She’s All That And A Bag Of Chips- Donna

 

10748923_10203971550866733_2115976208_n

Donna: Age 54  Central Florida

Her Story:  Donna is the mother to two sons and one daughter.  On July 2nd 2002 her world changed forever.  Katie, her 15-year-old daughter, ate dinner with the family as she normally did.  She asked her mother if she could go out with some friends after dinner and Donna agreed as long as she was home by midnight.  Around 11:30 pm, a friend’s mother dropped Katie off at her home and watched her walk into the house. The next morning Donna was heading to work and noticed that Katie wasn’t in her room.  The lights and music were on so Donna figured she got up early to go to a friend’s house.  Donna went to work but when she returned home; Katie was still not there.  Donna called all of Katie’s friends and redialed the last number on her phone but could not locate her daughter.  She knew in her heart that something was wrong and reported her missing.

The next day, two men were walking in the woods and found a naked body laying next to a creek.  It was an unidentifiable young female who had been brutally raped, asphyxiated, burned and tossed on the side of the road like a piece of trash.  Sadly, dental records confirmed that the dead body was Katie’s, age 15.

 

Who committed this horrific crime? The police traced a phone call from our house at 1:03 am the night she went missing.  She talked with a young man for 12 min. Katie hung up the phone and met him outside of her home. He arrived at her house with a few friends in his car and she joined them. She thought she was going for a ride to get cigarettes but never returned. He was an acquaintance of Katie’s but nothing more than that. This phone call led the police to more evidence and eventually he went to trial and was charged with the murder of 15-year-old Katie.

Tell me about Katie. Who was she? She was a gorgeous 15-year-old girl.  A true social butterfly.  She loved life and everyone in it.  She was innocent and truly did not think that anyone would ever hurt her. It’s strange, just before Katie passed I had a conversation with her. I told her how I would have heartache for the rest of my life if something ever happened to one of my children.

How do you move on after something so devastating? Losing a child feels like your heart is being ripped out of you. But losing a child in such a violent way sends those suffering into an unspeakable level of grieving. This was not a sickness or an accident, ya know?

Initially, I kept myself busy trying to figure out who committed this horrific crime.  I spent my time at the police station, going to the trials and making sure justice was served.  Now, I think telling Katie’s story has helped me. It makes me happy when people remember her.  There is a small bridge over the creek where Katie’s body was found.  It’s a beautiful little spot and a few years ago they named the bridge in honor of Katie.  I think it goes without saying that I have also relied heavily on my faith in God for strength.  I know this may sound strange but there are moments when I feel her spirit and I talk to her.

I also make an effort to call families who are suffering the loss of a child.  I know from experience that these families need support but they usually do not have the strength or energy to seek help.  I have called complete strangers to let them know that they are in my thoughts.  It’s helpful to those grieving to know that they are loved and supported.

What do you want others to know? I want everyone to know that this could happen to you.  We lived in a good neighborhood and in a good town. We are a loving family. Trust me, I never thought I’d be on the news and I certainly never thought that my own child would be murdered.

One day I was in the grocery store and a young girl approached me.  She told me that she felt guilty for my daughters murder.  When I inquired, she confessed that she too had been raped by the same guy at the young age of 14. She thought that if she reached out and told someone, Katie might be alive.  Perhaps we need to encourage our girls to trust their instincts and use their voice. I don’t fault this poor girl though. She was terrified. Apparently, he threatened to kill her if she ever told anyone.  So living in fear, she kept quiet. Please talk to your daughters.  Let them know that they can always tell you anything! Let them know that they are valued and loved.  Don’t assume they know it, sometimes they need to hear it.  As parents, it’s a simple thing we can do and it may save a life.

