22 November 2012

A lifetime of gratitude.

When I was younger (read: 18 or 19...which is totes a far way off from my wise, ripe ole age of 28), I'd make a list of things I was grateful for and post it up on my AIM Away Message every Thanksgiving...these were the days before the iPhone, Facebook, Twitter, and the like...you know, when AIM was cool.  My list would start off pretty generically...I'm super grateful for my family. An obvious statement. I'd then list out a few of my closest friends. My MKA sisters. And rather than digging beneath the surface, I would move on to the more materialistic items I was just oh so grateful for...things like my down comforter (because we all know that I love my sleep, so naturally my bed needs to be akin to paradise), my straightener (because how else would I tame my unruly wavy locks), pumpkin pie (because obvi that's not only a turkey day staple, but basically a slice of heaven in my mouth)....the list went on. and on.

Now, don't get me wrong...Am I still grateful for my hair straightener on the days (which may be few and far between) when I actually want to pull myself together? Obviously. And will I still be uber grateful for the 6 pumpkin pies my mom makes every year without fail? Do I even need to answer that?

But, what am I really, truly, from the bottom of my toes to the innermost core of my heart grateful for? So.freaking.much.more.

Since only God knows if I still have access to AOL instant messenger, I thought it'd be most appropriate for me to write my annual "I'm thankful for..." list in a place that has captured some of my deepest thoughts, stories, worries, and memories over the past couple years.

Exactly one year ago, my cousin passed away at the entirely too young age of 27. I saw him less than a week before his untimely death...and then again one last time the morning of his passing. Unfortunately, we never had a final conversation. I was able to give him a tearful kiss goodbye and asked him to send my love to our grandparents in heaven. But there were no words to be returned to me. I think his heart and soul were already with my grandparents during my final goodbye. Fortunately, many of his loved ones, including my parents, were able to talk to him before he was taken away. While I have no idea what most of those conversations entailed, I do know what he told my parents and I will never forget my mom sitting my sister and I down as she replayed parts of their conversation. With my parents sitting by his bedside, he asked them to send his love onto us. He stressed how important it is to know that everything happens for a reason. And above all else, family and love come first. It is for this understated, simple message that I am thankful for. 

It is this message that I remember when life gets tough. When not everything is black and white and I ask God why? I remember this message when I'm having a bad day - the kind where you think the whole world is turning against you and you have the worst luck ever. Those words give me hope, inspiration, and comfort. But I don't just remember this during the off times. I remember this when life seems absolutely, so amazingly perfect. It is this message that reminds me to be thankful for those times too. It is so easy to take happiness for granted, but when we take a step back to express our gratitude for those times, it makes the tough times...a little less...tough. 

So as I sit here and reflect on the past year and all that has changed in my life in such a short time, I realize all that I am grateful for...not just for today...but for yesterday and for tomorrow. 

So on this Thanksgiving Day, before I head to my hometown to celebrate a day of gratitude with my family, I'd like to share my annual "I am grateful for list." 

My girlfriends. Without you, I quite honestly don't know how or if I'd be able to navigate through this thing called life. You are the very reasons why I have expanded my definition of family. Ashley, the sheer fact that I can ring the doorbell to your house and you can embrace me in my tearful moments means more than you could ever know. Saadia, Being able to fall asleep next to my best friend knowing that I am loved and will always have someone to listen to me...over and over..and over again is something I will never take for granted. Tram, Christine, Tricia, and Jess, knowing that we can go weeks without talking and still pick up where we last ended is quite simply the best. Natalie, who else can I facetime at 6:45 in the morning and ask to call me back in fifteen minutes to make sure I get out of bed and start my day?! Kate and Emily, I don't know anyone else who would put up with me as a roommate. Mtk, I wouldn't want to crash a vacation with anyone else but you. My nursing school friends, my luna girls, and all of my girlfriends, whether you are in my life for a short period, or here to stay, I am thankful for you.

My sister. We fight...a lot. And I can only guess that we always will. But no one makes me laugh the way you do. I am so grateful for you and Bryan and your absolutely over the top, 100% hands down out of control, completely inappropriate shenanigans. You two remind me to not take life too seriously and I thank you for that. 

Connor. Oh Con Con. If you only knew how much you have changed my life...I am literally tripping on gratitude for you. I secretly thank your mommy and daddy for bringing you not only into this world, but into my family, on the regular. 

