You never know your strength until it is tested
and what you’re capable of until you try.
We hear the phrase a lot…just one. Chip companies declare that you can’t eat just one, Heineken claims that he cannot be just one man…the list goes on and on.
Well I think that the phrase, just one, is most suitable when speaking of friends or others in your life that support you. It takes just one person who believes in you, who has your back no matter what or just one person that loves you unconditionally to bring your life to full fruition. I would give up having a dozen people who were in my life only when times were good or when they needed something from me in order to have just one good friend, that person who loves me no matter what and that supports me in life.
I was very fortunate to have that one person. She was my best friend. Her name was Angel and she loved me despite all of my imperfections. She never blinked an eye if I was in sweat clothes with my hair a mess, but was the first person to compliment me when I looked great. She celebrated with me when I had things to rejoice in and she was always there when I needed a shoulder to cry on.
Angel passed away suddenly this past September of a brain aneurism. One minute we were dropping our daughters off at cheering practice and saying goodbye with our typical I Love You’s and in the next moment she was gone. I sat by her hospital bed for days hoping that she would come back to me. I cried more tears than I could ever imagine shedding, but she never returned to me. Her passing left a huge void in my life. My confidant, my friend, my support was no longer physically with me. I was a mess for the first month after her passing until I realized this…she may not be with me in body, yet she lives on in my memories and is with me in spirit. Even now, I still hear her laughter and words weaving through my mind and in my heart.
At first, I thought that I might grow angry over having had my best friend taken from me so young, but I soon realized that I wasn’t angry, but something completely different. I was thankful, so entirely thankful that I had her in my life, if only for just a short while. Because I would gladly give up the rest of my life filled with tons of people who didn’t really love me for me, for the little time I had with just one…my best friend. I got to experience so much with her in just a span of a few years that if I never find another friend like her I will still leave this earth knowing that one person, just one, truly loved me for who I am and that is enough for me.
Because no matter where you are in your life’s journey, all you really need is just one. Just one person who makes a huge difference in your life, who loves and supports you through thick and thin…just one.
One of the fondest memories that I have of my mother is at Christmas time when we would make date balls. Making the balls has been a long-standing tradition passed down throughout our family. My sister and I, along with our daughters, make them every Christmas. I have shipped them as far south as North Carolina when one of our best friends was stationed down there because he loves them so much. I hope you enjoy them whatever time of year or wherever you choose to make them!
2 cups white sugar
2 8oz. packages of chopped dates
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 sticks butter
5 cups crispy rice cereal
2 cups flaked coconut
In a large saucepan over low heat, combine the eggs, butter, sugar and dates. Bring to a boil, stirring until thick, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and crispy rice cereal. Let cool a bit so you don’t burn yourself, but not so much that the mixture cools too much and hardens. Butter hands and roll the mixture into balls, then roll the balls in coconut. You can serve them fresh or freeze them for later.
Sometimes I sit and ponder how my life would have been without the rough beginnings. How it would have been to be a child who lived in a house without a father who came home drunk or a mother who didn’t die of cancer at such a young age. I sit and think about all the times that the police came to our house, the times that I brought my mother tissues as she sobbed, hiding between the wall and the bookcase as fighting filled the air. I got good at becoming invisible because that is what I truly wanted to be. I would go to school with children who had loving, stable homes and I would wonder if they were ever scared to shut their eyes at night like I was.
Living in such a volatile environment made me grow up fast, too fast. When other children were playing without a care in the world, I was monitoring what type of mood my father and mother were in and whether or not I needed to hide. When those children were thinking about going to dances, I was preparing insulin injections for my mother as she lie dying. As my classmates were going on dates I was trying to stay alive in the foster care system.
Where did my carefree childhood days go? Why did I never get to experience that normal life? I used to think that I must have somehow deserved to be given the hand that I was dealt, but I never could figure out why. I tried to be a good child, make everything alright and yet things never changed. I graduated high school with those children that I envied so much and as they were fleshed faced and ready to begin an exciting new chapter in their lives I felt as though I had already been alive for a thousand years. They hoped to get into a great college and I just hoped that I could make a good life for myself. One that was stable and without abuse. I felt so old.
The scars of my childhood and all the abuse are still present sometimes no matter how hard I try to put them aside. It is like they are engraved on the inside of me, lurking just under the surface, waiting for a quiet night so that they can haunt my dreams. I mourn for the list child who never really got a childhood. I try to be thankful that I learned courage and a strength that can handle any troubled times, but I still long to have been one of the little girls with the light of happiness in their eyes.
Here I lie in the dark, exhausted, yet sleep escapes me.
A myriad of conversations and thoughts flash in my mind.
Uneasy, as a tigress pacing in her cage.
Unbridled energy, with no escape.
A thought constantly ticking in the back of my mind…
Make it stop!
The worry, the ache, like thousands of electric splinters,
that fill the air and suffocate me.
The demand wells up from within again,
you must strive, meet, overcome.
