We Are Strong. You Are Strong. I Am Strong.

My life was filled with abuse, betrayal, struggle, broken hearts, and lies.  I didn’t let it define me in a negative way.  I used my struggles to become the person I am today….I didn’t know at the time I was tough.  I never saw myself as strong.  I didn’t see myself as someone of any worth.  I was told by people all around me that I would never be anything or anyone.  I was told all the time that I wasn’t important, wasn’t worthy, and wouldn’t succeed.  Maybe their definition of success was wrong….because here I am now.  I’m strong….I had to find my strength, but I did.  I am worthy…..I am loved….and I help other people find that.  I’ve made mistakes, and I’ve taken wrong turns.  I’ve believed in people who never believed in me.  I have hit rock bottom. I found myself alone too many times because I believed what they all told me.  They were liars.  They were there to bring me down…..and they couldn’t.  It may have seemed at times that they did…..but I always got back up.  But not always by myself….there were many hands that reached down to pull me up to where I am today.  True people….with good hearts.  I’m here today….the person I am today….because of everything I went through in the past.  I let it define me….but only as someone who doesn’t let their struggles bring them down.  As a person who overcomes.

Don’t let your past define you in a negative way.  That is just too easy.  Use your past as inspiration to move forward stronger and wiser.

Katie.

Lift Each Other Up!

Women…..can be terrible.  We all know it.  Catty, jealous, mean, and sucky people.  It’s terrible to see….and I think to a point we are all guilty of it.  Whether you admit it or not…..to some degree….we all wish we could have what someone else has.  Have their lives, their successes, their looks, their drive, their everything.  We all look at each other and wish we had it…..and never look at what we do have….the thing other women are seeing in you.

I’m guilty of it.  Why can’t I be prettier, skinnier, more successful, more popular, have a clean house?  I have my faults….and that is what I see first in other people…..they have what I’m lacking.  Some people cannot get past that and want to drag that person down…make them lose so they can feel like a winner.  Women are terrible about that.

They can also be extremely supportive.  When you have people in your circle that love you, they want you to succeed no matter what.  They don’t sit at home wishing they were you….they celebrate by your side!  They cheer and tell the world how awesome you are!  I have been blessed with some AMAZING women in my life…..and today I want to talk about 3 of them that have not only blessed my life, inspired me to try harder.  They have done amazing thing…..truly amazing.  I have to say….they are nothing short of extraordinary.

Jamie

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This woman literally walked in New York Fashion Week!  I’ve known Jamie since the 5th grade.  We’ve known each other most of our lives, our families have somehow been involved over the years, and eventually we moved to the same city, working at the same place.  We weren’t close….but knew each other.  Until the day Jamie called me out of the blue to tell me she had breast cancer.  She knew I had gone through it years before and she needed to reach out to anyone who understood.  Our friendship grew from that day in to something amazing.  She is my sister….we get each other.  We are dorks, and it’s awesome.  She took what life handed her and turned it around.  She started her own company of natural products.  She sells to celebrities.  She puts herself out there with complete vulnerability and helps anyone who needs it. She supports, cheers, and lifts.  She is beautiful inside and out, and you can’t go wrong with her in your corner.  It would be easy to hate her….I mean…look at her!  She’s literally perfect.  Sometimes I feel horrible walking around with her.  But those are the demons getting to you, you know?  She is my best friend, pink sister, dorky partner in crime…..and I’m so extremely lucky to have her.

 

Amanda

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Amanda is a force to be reckoned with.  She is one of the most determined girls I have ever met.  She is quite literally the storm.  She was diagnosed with breast cancer at the same age I was….many years later.  She is like a little sister…..but I would never have wished this life for her.  She has since gone through 4 cancer reoccurances….and is metastatic.  Yet you would never know if you met her today.  She is the strongest person….she does not give up.  She takes care of her girls with energy that I don’t even have, and I’m not in any treatment!  She started a non-profit that brings joy to children going through cancer and life threatening illnesses at children’s hospitals….and was just recognized locally as a pay it forward person of the year.  She always finds a way to help another person, and you will never see her leave the house without looking like a freaking model.  I’m in relatively good health and I can’t find the energy to accomplish what she does…..and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little jealous of that determination! She is truly amazing and my life is better with her in it!

