I cannot applaud her enough.  She never one time thought of anything other than “how can I help?”
This girl was such an easy choice.  She is a ray of sunshine and my sides hurt from laughing every time I am around her!
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She is the light that Ella needs, and I know Kelly is proud of everything Katelyn does for her little girl!  I included a picture where she is fixing Ella’s necklace because, I don’t know..in that moment my heart just went out to them both.  Kelly knew, Katelynn would be what Ella needed.  I knew that losing Kelly was hard on Kate, but my mind didn’t even think of the days and weeks leading up to her passing.  Katelynn was a single mother working a full time job, trying to be strong for everyone.  Being the aunt Ella needed, being the mom Harper needed, being there for her parents, and of course for Kelly.  I cannot fathom trying to juggle all of that, and Katelynn handled it all like a true warrior.  She also said something that really resonated with me… she was telling me about her “worst day” and she said it wasn’t the day her sister died because all of her suffering was finally over and she knew she was in paradise.  For Kate, it was the day they learned the cancer had returned and it was terminal.  While she was happy about how many people were there to support her sister she said she thought,
“How about we learn to love people when they are well….be there for those who need you BEFORE they get an awful diagnosis.” 
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Those words have stuck with me.  “I had trouble putting into words what an inspiration Kelly was and how hard she fought.  She kept pushing through and trying to live everyday to the fullest, accomplishing all things and planning her departure to prepare us all the best she could.”
I hope Katelynn knows that her sister was proud of her, and she is truly one in a million.

SARAH & LEIGHTON VOLNER

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One of the main reasons this project has taken so long to get out was because of these two lovely girls. They just truly mean so much to me, and I have had trouble finding the right words to put out there. You don’t think of the word “warrior” and not think of Leighton.

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This feisty six year old, with Cystic Fibrosis and her warrior of a mother flew from Florida for our event, and I was so humbled. I’ve gotten a lot closer to Sarah this last year, and she is just the best person to have as a friend. Someone who is always in your corner, rooting for you, praying for you. Sarah is an outstanding mother to three gorgeous kids. I keep thinking about how in my eyes she is “super human”, like the closest thing to a super hero I can think of. Not just because she is an amazing mom, but because of all the adversities she has faced and overcame. To be a victim of rape, who fought in court to see that justice was served, not many women can go through that and come out with such great strength. Then to be able carry on and be a teenage bride, and a young mother, First to Madisson, then Devon, and finally Leighton.

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Madisson opened my eyes to a mothers Selfless nature. She changed our lives forever in ways words can’t describe. When Devon was born. I went through my pregnancy terrified and worried that I couldn’t possibly give him as much love as I was giving his sister. Boy, was I wrong there. I learned the definition of the meaning, ‘a mothers love is infinite’.”

When Leighton came along, she truly completed their family. I remember the joy of holding my own daughter. I remember that perfect smell, her soft skin. Everything. I now know how strong a mother’s love is. This is why Sarah and Leighton will always be held dear in my heart. I have tried to imagine what it must have been like to hear that your perfect baby that owns your entire heart and soul, isn’t healthy….. it physically hurts my heart.

“The day and weeks within Leighton’s birth and diagnoses. Those weeks started with such overwhelming joy, then suddenly were filled with Fear, Anxiety, Heartbreak. Processing that mix of emotions was thus far the most difficult of all situations I’ve faced. Like I said earlier, I am a fixer, this I couldn’t fix. That consumed me heavily that first year.”

Leighton is the youngest person I know to have impacted so many people the way she has. If you know this little girl, then she has touched your heart. She is fearless, magnificent, joyful, silly, resilient, brave, persistent, caring, hilarious, and a warrior through and through. To know her, is to love her. She danced in the rain with a pure heart and taught everyone that day a lesson in turning rain into rainbows.

Honestly, I wasn’t planning on adding to Baileys bio of Sarah and Leighton because I may be a little biased where they are concerned.  While a lot of times Cystic Fibrosis demands Sarah’s attention, I’ve never once seen her neglect a need of anyone around her.  Friend, family, or stranger, everyone is loved equally.  When I was destroyed by betrayal, divorce, and well LIFE in general, she picked me up.  She lifted me up, offered a place to stay for months without question, and a little tough love when needed.  I see her doing the same process with others in her life on the daily.  Living in the Volner household, Leighton would sneak into my room in the mornings and snuggle.  I remember one night in particular, she wiggled into my bed and whispered “I love you”.  She would find me around the house and randomly say, “we need to pray.”  At a time when I didn’t have any words to pray, she would step in at 4 or 5 years old and somehow know just what to say to God.  I love that kid, and the rest of her family like they are my own!  She reminds me that there is good in the world, and makes me want to be a part of it.  I also totally agree with Baileys earlier statement.