To those who have shown me what it means to find strength from within...and when that's not possible to know that it's okay to lean onto others. My little Avery and your family. My cousin and her family on this first Thanksgiving without her brother. To my patients at the children's hospital, your resilience and unabashed personas are beyond refreshing. 

Karen and Julie and the rest of the Shuberts. I am so beyond grateful to be surrounded by people like you. I can only hope that I follow in your footsteps. Your strength is unparalleled, as is my admiration for Julie's journey at such a young age. 

To the two homeless men who *just* knocked on my door asking for money. I'm naive and vulnerable to those who ask for help. But the sheer fact that you offered to work for money by raking my yard is something I am grateful for. While some may scoff at this or scold me, I appreciate your humbling words.

My parents. Your support during yet another life change of mine over the past year is undeniably unwavering. I simply could not be more grateful.

...and on that note, for my pseudo father, Andrew. My gratitude for your guidance can never be fully expressed.

To all of the kind people in this world who volunteer their own time for whatever cause is worthy to them. Living in a world where people give back is the only kind of world I want to live in....for this I am thankful. 

For the friends who have entered my life this past year...you know who you are. I don't know what the future has in store for me or for you, but I am thankful for your presence in my life this year. And for all my friends who have been with me through thick and thin. I love you.  

I am grateful for the experiences that have defined this past year...Watching my first C-section delivery and being able to bring a newborn to his parents could not have been more of a sign that I am in the right profession. The words of gratitude expressed to me by these new parents warm my heart to this day....Knowing that I have a physical therapist who is helping me to run again after years of misuse and overuse brings a smile to my face. So thank you, skinny chicken legs for putting up with me and my refusal to quit. Who knew that you could teach me the value of patience. And thank you to my chiropractor for instilling more wisdom within me than you'll ever know.

I am also thankful for being able to spend this past summer with a truly amazing person who will always have a piece of my heart. You have taught me so much about love. 

And, of course, I am thankful that on even the toughest of days, I can go home to little Molly and Mia and they will be waiting to greet me with a million kisses. 

And finally...thank you to little ole' me. I appreciate the patience I have learned to have with myself and my ability to let go, let love and light in, and most importantly, be kind to myself. 

...To my loved ones in heaven, Brent, Grandmom, Pop, Pop Pop, Mindy Lou and everyone else...Happy Thanksgiving from here on earth :)

28 April 2012

happily ever after.

I fumbled for the zipper of my down jacket and pulled the hood of my sweatshirt close to my face, its fleece lining softening the sharp edges of my cheekbones. I didn't remember it being so chilly when I walked to class just a few hours ago. When the golden embers of the sun were still cascading through the tangled branches of the oak trees that lined the familiar sidewalk to class. The dark curtains of the evening sky were drawn now, the icy stars replacing the little bit of warmth offered by the sun earlier in the day. With very few people out and about on campus, I suddenly felt very alone. I quickened my pace and hurried to my car where the allure of warmth and security awaited me. I slid into the drivers seat and caught my breath, watching each exhale dissipate into thin air until my breath was finally concealed by the heat blasting ravenously through the air vents. As I drove away, I found that the feeling of loneliness wasn't as fleeting as I'd hoped it would be. 

Truth be told, I didn't really know where I was driving to. All I knew was that I was done with school for a few days and I didn't have to be anywhere in the world. And what a remarkable feeling that is. To be free. Independent. Alone. 

So I did what any single, unemployed 27 year old with no obligations would do. 

I went to the nearest supermarket. 

(Oye Ve. That's the best place you can come up with, Court? The supermarket?!)

I will whole heartedly admit that I loooove me some serious grocery shopping. When a store is hustling and bustling with elderly people slowly pushing their carts; couples in love, walking lazily hand in hand; women being followed by mischieveious husbands sneaking junk food into their carts; young moms and dads with toddlers pitter pattering down the aisles to the beat of their own drum; I am oddly at ease. I will spend a solid hour (or two...yup, I am that girl) walking up and down each familiar aisle, surveying new products, sampling fresh produce, and relishing in the simple joy of exchanging a smile, hello...even the excitetment shared by two strangers over a new flavor of hummus. It gets me.every.time.