Prove to everyone you are as idyllic as everyone perceives you to be…
Or, so you think.
Branded for life by the word “overachiever”,
But striver of what?
A solution to quench the ache of a thousand past lives?
Something to dull the inner roar?
Or perhaps, a small, quiet corner where no light dares to go…
Where the real you is unafraid.
A true utopia, or at least a resemblance of one.
Some beautiful meadow of soft, sweet grass,
A place of peace with nothing to achieve.
The time when the noise stops so that I may rest my weary head,
When I think of family, I not only think of my relatives, but ultimately, I think of those around me that I love dearly and who are not related by blood. My family is made up of, in part, people that I have met over the years and that I have grown to love and respect no less than my traditional family. I have laughed, cried, and created memories with these friends and each of them holds a special place in my heart and in my life.
When I look back at how I met these special friends it amazes me to think of how seamlessly complete strangers found their way into my life and, eventually, into my heart. It may have started with a common interest, but then grew through shared experiences and trust until we were tightly bound together. If you think about it that’s also the way that we bond to our blood relatives.
What is wonderful about building a non traditional family, is that we never have to stop growing it. Each new phase of our life might welcome new friends and there is always the potential that you will connect to someone on that deeper level and sprout a new branch on your family tree.
The World Health Organization states that there are an estimated 285 million people with visual impairment worldwide and 39 million people with blindness. I have worked in the field of Visual Impairment and Blindness for seventeen years and have witnessed amazing feats and met some incredible people. Here is some of what they have taught me…
1. Losing your vision doesn’t mean that you have to lose your life.
Before I began working in the field I couldn’t imagine losing my vision. I felt, like so many others, that it would mean the end of my “life”. What I had forgotten was that life is what you choose to make of it. Just like with any disability, you can let it define you or you can choose to overcome it and work with what you have to offer. One of my clients has a fully functioning woodworking shop and creates beautiful furniture. He does this by creating specialized jigs for his saws so that he can cut and carve safely. He never let blindness stop him from what he wanted to do in life. You always have the option of having a successful and happy life, you just need to choose to do so!
2. Most things can be accomplished, you may just have to do them a little differently.
Imagine cooking dinner. You slice up vegetables, peel a potato, cook a hamburger, whatever the task may be. Now, imagine doing that with your eyes closed. Pretty terrifying isn’t it? Slicing and not knowing quite where you are along the vegetable or how close your fingers are to the blade. Cooking, but not being able to visually check the meat for doneness. The list could go on and on. These are the tasks that millions of people with a visual impairment or blindness are faced with every day and they successfully complete these tasks. It’s because most every task is possible, you just need to know how to adjust your mind and look at it from a new perspective or use a different technique to achieve your goal. The next time you peel a potato, close your eyes and feel the potato. Can you tell which part has been peeled and which still needs to be done? Now wet the potato and with your eyes closed, feel again. You’d be amazed at what you feel. Again, you didn’t change how you essentially peel a potato, but you used a different technique to tell what parts still needed to be done. Open your mind to new possibilities and techniques and you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish!
3. You can tell a person’s real beauty by listening to their words and noticing their actions, not by seeing their appearance.
When you listen to your intuition and regard people according to different standards other than their physical appearance, you can truly “see” people for what they are. Some of the most beautiful people I know would be considered ugly by just gazing at their appearance and some of the ugliest hearted people are ensconced within a beautiful facade. Take the time to note a person’s words and actions if you really want to see them for what they are!
4. Self Advocacy is something everyone should implement within their lives.
Too often we swallow our needs and don’t stand up and declare what we desire in our lives. We expect people to read our minds and instinctively know what we need, when we should just communicate with each other. You avoid a lot of miscommunication if you advocate for yourself and let others know what you want and need. Self Advocate!
5. Losing your vision doesn’t make your other senses become heightened.
It is a common myth that your other senses become better with vision loss. What actually occurs is that you start focusing more on your other senses. You rely on your auditory skills or your olfactory skills much more when your ability to see is no longer present. And, like any skill, when you use those senses more, you become more in tune with them and using them becomes second nature. Just think how much more rich your experiences could be if you took the time to fully experienced them with all of your senses!
6. Losing your vision doesn’t mean that you lose your hearing or your mind.
So many clients have told stories of how people shout at them when they are blind because, somehow, to an amazingly large number of people, a person who has lost their vision must also be deaf. Now there are people who are dead/blind, but that is completely different. No one likes to be yelled at and people who have a vision loss are not inherently deaf. Nor do they lose their mind! I have been in a restaurant with my friend who happens to be blind and the waitress or waiter will ask me what she wants to eat. I always turn to her and say, “What do you want to eat?” cueing the wait staff that they can speak directly to her. Losing vision does not automatically mean that the person isn’t highly intelligent and capable of making their own decisions. I have clients who are lawyers, psychologists and many other high ranking jobs. Losing sight doesn’t mean that a person loses hearing or their mind! Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity!