Why I Tattooed “♥ Life” On My Neck

“Natural forces within us are the true healers of disease” – Hippocrates

MARCH 18, 2010: In 2007 I was one of the first 10,000 people in the United States to start taking the latest FDA Approved Multiple Sclerosis Drug, Tysabri. For 2.5 years, I’d go to Scripps Clinic in San Diego, CA for a monthly IV infusion. But, a new drug means no long term studies or known long term side effects. I was so nervous for my first infusion, I asked my “emergency contact” to sit with me at my appointment. I felt like I was signing my life away– and I nearly was. I had to sign a daunting stack of paperwork indicating I knew the risks.

They tracked my blood count, liver function, body temperature… all the things. This meant, every infusion appointment lasted 3 hours. Since I always turn a setback into a stepping stone, I used the time to “treat” myself. First, I’d schedule my appointment at the end of the day so I could leave work early, for what I’d call, a “date with two of my favorite ladies, Nurse Debbie & Oprah!” Sitting with an IV in your vein, in a room lined with reclining chairs, isn’t so bad when paired with a favorite talk show host and talk time with a favorite RN! Debbie was my infusion nurse every single time. We developed more of a Mother and Daughter role than Patient and Nurse. I even bought her a 90 minute massage on Christmas as a thank you for not only finding my vein without a bruise but for caring so much. But everything changed the day she had to tell me the devastating news.

A handful of Tysabri patients contracted an incurable brain disease, Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy (PML). However, WHY these people were dying was a mystery other than the fact they’d been receiving Tysabri for 2.5 years… the same amount of time as me. In response, I’d now need to be monitored more closely. Additional MRIs and visits with my neurologist. To say this was unsettling is an understatement.

“Let me get this straight,” I thought.  “People are suffering progressive brain damage but doctors don’t know why, so I need to pay out of pocket for more MRI’s…and you want me to continue taking medication that’s killing some people?”

My interpretation: instead of treating MS, I was now treating a medication. This didn’t settle well. Having been on COBRA the year prior (I lost my job in 2009 when the market crashed), I began researching alternative medications, was synchronistically guided to a variety of healing modalities and read a handful of “energy” books that “spoke to me”.

My veil was lifting. The more aware I became of my thoughts and choices, the more empowered I felt. I also thought, “if I think Tysabri is poisoning, I might be contributing to the poison!” I began to question everything. I hadn’t had an “MS exacerbation” with full blown symptoms since 2004.

The longer I sat with my story, my intuitive nudge to let go of medication increased. Ignoring my internal feelings began to feel more irresponsible than to continue taking the drug. And then came… the icing on the cake: my health insurance changed. Having accepted a new recruiting job with a smaller company, it was time to let go of COBRA and begin my new plan. My previous large public company provided an insurance that covered outpatient infusions without a copay. To cover my bases, I called the clinic prior to my next appointment to make sure there were no surprises. Talk about a sticker shock! Thank goodness I asked. What was the Co Pay of my first Infusion on my new plan? $3000 out of pocket. Those words sealed the deal, like a nail in the coffin. I was done. Immediately, I called my neurologist to learn if I ran the risk of setting myself up for an MS relapse if I stopped taking my medication. “Nope, it takes 3 months to leave your system.” Ok. good. Next, I called my parents to tell them my decision. Since this involved my heath, as concerned parents they offered to help pay for my treatment. I politely declined. This wasn’t about the money (though I could think of a zillion other ways I’d like to spend 3K!)… this was about “my knowing”.  The chapter of taking medication had come to an end.

And, my parents had a reason to trust my decision. 2 months prior, January 2010,  I completed my 1st Half Marathon. At first, they were concerned I’d overheat and experience a relapse. Instead I experienced the exact opposite.  With a finish time of 2:02:54, not only did I run without any hiccups, but I ran strong, and fast, boosting my confidence in ways I never imagined. I felt reborn, like I could conquer anything. Training for my half marathon became my “medicine”. Running made me happy. And happy felt healthy.

So…  On March 18, 2010, the day I had my last infusion scheduled with Nurse Debbie, I called the clinic and cancel it, without a reschedule. Ultimately, this made 3/18/10 the day I “stopped taking MS Meds”. IF (because there’s always an “if”)  I became symptomatic or regretted my decision, I’d go back on medication.  Fast forward to today, 9 years later. Not only do I stand by my decision, but any neurologist does too. In fact, you couldn’t pay a single MS Doctor to suggest I go back on Tysabri. Why? Scientist discovered the reason people contracted PML. There’s a common virus many people carry, the JC Virus. Typically, it’s harmless.  But, when combined with a suppressed immune system, it can be deadly.