An unfamiliar supermarket is different. You walk in and haven't the faintest clue where anything is. There's no familiarity for your mind to resonate with. And with no glasses to peer up at the signs that seemingly float above each aisle, that feeling of loneliness embraced me again. I didn't even know what I was doing here. And so I wandered absent-mindedly up and down each aisle. I had drifted over to the frozen food section, an empty cart in tow, and passed an elderly man slowly making his way down the aisle. He was 70, maybe 75, if I had to guess. And, he too, was alone. Other than this small observation, I didn't pay him any attention. I suddenly became aware of my craving for something sweet and opted for ice cream as my dessert for the evening. Being that I was smack dab in the middle of Lent and I had faithfully agreed to give up chocolate, I knew I'd have to settle for a less than satisfactory flavor (read: anything without chocolate is subpar in my book). Chiding myself for giving up all forms of chocolate, I peered through the frosted glass panes, hoping that I'd find a pint, no, actually a half gallon, of ice cream that was uber delish. I was on my way to inspecting my fifth or sixth carton (none of the flavors were speaking to me!) when my eyes made contact with the eyes of the gentlemen I passed earlier in the milk and orange juice section. Chuckling, he asked if I too was looking for mint chocolate chip ice cream. "Oh, no," I replied, "Sadly, I gave chocolate up for Lent. But if you're looking for mint chocolate chip ice cream, you must go with Turkey Hill. It's the best!" To which he replied, "that's actually the kind I'm looking for!" Suddenly I became a woman on a mission determined to help my new found partner in crime find our favorite kind of ice cream. If I couldn't indulge in the delectable goodness that is Turkey Hill mint chocolate chip ice cream, than surely at the very least, this elderly man could. "I promised my wife I'd bring her some home," he cheerfully stated as I dug through the cartons, making a complete disaster of the perfect arrangement of ice cream concoctions. "She just had heart surgery, you know," he continued. "And all she wanted was mint chocolate chip ice cream when we finally got home. I figured it was the least I could do for her." I looked up at my new friend, offered him an understanding smile, and he continued to tell me about his wife. Her heart surgery. The stents the surgeon had placed in the heart of his one and only. His other half. His better half. As he spoke, I listened and realized that his words were not meant to evoke my sympathy, or even my compassion. He spoke these words for himself and I happened to be a bystander...a recipient of his innermost thoughts and feelings. Right there in the middle of a grocery store with a backdrop of dozens upon dozens of ice cream varieties, I was the lucky ticketholder to a happily ever after monologue.  

The love this elderly gentlemen had for his wife of 50 plus years was intoxicating. Refreshing. Inspiring. Suddenly I didn't feel so alone anymore. You see, where there is love, one can never truly be alone. The genuine, palpable love shared between two people - even if they were strangers to me - erased my feelings of loneliness. Their love radiated to the depths of my own soul so that it was impossible for me to feel alone.

My friend and I eventually parted ways, him with two cartons of ice cream for his wife (just in case she didn't like the first one we picked out) and me with my nonchocolate subpar peanut butter swirl. 

This story happened months ago. And now, as I lay here - alone - in a plush, sensual bed, clad in nothing but pure white linens, in a gorgeous hotel in romantic Monterey, California, I think back to this story.

Tomorrow my west coast best friend will be marrying the love of her life. Her soul mate. Her other half. Although the love that is shared between her and her today-fiance, tomorrow-husband is still so new and fresh, I am reminded of my once upon a time friend in the ice cream aisle at a local grocery store. Although I am laying here alone - quite literally - I don't feel so lonesome, for I am surrounded by the love and romance of a very fabulous friend and her fiance, family, and friends. And when I close my eyes and think of my friends, Tram and Raj, exchanging their vows tomorrow afternoon, I think of a love that is raw. Real. Timeless. But most of all, I think of mint chocolate chip ice cream and the happily ever after that will follow today and forever into their future, just as it did for my pal in aisle 12 at the grocery store. 

Congratulations, Tram and Raj. The bond you two share will provide you with a lifetime of happiness, laughter, and love. I am so incredibly happy for your future together. I love you. 

29 March 2012

it's a small world.

"It's a world of laughter
A world of tears
It's a world of hopes
And a world of fears
There's so much that we share
That it's time we're aware
It's a small world after all."

It was my favorite ride at Disney World growing up - It's a small world, that is. I was fortunate enough to experience this ever so popular musical boat ride on numerous occasions as a child, but was perhaps too naive to truly understand just what exactly it meant to be living in a "small world." So instead of concentrating on some underlying theme, my eyes would widen with fascination at the myriad of colors, costumes, and imagery that only Disney could create.