 

Denise

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Denise.  This is a hard one.  The day we lost Denise was the day something awoke in me….a fire that I’m sure she had been trying to start.  She was our local celebrity and champion for everything breast cancer.  She wanted everyone to have support, encouragement, needs met, and every medical option available.  She never slept….she was always putting events together, getting people to support them, and telling the world about them.  She was a strong personality and everyone felt important when she was talking to them.  I wanted to know her for so long….and when we met, it was life changing.  I became involved….she wouldn’t let me sit on the sidelines.  She succeeded in everything she set her mind to and the world is a little darker without her in it.  She is literally one of those woman you don’t want to like.  She had everything….but she welcomed everyone in to her circle.  She is the reason that I have done anything over the last few years….she knew what it was to push people to jump…..and succeed.  I miss her terribly….and I’m thankful for her guidance, encouragement, and friendship.

 

These women all had something in common…..a disease that changed our lives.  We had things all figured out, and cancer came along and shook us up.  It would have been easier to let it take over and make us feel weaker.  We took the opportunity to make ourselves stronger…..but it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of our women……and these are just 3 of the amazing women I get to call friend and have seen do amazing things.  It would also be easy for me to sit back and wonder why it’s not me?  Those thoughts do creep in….I really don’t think anyone out there can say it doesn’t happen once in a while…..but I have my own things.  And when I do something….they are there to cheer for me, like I am for them.

We need more of that, don’t we?  Let’s celebrate the things the women in our lives do…build each other up, and be happy.

Katie

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Unchanging Bonds

Yesterday I gathered with a group of people I consider family as we supported our friend at the memorial service for his son.  This is no ordinary group of people…..but co-workers who learned to lean on each other through all the good and bad times in our lives.

I worked for 13 years at the State of Michigan as a case worker.  I processed applications for food assistance, Medicaid, disability, and emergency services.  I handled caseloads much higher than I should have, and I came home most days exhausted and emotionally spent.  13 years of hearing people at their worst.  Most of the time I was yelled at by clients and/or managers.  I was cussed out, threatened, begged, and hardly ever thanked.  It was the best and worst job I ever had….something I had hoped would be my life long career…..but that wasn’t meant to be.

The relationships I made during my time there are still strong.  We are the only people who understand what we went through on a daily basis.  We went through hell together.  We went through milestones together.  We laughed to try to forget how hard the days were.  We saw each other be treated like machines rather than people.  And we always supported each other.  These people became my family.  And even though I’m no longer there, our bond is still that strong.   A place like that changes you, it makes you different, and no one else understands that.

As we all sat together and cried as our friend expressed his love for his only son in front of a crowded church…..I was reminded of our deep bond.  I cried for him and his loss….and I felt that loss.  This was a person I called my work husband.  He is truly an amazing person, someone you can always count on, and it broke my heart to see his pain.  As I hugged him afterwards….many times….it was like no time had passed…..even though a million things have happened since I last saw him.  But people like this…..time doesn’t change how we are together.

Ironically…..today is the anniversary of the day that I started that job.  January 13, 2003.  16 years ago today I started a job that would lead me to people I cannot live without.  No matter the outcome of that job…..I will forever be grateful for that.  And they all feel the same way….we need each other.  Time or distance will never change that bond.

Katie

Another year…..

This is something I will always write about…..because it had such a great impact on my life.  Another year will come and go…..without my baby sister.

I’ve talked about her before….we lost her a couple of weeks before her first birthday from meningitis.  It devastated our family.  She would be 29 this year…..and it’s just one of the really weird things that line up for this year…..

I was 10 and in the 5th grade when she passed away 11/9/1990.  I remember the day….it was a half day at school on a Friday.  I was excited to ride the bus home without the high school kids…..we got to sit in the back when they weren’t there.  This year…..my oldest daughter is 10, in the 5th grade, and has a half day this friday, the 9th.  Crazy, eh?  She was also named after my sister, her middle name is Rebecca.  And just a little bit of a stretch….I had Hailey a couple of weeks before I turned 29…..    I can’t help but look at my daughters and the relationship they have with each other.  I’m so extremely thankful I had all girls…..because I missed out on having a sister in my life.  I love seeing them together and knowing they have something so precious.