 

Why is Donna All That And A Bag Of Chips? If you ever have the pleasure of meeting Donna, you will never forget her. Somehow she makes everyone in her life feel special and loved. She never makes your problems feel small even though in comparison..she easily could. Despite suffering an unspeakable, violent loss, she is almost always smiling. Her genuine honesty and kindness make her an excellent support for others suffering a loss.  She values life and has chosen to live everyday to the fullest. What can I say? The world needs more Donna.

be kind quote

 

 

She’s All That And A Bag Of Chips- Tabitha

Tabitha age 39 Myrtle Beach, SC

Homecoming Queen 1992

Homecoming Queen 1992

Her Story: I have had the pleasure of knowing Tabitha almost my entire life. Anyone who has ever met her has described her the same way. She’s beautiful. Absolutely stunning to look at and equally beautiful on the inside. Her smile and laugh could light up an entire room. She is the second oldest child in a family of seven. Her childhood was full of love, laughing, sports, dancing, singing, theatre and music. One of my favorite memories of Tabitha was in 7th grade. It made such a profound impact on me that I still remember it vividly today.  Tabitha saw a classmate sitting all by himself at a lunch table.  He hung his head low and seemed sad. He was a little nerdy by 7th grade standards but Tabitha certainly didn’t mind. She saw a soul in need of some company. With no explanation she excused herself and joined him. I remember it shocking me. She was so brave and kind. A true leader. Despite her immense popularity, she never let it get to her head.  She was always grounded and knew what was important in life.  She was only twelve at the time yet seemed wise beyond her years. She knew that outward beauty was only a temporary thing here on earth and that the truly beautiful things in life were much deeper.

At the young age of 18, Tabitha was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. A disease that has unzipped her outward shell and allowed her to focus on the core of her inner soul.

When did you first realize that something was wrong?  It was a series of events. First I developed blurred vision but I didn’t think much about it. I got some glasses and they seemed to fix the problem. Then I started to struggle with school.  I was always a good student but suddenly math became almost impossible. In fact, it prevented me from graduating high school on time. Everyone thought I was goofing off and not focusing on my school work but it was more than that.  I couldn’t remember formulas and nothing made sense in the classroom.  Actually, the only thing in my life that did make sense to me was music, so I focused on that. I love to sing. Then one morning I woke up and my entire left side of my body was completely numb. I was only 18. That’s when I saw a neurologist.  Two weeks later after a series of tests, I got the diagnosis.

What is Multiple Sclerosis?  It’s an autoimmune disease that attacks your nervous system.  The nervous system is damaged with lesions disrupting the flow of messages from the brain. It affects everyone differently but the disease can alter your ability to walk, talk, see and think.  There are periods of time when my symptoms are better, it’s called remission.  And there are other times when the symptoms are worse, a relapse.

How did you initially react to having a chronic disease?  I was stunned.  Stunned mentally, physically and emotionally.  For years actually. The night I got the diagnosis I remember feeling so sad and crying. The bishop from my church came to my house and said a prayer with me. He gave me strength to put one foot in front of the other and reassured me that this disease was not a punishment or in any way my fault. That kind of support really helped me.

When did you accept it? I used to write a lot of poems.They helped me sort through my emotions surrounding the diagnosis. I also remember a life changing line in the movie Shawshank Redemption.  As silly as it sounds, it changed my outlook and helped me. The character Brooks said it best, “get busy living or get busy dying”.  So I figured I better get busy living.

What symptoms have you experienced?  I’m legally blind, I have sporadic neuropathy (heaviness and painful prickles) in feet, hands and legs, balance issues, forgetfulness, incontinence, dizziness, numbness, shakes and muscle spasms.  Basically my nerves are having a party and I’m not invited.  I mean, honestly, sometimes I beat myself up trying to brush my teeth. (laughs)

You have a good sense of humor, don’t you?  Yes,  you have to!  Everybody needs to laugh more! (laughs again)

How does this affect your everyday life?  It affects everything, everyday.  It’s something I have learned to accept. I can’t drive, I can’t read and it’s an effort to walk.  Daily living is a challenge. I have to focus on every movement and every breath but ya know what…it keeps me living in the present.

Do you ever feel isolated and alone? Yes.  I feel alone from the world I once knew.  I have no patience for people who seem to live on another planet.  Ya know?  So many people have no clue about what’s really important in life.  They get caught up in the material stuff.  So, yes, I feel like I’m alone when I hear people talk about meaningless  crap and I’m focused on living.

What makes you feel good?  Laughing.  Helping others . Singing. I love to sing.  God gave me that gift. I also like things tidy.  I think I became a neat freak after my diagnosis.  It’s something I can control.

What has living with MS taught you about life?  To chill out and put things into perspective.  Everything is not as serious as you think it is.  Give yourself a break. Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do!

What advice would you give someone who has been diagnosed with MS?  Accept the disease, don’t fight it. You have MS; MS does not have you.  Learn its rules and how to live together. When you do this, you will find harmony.

