Giving = Receiving

“For it is in giving that we receive.” ― St. Francis of Assisi

I love helping others. I especially love helping others without them asking for it. It fills me with joy to take the initiative and choose to make a difference. Whether I surprise someone with a smile, or simply give because it feels like the human thing to do, many times my soul feels called to be a part of a change that another person wishes to create. Sometimes I make an $18 donation to a bike ride or race, sometimes it’s reaching out to offer support because I feel when an individual need extra TLC. For others, it means spreading their word of a mission or passion while even better, connecting them together with a friend working towards the same end result. It’s all about intention and my intention is always: LOVE.
It's Not How Much You Give

This brings me to an email I received this morning from my friend, Russ Bates. Russ & I met in 2009 at the MS 50 Mile Challenge Walk in San Diego, CA. This 3 day event raises money and awareness for Multiple Sclerosis. MS is near and dear to me due to my own diagnosis in 1998 and for all the incredible friends I’ve made over the years (my strangers to friends, my silver lining) that either themselves live with it or fight to help on behalf of a loved one. Russ was a member of the Crew Team. He assisted setting up the course, delivering luggage, water, all the behind the scene work that made the weekend possible. You see, Russ’s wife, Nancy, was diagnosed with Primary Progressive MS in 1994 and passed away in April, 2006. He participated in 8 Challenge Walks to support her. Nancy went from a lively young woman to being bed ridden, but never lost her strong will and positive attitude. She never let MS get the best of her. Every year she rocked her smile and cheered on the walkers along the route. It was knowing their story, his love & commitment to the cause, even after her death, that called my spirit to support him.

For the past 3 years we have been in touch via Facebook. He constantly cheers on my crazy endeavors and I check in to see how he is doing. You see, Russ has had major health issues for the past few years. I can’t make him strong and healthy but I can try to make him smile. A few weeks ago, after reading a link he posted on his page, I realized I could possibly help Russ a little more than I had in the past. Here is his own version, his story, that he sent to me as a THANK YOU Today. I’m honored to share with you…

My friend, Russ Bates

My friend, Russ Bates


Strangers into friends…

“When you first meet someone you never know how they are going to affect your life. Such was my initial introduction to Carlyn Shaw. We knew of each other from a previous event in which we had both participated, but were officially introduced at an organizational meeting for San Diego’s Annual 50 Mile Challenge Walk for MS in 2009. I was smitten with her effervescent positive attitude toward life, even in the face of having a potentially debilitating disease from which (as for now) has no definite cure. That years walk turned out to be very special for me as it turned out to be my last, after 8 years of participation. Carlyn’s enthusiasm for life was on display all that weekend as her team of walkers provided humor, fun and friendship for everyone. Later that year I moved away from CA and lost touch with Carlyn.
We reconnected on Facebook in 2011 as she was traveling across the country, on what I jokingly called her “Stranger into Friends, USA tour”. We have not seen each other since our walk days, but we do maintain communication on FB to this day. Her various posts are always uplifting and positive, even as she deals with her own daily trials.
Over the last 3 years my health has had several major downturns (a stroke & 2 heart attacks) yet Carlyn has continued to post messages on FB that lift me up and always make me feel better about myself and my situation. After my most recent heart attack this past month (June), I realized how lucky I was to still be alive. Immediately I felt the need to go see my family (my Mom and Sisters in CA and my Daughter in Seattle). I had a fear that I may never get another chance to see them.
Being extremely broke and with no extra cash in sight in order to make the trip, I turned to a site on the Internet (GoFundMe) designed to help people raise money for any need they might have. I shared my story on FB and almost immediately Carlyn popped up and said she would forward my story and request to her friends. She literally did so and within 12 hours I had already raised more than half of my goal ($800) through responses from her good friends, most of which are the result of her Strangers into Friends efforts. I don’t know how to repay her other than to say THANK YOU and continue to spread the good word about her efforts to spread friendship and love throughout the world. She is a great friend and someone that I am truly blessed to have met.”

An enlightened perspective from Jeff Maziarek in “Spirituality Simplified”

“Remember that every cause you initiate leads to an effect. So, when you give from the heart, you set energy into motion that must in turn find its way back to you in some form. I say in some form, because there is no telling how or when the effect may show up.”

Choosing to share his page with others made complete sense at the time of sending.
1) I suggested $10, a small amount but when added up makes a big difference. Plus, who doesn’t love the awesome feeling we instantly receive knowing we helped someone in need (I know I sure do!)
2) Money is tight for me right now. I knew that alone I could not fund his trip. The idea literally popped into my head that I had a chance to REALLY make a difference if I shared his story rather than simply donate $20. And, usually I simply donate. But good thing I listened to my intuition… because it was right! My awesome friends/family together donated $510– FAR MORE THAN I EVER IMAGINED! – for their own reasons, Portia, Rabiah and My Mom, Susie, chose to carry the torch and keep the ripple in motion. I love them so much for their selflessness. I can’t begin to describe the pride I felt in their contribution, knowing they were touched by his story and my effort to support him. AND…I’m thrilled to say not only did he accomplish his goal but his flights are booked and he will leave from Kansas to see his family very soon.

The point of this post is to highlight that GIVING = RECEIVING. Not only will Russ visit his family… but now his family receiving in the hugs they will share. Not only did my sharing of his letter come from a place of hope & love… but the end results surpassed my expectations! Not only did it make me happy inside just knowing I extended a little extra help to him… but receiving this email, validating my simple effort even that much more, well friends, THAT is the greatest gift of all. LOVE & FRIENDSHIP. And… WOW, what a PERFECT display of Strangers Turned Friends helping each other. Like I always say, we are ALL connected… somehow, someway. 🙂

Today I challenge you to think how your giving is being received. How will YOU create a ripple effect? I’ve shown that it doesn’t take money to make a difference. Sometimes it’s a matter of stepping up when you feel called to do so. Not being afraid to stand out for someone else. If your intention is to spread love & light, I promise you, that love & light will be received. Sometimes from strangers meant to be friends.

Namaste Friends, the light in me bows to the light in you. 🙂

Stand By Me: A Song and a Smile.

I’d like to introduce Jenna Goodhand, from London, Ontario.

Jenna Goodhand, beautiful both inside & out

This is how she chooses to describe herself on her ABOUT tab on her Facebook Page:

Every day is the best day of my life and I can’t wait until tomorrow! ♥♥♥
In general I just want to live my life to the fullest in a way that doesnt cause harm to any other living thing. If I can use my life to make someone elses better then I have accomplished what I came here to do.

Yup, in a nutshell, that’s Jenna!

Jenna and I’s journey began via her Twitter Page (follow along!) At the time she was completing her Program as an Assistant for ISES – Institute for Social and European Studies, in KÅ‘szeg, Hungary.

From the start, our passion for helping others and sharing stories connected us. Whether is was skype, a facebook tag or an email to “The Sunshine Squad” we made sure we brought smiles to each other in our weekly banter. Over the last year, she and I have both grown into the women we are today. We’ve both been though our own mucky waters, silver linings and unexpected shifts in life.

The Cup of Tea I shared with Jenna one morning.

Even though I was in the Carolinas and she in Canada, our common mission to make sure that everyone knows they are a someone, that each day, ordinary people are recognized as being extraordinary, fueled us to cheer each other on, in both good times and bad. We both really believe in the good in people. We believe in the power that one person can make a difference every day. Jenna is a beautiful example of the influence one person can have on another. In a positive way ♥♥♥

In life, Not only is timing everything. But, consciously choosing to make the most out of a moment during that time is what really matters. And Jenna not only captured the moment as a video, but this morning, I woke up to her sharing the moment on my Facebook Page.
And now I choose to share it with all of you.

It reads:

“Carlyn since I’ve met you every stranger I’ve met I’ve meant to share with Turning Strangers into Friends. Today I got a video to capture my most recent experience 🙂 While waiting for a good friend today I met this man. His singing was wonderful to listen to while I waited so I thanked him and asked if he could play Stand By Me. Afterwards he told me that a few months ago the apartment he was living in burned down. He moved into another apartment but the landlord wouldn’t fix the heating so he wouldn’t pay until she did. Instead she evicted him. He said for the first time in 65 years he is homeless and has no work. Now he is playing music until he earns enough money to buy a bus ticket to get him to Ottawa for a job and apartment a friend has set up for him. Wonderful soul and I’ll always wonder how he made out ♥”

Click below to watch the video

A Promise Made Possible

 

Me & James hanging out in San Diego

 

I always say, “People = Possibilities”. This is a beautiful example of how the journey of two strangers that met in 9th grade gym class… became the journey to two friends with a mission to share my story of MS with others.

 

It was 1992. Freshman Year Gym Class at Eastside High School. I was wearing blue shorts & a white shirt. He was wearing blue shorts &  a white shirt (picture your uniform… yikes!) BUT- this is where James Glover and I first met & became friends.  Over the next 4 years,  He & I passed “secret admirers” notes in class as our inside joke (which I guess is not so “secret” anymore) 🙂 .