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“To know her is to love her.  She danced in the rain with a pure heart and taught everyone that day a lesson in turning rain into rainbows.”

ELLA GRIFFIN
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As a mother to my own little girl…  I think my only way to get this out to just say this to directly to Ella.
Ella,
When I, (and many others) look at you, we see the same light that was inside your mom.  Not only are you a spitting image of her physically, but also in your character.  You have the same heart, mind, and soul.  I know everyone tells you how much she loved you, and how much she wished she could see you grow up.  I know you get to hear that, and I am so glad.  I wanted to tell you that too, but I also wanted to tell you that when you were born… your mom spent hours just looking at the perfect thing she created.  I know this because I’ve never met a mom who says differently.  She let your tiny hand grasp her fingers, she gladly accepted slobbery kisses, she wiped away your tears, and sometimes she felt like her heart could burst open with the happiness you put there.  It doesn’t feel like enough to say that she loved you, love isn’t a strong enough word.
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Seeing you dance in the rain and jump into puddles truly changed my mindset and my own outlook on life.  I pray that you remain a carefree, free spirit.  I pray that when you need guidance, you will find it.  I pray that you will find signs sent by your mother anytime you need them, and even sometimes when you don’t.  Just know that while you are carrying your mommy around in your heart, she is always with you.  I see her every time your smile lights up the room, because hers did too.  I hear her every time you laugh, and I feel her walking with you every step you take.  May you live your life to the very fullest, and be in love with every breath you take.  And remember that so many of us are here for you always.
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I don’t think Bailey knew as she was writing this, that Kelly LOVED Leighton.  Kelly would mail Leighton little gifts and letters.  One of Kelly’s wishes was to see Ella and Leighton meet someday.  I know she was here with us every step of the way during this years warrior project.  As the littles were dancing in the rain on an old gravel road, I can just picture Ella’s mommy dancing right along with them on streets of gold.
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Bailey Self

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When I mentioned to Bailey that I’d like to include her as one of the women in the warrior project, she wasn’t thrilled.  Honestly, not very many people actually enjoy talking about themselves.  I had to drag the answers out of her.  She told me that her favorite thing about herself is her ability to see the good in others.  Although, it has also made her very naïve in the past, she tries to keep a positive outlook on life.  She forgives easily and refuses to live with bitterness in her heart.

She says, “I want Avery to see that you don’t have to hate the ones who hurt you, and it doesn’t make you weak by accepting the apologies you may never receive.”

Bailey and I, our stories, have at times taken a very similar path.  We have both loved many times without receiving that love we so desire in return.  When I was going through the hardest time in my life, she had already been there.  She was able to say, “this is perfectly normal” or ” it WILL get better.”  It was a comfort to know she had faced and overcame just what I was struggling with.  I’m sad to say that I knew nothing of her struggles the past 6 months or so.  She has been going through a place that I was in before her, and I was not there to help.

“I’ve had many heartbreaks, within my family, within my personal life, and to many people I love.  All of it hurts.  I’ve been unable to get out of bed. I’ve been to the ER for anxiety attacks.  My mom has been afraid to go to sleep because I could not calm down.  I’ve seen the family I pictured in my head get torn in half before we were ever whole.  None of that seems like anything though in the grand scheme of things.  I have always known that time heals.  Even in those times that I didn’t think I could go on, I knew deep down that I would be okay.”

I’m forever grateful that my sister had you, even though I didn’t like you for the first 4 years.  My heart hurts when yours does, and I rejoice in your successes.  It’s kind of a weird situation because I love you like a sister, but I have the urge to protect you like a fierce mama bear.  Your beauty astounds me, and you are worth so much more than you give yourself credit for.

THE NEVERENDING STORY

Really… I promise there is an end.  It’s a hard one to write because I want to leave you all inspired by the stories you have read.  Of all the things I could write about I just keep coming back to a conversation about shoes that I had a few days ago.