How can we help others with this disease?  Be kind. It’s that simple. Offer help, be compassionate, lend an ear, share a laugh or visit.  Just make sure they have what they need and keep them safe. Use empathy and avoid sympathy.

As a patient, what would you like neurologists and doctors to know about living with this disease? Please treat me as a person, not a diagnosis.

Here’s why we think Tabitha is all that and a bag of chips

Although she has a whole bunch of reasons to complain, she doesn’t. She focuses on what she can do instead of what she cannot do. Sometimes when people “get busy living” they deserve to be recognized. Tabitha’s perseverance leaves me in awe every time we speak. No matter how bad my day is, she grounds me and keeps me focused on what really matters in life.  Thank you Tabitha! I know you have helped others by sharing your story. Hold your head high and walk proudly, there are others behind you.

be kind quote

 

 

 

 

She’s All That And A Bag Of Chips- Beth

Beth age 39 Norfolk, Massachusetts

Beth Reilly

 

 

Her Story:  Meet Beth.  Isn’t she cute?  Beth is happily married and has an adorable 8 year old son name Braedon. All was normal in their life until they tried to conceive a second baby.  After two miscarriages and seeing an infertility clinic, they were finally pregnant with their second child!  You can imagine how blessed they felt to be pregnant and when they found out it was a girl; it seemed perfect.  This pregnancy went well until the 20 week ultrasound revealed something different.  After several weeks of follow-up tests, it was clear that Beth had an unusual hole in her uterus. Despite plans for bed rest and attempts to keep the baby in utero; she made her grand entrance much earlier than anyone could have anticipated.  Kate Anne was born on December 21st 2010. She was 23 1/2 weeks old and weighed 1lb -7 ounces.  She was admitted to the NICU immediately .

For the next two weeks Beth spent endless hours at her bedside showering her premie with motherly love. Every minute spent with her felt like a gift. Kate had good days and bad days but nobody could argue that she was an amazing little soul. How could someone so tiny make such a big impact in the world?  The NICU staff became an extended family to Beth and she looked forward to her visits daily. Beth knew that if she survived, she would have challenges but she never expected to hold a lifeless baby.  On January 7th 2011, Beth held Kate for the first time as she said goodbye. Kate Anne died and she took a piece of Beth with her.  It was hard.  Really hard.  Nothing can prepare a mother for the loss of a baby.  Nobody wants to hear about a baby dying. Nobody knows what to say and Beth was no different. “Friends and family pull you through the darkness” says Beth.  Tears welled in her eyes as she explained to me about how important it is to support those grieving. “There were at least a hundred people who made the effort to attend Kate’s funeral and say goodbye with us; some of them were the doctors and nurses who cared for her at the hospital.  That meant a lot. I’m forever changed as a person. The grief never escapes you but you learn different ways to cope.”

What’s your biggest fear?   I’m afraid that as the years pass, Kate will be forgotten.  I am also haunted by the fear that something will happen to my only living child.  I find myself protecting him from everything.

What’s your advice to other Mom’s suffering with the grief of losing a baby?  Don’t be too hard on yourself.   Losing a baby is an emotional roller coaster and everyone deals with grief in their own way.  It’s normal to have bad days and feel angry or sad.  Allow yourself the time to heal. If someone reaches out to help you, grab their hand.  It helps to know you are not alone and to talk about how you are feeling.

What’s your advice to someone who wants to support a grieving friend?  Just be there and listen.  Small gestures make a big difference.  A hug, a quick text or a phone call is often a ray of light on a dark day.  Your effort matters, despite the reaction you receive at the moment.

What are some things you do to remember Kate?  Sometimes when I’m thinking about her I do something simple.  I might wear pink or buy some beautiful flowers.  We also donated some rocking chairs to the NICU and engraved them, With Love For Kate. Some of my favorite moments with Kate were spent in the rocking chair next to her isolette.  I read her books to pass the time and bond with her.  One of my favorite books to read was called  On The Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman.  After Kate passed, we donated over a hundred copies of this book to the NICU. One day recently I went to visit the NICU and saw a little girl reading one of the books we donated to her premie sibling.  It made me smile.

