light bulb moments & other ramblings

Hi, my name is Alena, and I love pizza. And ice cream. And Doritos. And wine. And cheese! And… and… and…

The list, it goes on and on and on and on.  I freakin’ love food, y’all.  People who are all ‘Nothing tastes as good as being skinny feels’ are lying to you and themselves and just no.  No, guys.  Coupled right there with folks who say, ‘Oh, I forgot to eat’ — LOL!  What?!  I literally plan my whole day around food.  Seriously, the night before, I plug all my food into my macros app and I’m like OH THANK GOD I GET TO EAT PIZZA TOMORROW or HOLY COW I CAN’T WAIT TO HAVE ICE CREAM and that is just me and that is who I am.

I love food.  But, I’m writing today to talk about my relationship with food and how it used to dominate my self worth through a number.  I want to be honest with y’all about how much I used to not like myself and how much I still struggle with what I see in the mirror every single day.

Okay, so the first thing I do when I wake up is obviously pee, and then weigh myself.  Every. Single. Morning.  I weigh myself and it is literally never the same as the day before.  Then, I go to the mirror in my bedroom and lift my shirt up and look at how ‘bloated’ my stomach looks that day.  On January 1st, I promised my husband that I would stop talking poorly about myself and I would stop my negative thought processes.  So, I still do my morning routine, it’s my thing, whatever.  When I used to roll my eyes and sigh heavily, I now literally laugh at myself (because this routine is honestly kind of silly) and pat my stomach and say something nice about it.

Does that sound crazy? Hear me out!

Back in the fall my therapist told me to start talking to myself in the mirror every day and saying positive things.  I laughed and never did it.  Because how silly, right?  Around the same time, I was starting my journey in an online fitness community and I really started to get into feeling strong and good about myself.  Then Christmas came and I ate 234234023478234 cookies and you know, I did the ol typical reset on January 1 deal.  But, I meant it this time.  ESPECIALLY with positive self talk.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had setbacks, but with the encouragement of my trainer and the people in that group, I feel like I am finally getting somewhere.

I do not have a perfect body.  For several years I took Wellbutrin and I lost about 20 pounds easily because it is a stimulant and yay for me.  When Wellbutrin stopped working and made me an absolutely unbearable human being, I started taking an SNRI and may God himself please bless my metabolism.  It’s awful, and here we are.  Where I used to be able to eat Wendy’s a couple of times a week and run every once in a while and weigh 140, I now workout 5/6 times a week and consistently weigh about 150/155.

Let’s take a quick timeout: I’m being honest about numbers here in the spirit of complete and total transparency and I am not attempting to trigger anyone.  Listen to me, everyone’s battle is different.  Just because you think I look great, doesn’t mean I think it, and you have no way to gauge with is going on with me psychologically.  One of the most hurtful things is belittling someone’s struggle because it doesn’t mirror yours.  Don’t do that!  Don’t be that guy!

So back to loving food, etc.  While I am really working hard on self love, I’m also really working hard on getting stronger physically.  My body isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty freakin’ awesome if you ask me.  I can squat heavy weight, I can run a couple solid miles, I can walk for days, I can lift heavy things, I have SO MUCH endurance and you know what doesn’t measure those gains?  A scale.

Stop right now and say it out loud, say it to yourself, look at your significant other, look at your cat and/or dog and say it — A. SCALE. DOES. NOT. MEASURE. MY. SELF. WORTH.

Your body does awesome things.  If you are reading this, your body might be something you don’t love and I am here for you, I get that on a spiritual level.  But, you are strong, beautiful, intelligent, and so worth the love that you undoubtedly give others!  Just take a second and look in the mirror and find something you love about you.  You being you is an awesome thing.

A couple days ago I was talking to my friend Jenn and I showed her a picture of a woman I follow on Instagram who is recovering from an eating disorder and is a body positivity activist (I don’t really know if that’s the right word for it).  I seriously adore her and her posts. I capped a post and said, “I think her body is beautiful” and Jenn said, “It is, but I don’t understand how you can see her and think she is beautiful and not think the same of yourself.” and dude, that resonated with me.  I stared at that picture and I thought, why on this Earth do I hate myself so much for just being me?  It was like a light bulb went off in my head.