And at this age……I can look back and see just how many “sisters” I have and had in my life.  They always say that if you can find just a few close friends in your lifetime you have been extremely blessed.  I can say that I’ve had so many amazing women in my life that I can call sister….and even though I still feel heartbroken over the fact I didn’t get to go through life with mine….I’ve had so many women to step in and help fill that void.

So in this anniversary month where I remember my sister, I also count my blessings.  I have 3 beautiful daughters who will get that sister relationship, and I have so many beautiful friends that are like sisters.

Katie 🙂

 

Let’s Talk About It….

There have been two very public people who recently lost their lives to suicide.  And yes…..I said lost their lives.  They have made public a very real issue in our world, one that is still so hard for people to talk about openly.  There are so many misconceptions about suicide and mental illness.

I used to be that person.  The one who thought you just had to snap out of it, and you would be fine.  That taking your life was just a coward’s way out.  I thought all of this even after I had my own time of crisis my first year in college.

I truly thought if I snapped out of it and everyone else should be able to do the same thing.  Then life hit again…..and it got bad again, and I couldn’t just snap out of it.  I found myself falling in to myself…..deeper and deeper.  Life was crazy around me and it helped me fall further…..until I actually had to get help.  Mental illness runs in my family.  Depression, anxiety, and I’m sure other undiagnosed things.  I truly believed that you only had to change your attitude and you could be fine.  I also had people all around me telling me…..just count your blessings…..you are better off than most…….you are stronger than this.  Those are people who just don’t know and have never experienced it.  Or they are like me, and don’t know yet just how bad it can be.

Going through cancer and living with my new normal life after gave me a new perspective on life.  Life is complicated, difficult, heartbreaking, and just so damn hard.  And sometimes you just can’t help the way your mind works against you.  When I was going through therapy a few years ago, I told her about something I heard that made it all click for me.  Your brain is another organ in your body…..and just like your heart, or liver, or any other part of your body…..it can get sick.  And when you get sick…..you treat it.  Sometimes your mind truly plays against you.  It doesn’t mean you as a person is bad…..but your brain is sick and makes you think some terrible things.  Some people never get over what their brain is telling them and it becomes overwhelming.  And your brain will tell you that you don’t need help.  Overcoming those thoughts to get help is one of the hardest things……and I will never again look at someone to dies by suicide as weak or as a coward.  Something is wrong and they never got the help they truly needed.  This is controversial!  There are people who strongly believe they are cowards and selfish.  I used to be that person, even in the midst of my own personal trials.

You know when a person you love isn’t well.  You can tell they are different, changing, or in a bad way.  Sometimes you have to be the person they need…..the person who steps in and helps them realize they aren’t alone and they need some help.  Getting help isn’t a sign of weakness.  And getting help can literally be life or death.

NO ONE IS ALONE!!!!!!  Do not be afraid to reach out and ask for help, ask for a listening ear, lean on those that are willing to be there.  We have seen recently just how deep those feelings can go, no matter how successful you are,  loved by the world you are, rich you are, or strong you think you are…….this hits everyone.

My heart breaks for those who didn’t realize it didn’t have to be so hopeless……but I also have a better understanding for those thoughts that are hard to fight.  Honestly…..I struggle daily with thoughts that creep in and I know what I need to do if they become to overwhelming or strong.

Please feel free to reach out to me if you feel lost, alone, and hopeless.  I may not have the perfect words or solutions…..but I’m a willing listener and supporter.

Katie.

No Words….Just Tears…and Remembering

This is a post I’ve been thinking about since I started this blog.  I’ve started it, deleted it, started it again….and nothing ever sounds right.  And that is because the subject of this blog isn’t right…or fair…..and honestly just so heartbreaking.

Today is the 2 year anniversary of the day I lost my friend, mentor, and pink sister.  She was one of my heroes.  And I had something amazing written…..finally……and lost it all due to a computer glitch.  Maybe that was better…..to keep my words and just share what I was hoping to add.

I’m going to post the video we created for all the pink events.  This was the day I met Denise….and started a relationship, friendship, and partnership that I’m so extremely grateful for.

So here are my good memories of Denise…..even though today I will be reflecting on mostly the sadness…..I always want to remember the happiness.  She would want it that way.

Katie