 

We graduated. Then went to College. We literally went from Passing Notes to Exchanging Emails (funny to think this is when we all got our first email addresses!)

 In 1997, while attending Indiana University, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Even though James was the University of Tennessee- he was ALWAYS there for me when I needed to talk about MS or any other life issue.

We continued to grow up. Our friendship grew stronger.

He and I share a passion for pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone- so by 2003, we were both living in Southern California (totally unplanned- but totally perfect) He in LA, me in San Diego. For the next 7 years, any chance we could cross paths; we did. As James’ career as a TV Producer in LA evolved from The Tyra Banks show to Dr. Phil, he’d say to me, one day I am getting you on TV to discuss how you’ve chosen to handle your MS Diagnosis”. It seemed the more involved I became speaking out about my MS, the more James supported my mission. He promoted of all my fundraising initiatives and success stories – and IS the reason our High School friends know my story.

Do you have a friend that provides unconditional support– no matter how much time has passed or distance has come between you?

 This is James.

 As it would turn out, James and I both moved back to the East Coast this year.  He to NY. Me to NC. I decided to pursue my passion Turning Strangers into Friends. He got a job as a producer for the Anderson Cooper Day Time Talk show. And again, James promised.

And then..it happened.

 On Tuesday, November 29th at 9 PM I got the call… and Wednesday, November 30 at 11 AM I was Big Apple bound. Why? James, believes in me, my message and shared it with his staff. I was invited to appear on the Anderson Cooper show! The segment featured Meredith Vierra and her husband Richard Cohen, sharing their story of working and living with Richard’s MS diagnosis. Not only was I able to hear his story in person, but he of mine. It was truly incredible. This reinforced my knowing: our stories connect us all. (plus, as a TV Broadcasting Journalism Major: I heart Meredith Vieira! )

Plus, the opportunity to fly to NYC, my own hotel room, getting my hair and makeup done as if I was someone famous…really made the experience – epic.  But, the best part: knowing James love for me and my story made it happen. If I met someone on set who knew James, I made sure they knew we’d been friends since high school! Our days as “secret admirers” in the hall transformed into present day “secret admirers” of in roles we continued to play in each other’s lives. 

 

Celebrating with James Glover and Meredith Richards, both Producers for the show.

 However, this story would not be complete without mentioning Meredith Richards, the Producer to whom Jame’s pitched my story and who inevitably, had the final say as to whether I would be selected as a guest. Not only was I grateful to thank her on set… but even more grateful to meet her as a friend the night after the taping to celebrate all of our success.

This blog serves as a small gesture of my gratitude for James. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my story with others living with MS. My hope is someone newly diagnosed or feeling helpless hears my story & it gives them hope for their own future. But, most importantly, thank you for being the same friend to me today that you have always been, since the day we met in gym class. 

CLICK BELOW and watch.. my version of “recording” my appearance! 

We’re In It Together

This is Annie….

Annie and her best friend, Marissa

….but before I share the story she emailed me, I want to share with you how she and I are connected.

On the day before what should have been the 21st birthday of her best friend, Annie found herself crying and reflecting on the tragic loss of Marissa merely one month prior. Marissa had recently died in a car accident and now Annie sat alone, on a day she should have been planning a celebration with her. For whatever reason, Annie decided to Google on her phone,  “people who lost best friends and how they cope”… and up popped my website and the first Blog Entry I ever posted.  (See Happy Birthday, Margaret Stewart ). This story talks about the loss of my best friend at age 20 in a car accident too.  Annie wrote a comment on my page- and in that moment I knew i had to reach out to ensure she didn’t feel alone. Annie would later write to me, ” I knew I had to comment on it. I just felt the need to say SOMETHING…I felt as if at that moment I was truly being connected in some way. And even if you never did respond back, I am still happy I came across your blog. You seemed to be so real and genuine. It was just very nice to read especially being in the emotional state I was in I also lost my best friend the same way.”  I truly believe Annie was meant to find me and we have stayed connected ever since. And… it just so happens she lives in the same city as my Mom, so one day we plan to meet.

Now that you know how Annie and I connected, this is the story she sent me last week

“So…last night as I was walking to my friend’s car from a night of dancing, I passed by this obvious homeless man and a younger guy. When I used to live in NY and we’d go to the city there were homeless people everywhere, and my mom would occasionally give them money. However, I have been skeptical whether or not some people who do that- especially those I’ve seen in SC walk around begging-  are genuine. I really didn’t know. This man was sitting on the street, minding his own business, but for some reason I decided to stop.