For the entirety of my life, I have tied my self worth to a number — either the number on a scale, or the number on a label.  I claimed that I conquered that demon when those numbers were what I thought were ‘acceptable’ and then, poof, I was back to real life and hating myself more than ever. The bucks stops right here.

I am here to tell you that I struggle every single day.  I love food, I want to eat every minute of every day, I eat when I get bored, I eat when I’m happy, I eat when I’m sad, I just like to eat.  A restrictive diet is not an option for me.  I never plan to diet again, honestly.  Ever. My goals are to be healthy and enjoy life.  So, when I say I plug my food into my macro app, I am telling you that choose whole foods and sometimes I choose pizza.  My life has been so deeply devoid of balance, and finding that balance has given me a new lease.  A new outlook.  A new appreciation for loving myself and most importantly, what my story can do for you if you’re reading this and feel like I feel or have felt.

You are not alone!  I am a 30 year old woman with major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder who is not scared to admit it. Not every day is great.  Honestly, the last 4/6 weeks have been hell.  But, sometimes, you have these moments of clarity and you decide you’re going to do the damn thing, whatever the ‘thing’ may be.

Whatever it is, you’ve got this.

**not proofread, don’t judge me**

 

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A Plea For Aleppo

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I can’t stop staring at this picture.

I don’t know these people and I don’t have to know them for this picture to wreck me.  I fell asleep in a warm bed last night, next to my husband, our animals flanking us on every side and also in the floor.  In the haven of my bedroom, in the house that I own, in a peaceful nation, in a town far from conflict, I found rest.

The man pictured does not know rest.  His eyes are heavy and weary, and I can’t wrap my head around his burden.  Is that his only child?   Did he have more children and lose them to the tragedies of war?  I want to know his story.  I wish I could clothe him and his wife, give them a warm meal, a shower, a soft bed, and rock that baby so Mama and Daddy could sleep.  No.  So Mama and Daddy could rest.  Truly rest.  I wish I could tell them that peace is possible.  I wish I could hug them so tight and let them weep if needed, or just let them know that someone cares.

Some people are more equipped for empathy than others.  There are people who can see the above picture and move on with their lives, but I am not that person.  I’m still staring at it, searching, wishing I could reach through it and offer everything I have to those 3 souls.  My empathy runs to a fault, my heart bleeds at the sight of injustice, at hurt, at brokenness, at despair.  I stay awake at night, thanking God for the things that I have and asking Him why others aren’t as fortunate.  I don’t understand why I have been dealt a favorable hand and these folks haven’t.  It’s hard for me to accept, and it’s something I talk about with God often.  I don’t have any answers, but I will keep asking and I will keep searching.

This awful world is filled with stories like these.  Aleppo is not new, but it’s here and in our faces this holiday season.  Bloodied faces of innocent children live tweeting their own demise, the story ending as a 140 character Auschwitz in real time before the eyes of the entire world.  I can’t shake it.  With every gift I purchase and wrap, I think about how those dollars could buy meals for the family above or for the families unseen.  Recently, Chad’s overtime was cut and we’ve watched every penny, but every penny that we have is more than what any of these folks have.  So, anything I can give, I know goes to use.  And any spare penny you can give will go to use as well.

Scroll up and look at that picture again.  Step outside of your comfortable home, in your safe town, up your safe holler (hollow for you folks reading not from Appalachia), on your safe street, and imagine being that man and woman.  They are just people, born in a different part of the world than us, who had no choice in the matter.  We must move beyond our own insularity, and realize we are chosen to help and be present. We are the haves, for whatever reason, and we can be the good.

To give some context to this plea, visit PreemptiveLove.Org and read about the work they are doing in Syria (and other places in the middle east).  This is an organization brought to my attention in a post by Jen Hatmaker, but I did my own research on it’s validity.  You can do your own research, too.  But, please, open your heart to the people of Aleppo today.  If you can give, please give.  If you pray, please pray.

Please, Lord, let this man, woman, and child realize they are not alone.

 

I hate cliche country songs about growing up in Appalachia.  I mean… really hate.  Maybe I’m not supposed to hate anything, but I hate any song about a dirt road and somebody’s Daddy and Bud Light.  Not because Bud Light is awful (it is) and because I’ve got Daddy issues (I do) but because songs like that are just awful.  They’re terrible.  So, when I sit down to write about being from Appalachia, I have to make sure that I don’t reinforce these assumptions about Appalachia.  For example, I have amazing teeth and I love shoes and I’m not on the draw.  I know lots of folks like me, believe it or not.