Guess who has a large amount of the JC Virus in her system? You guessed it, ME.

You and I will never know the “What If.  What if I had continued on Tysabri? What if I ignored my intuition? I fully believe my inner compass knew best. I feel I was guided to live a life, MS medication free.But PLEASE NOTE: I am not ANTI MS MEDICATION. Instead, I AM in support of listening to what works for my body and encourage anyone out there to listen to their body too. It’s OK to question. It’s OK to be curious. We are living science experiments; what works for one doesn’t always work for another. I feel in control with a disease that leaves many feeling out of control. I’m beyond grateful to share I have not experienced a debilitating symptom or questioned my decision, since.

MARCH 18, 2012 — Fast Forward to the day I ran my 6th Half Marathon in Wrightsville Beach, NC …which was also the same day I got a permanent ‘personal bumper sticker’ tattooed on the back of my neck, “💙 life”

People often ask me, “How did you heal yourself from MS?”
My Reply, “The happier I got, the healthier I got!” Then I lift my hair and proudly show them my tattoo.
WHY? I believe the neck is the most important part of the human body.
WHY? Simple: As long as I’m alive and loving life, I’ll have one! Personally I don’t know anyone living without one.

My rationale: Let’s say I got a tattoo on my arm or leg. Reality is, there’s always the chance I could lose it! BUT- as long as I’m alive, I’ll have my neck! Plus, I love wearing my hair in braids and pony tails, especially when I’m loving life, running, biking, yoga, hiking, making out, you name it! Move it or Lose It! If I’m doing something I love, I’m loving life.

Aside from housing major blood vessels and multiple nerves, the the neck is the top part of the Spinal Cord, better known as The Brainstem, the intersection where ALL nerve messages pass in the body. In addition to nerves coming from and within the spine, the neck is home to the accessory and vagus nerve. So much life happens inside our neck!

Since Multiple Sclerosis effects the nervous system, people like me are very aware of how it all “works”. Except the times the nerves, don’t work. For example, in 2004, I went to go to work. Instead of starting my day like usual, a lesion in the base of my brain stem, top of my spinal chord, decided to make itself known and unknowingly to me, while I slept my nerves were compromised and the message to my left leg, severed. Not only could I not get out of bed or drive my car (I had a 5 speed with a clutch) but I couldn’t even tell my toes to wiggle.
My left leg was paralyzed.

Back to why I got a tattoo…
Are you aware of the studies by Dr. Masaru Emoto? He’s known for his theory that water could react to positive thoughts and words. Which leads to the questions, ‘if the human body is 70% water, imagine what our thoughts do to our bodies?’ In 2005,  watching the movie “What The Bleep” I discovered the power of “blessing water”. For years I day dreamed of a tattoo to bless my body. What would I get? Where would I put it? Then, it dawned on me. I wanted to bless every message passing through neck, also where my lesion was, to keep my body in motion.

I chose “Love Life” because, it’s who I choose to be in the world, loving life.  Plus, the idea of a tattoo on my neck felt like a bumper sticker, in case  anyone behind me needed a friendly reminder. Since my Mom is an artist, I asked if she’d help me come up with a design for my tattoo. She smiled at the idea of designing a tattoo for her daughter and happily “doodled” some “love life” ideas on a piece of paper.

As if meant to be, March 18, 2012 was the date of the Half Marathon in my new town, Wilmington, NC. That marked my 2-year anniversary of being MS Med Free! It was the perfect way to celebrate.

After completing the 13.1 miles, I knew exactly how I wanted to honor my journey. Grabbing the piece of paper with my Mom’s doodles and a best friend for support, we headed to the local tattoo shop. Upon sharing my idea with the artist, he quickly pulled up his pant leg to show off a tattoo of his Grandmother’s signature! Turns out he was a huge fan of family penmanship and loved the idea of tracing my Mom’s handwriting from the doodle… to my actual tattoo. Just like that, he copied it to transfer paper and gave “♥ Life” even more meaning. The woman who literally – gave me life –  was forever part of my tattoo, too. Talk about a triple whammy!

MARCH 18, 2019: 9 years later, I’m proud to be free from MS medication. I’m proud to have run 18 Half Marathons and 3 Marathons, including both The Boston and New York City Marathon, in 2015. I’m proud I turned a stumbling block into a stepping stone. I’m proud of all the love and support I’ve received from family and friends. And I’m most proud of still feeling giddy anytime someone tells me they love my tattoo.