As I grew older, the phrase "it's a small world" became less about the whimsical Disney attraction and more of a common idiom I'd use when I encountered people in the most unsuspecting places. How many times have we each exclaimed, "Oh my goodness, I had no idea you live in this town! You know her, too?! It's such a small world!" Of course, at the ripe old age of 27, I now understand and appreciate the meaning of "it's a small world" and its universal application to international unity and world peace. Only now this phrase hits closer to home than it ever did before. It strikes fiercely within the depths of my own heart at a level that doesn't necessarily parallel world peace and it certainly surpasses the superficial unexpected encounters we have with random people we bump into at the local grocery store. As I sit here tonight, the time quickly approaching 3:00am, I reflect upon the past few months and think to myself...there’s so much we share, that it’s time we’re aware it's a small world after all.

And this is where the story of Brent begins.


At the innocent age of 12, my cousin, Brent, was diagnosed with Crohn's disease, an inflammatory disease of the intestines that may affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract, and Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC), a chronic liver disease caused by progressive inflammation and scarring of the bile ducts of the liver. With no family history of Crohn’s, there really was no rhyme or reason as to why Brent was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder that has no cure. But in the typical Brent fashion we all knew and loved, Brent was a trooper and battled the onset of Crohn’s, not allowing it to triumph over his daily life.

Fast forward 10 years later and Brent survived more challenges and complications from his Crohn's disease and PSC than most people will face over a lifetime. And despite all of this, Brent still could not catch a break. In July of 2010, at the age of 26, Brent was diagnosed with Cholangiocarcinoma, a cancerous growth in the ducts that carries bile from the liver to the small intestine. So why does a 26 year old get diagnosed with a supremely rare cancer that typically affects those older than 65? While it's not certain, studies do show that patients with cholangiocarcinoma plus PSC seem to have a higher prevalence of Crohn's disease.

In April of 2011, I participated in a 200 mile relay to raise awareness for organ donations, as there will always be a question of whether or not fate would have changed its course if a liver had been available for Brent. At this time, Brent was defying the odds, undergoing chemotherapy in a two week on, one week off cycle, and proving to the world that nothing could stop him. And nothing did. For the 17 months following his initial diagnosis, Brent fought the good fight. And he did so with a complaint free, positive attitude that we should not only admire, but start adopting. (Writer's note: I can't remember the last time I went a day without complaining). On November 22, 2011, God chose to stop Brent's suffering, end the pain, and lift Brent's spirits to a far better place. With tears stinging the corners of my tired eyes, I can confidently say that Brent did not quit in his battle against Crohn's, PSC, and Cholangiocarcinoma. God knew a cure was not to be found and freed Brent of his struggle. A concept that has brought infinite amounts of heartache to Brent's loving girlfriend of 8 years, as well as his siblings, parents, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends.

It's been 4 months since that fateful day and not a day goes by where I don't lift my face to the stars and search for the light of my cousin shining down on the hundreds of lives he touched. It's hard not to think of how life would be different if Brent was never diagnosed with Crohn's disease. And it's nearly impossible to find a silver lining in something as tragic as the death of a loved one at such a young age. Yet, I like to think that I have.

And this is where the story of Chris begins.


I met Chris the day Brent passed away. Brent was one of Chris' closest friends and Chris was one of Brent's closest friends, both incredibly active, selfless volunteers of the Hopewell Fire Department. Within minutes, I easily discerned the palpable bond shared by these two men, which added more weight to my already heavy heart. To observe their brotherhood - like that of so many of Brent and his friends - dissolve was absolutely heartbreaking for even the toughest of hearts. Over the next week, during Brent's funeral arrangements, I became more acquainted with Chris and learned that he, too, has Crohn's disease. After four years of being misdiagnosed, Chris was finally *and* correctly diagnosed with Crohn’s disease by the doctors of UPenn in 2008 at the age of 29. Complementing the right medication, Brent was able to guide Chris through the crappiness that is Crohn’s disease (pun intended), allowing Chris to be who he is today, which is one kickass guy. I know this, because with the passing of time, Chris and I managed to stay in touch (huge shoutout to Facebook!), for which I am utterly grateful. Although Brent and I were incredibly close for the first 18 years of our lives, we naturally parted ways after high school. Having a connection with Chris, a person who knew the Brent I didn't fully know for the last 9 years brings warmth and comfort to my heart and soul.

And it just so happens that Chris introduced me to a very special little girl and her fabulous family.

When I quit my full-time job in January 2012 to go back to school for a second degree in nursing, I knew I would need some type of income (the Bank of Courtney is ummm....let’s see, how do I say this...non-existent?), so I reached out to my friends/family on what else but Facebook (seriously, if you don’t have Facebook, get on the bandwagon already!). Within minutes, Chris messaged me and said his friend, Mark Bovenizer and his wife, Amy, were in need of a babysitter for their two girls, Paige, 5, and Avery, 2. And just when this world couldn't seem smaller than it already is, Chris informed me that Avery has Crohn's. Through Brent, a Crohn's patient, I was introduced to Chris, a Crohn's patient, who was now about to introduce me to the Bovenizer's and their darling little girl, Avery, who is also a Crohn's patient. Pardon my French, but Holy Sh*t, if that's not a small world, than what is? I am an avid believer that God, the universe, or whatever higher being you choose to believe in, opens certain doors for us. What we do or don’t do with these doors is up to nobody else, but ourselves. And so it was my choice to start babysitting Paige and Avery, for my heart was absolutely positive that Avery and I were destined to meet.

I have been babysitting the Bovenizer girls for 3 months now and I am.in.love. They are, without a doubt, two of the cutest little girls I know (and no, I'm not biased. Okay, maybe a little). Quite simply, they tickle me pink. Confident, sassy, and beautiful Paige is so very protective of her younger, fearless, firecracker of a sister, Avery, now three. I don't think of babysitting the girls as a job, but rather as one hell of an awesome playdate, where I am humbled by the honesty, compassion, and imagination of two remarkable little human beings. And yet, a part of my heart is torn each time I see strong, little Avery with a tube running from her tiny back, across the soft curve of her left cheek, into her itty bitty button nose. This tube is essentially Avery's lifeline. After months of blood tests, endoscopic procedures, and doctor consultations, Avery was diagnosed with Crohn's disease. This nasogastric (NG) tube provides Avery with the formula, medication, and probiotics that are necessary for mitigating any signs of inflammation and bowel problems and keeping Avery a very happy, little girl. Although Avery is very accepting of her disease and the accompanying NG tube, I promise you there is nothing more heartbreaking and soulwrenching than consoling a toddler as you force a tube into her nose.

[paige and avery]
After I accepted the fact that I would not be able to participate in The Relay this spring, I started searching for another run...another cause. So when my mom handed me a brochure for Team Challenge, the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation’s endurance training and fundraising program, I obviously knew that the universe was knocking right on my front door (Have I mentioned how much I love when the universe opens a new door for me?!). Through Team Challenge, individuals can run or walk 13.1 miles or train for a triathlon or cycling event while helping to find a cure for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, two chronic and often debilitating digestive diseases that impact 1.4 million Americans, three of which are near and dear to my heart. After a few e-mail exchanges, I was on my way to signing up for my first half marathon (woot. woot!).

But, first, just for good measure, apparently I needed to see just how very small this world is.

And this is where the story of Andre begins.

[andre and shane]
I was making my way toward Starbucks in a local mall to meet with the Team Challenge Endurance Manager and heard someone yell out my name. I spun on my heals to see two of my former Ernst & Young co-workers, Jim and Andre, headed in my direction. It's amazing how deceiving time can be. It had been quite awhile since I had seen these guys, but it was as though no time had lapsed at all. It was as though we were all back at Ernst and Young, joking around, enjoying our lunch breaks together during the good ole days. As I excitedly told them I was about to sign up for my first half marathon, something clicked in my brain and I recalled that Andre once told me that he had Crohn’s. Andre, now 34, was diagnosed at the age of 21. Happily married, him and wife are getting ready to celebrate the first birthday of their firstborn (I have not met their baby, Shane, yet, but based on Facebook pictures alone, I seriously want to gobble him up, he’s so stinkin’ cute!). And, just like Brent had to, and just like Chris and Avery have to, Crohn’s is a demon lurking in the background that Andre will always have to deal with, as, sadly, it will never go away.

As we parted ways, agreeing to meet up for lunch in the very near future, I closed my eyes and thought of Brent. My heart will always have a scar from the void left by his passing, but it now has the footprints of three new people. Three incredibly awesome, strong, empowering friends who don't let the harsh realities of Crohn's disease define their lives, just like Brent didn't. I opened my eyes and made my way to Starbucks, thinking to myself...this really is a world of shared hopes and shared fears. It is *such* a small world.