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I was talking to Sarah and I said, “Ann always has the fanciest shoes.” She laughed out loud and said, “Ann’s shoes are always falling apart. She has really good taste but she wears them for years until they are broken.”

I thought, hmm… guess I never looked that closely.  They always look perfect to me.  I see her fancy footwear and tend to look down at my flip flops housing my unpainted toes in shame.  Here I go once again, comparing myself to Ann.  I actually sent her a message tonight asking how she feels about the way we, as women, are constantly compared to each other.  In looks, in love, in heartache, someone is always comparing.  Her answer was spot on:

“I can’t worry about the world’s standards; if I did than I would never be enough. Comparison is a scheme of the devil, keeping us from fulfilling God’s purpose for us. A bee cannot be a butterfly, both can pollenate but only one can make honey. God did not create us differently or allow different situations to happen so we can go and make others feel worse about themselves. He sees beauty in our hearts. He shows us His perfect love. He knows every tear we have shed. I don’t have to buy into justifying myself to anyone. I can be myself and use the good, the bad and the ugly to help others and serve God.”

The point is, we may never get close enough to see when someone, or their shoes are falling apart.  A person may seemingly have a perfect life, but sometimes behind a pretty smile is unimaginable pain.  Why not be the person that lifts someone else up out of the muck, and says, “hey I’m right here, you’re not alone.”

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Bailey and I are undecided as to whether “The Warrior Project” will continue next year.  After reading everyone’s stories, I can truly say that I hope we find a way to carry the spirit of the project into next year, and many years to come.

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I still remember, when thirty was old….

I like to think of myself as not much past thirty, but if I were a clock I’d be half past the hour. If I were a wave in the ocean I’d be halfway to the shore. If I were on the Oregon trail I’d have most likely died of dysentery by now….

Let’s have a moment of honesty here, if you didn’t get that Oregon trail reference, you still think thirty is old.

I can remember being a kid, and summer seemed to last forever. My little brother and I would spend hours outside playing in the dirt, riding our bikes, and pretending to be famous baseball players. We didn’t have much to worry about. Today it’s seems that every which way I turn, something bad or worrisome meets me at the pass. Time flies, I find myself living for the weekend, and the weekend is always over before I know it. There are so many things I want to do in life and I constantly feel like I’m running out of time.

It’s so easy to get sidelined by the bad in our life that we miss the good. We let our hearts get distracted, we lose our hope. We stop reaching for our dreams and settle for just making it through another day. I don’t want to merely exist. I want to be the person who’s excitement for life, lights a fire on the inside of those all around. I want to be someone you call when you had a bad day and you need to smile.

I want to be a Petoskey stone to the world. Maybe you’ve never heard of this stone… the name Petoskey is derived from the Native American word “Bidasiga” meaning rays of the living sun. Funny how my faith tells me to be a light to the world, and just as I’m writing this I stumble across the Petoskey stone. I hope you all realize I will be digging through our flower bed to see if any of the stones we brought home from our trip to Lake Michigan last year are Petoskeys.

The older I get the more I realize how unimportant it is to own a bunch of things that we must work our lives away to pay for. I’ve truly come to recognize the value of little things such as a great cup of coffee and conversation with a good friend. Watching these kids that have wiggled their way deep into my heart become just a little like me is one of the little big things.

Life can change in the twinkle of an eye. It’s not always expected, and it’s not always pleasant. There have been times in my life that I’ve felt so close to God that nothing could shake my faith. Other times it’s like no matter how hard I try, I can’t find that unshakable strength.

Job 33:14 “For God speaks in many ways, we just don’t perceive it.”

I believe there are seasons in life, relationships, and in our faith. Not every season will be a walk in the park; but there is beauty to be found in every season. With age comes experience, and from experience we are molded into the people we are meant to be. They say (not sure who they are), age is just a number. My age means so much more than a number of years. It’s millions of experiences, great losses, belly laughs, unimaginable heartache, learning how to be happy right where I am, and so much more than I could ever list out for y’all. You have to take the good times and the bad, and make the best of both! Some people will leave you, some will show up and stick around for your whole life. I guarantee there will be heartache, but I pray that it will always be softened by your own personal Petoskey stone. My friends we are not old, we are just ripening up!