” ♥ Life”  is a personal birthmark I gifted myself. It will never lose its luster or value. When I’m 88 years old, I’ll still have my Mom’s handwriting on the part of my body I’ll still consider to be the mecca of our messages and it will still represent my favorite sport, running and my favorite but simple Mantra, Love Life.

Just like you, I’m human. Just like you, I have bad days. I DO NOT CLAIM to have “Cured” my MS. MS is still in me. I can see it in lesions. I can feel it on days my left side feels slightly weak. But, I’m always reminded when I pull out a mirror to look at the back of my neck, what matters most. My ability to choose. The choice is mental, physical, emotional and spiritual. It’s not always easy but long as I have a neck, I can breathe on my own and I have control of what feels out of control… I have the choice to” ♥ Life”  in whatever capacity that means in the moment.

So now I ask you, what thoughts or questions come to mind?
Are you on a healing journey?
Are you considering treatment options?
What new awareness can you have to help you begin a journey of self care and love?

Connect With Carlyn:

Do you have questions?
Want support on your Healing Journey?
You are not alone! Sometimes the best gift you can give yourself is time with someone who understands you and can really help you navigate the choices you face every day to get you in the direction of your dreams. CLICK HERE TO SCHEDULE a One on One Session Via Phone/Zoom or In- Person in the Denver/Boulder Area.

Is this our first time connecting?? Then… schedule A Complimentary 15 Min Connection Session so we can meet!

Love Yourself. Love Life.

Cheers To The Journey!

Love, Carlyn

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(Top 5) Lessons Learned from Losing my Two Front Teeth

Whether it be a broken heart, being let go from a job, the death of a loved one… or something as unimaginable like…losing your two front teeth, life constantly supplies us with situations where we are forced to make a choice on how to respond to an unwanted and unplanned circumstance.  We go through stages, our mind can’t resist chatting with our ego, our emotions and our overall attitude. For me, I typically start with the WHY ME, followed by the WHAT COULD I HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY and eventually embracing the… WHAT NEXT. Embracing what life has thrown my way IS my way of life. I’ve talked about my MS Diagnosis, the death of best friends, job changes, etc, but THIS accident, hit a whole new level. If you follow MindBodyGreen, you know the latest Blog Posts seem to reference a Top 5, 10, etc themes, intended to grab a readers attention. So I figured I’d write my own version 🙂

5 Lessons Learned… from Losing my Teeth.   

5) Freak Accidents Happen.  I think back to the day. Could I have done anything differently? Did I have any warning signs? No. I casually hopped on my bike to head to the Denver Broncos Football Game. Only 3 miles away, the beautiful October afternoon provided the perfect backdrop for what was to be… a happy day. You see, life had been really tough the weeks prior and I was very excited about a Sunday Funday. Only, my bike had a different agenda. First, it started to make a loud annoying noise. Within minutes, my frame and front wheel locked, catapulting me over my handlebars in airplane pose (Yogis – you know this visual), causing me to face plant the pavement at 10 MPH, hitting so hard that my glasses land 15 yards away, followed by my legs coming over my back (Scorpion-ing – Snowboarders – you know this visual) so that when I finally stopped, I was looking straight up, feet pointing in the direction I was biking. I had no idea what had happened. Completely panicked having witnessed my fall, my boyfriend rushed to me, fearing the worst, that I broke my neck. Luckily, I was in so much shock I couldn’t feel the pain as I sat up to attempt to talk to him.  Unluckily, I felt a huge hole between my completely shredded lips and then felt my shattered lost teeth embedded into the roof of my mouth. As I slowly laid back on the street, surrendering both my mind and my body to what was happening, all I could do was stare into the cloudless blue sky… then reality sunk in. I heard the ambulance sirens. Was I going to be OK? Why, why of all days did this happen to me? I knew I wasn’t making it to the football game. I had eaten a light lunch, saving room for stadium food. There would be no nachos for me that day. In fact, not for a while. As they say, “it is what it is”.  Accidents Happen.