What did Kate teach you? I know this sounds cliche’ but it’s so true.  She taught me to live life to the fullest and love wholeheartedly.  Every minute of this life is valuable and every child is a gift. Your circumstances can change in an instant and you never get that time back.

Here’s why we think Beth is All That And A Bag Of Chips: Despite suffering an unimaginable loss, she continues to move forward and help others who have also suffered.  Beth volunteers countless hours of her time working with the March of Dimes.  She helps organize a walk to remember other babies who lost their lives, speaks publicly to raise awareness and participates in an annual charity golf tournament.  “Sharing my story with other mothers who have endured the same pain is very healing” Beth explains.

Way to pay it forward Beth!  We love you!

be kind quote

 

 

 

She’s All That And A Bag Of Chips

A few years ago I was mentally in a bad place.  I was having a real pity party feeling sorry for myself. It’s out of character for me because I’m usually spewing insane amounts of awesomeness. (cough) This time I wasn’t feeling so awesome or smiling.  In fact, I felt pretty crappy.   Trapped in circumstances beyond my control.  It wasn’t one particular thing, it was the combination of many.  We moved to a new place, my marriage was struggling, my husband lost his job, we were dealing with a law suit with a corporate giant, we lost money in real estate and we had a baby in NICU that we were not prepared for.  I remember the moment clearly.  I was sitting on the floor in my bedroom.  I heard my three small children bickering over a toy downstairs and all I could think about was Maggie, my fourth child.  She was my newest addition that was stuck in the NICU with PPHN.  She was the sickest baby in the unit.  I was not allowed to hold her.  I picked up my phone and called the NICU.  I thought an update would ease my mind.  It didn’t.  I hung up with the nurse.  Nothing has changed was my update.  Great.  She’s still sick as hell and I’m still here….trapped in the chaos. I was surrounded by cardboard boxes that were stacked to the ceiling.  The movers dropped them there and they didn’t move for a month.  Life was tailspinning.  I tried to motivate myself because it felt like the right thing to do. I got up and found a pair of scissors to open a box.  I cut the masking tape off and inside I found at least thirty sweatshirts.  I grabbed the one on top and folded it perfectly.  I needed order in my life.  A closet seemed to be a good place to start.  I had a vision of stacking each sweatshirt in a neat pile but when I walked into the closet I was overwhelmed by the mountain of boxes blocking my way.   I threw my folded sweatshirt on the floor, flopped on my unmade bed and cried my eyes out.  It was too much.

Then God did something.  He sprinkled good people into my life when I needed them most.   Actually, they were people that have always been there but this time I opened my eyes.  I looked around and realized that I wasn’t alone.  Everyone has a story..everyone. Maybe it’s the loss of a loved one, a disease, a divorce or a job loss but every single person in your life has something. We all walk through thick, heavy mud at some point in our lives.  Sometimes we get so buried in mud and escaping on our own seems impossible. Like so many, I needed help. I needed a firm, genuine grasp of a strong hand to pull me out. At one point, I also needed a couple of hands behind me to nudge me forward but guess what?  I got out.

mud shoe

Now I’m standing on the other side watching friends and loved ones walk through their own mud.  I often reach out to those I love and care about.  Sometimes it’s all they need and I know first hand how much it helps.  Once you’ve been through it, you walk more cautiously. The muddy bank is slippery.  I  believe the expert’s call this the cycle of life.  And for every human life, there is a truck load of bullshittery (great word) dumped in every garden of goodness.

As women, we are too judgmental.  Ladies, enough of the jealousy, cattiness and competition. We should help our friends when they are down and celebrate them when they are up.  That’s why I am starting a new segment called  She’s all that and a bag of chips.  Yes, I know…what a title, right?  So 1990 awesome!  Let’s be honest. It’s one thing to be All that but when you throw in a bag of chips; things get REAL!   Each week I will celebrate chicks in my life that deserve a pat on the back.  It’s a spotlight on everyday women who go above and beyond and make the rest of us scratch our heads wondering how they do it.  Each one is special and I have chosen to celebrate them for different reasons.  Some are survivors and some are warriors.  Some are completely selfless and some are leaders.  One thing is for certain, they all deserve a little love.  Join me next week and let’s all hug it out.

If you know of a female who deserves some sugah let Mrs. D know about it.  Send an email to mrsdohertyunleashed@gmail.com telling me who it is and why you think she’s all that and a bag of chips.