It was pretty chilly last night, very windy, and to see this man sitting there in the cold upset me. At first I said hello and basically told him I didn’t have hardly ANY money, just some change, but I would really like to help. The old man obliged. I still was wondering, could he be sitting here just to take people’s money?? Is he really homeless? He started to tell me stories of the many jobs he’s had in his life and that he work hard his entire life, but couldn’t continue the labor he was doing. And now, he was on the street and it was too cold out..

Annie always wears her smile

Then the younger guy sitting near him told me that he is a in fact a teacher at the school the homeless attended many years ago. He asked me to read the back of his t-shirt which said, “we’re in it together, we’re all one.” That is when it really hit me!!! I immediately thought of you, Carlyn,  and your ‘Strangers to Friends’ group and how much GOOD you do for people, opening our eyes to those around us. I began to tell him as much as I know about your mission and both men seemed to be extremely interested. A friend who was with me had been standing there the whole time, and somehow ..we began discussing nationalities and ethnicity and he said, “in the big scheme of things, I don’t care , I’m just HUMAN.” And I thought to myself wow, that is so nice…such a togetherness to it.  I then told the guys that I honestly don’t go up to complete strangers…never, ever. but, something inside me just told me to do it.. and I listened. I guess, because deep down, I really wanted to.

Talking with those men completely filled my heart up with love. I proceeded to go through my purse and scramble up all the change I had, and gave it to the homeless man. I actually felt quite embarrassed that I couldn’t give him more.  However, to see his face light up was an indescribable feeling. I began to get teary eyed, at that point trying not to let them notice ( I was embarrassed!)  The homeless man then thanked me and told me how happy he was that I gave what I had. He told me that he felt in his heart love will come my way, that doing good for others will come back to me. That was such a special moment to me that I asked him if I could give him a hug, but before he could answer, I went for it. Hugging him made it complete.

Carlyn, you have truly inspired me, and I know many other, too, and I want to share this story with others. The little that I know about your Strangers To Friends mission – I knew I should listen to my heart and take the risk.”

This truly made my night. Thank you for what you do. ♥

Love,

Annie

Won’t you be my neighbor?

Before I jump into my story about Stacey Fontaine-Skelly, I must give you a little background on where our journey of Stranger to Friend initially began…

I had noticed that a beautiful couple (who I’d later learn to be Stacey & Mark) moved into the apartment unit below mine. Naturally, I was intrigued by clues I’d discovered: his Irish accent, her dark skin, their youthful spirit, the Florida license plate, the wedding rings, the puppy… but most importantly, I was drawn to their smiles.  Which is why now it baffles us that it took so long for us to become friends, but once again, timing is everything!

Having fun with Stacey and Mark at the Hillcrest Farmers Market this morning!

Later in the week, my landlord informed me that the couple I was curious about below had actually decided to move to a bigger apartment a few streets away by the end of the month. This meant 2 things: 1) if our friendship was to evolve to more than smiles and friendly hellos I had to act fast… and 2) I had the chance to hand pick my next neighbor. (I do love seeing the glass half full)

Our first night as friends, New Years Eve 2010

As luck, or rather, opportunity, should have it, I happen to meet another gal merely days before, Lyndsie Boarman, who seemed like the perfect “new neighbor” type. Lyndsie moved from Denver, hardly knew  a soul…and was currently renting an apartment in the ‘burbs she found on Craigslist. A mutual friend connected us in hopes I could show her more of San Diego.  After a few calls, Lyndsie and I met, for the very first time, at my house at 8:30 PM Dec. 31, 2009 and we literally rang in the New Year as New Friends. That was a first for me, too! On Jan. 2nd,  Lyndsie came over to check out the apartment.  Naturally, I went down to the apartment with her – which is how Stacey and I FINALLY had the chance to chat.  Within a few minutes of meeting, I ran back upstairs, grabbed a Strangers to Friends card and Stacey and I giddily began our journey. Within the next 3 weeks, Stacey and Mark moved to North Park and Lydnsie moved in. In’t it funny that sometimes it take a friend MOVING to actually bring you closer together? Well, that’s exactly what happened with us.

Stacey and I exchanged text messages over the next few months, desperately trying to coordinate schedules but it never seemed to work: until last week!  She invited me to come over to check out their new place for an inexpensive yet intimate night of  Trader Joe’s Vino and Domino’s Pizza (the perfect combo!) On my way over, I had this feeling as if I was going to hang with a friend I had known for a while, only in reality, this was completely new for us. But it felt familiar. For the first time, we sat and talked, as girls, for hours. We talked about our back grounds, our passion for theater, our slacking in the kitchen abilities, our love for live music, became Facebook friends and made plans for a future Yoga Date. I then gave her my latest and greatest Strangers To Friends card with this web address on the front. We hugged good bye and thanked each other for the wonderful night. I knew then and there, Stacey was a true friend. I could feel it in my soul.