within 10 days, my face healed fast

within 10 days, my face healed fast

4) Love Heals  With a brace secured around my neck, laying in the ER for the results of my brain and spine scans, the last thing I thought to do was “check myself in” on Facebook,  announcing my arrival to the hospital. However, being very concerned and believing in the power of positive thoughts and prayer, my Mom’s reaction was different; she posted a picture on Facebook of the two of us smiling, sharing the news of my accident and questionable condition with our friends and family. At first, I was very angry. My blood pressure soared. My privacy felt violated. I didn’t want to draw attention to my injuries. Or make people worry and feel obligated to reach out. But, almost instantly, my phone was blowing up! Calls from concerned friends around the country wishing me well. Text messages sending me support. FB posts, some from people I didn’t know, letting me know that I was beautiful no matter what. Friends, some I hadn’t heard from in years, reminding me of my strength and perseverance, having no doubt I would overcome this new obstacle.  I was overwhelmed with the response, the love I could feel being shared with me by way of words, flowers, cards, homemade soup — even a letter from the Tooth Fairy with $2 included! It took a few days for the silver lining to sink in, but no longer was I angry with my Mom’s post… in fact, I appreciated it. Letting people know I was in need of extra TLC resulted in an outpouring of love I’m convinced helped me heal. Within the first few days, with so many friends wanting updates on my condition, I decided to step out of my comfort zone one step further. I went “public” with photos of myself, some pretty graphic with a broken nose and busted up face. I wanted everyone to know their LOVE was working-  my face seemed to be healing,  much faster than I expected. The days I felt so bad I didn’t want to look at myself in the mirror, my loved ones reminded me that no one could steal my smile, it came from my inside out. They checked in on me so I never felt alone in the process of discovering my new normal, without teeth. The love I’ve been gifted over the past 7 months has been nothing short of medicine for my soul. I firmly believe my body healed faster from the outpouring of awesomeness I generously received from my friends and family.

'Tis the Season... to Smile!

‘Tis the Season… to Smile!

3) SMILE… Even if you Don’t Have Teeth My accident happened two weeks before Halloween. While laying in the ER, my initial response was to start listing the various costume ideas to take advantage of my new smile. A Hockey Player? A Jack-O-Lantern? A Hillbilly? Even the idea of a Meth Head came up in conversation! I thought all of these were brilliant;  until the idea of wearing a Christmas Onesie and going as “All I Want For Christmas is my Two Front Teeth” popped into my mind. I couldn’t wait to dress up. I put my hair in pig tails and rocked my Boston Red Sox slippers. And the best part:  some people believed I had makeup on my teeth- never thinking I’d actually lost them! I LOVED their reaction to the realization that I… had no teeth. Of course, I was limited on my candy consumption, stealing all the Reece’s Cups from the bowl.  Having such a blast embracing my toothless grin on Halloween, I decided to ’tis the season and take my smile one step further. I invited a friend to go to the Mall to visit Santa and have some Christmas fun! Again, I wore my hair in pig tails, eager to ask him for my “two front teeth”. I don’t know what made me laugh more, sitting on Santa’s lap for the first time (I’m Jewish) or seeing the reaction of all the parents (many my age) in line with their little ones.  From day one, my attitude has been to make the most of my crooked smile. No way was the loss of two teeth going to get the best of me… if anything, it has forced me to stop sweating the small stuff, bringing out the best in me, by way of my silly smile.

2) Don’t Assume Anything About Anyone. The day after my accident was by far the worst. I’ll never forget the first time I looked in the mirror, my face so swollen I literally didn’t recognize myself.  With a broken nose, lips destroyed from the street and a face sore with scabs, I began to sob, a hard cry, that came from a scared place in my soul. My flowing tears had to create their own pathway down my scratched up cheeks. Would I ever look like my old self? I felt defeated. SO, what did I do? I picked my head up as high as I could and insisted on going to the grocery store to pick out the soup I would need to eat through a straw for the next few weeks. Arm in arm with my boyfriend (who I convinced to support my crazy decision to go out in public) I quickly realized I should have worn a T-Shirt with an arrow pointing to him that said “I Swear He Didn’t Do It”. We got glances. I got stares. For the first time I felt what it was like to be someone that didn’t choose my looks but appeared ugly and deformed, someone that people talked about. I stepped into the role of what it might feel like to want to hide your face. And, it felt awful. I’ll say that there were other people upfront with me, asking me what happened. For these folks I was more than happy to ease their curiosity. I’d rather someone know the truth than assume anything. Over the next few months, I got more comfortable with my new normal and announcing the loss of my teeth took a back seat to just… being me. For example, after my face had healed, I was in a personal essay writing class for 8 weeks, sharing stories, building friendships. To celebrate our final class, we all went out for food and drinks. This was the first time I’d taken out my teeth. To see their reaction, the “Oh my god, I would never have known” when I popped my teeth out,  was the same I got from most who were surprised by my party trick. Of course they didn’t know, why would someone think a pretty girl with a bright smile would be toothless? Many, if not most, of us, have gone through something in life that has changed us, making us who we are today. We often don’t wear our uniqueness on our sleeve. Fortunately, I have not taken anyone’s assumptions, or lack of, personally. If anything, I’ve been happy to create the awareness that what you see isn’t always what you get.  That saying “Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover” couldn’t be more true. Be mindful that everyone is fighting their own battles, whether you can see them or not.