Considering how opposite I am from a lot of folks around here, people ask me why I stayed.  Well, I’ll be really honest — I didn’t want to stay.  I never thought that I would.  I got a bangin’ job right after I turned 22 and just recently passed my 8th workiversary (10 years total — I worked part time from 2006 to 2008).  I had this big pact with myself that when I turned 25 I would take a look at finances and where I was and decide if I wanted to stay in eastern Kentucky.  I didn’t do that.  You want to know why?  Because I was comfortable, perhaps a little complacent, and more than that, I was home.

See, no matter where I go, these hills are home.  I absolutely love to travel and experience new places, new people, new sounds, new food (omg food), but by the end of my journey I ache for the familiarity of what I’ve always known.  When those hills come into view, no matter where I’m coming from, the feeling comforts me like a big plate of starchy carbs.  Yeah, I just compared the hills of eastern Kentucky to starchy carbs.  They are that good.

I have nothing against anyone who has ever left.  Lord no.  There’s not much here and it’s getting worse by the day.  Friends are leaving because there’s no work, the best and brightest move to bigger areas for opportunity, and I get it.  I get it and sometimes, I get jealous of folks who start to build a life away from eastern Kentucky.  See, I honestly thought I would be somewhere doing something with more value, but I’m not sure I ever really gauged what ‘value’ meant in that equation.  Sometimes it’s hard for me to wrap my head around that I just answer a phone for a living.  Now, this is just about me and nobody else, I earn an honest living just like my coworkers and we work hard, harder than most people realize.  I just, I guess I really thought that I might have a different path and more of a voice.  Good news is, I’m only 30, so there’s still plenty of time left to find that voice.  I hope.

But, I think that voice has to be meant to do something here.  I get so mad at it, but I love this place.  I love how we get the best of every single season, I love summer and the haze that lingers against the greenery, I love winter and a snow that covers every tree limb, I love fall and how the colors paint the hills for weeks and then bleed away, and most of all I love that I can go see my Mom, my sister, my brother, and my in laws in one day and come back home and sleep in my own bed. I love ‘y’all’ and ‘I don’t reckon’, and I love that I hug people like a true baptist and beat your back off if I don’t watch myself.  I love that Paintsville inexplicably has three Mexican places, but I hate that none of them have the right about cilantro and spice in their salsa (Toro Loco does, however.  What’s good, Louisa?).  I love my accent and how I cannot say a single word with a vowel and not make that one single, solitary vowel sound like fifteen vowels.  I love that I can’t hide that I’m from Appalachia, because it’s not something I am ashamed of or ever want to hide.

We’re pretty good folks out here.  I worry on a regular basis about what will come of us and these hills, if we’ll ever find an industry to replace coal, and if we’ll be okay.  Some days, I don’t think we will be.  I think about if I will have to move, if my family might have to leave, and what will still be standing in a decade.  For as long as I’ve roamed these back roads, we’ve figured it out, one day at a time.  I’m not sure how to keep us going and how to sustain life around here, but I want to help figure it out in any way that I can.  The page has turned for us, and if we keep flipping back through the book wishing for previous chapters, we’re going to completely knock ourselves out of ever learning the rest of the story.

Appalachia is a special place, whether people want to believe that or not.  We’re a heck of a lot more than fast food restaurants and Walmart.  Some of the most intelligent, talented, artistic, kind, all around best people that I’ve ever known live up a holler somewhere carved out in these hills.  For as much as I get frustrated, I believe I’m exactly where I need to be.  I am doing what I was picked to do and I don’t think that has anything to do with my career path.

Also, my Diary Queen has the best hotdog with mustard, sauce (chili? do you call it chili? you’re a terrorist), and slaw, so why aren’t you coming to hang out like right now?

Seriously.

 

If I can change, you can change, we all can change

Yes.  100% just quoted Rocky.

Hidy ho, it’s your friendly neighborhood Democrat coming back for more.  *waves*

Let me start by saying, humility has never been my strong suit when it comes to being intelligent or funny.  Those are two things I really value and the ugly side of me wants to be the smartest and the funniest sometimes at the expense of my better judgement and almost always at the expense of kindness.  Smug is a really good way to describe me when I think I’m right about something, and I know that.  Guys, I know me.  If you’re reading this and I’ve ever hurt your feelings by attempting to make you feel stupid in order to make a point, trust me, you aren’t alone.  I’m not at all proud of that, because unfortunately, I think I’m right a lot.

Anyway, yesterday, I read this article about the smugness of American liberalism and that thing bothered me.  Not just bothered me, but it convicted me.  Deeply.  If you’d like to read it (or skim it, it is extremely lengthy) click here.  Fellow progressives, I’m not saying I agree with the entirety of the text, but I am saying that I wholly agree with the sentiment.

Perhaps I would feel differently if I had a different family, lived somewhere else, and was not 90/10 outnumbered when it comes to my political ideology and beliefs.  However, I choose to live in eastern Kentucky.  Nobody held a gun to my head and made me buy a house in Johnson County, I wanted to.  I wanted to stay.  My life is far from an echo-chamber (I am loving that word today) of yes men and women when it comes to how I see the world.  When I was younger, I was insufferable.  I look back at my Facebook statuses and my twitter updates from elections before and wince.  I called Republicans morons and classless and other things because I thought I was smarter.  How silly that you vote this way, you just haven’t met people different from you, I would think.  How silly, indeed.  But, not them… me.

The last year and a half has been a a steady evolution for me as far as learning to speak TO people instead of AT them.  I unhid all of the conservative folks I’d hidden on my FB, to start.  I thought, you know, this is bull.  I can’t sit here and act like I’m all tolerant and just be constantly reading opinions of folks I agree with.  Next, I started commenting and conversing.  I started asking questions — and most importantly — I started listening.  People think what they think and believe what they believe for A LOT of reasons and you learn a lot when you back off from trying to get them to change their minds (they wont) and move forward with finding a place, any place at all, that you can agree.

As long as it remains respectful and never steps into racism, into misogyny, or into hatred, I’m open and willing to talk to you.  I don’t have a choice, really.  I don’t live in a blue bubble.  My bubble is red, and I am a teeny tiny blue dot, swimming against the current, and I’ll just keep swimming.  I’m stubborn like that.

Conservative friends and family, most people who identify as liberal and progressive that I know are a lot like me.  Some of the kindest, most accepting, loving people with hearts beyond anything I have ever known.  Progressive/liberal friends and family?  Most of the people I know personally and interact with on a daily basis are hardline conservatives, and they, too, are some of the kindest, most accepting, loving, big-hearted people I know.  I know we’ve got bad apples on each side, but as someone who knows a lot of both sides, I promise you, we are more alike than we are not alike.

The narratives seek to divide us, and it’s working.  The internet is a big place, full of a lot of facts, and unfortunately, a lot of lies.  If you’re just reading stuff that aligns with how you think, you aren’t challenging yourself.  Brietbart doesn’t have the answers, and neither does the Huffington Post.  I think the best thing we could all do is put down the memes and talk to one another.  I may not convince you that I am right, but I will give you something to think about and another angle to look at, and I think that’s invaluable.  But, that’s just me, you guys.  I’m not gonna like Trump, you never liked Obama, but I think we like each other, and that’s pretty cool.

 

Negan – 1, America – 0

Well, that didn’t go as planned.

I imagined writing a much different blog today.  Not only did I imagine it, I looked forward to it immensely.  She wasn’t perfect nor a saint, but I’m proud of the vote that I cast yesterday.  In my humble opinion, she was far and away the most qualified candidate of the two, and the most capable. Much of America did not agree with me, but I stand by my choice.  A unique choice to vote for a woman not so much unlike myself; short, unconventional, a little ‘too’ everything, sharp as tack, and stronger than a pine knot.  A choice, judging by the direction seemingly emboldened by voters last night, I will likely never get again in my lifetime.

For reasons that I cannot grasp, Donald Trump won the Presidency last night.  That is a very strange sentence to type.  My feelings for Trump are no secret and at the risk of sounding close-minded, it is unlikely those feelings will ever change.  He is the personification of everything I find abhorrent and I have feared this day since I saw momentum mounting for him in 2015.  I honestly never really thought it would happen.

The hardest thing about typing this blog is finding the right words to convey my feelings without hurting anyone that I love and care about.  What I find unsavory about Trump does not necessarily equate to a rebuke of you on a personal level.  People vote certain ways for certain reasons, and though I feel great concern with your comfort level with some very obvious character flaws Trump undeniably has, it is your right to vote for whomever you choose.  In the same light, it is my right to criticize him.  For now lolz.

So, here we are, staring down the barrel of a 4 year Trump Presidency, ripe with skepticism from me and adoration from his masses, dripping with hope that this is a new day for America.  Make America Great Again, he says and y’all say.  As an Obama voter, let me tell you, it’s easy to get caught up in somebody who says exactly what you want to hear and does it in a way that appeals to you.  I get that.  Charisma, though I personally see less than zero in Trump, cannot be fabricated and y’all bought it hook, line, and sinker.  Which, honestly, is slightly gratifying considering how disgusted y’all were with Obama’s support.

A candidate I supported lost an election last night.  It’s not the first time and it wont be the last.  However, I feel like it’s much bigger than that, and that’s what’s so hard to swallow.  I am not silly, I realize a Democrat can’t (and shouldn’t) be in power 100% of the time, but in my mind, this is not a Democrat/Republican issue.  I actually do not even qualify DJT as a Republican, to be perfectly clear.  For better or worse, he is his own breed and he marches to the beat of his own drum, which a lot of people found appealing for whatever reason.

No, this was no ordinary loss.  This was more like a monumental ideological shift wherein so many people that I love and care about will not just be left behind, but be made to feel less safe in their own country.  If you think that is dramatic or too far, you have privilege that these people do not.  If you don’t think privilege is real, then congratulations, you have lived your whole live with some variant of privilege.  The problem lies in expanse of the divide between the two sides.  People of color, LGBTQ, women, and other minorities feel so excluded from the America in which Trump gives a voice.  To you, it may be as simple as wanting career politicians out, to many people, it derives a level of fear in which you will never relate.

For those people?  I am your ally.  A version of these words have played in my head since last night when I went to bed.  With this shift, I am choosing to shift as well.   Something felt different in me today.  I read every status, took in every comment, every cry of elation, every moan of defeat, and I so deeply want to be the kind of person to helps heal what this has started.  I never got angry, I never felt that tingly feeling you get when you just have to get those comments off, and maybe Effexor is to thank for that.  I realize I am just a little white girl on a MacBook deep in the mountains of eastern Kentucky, but I have a voice and I realize I have privilege that some folks may not. I don’t know where to start other than saying that my voice is for you and I am for you and with you.  I’ve said that to several people today, and I mean it.  I am a bleeding heart, I believe deeply in justice, in equality, and in the unmistakable art of kindness.  I will extend that kindness to you with great humility and mercy when we disagree, no matter what.  I will be gracious in defeat and vigilant in my quest to be the voice for people who may be scared to speak.

In times like these, there must be a voice of reason, a voice of kindness, and a voice of assurance that we will be okay.  The stages of grief in dealing with the magnitude of this cultural shift are numerous and great and it’s okay to go through every single one of them.  The only reason I say we will be okay is not because I don’t fear the possibilities of this administration, but because I know a lot of deeply empathetic people who will fight right beside me.

If this blog lost you, it’s okay.  I’m not going anywhere.

 

 

 

and just like that…

And all at once, everything changed.  The years passed without a hitch, time stood still on some days, and some days it moved quickly, but before I knew it, the future was present and I was right here, turning 30 years old.

It’s pretty cliche, but I can certainly recall a time where 30 seemed a million years away and so incredibly old.  My Mama was 33 when she gave birth to me and for the longest time, I couldn’t imagine being that age or anywhere close to that age. Eventually, we all get there, and ideally, we go past these milestones, collecting memories and moments that we get to carry for as long as the human brain will allow.

Honestly, though, I wish I could talk to 15 year old me. I’d give anything to tell her so many truths and beg her to be kind to herself, to love herself more, and to live without apology in this silly, unfair world.  It wasn’t until now that I found the importance in extending kindness not just to everyone I meet, but also to myself.  So many years of harsh, painful criticism directed inward, and now, I spend my days unwinding that braided wire of hatred and filling my heart and mind with kindness, and it’s not always easy.  15 years ago, I had no idea where I’d be today, or who I would be, but I am elated with both.

Truth be told, I think I was always meant to be in my 30’s.  I never partied in college, I never dated a lot, I never did a lot of things.  I was saved when I was 11, baptized at 17, and while I am certainly not perfect, I am a walking testimony of grace.  I certainly do not deserve the life that I have, the life I begged God for relentlessly, but He gave it to me anyway.  No.  He gave me more.  And it absolutely bowls me over when I think about how much more. I love the stillness of 30, of knowing who and what I am (though I have always had an idea – I’m pretty steadfast like that), and no longer putting value in anyone’s opinion about how I live my life or what I believe or think.  It’s liberating.

So, here we are.  The start of another year of my life, a new decade, a new chapter.  I’m excited to see what’s on the next page.

We’re planning.

Oddly enough, I remember Christmas 1989.   My Dad was sitting in the kitchen talking on the old, wall mounted rotary phone at least once, and that is important.  I can remember how many gifts we got that year, and it was odd, because we never really had much money, so we certainly shouldn’t have gotten those gifts.  I was only 3, but I can remember so much about that particular Christmas.  Not too long after Christmas, my Mom noticed a long distance call on the bill and called the number back, asking for my Dad.  The number originated in Alexandria, Virginia, where my Dad was working at that time.  A woman answered, naturally, and I could tell you that was the beginning of the end of their marriage, but honestly, it had been ending for quite a while.  Nail in the coffin that was already six feet under ground is probably far more apt a description.  Since then, it’s always been the four of us.  The picture below always struck me because at that moment, did my Dad know that this was going to be it?  Was it as simple as there was no one else to take the picture?  I can’t ever really know what was going through his head, but this picture is equal parts heartbreaking and fascinating to me.

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Andi, please don’t be mad at me, your hair is glorious.

My Mom is the center of our universe. Tommy, Andi, and I all have very different relationships with her, but we are very, very close.  It’s no secret if you follow me on twitter or Facebook that we’re likely facing something difficult in the coming months.  When I was 10, Mom was diagnosed with cancer.  At that age, I had no real grasp of her mortality.  I very vividly remember her saying, “I’m going to be fine.” and if Mommy said she would be fine, she would be fine.  And, you know what, she was.  She made it.  Just like she survived my Dad leaving, she survived cancer.  My entire life I’ve known that if my Mom puts her faith out there, whatever she is believing for will come to pass.

And for some reason, we’re likely looking at this cancer thing again.  I don’t know why.  Of course I don’t believe anyone deserves cancer, but selfishly, I especially don’t believe my Mom should have suffer with it twice, but twenty years later (almost to the day), we’re visiting doctors, having scans, having biopsies, and begging God for mercy and for the best news possible.

But, I’ll be honest, and maybe you’ll bristle at me saying this…. I’m pretty aggravated at God. Mom says I should be mad at the devil, but I’m just… maybe I’m just mad at everything. I’m mad at biology and cells and this ridiculously savage, unrelenting disease.  I wish it were me because I’m strong, and I’m able, and I could do it. I wish I could take it from her, but then I know it would destroy her to watch me go through it.  There’s a verse that comes to me even when I am angry, I keep hearing, “All things work together for good to them that love God, and for them who are called according to His purpose” and I try my best to find some shred of good.  Not in a trite way, because I hate that. I absolutely hate platitudes and all of that, but because I have to stay positive and I can’t let this negativity and anger consume me, I’m trying my level best to find the good.

So, we’re planning.  Last night when I was talking to her, I said, we’re not planning your funeral, we’re planning life.  We’re planning Thanksgiving, Christmas, and going into the new year.  We’re planning how to transition her into a healthier, more active lifestyle.  We’re planning on watching Bekah and Dylan get older and maybe adding another grandchild to the mix someday.  We’re planning.  We’re not going to let any of this get the best of us or take what time is here, because we believe deeply, no, we know this is not the end. There’s still much left to be done.

If you pray, please pray for my Mom.  She is my heart walking around outside of me, my rock, and any tiny shred of kindness and good in me, I owe to her.  I am everything I am because of the way she has taught me to live my life, loving relentlessly, even when life is not fair, good, or kind.  Pray that the prognosis is good, pray for strength, and if you feel so inclined, pray for a miracle.  I am.