Fast forward to this morning, months later.  I woke up at Tina’s place in Ocean Beach, unable to sleep while the airplanes roared over head so, without thinking too much, I decided to check my email on my iphone.  In an instant, what started off as a morning I wanted to be anything but awake, turned into a morning I couldn’t wait for Tina to stir so I could share with her what I had received. Below is the email I got from Stacey which moved me so much, I felt the need to share with all of you. Her decision to be open with me was the inspiration I needed to write my next story. You never know, your new friend could really be the girl next door… 🙂

To the fascinating Carlyn:

I have no idea why it took me so long to read your blog, but, as you wrote yourself, everything happens for a reason; even the timing of things. Well, I couldn’t have read that blog at a more perfect time.

I have been loving San Diego so far. To me, it is Pleasantville and, although my mom would kill me if she heard me say this…I don’t see myself moving back to Florida annnnytime soon. I also love spending time with Mark. He really is my best friend and I’m never bored when I’m with him. All that said, I am the type of person that has this deep (and, I think, natural) need for friendships outside of ONLY a significant other.

I have the most amazing best friends back home who I speak with everyday, but they all live across the country and none of us have the means to see one another as often as we’d like. At times, it feels awful not having a girlfriend around to just talk girl nonsense or girl seriousness with. I miss it.

So that brings me back to the fact that this was the perfect time to read your blog.

I am at this transitional point in my life where I’m slowly learning more and more about myself.  I feel like things are slowly coming together in the most wonderful of ways. I love life, and I think I’m a positive person. I married the perfect man for me, we moved out here, I’m beginning to pursue a dream I’d been afraid to pursue before, I looooove where I live-literally..I love the city, I love the neighborhood, I love the apt. I love my job bc it’s not just a fun environment, but it affords me the time to pursue acting on the side. And I’ve been reading really uplifting fantastic books that keep the positivity train moving (just finished The Alchemist…man, amazing) But this last thing that is ever so important…new friendships, I feel as though I am failing. Completely and utterly failing. I have met many people this past year and have become very close to one, Sade, who is such an incredible and fun person, but your blog struck such a chord with my heart.

Making new friends was easier when I was younger. I possessed this strange confidence and didn’t over analyze so much. I just enjoyed meeting new people and developing lasting relationships with them. In a simple way. Now, I feel like when I meet new people, I have such trouble opening myself up like you do! I could never have just struck up a convo with the woman in the airport like you did, unless she spoke to me first. Or even meeting up with your old friend- I probably would have thought to myself “wow, it’s been so long, what will I even talk to her about…maybe I shouldn’t meet up with her”. And when I’m in planes, I hurriedly put my headphones on so I DON’T have to talk to people…and what’s crazy is, is that THAT is not me! I love people, I love hearing people’s stories, I love knowing others adventures, hopes, dreams, lives…when did I become like this? Why do I keep calling myself shy and introverted if I’m really not? I love vibrancy and crowds and excitement and people!

Your blog made me yearn for a new way of thinking. I want to be open and available for new people and new experiences. I want to force myself to make strangers into friends, so that soon after, it won’t be forced, it’ll just be so embedded into who I am and what I do. I think I read it at a perfect time bc I feel as though right now, I am ready in my mind and heart in a way that I wasn’t before.

Anyway, I just want to say I am so happy to have met you. I’m kinda mad at myself for not taking advantage of our friendship when I lived on campus ave. I think that had a little to do, also, with the fact that Mark and i just got married and were getting to know each other all over again all alone in this new city… but again, everything has its time.

So here is to new life philosophies, new adventures, and new friendships. Thank you Carlyn the Fascinating! 🙂 “

THANK YOU, STACEY!!!! Your email INSPIRED me to write again. As you said, it’s Cynical Goodness… and I love you for it.

But even more so, THANK YOU LYNDSIE– because if it were not for you and our insanely instant bond, I would never have been led to Stacey. Ain’t Karma, GREAT!!! XOXO

***This email brought tears to my eyes. My mission is working. I want to open the hearts and the minds of people I meet and Stacey confirmed with me that I have done just that. This is just the beginning 🙂 ***

Won’t you meet your neighbor, too?

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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