1) Smile Flippers are Flipping Awesome I can’t eat with my fake teeth in. Drinking a glass of wine or coffee tastes different with a plastic retainer in, too.  Pretty much every day, I take my teeth out in public. And, the surprise reaction of a 36 year old gal missing her two front teeth, well, to me, is priceless. I’ve heard from many friends and strangers to friends I’ve met since loosing my teeth. Majority applaud my attitude, saying if it were them, they would not want anyone to know. They’d be embarrassed and didn’t want to look different or draw attention to a deformity. This wasn’t something I chose. This was something that happened. And it was up to me how to handle it. I could never imagine hiding my smile…  it is something I am proud to wear every single day! Brene Brown is famous for saying, “Vulnerability is the New Black” and I couldn’t agree more. Owning our path while choosing confidence and optimism is much more sexy and appealing than attaching to shame, guilt or embarrassment. It would honestly take more energy for me to intentionally hide my smile than it would for me to flash my tooth hole for the world to see. If I want to chew gum, I’m gonna pop my teeth out! If I want to eat hot wings, even if it means getting a little messy, I’m gonna pop my teeth out. If I conformed to society and adopted the idea that because I looked different, somehow I was not as worthy of enjoying these things, then I would be living against all I believe in, for everyone on the planet. Make peace with your situation. It usually could be worse. Feel grateful you are alive with a smile to share. Life is too short to hide your shine.  

Smile... even if you don't have teeth.

Smile… even if you don’t have teeth.

In addition to what I learned from within, I also gained knowledge on a process completely foreign to me before my accident.  Replacing teeth is ridiculously expensive (an entirely different blog post of how unfair it is that teeth are considered cosmetic) and I’m beyond grateful for the support from my Mom.  And, it’s a long process to get permanent implants… up to A YEAR! I’m 7 months into my recovery. In 2 weeks my Dentist from https://dentistinperth.com.au/ will replace my smile flipper with a bridge, glued in to reshape my gum line. 3 months from then, the bridge will be replaced with my porcelain implants and I’ll only be required to visit with my Oral Surgeon for friendly follow ups. As crazy as it sounds, I’m actually going to miss “Rocking Out with me Teeth Out” aka, feeling proud of my One-of-a-Kind smile. It’s created a unique awareness of the food I eat. I brush my teeth… and my retainer. I fall asleep with my teeth out and put them back when I wake in the morning. I’m completely comfortable with my new normal and anyone that knows me will agree that I’ve had fun with my loss.  Missing teeth is a catalyst for all kinds of conversations. It’s helped me befriending a toothless homeless vet, a gal at a sandwich shop in Boston who also wore a “smile flipper” and of course, the countless waitstaff that I’ve surprised with my spaced smile when they return to fill my water glass. I even scored a free dessert from my lack of chompers! But, the people that presented themselves on my path that I will inevitably remember and appreciate most, are my Dentist and Oral Surgeon, my favorite Strangers To Friends of this experience, true Silver Linings. Both of them showed up serendipitously, amazing men who have made a painful experience, as painless as possible.

My question to you is, what are YOUR two front teeth? What have you been forced to accept?? How has your perceived setback actually been a stepping stone? What have you learned about yourself? Of others? Any fears overcome? My intention for writing this is to bring awareness to our choices, our attitude option and our ability to find the good in the bad, whether in the moment or months later. I encourage you to please share this post with anyone that needs help embracing their own “setback” in hopes my story inspires them to want smile from their inside out, too.

Scroll down to leave comments or share your story. Thank you 🙂

Choose Love, Blow Bubbles

5 years ago I stumbled upon a 12 week class teachings of the book, The Artist’s Way: A Course in Discovering and Recovering your Creative Self. Feeling the flow of my personal journey, I immediately signed up, excited to dive deep and learn more about myself. One of the weekly exercises given to us: blow bubbles in a place that one would normally never blow bubbles. At first I thought this was a joke, I mean, my task was to blow bubbles? How could learning be so fun??? Our assignment: to take notes of how it effected not only ourselves, but those around us. I was all over this  challenge and could hardly wait! Where to go? What would the outcome be? Little did I know this assignment would not only change my life for the better but also become a beautiful way for me to Turn Strangers Into Friends.

bubbles

I tossed my yellow bubbles bottle in my tote bag and headed to a coffee shop near the beach. It wasn’t crowded, only 5 people in the shop, all in their own worlds, unaware of each other, playing on their lap tops, reading a book or writing a paper.  I specifically chose a table in the middle of the room, sat down with my notebook, pulled the my bubbles out of my bag, slowly brought the wand to my mouth — and- oh….wait…what was this feeling in the pit of my stomach? Why was I hesitating? I glanced around the room. No one was looking at me. But, for a split second and had to gather my thoughts and take a deep breath, I mean, I was about to blow bubbles inside a quiet coffee shop! It felt a tad awkward.

But then… I blew!

…and immediately the bubbles blew back in and smacked me in the face! Why? Because I failed to notice the ceiling fan overhead! That is, until the guy sitting across the room who happen to see me in my bubble blowing attempt pointed it out, suggesting I turn around to avoid the breeze. I quickly wrote down this response. Then, as I spun around in my chair giggling, blowing again, the older gentleman to my now front looked up from his paper and squealed, “You are so cute! Are you writing a book?”

And so it began: Bubbles Bringing Everybody Together.

Before I knew it, everyone in the shop was involved with the conversation, volunteering stories, asking thought provoking questions, enjoying each other’s company. The coffee shop was filled to the brim with life and fun story swapping! Turns out one guy actually brought bubbles with him while he traveled to poverty stricken countries to share with the children of families he would stay with. HOW COOL!  As I continued to write about my own experience, my own happiness continued to bubble up inside of me.

In this moment I realized: Bubbles Bring out the Best in Everyone. 

The following week in class, we took turns telling our bubble tales. One gal blew hers in an elevator (awesome!) another while shopping in Target (I’m sure the kids got a kick out of that!). But on the flip side, a few blew them in their car during traffic or more surprising to me,  two people could not find the time to blow their bubbles. How could that be? It made me sad, knowing how much joy the bubbles brought me. It was then my teacher explained that the act of “blowing bubbles” and drawing attention to ourselves was really an exercise in overcoming FEAR.  AH… now I got it. Stepping out of our comfort zone, embracing the unknown. I smiled knowing I passed this test with flying colors… or rather, flying bubbles!

FEAR, as he explained it means: F*CK EVERYTHING AND RUN – or- FACE EVERYTHING AND RECOVER! Life is a constant flow of choices based on either love or fear. Had I chose to hide from being seen with bubbles I’d have missed out on a memory making moment, meeting amazing people, an experience powerful enough to share with all of you. Fortunately, I made my decision based on LOVE, from a place in my heart. I did not see it as fear vs success but rather living in the moment. I didn’t believe my actions could hurt anyone. My inner child embraced the idea and my soul smiled.  Many times when we are scared to do something we create an excuse, one we will defend with honor, and our ego will justify until we are blue in the face. Our job is to step through our perceived set back so our spirit can shine!

Bubble Blowing

The year I discovered that bubbles make everything better, 2010

Rather than spend your energy convincing yourself why not to do something, TRY IT, step out of your box, embrace the bubbles in YOUR life!

To this day, I carry bubbles in my purse wherever I go 🙂

Now it’s your turn:

What you need: Bubbles. Party City has an excellent supply.

What you will do: Blow them

What will happen: People will laugh, smile, look at you strangely, ask you if you are doing a social experiment, ask to blow them with you and even start telling you their favorite bubble story.

WHY DOES THIS HAPPEN:

Easy: Bubbles Make Everything Better

Have you ever seen an angry person blowing bubbles? NO. Because… they make people happy. AND, what is the best way to meet people: make them happy!

When it comes to blowing bubbles, the sky is the limit (yes, pun intended) but here are a few suggestions on where practice your Bubble Blowing Skills!

•    The Zoo (little kids love it—but so do the parents!)
•    Favorite Coffee Shop (everyone needs a break from the computer screen)
•    A Bar (an EASY way to meet someone, and usually you find a birthday boy or gal that wants in on the fun!)
•    While taking a stroll around the park, the city, the campus, the grocery store (you will intrigue others while intriguing yourself)

•    On a Patio: I like to think that any time we are outside in fresh air, we are enjoying life! Spark a smile & watch your bubbles dance to the sky.

•    Parties: ever go to a party and not know a soul? Fear no more! Be the one to show up with Bubbles… and you are an instant Party Favor Pal!

•    Parades—by the end of the day, you have formed your own line of followers
•    TRAVELING/AT THE AIRPORT: pack them in your day sack, your back pack or buy the 2 oz bottles & carry them in your purse or pocket. While waiting on a lay over, catching a train or sight seeing in a new city… you and your bubbles will leave a lasting impression.

***The hardest part of this exercise is not deciding where or when to blow the bubbles; the hardest part is overcoming the fear of doing something out of the ordinary to draw attention to you… in a positive way!***

My Challenge: BLOW BUBBLES!

Grab a bottle and start blowing! Who did you meet? Anything fun happen as a result? Take pictures and share your Bubble Buddy Makin’ Story and I will post it here. Send to carlyn@strangerstofriends.com 

 

From Strangers…to Friends. Written by: Vanessa Drake

I truly believe that the greatest gift a friend can give… is their friendship. The story of how Vanessa and I crossed the line from Strangers to Friends is one that has changed both of our lives for the better. Over the past few months, I’ve asked friends to share one of their own “Stranger to Friend” stories with me so that I could post it on my site as a “Feature Friend Story”. To my surprise, on my 33rd Birthday, Vanessa sent me a story; the story of US. Below is her version… an incredible story of overcoming self doubt to accomplishing a great feat. Thank You, Vanessa! Our friendship is one that I’ll always and forever cherish; this story means the world to me 🙂

The start of the MS Challenge Walk

…..I am a little ashamed of how long it has taken me to get this story locked into the Strangers To Friends site but from the other stories I have read on the site, I find that I am not the only one that believes things happen when they need to, timing is everything….
This is the story of how Carlyn Shaw went from being a stranger, just a voice on the other end of the line, to my inspiring friend. In the fall of 2008, I was looking to leave my current job as an RN in a doctors office to explore something more lucerative, as well as challenging. So I started investigating the world of travel nursing. By some amazing stroke of luck, or divine intervention, I was connected to Carlyn as my recruiter.
At this time, I was working on all areas of my life……in the process of becoming a stronger, more confident person, and learning more about who I was. I was in need of something drastic to stir things up a bit but, simply said, I was terrified of the prospect of traveling to a far away place, by myself, not knowing a single soul. However, because of how amazing, supportive, and overwhelmingly convincing Carlyn can be, she wouldn’t take no for an answer and soon I found myself driving from North Carolina to the big ol’ state of Texas.
As it turned out, Carlyn and I would only be in the recruiter/recruitee relationship for a very short time.  Her path was leading her other places as well. Reluctantly, I found another recruiter and ended up coming back to North Carolina, working for a few months, unhappily, only to find myself in the job I am in today. And this is where I was meant to be. I wouldn’t know it until months later, but going to Texas was one of the best things that could have happened to me. That person that I was trying to find, trying to become, started taking shape while I was there. And if it wasn’t for Carlyn convincing me to go, that above everything else, it would all be okay, I might not be where I am today. Again, timing is everything.
For the next 2 years, Carlyn and I stayed in touch through email, facebook, and a periodic phone call, becoming friends….I had a sideline view of all the things she was experiencing and doing in her life and it made me want to experience new things as well. Did I mention she was inspiring? One of those was the MS Challenge Walk…..50 miles over three days in San Diego.
SO…..NEVER having been to San Diego, or California for that matter, NEVER having raised money for a cause, NEVER having walked 50 miles, and NEVER having met the one and only Carlyn in person……I signed up for the walk, raised money (with Carlyns help of course), and ventured off to the west coast (I was traveling the country alone, again,…..but this time with a heck of a lot more confidence)!!!!

onloy 10 miles left!

I was nervous (but excited) to meet Carlyn face-to-face for the first time. But, as soon as she pulled up to the curb at the airport, it was like we had done it a million times before. This “my friends” is the power of the human connection that she talks about. You take two people who live on opposite sides of the USA and wha-lah, STRANGERS TO FRIENDS!!! (As you can imagine, I had an amazing time in San Diego. A trip that will stay with me forever.)
Now as fate would have it, Carlyn has moved to my neck of the woods, to Wilmington, NC.  Who would have thought?? So now, I hope to be able repay her in some way for all that she has helped me accomplish. I am proud to be part of a friendship that is a by-product of her passion, her mission to connect us. She continues to inspire me and I hope to learn and meet more through her example.

Happy Birthday, Margaret Stewart

Since everything happens for a reason, OF COURSE the weekend  I decide to start blogging about the fascinating people that represent the puzzle pieces of my life… it is also the birthday weekend of my best friend whose death taught me the depths of a single friendship– and that all it takes is one person to truly change/influence/guide/inspire/ the path of our life 🙂

Marge and Me: Eastside High School Graduation, May 1996

On Feb 13, 1978, my best friend, Margaret Stewart, was born. On July 26, 1998, she died in a tragic car accident.  I will never forget the day I lost her… but more importantly, I will always remember the day we met. It was the 1st day of 6th Grade at Greenville Middle School. My elementary and her elementary school combined so that lots of kids got to meet for the first time. Which meant, I finally got to make my own- NEW- friends. Since we both has an “S” last name we were assigned to the same homeroom.  As I recall, I was wearing a bright yellow cotton skirt with colorful designs, a red t shirt with rolled up sleeves revealing the yellow on the flip side, and bright, white KEDS. And yes. I thought I was cool. But… then I saw this freckled girl to my right wearing gummy-like big, green, fish dangling earrings and I was totally in awe.  I soon discovered they had names: Fred and Ted. And yup, that’s how it began.  An alphabetic blessing for 2 girls that loved kick starting the new school year off in the style!!!

By the time 12th grade rolled around and we were “leaving behind” our Last Wills to our Senior Class,  Marge made it a point NOT to leave me her ‘good luck’… because she thought she was super unlucky (for those that knew her, feel free to laugh with me!) . I never forgot that. So, 6 months after her death, to honor how lucky I was to have shared so many AMAZING years creating endless memories and lifetimes of laughter with her by my side and to permanently make her my Good Luck Charm, I had a Shamrock with the letter “M” tattooed on my lower back.  Best part: I had this done in Dublin, Ireland, the day after St. Patrick’s Day!!!!  Imagine– me, in Dublin- Guinness one hand, Irish flag in the other. It was EPIC (not to mention days after my 21st birthday…)  But more important than staying at a hostel that happened to have a tattoo covered employee to point me in the right direction or traveling with Erin Schael who would hold my hand while the deed was done (I’ll discuss Erin in a future blog) was what I learned that day:  Not only was I lucky to have her in life, but I was already experiencing the luck she brought my world after her death.  I was beginning to understand that silver linings did exist! From my sadness and depression came an amazing experience: a semester studying in London, England. I knew that had Margaret not died I would not have felt so compelled to live for the both of us- thus landing myself in Ireland with a Guinness in hand, on St. Patrick’s Day.

Meredith, Me and Margaret: Eastside High Prom, Margaret’s Backyard… the good ol’ days!

It was extremely hard to grasp this concept at the age of 20.  I feel like I was forced to grow up way too fast. You see, Margaret was not my first friend to die. This story would NOT be complete without mentioning our other best friend, Meredith Hendley. Meredith died 9 months before Margaret. Not only that, but Margaret had been the one to call me to tell me Meredith died. And, now they laid buried side by side in a cemetery.  It was unheard of.  Words can not begin to describe what happens when everything you consider to be stable is completely shaken to the core.  Now all of our stories were only to be told from my point of view! What if I didn’t tell them correctly? I felt a lot of pressure to represent all of us. Its hard for me to describe now what I went through back then as I tip toed through life on egg shells, trying to grasp on to smallest chance of feeling whole, but the evidence is clear how it effected my relationships with people and life.  Back then I felt guilty seeing the rainbow through the rain. I didn’t want to believe in a “brighter side”. BUT- that is just it.. THE LESSON I was meant to not only embody but then share with every person I met. And, step by step, place by place.  Friend by friend. I did. I have. I still am. It didn’t take me long to realize I would not have decided to travel to London to study for the Semester had Margaret not passed away.  BUT- it was something I needed to for myself. A choice.  To clear my head… and discover my true zest: learning life hands on and TRAVELING. As crazy as it might sound to someone that has never experienced the loss of a friend, she helped give me the strength to do it.  Already I was living my life with more passion and purpose. It was the beginning of my own journey– because I wanted to live life to the fullest– for all of us!  Margaret’s friendship 100% continues to influence me. THAT is the meaning of true friendship. That is the power the simple act of Turning a Stranger Into a Friend can have on you 🙂

Summer after our Freshman Year in College

The synchronicity of this being the weekend I am launching my blog and it also being the weekend to honor her birth… well, lets just say it’s the BEST birthday present I can think to give her– and at the same time, her inspiration guided me here… the best gift she could have ever given me! Ah… it sure does make me smile.

I wonder what ever happened to Fred and Ted…  I’d totally rock those earrings now!

Happy Birthday, Marge!!!

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