None of us are getting out of here alive. So please stop treating yourself like an afterthought. Eat the delicious food. Walk in the sunshine. Jump in the Ocean. Say the truth that you’re carrying in your heart like hidden treasure. Be silly. Be kind. Be weird. There’s no time for anything else!” -Keanu Reeves

None of us are getting out of here alive. So please stop treating yourself like an afterthought. Eat the delicious food. Walk in the sunshine. Jump in the Ocean. Say the truth that you’re carrying in your heart like hidden treasure. Be silly. Be kind. Be weird. There’s no time for anything else!” -Keanu Reeves

Why (Adverb): For what reason or purpose.  

“Why did he do it?”

Synonyms: how come, for what reason, for what purpose, what for, to what end

Most of you who read my blog and know my story, probably know by now that I try to be as honest and transparent as possible.  Writing is one of the things that helped me get through the absolute hardest time of my life thus far.  Let’s just take a moment to appreciate the fact that I am THROUGH that season! My heart is healed! Can I get a WOOHOOOOO from the crowd?

Insert happy dance here!!!

Some of you may have heard by now that Frankie and I are taking steps to better our lives, and provide financial security for our family’s future.  One of the first steps that was asked of us, is to provide our reason(s) “why”.  I’ll get to those in a bit, but first I’d like to take a second and just picture out what the perfect life would look like for me.

When I was 15 years old, I wanted to  move to California, go to college and be a famous singer.  By the time 17 rolled around, I thought I might like to go to cosmetology school.  At 18, I got married.

My dreams were replaced by life.  They were pushed to the side, and I lost myself in another person.

By year 33, I was well on my way to being unexpectedly single.  If I had to come up with a word of phrase to describe myself at that time, I would say I was completely and utterly destroyed.  During those long and trying months, I looked at the word destroy as meaning defeated.  Now I can sit here today, looking back and seeing how the destruction transformed me.  I find myself thankful even for that season of my life.

1 Thessalonians 5:18- “In all things give thanks to the Lord.”

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in life, that we forget about our dreams.  Whether it be debt, working at a job you don’t love, raising a family, divorce, sickness….  I could go on all day about things that distract us from our life’s true purpose.  The point is that occasionally the chance at your dreams, it circles back around.  If I were to ask you today what you imagine your life would look like a year from now, could you picture it?  Would you picture it the same as today? Same old routine, same old job.  Working your entire life at a job, to help support someone else’s dream.

If that’s the case, either:

A) your life is perfect and doesn’t need to change 

or

B) you might have forgotten how to dream

My picture would look a little something like this…

I’m a wife, and bonus(step) mom.  I am a published, world renowned author. I am financially stable and don’t have to worry about living paycheck to paycheck.  We travel frequently for pleasure, but also we travel to spread kindness and love around the world.  It may sound cheesy, or like I have hippie tendencies, but this is my dream.  In my future we have time to spend a whole day just being silly with the kids, and we do this right smack dab in the middle of the week, not being forced to wait until the weekend.  If there is a field trip at school, I have the freedom to go.  I don’t have to miss out on everything. I see us succeeding in this new company, not by some magic strike it rich coincidence, but because we are desperate to reach our dreams.  I see myself standing on a stage in front of thousands of people, who for whatever reason are searching for something more.  I see myself sharing the fire in my heart with them.  I would tell them that fire didn’t come from money, or possessions.  It came from grace.  It came from deep inside a shattered heart, when there was only a sliver of light left.  You see the thing about light is, it only takes a tiny bit to chase away the darkness in life.  I see our family as being a bright spot for others, helping where we are needed without thinking twice about things like:

“If I give the homeless man twenty dollars, I can’t buy lunch today.”

“Ten dollars in gas will leave enough money in the bank to buy milk for breakfast.”

“I hope my car doesn’t break down, because we can’t afford the extra expense of having to repair/replace it.”

“What if I lose my job?”

At what point did we allow these phrases to become the norm?  We laugh when our pastor, or a friend, encourages us to use positive affirmations, because it makes us uncomfortable to repeat positive phrases.  Yet, every single day we repeat these negative affirmations of being broke, scared, lonely, anxiety filled, strugglers.  Which leads me to, my reason why.

Remember the definition of why from above.  What is my purpose?  There are people who live their whole life, and do not strive toward their purpose.  For me that purpose is multi-faceted.  For whatever reason, I was drawn into the lives of Hailey and Camden.  I had pretty much resigned myself to never being a parent.  Years back after the loss of a baby, I was too scared to try again.  Now I have the two of them, and I get the privilege of loving them with a mother’s heart.  Watching them grow and learn, while loving them unconditionally is my number one reason why.  I want to teach them how to truly live. I want them to learn how to strive for success for the right reasons.  Not because I want an 8 bedroom house on the beach,  to drive a fancy car and eat caviar every night, but simply to live a kind life and use my gain to lift up those around us.  I want to make the world around me a better place, and I am willing to do whatever it takes to reach that goal.

Of course, I want to drive a nice car, live at the beach, and wear pretty shoes.  Those things are not the force that propel me in the direction of my future.

You want to know what drives me?  The man who fell asleep on the couch next to me at 7:45 PM, because he was worn out from coaching his daughters softball team.  The excitement on the kids faces when I tell them we are going to do something fun.  Wanderlust.  A desire to see every single, beautiful inch of the world we live in.  Happiness.  The way that Frankie can make me laugh even when I want to hit him.

 “Smile at each other. Smile at your wife, smile at your husband, smile at your children, smile at each other – it doesn’t matter who it is – and that will help to grow up in greater love for each other.” -Mother Teresa

 We have been struggling financially for a bit, but he always manages to keep a positive attitude.  Today we were talking about the reason why we want to succeed, and he said, ” I want to not have to worry about money, or when I will have the next chance to earn a paycheck. It keeps me awake at night worrying.” (Looks like that makes two of us)

Of course you know I just HAD to “poke the bear” so I said, “that can’t be the only reason.  Everyone says that!”

His response, “I want to give my kids everything.  Not in a way that they are spoiled rotten, but I want them to have a good life.”

Sitting here, next to him while he snores away in his recliner, I know that we are giving them the best life we possibly can right now.  Our house is filled with laughter and love.  Hopefully they learn from watching us how to be happy in any situation, but that it’s okay to strive for something more.  It’s easy to put off the hustle for another day.  It would be a piece of cake to dwell on a hurtful past.  As for me, I refuse to let fear keep me from doing one single thing that I dream of. If I don’t reach the dream, I have no one to blame but myself.  There will be people along the way who will push you to smash your goals.  There will also be those who mock, or doubt that you will ever amount to anything.  Those people, are not your people.  Don’t let them deter you from your dream, instead encourage them to reach for theirs.

So when you wake up tomorrow, what steps will you take to change the thing that is holding you back?  Will you make excuses?  Or will you stand up and take action? Don’t let the Negative Nancy’s of the world derail your train.  Seek God, work hard, pray fervently, have joy right where you are, and RUN passionately toward your dreams my friends! Find something exciting that lights a fire in your soul, and GO! DO THAT!

“‘When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,’ said Piglet at last, ‘What’s the first thing you say to yourself?’
‘What’s for breakfast?’ said Pooh. ‘What do you say, Piglet?’
‘I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?’ said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully. ‘It’s the same thing,’ he said.” -Winnie The Pooh

We look forward…

It’s been such a long time since I’ve had the time to sit and write for y’all.  Writing is one of the many things that brings me peace.  In case you haven’t noticed, usually exactly what I’m going through or thinking about, is exactly what get’s put on the page for all of you.  I’ve been so busy lately.  By the time I’m home from the office, make dinner, and do whatever else needs attention, I find myself too tired to think clearly.

The last few days I’ve found myself thinking about all the stuff we miss out on because we’re busy, or we getting ready for tomorrow.  I mean before today is over, I have to shower for tomorrow, make lunches for tomorrow, wash laundry for tomorrow, and hurry to get to sleep so we can wake up tomorrow and do it all again.  Seems like things are always about what’s happening tomorrow, or at some point in the future.  We’re waiting to be skinny enough to wear the bikini.  We can’t wait to hang out with friends this weekend.  Someday we will take a trip to the beach.  It’s great to have things to look forward to.

As a matter of fact, I am ecstatic that one of my very best friends is coming to visit this weekend.  I’m excited that myself and my niece are hosting an event this weekend to honor 14 women, who very much deserve the love that we have to offer.  I can’t wait to spend a week on the beach this summer.

Maybe what you’re waiting for is different than what I am anticipating.  My point is, we spend so much time looking forward that we miss today.  We miss out on blessings, and laughter, because we’re too busy wishing for the “next” big life event.  Tonight for example, we were busy cleaning the house for our weekend guests and we got a little visitor.  Camden and his mommy stopped by to deliver girl scout cookies.  I could’ve made myself too busy focused on my preparations for tomorrow, but instead I stopped for a few minutes.  I had a silly conversation with one of the great loves of my life.  I stuffed him full of cookies and can only hope he ran crazy circles around his mom’s house when they got home.  It was a rough day for me today, and that little break with Cam, was the best part of the day for me.  To think that I could’ve missed out on that, makes me a little bit sad.

“Hope but never expect.  Look forward but never wait.”

If you’re anything like me, looking forward means anticipating.  I get an idea, or a picture, in my head of just how I think things will go in my life.  Humor me for a second, and stop and picture exactly how you’re life will go.  At one time, my picture looked like a white “Pickett” fence kind of life.  The thing about pictures is that sometimes not everything is as it seems.  We as humans… sometimes we fail.  We fall.  We break.  We hurt people we are supposed to love.  We picture the perfect life, as a wife, a mother, and a friend.  What happens when we are no longer a wife, the chance to be a mother passes us up, and we find ourselves drowning in longing for a better life.  Moving forward is inevitable.  We(I) sometimes get so worried about what might happen, because of what HAS happened in my life.  When there’s nothing left for you to give, I sincerely hope that someone comes along in your life to remind you just who you are.  When the spark within you has burned low, I hope someone passes by and fans the flame in your heart.

“You have to stop thinking you’ll be stuck in you’re situation forever.  We feel like our heart will never heal or we’ll never get out of this impossible struggle.  Don’t confuse a season for a lifetime.  Even your trials have an expiration date.  You will grow, life will change, things will work out.”  -Brittney Moses

 

Look forward, but don’t wait.  Know that there is a future out there and good things are in it.  There are also a lot of bad things, sad things, and hard things coming your way.  Don’t trade off your weekdays waiting for the weekend.  There are going to be many more Mondays through Thursdays in your life than there will be weekends.  Instead of wishing the week away, play board games on Monday night with the kids.  Find someone you love, and just be happy in the now.  Don’t waste time worrying about how the relationship will develop.  You cannot control another person’s feelings.  You can’t force someone to be a good husband, boyfriend, friend.  The truth is, there will be friends that stick by your side for your whole life.  There will be people that you thought were friends, who rip your emotions open and leave you to pick up the pieces.  I’ve learned the hard way that with some people you can talk until you run out of words, and still find no common understanding.  I’m here to tell you, it is OK! 

“Not everyone will understand your journey.  That’s okay.  You’re here to live your life, not to make everyone understand.”

I heard a song this morning that talked about a person who felt like their faith was so small.  Something had occurred to damage their faith.  They were angry at God.  The song continued on to state that, even when their faith was so small that it was almost non-existent, the singer still knew that God was there.  I found myself crying like a baby on the drive to work.  Remembering a time when I prayed, and knew with certainty that God heard the prayer.  He definitely heard the prayer, but the answer wasn’t what I expected.  It took a good long while before I was able to pray with certainty again.  The very first time that I have prayed for something with expectancy, in a really long time was YESTERDAY y’all. Even as my lips were whispering the words, I was shocked to hear the prayer. As he lay sleeping in bed, I laid a hand on his back and I prayed.  The prayer itself is important to no one but myself and my God, but the process of coming back to faith is a circle.  Life events can cause us to draw back, or pause the process.  If we jumped forward to all the good times, we would miss out on thousands of connections and changes.  I have found that I appreciate the good all the more when it comes around now, in spite of the bad.  So while I cannot wait to spend my Saturday with a bunch of women, some of whom I will meet for the first time, some I’ve known almost my whole life, I’ll enjoy this Monday night watching Arrow on Netflix.  While I would LOVE to have a new last name someday, I’ll be just fine with the name I have for as long as I have it.  While I’ve lost some friends, because we don’t see eye to eye, I’ll not wish bad things for them.  I would even lift them up if given the chance.  For a while there, I almost lost myself, and my true purpose in life.  That purpose is so very simple.  

“If you want more kindness in the world put it there.”