I would like to thank each and every one of you who took the time to read my story. Really, Brent's, Chris', Avery's and Andre's story. In an effort to celebrate each of these individuals, I am participating in my first half marathon on June 2nd, in Loudoun County, Virginia. It is my goal to raise over $3,000 to support research funding, educational material for newly diagnosed patients, and "space safe" for pediatric patients. I completely understand that times are still tough (hello, I am a full-time student, with full-time bills, and *no* full-time job), but please know that every penny counts. Even a $1 donation helps make a difference.

Please visit my fundraising site @
for more information and how to donate. From the bottom of my heart, the heart of every person diagnosed with Crohn's disease, and from their loved ones, I thank you. My heart is full of gratitude for you.

With infinite amounts of love in a very small world,


17 January 2012

for the loves of my life.

As a society, we are more concerned and conscious of the heart than any other organ in the human body. "Speculation about the heart is at least as old as written history." Compared to any other organ, the heart is more vulnerable and susceptible to disease, trauma, and failure. Despite its extensive protective mechanisms and all that we do to prevent any misgivings, all it takes is one attack, one clot, one broken valve to break the heart. Stop the beating. End the precious life of its owner.

I absorb this harsh reality as I sit on my bed, my sheer curtains finding a way to obscure the final rays of the day’s sunlight, the warmth of the creaking baseboard heater drying my tears as they slowly trickle down my face. I close my eyes and feel my own heart beating. I find myself breathing to its methodical rhythm. Thump. Inhale. Thump. Exhale. I blink back more tears, hoping they don’t smudge the lens to my past as I try to bring it into focus. The tears blur my vision, but I try my best to zero in on what I’ve been looking for.

When there is so much that could possibly go wrong with the human heart, why would anyone in their right, logical, and practical mind, break it free from its protective barriers and leave it out in the open. Why does the phrase “I wear my heart on my sleeve” resonate so closely, well, with my own heart? What normal, rational person thinks its sane to say “Here! This is my heart! Take it and try to be nice to it.” As I peer into the blurred lens revealing the ups and downs of the past year, it becomes clear that I am that crazy lunatic of a girl doing just that (oh, and then blogging about it). Throwing my heart out there into the unknown and relying on a whole hell of a lot of faith that it returns back to me in one piece.

And then, to make it worse, I ice the cake by judging myself. When my heart comes back trampled on, barely pieced together, the blame is on me. My emotions go on a wild rollercoaster, leaving me stranded. Deserted. Alone. I can’t think straight or logically. I chide myself, harshly, and irrationally surrender to the belief that I did this to myself. I put my heart out there recklessly, so this is what I deserve. I do everything else under the sun to physically protect  my heart. I limit my indulgence in red meat. I dance my butt off during zumba. I floss my pearly whites like it’s my part-time job. But when it comes to love, caution dances off with the wind and my heart is left unprotected. Unguarded. Alone.

I refocus the lens, bringing other chapters of my life into focus. I find myself looking at the dozens upon dozens of faces of friends and family members who are gentle and kind with my heart. Loved ones who understand and respect the fragility of the human heart. Not just any heart, but my heart. I put my heart on my sleeve for these people, too. And rather than receiving it back in shambles, these people have carefully taken a piece of it. Some have a small portion of my heart. Others have larger portions. But each tiny cell of my itty bitty heart that belongs to those near and dear to me is protected. Guarded. Loved.

The beating of my heart has slowed down, its rhythm more gentle and kinder. The tears have vanished and I find myself accepting the fact that, yes, maybe I am that crazy lunatic of a girl who wears her heart on her sleeve. And maybe I am just another fool in love half the time. And maybe, just maybe, I do take giant leaps of faith when it comes to finding love. But in doing this, in sharing my heart, I have found love in the most uncommon ways. With the most unsuspecting people. With countless friends who have become my family. With my own family members where love was lacking.

My heart may come back to me, broken from the almost lovers who walk in and out of my life, casting me with heartache, tears, and torn emotions. And I may judge myself a bit too harshly, but at least I know that when my heart is in pain or broken, I get it back. You see, the ones who tamper with our hearts don’t deserve to hold onto it. They don’t have the privilege or honor of keeping a piece of that vital organ that keeps us alive and breathing. Putting your heart out there is risky. A bruised heart hurts the soul unlike any other type of bruise. But a heart that is loved, cared for, and respected touches and warms the soul unlike anything else. And the only way this can happen is if I put my heart out there. By wearing my heart on my sleeve, I not only share my love with so many friends and family, but I gain the love of so many. And it is this love that protects and guards my heart, keeping it strong. Beating. Alive.

Thank you to the loves of my life who have protected my heart when I thought all was lost.